On a regular basis I like to shake things up. No. It’s better said that I have to shake it up. If things get too static for too long I get a little crazy. Ask my mom. And my husband. Well, and my co-workers. My restlessness has prompted many a furniture rearrangement, get out of dodge adventures, and half-baked ministry projects. What I love about this process is the daring, new experiments that are launched. Full disclosure, some of them crash and burn. Some of them fly high for a season. Some of them resemble oak trees that just continue to grow deep in roots and broad in reach.
Another truth to disclose, I never know what result they will be until they have left my hand. The artist’s plight, I guess. But the Lord reminded me about a verse the other day. “The good tree produces good fruit.” (Matthew 7:17) I read this again and let out a deep, long sigh. Ah. There it is. Pressure is off.
It doesn’t say that every single branch will produce a perfect blossom that will produce a perfect fruit. Rather it says the good tree will produce good fruit. Overall, in an ongoing way, the natural behavior of a good and healthy tree is it sprouts, blossoms and yields fruit from different branches at different times. It is the tree’s lifetime destiny. And the outcome of the fruit is not necessarily the point either. Some of that fruit falls to the ground and rots. Some feeds squirrels and us. Some fruit is replanted in far away places as the birds carry it away. But the tree, the good tree, firmly planted, just keeps producing fruit.
Before you ask… in God, we are good trees. One thing I have learned the hard way is God is Less interested in my 100% perfect outcomes and More interested in my 100% surrender. My “yes!” answer to Him really, really matters. It really impacts His heart. Your “yes” has the same affect. So today, just give Him a fresh “yes” and let Him pour His good, good love through you.
Here are a couple of the outpourings He and I have been playing with. Feel free to partake of new fruit!
the Master will appear. It’s an old proverb that rings true every time. What we see as devastation, I am convinced the Lord sees as a teaching opportunity. The question is, are we willing to learn, to be taught, to change according to the revelation given.
As we continue to reflect on the goodness of the Lord in and through the 18 days, and the 10 years of freedom that followed, we see His hand of mercy and impeccable timing. We began the marital separation with simple instructions: work on your own junk. I worked on my own heart. Chuck worked on his. The counselor (God bless his brave soul) told us to not think about the fate of the marriage until we had stabilized our own hearts. Selah.
Author and pastor, Danny Silk challenged the way we humans emotionally blow up our relationships with mates, kids, family and then immediately try to fix the problem and get back to normal. Silk said it is impossible to get “back to normal” when there is blood all over the walls from the last explosion. Instead he advised, just work on cleaning up the mess. Take the time needed to restore some measure of connection and THEN work on what caused the blow up in the first place.
In our situation, 18 years of dysfunction and mess, carelessness and resentment, and now so broken that we are separated, the outcome of the marriage was not the most important thing. Tending to our own hearts before the Lord was the most pressing.
And I couldn’t shake the suffocating panic.
If you know me, you know that I am a go-getter, risk-taker, charge the hill. But now I had been punched in the gut. I literally woke up in the middle of the night with dry heaves. I was so scared. Everything of importance in my life seemed to be teetering on the brink of an abyss, ready to fall at any moment.
What would happen to my house, my notion of family, the girls’ schooling, my own ministry, the relationships I had? In my conversations, either awake or dreaming, I would roll questions over and over, “how can I be safe now?” “What do I need to do to be safe?” “I don’t know how to go forward and feel safe.”
I cried out to the Lord, whose voice I knew very well, but this was unchartered territory.
” I am safe,” He kept whispering.
“I know you are but I’m don’t FEEL safe. I don’t know what Chuck is going to do. I don’t know what is going to happen,” I said dismissing His truth.
“You are with me, I am safe,” He said.
This went on for three days and nights until his message came through loud and clear.
Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.
The Master had spoken. And as the student, I had to learn this lesson. I had to digest this word and let it go down into the innermost parts of my soul. It had to change me. And believe me, I was desperately ready for change. Are you there yet? Look at this verse broken down.
Fear of man:
Fear of others’ opinions, fear of looking good or stupid, fear of my team, my friends, my family’s approval or disapproval, fear of the church’s reactions, fear of bodily or emotional harm, fear of financial or social ruin
A deadly bear claw hidden along the paths of life that once clamped there is no escape except by mutilation of caught limb or death
(How many of lose our lives over fear of other’s reactions)
Trust in the Lord:
Surrendering body, soul, and spirit to the One greater than me, leaning on, depending on, staking my whole life on His care
Held in the loving, protecting arms of the God, the Savior, the Lover who would never look away, never leave, never NOT defend me.
I am, was and would always be safe in His arms. End of story.
No matter the outcomes, the marriage, the children, the finances, the social implications, I was safe in Him. The rest of the 18 Days were radically changed by this revelation. I had a Truth greater than my feelings.
Ten years later, I see this deposit radically altered my future.
The Master is teaching us all the time. Are we ready to learn?
The graphic somewhere seen on social media. Smile.
(janaspicka.com for previous blogs on the 18 Days)
I must have looked like a crazy woman to the shoreline walkers. First I paced back and forth. Then I stood still and stared. Then I would pace again. Stare. Repeat. This is how I process stuff at the beach when my brain is working on something too big for me. I was praying. Sort of. Lord what about… And Lord what if… And Lord I can’t figure out…Lord what are you going to do about…Lord when will… As I said, praying, sort of.
For the life of me, I just couldn’t figure out an answer for burning in my soul. My list of issues were close to home.
• Facing fear in certain relationships
• Parenting in this season
• Helping my aging parents
• Overhauling my health
But my list also extended to further reaching problems.
• My friends’ mothers dying from cancer
• Grief over trafficking, immigration, etc
• Frustration with the church
• Our planet drowning in plastic
That’s not even everything on the list! No it’s not drama. So don’t say it. It’s real world. It’s life. And sometimes it presses too close.
I wonder what the Holy Spirit does in these moments. Watching me, watching you, try to figure out things that we were never meant to figure out alone.
In one of my pace and stare cycles I said out loud, “Lord, why aren’t you answering me?”
“I already have,” the Spirit said.
“When?” I shot back. “I’ve been out here forever pouring my heart out to you. You haven’t said anything.”
“Crystal texted you earlier.”
I stopped mid-pace. I grabbed my phone and looked at my text from my friend Crystal. She sent me a song link and said, “this reminds me of when you heard this at jazz. [jazzercise]” I had even responded fondly with: “This is one of my favorite pre-Jesus songs. He’s always calling us home.”
Can you believe that interchange happened a hour before my prayer meltdown?
Sometimes known as the Squeeeeeze, we call transition lots of things. In limbo, out of rhythm, off your game. Then there’s my personal favorite, out of my comfort zone. We are so certain the deep unsettled feeling is a bad thing we conclude we must be doing something wrong. But what if the deep unsettled feeling is a good thing? I had a moment in the ocean about transitions that might help us navigate the arduous and sometime unwanted process.
By it’s very nature, transition means movement. Moving from one place to another. In work, family, relationships, even faith every area requires forward motion. To be fair the only thing worse than transition is stagnancy. Standing water, or stagnant, is foul and infested. We desperately need movement to keep us fresh. The Lord used waves to stir up my standing waters.
I go out into the ocean about ankle deep. Feeling pretty confident I step a little deeper because I have a sense of control. But pretty soon I feel the familiar pull on the sand as the water retracts. If you are beach savvy at all, we both know there is a battering line you must cross, the line where the waves break before crashing onto shore. If I try to stand or swim near that line, I will be beaten to death. But if I jump over the wave, or better dive under it as it is crashing over, I can “pass through” the line and the water calms a bit. By the way, it’s also deeper beyond the break.
(That’ll preach all by itself. Keep going. Don’t let the pressure of the coming waves paralyze you. Jump higher or dive under and you can pass through to deeper waters.)
Whoa. This summer I am in my own personal crash course with the Holy Spirit. Several books have come my way which are blowing me up in all the needed places, but put those books in the hands of the Living Spirit and you have a cocktail called Rock My World, complete with a little umbrella. Wink. Seriously. It is in a word: Transformation.
One book is called Are My Kids On Track? by Goff, Thomas, and Trevathan. If your kids are little, get and activate it immediately. If you are thinking about kids, get it and work it in to your marriage right now. If you’re like me, and your kids are on their way out door, go take a deep breath of Grace, and then immediately activate it anyway. It’s never too late to start doing something better.
These wise, insightful counselors and authors have so many tools for healthy emotional development and go so far as to identify, for each gender, stumbling blocks and and building blocks. I tell you, this book is a must read. You know why? Because if we don’t turn our stumbling blocks into building blocks then we remain stuck little kids inside grown up bodies. And we all know THAT person who “never grew up.”
One particular insight explained stumbling blocks for boys as B-A-D. They said boys are most likely to go to Blame, Avoidance, and Denial. BAD. Believe it or not, there are building blocks to help them through this, as opposed to saying “boys will be boys” or boys are not emotional. Okay you got this concept? BAD, being aware of when I am refusing to take ownership, when I refuse to engage in a solution, or even admit there is an issue.
Holy Spirit has used this book to install a new alarm system. My heart starts pinging when I go to BAD.
The Holy Spirit took this pearl and added it to a beautiful concept from another book called Rising Strong by Brene’ Brown. As one of my Kate friends says: Love me some Brene’. Brene’ asks some real world questions in the aftermath of when you fall flat on your face, when the worst thing does happen, when you fail in front of everyone. How do you get back up? How do you rise again stronger and wiser and kinder to yourself and those around you?
We had a fire in our fireplace last night. Uhm. It’s mid April. We pack and unpack our winter jackets. We wait and wait for the last frost to plant our tender flowers only to turn around and cover them for threat of another frost. Uhm. It’s mid April. So what’s the bottom line.
Ever since Resurrection Sunday my spirit has been buzzing with the same Hope that creation sings out day after day. We laugh about blackberry winter, and dogwood winter, and who knows how many more, but we all are Looking for Something. We just know that winter won’t last. Even the brave pansies and daffodils stand strong in their stamina and say, “hold on, keep believing.”
where does hope come from?
First. I am shocked by the long stretch since I blogged. Two. I HAVE been writing and developing material (more on that later) but it just hasn’t made it to this particular outlet. Three. I am so blown away by the power of God to answer our prayers. 2017 was a year of dreams and visions and revelations. He blew me up in May with a crazy callout to “go for more” and then He started pushing and pulling and leading me into More. Even if my knees were knocking. And 2018? Well this is the year that all that good, juicy stuff between He and I gets poured out. Whew. I may need a nap.
Here’s my overarching song for today. You know what beats the blues? You know what “fixes our eyes on Jesus”? You know what keep giving us energy to get up day after day, heartache after heartache? Our dreams, especially the dreams that He himself has revealed to us.
I tell you what..He’s relentless. I was doing this dream exercise in one of our groups and I asked the women to just listen with Holy Spirit and write down 2-3 things they heard. As I was waiting quietly, the Spirit nudged me and said, “you too.”
So I listened and heard. The answers came pretty quickly but the writing it down took a little more effort. The dreams were too big. Too much. Too audacious. Too embarrassing. Just TOO, dang it. The Spirit just kept pressing.
“Write them down.”
“Okay, I’ll write two of them. Happy?”
“No. All three.”
I sat there waffling between faith and doubt. I wanted what He said. I just couldn’t see how what He said could come to pass.
“By faith.” He whispered reading my thoughts.
I finally wrote all three down. And I finally got all three out of my mouth when it was my time to share. A funny thing happened. Every time I spoke out the dreams the Lord shared with me, my faith grew and my doubts diminished. I was prophesying over myself and agreeing with Heaven every time I repeated what the Spirit said.
It’s been almost 8 months. God has been pulling the pieces into place. He is the Dream Maker. My job is be the Dream Keeper and stay in step with Him as He does what only He can do.
So with that said, do you know what His dreams are for you? Are you keeping them well? Are you paying attention when He starts pulling pieces together?
What a ride. Just start speaking them out. He will do the rest.
I just can’t take it . Every time something terrible, horrible, bone chilling happens, the same question rises up. Where is God? And I tell you He is where He said He would be.
Right in the middle of the mess with us.
One of the single greatest omissions of modern church thinking is the concept that we live in a war zone. It is our enemy who prowls around looking to devour, even to kill, steal and destroy. (1 Peter 5 and John 10) So when that destruction comes, why are we so surprised?
Are we so deceived that we do not know how and why to rail against the true source of hate and death? Are we so socially and spiritually numb that we do not see the war against God’s children?
God loves the world He has created. The enemy hates it.
The enemy uses all manner of strategies to mar and distort all he can. But God still brings comfort, healing, hope and peace regardless of the tactics used. God’s number weapon? Me and you.
Last night, the Lord woke me up. As I focused my eyes in the dark, I saw the brilliance of the moon in my house. I heard this phrase over and over in my spirit
A Great Light has come
and the darkness cannot put it out.
So now what?
Jesus did this crazy thing in the gospels. First He said, “I am the light of the world.” (John 12) And then He turned around and said, YOU are the light of the world. (Matthew 5)
I don’t know about you, but I see a Great Light burning in the hearts of men and women who run to help in places of devastation and horror. I see God’s light shining through us as we love and bless when we could hate. I see a Great Light in the hearts of believers who carry His power and authority to stand and overcome the prince of this world.
I tell you worship God. It is our greatest weapon and the enemy hates it!
God is good. God in the details. So instead of blaming Him, let’s display Him.
In the White House, they call it the news cycle. On the TV, they call it breaking news. In the human heart, these predictions create sheer panic. Yet there is a greater revelation in of all the natural disasters and it hit me like a lightning bolt this morning. I was watching a clip from Steve Hartman on CBS Evening News about how we went from rioting, protesting, hating each other one week to rescuing, serving, saving one another the next week.
Then I recalled this photo circulating on social media.
This is the wonder moment. Me and my praying friends, and I am sure you and your praying friends, have been asking God to do whatever it takes to bring peace. I have been releasing the Shalom of Heaven over the violent mood of our country. And suddenly, our differences have turned from throwing words and punches to throwing prayers and supplies.
Has God used these natural disasters to bring about the prayed for perspective shift?
I understand if you are living through and after these catastrophic events, it is hard to imagine celebrating or lifting up praise. Yet my friend in Houston confirmed the shift saying there is an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Even more, she said, once they started reconnecting with the rest of the world and heard about the devastation in India and surrounding areas, she and her community were humbled all the more realizing it could have been so much worse. “Even with the destruction, we were still blessed,” she said.
Now with Irma, the forest fires, the Mexican earthquake, and other life altering circumstances, can we or will we maintain our confidence in a good God?
He is NOT bringing judgment. That is Old Testament rhetoric that has no place this side of the cross.
What we can see all through the Bible however is a God who is our “ever present help in time of need.”
This morning as I rejoice that Irma has reduced from Category 5 to 4, I am still praying for the storm to move, subside, or shift. I am still believing for rain. I am still believing for comfort for Houston and other affected parts of the world.
And. My spirit has paused to thank God for reminding us of who we all are. Human beings. Each and every one worthy of love and dignity. Maybe, just maybe, God has answered our prayers by showing how valuable life really is.