The Key to Hearing from God

Featured

For me, this practice seems to usher me from the outer courts into the most holy place of His presence. It is uncomfortable, unnatural and a matter of great discipline…at first. Then, it is all you want. The rewards are immeasurable.

Just writing about it makes me anxious to get to my prayer closet.

Saints have called it holy listening.

“My sheep listen to my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27

Do we know the voice of God? Can we hear the gentle whisper as He passes by? To stand on the edge of glory and have to pull a cloak over our faces like Elijah, we must – we must learn and practice listening.

In a loud world, even the quiet ones struggle with this. Our minds run too quickly.

“After we have entered our secret place and shut the door, the most difficult thing to do is pray. We cannot seem to get our minds into good working order, and the first thing we have to fight is wandering thoughts. The great battle in private prayer is overcoming this problem of our idle and wandering thinking. We have to learn to discipline our minds and concentrate on willful, deliberate prayer.” -Oswald Chambers

Concentrate: to be directed for a single purpose; to give attention to

We have possibly heard all of our believing lives how prayer is meant to be a conversation instead of a monologue. Yet, still – we seem to do all of the talking.

What unsearchable things is God waiting to tell you and I?

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jer. 33:3

Listening in stillness is a beautiful act of faith because it is expectant. You bring your heart to the Lord and wait. It is, in fact, a silent declaration that you believe Him. He says He will speak and we are believing He will.

Early in my faith I thought only some believers “heard” from God. I have since learned – in applying His Word – that He speaks to all of us. The difference is the willingness to listen.

Some tips as you begin this journey:

  1. Have a journal or notebook handy. When wandering thoughts invade, such as what you need to be doing, write them down as an act of dismissal. It helps you to release those thoughts knowing you can look back at the paper. Then turn your mind back to the Lord. This journal is also, and more importantly, for your notes during prayer time. I will often get a song or a single word and write it down to review or study later.
  2. Experiment with silence versus worship music. There are times when worship can help usher our minds better into the throne room. I’ve found, though, that it is best to use this as a warm-up. Songs themselves can sometimes distract from what He is trying to say.
  3. Do not worry about doing it “right.” As I began this process, I would pay too close attention to the last thing I said before going silent. I smile as I remember that. He knows all. He is pleased when you come to Him. There is no program here. Practice is progress. It may just be a matter of retraining your mind to be comfortable with silence so you can focus better.
  4. Do not be discouraged. God loves you. Believe that He is reaching out to you in that love.
  5. Put on your spiritual glasses. As we draw near to God and live in his will, we can better recognize Him all around us. Look around you at work, in the store and at home. Look expectantly for signs of His presence. He is always working – not always visibly – but always absolutely.
  6. His Word will confirm all truth. If what you sense or think you hear from the Spirit does not match up with the Word of God, it is not from His Spirit. We must be students of the Word and remain in counsel with mature believers to discern and confirm direction from the Lord.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” Rev. 3:20 (NASB)

As we worship and obey the Lord in spirit and in truth, we prepare the table of our hearts for a feast with the Divine. It is through listening that we open wide the door.

We know from the book of Ecclesiastes that there is a time for everything under heaven….a time to speak and a time to be silent. May we come before His holy temple in humble adoration and declare:

“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” 1 Sam 3:9

———————————–

This is part of a series on Prayer. You may begin here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If You are Willing & Obedient

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to memorize Romans 8. About a month ago, I followed through, and it’s just been so good for my spirit. This season is one of follow through for me, and it comes down to obedience.

I’ve often heard that when you are unclear of the Lord’s direction, just go back to the last thing He asked you to do and obey. Sometimes the next thing…… is the thing you  meant to do but left on the starting block with good intentions.

Often it seems like a small thing. The person you needed to call. That apology you meant to make. The neighbor you keep meaning to reach out to. We can minimize these nudges as meaningless or unimportant. They aren’t.

Sometimes it’s bigger and you enter a season of stretching. Recently, for me, it has been both. Regardless, there is one thing I keep learning about obedience: the longer you wait, the harder it will be.

There is a difference between willingness and follow-through, and God wants both. The prophet Isaiah offered the nation of Judah prosperity and blessing that was conditional. The blessing required willful obedience.

“If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land.” (Isaiah 1:19)

The word used in the Hebrew for “willing” is only used in the same manner one other time in Scripture. Every other mention of this word includes a negation in the Hebrew, which would signify the opposite of volunteer. Here is what that means for us: God doesn’t want to have to talk us into an obedient heart.

King David speaks of a time in Psalm 32 when his strength was sapped as in the heat of summer because he waited so long to repent of his sin. When he confessed and found mercy, he expressed a response from the Lord to his heart….and to ours.

“Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.” (vs. 9)

Hear that? Don’t wait so long next time, David. Come to me swiftly – obey quickly. I am FOR you.

He promises to instruct David and watch over him. That’s the promise we all want. The good promises of God are found on the other side of repentance and obedience. As I’m intentional about asking God to direct me to take any action He would have me take, I’m also praying for the courage and strength to obey…and do so quickly.

May our willingness to obey meet with action out of love for a God who wants the very best for us.

 

 

Kumbaya, Fertile Ground & The Forgiveness Echoing From Charleston

He was walking casually through the house singing the words so naturally, playing with a few random toys. I caught the words and I asked him, “Josh, where did you learn that song?”

“From the chipmunk movie,” he responded.

“Something good from a movie,” I thought.

My husband got home and I told him. He pulled the boy close to him and said, “Do you know what Kumbaya means, Josh?”

“No, daddy.”

“It means come by here, Lord. Come by here.”

I read recently that Kumbaya was written by Robert Winslow Gordon in 1927. When he later had it recorded it was sung in Gullah (a creole language) on the islands of South Carolina, reportedly between Charleston and Beaufort.

Charleston. “Come by here, Lord. Come by here.”

How many angels have come near just recently, only Heaven knows.

——–

We sat in the small prayer room, the five of us, today. We reported on illnesses, needs, praises. And we turned to Charleston – this church, these people of God thrown into the spotlight. The whole world watching.

Then a friend in the room mentioned a miracle. A man she knows who has struggled with racism, maybe all his life. He lives in Charleston. He drove by multiple churches on a day following the shooting and the parking lots were overflowing. And then the Spirit did what the Spirit does best – He touched that man. The man said he broke down. He wept. He apologized. He asked forgiveness. In an unexpected moment, no words from another, no preaching, no condemning – he was touched by the love of God. He has reached out to ask forgiveness for those he has offended in the past.

One story in a cloud of stories moving across the land.

All that we hope for, strive for and pray deeply for, the Spirit can do in one short moment with one simple touch.

The Bride of Christ has been tested, and the family of God in Charleston has responded with grace. When forgiveness is the most common word being used, Christ is being glorified. And all over the world, in hearts and cities and small towns, there is fertile ground. Because when trials produce authentic worship, souls are intrigued. Hearts are made pliable again.

In prayer, the Spirit spoke to me about fertile ground today.

“Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.” Hosea 10:12

There are souls, people we have waited upon, perhaps prayed long years for. Many seeds have been planted over time and, like Apollos, we are being called upon to water the seed of faith. It is time.

There are many hurting hearts around us. In Charleston and perhaps across the street from our home. Is there unplowed ground in which we need to offer the work of love and forgiveness.  Ground that has been dry for a long time. Is there a seed we need to plant or water?

Multitudes, multitudes are in the valley of decision! Even now! Who needs our encouragement to persevere? Who needs our courage to share Christ? Who needs our forgiveness?

Forgiveness – as we’ve seen in Charleston – has a ripple effect. Oh, grace, grace be upon the hurting, the grieving souls. And love lead us as we take our place in the ripple and walk in the Spirit of Christ. May we be sensitive and obedient to nurture the seeds of faith in the souls we know and encounter.

Kumbaya, My Lord. Kumbaya.

The Suffering Saint

“For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

It seems notable that Paul mentions this kind of glory as “displayed in the face of Christ.” There is a different kind of glory going on here – in the making of all things new. Christ was glorified in his suffering.

“Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered…” (Heb. 5:8)

The light of the world can shine within our hearts because He walked through His darkest day on a dusty road to Golgotha. The light shines out of darkness.

I find hope deep within this promise: that God brings light out of the darkness. It starts in our hearts – our hoping, living, breathing hearts. When all is dark around us and it seems there is no hope, God is stirring within. Like heat on a humid day, hope rises.

To know Christ is to know suffering. Paul declared that we carry around the death of Jesus, so that His life may be revealed in us. This revealing is a process secured in the trials we overcome, and the securing is different for each of us. The time table, the means and the grace we will need to persevere. Though outwardly we feel and see and believe in the wasting away – inwardly there is a kind of renewing found only in the suffering saint.

How was James able to reach this place of consideration: that trials produce joy? Had he persevered through enough that he hungered for the intimacy he found only there? He desired very much that perseverance would “finish its work.” How many of our trials come because we are unfinished within?

What truths can we cling to in the midst of this finishing?

  • That our good Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials (2 Peter 2:9)
  • We will be hard pressed on every side, but not crushed. (2 Corinthians 4:8)
  • No pain can compare with the GLORY that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18)
  • NOTHING can separate us from the LOVE of God that is found in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:39)
  • His grace WILL BE sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

What is incomplete in us was finished on the cross. Though our sanctification is life-long, our redemption was sealed in the final words of Christ.

“It is finished.”

Salvation is working itself out in us, we can be sure. We wait for the GREAT REVEALING. When the Lamb will lay down with the lion and all will be made well. Until then, we cling.

Peter instructed us to cling to the Word as to a “light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in [our] hearts.”

Jesus is the Morning Star. May He arise in our hearts as we suffer unto affliction, even for His great Name. And may we heed the Word like the brightest bulb in a dark and damp cave.

“What, then, shall we say in response to this?

If God is FOR US, who can be against us?”  Rom. 8:31

 

 

The Church, Politics, & a Call to Christians for the Coming Days

For many years the church has remained silent or shy at best regarding certain issues or specific sins clearly described in the gospels and the Old Testament. This is for various reasons, and it certainly does not include everyone. Some believers or churches/denominations at large have been very vocal, and in some of those cases it was not for the good of the gospel. There are times when silence itself can restrain the spreading of the gospel and it will be of utmost importance that believers know what they believe, why they believe it and how to express that belief in educated and loving ways.

This post, the first in many months because of an earnest time of seeking the Lord, is to encourage the saints to prepare for the days ahead. The church can no longer respond in defensiveness, anger or ignorance if we are to maintain that we are the light of the world. Should we meet our Maker and carry sheaves of fruit with us, having lived honest and holy lives as we answer to how we represented Christ, we better be prepared.

We cannot depend on our pastors to hold the only staff of faith. We cannot depend on social media to make our comments known. We can no longer, as a body of Christ, depend solely on bible teachers to tell us what the Word of God says.

Church – we will answer for what we did with the knowledge God has given us in His Word. Individually.

A faith grounded in the statements of another believer, no matter how faithful that person may be – is no faith at all. Opinions formed through the opinions of other leaders are not your own. We have one compass always pointing North and that compass is the Holy Spirit. We cannot continue to spout the convictions we overhear because those convictions will be shallow armor to the schemes that will be set up against you. Our convictions must be deeply grounded in Scripture if they are going to hold us up in times of trial. And this is key: The Holy Spirit will never lead a believer in any direction that is contrary to the living Word of God.

We have got to STOP REACTING and start proactively preparing the way of the Lord.

There are times of silence, and for the believer, this time is most fruitful when we learn to listen to the Holy Spirit. Believers with any discernment can read quite easily people who have spent time in the presence of the Lord. Their countenance is different. There is a quiet peace – a waiting for the appointed time to speak for the Lord, not for themselves. Their words may be few, but when they occur they are wise, piercing of truth.

When we speak, we are called to season our speech with salt. Just as we don’t pour a whole container of salt over our food, there are wise ways to obey this calling….and unwise.

Unfortunately, I’m sure we have all seen comments on social media or via the latest article in which the anger and defensiveness of Christians is so loud we can hardly read what they are saying. Anger will not save this world, church. And just like the boy who cried wolf, we better know that when we cry out – it might be the only time we are heard.

Politics will always cause a stir quite simply because the separation of church and state sounds good on paper but its foundation is flawed. Born again believers in Jesus Christ carry Him every single place they go. We cannot ever separate from our faith. Ever. We don’t cut out that piece of pie when we enter government buildings or schools. It’s who we are. Secondly, we cannot expect unbelievers to live by the law of God that we ourselves are only able to obey with the help of the Holy Spirit. Why do we keep expecting certain politicians to honor God when they do not know Him? Why are believers so shocked by sin, ignorance or apathy of those who have yet to be saved?

Why are we turning to rage instead of prayer? I fear it is because we do not have a clear understanding of our weapons of warfare or the discipline to use them. But worse – that we are not truly a praying church.

Just like anger, politics cannot save our world. We should pray for believers to be appointed to leadership and there will be times to stand for our faith in the public square, but we WILL NOT WIN THIS FIGHT on the political playground.

Jesus is our King and he does not wear a political party button. The other party – if you have chosen one – is not your enemy. Satan would just love for us to keep running tired circles around the same arguments with believers in another political party who may just happen to mansion right next to us in heaven.

We can and should honor every authority that God has placed over us. That is obedience and God calls for it. But when the time comes that those authorities ask us to deny Christ or the laws that surpass any man-made law, we cannot rightfully do so and call ourselves Christian.

Many sins have become what the world and many in the church see as cultural issues. What the church is calling culture wars are spiritual wars. This war started when Eve took that bite. The word sin will become more and more offensive to people, just as offensive as the name of Jesus Christ. If we are going to stand by sin being sin – we better know where to confirm that in the Word of God so we can “give a reason for the hope we profess.”

Every single thing – every single issue – that once was black and white WILL BECOME GRAY in this world and in the church. Satan is pouncing on pastors and Christian leaders to work confusion in the ranks. He will always try to start with leaders so the flock will follow. This is why we must test everything we hear against the Word of God. Just because someone has multiple books published and a large following does not mean they have not been deceived.

Sin cannot be excused by love or grace. We absolutely do NOT have to choose between truth and grace and love. That is a lie. To call something sin does not mean we do not love. In fact, if we love someone, we will speak that truth just as Christ spoke unpopular truth to ears unwilling to listen. Yelling does not count. Defensiveness does not work. We must be prepared.

Can we learn to speak only after we have read up on the subject we intend to discuss and  spent humble time on our knees?

While we remain silent, the world will get louder and louder. The Lord is calling His people to prepare for the way of the Lord. To be careful about when we speak and when we remain silent, so He can give us the right words at the right time. That time is coming, church. Our witness and our words matter, even in a sea of words. We need to know what we believe and decide to stand for Christ today, before we are placed on the front lines.

You don’t wait for the battle trumpet to put on the armor and study the opponent’s strategy. Preparation is now. It will mean everything in the days ahead.

When Grace Breaks Me

Recently, I was a monster.

For the first time in an eternity, I started a Saturday in prayer. Kneeling. This itself is like miracle stuff. Saturday is for kids in our bed and big breakfast meals and cleanup and spilled juice and cartoon marathon and adventures at the park way too early.

I woke up heavy-minded. You know, all the stuff. I knew I needed Him today. I did not know, just yet, how much. And somehow, after the commitment of my day and the choice to honor Him, I came out of that prayer closet swinging at the world.

It started with a splinter. Or, at least, the thought of one. My boy was limping. Walking on his heal. No matter how many times I tried to persuade him to let me look, he pulled farther and harder away. Protective Mom was getting irritated because of all those times someone told me “it can hurt your foot if you walk like that!”

Obviously threatening was necessary.

“You cannot go to the store with Dad until we look at that foot!”

You cannot leave this room until you let me look!”

Anger rising. Volume raising.

And in the middle of all of this very positive affirmation, she came out. Mrs. Hyde.

The morning became like Anger Management with Adam Sandler. Minus the counselor. It’s worse than you think. Don’t be thinking I’m nice Mom being hard on myself. I’m pretty sure I then yelled at my daughter about applesauce. APPLESAUCE.

I’m pretty sure I also stubbed my toe, hit my elbow and ran into something all in the span of an hour. Mmmmmk.

It was honestly like one of those moments you can look down from the sky and see yourself, and you are absolutely baffled.

What is wrong with you, Ginger?

I knew I needed a shower. A time-out for Mom. And the moment the water started, I said, “Where, God, did that come from?”

I knew I needed to apologize to the kids quickly. And I did. I told them I make mistakes. I was wrong. I shouldn’t have yelled. They were gracious to forgive me.

But I was still baffled.

I could blame female hormones. But, alas, copout.

I know spiritual warfare is sharp. Yet, it had been quite some time since my flesh had come into the ring with my spirit and punched the tar out of it like that.

I started over after that apology, and we had a great family day. When the kids were down to sleep, I treated myself to a hot bath. I pulled out my current read, Grace in the Workplace. (I’m obviously very qualified to teach grown adults about living in grace.)

And of all the verses I would come upon in the middle of a chapter about evangelism….yeah – you guessed it, BAM! ——->Right to the heart.

It was only my VERSE FOR THE YEAR. Smack in the middle of my random book. On THIS day.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19

 

You guys. For real.

Here is the thing about God as a Dad. He is always good in His discipline. Perfect, really. Perfect timing. Perfect words. Perfect way about it.

He throws it out there – the truth we know we need to hear. Then He lets it sit and do its work.

The verses actually goes on to say, “for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

That part – that was God’s encouragement to me. Like when I discipline Josh and then give him reasoning for the character I want him to have.

God knows I want that righteous life in Christ. He knows – deep down – what I really want. He was saying to me……in my spirit, “Ginger, anger itself may not be sin, but it opens a gate you don’t want to walk through. And you’re standing at the gate.”

When grace comes in the form of discipline, we are the better for it. Every time. When the discipline happens in the exact area of your ministry, it can break you. It’s the best kind of humble. Because on our best days we are only as good as the lessons we apply from our worst. We do not teach well what we have not struggled through.

Aren’t we most useful after we have been broken? And how many times does God warn us before the breaking is at its worst? And how grateful should we be – all of us – that He does indeed discipline us as a good Father does a son He loves.

His goodness is humbling and His grace breaks me in every kind of good way.

How Little Children Lead Us & What Laughter Has to Do With It

My children love to giggle. They find the smallest reasons to laugh. If they can find someone to join in, all the better.

I mean head back heavy laughter.

IMG_1001IMG_0998

In the movie, Finding Neverland, the playwright is quite nervous about the crowd’s response to his silly play. Meant to bring laughter and written from experience with real children, the play is not as proper as the audience might expect. So the playwright has an idea. He buys about fifty tickets throughout the theater and invites the local orphanage. They fill the seats dispersed throughout the theater.

As the play begins, silly giggles erupt. First the adults, dressed to the nines, chins high in the air, are quite taken back. Slowly though, they begin to chuckle.

You can’t help but feel the laughter of a child.

For even the most tired of souls, a grin sneaks upon the face in the hearing of a babe’s laugh. We were born to laugh.

My own babe was less than four months old when he taught me about joy. I can remember the smell of his skin. It was midday, and I was rocking him. My husband was in the room, and without any reason or sound or provocation, my son began to laugh. Long deep belly laughs. And from the surprise of it all, we joined him. It sounded so beautiful it was contagious.

In the midst of my depression, the long days of motherhood wrapping round my soul, something broke. I could not stop laughing.

“Even in laughter, the heart may ache…” Prov. 14:13

Even in aching, something can break. Perhaps, sometimes, it is only in the aching that we find the need for a laughter that heals. When chuckles turn into that deep internal shaking we cannot withhold. When we actually feel what internal joy is meant to live within us.

Michelle DeRusha wrote about laughter in the midst of grief recently. My favorite two lines read: “I see now that God’s presence is often experienced more vividly and palpably in these moments when heaven and earth meld. I believe when we feel joy, even as the weight of grief hangs heavy, we experience the nearness of a God who is with us wherever we go.”

Laughter is the internal healing balm. We were pre-wired to heal.

Just as our bodies were given antibodies, our spirits were given laughter. Something about life just tries to steal it. Bind it up. And silence the music of our souls.

Perhaps a child can help us find it again.

“From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.” Matt 21:16

To ordain: to officially establish or order.

What did God know about life stealing our joy as we moved along in years? Everything. So he planted joy upon the babes – to lead us in praise.

They are leading us – even now. If only we can stop long enough, breathe deep enough to follow.

IMG_1082

IMG_1083

 Linking up today with Meredith, #TellHisStory, Holley, and Kelly. Join us!

Make it a great Wednesday!

People Really Do Believe in Captain America: The Hope of Living Forever

My boy still doesn’t get how Captain America flew the plane into the ice and then showed up in the next movie. It doesn’t stop him from wearing the costume to the declaration, “Captain America saves the day!”

IMG_1902

Recently I read about cryonics. This is good mostly because I need to expand my vocabulary.

People (precious believing people) are investing $200,000 for the possibility of returning to planet earth and doing this whole thing all over again. Pretty good deal when you consider coming back to life. Cheaper than some pro football tickets.

Note – some are choosing the cheaper option of $50,000 just to preserve their head.

{CRICKETS}

The premise of membership in the Alcor Life Extension Foundation is to use “ultrasound cold temperature to preserve human life with the intent of restoring good health when technology becomes available to do so.”

When it’s available. That’s a lot of money for a hope. They estimate this technology needed to bring frozen people back to life will be available in the next 1,000 years.

People really want hope, and their willing to pay for it with some serious pocket change.

A couple advertises on the website with the quote, “When you love life like we do, Alcor’s Cryonics Preservation Services were a natural choice for us.”

And I’ve just been thinking about how much people really love life. The hard and good of it. The ups and downs and struggles and questions. Because no matter how much I enjoy people and creation and relationships – who can really say anything in this life completely satisfies us?

There is a searching deep in the soul of man to find it’s true home. And I can’t get away from the idea that we would only try to extend some kind of life – even our frozen head on a new body – because we fear the other side of life just can’t be a good thing.

To many, many people, it is a far stretch to believe God came down in flesh through a virgin birth, died and rose again. To them, our faith is like the idea of freezing a head. I get that, and it’s why I am SO thankful for a faith I can’t explain that took me over and removed my need for all of the answers. You can’t pay for this kind of hope. It is other-worldly.

What differs between my “odd” beliefs and those who choose a frozen future is a seal of proof. An indwelling Spirit that proves Himself to the believer over and over again. I’m okay with not proving it to others. He proves it to me.

I don’t believe because someone sold me on it. I believe because He is alive inside of me. My hope starts now. I don’t have to wait 1,000 years too see with my own eyes. I get to live and breathe and know the ONE who is my hope right now.

I was trying to find an article last night and ended up searching for the tag “faith.” The search brought up post after post of people struggling out loud to believe in God. I felt their struggles in the words and the spaces between them. There is a hunger, a need to voice this search – even for (maybe especially) those who have not fallen into the arms of Christ. There is something deep within us longing for connection to our Creator.

Some agnostics spend quite a bit of energy trying to disprove the existence of God. For those who have decided not to believe, they sure do spend a lot of time thinking about it. It’s our job – as believers – to love them, encourage them and go into their spaces with grace and love. No amount of knowledge or argument can do what His Spirit wants to.

Sometimes the best thing we can say is “Me too.”

“I’ve doubted. I understand. I hear you. May I tell you how I got over my mountain of doubt?”

Because I have this hope, it’s my responsibility to share it with grace and love. I didn’t earn it; and I’m not better than those who don’t have it.

In what ways are we reaching out to love the world into the hope we have today?

That Time I Cheated on a Test & Why I Will Tell My Kids About It

We were about sixty seconds from the bell and the teacher walked into the hallway. The boys behind us asked if we wanted to look at the paper. I remember one of my friends shrugging and taking it. She passed it forward. Myself and another friend glanced a quick look before the teacher returned. Our first mistake: LOOKING.

Of course because we only had seconds and the same page, my two friends and I happened to memorize the same three answers. We must have done poorly on the rest of the test, because the teacher noticed our identical answers on those questions.

I grew up walking the straight line. Oh, I messed up. But I was wired for obedience. Yeah, I have legalist probs.

If my curfew was midnight, I was home at eleven. I was the girl who pre-read the entire chapter for 5th grade science. Nerd. My husband once said I was the kid that drove all the other kids crazy. My senior year of college, the girls in my sorority asked me to pull the alarm just so I could have one great adventure. Couldn’t. Do. It.

My Dad even told me once to loosen up and have more fun.

So the day arrives when we will get the test back. I had no idea what was about to happen.

Our teacher said we would be having a different kind of class that day. One chair sat in the front of the room. He called up one of my friends. The questions began. None of us were still quite sure what was going on.

We were on trial.

“Did you see any answers to this test prior to test day?” My palms start to sweat.

“Did you see any friends with copies of this test?”

“Did you know you answered some questions exactly the same way as your close friends?”

——–> I’m about to tell you why this was probably the best teacher I ever had. See, he knew me. He knew my character. And he knew, more than any failed test or report to the principal, what would BREAK me most was the loss of that character witness.

The entire class of my peers were listening and watching. The ones who knew I was the church girl. The Bible-study leader.

My turn came. He asked the questions.

I don’t remember exactly how we all answered. It didn’t really matter. Everyone knew.

Of course the others kids thought it was really funny. They didn’t really care if I cheated once.

I did.

My teacher didn’t call out the students who may have cheated regularly. He called out the leaders. And he said more in that choice than he could have said by talking to me personally. He applied discipline according to the student, and that is a teacher who changes a life.

He asked me that day in his own words and his own way how important my witness for Christ really was.

I could justify the fact that it wasn’t premeditated. I only glanced. I don’t even know where they got that old test. But then…I acted. I chose. It doesn’t matter how much or how little I cheated. I was as guilty as anyone.

I didn’t need that test. I could have stayed home that day and gotten my A. Amazing how we often succumb to temptation for that which will not pay the most dividends.

They say life is the total sum of your choices. This was only one of mine, and I’ve made many since. I can tell you they never again included even considering to cheat. In some schools you would be kicked out immediately.

After my trial, that teacher never said another word about it. He gave us back our test and life went on. I don’t know that I ever told him how that decision called me to account and changed the way I saw the power of every little decision.

I’ve just begun to teach my kids about choices. How every choice has a consequence. How you don’t get that choice back. The choice to take the drink. To get behind the wheel. To text while driving. To repeat the gossip…and be overheard. To show up late and lose that job. To give away what you can only give away once. Or to glance – just quickly enough to act on it.

I will tell my kids about my mistakes, mostly because I think GRACE is the best message of all. They need to see that as much as we want to do good, we can’t always BE good. I’m introducing the need for a Savior.

But also because kids today may need more than anything to understand and face real life consequences. They need to see from me that if they don’t do that thing I ask, I will follow through on discipline. Because in this world – you don’t often get the teacher I had. Mistakes can be the hardest teachers of all.

I’ll tell them I cheated and how I wanted to take it back, but I couldn’t. And then I get to tell them about a loving God who loves us just as we are, mistakes and all. He sees our potential – our call – our purpose…..just like that teacher did.

God sees the very best in us even when we cannot. This is one prior student who is thankful for a teacher who did the very same thing.

On Mama Bears…and the Call of Every Prayer Warrior to Keep Watch

To be a Mom is to enter protective mode. From the first time they hand you that little fragile person, you think through every possible scenario to protect them from. Note the massive child safety industry with cabinet locks, baby gates and door handle covers. O bless you, non-removable cabinet lock.

A friend a I laughed over the phone recently about our “plans” should an intruder challenge our home. Golf clubs may have been involved.

I noticed something in the well-known “virtuous woman” text of Proverbs 31 the other day. She “watches” over the affairs of her household.

In the beginning, it’s believed men did spend most of their time hunting and gathering, while the women stayed by the place they had settled. (Yeah, housework started way back then) Just like a Mama Bear, we watch over the littles and make claim to our territory. I have no idea what women did back then without “20 Easy Crockpot Meals” from Pinterest. These are the great mysteries of life.

In the gospel of Mark, chapter 13, Jesus gave the disciples a specific exhortation to direct their lives after he left.

“No ones knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away. He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back-whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch'”

Christ is talking about His own return. Did you notice that everyone is given an assigned task, and one person is chosen to STAY at the door just to keep watch? So – we all have a task at hand. And who will keep watch?

The four different times mentioned in the second paragraph are not random. The Romans used four times of the night to watch for the enemy, and they were called night watches. We see mention of this in the Psalms when David refers to the “watches of the night.” Jesus is connecting to his listeners while also suggesting this type of vigilance in regards to watching for Him.

The prophet Habakkuk proclaimed to Lord in his book, chapter 2, that he would stand at his watch, and station himself on the rampart. The rampart was the tall thick wall built around a castle for protection. Watchtowers were very common, and men took turns covering every shift.

The job of a watchmen was extremely important and very dangerous. Their job was to alert the people if an enemy was seen approaching. But they were also very vulnerable, and the enemy knew to target the watchman. To take on the role of protector is a great responsibility.

The enemies most often attacked at night to hide their approach. Even the shepherds kept watch over their flocks at night, when the larger animals would come after the sheep. Night time was watch time.

It still can be. And for the ardent prayer warrior – some of the most powerful spiritual warfare will take place on the battlefield in the night hours.

Habakkuk takes this role and uses it in regards to watching for the Lord. Watchmen had the greatest advantage being so high. They not only saw the enemy, but they could see a messenger from a great distance.

Watch is my word for 2015, and for good reason. Other than the word LISTEN, it’s been about all the Spirit has been nudging me with.

To intentionally watch for Him is an act of faith. We are looking, expectant, believing. For that answered prayer….but mostly for Him. We wait for the day He will return to make all things right. We wait for Him to show up in our schools and court houses and places of worship. To activate our faith, we say expectantly,

“My soul waits for you, Lord…..more than watchmen wait for the morning…” Psalm 130:6

We take up our responsibility and privilege of keeping watch in prayer for His kingdom to come. To pray when we doubt and when we tire and when all around looks hopeless. We still pray, because it is our task…….and He is coming.

 

One of the Hardest and Best Things a Christian Can Do

The hardest things are the best things. What great thing really does come easy?

A basketball coach used to tell me, “if it was easy, everybody would be doing it.” Didn’t really inspire me as I sweat through the next set of suicide runs. But it did push me. I kept running. I kept practicing free throws after everyone else left.

Being the last one in the pool really does pay off. But it’s hard.

We’ve got a really hard thing with being human. Somehow we are either really hard on ourselves or just that way with most everyone else.

And it’s funny really how we still get surprised when someone offends us. Like sometimes it just plain knocks our socks off.

We have better days than others. For good/different reasons. But does it amaze anyone else how quick we are to forget how moody we were yesterday when that guy is rude to us today?

Grace is hard for us to just plain live out. Especially when it comes to being offended.

Let’s be real- offenses happen everywhere. And if you are in ANY kind of leadership role, it’s like your weekly Mode of Operation. Add social media or public speaking, and just monitoring people’s feelings might be your full time job.

At times, it’s been mine. Mostly by my own choosing. Paranoia befriends the leader quite nicely. But it does help when people share their “thoughts” about your “style.”

I once spoke to a group of women about ministry and mentioned that at some point I might offend them. (The context was in regard to the years we would know each other and work together) I was sharing my heart regarding how we could be easier on one another. A woman came up to me after the talk and said, “Ginger, I want you to know nothing in that talk offended me.” (Score one for the speaker.)

I laughed recently about something that could have offended, because- really- it doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things. And not one iota of angst we carry about another soul is going to make our day/month/ year better.

I’ve seen people forgive drunk drivers for taking the life of their child, when I’ve also known women to carry bitterness for YEARS about that one small disagreement/conversation they had in church.

Bitterness really is the heaviest purse to carry.

Women are extremely prone to rehash the entire conversation one million and five times because if ONLY the other person really got it. And then we get all “she just doesn’t understand my personality!”

Thus we run to (read text or call) the one buddy we know will have our back and gripe just as loud about what that other person said because – hello, of course we were right.

On our extra Spirit-led days (thank you Jesus) we are less defensive – until it returns to our mind later because it’s then fully legal to rehash in eyebrow-raising attitude diva form- since we are just talking to ourself. Ahem.

Christianity isn’t easy. How many of us know someone who was offended recently and actually followed the biblical example for handling an offense? (i.e. they went directly to the person to address it IN LOVE instead of talking to others about it) **Matthew 18:15..

Jesus said this kind of thing will win someone over. Why? Because it’s in stark contrast to the world and every FEELING we have.

You wanna talk brave: show me that. Because you can’t go half-way. Doing the right thing first and THEN talking to others about it. That makes you look and sound good, but your spirit sinks about 12 levels later. You always know your own motives. And they follow you.

To take your vulnerability into the ring of honest discussion with someone you’ve chosen not to like will test every bit of your pride.

Who decided we “may have to love everyone but that doesn’t mean we have to like them?”

Doesn’t that reek of someone who chose not to like someone and then justify it?

I get it. We’re all different. We aren’t going to be besties with all the peeps. Lord knows I lean towards certain personality types. Of course we do. I’m not pretending I like the whole world. It just seems like an easy out.

But I think this little saying has gone far enough in defining our boundaries. Because let’s be real: when you choose not to like someone —– you aren’t going to go out of your way to love them.

I don’t remember a parable about Jesus and the “unlikeable dude” that He had to make himself love.

Glennon Doyle Melton wrote a piece recently for Storyline where she said, “maybe the surest way to be liked by people is simply to like people.”

The thing is people really do WANT to be liked. So we’ve been steered in the opposite direction of what people want. Sure – people NEED to be loved. But they want to be liked. Read any evangelism book and you’ll hear about meeting “felt needs” before sharing the gospel. Yeah, empty stomachs have no ears. Maybe the love comes easier after we choose to be interested and meet a need.

Not everyone is going to like me. And I’m going to offend. My job there is to apologize as quickly as I can and move on. We cannot (IN NO SHAPE OR FORM) control how the other person responds. What we can do – is overlook offenses against us. Because when they carry over to bitterness, we decide that person is unlikable and we get that “feeling” every time we see them. How – I say HOW does this help us? Notta. As a  matter of sad fact – it’s uprooting our harvest. The Spirit does not thrive when unforgiveness takes root.

What kind of crazy good things could happen in the Spirit if the churches shook off all the STUFF. If we said today – TODAY – all the things people have said or done to me – IT”S DONE. OVER. As of today, no one, and I mean NO ONE owes me anything.

I will let no debt remain outstanding except the debt to love one another. (Romans 13:8) Yeah – THAT.

I once heard this statement: When you are offended, don’t nurse it or rehearse it; curse it…and God will reverse it!

To overlook an offense might be the bravest of all.

——————–

Linking up today with the beautiful Meredith, kind Holly and word wonder, Jennifer.