Friday, July 29, 2011

Sister Sledge didn't have a clue...

I'm absolutely in love with my church family!

Although I've attended a number of different churches in my life, I really only consider two as home churches. Coincidentally, they are the only two churches I've also ever joined as a member. The first one is the small country church I grew up in so many years ago. On a good Sunday, we'd have 60 people in attendance to collectively love each other and worship a most deserving God. Even today, almost 30 years later, I still consider the people from that church very much family. I look forward to seeing many that have gone on again one glorious day. I will shake the hand of Mr. Rutlege and thank him very sincerely for the heartfelt prayers he would often open or dismiss services with each Sunday.  When he spoke, both humility and reverence exuded from his baritone voice in a manner I've yet to find a match. I will look for Preacher Fleenor to thank him for taking a personal interest in a cocky, green teenager who needed far more Jesus and far less of himself. I will hug Mrs. Taylor and Mrs. Conant in appreciation for numerous Sunday School lessons they taught me over the years with diligence and a lot of patience. Just to name a few...

The church I attend today is equally special to me. While God is most assuredly the common denominator between these two special churches, there are the people who have chosen to express and share His love evidently present in both Houses too. My current place of gathering in His name is somewhat larger...but no less comfortable. Active but a humble manner. We start both worship services each week with a 'reconnect time' of alter prayer to prepare our hearts and minds for worship, praise and reception of His word and Spirit.

No one will be surprised when I say Baptist churches can be somewhat stiff and a little formal. Honestly, we too suffer from a degree of that culture in our services, but God seems to understand and visits with us each week despite our self-imposed aloofness. He's been chuckling at Baptist for many years now and loves us none the less...and we love Him.

We sing praises in worship each week to Him in a number of styles and techniques. In one service each week, yours truly bangs out rhythms on the drums with our Praise Team in my own unique way of worship. I'm thankful for the talent He gave me and only use it in His name these days.

Our pastor is a gifted speaker who takes the role God has placed him in very seriously. The church leadership is very focused on our purpose in the Kingdom always maintaining a healthy balance between responsible stewardship of what God has blessed us with and reckless dedication to faithfully do what we have been called to spite of traditions and dogma.

But the single characteristic ever-present is love...for each other, for those not yet a part of His body, and always for Him.

Through the powers of YouTube, here's a recent Sunday service:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What comes to your mind when you think about church?

I'm really grateful for my church.

NOT because it's perfect. Groucho Marx once said he never wanted to belong to a club that would accept him as a member. There's some of that to the church thing too; if it were close to perfect before I walked in, it would stop being so once I arrived. Repeatedly in the Word I see a call to bear with one another. I'm grateful that I'm part of a local church where people bear with me.

If you were with me as I got to church on a Sunday morning you'd see someone come up and give me a hug (and you too) as we were walking up the steps to walk into church. We'd talk with this person a bit; about what's going on in their life, your life, and my life. We might pray together or we might move on into the sanctuary. We'd most likely encounter another hug-share session before we got to where we chose to sit down. Once there, I'd look around to see if there was anyone I didn't know (we live in a mountain resort town with a posted population of 3,500 so our church is most likely only 150 people divided up between 2 services - so it's easy to spot someone that you don't know). If I saw someone, I'd go over and say hello and chat a bit.

I've lived here 5 years, and have basically always been in this church, and up until the past few months I would have told you that the service began with someone leading music/praise/worship and that it always felt like he was just worshiping God and we got to join in. That the time was sweet and I always sensed God's presence. The music style was always extremely varied; it could be rock, hymns, or choruses, but it always felt like it was about God. Recently they made some changes and I've been praying a lot about it. I've lived in large areas for most of my life and have participated in Mega churches and the just-started-worship team feels a lot more like those kinds of experiences; almost as if they're trying to cheer lead you into worshiping the King instead of just letting you join them if you chose - don't know if I can explain it. It's not about the style of music 'cuz that's always all good for me, it's something else that I can't put my finger on but that I'm praying about. Please also understand that it's not like I'm not able to sing those songs and close my eyes and talk to Jesus, or dance with joy, or be silent and whisper words of love to Him during these times. Also, I can tell that the people who are leading really love God; it just feels really "church-y" instead of simple love pouring out, and God moving. I don't speak about it to anyone but my husband John since I don't want to be someone negative in the church; I'm waiting on God. Maybe this is just about me, I don't know.

The time in the Word is consistently good. My kids make fun of me because so frequently they've heard me declare to John as we drive home - wasn't that sermon extra wonderful today, I just got so much out of it, God really spoke to my heart through His Word! Whenever I say something like that they roll their eyes and declare that I always say that! But God's Word is just so good and my heart is so needy and thirsty for Him.

I'm grateful that when I meet people locally and reach out to them, our local church gatherings are places I can comfortably invite people to. Depending on situations and how I feel God leading, I may, or may not, invite people , but at least I feel like I can because I know they will have a good experience if they come.

Our local church doesn't end there for me. It's about the email's for urgent prayer needs and going and visiting someone who has a need and praying for them, or making them food, or getting my kids to help with their yard work, or depositing money into an account for someone who's in dire need. It's about the food bank that's open to the community. It's about the various community events we sponsor like movie drive in night, and Fall festivals. It's about a few incredible women that come to my house weekly to sing praises to God, study the Word together, and invest into one another's lives. It's about receiving a phone call about a free concert going on someplace and going with a friend from church. It's about standing in the line at the local grocery store and having someone come over and give me a hug and say just wanted to say hello sister. It's about going to the post office (we all have post office boxes in this town, no mail to houses) and feeling a rush of happiness because I see a dear brother or sister in the Lord there. It's about being connected to one another and loving each other; being together in the business of life.

When I think about the local body, I that phrase comes to my mind often - going through the busines of life together. What comes to your mind when you think about your local church?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Walk In God's Love & Give it Away

The Ferrier, who makes our ponies’ hooves look pretty, tells me that if he were to attend a Christian church, he’d come to my church. Why? Because he longs for joy. The church he is referring to is not even my home church but I do attend there on occasion to find joy and freedom also. 

The first time you attend Cloverdale Christian Fellowship, or CFF for short, you’d wonder if you were in the right place as you are driving. It is located amidst factories in an industrial park, strategically located within walking distance to downtown Cloverdale where addiction is on display like rings in a jewellery store window. Many people in that community cannot remember a generation in their family that didn’t exist apart from government handouts. But that is the heart of CFF, meeting the greatest needs of the community.

Church meetings are held in the upper room of the office spaces they rent. Like the upper room where the disciples met, CFF waits expectantly on the Lord. Three truths I’ve observed by this body of believers: 1. Father God is good and without measure in his goodness towards his people; 2. The Holy Spirit is free and welcome to make his presence known; and 3. Jesus is coming back for a pure and spotless bride.

CCF believes that worship is more than 3-4 songs to get the congregation primed for the message. The worship time is extended because they invite and wait for God’s presence. To an outsider the worship time may appear like cacophony – shouts, laughing, people standing, sitting, sprawled on the floor, dancing in the front or waving flags around the back and sides. The little ones are also free to express worship before their Sunday School time that follows corporate worship. I haven’t visited many churches that are as free in worship as CFF. God has blessed their heart for worship and their leadership with his presence and his favour.

After worship and testimonies, a tithing declaration is spoken aloud by the whole congregation, remembering the goodness of God each week as we give back some of our offering to the Lord.

Finally, Randy Emerson will teach; he’s been preaching on John’s gospel for more than a year – so infinite is the word of God that you could never exhaust the new revelation. As he teaches, it’s as though he is having a personal conversation with a friend over coffee and we’re listening in. Randy brings depth to the Scripture and the revelation so that the people of God are trained for kingdom living.

At the close of the service, a team of seasoned prayer warriors will pray with those that need prayer – not to commensurate in the many trials that we face but to look to the face of Jesus and bring heaven’s reality into the situation.

Amen, and God continue to bless CFF.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I’m churchless.  I have been for a long time.  Okay, before you drop to your knees and pray for my backslidden soul, let me explain. 

I have been in church since I was an infant.  You can read about the Sunday my parents presented me to the Lord for dedication here.  I’m that person that most pastors love to have in their church.  I’ve done everything from free janitorial and secretarial work to founding and pastoring a church.  When my kids were small and we’d come in for Sunday School, there was a significant growth factor in the church immediately.  I was always that person who was there, with the tribe, every time the church doors opened.

When we moved to Tennessee, the Lord directed me to a church not far from where I lived.  I wanted to go to the big splashy church, but God said no, go near where you live.  I did.  I went there for several years.  I was barely in the door the first time when the pastor’s radar went off and within weeks I was his secretary (this time for a meager salary) and also teaching, leading, and filling the pulpit when he was gone.  That lasted until I started a church plant.  Things went well for about…. Three months.  Then we lost our place to meet.  Back to prayer.  We didn’t resume meeting for another 3 years.

In the meantime, I went to that big splashy church.  I hated it.  The people were unfriendly probably because they didn’t know each other.  Even the small group experience was lacking, seriously lacking.  Eventually I found a smaller church.  That went well until I found out the church had some serious doctrinal flaws – later that pastor was arrested on a Ponzi scheme.  The church plant resumed meeting in a new location.  It contracted several times.  Some Sundays looked good.  Others, not so much.  But overall, if I were to tell you about the church I’d like to be a part of, that would be on the list.  God moved.  We bonded in love like I’ve rarely experienced in church.  We all grew in Christ together.  It was special.

Then the move to SD came.  Okay, God??? What gives??? The “wither thou goest” part of marriage sent me to frigid SD.  I never really found a church home there.  Sundays were often spent commuting back and forth to TN from SD (just a short 16 hour one-way trip).  Other Sundays, I had the privilege of filling a pulpit – most memorable was my time at Grandview Covenant Church.  While very traditional, that church would be on my list of best churches too!

So here I am.  Back in TN.  I’ve visited a few church, still traveling a lot on the weekend so not always here.  Just can’t seem to find my place. 

But here is the question I have.  Church – it isn’t four walls and a steeple.  It’s people.  It is the people of God coming together to fellowship, pray, worship, and love each other.  It’s not about the music you sing.  It’s not about the building.  It’s about the people.  That’s what made those two top churches, The Well (that I pastored) and Grandview special.  People who love the Lord, love each other, and work together to build the Kingdom of God. 

Now here is my soap box after living in the buckle of the Bible belt, frozen New England – frigid South Dakota and of course neutral Missouri –

We spend far too much time thinking of the church as a building, or a program, or numbers, or all sorts of other tangible things.  I went to one church for many years in New England that never had a building and that’s all they talked about.  Everything would be better when they had a building.  They got one after 25 plus years – I don’t think it made them better.   We can always say if only we had this or that or the other God would move and it would be perfect. 

The birth of the church came at Pentecost when believers came in unity and prayed.  I think it’s still the same – the church is where believers come together in unity and pray.  The Spirit of God moves among people who come together to worship and love God and each other.  That’s what I’m looking for – and for me, smaller churches work better than mega ones.  How about you? How do you define church?

Monday, July 25, 2011

So You Want to Go to Church? - The Church at Boston

The worship leader rips a sweet and emotional guitar solo reminiscent of Santana. The presence of God gently wraps itself around me...

This week the motley crew, better know as the Kingdom Bloggers, are going to write about their church, worship style and things that are meaningful to them about the corporate gathering. Some of us are regular members, and others are on a mission to find a new form of fellowship - but we all look to regular gatherings of believers.

I would call myself a God chaser; I don't care about denominations, worship styles or any other religious trappings. In a nutshell: I'm a caffeine fueled reformer, a believer in Christ, a bit radical, a lot non-conformist, definitely a sushi-eating, rock music loving warrior of the King. For those reasons, I engage God in a variety of ways which may be different than the average believer. I confess, I am not very social at church, although I do enjoy people. Worship for me is time to get alone with God - seems strange to me too.

So what's it like where I fellowship on a regular basis? First, I don't know if 200 people is a big church, or a small church. I have belonged to home-churches as well as larger churches - maybe 750 members. We don't have mega-churches in New England, so I have only attended services at a couple; one is Connecticut and one in Florida.

I went on the men's retreat with the guy who is the greeter at the door. I look forward to a hug or two in the lobby (no holy kisses - but this is New England!). I get there early because I never know how long the service is going to be. Some Sundays it is an hour or so, others 2 or more. Hopefully is depends on God. (1 Cor 14) Because I have an hours drive, I pray as I listen to soaking music. When I run out of words, I just let the spirit say whatever it wants too. I am pretty pumped by the time I get there.

I often get to hear the worship team practice, say hello to whoever is there, and stand by the door to see what God wants to do with me and a new face. Sure we have great music, and really good preaching, but we also stop for prayer, call folks up for healing and pray for them, and to bring revelation to individuals and the church as a body.

You may watch a service HERE. But you'll only see a small percentage of what God is doing. You won't see people praying for others in the hallway, you won't see friendships being forged at a table in the cafe. You won't hear all the testimonies of healing that went on during the week, or the lives that are change with the inner healing and deliverance ministries; there is just not enough time. Nope, and you won't hear the phone calls or see the emails, texts and Facebook messages that take place in a single day between the brethren. Why? Because Sunday morning is a celebration of Jesus, and the rest of the week is actually church where believers care for one another in various ways.

My favorite part of church is personal ministry - the ministry that I am called to. I get to church expecting to love on someone, to share a word of knowledge or prophecy, a hug, a listening ear, or a prayer for healing. As a believer, it is my job to show up with something to offer, not just depend on the pastor and worship team to lay it all out for me.

It doesn't matter what the style of worship music or preaching is, it matters what good works the Lord has laid out in advance for me to walk into.

Here is a testimony that changed my life completely - in fact it was a message from God for me. I quit doing all the things I was good at and held out for opportunities to hear God and do it. (It's well worth it to listen to the first 2:55)

How about you, do you go to church expecting to be who God has made you and give, or just receive?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Go ahead, touch Him...I dare you!

This has truly been one of my favorite weeks on Kingdom Bloggers. While we are all here to serve our loving God, our very essence and nature is to be awed and in worship to the Almighty. I love the time each week I'm privileged to spend in fellowship, in prayer, preparing for my Sunday School class, in devotion and even writing or speaking for the Kingdom. But, nothing can replace the moments when the world around me seems to stop, and my focus lifts to Heaven in praise and worship to Him.

Just on Sunday mornings? Absolutely not! If I could spend every one of the 604,800 seconds in a week in humble gratitude, praise and still wouldn't be worthy enough for our Father. I worship whenever and wherever I can because I'm addicted to joy I receive from His love.

When it comes to my very favorite worship song, I'm going to surprise some of you expecting this Praise Team drummer to throw out something with a thump. I'll admit it was hard to pick just a single song, but this one immediately jumped out to me:

He is here, Hallelujah,

He is here, Amen

He is here, Holy Holy,

I will bless His name again

He is here, listen closely

Hear Him calling out your name

He is here, you can touch Him

You will never be the same

I long to be in His presence. When I sing this praise chorus in church or alone in my car, I cry out in thanks for His Spirit being with me, saturating me and that I might be used in some way to share His awesome love with others around me.

Even writing this, I get teared up just typing those last two sentences...because I know I will truly, honestly never be the same again. He pulled me from the dark and into the Light. Thank God!

Look Joyce, I found a Gaither version! You just knew this southern boy would...I'm sure. God bless y'all!!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's those simple ones

I can relate to what Joyce said earlier this week about pick JUST ONE worship song that's my favorite - but I love so many?!!

We feel this way because music speaks the language of our hearts and it engages us. We experience music.

But I'm not a musician, not a gifted singer, not entrenched in the world of music. Perhaps it's because of this that I've found that it's the simple songs that I come back to repeatedly.

Those simple worship choruses, especially the ones singing my love to the Father, are the ones I come back to again and again. There have been countless mornings when I've stolen away to that treasured time alone, and began singing those simple songs; either from a heart filled with love and gratitude, or when I've felt nothing and chose to sing as an act of will. Either way, it's to those simple songs that I return time and time again.

It's during those times alone that sometimes a really cool thing has happened. It's as if God's used those simple choruses to quiet down my spirit and make me aware of His presence. I've been overcome with a tangible sense of His presence and His joy, that feeling of peace permeating me and that all is right with the world. In that awareness, sometimes I've stopped singing and began to laugh, or became silent in my awe of His greatness, or quietly began to whisper words of love and adoration to my great God.

Here are links to a few of those simple songs that I managed to find on youtube:

I love you Lord

Father I adore you

You're worthy of my praise


What about you, do you have some simple choruses that you find have captured your heart?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dance With Me

I’m Mennonite by culture, and if you know anything about Mennonites you’ll know that we breed to remove any dancing ability. As much as I wanted to dance as a child, I wasn’t allowed and our public high school in the Mennonite community where I grew up didn’t have dances – it might lead to sex. It’s puzzling then that 1 in 20 girls in my high school were pregnant. Perhaps the powers that be should reconsider how and when sex occurs.

Q:  Why don’t Mennonites have sex standing up?
A: It might lead to dancing.

I digress, forgive me. I was talking about dance. I love dance, however it feels like a guilty pleasure – remnants of a view learned in childhood that dance = sin. The problem with that view is that it is erroneous. Dance is not sin; dance is used in worship and throughout the Bible as an expression of joy and exuberance. Is it really any surprise then that God has redeemed dance and taught me a different view – his view of dance.

You may wonder how God taught me a new way of thinking. I’m so glad you asked. It’s quite simple, really. The Father asked me to dance, just like a Father takes his daughter’s hand at her wedding for the Father/daughter dance. (Other people’s wedding, not mine – it still felt too shameful to have dancing at my wedding.)

The song Dance with Me is my new favourite worship song because that was what was playing when the Father asked me to dance. It was glorious and wonderful and I felt beautiful and safe in his arms.

If you’ve never danced with the Father, stop for a moment and dance with him. Go ahead, do it now. No one is watching except the Lover of your soul. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Around the Throne

One favorite worship song?  One? Just one?  Okay, you get the picture; choosing one is hard.  I took yet another road trip.  I am in Jacksonville FL.  To get here, I drove 10 hours on Sunday.  I guess not the best way to spend the Lord’s Day but actually, I had some really good time in the car with the Lord.  I find windshield time is very productive that way.

I’ve mentioned my eclectic taste in music before.  I have the same eclectic “taste” in worship.  I was struggling on how to reply to the question of the week.  On this trip, as I was belting out How Great Thou Art with the radio, it hit me.  No, I won’t say that is my favorite.  But it does make a list of mine.

I know that we cannot imagine what the worship will be like in Heaven.  We get glimpses of it in Revelation.  Our imagination goes wild with expectations of the wonders of heaven.  I’ve heard people say they’ve seen or heard a glimpse of it and it is indescribable.  They say there are new colors, and sounds that we have never heard.  Continually the sounds of heaven are released to the worship warriors of each generation. 

But I think there are hymns and songs that we will sing in heaven.  As I finished my solo in the car of How Great Thou Art I thought, yes, this is a song we’ll sing in heaven.  Shortly after, while flipping channels, I hear Great is Thy Faithfulness – I love the verse “Pardon for sin and peace that endureth” – I love the creation imagery of “Summer and winter, and spring time and harvest.”  Yep, that’s on the list.

Of course, we’ll sing in every tongue “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.”  I have no doubt Amazing Grace will be sung… those of this generation will sing My Chains Are Gone as the tears are wiped away from our eyes.   We’ll sing hymns yet composed as well as Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty (hymn or modern version) and All Hail the Power of Jesus Name Let Angels Prostrate Fall – we’ll be prostrate before the King with that one.

On and on, newer songs like All Hail King Jesus and How Great is Our God… the list goes on and on.  But there is one song, that we may or may not sing in heaven.  One always brings me to tears and knees.  It’s old now, but I remember the first time I heard it.  My father had just gone home to be with the Lord.  I was an Army wife living in North Carolina with two small children, one sick.  Someone invited us to an all night sing at a high school.  A young Vestal Goodman sang this song.

It's a good thing we'll have eternity to sing His praises - I have a very long list of songs I want to sing in worship around the Throne.  It will take eternity to sing and worship. I Can Only Imagine.  What do you want to sing around the throne?

Monday, July 18, 2011

And His Train Fills the Temple

I stood there absolutely captivated by the presence of God. It was like being in a swimming pool - the King was in the house and I was just undone. The majesty of the most High gently washed over me and every cell in my body rejoiced!

This week the faithful are simply going to share a worship song with you, and fill you in on why it's meaningful. Enjoy!

I am trained musician, HERE is little more on that story along with a video of yours truly. In my lifetime, have listened to some of the greatest musicians that have ever lived. From the Rolling Stones to Andre Segovia, I have been at so many live performances I can't even begin to count them. I have played worship in Christian circles since 1982. I have even recorded a few with my friend Bob. (You may download 2 of them HERE - Praise to the King and My Heart Adores). Sure, I have written about my favorites Christian tunes HERE, but today I want to share one that changed me. Why? Because true worship has nothing to do with the music! For David, it isn't even about the lyrics, though many minister to my soul; no, it's about the anointing and the glorious presence of God.

In the late 90's I was at a conference here in New England. The worship team was comprised of musicians from around the area. Though Kent Henry was one of the headliners, this night was just a bunch of local guys. As I made my way down the hallway to the auditorium, I heard the chorus, "and his train fills the temple"... captivating. I made my way inside and closed my eyes - I am sort of an odd Christian, I pray with my eyes open and worship with them closed. And there the Lord and I met about my destiny, my future with Him. I can still feel the sense of the fear (reverence) of the Lord - there was no on talking during this song, as lives were being change all over the room. (This is the only reasonably decent version I could find online)

Send me Lord.

I have never been the same.

Isaiah 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. (You might enjoy the chapter HERE.)

Post a comment about your experience with the Lord, one where you might have been undone.

Friday, July 15, 2011

He always knows what I need and when I need it...

Wow! Another week of inspiring post lifting praise to an awesome God!

I've been blessed this week reading each post and the comments that follow. Like several of my fellow Kingdom Bloggers, I was conflicted a bit on exactly which of several possible stories I wanted to share, but the fellow visit from the Holy Spirit has continued to have direct influence in my daily life.

I've written about my commute a few times over on Tony C Today. It seems to always be a source of fodder for a good story...and a serious test of a few different virtues to boot. The commute has also been a blessing on many occasions for me as I use the time to talk with my Father about things on my heart, listen to podcast of sermons from local pastors of churches I don't attend but still love, gear up or decompress for/from work, and of course jam a little.
About four years ago, I was transitioning to a new position at work. At the very same time, my boss had ask if I would copy edit a book he had finished writing and was about to submit to a publisher. The subject covered the book of Genesis but was written from a different theological perspective than my own. He wasn't deterred that I would be approaching the task as a Christian and assured me there was no pressure to agree with his work...he just wanted me to copy edit for mechanics, grammar and check scripture references.
Let me state that I love this man and his entire family. I have the best job and working environment a person could ever ask to be placed...peas and carrots. I was determined to do the best job possible for him. As I got deeper into the book, it became obvious to me that our belief systems were vastly different. I started experiencing anxieties, not as a result of anything he said directly to me or required, but rather from my own conscience. Was it justifiable or grounded in dogma? The conflict became a spiritual struggle for me that lasted for several weeks and became a serious drag on my daily attitude.

I pressed on with editing the 700+ page book. There were times I know I avoided talking with my boss because I was becoming somewhat disconnected. My focus started breaking down as I struggled with what I should do or say based on my Christian faith. I had several conversation with my pastor who really helped me put things into a proper perspective. But still, the anxiety lingered and even haunted me at times.
While driving home from work one evening, I started praying for God to guide me, lead me. Should I stop editing because the book conflicted with my own faith? Why it took me so long to go to Him is beyond me, but I prayed, I waited and then I flipped on the radio...
The song King of Glory by Third Day was playing. I cranked it up. As I listened and began to sing along, I became overwhelmed with Joy. I popped in a CD with the long version of the same song and started again. His name is Jesus, precious Jesus. The Lord Almighty, the King of my heart, the King of glory.
I pulled off I-26 at the top of Bays Mountain, put everything else on my mind and in my heart aside, and sang to my Jesus...the King of glory! When the song ended, I played it again...and then a third time. Alone...tears flowing...filled with Joy...I worshipped and sang praises to Him.
When I started driving again, my anxiety was just...gone. I had become so wrapped up and worried that I had surrendered my source of Joy in life...the Joy that only comes when my focus is on Him. After that day, I had a number of great discussions with my boss about his book, his beliefs and also about my faith. He's a great guy who listens and doesn't judge, and that's the example I should have been exhibiting.
Although sometimes I fail, now I try not to be hampered by earthly issues when I worship or even prepare to worship. God deserves my undivided attention, and even though I'm never worthy of His presence...sometimes He pours it on extra heavy just because He loves me.

I've been a little late getting home several other evenings to spend a little time with Him since too...


Thursday, July 14, 2011

He's there when I need Him

Like Andrea yesterday, I had trouble narrowing it down to just one experience. Most of those experiences have been during times of worship, either with others or when I'm alone. But the time I felt compelled to share about was during a season of my life when I needed Him and God was real in a tangible way, and His joy saw me through.

I am grateful that the All Mighty Creator of the universe, the Host of the Armies of Heaven, the Holy and Just and Perfect God, chooses to have His Holy Spirit live in me, and chooses to grace me with His very presence.

It's just that sometimes I'm aware of His presence, and sometimes I'm not so aware. Sometimes my experience of Him is palpable, and sometimes I don't feel a thing and have to act on faith.

I can remember a specific time in my life when I needed Him and frequently experienced both His presence and His joy. It was when I took over my first facility as administrator.

In some ways I'm not a natural at being an administrator; I've got the mental ability but I'm shy, hate confrontations, would like to just be nice all day, detest being the center of attention, and am a definite laid back, type B, personality who adores when I have the luxury to take her time. But in a hectic, busy, secured psychiatric facility the pace is fast and there's a lot at stake. No education, or on the job training, could prepare me for all the situations that came up daily in that first position. (Did I mention that we also had a labor union in that building?) So, there'd be times when I had to make a decision on the spot and I really didn't know what to do. My natural inclination is to think about a situation, and then look at it from all sides, and then think some more. To analyze it from every angle, to research, and evaluate it. But the day to day life of running that business did not always afford me that opportunity.

So I developed the habit of spending time with God every morning. Trying to program my brain through His Word so that His way of doing things would be my first response. Trying to connect with Him and allow His Spirit to center me so I'd have a compass for the day. Then, when those urgent situations came up, I'd just silently offer up a prayer of "Help Lord-what do I do?" and go with what seemed the best course at the time.

What I can remember, with a smile on my face as I think back on it, was how real He made His presence to me. It was similar to what I've seen in the movies, or heard people describe, about how their dad was with them when they first learned to ride a 2-wheel bike; he'd hold on for awhile before He let go. That was the type of experience I had with God during that season of my life; I never felt alone because I could sense His very presence, right there, when I called out to Him. And His presence filled me with such joy and security; knowing that my heavenly Father was there for me, that I wasn't alone as I was learning the ins and outs of the job He'd blessed me with to provide for my family.

What about you, have you experienced God's faithfulness? Has He been there when you needed Him?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Have You Seen My Shoes?

Joy is a valuable commodity in heaven. Jesus died for joy.

Hebrews 12:2b, “who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame...”

On Monday, David introduced our theme for the week – a moment of joy – and he admitted to some strange behaviour, all in the name of joy in the presence of the Lord. Who knew the presence of the Lord looks amazingly like the end of a night at the bar? Drunk is drunk, except one leads to life and the other leads to debauchery, bad decisions and death.

To be honest, I liked my party days – it was fun. If it wasn’t enjoyable, partying with drugs and alcohol wouldn’t have the temptation like chocolate for a women with PMS but it is fun and when I turned away from that lifestyle, I mourned the good times. NOT that I would have chosen to return because I also remember feeling terrible the next day and regretting some of my decisions I had made the night before. Therefore, I was overjoyed when I realized that the devil didn’t create good times, no, that’s something the Lord did for us because joy is a high commodity in heaven.

I could say so much about joy but the theme is a moment of joy that we remember. One of the sweetest moments of joy in my memory still brings feeling of peace and euphoria every time I think of it, so the practice of writing this week has been an exercise of reliving the moment – thank you Tony for choosing this theme.

Joy is the emotion, source and expression. I believe true joy can only be found in Jesus – sometimes it’s so good, it feels illegal, but like the country song, “If it feels so right, it can’t be wrong.”

On this particular evening, I was at a church service for a dream workshop/conference. As the worship started, my friend leaned over and said, “Don’t feel you have to hold back.” And that night I didn’t.

The worship time was beyond pleasant – laughter, visions and feelings of peace. It was impossible for me to stay in my seat and at some point, I abandoned my shoes. Later in the evening, I asked my friend, “Do you know where my shoes are? I can’t find them.” Until that point, that was something I’d never heard [or said] in church.

As the sweet presence of Jesus came into the room and stayed, I laid down. I felt like I was floating in water. The meeting progressed around me but I could only focus on one thing – Jesus. He was real, he was present and he was more than I could drink in. It was glorious and heavenly and my joy was complete in that moment.

How has Jesus made your joy complete?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Joy Unspeakable

I suppose it is hard to talk about joy in Jesus without talking about the Holy Spirit.  Ah, the Holy Spirit, aka, the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete, the Comforter, the third Person of the Trinity (I don’t know why we put the Holy Spirit Third) – the most misunderstood, and sometimes minimized part of the Godhead.  Okay, the nerd is not going to talk about theology.  What I am going to talk about today is Joy in Jesus and that’s experiential.  Sometimes it is a good idea to go with it, to experience God.  As Wesley said, describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed.”

That’s hard for me.  I’m an “objective thinker.”  I remember the first time I saw a glow on people’s faces when they prayed.  You can read about it here.  I remember thinking, wow, that’s wonderful.  My mother told me it was what happened in the Bible, in the book of Acts.  As I got older, I heard of Azusa Street (make sure your speakers are on for this link), I heard my mother and father speak of their experience with the Holy Spirit.  I heard and read about other revivals. 

It was the mid-90’s.  I was beginning to realize I was getting old.  I thought, I want to experience, see, be a part of an Azusa Street type experience. I knew the way to revival was prayer.  I started going to the church every day on my lunch hour to pray.  A dear friend and co-worker went with me. I had never spent that much time in concentrated prayer.  At the same time I started reading of revival experiences in various locations.  I thought I want to go there – I want to see that, I want to be part of that… but I couldn’t.  Money and responsibilities prevented it.  I prayed all the harder because the only way I was going to experience revival was if it came to me.
I could say so much about that time-period. So many things God taught me.  So many people I met along the way.  One of them was the pastor who put together a mission trip to Norway in 2002 – I met him by accident, online.  That chance meeting was so providential.  Because of that, I met David and here we are nearly ten years later blogging. 

But what about joy in Jesus?  Oh that came.  The months of daily lunchtime prayer at church brought revival joy that bubbled up from the depths of our hearts and souls.  It was uncontainable.  Like the old gospel song – It is Joy Unspeakable and Full of Glory.

It was August 1997.  Just before my world collapsed and I sunk into a deep night of the soul.  Something was happening that would devastate when I found out weeks later.  All day I had sensed that this was my night.  We were in a series of nightly meetings.  Funny how when the Holy Spirit shows up, so do the people, night after night, in the heat of the summer.  I was there each night.  I would pray with people.  It was wonderful.  But this day, this night, I just sensed something would be different. It was.

I can’t explain it in worlds.  The objective thinker who analyzes everything only knows it was real and it was wonderful. Oh I didn’t laugh that night.  I didn’t roll on the floor that night.  It was as if the heavens opened and I walked in.  It was as if I had found that open door mentioned in Revelation 4.  For a short period of time it was as if I was with Jesus in some heavenly realm.  As odd as that sounds, and believe me, I know it sounds odd, it sounds like a hallucination, it was very real.  Whatever it was, my heart was strangely warmed.  Whatever it was, I experienced a depth of joy.  Whatever it was, it got me through the depths of the dark night I was soon to experience. The joy of the Lord WAS my strength.

Joy will do that.  Jesus will do that.  He does give Joy Unspeakable and Full of Glory. 

Has this joy sprung up in your soul?