“You Better Soak That”

As we wait at the feet of Jesus, as we are still in his presence, as we listen in our prayer closets – we are “soaking” in the very present environment of a life giving, life changing, life speaking Holy Spirit that loves to speak. In this place we receive the peace that passes all understanding.

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Today words that I have spoken probably a hundred times in my lifetime – “You better soak that” – jumped out at me as a source of pondering.

To soak something means that it becomes saturated for a purpose. We soak a grim covered pan, a stained piece of cloth, and even a dried up pot of soil. The purpose is to change it – remove the grim, the stain or, in the case of soil to till it – prepare it for something new to take root.

In the Christian church culture the word “soak” has run its course of the “in thing” – but in reality it is where we are changed. As we wait at the feet of Jesus, as we are still in his presence, as we listen in our prayer closets – we are “soaking” in the very present environment of a life giving, life changing, life speaking Holy Spirit that loves to speak. In this place we receive the peace that passes all understanding.

Our busy lives find it difficult to slow down and take that time to be still but if we don’t, we live in a constant spin of chaos. Peace comes from that quiet place of trusting our Jesus.   It is during these times that we allow our grim and stains to be removed and our dried up soil to be saturated and tilled; then we are ready to receive something new that will take root and bloom in our lives.

Take time to “soak” – sit, be still, listen and receive – you will be amazed how his presence will refresh you, give you strength for the day ahead, and transform all areas of your life.

Ps. 46:10a “ Be still, and know that I am God.” (ESV)
Phil. 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (ESV)

One Missing Piece

Jesus came to make us whole-to bind up the places that are frayed, broken and missing. He gave us-free of charge-the missing piece.

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 I love puzzles, and several times a year (usually during winter or a nasty cold bug) I binge on them. Inevitable to this process is the end result of “one missing piece”. With two little dachshunds at my feet, getting to the completion of a puzzle without having lost one to their love of eating cardboard paper is almost unheard of. However, I still love the process and have learned to enjoy the picture that has presented itself. But, there is just something disheartening when I see that one gaping hole.

 As I look at my recent creation with its one missing piece I am struck by the thought that our lives are often like this puzzle. Pieces are fit together and begin to create a beautiful picture that represents our journey in this life. Each section of the puzzle shows our life’s endeavors – our relationships, our jobs, our adventures. But that picture will never be complete with the empty space that begins to loom. That one missing piece is what holds the whole picture together. You can look at its overall beauty but that gaping hole is obvious, and you can’t fix it by yourself. But, it is fixable, for we have been given a solution.

 Jesus came to make us whole – to bind up the places that are frayed, broken and missing. He gave us – free of charge – the missing piece. The piece that completes our lives, that makes us whole, that brings all those other pieces in our lives together into one beautiful picture. That picture is one of a life lived in abundance that was given to us from the hand of a loving Heavenly Father. We just need to reach out and pick up that offered piece from the nail-scarred hand of Jesus.

If you find your puzzle missing that one piece – simply say YES and pick it up.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)
John 10:10-11  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (ESV)

 

 

A Day of Miraculous Multiplication

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     With anticipation I unlocked the door to the auditorium. Last night a large crew of “little elves” and I had prepared for what looked to be our most successful year for our Holiday Helps program. The food boxes were overflowing, the oversized chest freezer was cram-packed with turkeys, the toy tables were stacked high and we still had a closet full of extras. Plus in the center of the room stood a 6-foot-tall mountain of donated clothes in every size possible waiting for those who would partake in this year’s “blessing”.

     Every family was scheduled, so there was plenty of time for mom, dad or grandparent to shop “free of charge” for Christmas gifts and the ability to load up leaf-bags full of clothes for each child in their family. Each would also go home with a holiday box brimming full of food, complete with a turkey. The love and hours of preparation for this project began way back at the end of August, and today was the day!!

     The doors opened and the morning began as I had planned, with each appreciative parent that was scheduled appearing as if on queue. But schedules are meant to be broken when it comes to God-appointed appointments, and mid-morning unscheduled people began to show up, each with broken lives and humble stories. I could not say no – I knew HE had sent them and was asking me to believe! Today was a day to stand in faith, and not turn any away, trusting in His ability to provide.

     The anticipation of something miraculous was stirring and seemed to crackle in the room.

   The door rattled as the wind blasted it shut and a timid young woman walked in. I was drawn to her hopeless stance and approached her. She hung her head and looked up at me, “I heard you might help me. I have twin 3-year- old girls and I have nothing for them. I don’t have an appointment, but if I could just get some clothes?” I was overwhelmed with her humility and reached out to hug her, “we have plenty, let’s shop for them”, I encouraged. For the next hour, with tears spilling from both of us, we found toys and clothes that were just perfect for her twins. How perfect was the miracle that waited.

     We sat on the floor digging through the mountain of clothes. We sorted, and resorted, looking for the correct size. Then with great joy the young mom pulled out a beautiful, brand new Christmas dress the exact size for one of her daughters. But slowly that smile began to change. I watched the smile slowly go out of her eyes as she realized, “but which one do I give this to?” “Let’s keep looking, maybe there is another pretty dress” I spoke with more faith then I felt, and within my mind I quickly sent up a request for God’s hand to provide. As I saw her shake her head in hopelessness I declared, “Let’s just take a minute and ask for one”. The shock was obvious – she didn’t have a concept of a Father God who would hear her – much less provide for her – but she humbly conceded as I sent up a quick prayer. Off we went in search of more clothes for her girls; by now she was on one side and I on the other of our mountain of clothes. Suddenly, I heard a gasp and a shriek, which catapulted me around the pile to her side as she sat dazed – laughing and crying, with the matching dress in the same size, for her other daughter, clutched to her chest. That day changed that mother’s life – she saw very clearly that she has a Father God, who does care, hear and provide in twin-size ways.

     But the day wasn’t over yet, and as the hours passed on, more unexpected families appeared needing our help. I knew the answer was to be YES for each of them; the schedule no longer mattered.

     Nearing 3:00 I began to count those who were still scheduled, and realized that we had only packed food boxes for those who had been scheduled. The number of turkeys had also been prepared for according to those numbers. My concern now was growing – we would not have enough! Two of my teen helpers were realizing the dilemma as well, and asked me what we were going to do. Again – my response – “Lets ask God to provide”. So that we did, and then I sent them off to count the turkeys, knowing how many we still needed.

     Hearing excitement over by the freezer, I approached to find both girls, with eyes as large as saucers chattering and now quickly proclaimed how many were left – the exact number of turkeys that were needed for the last group of families coming. It made no sense – in fact, I had to go look and re-count! But there they were just as they had said, on the bottom of the freezer.

   Over the next 2 hours, appointments came and unscheduled families still filtered in – and now I knew we were going to run out; but we gave and gave and gave, and yet the food boxes and turkeys NEVER ran out. As the doors closed and all was finished, one of my volunteers and I lifted the lid of the freezer to find one turkey still there. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she revealed her need to me. That turkey was there for her and her family, as well.

     It makes NO sense, but miracles never do – “whys” will never be answered, but it is enough to know that when we believe – when we say YES and when we love – HE shows up in miraculous ways of multiplication.

Training For Battle

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     This week was full of military training maneuvers that made themselves known in my home. Hour after hour the floor shook, my dishes rattled and my anxious dachshunds barked – and more then once did my own gasp escape and heart rate jump. But, today I was pondering the natural and spiritual of the training process; the training is necessary in both arenas.

     Training for battle is required for a positive outcome!

   In the natural, our military must be prepared at all times, willing and ready to obey a call in an instant as well as prepared for the job at hand. Each has a place to strategically move to and work from. Without training maneuvers the ability to instantly produce a needed outcome would not occur.

     In the spiritual it is similar. We are encouraged to be ready in season and out, to put on the armor of God, to keep alert and be watchful for the enemy’s tactics. The difference? We are not to fight under another mans armor, to fight on our own behalf, to even use our own words in the warfare. BUT – to know that the battle’s outcome belongs to the Lord. We are to stand, stand firm in faith! We are to pray in the spirit at all times – not using our own words to accomplish the battle but knowing HIS words will deliver.  Our aim in all areas of the conflict is to bring restoration and peace – and this aim must come from a place of love.

     The battle is not our own but HIS!

      HOWEVER – we must fight!

     We fight against the spiritual forces that surround, infiltrate and overcome our minds, our environment, our physical bodies and our daily lives. So how do we do that? It is all about being trained and ready for battle – knowing the place to move to and work from at the right time, and that training is found as we wait in HIS presence. When we are trained for battle the outcome is one of victory!

And the Walls Come Down!

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     Walls are meant to protect, to keep out or to keep in.

 But unbeknownst to us we find that outside forces have placed walls around us. Walls that set limitations on who we are – such as physical or mental illnesses, financial barriers, broken toxic relationships, and even environmental constraints; these are walls that must be broken down to allow freedom in our lives.

The story of Joshua and the walls of Jericho is a great example for us to consider. Joshua knew Jericho was promised territory but with thick tightly shut walls there was no way in. They had natural options just like we have – battle through with all the weapons and strength available, negotiate and manipulate to make a deal that allows a win or to listen and obey the voice of the Spirit of the living God.

Here, for Joshua and for us lies the rub! To run ahead and do all that is naturally possible makes the most sense – for isn’t that what makes a strong independent people?

The hardest thing to do is to choose to believe what you cannot do or see! Having faith in God – stopping your own striving, working, and trying – it is not easy but it is the only way that HE can come in and show himself strong on your behalf.

And the Walls Come Down!

 Joshua and all of Israel chose to listen and obey – to do what didn’t make sense. They were to quietly walk around the city once a day for 6 days then on the 7th day walk around it 7 times and at the sound of the trumpet shout and rejoice that GOD was delivering the city into their hands. Now remember, they did these things before they saw those walls start to shack, crumble and fall down – they rejoiced BEFORE – for they knew a God that was faithful to His promises. That sound, the sound of rejoicing erupting from them was the key! We too, can listen and obey – and as we rejoice BEFORE we see results the shaking is occurring in the heavenly’s .

And the Walls Come Down!

Freedom can be found! The walls that have blocked you in – limiting you in that which God has chosen for you to do must come down.

The lies of the enemy of your soul can be set back! As you accept and stand up with the authority that you have been given as a child of the King of Kings, a believer in all that the blood of Christ purchased for you, you too can listen and obey the voice of the Spirit of the living God.

And the Walls Come Down!

Rejoicing BEFORE you see the outcome because HE is faithful, because He is a good father and because He is always for you – that is where freedom begins, that is where the battle is won, that is where peace in all circumstances begins!

     Only then do you look and find that the miraculous has occurred.

And the Walls Come Down!

A Warrior’s Unexpected “Call to Arms”! (by J. K. Sanchez)

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     The air in the room instantly became thick and hot, her ears hearing only her crashing heart beat; four unexpected words spoken in a sterile environment now bouncing through her head like a ping pong ball – “you have breast cancer”. How she receives, processes and walks through today and the months and years ahead will transform her and impact everyone her life touches.

     The insidious leviathan called “breast cancer” begins to surface, having already begun its rampage within the territory belonging to her. Does she run or fight? Her first responses to this attack are terror, numbness and inability to move. But soon instructions, research and information are received and the sword is offered; now decisions loom. The still surreal question before her – surrender to this monster’s fiery breath or take that sword with both hands, brace her feet and prepare to move forward into the fight of her life?

     This devouring disease looms as a possible destroyer over every woman. There is no discrimination to its destruction – all are at risk. Every year over 200,000 women are faced with this monster’s appearance.   Every year the decision to take up a sword of defense is forced into trembling hands of women of all generations – the single woman, the mother, the career woman, and the retired woman. They all will receive a “call-to-arms” that was never expected. This battle is one that is a life-long sentence! These women may make it through the skirmish, but will live everyday for the rest of their lives with this leviathan and its smoldering breath lurking under the surface; never knowing if it will resurface again.

     Two brave warriors: Cherrie, a vibrant grandmother in her 60’s, and Rachael, a single mother of two in her 30’s, live each day with this lurking monster’s presence, but they walk with positive attitudes of thankfulness. The determination to fight – to lift the heavy sword – is wielded by three powerful words that stand strong within each of them: Faith, Hope and Love – the greatest of these is LOVE.

     Each of my friends and every woman who will encounter, fight, survive or succumb to this insidious disease are already winners, for they have made the stand against it. How the battle is fought is the key – it is the positive attitude within them that knows that they were made for more.

     At 64, the unexpected jolts in Cherrie’s life had adjusted to a soft daily roll. But one morning in March 2011, everything in her life quickly changed. As an exuberant positive person not much could shake her; but as the doctor spoke she barely heard anything past “stage 1a breast cancer”. This was a routine mammogram that now had turned into a tidal wave crashing over her mind. Shock, fear, anger, and tears all flooded unbidden over her, but within minutes the destructive wake stirred a determination as she announced, “Let’s get this taken care of NOW!”

     Her years of experience and research skills immediately kicked into gear. Her first contacts and rapid response came from friends working in the local hospital. They connected her to some of the best cancer specialists and within weeks she was scheduled to have a lumpectomy and begin a regiment of radiation.

     Though her greatest fears were of the cancer spreading or cells being left undetected, she knew her positive attitude had to stay intact.

     Cherrie was overwhelmed with love and support from her daughter, granddaughter and friends; this love became her strength. Shortly after surgery she received a surprise visit from co-workers touting pink roses and champagne to celebrate, cheer her on and stand beside her – just in case she grew tired as she wielded this heavy sword. They were in her corner to fight this fire-breathing leviathan – they knew this red head had enough fire in her to breathe right back at him. Their support, encouragement and love were what helped her through the hardest days. The very best medicine is often found in friends – laughter, love and of course some “furry” snuggles.

     Now 5 years cancer-free, Cherrie knows that love was the reinforcement she needed every day, “To be with those who were positive and loved me unconditionally kept my hope up. ”

     This destructive tsunami hits new women every day, but from one warrior to the next, Cherrie’s advice is “above all else try to remain positive, it is frightening but necessary to be optimistic. Put your trust in your medical team BUT ask questions at every opportunity. If you need help – ask for it! The people who love you sometimes don’t know how to help – so tell them.” And with a smile and some sweet levity Cherrie advises, “be thankful for Lane Bryant push up lingerie – I am!”

     Rachel, a 34 year-old mother of two with no risk factors, was unprepared to hear the results of the recently found rapidly growing and painful lump on her breast. As the doctor diagnosed, “It’s an invasive aggressive cancer”, the words sounded as if a death sentence had just been handed to her – this aggressive cancer could mean less then a year to live. Within weeks, armed with firsthand encouragement and research, she chose her best option for surgery and a double mastectomy, lymph-node removal and implantation of expanders were accomplished.

     Life as she had known it had come to a screeching halt – surgery, weeks of chemo and a myriad of medications took over her life with her biggest fear looming in front of her – her two young sons without a mother.

     Rachel lives a life that is positive – always looking at the best in life and others, so it was time to focus that positive attitude on the fight of her life.

     Family stepped up! With her sister’s ability to research healthy options in every arena and help with her boys, as well as her mother’s strong shoulder and prayer warrior spirit – she found the fuel that helped her make the decisions to fight this leviathan. The onslaught of support through kind words, prayers, and gifts of all types overwhelmed her with love and hope that she would complete this journey.

     With months of pain, medications that made her sick, loss of her hair, setbacks, surgeries and more surgeries, as well as living through months of hormone inhibitors which made her feel dead inside, this young warrior responded, “Giving up was never an option or a thought.  No matter what I am facing and going through, God has given me this life and it is His to give and take away. My goal is love, truth and kindness – even on the hardest days.”

     Now only months since her last medications, she thoughtfully responds, “I am still often tired, but grateful for each day with my sons. I’m lucky to be alive, even though I still have pain and hard days.”

     She thinks often of those who unexpectedly helped her in many of the little everyday ways – providing meals, finances, occupying the boys, and a myriad of thoughtful gestures. She is filled with joy as she sees the example of God’s grace having been walked out in her family – seeing them come together, reconcile differences and support both her and each other has been an unexpected blessing.

       Life is never the same and this battle is never really over. Once you have cancer it is always lurking. The thoughts that ring loud and clear from Rachel are “before this, the world and life felt so big – full of wonder and possibilities. Now I don’t feel that way. Hopes and dreams are simple now, but I have deeper peace and security. I’m able to be more honest and direct. My relationships are all simple because I’m at peace with others and myself. I don’t place expectations on anyone and I allow myself to have weakness and space to rest.”

     Rachel’s thoughts for those beginning and fighting this battle are to walk daily with “Focus- Laser focus! Focus on what is in front of you right now. Whether it is a person, a project, decision, pain, recovery, gift, blessing, sunshine, or storm – all you have is right now. Soak it in. Also, every step is temporary, whether good or bad. Pain comes and goes and healing takes its place.”

     Though cancer takes over every thought in this journey, it is not what defines these women – they have not chosen this battle and have no control as to how, why or when it attacks – but they do have a choice; how they respond to it.

   Loving support and prayer are the covering and glue that seem to hold together as well as strengthen body, mind and spirit while these warriors trudge through this darkness.

     Human beings are able to pick up, move-on and overcome so many horrific obstacles in life because of three seemingly small words: Faith, Hope and Love. Faith that there is a God bigger than all of this, who loves us and is the ultimate one in control; Hope that our life (our story) is not finished yet, and that there is still a promised future waiting for us. And the greatest of these – love. A love that will change, support and bring life, growth and strength to the atmosphere that surrounds us. Love is the adhesive that is the key to any type of recovery.

     Let’s come along side these fighting warriors with faith, hope and love; bringing some small strength to them as they fight this insidious leviathan. For we know not if we may be the next warrior in need of strength to lift the sword in the fight of our life, as its lurking presence may beckon our own unexpected call-to-action.

 

Photo courtesy of : saphatthachat@freedigitalphotos.net

“Where’s My Keys?”

 

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     “Great, they were just here, where are they?” I mumble to myself, my frustration growing as I rummage through my purse for my keys. Unceremoniously I dump the contents into the grocery cart full of my now, getting warmer by the minute, groceries. Not there, anywhere! I look in the car window and there I see them lying on the console.

     Ever been there? Keys are important in our lives for just about everything. When one goes missing we are thrown into chaos, our normal life is disrupted.

     Without a key – the exact key – all entry is unauthorized and creates damage. Breaking, prying or any way in is forceful entry. That’s not why or how keys are made to function.

     The car fueled with gas – ready to exert power to move you forward is stalled without the key. A warm house filled with electricity is ready to provide you with heat, protection and comfort within its power-filled spaces but if you can’t get through the door you still stand out in the cold.

     Likewise as we walk through the open door Jesus created we find many doors placed before us. Some are easy access and then there are those that require the exact-fit key to open.

     In the Kingdom of Heaven we often try to get in doors we don’t have access for because we are using someone else’s keys and end up with damage control instead of living and walking in His favor and freedom. Just as my car key only fits my car, my friend’s key will not work. No matter how hard I might try, her key won’t work on my door. The only solution is either to cause damage getting in or go get the right key.

     Finding the exact-fit keys that He has designated for you is a matter of going to get them. They are there for the asking!

     Remember – no one else’s key will fit! Don’t’ try to borrow one or quickly follow through another’s door that looks more appealing. He has specific ones just for you.

     Step into a life filled with keys to doors you never knew where available as you walk out the story Jesus designed for you.

     Walking out that story is all about living in His presence, listening (not striving), doing as HE directs, and allowing ALL that He has placed within you to bring glory to Him. In faith you begin stepping out when, where and how He directs. Doors (His pre-planned assignments) will present and with confidence you will use the keys HE has placed within you to accomplish the great things HE planned before you were born.

      Let’s go get our keys and move with power through those doors!