When God Knits Hearts Together

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It’s hard to believe that one week ago today I was on a plane, returning home from a most spiritually uplifting time of sweet refreshing. God had to take me clear across the country…literally from one coast to the other…to remind me that sometimes we have to leave the comfort of what is familiar to experience the glorious.

And I have never been so glad to flee my comfort zone in my entire life.

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My heart is completely, utterly, and unquestionably knit together forever with some beautiful women out in California. I’ve been reflecting all week on this glorious love of God that transcends highways and byways, bridges rivers and canyons, and connects hearts and souls.

And I am awed. Amazed. Humbled.

I don’t know why. God never quits being awesome. He never ceases to be amazing. He never stops humbling. Sometimes, though, in the comfort of my everyday life I forget that God longs to WOW-me. So He makes me uncomfortable. It’s in this discomfort that I discover how comfortable I can be when I let Him take me into the unknown and love on me real good every step of the way.

God has this funny way of bringing us to the end of ourselves in the unfamiliar. It’s here that we experience glorious things of our God who brings glory to Himself through surrendered hearts and willing vessels. Things we’ve forgotten. Or forfeited. There’s just something so holy about being brought low. Something so humbling when I pour out and God pours in. It’s in this place we’re overwhelmed by Love.

And the ladies of Glendora loved all over me with the love of Christ. From the moment Cathy began communicating with me through email to the moment Cheryl picked me up at the airport to the moment Joann and her husband received me into their home to the moment I met Felice for the first time to the moment I entered the retreat center and was introduced to 50-plus amazing women who came with the anticipation of meeting with our Jesus, I felt as if I’d known them forever, our hearts entwined, knitted together like a beautifully stitched afghan warming my body and comforting my soul.

I will never forget them.

As I was reflecting on this I remembered that Scripture tells us in 1 Samuel 18:1, 3 & 4, “Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself…then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.” 

This encounter between David and the son of king Saul follows David’s triumph over the Philistine giant, Goliath. Jonathan had not only seen David’s courage and witnessed his victory, but he had heard David speak boldly in defense of the one true God, the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel.

Jonathan felt a kinship with David because they were like-minded. To knit means to tie, physically, to gird; to bind together, league together. I guess you could say they were in “a league all their own.”  They shared a bond and that bond was rooted in their love for the Lord God. I’m sure Jonathan admired David’s courage and respected his bold attack against the enemy, but there’s just something about someone who shares your love for the Lord.

FullSizeRender-4(Me and this girl. Felice. What can I say?)

Believers that come together in oneness of heart and soul, in the glorious love of Christ Jesus, are true kindred spirits. They’re not strangers. There’s no discomfort. Nothing unfamiliar about that. I may have flown to California thinking I was going to bless those women with encouragement in the Word of God, but God threw me a curve ball. They will never know how God used them to bless me good.

When it was time for me to leave I cried. As much as I missed my husband, my family, and my friends back home, I still felt a sadness in my heart because these precious women would be so far away.

2,554.6 miles to be exact.

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How can you explain this kind of feeling except for the love of God? I thought of Paul’s tearful good-bye with his Ephesian brothers and sisters in Christ, how they knelt in the sand before he boarded the ship, weeping and praying at the thought of never seeing him again.

I thought of the words he wrote to the Romans in 1:11, “For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.” 

And the words he wrote to the church in Corinth, recorded in 2 Corinthians 3: 2 & 3, “You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 

And his words in Philippians 1: 3-5, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all. In view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart.” 

I think Paul knew what it meant to have his heart bound and knitted together with those he came to love through his ministry. That love transcended highways and byways, bridged rivers and canyons, and connected hearts and souls. Love is sometimes puzzling, baffling, and perplexing, but the pure love of Christ will always be a glorious thing.

I pray that I’ll be reunited again this side of heaven with my California friends because they left an imprint on my heart that will never wash away. Thank goodness for Facebook and Instagram. If Jesus returns before an earthly reunion, I can’t think of anything more glorious than celebrating together on streets of gold.

So, to my dear friends who live on the opposite side of the country, “Thank you for inviting me to flee my comfort zone. Thank you for embracing me. Thank you for sharing your hearts with me. I am forever grateful.”

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I use to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy M. Montgomery

*Top photo taken by Felice

Facing My Fears

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This is me. Posing for the camera, teeth chattering, and biting my nails. It’s just a pose. So you can get a picture of what I look like afraid.

Actually, it’s not a good picture. It’s just for show. It’s pretend. Cause what I’m really feeling right now is a mixture of fear, excitement, anticipation, amazement, and I don’t know if you can understand this one, but it comes to me in waves…P.A.N.I.C.

Yes, in the midst of all that positive energy is some really pitiful stuff.

Please don’t judge me.

A few years ago I spoke to a group of women with a message from the story of Gideon. You can read the story for yourself in Judges 6 and 7. In fact, I encourage you to read it. I want you to read it. You need to read it. Just sayin’…

Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress, under a tree, hiding in fear from the terrifying Midianites who were oppressing God’s people. One of the ways they instilled fear was to swoop down and steal the Israelite’s food the minute it was harvested. Yep, for all their power and strength, they couldn’t even thresh the wheat for themselves. They preyed on the children of God by watching them do all the work and stealing the fruit of their labor. Can I hear a “Not fair, Lord, not fair!” 

Scripture tells us that The Angel of the Lord came to Gideon as he was threshing wheat. Most scholars agree that this was the pre-incarnate Christ. It was Jesus Himself who came down to give Gideon some much-needed encouragement. God had heard the cries of His people and had chosen Gideon to deliver them from oppression. It was the farthest thing from Gideon’s mind at the time. I’m sure he had done his fair share of crying out, but never in a million years did he stop to think that God would raise him up to lead an army, carry a sword, and fight some battles.

I love that God came down. Not to the strongest man in Israel. Not to the wealthiest. Not to the one with the most prestige and status, but to a man so afraid he was in hiding, threshing wheat where grapes were pressed for wine, trying to throw his enemy off track by keeping what little harvest he had a secret.

God met Gideon where he was. In all his fear and insecurity and weakness. And, yet, the Angel still called Gideon a mighty warrior!

“The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”  (Judges 6:12)

Oh, my shivering soul! Oh, my racing heart! Oh, how I love that God saw Gideon not for what he was at the moment of encounter, but for what he would become!

Can I hear an “Amen,” please?!?

God didn’t see Gideon as a coward. God saw a man of courage.

I needed to revisit this story today. I needed to reread my notes. Because sometimes I feel just like Gideon. Small. Insignificant. Definitely not the strongest of the strong and certainly not the wealthiest. Yet, God has called me to ‘go in the strength (I) have.’ Because tomorrow I fly out to California, all by my lonesome, to share a message with some very Jesus-loving women who live in Glendora. Like Gideon, I’ve often found myself questioning God and making excuses, “But who am I? I am the least. I am the weakest.” (Like I said earlier, please don’t judge.)

But, you know what I love about an encounter with The Almighty? I can take all my fears and weaknesses and insecurities to Him and He does the most amazing thing. He changes my perspective. Just like He did for Gideon.

God graciously made Himself known to Gideon. The Lord who is strength Himself gave Gideon a pep talk. Charged him up real good, too! And He gave Gideon a few promises, “The Lord is with you…I am sending you…go in the strength I give you…peace to you…fear not…”

And this encounter changed Gideon’s life forever. He understood where the answers lie to that age-old question, Who am I?, that plagues us all when God asks us to step out of our comfort zones and face our fears…

…he finally realized that even though he battled fear of monumental proportions, God would empower him with courage, strength, and might.

…he finally understood that even though he had no previous experience as a leader, God would equip him with wisdom, discernment, and counsel to rally an army.

…he finally grasped that even though he felt weak and insignificant, God would enable him to see himself as a vessel, an instrument, and a man of great value.

I think the encouragement of God comes to all of us when we hear His call to “Go.” Like Gideon, we come to see that it’s never about us. It’s never about me. It’s always unquestionably, undeniably, unmistakably all about Him. When we realize we have nothing to offer in and of our own then we’re in a good place for God to use us.

And sometimes…most of the time…alright, all of the time…for me, it means I just gotta “Go” scared. Because it’s in my teeth-chattering-biting-nails-racing-heart-shivering-kinda-fear that I am completely, wholely, and absolutely dependent upon God. Like Gideon, I can face my fear head-on because I have the certainty that He is with me…He is sending me…He is strengthening me…He gives me peace.

When the question Who am I? taunts me like a pounding drum keeping in time with my racing heart I answer,

I am a mighty warrior, thank you very much!

My God Is A Cloud-Rider

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Before the rains came about a week ago, I was just routinely getting myself dressed when the title for this blog post was impressed upon my spirit. I jotted the phrase down on a scrap of paper in my night stand and left it on my vanity to do some digging into Scripture. One verse kept coming to me over and over again. One that has fascinated me in times past, maybe because I’m a writer and the words are just so poetic.

“He wraps Himself in light as with a garment; He stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of His upper chambers on the waters. He makes the clouds His chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.” Psalm 104:3

Oh. Be still my beating heart.

If you’re a faithful reader of my blog, you know I’m a little on the sensitive side. My spirit responds to words like these. For all my musings and ponderings, all my passions and imaginations, all my longings and yearnings for things of my God…words like these just make me weep.

For the past 8 years I’ve lived in a tiny town in North Carolina, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours from the eastern shore where hurricane season keeps beach residents on their toes and tourists at bay. I may not live right on the coast, but the month of October brings the rains inland and we find ourselves without sunshine for days at a time. If I wanted to live under a canopy of clouds for days on end I might consider moving to Seattle. I hear it rains 9 months out of the year there, but I have no desire.

Because sometimes, it’s just plain depressing.

The past couple of days the rains have been accompanied by some gusty winds. Forget the umbrella. What good does it do to try and shield myself when the wind just blows the rain aimlessly, soaking my clothes, and dampening my mood?

But then verses like Psalm 104:3 come to mind and I forget the relentless rains. I forget the dark clouds. I forget the gusty winds. And I remember…

I remember Who rules over the weather. I remember Who surrounds Himself in splendor and majesty, whose light shines in dark places. I remember Who is enthroned above the clouds, whose home is arrayed in the brightness of His glory. I remember Who causes all things to fit together perfectly like beams being fitted for a house. I remember Who holds it all together.

“He made darkness His covering, His canopy around Him–the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of His presence clouds advance, with hailstones and bolts of lightning.” Psalm 18:11 & 12

I remember Who the Builder is. Stable. Certain. Steadfast. Sure.

I remember Who reigns over the enemy. I remember Who rides in the front lines of battle, whose righteous right hand upholds in stormy places. I remember Who is supreme above the clouds, whose armor is impenetrable. I remember Who causes enemies to flee, whose Name makes the foe tremble in fear. I remember Who fights for those who love Him.

“See, the Lord rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. The idols of Egypt tremble before Him, and the hearts of the Egyptians melt within them.” Isaiah 19:1

I remember Who the Victor is. Mighty. Powerful. Strong. Formidable.

I remember Who rides on the winds. I remember Who saves in times of trouble, whose person comes swiftly in gusty places. I remember Who is calm above the clouds, whose presence is peace. I remember Who causes hearts to trust, whose very character makes hope come alive. I remember Who helps those who are crushed in spirit.

I remember Who the Savior is. Redeemer. Restorer. Faithful. Eternal.

“Look, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the peoples of the earth will  mourn because of Him. So shall it be! Amen.” Daniel 7:13, Revelation 1:7 

There’s just something about the clouds that give me a holy expectation. I don’t have to muse or ponder, pretend or imagine because I can take this Scripture literally. The clouds make the Sovereignty of God and Supremacy of Christ very real, because I believe that one day they will open up and herald the return of the King. I can long and yearn for these things of God to be revealed.

God is in His heaven and He has not forgotten us. Jesus still makes Himself known to people today, but even for those who don’t know Him, or believe in Him, or even want to recognize Him, one day He will appear and all will behold Him. He will descend from heaven. He will come in the clouds. There is no hidden meaning here. Scripture means just what it says.

There is nothing depressing about this. There is nothing depressing about the clouds. Even when the days are dark and there seems to be no light shining in the sky. Even when the enemy is roaring like a lion and there seems to be no end to evil in this world. Even when the rains come and there seems to be no dam to stop the floods. Even then….

even so…I remember.

I remember Who rules. I remember Who reigns. I remember Who rides on the wings of the wind for I know…I believe…

my God is a Cloud-Rider.