Category Archives: Spirit Led Life

Into All Truth, Part 2

Today’s post is a continuation of yesterday’s story

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Nneirda

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Nneirda

The next part happened quickly. A black shadow seemed to burst from the pot and flow over the half wall separating the kitchen from the great room. The motion light outside the kitchen window flashed on as the darkness fled. After an initial moment of shock, I darted into the kitchen. The vent on my greenhouse window was ajar. On impulse bordering on absurdity, I cranked it shut and grabbed a garbage bag from under the sink. I shoved the horrid pot deep inside, tied a knot, and continued out to my back porch where I smashed it against the concrete without hesitation. Had neighbors witnessed my fervent display, they would likely have kept their distance. Like a woman scorned, I marched it out to the roadside. I watched the bagged and shattered pot from my son’s bedroom window until the garbage men picked it up the following morning.

After that evening, my son enjoyed restful nights of uninterrupted sleep, and so did I. Yet it wasn’t a story I would have shared with anyone at that point in my life. Just. Too. Weird. Did others have similar experiences, keeping it to themselves? I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.

I can only speculate on the intricacies of what transpired that night — or the other odd events that took place during the years I displayed that hideous pot on the shelf outside my son’s bedroom door. I am far from an expert in such matters, but I can assure you that I now believe evil spirits move among us, plaguing unsuspecting believers and vulnerable innocents with dark intent. Prior to that event, I’d been numb to it. Blasé even. It was the stuff of movies. Not my concern.

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” (Galatians 1:3-4)

So there it is. Not something that will come up often in casual Christian conversation, but perhaps something one of you needed to hear today. I’ve only told this story a handful of times before now and only to those close to me, but for some reason, it seemed important to share. I’ve learned to surrender to such nudges. Christ made the ultimate sacrifice to rescue us from the evil of this world. Faith in that truth will shield us from whatever form of evil Satan sends our way.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:13-18)

Do I believe there are strategies and tricks of Satan at work in this world? Absolutely. Do we need to examine every object with suspicion? Probably not. But the prince of darkness rules this world and the Bible tells us there are huge numbers of wicked spirits in it. We need to be alert. We need to be ready: armed with faith and knowledge of the word of God. Nothing is worse than being deceived by the evil one. We must knock down his strongholds whenever they are revealed to us.

“It is true that I am an ordinary, weak human being, but I don’t use human plans and methods to win my battles. I use God’s mighty weapons, not those made by men, to knock down the devil’s strongholds.”
(2 Corinthians 10:3-4)

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

Do experiences like mine happen often? I hope not! It’s embarrassing to confess. Most people aren’t going to bring this kind of thing home, but those of us with non-Christian pasts may have some things around the house we need to get rid of. When things don’t seem right, view your surroundings with a discerning eye. We need to be alert, but we don’t need to fear. As believers, the Spirit is with us.

“The Spirit in you is far stronger than anything in the world.”
(1 John 4:4)

Are you ready to stand your ground in the face of evil?


Into All Truth, Part 1

Those of you who have followed my blog for awhile know I don’t post often, or even on a schedule, but as the Spirit leads. This morning, I woke up at 1:46 a.m. with the urge to share this, and although I would rather return to sleep, I’ll obey the prompting. Perhaps someone needs to hear this. This information isn’t what you’ll hear in the average sermon or Bible study, but seems to be common knowledge among missionaries. Why don’t we hear about it more often, I wonder? This was my experience as a new Christian, and an unusual part of my journey …


 

Photo credit: Nic McPhee via photopin.com

Photo credit: Nic McPhee via photopin.com

“If you love me, obey me; and I will ask the Father and he will give you another Comforter, and he will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who leads into all truth. The world at large cannot receive him, for it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you do, for he lives with you now and some day shall be in you.” (John 14:16-17)

I’ve always loved primitive pottery and I’m fascinated by ancient cultures. Early in my Christian walk, I traveled to Belize and Guatemala. One hot afternoon, I ducked into a dark doorway to escape the heat. It was little more than a hovel, lit only by what few rays of sunlight dared to penetrate it from the doorway behind me. Once my eyes adjusted to its sparse and dusty interior I turned to leave, but a man emerged from a back room and lured me in by bringing attention to his coral earrings. On a shelf farther in, a lidded pot attracted my attention. The shopkeeper seemed pleased by my interest and told me his brother in Guatemala had made it. This piece was about as primitive as a pot can get, unglazed earthenware with tiny sculpting on its sides. I ended up buying it and taking it home, placing it on a shelf in my living room where it sat pretty much off my radar for three years.

Fast forward to the early years of motherhood and the many nights my infant son would wake up screaming. His disturbing shrieks would wake me in the dead of night and I would run to his bedside, heart pounding and unsure how to calm his mind when we couldn’t yet talk through it.

Around this same time an older woman in the church was mentoring me and happened to mention missionary lore of demon-possessed items. It gave me pause, but didn’t prompt any particular concern. Then, one night as I dashed to my son’s bedside, I noticed it. The pot from Guatemala. It was as if a shroud of ignorance lifted and I could view the piece with fresh eyes. In short, it was hideous. A nagging concern clung to me as I held my son, soothing away his night terrors by rocking him in my arms.

After putting my sleeping son back in his crib and heading back to my own bed, my mentor’s words returned to me. Destroy objects if they seem threatening. But why would I do that to my souvenir of a trip filled with wonderful memories? It had to be my imagination, fueled by a mind torn from sleep by horrifying screams. I turned back to eye the object in question. Most primitive artwork has a rustic beauty. This did not. I peered at the sculpting on its rough hewn sides. The shapes registered in my mind: arms, legs, heads. Body parts decorated the pot. As I took an involuntary step back, my breath caught in my throat. Why had I brought this thing into my home and what was I supposed to do with it now?

“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

“The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.” (2 Timothy 4:18)

Out of a growing sense of panic, I did the first thing that came to mind. I recited the Lord’s Prayer, memorized in early childhood, aloud. My love for my Savior flowed through me as I spoke the comforting words … deliver us from evil: for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever

“Last of all I want to remind you that your strength must come from the Lord’s mighty power within you. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand safe against all strategies and tricks of Satan. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies—the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world.” (Ephesians 6:10-12)

Have you ever experienced an evil attack? How did you handle it?

I once considered such beliefs paranoid, but now I see my previous standpoint as naive. Where do you stand? Can an object pose a threat?
Is it something we, as Christians, should be concerned with?


What happened next??

To keep my posts brief, this story will be done in installments.
Return tomorrow for part 2, or subscribe to my blog for alerts.


Fearless

BikerGirl

© PhotoSpin.com

I’ve been sitting on the sidelines recently. My leadership skills are unused. I’ve back-burnered my spiritual moxie. It’s simmering while I ponder it all. What are the biblical guidelines for women in ministry?

I recently moved from a somewhat progressive church in South Florida to a conservative church in North Carolina—from a church where I served for years as deacon and several other leadership roles to a church where woman may only lead other women or young children. Over the past months as I have struggled to come to terms with how God wants to use women in ministry and, particularly, how he wants to use me. I am going through a time of change and reflection. I have given it prayer and searched scripture for leading.

At precisely the time I was pondering and praying, an invitation to preview a new book arrived in my email. I was immediately intrigued by the title—Fearless Daughters of the Bible: What You Can Learn from 22 Women Who Challenged Tradition, Fought Injustice and Dared to Lead, by J. Lee Grady.

Despite his gender-neutral pen name, J. Lee Grady is not only a man and an ordained minister, but also the father of four daughters. I really liked that this message came through him.

In his book, Grady discussed the controversial Bible verses I was struggling with:

I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. I Timothy 2:12

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 1 Corinthians 14:34

Some churches interpret this verse to mean that women may not serve in leadership positions, but more likely Paul wrote them to address specific problems in struggling churches. Grady makes the point that the “assume authority” quoted in 1 Timothy 2:12 could be more accurately translated as “usurp authority.” The Greek verb authentein has violent connotations and Paul was commanding the women involved to submit in silence to proper doctrine.

Grady’s view on how these instructions should be interpreted for the churches of today? “We must stop viewing the role of women through the narrow filter of Paul’s words to Timothy or to the Corinthians. Women speak for God freely throughout the Old and New Testaments; why would we restrict all women based in these injunctions to heretical or immature churchgoers? We cannot use these verses as a blanket rule for all churches in all times.”

Fearless Daughters of the Bible will inspire any woman who is either actively involved in ministry or seeking more empowerment in Christian service. Grady illustrates his position through the lives of women God used in powerful ways with points firmly founded in the Bible. When it comes to serving God, we should all be fearless about using the gifts he gave us. I highly recommend this thought-provoking book.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26-28

FearlessBook

Should woman be in ministry and leadership roles? Are we coming from a place of fear or operating on God’s power? 


An Engraved Heart

hearts

© PhotoSpin.com

I stumbled upon this recently:

Judah’s sin is engraved with an iron tool, inscribed with a flint point, on the tablets of their heart. Jeremiah 17:1

The visual of sin being engraved on a heart is sobering. It is a powerful illustration of stubbornness in sin. I lived this way for the first few decades of my life. I wanted to control my life and do as I pleased. I thought I could do it all on my own power.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

The world tells us we can be masters of our own fate and captains of our soul—but when we follow our selfish desires, sin becomes our master. We are deceiving ourselves if we think we are in control of anything.

Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. Romans 6:13-14

When we submit our lives to God, sin is no longer our master.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? Romans 6:15-16

While slavery to anything doesn’t sound appealing, it is that devotion to obedience that sets us free and results in a happy life. If we freely yield ourselves, we find a joy and peace no self-serving life could ever offer.

It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us.  2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (NLT)

Who is your master? How does the world’s view of slavery and freedom differ from the Christian view? Have you been willing to break the bonds of slavery to sin and find joy in obedience?


How I Met My Father, and …

How I Met Your Father – Part Two

© PhotoSpin.com

I don’t know why the kayak got to me so much (see my previous blog entry), but it did. It was just so darned adorable. Patrick has always been cute that way. He used to make these confetti bombs. I worked in a cubicle when we worked together. And that was back when film was still used in cameras.  He’d take a film canister and fill it with little bits of paper, then some compressed air and put the lid on. He was also pretty stealthy for a big guy. He’d sneak up and put his little happy bomb on the ledge of the cubicle and disappear—a few seconds later there was a mysterious explosion of confetti. I guess the funniest part about the silly bombs was that they were delivered by a man with a very dry sense of humor. He was also the office curmudgeon. How often do you meet a confetti-bombing curmudgeon? I had to make him mine.

Patrick and I didn’t marry until our early thirties. By that time, I had years of selfishness, shallowness and indifference under my belt. I had pretty much given up on finding a compatible life partner. I figured I’d eventually end up being one of those crazy ladies who spends all her money feeding birds from park benches then going home to a shack full of cats.

A friend who worked with Patrick got me the design gig where they worked. She told me she had a husband picked out for me. After I finished laughing, I eventually had to meet him to borrow a camera lens. A few minutes later, with lens in hand, I stopped by to visit my friend and let her know that I wasn’t seeing the possibilities—but that was before the confetti bombs and before I figured out how dry and amusing his humor really was. It is so dry, I am most amused by how many people miss it. It still entertains me to see how often it baffles people. Without knowing him, you can’t really be sure whether he’s kidding or not.  It’s just enough to make you wonder.

She gave me the disclaimer: he’s a bit of a Bible Banger. Looking back as the believer I now am, I wouldn’t say that at all, but he wasn’t shy about letting you know he was a Christian. He just let that part of himself shine. I am sorry to say that at the time, the Christian feature wasn’t a bonus to me—much less the necessity it should have been—but I had been raised in a Christian home, so it didn’t put me off either.

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.
Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)

You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.
Proverbs 19:21 (NLT)

Therein lies one of the greatest influences Patrick has had on me. After 30-some years of being a self-centered follower of fun, the Holy Spirit started to work in me. First, I had the very surprising and newfound interest in having a baby … for the first time … in my thirties! And God knew what he was doing. He sent a great guy, with an interest in marriage and kids smack in my path, so I practically had to trip over him.

God was also drawing me to himself. So I not only met the love of my life and my future child’s father in Patrick—I met my Heavenly Father through him as well.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

The rest is history. After only six months of dating, Patrick and I were married. A couple years later, we had our son, Brendan … but that is another love story.

Who showed you true love?

My guys on top of Pilot Mountain. Two peas in a pod …


An Enchanted Life

© PhotoSpin.com

Although it often has magical connotations, the word enchantment, can mean to attract and move deeply—to allure and captivate. Enchantment is derived from the Latin incantare, meaning to sing, as if our response to being allured is beyond mere speech. We are reminded of fairy tales with princesses singing in a forest glen as birds are drawn to their fingertips.

Who doesn’t love a tale of enchantment—of maidens in distress and the hero who saves them, of deep and mysterious forests laced with exotic flowers—of true love. We all want to lead a charmed life, and yet we often turn our back on that possibility.

As a young girl, I loved to imagine myself a princess, but I never truly believed. It took years of looking for love in all the wrong places (read An Unearthly Desire), of darkness and despair, before I allowed myself to be rescued by my prince.

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.  1 Corinthians 2:9-10 (ESV)

Once we open our hearts to Christ and receive the Spirit, we become heirs to things beyond our wildest imaginings. We begin a journey of deeper understanding.

Paul told the believers in Corinth that they were a letter from Christ, “written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:3 (ESV)

Imagine that. We are living messages from Christ. If we choose to believe what was written on our hearts, we are sons and daughters of the King. We are heirs of all that is good. Who needs fairy tales when we can have the real thing. No matter who we are, or where we’ve been, or how long we have waited, we can still live happily ever after … believe it.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (ESV)

Then we can’t stop at simply believing with all our hearts. As living messages, we have a responsibility. We need to impress the truth upon the next generation—teach them to meditate on what is noble, pure and lovely by example. We need to show them how to claim their royal inheritance as well, so we can all live an enchanted life.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8


Dwell in Me Richly

© PhotoSpin.com

Life is full of irony, isn’t it? I sometimes run from the very thing I need—or work toward the very thing that will destroy me. Many times in my life, when standing at a crossroads, I have surveyed the landscape, blind to the possibilities, and blundered ahead without a clue.

After many years of following my own whims and selfish desires, and never finding true fulfillment, I finally found a friend who would never let me down and who would reveal a life of meaning and truth. Instead of continuing to wander aimlessly on my self-destructive path, I found purpose and direction. It took me many wasted years to admit it, but I was hopelessly lost on my own. All that time I was searching for meaning in my life, Jesus was seeking to save me and the Spirit was working on my heart.

The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10

I have always been driven by feelings and emotion. Fear can blind me. Sadness can cripple me. Disappointment or bitterness can stop me dead in my tracks. I can limp along for a while before I stop to deal with what is motivating my actions.  Yet, at times, joy can have me bounding ahead in great leaps, eager to see what is around the next turn. The answer is to listen to my inner voice, the Spirit in me.

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

Marked out—we cannot make progress on our journey unless we are guided. The Spirit will lead us if we learn to grow still long enough to listen. We don’t need to drag around all our emotional baggage with us—in fact, that emotional neediness inside us will only drag us down. We should do our best to break free of our sinful entanglements. We need to eliminate our hinderances and RUN! The path is marked out.

I am no longer as young and impulsive as I was when I lost my way on a regular basis. I have learned to listen, and to survey my surroundings with a keener eye. I don’t always chose correctly, but I ponder and pray, and eventually I hear that still small voice encouraging me in the right direction.

Even though I have made mistakes and been misguided in the past, I can move forward with no regrets when I have a relationship with Christ … no regrets.

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

To walk in the light, God’s Word will offer guidance and the Spirit will nudge us in the right direction if we quiet our minds and listen. What is determining the direction of your life?

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.  Colossians 3:16


Never Die

© PhotoSpin.com

It’s not easy to appreciate the intricate genius of God’s arrangement of events in time when you’re lost in the moment. Once you have a chance to reflect, however, it nearly takes your breath away.

A few weeks ago, I came up to North Carolina to visit with my terminally ill father and to help my mother care for him in home hospice. For exactly a week after my arrival, my father—although confined to a wheelchair—enjoyed getting out of the house and going on adventures. We went out to eat for my birthday and my dad savored every bite of food he ate. What a gift to have that quality time with my father. He even wanted to accompany us on the hour and half drive to pick up my niece from the airport in Charlotte when she came for a visit. He seemed to want to squeeze every drop out of life that he could. Even though activity wore him out easily, he really seemed to enjoy every moment.

The following week, Dad no longer had the strength to leave his bed. He lost his appetite—very unlike my father, who enjoyed food immensely—but he still requested his favorite drinks. I went on missions to find the best cream sodas, dipped his mouth swabs into them to moisten his mouth and got a smile out of him every time.

He remained cheerful while bedridden and weak.  Often, we could not do much more than watch the birds and squirrels outside the wall of windows his bed faced.  Mostly he slept. My father was a lifelong, voracious reader. When he became too shaky to hold a book, I read to him. I knew it would mean a lot to him (It would to me and I’m Daddy’s Girl).

By the end of the second week with my parents, my father became less responsive and slipped in and out of consciousness. I observed his side of a conversion with an unseen partner in fascination. He’d nod his head, say “okay” and “yes” as if obediently following otherworldly instructions. He was slipping out of our reality and into another.

Eventually, we were no longer able to keep his fever at bay. His eyes roved the room, exploring sights hidden to us. They danced over me, occasionally showing recognition. In those moments, his glassy eyes held mine and spoke wordless volumes. He no longer requested drinks. His limbs moved restlessly, as if his spirit had grown too large for his body and longed to shed it.

As long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8

Early one morning, I administered his hourly dose of morphine, rewet the cold cloth at his forehead, offered him a spongy swab of water to chase away the bitter taste. His eyelids fluttered, then his gaze held mine with an intensity I had not seen for days. His lips struggled to form audible words. Then—with sudden clarity—he spoke to me.  He thanked me for being there, for being so responsible (interesting choice of words) and told me how much it meant to him. Then he spoke to me of my teen years and it was as if we had drifted back in time together. It was during those years that our relationship had been most strained (and when I had been anything but responsible). He wanted me to know that he and my mother had done what they thought was best for me and told me he loved me one last time. Those were the last lucid words of his earthly life and something I treasure in my heart.

Those brief moments were more precious than anything the world could offer. In them,  the importance of life was distilled down to the purest element … love. That evening, we stood by his side as his breaths grew slower and farther apart—until finally, he slipped away. In those final moments, my fathers (earthly and heavenly) gave me the greatest gift I had ever received. Peace.

Remember him—before the silver cord is severed, and the golden bowl is broken … and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Ecclesiastes 12:6-7

My father’s spirit is once again with God. Love you, Abba, Daddy!

“Whoever lives by believing in me will never die.

Do you believe this?”  Jesus,  John 11:26

Do you?