Europe Will be Saved!

MM Prague.jpeg

Pray for this man to return to his Christian roots!

10 July 2017

Two years ago when Awakening Europe began, I knew that I had to go eventually.  Europe is my mission field, after all, and Awakening Europe is all about seeking God for Revival.  But that year, 2015, I had a very specific word from the Lord, instructing me to stay home in Milan and curtail my usual travels.  The only travel that I was instructed to do that year was for Operation Capitals of Europe[1].  Last year, although I did more traveling, the Lord didn’t call me to go to Awakening Europe.  So I was thrilled when He told me to go this year to Prague for Awakening Europe.

My friend and cell group leader, Stacy (Anastasia), expressed interest in going, too.  So we got a hotel room together.  Stacy is learning English, but is Russian with excellent fluency in Italian, and works as a translator.  Awakening Europe is always in English (probably because it is connected with God.tv, who provided livestream of the event).  And they always present in the language of their host country, which in this case was Czech because of being in Prague.  So the program was English translated into Czech or sometimes Czech translated into English.  Stacy had decided to go because they were offering live translation via the internet in Russian and also in German.

The first morning as we were about to leave the hotel, I had forgotten something and dashed back up to our room.  The elevator was broken, and in the stairwell I met a man who also had the wristband for Awakening Europe.  We exchanged greetings.  A few minutes later as Stacy and I were leaving the hotel, my new friend, Nigel, called us over and offered us a ride to the arena (saving us forty minutes of travel time across town).  We accepted.  He was in a nine-seater van, being driven by his friend, Otto.  Between them Nigel and Otto had five young people with them, so they had exactly two seats for Stacy and me.

The event was held at a basketball arena called the Tipsport Arena.  Awakening Europe made use of the arena’s jumbotron so that no matter where you sat, you had a good view of what was going on.  Those needing translation were directed to sit in one particular area where the Wi-Fi router was located.  So we were surrounded by German- and Russian-speakers.  But then the Wi-Fi failed during the first session.  A nice young Russian named Misha jumped in and began translating for everyone sitting in our immediate area.  Word spread, and soon we were surrounded by Russians who had moved in close to hear Misha’s translation.  Stacy was so pleased that she made sure to introduce herself to Misha and to seek him out in subsequent sessions.  Misha introduced his sister, Lena, to us.  So even if we couldn’t find Misha, we would sit near Lena, knowing that Misha would show up sooner or later.  Through Stacy, Misha, and Lena, I got to know other Russians, including Oksana, who lives in Israel.

That day we were sent out on the streets to share Jesus in the bustling center of Prague.  Stacy admitted to me that she’s not comfortable sharing Jesus on the street with strangers.  I agree.  Being introverted by nature (though extroverted by calling), I make friends easily with God’s people, but find myself often tongue-tied with random strangers.  Still, we made a few brave attempts, though nothing spectacular.  I managed to give away a ticket to that evening’s meeting at the arena, which featured Todd White giving his amazing testimony.  Did he come?  I don’t know, but I did pray that an angel would go with the ticket and make sure that the person who got it would hear and receive the Gospel.  So one way or another, God has reached that young man.

Meanwhile, Stacy had the worst thing happen to her that could happen on outreach[2].  She felt led to go speak with an older woman who looked Russian.  So she approached the woman and said, “Do you speak Russian?”  The woman growled, “Russian!” and spit on the ground.  Stacy felt so sure of the urging of the Holy Spirit to speak with this woman that she brought in a translator to help.  Through the translator she apologized for what her country had done to the Czech Republic.  The woman told the translator to tell Stacy: “Just go away and leave me alone!”  Now do you think that was Stacy wrong about the leading of the Holy Spirit?  I don’t think so.  I believe that God wanted both of us (and also our young translator) to see what was the worst that could happen if we take the chance and talk to someone who is hostile.  Stacy was kind and respectful to the woman at all times.  And when the woman told Stacy to go away, she did exactly that, blessing the woman as she walked away.

On the tram ride back to the arena, worship spontaneously broke out, and it was joyous.  I’ve never experienced anything like that on public transportation anywhere in my life.  It was wonderful!  It was like a flash mob on the tram, but it was completely unplanned.

That evening when Todd White spoke, easily a hundred people gave their lives to Jesus.  And after the evening session we saw Nigel (what are the chances in a crowd estimated at 7000 people flooding a dark parking lot?), and again we were able to catch a ride with him and Otto.

The next day Stacy and I went out with Oksana because she had told Stacy about miraculous healings that occurred with their group.  We didn’t go far from the arena because one person we needed to pray for was with us at Awakening, and couldn’t walk far.  So we found a bench near the arena and prayed for her.  She was Petka, a Czech lady that was crippled because she had one leg about an inch and a half shorter than the other.  Petka told us of being in constant pain, whether sitting or standing, and she walked with crutches.  So Oksana prayed for her—indeed we all did.  Then Oksana said, “Now get up and walk.”  She did, without crutches and with much less pain.  But the legs were still not quite the same length.  So Oksana had her sit on the bench again, lifted her feet, and we saw that instead of an inch and a half difference, there was only about an inch difference.  So with Petka’s feet in her hands, Oksana prayed again.  And before our eyes, the leg lengthened.  It took about a minute.  Petka described a feeling of warmth in that leg.  Again, Oksana told her to walk.  Petka walked without even the hint of a limp and no pain at all.  In fact, she now complained because of the lift she had in her right shoe.  So she took out the lift and walked as if there had never been any issue at all.  We rejoiced madly.

The bench we had used was near a sort of permanent fairgrounds next to the arena.  So then we turned our attention to the people who came by the bench.  We told them about Petka’s miracle and offered to pray for them, too.  But sadly, we had no takers.  One elderly woman was so angry at God that she was actually offended by our offer to pray for her, Petka’s miracle notwithstanding.  I don’t know if she could tell that most of us were Russians, but that might also have played a part in her vehement rejection of prayer.  There is a lot of anti-Russian sentiment in these former Iron Curtain countries, but I’ve never seen it played out more dramatically than in the Czech Republic.  So we weren’t able to pray for or with anyone else that afternoon, but we were still riding high on Petka’s miracle nevertheless.

Stacy and I got a hotdog for supper and went back to the arena for the evening session.  The arena was packed solid, so we found Misha and the Russian contingent way up in the highest balcony.  We were actually higher than the jumbotron.  The speaker for the evening was Reinhard Bonnke.  I had seen videos of some of his evangelistic crusades, healing miracles, etc., so I was very excited to see him.  He has been battling cancer, but is not willing to let go of the ministry.  So he has named Daniel Kolenda as his ministry successor.  Still, because of all this, Bonnke has cut his appearance schedule way back, so this was a rare privilege, indeed, to hear him speak.

But before Reinhard Bonnke came out to speak we had a lovely worship session.  Then the presenters (Ben Fitzgerald, Todd White, and Daniel Kolenda) came on stage and a chant broke out spontaneously across the whole arena all at once: “Europe will be saved!  Europe will be saved!  Europe will be saved!”  It grew louder and louder: “Europe Will Be Saved!!!  Europe Will Be Saved!!!  Europe Will Be Saved!!!”  Until everyone was shouting as loud as they could: “EUROPE WILL BE SAVED!!!  EUROPE WILL BE SAVED!!!  EUROPE WILL BE SAVED!!!”  The presenters and the worship leaders all prostrated themselves on the stage as the crowd thundered on and on and on, everyone shouting with growing conviction: “EUROPE WILL BE SAVED!!!  EUROPE WILL BE SAVED!!!  EUROPE WILL BE SAVED!!!

When the shout finally died down, Fitzgerald gave some announcements and then tried to get the chant started again before introducing Reinhard Bonnke.  His effort fizzled, having not been Holy Spirit motivated like the spontaneous chant had been.  Still he was eventually rewarded for his efforts with a little bit of chanting again, though nothing like before.

When Bonnke came on stage to speak, he started by saying, “I am not here to tell you a story.”  Instead, he gave a clear presentation of the Gospel message, and at least a thousand people responded.  In fact, it was so many people, and they just kept coming and coming, so that they had to get people to leave the arena floor area in order find a place for all the new converts.

The next day was Sunday, the final day of Awakening Europe.  Stacy had a flight back to Milan that afternoon, but wanted to go look around the city that morning.  She asked me what I was going to do.  I said, “There is going to be worship and preaching in Czech by local people.  It’s their city, so it seems right.  But I would rather spend the morning with you, looking around the city.”

So that’s what we did.  Our first stop was the Dancing House.  I had only ever seen the Dancing House from the other side of the river, so I wanted to see what it looks like up close.  We went inside and found out that there is a coffee shop in the top (appropriate for a house that looks somewhat like an Italian moka-style coffee pot).  We had cappuccinos and prayed, blessing the city from above.

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The Dancing House looks like an Italian Moka coffeepot.

God’s Secret Weapon

Stacy and I came across a Marilyn Manson poster, advertising a concert in November at the Tipsport Arena—the same arena where Awakening Europe had been meeting.  The poster was particularly repulsive.  In the past, MM had always worn geisha-type makeup: white and smooth to accentuate a certain androgyny.  But in this poster his makeup was white, but all caked and crumbling, with uneven slashes of black and red going down his forehead, around the eyes, and around his mouth.  His eyes were at half-mast and he looked drugged and zombielike.  He was posed with his hand, long fingernails resting on his cheek, as if he was in the process of clawing the flesh from his face.  Immediately we began to pray, prompted by the Holy Spirit.  And as we were praying each of us remembered that MM had come from a Christian family.  So we prayed for him to return to his Christian roots.

Then we wandered the streets, finding street markets in various places, including an artisanal market, with lots of beautiful handmade clothing and jewelry.  Neither of us had any room in our luggage for purchases, having flown low-cost carriers that allowed hand luggage only.  One stall was selling homemade essential oils.  The Holy Spirit prompted me to buy the smallest bottle I could of Lavender oil, which was about 100 milliliters.  Stacy’s eyes widened.  She said, “You’ll never be allowed to take that onto the plane!”  I smiled and said, “This oil is staying right here in Prague.”  And I told her of the inspiration I had just gotten from the Holy Spirit: to go back to the Tipsport Arena and anoint the whole place with oil so that the good spirit left there from Awakening Europe would stay and not be replaced by something from Marilyn Manson or anything else.  She loved the idea.

When I was in Tallinn, performing prophecy as a “Trained Circus Poodle,” one prophecy that I gave for a girl there turned out to be for myself as well (though I didn’t realize it until about a week later).  The prophecy more or less went like this:

God has chosen you to make you His Secret Weapon.  You are a Secret Weapon because the forces of the defeated enemy won’t believe that you could possibly be a threat to his kingdom.  Thus, you will fly under the radar of the defeated enemy’s forces, and they will never see you coming.

You will do real damage to the defeated enemy’s kingdom and set back his plans in many places.  Do not fear, though He leads you into some scary places.  God will be with you all the way, leading you, showing you where to go and teaching you how to pray.

As the Lord began to lead me in making solo attacks on the defeated enemy’s kingdom in various places, I began to understand that this prophecy had been for me, too.  So this plan to go anoint the Tipsport Arena was another in a growing list of assaults on the defeated enemy’s various European headquarters.

In continuing our wandering, Stacy and I found ourselves in the Jewish Quarter.  Both of us have a love for Israel and the Jewish people, so we immediately felt both comforted and encouraged by the happy God-incidence of finding ourselves there.  And even more God-incidentally, we happened upon an Italian tour group.  Stacy was thrilled to find people touring the Jewish Quarter in Italian.  We mixed ourselves into the group and listened to the tour already in progress.

But soon it was time for Stacy to head to the airport.  We said our goodbyes and she went into the subway to head for the airport.  I took the tram back to our hotel to rest and wait for the evening session, when I would anoint the Tipsport Arena.

However, things didn’t work out at all like I had thought.  I took a short nap, but when I woke up I had a severe cramp in my gut and could hardly stand upright.  The cramp turned into diarrhea, which went on and on and on.  Finally it was time to go to the arena, and I thought I was well enough to go.  But I got only about halfway to the elevator when another wave of cramping hit me, doubling me over.  So I stayed in the hotel and slept instead of going to the final session.

The next morning I felt drained, but otherwise much better.  My flight was at noon, so I had the morning to go anoint the arena.  I prayed for wisdom and an open door.  I got both.  Wisdom had me look at my return ticket again, and that was a good thing because my flight was at 10:30, not noon as I had thought.  So I checked out of the hotel at about eight, and took the tram to the arena, praying all the way.

When I got there, the Holy Spirit directed me to go around the left side to start.  So I walked as far around the left side as I could.  Starting from there, I squirted oil in front of every door, using the squirt applicator the oil-maker had given me, and praying the whole way.  I quickly found out that I was never going to have enough oil to go all the way around the arena that way, so I squirted some oil into my hand and anointed each door and ticket window by hand.  On the far right side of the arena, around by the back, I found the VIP entrance where the performers all enter—and the door was standing open, just as I had prayed.  When I had finished all the other doors, I came back to the VIP entrance.  Just inside there was a man at the desk.  So I turned my back to him, squirted a good amount of oil into my hand, and poured out the rest onto the ground right in front of the entrance.  Then I threw the bottle away and rubbed the oil onto both hands equally.  I entered the door and leaning both hands on the desk, I asked the man: “Is this the Tipsport Arena?”  He said yes.  I thanked him and left, leaving behind those two oily handprints.

I took the subway across town to get to the airport, and flew back to Milan feeling pleased that I had been used again as God’s Secret Weapon.  Mission accomplished!  God is good!

[1] 2015 is also the summer that I broke my arm—right after Awakening Europe (see Summer in a Cast).  I know that it was right after Awakening Europe because the two friends staying with me when I broke my arm had come here straight from Awakening Europe.

[2] Well, socially the worst, anyway.  She wasn’t kidnapped and beheaded, of course–that would definitely be the worst.

Husbands used by the Defeated Enemy

Bride

Jesus’ bride will be a spotless and victorious bride!

I want to start by saying that I don’t hate men.  Men are not the problem.  The problem is society.  The problem is Christian culture.  The problem, ultimately, is the fallen state of this world.  So the fact that the defeated enemy uses husbands to stop their wives from fulfilling their destiny is not the only way he works against the marital relationship.  I’m sure that he also uses wives to stop husbands from fulfilling their destiny, too.  I just don’t know this scenario from the man’s point of view.  That is a post for a man to write.  But I have both seen and personally experienced wives being literally robbed of their ministry and destiny by husbands who refuse to allow them to obey what God has told them to do—even Christian husbands—and it doesn’t always end well for the marriage.  And I wish I had the solution, but I don’t.

The Blacks

Ann has a powerful prophetic gift and a calling for evangelism.  Her husband, Bob, is a hard-working Christian man.  He can’t always make it to church because of his busy work schedule, but he is not anti-church or anti-God in any way.  Honestly, he’s just tired.  Ann works, too.  But Ann manages to make it to church on Sunday and Wednesday night.  Bob doesn’t spend time reading the Bible or in prayer like he knows he should.  He’s too busy.  Those times when his work schedule would allow him to go to church, he often chooses to stay home and watch sports on TV.

Recently Ann was invited to speak at a church four hours away from home.  In the past, Bob has expressed his desire for Ann not to go.  This time he forbid her to go.  She went anyway, making the long round-trip in a single day.  The church that had invited her had offered her a place to stay, but Ann felt like it was more important to get back home to Bob as quickly as possible.  Of course, Bob was asleep when she got back home long after midnight.  Things have been very tense between them ever since, but Ann knew that she had to obey God and go.  Ann feels torn because she loves Bob.  What can she do, but obey God and pray that He will make things better between them?

The Whites

Zoe also has a powerful prophetic gift, and she has a calling for intercession.  Her husband, Walter, is also a Christian, both of them have been out of work for several years now.  At first Walter was very diligent about looking for a job, but the economy where they live is so depressed that there is literally nothing at all for either of them.  And the situation is even worse because Walter and Zoe are foreigners, so it is doubly hard to find work, even when it does become available.  Zoe knows that they were called to their host country.  Zoe lives by faith, looking to God as their Source.  She never knows where the money for rent or groceries will come from, but God is faithful.

Being out of work for such a long time has sunk Walter into such a deep depression that he has retreated into the internet.  He spends entire days watching End Times prophecy and Christian conspiracy videos on YouTube and playing video war games.  These things have taken Walter to a very dark place, indeed.  Now he interacts with the real world with deep suspicion and mistrust.  Walter leads daily family prayer time, but only because Zoe insists.

Recently Zoe felt called to go on a prayer trip that would take her away from home for a week.  Walter was enraged.  He accused Zoe of everything from running away to having an affair.  In his rage, Walter smashed Zoe’s family heirloom vase.  The sound of Walter’s shouts and the broken ceramics brought their children rushing into the room, in fear for their mother’s safety.  Zoe went on the prayer trip, but of course she returned to a sullen and suspicious husband.

The Greens

Mary also has a powerful prophetic gift and a calling to encourage the saints.  Her husband, Luke, was a Christian when they married.  After their Sunday school teacher cheated him out of $300, Luke left the church, saying that he would rather hang out with sinners because at least they were honest.  Luke tolerated Mary’s Christianity but certainly did not encourage it.  Not long after all this, Mary began finding pornographic websites on the computer.  When she confronted Luke about it, he apologized, saying that he was just curious.  But rather than stopping, Luke just got better about hiding it, erasing the browser history when he finished using the computer.  But pornography kept turning up in their shared email.  Finally Luke accused Mary of being cold, saying that he needed to find release somewhere, and at least he wasn’t going to prostitutes.

Mary’s church was preparing for a short-term missions trip, and seeing her interest, someone anonymously offered to pay Mary’s way.  Mary was thrilled, but at the same time she worried, knowing that if she left Luke alone at home, he would spend his time looking at porn.  She felt such deep shame about the issue that Mary didn’t ask for prayer, as she would for anything else going on in her life.  When she returned from the mission trip, Luke told her that she should go stay with her mom for a while.  So without unpacking, Mary left their house and went to stay with her mom.  They have remained separated now for several months.

Analysis

These are certainly not the only circumstances that the defeated enemy can use against women to derail their calling.  I am sure that there are probably many other stories in which the wives have chosen to obey their husband instead of God, in the hopes of keeping the peace.  As I observed in my last post: The Defeated Enemy Fights Dirty.  He uses the people closest to us, people we trust, to poke our wounds or to stop our ministries.  In each of these cases, the husband had abdicated his position as the spiritual head of the household.

Unfortunately, this is a problem of epidemic proportions that has necessitated women becoming strong.  And lest you think that this is just a result of feminism, there is actually a Biblical example of a godly woman who obeyed God despite her husband’s wishes: Abigail (1 Samuel 25).  Her husband, Nabal, was a Jew.  But he certainly wasn’t listening to God about David, as Abigail was.  The story of Abigail and Nabal comes to a swift conclusion, with a happy ending for Abigail, but who know how many years leading up to this that Abigail had had to go against Nabal.  Perhaps at every Passover, Pentecost, and Feast of Tabernacles for years Abigail may have gone alone to Jerusalem as Moses commanded, while Nabal stayed home sulking and working his fields.

This abdication is probably a factor in many Christian divorces.  It certainly is in mine.  Some people tell divorced women (and men) that they are not suited for ministry because of divorce (citing 1 Timothy 3:2).  If that’s the case, then explain the Samaritan woman—one of the very first evangelists—who was divorced five times and living with a man (John 4).  God is not rigid and legalistic, as many of His people tend to be.  As I’ve observed many times: it takes two to make a marriage work, but only one to wreck it[1].  And although God hates divorce, He loves divorced people and Jesus died for them.  Divorce doesn’t have to mean the end of ministry.  In the case of 1 Timothy, Paul was talking about overseers (or bishops), men who lead more than one church.  Their lives need to be beyond reproach.  This rule doesn’t apply to every person called to ministry (and guess what: we’re all called to ministry in one way or another).  Furthermore, in first century society, women didn’t have the right to divorce, only men could divorce.  So a divorced overseer would have been a man who had sent his wife away for whatever reason.  He didn’t have to have a “godly” reason (like infidelity), he only had to desire to send her away.

So don’t put God in a box, and don’t limit His women, either.  Jesus certainly didn’t!  God is good!

[1] And that one is never a third party, no matter what some people think.  The other woman is called a home-wrecker, but she could never wreck a marriage without the full and willing cooperation of the husband.  He is the one who broke his vows, not the other woman.

The Defeated Enemy Fights Dirty!

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This is a picture from my early days as a traveling missionary.  Except for the hair, I don’t think I’ve changed much.

I refuse to use the defeated enemy’s God-given name, which translates as “light-bearer,” because he has forever forfeited the right to be called by that name.  Besides that, the Bible says:

Pay close attention to all my instructions.  You must not call on the name of any other gods.  Do not even speak their names, (Exodus 23:13, emphasis mine).

I also refuse to use his generic title, which means “accuser.”  Devil makes him sound frightening (though I am not afraid of him), and enemy makes it sound like this is a fair fight—it’s not!  The odds are so completely stacked in our favor that there is literally no way that we can possibly lose.

That’s why I only refer to him as the defeated enemy.  I want to remind myself of my position of victory.  I also want to remind him of his defeat, which is sealed.  The Holy Spirit reminded me one day a few years ago that Jesus is the Lamb “slain from the foundation of the world[1].”  And He revealed to me that since Jesus was slain from the foundation of the world, the enemy’s defeat was also sealed from the foundation of the world.

Therefore, we cannot possibly lose.  That is unless he can get us to give up.  This is why he works so hard on discouraging us.  He chooses someone who is close to us, someone we love and trust, to poke us in the place where it hurts the most.

Make no mistake about it: although his defeat is a fact, nevertheless he is still capable of wounding.  He can wound us gravely, even unto death.  He is behind Christian divorces.  He has even provoked Christians to suicide.  I can guarantee that the defeated enemy was behind the scenes, using that person’s loved ones to poke a wound that hurt so badly they simply couldn’t take it any longer.

This is exactly what he did to me today.

Here’s my story, so that you understand this place of vulnerability (and trust me, it’s not an easy story to tell):

From the time I was very little, I wanted to be a boy because I thought boys had more fun.  I didn’t like playing with dolls or even sitting indoors coloring.  I spent my childhood in trees or on my bike, having adventures[2].  I believed that being a girl meant that I was boring, and that means that I have always had a lot of body shame.

As a teenager body shame expressed itself as it does with many teenaged girls: obsessive dieting and crash dieting interspersed with periods of binge eating.  I look back at pictures and realize with a shock that I wasn’t fat at all.  But the defeated enemy used my friends to tell me that I was fat.  Often he would whisper in my ear that I was fat.  And sometimes a boy would compliment me, saying something like: “I like girls with curves,” which sounded to me like he was saying: “You’ve got a big butt.”  All of which put me on a hunger strike until my mother would nag me into eating, and bribe me with fried chicken.

In high school I was in a semi-professional ballet troupe.  My ballet teacher was extremely thin.  She had been a ballerina with the New York City Ballet under George Balanchine.  She encouraged us all to lose weight if we dared to think of a career as a dancer.  In fact, “encouraged” is far too nice a word for it.  She badgered us constantly about our weight.  She bullied us by putting the “fat” ones (including me) in the back line—both on stage and during practice.  Looking back, there was nobody in the class that I would say was fat.  But she convinced us all that we were.

So all this adds up to intense body shame—lifelong body shame.  On the positive side, body shame did keep my dress modest compared to other girls my age.  But of course I dressed modestly for the wrong reason.

What happened today is this: last night I was invited to Monica’s apartment for dinner.  Monica is Italian, about the age of my mother, and a new believer.  In other words, Monica doesn’t have the same cultural experiences I have as an American.  And Europeans really don’t have the culture of body shame or fat-shaming.  So after a lovely dinner, and after offering me two desserts, Monica says: “My dear, you have put on weight.”  Her tone was one of concern for me, but what I heard was: “Wow!  You’ve really gotten fat!”  I didn’t know how to respond because I don’t think my weight has changed at all in the past year.

That one line was enough to send me into a spiral in which I only wanted to go to bed and sleep the comment away.  Then today Monica called me and repeated what she had said two more times.  After getting off the phone I spiraled into despair, self-hatred, and even had thoughts of suicide.  Happily, Nina was here and prayed me through the pain.  Monica is plump, while Nina is actually underweight.  But it is Nina who understood how those words had hurt me.

Understand, I am not angry or upset at Monica.  She was just the stick that the defeated enemy had used to poke my wounded place.  The whole thing caught me off-guard because I had thought that I had dealt with this issue.  Rejection, abandonment, and self-hatred are things that I spent a great deal of time working through with the Lord.  But obviously, body shame remains a core issue that I need to deal with.  I don’t even know how to begin to heal from body shame.  It is a wound so deep and so old that it almost feels like it’s a part of my identity.

What I’ve decided to do is to go back to what God says about my body:

I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well, (Psalm 139:14, NIV).

Who am I to argue with the Potter?  I’m going to let Him love me through this until all the hurt and body shame are gone.  God is good!

[1] Revelation 13:8, KJV.

[2] Thank God I’m a Boomer!  Can you imagine if I had been born these days?  I might have had parents who “supported” my right to be a boy, using masculine pronouns, and insisting that I be allowed to use the boys’ bathroom at school.  I’ve even heard of parents who have let their young teens get hormone treatments and gender reassignment surgery.  Although it’s what I wanted at ages four through eleven, as an adult I’ve always been glad that I’m female—especially having given birth to my two sons.  I still think dolls are boring, though.

My Heart’s Cry

beach

I don’t want the safety of the harbor.  I want to swim out to the deepest depths!

I was at a prayer meeting on Monday night.  We had a specific focus for our prayers, so I was somewhat surprised when the facilitator turned to me and said, “And you, Alisa?  How can we pray for you?”

Although I was caught off-guard, nevertheless, I blurted out my prayer request—no, not a request!—my heart’s cry: “I want more of God!”

All eyes regarded me curiously, so I explained:

I feel like I’m on the beach, and I’ve waded in up to my ankles.  But I want to go farther and deeper.  I want to be completely immersed.  I remember reading about someone who swam so far out into the ocean that they lost sight of the shore.  I want to do that!  I want to lose myself in God!

Changing metaphors, I further explained:

In 2011 I received a prophecy in which God told me that He had set a table before me, and that on the table is everything I could ever want or need.  A few months later I was weeping before the Lord as I faced the very scary task of speaking to churches about Europe as a mission field.  I knew that I needed to do it because the burden was immense, but so was my lifelong fear of speaking in public.  So I was on my knees, weeping and begging God to be there with me as I speak to the churches.

When I calmed down, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the table in the prophecy.  I cried: “I don’t want a gift, I want You, God!”  And I wept all the more.

When I calmed down again, God gently spoke, saying: “My child, I am in every gift, and every gift is simply more of Me.”

That’s what I want: I want every gift!  I want more of God, every bit of Him that He will give me.  I want to lose myself in Him!  And I don’t want this Holy Dissatisfaction to ever end.  I want to stay Hungry for God, and for more of Him!

One of my friends tried to “talk me down off the ledge” by assuring me that it’s okay to live a normal life like everyone else, and that we all want to live in the supernatural.  But I didn’t want to be reassured.  I don’t want to live a “normal” life like everyone else around me—like people who don’t know Jesus.  We were called to be different and to live differently.  Finally the facilitator said that she understood, and she assigned herself as the one to pray for me.

Another one of my friends asked for prayer so that there would be no more misunderstandings about her calling—that she would understand her calling better, but also that her church would understand her calling.  I volunteered to pray for her, and what I prayed was that she would become more secure in her calling so that she didn’t need the stamp of approval from anyone else.

Honestly!  Sometimes other Christians are like crabs in a pot[1], pulling you back down so that you can never escape the “normal” into the supernatural realm of God Almighty.  I think the issue with her church is that they don’t want her to do anything that doesn’t fly under their banner.  She longs to do what God has called her to do, but this opposition (which she has called “misunderstanding”) has made her doubt her calling.  So I also prayed for her to have the holy boldness to obey God no matter what her church thinks about it.

So my heart cries out for more of God, and that this precious friend can experience more of Him as she obeys despite opposition—even the opposition of her pastor.  There is more, if you dare to reach for it.  God is good!

[1] A lone crab can easily climb up out of a pot and escape.  But a pot full—even overflowing—with crabs will not lose a single one.  Why?  Because the others will grab ahold and pull a potential escapee back into the pot.

Hungry!

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Yesterday I had lunch with Nina, Michael (her son), and Joseph (her husband).  We don’t normally get together for lunch on a Monday unless it’s somebody’s birthday.  In this case we were celebrating Michael’s birthday.  We went to a pizza place near their home that makes authentic Neapolitan pizza.  Naples is famous for being the birthplace of real Italian pizza, and although pizza can be imitated, I really do think the Neapolitan is the best.

It was after one when we arrived, and I was hungry.  I had dropped one of my soft boiled eggs on myself at breakfast.  Soft boiled eggs are still in the shell, but they’re not hard, so when it hit my lap it broke open and there was egg yolk all over my dress.  I had to change, and did so laughing—I mean really, how surprised did I look when the egg went all over me?  It must have been hilarious!  I threw the dress into the washer to get the egg out before it could harden and possibly stain the dress.  Anyway, instead of my usual breakfast of two soft boiled eggs and a grapefruit, I only had one egg and a grapefruit.  So by one I was starving.

We ordered our pizzas and talked about all that had happened since I had seen them last.  When the pizzas came, we passed slices around the table so that everyone had a slice of all the other pizzas at the table.  All of them were amazing.  They say that hunger makes even mediocre food taste good, while a full stomach renders even the most delicious foods tasteless.  That’s probably true.

Then we brought out the birthday cake and sang Happy Birthday to Michael.  As we ate the cake Michael began talking about seeking God.  The passion in his voice stirred up my own passion until I was ready to kick over the table, shoot out the lights, and start my own personal revival right there.

On the long subway ride home I prayed over and over again: “Lord, don’t let me lose this holy dissatisfaction!  I want to stay passionate for You!”  When I got home I went to my prayer chair and sat down to pray.  An hour later I realized that I had fallen asleep.  Again I prayed: “Don’t let me lose this holy dissatisfaction!”

Here’s the thing: it is hard to maintain that feeling of holy dissatisfaction.  And it is so easy to slip back into the everyday stuff, old habits, and familiar routines.  There’s nothing wrong with those things.  But I know that there is more—you do too!  There is more to this Christian life than going to church, saying a few prayers, going to a Bible study, and keeping your life untangled from sin.  And even in all these “normal” Christian activities we struggle and try hard not to hurt those around us.  Part of my holy dissatisfaction comes from not always succeeding.  I still sometimes inadvertently wind up hurting the people around me.

In the Bible we read about the sun standing still for a day and water coming from a rock and all sorts of healing miracles (paralysis, blindness, bleeding, and even death).  And we hear of miracles happening in remote places like Africa and South America where life is simpler and people have uncomplicated faith.  Well I have faith!  I believe these things really happened.  Why am I not seeing these things in my life?

Or how about just seeing someone’s life changed forever?  Instead they often just become another church zombie.  Where are the people that have gotten radically saved?  Did God save them just to help them get a good parking place when they’re late for their doctor appointment?  I don’t want God to be my trained circus poodle any more than I wanted to be Lars’ trained circus poodle[1].  I want God to be God.  I know He’s bigger than I can even imagine.  I don’t want to bring God down to my size.  But here’s the thought that torments me: I think I inadvertently do reduce God to a “manageable” size by returning to my auto-pilot-Christian-zombie “normal” life.

It’s not as if God hasn’t done some pretty miraculous stuff in my life, He has!  But I want more.  And I know that God wants me to want more.  I remember that early in my missionary career, I was about to return to the US to speak at some churches about Europe as a mission field.  I was weeping before the Lord, desperate for Him to go before me and with me.  I have always had a terror of speaking in public, but also the burden for Europe and for its missionaries was so great that I was also terrified that I might not do a good job of speaking.  So I was praying and weeping and begging God to go with me and to speak through me.  He reminded me of a prophecy that I had gotten a few months earlier about the Table (see The Table), loaded with everything that I could ever want or need.  I told Him: “I don’t want a gift, I want You!”  Then God assured me that every gift on the Table is simply more of Him.

I have heard of people who operate in all nine of the Spiritual Gifts.  Why not me?  Why not my church?  I want it all!  I want all of God!  And I don’t want to limit God.  Dear God, keep this holy dissatisfaction strong in me until I finally can overcome myself!  And then I want it to spread to everyone around me.  I want it!  Do you?  God is good!

[1] See Trained Circus Poodles.

Grow Like Trees

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He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around,” (Mark 8:24, NIV).

This morning during my prayer time I prayed for the missionaries and pastors of Europe as I usually do.  But this morning I was led to pray for them a bit differently.  Today I was led to pray for them to grow like trees.  In my mind’s eye I saw trees as in time-lapse film: I saw their branches lengthen, bud, and grow thick and green with leaves as they reach toward the sun.  I also saw their roots spreading and burrowing deeper into the rich dark soil.  And in the process their trunks grew thicker and stronger.

Then I remembered Psalm 1:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.  He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper, (Psalm 1:1-3, NKJV, emphasis mine).

So if you are a missionary or pastor in Europe or if you are one of my missionary or pastor friends elsewhere in the world, this is how I prayed for you today.  God is good!

Prayer Slapped

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I was recounting to a friend recently about my first trip to Israel in which I did a shocking thing: I tasted a sip of wine at an Israeli winery.  I was traveling with a group of Baptists.  I hadn’t known that they were Baptists until the moment when I was one of only two in the group who agreed to taste the proffered wine.  Scandalous!  The rest of the day we were shunned and avoided and given the hairy eyeball by the others.  Happily, the other sinner was my roommate, and this incident served to seal our friendship forever.

The next morning on the bus we prayed as usual before setting out for our day.  Well, I guess you could call it a prayer, but it felt more like a verbal slap to us: “Lord forgive us for having transgressed . . .” etc.  Everyone knew which of us had “transgressed.”  Prayer slapped!

Please allow me to interrupt my narrative here because this is important: the Bible does not forbid drinking wine.  How schizophrenic would God be to change water into wine[1] if wine was forbidden?  And how schizophrenic for Paul to advise Timothy “drink a little wine for the sake of your stomach”? (1 Timothy 5:23).

And if the Bible called grape juice “wine” as some claim, then explain why the Bible says: “Do not join those who drink too much wine . . .”? (Proverbs 23:20, NIV).  Nobody has ever warned me against drinking too much grape juice.  And if you read on to the end of the verse, it continues: “. . . or gorge themselves on meat.”  By the same logic, if this means that we can’t drink any wine at all, then it also means that we can’t eat any meat at all.

Some also claim that the “wine” of the Bible times was watered-down.  If so, then why did Isaiah lament for Jerusalem?

Once like pure silver, you have become like worthless slag.  Once so pure, you are now like watered-down wine, (Isaiah 1:22, emphasis mine).

Remember the conversation between Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden:

“Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied.  “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat.  God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die,’” (Genesis 3:1-3, emphasis mine).

That’s not what God said.  He said:

You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die, (Genesis 2:16-17).

God didn’t say anything about not touching the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  I think of the total prohibition on wine as something like Eve’s exaggeration[2], or like the “fences” of 613 rules the rabbis made to “protect” people from breaking the Ten Commandments.  In other words: manmade.  Not that that’s necessarily a bad or evil thing, it’s just not quite as good as the God-made rules.  Where it becomes a bad thing is when it becomes legalism (see Galatians).  Manmade rules tread so closely to that legalistic line that I, personally, wouldn’t even risk it[3].

So back to my narrative (and please pardon my rant!  I do feel better.): so I told the story of the prayer slap, and my friend was so surprised at the concept that I felt compelled to explain and to further illustrate.  I’ve had people pray about “someone that had hurt them” in prayer meetings, knowing that the “someone” was me.  That’s a prayer slap.  What they should have done is come to me privately, tell me that I had hurt them (I hadn’t realized that I had until the prayer slap), and give me the opportunity to make things right with them.

A prayer slap is a public assault on someone, disguised as a prayer.  A prayer slap is not a prayer.  Even though the prayer slap is addressed to God, the message of the prayer slap is not directed at God, but at another person.  Therefore, it is not a prayer[4].

My friend continued to be amazed—obviously she hadn’t stepped on toes like I had.  So I told her that I had also been sermon slapped.  That really blew her mind.  Yes, a sermon slap is a sermon where the preacher is preaching to you telling you how wrong you are—all but naming you, and all before the entire congregation.  I wasn’t present for my sermon slap, but it was delivered, and only a few people present knew that it was directed at me.  It may be in the church’s online archives, but I really don’t need to hear it.

For my part—because there are always at least two sides to every story—I have blog slapped people.  Don’t look for them because I have taken them down, feeling appropriately ashamed of my behavior.  The only thing I can say in my defense is that at least I didn’t pretend that my blog slap was a prayer.  Otherwise, I recognize it as an indefensible act.  And lots and lots of people Facebook slap (and slap through other social media), even Christians.

Whatever the issue is, we need to go directly to that person with our grievances.  To air them in public is wrong, and to couch them as a religious act is downright reprehensible.  And we really need to give each other as much mercy as we hope to receive, ourselves.  Nobody is always right besides God.  God is good!

[1] John 2:1-10

[2] Or perhaps it was Adam’s exaggeration.  After all, Eve wasn’t even there when God gave the warning against the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

[3] Of course the exception here is people who have a genetic predisposition to alcoholism or who simply lack the self-control to stop after one glass.

[4] New Age people also write lovely “prayers” that are not prayers.  One such prayer that I read went something like this: “I see you wrapped in light, and this light is from the father of lights, etc. . . .”  It doesn’t even pretend to be addressed to God.

 

Trained Circus Poodles

Attēlu rezultāti vaicājumam “gifs dancing poodles”

I’m no trained poodle!

Greetings from Tallinn, Estonia!

Lars runs a prophetic school from his home in the south of France.  Yesterday he announced that he had no program for our meeting with the local church.  He said that he was just going to release us to prophesy over the locals.  My response was: “I’m not a trained circus poodle.  If I get a word for someone there, I will give it, but I’m not going to perform for you.”

Of course the reality was wonderful and humbling.  When Lars finished his introduction, he announced that we will prophesy: first to the group as a whole, and then to individuals.  He advised them to record the prophesies and then write them down and see what God has to say to them.

He started off, then invited us to jump in if we got a word.  Well, almost all of us did have a word for the group.  It was very instructive and encouraging for them.  Then we began prophesying to individuals.  Prophesy flowed very freely.  Each of us prophesied to at least one of each of them.

Then Lars reversed it and invited them to prophesy to us.  They were shy at first, but again prophesy eventually flowed.  Here’s what one girl prophesied over me:

I see waves.  God is taking you somewhere, but He’s also holding you as you rock on the waves.  You are in the right place.

Once again, mine is a water prophesy (see Mutual EncouragementThe Prophecy Fulfilled, and Lessons in Floating).  She was encouraged to know that she had hit the bullseye.  I guess we can all be trained circus poodles when it suits God’s purpose.  God is good!

Watch Your Mouth!

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Don’t undo your blessing with your mouth!

And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak, (Matthew 12:36).

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been a follower of Jesus for 50 years now, but I am absolutely appalled at some of the things I hear people say.  Yes, the people in movies and popular songs use offensive language more and more, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  It’s the things I hear fellow believers say that shocks and saddens me.  Some of them do use the language of movies and popular songs, revealing the old computer programmer principle: garbage in, garbage out.  But I’m not even really talking about that.  I believe that as they follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit will clean up their language[1].

What I’m talking about is a different kind of language that is even more insidious: faithless talk.  Now, I’m not saying that these believers don’t have faith.  I know that they do.  But their mouths reveal a shallow kind of faith: one that trusts God for the sweet by-and-by, but not for today’s needs.

For example:

“None of my prayers are being answered!”

Of course not!  If you’re saying that, your guardian angel is reporting back to God like this: “She says that none of her prayers are answered.”  So the angel doesn’t bring you back God’s blessings that you’ve been praying for because of what it hears you saying.  Angels are completely humorless and very literal.  They will do for you as they hear you professing and confessing.  They don’t understand that you’re just joking when you say, “I forgot to bring an umbrella, so of course it’s going to rain!”  They are under orders from God to listen to you and help you.  If your angel hears you say, “I never seem to have any money at the end of the month,” you have effectively tied its hands and it cannot help you.  In fact, if the angel did something different from what it hears you say, then it has disobeyed God’s orders.

Therefore, angels are only servants—spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation, (Hebrews 1:14, emphasis mine)[2].

“It [the bad situation] must have been God’s will to teach me patience in suffering.”

That may be exactly the reason for the bad situation, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  It might be that allowing the bad situation was the only way that God could get you to quit rushing around and to listen to Him.  We have been so conditioned by this world to do, do, do, that sometimes we forget that the most important thing on our daily agenda is to spend time in God’s presence.  So don’t just do something, pray!

“I’m just praying for God’s will.”

This sounds so pious.  It’s like saying: I’m praying, but letting God decide how He wants to answer.  Friends, this kind of prayer takes no faith whatsoever.  This is a lazy and unbelieving prayer.  God responds to faith, but this is manipulation more than it is faith.  This is “Jesus take the wheel,” not faith.

This next one is even more lazy than the faithless prayer:

“Will you pray for me?  I need to know whether I should . . . or not.” 

The reason I say that this one is even more lazy is because if you have a relationship with Jesus, then you should be able to get your answer straight from Him.  You shouldn’t need an intermediary every time you need to make a decision.

If you are unable to hear from God you:

  • Don’t have enough of God’s Word in your heart and mind;
  • Are rushing through your prayer time;
  • Are filling up your prayer time with your own words instead of taking time to listen; or possibly . . .
  • Have failed to act on the last thing God told you to do.

That last one is rebellion.  If you can still do the thing God told you to do, you should do it immediately.  If it’s no longer possible, then you need to confess it, repent for not obeying, and obey immediately the next time He tells you to do something.  Nothing will stop you from hearing God’s voice like disobedience.

“I feel called to the mission field, but . . .”

Friends, everything that follows that “but” is wrong, lack of faith, and disobedient.

  • . . . I’ve got kids.

Really?  You think that God doesn’t know that you have kids?  If God calls parents to the mission field, then He’s also calling the kids.  And often the kids are better at sharing their faith than their parents are.  Your kids can tell your cranky neighbor that he needs Jesus—and he’ll actually listen to them.  Some of the most amazing missionaries I know grew up as MK’s (missionary kids—though it is not a guarantee, of course).

  • . . . I can’t just pick up and go.

Really?  And you think that you can tell God Almighty no?  As one who did that, I can tell you, things are so much better when you do them God’s way.  It’s a good thing for me that God is very, very merciful because although I walked a very tough and painful path (of my own choosing), He didn’t punish me like my disobedience deserved.

  • . . . where am I going to get the money?

When God tells you to go somewhere, He will always supply the means necessary to get you there.  If you find the faith to go despite not having the money, then you will also find that God is faithful.  He will never let you down.

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus, (Philippians 4:19, emphasis mine[3]).

*sigh* All we can do is pray.”

Whenever I hear this I want to shout: “Hallelujah!  Now God can finally work in this situation!”  Why do we use prayer as a last resort?  I’ve gotten into the habit of taking everything, every situation, every person, every need: both great and small straight to my Heavenly Father who cares intimately and infinitely for me.  And do you know how God often responds?

I will answer them before they even call to Me.  While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers! (Isaiah 65:24, emphasis mine).

Many times I have seen the answer before I’ve finished praying.  I think God does far more this for people who use prayer as their first resort.  So what kinds of things do I pray about?  Everything!  I’m always surprised when people tell me (with an embarrassed tone): “I pray for a good parking place.”  I not only pray for a good parking place, but I proclaim that God has given me a parking anointing.  Now, sometimes I get a parking place that is where I want it.  Other times I get a parking place where I need to be, but didn’t know it.  For example, I have found people’s wallets by my parking place (who better to return the wallet intact than someone who will also return everything that’s inside of it, too?).  Other times I have parked farther away because there was someone I needed to meet on the walk to or from the place I’m going.

Not only do I have a parking anointing, I also have a transportation anointing.  I started proclaiming this before I actually saw it: proclaiming and thanking God for a transportation anointing.  And after consistently doing this, I was soon arriving at bus stops just before the arrival of the bus, and often finding a seat when I needed one.  Whenever I missed a bus, train, or flight I looked around to see what the Kingdom Purpose for missing it might be.  Often there would be someone I needed to talk to or pray with.  And always there would be an extra measure of grace (and funds) for replacing the ticket.  And I believe that the reason I received that extra measure of grace is because I never got upset about a missed conveyance.  I kept my mind Kingdom focused.

That’s the secret in a nutshell:

Keep your mind Kingdom-Focused!

And never forget: God is good!

[1] And of course that process will be helped by them spending more and more time in God’s Word and in God’s presence.

[2] See the whole chapter to understand the context.  And remember never, ever tell the angels what to do.  Instead, ask God for angelic help.  The godly angels take their orders only from God.

[3] Again, read from verse 10 to understand the context.

Celebrating Jerusalem’s 50th

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Here’s a picture of a bird I did not shoot.

I was invited to a celebration for the fiftieth anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem into Israel.  Since it was being celebrated here in town, of course I wanted to go.  As often happens, God has a secondary purpose for going to the event.

The person who invited me was Deborah, my filmmaker friend.  I recently met Eleanora (see A New Friendship Blossoms) who is a retired professional actress.  Deborah’s good friend, actress Barbara Sanua, has gone home to be with Jesus.  And although Eleanora is a good deal older than Barbara was, she could still possibly do some acting for Deborah.  A filmmaker needs actors, and Deborah has used many non-professional actors.  But a professional—especially an Italian—could be a real blessing for her films.  Thus, with Eleanora’s permission, I brought her to the event to introduce her to Deborah.

It rained and rained all day, but the event was held in an arcaded courtyard.  Once the introductions were done, Eleanora was fascinated with the celebration.  Hebrew Roots is even newer to Italian believers than it is to Americans.  But it is also growing here.  So there were Jews, Messianic Jews, and Hebrew Roots Christians in attendance—a beautiful thing to see in a country that once collaborated with Hitler in the rounding-up of Jews into ghettos and eventually concentration camps.

In the course of the day I also met Bruno.  I only knew Bruno through Facebook and our mutual friendship with Deborah.  Here in Italy, Deborah is very well-known and knows everybody.  Bruno had lived many years in Oregon before returning to Italy to care for an aging aunt.  The aunt has since passed away.  Bruno was very happy for the opportunity to speak English, which he does with hardly a trace of an Italian accent.  I enjoyed talking with him.  It’s really nice when a Facebook friend turns out to be someone you also like knowing in person.  Bruno seems like a real gentleman in every sense of the word.  Too bad that he lives at the other end of the country.  But who knows, we could meet up again sometime.

Eventually the rain and cold got to Eleanora and also to me.  We decided to go home.  Deborah asked Eleanora if she could get a ride to the train station.  She didn’t really need to go to the train station, but near the train station there are lots of phone repair shops that have all sorts of phone gadgets.  Since my house was on the way, she dropped me off first.  I said my goodbyes and my two friends (who are now friends with each other) and they drove off into the misty rain.

I recently had a conversation with my son, Tim (the translator of my books).  He asked me if I had ever shot a gun.  I shocked him by saying that I have shot both rifles and a pistol.  I love shooting rifles, pistols not so much.  The only thing I didn’t like about shooting was that my first target was a bird.  I shot it right through the head and it dropped like a stone.  I instantly hated and loved it.  I hated that I had killed the bird, but I loved the satisfaction of shooting.  So I changed to old bottles and cans, which were much better.  There is something very satisfying about shooting and seeing the bottle shatter or the can jump.  I told Tim that I shoot a rifle left-handed, sighting with my left eye.  He was surprised because I am so dominantly right-handed that I really only use lefty to hand things to righty or to hold things steady for righty to fix.  But I explained: my right arm is stronger and therefore steadier for holding the rifle still.  All the left hand has to do is gently squeeze the trigger.  The reason why I prefer a rifle to a pistol is because a pistol is held with both hands, elbows locked, and I found it harder to sight with a pistol.  My ex’s 22 rifle was just the right size and weight for me.  Although I haven’t shot in a long time, I would love to do some shooting again.

Today was like shooting: very satisfying.  I shot two birds with one stone today—in a manner of speaking.  It’s been a really good day.  God is good!