Two years ago, when it was just Mom and me for Christmas in Abilene, she suggested serving dinner at the Salvation Army (see Serving up Love on a Plate). So we did, and it was fun and rewarding, and we met a lot of nice people. So this year, when it looked like it would be just the two of us again, we decided to help out at the Salvation Army here in Asheville. In fact, two of our neighbors here in the retirement residence are members at the Salvation Army. Then we found out that Kevin, my younger son, was coming to spend Christmas with us. When we told him about our plan, he wanted to come help, too. We had served dinner back in Abilene, but this time we were assigned to help out in the kitchen. Our assignment was dessert for a few hundred people. We were led to the dishwashing area of the kitchen (out of the way of people who were doing the actual cooking). There was a pile of pie boxes and we were instructed to cut up pies, put them on disposable plates, wrap and stack them on trays. After a few false starts and bumping into each other in the small space, we developed a system that worked beautifully: I cut the pies, Mom put the slices onto plates, and Kevin wrapped and stacked them: pumpkin, apple, pecan, and icebox pie—a variety on each tray. When Petey, the cook, checked and saw our progress, he brought out some cakes to be sliced: carrot cake, sock-it-to-me cake, red velvet, and brownies. A few times we needed to seek Petey for help because we needed more trays, or ran out of plastic wrap, that sort of thing, but mostly we functioned very well together. A few times I got too far ahead of Mom, which gave me the opportunity to go throw out the pie boxes. At other times Mom got too far ahead of Kevin and helped him wrap the desserts. Kevin, being the last guy in our assembly line, never got ahead, but he never complained. Before we knew it, Petey came back and said, “I think we’ve got enough now. Youse can all go home now.” And he thanked us for our help. Mom and I hadn’t thought that anything could beat serving Christmas dinner for fun, but this had really brought us together in loving cooperation for a good cause. For me, it was one of the best things about Christmas. The others being God’s amazing gift to me (see yesterday’s post), and having Kevin here with us. God is good!
I woke up early this morning from a dream in which my ex-husband and I were in a living room somewhere. I don’t remember details, but in the dream I felt only compassion and agape love for him.
He had been verbally abusive to me, and had betrayed and hurt me very badly (emotionally). When I left him, I was literally running for my life, being in grave danger from suicidal thoughts. Since then we have had no contact and I’ve had no contact with his family, either. There is no hope for reconciliation of the marriage, but I had hoped for reconciliation for the sake of our sons (at some point in the future, there is the possibility that our paths could cross at an important life event, like the wedding of one of our sons. If that happens, I would like for it to be a pleasant meeting).
This past fall, I was traveling in Texas, and specifically through the town where he lives with another woman. On passing through that town, I had hoped not to run into him. That night God gave me a dream in which I was reassured that I would not run into him.
This dream of compassion for my ex revealed to me that I have truly forgiven him, and hold no bitterness or resentment against him. Not long ago, I had received two prophecies which were fulfilled (at least in part) by this dream of forgiveness. The first one that came to mind was given to me just about a month ago:
Do you feel My expression of joy over you? If you do, then you know that I have been with you, that I have spoken to you, and I have encouraged you. So, let this moment rest upon you as the mantle of anointing for the season that is ahead. I would have you embrace the season that is ahead. I would have you embrace this season with joy and faith. And, I would have you to march forward in triumph because you know that you will win the battles that are necessary. You will receive your reward in this season. For, I have chosen this time to demonstrate My love for you by the giving of gifts, says the Lord God Almighty, (emphasis mine).
And before I go on to the second one, I’ll explain that part about the “battles that are necessary.” We tend to think of battles at Christmastime as being a battle against your negative cousin Daisy or crabby old uncle Clyde. But I have been fighting a different kind of battle these days. That battle is against myself—specifically, the old mindset that hears criticism and turns it into self-condemnation, among others. In the book mentioned in my last blog post (A More Excellent Way to be in Health by Henry Wright), old mindsets like mine actually are far more sinister, sometimes causing disease through the sin (separation from God) that they reveal themselves to be. So I have been praying and working through these old mindsets, bringing negative thinking and self-condemnation into line with God’s Word.
The other prophecy was the one I wrote about in my post The Table:
God says that He has put a big Table before you, and it is full of everything you could ever want or need.
I had become overwhelmed by the task of speaking to the American churches about missions in Europe. I began desperately to seek the Lord, weeping and begging for Him to show up. Then I remembered the table full of everything I could ever want or need. And I said, “Lord, the gifts are great, but I don’t want any gifts! I want You! I need You!” Then God spoke, and in a very tender voice He said: “My child, I am in every gift! I am on the table! Every gift is simply more of Me! Why do you think I keep inviting you to take everything you need, everything you want from the table? Because I am everything that is on the table! Take all you want of Me!”
In reflecting on the dream and that prophecy—especially the part about gifts—I realized that God had indeed given me a gift: more of himself. Every time I win the battle against my flesh, I take on more of His likeness—thank You, Father! It’s a bit big, but I hope to grow into it! God is good!
Yesterday I had another struggle with a terrible headache. It might have been a migraine because of the nausea, but it was very untypical of migraines. What was typical was that the pain was horrific and lasted all day.
When I finally started feeling better I looked up migraines in the book A More Excellent Way to be in Health by Henry Wright. What it says about migraines is that migraines are caused by guilt, inner conflict and self-hatred, and fear.
This planet has been infected with sin. And the longer that we have spent on this infected planet, the more that sin’s infection affects our physical bodies. Sickness and death were never part of God’s plan. God made us as immortal beings. He designed our bodies in divine perfection: all our parts to fit together perfectly, to function perfectly, and to last forever. But sin gave the devil the right to put disease on us: disease in our bodies, disease in our minds, disease in our relationships.
For a long time I have struggled with the problem of why everyone is not healed. I had thought that it was a matter of faith, and in part I believe that. But there is more to it than faith because lots of people pray in great faith for themselves and for others, and some are healed and some aren’t. There is not one single instance in the Bible of someone asking God for healing and being refused healing.
Some people point to Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” as an instance of healing refused, but a careful reading of that passage (2 Corinthians 12:6-10), particularly verse 7, which spells it out as a messenger of satan. Messengers in the Bible are angels. I believe that they get confused and spiritualize the thorn as some kind of illness because verses 9 and 10 use the word infirmities is used in the King James Version. But the more reliable NIV translation has it properly translated as weaknesses.
So since the Bible doesn’t show God refusing to heal people or giving them diseases to teach them patience in suffering, why do we accept illnesses? As children of God, we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. Sickness and death are not part of our inheritance, so why do we accept them?
According to Henry Wright 80% of disease has a spiritual root. As with migraines, that root is a separation from God (and accepting sickness in the belief that it’s just life—think about how people say something about “my cancer,” for example), separation from self (self-hatred), and separation from others (bitterness, envy, unforgiveness, etc.).
So this morning after a good night’s rest, I spent time in prayer and meditation on all this. I was reminded of what God did for me a few years ago. I was going through a hard time, and I happened to see a sermon on God.tv about how very, very much God loves us. The preacher said, “Think of God’s love continuously falling, falling, falling on you like Niagara Falls.” I’ve been to Niagara Falls, and pictures don’t do it justice. There is a place on the Canadian side where you can go through a tunnel and see the falls from underneath. From that vantage point, you can see how much water is continuously going over the falls. From above it looks like a lot, but from underneath, you can see that it is really a spectacular amount of water—like a whole lake—going over every single minute of every day. So when he said that, I closed my eyes and thought about God’s love falling on me like Niagara Falls. Immediately I felt the sweet weight of that love falling on my body. In fact it was too much to take sitting up, so I laid myself down on the couch and basked in His love, feeling it in my physical body. And I laid there for a full two hours, feeling the weight and force of His love. It was amazing.
As I meditated on all this, I realized that God loves me as tenderly as a doe with her fawn and as fiercely as a she-bear with her cub. When people mistreat us, it’s easy to forget that even if they are people who love us, they do not accurately reflect God’s love. Other people’s love is conditional. So is God’s love, but I’ve already met the condition: accepting His Son, Jesus Christ. And nothing can ever separate me from that love. Nothing! God is good!
Each day I pray for divine appointments—for myself and for the missionaries and pastors in my ministry’s care. You never know how you’re going to be led into a divine appointment, and you never know who will be your divine appointment. Sometimes it is someone you know, sometimes it is a stranger, and sometimes the stranger becomes a friend as a result. Sometimes my divine appointments are directly related to my ministry, but often it seems that I was the person who was handy for the Lord at the time.
Yesterday’s divine appointment was a handy one. On the schedule all week we have known about a sing-along that was scheduled for yesterday afternoon. And all week I was certain that I wouldn’t go because I’m not much of one for sing-alongs. Then just half an hour before the sing-along, I had the urge to go to the common area for an afternoon cup of coffee. I saw them arranging chairs for the sing-along, and it suddenly dawned on me that it would be a Christmas sing-along. Now, do love singing Christmas Carols, so I decided to attend after all.
When it was over, I began to walk back toward the elevator to go to our apartment. Joanne was also walking toward the elevator. I don’t know Joanne very well because we don’t have much in common, besides living on the same floor. What I do know about her is that she is a lousy bowler who curses loudly at every bad roll. She drinks a lot, showing up sometimes for dinner drunk. Her boyfriend, Phil, often spends the night in her apartment. But I also know this about her, yesterday and also last Sunday, Joanne and Phil attended Sunday services at the residents’ chapel.
After the sing-along I could see that Joanne had been crying, and I knew that about a month ago she had lost her identical twin to cancer. She had seemed to be handling it pretty well. Then last week she suddenly shut herself up in her room and nobody but Phil had seen her. Empty wine bottles began piling up in the recycling bin, and I knew that she was having a very hard time. Phil told me that her niece had sent her 150 pictures from the funeral on Monday. Nobody but he had seen her since. So I walked with her to the elevator, just making myself available for her to talk to.
People say unbelievably stupid things at funerals. Things that they don’t even realize are cruel. At her twin’s funeral last month her uncle said, “Today you buried half of yourself.” I guess he thought he was being insightful, but the remark stung badly. She wept as she told me and I could smell alcohol on her breath. I don’t know how much she had been drinking, but her voice got louder and louder as she cried out in anguish: “This is so hard! I don’t know how to do this!” I said, “Joanne, you’ve got to turn that around: now you’ve got to live for her.” And I added, “and you will stop self-medicating.” Her bloodshot eyes locked onto mine for a long moment. And I prayed for her right there in the hall. When we arrived at our floor, I pointed out our door and said, “If you need me, I’m right down the hall.”
I don’t know how Joanne’s story will end, but I do know this: Joanne seems to be reaching out to God, and God in response sent me. God is good!
This morning I was meditating on God’s beauty and goodness. Consider this: the most beautiful things and places on earth, whether natural or manmade, are only a pale reflection of His own great beauty. Likewise, everything good in life (friends, love, chocolate) is just a small glimpse of His own great goodness.
Take some time today to meditate on God’s beauty or to meditate on His great goodness. And give Him thanks and praise. God is good! I can’t overemphasize it: God is good!
Two of Mom’s three dogs are “rescues,” that is that she got them from the pound instead of from breeders. Rescues tend to be mixed breeds, and if not adopted, they will be euthanized. In many ways, I can relate to rescues because I feel more like a mutt than a pedigreed purebred. And like the dogs, I was under the sentence of death, but Jesus rescued me.
All my life I’ve felt like a misfit. I didn’t know precisely what to call that feeling until I moved to Italy. As a foreigner in Italy, I finally understood this misfit feeling to be feeling foreign. Yes, all my life I’ve felt foreign in my own country, and even among my own family. Peter Wagner in his amazing book, Your Spiritual Gifts can Help Your Church Grow, points out that this is a sign of a missionary gift and calling.
I moved to Asheville over a year ago, but in truth I have spent very little time living here. During this time I have visited a few churches to which I had been invited, but mostly attending Mom’s church and going to Bible studies and services here in the retirement community.
The first church that I was invited to (the day after moving day) was the church next door. It is a small, very friendly church and the worship style is chandelier-swinging—which I love. I like worship that is uninhibited and free because then I know that the people behind me (I prefer sitting down front) aren’t shocked by my uninhibited show of love for my Lord. I have visited some churches where I have gotten comments about the freedom of my worship. One pair of teenage girls once told me, “Wow! You just don’t care!” That could be taken a number of ways, but I prefer to take it as a compliment.
Most of the time I live in Italy. And because of my traveling lifestyle, even when I’m in the US, I haven’t had a whole lot of opportunities to attend this church or get to know its people. Until now, that is! Before going to the conference in Dallas, I attended a Sunday evening service (before Thanksgiving) in which each of us was asked to share what we are thankful to God for. In hearing about what they were thankful for, I learned that almost everybody there was a rescue like me—rescued first by others in the church, and then by Jesus. Many of them are misfits like me.
The associate pastor told me that the church’s mission is to help those people who have been wounded by bad church experiences. Certainly there are a lot of those, not just in Asheville, but all over the US. It certainly is good to know that there is a place where misfits can fit together and all of us can be rescued—by each other and by the Lord. I love my misfit church! God is good!