My Christmas Gift from God

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 necessaryYou 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!

He Loves Me!

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!

My Prayer a Year Later—Here’s Hope!

Among my papers here in North Carolina, I found a prayer that I had written last year.  Reading it was like hearing it for the very first time.  I guess that’s what the passage of a year had done.  After reading it a couple of times, I now remember what inspired the prayer: the death of one of Mom’s friends here, and the fact that there are many people here who are sick and dying.  Here’s the prayer I wrote last year:

Lord, show me my boundaries.  I want to live by faith, and I want to grow my faith, and I want to help others to grow their faith.  Here’s the thing: lots of people accept sickness and death and poverty, saying, “God is sovereign,” and “My suffering brings glory to God.”  But, Lord, I’m not convinced that Your will includes sickness, suffering, and lack for Your servants, Your children.  You know I’m not a “prosperity gospel” person, but Your Word says that you are able to abundantly bless me so that in all things, at all times, and having all that I need, I may abound to every good work.  I don’t see where that leaves room for lack.  And maybe the key is that Your people who do suffer lack do not abound to every good work, but instead to the desires of their flesh—only You know.

And about sickness, Your Word is full of healing.  Only once does healing seem to be refused to one of Your people, but that “thorn in the flesh,” (2 Corinthians 12:7-8) appears not to be sickness, but literally a “messenger of satan.”  I acknowledge Your sovereignty, and absolutely don’t want to dispute, doubt, or deny that fact.  I only want to know the boundaries.  I want to have faith that heals the sick and raises the dead—and through faith to bring You glory.  But if I’m wrong, if some are denied healing, I want to know that.  How can I build up peoples’ faith if I can’t be sure where the boundaries are?  So please, please, Lord, show me the boundaries between my faith and Your sovereignty.

At the bottom of the page I had written:

Matthew 15:18-20 – Our words defile us

1 Corinthians 11:30 – . . . for this reason many of you have fallen asleep (died).  Communion in an unworthy manner = sickness and death.

In reading this prayer a year later, I remember the anguish I was in.  I want to have hope.  I want to bring others hope.  How can I do that if God refuses healing for some people?  And when I prayed about it, God gave me the following Word of hope:

Matthew 17:19-21 – Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it [a demon] out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

So it comes back to faith.  I angered some folks when I wrote in my blog in 2012 that the reason they don’t see healing and financial provision in their lives is because of their lack of faith (see Laboring for a God-Given Dream).  And, indeed, when I prayed for Mom’s friend to be healed, she wasn’t healed, but died instead.  That was what threw me into this tailspin.  But I wasn’t wrong.  It is a matter of faith or the lack thereof.

Here’s more hope: If you don’t have enough faith, you can ask for it.  But be prepared!  Asking for more faith is like asking for more patience.  God will answer it by allowing circumstances that test and develop that faith (or patience).  Both faith and patience are among the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), which are the birthright (re-birthright!) of all believers.  The better thing to do is to ask God for more of the Holy Spirit, which is simply more of God, Himself.  As Jesus said, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13, emphasis mine).  And remember, God is good!

Daddy’s Grands

DaddyBeatnik Daddy-o with me and my brother

I had a dream the other night.  I knew that it was a prophetic dream, but I didn’t remember everything about it.  When I woke up, I wrote down what I could remember:

There was money in 3 bank accounts.  The amount of money in the smallest account was $19,760.  I was surprised by such a big amount of money being in the smallest account.

I asked God what the dream meant, but He didn’t tell me right away.  So I stuck the paper with the dream on it in my Bible, waiting for the answer.  The next day the Lord gave me a verse of scripture to pray for my Dad’s 3 grandchildren (my 2 sons and my nephew):  “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ,” (2 Thessalonians 3:5, ESV).  You see, as of the last time we communicated, each of these young men, though saved, is not walking with the Lord.  But they have me praying for them.

And that’s when I understood what the dream meant: the 3 accounts are these 3 young men, and my older son’s birth year is suggested by the exact amount in the smallest account.  His was the smallest account because as of our last conversation on the subject, he was the most hostile to Christianity.  But they have me praying for them!

The first book I ever completed and published was a book written for these 3 young men.  It is a memoir of my dad, and I wrote it so that they could know their grandfather like I knew him.  Unfortunately, they only remember him as being sick because he had lupus and was terribly debilitated by it the last 20 years of his life.  But I remember how he was in his youth.  Daddy was a funny and fun-loving person.  He loved arcade games, which in those days was pinball, which worked mostly by gravity.  Daddy almost always got so involved in the game that he would bump the machine with his hip and end the game in a “Tilt.”  He also loved all sorts of sports and games.  His enthusiasm during the famous Ice Bowl football game in 1967 was so contagious that I also became a fan of both the Dallas Cowboys and the game of football.

I loved my Dad, and as you can see, I love these 3 young men, too.  If you have family members who are either not saved or not walking with the Lord, ask God for strategies for how to pray for them.  God wants to bring your whole family to Heaven with you.  Make this your theme, too: But they have me praying for them!  God is good!

A Party in Heaven

Yesterday I went to a funeral in San Remo.  I went because my friend, Nina, told me that I should go.  When I pointed out that I hadn’t known him, she pointed out the obvious thing that I was missing in my momentary selfishness: it’s not for him, but for his family, and particularly for his daughter, who is a good friend.  I hadn’t wanted to go because I knew that it would be an entire day devoted to getting there, a funeral that’s probably a couple of hours, and coming back.  During the brief time between mission trips, I have plenty of things to do: catch up on my bookkeeping tasks, laundry and other housekeeping chores, and catching up with friends here in Milan and with my correspondence.  But, of course, Nina was right, so I chose the better thing, which was to go and be there for my friend.

This morning I went to the prayer group at church.  It’s an hour by bus across town, so I was praying.  I began to feel a deep longing and desperation in my spirit for more of God.  It is true that I have surrendered everything to Him, and that I live for Him, but honestly, sometimes it feels like I’m just playing around at Christianity.  The issue that keeps coming up for me lately is living in God’s supernatural power.  Deep within me I keep feeling that God hasn’t called me to live an ordinary life of going to church, praying for friends and hoping that they’re helped, and just going through the motions—an imitation of Christianity: Christianity lite.  There is a conviction in my heart that we are supposed to be living a life that is truly extraordinary.  This crazy belief comes from the Bible.  Only non-believers lived ordinary lives throughout all the Bible.  And in the New Testament, the extraordinary became even more “normal” for Christians.

I think everything changed when the Church became legal and institutionalized.  But even since then there have been some Christians who have lived extraordinary lives full of the supernatural power of God.  I had wondered if it was wrong to want more of the spiritual gifts (see “Laughing in My Dreams,” chapter 2, The Table).  God told me that the spiritual gifts are really just more of Him.  So this morning, I was praying on the bus for more of God.  The more I prayed, the more desperate I felt.  But I also began to know that this is what God wants for me, too.

I don’t just want more of God so that I can show a mighty display of His power to the world (although that would be really cool!).  I want it for the Body of Christ, for His Church around the world.  If we don’t operate above the level of the world, why on earth would non-believers want to become Christian?  If we suffer sickness, depression, doubts, lack, and fears just like the rest of the world, then what have we got to offer them?  If all this is just for the sweet by-and-by, but not for today, why bother?  But we are called to be different—vastly different—than the world.  They should hold their breath when we enter the room, watching and wondering what we’re going to do next: miraculous healing, prophecy, raise the dead?  They are limited by the natural laws, but we are not, or at least, we shouldn’t be.

I can’t help but be drawn by the contrast of a funeral and a living hope.  It’s in the darkness that the light shines the brightest.  We are in this world, but we need to shake ourselves loose of its fetters that keep us from living the extraordinary life we were made to live.

All around us we observe a pregnant creation.  The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs.  But it’s not only around us; it’s within us.  The Spirit of God is arousing us within.  We’re also feeling the birth pangs.  Romans 8:22-23, The Message

Yes, that’s what it is that I have been feeling today: birth pangs for the restoration of what we are truly meant to be living.  And let me tell you, there’s nothing like birth pangs to send you to your knees in prayer!  God is good!

A Parade!

This morning I awoke at the house of my friends Roxie and Daniel, who live in Biella.  Roxie is called la orsa che abbraccia—the hugging bear.  She has earned this name because she gives big, warm bear hugs that make you feel very welcome and loved.  Outside the window, it seemed unusually bright for six AM.  It had snowed overnight, and as I write this, it is continuing to snow.  Roxie fixed me a fantastic (and fantastically big) breakfast and a sack lunch to take with me on the train.  Then she and Daniel drove me to the train station.

What a difference being in the train station!  At their house we all praised God for the beautiful snow, which is a gift from Heaven to water the earth in winter.  But in the train station I have heard nothing but whining about the snow, the cold, and illnesses.  Of course, illnesses don’t come from cold weather, but from viruses.  Besides, as believers, we should never say, “I’ve got a cold (or the flu or whatever type of illness).”  Pastor Fabio’s sermon yesterday was about how when Jesus said, “It is finished,” and bowed His head, all the curses from original sin were paid for—including sickness.  If we can manage to wrap our heads around the idea that it has already been paid—all of it!—then we can truly begin to live the victorious life of true freedom in Christ.  These are the days of miracles and wonders, if we can only believe it.

On the train to Santhiá, where I am at this moment, it has continued to snow.  Here I have about an hour between trains.  No sooner did I sit down to wait, then I heard music.  It was a band marching down the street toward the city offices across the street from the train station.  On what most people here are lamenting as a dismal and cold winter day, there is a band celebrating something.  I grabbed my camera and took some pictures—the only person to do so.  Again, it seems like the contrast between believers and unbelievers is as plain as black and white, darkness and light.

The Bible tells us that the world will fall into ever darker darkness, but the beautiful thing about that is the contrast between darkness and light.  Therefore, go and be the light of the world that you were created to be.  The people lost in darkness will be attracted to the light of the Son like moths to a flame.  And if there’s no parade, start one!  Our celebration has only just begun! Parade on a snowy day