Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Release Lesson--I Should Have Known


I should have known. Yes, I should have.
As soon as I embraced my word for 2014 the Spirit began to teach. God wastes no time.
My word is RELEASE. And this word has taken on many flavors and nuances. Even in these first twenty-three days of the New Year. Three weeks and God has already been at work.
Earlier this week I found myself in a situation that challenged my commitment to allow God to work this word out in my life.
I made a hard phone call. One I really didn’t want to make. This phone call required a great deal of energy. A lot of swallowing of pride. Of hurt. I dialed the number and the person didn’t answer. I dialed their second number and I was informed they weren’t at home. I found myself breathing easier. Another day. Another day I would gird up my loins and do what needed to be done.
But.
Oh, you know what is coming, don’t you? Well, I’m glad you saw it coming because I didn’t.
Five minutes after I made that phone call, the sigh of relief wasn’t fully exhaled, I pulled into the parking lot of our grocery store. I needed to get a few items for dinner, just a rush trip—in and out. I drove down the main artery of the traffic flow (I always park on the same side, in the same row. I have trouble finding my car. Don’t laugh), and I look up.
There in the parking lot is the very person I tried to call.
Right there in front of me. Walking to their car.
My breath left me.
Really, Lord. Really? Are you serious?
I think I heard him laughing.
And the battle began. Fear welled up inside me. Panic constricted my throat.  
I pulled into a parking spot, put my car in park and looked back through my rear view mirror. Obviously God wanted me to talk to this person. But I wasn’t cleaned up. I hadn’t showered yet. I looked pretty rough. And it is one thing to talk to a person on the phone and another to talk to them in person. I sat there waffling and battling.
And I began to pray. Right out loud. He’s sitting right there with me. So, I just opened my mouth and started asking questions.
What do you want me to do, Lord?
You know the answer, Tamera.
How am I going to do that, Lord?
You know the answer, Tamera.

Do you have a different answer, Lord?
You know the right thing to do, Tamera. Do it.
I turned the car off. Opened the car door. Grabbed my purse and put one foot in front of the other. And I walked over to their car—quickening my pace because they would soon drive away. And the entire time I am praying. Out loud. In the parking lot. I am an incredibly animated person, so my head was bobbing and my hands were conducting. I’m sure others heard me or saw my mouth moving frantically and thought I was crazy. Talking to myself and answering.
But God did a beautiful thing. When He calls you to do the right thing he will give you everything you need. Everything.
In the moments between my car and theirs I prayed for grace. I prayed for release of fear and what they would think of me. What they might say to me. Or what they might not say.
It was the very right thing to do. The conversation was good. A very small space of healing occurred and I would have missed it if I hadn’t obeyed. I would have missed watching God pour out grace and keep his promise if I had ignored what he was doing. He went a long, long way to orchestrate this meeting for me. The person lives over fifty miles away. Did you catch that? Read it again. Fifty miles.
It could have been better. I could have said more. Perhaps, next time I will. But in that moment he helped me release fear and resistance and awkwardness. He gave me words. He gave me a gentleness and a compassion that was so needed. He helped me to do the right thing.
Today you may be asking God what he wants you to do. Maybe you need to make a phone call. Write a note. An email. A text. Maybe you need to go see someone.
And you are asking: Lord, what do you want me to do?
He is saying to you: You know the answer.
You know the right thing. Do it.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Intentional Release


Yesterday I engaged an inward battle that I am so weary of fighting.
I was battling me.
I am my own worst enemy. The devil most likely laughs, chuckles and chortles on Monday mornings. His glee? He is convinced he has beaten me with the same old strategies and schemes. He just seems to rotate them, make them look random and new.
He knows my weaknesses and seems to be able to calculate how to cause me to remain in the gyre of far too introspective thinking.
The enemy possesses a twisted sense of patience. He knows if he simply waits long enough I will tie myself up in my own self-pitying knots. He holds his pestilent little minions back and waits until my own naysaying thoughts begin to trip me. Once they start then he sends in his horde. His millennia of experience with human nature has taught him we will hang ourselves. He does not wage full war for then we would come fully awake. We would be alert and aware of what he is doing. Full war is not the daily strategy with Believers. Just persistence.
Yesterday the battle was not fierce just persistent.
My haphazard morning reading was Psalm 24. Oh, glorious psalm. One of my very favorites. I stayed on the words be lifted up you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. I looked around my house. Laundry piled in mountains waiting to be folded. Dishes balanced precariously in the sink. Blankets puddled at the end of the couches.  Kitchen counters littered with last night’s dishes, the morning’s breakfast and the afternoon’s lunch (seems that all we do is eat). The garbage bag leaked on the way out the door. Something spilled on the couch.
Twenty library books are due, but I haven’t even started them. There’s a devotional I began with fervor in September because I just knew it was the right one. The finish date would have been Christmas Day, but it lays in the floor with the cover bent back and the pages rounding, and I haven’t written in it since the third day of December. A book a dear friend highly recommended still sits on the shelf and dust has started to collect along with this obligatory feeling of I should have read that a month ago. My journal remains empty (though I really can’t complain about that because most of my words come here now).
And I want the King of glory to come in? Are you kidding? I wouldn’t want my friends, best friends, to come into this mess. And the real thought, the root of it all, is that my inside domain—the interior house is just as messy or more. I don’t think I will share the state of the interior of the house.
Then I realize I keep asking myself Tamera, a brand new year has arrived. What are you going to do? What are you planning? What are you…
Everyone, and I do mean pretty much everyone, is talking about the New Year. Fresh goals. Strong resolutions. Solid plans. There’s discussion of revolutionary diets and reading plans and memorization projects.
I am in the middle of it all just looking around in bewilderment.  Someone said to me I can’t even keep my house clean I’m such a failure. I thought if that constitutes failure then I have whatever is below an F on the grading scale. Even more? I think if people saw the messes inside of me, the ugliness that glares at me in my reflection in the mirror, that would be true failure.
 And there it is.
There’s the truth in a small noisy pail—clattering around like rocks: if people saw the mess.
We worry about what people see rather than what people know. People seeing the mess implies they will assess the mess and we will fall completely short.
Early Monday morning I began the comparison and the caring way too much what others think game (see, the enemy just has to wait. I hang myself).
The ferociousness of these two frames of mind is subtle; they are like water. Water erodes whatever it touches if given time. We talk about living parallel lives with others, and when we say that we are comparing and assessing the parallel lines of achievement and success and accomplishment. And someone is coming up short. And we wash away a little more of the banks of ourselves and others.
Comparison implies we are never good enough. When we compare there are only two roads we can trod:
One—we are superior, more advanced; more whatever than what or who we are being compared to or
Two—we are inferior, less advanced; less whatever than what or who we are being compared to.
Comparison is always, always a lose-lose situation.
Always.
Comparison sets us up to fail. When we set all these goals, plans and diets often we are setting ourselves up for failure. Should we not even bother then? NO! We need goals. We need something set in front of us to compel us onward, to propel us forward.
But what happens in February when our steam and motivation is gone? When we are tired of eating salads or trying to create good habits or attempting to swallow down the Word of God in chunks (even small ones) and they lodge in our throat?  What do we do with the feelings and thoughts we have when we look around and assess that everyone else is doing so much better than we are? What happens in March when, once again, we have failed?
And that pitiful litany of thought and questions made me understand my word for 2014.
RELEASE.
I want to be released.
And I want to release.
I want to release comparison. I want to release the endless fear of others’ assessment of me.
I want God to release me from the captivity of my own making—the snares of my own contrivances.
I want release from the battle against myself.
I want to release myself to live, and to live abundantly.
Passionately.
Intentionally.
Intentional Release.
Willed, designed and purposed escape and freedom from these weights that hinder me.
I want release from my often warped way of thinking, release from my tainted philosophies and crooked trains of thought. I want my thoughts taken captive ONLY by Christ—for every argument (my own, others’ and the enemy’s) to be demolished. I want anything in my interior pattern and structure of thinking (therefore, behaving) that sets itself against God’s truth to be demolished.
God does not set us up to fail. He sets us up to be conformed to the image and likeness of Jesus. From glory to glory. In increments.
My word for the year?
Release.

(Thank you, Christy. Three of us know what a role you played in the particular choice of this word.)


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Cornerstone


Sunday was an odd kind of day. I had my own plans and I was determined to carry them through—I was going to stay home from church, fix a birthday lunch for my son-in-law, piddle and putter, all at a leisurely pace. The storm was coming. We had been warned of treacherously low temperatures, high winds and snow accumulation. In the middle of my piddling and puttering I was going to brave the grocery store lines and get goodies (notice I didn’t say necessities) for my family.

But God had other plans.

I have been telling him for a long time that I prefer his plans over mine. I want them implemented in my life. I want to be obedient to whatever he asks. Period. Well, let me tell you our God takes people at their word. I had my little plans all mapped and nicely arranged and then I got a text. This new-fangled way of communication is a little inconvenient at times. My minister texted to let me know about a couple of situations at church that morning. Hard situations. Tight places that people were going to have to squeeze into and share. He wanted to make sure I would pray and come love on some people.

The tightly tied knots I created in my morning plans began to loosen. I began to pray. I didn’t need to. Now, let me explain that. I (we) always need to pray, but there are times we already know the answers. We know deep in the center of us what God’s word says and what his Holy Spirit is prompting us to do. Sometimes we use the I’m going to pray about it card to stall. Yes, we do. If we say we’re going to pray then it sounds spiritual. It sounds like we are seeking the will of the Lord. And isn’t that what all good Christians should seek? Yes, it is. However, as soon as I finished reading the text I knew what the Holy Spirit was saying to me.

Remember how often Jesus attempted to disappear for some much needed rest or leisure time (yes, I believe he did have some of this at times.) and the crowds would find him, people would follow him? And what did Jesus do? He set aside his plans and turned and ministered to the people. Now, who am I to think that if it is God’s desire for me to be conformed to the likeness of his Son that it would be any different for me?

But it was my choice whether I set aside my will or not. The Father will not make, coerce or manipulate me to do so. I had a choice Sunday morning. I could stay or I could go. I did not need to pray for direction though. It had already been given to me.

I went.

And God and I had a running dialogue the entire time. I stood at the church’s entry along with Dave, our minister (husband of Amy), and greeted several people. One woman came through the doors with her parents and children. I wrapped my arms around her. The Spirit whispered, this is why you are here. Love on this sweet woman. Love her in and because of me. Just wrap your arms around her and hold her tight.

This beautiful woman is wounded. Something dear to her has been broken and betrayed. In a place that is supposed to be sacred and holy, in a place that is supposed to be safe and protected, in a place that is supposed to be a joy and pleasure trust has been decimated. Destroyed. And she is left walking around with shrapnel in her spirit. And she is trying to find a place of refuge, a place where the center of gravity is low to the ground, a place where she can breathe.

Certainly I was not the only person who could have hugged her. Who could have prayed for her. No. But I received the blessings of that privilege. I witnessed the Spirit of God transform her during the service. In the seventy-five minutes of what we call church I saw the Spirit of God move.

And I almost missed it.

Not necessarily because I was going to do something wrong. Not because I had made incredibly selfish plans. No, because I almost didn’t allow God’s plans to be mine.

During that church time I experienced one of the sweetest times in the Presence of the Lord I have had in a very long time.

The beautiful wounded woman sat not far from me. And I watched as our sweet God erased fear from this woman’s face. I saw her body language move from being tight and closed and defensive to being open and secure.

One of the reasons?

Two young women sang. Two sweet girls stood in front of our Body with no instruments, with no background or accompaniment cds. With only their voices they sang a song we needed to hear. Their pure voices rang in the sanctuary, fit perfectly together in harmony, fit wonderfully together with conviction. They were so nervous. Their little hands shook. But they sang anyway. Their voices grew bolder as they sang. And I know the smile on my face was so big they probably could only see a sea of teeth from where they stood—I looked over at my daughter and the same grin creased her face (she prays for these young girls a lot). 


Jessica Neal and Alyssa Wade--what voices! What wonder!


And then I looked at my beautiful friend. She wiped tears away, but gone was the crushing fear. Gone was the constricting angst. Gone was the riveting anxiety. Even if only briefly. In the moment it was gone. 

When these young girls finished. I shouted. How could I not?

I witnessed the hand of God move. I saw his Spirit transform. I beheld his glory.

At the end of the service our praise team led us in the very same song the young girls sang. Whether this was planned in advance I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. We sang the words.  

I knew my friend had found an anthem.  In her brokenness, in her woundedness she found peace because the Spirit reminded her Jesus is the cornerstone. And through the storms he will not be moved. He is an anchor that cannot be shifted.  

I close my eyes and hear the sweet girls’ voices echoing this truth in my spirit. I can still see the wash of peace He poured out on my friend.

Thank God for rearranged plans. Thank God that he cares for the wounded. Thank God that He speaks through the voices of young girls with shaky hands.

Christ alone.

Cornerstone.     


                                                               




Cornerstone--Hillsong

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus name

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus name

When Darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
My anchor holds within the veil

Christ alone
Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Savior’s love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless stand before the throne.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Chambered Nautilus Readers--this invitation is for you! Have missed many of you. Where's Helen and Piper?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Seventy Palms


Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.
Exodus 15:27


The great company of Israelites tramped across a dry path through the Red Sea. Even the soles of their sandals were dry—no mud because God’s breath dried even the sludge of their highway. Safely on the far bank this great company watched the mighty army of Egypt collapse as the weight of the water fell. They watched as the rent water veil now closed.

But they forgot.

They entered the desert and the heat waves began to undulate and rise before them. Their tongues grew dry and stuck to the roofs of their mouths, and their bellies growled and rumbled in hunger. Listen, when people get hungry they forget. And the filters and curbs that usually provide barriers between the thoughts in their minds and the audible words on their tongues disintegrate.  They forget everything except the instinctual and habitual need to assuage that hunger (Ask Esau. Also, hunger is not limited to food. No. It includes addictions and obsessions).

The once enslaved men, women and children arrived at the waters of Marah—bitter waters. Waters reflecting their attitudes and perspectives. In the midst of great blessing and the miraculous the attitudes of their hearts turned bitter. Complaints and ingratitude seeped out—poisonous just like the waters they encountered. Bitter waters. Waters that would burn their throats when swallowed. Waters that would make their stomachs cramp and their muscles seize.
Undrinkable water. For beast or man.

And they forgot. It seems every last one of them forgot.

Forgotten was the power of this God who had just brought them out of Egypt on the tails of plagues and wonders never before seen. Brought them out of Egypt despite the resistance of the stubborn Pharaoh. Brought them out of Egypt rich—treasures handed to them on silver platters.
But they forgot. They did not remember that if this God could do all this then surely he could take care of bitter water. Surely he could provide the very necessity of life.
God did provide. He told Moses to do the ridiculous. He instructed Moses to throw wood into the water. The wood was not magical. It was obedience that pleased God; the obedience of one man aided a nation. God cleansed the water for the Israelites so they might drink—so their thirst might be quenched.

Then God tested them.

God said, if you will listen to me and do right, if you will pay attention to me and abide by my commands then disease will not plague you as it did the Egyptians. Because you see, I am the God who heals. I am Jehovah-rapha

Often we want the benefits, but we don’t want the responsibility. We want the healing, but we don’t want the accountability.

God always heals. Healing is part of the provision of his character. In his provision there is always a measure of healing.

Then the Israelites traveled. That great multitude crawled and inched across the blistering sands of that peninsula. From high above the birds of prey flew, circling.  The hyenas waited in the shade, resting. The lions lay among the desert shrubs, slumbering.   

Little did the Israelites know.

And they arrived at Elim.

Seventy palms and twelve wells. A place of luscious abundance. A place of lavish grace.
They arrived at the place God had prepared for them.

Even back in Marah when they wailed and whined God knew their route would take them through Elim. When they spit the bitter waters out in a spew of fury and complaint against Moses and the great I AM God knew Elim lay nestled like a jewel in the rolling sand dunes. When they accused Him of the inexcusable: saving them only that they might die, he knew Elim had been prepared. When they acted like entitled snots demanding and exacting what they thought they needed, God already had Elim ready.

Seventy palms. Seventy—a sacred number to the Jewish nation. Seventy members of Jacob’s family traveled to Egypt.  Seventy elders joined Moses on the mountain to eat with God. Seventy.
There need be no fear of the sun’s harsh glare for they would rest in the shade of seventy palms.
There need be no worry for lack of water for they would drink from one of the twelve wells. Sweet water. A well for every tribe. Enough. There would be no concern about the depletion of water. No worry and bickering about rationing.

This was a prepared place of abundance.

Scripture tells us they stayed there for a while. How long? We do not know. But long enough.
God’s provision.

It is always perfect. Always right. Always timely. Always abundant. Always complete.

Sometimes we are held up on the banks of Marah. Bitter waters are in our cup. And we are choking the foul stuff down our already raw throats. And complaints slather our tongue. And whining and grumbling coats our hearts. And the dregs catch in our teeth.

Sometimes we are camped on these shores, but Elim is on the route ahead. Somewhere down the road, across the desert, across the dunes seventy palms and twelve wells have been prepared for us.
The waters may be bitter now. The sun may be glaring hot. But we need to trust the character of God.

He has seventy palms and twelve wells waiting for us.