Treasure from Heaven

Featured

How can it be that holy God would place his treasure in hands made of flesh that are going to mar its perfection?  God is so generous.  He is eager to communicate with his beloved children.  I receive words, pictures—metaphors for greater truths—because he has designed me to receive them.  A prayer begins, head bowed or not, eyes closed or not, I often receive before the asking.  I am undone.  I am not worthy.  How do I respond to this?  I immediately hear two words, with gratitude.

I know anything given to me is for the benefit of others.  I have long been receiving in intercession for our ministry, Hope Preserved. But as my desire has increased to be faithful to him, I have been releasing what I receive as he directs in my writing.  I admit that I’m somewhat fearful. It requires being completely vulnerable to let others see inside of me. And when my flesh taints the releasing, I have to trust his grace covers it all.

I started writing this blog after two years of inactivity.  Oh, I was always writing in my journal, but I had let the blog go, believing there was no one reading anyway.  This time I had clear direction from the Lord that he wanted me to write for him, and so Little Potted Plant was rebirthed.  I sent out emails to folks who had subscribed in the past who I thought might be interested. Mark sent out an email highlighting a post he particularly thought would help those who come to us for ministry.  I had very little response.

Discouraged, I went for a walk and talked to the Lord about it.  He showed me I was like a beggar with a little tin cup going around to friends, asking them to fill my cup by subscribing to my blog.  He asked, Why are you looking elsewhere for your cup to be filled when I am filling it to overflowing with my treasure?  And then the question that hit home, Didn’t you say you would write for just the one? “Yes, Lord, I did, and I will.”  What if the one is me? I have tears in my eyes as I write this. He was referring to “Audience of One,” a previous post, where he brought that truth home to me.

Recently I met with a precious family member to deliver prophetic pictures and words I had received from the Lord.  It was difficult and scary and beautiful and profound all at the same time.  It may be my natural wiring to receive these things from the Lord, but it’s not easy for me to release them, especially face to face.  Yet in prayer beforehand, the Scripture was given to me from Hebrews 10:38:  But my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.  

In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus is illustrating the deposit of gifting that is put in each one of us.  The one who received two talents received just as much praise as the one who received five because they invested it and got a return on their money.  The one who was afraid to do anything with his one talent was harshly judged. We are all given this “treasure,” this gifting that is uniquely fitted for each of us, the way that God has designed us.  

We have seasons where we are being filled, but at some point in time, the Lord asks us to release what he has given us. What that looks like is different for all of us.  We must accept that we won’t do it perfectly, and that’s okay.  But when we also realize that we have the fullness of God in the Holy Spirit backing us, we can do it. And when we do, we find that we are the ones most blessed.  It is worth it.  He is faithful!

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

Audience of One

Featured

(First posted in March 2014 before our move to Waco, Texas.)

The number one idol is self. Why do we “lay up treasures where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19)?  Do we really love our stuff that much? I don’t think so. We love the perception that it makes us okay, because if it all disappeared, we would be left with just ourselves, and that is a scary thought. Unconsciously, perhaps, we often see ourselves as valuable because of the lives we have built for ourselves.

I see a stage being set for a play. People are working to put all the props in place as they set the scene and adjust the lighting, sound, etcetera. When everything is ready and it’s time to begin the play, the actors then enter the stage. They deliver their scripted lines before the audience who, if they perform well, give their applause in approval. To a lesser or greater extent, that’s what we do. Much of our lives are spent performing. Without realizing it, we work on our “props” continually: our homes, our jobs, our appearance, even our children. And we feel okay about ourselves when the “audience” approves. These props serve as our self-protection, and when we protect ourselves, we become our own gods.

Jesus told the rich young ruler, “Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me,” (Mark 10:21). He wasn’t making a general statement that everyone should sell everything they own. He was looking into the young man’s heart, and he saw the idolatry. The young man believed he had kept all the commandments from youth (performance), but he still needed his “props” (self-protection), and he wasn’t willing to give them up.

I experienced a lot of change during my years as a widow. I sold the home where I had raised my children and bought a smaller house. Then I moved out of it and into an apartment in the city where I commuted to work. A few months later, I was homesick and moved back home. I sold that house when Mark and I got married and moved in with him. It took some time to make Mark’s home my own. Now after almost four years, every room is decorated and furnished to suit us as a couple. It meets our needs for ministry, for family gatherings, and for grandchildren to come and play. Now the Lord may be asking us to leave it all.

Mark and I are walking a narrow path in the ministry calling God has given us. We are waiting on him for direction as we have to make some huge decisions in the near future, mainly how we are to live as we wait for his promise for provision. We are praying about a less expensive living arrangement and maybe even a geographical move if that’s his will. My questions are “Can I do it joyfully? Will I be okay without all my props?”

Now I see an empty stage. You walk out to give your performance, but there is nothing on the stage–no props, no other actors, no scene. You feel exposed and vulnerable. What are you supposed to do without them? You look at the audience, and you see only one person, Jesus. Instead of giving a performance for him, with one look into his eyes, he fills you completely. It’s you and God alone. As he satisfies your soul and refreshes your spirit, then he sets the stage, all that you need to live out His will for you.

I’ve seen death up close and personal, and I know there are no more opportunities to trust him once we are in the grave. There will be no reason for exercising one’s faith in heaven.  Jesus, I can’t make myself ready for such a big change. But I have experienced your faithfulness in the biggest storms of my life. I’ve seen how you’ve gone before me and prepared me. I know you are preparing me now. By your grace and mercy, help me to lay down my idol of self, of making myself okay. I trust you to meet me here. I want only your will. Amen.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose,” Jim Elliott.

When Time Stands Still

Featured

There are moments that exist just as they are, in the present with no other thoughts, no other voices.  Just that moment.  I had that experience one night when I was babysitting my then eleven-month-old granddaughter, Myla Grace.  I had the delightful task of feeding her supper, giving her a bath, and rocking her to sleep with her bottle.  Myla Grace is a highly sensitive child.  It was months before she would let any of the rest of the family hold her, even her daddy.  So it was very special when she started “taking” to her Nana.

In the rocking chair with Myla that night, I softly sang the songs I had sung to my own babies and some of my other grandchildren.  She watched me wide-eyed as she sucked on her bottle.  I’m not a good singer, but that didn’t matter to Myla.  Her eyes grew heavy, and slowly the sucking stopped.  As I pulled the bottle out of her mouth, she opened her eyes widely and looked at me, studying my face.  And then it happened.  I smiled at that precious baby girl, and she broke into a huge smile back.  No words, only quiet.  Two sets of eyes locked together, two smiles as if a huge secret was being shared.  At that moment nothing else existed.

I was deeply impacted by Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts.  And I’m naming for the second time around one thousand things I’m thankful for, writing them down in my journal a few at a time, day by day.   It used to be that I thought a gratitude list was only for things like family, health, and material provision.  Now I understand that it’s being present and noticing all the graces God gives throughout our day-to-day lives.  The Word says “In all things give thanks, for this is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus,” I Thessalonians 5:18.  In noticing how he shows his love for us, we are loving him back.

Having our eyes open to see God’s graces requires intentionality.  It requires the “want to.”  It requires slowing down and being present in the moment If we set our hearts toward Him, the Holy Spirit will open our eyes to the smallest of graces, but it’s up to us to create the space for that to happen.  And when we experience those moments, wow!  We can be in touch with his love and with the life he has given us.  Time really does stand still.

The Word says, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” Psalm 90:12.  Wisdom comes from seeing, hearing, touching God.  We do that by eucharisteo, by giving thanks.  I couldn’t wait to note my moment with Myla in my journal later that night.   I’m inviting you to try it!  There are no rules and no time limit.  It is highly personal.  And check out Ann Voskamp’s, One Thousand Gifts Devotional.  There are pages in the back for you to make your list. I promise you will be refreshed as you notice more of God’s gifts to you each day.

Thank you, Jesus, for loving us so much.  Open our eyes to see your graces, that we may have more and more of these holy moments with you.  Amen.

A Lesson from Baby Birds

There are baby birds on the feeder outside my window, the momma right below on the ground.  Yesterday I saw a momma robin hopping along with a worm in her mouth.  I’m seeing a picture, a metaphor.  When the baby birds are still helpless in the nest, momma bird brings them food and drops it into their gaping mouths.  Then when they are able, they venture out to find food on their own.  Two things stand out—when they are in the nest, they must have their mouths wide open in order to receive the nourishment that they need to grow.  And when they are strong enough, they must venture out to seek their own food or they will die. 

The Word tells us to seek God, that we will find him when we seek him with all of our hearts (Jeremiah 29:13).  Before we receive Christ, we are also in a helpless state.  Once we have found him and receive him into our hearts, we have to continue seeking him if we want to grow.  Jesus speaks in the parables of searching for him as treasure hidden in a field (Matthew 13:44).  In every situation of life that I find myself in, I should ask, “Where can I find you in this moment, Lord, and how can I connect with you here?”  

In these uneasy days when we’re experiencing a global pandemic and racial unrest across the country because of the horror of a white police officer restraining a black man until he died, all caught on video for the world to see, it’s hard to know how to respond, to know what to do.  But it all begins with our intimacy with the Lord, for even Jesus only did what he saw the Father doing (John 5:19).  We can talk about it and fret about it and even join protests, but without God, nothing will truly change.

I’m asking the question now, “Where are you in this and how do I align with you, Lord?”  What does “Christ in me” look like here?  Maybe the world is changed one life at a time.  “Change me, Lord, in how I think about this.  What do I need to know about myself in this situation in order to receive what I need from you?”  And ultimately, “What does love look like here?”

The Word says, “We love because he first loved us” (I John 4:19).  It all starts with God.  Just like the baby bird will never be able to fly on its own unless it receives what it needs from its momma, we won’t be the light of the world unless we’re willing to humble ourselves and receive from the Lord.  Jesus is our model.  After he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death on the cross, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:8-9).  First comes humility, then comes power. The transforming power of the Holy Spirit is the only thing that will change us.

Jesus, rescue me from my frenetic thoughts and my anxiety and help me to breathe.  I want to be changed.  I want to connect with you intimately in the sanctuary of your Holy Spirit, where you dwell, “Christ in me.”  Teach me your ways.  Help me to love as you love.  Amen.