Blind Man’s Bluff

Today I have donned my story telling hat and have decided to share one of my favorites with those who read my blog. To make it an even better story, it is a true story from the Bible about real people, real drama and real intervention by a real God. In 2Kings 6 we read that Israel was at war with Aram. The King of Aram was furious. No matter how he strategized and planned, he was foiled at every turn. He began to suspect a traitor and questioned his own men. They were quick to point out it wasn’t them, it was Elisha.

Now, Elisha was no ancient time James Bond. Nor was he a spy. He was a prophet. As a prophet he heard from God Himself. He had inside information. He was privy to details that he would have otherwise never known. He saw things differently because God gave him the ability to see what others could not see. God had opened his eyes in a very unique manner. What a gift! However, it was not always appreciated. Some people don’t appreciate hidden things being revealed.

Once the king of Aram was told about Elisha he called for quick action. “Go and get him”! Now, why he thought they could catch Elisha unaware when he was being made aware of all their other skirmishes, I don’t know. I suppose he was angry enough to stop thinking straight. I’ve seen that happen many times. Haven’t you?

“So one night the king of Aram sent a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city. When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:14, 15 NLT)

They were surrounded! The enemy had come during the night and caught them unaware! Or so it seemed. Elisha’s servant was panicking and you can hardly blame him under the circumstances. I can almost envision the terror in his eyes, the cold sweat of fear on his brow, the tremble in his voice as he asked, “What will we do now?”. Now that the enemy is upon us! Now that all hope is lost! Now that we are trapped! Now that there is no way out! Now that all options are gone! Now that we are sure to be defeated by this formidable enemy before us.

You know what else I can envision, some of you with pained expressions relating to just how Elisha’s servant must have felt. There are those of you reading this who are feeling a bit blind-sided by the enemy and his sneaky attacks. You know exactly how it feels to look out over what you thought was a wall of safety to find yourself hemmed in by those who would harm you, destroy your family and snatch away your hope. And there you stand, just like Elisha’s servant, asking “What will we do now?” Take heart, that’s not the end of our story. It is not the end of your story.

While Elisha’s servant was greatly distressed, Elisha himself was not distressed at all. Why not? How could he see the same scene before him as his servant and not fall into despair? Aha, now we are on to the crux of the matter. They did not see the same scene. God had given Elisha an ability to see beyond the natural into the supernatural.

“Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.”
(2 Kings 6:16, 17 NLT)

Wow! What about that? Can you just imagine? Suddenly everything was very different. The look of despair surely instantly transformed into a look of amazement! And what had changed? Not what was before them! Not the circumstances! Only what he could see had changed and let’s face it, that changed everything. Now, there are those of you reading this and a knowing look has settled itself across your face as you recall, remember and relate. That’s certainly the case for me.

Just because we can’t see the Lord at work in a situation or it looks like there is no hope, doesn’t mean that is the case. We must keep in mind that we are limited in what we can see, what we can understand, what we can do. But God is not limited. He is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. He is enough. We don’t have to be enough because, He always is.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (II Corinthians 5:7 NKJV)

The rest of the story is filled with an amazing victory and more miraculous intervention by God. At one point He blinded the entire enemy army. “Close their eyes” was Elisha’s prayer that led to a peaceful defeat of the enemy. Excellent strategy and prayer for those who need protection from an enemy in hot pursuit. I can’t help but think of the Elvish cloaks given to the Hobbits in _The Lord of the Rings_ movies. Those special cloaks hid them from the view of the enemy.

Whatever you are facing today, you do not have to face it alone. No matter how bleak things appear, ask God to open your eyes to a glimpse of what He is doing and even if you can’t see it, choose to believe it. No matter how close the enemy is at hand, ask God to distort the vision of the enemy and escort you to safety. He loves you and He is enough.

Sometimes the best strategy for the battle at hand requires no additional, no blows and no blood.

“But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord ’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!” (2 Chronicles 20:17 NLT)

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Hidden Brokenness

Last summer, my husband had an encounter with a table saw. The table saw won, hands down (pun intended). He could have easily lost his hand but mostly it was this one finger that took the brunt of the damage. Without getting too grotesque (and I will spare you the pictures) I will say for sake of understanding the trauma, his finger, while still attached, was in part filleted as the cut it down the middle and pulled chunks of bone out.

The repair work and healing was a long process that required multiple procedures and lots of medication. First there was the emergency aspect of stopping the blood loss. After that was addressed the main concern was infection. If the injury became infected it could cost him more than a finger. Infection can be dangerous. The first surgery they scraped out any residual pieces of saw dust and aggressively cleaned out the area.

The pain was awful. The surgeon explained to me that the many nerves in the finger were crying out in torment. The pain was excruciating.

Henry went back to the doctor for a follow up on his finger. It had come a long way, progress was being made, but, we weren’t done and there would have to be another surgery after the finger healed enough to do so. There was still work to do, this was a process.

On the outside, his finger looked so much better. On the inside was another story. The remaining pieces of bone had not fused together as they had hoped they might. The finger was there, it was not bleeding any longer, there was no sign of infection, yet, it still could not function properly. It was disconnected. It was dysfunctional.

Henry had copies of the X-ray to show me and as I examined them I realized this is exactly how some people with damaged hearts and broken spirits are. As we begin to minister to them, we think we see some improvement, some of the more obvious wounds scab over and begin to heal.

Sometimes they are so emotionally damaged we have to do a few stitches to hold them together for a while. But, then, we realize they are still ‘bent out of shape’ with crooked perspectives, lack of joy, not lining up with God’s Word and order. They aren’t connected properly. They live in dysfunction.

That’s when we must attempt to look deeper, through prayer and discernment. That’s when we see the hidden brokenness that will have to be addressed. It has to be dealt with, or the healing will never be complete.

It wasn’t easy or without pain when the doctor confronted Henry’s brokenness. It won’t be easy when the Great Physician confronts hidden brokenness. But, it will result in wholeness and healing.

He heals the broken-hearted and bandages their wounds. (Psalm 147:3 GNT)

Fleece in the Grease

Fiber Art has captured my heart. Only a few years ago I was just learning to crochet my first dish cloth. The more I learned the more I wanted to know. I had Fiber Fever! Soon on my wish list was a Spinning Wheel and eventually I found myself in possession of a real, unwashed, stinky, trash embedded Fleece in the Grease! A friend who serves as a missionary in New Mexico graciously shipped it to me, right after shearing.

I was stunned by the state of this fleece. I truly thought I was prepared. I wasn’t. But, there it was, mine to process, so, there was nothing to do but begin. I would redeem it. I would wash it. I would transform it. At the end of the process I would use it for my purpose. After all, I had seen such a thing done before. Not with wool, but with a life, my life.

This fleece had been exposed to all the elements. It had weathered storms, rain, snow, grime and weeds. It had been unprotected, unsheltered, unwashed and was very unappealing. It needed to be introduced to some soap and water, but tenderly. You see we quickly learned that too much heat and agitation would ruin the potential of the wool turning it into a lump of matted mess that was unusable and valueless. We also learned that exposure to sunlight was very effective.

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Once washed properly it smelled and looked so much better. I saw the potential, there had been progress, but we weren’t done. We were far from done. Next was the picking and the carding. Picking was a bit unpleasant and honestly a little tedious. Even after a thorough washing there were seeds and briars and stuff you may not care to visualize embedded into the fibers. Tiny particles left unattended would later become irritants and imperfections in the created fabric. It was essential to remove every foreign object we could see, one pick at a time.

Wool carding has been being done for centuries and while there are carding machines available, I chose the traditional wooden carders. This part of the process took finesse and a little muscle. I was transfixed as I saw the fibers being pulled and straightened and put in order. I was shocked when occasionally after all my washing and picking to see a thorn or tiny piece of trash revealed as the fibers were being carded.

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After hand carding the fibers were gently formed into rolags. A rolag is simply a roll of carded (combed) fiber. It was clean, smelled better, looked better, impurities were removed and in fibers in order. Still, the process would continue.

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The fibers needed to be strengthened before they could be properly used to create yarn that would become a fabric that would become a garment. This was the greatest challenge of all. Applying proper tension, giving and resisting the feed, a smooth rhythm of the peddles and wheel would result in a strong yarn that could be crocheted, knitted or woven.

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Now, finally the fleece had reached a point where in the right hands its could become an object of beauty, of great use. A purpose could be revealed. A pattern could be established.

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I don’t know where you may be in this process. Perhaps you have yet to be redeemed. Perhaps you are just beginning to be washed. Perhaps you are picking and picking and picking. Perhaps you feel as if you are being raked over the sharp pins of a carder. Perhaps the life is spinning and twisting like a spinning wheel right now. Wherever you are in the process, don’t give up and quit. You’re in the hand of the Master Artist and He is creating something magnificent.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6 NLT)

Dangerously Different

Having been born in the Deep South I have a heritage steeped in both immense pride and terrible shame. I was born in Louisiana, lived in Texas and Georgia, graduated high school in Mississippi. I have close family in Arkansas and am raising a family in Alabama – I get it, I truly do. I get what our unique culture offers, good and bad. I have experienced it.

My friend and pastor often says that a man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument. This is so true. I have experienced a unique and sometimes dangerously different way of life that can’t be argued away. It doesn’t matter one bit if you refuse to agree or refuse to see, my experience will not yield to your arguments.

Twenty years ago I would have just turned thirty and have been feeling quite grown up with some strong opinions on the ways of life, the ways of the world. Had you asked me about racism I would have expressed that it was a terrible, unacceptable, shameful part of our past. I was convinced. I would have tried to convince you. That was my experience as a white, middle class woman of the Deep South.

Then, our life changed drastically when we became foster parents. Suddenly my experiences were changing because a whole new ‘world’ within the world I thought I knew so well was revealed to me. I began to see clearly that racism was most certainly not a thing of the past and even within the hearts of people who claimed to harbor no racism, there were invisible but firm lines drawn in the proverbial sand of what was acceptable and not acceptable.

It was one thing to bring a child of a different skin color into our home temporarily as a foster child. It was quite another to consider adopting that same child and making them a permanent part of the family. It was one thing to allow their toddler daughter to be a playmate to our dark skinned son, quite another to think they might ever date.

Little by little, experience by experience, everything changed, especially me. Some of the people we loved, people we respected, people we considered friends took a stand and they stood on the other side of one of those invisible but firm lines of what was to be tolerated and what wasn’t.

Jesse came to us as a two-week old, 5lb, premie baby and absolutely stole my heart at first glance. To this day, he is the only baby I’ve ever gone into a hospital nursery and worn a paper gown to hold. His skin was very dark and his head full of hair. He was the most beautiful child I had ever beheld as they placed him in my eager and empty arms. It never even crossed my mind that the whole world wouldn’t be as thrilled, as entranced as I was. I would soon learn differently.

So, I was a bit blindsided by some of the reactions towards this light skinned momma and dark skinned baby. There were times of bold questions, hostile glares, snide remarks and rude comments. Surely these were just the few, the exceptions, the ignorant, was how I reasoned it all out.

At first I was hurt and humiliated. Then I became angry and offended. Some days I was more long suffering than others. Some days I was more scared than others. I was suddenly quite aware that to many, the love of a white momma for a black child was viewed as dangerously different.

When we found out we would be able to adopt Jesse (two and a half years later) I knew that we could not enter into such a commitment without a plan in place. Where we lived, how we educated, the church we attended, would all be decided with this thought in mind. Little did we know that Jesse would be the first of seven adoptions.

Twenty years later, things have changed a lot. There has been improvement. But, like a disease laden cockroach that scurries into a crack when the light comes on, racism is still there. Perhaps, as many point out, it always has and always will be. Perhaps. But, the fact that is has existed a long time, that others are doing it too, that ‘we aren’t the only ones wrong’ does NOT make it right. It does not mean we should ignore or defend it. If I see a roach in my kitchen I will not shrug my shoulders and explain to my family that people in the north have roaches too. I will not justify that my neighbor has more roaches than me, so we aren’t so bad. I will address it, take measures to exterminate it and keep my family safe. I will turn on the light.

Yesterday, I took my seven children to the zoo and for the first time in a long time I was reminded of how some people view us. It was a trip down a memory lane that I honestly would rather avoid. One man dropped his hands to his side and openly gaped as my tall, man sized Jesse lovingly draped his long arm over my shoulder for a moment as we walked by. Another younger man actually sneered at me, making a point to make eye contact with me expressing his open disapproval as he passed us in the crowd. Others frowned as my son Josiah held hands with his fair skinned girlfriend. Some raised their eyebrows when my little ones called me momma. I ignored these ignorant people and like a little momma hen, focused on my brood of children around me. Were they safe? Were they aware?

I breathed a sigh of relief. They were watching the animals. They were oblivious to the people who watched them disapprovingly. We saw some very dangerous creatures yesterday. Creatures that required cages and bars and precautions. Unfortunately, to many people our family, with a wide range of skin colors was the most dangerously different of all.

“Anyone who claims to live in God’s light and hates a brother or sister is still in the dark. It’s the person who loves brother and sister who dwells in God’s light and doesn’t block the light from others. But whoever hates is still in the dark, stumbles around in the dark, doesn’t know which end is up, blinded by the darkness.”(1 John 2:9-11 MSG)

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Surely Then it Multiplies

I have always had a heart for discipleship and felt it was an often overlooked practice of our modern church. We can sometimes get so caught up in the ‘big picture’ that we fail to notice the value of one life, one person, one individual.

Over a year ago I had a discussion with a dear friend concerning discipleship, what it looked like and how it worked. Around the same time I attended a Youth Conference with my teen sons where I heard a band sing a song that truly touched my heart and inspired me to begin to disciple on purpose. Below is the link.

http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?sns=fb&v=tmI_kfL01CE&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DtmI_kfL01CE%26sns%3Dfb

The lyrics intrigued me so much and even more so when the story behind the song was told. You can read that at this link.

http://leelandonline.com/blog/2011/11/28/what-is-the-great-awakening-the-great-awakening.html

I was inspired! I went back to my friend and offered to start a discipleship group with just a few ladies. At our first meeting, I read them this poem by Lawrence Tribble that he had written in the early 1700’s and that Leeland had put to music. We were all inspired.

“One man wakes, awakens another
Second one wakes his next door brother
Three awake can rouse a town
And turn the whole place upside down
Many awake will cause such a fuss
It finally awakes all of us
One man wakes with dawn in his eyes
Surely then it multiplies
Surely then it multiplies”

We began to study and learn and pray and CHANGE. We became hungry for the things of God with a new appetite. We were being awakened anew.

I have continued to disciple individuals and am more convinced than ever that this is one of the most impacting, powerful, life changing and ultimately world changing things that I can do.

But the word of God grew and multiplied. (Acts 12:24 KJV

Painting with Words

Write it down, you won’t regret it. Record your thoughts and ramblings, your worries and celebrations. Pour out your emotions into words that paint a picture. Even if you are not a writer, it does the heart good.

I discovered this from my journal from two years ago. I can still see it. I’m so glad I wrote it down.

Earlier a memory was etched into my brain that I will cherish forever. We had just walked outside and we headed to the open goat field so the dogs could run when an impromptu shower burst forth from the clouds pouring giant size rain drops upon our heads.

The girls darted into the barn where they were preparing to milk and I huddled under a leafy tree for cover.
The five boys had been running in the field and at first stood still as they taunted the rain, daring it to try harder. The rain accepted their challenge and they began to whoop and holler and yell and jump in the air and RUN!!

They burst upon the scene with the bright green grass and blue sky as their background. They were each wearing vibrant colored shirts of orange, yellow, red, purple and green.

What I beheld looked as if a rainbow had burst into boys! My own heart neatly burst with love, pride and thankfulness as I considered how empty and aching my arms had once been.

Now, by God’s grace and the miracle of adoption my heart, life, home and arms are full. As a matter of fact, my cup is overflowing and I’m sipping from my saucer.

He gives the childless woman a family, making her a happy mother. Praise the Lord ! (Psalms 113:9 NLT)

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Tomorrow (it’s only a day a way)

“Oh, I can’t think about this now! I’ll go crazy if I do! I’ll think about it tomorrow.” Scarlett O’hara’s famous words from _Gone With the Wind_ have been on my mind today.

Like her, I’ve been facing a chaotic season for a few months (perhaps a few years) and I have too often simply put out of my thoughts that which I could see no solution for or had no time for.

I feel like someone who has unintentionally over-extended their credit lines due to the hectic pace of life that delivers one unexpected crisis after another. Then, suddenly, just about the time they catch their breath, they realize, too late, what a mess they are in.

This is much further reaching than a matter of finances. We can over-extend in every aspect of life and ignore reasonable limitations until we are nearly bankrupt. Suddenly, after becoming so use to the great juggling routine, we come to a stark realization. All those things we put off until tomorrow are before us demanding attention. Tomorrow has arrived and is expecting to be seen about.

How have you over-extended. Time? Energy? Emotionally?
What price was required payment? Spiritual distress? Broken relationships? Unhealthy bodies?

This is my favorite scripture concerning ‘tomorrow’. So much wisdom.

“Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” (James 4:13, 14 NLT)

Sure, we need to think ahead and make our plans. But, while doing so, keep in mind, tomorrow will come sooner than you think. It’s only a day away.

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