Category: Personal Growth

Seeking personal improvement

Elephants and Camels

I want to share two stories with you.

#1 Elephants

When walking through an elephant camp, a man noticed that these elephants were only secured with a small rope that was tied around one ankle. He wondered why the elephants didn’t break free from the rope, as the elephants we certainly strong enough.

He asked the trainer why, and the trainer said that they use the same size rope for baby elephants all the way up to adulthood. Because they’re too small when they are babies to break free from the rope, they grow up thinking that the rope is stronger than they are. As adults, they think the rope can still hold them, so they don’t fight it.

#2 Camels

A mother camel and her baby were lying down, soaking up the sun. The baby camel asked his mom, “Why do we have these big bumps on our back?” The mom stopped to think and then said, “We live in the desert where there is not much water. Our humps store water to help us survive on long journeys.”

The baby camel then stopped to think and said, “Well, why do we have long legs with rounded feet?” His mother replied, “They are meant to help us walk through sand.”

The baby asked a third question, “Why are my eyelashes so long?” The mother replied, “Your eyelashes are long to offer you protection from the sand when it blows in the wind.”

Finally, the baby said, “If we have all of these natural abilities given to us to walk through the desert, what’s the use for camels in the Zoo?’

Allow me to play Aesop, for a minute.

From each of these stories, we can glean important life lessons, and encouragement. Listen to your heart and hear what application lies there for you. At the very least, I will offer these:

All of us, like the elephants, have grown through and are learning to fight our own programmed, learned helplessness. You know, that thing or those issues that we believe are stronger than us and so we don’t bother fighting. Be they family traits, ingrained scripts, perceived weaknesses, or whatever; they are tied about our feet, trying to keep us from moving forward. FACT: you are stronger than your childhood programming and you are strong enough to break free from it all.

Our perceptive baby camel offers us the simple truth that you have been designed to withstand what comes against you. You have all that you need, if you are in the right place. The camel is designed for the desert and is therefore fully equipped for sand, wind, dry and waterless situations. Out of that environment, he doesn’t quite fit. He doesn’t really belong in a zoo, does he? FACT: Our design is perfect and fully utilized when we are in the right environment.

I am certain that the elephant and the camel are speaking to many, and I trust that from their stories you will see yourself as strong, and well equipped for whatever you face. Break free and live life to your fullest, where you are s’posed to be!

Oh, what we can learn from the elephant and the camel.

Cheers to you.

Set

Sunday Sermon 2.27.21

Seized through the night with this word “set”, I awoke, pondering, reflecting and eventually investigating it more deeply. So let me begin by asking you, the same way I began, in what ways do we use the word set? Go ahead, think about it and begin your mental list. DON’T READ ON ’til you’re finished, k?

cement setting

Here are my “set” phrases and uses:

  • you set stones
  • in volleyball you set the ball
  • racers get set for a race
  • cement sets
  • jello sets
  • as do other desserts and foods
  • prisoners are set free
  • you can set your heart (or face) on something
  • decision, plans are set
  • broken bones are set
  • sails on a boat are set
  • then I went to the dictionary…..

How did you do? Wish I could hear your list.

That word, as you guessed is our focus today, because it is the call of the Spirit to you and me and everyone else on the planet. Seriously, everyone.

What is it that we have set our hearts on?

This setting represents a locking in on, fixing on; like a broken bone or ring setting; similar to jello but stronger and more permanent, like cement.

Set” is used 695 times in the Bible and is interesting in each setting, but in the form that we are using it, let me share this powerful verse.

  • Isaiah 50:7 – because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like a flint and I know I will not be put to shame.

In Isaiah’s image here, we have a picture of someone who, supported by the help and power of the Lord, has lasered their focus and cemented their course, as hard and sharp as the flint rock, and will not be deterred! Nothing is going to distract them, pull their focus or sidetrack them. Their face and heart is SET. Period.

It is worth mentioning that flint is a hard rock used to make hammers, chisels and knives. It is also used to start fires, because when flint hits a piece of steel or another hard object it produces sparks.

flint

So, to set your face like flint honestly means, that no matter the hard opposition in front of me, I am firm in my resolve and let the sparks fly, I am flint! The Lord is helping me and I am set, focused on Him.

Daniel set his heart, too. Scripture tells us that he “purposed in his heart”. This is the same type of setting your heart that we are discussing here. Other situations where setting occurs are:

  • Jacob set his pillow (where he dreamed of angels on a ladder) as a altar (of commitment and remembrance)
  • Moses set the laws before them
  • The serpent was set on a pole for all to look at for healing
  • Israel was to set their heart on all of His words
  • The Lord set a plumb line among His people

The call of the Spirit throughout history has been for a people to set their heart on the Almighty Jehovah. To set their faces toward Him, His Words and His ways. To set their desires on Him, to set their hope in Him and to set themselves like flint, immovable and firm on God, no matter what.

I find in interesting that the last Old Testament verse using our word “set” is in Amos 7:8:

“And the Lord asked me, “What do you see Amos?” “A plumb line,” I replied. Then the Lord said, “Look I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.

Amos- the prophet

A plumb line is a measuring device used by builders to assure the wall is perfectly vertical, and is at maximum load bearing capacity.

plumb line on a wall

So the Old Testament closes with the Lord’s challenge that He is setting a measuring device up, and he is now measuring just how vertical related His people are and if they are able to bear His load, weight, and yoke.

Why?

Because the New Testament begins with the setting of a city on a hill.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid”

Matthew 5:14

Jesus’ coming to the world, brought light, life and the plumb line to bring us into vertical alignment with the work of the Spirit here on earth. He wastes no time, for in Matthew 25, he does this –

“He will set the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.”

Jesus, teaching the parables

Let’s regroup. The question is, what is your heart set on? It is being measured, the plumb line is hanging beside us revealing our vertical connection and setting.

Scripture is clear there will be those who’s heart is set on abominable things, committed to idols, and have not set their heart on God. There will be those who actually set their face against God, and set themselves to worship at shameful altars. In those cases, scripture is also clear, that He (God) will set His face against them. THAT is a fearful place to find yourself in.

I believe we are living in the days of preparation. Kinda the “Ready, Set, Go” days. The Spirit of God is calling us to ready ourselves, measure ourselves, judge ourselves, and to get SET. Set our hearts on Him and His Kingdom alone, set our faces like flint, immovable and with sparks! It is time to check what our hearts and faces are actually cemented, set on. If it is anything other that Him, if we don’t change, judgment is coming. Time are shortening. The plumb line is speaking and we must check our set.

Digest these truths about our set, its purpose and power:

  • Acts 13:9 – the Holy Spirit set his eyes on him and said come out of him you child of the devil
  • Acts 13:47 – He has set you to be a light and to bring salvation to the world
  • Colossians 3:2 – set your affections on things above not on earthly things
  • Hebrews 6:18 – take hold of the hope set before us
  • Hebrews 12:1 – let us run the race set out before us
  • Revelation 3:8 – He has set before us an open door
  • Revelation 4:2 – there is a throne set in heaven

The Lord wants people’s hearts set on Him. Not because He is an egomaniac, but because He loves them and always has their best interests on His heart. He alone can bring the lasting happiness and fulfillment they each seek. He also wants no one to perish. He wants all to be included in His eternal home in heaven around His throne.

These are serious, spiritual introspection and evaluation days.

Check your set. What is your heart set on?

He wants you to be set on Him.

Go with God.

Not Many Wise

How many people in your immediate circle of family and friends would you consider to be wise?

Wise= “having or showing experience, knowledge, and good judgement” Webster

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Knowledge is knowing what to say; wisdom is knowing whether or not to say it.” And I would add, and knowing when to say it. If knowledge is power, then wisdom is using it the right way.

Wisdom, is considered by many, as the prominent virtue to be sought after and exercised.

“Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness.”

Sophocles

Wisdom is not innate however, it is acquired through experience. Wisdom acts in relationship to previous experiences and knowledge. Wisdom does not stand alone, it is intertwined with all of your life events and all you have learned.

Wisdom applies relevant knowledge with insight. Wisdom analyzes and reflects on experiences, files that info away and then recognizes the time it needs to be shared. Wisdom is on time and precise.

“Wisdom is the daughter of experience.”

Anonymous

Wisdom learns from past experiences and is not afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes make us better people, help us learn faster and more permanently. Therefore wisdom is willing to try new things and talk to new people, for in doing so opportunities to learn, analyze, and reflect are provided.

No one likes to mess up. Our brain doesn’t even allow us to move on until a mistake has been corrected, so wisely are we wired. But in those mistakes, as humbling as they are, data is being collected, spread sheets in our brain are being populated and we are being loaded with what will become insight and wisdom in our future encounters. Those mistakes are important and valuable for those seeking to move in increased wisdom. Wisdom learns from mistakes, risks, criticisms & errors.

Those who make the attempt to process adversity are able to gain meaning from it. Those who are able to adapt to events, situations & suggestions will find themselves being equipped with more wisdom, because wisdom is always seeking the broader picture, analyzing for applications and improvements.

Scientists tell us that wisdom rises until our mid 20’s, then stabilizes until age 75 when it declines. However, old age doesn’t affect wisdom’s decline, it is the motivation to pursue development that declines. (Psychology Today) So we could say that when we stop pursuing new experiences, ideas, or opportunities and stop taking risks, when we hold back for fear of failure, wisdom stops developing in us. That would be whether we are 75, 45 or 25.

When we, or anyone steps out to learn and analyze a new experience, then put that info to the test later, we become wiser. Becoming wiser is a noble goal and surrounding ourselves with wise friends also is a prudent goal.

I trust that through these thoughts you have reflected on your own wisdom first and then made note and given thanks for those in your life who are wise friends and family members.

Because, there are not many wise, today.

Cheers to you.

What Comes from the Cave of Confinement?

Sunday Sermon 2.20.21

There are people struggling under a chaotic world where authorities are hostile to God; zealous, local governors have enacted laws against the church, and the faithful are targeted as scapegoats. Believers are pressed to question, “Is God in control?”, if so, “Is He working all things for our good?”.

In some places there is violent persecution of the church, in other places lawless violence. The church is under pressure to conform to the society norms and are assaulted with false doctrines and calls to practice idolatrous worship. Most people have become comfortable with their affluence and face a variety of challenges to their faith.

Banished to caves/rooms of confinement, government officials seek to silence voices of truth, all the while elevating their prominence above everyone else. False charges, events sparking revolts, economic instability, blaming and instability of governmental heads, and trouble between the elites and the commoners are the marks of this society.

Are the above paragraphs describing the events of these days or another era?

Remarkably, both.

The details given above are an accurate account of what is happening today, yet is also point on in representing the events of 95AD in the Roman Empire. The parallels are actually mindboggling.

In the first century the struggle between Caesar worship/The Roman Empire and Christianity was severe, persecutions were great and martyrs were many. The Church Father, Polycarp, was burned alive for refusing to say, “Caesar is Lord.”

All of the disciples/Apostles were tortured and killed, save one – John, who was banished and confined to a small island called Patmos, where he lived in a cave approximately the size of your living room, 23 ft. x 20 ft., and slept on a hard pillow, a rock every night.

It is John, in the midst of these dreadful conditions, that I want to zoom in on today.

Here he was confined to a barren, volcanic, island. It is believed that Patmos was a penal colony in the Roman Empire, hard labor there wasn’t necessary, for the isolation, barrenness, and heat were punishment enough.

Expelled here and restricted in movement, opportunity, influence, and expression what did he do?

Revelation 1:10 says,

I was in the Spirit realm on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice…”

John, The Elder

The simplicity of his verse has always challenged me.

Here you have John, in exile and isolation, yet he chose to be in the Spirit on the Lord’s day. Choosing the Spirit over surroundings and circumstances drove him, empowered him and placed him in the position where God could reveal Jesus to him. Additionally, whether “the Lord’s day” was the Sabbath, or any day matters little. In fact, it would be an even more powerful image if John viewed every day on that island of isolation as the Lord’s day.

Those who study such things believe that John’s room of isolation, the place where he slept, is the place that he received The Revelation. There, through a crack in the ceiling, he received the vision of The Revelation of Jesus Christ. There in that Patmos Cave of confinement he heard the voice of God. It was there, that he chose to be in the realm of the Spirit, rather than the realm of the natural.

There was no denying where he was; on that rocky island, in that dark, lonely cave, cut off from others, persecuted by political edicts, or any number of other worldly circumstances. Each of them were very real and affecting the Roman Empire at large. His focus was not on them, though.

He chose to see into the spirit realm, and live in that realm regardless of the hard realities of his life in that cave. The payoff was enormous! Because of his choice, we have a powerful and beautiful, (albeit confusing,) revelation of who Jesus is and the victory that He brings to His church, His bride in the end. (I’ve read the end of the book, and we win!)

I am extremely challenged by John’s choice in his cave of confinement.

Great things come from caves of confinement. Look at Jonah confined within the whale; that brought deliverance to Nineveh. Remember too, Joseph’s multiple confinements yielding freedom for all of Egypt! No matter the prison, restriction or confinement in our lives, we can chose to see “in the Spirit”, not in the cave.

It was being in the Spirit, in confinement that he saw and wrote; Revelation 1:4-8

  • all the best to you from the God who is, the God who was and the God who is about to arrive
  • Glory and strength to Christ who loves us
  • who made us a Kingdom of priests
  • He is coming, riding on the clouds
  • people from all nations will see Him
  • He declares, “I’m A to Z. I’m the God who is, the God who was, and the God about to arrive”

And those are just the first 8 verses of His Revelation! His choosing the Spirit realm over his circumstances, caused the Spirit to explode within him with clear vision, and hearing on Earth as it is in heaven.

My Spirit is challenged and that challenge I want to share with you.

Some say there are parallel ages of man. Maybe so, but I think we can agree that The Roman Empire of John’s day and America, the world of today share many similarities.

I trust that another one just may be that in your cave of confinement, you too will “be in the Spirit realm on the Lord’s day” – today, everyday, and especially the Sabbath. May you too find a new, and powerful vision of the Revelation of Jesus Christ and His love and purpose for you. May you see beyond your cave and circumstances.

What comes from the cave of your confinement?

Go with God.

Let Him

Sunday Sermon 2.13.21

Love is a powerful force. It’s potency is beyond measure and it penetrates all boundaries, obstacles and fears. Love can see what the human eye misses, and what our mind struggles to understand. It is transforming, refreshing, empowering, and yes, sometimes frustrating.

Decades ago (yes, I’m THAT old), there was a fad called “Glamor Shots”. Those of us who gave in to it found ourselves going to the mall, and into the Glamor Shot store for our appointment. We were then made over with a new hairdo, makeup and clothes for a photo shoot. Photos were taken in silly poses with props and looks that were s’pose to be glamorous. Then you chose which shots you wanted prints of, ordered them and went home to wash off the make up. (and try to figure out what to do the rest of the day with THIS hair!) I knew my husband wanted one, which is why I was there.

Yes, I caved and bought one (maybe more, I don’t remember). I remember the one because to this day, it sits on my husband’s night stand, in our bedroom! I’ve tried to replace it, throw it away, you name it. He’ll have none of it.

For years I asked “why”, and always got the same response, “Because THAT is the way I see you. You are beautiful and glamorous to me and always will be, nothing will change that.” (Talk about humbling…)

I have had to learn to let him keep the picture and let him keep his perception, because his love is powerful and sees what others don’t. (like me)

Perhaps that is why, in the greatest love song of all time, The Song of Songs, Solomon’s love song to his bride and an allegory of Jesus and His bride- the church, Solomon begins his song with the bride/Shulamite saying this:

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.

Song of Songs 1:2

In order for love to have affect we must let it, allow it. In order for Jesus love to permeate your life, you have to let him love you. He lavishes His love on you, chooses you, desires you, sees you as the theme of his love song and yet, you must yield to his love and let His love touch you deeply.

We each hold the key to how close we become with Him, and how much of ourselves we allow Him into. Isn’t that the dance of love relationships? Fear, trust, yielding, opening up, changing, safety, love.

Will we allow Him to express His love for us, faith in us and delight over us? Will we allow His picture of how He sees us to become our picture, too?

Love is a powerful force. His love is inescapable.

In Solomon’s Song, we have a vivid picture of how He sees us. Let’s take just a peek.

In this allegory, Jesus is the Bridegroom wooing His chosen maiden, the Shulamite. Male or female, Jesus is wooing you and speaking in tender words of love, affection and devotion to you. You are being called to come close and let him have your whole heart. Let Him have your passion, focus, love.

Scripture says, “What a person desires is unfailing love.” Proverbs 19:22 This is the love that Jesus lavishes on you. Unfailing, unconditional, pure, and holy.

Digest these descriptions of how he sees you, as written in just the first 2 chapters of Song of Solomon.

  • adored
  • lovely
  • beautiful
  • radiant
  • dear one
  • thrilling
  • strong
  • regal
  • leading
  • tender
  • graceful
  • darling
  • a rose
  • the theme of His song
  • companion who stands out
  • pure in the midst of sin

YOU. That is you, glamorous you. His love sees you always and only this way!

Over and over in Song of Songs, He, Jesus, the Bridegroom calls to His bride, us and says, “Come away, my beloved.” We are His beloved, His dear one, His tender love. He gently woos us to come away with Him, to come closer, to let him love us. To trust Him. To step beyond our fear and insecurities and trust Him and His love.

I’m here to tell you my friend, that the seasons have changed. This is the season of His love and season to love Him more deeply. Listen to the call of the Spirit (to you) in Song of Solomon 2:11-15:

  • The bondage of the barren winter is over and gone
  • The season of hiding is over
  • Rains of refreshing have come
  • It’s time to bloom
  • It is a season of singing
  • A season of pruning
  • A new day of destiny is breaking forth around you
  • My purposes and plans are bursting forth
  • It’s time for buds
  • It is blooming everywhere
  • Change is in the air
  • Arise, my companion, run with me
  • Let me see your radiant face & hear your sweet voice
  • How beautiful is your worship
  • How lovely is your prayer
  • You must catch the troubling foxes that hinder our relationship
  • They raid our budding love
  • They ruin what I’ve planted within you
  • Will you catch them and remove them?
  • We will do it together

These phrases are taken directly from Song of Solomon and the Passion Translation version.

These are His words to you. This is His love and desire for relationship with you. It is a new season. He wants to hear our voice, prayers, worship. He longs to see our face as we spend time with Him. He desires for us to bloom and blossom and bud with all that He has planted inside of us.

He also wants us to check for spoilers in our relationship. He called them the “troubling foxes”, those things that will eat up our time and focus, keeping us from Him, keeping us from fruitfulness. He asks us to catch them, then He tells us we will do it together.

He is absolutely willing to help us identify our foxes and then work with us in being free of them. He longs for our freedom in relating with Him. We have nothing to fear and a wonderful, intimate relationship with Jesus to gain.

Change is in the air. His love is in the air, it is inescapable and powerful.

Will we let Him love us? Will we let him change us? Will we let his picture of us become ours? Will we see ourselves through His eyes and in His love? Will we catch those troubling foxes and let Him help us be free of them?

Let Him love you, more.

Go with God.

Transformed

Sunday Sermon 2.6.21

No, not the amazing story of Remi Adeleke and his unlikely path to becoming a Navy Seal. (although it is worth the read, 2019), and definitely not pertaining to alien pods arriving in Hong Kong as portrayed in the 2017 movie.

Sorry, Chris Brown, this is not about your song “Transform Ya”, nor a spin off of Michael Bay’s movie franchise “Transformers”, either.

Transformed, it’s what is expected of believers, those choosing to walk with Jesus. Transformed, it is what happens to make a lowly grasshopper into a powerful swarm of locusts. Let’s put them together to get a picture of what could be happening in these days in the lives of those who are pressing into what God is doing. They are being transformed.

God’s Word is clear that if any person is “in Christ”, that is, wrapped in His love and forgiven of their sin, that person is a new creation. They are still human, of course, but they are now a spiritual creation not just a physical creation. They are a new creation in Christ, the old is gone and the new is come. 2 Cor. 5:17

The Word further tells us, that the new creation involves a transformation, one in which our mind is transformed, our thoughts and worldview is changed. Rom. 12:2

Keep reading- the grasshopper, locust part is coming up and very cool.

It is clear throughout the Word that Christians (those in Christ) are expected to grow, change, and mature in their relationship with Jesus. We become born again, start like babies, but then need to grow up to spiritual adulthood.

  • 1 Cor. 3:1 -infants in Christ
  • Heb. 6:1 – move beyond the elementary teachings… go toward maturity
  • 1 Pet. 2:2-3 – like newborn babies crave spiritual milk
  • Heb. 5:12-14 – solid food is for the mature
  • Col. 2:6-7 – rooted and built up in Him

As Christians, our mission is to be like Christ, that is the transformation that we seek. To be transformed into His image. This cannot happen with the waving of some magic wand and poof, we are miraculously transformed. It is a daily process of choosing and deciding to do what He wants, live His way, rather than our own.

In doing so, we are transformed, “metamorphoo” – changed into another form, inwardly, permanently by the work of the Spirit, all the while our daily, earthly, transformation is preparing us to take flight with Him one day to heaven, where we will see Him face to face, because we will be like Him – transformed.

Now onto the grasshopper and locust, because there is a connection, I assure you.

I don’t know if I knew and forgot, or didn’t know (age has it’s drawbacks), but grasshoppers and locusts are related. In fact, Wikipedia tells us that there is no taxonomic distinction between locust and grasshopper species. What?? The basis for definition is whether a species swarms or not.

grasshopper

Locust are grasshoppers that have entered into a migratory phase, swarming phase. Grasshopper and locust look alike but their behavior is different.

Why is this important to me, you ask?

Well, 1,400 years before Jesus, a report was given in which God’s people were said to be like grasshoppers in the eyes of their enemies; and in fact in their own eye site. Numbers 13:33

God’s people saw their enemies as giants, and they were right, (they were over 9 feet tall!), but they saw themselves as grasshoppers and therefore projected that view onto their enemies.

700 plus years later, the people of the earth are described as grasshoppers. Isa. 40:22

Later in Joel, 600 years before Jesus, we read about a locust army which God calls “his great army.” Joel 2:25

And the prophet Nahum, another 63 years after Joel, talks about guards and officials being like swarms of locusts. Nahum 3:17

locust

To clarify – God’s people are compared to grasshoppers and locusts. Not just the Israelites, as in Old Testament days, but believers today. All of God’s people.

If that is so, then what in the world do we as believers, new creatures in Christ have to learn from these invertebrates?

Transformed. That’s what.

Big groups of grasshoppers, prompted by drought conditions, actually transform into migratory locusts, which have developed a new brain chemistry, by having rubbed together when crowded on grass. Their bodies harden, they eventually develop wings and fly off in a swarm a billion strong.

a swarm of locust

They are transformed into a new creature.

In a crowded place of limited grass, the grasshopper shifts from “solitary life” to a group lifestyle called the “gregarious phase”. In the solitary phase, he doesn’t collect in groups, has a low metabolic rate and is sluggish. During the gregarious phase the grasshopper gathers in large groups, has a high metabolic rate and is active and nervous. He transforms many times in this state -first to a non-flying nymph or hopper, molting 5 times until he transforms into a strong, flying adult and ready to join a swarm.

The solitary phase is normal for the species. The gregarious phase is a physiological response to “violent fluctuations in the environment”. Reread that. He transforms from solitary to gregarious in response to the violence in the environment. (I feel like a locust now.)

This massive group of now mature, gregarious flying locust become a swarm. A swarms size can pack into a 1/2 square mile, but are as large as 40-80 million locusts. Locust can eat their weight in plants daily, so a swarm could eat 423 million pounds of plants every day. They have been known to devastate countries in Asia, Africa and the middle East.

locust swarms

So swarms of locusts are serious business.

The locusts ability to transform in response to serotonin being released is amazing. That serotonin triggers their Central Nervous System and the process of development from a solitary grasshopper, to strong flying locust swarm is mindboggling. For over 4 hours, the back legs of the grasshopper rub against the others in that packed space until eventually his entire inward system is transformed. He has become gregarious, no longer solitary. He is no longer a hopper but can fly, albeit not yet strong. Talk about a transformation?!

A gregarious locust/grasshopper will continue to mature and become stronger and larger and eventually join a band.

Terms worth mentioning about locust. When the gregarious bands get together, they are called outbreaks. And when outbreaks join together that is an upsurge.

These bands, outbreaks and swarms do not form where growth is favorable, no that would be too easy. Instead they actually grow where suitable habitats are scarce. When the bands expand, individuals are actually forced into marginal areas. (Are you seeing parallels here?)

Additionally, the sound of a locust swarm is deafening. The humming is overwhelming and in itself is an alarm that they are on the move. You hear them before you see them.

It is important to point out that locusts navigate using the sun. When individuals at the front edge of the swarm settle to feed, others fly past overhead and settle in for their turn leading. The whole swarm moves like a rolling unit with an ever changing leading edge, following the sun.

No wonder King Solomon said, “the locust have no king, yet they advance together in bands.” Prov. 30:27

Finally, at any point a grasshopper can become gregarious, if the conditions are right. Additionally, their transformation can be reversed or persist, and be passed on to their offspring. It all depends on the conditions. Now think about that! Wow!

Putting this all together.

I believe God is calling His people from the solitary, sluggish, grasshopper phase of being small in our our sight and only seeing insurmountable giants. He is calling us to grow, change, mature and be transformed into a gregarious, active, swarming and powerful Body of believers.

This transforming, maturing process has not been in favorable circumstances, but dry and violent ones where we have been pressed together and rubbing against one another. But in it and from it emerges a new creature seeking to follow the Sun as His mighty swarming army.

And the sound of His mighty army, is a sound of praise, and worship; the heavenly sounds of humming, singing and praise to our God. “The sounds of many rushing waters”.

The Kingdom of God is about to explode on the earth in outbreaks and upsurges. I feel it, I sense it, and by faith see it. That is why we are being transformed during these “unfavorable” and dry times.

Will you be a hopper or a flyer?

It’s time to be transformed.

Go with God.

After You Have Done Everything, Stand.

This is a familiar quote from around 60 AD by an imprisoned Roman citizen.

Consider. After you have “done everything”, don’t you want to just sit? Rest. Cool off. Check out for a bit? Unplug? Disengage? You’re pooped and are not feeling like standing.

Hey, when I was teaching, on my feet all day, doing everything, guess what I wanted to do and did when I got home? Not stand.

Now, when I work, mostly short shifts of 3-5 hours on my feet, having done everything, I still want to sit not stand afterwards. What about you?

But these 3 images came to mind today and with them, our title phrase – after you have done everything, stand.

The first image – A Sentinel Tomb Guard; standing guard at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, VA.

The second, the brave men of the 28th Regiment, 5th Marine Division, US Marines, who on Feb. 23, 1945 captured the extinct volcano, Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.

The third picture, a WW2 Veteran, who from a wheel chair and a long life of sacrifice, paid honor and tribute during a patriotic parade.

These men demonstrate what it means “after having done everything – stand.” Allow me to explain.

The Tomb Guard, a member of the 3rd Regiment (Old Guard) US Army, volunteers for this assignment and gives him or herself to the strict training that goes with it. After basic qualifications with personal records, financials and family, if accepted, they begin training.

This training is harsh, beginning with 2 weeks of basic instruction, uniform prep, walk sequence and behavioral assessments. Then they are tested. This test is the first of four that they must pass during their entire training period. If they do pass, they will spend the next 7-8 months in 12 hour duty days with homework galore. They are not allowed any TV, may not even acknowledge jokes while in quarters, may not acknowledge the public, and are not allowed even to speak to another guard unless spoken to.

During this period they are prepped and tested on three more occasions in these areas:

Uniform – they are allowed 2 minor infractions, no major infractions, and all items never more than 1/64 inch out of place. Imagine, they must pass a 100% inspection, where 97% is failing! There has never been a 100%.

Knowledge – they must memorize a 17 page packet with info on Arlington Cemetery and write it out, including punctuation. Passing the test with no more than 10 mistakes. If you miss a comma on 2 pages, that is a double fail.

Performance – On a 200 point inspection you are allowed no major infractions, 2 minor infractions. This includes performance on foot placement on the mat and cadence while walking the mat. They aim for a 72 beat per minute cadence.

There is a 10% completion rate of passing these 4 tests. Guards who fail the last test, may test again. If you fail again, you are released. You can come back but must start from the beginning. If you pass, you are a Fully Qualified Sentinel and earn the Tomb Guard Identification Badge, which is sterling silver and worn over the right, breast pocket.

While on the 24 hour duty then, every changing of the guard is evaluated and any infractions result in being released. So these highly regarded Sentinels are always doing everything to stand.

The standards for revoking their badge are the only ones in the military that are based on personal conduct. Any felonies or DUI’s means their badge is taken away and their name is stricken from the esteemed record.

These men and women, have truly done all, and their goal is to be standing in the end! If they are not standing in the end, their work has been in vain. In fact, that’s when their training comes fully into play. Standing in the end is the point of their training.

When the 4th and 5th Marine Division invaded Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945 their goal was to secure the island as an important airbase for fighter escorts and emergency landings between Japan and the US bases in the Mariana Islands. Their 36 day assault on this “Sulfur Island” of the extinct volcano Mount Suribachi, was a deadly one in which we lost 7,000 Marines and another 20,000 were wounded.

These Marines reached the base of the volcano on Feb. 21 and by nightfall the next day they had surrounded the mountain. On 2/23, by 10:30 AM they had reached the top and raised a small, American flag. Later that afternoon, 5 Marines, and a Navy Corpsman returned to raise a larger, visible American flag.

This image of that second flag raising was sent back to America and along with that flag raising, so too rose the spirits of Americans and brave warriors in each of the theatres of war.

Perhaps you’ve seen movies or read stories of the bravery displayed on that airstrip. Admiral Nimitz, famously immortalized it this way,

“Among the Americans who served on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

Pacific Fleet, Commander in Chief Admiral Chester W. Nimitz

That very image became the template for the world’s largest, bronze statue – the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, VA, AKA the Marine Corps Memorial. It’s 32 foot high figures, raising the 60 foot flag stands to remind us all of the bravery demonstrated by those Marines in that battle, who did all they possibly could to stand at the end of that battle and raise that beautiful American flag.

Lastly, that WW2 Vet, a member of The Greatest Generation, after having served, lived, fought demons in country and his own personal demons at home, after everything he had been through he chose to stand, again.

With every excuse to sit, and stay down and given every exception by others to sit, he was driven by all that was within him, by all he had been through, by all that mattered to him, and by all he had fought to preserve to STAND. He had done all and now he would stand.

The training, the battle, the long fight… what is it for if not for us to stand in the end?

After we have done all, it is time to stand; maintain our position, hold down the victories, show off our training and execute the strategic plan and purpose bred into our fiber. It’s not time to sit, hold back, give up, or rest.

If you have done everything you know to do, up to this point- then it is time for you to stand your ground.

Cheers to you.

Props to Peter

Sunday Sermon 1.16.21

What would compel a person to step out of a boat that is in a storm?

As a sailor, who enjoys sailing the coastline of Southern California, this question gripped me, “Why would anyone leave a boat in the middle of a storm?” Consider it, why?

The foundation story for this question is found in Matthew 14:22-34, where Peter, a new follower of Jesus, aboard a fishing boat (sail boat) was, along with his other disciple buddies caught in a fierce storm. Here are the conditions on the lake, when we pick up the story:

  • it was dark at night
  • they were far from land
  • they were being pounded by high waves
  • there were strong, opposing winds

The men on board this boat were not having a good time! In fact it was dire for them.

Again, from my own personal experience, were I aboard Lady Debra in these four conditions, I would be absolutely terrified! Which is why I was wondering why leave the boat? What could ever be so motivating that you would actually step INTO these conditions without the protection of the boat?

(I can honestly say that each of these four conditions are ones in which I would NEVER sail. I don’t sail at night and get concerned when the sun is setting and we are still out. I choose to sail, nearly always, with land in sight. High waves and strong winds are no-no’s for me. Absolutely not, no way, not me on my boat!)

The boys were in a very difficult situation that did not look good at all. The best thing coming was dawn.

As the story goes, “Just before dawn, Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake”. Matthew 14:25 Or put another way, “walking on the waves.”

Now we have some good news appearing. Jesus is showing up in the midst of the storm, walking on top of its waves. A lot could be said about this, but let’s focus on the disciples, who responded with terror, thinking he was a ghost, and crying out in fear. Matthew 14:26 To them, Jesus showing up like this seemed to add to the terror of the moment. Oh no, a ghost too, we’re gonna die! We’re dead.

Jesus wasted no time, and spoke to them across the waves and in the wind and said,

“Be brave and don’t be afraid. I am here.”

Matthew 14:27 TPT

These are reassuring words, for sure! We will come back to them.

Peter, upon hearing Jesus’ words responded with a statement, that on its face, to me seems odd. He said,

“Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” (and waves and winds, in the darkness a long way from shore)

Matthew 14:28

Herein lies, our opening question. Why in the world would anyone leave a boat and step into the storm surrounding it? That’s crazy!

Well, I thought of 3 reasons why someone might do that –

  1. the ship is sinking – escaping it may save my life (remember Titanic?)
  2. suicide – taking a permanent solution to a temporary problem
  3. delusional – extreme conditions at sea causing me to see ghosts

Clearly, none of these apply to Peter and the gang. So why step out into those conditions? Why?

I can vividly imagine these conditions on the lake and the guys in the boat. I can vividly see the waves overwhelming the boat and the winds opposing their every attempt to right the boat. I can imagine the panic of darkness in this storm all the while knowing there is no land in sight or even near. This is real in my minds eye. This is horrific.

And yet Peter steps out of the relative safety of the boat and into the uncertainty of this dark storm. Why? What motivates him?

In one way, Peter’s statement back to Jesus is not unlike what many of us have said; Peter said, “if it’s you…”.

How many times have you said or heard said,

  • God, if you’re real…
  • God, if it’s really you…
  • God, if you’re in this…

That part I get, I understand because I have done it, said it. How ’bout you?

But Peter’s “conditional statement” If it’s you… then tell me to come to you…” puzzles me.

In math, the conditional statement formula is, p ➡ q. P equals the hypothesis, q equals the conclusion and the arrow shows the logical connection.

To me, I fail to see the logical connection between the two. It is not logical to come to Jesus on the high waves in this storm, yet it for sure is a conditional statement. So, what’s the connection? Why did he leave the boat and step willfully into the dark storm?

When Jesus responded to Peter’s statement, he did so by simply saying to him, “Come, join me.” Matthew 14:29

Peter made the connection and stepped into the stormy waves, not the glassy lake. Peter stepped into the roaring winds, just as the new day was dawning. Peter left the little safety he had in the storm tossed vessel in blatant defiance of all things logical. Yet, for him it made totally, logical sense to step towards Jesus on the turbulent sea.

Why?

Remember what Jesus told the guys when they first saw him on the water?

“Take courage. I am here. Don’t be afraid.”

Matthew 14:27 NIV

THAT statement is the key! THAT statement is Peter’s motivation! THAT statement was Peter’s reason for stepping into the storm and towards Jesus! THAT statement!

Peter was familiar with part of THAT statement. He’d heard about it for his whole Jewish life.

He’d heard how his ancestors had at one time called their God Elohim, (this is a title, not a name) until Exodus chapter 3, when God revealed to Moses His name as “I AM”. Exodus 3:14

He’d heard how I AM had delivered the Israelites from 400 years of slavery, sent plagues and judgment to Egypt, parted the Red Sea, delivered them from enemies, armies, threats, disease, judgment and so much more.

He’d heard that I AM was the source of all power and eternal in nature. How I AM was self-sufficient, self-sustaining. How I AM was and is and will be forever the same omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God of the universe.

He knew the name I AM. He’d heard it his whole life. He believed in I AM as the God of his ancestry.

NOW, Jesus, the one he had chosen to follow, was standing before him, declaring to him, “I AM. Don’t be afraid. Come to me.”

Peter now saw Jesus as the Almighty, omnipotent, self sufficient, name above all names, God who is in control of all things. THAT was his motivation for stepping out of the boat and into the storm. THAT was his solid ground he stepped onto when he left that boat.

How could he go wrong stepping towards I AM? There was no fear, no hesitation. When I AM says “Come to me” you step towards Him. Confident. Sure. Unflappable. Secure. Certain. Comfortable. Unshaken. Doubtless. Peaceful.

Even though “I AM” or the “tetragrammaton” appears over 6,000 times in the Bible this one, for Peter was his moment of truth. The dawning of a new day for Peter’s understanding of who he had committed his life to follow.

Although scribes through the ages could not say I AM out loud, nor fully spell it out, here was Peter walking towards the great I AM, fully able to express himself before Him and be accepted, cared for and destined for greatness

I AM brought proper perspective to Peter. Peter saw that, when he saw Jesus as the great I AM.

When you realize the great I AM is in control and calling you to come close to Him, you come close to Him, regardless of stormy circumstances, dark times, opposing winds or overwhelming waves. It makes perfect sense and is the only logical thing to do.

THAT would compel many to leave the boat and step into the storm.

So I say, “Props to Peter!” (Lord, help me.)

Go with God.

Digital Dependence

That’s the phrase I woke up with.

Whhaat? Why? So after some coffee and AM focus, I dove in to investigate this phrase.

Digital. What does that mean? Go ahead, how would you define it? Ummm, having to do with digits???, the internet??? How are you doing? Easy? Challenging?

“Digital, in its broadest sense, is any piece of technology that connects people and machines with each other or with information.” According to Leighton.com/whatdoesdigitalreallymean

For us old timers, we first knew it as IT – “Information Technology”, and it was how documents, spreadsheets and databases created information through the use of hardware, software and their necessary methods.

The term digital has now superseded IT and includes the addition of social media, mobile and cloud services.

But why does this matter and why should you keep reading?

Because we are living in a digital world and it is changing rapidly. So fast, in fact, that we cannot keep up with it, nor can our legislation. It, this digital world, is at the forefront of our First Amendment rights and the loss of them.

From October 29, 1969, when the US Dept. of Defense’s ARPANET delivered it’s first message from UCLA to Sanford and crashed the ARPA network, the technology has grown to a rate of 11 new users per second, resulting in one million new users each day. (“wearesocial.com/2019-global-internet-use)

Of the 7.8 billion people in the world today, 4.388 billion are active internet users, representing 57% of the total population; the vast majority of those are mobile users, 3.986 billion or 52% of the total population.

The stats reveal that these users are spending on average 6 hours and 42 minutes online each day. That means we are connected to devices hundreds of times each day.

These are the places those 4.4 billion are visiting during those 6+ hours digitally connected.

Please notice those companies, especially the ones at the top.

Now, we realize that time spent on devices is not all play and scrolling. We are emailing, reporting, comparing, creating, ordering, communicating, you know, actually working. The lines between leisure and work however, are slowly slipping away, as we are responding to emails “off the clock” and checking Facebook while “on the clock”. Our devices and their APPS, all digital, are “making life easier”, so they say.

In whatever amount of time we are spending in the digital world, we are being bombarded with messages of all sorts. We know that our search history is collected and we are targeted by ads and other messages that “they” deem important.

I can’t for the life of me figure out why, on my Instagram feed, since the election, COVID19 warnings and messages have disappeared! Has the pandemic ended? Why is it no longer inserted after nearly every picture? (I jest, but seriously!) Is it no longer important?

But back to the title, Digital Dependence.

Whether we like it or not, we are dependent on our digital world. Banking, PC/laptop data, cloud storage, medical records, records of most kinds for that matter, travel, communications, etc. We are dependent.

So, the first action step for me is to do whatever I can, to cover my butt, in the event those digital connections are lost. I mean it, folks. In the world in which we live, you cannot discount that possibility. My husband speaks of “EMP’s”, but as we are seeing now, there are several more ways our digital world could be upset. So back up, keep hard copies, write things down, arrange for other means of taking care of your business and dealings. Seriously.

Second action step, we need to make any changes in our surfing habits that are necessary. Six plus hours a day for the average person, online???? Don’t tell me you don’t have time to pray, read the Bible, meditate, talk with your family, visit neighbors or call your father.

Third and last action step, beware of the messages that are bombarding you while in the digital world. I am so ticked at some of these that just keep showing up on my feed or in my stream. I don’t believe them, hate seeing them and can’t get rid of them. I refuse to allow them to cloud my thinking and will seek to keep my head above the foggy, rising waters that wants to overwhelm me. The best way to do that, I have found, is to get off the devices!

I am an optimist and I do walk by faith, but the digital dependence we have learned to lean on is teetering, and I feel in my spirit we must prepare, we must beware, we must wise up. Change is coming and we need to be ready for it. Forewarned is forearmed.

photo from Larry Elder

What do you think? Am I off base? Where are you on my three action steps in our digital dependence?

Cheers to you.

When Things Don’t Go As Expected

Sunday Sermon 1.9.21

The previous year, 2020, has provided for all of us more than ample situations or events that most certainly did not go as expected. Were we to have a race writing things down, the only thing slowing us down would be our ability to write fast and the fact that no one would really want to win the race.

And here we are only nine days into the new year and that list just keeps growing. So many things are not going as expected. Not even close.

Shoot, here in my house, we were expecting a wonderful two week visit over the holidays with our son and his new wife – we got that and more – Covid. All four of us! So we actually got a plus three week visit instead.

Here’s the thing, when your life belongs to Jesus, God uses things intended to harm you for His good.

“You intended to harm me but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done.”

Genesis 50:20

It sometimes is a hard pill to swallow, but He really does “work all things for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

All things means just that – all things!

Personal issues, relational issues, family, work, school, politics, church, community, health, financial, supply, housing, pets, neighbors, business, government, all things!

He works in each and every situation, always, to bring good from it for us. He is God, that is who He is and that is what He does.

“No weapon, (plan or purpose, idea, threat, legislation, edict,) formed against thee shall prosper…” Isaiah 54:17

When faced with the unexpected, watch what God can and will bring from it for you. Take a look at these few bible characters to get you going:

Joseph – the earlier quote from Genesis came from his lips after his brothers dashed his dreams by selling him into slavery in Egypt. There, after many years in prison, he eventually became the Egyptian vizier, 2nd in command. His dreams fulfilled and his brothers bowing down to him.

But consider how many times things did not go as expected for him. Goodness! Our hearts bleed when we recall so many injustices and seemingly bad outcomes for him. Beaten by brothers, abandoned, sold, forgotten, imprisoned, mistreated, ridiculed, forgotten again, promoted, falsely accused of rape, imprisoned again, promoted again, respected, empowered, honored, restored to family, blessed his family and the nation.

Joseph’s life is a vivid example for us of how all things really do work for good. All things are not good, but God is able to work them for good for you, and Joseph.

Consider another – Noah. Noah was living in a horribly wicked and violent era; so bad in fact God had it with the world. Seriously. You know the story. Noah built a floating barge under God’s direction and then God sent animals to Noah to fill the barge. Noah, his family (wife, three sons and their wives) all boarded the barge and God opened the windows of heaven and fountains of the deep, and rain as never before seen, flooded the earth and destroyed all mankind.

Did things go as Noah expected? Well, first off, he had never even seen rain before, so right there we have the unexpected. How ’bout the length of time for this rain stuff? Expected? How ’bout after the rain stopped and the flood waters covered even the highest mountains? How ’bout living in an indoor zoo for over a year, with your family??? Expected?

Noah certainly faced the unexpected and he too experienced the faithfulness of God. From that time aboard the barge, God worked for the good of Noah, eventually resulting in a blessing for he and his family and an agreement with Noah’s name on it – the Noahic Covenant; which turned out as a blessing for future generations around the world.

Abraham/Isaac– When this father and son went up to the top of the mountain with all the supplies and tools to make an offering to the Lord, do you think their expectations included Isaac being tied and laid on the altar? Could a father imagine holding a knife over his son, ready to slice his throat as he would an animal?

Why would a father do such an unexpected thing?

“Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”

Hebrews 11:19

What followed? God worked it for good and revealed a ram, just out of sight to be used as the offering. Issac was untied as were his fears and faith in his dad, not to mention Jehovah God. Oh, and remember what God said to Abraham, “Now, because you have not withheld your only son Isaac, I will bless you and you will be the father of many nations and your offspring will be more than the sand on the sea shore and stars in the sky.” Genesis 22:12, 17

I have several more to share. But stop and think. When things don’t go as expected, what is really happening for you?

Is all lost? Are hopes dashed? Is faith gone? I hope not, but if any of those are close, then this word today is vital for you. When you hit a wall, an unexpected and firm obstacle, God is still at work on your behalf, bringing to you a bigger, broader purpose than what you see in the immediate. He is working whether or not you see what he is doing.

What is faith after all? “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:6

In the face of the unexpected, faith sees God working. We walk by faith, not by sight.

Joseph, Noah, Abraham and Isaac all looked beyond what their eyes saw. They looked beyond the immediate and to the One who was at work for them preparing them for the good which would eventually be forthcoming.

We could add to those men Moses, who went from basket, to burning bush, to bondage to being broke free. Did he face the unexpected, you bet. Did he have faith God was working, sometimes.

How about Rahab? This one was a business woman who happened to offer protection to some spies, and was rewarded by being the only family saved when the city was destroyed. Unexpected? Faith? Yep!

John the Baptist began his life the result of a prophetic word. He was filled with the Holy Spirit before he was even born and grew up being a voice that called the Jews to return to the Lord and His ways. He was all in serving the Lord, all the time. Bold. Brave. Brazen.

Did his life all go as expected? He was beheaded, probably not expected.

But was God at work for good even in THAT situation? It did turn out for good for him, he went immediately to heaven. And it turned out for good for the disciples and for us too. His life God used for good, even though the enemy meant his death for evil.

One last bible character, Peter. The unexpected fisher of men. The unexpected walker on water. The unexpected insightful friend, (YOU are the Christ!). The unexpected voice of Satan, (Get thee behind me, Satan.) The unexpected ear cutter-offer. The unexpected denier. The unexpected witness at the tomb. The unexpected preacher at Pentecost, saving 3,000! The unexpected healer, deliverer, teacher, prayer, leader. The unexpected martyr.

The unexpected result? This man is now listed as one of “these men who have turned the world upside down.” Acts 17:6

Walking by faith, each of these persevered through difficult situations for them. They looked beyond what they saw to a God who was at work on their behalf. The wall was not all they saw. The problem was not all they saw. The impossibility was not all they saw. The unexpected did not deter them or their faith.

When things don’t go as expected, where do you put your faith?

Please allow me to close with a recent personal, account.

My husband had to have surgery on his L4, L5 in his spine. He prepped and was ready for the in one day, out the next expected hospital stay. Seven days later, after having unexpected drug interactions, and him being unresponsive, The Rapid Response Team was called.

During his unresponsiveness, from where we were, we thought we were loosing him. It was terrifying.

But later we found out, during that time of his unexpected, unresponsiveness, he was having an out of body experience, hovering above his body, watching all that was happening to him in his room. He was talking to an old man. Den asked the man, “So I guess now is the time I get to choose whether to go or stay?” The man, whose face was only a bright light, firmly told him, “I will tell you when it’s time!”

Those words sent Dennis back to earth, into his body and into a responsive state. Those words changed his life forever. The medical team, to this day still cannot explain what happened or why.

Den was released from the hospital the next day! Less than 24 hours from when we thought we had lost him. In fact, we had gained a totally new man, spiritual fervor and dedication stronger than it had ever been. His fire and passion for life and the Lord burning brighter than it ever had. God had once again, according to his promise, been working in all things for the good of Den, for us. From this unexpected event, has come Dennis’ greatest freedom, joy, and empowering; and one of my greatest joys and desires.

Covid free and facing the unexpected together with faith.

We serve a God of the impossible. All things are possible with God and our faith will remain anchored to Him, not to events. For when circumstances appear to be harm to us, He intends it for good. He is at work, he never stops working for the good of those who love him.

When things don’t go as expected, have faith and keep going. He is at work for your good.

Go with God.