Life is Like a Colander; What Are You Washing With?

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I was getting some vegetables ready to cook for a potluck the other day.  I placed them in a colander and rinsed them off.  A crazy thought came into my mind.  Life is like sitting in a colander sometimes.

I look at my life and realize that I’m covered in dirt from my living.  When I make bad choices I end up dirty, in a state I’d rather not be in.  I know this plight very well, we’re old friends in fact.  I end up here when I make hasty decisions or ones that I wanted to make because I thought this is what would make me happy.  There’s nothing more sobering than making a decision based on wants and later finding yourself miserable.

Another place quite familiar is the one of carrying around my burdens.  Why is it so easy to throw all the things that are bothering me into my backpack and sling that sucker up onto my back?  That backpack has felt like it weighed hundreds of pounds at times throughout my life.  Those burdens, the things that just won’t seem to go away because I’m hurt or someone I love is going through something or countless other mishaps that can occur in our lives, hop right onto me, causing me to feel overwhelmed by the bugs in my garden, threatening to consume all I’ve worked so hard to produce in the first place.

I don’t like it much that sometimes it’s way too easy to further complicate my soiled condition.  I can whine about it; that only compounds my condition and it will last that much longer.  I can go to a friend and try to blame my current spot on someone else; that is so not the way through!  My blaming others now has resulted in me taking my eyes off of what Jesus meant as an area for me to grow in and instead fall into a very ugly place – judgment.  No, God says if we judge others, then we will be judged in the same way.  This only causes me to sit in the colander of my life, motionless, wilting, and still covered in dirt.

As I rinsed my vegetables, I thought about God, the running water of my life.  Clear, cool, refreshing water rinsing through my life.  His cleansing truths rush over me, taking the rocks that have bruised, the dirt that has soiled and the bugs that threatened to devour cleanly out of my life.  I must choose to remain there and allow myself to be cleansed.  My Lord is happy to oblige me for He knows the restrictions I’ve allowed into my life are only serving to impede my progress.

You see, God’s plans are perfect.  He knows the way through the trials, decisions, and heartaches.  But, you see, He is also a gentleman and He will not force me to enter into His cleansing.  No, that decision rests with me.  Completely.  I must initiate the process, I must call out to Him and ask for His help.  I must desire to be rid of the things that are weighing me down, the many things of this world that are retarding my progress.

Just for today I’m making a choice to simply stop.  Yep, the dirt of life is everywhere and I must choose wisely to avoid it.  Instead, I’m going to allow my Papa in heaven to rinse His cleansing love over me.  I don’t know what tomorrow may bring, but today I’m just going to stop and get cleansed. This simple action allows me to get clean and climb on out of that colander because of the price my Savior paid…for me!  Thank you Jesus.

 

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When God Uses Dreams

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Part Two of my post “Forgiveness – God’s Mighty Tool.”

The morning after the women’s conference, my husband and I had breakfast with my friend, Jennifer, who not only conceived of the conference, but she also graciously invited me to be a speaker.  As we talked about the weekend, Jen voiced her feelings: “without a doubt, the pivotal point of the entire conference was the forgiveness piece with the banner!”  We chewed on that for quite a few minutes, recounting the beauty of what transpired through that unplanned God-moment.

Eventually we moved on to other matters in our lives since Jen and I only get to see each other occasionally.  At one point I suddenly remembered something I wanted to share with her, a curious dream from a few nights before; my husband and I had been on the Oregon coast on vacation prior to coming inland to the conference where I would speak.

Some of you may be aware there have been many predictions lately of a very large and potentially devastating earthquake that has been labelled “imminent” by many in the scientific community for the entire coastline, from California to Alaska.  While I don’t want to linger there, I must tattle on myself concerning this prediction.  Impending calamities, real or predicted, have been known to cause me concern, some to the point of allowing fear to rise up inside me.  I’ve learned fear is the opposite of faith and this is a lesson my Daddy in heaven is currently working with me on, helping me to learn to trust Him and Him only.

On May 20, 2013 we were in Branson, Missouri when an EF5 tornado tore through Moore, Oklahoma with peak winds estimated at 210 mph, killing 24 people and injuring 377 others.  We’d never been in “tornado alley” before and when the tornado warnings reached clear to Branson, fear rose in my heart.  All this to say, I have to work at not allowing fear to take over when confronted with natural disaster type warnings.  Obviously, we were fine (God showed up there too).

When we left for the coast, I must admit I was battling quietly inside.  Thoughts of the predictions roared in a few times, but I took control of the fiery darts, told them to stand down and we enjoyed our time at the coast.  We spent a week at one town, and left for another town further south on Monday, planning to leave Friday morning for the women’s conference beginning later that night.

Tuesday night I had a disturbing dream.  My in-laws, both gone home to Jesus now, were in my dream.  I’d gone to their house to deliver something and we were standing outside their house talking.  Suddenly my in-laws saw someone they knew on the road in front of their house and they told me to wave him down, they needed to talk with him.  So with arms flailing we all ran toward the road.  The friend saw us and he stopped his car.  Just as we walked up to his waiting car, his eyes got huge and he yelled, “LOOK!” pointing behind us.  When we turned around to look, we saw devastation (although I don’t know what the force was).  There where my in-laws’ house should have been was nothing but the foundation; the house was completely gone.  My car was gone and my dog with it.  Nothing was left.  As we walked to empty spot, the total shock and weight of the devastation settled in; no memorabilia, no possessions, nothing was left.  As I looked at my in-laws, and we felt the impact of the loss, I suddenly woke up.

Don’t much care for those kinds of dreams, a strange one for me.  As I laid there coming fully awake, I prayed, “what does that mean Lord?  Does this have something to do with the predictions?  Are you trying to tell me something.  And what’s the meaning behind my in-laws in this dream?”  I lay there a couple of minutes waiting but hearing nothing I got up.  My husband got up also and I immediately told him about the dream.  He looked at me with a strange look.  “What’s the matter?” I asked.

“Well, listen to this.  At 4 a.m. I was awakened out of a dead sleep.  My mind was raging with thoughts about the earthquake predictions.  At first I thought this might be an attack, so I prayed, asking the Lord to quiet the arrows of the enemy.  The thoughts of doom kept up for quite a few minutes.  Finally, I felt like I could rest again, so I turned over to go back to sleep.  It was then that I heard very clearly, “I want you to leave now!”  At this point, I kind of had an argument with God: “It’s 4 a.m. Lord!  This seems just weird.  We’d have to get up, put the trailer back together, probably bothering the people around us in the RV park.  Lord, if this is you, I need a confirmation that we are to leave.  I don’t know, something like when we wake up Linda will have something of a confirmation to this.  Father, I’m going back to sleep; please confirm this or I’m chalking it up to listening to too many disaster reports.”  And with that, he went back to sleep.  For him to get out of bed and have me immediately launch into my dream was a bit much; we looked at each other.  Was this the confirmation?

“OK, I think we each need to spend a few minutes with the Lord to see what we should do,” he stated.  So we did.  And we decided, due to his request of a confirmation from God, that we should leave.  A couple of hours later we were headed out of town.  As we drove away, we prayed for the people who live on the coast, for their safety and futures.

“So, we’re going to have some extra time now before the conference begins.  What shall we do?” I asked my husband, Butch.  Almost immediately we thought about friends who travel up and down the I-5 corridor for work and wondered if they might possibly be in town.  I texted Brenda and we were delighted to find they were staying at their daughter’s home near to where we were going to be for the conference.  We immediately made plans to meet on Thursday morning, the men to play golf and Brenda and I to have coffee and a leisurely visit.  As we visited I remembered my banners, that Brenda had actually made for me, left behind at home.  “Would it be possible to borrow some of your banners?” I inquired.  Brenda was more than willing and we then made plans for getting them back to her at a later date.

Back to breakfast with Jen the day after the conference.  When Jen said she felt the pivot spot of the conference revolved around the forgiveness banner and the work God did in each woman in attendance, the light bulb went off.  Oh my goodness!  The dream, the banners, the conference!  God had been orchestrating in the background amazing “coincidences”!

Long ago the Lord decided He wanted a women’s conference at my former church.  He put me into relationship with a new friend two years ago.  He built our relationship, long distance, over many phone calls.  He then took us to a conference together last spring, where He planted the idea of a conference into Jen’s thoughts.  He knew that the women of this church needed some quiet time with Him and He thought (I can only pretend to imagine His thoughts…He’s God after all!) it would be nice to use a banner for this purpose.  So Jen put a conference together and invited me to be one of the speakers.  We planned our vacation around this conference and unfortunately, I forgot my banners.  So He used a disaster scenario we were quite familiar with to get our attention and through the use of a dream and a strong impression, had us leave the coast early (there would not have been enough time to see Brenda if we had stayed with our original plans).  Now enter thoughts of good friends and they are actually in the area at the time.  We have a great visit with old friends and I borrow banners.  The rest of the story can be read in my previous post, “Forgiveness – God’s Mighty Tool“.

I used to believe in coincidences.  Not anymore.  God is, well, GOD!  He is mighty and loving and creative.  He had to find a way to move us from the coast to a position to have the time to spend with friends, one the maker of banners, so that a piece of painted silk could do what He wanted to do within the hearts of women.  Wow!

And that’s the rest of the story!

Forgiveness – God’s Mighty Tool

sorrow-699606_1280It has been a season of rest.  Surprisingly I found myself with no words to share.  To my faithful followers, thank you for checking back every so often even though I’m sure you wondered what happened.  Nothing.  And that was the point; I had nothing to say.  Why try to manufacture words when you feel like there’s nothing to write about?

Now, I have a wonderful thing to share.  I’ve just returned home after speaking at a women’s conference at the church I grew up in; I was a member of this church for almost 26 years prior to my husband and I moving after retirement.  It was good to be home.  Being one of the speakers was both honoring and terrifying at the same time and I spent no small amount of time working on what I would share.  As a last minute thought, I borrowed some 3’x4′ silk declaration banners from a friend to take with me; I have some banners of my own but I had forgotten them at home.  I’ll get to that in Part Two.

Banners being used in churches were new to me until four years ago.  We went to a conference where someone gave a workshop on the use of banners.  They can be used for simply declaring the goodness of God during a worship service, for using as a prayer cloth, for pointedly addressing specific topics (the subject of which is the theme of a banner) and so on.  I wanted banners with me in case.  I didn’t know in case of what, I just wanted them with me as I’ve witnessed their use becoming a powerful change agent.  God shows up sometimes in quite astounding ways.

As we gathered for prayer prior to the conference with the pastor of the church on Friday evening, I had to ask permission to use the banners as not every church is familiar with their use.  After a bit of discussion, this gracious pastor granted permission, asking that I give a brief explanation of what they are (only silk and paint, nothing special), and they hold no special meaning other than being used as an outward expression of an inner adoration or commitment to the Lord.

The theme of the conference was, “A Well Full of Water,” so it seemed fitting to wave a beautiful banner named “Living Waters” during worship that night after a brief explanation.  The night progressed with testimonies from two women, powerful, living examples of what God does best: transform lives.  Both of these women desire to be used in ministry and, after listening to their stories, I have every confidence that God will indeed use them.

Their stories evoked much emotion.  I’ve found it’s almost impossible to listen to someone’s story without causing some level of emotion to rise up as their sharing causes instances of similarity to surface about your own story with God.  He’s quite powerful that way.  As we ended the night, three of us gathered to debrief.  Please keep in mind that I’m recalling all of this in hindsight now; at the time, we had no inkling of what God was going to do.

As we discussed the evening, it was apparent that we each felt God was moving in hearts as only He can do and that there might be something He wanted to address in the women in attendance.  I can’t even remember why we landed on this word, but the word that resonated with us all was forgiveness.  It came up in our discussion a couple of times.  Suddenly I remembered that I had brought my friend’s banner called “forgiveness” with me.  I threw out a suggestion for it’s possible use the next day.  We ended our discussion with the fact we would all sleep on it, praying that Papa God would either open the way for the banners use or not.  Simple.

Early the next morning we came together once again to pray prior to the conference beginning afresh.  “Did anyone get a check on the use of the banner?”  No checks, so we decided quickly we would use it and what we were going to do.  I want you, the reader, to understand we inserted a plan into the agenda that had no prior inclusion or thought.  It was a result of something being “coincidentally” available and hearts open to God.

We began once again with worship, only this time I gave instruction regarding the use of the “Forgiveness” banner.  I quoted Colossians 3:12-13 (NLT): “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

I instructed the women that perhaps there were some who needed to take a step toward forgiving those in their lives, not that the wrongs done did not hurt or harm, but that we are to follow Christ’s ways concerning forgiveness.  “If anyone desires to do business with God this morning, I ask you to make a move — step out of your seat, come forward, and simply walk under the banner of Forgiveness.”  It was most definitely a God-moment, so I don’t completely remember the exact words, but you get the idea.

It began slowly with a couple of women coming forward.  Another leader and I held opposite ends of the banner and simply moved it gently above each woman.   We prayed.  My instructions weren’t specific enough; instead of walking under and through, each woman came under the banner and stood, some remaining for many minutes.  Some held their arms high, some stood with head down, others collapsed to the floor in sobs.  Something powerful and amazing occurred that morning as women humbled themselves under a simple banner and took care of business with Daddy, some forgiving for the very first time, others reminded of a long-forgotten piece of forgiveness that needed to occur.

95% of the women in attendance went under that banner.  Watching them transform before our eyes gave us witness to miracles taking place.  They would walk under in full control.  As they stood under the banner, changes began.  There might be a quiver of the lips or tears would begin to roll gently down their cheeks.  It was a mighty move of God through the group as woman after woman took a step of submission before our God and He met them there at the front of the sanctuary.  Breathtaking.  Wondrous.  Powerful.  And there was not a dry eye in the place.

In the hours following, a number of women shared with me the transforming power of forgiveness and I learned a strong lesson from God about being part of such gatherings.  I went to that conference all conflicted about the word I had to share.  I prayed.  I waited.  I pondered.  I wanted to make sure that I knew that I knew that God wanted that message to be shared.  Yet, what I learned was that the power and glory of our God in heaven, the God of the universe, didn’t need me and the word I shared, anyone’s word for that matter.  Yes, the shared words over the entire conference were fine but they weren’t the most important things.  The most important thing was we invited Him into our space, made room in a full agenda, unknowingly, and through something quite as simple as a painted piece of silk, the power and might of a loving and gracious God came down from heaven — and spent a little time with His daughters, freeing them in a new way.

Priceless.