God in the Storm

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“May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the Holy Spirit Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality.” Ephesians 3:16 AMPC

This is what Holy Spirit did on Monday, 4/17/17. As I heard the suggestion to perhaps fast and pray, my coming into agreement with the Spirit launched a fresh in-filling, a re-aligning if you will, of the power of the Holy Spirit.

Now hear me. Fasting and I don’t necessarily play well together! At the mere mention of the word “fast” I become ravenously hungry. But that day was different. Driven by tumultuous tumbling in the huge waves of stormy seas, I was desperately grasping for anything to anchor me, to help me get my feet back under me and set upon solid ground. I had been being rolled in the stormy seas for a few weeks and I knew somehow that if I didn’t find my way soon, I might perish in the hurricane.

So, the thought of “fast and pray” came in. Coincidence? I don’t believe in such things any longer. No, I believe the Holy Spirit was attempting to give me direction. After all, I had been crying out in my pain and fear for over three weeks now, “oh God, show me the way through this mess!” The anguish I was feeling had resulted in an emotional breakdown of sorts on Tuesday, 4/11/17. I knew I was out of order, falling victim to fear yet, just as being tossed around after a huge wave catches you unawares at the beach, I was flailing with my emotions. I knew I was allowing the enemy to tumble me like rock in a broiling, violent storm of circumstance, I just couldn’t figure out how to turn the tides on the barrage of flaming arrows being sent my way. I was being attacked and the enemy was winning. I was drowning…

I was desperate that Monday morning, crying out once again for the Lord to show me the way through. “How can I get my feet back under me Lord? Do you not hear me?” I cried. My husband was gone, doing several errands and the house was still. I sat on the couch, a position I’d found myself in quite often over the course of the past eight weeks or so as I was aware that depression was once again knocking at my door. “But you delivered and healed me Lord of depression many years ago. How can this be happening?” My despondency was pitiful, yet here I sat, not knowing what to do next.

And then there was that thought again. Fast and pray. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I decided then and there to fast. Now what? I think back on this and almost want to break out into hysterical laughter for the insanity of the whole thing. I was like a stubborn child; “ok then God, if you want me to fast, I will! Are you happy now?” I demanded. And then, very quietly, I knew I needed to pray. I needed to thrust my entire self into this decision I’d just made.

Honestly, I don’t know how long I sat there on that couch, looking out on the clouds and the sky, fervently putting everything I had into praying in my spirit language. It started out flat, a recital of sorts, of words in tongues that really meant nothing to me because I do not know what I uttered. I just kept going. I didn’t know what else to do, so I continued. In the past, when I’ve been incensed by something, my words in my prayer language have become rapid, full of the intonations of rage that I was feeling. Not this time. I was spent, dull, rote. The words came out, one after another, for an hour or two or three, I honestly don’t know how long. One by one the words flowed, until the unfamiliar contortions my mouth must go through in order to speak out loud in my prayer language made my mouth sore. I had to stop. And now I just sat there.

At what point do I feel the Holy Spirit made His entrance? I’m not sure but it took awhile. All too subtly I sensed something. I didn’t hear His voice audibly. No, it was simply an impression. A question. But with the question came familiarity. It was my dear, Holy Spirit once again.

“How did you survive cancer?” He asked. That was it. Five words. They were all that were needed.

Ten years ago I found myself in another battle of my life, this one literally a potential life ender. It was the one word I feared ever hearing and yet there it was. Kidney cancer! Oh noooo!

The way through came in a book given to me by a friend, perhaps two or three weeks before I was diagnosed. A book by a 1970’s evangelist, T.L. Osborne, called, “The Good Life.” A book filled with scripture yet ordered in such a way that you can find your need and the promises of God flow. Right there. Meeting you. In the middle of the storm.

The way through didn’t turn out how I imagined it would. But it was the way through and I am a cancer survivor of ten years! And once again, I was at the crossroad of terror, this one concerning finances and someone attempting to steal from my inheritance, for me, my son, and our grandchildren. It was no less intense, no less tumultuous.

I almost laugh again here. I realized this on Monday, that I was to get the book out and declare it’s truths, the actual Word of God, over the situation I found myself in. Tossing, tumbling in the waves of fear, doubt and rage, the book represented solid ground. Holy Spirit tossed me a life preserver this day…but it took me another four days to dig the book out and read it! Oh the insanity of man, or woman, as was the case.

I dug the book out on Thursday as a dear friend came for a visit and we were going to pray for each other; we were each going through difficult times. So there, in my living room, I read excerpts from the book that had once saved my life and witnessed it do its powerful turning of circumstances as we were both ministered to.

It was as if the life preserver found its mark in us both and we grabbed wildly for its life saving powers. Hanging on dearly, still bobbing precariously in the waves of a tossing sea of circumstance, we felt the saving grace of a God coming toward us, walking calmly on the waters. Oh, the wonder of realizing He was there!

“May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the Holy Spirit Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality.”

I’ve been camping once again in the pages of this book. Some would wag their finger and say, “oh no, you need to be in the Book, the Bible!” The Good Life contains page after page of Scripture, lumped together as the promises of a God that loves us so much. It is here, side-by-side with the Word of God, the Bible, that I find myself daily. Read a promise, or ten, and then go to the Word and read them in the context they were written. Is it a dilution? No. It is simply the loving words of a God who loves and cares for us so much that He still uses mere men to help us better understand the depths, width, and heights of His love for us.

Has God been in this battle, did He by chance allow me to be sifted as He did Job? I can’t answer that for sure, but I know there have been many lessons learned already in this battle over finances and it isn’t even over! One of the greatest lessons? That the man responsible for my angst, the man who is stealing from my inheritance, is a child of God too! God loves him just as much as he loves me. God showed me he is a prodigal son! The only difference is that I am saved; this man evidently isn’t…yet. God impressed me with this truth so much so that my husband and I are praying for this man’s salvation, for an encounter with the Living God we know and love. Three months ago, I was not capable of such a thought. But it has been in the furnace of testing, the fire that burns off the dross, that I’ve come to this understanding. My God requires me to pray for his soul now, and so I do.

What of the inheritance? That too has been laid of the foot of the throne. I was surviving before I received it, I will survive if it is taken away. Justice? While I grappled with that question in the early tumbling, I find I am oddly calm. Justice is something God will take care of. Now. Later. But I will not benefit from clinging to it. He will take care of it. And in that, I will benefit.

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And suddenly I find myself firmly on the beach again. The near-death encounter and wild tossing of my emotions and spirit are over. Seas are once again calm. Indeed, this statement makes for great drama here but I must be truthful; it felt for awhile that I was dying!  My Savior walked across the waters of my storm, grabbed me by the hand, and brought me safely to shore. The only difference is, I’m not standing in sand anymore. No, I’m standing on the Rock of my salvation, Jesus Christ!

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Like Chickens with Their Heads Cut Off

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The last two days have felt like something I witnessed as a child at my grandmother’s farm.  We were going to have fresh fried chicken for dinner this day and so of course, the chickens had to be butchered!  I followed my grandma out to the chicken coop where she quickly grabbed a couple of those plump chickens, methodically walked over to a tree stump there for just such moments, and with one skillful blow of the hatchet, chopped off a head and slammed the now headless chicken between a table in the yard and the back of the garage.  Pinned between the table and the building, their now headless bodies wriggled and flinched, legs scrambling in a useless attempt to get away.  As a child I was grossed out but fascinated at the same time; I finally understood where the saying, “like a chicken with its head cut off,” came from as the lesson wriggled there right in front of me.  The last two days I felt like those chickens.  Flailing mercilessly at an unseen opponent, not knowing whether to turn to the right or the left and, if I actually turned, I still wouldn’t know which way to go.

What do we do as Christians, when life changes and we find ourselves thrust into a situation that is foreign and uncomfortable, perhaps even seeming almost dangerous at the first? We do what our entire lives of listening to our pastors has taught us – run to Jesus! While I’m not going to give you a specific account of what my past two days contained, I’d like to share my process in the hopes you will gain a new strategy when you next find yourself in a “headless” state.

The news hit. My initial reaction was one of total dismay and almost simultaneously, emotions. OK, I get it, I’m a woman and I was made with emotions. A man might react differently, as my husband in fact did. While he remained calm, I fell apart. My mind catastrophized the incident; I went to every single negative place my mind could imagine as a result of this news. My husband, well I can’t rightly say where his mind went because he didn’t share much with me initially. I guess he was chewing, trying to get his logical mind around the situation.

Funny thing was that in spite of what I saw as very disturbing information, I was aware that I wanted, more than anything, for Jesus to show up in the mess. “What do you want me to do Lord? Where do I begin to unravel this mess?” I pleaded with God. I heard nothing. Coincidentally (I’m only using this word because it fits the moment, but not for even one second do I truly believe that when I cry out to Jesus, the things which follow are a coincidence), this day I received two phone calls. One from a Christian brother in our body, offering a “word from the Lord” for me. The word? It was a truly uplifting and wonderful word from the Lord, a true prophetic word of encouragement. The second call was from a Christian sister, also from our body, telling much the same as the first. As uplifting as both these calls were, they almost seemed like nonsense under the weight of what my husband and I were dealing with.

The next day was about the same. Same foreboding thoughts, same emotional response. That evening, yet another message from God from a very unsuspecting and kind man, who really had no idea what his message brought in the way of encouragement and comfort. The odd thing about all three of these contacts was they literally came out of left field. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve had someone in my church come up to me with a prophetic word! It’s probably been almost eight years ago when I was dealing with cancer and loving brothers and sisters in the Lord were interceding for me in that journey. It is with this in mind that I refute the coincidental nature of these words. I have walked with the Lord too long; whatever follows any cry to my Savior, has turned out to be His divine process in action and it is all to be savored.

So, three days into this the fog has lifted. Is it still disturbing? Yes. Is it still confounding? Yes. Do I have any inkling as to the outcome? No, not yet. But here’s where I land in the midst of this thing. I am to continue walking. I cannot guarantee it will be in a straight line because I don’t know what is waiting just around the corner in this unfolding drama. What I’ve come back to is that, in part because my sweet, sweet Lord saw fit to deliver three messages to me from people who have no idea what it’s all about, there is a way through. My job is to get my wits out of the drama of it and decide what the best course of action is – at this particular moment in time. Whatever comes from walking through this, I know He’s walking with me.

So, the line of defense is this:

1) Cry out to Jesus. Don’t wait. Don’t try to be strong. Just go to Him and tell Him what’s on your heart.
2) Allow yourself to settle in the process. Waiting two days was a torture of sorts, but I truly didn’t know what to do. So I went on with life as usual and continued praying about the situation.
3) Look for the Lord in the midst of the problem. In this case, it was the delivery of three distinct messages, sent from people in my life. I wasn’t absolutely sure of their meaning, so I continued on.
4) Determine the next logical step. For my husband and I, the next step was to go to our covering (our pastor) for his input.
5) Get into the Bible. We are searching through the Word for His truths. Our pastor gave us some really good advice on what to look for. Sometimes the relevance of the Word might look difficult to grasp but it really does address our needs in all areas of our lives. If you need help with this aspect, do not hesitate to go to your pastor or someone who is well versed in the Word for help.
6) Walk. We recognize this one is going to be a journey; it cannot be resolved today. So, we must continue on with our life as usual and we must trust that He is guiding us to what we need in this situation. We will continue to touch base with our pastor as we go.

If need be, go back to step one and start all over again!

I hope this might help you in your walk with Jesus. I may need to come back to this in a few days and remind myself of what I just said. But here’s the good news: I don’t feel like the headless chicken anymore. My peace is back. God wants me to have victory through this because He’s on my side. Hallelujah, His victories are coming!

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27 (NKJV)

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)