1. How can I know that God is speaking?

May 24, 2019 …
Have you ever felt FRUSTRATED, because you feel that you CAN’T FIGURE OUT when God is saying SOMETHING that deserves your attention?
Do you ever feel like YOUR PRAYERS are “hitting the ceiling”?
Well, you can read any number of BOOKS  about prayer. I’m sure there are many GOOD ONES out there that you may find HELPFUL. You can find SERMONS online about PRAYER and get MANY PERSPECTIVES on what works for certain individuals.
I’ve BEEN THERE. I understand those feelings. I’ve done ALL OF THOSE THINGS … and I’ve felt like GIVING UP.  Crying helps sometimes. Getting CLOSE TO NATURE helps … sometimes.
Going through TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS can motivate me to PRAY MORE and listen HARDER. But I’ve always had trouble with SUCCESS when it comes consistency and FAITHFULNESS.  Always.
Can you relate?
If your ANSWER is YES, then please bear with me for a bit while I SHARE with you WHAT HAPPENED in my life that GRABBED HOLD of something inside me, which caused AN IRREVERSIBLE CHANGE in my confidence regarding HOW GOD SPEAKS and WHEN we should know TO PAY ATTENTION.
I can point to 3 SIGNIFICANT EVENTS in the past 25 YEARS that have brought me to THIS POINT:
1. God grabbed me at one of my LOWEST POINTS — I’m talking about HEALTH, loss of CONTROL in my relationships, and concern and FEAR about my FUTURE. And MY HEAVENLY FATHER “suggested” that I notice HIS VERY SUBTLE HINTS that He wanted to be in control of my journey. 
2. Something happened that gave me COMMON GROUND with individuals WORLDWIDE — September 11th, 2001. But it wasn’t until 2012 when the The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn was published that I began mentally assembling THE PUZZLE, which PROVED that I could ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that GOD WAS actually SPEAKING.
3.  Fast forward to MAY 6, 2018.  I had become A SURVIVOR. I had been through 2 surgeries plus 30 days of radiation to remove CANCER from my body. I had been through an EMOTIONAL MELTDOWN that resulted in a much needed RELATIONSHIP RESET with my husband of 45 years. I had experienced NAVIGATIONAL RECALIBRATION, and I thought I had handled it well … enough.  THEN I LEARNED about the existence of the QANON MOVEMENT. I became aware that GOD HAS A PLAN for America and the world, and my life has changed FOREVER.
The good news FOR YOU: You don’t have to go through all of that, because I have learned enough about the MINISTRY THAT GOD ASSIGNED TO ME that I can walk you through the “basics” of HOW WE CAN KNOW WHAT GOD IS SAYING TO US and HOW IT IS RELEVANT to every man, woman, and child (born and in the womb) on planet Earth!

I will tell you more about #1 in my next article in this series, so please hang with me.

 

 

5. The End of the Rope?

“When you’re up to your waist in alligators,
 it’s difficult to remember that your main objective
 was to drain the swamp.”
— Anonymous

 

I sat on the edge of the bed and cried.

Why was he being so stubborn?

Why was I being so sensitive?

Why did he have to have everything his way?

Why did I sulk whenever I didn’t get my way?

Father God, I’m shaking again. I hate it when this trembling takes control of my hands, my legs, my shoulders, my thoughts … my jaw! My mouth can’t even form words!

I’ve tried doctors, pastors, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a marriage counselor, anti-depressants, silence, shouting, tears, sleep … prayer.

I am the Lord your God.

I know.

Who teaches you what is best for you….

Actually, I’d be willing to settle for ‘better.’

Who directs you in the way you should go.

I tried doing that. It was scary.

Follow Me.

But I’m afraid.

I AM the Way.

Are You absolutely sure there’s no other route?

I AM the Truth.

Truth can be terribly painful.

I AM the Life.

My life doesn’t seem worth the effort.

Lord, I’m at the end of my rope. My hands are burning. It seems like I’ve been hanging on for such a long time, and I’m so very tired. Please help me to let go and trust You to catch me …

At that moment, my body stopped trembling. My hands lay perfectly still in my lap.        A tingling sensation began flowing from my fingertips to my elbows, and I knew. I was  supernaturally giving Jesus permission to take His rightful position as Lord of my life.    I had allowed Him to catch me.

“In this world
you will have trouble.
But take heart!
I have overcome the world.”

Jesus (John 16:33)

A RUST REMOVER …

Read Matthew 26:38-42. Notice that Jesus pleaded with His Father to come up with some other way to save you and me from the fate of eternal death. Now think about this: How did the Father God answer His only Son’s desperate prayers?

 

 

 

 

 

4. Boot Camp

“In the hard times,
we learn to hold on to Jesus.”
— Wayne Watson

 

I’d been married to Prince Charming for five long years when I began to notice that there was an increasing absence of “color” in my world. In the mid-1970s, nursery monitors had yet to be invented, and word was out that children were dying from a mysterious medical condition known as SIDS — Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

I felt convicted to wake up periodically during every night to make sure my babies were still breathing.

My overall energy level was  reduced considerably simply by working to still my mind and fall asleep. Then it dipped lower each time I slung my feet over the edge of the bed, left the comforting warmth of my covers — both of my children were infants during winter — and shuffle to the basinet in the adjoining nursery. In retrospect, it occurs to me that I could have simply moved the basinet into the master bedroom to alleviate my anxiety. But in 1974 and 1977 that simply was not done.

At that time, most husbands didn’t get up during the night to help care for babies.  That was the mother’s responsibility. Husbands were the “providers” for the homemakers and however many kids that were spawned. We were just coming out of the era where men came home from work to the newspaper, pipe and slippers that awaited him after a hard day. Though Chuck didn’t smoke a pipe and preferred bare feet to slippers, he was still of the 1950’s mindset and felt he needed his sleep.

So I had abundant opportunities, while rocking my babies through the night into the early  hours of morning, to ponder the shadows and cold shades of gray that surrounded and taunted me. And I did a lot of contemplating — my past, my present, and my doubts about what my future would hold.

Now I understand that brooding was not a good thing for my emotional well-being.

One day, as I dejectedly trudged past the doorway to Lisa’s bedroom with a stack of folded laundry in my arms, I heard her three-year-old voice pretending to talk into her toy telephone (with a coiled cord and circular dial). “I don’t know what’s wrong.” She spoke with a serious tone. “I just cry and cry all the day.”

I suddenly felt icy cold, and I remember thinking, “I cannot pass this dreadful legacy on to my daughter!” At that moment, my journey changed course. I set out on a mission to convince my husband that we had a problem, and he could no longer remain oblivious.

Things went on as usual until one day when my emotions collapsed, taking us both by surprise. Since it was actually my problem, our first attempt at a solution was for me to see a random psychologist.  She turned out to be a non-practicing Jew who recommended that I buy dishes at a yard sale, go into the garage, and smash them against the concrete. That would relieve the frustrations that I’d been feeling. When I declined to do that, she recommended I see her colleague, a psychologist who charged $60 for 1/2 hour, who could prescribe an antidepressant (to lift my emotions) and Valium (to level them out). That did not go well either.  So Chuck agreed to go with me to a Christian counselor.

Dr. Goode was a man of God who attempted to help us view our conflicts from a Christ-like perspective. But he also recognized the psychological issues at play that were rooted in the post-World War II idealism and the turbulent leftovers of the 1960s culture war that had taken a toll on both Chuck and me. There were also undercurrents of a very basic instinct — fear.

I learned during the counseling process that I was afraid of so many things, I’d become shrouded in negativity. And in a rare candid moment, Chuck admitted the he feared losing me. That’s why he had smothered me with protective behavior from the beginning of our union. His admission didn’t magically fix our damaged relationship, but it helped me better understand a complex part of the problem and provided momentum toward healing.

A technique called “guided imagery” was effective in addressing my severe depression. Dr. Goode led me through a number of positive visualizing exercises to “reprogram” my horribly negative thought patterns. Slowly, it became easier for me to sidestep fear and decline the company of depressing mindsets. And, once again, I began noticing vibrant colors displayed in the world around me.

I’ve heard from those with experience in the military, that Boot Camp is agonizing. However, the process is necessary in order to prepare for even tougher things to come.

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.

    Those who know your name will trust in you;
for you, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”

    (Psalm 9:9-10)

 

A RUST REMOVER: For one week, keep a journal of the emotions you experience during each 24-hour time period. Keep your entries brief, perhaps just an arrow pointing up or down and a squiggly line for moments of anxiety. Include the time of day, and in parentheses try to identify what may have caused you to feel that way. At the end of seven to ten days, study what you wrote and see if a pattern appears. Then ask the Holy Spirit to help you use the information that you’ve gathered as a tool to handle pitfalls with greater success.

3. Christ-Centered Confidence

“Here is Christian identity; I know the world is filled with troubles and injustices,
 I know my past, where I came from. … I came from God.
 I know my future. My destiny is in Christ.
 And I know the present. I can face myself now — my problems, my assets, my faults —
 Because I have turned myself over to God.”
— Leighton Ford

 

Peter was 23 years old when he graduated from Biola University in Los Angeles and began his first ministerial job. The Sunday before he was to address the congregation for the first time, Peter was introduced to as elderly gentleman who didn’t know he had been hired as the new youth pastor.

“I saw that name in the worship folder this morning,” the man recalled. Then he asked Peter, “Is it your father who’s preaching this morning?”

The young pastor flashed a respectful smile and replied, ” No sir, I’m going to preach next Sunday.”

I can relate. On the identity trek from youth to adulthood, I started out as “Ed and Barbara’s daughter.” Then I graduated to “Chuck’s wife” and “Leonard and Harriet’s daughter-in-law.” When my children were born, I became “Lisa and Jonathan’s mommy.” So in my late teens and early twenties, I joined the ranks of 1970s women who were beginning to buck cultural tradition and pose the question, “Who am I really?”

The trend actually started for me in junior high school. I adored the short stories of writers like Edgar Allen Poe and Alfred Hitchcock, and Rod McKuen’s poetry seemed every bit as and haunting and mystifying to my impressionable spirit. They were craftsmen who searched the soul with carefully chosen words, leaving it to the imagination of their readers to determine the true meaning of their ramblings. Their writings challenged my fragile concept of truth and stoked my adolescent passions.

In those days, I effortlessly allowed myself to become infected with “wallflower syndrome.” I would often hear the words of Emily Dickenson’s poem, “I’m Nobody,” meandering through my thoughts: I’m nobody. Who are you? Are you nobody too? Then there are two of us, but don’t tell. They’d banish us, you know.”

I gathered tidbits of what I considered profound wisdom, wrote the words on colorful squares of paper, and tucked them into the decorated container that I called my “thought box.” These I kept as fodder for the dark times that were beginning to claim my mind in various ways.

It was a few years later during my “Lisa’s mommy” stage when dour mental clouds began casting terrifying shadows across my thoughts — darkening days… then weeks… and then my baby was suddenly eighteen months old. It became difficult to recall happy times. I became easily agitated and increasingly sad. So I went to a primary care doctor who told me not to worry. “You’ve got mother-of-a-two-year-old syndrome,” he said with little emotion. “You’ll get over it eventually.”

As I navigated my way back home through a blur of tears, I questioned his diagnosis. My daughter was six month away from turning two, and I could not have special ordered a more delightful child. There had to be another answer. A couple of years later, my darling son was born by C-section, as was his sister. And like his sister, he was mellow and fun to be with. Jonathan was merely two months old when a more menacing sort of darkness moved in. Happy thoughts were few, and it seemed as though every wisp of joy was being suctioned from my personality.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit patiently guided me away from the lure of psychologically damaging literature, and I recognized it was best for me to run away from somber prose. But it would take many more years  — with the help of seasoned professionals, appropriate medication, and continuing intervention from the Holy Spirit — to evict the destructive mindset I’d implanted in my subconscious during my tweens and teens. And it would be even longer before I could truly comprehend the reality that words on a published page do not necessarily portray truth.

“Say to those who prophesy out of
their own imagination:
‘Hear the word of the Lord!'”

(Ezekiel 13:2)

A RUST REMOVER …

During the Holocaust, an unidentified young girl wrote this: “From tomorrow on I shall be sad. From tomorrow on, not today. Today I will be glad, and every day, no matter how bitter it may be, I shall say: From tomorrow on I shall be sad — not today.”  That’s a wonderful attitude to have — if you’re genetically inclined toward a positive mindset. But sometimes mere determination and positive thinking cannot dispel feelings of sadness and hopelessness. If you can smile as you read this young girl’s journal entry, penned during one of the most dangerous and depressing times in world history, then you probably just need some cheering up when you feel down. However, if you are continually burdened with oppressive sadness that lasts for more than several days, you should consider the possibility that you are suffering from treatable, clinical depression and could benefit from professional help.

My prayer for you — right now — is that the Holy Spirit will help you discern one state of mind from another. And that He will guide you to the caregivers who can give you the best advice. In Jesus’ Name!

2. Fall In!

“I know the world is filled with troubles and injustices,
 but reality is a beautiful as it is ugly …
 I just couldn’t write anything without hope in it.”
— Oscar Hammerstein II
 

 

Before we were married, Prince Charming and I didn’t talk much about finances. We didn’t discuss owning pets or the fine art of buying gifts in connection with birthdays, holidays, bridal and baby showers, anniversaries, et cetera, et cetera. We didn’t exchange ideas concerning how we would resolve personality conflicts, furnish and equip our home, or raise our children (he wanted five kids BEFORE we had our first).

I wasn’t concerned though, because in fairy tales people don’t worry about stuff like that. They just look forward to “happily ever after.”

Prior to the “I dos,” I didn’t think to ask my beloved how he felt about me driving his cherished “Tri-power, Four-speed, 1964 Pontiac Catalina 2=2.” It never crossed my mind that when he did allow me to drive it, there would be limitations. For example, I would not be permitted to drive the car outside our city’s boundary limits … without a fight. I had assumed that I would go to community college and eventually realize my dream of becoming an elementary school teacher…. Nope. He was afraid that his car’s precious paint job would somehow suffer scratches during its idle time in the parking lot. And discerning his theological worldview had seemed like a no-brainer, since we had both grown up in the same church…. More to come on that note.

How could I have known that my job description as wife and homemaker would include turning away door-to-door salesmen — even when they managed to convince me that the product they were selling was absolutely necessary for the advancement and enhancement of my (very limited) homemaking skills? And why was it so unreasonable to want to spend my piddly part-time job paycheck on things that I viewed as important, instead of contributing it toward paying for groceries and utilities?

In addition to putting the toilet paper roll on “backwards,” Prince Charming irritatingly expected me to write a check for every purchase I made. Rather than buying maple syrup at the store like most “reasonable” people, he insisted that I concoct it by adding sugar and maple flavoring to boiled water, like his mother had always done when struggling to feed her five children on a shoestring budget.

I was 18. Chuck was 21. And neither of us had a clue that both of us had a lot of growing up to do.

My first step toward marital maturity involved a few dollars stored in a metal tea bag can, which I squirreled away in the kitchen cupboard (behind the homemade syrup). I’m a word engineer, not a math whiz, but it didn’t take me long to figure out that a girl simply can’t function on a daily basis without at least a small amount of cash on hand. My survival instincts kicked it … and suddenly I was entrusted with custody of our checkbook. (Debit cards would not be in use for decades!)

I quickly came up with a very simple alternative.

The first time I decided to overwrite the grocery check and get unnoticed cash back, I had a really hard time living with myself. But I found that with each transaction, the deception became easier. With every passing week, as I stashed away a few more dollars, I would condone my deceit by reasoning that I had no education beyond high school — no fault of my own —  and no marketable skills that I knew of, so if I ever felt desperate enough to bail out of my not-so-fairytale-like marriage, I would need some secret money!

After a few months of emotional turmoil tearing through my guilty-feeling gut — and a sermon on proper wifely submission — I began to realize that my secret cache was not giving me the peace of mind that I’d hoped for. I wasn’t trusting God to provide for my needs (and desires). I was working out my Plan B, just in case God’s Plan A didn’t pan out to my satisfaction.

The next Sunday when the offering plate was passed, I relinquished my meager savings to the Lord, and I felt like one of Jericho’s walls had come crashing down. Of course my naïve, simple-minded gesture didn’t resolve my marital conflicts, but I experienced a significant victory in a crucial spiritual battle.

Chuck and I have managed to stay together for more than four decades, through better and worse, richer and poorer, sickness and health. We’ve encountered lots of frustrating speed bumps, challenging hurdles, and even some roadblocks along the way. But we are still growing and maturing in our faith in each other and in our Lord Jesus Christ. We continue to learn how we can respect each other’s uniqueness and reap rewarding — often unexpected — benefits.

My husband takes care of me. His wife takes care of him, And together we recognize that God takes care of us both, especially during the toughest of times.

 

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are my ways your ways,’
declares the Lord. 
‘As the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.'”

(Isaiah 55:8-9)

A RUST REMOVER …

When an “irritation” threatens to ruin your morning … your day … a relationship … a special event … read Philippians 4:8-9 and practice thinking an alternative thought — something positive to help remind you that things probably aren’t as bad as they seem. Give God control of your mood, your attitude, and every moment that is to come during the next 2 hours … 12 hours … 24 hours. Then write yourself a note of reminder: REPEAT THE PROCESS!