SOUP OR SALAD

Three friends, whose names I have changed to protect the guiltless and slightly goofy, and myself visited our local IHOP after church one Sunday evening. When our server arrived to take our order we were engaged in conversation about the soon coming of the Lord and the changes we are experiencing here in the States.

Bob’s choice was from the dinner menu. Making note, the server asked him if he preferred the soup or salad with his meal.

“No, thank you,” Bob replied, “that’s a lot of food already.”

“That’s fine, but it comes with the meal if you want it.” The friendly young man was making sure Bob understood there would be no extra charge.

His mother, Naomi, helped talk him into it, “You may as well get it, Bob. If you don’t eat it here you can take it with you and have it later at home.” Bob’s girlfriend Mary seconded the motion.

“Okay, then,” Bob gave in, “I’ll take it.”

“Soup or salad?” The server dared not speculate which it might be.

“Yes.”

Pause for a moment of silence and join four out of five people in this scene who are now looking at Bob through confused expressions, but saying not a word. He doesn’t notice a thing because he’s looking downward across the table as he gathers our menus to return to the server.

“Okay, so you want the soup or salad?” the server tried again.

“I said, ‘yes’, I’ll take it.” Aren’t you paying attention?

“Right, soup or salad?”

Still preoccupied, Bob looks up at the server determined to get through to him, “I’ve already told you to bring it.”

A hushed, but desperate cry for help was evident in the server’s eyes as he looked around the table at the rest of us. “Please, help him understand. I’m a good server. I need a good tip. Pushing him to make a choice isn’t making him happy. Help me.” Yep, I believe all three of us heard the poor guy’s silent plea, the final SOS resounding long and slow in desperation.

Bob obviously noticed the silence and looked up at the rest of us.

Though I instructed my matter-of-fact poker face to expose itself, sheer bewilderment was stronger and pushed out my “are-you-kidding-me?” expression.  After all, this was no dummy here. Bob is intelligent and usually right on top of things, the kind who often catches things others miss. So while I did manage to subdue laughter with a hand over my mouth, I couldn’t help staring at him baffled.

Naomi and Mary could not conceal the fact that they were just as perplexed as I, but their expressions were accompanied by chuckles and giggles they were no longer able to contain. They tried to assist, in unison asking, “Do you want the soup or salad?”

Bob had enough. Frustration demanded, “I said ‘yes, I do,’ so why is everyone giving me such a hard time about a salad?”

Finally Mary was able to dissolve the blockage. “You have to tell him which one. Which one do you want, the soup or the salad?”

The save of a lifetime. Immediately composed, Bob looked nonchalantly up at the server as though the previous minute or two had never taken place. “I’ll have the salad, please, with ranch dressing,” he offered calmly as he handed the menus to the young man.

Anxious to get away from our table, the server expressed his thanks and announced that the salads would be right out. He turned and headed for the kitchen where I’m certain he wiped the sweat from his brow. With him out of earshot, Bob’s exasperation returned.

“I feel like such an idiot,” he confessed as his hands formed a plate sized circle in the air to illustrate. “I thought the whole time he was asking me if I wanted the super salad!”

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

23 Let the person who has ears listen!”
24 He (Jesus) went on to say, “Pay attention to what you’re listening to! Knowledge will be measured out to you by the measure of attention you give. This is the way knowledge increases. Mark 4:23,24 GOD’S WORD Translation

All of us make a lot of mistakes. If someone doesn’t make any mistakes when he speaks, he would be perfect. He would be able to control everything he does. James 3:2 GOD’S WORD Translation

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.   1 Corinthians 14:33

Till next time,

June

No More Tears

After many years, the scene remains a great source of encouragement to me. I don’t remember what I was praying about or studying at the time, nor do I remember my own emotional state. I recall only that suddenly before me I saw God the Father seated upon His throne. I was in Heaven.

On His right side shelves adorned with ornate carvings at each corner stood as tall and magnificent as would be seen in any palace. Their end exceeded my line of sight. And on those shelves were bottles – yes, bottles – more than I could count.

They were beautiful, elaborately designed in every deep, rich color imaginable. The finest hand crafted stained glass windows in the world would appear faded and drab in comparison. Some of them had jewels attached, some were adorned with gold chains wrapped around their rounded bottoms or at the base of their long, cylindrical necks. And they were of every size – some very small, some very large, and some of every size in between.

“How odd,” I remember thinking, “God has a room He decorates with bottles, of all things.” I wondered if these bottles were somehow designed or crafted by His children. If He displays our handiwork like we do that of our own to assure them they did a good job and we are proud.

I wasn’t exactly right, but I was close.

Close to the throne on the left side, I would estimate only six to eight feet away, was a pool with a softly flowing current. My first thought was the relaxing lazy river rides at so many water parks. It was like a stream or slow flowing river, but in the floor of the throne room. The water was crystal clear. And like the shelves, this pool appeared endless. I imagined it must extend throughout all of Heaven itself.

Then I noticed the people. An extraordinarily long line of people. People young and people old. People fat and people thin. People from all around the world talking one with another as they waited their turn with Father. And you don’t want to miss what happened next.

I watched those folks one by one step up to the throne. Very close they came, looking God right in the eye. What did He do? God actually reached out and hugged every single one of them. He pulled each one close and held them as though He had waited for them a very long time.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15

They would weep – tears of relief, joy, and gratitude no doubt. As the embrace ended and they stood looking at Him once again, the most incredible thing took place.

The angel approached with a bottle in his hands and stood next to Father. I somehow knew the angel didn’t just randomly choose a bottle, but the one he brought forward was the one that belonged to the person now standing before God. I watched God reach out with both His hands and touch each person’s eyes. He then took the bottle from the angel, removed the ornate top, turned it upside down and poured its contents on the feet of that person.

The watery contents splashed over and around their feet and creating a puddle. In comparison to the bottles it was poured from, some were small, but some so large it appeared the very throne of God would certainly sink into the lake forming at its base. That wet patch then developed into a crystal clear water-filled path that led to the main pool. The person waded barefoot along the path to where the water ran gently around their feet and down a few steps into the lazy river. They travelled down the moving water to wherever this endless flow took them far beyond my scope of vision.

I saw so many people in that pool. Some standing to laugh and talk with passers-by, others jumping and dancing and rejoicing; still others just laying atop the water floating peacefully downstream.

As if noticing me for the first time, the angel looked at me as he headed to the throne with yet another bottle in his hands. Obviously aware of my wonder, he said simply, “Tear bottles.” Then it was gone. I was home again. Or awake. Or alert. Or whatever.

You have kept record of my days of wandering. You have stored my tears in your bottle and counted each of them. Psalm 56:8 CEV

They were not tears shed of anger or greed or not having our own way. They are tears shed because of legitimate sorrow and heartbreak, and tears shed on behalf of others. This is why the bottles were different sizes. Some of us suffer more than others. Some of us carry more of a burden for the lost and for the kingdom of God than do others. But all were rewarded and healed of the wounds.

And all were reminded there will be no more tears, ever.

For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. Revelation 7:17

To make that promise sure, God reached over with His own hands and removed their tear ducts (okay, I’m taking some liberty here – but we won’t need tear ducts in heaven), thereby drying all their tears. Then He poured those tears out to be remembered no more, bringing to pass this promise:

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. Psalm 126:5

I wish many times and again that I could describe it as I still see it. To explain the sheer magnitude of the love when God reached forward to hug each person. One by one, He took time for them, not rushing them along so He could hurry and get to the end of line. On the contrary. It was though He held each one until every iota of their pain was obliterated. Then, the happiness on each face as they joined the others in the pool. I can scarcely maintain composure even now just to write about it. I am so happy for everyone there. And knowing I’ll be there, too – indescribable joy.

Sometimes we deal with intense grief and sorrow. Most every day we deal with some level of disappointment about something. But soon that is all going to be put behind us never to be thought about again. How God will accomplish this only He knows. All we need to know is that He is going to.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Revelation 21:4

Hopefully I’ll see you there. We’ll enjoy a dip in the pool together.

Won’t it be wonderful there? Having no burdens to bear.
Joyously singing with heart bells all ringing. O, won’t it be wonderful there?
James Rowe and Homer F. Morris, 1930

Till next time,
June

Improv Gone Bad

Though I can’t remember why, my young friend Bobby Reynolds and I decided to act out the often told joke Forrest Gump Goes to Heaven at church one evening. A spur of the moment idea with no rehearsal, but we were both familiar with the joke and both a little on the hammy side (Bobby more so than I) so we knew it would be fine.

Young, handsome, and never without a quick-witted response, Bobby played Forrest and I portrayed the angelic host at the pearly gates. “Fine” sounded like this:

“My name’s Forrest, Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump.”

“Well, hello Forrest Gump. Welcome,” I looked for his name on my imaginary list. “Ah, here you are. Says here that before I can let you into heaven you have to pass a test.”

“Didn’t know nothing about no test.”

Responding to the concern on Bobby’s face, I continue. “Oh, don’t worry. It’s just three simple questions for you to answer. I’m sure you’ll pass with flying colors. Ready?”

“Except colors don’t really fly. Mama always said stay ready for anything, so ready, set, go.”

“Okay then, the first question is, how many days of the week begin with the letter T?

Bobby – oops, I mean Forrest – tilted his head upward, eyes squinted, and rubbed his chin. “Hmm…days of the week that begin with T…hmm.” A huge smile brightened his face, “I’ve got it! Two. The answer is two.”

“Two. That’s corr–”

“Today and Tomorrow,” he quickly interjected with no doubt in his tone.

“Today and Tomorrow? Well, that’s not exactly…oh never mind, let’s just stick with ‘two’,” I said, shaking my head. “After all, I didn’t ask you to name them, just count them. Moving on to the next question.”

Forrest nervously rubbed his hands together and awaited his next question, which I read from the invisible paper on my invisible clip board. “All right, Forrest, now this one is a bit tougher. How many seconds are in a year?”

Seeing his distress, I reassured him, “Just take your time and think about it. We’re not in any hurry here.”

So he did. He paced and mumbled and worked imaginary math problems in the air with his finger. Then he popped his forehead with his hand as though reminding himself he could have a V-8®. “I know the answer. This was a tough question, but I have figured it out in my head. There are twelve seconds in a year.”

Staying in character despite wanting to laugh at the expression on his face, I asked in bewilderment, “Twelve? How on earth did you conclude there are twelve seconds in a year?”

“We’re not on earth, sir. This is Heaven.”

Oh great, I walked into that one. Okay, I’ll play along. “I beg your pardon, Forrest Gump who people call Forrest Gump. Let me rephrase the question. How in Heaven did you conclude that there are only twelve seconds in a year?”

It was becoming more difficult not to snicker along with the congregation as so matter-of-factly Forrest replied, holding up one finger at a time so we could count along, “January second, February second, March second–”

“Enough!” I grabbed his hand before finger number four could release itself from the fist.

“Maybe I need to be more specific when I ask these questions. However, I am going to give you credit for that since I was not specific and your answer is – well, it isn’t wrong. But now Forrest, it is very important that you get this last question right, and it is the most difficult of the three. So be very careful and remember, you can take all the time you need.”

“Okay, sir.”

“For the right of passage through these great pearly gates into the majestic wonder of Heaven…” I asked as though I were auditioning to host a game show, “tell me, Forrest, what is God’s first name?”

Without hesitation Forrest blurts out, “Oh, that’s easy – Howard,” he rocked heel to toe in triumph.

The bewilderment on my face was not part of the act. “Howard? Howard? What are you talking about, ‘Howard’?”

“That’s His name, Howard.”

It’s not Howard, it’s Andy!”

“Andy?” He was not willing to accept that answer.

Unbeknownst to the people occupying the pews, Forrest and the angel left the building at that moment. Bobby and June now stood before them. I’m sure they were all thinking what great actors we were as our confused tones were now loud and genuine. The debate continued with neither of us willing to budge.

“Andy? Are we telling the same joke, here?” He was as muddled as I.

Uh-oh. The people figured it out. Amidst the hilarity we heard a few call out, “Well? Which is it? Do we call Him Howard or Andy?” “Yeah,” another inquired, “does Forrest get to go to Heaven or not?”

I directed my response to Bobby’s question, “Yes, we have to be telling the same joke. You just don’t know the punch line.”

“Yes, I do,” he argued, “it’s Howard. Andy? Where does that come from?”

Time for a song. I burst into the much-loved hymn, “Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me…”

Laughing so hard he had to brace himself on the dais hand rail, Bobby was determined to have the last word, “Oh! I get it.” He composed himself in order to stand his ground, looked me in the face, and assured me I was wrong. Calmly, but firmly, he explained.

“The correct answer is Howard. And not because of some song, but because the Bible says so. Our Father who art in heaven, Howard be thy name.”

Touché Forrest, touché.

I will bow down [in worship] toward Your holy temple And give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word together with Your name. Psalm 138:2 AMP

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV

Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. Colossians 4:6 KJV

Robert “Bobby” Reynolds, I am blessed to know you. Thank you for your dedication and service to God, country, family, and friends.

Till next time,

June

 

 

Some Facts About Fruit

Christians speak often about the importance of bearing good fruit, and important it is. Galatians 5 provides a faithful reminder of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.
Fruit to be evident in our lives.

There seems to be something, though, not often included in our fruit-bearing training: what happens to the fruit once it is ripened on the tree. Through everyday experience and exposure, our great Teacher has enlightened me to some important truths about fruit.

For starters, it will be inspected. Just as we check for bruises, our lives will be examined. Like we squeeze to make sure the fruit is ripe and juicy, people will critique our attitudes and behavior. They will pay attention to how we respond to the world around us and situations in our lives.

Most of us don’t like that at all. We call it “judging”. Jesus expressed it as acceptable to evaluate one another’s actions when He said, “…for the tree is known by his fruit.” (Matthew 12:33)   Judging as we should not runs deeper, to the root.

Once our fruit has passed inspection the real fun begins. Somebody needs or wants it. We feel good about that, happy to be of service to the kingdom of God – until the reaping begins.

Think about how fruit is removed from a tree. Occasionally, a gentle hand reaches up in appreciation of its find and ever so carefully confiscates the needed nutrition. But that’s not the norm.

Usually It’s twisted, pulled, and plucked. Often the tree is violently shaken until the coveted fruit falls to the ground where it can be easily gathered.  Remaining joyful or gentle is seldom easy. I’m sure you can think of at least one someone who has tried your patience and pushed your self-control to its limit.

Feel like you’ve been pulled on, plucked, and shaken?

And that’s not all.  Think about what you do with your own fruit once you get it home.

It gets chopped, diced, and drained. It is pulverized into smoothies or smashed into juice. As if that’s not bad enough, sometimes it just sits until it rots, after which it becomes food for the sharp blades of a garbage disposal or thrown in the trash.

I used to get angry about the way people treated my fruit once they removed it from this tree. You know you’re feeling this same way when thoughts of being taken advantage of and unappreciated cross your mind.

There may be times when the Holy Spirit will direct you to back away, at least for a while. But make sure the Holy Spirit is the Director. Too often when we feel like our good nature is being abused and misused, we fence it off or stop producing altogether.
We are to yield the fruit, not dictate what happens to it. When it gets tough, God’s grace is sufficient to see us through.

One more thing. The tree doesn’t choose who gets the fruit. It’s usually easy to love those we deem lovable, to be gentle with those we are fond of, and patient with those we care about.

Yet, those to whom it is harder to offer fruit are often those who need it most. The lack of love, joy, and peace in their own lives is frequently manifested by nasty, hostile behavior. Letting them consume your fruit may be the very thing that initiates a change of heart.

After pondering these truths you might wonder if bearing fruit is really worth the effort.
It is.  You see, we have promises of great reward when we bear fruit.

John 15:16 records one such promise spoken by Jesus, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”

Wow! Anything we ask in Jesus name can be ours if we maintain a fruitful life. Anything in line with His word, yes, but that includes everything we need and could ever desire – plus some!

And the greatest payment of all for our fruit? It makes us more like Christ.

Till next time –
June

Teeth Marks

A week or so ago I stopped by to see my friend, Honey.  It wasn’t out of my way, seeing as how Honey lives in a large cage in our family room.  She just so happens to belong haired guinea pig that belongs – so I’m told – to my grandson.

I don’t really speak Honey’s language.  It sounds to me like little more than a squeak-squeak here and a squeak-squeak there.  When I talk to her I try to speak a little softer than normal, afraid my voice might roar like thunder in her tiny ears.  Nonetheless, we look at other each eye-to-eye and share.  We understand each other.

I compliment her on her hair and ask if the boys have been taking good care of her.  Her cheerful demeanor and the lack of any offensive odors rising from her home answer that question for the most part.  Her round, bulging brown eyes add that she gets lonely sometimes, but for the most part life is good.  She thanks me for stopping by to get her out of the house for a bit.

We laugh together at the way she plays hard to get.  Knowing she can’t wait for my grandson to pick her up and play a while, when he first reaches into her cage she runs as fast as she can around and around.  She ducks behind her igloo for a second then darts back out again, screeching, “Catch me if you can!”

Finally she lets him grab hold and lift her gently out. She knows when she’s pushing him too far, and dares not let his frustration send him away.

Yep, Honey and I have become good friends. We visit most often when no one else is home.  It’s our quiet time.  My stop-over on that day was no different.

There we were, having a nice conversation as she rested in my hand, her little body stretched out on my arm.  I brought along some leaf lettuce, one of her favorite treats, so I was doing most of the talking that day.  She gave me her undivided attention though. She watched me intently as I spoke and gave me a high pitched response now and then as she reached out for her next bite and chewed like there was no tomorrow.

Once the lettuce was gone, she talked a little more as I smoothed her white hair down her back and scratched the brown patches behind her ears.  It was a nice visit, to say the least; two friends having a marvelously relaxing time together.

Then it happened.  Honey bit me!  She bit my finger and she bit down hard, as though driving her tiny teeth through a strip of rawhide.  She was likely well aware of how needle sharp her teeth are, but until that moment I had no idea.

I snatched my hand away in shock.  “Honey, what was that for?” I shouted at her as I quickly put – or should I say dropped – her back in her cage.  “That really hurt! What on earth possessed you?”

“What in the world?” I could not believe it when I looked at my finger.  Just behind the knuckle of my forefinger I saw blood.

Well, that may not mean much to you, but I just don’t bleed.  Every time I have to have blood drawn the technicians cringe, and on more than one occasion have called for help. Drawing my blood is like trying to siphon gas from a car with a straw.  My veins are tiny and hard to find, and the flow has been known to stop before the syringes are full.  Yet, there was blood forming a tiny puddle on my finger.  I thought for a minute I might actually need a Band-Aid.

I washed the blood away with a little water, dabbed the spot with a tissue, and then saw two tiny perfectly round holes in my flesh barely a quarter inch apart.  Looked like I had been attacked by a vampire action figure.  And in that minuscule spot between the two holes, my finger had that quickly swollen. A little mound had formed and colored itself red from the inside out.

“It’s okay, Honey,” feeling remorse for my reaction, “I don’t understand why you did it, but I know you didn’t mean to hurt me.

Didn’t understand was an understatement.  I was actually wondering what in that bee-bee sized brain of hers made her think it was necessary or even okay to bite my finger.  She had accidentally nipped us in the past when reaching for a bite of carrot or other treat in our hands, but she had never, ever just bit down hard or when no food was near.  She had certainly never drawn blood.  What was she thinking?

As I pondered my own question, I realized she would never intentionally hurt me. Yet, that one little bite did hurt.  It hurt a lot.  How could it cause so much pain?

You realize, I’m sure, this story is not just to warn you about the perils of raising a guinea pig.  It’s not really even about being careful who you befriend, although that is a good thing to do.  It’s about those who are our friends. Our good friends. Our true friends that we laugh with, cry with, share our dreams with and confide in.   It’s about those friends we push to succeed while feeling their hand on the small of our back doing the same for us.

And how we sometimes hurt each other. We don’t mean to.  But sometimes we do.  We allow stress, fatigue, poor health, heartbreak, fear, and other such emotions dominate us and before someone can toss us a Snickers Bar, we’re lashing out against the very ones we count on to stay close by.

The tiny, even accidental nicks from someone we love seem to cause far more pain than a deliberate slash from someone we don’t know or whom we care little about.  The best solution is to just not hurt one another at all.  To think before we speak and recognize the influence our emotions are having over us at the moment.  You know… the ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure thing.

But when we do, let’s be quick to forgive and help one another get back on track.

Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. Luke 23:34

Now, however, you should forgive him and encourage him, in order to keep him from becoming so sad as to give up completely.  2 Corinthians 2:7 (GNT)

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.  Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1, 2

Ten days ago and one of the holes is still there.  The bleeding stopped almost immediately, and the pain lasted but a few days.  Still, I can see and feel one scabbed-over bite mark and see a tiny scar from the other.  Wounds do take time to heal.  But it’s so very important that we let the healing come.

I didn’t stop my visits with Honey because of what she did.  I admit, I was a little cautious at first, but I know her.  I love her, she loves me.  Hurting one another is not part of the plan, but if it happens – forgiveness is.

June Yates-Boykin

FEEL FREE TO PRAY

“Lord, teach us to pray,” came the disciples’ plea. Jesus, undoubtedly pleased at their request, lovingly responded in that which has been called for centuries, “The Lord’s Prayer” (Luke 11).

When we desire a deep, personal relationship with our Savior, and to be an effective intercessor, learning to pray becomes a priority of our heart.  We can learn to pray more effectively. We can increase in fervency and knowledge. We can grow in understanding and rise to new spiritual heights of prayer.

However, in our passion to grow closer to Jesus and our eagerness to be of greater service, we often leave behind a most critical element of prayer – freedom. We are free in Jesus Christ to be ourselves; to be open and honest before our Lord. We are free to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead.

We can become overly focused on saying exactly the right words for exactly the right length of time. We can become too concerned with the precise balance of praise and petition, tears and rejoicing, prayers for self and prayers for others.

When this happens, we soon become frustrated with unsatisfactory efforts to get it right. Undue guilt plagues us as we blame ourselves for problems because we didn’t pray enough or according to the guidelines for success. Prayer soon becomes something we reluctantly mark off of an obligatory do list as opposed to what it should be – communion with our heavenly Father induced by love and desire. It’s all part of an awesome, personal relationship of love and grace.

An Irish peddler declaring he had found something equal to salvation was challenged to explain. “The companionship of the One who has saved me,” was the reply.

Anticipation, not of having to pray, but having the privilege to pray, will explode within us only when we fully understand how completely transparent we can be in God’s presence. Liberated from restrictions and rules, we can rejoice at the very idea of a rendezvous with our Lord. Prayer becomes the extraordinary in our ordinary day, the marvelous in the midst of our mundane.

I am a person who talks to God all the time and about everything. I enjoy His company and want to know His thoughts and will. But I also relish the special time that I set aside where my complete focus can on Him.

Every day I look forward to closing myself off from the rest of the world to spend time alone with my Father. It’s my favorite thing to do and I really miss it when life gets in the way and I cannot. My time with Him is part of my daily routine. What happens once I get there is not routine at all.

Some days I have it all together. Thanksgiving and petitions are presented in an almost systematic way and beautifully laced with Scripture. Some days I fall completely apart. I can do nothing but sob uncontrollably and utter a word here and there that, like those of Hannah, are formed on my lips but never escape my vocal chords (1 Samuel 1:10-15).

At times my prayer is offered completely in song and words of praise and rejoicing. Other times fervency, determination, and victory dominate. Occasionally, I simply sit down before Him and we share one with another, discussing matters of great importance as though we were chatting over a cup of tea.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the days when all of the above decide to manifest themselves in a single sitting!

One hour may pass, or two. On rare occasions, I find I have been there the entire morning. But it might have been twenty minutes, or fifteen. My schedule, although full, does allow me flexibility that you may not have. Still, we’re talking about freedom in our prayer life.

While sacrificial time is most often required, God does not hold you to standards that are impossible to meet. This is part of the freedom. I don’t enter into God’s presence declaring, “OK, God, I’ve got ten minutes to give You today, hope that’s enough.”

Nor does He say to me, “If you don’t pray two hours, you need not pray at all.”

Allowing the Holy Spirit to lead the way, I pray. When I feel in my spirit it is time to go, and when the Spirit releases me to do so, I go (never leaving my spirit of prayer behind). Remorse has come only when I allowed things of lesser importance to rush me out of the room before I felt the complete release of the Spirit.

Liberty in Christ doesn’t invite disrespect or disobedience. It isn’t demanding or self-gratifying. It is, however, an open door through which our hearts can join with His. It is an invitation to come as we are before the King. An opportunity to offer ourselves in as many different layers as form our personalities.

A story is told of a little girl who had just learned the alphabet. A missionary noticed the child on bended knee, and quietly approached only to hear her thoughtfully repeating the ABC’s again and again. God for sure learned the alphabet that day. When at last the little girl rose, the missionary asked why she had kept her repeating her ABC’s. She answered quite unashamed, “I felt that I should pray, and because I did not know how to pray, I repeated the letters of the alphabet, knowing that the great Lord would fit the letters together to make words out of them.”

This child wanted to pray. She hadn’t learned the rules. She hadn’t been taught Jesus’ pattern or the importance of praying the Word. But she understood freedom in the presence of her Father. If only she approached Him with what she had—herself—He would fill in the blanks. No fear. No shame. Just freedom to pray in whatever way her spirit told her was best.

Have you spent such special times with Jesus, led by the Spirit into a no-holds-barred arena of love where you expressed yourself openly, and in return received life-changing counsel? Where you offered yourself for service and were not rejected? Where you laughed or cried—or both? Have you unashamedly emptied your heart, even if it did sound like an over-achieving auctioneer with more merchandise than time to sell it? Have you bowed in silent awe to gaze upon the Father?

Continue your pursuit of effective prayer. In so doing, you will learn to pray the Word of God, you will learn keys to praying unselfishly and by the leading of the Spirit. You will learn to pray prayers of faith, not of fear or self-pity. And you will find excellent examples of prayers throughout the Bible for most every situation.

Use what you learn with a sincere heart, but don’t let it inhibit you. After a while, you will realize that what you learned has become evident in your prayer life.

Approach God always with love and reverence. After all, He is our creator and our God. Remember though, He is also our Father and our friend.

So by all means, feel free to pray.

till next time —

June   jyB Inspired.com

When the Mountain Talks Back

We’ve all stared at a huge mountain wondering what we were going to do about it. As far as we could see the rocky tower had our way blocked, and it reached to the sky.

Maybe there is one standing in front of you now.

Sometimes we create those mountains through sin or unwise choices. Others appear at no fault of our own. Either way, they rise up and stand in our way.

We can’t do a thing about them in our own power, we’ve tried. But there is nothing too hard for God. He assured us, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? …thou shalt become a plain.” (Zechariah 4:6,7).

Jesus explained just how to get the mighty Spirit of God working on our behalf to bring about victory when our problem seems unbeatable.

The disciples were amazed that the fig tree Jesus cursed earlier now stood dead. Matthew 21:21 shares His response, “Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.”

We convince ourselves that if God spoke to the mountain and Jesus instructed us to speak to ours, that is exactly what we should do.

So we override how foolish it seems to be looking into thin air speaking to inanimate, invisible, foes. You know the kind I’m talking about – depression, addiction, sickness, marital and family problems, oppressive work situations – whatever our mountain may be – and we speak to it.

We may even wait until no one is watching to pick up our check book or point our finger at that stack of unpaid bills and tell poverty and lack to take a hike.

But we do it. We do it because Jesus told us to and He knows best.

By the power and authority given us in Jesus’ name we command that interfering, path-blocking, trouble-making mountain to crumble so we can walk sure footedly on level ground. We stand in confidence knowing our faith is in the all-powerful God, expecting the mountain to disintegrate before our eyes.

Then the unthinkable happens. The mountain opens its ugly mouth and spits back in our face, “And just who’s going to make me move? You? Who are you to be telling me what do to do?”

And instead of things getting better, they get worse. We cover our heads to avoid the blow of the rocks the mountain hurls in our direction.

Satan starts filling our mind with every reason for what appears to be failure on our part. We haven’t fasted enough. We’ve made too many mistakes. We brought this all on ourselves. God isn’t so loving and powerful as we believed him to be.

Lies. All lies.

Instead of running for cover, stand firm. Realize that the mountain (the spirit behind it, that is, which is what we’re really speaking to) is going to test you. Especially if you are new to exercising your God-given authority. Satan turns the heat up a notch and fires back, hoping to scare you off before you destroy his plan to destroy you.

The truth is, if you hadn’t been effective nothing would have changed at all. Things wouldn’t be getting better, but they also likely would not be getting worse. Why would the devil put more energy into a fight he’s already winning?

He is a lot like that child you had to tell not once, not twice, but three times to put their toys away and go to bed. Not until you gave them the “look” and your demand contained more oomph did they realize they pushed you too far. Obey or face the consequences.

Satan will try to intimidate you when in reality he’s the one who is scared. He knows he is defeated. He also knows if you grab ahold of the power of God within you and exercise the authority Jesus gave you, you are going to know it, too.

So he puts on his best poker face and plays all his cards to convince you otherwise.

Stand your ground and speak again. And again and again if necessary. Keep the faith. Every stone that mountain throws at you is one less it has in its stature. Rock by rock it is destroying itself.

The boulders may fall and the ground may shake, but God’s got you. He’ll hold you steady as the mountain crumbles into nothingness. Soon you will walk freely across a grass covered plain.

till next time,

June — jyBInspired.com