Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Samuel's Ear

The poet, James Drummond Burns, once wrote:

Oh, give me Samuel's ear,
an open ear, O Lord,
alive and quick to hear
each whisper of Thy Word;
lie him to answer to Thy call,
and to obey Thee first of all.

For those of you who may need a refresher on the story of Samuel, the much prayed-for and beloved son of Hannah and Elkanah who was dedicated to the Temple of the Lord under Eli's priesthood, this poem is a hearkening back to being open to hear ALL God wants us to hear, whenever He speaks to us.

Whether God initiates the conversation, as happened with Samuel, or when we are studying the Word, or we do, through prayer, fasting, and Christian meditation, it is important to be open to listening for God in WHATEVER way He chooses to speak.

For some occasions, God might use the Spirit highlighting Scripture within us; other times, He may speak through a prophet we know is walking closely to Him, a dear friend, a book or posting we happen upon, through angels, nature, symbols within the scope of our lives, music, or dreams. There are numerous ways God can and does communicate with and to us, and if we are open, heart, eyes, and ears, we will understand the language of God that much more.

For me, music, nature, art, loved ones, dreams and visions, the Word, the Spirit while praying or fasting, others' posts and replies to posts, books... there are so many things which speak God's language to me; things which I can discern, praise God, the way I am to go, the step I am to take, the word I am to give, the dream I am to interpret, etc. It is a humbling, thrilling, awe-inspiring experience to know that God can, will, and does use ME and uses those around me, whether or not they are aware of it. God can and is willing to use ANYTHING to get our attention, for our good, so that we are better able to interact with the world around us and be a blessing.

In Samuel's case, the priest Eli no longer listened much to the Lord's Word, and his sons most certainly ignored the commands they had been given, and so when God spoke through Samuel the destruction of Eli's family, this was not only the first known interaction he had with Him, but was his first prophecy, too.

Sometimes God speaks what we would consider destruction, as in this case; this is because a HOLY God cannot reside with unholiness, and a JUST God cannot remain unjust to the people. Many times, however, God speaks to us about our own lives... what needs to change and what we must do next; instructions in bits and pieces as He awaits our fulfillment, our obedience to the last thing He said.

If we are OPEN to hearing God, then it is risky and courageous, but it is also an adventure; it is a choice, and it is doable. If we re OPEN to Him, we will to trust Him and have faith that what He tells us is the TRUTH; it changes our lives, and changes us into a closer resemblance of the Father in Jesus Christ.

Pastor and author Mark Batterson writes, "Posture is to prayer as tone is to communication. If words are what you say, posture is how you say it."

I believe that part of this posture is whether or not our ear, our eyes, the eyes and ears of our hearts, are truly and fully OPEN to His presence, His Living Word come to us for such a time as this. So when we ask, give us Samuel's ear, Father... and we do so in humbleness of heart and posture... I believe He will hear that prayer, and we will hear from Him more and more.

We are called to love the Lord our God with all of who we are... heart, soul, body, and mind... and we are told that when we desire HIS PRESENCE and are obedient to Him in love that He will give us the desires of our hearts. We are promised provision, healing, salvation, grace, and so much more, and it is up to us to ACCEPT those gifts. If we are not in consistent interaction with Him, knowing His voice and how He speaks to us, in our own relationships with Him, then we are less likely to know deep down that we HAVE these gifts. In order to have a DEEP, abiding relationship with the Savior, we must have ears to hear and eyes to see what God is doing.

Lord, give us Samuel's ear as we yearn more and more for You! Help us to understand more and more the nuances of how you communicate with us, and help us to be obedient when You call; quick and without hesitation, but with sure priority. Help us to be Your ears, Your eyes, Your heart here on the earth, and to speak the words You call us to without fear. Help us to stand u as You direct and step aside as You guide; to follow Your Spirit's direction in absolute trust by Your grace because we love You. In Jesus' wonderful and ever-holy name... AMEN

Friends, Through Thick and Thin...

You know those friends. The ones who stick with you, no matter what, and who you know by faith will always care about you, no matter where life takes you. They aren't always a physical presence in your life, but emotionally and spiritually they are there for you, no matter what. Through the hard times and the good ones, they are there, supporting you as the person God created you to be. They don't try to guilt or shame you... not ONCE. They don't attempt to manipulate you. They are filled with good things... no matter how their own day is going.

These are the friends you can vent to and who will understand that your heart is heavy or full, and they can vent to you with the same understanding in your heart. Neither of you mistreats the other during these times, nor other people. Neither attack any person at all, but attack an issue or a spirit that has someone down. TRUE FRIENDS will see through you bologna and will call you on your stuff. They will support you as an individual made in the image of God, and they will support your DESTINY, call, election, and purpose in Christ. They will support the BEST you you can be, even if it means calling THAT you out of the self-and-other-induced lies that were ignited within you by the enemy and the flesh. especially if it means doing that, actually!!

Those people who will stick by you without insult, without manipulation, without jealousy, without attacking you - to your face, or behind your back- are those who will be a blessing to you, PRAYING for you, even FASTING for your breakthrough as needed and led. They have YOUR best interest at heart, and not just their own. They set appropriate boundaries with you, and with themselves while in your presence or communication. They are those who TRULY love you unconditionally... no matter what you've done, they are there rooting for you to succeed and become a better person; no matter what your titles, your influence in the world, your reputation with other people, they see you through GOD'S eyes and have God-Sized Dreams that involve you because they are open to hearing from God about you, and not just about themselves. They are GENEROUS with their prayer time for and/or with you. They are GENEROUS with their respect, their love, their courage to face the day and the issues that might come up. They are GENEROUS in care. They genuinely want the VERY BEST for you, and they pray blessings over you - whether you ever hear them do so personally or not.

I am thankful for those FEW imperfect but TRUE FRIENDS in my life who fit this brief description. I am thankful for that broader circle of friends who MOSTLY fit this description... who do their best, imperfectly, to provide support, love, and care in the ways that fall in line with their giftings from the Spirit of God! But again, I am thankful for those who have SEEMED friendly and who I thought at one point were true friends only to discover by evaluating how our relationships have been the mistakes on both of our parts... where one or both has been too self-centered, too conditional in our love, or other things which have tilted the course of friendship off-balance. I am thankful for the LESSONS I have learned from friends, acquaintances, and enemies alike. And I have sometimes asked myself how someone who claims to LOVE someone can be apathetic or hateful toward that same person later on down the road.

I have experienced that phenomenon more than once. For my own part, it hasn't been hate or apathy as much as that it took a while to forgive the person I TRULY did love. I am one of those persons who loves with ALL THAT I HAVE... come what may. I love each person I have ever said I loved, because love is a CHOICE... it isn't about mood. I CHOOSE whom I will love; it is as simple and as complicated as that. SO DO YOU!!!

Is there someone in your life that you see as a TRUE FRIEND... someone there for you as best as they have been able, through THICK and THIN... someone who has consistently RAISED YOU UP in Christ? Not on a pedestal, with unrealistic paradigms about you, but someone who TRULY sees your heart, whether it scares you or not that they are able, and who therefore PRAYS you into your FUTURE, your God-Sized Dreams, your DESTINY? I believe that most, if not all of us, have someone, even if but one person... and one is enough. ONE will help us retain hope. ONE will be there, no matter what, and He is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by his Spirit... He will NEVER leave nor forsake you. NO MATTER WHAT!

How often do we take time to thank those, aside from Jesus, who are there for us as good and true friends, through THICK and THIN? I know I for one don't do this NEARLY enough... but I want to say thank you RIGHT NOW, thank you, Lisa Marie. Thank you, Nan. Thank you, Kevin and Cheryl; Tina; Yesenia; Evelyn; Steven and Lorri. Thank you, Sandy! Thank you! Thank you for BELIEVING in me when I was down and out. Thank you for believing in me when nobody else did. Thank you for praying for me, and for loving me to the very best of your ability within the scope of who your God-created self can be! Thank you for being open to correcting me when I've needed it, and doing it with as much love and compassion as you were able at the time. THANK YOU for setting boundaries with me when they were needed, and for allowing me to do the same. THANK YOU!

To Robert, Promise, Barnabas, Crystal, Ronnie, Linda, Steven W., Inge, Nancia, and Lori, thank you so much for being a part of my life! Thanks to each one, of course, but there are some people who leave trails of AMAZING all over our lives. Thank you for being among them AMAZING TRAIL-MAKERS in my own life!  Thank you also to Karissa, Karen, Sherri, and Julia D... you have been true Godsends to me. And to Lisa S... I give thanks for you, and for the blessing of having you in my life. I have learned much through the journey for the journey ahead.

Thank you to my family... to those who "get" me, as well as those who don't or decide not to. I am thankful for all I have learned and been blessed by from having you in my life! I appreciate your candor, though at times rough around the edges; I appreciate when you take time to listen and to learn. I am thankful for the times of laughter and the times of growth. I look forward to seeing what God does with EACH of your lives, and how our lives will continue to become more of what God would have them be. I know I don't see all of you all the time, and some of you, I rarely see or hear from at all, but this in no way diminishes my love and care for you, nor my prayers for your absolute best!! Godspeed and blessings to each of you, always!!

Thank you, Laura and Tony, Marla, Cedate; thank you, Shawn, Steven, and Tyler; thank you, Dawn, Debra, Deborah, and Edith Michele... for the lessons I have been taught in your presence. Thank you for the many blessings of having had you in my life. Thank you for caring about me, even when I didn't find myself as caring as I maybe ought to have been sometimes. THANK YOU for sharing your lives with me, and allowing me the privilege of sharing mine with you. Thank you for the moments of great memories which I will cherish; your kindnesses and generosity; your support and friendship. While we may not be in each others' everyday lives any longer, I DO appreciate you and will continue praying for you. I DO care about and cherish you as someone God placed in my life for a reason and season. I have learned SO much in the time I have known you. May God bless, guide, and prosper you; may He draw you closer to Him always; may He guide you into all truth in His love and grace.

Thank you to EVERYONE ELSE who is CURRENTLY or who has PREVIOUSLY been in my life. THANK YOU for those who are in my FUTURE whom I have yet to meet... I await your arrival and praise God for you all, each and every one!!

There is always a REASON for each path that crosses... sometimes it is to learn a lesson; sometimes it is to bless them or be blessed by them. Sometimes it is to teach them something or be taught. Sometimes, we have a mere moment in someone else's presence or under their influence... how will we choose to interact with the life around us... the potential blessings, lessons, gifts that are placed in our paths each and every day? How will we respond when one or more of those people are taken away from us, or we come to a place of letting go, not because we WANT to necessarily, but because we know we must, for one or both of our health? Will we take in stride what has occurred and be thankful for the blessing of what was, cherishing the good times, or will we become embittered and resentful of what no longer IS? We certainly have a choice!! What choice will you make?

I have had to say goodbyes more than once in life, sometimes to great swathes of people. I'm sure you have, too. And it's never as easy as those we are saying goodbye to seem to think it is, is it? I know that for me, I usually say goodbye much later than I should because of the inevitable pain I KNOW it will cause. I hold on for dear life, as though it will be the end of the world as I know it rather than a LEAPING FORWARD and a TURNING OF SEASONS. recently, I said goodbye, in one way or another, to many of the things that I knew weren't good for me... not people themselves, but habits and influences that I know, going forward in my life, I cannot continue to hold. Sometimes those habits were my OWN, but sometimes they were other people's, and I had to say goodbye to individuals that I love TREMENDOUSLY. it is at times like this, when at the in-between, when I know I have done what I was called to do in order to please God, but where there is still a bit of sting from what feels like loss. And it really IS a type of grieving. When we say goodbye to someone or something we have become attached to, for WHATEVER REASON, we are still at a loss for words as to what to say; we are at a loss for actions, even, at times, because of how deeply we grieve. This is understandable, and it is OK! sometimes, when those we say goodbye to have been our friends to one degree or another, we grieve to the point of despair despite knowing that GOOD will come of it, even if right now, it doesn't feel like it. Even if those former friends come back and use biting, manipulative, shame-based and guilt-riddled words to try to make you feel bad... you still know that what you did was the right thing... not only for YOU, but for THEM. You can see the future and they, so far, cannot. They see a bleak future, or through the eyes or bitterness while you see through the eyes of faith that things will be alright; that life goes on, that you are moving FORWARD, and not back, and that there is hope for a BRIGHT FUTURE as you walk toward the DESTINY God has for you. Sometimes, those friends are literal people; other times, they are attitudes, habits, thought patterns. I know that I for one used to be really good friends with depression... but I am walking away as often as possible from this actual foe. I KNOW depression is not there to bring me peace or joy... it does the opposite. I KNOW that depression can take on a wide variety of forms, and that others who are depressed can still bring depression into your world with the slightest of provocation.

JOY, and not depression, is a TRUE FRIEND. PEACE, and not conflict, worry, doubt, shame, guilt, is a TRUE FRIEND. LOVE, and not apathy, hate, bitterness, selfishness, jealousy, irritation, is a TRUE FRIEND.

Just as PEOPLE can be TRUE FRIENDS, so can attitudes and decisions. Just as GOD uses His Spirit, and therefore Spirit-filled people, to help us along the way toward the goal of the prize of heaven, and life eternal in the presence of God Almighty, where we will worship Him in love, grace, peace, joy, and wonder day and night, He can also use our own decision-making abilities, gifts, skills, and the lessons we learn through life to do so. THESE are also our GOOD and TRUE FRIENDS!

Just as GIVING US people, things, and opportunities is a way of showing us His love, TAKING THEM AWAY is, too. The Word tells us that God CHASTISES all whom He considers His children, because He loves us. It also says He PRUNES us... He removes from our lives people, places, opportunities, habits, attitudes... to make us STRONGER because otherwise, we are nothing but a pretty branch of leaves; we are fruitless and are torn away; cut off. God doesn't WANT to cut ANYONE off from the Vine, our TRUEST FRIEND, Jesus the Christ... the Friend Who has loved us MUCH MORE closely and intimately than a brother, by DYING in our stead. He is the BEST FRIEND for THICK and THIN times... even when others are imperfect in their love, He is perfect. hen others fail you, because of the expectations you have, or because of a true flaw, He is there and will never leave or forsake you. JESUS is the truest friend you could EVER imagine or have, and the most REAL, because He is MORE REAL than the rest of us, for we were made in the image of God Almighty... while He is GOD Himself!!

If you haven't said THANK YOU to those who have been a blessing to you recently, why not take a few minutes to do so today? God alone knows what the future holds, and far be it from us to think we are above Him in wisdom or understanding of how life works or what it will bring. He is our TRUEST friend, and He has been kind enough to allow us some wonderful relationships here on earth with fellow human beings... and it is up to US to be a blessing to them, too, in return! Why not say THANK YOU to someone today??!