Sunny Pathway

Friday, October 2, 2009

Moving Time

Those who read this blog regularly might remember my saying I would need to make two decisions. One concerned my foot and the other concerned blogging.

I’ll address blogging first. I’m making a change now and I suspect there will be more changes in the future. This will be my last posting on Sunny Pathway, but I’m not going away. You’ll be able to find me at a new blog called Solveig’s Insights.

I created Solveig’s Insights about a year ago as a place for sharing daily devotionals, but I stopped developing the site when I began publishing Thoughts for Inspiration on a daily basis.

Now the unused moniker is calling. The new site won’t be devotional in nature—although that might enter in occasionally—and it won’t offer daily postings. To find me you’ll need the new address. The URL is: Or click the title under “you’ll also find me at” in the sidebar to your left.

I’m not going to recount all that has transpired to bring about change now and later, but’ll share a bit. The original purpose of Sunny Pathway was to provide helpful information on how to live with health-related problems—while always keeping God as the center. I have health issues myself and I’ve learned adjustments are necessary. I’ve also learned that bringing God’s light into the dark tunnel of difficult circumstances means everything.

However, the blog I envisioned required resources and connections. It didn’t take long for me to realize my energy level made that impossible. In an attempt to stay on target with my stated purpose, I began writing about my personal health issues, and Sunny Pathway became a personal blog.

Even as this happened, I didn’t like the title as a moniker for a personal blog. Although it plays on the literal meaning of my name, it seems pollyanish—if there is such a word. While God brings light into difficult circumstances, claiming a sunny path as a general state of affairs is hard to swallow.

In addition to Sunny Pathway and Thoughts for Inspiration, I created Red, Red Berries, intended as a personal blog but morphed into an ideas blog. I stopped posting there about six months ago.

Fatigue is a problem. At one point I asked God for permission to quit everything. I felt He told me to finish Thoughts.

While working on the Thoughts material, one day I realized I could close Red, Red Berries. Embarrassing and frustrating, but necessary. (And I still need to figure out how to do it!)

On Sunday and Monday of this week I went into some sort of time warp. When I emerged, I knew living with a moniker I find irritating does not a happy blogger make. If I continue, I should change it—and I should change it sooner rather than later. Even though this doesn't seem like the opportune time.

Which leads me to the decision regarding my foot. I’ll be having surgery on October 14th—less than two weeks away. Feet are extremities and their healing process is usually slow. The next few weeks will be busy as I prepare for an extended recovery period. I might not post two times a week while trying to launch this new venture. That breaks the rules set forth by the exeprts, but I feel God understands and He's the One who matters.

But before I sign off, I want to thank all who have stopped by. Even with the ups-and-downs—and the fatigue—it’s been good. I’ve learned much and God has blessed me in the process. I hope you’ve been blessed, too.

And I hope you make the easy journey to visit me at Solveig’s Insights. The site is not totally ready, but it is up and running with one entry.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Book Review: Abercrombie Trail

It's time for book reviews and I'm going to share something dear to my heart today. Candace Simar, author of Abercrombie Trail: a Novel of the 1862 Uprising, is a friend. Rather than talk briefly about several books, I’ll focus on one.

The Background: The Sioux Tribe is pushed into impossible living conditions. When payments promised by treaties do not come and when fathers have no way to feed their families, the Sioux turn against the settlers. This makes sense to us today. But the settlers, many of whom cannot speak English, do not fully understand, They live on isolated farmsteads and they're afraid. Neither people-group understands the other’s culture, although this confusion is only portrayed by the protoganist. In addition, the ongoing Civil War adds another layer. It all leads to a series of tragic events that profoundly impact everyone living in in the area.

The Storyline: When Evan Jacobson's plans don't materialize after coming to America in hopes of a better life, he finds a job driving a stage coach on the Abercrombie Trail. While at Fort Snelling where the trail begins (near St. Paul, Minnesota), Evan forms a relationship with the historic Bishop Whipple. He also meets and comes to an understanding of sorts with one specific Indian. But on the trail to Fort Abercrombie (south of Fargo, North Daktoa), he forms relatioships with numerous Norwegian immigrants like himself. They become his community.

In addition to Evan’s love interest, there’s the marriage of his friend to Bishop Whipple’s housekeeper. (Her name is Solveig and I suspect she was modeled after me because she has large teeth!) There's a marriage between a Lutheran and Catholic (considered a mixed marriage in the time-frame). There are scenes describing the brutal aftermath of massacres. And more.

As in all good writing, details give life to a story. I found Evan's relationship with the horses especially endearing. They understand him when he speaks to them in Norwegian. He ultimately calls on his personal relationship with them in a run for his life and the life of his passengers.

Reader-Responses: Word of mouth is the best form of promotion. So here goes. My copy of Abercrombie Trail came in July—when it was hot off the press. I glanced at it briefly, thinking I’d read it later. Then I was drawn back and I didn’t quit reading until the wee hours of the morning. But, of course I would like it. I identified with the Norwegian settlers—and I had two sets of great-grandparents who lived close to the trail. I didn’t have to know the author to be interested.

So I decided to test it with my neighbors. Not too professional on my part as all these gals love to read. But they also know what they like. What would they think?

The first neighbor told me she didn’t like historical novels but she’d look at it. I think she was suspicious that it would have an overt Christian messge. A couple of days later she dropped by to tell me, This was really interesting. She also said she read it in one sitting.

(Candy identifies herself not as a Christian novelist but as a Christian who writes novels. Abercrombie Trail isn't specifically Christian, but the persepctive or worldview is compatible with Christianity.)

The second neighbor read it when we were gone in August. When she brought it back, she said, It was so good I read it twice. That's quite an endorsement.

The third neighbor didn’t think she’d get to it right away. After idly glancing through, she read it in two sittings. It was one of those riveting things, she said, and I just couldn’t put down. She grew up in Nebraska, knew nothing about Minnesota history, and isn’t even Norwegian.

The publisher, North Star Press of St. Cloud, is one of the small publishers springing up around the country. I was concerned after learning Barnes and Noble has decided they will not work with the smaller publishers, so you cannot buy a copy through them. I don’t know about other chain stores. But you may obtain a copy through Or, if you prefer, contact the publisher directly at The book is 285 pages long. Cost is $14.95.

One more plug: North Star is printing a second edition because of the demand.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Endings and Beginnings

A good ending is followed by a beginning. I’m on a threshold of sorts.

Some of you may have noticed I list my additional blogs on the sidebar under You’ll also find me at. I find it interesting that people who read Sunny Pathway rarely read Thoughts for Inspiration and people who read Thoughts rarely read Pathway. (No one reads Red, Red Berries anymore, because I haven’t written there for months.)

Everything on Sunny Pathway is current—it's an online journal. Thoughts is a collection of columns originally published on the church page of a rural newspaper from 1981 through 1992.

(An interesting—to me—side note. I was paid $10.00 for each piece—and I have no idea where it went. After the fact, I figured that over twelve years I made $6,240.00. What if I’d stashed it away and it had been accruing interest?)

I stopped writing the columns because, under time pressures, I had begun dashing them off with little thought or prayer. I was doing a lot of writing at the time, and they'd become a sideline. Off and on, however, I felt they’d be published someday. But they’re not devotional—just thoughts. They didn’t fit a genre. I dismissed the idea.

In the late ‘90s, after we retired, while on the way to visit a friend, wondering if God would ever use me again, I thought He told me I’d be a publisher. That was so preposterous that I laughed out loud while driving. But I didn’t forget it.

Sometime during the mid ‘00s, I began surfing the internet, discovered the world of blogs, and decided to give them a try.

It wasn’t long before it occurred to me to publish what I felt were my better Thoughts for Inspiration columns over a one-year-time-period as a sort-of blog. (Today some seem wonderfully thought-provoking and some simplistic.) Publishing them would be self-publishing, but publishing, nevertheless. It was an idea that somehow seemed right.

I didn’t know how exhausting the demands of daily publishing would be. When I learned I could post ahead, I began posting a week at a time—and then two or three weeks at a time. That gave me reprieves.

In June, I began fantasizing about finishing the entire year. In July I began working ahead. During August I focused on our vacation trips, but this month I’ve worked relentlessly with only brief forays away from the computer.

And yesterday I finished. At the end, I focused on pictures. Details aren’t pretty. This was an effort from someone who has never been into photography. (When I wrote as a free-lancer, Ken occasionally took pictures for me!)

As I neared the end, I could hardly think straight. But I had a question: What will I do when I’m done? And as I stretched out on the sofa yesterday after our noon meal, Ken echoed my thoughts. What will you do when your finish?

The question is with me this morning. What now?

There are two decisions waiting. But first, what did I learn?

The obvious is that I’m comfortable on the computer. Perhaps I’ll be able to learn helpful techniques now.

Then, there's the discipline factor. The project seemed foolish at times, but I finished.

Finally, going through Thoughts required reviewing my spiritual journey. As I worked, I spent time in the Word. God brought things to light so I've had to forgive, release anger, give up resentments. I believe I’ve become more pliable and it’s been good for the soul.

I don’t know what's ahead, but I suspect it will have something to do with my interior landscape. I found something intriguing this morning while going through a stack of material. Is that it?

I’ve aged physically and mentally over the last ten years, but somehow feel more alive—albeit a bit slower. God is beyond comprehension and quite fearsome at times. We can’t bring him down to a human level. And yet, I believe this awesome God engineered something in me I couldn’t have imagined. He is a wonderful friend.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Soil. Dirt. Earth.

It’s black where we live. I’ve also been personally acquainted with some that was a yellowish brown and some that was a rusty red.

On Tuesday evening Ken and I had a picnic. Under a waning fall sun in Lindenwood Park—stretched along the Fargo side of the Red River of the North—we walked over dirt from our car to a table.

The park was one of the areas under flood waters last spring. When we visited it shortly after the water receded, the area was gray and filled with debris brought in by angry water—a battle zone.

Now, to the west of us, a toddler took halting steps from the table to his grandma. On the east, a three-year-old played hide-and-seek with a frustrated mom wanting visual contact. Their sounds mingled with the breeze and birds. Trees are beginning to show color. Rich smells of decomposing plant-life tickled my nose.

Oh, I thought, God is good.

I enjoy our condo, but we’re on the second floor and our private access to the world is our deck. There I enjoy sounds and smells—and the strong North Dakota winds—but I don’t walk across ground.

I rarely walk across the ground as part of my daily life. When we go places, I stay on sidewalks. Connecting with dirt requires effort.

I had assumed all dirt was inorganic until I read about it on Wikipedia. It seems dirt contains organic materials as well.

That makes sense. While on our trip, we gathered with Ken’s family at the home of his sister and husband in Spokane. Byron gardens a plot that was part of a horse stable. The soil is rich, and we feasted on unblemished and perfectly ripened tomatoes the size of grapefruits. The ears of corn were complete—sweet, with kernels reaching to the tip and none of them missing. There was a great deal of organic material in the dirt producing those vegetables.

Dirt needs water to produce. We stopped in Havre, MT, for a picnic lunch on the way home. I expected something semi-arid like its surroundings. Instead, one city block featured well-watered grass—lush like the grass of my childhood in central Minnesota—freshly mowed—so thick we couldn’t see the dirt under it. The dirt across the street was of the yellowish brown variety.

Back in Fargo, Lindenwood features manicured flower beds surrounded by grass that survives. But in June, grass planted to restore what was damaged by the flood was the fresh shade of green found only in new growth. All summer long traveling campers pitched their tents and parked their trailers on that grass. Did they know they were standing on soil redeemed by the sweat and tears of people willing to pay a price?

I read recently that our planet is not as solid as we might think. Disasters like earthquakes and volcanoes are not signs of destruction but signs of life. When the plates of soil that make up our planet’s outer layer stop grinding against each other—and when the core of our planet stops erupting its molten content—our planet and all the forms of life it sustains will die.

That brings a new perspective.

How much of this did Jesus understand during His earthly life? The Bible tells us He created the world and He holds it together by His Word. (Jn. 12:1-4; Heb. 3:3) He relinquished that knowledge—His omniscience—when He lived as a man.

But Jesus loved dirt and the things that grow in it. He used types of soil as a metaphor for types of people. He used seeds and grains as metaphors. And He used flowers as the image of artless beauty: Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet . . . Solomon in all his glory was not arranged like one of these. (Lk.12:27 KJV)

Flowers grow in dirt. As a layperson, I might have flashes of insight on dirt—soil—earth. Scientists know so much more.

God holds it all together.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Sign?

The last three posts required more from me than usual. Prophetic acts are a serious subject that is somewhat controversial—and I found the concept difficult to explain clearly and adequately. I thought this post should be lighter—and then a friend wondered if I received a sign after this latest prophetic act.

Well, perhaps. Not a sign as dramatic as an intense storm or as a flock of white birds that didn’t make a sound. (See Prophetic Acts, 1, 2, and 3 for an explanation.) But something did happen that will be quick and easy to write about, so I’m going with it.

An important tidbit: on the evening when Ken and I were at the confluence, we’d already put in a long day. We woke at 5:30 that morning.

But when getting into the car before leaving the confluence—around 7:00 p.m.—Ken looked at me and said, “Man, I feel good.

Now Ken is a laid-back sort of guy. And he spoke with enthusiasm! And he repeated the thought several times! Then he suggested we drive all the way home—that night!

I didn’t think I heard right. Was he trying to save money? “Definitely not worth it, I thought—even while realizing I also felt strangely energized.

I agreed we should drive as long as we could and then, when we were tired, we’d find a motel.

On to Watford City—through some beautiful farm country, by the way. We ate a light supper and we both felt good.

So on to Belfield where our highways intersected. There Ken suggested—being I had slept on and off all day—that I drive for awhile. And it seemed reasonable.

Armed with a coke, a candy bar, and a leftover apple, I took the wheel—and drove to Bismarck while he slept. I didn’t want to wake him.

He spoke before we crossed the Missouri—ready to take over rather than stop. And so he did.

We switched drivers again in a rest stop east of Valley City—after we’d passed all opportunities for a motel. There was nothing to do but keep going.

I was the one privileged to drive into our garage at 3:28 a.m.

Perhaps as remarkable as the trip was our lack of fatigue. We didn’t feel dragged out on Friday—or on any of the days following.

I’m not so foolish as to insist the drive was a sign. In fact, I hesitate sharing it because we had a friend who made a habit of driving while tired—and who died in an accident because he didn’t stay awake.

But when we told others about it, they remembered, they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Is. 40:31)

We don’t intend to drive like that again. We’ve passed the age for such shenanigans. Right now, however, I rather enjoy thinking it could have been a sign.

And regardless, the Bible verse fits. Renewed we were—and very, very grateful. There’s no place like home.”

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Prophetic Acts, part 3 of 3

Jesus said, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (Jn. 6:6 NIV)

Those are difficult words—they tell us Christianity is different from all other religions. And if you know people of other faiths as I do—and if some of them are truly wonderful people—these words are discomfiting. So please remember—regardless of what else I might say in this post—my conflict is not with people of a different faith but with their God.

For I believe the Word and the words of Jesus. And as a Christian, I must stand against other gods because they keep people from Jesus. Furthermore, when I engage in this type of spiritual warfare, I don’t fight with physical weapons but with spiritual weapons.

This all seems very complex and I admit spiritual warfare is a huge subject. I don’t claim to be an expert in the field, but I do know some things that have stood me in good stead. For that reason, I’ll share a bit about an encounter at the spot where the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers meet in western North Dakota. The place where they join is called a confluence and it’s become a state historical site complete with a rather small rotunda.

I learned a group of Buddhist monks would be arriving at the confluence to create a sand Mandela. This would take several days. When done they would dedicate it before dismantling it and releasing the sand into the waters for healing.

I won’t discuss the problem this poses for Christians as I’ve covered that in the two earlier posts. I’ll just say I recognized it was a time to wield spiritual weapons. (To read the earlier posts, scroll down to the two posts just before this one.)

Spiritual weapons don’t make sense to the natural mind, but they’re powerful. More powerful than anything our natural mind could think of. All spiritual weapons begin with prayer—simply talking to God and listening to His voice. Then we respond to Him—do what we believe He’s telling us to do.

It’s that simple. This somehow activates His Spirit. We recognize we can do nothing on our own—that our words or our response to His Word is not the source of power. He is the source of power to come against forces we cannot come against on our own.

It’s possible to take spiritual battles on without God’s leading. The only person to judge the motives of others is the person in battle. If we’re quiet, we know God’s voice and we know our own heart.

In the circumstances surrounding the Buddhist monks at the confluence, I learned a Christian group would be going to the location the evening before the monks arrived. While there, they’d praise God, pray, and declare His Word. Then, individuals or groups of individuals would also visit the site during the days when the monks created the Mandela, praying for God’s grace to thwart any aggressive act of Satan. Those simple acts were their spiritual weapons.

Before we learned anything about the monks, Ken and I had planned to stop by the confluence on our way home from Glacier Park—simply because it’s an interesting and lovely spot—and we decided we’d follow that plan.

We arrived Thursday evening after the door was locked and everyone had gone for the day. I wondered earlier that day what I would do—didn’t have clear direction—perhaps I’d do nothing prophetic at all. I meandered around the building once while praising God and praying and then felt impressed to walk around it again. Then I took a couple of pictures and we were preparing to leave when I felt impressed to walk around it a third time—this time laying a blood-line.

Explaining that is difficult. I simply said—out loud—words about the Blood of Jesus. I declared the Blood of Jesus defeats any work of Satan at the confluence or in any place affected by activities at the confluence. All three times around the building—and especially the third time—were prophetic acts.

Then I was drawn to the boat ramp, and there I felt impressed to throw three small stones from the river’s edge into the water—for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Another prophetic act.

It would be easy to dismiss those simple acts. Others had already been there, followed their leading from God. What difference did I make?

I can’t give an answer to that. Sometimes God tells us to do easy things—and this was one of those times. Sometimes He tells us to do hard things. Whatever occurs between God and us in prayer becomes our walk with the Lord, and it often leads to prophetic acts. Some fit into what seems normal because we are accustomed to them. Prayer walks have become a familiar type of prophetic act in some places. Breaking ground for new church buildings would be a more established prophetic act.

When done in faith, prophetic acts have power. When we’re obedient, God sends faith. He gives us confidence in Him and in His ability to do what we can’t do on our own.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Prophetic Acts, part 2 of 3

For my Biblical perspective on prophetic acts, read the previous post. I think it’s important because prophetic acts can be disconcerting at times if there is no understanding.

Using Scripture as a rationale for doing prophetic acts –
The Bible tells us, All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (II Tim. 3 16,17 NIV)

We need to remember that the early church did not have the New Testament as it’s available today. Much of it hadn’t been written at that point. What had been written was initially available only to the people who received that particular letter. When Paul referred to Scripture, he meant the Old Testament. Today we use the Old Testament to understand many aspects of the New Testament and to learn about God’s ways. (We also need to recognize that the purpose of some OT practices were to teach principles to the Israelites who had been immersed in a pagan culture.)

When we use Scripture as our guide, we have an advantage over New Testament Christians. When we read our Bible we learn about Agabus. His example provides validity to prophetic acts and it strengthens the reality of Christians engaging in prophetic acts.

My early exposure –
Ken and I lived in Phoenix when we were young. While there I joined friends in several prophetic acts—but, try as I might, I can’t remember anything specific. I think they were all initiated by others—but it was such a long time ago and I’m really not sure. I do remember thinking at the time that prophetic acts were significant and that I played a vital role. I definitely knew what they were and accepted them as a valid response to God’s leading.

A story from the not-so-terribly-distant past –
About seven or eight years ago, when living in Minnesota lake country, I heard a news report that Buddhist monks from Tibet were coming to create a sand Mandela in the Fargo/Moorhead area. When they completed their work, they would release the sand into the Red River of the North for the healing of the waters.

This was billed as a cultural event under the umbrella of a local college, but I felt God told me the stated purpose was a disguise—a way to strengthen false spiritual powers in the region and a way to draw people away from faith in Jesus. Just as God directs His people to declare and claim God’s Word by faith through prophetic acts, Satan directs counterfeit acts. And just as it’s real with God, it’s real with Satan.

I also felt God impressed me to ask friends to join in a prophetic act, and I instantly knew what we would do. We would pre-empt the Buddhists by going to the sources of the Red—meaning the source of the Ottertail River and the source of the Bois de Sioux River—and then to the confluence where the two rivers meet between Wahpeton, ND, and Breckenridge, MN.

The Ottertail River begins on a Minnesota reservation where roads are limited. On a perfect summer day we made a journey north to a spot where the river is a mere brook flowing through a culvert under a local road. Making our way down a hill, we stood on an island of rocks and pebbles, sang praises, and prayed while the brook babbled and the birds sang. Then we left.

But nothing in our fallen world is perfect. On the way home, we had to take shelter from a severe hailstorm in the Frazee rest stop. That night the local news informed us that the storm had continued into southern Minnesota where it culminated in a tornado. Amidst much destruction, a man had died. A weather forecaster pinpointed the spot where the storm originated—exactly over the spot where we praised God and prayed—and emphasized that there was no meteorological reason for the storm.

We saw a correlation—and whether or not our act and the storm were actually related, we were spooked. Initially, we couldn’t deal with going to the other source and the confluence. But eventually, everyone was remarkably ready again.

Before our second trip, we prayed for protection for anyone who might be vulnerable. We also told God we’d like a sign to let us know we were following His Word, but that we’d like a gentle, peaceful sign.

And so, on another perfect summer day, we traveled south to the source of the Bois de Sioux which flows out of Lake Traverse along the Minnesota/South Dakota border. We parked by a bridge that crosses the river just as it leaves the lake. People walked past with their fishing rods, but no one was interested in us as we sang praises and prayed.

As we finished, a flock of about fifteen large white birds with black tips on their wings swooped down in v-formation just above our heads—and then lifted without landing in the water. They didn’t make a sound. We learned later that they were pelicans. We received the birds as our sign, and I felt the silence was a sign that no violence would follow.

On the way home, we stopped at the confluence which is near the main bridge connecting the downtowns of Wahpeton and Breckenridge. Cars whizzed by as we parked in the “Y” between the rivers. Again, no one was interested in us. And again, we sang songs of praise and prayed. Then we had lunch and came home.

As far as we know, the monks did not come. There were no more news reports of their arrival or activities in the area—but we don’t have inside information. By faith we believe God did something.

Next –
Before leaving on our recent trip, I received an email about Buddhist monks from Tibet visiting the confluence where the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers join in western North Dakota. My heart sank—and then I remembered that Ken and I had already planned a stop at the confluence as part of our vacation—and I realized our stop would coincide with the monks activities. In that moment I felt God told me that I would do a prophetic act.

I’ll share what happened. It was not a solo act because others were involved.

Also, at some time I’ll say something about how I think we should feel about non-Christian religions as they make inroads into the fabric of American culture—and how we should respond to the people who bring them. They key has to be sharing God’s love. But how?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Prophetic Acts, Part 1 of 3

A recent event resulted in my becoming engaged in a prophetic act on the final day of our vacation. My exposure to prophetic acts began a long time ago. They seem normal to me now, but I wonder if perhaps they are still as controversial to others as they were to me when initially exposed to them.

I'm going to use what happened recently as a reason to explain what they are and why Christians do them. In this post I'll take the academic approach by explaining the Scriptural foundation for prophetic acts. On Monday I'll relate something about my earlier exposures to prophetic acts. Later in the week, I'll tell what happened recently.

A Definition -
Prophetic acts are physical activities that have spiritual significance because they are done in faith as a response to a specific instruction or Word from God.

Biblical Perspective -
People of the Old Testament engaged in numerous prophetic acts. For example, early in the Exodus, before the Israelites had become a cohesive group, Amalekite warriors attacked them. Moses told Joshua to select a group of men to fight. As he, Aaron, and Hur watched from a nearby hill, Moses held his rod high—the one he held when the waters parted in the red sea. As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But where he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. (Ex. 17:11 LT)

The battle dragged on and Moses arms became weak. Then Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. (v. 12b) Moses' prophetic act, along with the help and support of Aaron and Hur, resulted in victory.

The prophetic books contain numerous examples of prophetic acts. Jeremiah bought a field when he was in prison—and when influential people wanted to kill him. Why would he do such a thing? The Babylonians were overrunning Israel and he would never benefit from the purchase. He didn’t even have heirs who would inherit the land.

But after completing the legal transaction in prison, Jeremiah prophesied: Someday people will again own property here in this land and will buy and sell houses and vineyards and fields. (Jer. 32:15b LT) He instructed his servant Baruch to place the deeds in pottery to preserve them—a sign of God’s plan for Israel’s future.

Then there's Ezekiel. If you think John the Baptist was strange, read Ezekiel. God told him to draw a map of the city of Jerusalem as it lay under siege—complete with siege ramps and battering rams. (Ez. 4:2b) Then he was to lie on his left side for many days and on his right side for many days—all the while staring at the map—all the while somehow carrying or representing the sins of the people of Israel—and all the while doing additional strange activities.

Why? To depict the coming judgment—including food and water shortages. Even sinful people had a right to know, and God gave them the information they needed.

In the New Testament, Agabus (also mentioned in Acts 11) met Paul as he traveled to Jerusalem. Agabus bound his own feet and hands with Paul’s belt. Then he prophesied, So shall the owner of this belt be bound by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and turned over to the Gentiles. (Acts 21:11b) God demonstrated Paul’s future through a prophetic act.

Something to think about -
Moses, Aaron, and Hur saw immediate results when they responded with a physical act. Agabus at least saw results in the near future. How about Jeremiah and Ezekiel?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Our Month of August

Welcome. Because I haven't posted during all of August, I thought I'd just share a few pictures from our month.

Ken and I went on several trips and, for the most part, took a vacation. We spent time at The Gathering, a spiritual event put on by a group we participated in when we lived at the lake. We attended a Holy Spirit Conference in the greater Twin Cities area. We gathered with Ken’s family for a reunion that lasted several days in Spokane. And on the way home we vacationed in Glacier National Park.

I’ll probably write about aspects of some of these events eventually. And perhaps even of a few sidetrips I didn't mention yet. But today, I want to take it easy and tell you I love road trips. Although I often fall asleep while Ken keeps a steady course—and this has been my pattern for years—I thrill to road trips. They may be inefficient use of energy when the car carries only two people, but what a joy to travel across God’s creation.

When we take major trips, we usually travel west—which means we cross North Dakota—and maybe that’s part of the joy. We have no mountains. Most of our lakes (perhaps all) are artificial. Our trees pale when compared to southern states. But oh, we have vistas. Truly, on a clear day you could see forever. And a glorious sky. Eastern Montana is more of the same.

Unlike Ken and most people, I’m less fond of the mountains—feel hemmed in. And I miss sunsets (usually not up early enough for sunrises). But I marvel at the infinite variety of God’s creation. Here are a few pictures taken during our August. To represent the entire month, I'll start in the Twin Cities area.

Water lilies in Como Park in St. Paul, Minnesota. I thought them breathtaking.

Ken waiting in background while I take pictures in the observatory of Como Park. My focus was the flowers, but I couldn't resist including the entire picture here.

Wild sunflowers near a scenic view overlooking Teddy Rosevelt National Monument. I think this is a fantastic picture, but must admit it's an accident. I simply wanted to isolate individual flowers and could only do so by moving the camera down. That means we can enjoy the glorious sky.

A sampler from Lois's delicate woodland flowers. Across the way, in an area with a full sun exposure, Byron grew the best corn, tomatoes, and zucchini we've ever tasted. I didn't think to take a picture of that. What a shame.

Family members in the pool. The most precious view of all.

Looking through the cedar forest. I'm especially proud of this picture becuase I've captured the lighting. Perhaps I am learning something about photography.

Me in front of an unusual giant cedar.

Ken overlooking the rapids of Avalanche Creek in Glacier Park.

A view of McDonald Valley on the way to Logan Pass in Glacier Park.

On the way home, we stopped at a city park in Havre, Montana. Green grass had just been mowed and a rose garden graced one corner.

Yes, the old cliché, God is good rings true when we spend time wandering around in His creation—whether on a walk in the local park or whether driving across the miles. Man has corrupted much, but God’s grace shines through. He—our living God—is good, indeed.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sharing a Prophetic "Word"

To continue my narrative from the last posting, the remainder of our time in Phoenix was good. If I missed giving weekly messages, I don’t remember. Although our group no longer functioned officially, we saw each other often and maintained relationships—some more closely than others.

Then our family moved to North Dakota.

Now I love North Dakota. There’s something about getting out on the open road here that thrills me to the core. And the people are the best. But I didn’t feel that way initially. The Red River Valley where we live is flat. Overpasses and underpasses—along with power lines—provide the landmarks.

I thought the area spiritually flat as well. Although we loved the small church we eventually found across the river in Minnesota, the people had little exposure to the larger body of Christ. I felt that they felt threatened when I tried to share our background.

During a quiet interval during worship on a Sunday evening, a song welled up from within. I wanted to share it—and silence lingered—so with all the energy I could muster I began to praise God in a song that expressed itself both in a tongue and in English. When I ran out of strength, I continued by praising God loudly in English before concluding quietly in tongues.

The ice was broken. After that night, God began to give me prophetic messages in English. Sometimes I felt impressed to quote a Bible verse—often verses I’d have trouble reciting by memory but they flowed freely as I spoke prophetically. Sometimes I was impressed to speak ideas I’d thought earlier during the week—thoughts that began burning in my heart. I was always amazed the way they flowed when under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

And sometimes I just knew something I could not have known on my own. A guest preacher spoke one Sunday evening. During worship God gave me a message unrelated to anything I’d heard—and I didn’t obey the Lord by sharing because it seemed out-of-order. But when the preacher preached, I learned the message God gave me would have supported the Word that night—added strength to the sermon we heard. Another lesson learned.

God occasionally did funny things. On the way to church one Sunday morning, both Ken and I were impressed by the railroad tracks. One of us saw them as a means of adventure—of traveling into the unknown. The other saw them as limiting—a train can’t leave its track. During the worship I began receiving an impulse to speak prophetically—and knew it had to do with railroad tracks. I was nervous because I didn't want to promote a personal viewpoint, but I followed through. Although I know I can't recall the message verbatim, a rough summary would be encouraging people to find the track God had for them—seeking Him until He makes their specific track clear. Then get on track, stay on track, and let Him lead you to unknown destinations in the Spirit. Only God could have brought our seemingly opposite opinions together and shaped them into a message both Ken and I needed to hear!

In retrospect, I’m quite sure I never shared anything wrong in the sense that it was contrary to Scripture. However, I might have shared something wrong in that it wasn’t God’s Word for the moment. There are times when God emphasizes specific messages, and there were probably times when I responded to personal impulses rather than God’s impulses.

I could point to all the events of my life that were distractions—and to my fatigue when stretched beyond what I could have imagined. But God responds to reprentance, not excuses. Perhaps part of the problem was lack of a small, informal support group. A group where each had the same spiritual foundation and where each had a vital role to play as we corrected and encouraged the other.

Marriage is important. I think Ken and I have become each other’s ardent fans. But my marriage was—and is—not the same as a group of women who understand the trials, temptations, and struggles of living life as a woman.

By the time Ken and I retired, I was exhausted. In addition, the responsibility of speaking for God weighed heavily, and I wanted out. In one sense I didn’t walk away from God. I could have joined Peter at any time by saying, Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. (Mt. 6:68 NLT) In another sense, however, I did walk away from God because I stopped listening to Him in my spirit. It’s been at least twelve years since God used me to speak prophetically.

Blogging has been an important element of my walk back. In the sidebar of the Red, Red Berries blog, I mention that writing is how I process thoughts. Sometimes it’s even the way I identify thoughts. Little by little, writing has turned my thoughts back to Jesus and His written Word. Not that I ever stopped reading. I processed His Word mentally, but not spiritually.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you realize it’s evolved since I began. I sense more changes are coming but don't know what they are. However, God's Word says, You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, . . . (Is. 26:3a ESV) With that in mind, the present seems an opportune time to take a break. Ken and I will be going on several trips in August; I'm trusting we'll have a time of resting in His presence and hearing His call. It's time to find His track!

I’ll be back in September—I think. Meanwhile, Thoughts for Inspiration will continue without interruption.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Prophetic Preaching

While changing the sheets of my children’s beds one day, whispering in tongues as usual, I thought I’d run out of tongues—the sounds stopped coming in my mind. Then, to my amazement, Hallelujah began erupting from my mouth, over and over. And then I began praising God in elevated English. Although I understood the words, they weren’t words I normally used. Standing there, I began to laugh for joy because I realized the expression was genuine—it was the cry of my heart—and I knew I wouldn’t have come up with that type of praise on my own. That was the first time God supernaturally gave me ideas and/or words in English rather than in tongues.

I began meeting with a small group of five friends. We gathered informally in our homes to share life, to pray together, to praise God. Fabulous. It was much fun to be around them. Two were in their mid-40s. I thought they were old—so mature. Three of us were around 30.

A young fellow who had grown up in our church came home briefly. He’d brought the manifestations of the Holy Spirit to the congregation several years earlier and the two older gals knew him. The day before he left—he’d quickly become part of our group—the six of us met in the prayer chapel of our church. It was Wednesday morning, and he encouraged us to make Wednesday morning a time for a regular meeting.

Dutifully, we showed up the following Wednesday. None of us knew quite what to do. Then one of the gals looked directly at me and said, You’re supposed to bring a “Word.” And I knew as she said it—not earlier—that she was right. I even knew the Word meant a formal sermonette of sorts.

I was also mortified. I didn’t know she had received a word of knowledge. I thought she had caught on to me and that my secret desires were exposed. How did she know I desperately wanted to preach? So I brushed off her and the others—they’d joined her—by bringing up prayer requests. Until the gal announced once more that I should share from the Word.

Embarrassed and irritated, I stomped forward, opened my Bible, turned to a passage I’d read that morning, and launched into a Word that lasted over ten minutes. In a wonderful move of grace, God met us that morning.

The following week I did it again. The next week I did it again. And then again and again and again.

Eventually our little Wednesday morning group connected with a Friday evening group and the two meetings became a place in Phoenix where the Holy Spirit moved in the late 60s and early 70s.

But my focus for this writing is not the meetings but prophetic preaching. I have no memory of any specific message. I'm sure they were not deep compared to the revelation coming through God’s people today, but they were deep to us at the time. Some weeks I worried because I hadn’t received anything and Wednesday was imminent. But He always came through. And here’s the kicker: I don’t think I ever became proud of my gifting during that time. I was occasionally jealous of others—of their gifting—but my gifting seemed normal and it didn’t occur to me to be proud.

As usual—and it pains me to use that phrase when telling what happened—the enemy made his way into God’s move. The organized meetings fell apart and each of us sought God’s direction as individuals for the next chapter of our lives.

Even sadder—for me, anyway—I still look back to that time as my best time. I didn’t actually know how deeply I felt that until after we retired. Yes, God has been with me and shown me remarkable things since then. He’s used me to bring His Word. He’s answered my prayers. But I’ve also clung to the past. Perhaps one reason is that I knew my heart hasn’t been as pure since those early days—and it’s the heart that matters.

The day I knew by the Spirit that I’d never moved on was a watershed revelation. For some time I tucked the reality away—bringing it out briefly at times to peek at the awful truth. But little by little I began searching, looking for the Way. And the Way always begins with Jesus. And Jesus is the Word.

Paul said, Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. (I Cor. 14:5) That’s because vital prophecy points to Jesus. It’s God’s Word brought to life in a specific moment or circumstance. But prophetic preaching is only one type of prophetic utterance, and all are remarkable.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My Personal Pentecost

After I received Jesus and His sacrifice for my sin, I realized salvation was a big topic. Among other things, I learned about Gifts of the Spirit. Information wasn’t plentiful in 1967 and '68 and the focus was tongues, but I researched the subject and concluded it was valid. I visited a small Pentecostal church because I was drawn to the worship and teaching. However, I wasn’t interested in personal involvement because I was insecure and afraid of becoming socially backward.

Meanwhile, I prayed about anything and everything—including my inability to keep a clean house. We had three children at the time, Borgi in first grade, Ted in kindergarten, and Joe at home. But the problem was bigger than the children—I didn’t think right. I either yelled at the kids when they made a mess—or gave up and we lived in chaos.

After almost a year in a rental in Phoenix, we purchased a house situatated between the homes of two women who seemed like the world’s best homemakers. One a North Dakota farm gal—the other of Mexican-Indian descent. Beautiful women, but I felt intimidated.

Because both reached out to me as neighbors, I decided to invite them to a morning coffee on the first day of school after Christmas vacation—so we’d have fewer children underfoot. I planned, invited, and worried. Finally, on the big morning, I saw Borgi on her way to school, took Ted to kindergarden, and sent Joe into the back yard while I finished getting ready.

When all was in order, I went to the bedroom to change clothes. Meanwhile, Joe, a normal four-year-old, decided he wanted Cheerios. Entering my spotless kitchen, he tried to pour them into a bowl from the box—and little “o’s” spilled over the side, rolling into every corner of the kitchen.

Maintaining my composure, I began cleaning them up. As I bent over to reach under the refrigerator, the left sleeve of my dress gave—not a rip in fabric but a rip in the seam. I ran into the bedroom to change and could find nothing else. I returned to the kitchen to the smell of burning cookie-bars. When the doorbell rang, I stood with dress torn, Cheerios on the floor, and burned bars in my hand.

I don’t remember the next hour. I know I made coffee and served store-bought cookies—and didn’t say much. When they left, I picked up Ted and served lunch to my boys before hiding myself in the bedroom to cry. I was stiffling sobs when a friend called to tell me about special meetings where people were receiving their prayer language. Would you be willing to go with me tomorrow morning? Maybe you could pick me up after dropping Ted off?

If my planned event had gone well, I’d probably have said no. But I was desperate—not necessarily for God—but for relief from failure. And if God could help, I was open—even if it meant praying in tongues and being socially isolated.

We arrived during a short worship time. I looked around and saw a young woman about my age wearing a housedress with stockings (seams were still in style) and tennis shoes. Her hair was—well, it might be in style today. No makeup.

A mob converged on this reserved Norwegian Lutheran when I went forward, all praying loudly. Then the guest-preacher, a mild man, laid a hand on my head, quietly prayed, and told me I simply had to open my mouth to speak. Peace came and I closed my eyes. At one point I heard him say, Let her go. I had an idea. I’d heard people sing in tongues and it was beautiful, so I asked—in English—if I could sing. He said, Of course.—and I began singing in tongues.

I’ve sung quite a bit for my own pleasure and before groups, but that day my voice truly soared in the presence of angels.

Suddenly, I remembered Ted. Opening my eyes, I realized I lay prone on the floor. Really. I learned later I had been slain in the Spirit. I’d never heard about it then, but it did not seem strange. I sat up, asked someone what time it was, told them I had to leave immediately, excused my friend and myself, collected Joe from a nursery, and we left. Ted was waiting, but he didn’t seem concerned.

I couldn’t stop praying in tongues that day—either in song or under my breath. The boys and later my daughter laughed and laughed at Mom and her strange Spanish. The next day, however, I couldn’t utter a sound in an unknown tongue.

And yet—I somehow knew it was real and felt it would be wrong to walk away. I decided to try praying in tongues in the shower—so the background noise of running water would muffle the sound—and when I did, a dam broke loose. Since that time I’ve been able to pray in tongues at will. Then and now, I pray in tongues whenever I think of it. Sometimes I’m seeking a specific answer—sometimes I simply want to exercise my gift. After all, Paul said, I would like every one of you to speak in tongues . . . (I Cor. 14:5a NIV)

Of course, he also said, but I would rather have your prophesy. (v. 5b) But that’s another subject. For me, tongues became a gateway.

Of course, some of you will have a few questions.

First, I don’t think I began to dress weirdly andI don't think I adopted a weird hairstyle. But when my immaculate neighbor to the east began giving hints on organization, I listened. And although I never achieved a spotless home, our lives improved as order became the norm.

Did God cause spilled cheerios, a ripped dress, and burned cookie-bars to humble me? No, but He allowed me to struggle on my own and to reach a place of humility where I would receive—both from Him and from a helpful neighbor. But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph . . . (II Cor. 2:14a RSV)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Time with my Birth Family

This is a story about the older generation. Most of us fairly active. I hope you will find aspects of it interesting.

On Friday Ken and I went on a short road trip that we should have taken last Spring—to Winona, Minnesota, where we visited my sister-in-law Esther. Esther is the widow of my oldest brother Carmen who died about a year a half ago. The basics of their story is that he was a pastor, she was a teacher who went into administration, and they raised five wonderful children. But there’s more to the story than that, of course.

I’ve become our primary photographer—and so often the moment misses me altogether. I didn’t think to take a picture of Esther as she looks today.

I'm not fond of using the word cute to describe older people—it seems to trivialize them. But even with serious problems and although on a great deal of medication, I have to admit Esther is cute.

She became part of our family when I was in high school. She was beautiful, reserved, talented, and competent. She sang solos—with a voice that could fill a large church. Now she’s tiny—even her voice—and shriveled—with hands twisted by arthritis, a complication from the aftermath of lyme disease. She also has Parkinson’s—although that seems under control. But perhaps the most serious condition is the collapsing skeleton—and that she fell just over a week ago and broke several ribs. Her fall meant a move from her daughter's home to an extended-care facility. I was afraid of what I’d find and truthfully, it wasn’t good.

But to my surprise, I wasn’t devastated. Her personality is still evident. Even when we all trooped down to the facility’s dining area for coffee and root beer floats. (My other brother David and his wife Betty had joined us. And Karen, the daughter who lies in Winona and son Mark who flew in from Wshington, D. C. were with us.) The hostess in Esther came alive as she sat in a wheel chair—unable to do anything. Frustrated and embarrassed by what she felt was the poor service she offered her guests, her gracious demeanor was endearing and cute.

She became anxious and confused at times, even telling us in her tiny voice about waking up surprised to realize, I was alive! Ken and I asked each other later if she was happy to be alive—or disappointed. We weren’t sure. We might look at her life as confined, as narrow and small—but she has important things on her mind.

And all the while, through frustration and confusion, hints of irony and humor—and a wry smile. She was herself, and she was cute.

When she grew tired, we left to visit Carmen’s grave before going to Karen’s home where husband Jason had prepared a wonderful meal. Here, from left to right at the table in all our hoary glory: me, David, Betty, and Ken.

We moved into the living room and Karen, who had been going through her parents things, brought out a scrapbook that included pictures from our childhood. David and I paged through, remembering our distant past.

In our hotel room that night, just before 3:30, I woke up rejoicing in bed. Pure joy overwhelmed me, and I wondered why. Considering my personal status, I thought about my hip. It didn’t hurt. But I knew the joy was bigger than that. (You can check the last post to understand why the hip is significant.)

I thought of Esther’s smile. Even in her reduced state—she was herself. What a wonder.

I thought about the scrapbook. As David and I perused, a subject came up that’s painful for me, an ouchie from my childhood. David understood—he had experienced it as well—and he offered an explanation I found comforting.

But I decided the joy encompassed all of the above—plus. For over an hour before going back to sleep, I basked in the overwhelming sense of personally being in God’s will. And, difficult as circumstances are for Esther and her family, I sensed they are also in His care and His will.

We met David and Betty for breakfast in the morning before going to the extended care facility again for another good-bye on Saturday morning. Then I slept during most of our drive home.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

An Overturned Truck and a Painful Hip

Ken went with me to Grand Forks for a rheumatologist appointment yesterday. As we drove toward the freeway when the appointment was over, we saw a semi turned on its side in the middle of a busy intersection.

Police had set up barricades and rerouted traffic. People milled around with cameras. Men worked from two additional semis—semis with cranes. They were positioning straps they'd placed around the prone cab and trailer so they could set things right again. I wondered about the driver. What had he done—or not done—just before before the accident or as the accident happened?

But I was personally experiencing a red-letter day and couldn’t feel badly just then. The rheumatologist had asked his usual questions during my appointment and then I told him about my hip. I’ve been nursing it along for about five months, hoping it would get better, avoiding an appointment with an orthopedist for fear he’d recommend surgery.

Well, the rheumatologist began asking questions and he seemed to know my answers before I stated them. Then he poked and probed before saying he thought he could take care of it by giving me a shot. He left the room, his nurse prepped me, he came back to insert the needle, and as he walked out the office door he said I’d know in a day or two if it worked.

Finally, another nurse administered a remicade infusion, and when the procedure was over I found Ken. By then I knew the shot was doing its magic. We had a bite to eat and I was riding high.

This morning, however, reflecting on the difference between the way I was feeling and the way I'd felt yesterday morning, I began making comparisons between my body and that overturned truck. I realized I've been more or less overturned for several months, stuck with a painful hip in the busy intersection of life. God help me, I've cried over and over. What should I do?

And always, that nagging sense of guilt. I’ve had problems with my hips before and yet, in the excitement of one moment several months ago, I threw caution to the wind and ended up in need of a rescue. And perhaps the same is true of the rheumatoid arthritis. I might be free of problems today if I’d taken care of myself when younger. I wasn’t a good driver—I pushed my body beyond its limits.

Those sorts of inner accusations come from Satan and they're difficult because there’s truth to them. Satan knows how to torment. I’m so glad a doctor gave me a shot and fixed me up. I also know that unless God heals me completely, if I do something similar on another occasion, I’ll probably have problems again. Because of my medical history, my body is vulnerable.

Our pastor has been preaching on the book of Romans this summer. Last Sunday he focused on chapter 8. The chapter begins with, There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:1 ESV)

The chapter ends with, Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn. . . ? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ. . . ? [W]e are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Rom. 8:33,34a,35,37)

It was a message I needed. I don’t want to imply sin doesn’t matter. I am, however, emphasizing that Paul reminded the Romans that there’s no condemnation because Jesus’ death justifies sinners.

When my hip hurt, I lived with forgiveness even as I lived with the consequences of sin. I can live with consequences because His presence lives within me.

Then there’s pain caused by sin against others. I’ve been guilty of that, too, and the condemnation I feel over those sins is even worse. But in this same chapter we read, And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good. (Rom. 8:28) That includes the sinner and those sinned against.

It doesn’t seem possible, but God says it is so. If we trust Him, we believe He will do the impossible. I’ve seen it happen, and I'm waiting for it to happen again. Meanwhile, acknowledging and repenting have a refining effect because God begins to work in me. And the fact that God can turn the results of sin into good brings peace. God promises He won’t let anything separate me from His care—not even thoughts of despair or condemnation. It's enough to fill a person with joy.

I may be overturned now and then, in need of rescue. But rescue is His specialty.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Jesus and the Anointing of the Holy Spirit

Because the Holy Spirit is so often the unseen partner of the godhead, it’s almost impossible to talk about Him without looking at Jehovah or Jesus. In fact, some of our best insight comes through looking at the other two persons of the Trinity.

There’s a verse in Acts that almost blew me out of the water at one time. Peter was speaking with a group of Gentiles who had little or no teaching on God. He said, God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. (Acts. 10:38 ESV)

Just a short statement, words so easy pass over when looking at the larger story. But I was focusing on the word and the concept of anointing at the time, and I found the verse strange. Jesus was God incarnate—conceived by the Holy Spirit—Immanuel—God with us. So why was the anointing important to the ministry of Jesus? Why did He need an anointing? Didn’t He do the things He did simply because He was Jesus?

(The word anoint literally means to rub or to smear with oil. See Strong’s Concordance #4886 and #5480. When people live in an arid climate—as the Israelites did when wandering through the Wilderness—they often used oil to clean themselves because water was at a premium. And because spiritual purity or cleanliness is important when preparing to meet God, God provided instructions for the priests who would minister in the tabernacle. During cleansing ceremonies they sometimes poured water and sometimes rubbed oil on themselves as a cleansing ritual. The oil was prepared according to a recipe given to Moses by God. The concept of anointing expanded with time until eventually it evolved to mean receiving power from the Holy Spirit.)

Over time—and through a bit of study—I learned the Son of God needed an anointing because, although He was truly God, He had denied his God-nature and identified with human nature. Paul said, though he [Christ Jesus] was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Phil 2:6,7)

In The Message, a contemporary paraphrase of the Bible, those verses read, He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages . . . When the time came, he set aside the priviledges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. . . . He didn't claim special privileges.

This aspect of our Savior is so important. When Jesus made himself nothing, he separated Himself from Satan/ Lucifer who said, I will make myself like the Most High. (Is. 14:b) And He separated Himself from Adam and Eve who gave in to temptation when Satan enticed them with, For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (Gen. 3:5) To maintain being nothing, Jesus had to continually resist Satan’s bait. Even though He was God, He had to resist claiming or assuming His God-nature.

How easy it would be for Jesus as God to heal—or to walk on water. As God, Jesus could easily look into individual souls and give them a word of life—or reach the multitudes when preaching from mountaintops. However, Jesus continually released or gave up His God nature to embrace His human nature. He limited Himself to functioning only as a man.

If Jesus did everything as a man, how did He do what He did?

Through the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said of Himself, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.( Jn. 5:19) Do you feel the drama and the power of this verse?

Isaiah looked forward to this time when he wrote about the Messiah who would move under the anointing: The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news. . . . (Is. 61:1a) The passage goes on to list the things the Messiah would do, things a normal person could not do. After His baptism, Jesus went into the Wilderness where He rejected Satan’s bait. Then He returned to His hometown of Nazareth where he identified Himself by reading Isaiah’s passage in the synagogue: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news. . . . (Lk. 4:18) And He listed the supernatural works He would do as a man.

The anointing brings Jehovah, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit together. The power of Jesus is established by the unity of God.

The Jesus who read the Scripture in the synagogue that day was different from the Jesus the townspeople had known. When He was baptized He received the anointing of the Holy Spirit through the will of His Father. After telling the people of Nazareth, Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing, (v. 21b) He went on to point out their sin. His words had power, and they tried to kill Him. His ministry had begun.

After Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven, and after He sent the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, His followers became a closely-knit family of believers. And when they began expanding beyond the confines of Jerusalem, Peter explained Jesus’ ministry to Gentiles. He said, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses. . . . (Acts 10:38, 39a)

The man named Jesus did the works of God. He was anointed by the Holy Spirit.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Praying in Tongues

A little over ten years ago, a young fellow we knew faced a major decision. He was in his early twenties and it seemed his entire life—and the life of his wife—would be determined by this one decision.

We were quite involved with them. We were also newly retired. I wasn’t used to having Ken around all day and I felt self-conscious when I tried to pray. But the burden was intense. I finally told Ken I needed to get away.

We owned a lake lot at the time—with nothing on it but a leaky trailer. I had never driven there from Fargo (our home after retirement) on my own. On a cloudy, miserably cold spring day, I couldn’t sit comfortably in a park, so the lake lot with trailer was my destination. And because my heart was heavy, I began praying in tongues almost immediately. I have no idea what I prayed. That’s the beauty of tongues.

With confidence I took the first exit at Barnesville, not realizing that two highways exit the freeway about two miles apart. I should have passed the first and taken the second. And because I was praying, I didn’t look at the scenery or catch my mistake until I came to a small town I’d never seen before—and the junction I anticipated was nowhere in sight.

I would have turned if I knew which direction to take—remember, it was cloudy. Help came when another nice-looking young fellow told me I was driving north instead of east. I followed him to a landmark and made my way without further confusion.

That's an important part of the story, but not the main point. I kept praying in tongues. Couldn’t stop. When I finally reached our lot and entered the cold trailer, I didn’t know how to turn on the furnace—so I turned on the oven and burners—no small feat—before sitting down to pray.

Huddled in my jacket I wondered. What? What could I pray? I wasn't worried about theological implications, but I didn’t know God's plan for the couple.

God, I cried, what should I pray? Silence.

Then came a quiet thought, an inner prompt: Pray that he chooses life.

And so I did. Out loud. God, I pray he chooses life. Pause.

God, let him choose life. Pause.

Please, God, give him a desire for whatever will bring life.

You get the idea. Those and similar statements might have lasted all of a minute—but I doubt it—before I totally exhausted the content of my prayer in English.

I felt very foolish sitting there. So I turned the burners and oven off, locked up the trailer and drove home. And when I tried to continue praying earnestly in tongues, I couldn’t. I could only praise God with a loud voice—sometimes in song. I had a good time.

Telling Ken about it later—of course, he lectured me about the two exits—I could only conclude the praying had been done while I drove. Perhaps it was okay to get lost—the extra hour on the road provided almost twice as much time as planned.

And I’ve thought about the content of that prayer. The importance of the young man's decision can’t be overstated. I wasn’t sure, but I felt his salvation might depend on it. It turned out his health depended on it, too. And I never would have thought of something so simple on my own—so simple, but covering all the bases. I’ve recently read others say we must choose to follow God—and they use the phrase, Choose life. It was a new concept to me at the time.

The young man is in his mid-30s now. He’s walking with the Lord and he’s healthy. God has been with him and his family. I’ll never know for sure the significance of my part in the decision, but I’m convinced God did something that day.

And I’m so grateful for the gift of praying in tongues.

Next time I'll explore thoughts on the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the earthly life and ministry of Jesus. Today, it seemed a story with human interest would be helpful.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

In the Hebrew language of the Old Testament, the word translated Spirit (ruwach) literally means wind or breath. (Stong's Concordance #7307) According to Genesis 1:2, this wind or breath moved during the creation of our world: The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit (Ruwach) of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Paul, a man schooled in Hebrew, understood the Spirit as God’s breath when he wrote a letter in Greek to Timothy, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. (II Tim. 3:16) That would be inclusive. Every Old Testament character who responded to God was responding to His Spirit. Just as the Holy Spirit had an active part in the initial creation of our world, He’s had an active part in creating God’s life in people throughout history.

Because space is limited, I’ll highlight just a few stories from the Old Testament where the presence of the Holy Spirit is specifically identified as He moves or breaths on God’s people. Moses needed craftsmen to build the tabernacle, create the tabernacle’s finely-wrought furnishings, and make elaborate priestly garments. God said to Moses, See, I have called by name Bezalel . . . and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship. . . . (Ex. 31:3)

Then, when the load was too heavy for Moses, God told him to appoint 70 elders who would share his responsibilities. God said, I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you. . . . (Num. 11:17a)

After Gideon committed to obeying God’s call, he led his people against the Midianites. Then, the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet, and. . . . (Judges 6:34) a new era had begun for the Israelites.

All Old Testament writers (and redactors) responded to the breath of God’s Spirit when writing the books of the Bible. Some of the prophets recorded their introduction to God’s Spirit.
Two prophets, Elijah and Elisha, didn’t write their own books, but I and II Kings tells about exploits they did in the power of God’s Spirit. I find the story of Elijah in the cave—after fleeing from Queen Jezebel—especially interesting because he tells us something about the voice of God while making it clear the Breath of God is not the same as the metaphor or the natural wind.

When Elijah found his hiding spot, he heard God ask, What are you doing here, Elijah? (I Kings 19:9b) He explained his discouragement and God told him to go outside the cave where he would stand on the mount before the Lord. (19:11b) But while still in the cave, a strong wind passed by. A really strong wind. Followed by an earthquake that shook things up. Followed by a fire. Elijah didn’t respond to any of them.

Then, after the fire, Elijah heard the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him. . . . (I Kings 19:12b,13)

Elijah had heard God’s question earlier. He knew God’s breath/wind/voice—knew it so well that he wasn’t fooled into thinking cataclysmic events (including a very strong wind) were the way to find God. In a real sense, God did speak to him through the physical wind, earthquake, and fire because through them he realized God was more than events. Nothing that had happened to him—and a lot had happened (read the account in I Kings 18 and 19) —was as important as hearing from God. His value didn’t rise or fall on his success. His value was in hearing God and responding to Him.

Once again, the quiet whisper of God's Spirit provided direction, and once again Elijah followed the leading of God’s breath as it resonated in his inner man.

The lesson for us? God’s Spirit knows who we are, where we are, and what we need. He will speak if we’ll only listen. It was true in the lives of the Old Testament heroes, and it’s true for us today. I personally testify that I need to remember this when I'm discouraged.

In the next post I’ll explore thoughts on the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the earthly life and ministry of Jesus.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Holy Spirit and the Unity of God

As one member of my family might, say, I have trouble wrapping my mind around the concept of the Holy Spirit. The subject hasn’t actually come up with her, but she uses the expression and I think it defines my dilemma. The Holy Spirit is impossible to define, and I know I’m not unique in saying as much.

After commiting to writing on the Holy Spirit I quickly realized how impossible it would be to treat the subject completely or fairly. So, it’s with more than a little trepidation I’m stepping out—and I’m writing multiple posts. Remember that my thoughts are not definitive—but nothing on God will ever be definitive. I'm only trusting my insight will be helpful.

First and foremost, GOD IS ONE. Mark 12:29 records an occasion when Jesus affirmed this by referring to the Shema (known as the Jewish confession of faith): Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God. . . . (Deut. 6:4 NIV) In fact, throughout all of Scripture the distinctive of the God of Israel was His oneness. Monotheism—belief in one God was in sharp contrast to the polytheism of all other nations at the time.

But, God’s Oneness is infinite—so great that, in His Oneness, He interacts with Himself. When He does, finite human minds can only understand Him as plural.

Perhaps the best example of this is found in the creation story where we read, Let us (plural) make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule. . . . (Gen. 1:26) Even more interesting, in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament the largeness of God is revealed in the very first verse. Elohim, the word translated God, is plural in the Hebrew text.

That’s how God inspired the writing of the opening verse of the Bible. So the God who revealed Himself as One—to Abraham, to Moses, to the prophets, and to the other Old Testament people—also reveals Himself as so great He cannot be contained by any limitation.

The Bible consistently reveals God as three personalities. These three personalities or forms are usually referred to as three members of the Godhead—Jehovah, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Christians have made a doctrine of the three members and identify the doctrine of one God in three persons as the Trinity.

Many Christian teachers have sought illustrations to describe the unity of the Trinity. My preferred illustrations are the triangle and a musical chord—but both are imperfect. True, three sides are needed to create a triangle, and if one of them is removed, the triangle is non-existent. But each of the three sides has an identity of it’s own. I don’t think we can do that with God. His organic unity is an essential component of His wholeness. If Jesus or the Holy Spirit are removed from Jehovah, it would violate the nature of His oneness and Jehovah would be altered. Impossible.

Unity within a musical chord is helpful because overtones of any one note are related vibrations. They also contribute to the sound of any one note as heard by the human ear. Because chords add notes that correlate to overtones, there is an intrinsic unity in a chord. But overtones can be managed or manipulated. The image breaks at that point because we can’t manage or manipulate a component of God.

So God’s nature remains a mystery—and that’s not easy for some of us. It’s not easy for people like me who want to define and offer clear explanations.

To compensate, God makes us aware that His infinite nature is part of the wonder we experience when we contemplate Him. (Have you wondered how much we’ll understand the moment we enter heaven? Having become content with my limitations on earth, I now think I’ll continue to learn and learn and learn about the wonders of our God, including the Trinity. People make heaven into whatever they want it to be. I'm not so brilliant, but I love learning and I’ve made heaven into the ultimate learning experience.)

For the present, we can be content and rejoice because throughout history God has made it possible for us to understand something about His nature—the essentials—those things that can bring us into a right relationship with Him. To do that He revealed what we need to know through the person of the Trinity we identify as His Son Jesus. Everything about Jesus—even His death on the cross—reflected and reflects something about the totality of God. Everything in the Bible either points to Jesus or speaks directly about Jesus—because He is our revelation of God’s character.

But the Holy Spirit is also present throughout the Bible. He’s kind of like the unseen partner, working from the beginning in the background—always part of the Oneness of our God.

Next time, a look at the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Word of Wisdom in Action

Fellow blogger Larry Who wrote a post on June 25 that provides a wonderful example of a word of wisdom. A word of wisdom is one of the gifts of the spirit listed in I Corinthians 12. I'd written earlier about the gifts of the spirit (June 15) and was so impressed by Larry's story that I asked if I could share it. He graciously said yes and, because I'm feeling a bit pressed this week, decided I'd pass it on today.

To clear up possible confusion, I'll mention that he refers to what happened as a prophesy or a prophetic word. My belief is that all spoken revelations and/or gifts are prophetic in nature but, because Paul identifies various types of prophetic expressions, it's sometimes helpful to identify differences.

I'd plan to insert his URL to take you directly to the specific entry I'd like to highlight. Well, my computer skills are improved but not improved enough. After struggling for over an hour with various posibilities, I finally posted something that didn't quite work. In desperation I decided I must go on to something else. So, I'm sending you to his blog address and trusting that you'll find the June 25 posting. His postings aren't long and the search will be interesting. Press here .

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cleanse Me with Hyssop, Part 2 of 2

Hyssop. I'm interested in it. The Hebrews used it to apply the blood of their Passover Lamb to the top and sides of the door frames. If it wern't important, it wouldn’t be mentioned by name. My Bible dictionary tells me it’s a form of marjoram, similar to the caper plant, with clusters of small yellow flowers.

After the Hebrews left Egypt and slavery, when God gave them instructions concerning worship, Levitical priests used hyssop. It was part of the cleansing ceremonies after someone was healed of leprosy, (Lev. 14:2-6) and it was used when preparing water for purification. (Lev. 19:18) David drew from that background when he cried, Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Ps. 51:7) The context was his personal cleansing: For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. he said. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. . . . (v. 3,4)

I’m going to make a leap here, so hang with me: God’s use of metaphor is consistent throughout Scripture. That’s one of the wonders of our Bible. When He told the Hebrews to sprinkle the blood of the lamb, the blood pointed to the blood Jesus would shed for the sin of all mankind—a one-time sacrifice. Blood pays the penalty for sin. It provides forgiveness.

And when God told them to apply the blood with hyssop, the hyssop indicated God’s ability to cleanse or purify—to change the very nature of the sinner. Perhaps the aromatic herb already represented cleanliness—a fresh smell to brighten a difficult lifestyle. The Hebrews didn’t understand all the symbolism—couldn’t. Their job was to obey. (I'm not suggesting hyssop has ability to cleanse in itself. Only the sacrifice of Jesus covers and cleanses from sin.)

Slave mentality means lack of personal value. It can mean inability to decide a personal response and it almost always means inability to express personal responses. It often includes poverty, fear, inability to provide for family members. Slavery inhibits freedom, and it's difficult to overcome. Sin is horrendous and slavery to sin is outside God's plan.

But purity is frightening, too. It's an impossible goal. Obeying God is a different kind of slavery—a slavery that promises the elusive internal freedom. One of God’s glorious paradoxes.

It’s almost as important to believe God restores—purifies—as it is to believe He forgives. And it’s every bit as hard or harder. Accepting His forgiveness is vital—our eternal destination depends upon it. But entering into and receiving His life (because only He is good and pure) is our key to receiving the abundant life Jesus promised while still on earth. It’s also the way we pass His life on to others.

In fact, we can’t pass His life on to others unless it’s reality in our lives.

David said, Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. (Ps. 51:10-12) He knew that just as the Hebrews couldn’t make the transition from physical slavery to freedom without God’s continued intervention, he couldn’t make the transition from the slavery of sin to spiritual victory and freedom without God’s continued intervention.

One more Biblical reference to hyssop. Jesus said, I thirst as He died on the cross. Then soldiers used hyssop to lift sour wine to Him. (Jn. 19:29) We read, When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished.” And he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”(v. 30)

Hyssop. Only John records the little detail, but there it is. Cleansing. Jesus didn’t give up His life until hyssop—cleansing—was part of the package. Everything we have comes through Him.

Dear Jesus, open my heart to receive forgiveness from sin. Open my heart to receive Your cleansing. Break down the barriers that keep me from receiving Your life. Amen.

Next time, a look at the person of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cleanse Me with Hyssop, Part 1 of 2

Perhaps you’ve heard stories about people who met God while in a prison—and who then declare that even while in prison, they are free—more free than they had been when outside because they're free from sin.

I believe them. They don’t feel the need to pretend or hide their true feelings, so they're free to be themselves.

Very few of us are there—truly there. Aren’t there emotional places where you don’t go—can’t go—because something from your past constricts you? This isn’t freedom.

After reading the book of Exodus recently, I’ve been thinking about coming out of slavery. God led the Hebrew slaves out of their physical bondage in Egypt, but I’m thinking about a different type of bondage, of course—personal slavery to sin. God is dealing with me on some issues.

Slavery to sin has more than one form. Some people are in bondage due to horrendous sins against them—abuse of all types. When hearts are unable to respond to God or to others because they've been abused, they're experiencing isolation, a form of salvery, caused by the sin of others. But sin is a huge subject. Some people are in bondage due to personal sin. They’ve done something that separated them from God and other people, so they also live in a measure of isolation.

(Separation is God’s punishment for sin. The separation to Hell is the final or ultimate separation, but we can experience many degrees of separation or isolation in our daily life while still on earth.)

The Egyptians isolated the Hebrews by making them their laborers. Rather than enjoying the benefits and blessings of an affluent society, the Hebrews provided the physical labor that made everything work. Their basic status wasn’t caused by their sin but by the sin of their oppressors. Then God arranged for their deliverance.

But deliverance wasn't a quick work. First, Moses told them God wanted to set them free. What a joy that must have been. They believed. . . . And, when they heard the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshipped. (Ex. 4:31 ESV) But then they had to go through trials to attain the new status. And as they struggled to understand, a different type of sin and bondage became a new reality. When they failed to believe—or to obey God’s Word through His leaders—they sinned on their own and isolated themselves anew from God and others.

The same is true for us. When God moves in our lives, we move into the joy of freedom. We’re no longer separated or isolated. But then we discover it requires a different mindset. We’re asked to trust and obey. When we do, we have new responsibilities. We learn following God requires brokenness and transparency before the One who loves us.

Knowing God is working in our behalf brings new desire to love God and please Him, sometimes at great cost. The Hebrews experienced plagues. They lived the terror of being unable to fulfill unjust demands and they experienced the uncertainty of day-to-day trauma. By the time of the Passover, they had first-hand experience of God’s ability to move on their behalf, but they were hardly comfortable with God’s strange requirements and promises.

Still, they participated. They packed their belongings, secured their Passover lamb, slaughtered it, daubed the blood of the animal on the top and sides of the door frames with hyssop, baked unleavened bread, and ate a meal that included not only the Passover lamb and unleavened bread—but also bitter herbs to represent their lives as slaves.

Next time, part 2 of looking at the purity issue.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Great Time

Did you read about our celebration? Our 50th Anniversary celebration? If not, and if you're interested in a family event, you can get the preview by reading my post of June 4. If not, my series will continue Monday.

The weather had been unusually cold and rainy the week before the event. Both Ken and I fretted a bit but comforted ourselves by the thought of no mosquitoes. Then, as a special blessing, the weather changed. Rain disappeared, the thermometer rose to the low 70s in the afternoons, and the mosquites hadn't had time to hatch. Perfect.

Our children with families arrived according to schedule. Ted and family—who came Friday, June 5—had some difficulty adjusting to the 9-hour time difference, but survived to thrive. The time alone with them gave us opportunity to get re-acquainted with almost 3-year-old Simon and 10-month-old Salome. They’ve changed since we last saw them in Ethiopia in October!

On Wednesday the 10th we all went to a lake resort in Minnesota for a few days. On Saturday we came back to West Fargo by way of Wahpeton, ND, where we lived for many years. This will be a straightforward account via pictures of a few highlights (almost all from the resort). When I bring up the idea of sharing pix on a blog, some members of our family are camera shy, so I've selected pictures that don't reveal identities.

First, because it was lovely (and spotless!), the resort. From our cabin we looked in two directions. On one side the lake. Here I focused on a birch with the lake as a backdrop. When I become a better photographer, I'll know how to make the white of the bark stand out the way it did in real life.

Through the front window we viewed a maple, an oak, a willow and a pine. The lodge is in the background.

There were wildflowers along the edge of the woods.

Our children rented a pontoon one day for fishing and touring. East Silent Lake is quiet and beautiful.

However, our children and grandchildren wanted activity, so the pontoon stood unused in the afternoon and evening in favor of kayaks and a canoe.

I thought I took pictures of the fun on the raft—but apparently didn't. Some used the kayaks to reach it while a few swam in the frigid waters. All converged to jump around and generally have a good time while the prudent (or the less daring?) laughed from shore.

There was fun on the beach, too. Here some of the teenagers and a parent get things started for the younger children. Later, Simon (center) with his 7 and 8-year-old cousins played together for almost two hours in the sand, each doing their own thing.

The baby and older brother went on excursions.
And played on the playground.

Ken and one of our son-in-laws caught fish from one of the private docks.

Here’s the beach in the quiet of the evening when everyone went to their respective cabins to rest up.

All family stuff—no great shakes for the rest of the world. But we had a great time. On our final night we had our only rain shower just as we were about to eat. Quickly moving everything inside the closest cabin, the girls arranged and served another wonderful meal. This time they surprised us with an anniversary cake—and I didn’t think to shoot a picture until we’d all had a piece. As we finished, Ken waxed eloquent about all being together under one roof.

And here's Ken on Saturday, looking at where the Ottertail River and Bois de Sioux River converge to form the Red River of the North between Wahpeton, ND, and Breckenridge, MN.

It wasn't all over, however. On Sunday we had a few extended family members stop by our condo to see the children and grandchildren. Fun to show them off.

Then the children left one by one. That helped the feelings of emptiness when all left. Although Monday, on the last full day of having someone with us, I was so tired that even the adrenalin was running low. Yet how I hated to see them go. I can't help but wonder when we'll all be together again.

P.S. I had Ken read this before posting and he laughed and laughed because I ended up with his backside after avoiding anything that revealed identities. If you got this far, I hope you were able to take it in stride the way he did.