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Archive for the ‘Spiritual Matters’ Category

god-speaks

A recurrent theme in our family lately has been, “How do we hear God’s voice when He speaks?  Or, what does God’s voice sound like?”  While we consistently tell our kids that one of the best ways to hear God’s voice is to read His Word because that is His love letter to us, it is also important that our children understand that being a Christian is all about being in a PERSONAL relationship with the Creator.  That means that, if we will have “ears to hear” Him, He will speak to us individually in intimate, personal ways.  I had such an experience yesterday.

I went for my morning run.  As I was walking to warm up, I thought about which route I wanted to run, country route to be alone or street route among the neighbors.  I chose country route because I was stressed, grumpy and just wanted to get away.  About .75 miles into my run, the thought occurred to me that I was running one of my neighborhood routes backwards and I could change my mind and go through a neighborhood.  I had a feeling that the thought was placed there by God, but I had no idea why.  I told God that if He wanted me to go that way for some reason, I would but He needed to confirm that this thought was His rather than mine, because I really just wanted to go the country route.  The thoughts kept coming that I could go the neighborhood route, but I had no confirmation that it wasn’t anything more than just my thoughts.  So, at the decision point where I had to go right (to the country) or left (through the neighborhood), I went right.

At that moment, the thought occurred to me that if God had actually wanted me to go through the neighborhood for some reason, I would now never know why.  That thought caused me to turn around and go the neighborhood route. (OK, God.  Something better happen to make this worth it, because I really wanted to go the other route.)

I passed two men in a garage changing out a water heater.  (Is this why I came this way?)  They didn’t even look my direction.  (Apparently, not).  I kept running.

(I could keep going straight here instead of turning left on my normal route and cut my run short.  But then I might miss whatever it is God has in store for me, if anything.)  I turned left.

About 1.5 miles into my run, I looked ahead and saw a white car blocking the sidewalk in front of me.  I could tell that it had 2 hearts on the door and wondered if the logo was for a dating service or something.  As I approached, I was able to read the print.  Whoever drove the car worked for Hospice.  I have a special place in my heart for Hospice because my daddy had a very special Hospice nurse when he passed away from cancer 23 years ago.

As I got a few steps away from the car, I felt as if God were telling me to stop and pray.  (This is it.  This is why He brought me this way.)  So I stopped running, paused my running app, placed my hand on the back of the car, and prayed.  Not knowing whether the person who drove the car lived in the house or was there to aid someone ill in the house, I didn’t know exactly how to pray.  I asked God to be with the person who drove the car, to help them to have an effective ministry and to be able to bring peace to those in the greatest need of their lives.  (Amen.)

I looked around and saw no one.  I looked down to my armband preparing to restart my running app and be on my way.  I felt another nudge.  (No, God.  Please.)  I felt the nudge to go knock on the front door of the house.  (God, if this is really You asking me to do this, I’ll do it.  But how do I know it’s You and not just me over-thinking this?  Show me a sign.)  No sign, but still the nudge to act.  (God, if this is not You, it will be so embarrassing.  Not to mention that if someone is in there with their loved one lying on their deathbed, they don’t want to talk to me, if it’s not You speaking to me!)  No sign, but still the nudge to act.  (God, I want to be obedient to You.  If You want me to speak to them, confirm to me somehow that this is really coming from You.  Let them open the door or something.)

AT THAT EXACT MOMENT, the garage door began to raise.  (OK, God.  I get it.  Thank you.)  I saw a pair of legs getting into the van.  The door continued to raise.  The van began to back out.  Then, I assume they saw me standing behind them just waiting, they stopped suddenly.  I continued to stand there and lifted my sunglasses from my eyes onto my head so they could see me as I spoke to them.  I was nervous, but convinced at this point that I was doing what God wanted me to do, even if I didn’t know why.  They, realizing that I wasn’t going anywhere, continued to back out and began rolling down their driver’s side window.  The van stopped in front of me and I looked into the concerned face of a man.

“Hi,” I said to him.  “I was on my morning run and this car here and felt the urge to stop and pray for the person who drives it.  I don’t know if someone who lives here drives it or if someone who lives here is in need of the services provided by them, but I prayed for both.”  The concern melted away from his face and he plunged his hand through the window to shake mine.

“My name is Brian,” he said.  “I drive that car.  I work for them.”  Pointing to the passenger’s seat, he said, “This is my son, Evan.”

“Hello, Evan.  My name is Jodi.  I live in the neighborhood.  My dad died of cancer a long time ago and Hospice helped us greatly.  I really am thankful for that ministry.  So, thank you Brian, for doing what you do.”

“You’re welcome!” he said.  “Have a good day.”

“You, too!  God bless!”  I said, as I ran off, restarting my running app.  Within a couple of steps, as Brian drove away, I began to weep uncontrollably.  (Thank You!  Thank You!  Thank You, God!  I don’t know why You wanted that exchange to take place today, but I am convinced that You did!  Thank You for using me!  Thank You for speaking to me!  Just, thank You!)

When I got home, I was able to share this experience with my family.  I don’t know how, if at all, this experience impacted Brian, but I know it impacted me.  It was another fingerprint of God in my life.  It is another example to my children of who God is, how much He cares about us and how He speaks to us, because HE DOES STILL SPEAK!

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Some of you know that Shmoopy and I have decided to give up the safety of Suburbia and simply follow where the Holy Spirit leads…no matter the cost.  There are several reasons for this decision, but that’s another post for another day. (We actually intend to start a blog about this new journey of ours. Stay tuned.)  Well, we’ve been earnestly praying and seeking God’s will as to what He would have us do and where He would have us do it.  We feel pretty sure that we are called to live among the poor, but we have not known whether that would be in inner-city America, Cambodia, Kenya or somewhere else.  We’ve done massive amounts of research in addition to our prayers in the last month in hopes that a door would open.  We still don’t have an open door, but we may have been told today which direction to look in, which is a HUGE answer to prayer when you consider how big this world of ours is!

The answer began on day last week.  I was getting anxious and depressed because I felt like we weren’t feeling any direction for our journey.  I fell asleep one night praying, begging, that God would tell us where to go.  We didn’t care where; we would definitely go if He would just tell us where.  The next morning, I awoke with a single word running through my mind very loudly, very clearly: BRAZIL, BRAZIL, BRAZIL…

This had happened to me once before in answer to earnest prayer, but, again, that’s another post for another day.  Honestly, I kind of thought to myself that God wouldn’t make it that easy for me and I had probably just read something about Brazil and it was just a subconscious response.  Brazil wasn’t even on our radar; it wasn’t one of the places we had found possible opportunities.  So I dismissed the notion that God may be calling us to go to Brazil, and didn’t even mention it to Shmoopy.

Then this morning as we were in the car on our way to San Antonio for a house church conference, I was praying again, begging God to just tell us where He wanted us to go, and we would go.  All of a sudden, a picture flashed in my mind for the briefest of seconds.  However, brief, though, it was a very clear picture.  It was the huge statue of Jesus that overlooks Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  My thoughts were:

1. That was weird.

2. Hey, that thing’s in Brazil and I had Brazil on my mind the other morning. Weird!

3.Again, I’m just trying to make something out of nothing because I want so desperately for God to reveal our destination to us.

So, again, I dismissed the notion that this was possibly an answer to our earnest prayers and didn’t even mention it to Shmoopy.

Then, this afternoon, as we were on a hot bus taking a tour of house churches in San Antonio, I received the following message from my dear friend Kyle (who happens to be at the Q conference in Chicago with his wife this week):

“If you all are interested in being missionaries to a hot zone, research Rio de Janeiro. Home of the 2016 Olympics.  One of the most beautiful cities in the world and also one of the most dangerous.  And they need Jesus in a big way!”

Shmoopy and I were talking, I can’t remember who was in mid-sentence, but whomever it was stopped.  He could see the utter shock on my face and my eyes welling with tears, so he asked me what was wrong.  I tried my best to explain all of the above to him through my tears and hyperventilation.  It was as if God were telling met o “WAKE UP!  I KEEP TELLING YOU WHERE TO GO AND YOU KEEP ASKING AGAIN!!!  GO TO BRAZIL!”

I’m not sure what all this means, but I do know that Shmoopy and I will be fervently researching Rio de Janeiro while continuing to pray for the Holy Spirit’s continued leading.  Man, God is always so faithful to us, and I don’t just mean Shmoopy and I.  He’s faithful to all of us.  And what an adventure it is to finally trust Him with EVERYTHING!

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I began reading the Bible to Boss when he was a newborn baby.  I’ve tried to read it to him everyday, though there are days when it just doesn’t get done…and that’s okay.  Well, tonight, in anticipation of his 6th birthday tomorrow, we finished the last chapter of Revelation.  We read the entire Bible together!!!  It took us 6 years, but we did it!  The great thing about it is that he loves reading his Bible!  He asks me every night if we can have Bible time.  I pray that this love of God’s word continues in his life.  And I’m so glad to be able to share this accomplishment with “my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Note: In case you’re wondering, Bubba and I are in 1 Chronicles and Sissy and I are in Judges!

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I’ve been depressed…for awhile.  I don’t know why.  I had a terrible childhood and every reason in the world to be depressed growing up, but I never was.  Now, I have a GREAT life.  I have the greatest husband of ALL TIMES, 3 beautiful, smart, funny, healthy kids, a great house, the ability to stay home with my kids, wonderful friends and family and I am part of a church that is not just church family, but I really consider them family.  I’m ministering to my neighbors like I never have in my life and get to help with this great non-profit call Retread where we provide basic needs for impoverished kids so they can focus on school.  My biggest problem in life is that we only have 1 car instead of 2 now, which complicates things slightly.  That’s it.

I have nothing to be depressed about and yet I have been for months now.  Frankly, it pisses me off.  I’ve felt like running away for many months now.  (Before you get worried, please know that I would NEVER actually allow myself to do that.  It’s just been an urge.)  I haven’t wanted to be around people.  I just want to stay in bed for days and do nothing.  I’ve come to a point where I just feel like a failure, like I can’t keep up.  I’ve been overwhelmed, drained…depressed.

This past Sunday, I finally shared this with my church and they gathered round me and prayed.  And they’ve been praying all week; I can tell.  I can tell because I feel different this week.  I haven’t had a stress headache yet this week, and that’s huge!  More importantly, I feel more positive.  I feel like maybe I’ve just been putting too much pressure on myself to do everything.  Maybe God doesn’t expect me to do it all.  Normally, that would scare me.  But Boss’s teacher (we’ll call her Ms. N) said something to me this week (that I feel God prompted her to say because He knew I needed to hear it) that helped me tremendously.

I was speaking with Ms. N about a form that Shmoopy and I had filled out regarding Boss’s testing for the Gifted & Talented program, and she shared with me that she had found the stories about Boss funny and inspiring.  She said that she told her boyfriend that she wants to do some of the things with her kids that Shmoopy and I have done with our kids.  She said she told him that Boss’s mom is a “Godly woman that [she] looks up to as a role model.”  She said they’ve found a church they are comfortable in and she wants to grow closer to God.

Whew!  That brings me to tears all over again.  You can’t comprehend how badly I needed to hear someone say that!  And not one of my friends or family-members, but someone outside of my circle who has no obligation whatsoever to offer such kind words.  It made me see that focusing every ounce of my time and energy on my kids is not taking away from my time that I should be sharing the gospel with others.  Right now, in this stage of my life, my kids are exactly where I should be investing my time and energy.  And I don’t have to feel guilty that I’m not out on the streets finding people who need Jesus to minister to them because the time and energy that I invest in my children is making an impact on more than just their 3 very special little lives.  It’s impacting their teachers, counselors, principals, etc…

Just imagine all of the teachers, the people, that my investment in my children will touch in some way over the next 17 years until Sissy graduates from high school.  Boss alone just in his first year of school has 6 teachers including the specials (P.E., music and art).  Not to mention the interaction I have with other teachers through being his room mom and my involvement with PTA.

So, while I’m not completely out of the woods, yet,  I see hope.  Church family, please keep praying…it’s working.  Shmoopy, keep supporting me and loving me; I appreciate you more than I could ever express.  Parents & friends, you’re prayers would be appreciated, too.  If you’re reading this and I’ve never met you, please know that God does answer prayers.  He does care about your state of mind and heart.  He will come through for you in sweet, unimaginable ways.

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girl-praying When I was probably 5-7 years old, I experienced a true answer to prayer that further substantiated my already strong belief that God is real.  I was staying at my Nanny & Poppa’s house, this was before I went to live with them permanently.  I was in the house with my Poppa, when we heard a crash outside.  He told me to stay in the house and he ran outside to see what caused the noise.  I witnessed the event from a bedroom window.

The crashing sound was made by my very drunk Daddy crashing his pickup truck through the chain link fence.  He told my Poppa, who was his dad, that he was there to pick me up and take me with him.  My Poppa, realizing this was a terrible idea with the state my Daddy was in, refused to let me go with him.  My Daddy could get extremely angry when he was drunk, and he didn’t take this refusal kindly and told my Poppa in words I won’t repeat that he was taking me whether Poppa wanted him to or not.

Poppa ran in the house, locked the door and retrieved one of his hunting rifles from his bedroom.  Then he ran outside and pointed the gun in his own son’s face.  He told him to leave and come back when he was sober.  My Daddy continued to insist on taking me with him, and my Poppa began begging him to just leave and come back when he was sober or he would have to shoot.

Now, while it was true that my Daddy was an alcoholic and could be very violent at times, he never once laid a hand on me.  He loved me and made me feel loved and special.  Somehow, that anger of his was never directed toward me.  I loved my Daddy probably more than any other person on Earth, and I did not want to see him hurt by my Poppa even though I knew that Poppa was right to not want me to go with him.  So when my Poppa told him he would shoot him, I ran into the living room and knelt down at the red floral vinyl couch and began to pray earnestly that God would keep my Daddy safe.  I believe my actual words were, “Jesus, please don’t let Poppa hurt Daddy!”

Then I ran to the window to see what was happening.  The shouting was escalating and I could tell that, while neither of them wanted to hurt the other one, they were both willing to do whatever it took to get what they were after.  So I ran back to the couch and prayed some more.  I begged and pleaded God to keep my Daddy safe from harm.  It ties my stomach in knots even now to think of how earnest and desperate that prayer was!

Then I ran back to the window to assess the situation.  The fight was getting worse.  Tears were streaming down my face and my heart was racing.  Then it happened…Poppa pulled the trigger just inches from my Daddy’s chest!

Everything stopped.

No more shouting.

No more movement.

Just silence.

Poppa had pulled the trigger, and it had jammed.  Both men, father and son, stood staring at one another in shock and disbelief.

Fortunately, the fact that his own father had just tried to shoot him sobered my Daddy enough to make him realize that he should leave, and he did.  My Poppa sat on the steps and cried.

I ran back into the living room, knelt at that vinyl couch one more time and cried my eyes out.  This time, my prayer went something like this: “Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you, Jesus!  Thank you!”

I know my God is real because He hears and answers my prayers.

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I promised a series about how I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God is real.  It took me awhile to get to it, but here is part 1 of the series.

When I was in third or fourth grade, I lived with my dad and stepmom in a run-down trailer house on the wrong side of town.  Daddy and his wife were avid bird lovers and owned over 100 birds.  Daddy was a carpenter and had built a green house that housed most of the birds right outside my bedroom window.  On colder nights, he would place space heaters in the green house to keep the birds warm.

One night, I was lying in my bed, which faced my bedroom window, sleeping when I heard a voice saying, “Jodi, wake up.  Wake up, Jodi.”  I woke up to a surprising sight.  It was Jesus surrounded by a bright light!  Almost as soon as I saw Him there, He disappeared.  I then noticed a flashing light coming from the window.  I got up and looked outside my window into the green house to see what was causing the flashing light and saw that there was a fire!

I ran out of my bedroom into the kitchen where my stepmom was sitting and told her.  She told me to go tell my dad, who was sleeping in their bedroom.  I ran in to tell him, and he got up and put out the fire before any of the birds were harmed.  One of the space heaters had started the fire because of an exposed wire.

This was very clear to me that God had woken me up in time to get the fire put out before it harmed anyone.  Trailers are notorious for burning very quickly.  If that fire had reached my bedroom wall, I most likely would not have had time to get out of my room because my bedroom door was directly adjacent to that wall and the only window out of the room was the one looking into the green house.  Say what you want, but that was proof to me that God is real, God cares about us and God has a purpose for my life.jesus

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I know I promised two posts ago to do a series on how I know God is real, but my son is pre-empting that; I will get to it next.

Each night before the boys go to bed, I read them a chapter from the Bible and then their individual life texts.  With each of the kids I started reading from Genesis 1.  I haven’t come anywhere close to getting the readings in everyday of their lives, but I’m doing my best.  So tonight I read John 9 to Boss and 1 Samuel 24 to Bubba.  I read Bubba’s life text that we chose for him when he was born first, which is Proverbs 3:3-8.  Then I read Boss his life text, which is 1 John 4:1-16.  I have read these to them so many times in the last 5 years that I have them both memorized.

As I was reading Boss his text, which is all about Love, he interrupted me with the following statement: “Love’s a mess!”  Confused, I asked him what he meant.  He explained without even thinking about it, “Everybody’s supposed to love everybody, and everybody is all over the place!”

Wow!  If you sit and think about it, he’s right.  Love is a mess.  That’s why it’s so hard.  It’s not just about loving our family and friends.  It’s about loving total strangers, the unlovable, the unkind, the unapproachable; the Bible says to even love our enemies.  And I would venture to say that a lot of those we find hard to love that fit into those aforementioned undesirable categories are really just misunderstood.  Just as one verse in Boss’s life text says, “If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  So let’s get to work, People!mother-theresa

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