Monday, September 30, 2013

The Good News

When we are born again, we are given saving faith as a gift from God. The only thing that He asks of us in return is that as He has poured His love and grace into us, we would pour that same love and grace out for others. He will always replenish it – as we give we receive, blessing upon blessing.

When Jesus began His ministry, He stood in the temple and read from Isaiah 61:1-2, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” When Jesus saves us, it is for this same calling. Sometimes people get it mixed up and think that they need to be doing the saving, that they need to be condemning and telling people that they are sinning, but it is Jesus who saves, and it is the Holy Spirit who shines His light on our lives so that we can know we are in sin and need His help. All we are asked to do is to share The Good News of Salvation, which is the title of Isaiah 61 in the New King James Version.
Isaiah 61 continues in verses 2-4, “To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God. To comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He may be glorified. And they shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.” And in verse 7, “Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land, they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs."

The phrase, “the day of vengeance of our God” is an important part of the story. In all of our lives there have been things that have been done to us or to those we care for that have caused pain. Sometimes it is the seemingly random pain caused by illness or death, and sometimes it is something that has been directly done to us by another person. The vengeance of God when it comes to these situations will bring healing to us and justice to the situation. The justice God brings will be tempered with mercy, and can bring restoration to even those things that seem impossible to restore. As the Lord brings healing to us, we become able to rebuild and repair those things that have been made desolate, and to reach out with His healing love to repair the desolation in the lives of many who have lived in despair for generations. It is important to understand that the vengeance is of God and not ours. The work that He has given to us is the work of restoring, of speaking comfort and consolation, of proclaiming the Good News.
In verses 10-11 we read, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God. For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord God will cause righteousness to spring forth before all the nations.” As we read that we can ourselves put on those garments and ornaments, and we can take on the call to spread the Good News. The Lord God Himself will cause righteousness to spring forth, and we can do our part by sharing His message with others. We can do our part by sharing His message of mercy, of love and of healing.

Blessings,
Jannie Susan

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Time Of God's Favor Is Always Now

My schedule for writing got all turned around because of a trip I needed to take for work this past week. I usually write in the evening to post the next morning, but for most of this past week I was writing in the evening to post that same day. I thought the Lord was changing things and that they’d stay changed in that way, but this morning He gave me a word to share that He wants me to share now. Who knows how my schedule will go in the future, but for now I have a word that He wants me to share so here I am writing in the morning again even though I posted just last night.

There are times when God will want you to act right now and times He will want you to wait. He may show you something that is coming in the future, but tell you the time for you to act is not now. He may change things up in your environment or your schedule, He may give you something new to do. He will always prepare us for what is coming, but if we’re too busy living in the future and not paying attention to what He is telling us to do right now, we may not be prepared when the thing comes to pass that He told us about. Noah is a perfect example of this – he heard from God to build an ark in a time when no ark had ever been built and there wasn’t a need for one because the earth did not know rain in the way it does now. And yet he patiently set about building an ark because God had told him to do it. When the ark was finished, the rains came, and Noah and his family were the only ones who survived. I wonder how many other people God spoke to about that rain. Noah must have had to tell people what he was doing because he would have needed to get the supplies and may have asked other people for help. God may even have spoken to other people in the way He spoke to Noah, but they may have been too caught up in their own lives and thoughts and plans to listen. I know I have a problem with procrastination – there are things that need to be done in my apartment and my life that I know will take time and effort and sometimes – often – I just don’t feel like doing them. I’d rather go out and take walks and go to the thrift store and talk to people and spend time with friends. If I’m really honest it’s a form of laziness, and something that I need to push through in order to be obedient to God.
I’ve been wondering why it is that some of us listen to God and some of us fight Him every step of the way. I know that spiritually each one of us has our own appointed time for salvation, and that God knows each of us so intimately that He knows when and how each one of us will finally let go of our struggle with doing things our own way and finally let Him into our lives. I also know that I was one of the ones who fought Him for a long time, and I wonder now that I listen to Him and experience the blessing of listening, why it was that it took me so long. There are some people who He had put into my life who shared the message of His love with me, but I was so resistant and so stubborn in that resistance! Even though my life was not an easy or a happy one, I still fought to do things the way I’d always done them.

The verse for today that I get in my email was John 3:20-21, “All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” As I read that I started thinking about the way I resisted God for so long. I never thought that what I was doing was evil – I was just living my life in the best way I knew how. But on the day of my salvation, when I was born again, I had a revelation of God through Jesus Christ that opened my eyes to my own need for forgiveness. In the New Testament reading I also get in my daily email, the chapter was Luke 23, which contains the very same passage that the Lord used to expose my own darkness and help me see His light. When Jesus is crucified, He speaks the words, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” At the time that I was born again, I had been dealing with some people who were so corrupt and so evil in the things they were doing not just to me but to other people, and everyone I knew, even people who were not Christians, had been telling me that I needed to find a way to forgive them. When I read that passage in a little cartoon booklet tract that I found - something that He had put in my path to find - those were the words I responded to – I said to the Lord, “I know you could forgive them when you were on the cross, but I’m not you.” He answered gently and quietly, “You’re not on the cross,” and in that moment I understood that I was a sinner just as those people who were trying to do harm to me were – that there was not anything better about me than about them at all – and I also understood that He was willing to forgive me at any moment if I could also forgive those who were hurting me. And I understood that His love is greater than any love I could ever know, because He loves us all no matter what we choose – we can choose to turn to Him and be filled with His love and mercy and grace, or we can continue to go on our own way, but no matter what we choose, He will still love us. The only difference is that we will experience true joy with Him, so we are the ones who gain when we make the choice to put our trust in Him.
In Luke 23:39-43, there are two criminals who are being crucified on either side of Jesus. Throughout His ordeal, He has been continually mocked by people in authority and bystanders alike. In The Voice translation we read:

“One of the criminals joined in the cruel talk.
Cynical Criminal: “You’re supposed to be the Annointed One, right? Well – do it! Rescue yourself and us!”
But the other criminal told him to be quiet.
Believing Criminal: Don’t you have any fear of God at all? You’re getting the same death sentence that He is! We’re getting what we deserve since we’ve committed crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything at all. (turning to Jesus) Jesus, when you come into Your kingdom, please remember me.”
Jesus: I promise you that this very day you will be with me in Paradise.”

Reading that today, after thinking about my own struggle against Him and how my eyes were finally opened by His grace, I see the choice that He gives us so clearly and how willing He is to forgive us at any moment we choose to come to Him. Two criminals, two different reactions to Grace in the form of a man. Two different choices in the very same moment. In neither case does He condemn them, but when one recognizes His own need for forgiveness, at that very moment, not later, not after a time of waiting, but at that very moment, he has the promise of salvation fulfilled in his life.
There is no crime that we can commit that God cannot forgive and there is nothing that has been done to us or that we have done that God cannot heal. 2 Corinthians 6:2 tells us, “For He says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” We can choose at any moment to hear His invitation, and when we say yes, He will receive us with love.

Blessings,

Jannie Susan

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The One Who Lifts Our Heads High

I was reading another email newsletter from the website www.SimpleTruths.com, and this one was on The Golden Rule. So I went ahead and looked up “The Golden Rule,” just to see what would come up online. I’ve found that whenever the Lord is speaking something to me, He’ll use anything and everything to let me know what He wants me to know, and when something comes into my mind to look up, it’s because the Lord has something to say to me about it. When I looked up “The Golden Rule,” this is what I found on Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Golden_Rule:

“The Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity is a maxim, ethical code or morality that essentially states either of the following:
·         (Positive form of Golden Rule): One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.

·         (Negative form of Golden Rule): One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated (also known as the Silver Rule).
The article goes on to speak about the different ways that the Golden Rule has been discussed and interpreted and spoken about throughout history in many different traditions, but the way that came most quickly to my mind was through the teachings of Jesus, some of which are listed in a section on Christianity:
“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)
“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” (Luke 6:31)

There are also mentions from the Old Testament and from some of the Apocrypha, the Books of Tobit and Sirach:
“Do to no one what you yourself dislike.” (Tobit 4:15)
“Recognize that your neighbor feels as you do, and keep in mind your own dislikes.” (Sirach 31:15)

And I also found something that I thought was really wonderfully and cleverly expressed:
“At the time of Hillel, an elder contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth, the negative form of the golden rule already must have been proverbial, perhaps because of Tobit 4:15. When asked to sum up the entire Torah concisely, he answered, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.” (Talmud, Shabbat 31a)

Jesus Himself says something very similar, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)
It seems such a perfect way of living your life, and one that would make things very simple, and I found myself wondering why it is that it is so hard to live our lives this way. Why is it that we can find ourselves feeling justified in doing things to other people that we would not want them to do to us? I’ve been having that experience lately with someone I know who has said they are a Christian, and yet everything that is being done to me by this person is definitely something they would not want to have done to them. And I don’t take myself out of this question either. I know that there have been times in my life when I have not treated people in the way that I would like them to treat me – for whatever the reason I have felt justified in doing what I thought was best for me without thinking about treating others in the way I would want to be treated. Even now in my dealings with the person who is treating me so badly, it is very difficult, even though I know the Lord and trust Him, to treat this person in a way that I would want to be treated. When someone is going after you, the gut response, at least for me, is to go after them too. It is only by the grace of God that I have been able to hold myself to His standard, and to treat them with respect even as they are completely disrespecting me.

God doesn’t want us to be doormats, but He does want us to hold ourselves to a high standard. He wants us to be kind when others are not, and to bless others when they are cursing us. It has been a lesson He has been teaching me in how to stand up for myself with His grace. In the past I would have either let people walk all over me or I would lose my temper. He’s showing me how to treat people in the way I would want to be treated, while still holding my own boundaries so they know how I want to be treated. And even more than that, He is showing me that I deserve to be treated well. He is showing me that if I am not treated well, I don’t have to say it’s ok. I don’t need to get angry about it or upset, but I can address it with all the respect and love He has put into me to let people know that I don’t deserve to be treated that way.
Psalm 3:3 puts it this way, “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” We can walk in confidence and victory because He is our glory, and the One who lifts our heads high. When we have fully understood that, there is nothing that can put us down, because when we know that He is our shield and He is our glory, we will also know that we can hold our heads high because He is the one who lifts them up.

Blessings,
Jannie Susan

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Cup Of Cold Water

One of my cousins sent me an email a few weeks ago with a video from the website Simple Truths. I liked it so much I signed up to be on their email list, and I’ve been getting these great inspiring emails in my in-box on a regular basis. It’s a free service, and though they do have information about things you can buy, it’s not anything that’s a hard sell and the emails are really enjoyable. If you go to their website, www.simpletruths.com, and click on “Join Our Newsletter” at the top of the page, you can get these emails in your inbox too. You can also click on the link for “Inspirational Movies” on the lower right hand side to see the list of the movies you can watch for free. They’re all very short – three minutes – and they cover lots of different topics and ways of looking at things that always leave me with either tears in my eyes – in a good way – or all revved up – in a good way – or both.

There was a story that they sent out last week, and then it came into my email again today in the form of a short movie. It’s from a book by Mac Anderson, “The Power of Kindness.” In the story, a young man is working as a door-to-door salesman to make his way through school. He stops at a house to ask for something to eat, but then decides not to, even though he is very hungry. Instead he asks for a drink of water, but the young woman who answers the door brings him a glass of milk instead because she thinks he looks like he is hungry. When he asks her how much he owes her, she says, “You don’t owe me anything. Mother has taught us never to accept pay for a kindness.” As he walks away, Mac Anderson writes, “He not only felt stronger physically, but his faith in God and man was strengthened also. He had been ready to give up and quit.” Many years later, the young woman becomes ill and the doctors don’t know how to help her. The same young man, now older and a doctor, is called in to treat her. When he recognizes her, he puts all his effort toward saving her life. It is a long battle, but he is able to save her, and when it is time for her to pay the bill, he writes on it, “Paid in full with one glass of milk.” At the bottom of the story, there is this note, “Dr. Howard Kelly was a distinguished physician who, in 1895, founded the Johns Hopkins Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Johns Hopkins University. According to Dr. Kelly’s biographer, Audrey Davis, the doctor was on a walking trip through Northern Pennsylvania one spring day when he stopped by a farmhouse for a drink of water.”

In Matthew 10:42, Jesus tells us, “And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.” God sees our hearts. There are times when we don’t have much to give, but when we give what we can, a kind word, a prayer, a thought, a cup of water, we have no idea how He can multiply what little we have to give when we give it from our heart. There are times when He will have me say something to someone or send them an email or leave them a message, and I am feeling like it’s just not enough because I want to do so much more, but when I have done what He has asked me to do, He’ll say, “You have no idea how much that meant.” God is in our actions when they are actions of kindness and love. He’s in our words when they are words of encouragement and prayer. The Holy Spirit speaks to the spirit and heart of each one of us through the smallest of actions and words if those words and actions are motivated by the power of love.

I was looking up something today and I found a video for the Beatles song “Help!” I know all those songs like they are a part of me – I grew up listening to them and they were some of the first songs I ever heard. “Help! I need somebody, help! Not just anybody, help! You know I need someone, help! When I was younger so much younger than today, I never needed anybody’s help in any way. But now these days are gone, I’m not so self-assured, now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors. Help me if you can I’m feeling down, and I do appreciate your being round. Help me get my feet back on the ground, won’t you please, please help me. And now my life has changed in oh so many ways, my independence seems to vanish in the haze. But every now and then I feel so insecure, I know that I just need you like I’ve never done before.”

It’s so strange to watch them sing that song when they were so very young. The lyrics are the words of someone who has been through so much, but the music and the way they sing it is so full of life and joy. When we can change our minds in that way, when we can open up the door that we have locked and let other people in to help us, we can have that lightness with our burden too. There are times when we feel that there’s no one we can call on, times like the moment in the story about the future doctor when we are walking on a long and dusty road and we feel like we want to give up and we don’t know how to ask for help. But then we decide we will ask, maybe not asking for what we really need, but we begin to ask for something, instead of food we ask for water, and a kind person who answers our knock on their door gives us more than we ask for. And the more that they give us is not just in the physical thing that they give to us, but it is in the way that they give it, with kindness and love and because they have taken the time to care.
Blessings,

Jannie Susan

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Relax

A number of years ago I went to an audition for a new tv show that was going to be part of the Oprah network. I wasn’t selected and I don’t think it ever was made, but it might have been – I don’t own a tv and I hardly ever watch tv, so unless someone tells me about something or I read about it I wouldn’t know about it. It was a show about people who did good things – a kind of pay it forward type of show that would showcase people who did nice things for other people in some way, big or small. The audition took an entire day – I forget how I heard about it, but it may have come through one of my regular acting resources. I used to get so many emails about audition opportunities from different actors’ networks, and this may have come through one of them or it could have come through a friend. Whatever the case, I was born again at the time, and so I wasn’t going out on auditions unless the Lord said go, and He said to go to this one so I did.

It was an open call, and they had everyone who responded show up in this huge ballroom type of function room at one of the big hotels in Manhattan. We could choose where we wanted to sit, and It just so happened that I ended up sitting next to two born again Christians. We spent the whole day talking together and had a great time. I don’t even remember what we talked about, but it was great encouraging conversation. I’m sure we shared testimonies about what God has done in our lives, and we had some good laughs too. At one point, one of the people gave me a business card type of card, only it was not a business card – it had a picture of two penguins on it with one that had a giant fish on the top of its head in a way that the penguin looked like it was being swallowed by the fish, and the card had written on it, “Relax, God’s in charge.” I just looked it up and found it on this website, though it’s out of print, but at least you can see what it looks like: http://www.christianresources.co.nz/c/176/p/4114/Relax,-Gods-in-Charge---Pass-It-On--Card--Out-of-print.aspx.
I put that card on my refrigerator door so I can see it every day. It’s one of those things that is right in front of my face all the time, but sometimes I forget about it because it’s so familiar. But tonight when I was asking the Lord what to write about, I saw that card and He said to write about that. For me personally, penguins are one of my all-time favorite animals. I love all animals – even ground hogs – but penguins are for me something that I’ve loved since I was a child. I hadn’t thought about it at the time when the man gave me that card, and I hadn’t ever thought about it all the years I’ve had it on my refrigerator door, but when I saw the card tonight and started to write about it, I recognized that they were penguins and thought how great it was that the Lord had them on that card and that’s the card that man had given me. God is a very personal God. When He wants us to know that a message is for us, specifically for us, then He gives it to us in a way that we know it’s Him talking directly to us. That card is a great card, and I’m sure lots of people loved it, but what He wanted me to know tonight is that tonight that word was for me.

I’m an encourager – I encourage people all the time and always have, even before I was born again. Now that I have the Holy Spirit working through me, it’s amazing the things that the Lord gives me to say to people that are exactly the things they need to hear. But when you’re pouring out of yourself all day, even when it’s the Lord pouring through you, you can find that you can get drained and exhausted, and that even as you’re believing for someone else it’s hard to believe for yourself. I remember a time when I was not able to attend a prayer service at a church I used to attend. I was walking home while I knew they were in prayer, and I was walking through a beautiful park up on a high hill overlooking the Hudson River, praying in spirit with them. As I prayed, I was believing in miracles for everyone who had a prayer request, and the Lord said to me, “If you can believe for them, why can’t you believe for yourself?” I remember at the time when I heard those words, I just started to cry because I realized that I didn’t believe that I was deserving of the love of God and so why should I be deserving of His blessing and favor? Why should He provide for me and take care of me and help me and answer my prayers? Why should He take the time?

Psalm 8:3-5 reads, “When I consider Your heavens and the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have ordained; what is man that you take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him? Yet, You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty!” The answer to my question that day as I prayed on my walk through the park is that God just simply does care for us and help us and answer our prayers – He just does, and there is nothing that I can do to make Him love me any more or any less – He just loves and He loves and He loves just because.
Blessings,

Jannie Susan

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

To God Be The Glory!

I had to give a presentation today at a conference, and I hadn’t been given much time to prepare for it. I was working with someone else, and we both said when we heard that we had been scheduled to do it, “To God be the glory!” And He certainly showed His glory. We worked so smoothly together you would have thought we worked together all the time, and we had fun and the people who were participating in the workshop had fun, and we got great feedback about the work that we’d done. I didn’t have time to write a post for today until now, but that’s ok too – to God be the glory and to His perfect timing too.

There are times when we have all of our plans and wants and desires and we feel so ready for them to happen, but sometimes God has other things planned that need to happen in order for all of the things that He is planning to fulfill in our lives to come to pass in the way He knows is perfect. God doesn’t like to do things in a half-baked sort of way – He likes to make His pies and caseroles as delicious and perfect as possible, with no gooey centers unless they’re supposed to be gooey, and no undercooked things that will give you an upset stomach, or worse, make you really sick so you can’t ever enjoy that food again. He’s a God of perfect timing and perfection in everything He does, and though we may find ourselves wondering what the holdup is, when the promises we’ve been waiting for finally arrive, we’re always blown away by the amazing greatness of His perfect plan and perfect timing.
I’ve been so tired the past few days – I got so little sleep on Monday and Tuesday nights that right now I’m running on steam. But while I was doing the things that I needed to do I didn’t feel tired at all and I felt completely focused and calm and serene. That’s one of the most beautiful things that God does – He gives us His strength when we need it, and His Spirit will fill us and work through us so that we’re not doing any work at all. We do have to show up, and it’s not like we’re zombies – we’re an active part of the process, but He’s the one who is giving us the strength and ability to do what we need to do.

Isaiah 40:29-31 reads, “He gives power to the weak, and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” That’s the New Living Translation, and some others use the phrase “wait on the Lord” instead of trust. I like the idea of both of them, because when we trust Him we are able to wait, we are able to be patient with His timing and have peace while we wait.
God is the one who gives us faith, and He gives us strength and patience and the ability to trust and to wait for His timing. All we have to do is ask, and He will gladly give these things to us. He understands that it’s hard for us to walk by faith, and He’ll help us every step of the way, guiding us, teaching us, encouraging us and loving us. He will never let us down, and He will always lift us up.

Blessings,
Jannie Susan

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Just Open Your Hands

A friend sent me an email with a quote by Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins, “Your basic person wants to talk about material culture, Internet culture. I think about God, cats, and nature.” Reading that quote made my day. I used to listen to The Smashing Pumpkins all time before I was born again, and I’d listen to them loud. I still think they’re a great band, and reading that quote made me want to have another listen. I’m not the same as I was back then, so I don’t know if they’d have the same meaning and feeling for me, and I don’t know if I’d listen to them loud, but something tells me I just might. There are some bands and singers who just sound right loud, and they don’t sound right any other way.

I love my gospel music now – that’s something that the Lord brought into my life after I was born again. Before I would have never listened to it, but now it’s something I really enjoy. Praise and worship songs are important to our spirit – they help renew and strengthen us in a powerful way. Singing them is important too – listening is good, but singing brings the words out of our own mouths so we can claim them for ourselves.
I don’t listen to the music I used to listen to much at all any more, and that’s started to change again which interests me. When I was first saved, I asked the Lord if I should get rid of all the music I owned – I have crates of CD’s and even still have old vinyl from my brother and from my own teenage years. It was a surprise to me when He said I didn’t need to throw them away, and even more or a surprise when He started to show me that within those songs and bands, even bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, there are moments of Divine beauty and truth. I’ve gone to visit churches where the worship service was a rock band, and there can definitely be a place for all kinds of music in our lives. There were a few CD’s He had me get rid of – there was one that I’d bought by accident that was so weird and dark that it gave me the creeps just looking at it – but for the most part He said to keep them, and now they’re coming back again into my life, slowly but surely, the songs, the singers, the bands, the music.

Ephesians 5:18-19 tells us, “And do not be drunk with wine, because that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” Once early on when I was newly born again, I was talking to the Lord about why it’s bad for us to drink too much and do drugs, and He gave me an image of His Spirit who lives within us being choked and smothered by smoke and alcohol. We can’t be filled with the Spirit if we are filled with toxic things, and I know that also goes for the food we eat and the things we listen to, the things we read, the things we think, and the things that we allow to fill our heart. Anger, jealousy, sarcasm, bitterness – they’re just as bad as too much wine.
But even through the partying that so many of these bands I used to listen to were doing, they still managed to reach moments of communing with the Divine. That is the power of God – He can get through to us even when we are not in any shape to listen. He’ll meet us where we are, whatever we are doing, and He’ll keep right on talking through the noise and chaos all around us. It may not all get through, but as He says in Isaiah 55:10-11, “For as the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from my mouth; it will not return to me empty without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

No matter how far away we think we are from God, He is always near to us, and no matter how far we think we have to go to get back to Him, He always shows us how easy it is to return. All we have to do is open our hands and let Him fill them – with His love, His mercy and His blessings. And as He fills them everything else that has kept us from His blessings will all fall away like sand.
Blessings,

Jannie Susan

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Shining Light

Yesterday was the first day of fall, the fall equinox. When I just looked it up, I found out that the hours of daylight and dark are equally matched, 12 and 12, and that the aurora borealis will have its "greatest frequency of geomagnetic storms," resulting in a spectacular show of color – pink, green, yellow, blue and violet, orange and white. This past week we also had the Harvest Moon – they say the moon was full on the 19th, but it looked full to me on the 17th and 18th also – it was such a bright moon, and as I read I discovered that’s why it has the name it does – farmers who needed to work after dark to finish their bountiful harvest this time of the year would use the light of the moon to see their crops.

When seasons change I always have a feeling of renewal. It’s as if the shift in the weather gives me a shift in perspective, even when nothing that I can see has changed in the world of my life around me. Fall has always been a favorite time of the year for me, although I do love the other seasons also. But there is something about the light of fall, the feeling in the air, the way the sun hits the earth with golden light and the way that the air itself seems lighter and cooler and fresher somehow. And the fact that the season is changing is something that we can feel and smell and we can taste that taste in the foods that are in season now – apples and squash and Brussels sprouts, pears and Italian prune plums and Muscat grapes. There’s an earthiness, a richness of taste and color, a depth to the very air itself.
For some reason this year I am not thinking of the past in the way that I usually do with the changing seasons. As I wrote that I knew the reason why – my life has changed so much and is changing even now, and I know that the past is truly the past. It is not that I want to forget everything I ever knew – there is always value in the experiences of our lives and with God there is nothing that is wasted. It is just that what I have now in my life with Jesus is so much more than I had then, and I know there is more to come.

2 Corinthians 4:6 tells us, “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’" who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” When I read that passage now, something was highlighted to me that I had never really thought of before although it is something that is probably obvious. But scripture can be like that – we see things at different times, and it is the work of the Holy Spirit to help us to see what God wants us to see for a specific reason and season in our lives. What I saw this time as I read that passage is that it is “the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ – the same God who spoke and created light in the very beginning. As I read that passage now I hear an echo of my favorite scripture, Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” It is the God who said let light shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ – it is His grace that has shone in our hearts and given us the knowledge of the saving faith that brings us light in the darkness. His grace that has taken the past of our lives and turned them into something new.
Blessings,

Jannie Susan

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Prosperity

There is a little bamboo plant that I had put near a window in my apartment in December of 2009 when it was given to me by someone I worked with at the time as a Christmas gift. It was planted in water and anchored by rocks without any soil, and the glass container it was planted in read “prosperity.” At the time I was very happy to receive it – the man who gave it to me was a born again Christian, and he’d bought several of them for different people and he said that he’d prayed to see which one was meant for which person. At the time I was not feeling at all prosperous, and I felt this was an encouragement to me that the prosperity that God promises to us was a promise I could count on. That small gift and the thought behind it helped me to begin to see prosperity in a new way – that it has more to do with what we feel in our spirit than what we see in our bank account, and that we can be prosperous without being wealthy financially at all.

Psalm 1:1-3 tells us, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers.” The image of the bamboo planted in water brings this Psalm to my mind, and what I saw this morning when I looked at the plant brought more encouragement that my heart and soul needed.

The bamboo plant prospered happily for a long time, but then last winter its leaves began to grow old and die back, and I wasn’t sure how long it was meant to last. Bamboo grows very easily, and if I had planted it outside it might have taken root and grown much larger by now, but in its little glass container without any soil I thought it might eventually wither and die. I wasn’t sure what to do with it when I saw the leaves turning brown, and I thought perhaps I’d plant it in the spring or summer months, but this year’s weather has been so confusing for plants that I thought it might be more dangerous to put it out into the colder than seasonal weather in the spring, and then the hotter than normal weather of the summer came and I just let it stay where it was because at least it would be somewhat protected. At some point a few weeks ago I noticed that it really was looking as if it was at the end of its life cycle, but I continued to add water when I watered my other plants as I don’t like to give up on a plant until it’s absolutely necessary. I’ve had other surprises in the past, and have found that sometimes plants that I have thought were completely lifeless have come back to life and thrived again.
This morning when I was watering the plants in the window where the bamboo plant is, I saw when I lifted it up to add its water that it had started to grow fresh green shoots at the bottom of the original shoots that had seemed dried and brown. And so my bamboo plant is prospering once again, in a season of harvest when we don’t normally expect to find new life springing up. As this plant had such meaning for me when it was originally given, I knew that the Lord was speaking something very special for me to know in my own life and to share with others.

When we look at Psalm 1:1-3, there are specific words that stand out to me that are echoed in the experience of this little bamboo plant. The first word we read is “Blessed,” and the psalmist goes on to speak about the person who is blessed – one who does not walk in the way of the wicked and who does walk in the way of the Lord. The idea is expanded to describe that blessing, that this person “is like a tree planted by streams of water.” There are times in our lives when we will feel we are in a dry season, times when it seems that the blessing of God is not over our lives, times when we feel that He is not near even though He is. The bamboo plant is a reminder of the presence of God no matter how we are feeling or what we see in our own lives at the current moment, as I continued to nurture and water it even as it was going through a dry season and did not appear to be thriving at all. The next part of the passage reads, “which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.” There may be a dying back in our lives – things that we need to shed in order to continue to grow to the next level that God is bringing us to. The bamboo plant began to lose its earlier leaves in preparation for the new shoots that were going to grow. And finally we read, “whatever they do prospers.” Here of course is our promise of prosperity – and promises of God are always true as He is always faithful to bring them to pass. Even as we may be in a dry season, a season of growth and change that may not feel comfortable as we shed the old to make room for the new, we will still have the promise that whatever we do will prosper – not just something that we do, not just something maybe in the future, but whatever we do, right here and right now in the midst of the trial or the storm or the dry season that we are facing.

If there is something in your life that you need to let go, know that God will bring new life from the place where the old has been. If you are feeling like God is not near, that He is not caring for you in the place of struggle where you are, know that He continues to give His life giving water to sustain you and that the new growth that comes from this time will be a great blessing. When you are wondering what next and where and why and how, know that in the place where you are you can still prosper as you wait on the Lord to fulfill His word over your life. Just as the bamboo plant needed to go through its own particular cycle, so each one of us has our own pattern of growth and change and renewal. Be patient with yourself and know that God’s timing is always perfect, and that He will bring you to the place where He has promised in all the fullness of the promises He has made to you.

Blessings,

Jannie Susan

Saturday, September 21, 2013

What, Me Worry?

Everywhere I went yesterday, people kept telling me how great I looked. I was getting compliments on my hair and my skin, my necklace, my general appearance. I ran into a woman who had been in one of my classes a year and a half ago, and she said, “You look wonderful! Your skin looks beautiful!” I even had someone tell me I looked like a famous model. It was making me laugh because it went on all day, and I've been dealing with so much stress that I haven't been feeling particularly good, and I know I don’t do anything in particular. I used to get my hair cut by a long hair care specialist, but that was back in the days when I had extra money to spend, or if I didn’t I used my credit cards. Now that I’m paying off my debt and I’m trying to be a good steward with my money, I don’t get my hair cut by anyone any more. I’ve started to trim it myself and it seems to work just fine, especially when I hear the rave reviews I was getting yesterday. Back in those BC days – the days Before Christ – I used to spend money on expensive skin care and cosmetics. I never wore much make up, but when I did, it was always Chanel. It's still my favorite, but their prices have gone even higher than when I used to buy them, so I’ve started shopping at my local CVS and using the products they sell when they go on sale. Even the more expensive ones are a fraction of the Chanel prices, and I always use my coupons and buy one get one 50% off promotions and all the rewards programs I can figure out. I thought that maybe I was missing out on great skin care and settling for less, but not when I hear the comments like I heard yesterday. The necklace I got so many compliments on came from a thrift store – one of many that the Lord has directed me to. He’ll do things like that – take care of the beauty outside too, while He helps us get cleaned up on the inside.

As I wrote this I started thinking about Proverbs 31, “A Virtuous Wife,” in some translations, or “The Wife Of Noble Character” in others, and verses 30 and 31, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works praise her at the city gate.” And I was also thinking about another passage that I couldn’t remember where it was, and so I started to search for it. It had something to do with not dressing in fine clothing and pearls, but letting the beauty come from within, but I couldn’t remember exactly how it went, but I thought it might have been from one of the books that John wrote, so I started to search for “John beautiful woman,” and in the wonder that is technology, I started to find some wonderful things. I came across this website with Bible verses about beauty for women, http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/20-beautiful-bible-verses-for-women/, and on it there is a really great song by Natalie Grant, “Something Beautiful.” The chorus of that song has this, “The life you’ve been living, the days you’ve been given were made for something beautiful. Life – don’t let it pass you by, because you were created for something beautiful.”
I kept looking for the verse I was thinking of but couldn’t find it. I did find 1 Timothy 2:9-10, “And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing, and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do.” That was almost what I was looking for, but not quite. There is a verse – and I’m going to keep looking for it and will let you know when I find it – that talks about the quiet beauty of a woman that glows from within. It is that kind of beauty that the Spirit of God can bring, even when we don’t even know it’s there, and often in the midst of a trial.

That was another reason why I kept laughing yesterday at all the compliments. There are so many things that are heavy on my mind and heart, and I have been feeling their weight in ways that keep me feeling anything but light and glowing. The Lord kept telling me yesterday to just let them be – that He would deal with them when and how they needed to be dealt with, but still the burden lingered. I do trust Him, and know that He will take me through this time and when I get to where He is taking me I will wonder why I didn’t trust Him more. But even knowing that, the burden still lingers on my heart and in my mind, and it’s been hard to shake it off and leave it with Him. So to hear that I was glowing with health, that my skin and hair and my very self looked terrific, was something that made no sense to me. How can I be looking great when I’m not feeling that way at all? But that is the power of God to sustain us and keep us – when we are weak, He is strong, and His strength and glory is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
I can’t say that I would not wish that all the strife and struggle were gone – I wish them gone with all my heart and pray for the release every day. But He is showing me in every way that in the midst of the trial, He is there more fully than ever before. The more of the burden I feel, the more He shines His glory on me. If I could just get my mind and heart in line with what He is shining on me, I’d feel as good as I look. And maybe that’s what He’s trying to tell me with all of these compliments I heard all day long – if I can look good without feeling it, then maybe I can feel as good as I look. It’s really just another choice to make – to feel good or not. He’s always going to come through, because He always has and always will. Jesus asks us in Matthew 6:27, “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” And He, as always, is exactly right. I remember the old Mad Magazine cover, with Alfred E. Neuman saying, “What, Me Worry?” And as silly and irreverent as that magazine was, I think now that message is an important one to live by.

Blessings,
Jannie Susan

Friday, September 20, 2013

Just Praise Him!

I’d been reading all kinds of things that are talking about the importance of living in the present moment – things by Christian and non-Christian writers, business writers, entrepreneurs, self-help gurus. And on my way home last night I saw another one on the tv screen in the train I was on, and I started thinking as I stood there with my heavy bags, what if the present moment really isn’t all that great? I understand the importance of not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, but what if the right here and right now is not the way you want your life to be?

All the way home I was thinking about this, carrying my too heavy bags, tired from a long week that still has one more day to go before I can have a rest and get ready to start all over again. I was feeling like the same old grind was going to go on forever, and that living in the present, though a nice thought for people who are on a beach somewhere, is not a nice thought for me right now. As you can see I needed an attitude adjustment, and thank God for the Holy Spirit because He stepped right in and started talking me out of my slump.
The first thing He had me do was start to sing a straight forward praise and worship song. “Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto the matchless King. Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto the matchless King! Lord I praise your name I bless your name, all praises belong to you! Lord I praise your name I bless your name, all praises belong to you.” Strangely enough when I just looked up the song to give the writers credit, it took me a bit of time to find it. I found every other song I know like it, plus some that I’ve never heard before, but then it finally came up, and I think the writers are Clint Brown – LaRue Steward/Ernest Collin. That’s how it’s written on the bottom of the page, though some of it looks like it’s written in Dutch, so I really don’t know for sure. It’s a song we sang all the time in church, so I can’t figure out why it’s not easier to find, but it’s in my heart and my mind, and that’s all that really matters, though I do like to give credit where credit is due.

Praise is a weapon. When we feel like there’s nothing left in us to keep going, we can always praise God, because there is always something to remember from what He’s done in our lives. It’s not living in the past, it’s remembering His faithfulness in the past, so we can keep walking in this present that isn’t the way we want it to be. When we start to praise God, even through our tears sometimes, something starts to move and shift in our situation. The first thing that happened to me when I started to sing that song is that I started to remember the things that I had to be thankful for, and I started to feel how beautiful the evening air was during my walk home. This is my favorite time of the year, and the days have been spectacular, and the nights just perfect. Even though I’m not doing what I want to be doing, and things are not going in directions that I can see that are the way that I want them to be, the weather itself is something to be thankful for, and being able to enjoy it is a blessing. Then when I got home, I had a bill in my mail box from one of my credit cards, and that was actually a good thing because I used to have so much debt and it’s been getting paid off, and that is a miracle of God all by itself. And then I came inside and looked around my very messy apartment, and realized that it’s so messy because I’ve been blessed with so many beautiful clothes from the thrift stores He's shown me, and blessed with other things that bring me joy like plants and pottery. Even my kitchen is full of delicious food, and everything that I had lost has been restored and even more than I had lost. That’s what God does, and it was the act of praise that helped my tired eyes open to see His blessing and provision.
Life can be beautiful when we let God speak to us. The things that are difficult are things that He can help us with, and things do change. He brings change, and when we are dealing with situations and people who are bringing us to a place of feeling down or weak, discouraged or depressed, when we start to open our hearts and our mouths to praise God, He will make His throne in the place of our praises. In Psalm 22:2-4 King David writes, “O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; and by night, but I have no rest. Yet, You are holy, O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel. In You our fathers trusted; they trusted, and You delivered them.” There is something that happens when we praise – God will come to us in all His glory, and He will make His throne in the very place where we are praising Him.

God hears the cry of your heart. The delay you face is temporary, and it won’t last long. In the time that you are waiting, just praise Him, and you will feel His presence like a breath of fresh air on a balmy September night, the air that comes off of the water, cool but warmed by the sun from a beautiful fall day. Take a deep breath and praise Him, and while you are waiting, you’ll be renewed and strengthened and given the hope you need to keep going, because you’ll be reminded of what you already have, and how much He has already done.
Blessings,

Jannie Susan

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sweet Water

When I was at the supermarket yesterday, there were two mistakes that were made in my favor. One of my coupons for a dollar was scanned twice and one of the things I bought wasn’t scanned at all. The total amount of the error was $3.49, and years ago, before I was born again, I would have just walked out the door gleefully thinking how lucky I was and that I deserved it gosh darn it because things cost so much anyway. And I probably wouldn’t have been saying gosh darn it, but that’s a whole other story. There was a lot of bitter water in my well in those days.

But instead of doing what I once would have done, I did what I have done for a while now. When I noticed that a mistake had been made I told the cashier because I didn’t want him to be short in his till. He had already closed out the transaction and so he told me I’d have to go to Customer Service which I did, after making sure that wouldn’t be causing him a problem either. When I got to Customer Service, I think they thought I was from another planet. Who in their right mind tells the store when they’ve made a mistake like that? The woman who helped me kept saying thank you and I just kept saying that I would have been there if they owed me money, so why should it be any different the other way around?
But it is different somehow, at least in the mind of someone like me once upon a time when I didn’t have the mind of Christ. I still slip up sometimes when I’m not paying attention, but these days I have to do the right thing the minute I realize what that right thing is. I know I’ll just feel bad if I don’t fix what’s wrong, and who needs to feel bad over something you have the power to change? But people do every day, even people who say they know the Lord. Something happens, a mistake is made, they cover for it and then they find themselves needing to cover somewhere else and the next thing you know they’re just making things up as they go along.

There was a movie that I don’t remember the name of where the lead character, a man who was played by a comedian I think, couldn’t tell a lie. Even if what he said was going to insult someone, he had to say it. But that’s not the kind of truth I’m talking about. The truth can be said in a way that is hurtful or it can be said with love. It may still not be what the person who hears it wants to hear because we’re saying something that they – and we – wish didn’t need to be said, but it doesn’t need to be said in a way that is meant to hurt. The example I remember from the ads for the movie – I didn’t see it, but the ads were out all over the place – was that a woman he was in a relationship with – maybe a wife or a girlfriend, I really don’t know – asked him if something she was wearing made her look fat and he said yes. That’s an awkward question to answer at best, but even that question can be answered with love. If it doesn’t look good we can say, “It’s not the best style for you,” or if it does look good and they look good we can say so and add that they don’t need to worry about their weight because they’re beautiful the way they are. People’s body images are all messed up because of the media, but that really is another story, one that I could go on for days about, so I’m not going to get started. My point is that most of the time people just need reassurance that they’re loved, and saying something kind and supportive is always a good plan.
There’s someone who I know who has forgotten the importance of not judging others, and it shows up in every place imaginable. I’ve started to wonder if that lesson was ever learned because of some of the things that are being said and done while all the while this person listens to sermons and reads Christian books all day long. The strangest thing to me is that they don’t see anything wrong with what they’re doing. They think they’re just being “honest and truthful and bringing correction where it’s needed.” The very way they talk to people is condescending and judgmental, and there’s a batting of the eyes that goes on that is an extraordinary display of sarcasm. How can a person who claims to know Christ talk to anyone with sarcasm and criticize them to the point of tearing them down to tears and think that’s all right? But when their attention is brought to the fact that yes, indeed, people are being made miserable, they bat they’re eyes again and say they just don’t know how that could be.

James 3:8-11 puts it this way, “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from its opening both fresh and bitter water?”
Matthew 12:34 tells us, “Out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” When I just looked that up, I found this delightful website, Deep Truths, http://deeptruths.com/random-dm/304.html. Under that passage I read these words, “We’re the vessels of His Love to pour out His Love to others. It’s all the Lord, it’s all His Love, but He needs someone to work through.” It continues in the next paragraph, “’Open your mouth,’ the Bible says, ‘and He will fill it.’ (Psalm 81:10) But where does He fill it from? He fills it from your heart. If you have filled your heart beforehand, if you’re full of the Spirit, if you’re full of His Love, His Spirit and knowledge of His Word, the message you want to get across to others, when you open your mouth He’ll fill it, right out of your heart!” The writer makes the comparison of a water faucet, writing, “When you turn on a faucet, the faucet is not doing the work! It’s the power from outside that causes the water to flow effortlessly through the faucet!” And it ends with these wonderful words, “If you’re full of the Spirit, full of prayer, full of the Lord, full of the Word, then you can just let it roll! Ask God to turn you on and it will flow! You’ll be amazed, it will be beautiful!”

I love all the exclamation points the writer uses. You can tell how much joy and energy and life force are present in that heart. And like that faucet it just flows effortlessly, creating its own force and power in the heart of the reader. We all have that power with our words – we can give others an infilling of life and love, of joy and peace, we can strengthen people and help encourage and lift them up. Or we can do the opposite, and tear them down and condescend and bring them down beneath us. But be careful if you choose that unsupportive road, because those very people have been made in the image of God, and their Lord and Father will make sure to let you know just whose child you’re talking to.
Blessings,

Jannie Susan

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Shout!

In my email inbox last night there was a notification for the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, something that is open to students in grades 7-12. I used to be the director of an after school program, and so I get all of these different announcements for student programs, and I like to know what’s out there so I can let other programs I work with now know about them. But this particular email brought back some really sweet memories, and along with some of the things I have been experiencing lately, it was a perfect fit to some of the things the Lord has been showing me about how much my life has changed.

When I was a teenager, in seventh or maybe eighth grade, I heard about the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for the first time. At least I think it was the same program, although even if it wasn’t it was one so similar that reading the email brought it all back. I loved to sing and I had a male friend in those days who loved to sing too – no romantic interest whatsoever, we were just good friends and we loved to sing and sometimes sang together in choir or for student shows and things like that. When we heard about the Scholastic Art and Writing Award, or whatever it was that we heard about back then, we decided somehow to write a song together, though I don’t think that either of us had ever written a song. My friend may have – he was always surprising me with his creative talents, but I know that I’d never written a song or anything else except for papers for school, and oh, yes, I did once write a play in elementary school – it was about the battle of 1776 I think, again for some contest or other. I’d forgotten all about that until right now – a foreshadowing of the future, of me at a much older age writing plays. But up until my friend and I decided somehow to write a song I’d never written one before. But that didn’t stop us, so write away we did.
It was a very sappy song as I remember it. I still have a tape of it somewhere, and listened to it not too long ago, maybe a couple of years back, but it seems like yesterday. It was a love song about a knight in silver and all sorts of allusions and plays on words with night and knight – I can’t believe we took ourselves so seriously, but God bless us we did. And that’s one of the things that the Lord has been speaking to me about lately – not about taking ourselves seriously in the sense of being serious and sad, and not about writing sappy and sentimentally silly songs, but about the fact that even though the song was most probably a bunch of teen-aged geeky silliness, I wasn’t afraid or ashamed to go ahead and write it. I was the one who wrote the lyrics if I’m remembering correctly – the title was “Silver Knights,” and I was the one who had the brainy idea to call it that. But what the Lord has been talking to me about is that I wasn’t afraid to do it, I wasn’t afraid to write it, to sing it with my friend and send it into a contest. I think we even sang it at some school assembly or something, the  memory is vague, but I think that did happen.

Fear is something that can be debilitating. At the very least it will hold us back from trying something new, and at the very worst it can keep us from all that God has for us. When we are living with fear and doubt, we will sometimes decide that we are much more comfortable where we are, even if we are in misery, than to try to do something that might change our lives in a positive way. We might miss out on writing that song and singing it, and we might miss out on love, on light and on life.
1 John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” Verse 19 adds a very beautiful and important part of the equation, “We love, because He first loved us.” In John 15:9, Jesus tells us, “Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; abide in my love.” When we know the love of God and abide in that love, we will have no fear, and we will be able to reach outward with that love that has been given to us. When we have no fear, we will be able to reach outward, not fearing that we will look foolish or be rejected, and taking the risk because we know at the end of the day we have all the love that matters in the love that is given to us by God. We will not stay in a place of misery because we know that we deserve love and happiness. We will walk in light and in love because we have been filled to overflowing with the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

I heard a woman singing on the Staten Island Ferry the other night, songs of praise and worship that were very off key. But she wasn’t afraid to sing, even though we were far from any church or choir. The song was “Shout to the North” by Martin Smith, “Shout to the North and the South. Sing to the East and the West. Jesus is Savior to All. Lord of Heaven and Earth.” Don’t ever let anyone or anything keep you from singing or writing that song or shouting to the North, South, East and West. Don’t ever let anyone or anything keep you from all that God has for you. Don’t ever believe that you deserve to live in misery or that things are always going to be the way they always were. The Lord of Heaven and Earth says that there is more and He is Savior to All, not just for the few, but to all. What He says will be so in your life. All you have to do is believe Him.
Blessings,

Jannie Susan

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On The Way Home

On my way home last night I stopped to help a very little and stooped over older lady with her shopping cart. It was one of those small carts that some people use, and she was using it for support and to hold some of her belongings, but it wasn’t very full or very heavy. She was having trouble navigating on the streets downtown – the area we were in is full of construction and the streets are so old that the infrastructure is terrible anyway. The sidewalks have been replaced in a lot of areas, but even they have been worn and affected by time and weather so they are uneven in places and dangerous even if you have good solid legs to walk on which this woman didn’t.

When I stopped to help her she was in the middle of the street trying to navigate her cart through some very cracked parts of the road, and when I offered to help her it was an easy thing to get her back onto the sidewalk again. But then she said that she was going to the same train station that I was going to, and I said that was where I was going too, and she asked if I could help her get there and what was I going to say? We were only about seven blocks away at most, but it was late and I was tired. I’d just come from teaching out on Staten Island and I wanted to get home. I’d been walking fast to make it home as quickly as possible, and I knew that even though it was a short distance, it would take us at least twice as long as it would have taken me. But what was I going to say? So I slowed down and walked with her and helped her all the way as much as she needed. She didn’t need much, just the company and a hand here and there and help with directions because she said she didn’t often take the train. What she was doing in that area at that time of night I’ll never know.
There are times when God will send people like that our way on purpose. She wasn’t horrible in any way, but she was not necessarily someone who I would have normally wanted to spend the next half an hour with, especially when I was already tired and just wanted to get home. She kept asking everyone, me included, what time it was every few minutes, and some people didn’t even respond to her because she really looked like someone who might have been homeless and possibly a little deranged. What they thought I was doing with her I can’t even imagine, but they didn’t acknowledge me at all. Maybe they took us both for two lunatics – it was a full moon after all.

When I say that God sent her on purpose, I don’t mean that He was playing any kind of game. He’s been giving me messages lately about giving time and care and love to people who may not be able to give anything back, and this was one of those times when He was seeing if I’d been listening to what He’d been telling me. There was no way I could say no to this lady – I know too much that when things like that happen I just have to go with it and if I do it will all work out fine. As it was when I got to the station, the tiny lady shrieked out at the Police Officers to asked them the time, and I asked them if they could help her get down the escalators and stairs into the station. They said they couldn’t, but then out of nowhere a young and very respectable looking woman appeared who knew the woman I was with, and she took care of her from there so that I could run down the escalator and get into my train which was waiting in the station. If I had gotten there earlier I would have been on the same train – or maybe I would have even missed it somehow because that’s how God works too. If we do what He wants us to do, He’ll always make sure we end up all right. He owns everything and He made time, so He can make things work out exactly the way He wants them to every time.
And who knows? This woman said she lives in Jersey City, and so did the other woman who appeared out of the blue. I may see them again one day or then again I may not. I’ve had it happen before that someone randomly appeared at some very strange and unexpected moment, and then later on I realized they weren’t really a person at all. Angels do walk on this earth, and these chance meetings can be about so much more than we can even realize. I’ve always loved Charles Dickens novels, and things like that really do happen. By some strange and unexpected course of events your life is forever changed, all because of someone you met on a bus or a train or out walking late at night in a city that never sleeps.

There was a verse for memorization in one of my email devotionals yesterday, one that I’ve heard many times before, but somehow it was just what I needed to hear. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) All things, not just some, but all, even those things that make no sense and that you’d rather not have happen, even those things that you don’t understand and don’t see a purpose for. It’s not in our understanding, but that doesn’t matter. God knows, and He understands, and He’s the one who works it all out.
Blessings,

Jannie Susan

Monday, September 16, 2013

On The Road To Salvation

Someone I know has been using a quote on his Facebook page – at least I think it’s his Facebook page – I’m not on Facebook, so I didn’t see it there, I saw it on another website where he’d signed in from Facebook, and that’s where I saw the quote. It’s part of the wallpaper for his sign-in photo, and I’m a literature buff, so anything to do with reading and writing is kind of my thing. When I saw the quote, it was along with a picture of Jim Morrison, but I knew it was coming from somewhere else. It just sounded like someone else, though I didn’t know who, so I looked it up and found out it was Jack Kerouac.

I’ve never read On The Road, though I think I may have tried once and couldn’t get through it. But as I started to search for the quote I started to find other quotes from the book, and I was surprised to see all the spiritual references in it. Even the quote that I originally looked up talks about salvation, and that’s what started me thinking that God was talking to me about something more than just a random quote that I read and wanted to find out who the real author was. At one point I found a Wikiquotes page that led  me to another page on a website called Shmoop, a test prep, cliff notes type of website for everything school and college based for literature and other educational areas with teacher and student prep and quizzes and other tools, http://www.shmoop.com/on-the-road/sal-paradise.html. Under a section analyzing the main character Sal’s name, I read, “Salvatore Paradise. Given that Kerouac was a Catholic, it’s hard to ignore the religious implications of such a name. Paradise makes sense, right? Paradise = heaven, heaven = religion. What’s so paradise-like about Sal? Not much, although he spends a good deal of time seeking paradise.” In the next paragraph I read, “Then there’s his first name: Salvatore. But if you were feeling artsy, which we often do, you could say . . . Sal = Salvation. Then, you might look up salvation and see that it says, ‘deliverance from sin and its consequences.’ It continues with a mention of what that possible sin might be, but that wasn’t the point of what the Lord wanted me to see. God will talk to us through anything He can, and to discover that He was talking to me through Jack Kerouac and On The Road helped me know that He’s been talking to other people that way too.
And it also helped me know that He was talking to Jack Kerouac the whole time He was talking through him. People very often think of a book like On The Road as being somehow degenerate and morally lacking – let’s face it, it’s full of talk of “loose living” to put it mildly. It was beautiful and loving for God to speak to Jack Kerouac, a man who was seeking Him whether or not he knew it. We all are seeking God – it is part of our make-up as humans. I’ve heard it said that there is a hole in our souls that is made in the shape of Jesus, and it’s true. We will seek and search until we find the One who can fit that space, the one who can make us whole.

If God was speaking to Jack Kerouac, then He’s speaking to you and to me too. He’s talking to everyone all the time, in ways that only we can hear Him. He knows each of us and how to reach us, He knows what interests us and how we think. He was talking to me through my own writing years before I was born again, sometimes with scripture that I didn’t even know how I knew it. It’s an amazing and wonderful thing to know that the Lord of all the universe cares enough to talk to us, day by day, week by week, moment by moment, hour by hour, and that He’ll keep talking until we finally start to really listen.
Jesus says many times, “Those who have ears to hear let them listen!” I thank God that I’ve finally started to hear Him. A friend sent me a quote yesterday that I read while I was reading about Jack Kerouac, my favorite passage of scripture from the time that I was born again straight through until now, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” I thank God because without His grace, I would not have been able to hear Him.

Blessings,

Jannie Susan

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Horses And Chariots Of Fire

For a while now, on and off, I’ve been dealing with people who are in various states of depression. Sometimes they’re aware of it, sometimes they’re not. One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is discernment, which in the Merriam Webster online dictionary is defined to mean, “the ability to see and understand people, things, or situations clearly and intelligently; the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure,” with some synonyms given such as “wisdom, insight, perception.” In the thesaurus on my computer, the best match I could find was “sensitivity.” With the spiritual gift of discernment, we can see the truth of a situation or a person or people in a situation, regardless of what is being said. For example, someone may say, “I’m doing this to help and support you,” but in reality what they are doing is meant to cause you to fail. With discernment, we can see their true motive. Or someone will say, “God is faithful,” but we will see that they don’t truly believe that. There are people who are great at dissembling – they have great poker faces and can fool most people, but with discernment, we can see the hand writing on the wall and know that something is not as it seems.

In the book of Daniel, in chapter five, King Belshazzar is having a banquet, and he chooses to use the sacred vessels that had been taken from the temple in Jerusalem. A hand appears and begins writing on the wall, and the wise men are called to interpret. None of them can, and finally, Daniel is called. The King offers him honor and great gifts, but Daniel replies, “You may keep the gifts to yourself, and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means. Your Majesty, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. Because of the high position He gave him, all the nations and peoples of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled. But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. He was driven away from the people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like and ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes. But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from His temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in His hand your life and all your ways. Therefore He sent the hand that wrote the inscription. This is the inscription that was written, ‘Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin.” Here is what these words mean: Mene – God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel – you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Peres – Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.” (Daniel 5:17-28) And in verse 30 we read, “That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain.”
There are times in our lives when we will have that hand writing on the wall made clear to us, but we will still keep grasping at the way of our own desires. In some of the cases that I have been dealing with, that is what I have been seeing. It is as if the people know that what they are doing is bringing them further away from God, and that what they are doing will bring them into his disfavor, but they can’t seem to stop the momentum on the treacherous downward slope they are on. Choices they could make to turn back and begin to walk in a fresh new way that is pleasing to God and that would bring them back under His blessing are far from the choices they are willing to make. I had that experience before I was born again – no matter what I did, everything seemed to go from bad to worse, and in my heart of hearts I knew that I was going in a direction that could not bring me happiness, and yet I didn’t know how to do anything else.

There are other times when we are walking with God, when we are doing our best to keep our path in line with His word, and yet we don’t feel that we are making any progress, and in fact we may feel that we are stuck or even that we are going in the opposite direction. It is at those times when we feel so desperately alone, that we feel that He is far from us and we don’t know how to get back into His grace, that we can begin to lose hope and we could begin to walk away, even though we were not far from Him at all.
In either case, whether we are near or far from God, there can be a loss of hope, because of our own lack of insight into the situations we are facing. It is then that we must ask God to give us the grace of discernment so that we can understand fully what we cannot see with our natural eyes.

In 2 Kings chapter six, the prophet Elisha and his servant are surrounded by an army, and his servant is terrified because he sees no way of escape. Elisha says to him, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them,” (verse 16), and verse 17 continues, “Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O Lord, I pray, open his eyes so that he may see.’ And the Lord opened the servant's eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”
Whether we are near or far from God, He is always near to us. Even when we have done those things that we know have brought His disfavor, His mercy and love are always willing to bring us back again. When we begin to fear and to lose hope and lose heart, all we have to do is start to ask Him to help us see what only He can show to us. Those horses and chariots of fire are always there, ready, willing and able to protect us, and to help us get back on the road to Him.

Blessings,
Jannie Susan

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Others May Fail You But God Never Will

Someone told me yesterday that I was looking “all tan and summery and healthy,” and they said it in a way that made it sound like I was really looking terrific. It was a great compliment, but what really struck me about it is that this person knows that I’ve been going through a very stressful time, and it was almost as if they were negating the fact that I’d been under stress because they saw me as looking "tan and summery and healthy." There is something that God will do for us when we are dealing with oppression and stress and going through a trial – He will pour out the blessings to help us feel supported through the trial, and no one will know what we’re really going through because we so obviously have His blessing over our lives. I know how I feel, but I must have been literally glowing with the grace and blessing of God because I got the feeling that this person who said what they said didn’t see the stress at all.

In Psalm 23, there is a passage in verse 5 that I’ve written about here before, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” It is in that place where we are surrounded by the enemies to our soul – those people and things that come against us, our own fears and doubts and confusion – in that place is where the Lord will lay the table of abundance before us, it is where He will give us the anointing, and we will overflow with His blessing and grace.
It can be a hard thing to get used to, this appearance of blessing when we are not feeling blessed, because for me at least I like a good pity party – I like to have people’s sympathy and it feels like I’m more supported when people understand what I’m going through. But the truth is that the Lord is all the support that we need, and when we rely on other people we will invariably be let down. There are things that only God can do, and when we are left to rely solely on Him, we truly are able to see His glory and His mercy and His love and His blessing in our lives.

The person who told me how great I was looking yesterday is someone who I have looked to for help and support in the past, and I know that the Lord was telling me that I can’t look there for support in what I am dealing with now because it’s not about what any human can do, it’s about what He can do and will do if I allow Him to. It’s not to say that there won’t be times when people will help us and that’s ok – it’s just that in this particular situation, the Lord was showing me specifically that it’s all about Him and what He can do.
It’s not a comfortable place to be in, because it is so much a part of my human experience to try to rely on other people. And I know I’m not the only one. A woman I know was talking to me about an experience she was dealing with a few months ago, and she had asked for help from someone who had not helped her at all and had in fact betrayed her. She used the words, “I had expected that she would support me and that she’d have my back,” and I remember at the time thinking that she should have been able to trust this other woman in that situation because I knew the woman she was talking about and that was her role and was also the way she always presented herself. But I also remember saying to this woman that we can’t rely on people because they can let us down. Now that I’m seeing it in my own life, I remember that time and know the Lord was preparing me for this time in my life now.

There's a saying I've heard that I often say, "Others may fail you but God never will." I know it's based on scripture and when I looked it up, I found an article written by Rick Piña titled “God Will Never Fail You!” http://todaysword.org/2011/07/31/god-will-never-fail-you/. He starts with Proverbs 25:19 from the New Living Translation, “Putting confidence in an unreliable person in times of trouble is like chewing with a broken tooth or walking on a lame foot.” It’s a great article, and I’ll put some highlights here that spoke to me deeply, but there’s so much that’s important there, so please do read it for yourself.

In the first paragraph, Rick Piña writes “For an unreliable person to fail us is one thing, but to fail in times of trouble, when we are counting on them to truly make a difference for us, makes the sting of the disappointment even worse.” He continues on, “It would be bad enough if they were unreliable all by themselves; ruining their own lives. But when they make promises to be there for you, and you are foolish enough to count on them, then their unreliability becomes a stumbling block for you as well.” When I read that, I had an “ouch” moment because of the phrase, “and you are foolish enough to count on them,” because I know that it’s foolish to count on people but I still do. I’d like to believe that I can, but the reality is that there will be times that even people who we have been able to trust in the past become for whatever reason unreliable in the current situation we are facing. It may be because they don’t know how to help us, it may be because they are going through their own struggle, it may be that something has changed in our relationship with them for whatever reason. It may be for any number of reasons, and the reason doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we were counting on them and they failed us, and that is something that each one of us may face at least once in our lives.

Rick Piña writes, “I wish I could tell you that once you gave your life to Christ that you would never have another disappointment, but you and I both know that would be a lie. The truth is that life in Christ is not without its share of challenges, and the sad reality is that sometimes you have to face those challenges all alone. Humanly speaking, there will be times – especially when the going gets rough – that you will have to face challenges without the assistance of others; but you can find rest in the fact that we serve a God who will never leave us or forsake us.”
It is not that we should not have relationships of trust and love with other people – that is what God wants for us. Rick Piña puts it this way, “I don’t want to put a bad taste in your mouth toward others, because God wants us to have rewarding and fulfilling relationships, but ultimately your trust must be in God! Even when others leave, God is still there!”

When we know that truth in the deepest place of our heart, soul and mind, we will be able to continue to walk through the toughest of times, knowing that God is with us through everything. And when we face the disappointment and pain of having someone fail us who we thought we could count on, that pain will not become bitterness, but rather will become a place where we can turn back to God and hold onto Him more tightly.

Blessings,
Jannie Susan