Sunday, October 20, 2013

Time Is On My Side

The Lord started talking to me about patience and waiting for His timing this morning. He’s been talking about that to me for as long as I’ve been born again, but this morning He brought up the topic in a new way. There’s a promise – several actually – that I’ve been waiting on, and they are all interrelated. They add up to a new life that, like a little child waiting for a promised Christmas gift, I don’t want to wait for. I’ve been struggling through this time, and though He’s been faithful every step of the way, I still keep asking Him, why the wait? I know the answer is that His timing is always perfect and that there are things that He needs to put into place that will make everything perfect, but I still keep asking Him because I want it now.

The way He started talking to me this morning was through the waffles that I was making. I had some eggs that needed to be used, and waffles use three eggs if you want to make them right – I’ve used less in the past, but they don’t have the same light and spongy texture, the perfect texture to soak up the maple syrup. They tend to come out tougher if you don’t use enough eggs, and even though if they’re tough they’re closer to frozen ones which are ok too, if I’m going to make them, and I have enough eggs, why not do it the right way? I love waffles but don’t always take the time to make them. I don’t always have all the ingredients, and it is a bit of an extra effort because you have to put together all the ingredients and use different bowls and measuring cups and melt the butter and use an egg beater, and sometimes I just don’t want to go through all that because at the end I have to clean it all up. It’s always worth it, but I tend to be very impatient, and if I’m really honest, I have to admit that I can be lazy too, and I just want to get things done, so just deciding that I’m going to go ahead and make the waffles takes a bit of getting over my own natural inclination to do things the simplest way possible. Sometimes when I make waffles I’m trying to multi-task – clean as they’re cooking, water the plants, do emails – but today the Lord told me to just make them. It was a bit nerve wracking for me because once they go into the waffle iron, you have to wait at least 2 minutes before you check if they’re done. Just standing there seemed like a waste of time, and I was getting restless, but the Lord kept talking to me about timing and patience. In the end, the waffles came out perfectly, and I was so glad I’d listened to Him, and I knew when I was making them that He was talking to me about these other things in my life and how if I can just keep myself doing what He is asking me to do, He’s going to bring everything around in a way that will be more than I could ever hope or imagine. But if I don’t listen, if I try to rush ahead of Him, I could end up with waffles that don’t make the grade – they could be tough or soggy or undercooked, and who wants waffles like that?
To give you an idea of what I’ve been dealing with, the promise that He made to me is that I’m going to be married. He made that promise before I ever knew the man who I was going to marry, and when I met him, the Lord told me He was the one before the man had ever said or done anything to make me think it was possible. Over time, a very short time actually, the man did show in actions and words that it was more than possible and that it was going to happen, but then other things happened to stop things from moving forward. Marrying this man is tied up with moving into a new apartment or home – maybe even a house – and starting a ministry together. These are all promises the Lord has made that He has confirmed again and again, but from where I’m sitting now it all seems like a nice dream that there is no way that it can happen. Not only is the marriage on hold, but the man is not even living in this country now – we’re separated by an ocean and lack of funds and lack of a way for him to live here. My landlord made it clear to me that he can’t live in my apartment, and my apartment is really too small for two people anyway. Then they cut our budget at my job and my hours and income were reduced for seven months. I already have a tough time making ends meet – I’m not complaining at all because the Lord has been so faithful – but I say that so you know that there is no way I could move into a new apartment and support someone else while he was trying to find a job in an economy that he might not find one right away. And that’s not only bad for a relationship to be having money problems from the beginning, but it’s also bad for men to have to rely on a woman to support them. I’m a feminist in much of my thinking, but people in general need to feel they are independent and can take care of themselves, and for a man to not be able to support himself and have to rely on his wife is something that can really wreck his self esteem. So here I am, looking at this mess, thinking, how is this all going to work out and sometimes feeling like I need to do something to speed things up, and that’s why the Lord was talking to me about patience and timing this morning.

When God has spoken a word over your life, there are times when you just have to go about your business knowing that He will bring it to pass in the perfect time. Abraham and Sara made a mess of things trying to run ahead of God, and even though He still blessed them and blessed the mess they’d made, they wouldn’t have had to deal with the mess at all if they’d just listened to His promise and waited on His timing. David was anointed king, but then spent 40 years running away from Saul before he was finally crowned. In the meantime he could have at any time done away with Saul – he was given opportunities and each time he refused, allowing God to do what He needed to do in order for the timing to be right. But even with these stories that I know so well, it’s hard for me sometimes to be patient myself. I think sometimes that maybe we don’t have to get married, that maybe it’s someone else I’m supposed to be marrying, that maybe I was mistaken about this man, that maybe I didn’t really hear God or that maybe I can interpret what God said in a way that makes more sense to me. But God clearly said we needed to get married – that’s one of His commandments that I never followed in the past and He made it clear that I need to follow it now. And He clearly said it was this man, and He has clearly shown me that there is no mistake in what I heard, about who He was talking about or in my interpretation of the word He has spoken over my life.
There is something that the Lord spoke to me about a while ago, when He was talking to me about waiting on His promises and His timing. King Saul and King David both did things that were sins, and if you look at the sins, King David’s were much worse. King David seduced Bathsheba, a woman who was married to one of the men who was fighting in battle, and when he wanted to hide the adultery, he called the husband back from battle and tried to get the husband to sleep with his wife. When the husband refused out of wishing to honor his comrades in battle, David had him killed on the sly. King Saul didn’t wait for the Prophet Samuel to arrive in order to make the sacrifice before a battle, and he didn’t destroy everything that was won in the battle as he had been commanded by God. When you look at the two sins on the surface, King David’s seems so much greater, and yet what the Lord spoke to me about is that in His eyes they are both equal sins because they both involved disobedience – not listening to God and not following His leading. The blessing of King Saul was removed by God and King David’s was for a time but it was restored. The reason for this is that when confronted by Samuel with his sin, King Saul tried to justify it and say it wasn’t important and when that didn’t work he tried to hide it. When Samuel confronted David, he admitted his sin, repented of it, and accepted the judgment of God and was ultimately restored.

God’s promises to us are covenant promises, which means that they are made in blood. For people in Old Testament times, it was a promise that was sealed by a sacrifice, and with the coming of Jesus, He became that sacrifice once and for all. When God makes a covenant promise, He will not back out of it, but we can do things that mess things up and add misery where He planned joy. Marriage is a covenant promise, a home that is blessed is a covenant promise, children and a heritage and a ministry are all covenant promises. The Lord has made those promises to me, and He’s going to keep them. It is up to me to keep my side of the bargain which is to remain faithful and trust in Him.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 tells us, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Romans 8:31 tells us, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” There’s a Rolling Stones song, “Time Is On My Side.” God holds the strings of time, and if He’s on my side, then time itself doesn’t matter. It’s His timing that matters, and He will bring about His promises in His perfect time.

Blessings,
Jannie Susan

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Best Advice

I’m writing again at a very late – or early – hour. A friend called me tonight – or last night – and we talked for a long time. It’s a friend I have very deep conversations with and so it was definitely a good thing, but my sleep is a good thing too, and so I’m not sure how long I will write now. It’s 1:06am, and I don’t want to be getting to sleep this late. My friend who called me is a night owl, but I’m not any more in the least, so it’s hard for me to balance my own need for sleep with the importance of the things we talk about. I know that it’s ok for me to take care of myself – that’s something that the Lord has been teaching me – but I also know that it’s ok sometimes to go outside of my usual routine. It’s finding the balance that’s important.

That’s where listening to God becomes so vital. If I don’t listen to Him and don’t stay connected to Him, I won’t be able to make the choices that are the best choices in any particular moment. I’ll make choices based on my own assumptions and beliefs and limited understanding, and that’s not going to bring me the outcome and resolution that is the best it could possibly be. There are times when God will tell me to go ahead and do something like stay talking to someone way past my bedtime, and there are other times He’ll tell me not to even pick up the phone because He knows I need my rest. There are times when He’ll tell me to bless someone with a gift or money or food, and there are other times that He’ll say to keep whatever it is for myself. God is not someone you can fit into a box and assume that every time He tells you about something it will be the same advice. He gives advice and direction based on each different and unique experience, and so you have to keep listening or you might miss out on a key point.
Two weeks ago I was on the subway on my way to teach a class, and I saw a woman singing and playing her guitar. The Lord told me loud and clear that I needed to put some money in the hat she was going to pass around, and even though I don’t feel like I have any extra these days, I went ahead and did what He told me to do. The feeling was so strong that I couldn’t ignore it, and I have no idea why He wanted me to bless her but He did. Who knows, she may have been emotionally at the end of her rope and my giving her a smile and five dollars and saying that her singing was beautiful could have meant the difference between life and death. We never know what a kindness can do for someone, it can bring them back to life and it can bring them closer to God.

It’s not everyone that I give to and not everything that I give away – I used to be like that – I’d give my last dollar without thinking about it at all, but that's something that He's been teaching me is important to check with Him. There have been times when the Lord has told me to go ahead and clean out my bank account for someone, and I had to do it because He said so. And when He tells you to do it, He’ll cover you and give back a hundred times over what you’ve given away, just make sure you check with Him first to make sure you’re moving on His direction and not your own.
There will be times when the Lord will ask you to bless someone, and there will be times when He’ll say to take care of yourself first. There are times when someone will even tell you that you should be blessing someone else, and if you’re listening to the Lord, you’ll know whether what they’re saying is coming from Him or if it’s not. In John 10:27, Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” There are times when all logic and everyone around you will tell you something, and if you’re not listening to His voice, you’ll listen to the other voices that are not His. Read His words carefully, “My sheep listen to my voice” – there is the listening; “I know them” – He knows each one of us intimately, and He will know just the sorts of things that will come to try to move us in a direction away from Him; “and they follow me” – in spite of everything that may – and will – come to move us in that other direction, the choice that is made is to follow Him.

I’ve gotten to love that image of sheep. It reminds me of years ago when I was a very little girl and somehow or other my mother and sister and I were invited to visit a farm. I somehow or other ended up in a sheep fold, and was surrounded by big white fluffy bleating sheep who may or may not have thought I was going to feed them. They weren’t mean or scary in any way, they were just big and fluffy and warm and heavier than I was, especially since there were several of them, all surrounding me as they were. As soon as the farmer came to rescue me by calling out to them to go in another direction, they moved very simply and peaceably and easily away. That is the way that we can move when we know His voice – listen for it, know that He knows you, and follow Him. He gives the best advice of anyone, because He knows you and knows the whole picture.
Blessings,

Jannie Susan

Friday, October 18, 2013

Return As Far As You Can

I was cleaning tonight, going through some old papers that have been lying in bags in piles under a chair, hidden away, things that I haven’t wanted to take the time to go through because they were mostly things that I knew could be recycled, but in among them were things that had my name and number on them and other people’s names and numbers and I don’t like to put that kind of information out for recycling without shredding it, and since I don’t have a shredder that means I have to sort through everything and tear those sheets up into little pieces where the names and numbers appear. I’d been putting off going through them, thinking that maybe I’d just go ahead and buy a shredder, but I bought a clothing rack at a yard sale last weekend and I’d put it together this week while I’ve been taking my vacation time, and in order to make room for it I needed to move some things around and one of those things was the chair where the bags with those papers were hiding.

The area where I put the rack is the living room space, and it’s been a bit of a mess for a while now because I have so much paper and supplies from my job lying in piles and then I have these other piles from the job I had before. Last winter I did a big house cleaning, and I’d gotten it so that things were much better, but the piles from work continue to grow and although I did try to sort through some things, I didn’t do as much as I really needed to do because it’s just such a huge undertaking. Even if I had a shredder I’d still have to go through everything because I know mixed in with the things that can be recycled are things that are precious and important. A few things, a very few, and they are things that I don’t even really remember what they are, but I know that I don’t keep things just to keep them, and so I know that hidden in the piles from work of the present and of years gone by are things that I’ll want to see again and that will have deep meaning when I see them.
Tonight as I tackled the piles, I started going through one bag at a time. I knew I’d get to the point where I’d hit a wall and would have to stop, so I started with one bag and I think I got through at least two. I was also going through other things at the same time, bags of supplies for my job. In the nutrition and wellness work that I do I save lots of labels of different kinds of foods, and even though I have my kits ready for the groups that I am currently teaching, I like to save different labels of foods that I know could be useful for someone or some group at some time. And people give me food packages too – sometimes people in my classes will bring me things to add to my collection. I’d love it if I had the space to keep them all, but I don’t have the space for the supplies and paper that I have to keep at home already, never mind having extras around just for some future possibility. So I reluctantly went through some of those tonight also, and put some into the recycling piles as well. I’d gone through them last winter too, but there is still more that needed to go and still more even though I went through them again. But for now I had to say enough is enough. I’d hit that wall and needed to take a break.

The first bag that I went through of papers from my old job was a trip down memory lane. Information from trainings, faxes and emails and all kinds of folders full of community partner information from different agencies I’d collaborated with. Then I got to the second bag, and in among those same kinds of things I found those few precious items. Letters from the youth I’d worked with talking about what one of the projects we’d done together had meant to them, and a letter I’d written to them one weekend when I’d gone to a retreat called “The Encounter” that was a life changing experience in many ways. The retreat is one that is done with groups all over the country, and from beginning to end you are surrounded by the love of Jesus in a way that opens your heart and heals you and brings you so close to God. We received letters that weekend and wrote them, and tonight I found one that I wrote.
In that same bag I found a sermon I’d picked up one day in August or September of 2006. I think it may have been September because the sermon was dated from August 27, and it wasn’t a sermon I’d heard. I’d walked into a church to pray, I don’t even know why I was in that neighborhood. As I remember it now, I’m realizing that only a few months later I was working on an event that ended up being in that same church. It’s amazing how God will do things like that. On that day I had been walking by and the Holy Spirit said to go inside, and as I remember it now, at some point during that day I’d heard the words in my head, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” (Psalm 37:23)

You see, the reason that church of all churches was the one where He led me to pray is because it was a church that was in some way related to a man who I had loved who had betrayed me. It was a church that he was registered at, though I don’t think he ever went to services there, though maybe he did once, I don’t really know, because during the time of our relationship we both were walking very far from God. When he betrayed me, that was the time that I was born again, and so I was able to forgive him because if he hadn’t treated me so terribly I would not have come to know the Lord. As it was I had been in the darkest place that I had ever been in my life, deserted, abandoned, betrayed and desolate. I had basically been left for dead, and I thought I would be better off dead. But God, but God, but God. I have a sign on one of my walls with a passage of scripture from Acts 3:15, “You killed the author of life, but God raised Him from the dead,” and the “But God” is in really, really huge letters. Whenever I need a reminder in the midst of a struggle or storm, whenever I need a pick me up, I look at those words and say, But God! He has a way of showing up in the midst of the biggest mess and making it something beautiful.
But I am not able to do that on my own, and although I’d been able to forgive, it had been difficult for me to fully want to pray for this man who had done so much to cause me harm. But God, but God, but God. That day when I walked into the church I knew it was to pray for this man, and so I sat in a pew and took a Bible from the rack – in those days I hadn’t yet bought the little one I carry with me now always. I don’t remember the scripture passage the Lord led me to that day, but I remember that it did speak to my heart and the situation. It was an Episcopal church and I knelt on the kneeler, and prayed for the salvation and healing of someone who had harmed me. There was so much release in that prayer, and as I rose I felt the new lightness that had come over me. I walked around the church and looked at the many different beautiful areas – it is a historic church that I had always thought beautiful from the outside but had never seen from the inside.

On my way out, I stopped to look at the different sermons they had available, and picked up three that I took with me. I found them tonight in that second bag of papers, along with the letters to and from the youth. When I saw the title of one of them, “Return As Far As You Can,” I remembered that it had touched my heart deeply when I read it, and so I read it again tonight. It was preached by the Reverend Elizabeth Garnsey, and when I saw her name, I knew that she was now with another church that I have attended in recent years, and one that I just attended two weekends ago for a special celebration welcoming the new Rector, someone who I also know from another church that I have worked with for the nutrition and wellness work that I do now. It is so amazing how God will orchestrate these things. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.
The truly amazing thing to me is that I had spent my life walking so far away from God, that it makes no earthly sense why He should see me as someone who is worth ordering steps for. The end of that passage in Psalm 37 is, “And He delights in his way.” What has there ever been in my life that would make the Lord delight in it? But that is the true miracle of Jesus. It is by faith and faith alone that we are made righteous, and that faith is a faith that is given to us by God. He arranges it all so that He can love us and bless us and bring us back home to Himself.

In the Reverend Elizabeth Garnsey’s sermon, she used one of my favorite passages, John 6:56-69. Jesus is speaking to his disciples about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, and many of them turn away because the teaching is so difficult for them to accept. Jesus is left with the twelve, and we read that He asks them, “’Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’” There have been many times when the going has been very rough, and I speak those words to my Lord. In that time when I was born again, there was nowhere else for me to go, and now that I know Him, there really is no other choice.
The sermon itself is a beautiful and powerful one. I don’t know if there is anywhere that it can be accessed online, but I plan to contact the Reverend Elizabeth Garnsey and ask her. If there is a way to add a link to this blog, I will do that as it is a blessing to hear her words and her journey. She ends her sermon with a beautiful passage from the Talmud, “A son left his father. He was asked to return but said, ‘I cannot return.’ Then the father sent a message to the son, ‘Return as far as you can, and I shall come the rest of the way.’” She then writes, “The teaching about the bread and wine tells us the same thing, in a class where the serious students are also beginners. There is always a way back, and the way back is not so difficult. Come as far as you can, to the table set for you. Jesus will meet you there and take you the rest of the way. Amen.” I remember when I read that, the power that those words had to heal what was in my heart, and I felt that same power again tonight. I was a beginner at that time, eight months born again, maybe nine at most. At every step I’ve taken He’s met me, and brought me further along the road back home.

Blessings,
Jannie Susan

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Humor Ist Wenn Man Trotz Dem Lacht

I found a new favorite website tonight, http://www.konig.org/about.htm. I was looking up the reference to the 153 fish that the disciples catch after Jesus meets them on the beach after His resurrection, and the first website I found was a very complex and somewhat confusing numerological treatise. I skimmed through it because it wasn’t making much sense and when I started to read something about the Bible really being a pagan philosophical text, I closed out of that and went back to look for another website reference. That’s when I found my new favorite website, and George Konig’s words on those 153 fish, http://www.konig.org/wc9.htm. It’s a lovely article, and I encourage you to read it. There were references given for one of the theories that George Konig highlighted, describing that a Christian Army officer had “discovered that the four Gospels record precisely 153 individuals who were specifically blessed by Jesus Christ.” After explaining in more detail, George Konig continues in a later paragraph with words that touched my heart, “Between the 4 Gospels, the total of these blessed people supposedly adds up to 153. If true, perhaps this number of 153 is more than mere coincidence. It would coincide with the fact that the Lord numbers and watches over every individual who places his faith and trust in Him.” He finishes with one of the sweetest passages of scripture to my mind, writing, “As Jesus states in Matthew 10:29-31, ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.’”

I enjoyed reading George Konig’s writing so much – he has a writing voice that is from the heart, honest, and pure from any artifice. “Artless” is the term that used to be used for a person who had that kind of open, honest, and pure voice, meaning not that there was no art as in the beauty of art, but that there was no falsity or manipulation. I read his testimony next, http://www.konig.org/testimony.htm, and found so much more to enjoy that I knew immediately that I’d be writing about him here because his is a voice worth sharing and he has an important message to share. There is so much to enjoy in his testimony, and here is something just to give you an idea of the richness there, “I believe that Satan will strike out at you after you are saved, just as he tempted Jesus during the 40-day fast in the desert after Jesus was baptized by John. After I was saved, things went downhill for a while. There was a lot of sickness with my family members, financial problems, etc. Satan lost me and he keeps attacking to get me back, hoping I will just give up and turn away from God. His attacks are still coming, but I take it as an honor when they happen. I must be a big pain in the neck to him. I figure the only rest he will get is when I’m asleep, and maybe not even then, as I have found myself praying as I wake up. I pray for 1 to 2 hours a day, including reading the Bible. I recommend constant prayer to all of you. Keep talking to God.” After that he writes, “We have had sickness in the family, car problems, house problems and financial problems that are too numerous and too personal to list, but God has pulled us through every one of them. To Him be the glory.” And then he writes this, “One of the more interesting things that occurred for me in the last 10 years is the complete peace of mind I have with all the problems that have come up. I don’t know if I could have handled these problems if they had occurred before I was saved.”
As I read George Konig’s words, I knew I had to share them. A friend and I had been talking about some very similar experiences, and I found George Konig’s description refreshing and encouraging and full of light. Over the weekend I had bought a few things at a yard sale someone was having near where I live. She had some German cookie presses – not cutters, but the old presses that you roll over the dough. My mother has some that her mother brought from Germany, and we used to make the cookies at Christmas time. Even though my mother doesn’t bake any more, she still likes to have the presses around, and I haven’t had much time for baking either so I haven’t wanted to ask her for them. When I saw them at the yard sale, I bought them immediately, and while I was talking to the woman who had owned them, I noticed a little sign in a bowl of pins with different sayings on them. The little sign was about two inches square, and on it were these words, “Humor ist wenn man trotz dem lacht.” I know a little bit of German, and could figure out the “Humor is when a man” part, but I had no idea what “trotz dem lacht” meant. When I asked the woman, she said that it had been her husband’s from when he was stationed in Germany, and she suggested I ask her neighbor who was sitting nearby. Her neighbor said it meant, “Humor is when you laugh,” but I didn’t think that was quite it. German humor is strange sometimes, but that seemed a bit too simple. When I got home I looked it up and found out that it means, “Humor is when you look on the bright side,” and I started to think about the Holy Spirit and the spirit of laughter and joy, and how Jesus wants us to rejoice in all things because ultimately we can know that He is Lord of all and that He has triumphed over everything so no matter what we are facing we can look on the bright side, we can look on the side of Jesus, and we can know we have the victory.

Reading George Konig’s words tonight gave me that feeling, a feeling of lighthearted joy. It wasn’t the voice of a man who has not known trouble and hardship, but the voice of a man who knows Jesus. He knows that God is faithful and that He will always bring us through. It is the voice of the wise builder that Jesus teaches about in Matthew 7:24-27, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” It is the voice of a man who knows how to rejoice in His God.
Blessings,

Jannie Susan

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Abundance And Joy And Peace And Love

Today was a very fun day – I don’t know how else to describe it, and in some ways fun doesn’t even begin to describe it. I had been invited to go to a meeting for community resource providers, and when I got to the address where the building was supposed to be, there was a building there but it wasn’t the building where the meeting was being held. The doors were locked and when I went into the building next door which was a charter school run by a Catholic Church, the very nice people there had no idea what I was talking about and they tried their best to call people and help me, but no one knew anything about the meeting. The building that I had the address for was part of the charter school, it was their gym, and they said they never rented it out during the day because they needed it for classes. They were so very nice in trying to help me – where I live always amazes me at how people will help some woman who walks in off the street out of nowhere looking for a meeting that no one’s ever heard of. They really did try their best and it was heartening to think that there are people out there who act that way all the time. Working as much as I do in NYC’s five boroughs and spending as much time as I do there makes me forget sometimes that there are really nice people all around the globe. I’ve needed my vacation time for my own rest and regrouping, and having this experience today revived something in me that was in danger of being lost.

Before I’d arrived at the wrong destination – or really the wrong address but always the right destination because I’ve gotten to know that with God there are no accidents – I’d walked through one of the most beautiful little neighborhoods I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a place that I hadn’t been to yet – the area where I live is really big, and though I love to explore, I don’t often have the time that I’d like to do it. Placards on the houses and in the park areas explained that this was one of the oldest – if not the oldest – streets and areas of the city, and different houses told different stories about how the area came into being. Then I got a little lost because some of the streets were criss-crossing and I missed a turn I needed to take, and when I asked directions from a couple who were walking, they answered me as best as they could. I walked a bit further and realized I had missed that turn, so I asked the Holy Spirit and took the next right. That street led me right back where I needed to be, a few blocks away from the address I had for the meeting.
After I left the charter school, I called the woman who had given me the address for the meeting and left a message that somehow I must have written it down wrong, and she called me back in a few minutes to say that I had the address she’d given me, but that she’d gotten it from someone else who she had just sent a text message to and was waiting to hear back where she was. I really didn’t mind at all because I was having such a lovely adventure – in some ways I hadn’t even wanted to go to the meeting because this is my vacation week and I go to meetings like that every day when I’m working. But when I heard about the meeting yesterday from the woman who gave me the address, I felt a prompting of the Holy Spirit telling me to go, and then this morning the same thing when I woke up at 6:30am. If I’d had my way I’d have gone back to sleep, but the prompting was so strong I got out of bed and got going.

I had planned to go to a specific street on my way home – it was on the way and I’ve been wanting to buy dates and golden raisins and a big five pound tub of yogurt on a street that has lots of Indian stores. On my way there, the woman called me back to tell me that the meeting had been cancelled – it had been in another place, but that other place was flooded so they couldn’t hold the meeting. By that time I had discovered a thrift store and was happily looking through ladies vintage gloves that they were selling for a dollar a pair. I know I’ve written about this before, but I’ll write it here again that the area where I live has the best thrift stores I’ve ever seen in my life. I know the Lord blesses me every time I go to any of them, and I do think that there are angels and spirits of family members who shop for me before I go to make sure I find exactly the kinds of things I like, but even so I know there are other people who are having fun and finding amazing bargains too. While I was looking at the gloves, a very lady-like lady behind the counter asked me if I liked costume jewelry, which I do so I said a big yes, and she pulled out a basket full of some of the nicest costume jewelry I’ve seen anywhere and told me it had just come in. I looked through it and put aside a few pieces and when I asked her the price she charged me two dollars for each one. I had been thinking that I’d have to pick and choose depending on the price, but I bought everything because it would have been ridiculous not to.
On my way home from there I stopped to buy the yogurt and dates and raisins, and some of the stores that I’d been wanting to look into that sell jewelry and clothing were open, and it was the first time that had happened since I started shopping on that street. Some of the shops have strange hours – it has to do with lunch breaks and shorter work days and holidays, or at least I think that’s what it is. It also may have to do with the fact that sometimes people who sell to a certain group of people don’t want to sell to anyone else. I’m usually one of the few non-Indian people who shops on that street, and I know one day when I buzzed the buzzer on one of the stores the woman inside shook her head no at me. I couldn’t understand why and she didn’t explain, but for some reason today all of the shops let me in. I ended up buying a necklace and earing set that has a head piece as well – not a head piece in the way that a tiara or crown is a head piece, but this one hangs over the forehead. If you’ve ever seen pictures of royal ladies in traditional Indian adornment, you’ll know what I mean. I remembered that my grandmother used to wear things like that in her flapper years, and so on my way home I thanked her. It was just the kind of thing she would have bought and wanted me to have – she loved her costume jewelry and gave me a few pieces over the years.

And then I started to ask God just what was going on. I had been having such a fun and frivolous day and I didn’t know why. The answer that came back is, “I am blessing you,” and right then and there I started to cry. I’m crying right now as I write this because I don’t understand why He does bless me but He does.
In Exodus 33, Moses asks the Lord if he can see Him, and the Lord answers that though no one can see His face and live, He will arrange it so that Moses can see His glory. In verse 19 He says, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of Yahweh before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” That is from the World English Bible, and many of the translations are similar, some use the words The Lord instead of Yahweh, and some have variations on graciousness and mercy, substituting compassion for graciousness or mercy. In Young’s Literal Translation, we read this, “I cause all my goodness to pass before they face, and have called concerning the name of Jehovah before thee, and favoured him whom I favour, and loved him whom I love.” It’s a bit of a linguistic challenge to read that translation, but it’s well worth it to hear those words favor and love.

People sometimes think that walking with God is a constant sacrifice of all that we want in life. They can think that walking with God is no fun, that there is no joy, that there is only hard work and little rest. But that is not the life that God calls us to – He calls us to abundance and joy and peace and love. Yes, there will be things that we will need to give up – things that are holding us back from joy and light and life. And yes, there will be hard work, but He is right there with us every step of the way, and after a time of struggle, there will be a time of  peace and rest. And through it all there will be times of joy and fun, times of laughter and times of beauty, times of wonder and awe and astonishment at the glory of the Lord, times of warmth and fulfillment when we are surrounded by His love. Walking with God is living life fully, so yes, there will be sorrow and pain and loss and hardship, but after every storm there is always a rainbow, and through every trial His arms carry us through.
Blessings,

Jannie Susan

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Love And Turnips

There were some beautiful pink baby turnips today at the green market where I buy produce. I usually buy whatever is in the discounted bags and boxes that they have because those prices are always really inexpensive, but the bunch of turnips was so huge, it was easily at least as good as or even a better deal than a bag or a box, and I didn’t see anything in any of the bags or boxes that I wanted except for apples and plums. I needed vegetables and fruit – I was out of everything except for dried fruit and I’d eaten my last carrot for lunch. The past few weeks have been really busy – too busy maybe, because I developed laryngitis, something that doesn’t happen to me often. In the past few years I haven’t gotten sick much if any at all, so this laryngitis was a surprise, but understandable because it is going around and someone in my office had it and that means there may have been other people around me who had it too. Put that together with lots of nights of not getting enough sleep and a very stressful environment for the past 8 months, and you have a recipe for physical break down.

I had planned this week as a vacation week, and it was almost as if my body just decided to collapse as soon as it knew it would be getting a rest. Toward the end of last week I had started to feel like I was fighting off a cold or something and I’d started drinking the health and wellness tea I make. It’s a combination of Echinacea, goldenseal – both roots and leaves - and something I discovered when I was in London once maybe ten years ago or more when I got sick and was run down and wasn’t getting any sleep. I’d walked into an apothecary shop and bought something called “knot weed” in drops that you put under your tongue several times a day. When I got back home again, I asked at an herbal remedy store and they’d never heard of it, but the nice woman who ran the store looked it up for me and found out that it was good for strengthening the immune system and helping with respiratory problems. Echinacea and goldenseal are old standbys for me from a tea I used to buy already made in bags, and adding the knot weed works wonders. I’m remembering as I write this that I usually add mint when I make the tea at night which I haven’t been doing this time. In the morning I’ll add something called Sorrel, a West Indian and Asian herb that is loaded with vitamin C and iron. It tends to wake me up and give me energy, so I wait until the morning for that and drink the tea with mint instead at night. This time around I’ve forgotten to add the mint, so I’ll have to remember that next time.
When I looked up the pink turnips, I found some fun facts that showed me just how much the Lord is providing even for my vegetables to be the perfect ones at the perfect time. Turnips and turnip greens are very high in vitamin C, something I need to help build up my run down body, and I also read that the turnip is thought by the Celts to mean love. I had remembered that in the story about Rapunzel, there is a version when her mother eats turnip greens and turnips I think, and ends up stealing them from someone’s garden who then tells her that the child she will have belongs to them now. That’s why Rapunzel gets locked up in the tower, all because of a craving for turnips and turnip greens. The ones that I bought today were really beautiful – I never understood why anyone would have a longing for them until I saw and ate them today. When I brought them up to the counter to buy them, the woman told me that they had just been picked last night. They were so fresh that I said, “They’re gorgeous,” and they were – the palest pink with the greenest of greens, and when I cooked them they were just perfect. The bunch was so big that I’ll have them for the rest of the week at least, so I’ll be surrounded by love and health all week long.
In Proverbs 15:17 we read, “Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fatted calf with hatred.” That is from the New International Version, and Young’s Literal Translation has this, “Better is an allowance of green herbs and love there, than a fatted ox, and hatred with it.” I actually had a very large serving of vegetables, and I had some salmon and brown rice with it. The combination of the bright leafy greens and the palest pink baby turnips with the pink salmon and rice that turns oatmeal colored when it’s cooked was one of the most beautiful meals I’ve made in a long time. Put that together with the fact that it tasted divinely and that I know I was surrounded by the provision and love of God, and it was indeed a better meal than some I’ve had that were far more sophisticated.

I was thinking about some people I’ve known today, from my past before I was born again and my present. Throughout the years I’ve known people who have been simple and lovely, and I’ve known others who have brought contention and strife. I’ve had meals and made meals that used all kinds of special ingredients, and I’ve enjoyed some very high brow restaurant experiences. I’ve had dinners at people’s houses and apartments and have made many myself. I love good food and trying new things, but I’m not a food snob in the least. A simple meal of vegetables all by themselves is something that I’ve done on occasion if whatever vegetables I find are fresh and good. I eat meat and know how to make all kinds of fancy roasts, but sometimes the simplest things make the most memorable meals. The key is how the environment around you feels, and it can be perfectly lovely if the only added dish is love.
I’m looking forward to my week of turnips and turnip greens and the different meals I’ll be making. I have time this week to do things I don’t always have time to do, so I may even make something that is a bit more complicated. I love to cook and I enjoy taking that time when I have it, but the one thing I know is that no matter what I make, as long as there’s love in my home it will taste delicious. Years ago a man I met told me that his grandmother used to always say, “Where there’s garlic, there’s love.” I cook with a lot of garlic – it went into my turnips tonight – but I’ve come to know that even with garlic I still need God, or else something will be missing that can’t be replaced.

Blessings,
Jannie Susan

Monday, October 14, 2013

Everything We Need

I watched the last two sections from The Bible movie that my friend has been letting me watch, and as always with God it was just at the right time. I had been waiting to watch the next one in the series because I knew it was the crucifixion, and I didn’t want to watch it when I couldn’t give it the full time and attention that it deserves. I also knew I’d need some time for myself because when I watched The Passion of the Christ, I was sobbing from start to finish. Knowing what the Lord did for us – what He did for me and you and everyone individually – makes me recognize my own unworthiness of that sacrifice. I will never fully understand why He would have bothered, and when I see the images of how He suffered I see myself and my everyday nonsense and I just cry and cry and cry.

I spent the first year that I was born again up at the altar of the church I used to go to, face down and weeping every Sunday and sometimes on Tuesdays and Thursdays too. We had prayer night on Tuesday and Bible Study on Thursday and so they weren’t full services, but sometimes I’d still find myself at the altar the way I would be on Sunday morning. At some point during the opening time of worship on Sundays I’d feel like I just had to go up to the altar and kneel before the King. I’d put my arms down on the steps leading up and put my face on my arms and weep. They were tears of release and tears of repentance, tears for the things that had been done to me and things that I had done. Tears for the wasted years and the wasted time, tears for the pain and the loss and the mistakes. But most of all they were tears that recognized His great love, a love that could look past what I knew was a pitiful existence and could lift me up to walk with Him.
Before I watched the movie tonight I was going through my receipts from my thrift store trip yesterday, and I realized that somewhere along the way one of the things I’d bought hadn’t come home with me. I don’t know where it disappeared – it either didn’t get into the bag or it fell out of the bag or maybe even somehow it’s still around here somewhere and I can’t find it for some reason, but whatever happened I’m one item short and it was bothering me because I don’t like it when things like that happen. It was a small shirt and it only cost $1.99, but I always feel like there’s something wrong with wasting money. I kept reminding myself that money gets wasted all the time in ways that we don’t expect, but when there’s something that I could have done about it, it bothers me. Then I watched the Bible movie and everything that was on my mind before that I saw for the distraction that it was. There is really only one important thing and that’s Jesus, and everything else fell into the place where it belonged when I was faced with His truth.

God does want us to have beauty in our lives, He wants us to have joy and pleasure and fulfillment. He wants us to have the things that we need, and He even provides for our wants. But He doesn’t want us to be so fixated on anything in this life that we forget the real source of our life. He wants us to focus on Him so that we know who we are and that everything within us reflects Him.
In Mark 8:36 and Matthew 16:26, Jesus asks the question, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” and we have to remember that always. There are so many things that can take our attention, so many things that can make us think that they are more important than Jesus, so many things that distract us and take our focus away from The One Who Is and Is To Come. (Revelation 4:8)

In Revelation 22:12-14, Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.” When I compare that vision with somehow losing a shirt, no matter if it cost $1.99 or $199.00, there really is no comparison.
Over the years I’ve lost things and I’ve found things, I’ve had things stolen and had things given. I’ve given great gifts and time and love to people who have not appreciated them, and I have had people give back to me more than I could ever have given to them. There is nothing that I could ever give to God that He has not already given to me, and nothing that I could do for Him that even comes close to the sacrifice He made. His love is greater than any love I’ve ever known, and I can’t repay it or equal it in the giving. But the one thing I can do is to offer all I do have and to say whatever I have is yours. It’s not easy to do and sometimes in my human weakness I try to hold onto something as my own, but Jesus tells us in Matthew 16:25, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” When I finally let go and give to Him what is really already His, I will find that He is everything I need. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Help me, Lord to always know that all I need can be found in you.

Blessings,
Jannie Susan

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Coming Forth As Gold

Today was a thrift store shopping day – a fifty percent off day at one of the bigger stores that always does that on the holiday weekends. I had found a few things I wanted to try on – I always do that, something that I learned years ago with my mother at the old Filene’s Basement in Boston, you try on clothes right over what you have on, and even though it’s not a perfect look, you definitely can get an idea of whether or not it’s going to work when you’re used to looking at things that way. So I found my mirror and was just starting to try some things on when a woman came over and said, “Excuse me,” several times. I thought at first that she wanted me to move, but there wasn’t anywhere for me to move out of her way and she could have shared the mirror if she wanted to so I just kept on doing what I was doing. But she kept saying excuse me, and when I looked in her direction, she said, “Could I show you something? You have the height to wear it,” and she walked away and came back with a full length faux suede and fur lined coat. I had actually seen the coat on my own browse through, but I wasn’t looking for something like that, and I hadn’t seen how long it was. I thought it was a jacket, and even though I wasn’t really looking for a coat like that, because she’d taken the time to bring it over, I said thank you and put it aside to think about. Then she said, “Would you try it on? I think it’s just such a beautiful coat and I don’t have the height to wear it.” So I humored her and put it on and it did look beautiful. It was $9.99 with the fifty percent off, so I decided to splurge and buy it. I had the feeling in the store that I was going to wear it a lot – because it’s not real it will wear well and I can spot clean it and wear it in really lousy weather – and it’s really very glamorous looking but comfortable as a bathrobe. When I got home and tried it on again it looked even better, and I found myself thanking God for that woman. After she had given me the coat I didn’t see her again at all, and I’m wondering if she was just there to bless me.

I find some really amazing things at the thrift stores, and I’m really certain that the angels go in there before I get there and put things aside for me. I’m also amazed at the things that people donate and the things the people shopping don’t buy. I suppose a coat that long can only be worn by someone with height like mine, but for $9.99 it seems like something that everyone would be grabbing. But for some reason the things that are my taste no one is taking, and I have them all to myself. On my way home I wanted to stop by another thrift store I usually try to go to on Saturday or Sunday, depending on when I have the time, and on my way there I stopped by a yard sale and bought a beautiful flow blue and white porcelain bowl for a dollar. It was cracked and chipped and worn with age, but the glaze was still perfect, and to me it was truly lovely. When I bought it the woman said, “Oh, I’m so glad you liked this,” and I said it was gorgeous. She told me she had always had it out on display but that people thought she was crazy because it was cracked and chipped. I saw it the way she saw it – or maybe we saw it differently, but equally in a special way. The richness of the flow blue porcelain looks beautiful even if it’s just one small piece, and this bowl was a very unique shape and size, and the scene on the pattern was intact in spite of the wear of years. I think it would have been beautiful brand new too, but with the cracks and chips it had history and character and the blue glaze was so rich it glowed.
There’s someone who I love deeply and find so beautiful, but I think he wonders if I’m crazy for the way I feel. I don’t know for certain but I think he thinks he’s cracked and chipped and why would I want someone like that? But there’s something about the light that shines from within a person that all the cracks and chips in the world can’t hide, and just like that flow blue porcelain bowl, it’s all of the things that make up what a person is that make them so precious and lovely. When I looked up the word Porcelain, I found a page on Wikipedia that used words like “toughness, strength and translucence,” to describe it. The word resonant was also used, and a description of the high heat that is used in the kiln it is fired in tells us that the heat ranges between 2,192 and 2,552 degrees Fahrenheit.

In Zechariah 13:9, the Lord tells us, “I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’” There are times in our lives when we will feel as if we are walking through the fire. But no matter how alone or lost or distressed we may feel, the Lord is walking through it with us. He is bringing us through the fire to give us strength and toughness and translucence, and He is making us resonate with His praise through the process. When we come through the fire we may still have some cracks and chips that we think have marred us for life, but when others look at us all they see is the glow and the beauty.
Do not be afraid of the fire – when God walks through it with you it is to bring you closer to His glory. In Job 23:10 we read, “But he knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” In Hebrews 12:29 we read, “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.” When we have been tested and have come forth as gold, we will be able to stand firmly in His kingdom which cannot be shaken, and we will never be moved.

Blessings,
Jannie Susan

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Long And The Short Of It

I was planning to write this entry when it was still yesterday, but I was visiting with a friend of mine today who I always talk to for a really long time, and even after he left to go back up to the Bronx, he called me when he got home and we talked until just now. It’s 1:53am, a time that I haven’t seen awake in a very long time. I’ve been a very early sleeper and early riser for several years now, and it’s all the Lord’s doing so I can’t take credit for that. He’s completely changed the way I live my life and getting into bed early, sometimes even as early as 9pm, is something that is normal for me now.

I used to consider myself a “night person” and I thought that there was no way I could or would ever want to go to bed early, but now when I look at the clock and see 1:55am which is what it is now, I get worried that it’s so late that I won’t get the rest I need. I read in a magazine that was given to me by a Seventh Day Adventist group that I worked with at a health fair that the hours before midnight are the most important hours for sleeping – that we need to get those hours into our sleeping time or no matter how much we sleep after midnight we won’t get the proper rest. I’ve felt that’s true in my own life and have experienced much better health when I get the right amount of sleep and when the sleep starts before midnight, so I believe what they say. The Seventh Day Adventists are some of the most knowledgeable people in the areas of nutrition and health and that fact combined with the fact that I feel the difference in my own life makes it so that I want to keep getting that sweet before midnight sleep whenever I can. Lately it’s been a bit difficult and this past week was even more so than usual because of some scheduling things at work that made it so that I didn’t get into bed early enough and had to get up early anyway, and combined with that, the fact that it’s now 1:59am is making me want to jump into bed straight away. But I’ll take a few more minutes here because I know there are a few things the Lord wanted me to share, and a few more minutes won’t make a difference now that it’s so late already – or is that so early? It’s 2:00am right now, so I guess that makes it officially early.

One of the things I read tonight in my emails – or really it must be today because I read it just now – is from a beautiful spirit I know named Jean Richardson. She writes a blog under the name of The Aunt Savant, http://theauntsavant.wordpress.com/, and her post from October 2 had this line that I wanted to share, “Life is too short to go through it angry.” That gave me a big smile when I read it, and it reminded me of something someone said to me years ago about people who choose to be miserable. There are times of course when we have things that bring true misery in our lives, but this was something that we were saying about people who have no real reason to be miserable, but they find something no matter how great the things around them are. They can have a beautiful apartment but it’s not good enough for some reason, they can have a delicious dinner made for them and it was home made and not having someone take them out to dinner, they can have someone take them out to dinner and the restaurant service is lousy they say, they can go to a different restaurant and “there’s something wrong with” the wine, the soup, the steak, the fish, the chicken . . . you name it, there’s always something wrong somewhere and they can never have anything go right. I was talking to a friend years ago about a particular person I knew who was like that, and I said, “Life is too short!” My friend answered, “No, actually, life is too long.” So I’ll respond here to the Aunt Savant and say that life is too long to walk around angry.
In Philippians 4:4 the Apostle Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” in verse 12 he says, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want.” He had found the most important thing, and that was joy, and He found his source of joy in the Lord.

In Nehemiah 8:10 we read, “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” When we know where our help comes from (Psalm 121:1), when we know The One who is faithful and true (Revelation 19:11), when we know that no weapon formed against us shall prosper (Isaiah 54:17), we can even go to bed late – or early – it’s 2:18! – and know that everything will work out somehow. We may not understand how it’s possible, we may not see the solution. Things may seem like they’re headed straight for disaster, but as long as we know that we can rejoice, we can have the joy of the Lord. Life is too short to go through it angry – and it’s too long to go through it that way too. When we rejoice we can say that no matter what amount of time we have, the time will feel just right.
Blessings,

Jannie Susan

Friday, October 11, 2013

Power Belongs To Him

As I started writing tonight, the Lord brought a verse into my mind, “Truly God is good to Israel.” (Psalm 73:1) I had been reading Psalm 62 earlier, and I thought that’s what I would be writing about, but when the other words came into my heart, I knew there was something there that the Lord wanted me to share. That verse ends with these words, “to such as are pure in heart.” It sounds like such a deep breath of thanksgiving, and it is, and that is what came into my heart. That breath, that realization that yes, God is good. No matter what is going on around us, no matter what our situation looks like, God is good. Then the Psalmist continues in verse 3, “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” That breath of life comes just at the moment it’s needed – the Psalmist tells us, “my feet had almost stumbled” – almost, not they had, but they had almost. It is just in that moment when we are about to stumble that God will bring us upright again, will give us that breath of life so that we don’t lose our way and find everything coming crashing down around us. In verses 25-26, the Psalmist writes, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” We may stumble, our hearts may fail, but there is a strength we can call on that is beyond us and greater than anything that we could ever do on our own.

I heard someone talking about something a while ago and the Lord spoke a verse to me when I heard what they were saying, “None calls for justice; nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; they conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity.”(Isaiah 59:4) It was so ugly an experience what I was hearing that to read those words was a balm to my aching spirit. He knew how I felt, and He was telling me that He sees the truth that I was seeing. I didn't like seeing it, but it was good to know that He saw what I saw. Truly God is good to Israel, He keeps my feet from stumbling.
When people begin to walk down a treacherous path, they seem to get sloppier and sloppier. It is almost as if the sloppier they get, the easier it is for me at least to stumble into the mess they’re creating. The ugliness starts to bleed all over everything, bringing a poison to my spirit. Thank God for the blood of Jesus that is more powerful than anything else. If I were not covered with that blood, I would have stumbled that first day I heard what I heard, and many times afterward. Truly God is good to Israel.

Isaiah 59:19 is a verse I just wrote about, “ When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.” Because that chapter is coming back again just now and that verse is with me again, I know it’s a confirmation from God, “the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Truly God is good to Israel.
Psalm 62:11-12 has these words for us, “God has spoken once, twice I have heard this: that power belongs to God. Also to you, O Lord, belongs mercy; for you render to each one according to his work.” That is from the New King James version, and here it is from the New Living Translation, “God has spoken plainly, and I have heard it many times: Power, O God, belongs to you; unfailing love, O Lord, is yours. Surely you repay all people according to what they have done.” Unfailing love and mercy, and power. And not just any power, or power that he shares with someone else, or power that was given to Him, but power belongs to Him. He owns it. When we know that, we can know that even as we walk through a time of trial and testing, even when we almost stumble, it is God’s unfailing love, His mercy, and His power that will bring us through any storm. When we listen to Him and not to the empty words, we will be filled with a portion that will never run dry.

Blessings,

Jannie Susan

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Be Strong And Take Heart

I was talking to one of my groups today, letting them know that I was taking a vacation next week. I’m not going anywhere, just taking the time because I need to “use it or lose it” and because I need to for myself. It’s been such a stressful year, almost since the very beginning, and it hasn’t let up except for when I allow the Lord to speak to my heart. Sometimes I’ve been so stressed out and miserable that it’s been hard to even hear Him – and He’s been faithfully talking as loud as He possibly can, it’s just been me that’s been having a hard time listening.

In Psalm 27:1, David wrote, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” That is from the King James version, and it is beautiful and powerful, and when I looked it up, I found another one from the NET Bible that brings it into a statement instead of a question, “The Lord delivers and vindicates me! I fear no one! The Lord protects my life! I am afraid of no one!” and the Aramaic Plain English Bible has this, “Lord Jehovah, my light and my salvation, of whom shall I be afraid? Lord Jehovah is the strength of my life; by whom am I shaken?”
I was talking to a friend about what I know in my heart that God wants for us. He wants us never to fear and never to be shaken, He wants us to know who He is and that we are His and that He will not allow anyone or anything that is evil to triumph over us. When the enemy wants to shake us, he’ll bring everything he has that he knows will cause stress and doubt and worry. “But when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of God raises a standard against him.” (Isaiah 59:19) It is in just those moments when we are feeling like there is no way we can win this battle that the Lord comes in and shows us that we don’t have to on our own strength. All we have to do is stand on the Rock that is Jesus and watch the glory of the Lord deliver and vindicate us.

There are a few people I know who have been dealing with similar issues as I have. And there are people who the Lord has sent to me to tell me they’ve dealt with them in the past and that He always came through. And then there are people who just say something, a word that they are sharing and they may not even know why. They certainly don’t know my story, and yet they speak to it clearly. Someone did that tonight – we were talking about where he came from and the ministry he worked with, and then he said to me, “If you are walking in the light, everything will be revealed that is of darkness. It will be revealed through your light.” He was talking about something completely unrelated to me, and yet I knew that was a word for me because someone who has been dealing with some similar issues had just said almost the same thing. I started my day with those words and ended them that way, and I know that’s what God wants me to know.
On my way into the city this morning the Lord gave me Gideon when I opened my Bible on the train – the coward who the Angel of the Lord calls a mighty warrior and a mighty warrior is what he becomes. It is not by our own power or strength or wisdom – it is completely in God’s hands – and when we know that and we can allow ourselves to trust Him, we’ll see just how faithful He is. In fact, I’ll go a step further and say that He’ll be faithful no matter what – it’s when we can trust Him that we can have perfect peace as we wait on Him.

Psalm 27 ends this way, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (verses 13-14) The words here are so important – don’t just wait for Him, be strong and take heart while you are waiting, and know that you will see His goodness.
Blessings,

Jannie Susan

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

He Will Perfect It!

I was sending a verse to a friend of mine, and it was a verse I needed to hear also. That’s something that the Lord will do with me often – I’ll have a word or a scripture to share with someone and then He’ll show me how important it is for me to listen to it too. The verse is Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

When I sent it to my friend, I started thinking of all of the ways that we can doubt our own salvation and healing, that we can start to doubt the salvation of others or judge whether they are saved or not, and that it is only God who can know the truth of each one of our hearts and if He has begun that good work, He will complete it. It’s not up to us – I shared with my friend that my favorite verse is 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 – not by works so that no one can boast.” It really is not up to us at all – the only thing we can do is choose to say yes or no, but other than that, once we have been called and we’ve said yes, He’ll finish what He started.
Sometimes the way God works in our lives is through the very things that have been challenges to us before. At just the right time, when He knows we are ready to go through something with His help – it is always with His help because He has promised never to leave us or forsake us – at just the right time He will take us through something that in the past we thought had power over us – it could be a person or a thing or an experience – and He’ll show us that it never did. The interesting that that happens – interesting more when we get on the other side of it and sometimes really stressful when we are going through it – is that the closer we get to being healed of whatever that thing or person or experience from the past is, the harder it seems to face it this time with God. It’s in those moments right before the breakthrough and victory that we can often feel like the defeat of everything that we had hoped for is coming. That is one of the strategies of the enemy – if he can just get us to give up before we have the blessing that God has promised to us we won’t walk into the Promised Land.

It is very similar with faith about our own salvation. When we are saved, we are saved, and that’s all there is to it. God called us, we answered, sometimes after a long struggle or many years of trying to do things our own way – this was my case so I am speaking for myself here – and when we finally answered, the revelation of who God is in our lives and the feeling of why didn’t I do that sooner?! is so powerful that it would seem impossible to forget or disbelieve the miracle that occurred because we experienced it personally. And yet over time, and time and time again, we can fall into the trap the enemy sets for us and start believing the lie that nothing has changed and that we are the same as we always were. And often just when we are going to walk into a new victory, just when we are about to shed a layer of some negative experience from the past, just when we are about to move to another level of faith, the enemy will send something to make us think that we have not been miraculously changed.
Often in those times I find myself saying to God – “It’s the same!” meaning that the situation I am dealing with is the same thing I’ve dealt with before. It may be different people, it may be a different place, it may be on the outside completely different in many aspects, but at the core it is the same, and when I start to see that and say that, He reminds me that though the situation may be the same on the surface, the real core is different because He’s at my core now, and that means that my core is solid as a rock.

In Matthew 7:24-25, Jesus says, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.” It is the hearing first, and then the acting that builds that house with a strong foundation, it is the faith that comes as a gift, the acceptance of that gift, and then the action of following His teaching that produces the good work within us.
Once we have said yes, our job is to continue to follow, to keep saying yes even when sometimes we feel like saying no. There are times when we may be facing something that we say I can’t go through that again, but when we keep listening and trusting, and accepting of the gift of His presence in our lives, we will understand that once He’s begun His good work in us, everything else He will do will always be good, and He will complete all of His good work in us.

Blessings,
Jannie Susan

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Everyday Miracles

I was watching more of The Bible tonight, and I’m up to the sections about Jesus. It’s so beautifully done – and so well done. Some of the scripture passages take on such a strong visual meaning already, and then to see them is at times breathtaking and extremely moving. The section I finished tonight is the betrayal and arrest of Jesus, and I found myself asking Him, “Why did you do it?” And just after I asked that question, the character who plays Peter said, “Speak to me, why are you letting them do this to you?” At that point in the movie, Peter is trying to find out what is happening inside the High Priest’s court, and he’s asking Jesus to speak to him the way that I sometimes find myself asking a God I cannot see to speak to me.

At that point in the movie, Jesus doesn’t answer, but I’ve found in my experience that if He doesn’t right then and there, there is always a reason why He makes me wait for His answer. My questions are usually so mundane in comparison to Peter’s question, and my own as I watched the movie, knowing the next many hours will be agonizing ones for the One who is Lord. He could have given up and said enough of all of this at any point – He could have decided at any point that none of us was worth it, because I know for a fact that there is nothing in me that makes my life worth anything special, never mind the agonizing death He endured. But He doesn’t see it that way, and He didn’t then. He walked all that way to Calvary knowing exactly who each and every one of us was and what we would do or not do in our lives, and even knowing what a mess we can make of things, He still kept walking, because that’s the kind of God He is.
It is hard for anyone to believe that there is a God who loves us just as we are – it’s not that He wants us to stay where we are, but He loves us exactly where He finds us at any point in our lives. He wants us to take hold of Him so that we can be all that He has made us to be, and He wants us to give Him access to our hearts and minds so that we can be healed and cleansed and made whole again, but no  matter what we’ve done in our lives or what has been done to us, no matter what sins we’ve committed or the sins that have been committed against us, no matter the way we’ve been living our lives without Him, when He calls us, He is calling out of a love that knows no bounds. When we answer that call, He breaks all of the bonds.

Some of the most moving passages in the movie tonight were those when He healed the sick and forgave sins. I think it was a combination of the stories themselves and the way they were portrayed combined with my own knowledge of just how He does what He does. I know that before I said yes to His call, I was so lost I didn’t even know I was lost, and somehow, without my even understanding how, I have been healed in so many ways that I have been completely changed. And the changing and renewal just keeps going – He promises to break every yoke, and that’s exactly what He does.

In Revelation 21:3-5 John writes, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying or pain; the first things have passed away.’ And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ And He said, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.’”

I have not seen a vision as grand as John has, but I’ve seen the miracles in my own life. When I first started writing this blog, a friend suggested that I call it “Everyday Miracles,” and there are miracles that happen every day. It all began with a birth in a manger, a man who had the power of God but chose instead to lay it all down out of love for a thankless people. Why did He do it? I don’t think I’ll ever fully know, but the only answer I’ve ever been able to come up with is just love.
Blessings,

Jannie Susan

Monday, October 7, 2013

Something Wonderful

I’ve been watching more of The Bible series that my friend shared with me. Even though there are so many things missing and it’s not as deep as the real thing, knowing the Bible the way that I do is bringing some of the depth back in and it’s been such an enjoyable experience. It’s a bit strange sometimes to see things like the prophet Jeremiah as an old man when I know that one of the major points is that he was very young, but they really do such a great job in so many ways that it’s helping to remind me of things and to think of things in ways I didn’t before. When I’m reading the Bible, I take for granted things like Joseph accepting that Mary was having the child of God, and never even really considered what it must have been like for her – and for them both – to have the wise men arrive in the manger bearing gold, frankincense and myrrh, and then bow down before the newborn child. Watching this series is helping me see the struggle of faith and the wonder, and I’m seeing these people who have seemed so far above and beyond me come to life in a way that helps me see our common humanity.

In one of the episodes I watched last night, one of King Herod’s advisors found the prophecy from Isaiah about the birth of Jesus. The book of Isaiah is one of the most beautiful books from beginning to end – it’s like a song being sung with words for music. The passage they began to read in the episode last night was from Isaiah, and they combined scripture from 7:14, “Therefore the Lord will give you a sign: behold, a virgin will be with child and shall bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel,” and 9:6, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”
When I am going through my day to day, I sometimes forget the beauty and wonder of God. It is easy to remember the beauty and wonder when everything is going well and when I can feel and see His blessing all around me, but when I’m dealing with situations like the ones I’ve been dealing with, when there is struggle and trial and oppression, when the promises that  God made to me seem out of reach and far away and as if they were somehow something that I didn’t understand or that He did not make to me, those are the times when I know I need to hold onto Him more tightly and praise His holy, holy name, but those are the times when praise seems the hardest to come from my mouth.

My friend who is sharing The Bible series with me sent me a YouTube video link with Oprah talking about her experience of prayer and surrendering to God, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2SKI-E1h7w . In it she talks about an experience she had when it seemed as if everything was leading her to a dream fulfilled and then somehow it all just came to a screeching halt and she was left asking God why He had brought her so far to leave her without the dream fulfilled. I’ve had that experience so many times in the past year – and each time He keeps telling me that it’s up to me if I’m going to keep believing or not, but He’s going to do what He promised to do, and I can either be happy with knowing I can trust Him and the dream will be fulfilled, or I can be unhappy and even downright miserable with feeling like He’s somehow been playing games with my heart. In Oprah’s testimony, she found that the place where she needed to go before the dream was fulfilled was to surrender it all to God. To let Him do what He was going to do and to trust that whatever He did would be good – and even more than good. To trust that what God  can do will be better than any of us can ever even imagine.
I needed to hear her words – faith is hard sometimes, and one thing I had been writing to my friend that he responded to me with sending that link is that in watching The Bible series I’m seeing myself in the people who God speaks to and then they have to tell other people to have faith in what He’s been saying. There are times when they say things that the people around them look at them like they’re crazy, or they pity them, or they laugh. In some cases they’re being beaten and killed for their words of faith – that’s something I’ve never had to go through for all the battles I complain about having. To stand in faith when someone is laughing at you isn’t so bad – if we know our God and what He can do, we can stand, and keep standing no matter what. And if people laugh, who cares? They’re the ones missing out on the miracle and the blessing, and they will not know the overwhelming joy of the Lord.

The words of the prophet Isaiah soar because His heart is soaring with the joy of the Lord. He speaks words of destruction and calamity too, but His overwhelming message is always one of redemption and mercy and love. “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” It’s a beautiful message that He was given to share, and he’s shared it with us all so that we can continue to stand and deliver that message to the world.

Blessings,
Jannie Susan

Sunday, October 6, 2013

You'll Never Walk Alone

I was talking to the Lord this morning about a situation I’m dealing with that has been a big trial and a challenge for what seems to me to be too long now. It just keeps going on and even when it seems that He’s brought deliverance, something else comes up that seems to bring me right back down again. It would seem that God would deliver me once and for all and that I’d be done with dealing with it by now, and so I had been asking Him why it’s not resolved yet so that I can just move on with my life. He brought to my mind another situation that was very similar that happened before I was born again, and so I asked Him why this why now when I am walking with Him – why isn’t it resolved – why is the same? If I am walking with Him, wouldn’t you think it would be different? That it would not have happened? Or that if it did happen that the outcome would be resolved in a much easier and more amicable way? And then He reminded me of the time right after I was born again that I started to go through something that was similar and in many ways worse than something that I’d been through before I was born again, and that I’d had the same question for Him then. He reminded me that at that time He’d told me that there are times when we need to walk through the same situations we lived through in the past to know that we are different now because we are walking with Him. The situations may be the same, and the outcome and the experience may not be what we would want them to be, but with Him it is different because He helps  us walk through it and the outcome will eventually come out to our benefit because “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

A little over a year and a half ago I was teaching a class and one of the men who was a professional singer sang me a song at the graduation as his gift to me. I remember at the time I was dealing with something difficult, different from what I am dealing with now but still a question of faith. The song he sang was from Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” “When you walk through a storm keep your chin up high, and don’t be afraid of the dark. At the end of the storm is a golden sky and the sweet silver song of a lark. Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain, tho’ your dreams be tossed and blown. Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone, you’ll never walk alone.” It is no accident that he sang that song that day and no accident that I remembered it this morning. There are times when even when God is speaking to us clearly through His word, which He has been faithfully doing for me all these long months of struggle and trial, that a word will come through some unexpected place, a voice will speak to us a life giving word of encouragement in a way that we can know it’s a confirmation that we can trust and believe in God’s promises.
I really don’t know how the Lord is going to resolve the situations that I have been facing. I know a little bit because He has told me some of the final outcomes, but when I say I don’t know how He’s going to resolve them, I mean that I have no idea from day to day what is going to happen next. It’s actually something that is true even when we think we know what’s going on and we think we have some control in our lives that we really don’t know and have no control, but there are times when we have the illusion that we can know and we do have control, and one thing that walking with the Lord teaches us is that we don’t. In better days I call it “Adventures With Jesus,” and in weaker moments I just cry out to Him in fear and worry. The place where I know He is trying to bring me to – and where He wants us all to be – is that we don’t have those weaker times and we can just know that no matter what things look like, if He said it, He will do it, and it doesn’t matter how, we just have to know who.

I’m definitely not there yet – I still want to know how, and I wonder and worry and have moments of anxiety and fear – but each time He brings me through something I’m learning how to trust in Him more.  I’m learning that no matter how I feel, I’m not ever walking alone, and when I remember that He’s always with me through every storm I can keep on walking and keep my head held high because I am walking with the One who is “my protector, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” (Psalm 3:3)
Blessings,

Jannie Susan