Shall We Dance?

Those who know me, know I love to dance. I’ve always loved dancing and secretly dreamed of being a dancer when I was young. I love my Zumba classes because they satisfy my soul and allow me to be the dancer of my dreams for a few hours each week.

God always surprises me with His teaching methods, but this morning I had to laugh when He used the salsa to get my attention. So often, I take a step forward and immediately take one back. I step toward to the right and fall into the law, then shift to the left and find myself in the midst of license. As I was praying this morning about my frustration in going forward, stepping back, heading left, and then right, I heard salsa music. I was very serious about my situation, but God knew a little levity would lighten the load and get His point across effectively.

Salsa is my favorite dance. The Latin rhythms resonate with my heart, soul, spirit, and body. The side-to-side and front-to-back movements are very natural to me. God used those movements to teach an important lesson. He showed me that dancing is okay as long as I keep coming back to the center.

I have a friend who created an intersection model to describe where “the intervention of God meets the involvement of the person.” (John A. Tagliarini) God used his model to show me how my dance moves were as natural on the journey as they are on the dance floor. I’ve always seen the path God has in mind as a line, a street, a straight and narrow path stretching into the horizon. This morning, I realized the journey is more like dancing in the intersection. God’s intervention and human involvement meet beautifully in the intersection. It is where we find the image of God in our own hearts. Truth is found in the intersection. Christ is the heart of the intersection. The model helped me see that the Way isn’t a road; it is an intersection. I’m not expected to keep trudging along; I’m expected to find my way to the center and keep dancing!

I suppose I will dance around the intersection as long as I’m in this world, but I pray God will help me find and stay in the sweet center where Christ’s precious love enables me see myself and others as He does. The intersection is busy and messy, so it’s safer to find a place to hide in the corners far away from the center; but God knows that will never satisfy my heart. Salsa moves always come back to the center and so will the steps on my journey if I let God lead. God made it clear that He isn’t going to move from the center. If I want to dance with Him and love as Christ loves, I’ll have to get in the center too.

I Love Salsa

Immanuel!!

Matthew 1:18-25 describes the conception and birth of Jesus Christ. The beautiful story unfolds in our hearts today just as it did when these scriptures were written. May it be real in all our hearts today.

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:  “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”  And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.” NASB

I want to share a powerful message with you that was shared with me last week. Here is “Immanuel And Company” by John Alden Tagliarini. I pray it blesses you as much as it blesses me. Merry Christmas!!

Immanuel And Company

The Messenger and The Messiah

The last scriptures this week are in Matthew 11:2-11. John the Baptist sends a message to Jesus asking if He is the Messiah or if they should keep waiting.

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciple sand said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

John the Baptist was a powerful prophet with a message of truth told with a love that began before he was born. He leapt in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary came near with Jesus in her womb. John is the epitome of what it looks like to eagerly await the Messiah. He spent his entire life preparing for Christ’s coming, a messenger pointing the way to The Messiah.

Messengers still point to Christ, and I am fortunate to have many friends who deliver God’s messages of truth with a love much like that of John the Baptist. I thank God for all those who are faithful to His Word because they help prepare our hearts for His return.

John Tagliarini is a powerful messenger and dear friend who has patiently taught me to love and understand God’s Word for almost a decade. Ted Duncan’s quiet example encourages me keep listening and following God’s lead even when I don’t understand it. Jeff and Jodi Helpman are helping me open my heart and love God and those in my path in beautiful ways. Each messenger is unique, but each shares a love of God very like that of John the Baptist. I thank God for placing them in my path and pray I will pass along the learning and love I get from each.

You can hear John Tagliarini and Ted Duncan at FBCBC Podcasts and you can hear Jeff and Jodi Helpman at The Grove Church Messages. The messengers may be different, but the message is the same. All point to One Who is coming again, and each speaks the truth with love.

As I Live and Breathe

Prayer is so much more than I ever imagined it to be. I’ve read many wonderful books about praying by those who have beautiful connections to God. My favorite is “If You Will Ask” by Oswald Chambers, but “The Only Necessary Thing” by Henri Nouwen also touches my heart as does his “Way of the Heart.” Christ is the perfect example of a praying life. He sits at His Father’s side and prays for me without ceasing. That’s a praying life. He was able to sleep peacefully during the storms He faced while here on earth. That’s a praying life. He lived and breathed prayer, and I am beginning to understand that such a praying life comes as the result of deep love and complete trust in God.

As I listened to the wind howling and tossing objects about last night, my spirit was at peace. I let God’s love wash over me and asked His Holy Spirit to be like that wind and take all from me that wasn’t what God desired. He helped me first name that which was keeping me from Him. Judgment, anger, frustration, and selfishness were taken in His mighty rushing presence. As the wind howled, I let go of resentment and past hurts. Love doesn’t keep an accounting of wrong doing were the words I heard clearly. I agreed and felt a warm sense of peace as the furnace came on and warm air brushed my face. I smiled to think of God’s presence in every moment. Praying brings me into that presence whether it is a howling wind or a soft warm breeze.

As I live and breathe in His Spirit, I will have the cold north wind knocking me over, but I will also have the sweet warm indwelling that takes me out of myself and into the path that leads to a praying life. Dr. Sophia Steibel helped me see the importance of having a praying life as opposed to a life of prayer. Love and prayer are things I talk about very often, but living them out in the way God desires changes me in a beautiful way. Irene Padgett showed me the sweet face of a praying life filled with intercession. Ann Voskamp reminds me that I can have a Christian lingo without having a Christian life. John Tagliarini is a dear friend and prayer partner who has nudged, picked up, dusted off, and helped me see the beautiful effects of a non anxious loving presence. He helps me walk in God’s kingdom now. I thank God each day for those He places in my path to help me draw nearer to Him. Hand-in-hand is the way to walk in God’s kingdom, and the path is best traveled together.

Here’s John’s message on a praying life. I pray it blesses you as much as it blesses me:)

“A Praying Life” Dr. John Alden Tagliarini

Cry Out to God

I have alluded to the service for Andy several times in my posts this week, so Pastor John graciously agreed to share his notes so I could pass along the healing words that helped me so very much as I searched for answers this week. For those of you also seeking to understand why, I pray you find comfort in these words. This brief post is but a very small shadow of the powerful service. I wish you could hear the message of truth and forgiveness spoken with love from the heart of Andy’s and my dear friend.

December 18, 2012

John Alden Tagliarini

(Taken from the service for Andrew Ivor “Andy” Parris)

“Why?” Moses asked, “O Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt?” (Exodus 32:11 NASB)

The psalmist asked, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1 NASB)

We have to ask, “Why God?”

We have to ask, “Why, Andy, did you take your own life?”

And, we have to admit to no satisfying answers.

In fact, the only answer I can find here is to encourage you – in whatever trials you are going through – I encourage you to know that suicide is not the answer. Call someone, call out to God!

We usually acknowledge our lack of vocabulary as we try to address circumstances such as these. Then, without sufficient words, we continue speaking as if the sound of our voices might somehow sooth our souls and prompt some insight regarding the meaning of it all. My sense is that God is grieving with us. His anger is kindled over the evil results of our deeds.

God gives life. God desires that we enjoy abundant life. Yet, God also gives free will. The consequences of our choices sometimes leave scars. Jesus bears just such scars. His hands, His feet, His side, His brow show the results of evil running its course. Yet, God forgave, and He forgives! This is the only grace I can offer this afternoon, God’s love.

Someday, God will bring into His world the fulness of abundant life which He began in Christ Jesus. Until that day, let us find ways to affirm life, to accept others, to listen deeply and to stand firm against all that destroys the life God intended. Let us trust God to heal our hurt, to love and to forgive.

Speaking as we have of love and life and suffering and pain, God reminded me of the picture painted by the prophet Isaiah of the suffering of our Lord. Though stark, Isaiah’s words are laced with hope. It is the hope that God heals us through the suffering of our redeemer. It is the hope that Jesus bears our sins away.

Let us hear the word of the Lord.

Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
 And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
 He was crushed for our iniquities; 
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, 
Each of us has turned to his own way;
 But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all 
To fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
 Yet He did not open His mouth; 
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
 So He did not open His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:4-7 NASB)

As a result of the anguish of His soul,
 He will see it and be satisfied;
 By His knowledge the Righteous One, 
My Servant, will justify the many,
 As He will bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:11 NASB)

In Christ Jesus, God bears our sins away and offers forgiveness and love and comfort.

With the psalmist, we ask, “Why?” The psalmist answered his own question with honest trust in his God. He said, “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. To You they cried out and were delivered; In You they trusted and were not disappointed” (Psalm 22:2-5 NASB)

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7 NASB)

Whenever God’s people are hurting or are in trouble, they call out to Him for deliverance. The people of Israel experienced times when it felt as though all the blessings of God, all the good work of growth in the Promised Land after Exodus from Egypt was wasted, and that God had rejected them. Yet, the people called upon God. They prayed that God would shine His face upon them in renewed blessings.

Hear some verses from just such a psalm of petition.

Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel,
 You who lead Joseph like a flock; you who are enthroned above the cherubim, shine forth!” (Psalm 80:1 NASB)

..stir up Your power 
And come to save us!” (Psalm 80:2b NASB)

You have fed them with the bread of tears,
 And You have made them to drink tears in large measure.” (Psalm 80:5 NASB)

We cry out to God today. “O Lord of hosts, restore us; Cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved” (Psalm 80:19 NASB)

We have an affirmation of faith, penned by the shepherd David in Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd,
 I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; 
He leads me beside quiet waters.

He restores my soul;
 He guides me in the paths of righteousness
 For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
 I fear no evil, for You are with me; 
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
 You have anointed my head with oil;
 My cup overflows.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
 And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. “ (Psalm 23 NASB)