Answering God’s Call

“Well, Lord, I’m here on Clearwater Beach with my guitar, amplifier, microphone, music and a trembling heart.

Having an amp and a mike make this so much scarier.

Help me to sense You right here. May I sense angels singing along.

Calm my shaking heart. Amen.”

That’s what I wrote in my journal this past Wednesday while in the midst of answering God’s call to play my guitar and sing Jesus songs on Clearwater Beach to the tourists walking by.

I had tried to talk God out of going during this busy spring season when traffic and finding a place to park can be horrendous.

Yet hadn’t I just heard a sermon on the radio about going into all the world? Clearwater Beach during spring season does bring tourists from all over the world. That’s exactly when God wanted me to go.

And step by step, He gave me instructions.

Bring the travel guitar. Buy a small battery-operated amplifier to go with it along with an acoustic pick-up. You’ll need something to amplify your voice. (A friend gave me that.)

Find a place to park near the bridge, so you don’t have to drive over. I found an Episcopal church and asked if I could park in their parking lot. The secretary gave me a hearty “yes.”

Ride your bike over.

What? With all of that?

I packed my song notebook, voice amplifier, music stand, and travel guitar in a backpack I borrowed from my granddaughter with the neck of the guitar sticking out and straight up.

I put the amplifier (which was too big for the backpack) in my new Joy FM bag and let it hang from several fingers on my left hand which also clutched the handle bar.

And on Wednesday morning, I made my way over the bridge. I thought of the homeless I see who carry a lot of stuff (often all they own) while riding their bicycles.

The good news is I rode my bike over and thanked God for the crossing which is for bikes and pedestrians, so I did not have to be involved with traffic at all. Once I was on the beach, I found a place to lock my bike, chose my spot along the sidewalk, set everything up, and began to sing with the sound of the waves in the distance and with seagulls flying and the sun shining overhead.

A friend whom I asked to pray for me had said via a text that morning, “You’re courageous.” All I knew is that I wanted to obey. Refusing to seemed much more dangerous than stage fright or worrying what people thought of me and my not-so-American-Idol voice.

Before I finished setting up, a kind man from Michigan stopped to talk to me. He inquired about my small guitar and then turned to talking about where he was from and about Clearwater Beach. He walked away before I could sing him a song.

Scores of people walked by as I sang “What A Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Jesus Paid It All,” and “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” along with many other selections. Few acknowledged my presence. I had a smile from a mom and her son, and he kept turning around to look at me as they walked by.

Then a load of young people in one of those double bicycles that looks like a little car rode by and cheered for me. They rode by again in a little while and cheered again. Were they making fun of me? I wondered, but even if they were, at least I got their attention, and perhaps they heard some truth.

I felt alone and ignored at times, but I knew I was being obedient, and prayed the word “Jesus” would touch many hearts even as the people rushed by to get near the shore, to a restaurant, or back to their cars.

I felt glad God instructed me to get an amplifier for my voice and guitar because the background noise was loud. Construction, airplane, traffic, and people noise competed with my “joyful noise.” I realized that any time we witness on a day-to-day basis there’s lots of noise to compete with—not only the racket of this world but the noise in people’s hearts.

As I continued to play, I thought of how I wanted acknowledgement. I texted a friend, “I feel lonely out here—like someone crying out in the wilderness.” I realized that was a flaw in me. I wanted attention when doing something for the Lord. Pats on the back, and some “aren’t you specials?” would help.

As long as I focused on myself, I felt uncomfortable. As I kept my attention on the wonderful truths of the songs I was singing, I felt joyful and content.

When the heat began to get to me, I packed up my gear and went to a local coffee shop for a sandwich and something refreshing to drink.

Then I headed back to my spot, set up again, and played the same songs I had played earlier. I made the decision to stay until 4:30pm.

In a short time, a young woman came up and tried to hand me some money. I pointed to my Joy FM bag. She placed it in there and smiled. I smiled back as I sang on.

I noticed that people sat on the ledge near me. Lord, let them hear the truth.

Around 4:15, I went over to a woman who sat to my left and handed her a tract and pass-it-on card I made with a poem I wrote on one side and Bible verses on the other. She said, “thank you,” and continued to sit near me. Soon two other women joined her. I gave them some “hand-outs” as well.

“We really like your songs,” one of the women said.

I asked them where they were from. “Texas.” A man joined them—a husband of one of them. We talked for a short time because they said they had to leave soon for the airport. One woman who had recently moved to Tampa gave me her card, and I wrote down all of their names on it. They took a picture of me on my phone, and then asked if they could be in a photo with me. The husband took the photo, and within minutes they and my time of bringing truth through song was gone.

God is calling me to go back to the beach on Good Friday—an excellent day to sing about Jesus and all He’s done for us.

This time I’m looking forward to it. I’m grateful God has called me to this adventure—even if I’m still just a novice as a guitarist and a vocalist. I pray people will hear the sincerity of my heart and the truth about Jesus. I think of the saying, “Little is much if God is in it.”

How about you? Is God calling you to an adventure that seems way out of your comfort zone? Be willing to say “yes.” It may be scary, but God always rewards obedience.

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He Knows

When going through a hard time, I can have an obsessive need to talk about my problems and the ache in my heart.

I’ve got to let people know, my mind insists.

Yet I’ve realized that telling a lot of people my troubles doesn’t help. Sometimes confiding in others can make things worse. People make wrong assessments of the circumstances and incorrect judgments about me.

Without consulting the Lord, they tell me what to do. And their instructions can be contrary to the Word of God—even though they proclaim to be Christians.

I am reminded of various times when I have told people about problems in my marriage only to have them say, “You need to get a divorce.”

Because I wasn’t careful who I decided “to let know” my issues, the “you need to get a divorce” urging has often been followed by “like I did.”

There are times God desires that I let others know my troubles ie for the purpose of prayer or to be transparent to proclaim to these individuals later how faithful God has been.

The important fact God has been reminding me of is this:

He knows.

God knows my every heartache. He sees when I cry and when I feel discouraged and desperate.

Lately the fact that God knows has been such a comfort to me, especially as I heard it expressed in a song by Jeremy Camp.

Often God gives me the instruction to “pray more than say.” And as I do so by pouring my heart out to the Lord instead of just to people, (See Psalm 62:8 AMP) I receive the assurance that He knows.

And as I search the Scriptures, He brings me to verses that shout to my soul, “Your God knows.”

Here’s one of them:

“I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy and steadfast love, because You have seen my affliction, You have taken note of my life’s distresses” (Psalm 31:7 AMP).

These days as I battle disappointment and disillusionment, I choose to draw close to God. For there is no one in the universe but God who knows everything about me and all I’m going through.

Today I’m celebrating this wonderful truth.

He knows.

Will you join me?

Here is link to the song, “He Knows” by Jeremy Camp:

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Overwhelmed By His Love

Not long ago I wrote about feeling overwhelmed by negative emotions. My conclusion was that the only way to overcome this is to be overwhelmed by the greatness of God.

Lately I’ve discovered another occasion when I feel overwhelmed.

It happens when someone I care about deeply says harsh and hurtful words. These individuals sometimes seem on a mission to hurt me, but I’ve discovered it’s because of their own hurt (hurt people hurt people). Sometimes it’s because I speak a truth to them, and the truth hurts when we’re running from God and His will and way.

God has reminded me that when I speak a truth, and people reject me and even try to crush me because of that truth which I have every desire to speak in love, it shows they’re rejecting Him.

Yet I still feel overwhelmed at times at how mean some people can be to me. If I don’t run to God immediately with my sense of feeling overwhelmed by hurt, a feeling springs up:

I feel unloved.

Beneath this feeling is a conclusion about myself which a counselor helped me to see years ago. This statement about myself originated in childhood.

I am unlovable.

When this overwhelming feeling and conclusion take over after a deep hurt or a slashing by harsh words, shame rises up and wraps around my heart.

For so many years I turned to food instead of the Lord when shame rose up in me. Overeating kept me in the cycle of hurt and shame.

I still go through this cycle at times in my life. I’m realizing it’s not because of continuing to have loved ones who out of their deep hurt wound me with harsh, hurtful words. The cycle comes because I don’t immediately go to God when they lash out at me.

Recently someone said something mean to me and because I was already fearful about a situation and I hadn’t had much sleep the night before and was working through grief over the death and hard life of a loved one, that overwhelming sense of “I feel so hurt, I feel unloved, I am unlovable, shame!” took over.

Instead of crying out to God, I expressed anger, and I used bitterness to try to overcome shame.

Truth alert: This course does not work!

What did work is in the midst of feeling hurt was to cry out to God and ask, “What do you say about me?”

This is what the Lord spoke to my heart: ELAINE, I LOVE YOU. I AM FOR YOU. I KNOW YOUR PAIN. I UNDERSTAND THE ACHE IN YOUR HEART (over loved ones rebelling against the Lord and hurting me and others while doing it.) WHEN IT SEEMS THEY ARE AGAINST YOU, THEY ARE REALLY AGAINST ME. DO NOT FRET. DO NOT WORRY. DO NOT FLY INTO A FURY. I AM A SHIELD AGAINST THE ENEMY WHO IS WORKING THROUGH THEM. CALL ON ME IN THE MIDST OF ONSLAUGHTS OF MOCKERY OR MALICIOUSNESS. I AM GREATER THAN ANY INSULT THEY HURL AT YOU. KNOW THAT. REJOICE IN THAT.

The Lord also reminded me of a verse as I battled feeling unloved:

“May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant” (Psalm 119:76 NIV)

I remember sharing that verse with an atheist after he asked “Why do you need God?” and telling him that God could give us something that we could get nowhere else: unfailing love. Not too long after, his wife filed for divorce.

Since many of the attacks from “mean” people in my life have to do with me not being perfect in their eyes and their condemning me for not measuring up to their expectations, the following verse also helped me deal with the “no mercy” messages from others. (Oh Lord, I confess I sometimes am the one expecting perfection and having a “no mercy” attitude.)

“The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior [Who saves]! He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest [in silent satisfaction] and in His love He will be silent and make no mention [of past sins, or even recall them]; He will exult over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17 AMP).

Part of this verse in another version says, “He will create calm with his love…”

There are so many verses that speak of God’s love for me which trump any mean, unloving thing someone says to me or about me.

As I stay intimately connected to the Lord, He reminds me again and again of His amazing, unfailing love for me even as others communicate, “You’re not good enough to be loved” and/or “you deserve to be mistreated.”

The key is to believe God above all others.

I confess I sometimes slip into the role of unhealed wounder instead of staying in the role of healed healer, allowing God to use me to bring healing into the lives of others.

Some days I demand that God not allow me to be mistreated or put down ever again. That’s not going to happen.

But I can choose a better way to deal with it.

This battle with feeling overwhelmed by hurt doesn’t have to last long. It can even be aborted if I stay alert. I can choose to let go of bitterness and shame and choose to be overwhelmed by God’s love for me instead of feeling overwhelmed by lack of love from those I love.

And when it seems to them that I am being the hurtful, unloving one, I pray they will do the same.

God’s love is amazing. Let’s celebrate that truth today.

*****

I had the privilege of hearing Chris Tomlin sing this song in concert recently.

“Jesus Love Me” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CGkt67F2uI

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When The Glory Comes

This past Sunday as I watched the Oscars, I was reminded again of the problem of racism. Most days I try to block it out of my mind.

How this issue must break God’s heart. I was raised in the midst of it and have battled against it–and with God’s help won–in my mind and heart. I feel an ache when I see Christians have poisonous attitudes toward people who have a different color skin. I’ve seen racism lift its ugly head in my Christian circles.

I regularly hear people use the “n” word.

It breaks my heart that it is still often the case that the most integrated places in this country are our churches on Sunday morning.

The good news is that justice will prevail. God knows. God sees. God will make things right.

I fell asleep and missed John Legend and Common singing the song that won the Oscar for “best song.” But since then I’ve listened to it and watched the video many times. The song is “Glory” from the movie, “Selma.”

The phrase from the song that has been playing over and over in my mind is “When the glory comes…”

When I hear that, I think of another song that has the line “mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

When the Lord comes.

That’s when everything will be set right—not only in the area of racism—but in every injustice on the face of the earth.

Some days I long for Jesus to come back, especially when I contemplate all the evils of this world.

The Word of God talks about the day Jesus will return:

Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn and beat their breasts and lament in anguish, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory [in brilliancy and splendor]. Matthew 24:30 AMP

Until that day, I continue to ask God, “What can I do to overcome evil with good?”

I can love every person who crosses my path. I can let go of fear and prejudice. I can stop seeing myself as better than other people.

One day when preaching the gospel in the streets of a poverty-stricken, mostly African American area near my home, I saw some men in the street who were high on drugs. A part of me believed I was better than them.

I remembered the verse which says that in humility I should consider others better than myself. (See Philippians 2:3) I asked the Lord at that moment, “How do I do that with these men?”

The answer that came to mind was this: “They are better than you, because you hide your sin.” God gave me words of love to speak to those men that day.

Back then I was a member of one of the churches in that neighborhood and taught Sunday school to the teens there. Those teens had been through so much. As I spent time with them, God gave me a heart of compassion to replace my heart of judgment. They taught me so much about the love of God.

I pray that things will get better when it comes to racism, and in some ways they have. I also pray that all of us will deal with the racism that resides in our hearts. Jesus can heal.

Yet people resist Jesus and loving like Him. And because of hardened, hateful, and unhealed hearts, racism will continue—that is until the day the Lord comes and makes all things right.

I’m looking forward to that day…”when the glory comes.”

Here’s the link to the song “Glory” by John Legend and Common which includes clips from the movie, “Selma.”

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Overwhelmed

Overwhelmed.

It’s a feeling I tend to get on a regular basis when it comes to negative emotions. When circumstances in life become difficult, I can feel overwhelmed by depression, anger, fear or all three.

Recently as I listened to a song on the radio, I thought of a cure for feeling overwhelmed. The song titled “Overwhelmed” speaks of being overcome by how great God is.

Instead of doing this, I’m too often overwhelmed by emotions when being bombarded by negative circumstances beyond my control. God spoke this truth to my heart recently: You will feel that way less often if you keep your eyes on Me and stay in a state of worship, remembering that I am always in control.

Being overwhelmed by His greatness—by His beauty, by all He is and all He has done–causes my problems to look much smaller.

When I keep reminding myself how great God is and magnify Him and His name instead of magnifying the problems in life, I can maintain a sense of peace. I then allow the Holy Spirit to shine through me and influence others instead of letting my fear, sadness, and anger spill onto those around me bringing them down along with me.

When times are hard, the temptation to withdraw from the Lord can overtake me.

“After all, He’s not doing anything to change this crisis,” can be my excuse.

Sometimes I’ve prayed for years, and I become weary of praying, so I back away and try to do something “on my own.”

This is what contributes to those feelings of being overwhelmed.

Today I looked up the word, “overwhelmed.”

I read, “to cover or bury beneath a mass of something, as floodwaters, debris, or an avalanche; submerge, to load, heap, treat, or address with an overpowering amount of anything.”

Yes, that’s how I can feel: buried, submerged, overpowered.

Thank God there is a way out of these feelings—keeping my eyes on the Lord and recalling His faithfulness and how overwhelmingly wonderful He is.

Today, Lord, help me to choose to be overwhelmed by You and not by the difficulties in my life. And “when my heart is overwhelmed and fainting; lead me to the rock that is higher than I…” (Psalm 61:2 NIV) Let me always remember that You are my Rock.

Please allow this song to help you be overwhelmed by the Lord.

“Overwhelmed” by Big Daddy Weave

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Beyond Me

“This is too hard.”

Often when presented with a task I sense God is calling me to do, that phrase comes to mind.

Today I realize in the past when this statement ran through my mind or came out of my mouth, a sense of shame came along with it.

After listening to a song by Toby Mac recently, I realized that God makes His assignments “too hard” for a reason.

So I’ll depend on Him.

I don’t need to be ashamed of my weakness or inadequacies.

There’s a saying that someone brought to me in my early days of writing when it seemed that getting published was an impossibility: “God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called.”

I’ve been reminded lately that it’s when weak people allow God to empower them to do great things for His Kingdom that He gets the glory.

God used inadequate people in the Bible. Often I have viewed the “characters” in the Bible as superheroes, but they had frailties just like me. And success depended on their staying vitally connected to the Lord.

What can follow after my proclamation of “This is too hard” is that instead of choosing to depend on the Lord, I abandon what God is calling me to do. At times I convince myself that certainly I was hearing wrong–that a task so difficult and one I feel unqualified to perform couldn’t possibly be from Him.

The truth He shows me in His Word is this: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13 NIV)

Today I’m contemplating some of the tasks the Lord has called me to:

–to continue to work with acutely mentally ill patients when it seems I have little strength to do so.

–to proceed in playing guitar and singing to audiences of His choosing when my voice and music skills seem inadequate.

–to be totally transparent in writing about my hurts and heartaches and God’s faithfulness for national magazines.

–to seek publishing for a book I’ve written that reveals lies I’ve believed and truths from the Lord that have helped to free me when it seems many in Christian circles are sold on those lies.

As I determine once again to fully embrace God’s calling on my life, another saying comes to mind. This one I heard while working as a substitute teacher for middle and high schoolers—something I felt ill-equipped to succeed at. Often I felt like quitting, but I knew God had called me not just as a glorified babysitter to these students who too often displayed their worst behavior, but as a proclaimer of truth and as an encourager.

“God gives us the good days, so we won’t quit, and He gives us the hard days, so we’ll depend on Him.

I will continue to depend on Him on the hard days and in the difficult tasks He has assigned to me. And I will embrace that it’s OK and even a reason to celebrate God’s faithfulness and provision if these callings seem impossible or as the song says “beyond me.”

Here is the link to “Beyond Me” by Toby Mac

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Healer of Broken Hearts

Often I feel like I have a broken heart.

One of the things my heart breaks over is people I know and love refusing to receive God’s healing. In my mind I can picture what they would be like after receiving God’s healing touch for their emotional and spiritual problems. I envision what living fully for the Lord and prospering in their souls would look like.

Instead of enjoying this, I am forced to witness them living desperate lives of being in bondage as year after year they maintain hardened hearts and continue to refuse to go to God for healing. Instead they try to heal themselves, but only sink deeper into the muck and mire of this world.

It’s like I’m someone on shore watching as a life guard tries to save a drowning person, but the individual fights the life guard and chooses to keep on drowning.

Recently after receiving an instruction from a speaker on a CD to cry out to God, “Who or what do you want to be for me during this trial?” I asked the Lord that question about my broken heart over those who refuse to receive healing as I mourn the dire consequences of their refusals.

I want to be your healer, was the Lord’s response.

Even though so many people I know refuse God’s healing, if I sink into despair over this, I end up in the same place as them—far from God.

So I prayed, “Lord, please be my healer. Continue to heal me even if they refuse Your healing.”

Although those I love refuse to receive healing, I can receive healing for my broken heart–which breaks over their refusal and over my still unhealed issues.

The verse that came to mind recently and one that has uplifted me repeatedly is Psalm 147:3: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (NIV)

I like what the Amplified version adds at the end of this verse: “curing their pains and their sorrows.”

My mind can convince me that the only way I can be cured of my pains and sorrows is for my loved ones to draw near to God. He is convincing me that the only way I can be cured of them is for me to draw near.

Often I pray that I want to be more like Jesus. Having a broken heart over those who refuse to draw near to God is a sorrow Jesus and I share.

In Luke 19:41-42 I read: “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace’…” (NIV)

Even Jesus could not force people to receive, just as I can’t, but like Him, I can let go of the sorrow and be full of joy for what was accomplished on the cross. I can rejoice over how it has transformed my life.

I can choose to celebrate that because of the cross the door has been opened for all to draw near and cry out, “Lord, please heal me.”

Today I thank the Lord for the healing He has accomplished in my life. I marvel at how far He’s brought me. And I can see that He’s not finished with me yet—that the healing’s ongoing.

I will continue to pray that those I love will draw near to God to be healed, but I will not allow their refusals to rob me of joy or keep me in the state of having a broken heart. I will open my heart to God for complete healing of my own soul.

Right at this moment, Lord, I bring to You my broken heart, and I receive Your healing of it. And I will be still as You once again bind up all my wounds.

God is so good.

I heard the song “Healer” by Kari Jobe recently for the first time. After listening, the idea for this blog came to mind. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yzejd6r9DwE

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