I’ve been noticing the extraordinary all week. This faded rose called out to me to take its photo last night. I like the beauty that remains despite the age of the flower. As I get older myself (ahem), I’ve grown to appreciate the gentle, extraordinary beauty that is found in faded flowers, faded jeans, and faded hair.
Speaking of the extraordinary, an extraordinary encounter at church this past Sunday has held me enthralled and utterly enchanted. I feel as if I am falling in love with the Lord all over again! During worship, my daughter became emotional. All the angst of the past several months seemed to culminate right there in the midst of this song, and she excused herself to go dry her eyes:
A few minutes later I went in search of her and found her standing in the hallway. We walked outside for a moment and shared a prayer. My mother’s heart crumbled in a thousand fissures as I felt the depth of her internal struggles, and I wished for a moment that she had another woman in her life who could speak truth to her heart in a way that she would hear.
The guest pastor then wowed us with a moving sermon about hearing — and obeying — the powerful voice of Almighty God. Let me tell you, the words of this man, this humble man whose native language was not even English — a man who faced multiple death threats in his country, all for his faith and passion for Christ — his words were anointed, tangible, different. His words fell softly like springtime rain on this parched, thirsty soil, reminding me of Biblical truths I know so well that I often take them for granted, such as:
- The Holy Spirit will lead us in all truth…He helps us know Christ and gives us a desire to hang around with him. You can’t walk with someone you don’t know!
- If you aren’t hearing God’s voice, you are hearing another voice.
- Jesus said in John 15:15
“Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.”
- Friends communicate and spend time together.
- God’s ideas are the best ideas…a man plans, but the Lord directs his footsteps.
- The way we hear His voice is to first of all be sensitive to the Presence of God. It is impossible to honor what you aren’t aware of. When you sense God, it affects the way you sing and worship, and it determines how you pray…with authority and power…not just with flowery words to impress people. Let your words release life.
- We Christians carry life wherever we go. We carry the presence of God — the Holy Spirit.
- When we tell someone, “God Bless You,” we are obeying Jesus’ command to his disciples when he sent them out to spread the news. He told them “Speak my peace.”
- When we think in our heads that something is impossible, the Giver of Life says all things are possible, through Christ.
We learned about many people in Africa who were diagnosed with HIV/AIDs becoming 100% healed. Medical science says that’s not possible…yet God, the Creator and Giver of life, had a second opinion. The power that unleashed the oceans and stretches breathtaking sunsets across the sky…the power that spoke and called into being every single thing, from the tiniest paramecium to countless galaxies…this power can — and does — work in and through our lives today, when we listen to His voice and obey.
After soaking in these words, feeling goose bump after goose bump, and (silently) hollering AMEN in my heart, I realized God’s extraordinary, lavish love had more in store for us. A lovely woman who had been sitting behind us heard His voice, and obeyed. As we stood to make our way out of the Sanctuary, she reached out with her two hands, grabbed my precious child’s hands, and said,
God loves you and your humility. He opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. But He wants you to know…You are His favorite. You are precious to Him, just the way you are.
Then she spoke a simple, heartfelt prayer over my child, and, tangentially, over me, as I realized standing there that she was the very woman I had been wishing for earlier during the service when my daughter’s heart was breaking, and I wasn’t able to make it all better or say what she needed to hear. God heard my wishing — and answered it so sweetly that even today, looking back on it, I’m near speechless with wonder.
(A little backstory for you: for many months now my daughter has struggled with the opposite of pride. Her humility has delved and twisted into self-hatred as she struggled with the concept of humility. When is it okay to feel proud about an accomplishment? Is it a sin to feel proud about landing a flip jump or reaching the 40,000 word mark in a novel? Rather than allow herself to feel pleased with her efforts, she lashed at herself with her thoughts, taking humility into self-flagellation. I have struggled to help her understand the difference between thanking and giving God the glory but also knowing that it is OKAY to be pleased with the fruit of your hands. One three-minute talk with a woman she didn’t know cleared up months of tangled thoughts and useless guilt…thanks be to God!)
Did you wrap your head around that, beloved? You, too, are God’s favorite! God’s capacity to love is not limited. Since Scripture tells us that He has no favorites (Colossians 3:25), we can conclude that we all are His favorites, just as we all will be held responsible for our actions. His love for each of us is deep, without end. Paul was likely thinking of this great, mysterious love when he wrote to the Ephesians. His words from Chapter 3 still resonate for us (The Message):
My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
But wait! There’s more!
This beautiful, godly woman shared with me that she and her husband are small group leaders. Immediately I felt my heart leap! (Has your heart ever leapt? I highly recommend it!) We’ve been looking for a church home for years but have had a difficult time connecting. Looking for a church home is one issue I’ve consistently prayed about — I’ve even gone so far as to ask God recently for one of those blinking Neon Signs.
I do believe this experience qualifies as a spiritual Neon Sign! Even though I didn’t see a sign with my physical eyes…I felt it tremor in my heart.
Now fast forward to today. My heart and my spirit are heavy with prayer, and I am sensitive to God’s Presence with me, even today. The wildfires in Colorado threaten my friends, and the Florida floods have ravaged my old stomping grounds. But I am convinced even more than ever that my God is much, much bigger than the biggest smoke cloud rising above Colorado Springs and much, much deeper than the floodwaters that taint the homes of my friends. His Presence is with them all today, and I’m reminded that being a lover of the Lord does not exclude us from hardship. We Christians face fires and floods just like the rest of the world. But what we do have — and what anyone can have, freely — is the assurance of God’s love and protection. His Presence brings life, even in devastating circumstances. As Christians, we carry this Life wherever we go because Christ is IN us. From ashes will come beauty. From floodwaters will come cleansing. And through it all we have the chance to reach out and love each other — as Christ first loved us.