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2007 Manna Blog

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Food for Thought

Sometimes I don't quite "know what to say". Although I want my words to be filled with grace and truth, at times I find them lacking in that regard. In response, I often think it better to simply "keep my mouth shut" (and although that is usually a good thing when I'm not centered on Jesus, sometimes my uncertainty leaves His important and encouraging words left unsaid).

While thinking about that this morning, a couple of scriptures popped into my mind, and came together in a way that I think is worth sharing. The first is from Psalm 81:10. The simple phrase that echoed in my spirit was "Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." When I think of those words, it reminds me of baby birds in a nest (perhaps you've seen pictures of these little birds that are more "mouth" than anything else), with their mouths wide open, eagerly waiting for the parent to come and bring them food.

During that Psalm, God was rebuking Israel for not listening to those words with which He desired to encourage them. He may have been talking about real physical "food", or spiritual "food" (probably both), and they largely refused His offer. Somehow, the words impacted me a little differently today. It was as if He were bidding me to "open wide my mouth" for Him, and He would fill it (with His words) for me to share.

That blessed me enough. Then another scripture came to mind. It was something Jesus said to His disciples after His encounter with the "woman at the well" in John 4. They had gone off to get Him some food, and during that time, He spoke with her. When they returned, they encouraged Him to eat something, and in verse 34, He said to them "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work."

That statement has sometimes seemed puzzling (comparing doing God's work with "food"). Surely that statement was (and is) ripe with meaning in many ways. As I pondered, it took on even more significance.

Good food is pleasing, filling, nourishing, healing, life-saving, sustaining, and empowering. It can both meet our basic and fundamental needs as well as bring us joy and satisfaction. Think of Jesus perhaps implying that doing the Father's will for Him was pleasing, filling, nourishing, healing, life-saving, sustaining, and empowering ... that while it met fundamental needs, it also produced much joy and satisfaction.

Somehow, those two scriptures seemed to flesh each other out. I think of Jesus (with His view of true "food") saying to me, "open wide your mouth and I will fill it".

And one more thing about some birds. There are certain birds (perhaps most or all, I don't know) that "feed" each other, not only parent to offspring, but also at times as part of their courtship "dance". I think of Him encouraging us to open our mouths, let Him fill them with His true "food", and then to share it with others as part of His loving "dance" of this life.

So He fills my "mouth" with His true "food", with His will and His "words", and encourages me to share it with others ... just the way He did that morning with that socially rejected woman drawing water, in the heat of the day at that lonely well.

Is He encouraging you right now to open YOUR mouth wide, so He can fill it ... bidding you to come to Him for true "food" and "drink" that will nourish, heal and sustain not only you, but those around you if you share it?

After all, "Look at the birds of the air ... your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" (sections of Matthew 6:26) I pray that even now you would trust Him enough to open your mouth wide, even with abandon, and let Him fill you to overflowing with His goodness and grace ... and that He would encourage you to share some of that "food" with another hungry heart as well.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Stories for Students in the School of Life

Part Two--Tests and Trials

On another day recently I had one of those humorous and almost unbelievable "had to be God" experiences, that make you say to yourself "if I TOLD someone this story, they'd think I made it up or embelished it, or they'd say I was just a fruitcake".... So, you can say what you want; but as I live and breathe, this is truly what happened....

I am nearing the completion of a music recording project that has seemed utterly ENDLESS. The Lord has repeatedly seemed to "move the finish line" for me, and I am resting in the fact that it will be done when He is good and ready for it to BE done…

The recording and mixing are all being done at home, and although this may be convenient, these are certainly not the ideal conditions for this type of project. Long story shorter, the other day I had a couple of last minute guitar tracks to record for one of the songs. Most of the actual recording was done long ago, and more recently I've been occupied with the editing and mixing phases (where the songs are compiled into something that actually sounds like a real CD!)

Recording in a small room at home can be a challenge for me, to say the least; because the computer itself makes noise that can easily be picked up by the microphone. Thus, I end up having to take a lot of extra time and effort to quiet it down even before I can begin trying to record. (I won't go into HOW I do it here, but suffice it to say it's difficult, time consuming and pretty comical if you look at it from an outside perspective.)

So, here I am on this peaceful, quiet morning, prayerfully getting ready to lay down a few last tracks of guitar work. I have gone through all sorts of shenanigans to get the computer ready, I have the microphone and equipment set, the guitar tuned, etc., etc. Good. Ready.

Suddenly, NO! It can't be. The next-door neighbor's dog starts to bark. (And we live close enough to that neighbor for his bark to end up on any track I record.) ... Here's a little of what the next few minutes sound like: "Lord, please make him stop barking. Cause a sudden sleep to fall over his eyes." That poor dog is being rebuked in the name of Jesus (I'm pretty ashamed to say).

This is no surprise to me, mind you. The WHOLE project has gone this way. Too many stories for me to recount, over several years. The minute the computer is set to go, something comes up to impede the progress ... and make me get back down on my knees, and remember Who it is that has to "build this house". It has become almost my default attitude to say to Jesus: "Only if You desire this work to be done will it be accomplished". Only if He silences the dog will I be able to proceed.

Then, a few more minutes go by ... and NO! A truck motor is now running loudly outside, sounding like it's parked right in front of the house. If it weren't so aggravating it would be utterly HILARIOUS! I run out the front door to see what truck could possibly be idling outside our house. A SEPTIC TRUCK ready to pump the neighbor's tank! NO!!! If you don't have the pleasure of living in a community that uses septic tanks, let me fill you in, that septic trucks typically idle for a long time as they accomplish their task. Well, there goes that morning. I may as well just forget the whole thing and unpack all the gear. It will be a long time before any silence is restored to this neighborhood!

But, again, my default kicks in (praise You, Jesus!) Up I go to my "prayer closet" and begin worshiping the Lord. I physically get down on my knees and randomly throw open the Bible and begin blessing the Lord, telling Him how great He is, and laying everything before Him. A few minutes later ... motor still running ... dog still barking, I get back up and begin to leave the room. I'm not going anywhere in particular, but something draws my attention back to the Bible laying open on the floor. I had flung it open (perhaps more out of the frustration of the moment, than for any inclination to see what it said), and I hadn't actually read anything from it. So I went back down on my knees and began reading aloud the passage that lay before me.

"Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob! Begin the music, strike the tambourine, play the melodious harp and lyre. Sound the ram's horn at the New Moon, and when the moon is full, on the day of our Feast; this is a decree for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob. He established it as a statute for Joseph when he went out against Egypt, where we heard a language we did not understand. He says, 'I removed the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket. In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud; I tested you at the waters of Meribah.' " (Psalm 81: 1-7)

I stopped at that point, pretty dumbfounded, shocked and blessed all at the same time by the relevance of those words. I decided to look up that "Waters of Meribah" section to get a refresher on what that was all about.

It's from Exodus 17: 1-7 (after Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt) as follows:

"The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin. Traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, 'Give us water to drink.'

Moses replied, 'Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?'

But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, 'Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?'

Then Moses cried out to the Lord, 'What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.'

The Lord answered Moses, 'Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.' So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, 'Is the Lord among us or not?'"

I could barely believe my eyes. How appropriate could a "random" scripture be? It suddenly struck me: This was a TEST! "I tested you at the waters of Meribah." Funny, how the scripture above says that the Israelites tested the Lord ... and in the Psalm it says that He tested THEM.

They tested Him at Meribah by saying "Is the Lord among us or not?" So often in the struggle of this CD project my attention has been turned to Him to ask "Do You truly want this (i.e. are You "in" this) or not?" Even on that very morning, my heart was open before Him, that if He weren't "in" it, I was willing to go and undo all the preparations I had made, and to forego my plans to record, if they were indeed only "my" plans. Getting the computer and equipment ready to record had already taken up much of my morning ... but His will, not mine. Maybe that was the version of His test for ME. So right there, I again humbled my heart before Him, and laid myself and the whole project before His feet (for what seems like the millionth time over the past several years). I said something like "Lord, You know that only You can stop that truck from running and the dog from barking. Only You can bring the quiet and calm that needs to happen for this project to continue this morning..."

Now, I kid you not. Within moments ... probably 20 seconds or so ... almost certainly less than a minute later, the motor and dog stopped.

I kind of did a double-take with my jaw dropping most likely. One of those "I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't lived through it" moments for sure. And for a while, I was suspecting that it would all start up again (kind of "gun-shy" to go prepare to record again), because no septic tank could ever have been pumped that quickly. But sure enough, it all DID stop, and I proceeded to finish up that recording that very morning, by His grace.

So, why do I tell you this story?

Not only because it's fun to recall and recount. I also want to put some real "flesh" on the encouragement I've heard from others so often to "praise the Lord" when the "going gets tough". It sounds so "trite", until you learn to DO it. He is faithful and true. He loves for us to turn our hearts to Him, and sometimes will send the most ridiculous and amusing things and circumstances into our lives, just so that we WILL turn our attention to Him. Sometimes the situations are way less than amusing, and at times devastating. Whatever the case, turning our eyes to Him is far better than obsessing about the circumstances.

So how has He been trying to get YOUR attention?

Have you been testing Him, asking Him if He's really "in this thing" with you? Is it perhaps a truer version of the story that maybe He is testing YOU, trying to show you where your heart truly is, and encouraging you to lay it all down at His feet and praise Him anyway?

Just a suggestion ... go ahead and do it. Praise Him right now. Not to get your way, not to change your circumstances. He's got the best in mind for your circumstances. I can almost say "don't worry about that" (and I know that's easier said than done sometimes ... been there, done that). But I KNOW that His love for you is deeper than you'll ever know. So just go ahead and praise Him for HIM.... And see if, down the road, He doesn't give YOU a story to tell... :)


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Stories for Students in the School of Life

Recently I had a couple of poignant experiences that I want to share, in an effort to encourage anyone who may feel like a struggling student in the "school of life". Here's the first story...

Part One--Learning Process

I am blessed with the joy and honor of serving with many like-minded brothers and sisters (in the Lord) on the music/worship team at our church. After a service recently, our worship pastor and I were discussing how thankful we both are to be able to share in this ministry together with this "team". He and I had both happened to play guitar during the service that day, and it was a whole lot of "fun", in addition to being a beautiful time in worship.

Since I'm a little "new" at being a member of a "band", my guitar skills still need some "honing". Everything was great, but I knew I had made some pretty noticeable mistakes (musical errors that he or I would notice, and no one else may have even realized). I made a comment about hoping that my "flubs" hadn't detracted from things. He responded with a simple remark that impacted me greatly, and will likely stay with me for years to come.

He casually said, "Oh … that's all just part of the learning process..."
What a freeing, affirming and "true" word.

Family Failures

It made me think of my own family, and how over the years our son has come home with some good grades, and some not-so-good. I feel sad to think of the times I have relayed a very different message to him when the grades were low. I could have been expressing that those poor grades simply point out the areas in which he can grow, that they can be tools in this "learning process" to help him (and us) focus attention, and learn how to improve and get better. I'm sad to say that I have sometimes inadvertently given off a disapproving message that seems to make him feel less-than-perfect. The likely outcome of that input from his parents may be to cause him to look more at his failures than at his successes … to cause him to feel defeated and discouraged … to make him feel like giving up trying.

It's the same for me in many ways. I tend to look at my own physical, emotional and spiritual failures, and become defeated and discouraged too. Since I don't "have it all together", I get down on myself for my imperfections.

The great thing is that we AREN'T perfect ... hence our need for our perfect Savior, Jesus. It's only my pride that thinks I COULD be perfect anyway. Not to excuse any of my weaknesses or struggles as if they don't matter to Jesus.... But what a freeing word, to hear Him say to my heart "...Oh, that's all a part of the learning process..." as He then teaches me the way in which I should go...

Next time you get down on yourself for being less than you wish you could be, won't you allow Jesus to whisper to your heart "...that's all part of the learning process..." and let Him show you His better way?

Tune in next time, for Part Two--"Tests and Trials" ... coming soon.


Sunday, October 7, 2007

Wings Like Eagles

Have you ever felt God's leading to do something, but felt your natural fears holding you back from accomplishing the task? Have you ever sensed that Jesus wants to lift you up on "wings like eagles", but your own tendency is just to stay on the ground with all the other "chickens"?

Our church is in the middle of renovating a building to use for our services, and many of our church members have been volunteering time to help in the process. I recently found myself in an interesting situation in the process of lending my hands to this labor.

The building is actually a former warehouse, with very high ceilings, with rooms on a second floor that will overlook a larger room on the ground floor for church services. Recently, during the process of transforming this warehouse into a church building, I had the opportunity to run a piece of heavy machinery that can lift two or three people up to a second floor, and move side to side, creating a moveable high platform. I'm such a "girl" that I don't even know what you call the thing. I'd call it a "lift" I suppose (one of the "guys" will clue me in I'm sure:) .

The first time I operated it, I was with a group of other people (getting my "feet wet" I suppose), and didn't have to go very high with it. It was challenging and slightly frightening, but I really felt myself being "stretched" to take part in this process, knowing that our labors were/are going to impact many lives for Jesus' sake.

For many people, this would be "no big deal", but in my case it was. See, as far back as I can remember, I've had a fairly substantial "fear of heights". To be more accurate, it's not really the "height" that bothers me, but more being on a ladder or other less-than-secure footing while up high.

I don't know if I fell from a height as a child, or what began this "phobia", but over the years I've felt the Lord tenderly healing me. Even little things like climbing the folding ladder to get up to our attic have been hurdles that He's helped me surmount. I have also been able to climb a small folding ladder (about 5 feet) to accomplish tasks around the yard at home too, but that's been about the extent of my allowing myself to "get my feet off the ground".

So, here was my challenge more recently. I had come to the building prepared to help clean some of the windows that had been installed. Upon arriving, it became apparent that what would really be most helpful would be for me to go up on the lift (since I already knew how to work it) and clean the outside of the second floor windows. One small catch though … this time I'd be operating the machine on my own.


Sure … whatever the Lord needs and desires of me, that's what I trust Him to help me accomplish (and I'm ever grateful that "I can do all things through Him Who gives me strength"! Phil 4:13).

So, up I went, challenging my phobia to the max, and enjoying the whole process (a little sheepishly at first, but getting the hang of it after a while). As I worked, I was listening to a CD of some songs we were learning to play for an upcoming church service. Since it was a "learning" situation, I was listening to the same songs over and over in my headphones. I found myself quite blessed, having some "quiet time" with the Lord even as I worked, listening to worship songs at the same time.

One of the songs that happened to be on that CD quotes from the following beautiful passage in Isaiah:

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40: 28-31)

Whether it just came to my mind, or the Holy Spirit actually whispered it, I don't know ... but as I listened to this song and scripture, it hit me. It was as if the Lord said to me "One day I'm going to want you to fly on My eagle's wings … so I need to prepare you, remove your fears, and get you used to the heights".

Wow. It says in 1 John 4: 18 that perfect love casts out fear. I realize that particular scripture is talking about the fear of punishment being driven out. At the same time, His perfect love for me seems to continually heal up all sorts of fears in my heart, beckoning me on, urging me to trust Him for all that I lack.

So how about you? As I asked before, have you ever felt God's leading to do something, but felt your natural fears holding you back from accomplishing the task? Have you ever sensed that Jesus wants to lift you up on "wings like eagles", but your own tendency is just to stay on the ground with all the other "chickens"? It may not be "heights" for you, but you know what your own inner fears are. I urge you to place those fears in His hands, trust Him, and let Him give you the strength to accomplish what He desires for you. Let Him lift you up. Get out of your "comfort zone" when He calls. The view is sure to be spectacular from up where He sits.

... And next time you see me up on a scaffolding somewhere or driving that lift, you will know it's He that is carrying me. I doubt you'll ever see me bungee jumping or skydiving ... but resting securely on His wings? You bet. Any time He beckons.


Thursday, May 3, 2007

New Listening with Lisa meditation "Weeds"

Ah, spring! New growth, youth, invigoration, and … weeds. Weeds? Well, yes. Do you have any weeds that threaten to impede your own growth?

Recently, I've spent some time preparing our lawn for the lush growth season of springtime. Although it might be easier to simply get some chemical that would quickly and easily "do the trick" … for some reason, I prefer the good old-fashioned "weeding" route. Some weeds are very good about popping their heads up the minute spring arrives, setting seed ASAP, and sending out their seeds before they can be yanked from the ground. Even if a chemical kills the "parent" weed, there are hundreds more in its place once those seeds germinate... more

Friday, April 6, 2007

Today is "Good Friday". While spending time with the Lord in the Scriptures this morning, I became aware of something I've never seen before, and want to share it with you, in case you've never seen it either. I was reading in Acts 3:1. "One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer--at three in the afternoon."

That "three in the afternoon" sounded interestingly familiar to me. I looked down at the comments in my study Bible, and it said this: "The three stated times of prayer for later Judaism were midmorning (the third hour, 9:00 A.M.), the time of the evening sacrifice (the ninth hour, 3:00 P.M.) and sunset."

When they say "later Judaism" I don't know if they meant AD or BC. I'd be interested to know, not that it really matters. Either way, the significance of those times is poignant.

I doubt it's sheer coincidence that in Mark 15:25, it notes that it was "...the third hour when they crucified him." In the same way, in Matthew (27:45-50), Mark (15:33-38) and Luke (23:44-46), it is stated that at the sixth hour darkness came over the land, and at the ninth hour He breathed His last.

If those "times of prayer" were being observed on the day Jesus died, it would have likely been unmistakable that He was crucified at the midmorning time of prayer, and that He gave up His Spirit at the time of evening sacrifice!

I can only imagine those priests at the temple offering that 3:00 P.M. sacrifice that day, when the curtain of the temple was torn in two (Luke 23:45)... That was SOME SACRIFICE that day, huh?

Indeed. Thank You, Jesus, for Your holy, amazing SACRIFICE for us.

Realizing that today blessed me. I hope it blesses you too.

I hope He touches your heart this weekend, and lifts your heart with joy on Resurrection Sunday!

The stories and entries in this Manna Blog are written by singer/songwriter Lisa Prokopowitz

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