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Have you ever had a time in your life when the "planets all lined up"? I have had a season of such events in my life lately. Sort of reminds me of this time of year (Christmas), when the divine "planets lined up" to welcome in the birth of our Savior. To this day, there are those that would say that all of the "little miracles" that worked together in the life of the Messiah were "just coincidences".
Planets lining up?
I often wonder how it must have been for Mary and Joseph, as the seemingly minor events began adding up in Jesus' life ... so many having been prophesied about the Messiah hundreds of years before. What was it like watching that all unfold? Did they ever say to themselves: "This CAN'T all be a coincidence"? Did it suddenly "dawn" on them, the significance of every day of their lives? Do you realize that YOUR life has significance too? Granted, not to the same extent as Jesus' life of course, but nonetheless, your life is surely vitally important and significant TO Him.... His desire is to shine His light on you and those around you; for in referring to Him, the scriptures say: "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." Isaiah 9: 2 (also, Matthew 4:16).
A friend told me not long ago, that there was an event in the sky recently in which the moon and a couple of planets "lined up" in a similar way as what some people believe occurred at the time of Jesus' birth when the "wisemen" saw a star "shining in the east". (I don't know if that IS actually what happened back then ... I certainly was not there:). Apparently, these planets lined up in such a way recently, that they were extremely bright, and very near the moon for a few nights. Sadly, I was told about this heavenly light show after the fact, so I "missed" actually seeing it, and my friend said it won't shine like that again in our lifetime. Maybe you heard about it or saw it though.
I mention it, because I found out about it shortly after realizing the "planets" in my own life had lined up too significantly for it to all have been a "coincidence". I want to tell you the story (for those who like a good story), and let you decide if it could possibly have all just "happened"....
Shouting from the Rooftops
As you may or may not know, I recently released a music CD entitled "Fill This Temple". This CD was a "long time in coming", to say the least. For anyone who has known me for a while, you can attest to that fact. I want to share a little of the "story" about the production of that CD, and "let you in" on some of the amazing things God has done. In short, I want to "testify".
Every now and then, God does an amazing miracle, whether earth shaking or as soft as a gentle breeze. Either way, it is always good to share those things, not only to glorify Him, but also to remind ourselves and each other of His goodness along the way. There is so much "bad news" in our lives, sometimes we need to make an extra effort to share the "good news", so we remember that "God is good" ... especially when so many things around us clamor for our attention, and would at times seem to deny His goodness. In Matthew 10: 27, Jesus Himself urged His disciples in this way: "What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs."
So consider this my shouting from the rooftop in the middle of the day... :)
I need to make a couple of disclaimers though. First, everything I'm going to tell you is the truth. I'm not making it up. When I realized the way the events worked together, it almost literally made my jaw drop. Whether it will have the same effect on you or not, I don't know. I'll let you judge whether or not you think these things "could have" happened all coincidentally.
Second, I'm a "nobody". Not that my life is less significant than anyone else's, but I'm nobody special. Yes, I love Jesus, but that's the ONLY thing that may set me apart from the "next guy". And although I of course consider the CD to be of great value, it may hold absolutely NO significance to many people. I'm not saying that the CD is anything "special" by what I'm going to share. What I AM saying, is that GOD IS SPECIAL. Jesus is the most gentle, gracious, understanding, patient Friend I have ever known (or surely WILL ever know). He shows Himself in such subtle ways it's all too easy to miss. That's likely a huge reason He continually reminded His disciples that they needed "eyes to see and ears to hear".
Now ... let me give you a little background first.
Shining Like Stars
When I was a young girl of about 16 years old or so (the time our son lovingly refers to as the "ancient days", when his parents were young:), I remember the early whispers of God to my heart. I did not "know Him" well at that point, but I think He knew me, or at least was making gestures to get to know me....
I can remember a series of days (or it may have been over weeks, I'm not sure), in which there were many memorable "moments" of connection with God. I believe it was in the spring, probably near my birthday. Several of those times happened while walking to school in the morning. I can remember at least a couple of times, walking along in the early morning mist. Once I was transfixed as I walked, seeing the new dawn's light streaming through the trees, being separated into beautiful rays. Another time, on the same road, I actually was stunned by the rays of sun shining off the little specks of rock in the pavement. It was so beautiful I could hardly believe it was "just a street" glistening like that. Another time, I must have gone by a body of water somewhere, and been amazed at the beauty of the way the sun danced on the little waves, making the water SO BEAUTIFUL. Another time (I believe this was possibly on my birthday, after my birthday party or some other gathering), I was looking up at the sky, amazed at the beauty, as the sunrays beamed through the clouds. Absolutely gorgeous. I suppose all of these instances could be termed "glory" moments, and to some people, they would just be totally insignificant. To my young mind, though, the beauty of it all began to convince me that there MUST be a Creator, for there to be such beauty....
During one of those instances (I think it may have been the pavement), I "felt", or "heard" something spoken to my heart like: "One day, I'm going to make you shine like one of those." I immediately, and for years thereafter, tended to discount that as a grandiose kind of thought that must have been my imagination, and although I remembered it, I didn't count it as "truth". Only when I had actually come into a living relationship with Jesus and had walked with Him for years, did the true significance of that "word" come to me fully.
Back in those young years, nearing the end of high school, I had such lofty (albeit naive) dreams. I wanted to just be a "singer", not go on to college. I wanted to "sing for the Lord", make a lot of money, and use it to help people. Not that I wanted to be a "rock star" or anything, more like a folk singer type... Of course that little bit about "not going to college" didn't exactly sit right with my guidance counselor, since I was a good student, and certainly "college material" as far as she was concerned. She steered me into Music Therapy, convincing me that I could continue to "sing for the Lord" in that field, and definitely use the therapy to "help people". And that's what I actually did for the next couple of decades, and then some.
It wasn't until years later, however, that I began to understand the true meaning of that "word" about shining. I realized that it wasn't that I would shine like a true "star", which holds its own light ... but rather, in the way those ripples on the water simply REFLECTED the light of the TRUE sun, or the way those little chips of rock in the pavement reflected the light so beautifully that they held my attention transfixed for quite a while. Mind you, I was STARING AT THE STREET for goodness sake. It wasn't the ROCKS that were beautiful, but rather the way the light was shining off of them.
Now, fast forward to more recent years. Several years back, I began writing songs and eventually recording them with the hope to put them out on CD's at some point. Along the way I learned many things "from the ground up", from using a computer, to developing a website, and recording, editing and mixing music with the computer.
It was a very long process, with many "challenges" (to put it mildly) along the way. Over the years, I would frequently ask the Lord: "Do You really want me doing this?" That was usually when things became "long", "tiring" or "discouraging". It seemed that every time I would get discouraged in that way, Jesus would lovingly give me a sort of "love tap" through circumstances beyond my control.
For instance, when it came time to choose a name for the website, after brain storming with my husband and coming up with a HUGE list of names (and finding them ALL taken already), the name "Shining River" just "coincidentally" happened to be available (and reading the above, you can see why that name is very appropriate). Or another time, when going to get a Post Office box for Shining River, out of all the many box numbers at our post office, the number that just so "happened" to be assigned was "7" (for those who don't know, 7 is one of several numbers in the Bible that carry special significance ... and I suppose because of that, numbers like 7 are special to me too).
Moments like those sustained me along that LONG road. Over the years, the goals (which began with hopes of producing three CD's) changed slightly, and eventually got whittled down to MAYBE releasing ONE CD! Even that one CD took many years to finish. That CD was modified over time. I had wanted it to have a different title track, but since my husband thought "Fill This Temple" was the best song for that position (and I value his opinion about things like that), that became the title. As the CD came together, I realized that the songs really flowed wonderfully with that theme. The picture that ended up on the cover also was taken at a photo shoot during which I actually "shed blood" (slipping on one of the wet rocks, after my husband had warned me to be careful:), so I was glad that picture hadn't "gone to waste"!:)
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For years I worked; for years I hoped; and to be honest, for years I whined and complained in my heart that it was taking too long. I kept working, by the grace of God, and as the project dragged on and on, even my family members and closest friends (and at times even I, to be frank) began having the attitude about this CD ever being finished: "I'll believe it when I see it."
Over the years, as I'd ponder the reason for being held back almost deliberately (whether by the "enemy" or the Lord Himself, I would never quite know for sure), my mind would wander to Moses, or other well-known figures in the Bible ... particularly in regard to the times it is mentioned that they did something for "forty years". The Israelites wandered for 40 years ... that's a LONG time. I knew my road was getting awfully close to seven years or so, and I'd say, "Lord, I don't think You'll be able to put UP with me if you're thinking of having this go on for 40 years!"
Mind you, a lot of the time I committed to the CD production could have been used to bring in money for our household (and all that time was basically unpaid), so it was certainly a strain on my husband and family. So I'd frequently be asking the Lord "am I doing the right thing?" He was always faithful to encourage me and strengthen me, just when I'd think I couldn't go on.
I kept hoping that it would finally be completed. I'd think along the way that it would probably be finished on some special day.... Maybe my Mother's birthday, or my birthday, or Christmas, or Easter, or 7/7/07, or this date or that. And the dates (and even years) passed one by one. The project would get further along, and I'd pass milestones, but it was never "done". A very valuable thing that I learned during that time, and actually found myself saying very often during the last months or even year of production was "it will be done at EXACTLY the right time ... when HE wants it done ... not a moment sooner, not a moment later." The longer it took, the more I felt myself being "slowed down" or "sped up", I began to firmly believe that, more and more.
Now here's where it gets interesting for me. Yes, the CD DID finally come to completion. And the date that it left my hands to be replicated seemed like a very insignificant date to me. I remember it mostly because it was the same day the Olympics began, and it was supposedly some Chinese "lucky day" or something (8/8/08), but it held absolutely NO significance to me. Big deal, though, I was just thrilled that it was DONE!!!
Then there was some wait time and some more "work" to get the replication fully completed, and the CD was finally "released" (that is, the first official copy was "sold") on another seemingly insignificant day, 8/24/08. Now I can't remember exactly how or when the rest of this became clear to me. At some point over the next couple of months, I must have become curious for some reason. Perhaps it was because I knew that it had certainly taken me "about" seven years to finish this project.
Maybe I was just leafing through an old file of mine for some reason. I don't remember. But what I discovered made me do a triple take for sure, with my mouth hanging open. One evening I picked up an old file (which I literally hadn't opened in years) in which I have old copies of my songs, many of them from when they were first written, some of them not even in their completed form. (True confessions--yes, I tend to act like a "pack rat", and I keep things like that...) But if I hadn't kept them, and somehow run across them, I'd never know what I'm about to tell you. Indeed, perhaps sometimes our failures can have the flipside of being our greatest assets....
I guess what made me even think to look, was that I realized that this past 9/11 was the SEVENTH anniversary of 9/11. I remembered that I had written quite a few songs the summer before 9/11, and one of them had almost seemed "prophetic" in a way "after the fact". One of the lines in my song "Soften Our Hearts" says "Oh, hard heart, as strong as steel, come let Him melt you, let Him remake you, as He softens your heart." That was written several months BEFORE 9/11, and I remember when those steel towers melted, something in my own heart melted too. Surely I was devastated as were we all, and at the same time, I believe the Holy Spirit had prepared my heart in some way to take that blow, with that comforting word.
I also remember a very significant event that happened right before 9/11. It was actually September 10th of that year. My husband and I had gone out to a park together, and had a "heart to heart" talk, a very hopeful "future" type talk. I guess it was since all of these songs had been written, and we must have been thinking of the possibility of producing CD's down the road, and being able to share the music while providing for our family, etc. It was a very encouraging talk. Then, 9/11 happened, and our lives changed (along with the lives of everyone else in our country, if not the world).
So with the realization that all of THAT had happened in 2001, and I guess out of sheer curiosity, I was leafing through that folder to see what had been happening "seven years ago". I became amazed when I began to run across song after song that had a composition date from that summer (2001), and several of them had ended up on the Fill This Temple CD.
Fill This Temple
But one sheet of paper I ran across REALLY knocked my socks off (well, they didn't really come off, but I'm pretty sure my jaw literally dropped....) It was a sheet with a half printed, half hand-written song (obviously an early copy, before the song had been fully finished). It was the original sheet for the CD's title track "Fill This Temple". What it said at the top stopped me dead in my tracks. I remember writing that song. It was inspired as I was taking a bike ride around a lake near our house. It was a beautiful morning, and the air was so crisp and clear. There was a scent in the air that I have experienced on rare occasions where we live in the hills. I can't quite explain it, and I wish I could bottle it. I bet heaven smells a bit like it. Anyway, I began to pray to the Lord, "please fill me, just fill this 'temple' with You, like my lungs fill with that beautiful aroma..." That was the origin of that song....
Now, here's what it said at the top: "Fill This Temple (On a bike ride around the lake) Lisa Prokopowitz September 7, 2001". Did you catch that? September SEVENTH!!!? I couldn't believe it. I had NO IDEA I'd written that song three days before my talk with my husband, or four days before 9/11 for that matter.
Now, I know "curiosity killed the cat", but nonetheless, I couldn't help myself after a few minutes. I began to think at some point, "I wonder what was happening on September 7th of THIS year?" If you'll remember, the CD had been released on 8/24, which was a Sunday. I had sold several copies to friends before or after church, and I always keep a written record, so that I can keep track of things and not get confused. So I pulled out my receipt book, and once again did that jaw-dropping-thing.... I kid you not. On September 7th this year, seven years TO THE DAY after the TITLE SONG, FILL THIS TEMPLE was written, a friend of mine (I'll call her "Cheryl" although that's not really her name) bought the SEVENTH COPY of Fill This Temple first thing that morning. Then two other dear friends of mine came up to me, each wanting three copies. That made SEVEN COPIES that day that were sold right before we left the parking lot to go in to church. And remember, it is significant that the title track was Fill This Temple, since that's the song that was written on 9/7/01, yet it wasn't even my idea to CALL the CD "Fill This Temple", it was my husband's.
Sorry, the story goes on. I was so excited when I realized all this "coincidence", that I wanted to share it with one of my best friends. (I'll call HER Angie, although that's not HER real name either.) Angie happens to be Cheryl's cousin-in-law (or something like that:). I had taken our son to school on this particular morning, and after dropping him off, sat in the parked car, having a little "quiet time" with the Lord. I "coincidentally happened" to be in a wonderful section of scripture during this time in 1 Kings (I read the Bible over and over, and wherever I am in that process, is usually the section I read in the morning). In that section, Solomon was building and then dedicating the Temple, and for days I'd been blessed by each passage I read.
This particular day, (and after realizing all that I'd told you above), I was blessing the Lord, and as I read the Bible, I was inspired to simply read a section aloud to the Lord (something Solomon said to the Lord when dedicating the Temple): "O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below--you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way." (1 Kings 8:23)
After my quiet time, I went to meet Angie briefly for a cup of tea, and to tell her about the seven years, etc. At one point, there was so much information, she almost became light headed, and as I was getting near the end of my story, she said something like "Oh, I thought you were going to say there was some significance of the date it was released, August 24, like there was some Bible passage 8:24 or something...." I thought that was cute and interesting, since I don't naturally think of things in that way (connecting a date to a Bible reference). I let it go, as we finished our discussion, but thought it would be interesting to check that out sometime!
Well, a couple of days later, I DID check it out, and ONCE AGAIN was astonished. I opened the Bible to my regular spot, actually right where I had been BEFORE I SAW HER THAT MORNING. And lo and behold ... remember I said I had read a scripture out loud to the Lord? Well, that was 1 Kings 8:23. I had read the entire section that morning to myself, so I actually had read the following verse too, but silently. Here is what 1 Kings 8:24 says: "You have kept your promise to your servant David my father; with your mouth you have promised and with your hand you have fulfilled it--as it is today."
We are nearing the end, but believe it or not, the story continues. There was one more thing I felt led to do in terms of the "official" release of the CD. I wanted to have a "CD release party", but time was getting away from me, and I definitely wanted to do it before the "holidays" set in. There was already so much going on at church; it took several weeks just to nail down a specific date.
I thought we had the date all set (early in November), and then for reasons beyond my control, the date got changed. (I found out later that the date had been shifted unnecessarily because someone made a mistake about a date.) I would never have chosen the date of the Saturday after Thanksgiving (which became the only date that was available), because many of my friends were out of town that weekend and therefore couldn't be there. When I realized the dates had been shifted without reason, I was in one way disappointed, but at the same time, I had learned enough to realize that there was probably some reason "in the Spirit" about which I was unaware ... so I just "went with it", realizing for some reason God wanted it THAT night.
I planned to (and actually did) tell much of this story that night. It was SUCH a beautiful night. To be honest, having it on that PARTICULAR night actually made it extra beautiful, because the church had just "happened" to be decorated for Christmas that very day. A few of my friends had come to help, and a couple had decorated the room we used with Christmas lights as well, and the whole church was sparkling with lights, since we dimmed all the regular lights. So beautiful.
I was really hoping that Cheryl could be there that night, because I wanted her to know what a significant role she played in the "seven year" story. Sadly, she was not able to be there that night, because her family had planned a big birthday party for her that night, since the next day was going to be her 50th birthday. (I wouldn't normally tell you her age, but it is significant. I've tried to protect her identity, although some shrewd people may figure out who she is. So that she doesn't feel so bad, I'm going to reveal my own age as well...)
Well, after the date was "set in stone", but before the evening of the Release Party, I realized again "for some reason" that the date actually was significant to me. It "happened" to be my "half-birthday". And I consider this to be a pretty special year in my life, because it is actually my "seventh seventh year". I'm 49 years old. So, on the night of the party, I was smack dab in the middle of my 50th year of life (you know, you become 1 year old at the END of your first year of life, so I'll become 50 at the end of my 50th year...) I don't know how accurate I am with my scriptural basis, so I'll have to rely on some of my more learned friends to tell me if this is accurate or not, but to me, this year has been special, and has become even more important with all this "seventh" stuff that has "coincidentally" been happening. At any rate, in Leviticus 25: 8 and on, there is a section that talks about something called the "Year of Jubilee". During that year which constituted the "seven Sabbaths of years", amounting to a period of forty-nine years, something remarkable happened in Israel. "Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants." (Lev 25:10)
During the year of Jubilee, all the slaves were freed, and all the land in Israel was returned back to its original family ownership. It was a year of utter rest (even the land rested) and freedom. In fact, I believe Jesus has a connection to the year of Jubilee, especially in the meaning of the word "redemption", and being "bought back" from slavery. However, I don't recall if it is actually spelled out in the New Testament or not (help me again, learned brethren...)
I am not sure if this year or next would be my personal "year of Jubilee", but for me, this is definitely a special year:).
I told Cheryl a few days after the Release Party that I had a story she just absolutely HAD to hear. So we set up a little get together where I could share all this with her personally. Actually, when I got to this part of the story, telling her that I thought the significance of HER age was just as important, since the night of the release party had been the final day of her 50th year, she said someone had just been talking with her about the year of Jubilee (I think saying that this would be her year of Jubilee ... since she turned 50). So whatever the case, I know it's a special year for both of us.
And here's one thing she said to me as I shared the pivotal role she played in all this (being the one who purchased the seventh copy on the seventh of September...): "Why me?" And my response: "Indeed". "Why me, as well?" As I said before "I'm nobody". I'm sure Mary and Joseph, Moses, Noah, and many others had asked the exact same question. Once, when Jesus' followers were awestruck by the amazing power He had bestowed upon them, so much that even the evil spirits submitted to them, He said to them: "...do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." (Luke 10: 20b) How we believers should rejoice that for some amazing reason, He has seen fit to write our names in the "Lamb's Book of Life". Why me indeed... Why any of us? Simply because of His grace....
It was during that meeting with Cheryl that she told me about that cosmic light show that had been going on that week. She said that some scholars believed it was a similar lining up of planets that looked like a bright star, just as it had looked back when the Magi saw the star that led them to Bethlehem. I looked at her, realizing we both kind of had chills for a moment. I said "and just when did that lining up occur?" She didn't know for sure, but went home and checked. No, it didn't have the brightest showing on the night of the release party (although I imagine it was shining brightly that night). The brightest showing was apparently the two nights immediately following the release party (the first of those being her birthday, by the way).... Close enough for jazz, as far as I'm concerned!
You can decide for yourself whether or not you think all the things I've told you about could have possibly just "happened" by chance. Better yet, you can judge for yourself whether all the "coincidences" and fulfilled prophesies relating to Jesus might have "just happened", or if there was actually a divine Hand orchestrating it all. I proclaimed from the rooftops what He's whispered in my ear. I may have missed something along the way, I hope I've remembered everything, and I'm sure there may be even more that will come to light. See, this whole thing has been unfolding, and in fact, life is ALWAYS unfolding if you'll have the eyes to see... Unfolding like a beautiful blossom, with the fragrance of heaven itself, if you'll take the time to take a deep breath.
It's funny, in church the day after the release party, one of the men there said to me something like "hey, you're a rock star", being a bit silly for sure. The notion caused me to stop for a moment though. I thought about the image I spoke of oh-so-long-ago, about the little stones in the pavement glittering in the morning light. How I stood transfixed by the beauty of the sun shining "just right" off these little broken, chipped, pieces of mere rock and stone. Surely, they are crushed and ridden on every day. Did you ever feel that way? Broken, chipped, crushed, insignificant as a jagged stone? Or maybe a larger rock, reflecting the rays of the sun ... one like a planet, all lined up and ready to point the way to His glory?
I believe our God is One Who delights in fulfilling His promises. Promises like "One day, I'm going to make you shine like one of those." One Who promised David that his son would build a Temple for His Name. "You have kept your promise to your servant David my father; with your mouth you have promised and with your hand you have fulfilled it--as it is today." (1 Kings 8: 24) One Who would take a life as insignificant as mine, or Cheryl's, or YOURS, and delight to SHINE OFF IT, to point others to Himself.
I know there are many children who dream of being a "Rock Star" one day. Oh, that we would ALL dream of being rockstars, with every bit of our chipped and broken rocky selves, laying down at His feet, eager for Him to shine His light on us and reflect it off of us, for surely, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned".
I pray that this Christmas, He will shine in, through and off of you like never before. My prayer for the body of Christ would be for us all to lay our broken rocky lives down at His feet, let Him shine, and watch those in darkness pause, transfixed if only briefly, wondering at the beauty they see as we "shine like stars in the universe as [we] hold out the word of life." (Phil 2: 15b-16a)
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