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Because I went to church on Sunday with ZERO sleep, as soon as I got home and wound down a little bit I went to bed. A couple of hours later, I woke up to take a bathroom break, and could remember a piece of a dream: I and some people from my church, including the pastor that had given that day’s sermon, were standing in front of what looked like the standard treasure chest that we’ve all seen in pirate movies, except it was significantly bigger and in particular significantly longer, at least double the normal length to width ratio. It didn’t have any fancy carvings or decorations or shiny metal like so many treasure chests have; I couldn’t find anything that looked quite right on Google, but this at least gives you a general idea of what it looked like, except it was easily twice this long, and was closed with no hint as to what, if anything, was inside of it.

Treasure-Chest

I don’t remember anything else about the dream other than the treasure chest, the church folks standing around, and 4 words that were spoken, although I don’t know by who: “Treasure of the Holy Spirit.” I’m pretty sure that I’ve never heard that phrase or anything similar before. It does not appear in the Bible; the closest I could find was this verse:

2 Timothy 1:14 (ERV)
14 This teaching is a treasure that you have been trusted with. Protect it with the help of the Holy Spirit, who lives inside us.

Because there is endless scriptural evidence for God providing information in dreams, I take any dream with any hint of religious content VERY seriously, doubly so because, despite my all-day-every-day focus on God, I rarely have one. When I woke up from this one, I intended to write it down, but mostly dismissed it because the pastor had spent a significant among of time talking about the Holy Spirit, and I figured that was the reason behind the dream, the same way that anything else that happens during the day can turn up in a dream. And then I went back to bed, and back to sleep. And then I had THE SAME DREAM again!! That has NEVER occurred before in my entire life. There is no confusion about how THAT happened.

I think there’s only one place in the Bible where someone has a dream twice:

Genesis 41:1-7 (NIV)
41 … Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile, 2 when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. 3 After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank. 4 And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up.
5 He fell asleep again and had a second dream: Seven heads of grain, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. 6 After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted—thin and scorched by the east wind. 7 The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy, full heads.

And here’s what Joseph told Pharaoh about the dreams:

Genesis 41:32 (NABRE)
32 That Pharaoh had the same dream twice means that the matter has been confirmed by God and that God will soon bring it about.

Of course, in that case it wasn’t the identical dream twice, but the same concept showed with 2 different casts of characters, so to speak, so my situation is not quite the same, and in any case just because it happened to Pharaoh that way doesn’t mean that my dreams are about future events, but it was worth a mention. I’m guessing that I just had the dream twice because I was ready to discount it and God saw it as important enough to make an issue out of… which then leads to me being a little bit concerned that there could be an important meaning to the dream that I’m not getting.

So, what DID it mean? Is EVERY aspect of it God-given, or did my subconscious embroider upon what God put there? In all of the Biblical examples, every detail of each dream from God was from God, but some of the dream elements were symbolic, which is why Joseph and Daniel were doing dream interpretation. The primary element in my dream is mention of the Holy Spirit; if the Holy Spirit didn’t exist, God would never have made it the subject of the dreams, so that settles that issue for me. Even more crucially, the Holy Spirit must be IMPORTANT, or, again, why would God make an issue about it? God’s wisdom in bringing me to this specific church is becoming clearer all the time; the vast majority of Christians, regardless of their denomination or lack thereof, have little or no focus on the Holy Spirit, because nothing is taught about it in their churches, sermons don’t include anything about it, and it just plain doesn’t come up, but THIS church has a consistent focus on it, and clearly that’s what God wants. I suspect that this dream came because, even after my experience with speaking in tongues, I still wasn’t really accepting the importance of the Holy Spirit, so God had to tell me more directly.

I can’t imagine that God would’ve permitted anything in the dream that is contrary to His will and/or my best interests, since the only logical thing for me to assume of anything in such a positive dream is that it is good in some way, and He knows that, so the presence of members of my church just gives me further confirmation that I am doing God’s will by being with them. The presence right next to the chest of the pastor who gave the sermon, only about the third sermon he has given since I joined, tells me that the things that he said about the importance of giving equal time to the Holy Spirit are true. It’s interesting that, although the other pastors have said similar things, the dream came after THIS pastor spoke, the one who I would’ve said was by far the least impressive speaker… clearly, I need to pay more attention to him and see if he is going to have something important to say, just in case this is a hint from God and not just a function of who spoke most recently.

And, what is the treasure? Why show a CLOSED chest and talk about a treasure unless the treasure is something I have not yet seen? Or is the treasure chest only there because that’s what my subconscious came up with in response to the word “treasure”? Does the presence of my fellow church members by the treasure chest indicate that THEY, and my experiences with them, are the treasure that the Holy Spirit provided by guiding me to join the church? I just don’t know. Clearly, in my nonexistent free time I need to do some studying about the Holy Spirit and try to figure out which of the things it supposedly does might qualify as treasure in my life. Or, the treasure might be something that it’s ABOUT to do, or it might be a combination of things, or… well, there’s no point in speculating right now, all I can do is be aware that something significant is going on… and be grateful for God taking the time to bring these things to my attention.

Reader Docotb posted an interesting comment on “Church-related blessings” in which she revealed that she had experienced a serious loss, of the man that is the love of her life, just like yours truly did, in response to which God had given her “HUGE blessings” and an enhanced relationship with Him, just as He has done for ME. I was thinking about that, about our losses and the rewards He has brought us for staying in faith. I was also thinking about the surreal nature of some of the blessings I had received, how they would make some people think that I was just plain out of my mind. I had the notification email from WordPress containing her comment up on one computer, and on the other I was bringing up my Feedjit page. I typed in the address bar: F-E-E, and then I SAW the autofill of the complete url, and SAW the favicon (that tiny image in the address bar) for Feedjit. But instead of my Feedjit page, a BibleGateway.com page loaded instead…!!

This is IMPOSSIBLE. Even if I had not SEEN the autofill and the favicon, even if I had accidentally typed a B instead of an F, as soon as that first E got entered there would be no way that a url starting with Bi could autofill. As you might imagine, God did not use this miraculous occurrence, and I don’t know what else to call it, to bring up a random or meaningless page on that site, oh no… the verse that loaded was:

Matthew 5:4 (MSG)
4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I can’t even imagine a universe in which THAT could be a coincidence, can you? This is the one verse in the entire Bible that is most specifically about this kind of loss/rewards scenario, and also the translation that puts it the most clearly. Since I’m on the computer pretty much every waking moment, God consistently uses the computer to give me messages and miracles; this on top of everything else that has happened recently is really quite overwhelming.

And there’s another one: The new friend who brought her kids to my church on Sunday to have that incredible experience revealed to me today that she does NOT live in my little community; she has no idea whatsoever why her entry in the membership directory of our meetup.com group shows her as living in my community, because that is not what she submitted. If her entry had not shown her as living in my community, I would NEVER have contacted her, and none of what I have described would have ever occurred… so, in some way that I cannot see and don’t need to see, God made sure that her directory entry said what it needed to say to make sure that I would contact her, leading to the miraculous events of this past Sunday.

My life is becoming more amazing every day; when that pastor told me that I would have restoration x7, he wasn’t kidding. God is AMAZING!!

The right people

from JO’s sermon tonight:

who you spend your time with will have a great impact on what kind of life you live. there are people that God has already ordained to come across our path to help us fulfill our destiny; people that will inspire us, challenge us and make us better. the right people have already been lined up. here’s the key; if you’re spending time with the wrong people, you will never meet the right ones. if you’re hanging around people that are not going anyplace, people that are dragging you down, causing you to compromise, draining your energy, you’re going to get stuck; you can’t hang out with chickens and expect to soar with eagles. you’re going to become like the people you continually associate with. if you want to know what you’re going to be like in five years, look at your friends; if your friends are going places, people of excellence, kind, considerate, generous, those qualities are going to rub off on you. but if your friends are negative, critical, unmotivated, compromisers, mediocre, indifferent, this is your wake-up call; you’re not hearing this by accident, it’s time to make changes. you need some new friends; you’re not going to become who you were created to be hanging around them. you don’t have to be rude, you don’t have to make some big announcement, just little by little start distancing yourself, spending less and less time with them. Proverbs says:

Proverbs 13:20 (NOG)
20 Whoever walks with wise people will be wise

Proverbs 22:24-25 (NIV)
24 Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person,
    do not associate with one easily angered,
25 or you may learn their ways

Proverbs 20:19 (CEB)
19 Gossips reveal secrets;
    don’t associate with those who talk too much.

notice the principle; whatever qualities your friends have, either good or bad, eventually will rub off on you. spirits are transferable; if you hang out with a gossip, before long you’ll be a gossip. you hang around people that compromise, run around on their spouse, before long you’ll be a compromiser. here’s the good news; if you hang around excellent people, excellence will rub off on you. if you hang around generous people, you will become more generous. if you associate with successful people, people that are determined, motivated, going places, those same good qualities will become a part of your life. this is why it’s so important that you are selective with whom you spend your time; you can’t just take it by default and think, “well, these are the people I work with, they’re my friends,” or, “they’re in my class at school, this is who I hang out with all the time,” or, “they moved next door, so now they come over every night.” no, make sure they have the qualities you want. you need eagles in your life, people that inspire you, motivate you to go further, make you better.

we shouldn’t hang around people that are disrespectful to their spouse, people that put down their families. we have to set these boundaries. if you hear somebody that’s always negative, critical, finding fault, that’s a red flag; they’re not for you. somebody that’s hot tempered, always getting upset, that’s a red flag; you don’t want those qualities. you can still be kind and friendly to them, but don’t spend a lot of time with them; be selective. and I realize, sometimes at home or work we don’t have a choice of who we’re around, God will give us the grace for those situations, I’m talking about when you do have a choice; life is too short to waste your valuable time with the wrong people. this is the number one thing that I see that gets people off course, running with the wrong crowd. the longer I live, the more determined I am to not spend time with people that are never happy, people that don’t have integrity, people that are small-minded, people who compromise. no, if you’re going to reach your highest potential, you have to surround yourself with eagles, with people who bring out your wings, the people that cause you to soar. God has some eagles in store for you, but if you’re holding onto the chickens, you’re never going to meet them.

the scripture says:

Proverbs 28:7 (NLT)
7 … those who seek out worthless companions bring shame to their parents.

are you hanging out with any worthless companions? that doesn’t mean of course that the people are worthless, but that they’re not adding any value to your life, not inspiring you to reach your dreams; they’re dragging you down. for instance, you shouldn’t go to lunch everyday and sit with coworkers who gossip, complain, talk bad about people; no disrespect, but those are worthless companions. you are better than that. “if I don’t go to lunch with them, I’ll be lonely, I won’t have anybody to eat with.” yes, you may be lonely for a season, but God will bring somebody better; He’ll send an eagle into your life.

David said:

Psalm 1:1 (AMP)
1 Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, their plans and purposes], nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk

that means, don’t sit there and let that gossip poison you for the next 20 years. “what if I hurt their feelings?” what if you miss your destiny? you have a responsibility to protect what God has entrusted you with; your gifts, your assignment, your temple. don’t keep going to the gym with those same people that are causing you to compromise year after year; find new friends. don’t sit inactive. if you’re exposed to mediocrity long enough, that mediocre spirit will get off on you. if you’ll let go of the wrong people, God will bring the right people. don’t settle for a chicken; God has an eagle. He wants you to soar. what you’re unwilling to walk away from is where you’ll stop growing. if you won’t separate yourself from negative relationships, you won’t rise any higher. God will never ask you to let go of something without giving you something better in return.

when you do what you know you’re supposed to do, even when it’s difficult, a blessing will always follow; a blessing is always attached to obedience. but too many people are stuck, not growing, because they’re still hanging around somebody that they knew years ago they were supposed to get away from. they felt the uneasiness, they saw the the red flags, but they kept putting it off again and again. the sooner you make these changes, the better off you’re going to be. don’t spend your valuable time with people that bring out the worst in you. if your friends are causing you to compromise, be negative, complain, lose your temper, that’s a sign that they’re the wrong people; if you will let them go, God has already lined up people that will bring out the best in you, people that will stir up your seeds of greatness, people that will inspire you to rise to new heights. scripture talks about:

Daniel 5:12 (AMP)
12 … an excellent spirit… found in this same Daniel

Daniel 6:3 (AMP)
3 … Daniel was distinguished above the presidents and the satraps because an excellent spirit was in him

if you study his life, you’ll find that he had excellent friends. you know who Daniel hung out with? Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the 3 Hebrew teenagers that wouldn’t bow down to the King’s golden idol:

Daniel 3:12 (NIV)
12 But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”

no wonder Daniel was a person of excellence; his friends were people of integrity, people of great courage, people that wouldn’t compromise, people that had a big dream for their life.  psychologists tell us there’s something called “the law of the group”; that is, that we associate with people the way we see ourselves. have you noticed how people that like to gossip find other people that like to gossip? negative people gravitate toward other negative people, complainers find other complainers, thus the saying, “birds of a feather flock together.” my encouragement; make sure you’re flocking to the right group. victorious people associate with other victorious people. successful people find other people that are successful. happy people hang around other happy people. eagles soar with other eagles.

young people, this is so important; choosing the wrong friends can keep you from your destiny. don’t hang around people at school that have a bad attitude, that are always bucking the system, always getting into trouble; that may seem cool, but that’s not cool at all, that’s dumb. that’s going to cause them to be a chicken when they were created to be an eagle. find friends that are going to make something out of their lives. hang around students that are disciplined, focused, people that are going somewhere. don’t worry about being in the right group, having the most friends, being the most popular; 20 years from now, no one cares who the most popular one was. the quantity of your friends is not important; it’s the quality that really matters. I would rather have one friend that has their head on straight, that’s going someplace, than 20 friends that are only mediocre. in school, the science fair is not that popular, the debate team, the math club, that never gets a lot of attention, but when you study, you learn, you make good grades. people may make fun of you, calling you geek, bookworm, nerd;  don’t worry, in a few years they’ll call you boss, supervise, Senator, Doctor, Pastor, Your Honor. Proverbs says:

Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)
17 As iron sharpens iron,
    so a friend sharpens a friend.

your friends should be sharpening you, making you better. sometimes, you can outgrow a friend; God had them in your life for a season. you blessed them, they blessed you, but now that season is over, maybe you’re growing at a different rate; you have to recognize when their part in your story is over. that doesn’t mean you can’t ever see them again, but you know you can’t spend the same amount of time with them and become who you were created to be. true friends will understand this; true friends won’t try to make you feel guilty, keep it the same, they’ll be happy for you, they’ll celebrate where you’re going. just as God opens doors, God closes doors; you can’t get stuck trying to hold onto something that’s over and done. we don’t like change, we want it to be just like it was when we were hanging out, growing up together, but now it’s a new day.  sometimes the people that knew you back then will try to keep you in that box, keep it all the same, but God works in seasons; I’ve seen in my own life how God moves people out of the way and brings new people in. the bottom line is, everybody cannot go where God is taking you. the higher you go, the tighter your circle has to become, the more selective you have to be. In Genesis:

Genesis 12:1-4 (NIV)
12 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
2 “I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”
4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him

God just told him to leave his relatives; it wasn’t long after that that he and Lot had a disagreement:

Genesis 13:5-7 (NIV)
5 Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6 But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. 7 And quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s.

it could’ve all been avoided if Abraham would’ve left who he was supposed to leave. how much conflict do we encounter, how much heartache do we have to deal with, because we’re still hanging around somebody that we knew years ago we were supposed to walk away from? like with Abraham, God promised to bless us, but because we didn’t leave who we were supposed to leave, now we’re having to deal with things that we should’ve never had to deal with in the first place. Abraham and Lot, there was so much conflict, they had to separate:

Genesis 13:11 (NIV)
11 … The two men parted company

it’s funny how God will always eventually get His way. but Abraham, he meant well taking Lot, that was his nephew, but just because somebody is related to you doesn’t mean they’re connected to you; they may have your blood, but they don’t have your spirit. they may not have heard the call that God put on your life. this doesn’t make them a bad person, it just means God has a different assignment for them, or perhaps they’re at a different level in their growth, but for some reason they’re not right for you. this is one of the hardest things we have to deal with; letting go of people that are not supposed to be in our life. there are family members and relatives that cannot go where you’re going; you should always treat your family with respect, but you don’t have to spend 24 hours a day with them. some of your relatives, you have to love them from a distance; that family reunion once a year is all God’s asking of you.

for Abraham, it kept getting worse; he and Lot separated, and then:

Genesis 14:11-12 (NIV)
11 The four kings… 12 They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.

it looked like he was done. when Abraham heard it, he thought, “it’s my fault, I let him come, I’ve got to do something about it.”

Genesis 14:14-16 (NIV)
14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan… 16 He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions

once again, he wouldn’t have been rescuing people, going to all this time, energy, trouble, if he would’ve just left who he was supposed to leave. Abraham was a lot like us; he wanted to be good to Lot, he thought, “God, I know you said don’t take my relatives, but Lot wants to come, and I don’t want to disappoint him”; he did it out of the kindness of his heart. how many times are we hanging around somebody that we know is not good for us, but we don’t want to hurt their feelings, we don’t want to let them down, so we keep putting it off, holding on to what we know we should let go of? here’s the problem; like with Abraham, later on, down the road, there’ll be trouble, conflict, unnecessary heartache. we could avoid it if we would make the right choices today. what am I saying? make sure you let go of what God’s asking you to walk away from.

you shouldn’t spend a lot of time with people that are always negative, people that are always discouraged, you have to keep them cheered up, fixed; I’m all for helping people, all for being a blessing, sometimes we have to love people back into wholeness, but if you’re always giving and never receiving, that is an unhealthy relationship. you need to gradually make some changes; don’t let them continue to control you, make you feel guilty because you’re not there at their beck and call. until you put your foot down, they’ll continue to use you, put their demands on you, drain all your energy trying to keep them happy. and this is the reason many people are worn out, stressed out, don’t have any energy; they’ve got this false sense of responsibility, this heavy load of trying to please everybody. you are not responsible for other people’s happiness; you are responsible for your own happiness. everybody doesn’t really want to be happy; they like the attention that it brings from always needing something. as long as you feel guilty and keep giving in, the one person that’s going to be unhappy is you.

in the scripture:

Mark 2:3-5 (NIV)
3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

there are times in life when we need to be like these friends and carry somebody, help them move forward. but if you’re going to be who you were created to be, you can’t always do the carrying; if this man had not had friends that could carry him, he would’ve never made his destiny. if you only have people around you that need to be carried, people that need encouragement, need help, advice, a ride, that’s out of balance. you have to have people that can carry you, help lighten the load. it’s easy to think you can do it all, “raise these children by myself, run my business,” always giving, serving, sacrificing, but that’s cheating yourself; God has already lined up people to come into your life to help lighten that load, the people that will make your life easier, to encourage you, to give you advice, people that will open doors that you could’ve never opened. but if you are worn out from trying to please everybody, then because you’re so consumed trying to carry the weight, you’re not taking the time to cultivate relationships that can carry you.  sometimes it’s pride, we think, “I don’t need any help, I can do this on my own”; the truth is, you cannot reach your highest potential on your own.

what God has planned for you is going to take more than just your faith; the faith of one is not going to be enough. like this man, you’re going to need the faith of five, you’re going to need four friends that can lift you, carry you, help push you into your destiny. you can’t be so busy sowing into other people’s lives, giving, serving, that you’re not cultivating relationships that can carry you. God has friends lined up for you that don’t need anything: they’re stronger, they’re smarter, they have more influence, more experience. you won’t have to cheer them up, they’ll cheer you up. you don’t have to inspire them, they’ll inspire you, buy your dinner, introduce you to their connections. make sure you have people in your life that can carry you. God knows how to connect you with exactly who you need. He’s already lined up the right people to get you to where you’re supposed to be. remember this principle; if you don’t get rid of the wrong people, you’ll never meet the right ones. what you’re unwilling to walk away from is where you’ll get stuck, so on a regular basis, evaluate your friendships; make sure you’re hanging around eagles, people that inspire you and make you better. if you’ll do this, God is going to connect you to the right people for every season. He’s going to bring eagles across your path. you’re not going to get stuck, you’re going to spread out your wings and soar into the fullness of your destiny.

Church-related MIRACLE

The church-related blessings that I reported on in my last post were just the warm-up for what happened on Sunday.

First came what I suppose might be attempts by the enemy to prevent the nice lady I wrote about from coming to my church. She did not want to go there never having seen me, logically enough, so she was supposed to drop by on Saturday long enough for us to at least meet briefly. Something that I still haven’t even heard about prevented her from doing that. Hoping to encourage her to still go, I sent her a description of myself, what I was going to wear, and exactly where I sit during the service. Sadly, I got through the entire service without any contact from her. An hour or so later, I was commenting to one of my friends… yes, I have FRIENDS in this church now, it’s amazing how intertwined I am with people I hadn’t even met 2 months ago… that I was bummed that this lady had not showed up. A nearby man who I do not remember ever seeing before interjected that she HAD been there, that she was his NEIGHBOR, and… that she had been sitting in the row directly behind me!!!!!!!!!! You see how God has a sense of humor? Anyways, I’m not quite sure why she was brave enough to show up but not brave enough to ASK anybody to point me out, but it was really cool that she had come. And now for the miraculous part:

Shortly after I got home, I received an email from her:

… (detailed list of the many horrible medical problems that her 13 year old daughter had suffered)… “[she] stopped talking to anyone other than me. Less than a year ago, she would not leave her room, and stayed in her bed curled into a fetal position… was diagnosed with selective mutism and severe anxiety. Today, she stood up on her own for healing. I assumed, like many others I’m sure, that the prayer would heal her left arm. And then I witnessed another miracle, when they called for those who wanted more prayer to stand up front- the girl who less than a year ago wouldn’t leave the house, make eye contact, speak- was healed of her anxiety and fear and bravely walked to the front with me following dumbstruck behind her. Today was such a profound experience and I’m extremely grateful… God has resurrected my sweet girl from a tomb of depression, hurt, anxiety, and shame.”

You can just imagine how I felt when I read all this!! God’s plans are always so much bigger and better than our own plans!! All I have ever hoped for with this lady was to have a new local friend. Having her join my church was a huge bonus. What has actually happened, on just her FIRST day there, is beyond anything I could ever have imagined. I am grateful and humbled beyond words that God used ME to bring healing and hope to this suffering child, not to mention her mom who has probably suffered even worse from all these years of witnessing the misery of her daughter. And this is such a clear example of how we can only see a little piece of God’s plan at any given time; my friendship with this lady, although a marvelous gift, was NOT the main event here, it was just a blessed side effect of God’s primary plan, which was to provide for the needs of her child. Believe me, I have never been happier to NOT be the main focus, and that God would use ME as part of His plan is a gigantic blessing.

All of this happened because I reached out to ONE person. Sometimes it can be overwhelming to hear about all the people in the world who are hurt, sick, frightened, lonely, sad, we want to do something about it but we don’t see what we can do… but every single one of you has the ability to reach out to ONE person, especially since, if you’re reading this, you obviously have Internet access, and you can find someone online the same way I did with this lady. I’m not saying that God will involve you in a miraculous event like the one I have described, although it could definitely happen, but if you improve just ONE person’s life, that will make God happy… and what could be better than that?

Church-related blessings

God has continued to bless me in many ways as I gradually integrate into my church.  I’m still feeling very confident that He intends for me to accomplish some significant things in this church, up to and including eventually getting to preach. I’m pretty sure that, false modesty aside, I am making great strides in obtaining pastoral approval.  I’m participating in just about everything, including those things where only a small group is involved, and, despite my only 2 months of membership, *I* was the one asked to take over for 2 of the ladies who do part of the “tearing down” after every service who will be on vacation starting next week; I’m actually astonished that in the whole congregation they couldn’t come up with a couple of other people to handle this responsibility without having to rely on a newbie… see how quickly I’m being seen as someone who can be counted on?  That’s clear evidence of God helping me along.

And I apparently gained a lot of points with the pastor last week when I brought a printout of a cool prayer meme to prayer group;  something made me leave it behind, and he surprised me by telling me this week that he had been showing it to other people, so clearly I did more than just share a cute image, I made a connection.

AND, one of the other ladies that I met via the same meetup.com group where I met the woman who brought me to this church, who I have never met in person, and had only exchanged a few one-line emails with, is going to be coming to church with me today!!  I don’t have to tell you how huge it is if you can bring a new member to a small church with no national support like mine.

The really interesting thing is that she and I had exchanged a couple of emails half a year ago, and then the holiday season hit and I never heard from her again, and the lady that I have been going to the church of, while previously agreeing that eventually we should contact the other ladies and try to get together with them, had switched to saying that we shouldn’t bother, but something made me send an email anyways, and this other lady responded, and then, although I had no reason to think that she was a Christian, much less a practicing Christian, and even knowing how badly put off some people are by mentions of religion, and keep in mind I was hoping that she would become a much-needed local friend, something made me tell her that I had been attending this other lady’s church… and she responded that she had been looking for a church to go to, but didn’t want to go where she didn’t know anybody, and suddenly this virtual stranger wants to go to MY church!! It’s hard to miss the hand of God in these events.

2015 continues to be a year, not just of restoration, but of restoration x7, of a new life with more than I ever had before. Stay tuned, because it’s just getting started!!

I just passed 200K hits!!  My 1st 100,000 hits took 4 YEARS…  the 2nd 100,000 took 10.5 MONTHS.  God is AMAZING!!

Speaking in tongues

One of the new things I’ve experienced since joining my church at the beginning of the year is observing people speaking in tongues. It bears no resemblance to the rolling around on the floor screaming that you see in movies; all it is is that people who are praying out loud under their breaths subtly switch from speaking coherent words to speaking random syllables. It doesn’t seem to last very long, and then they switch back to normal speech. I had always been a little dubious about the validity of speaking in tongues; yes, it’s in the Bible, but some things in the Bible no longer occur in the modern era.  The only reason it was even on my radar is that one of the pastors I most admire highly recommends it; he makes it sound like something you CHOOSE to do, though, rather than something caused by an indwelling of God (or rather the Holy Spirit, supposedly), so… anyways, I’ve been trying to keep an open mind. When I first observed it in my fellow congregants, it just looked like people speaking random syllables, there was nothing that made it look God-related, so I had assumed that it was probably a tool they were using to try to receive the Holy Spirit rather than evidence of actual indwelling. Just in case there WAS something to it, though, keeping in mind that for most of my life I didn’t believe in God and look how THAT turned out, a few weeks ago I asked Him to let it happen to ME if it was real. I hadn’t thought about it since then, until:

I had prayer meeting last night, and one of the things we did was to stand in a tight group around the pastors, who were seated on chairs in the middle of the floor, lay hands either on them or on someone who was close enough to touch them, and pray intensely out loud for an anointing on them for an international ministry trip that they’re about to take; I was standing next to the senior pastor, with my fingertips on his shoulder. Everyone was praying in the normal manner; no one was speaking in tongues, and there was thus no thought in my mind about it, either in general or in reference to myself. I started out praying under my breath in complete sentences, but after a few minutes I gradually realized that I had somehow shifted to just saying, “Strength, Father,” over and over. I didn’t understand at first what was going on, I just had the vague thought that my mind had wandered, but when I tried to get back to complete sentences… it didn’t happen. My mouth and jaw were no longer responding, and they felt… almost like they were a little bit numb, but numbness isn’t exactly what it was, and there was a feeling of “resistance” around them, as if they were buried in wet cement that I’d have to exert muscular strength against in order to speak of my own volition. It wasn’t uncomfortable or upsetting as something like this would normally be, and it began to dawn on me that God had taken overt control of part of my body in the presence of others for the first time.

As in previous times when I’ve been “overtaken,” I think I could have retaken control if I’d really wanted to, but I naturally DON’T want to combat something God is doing. Once I became fully aware of the odd turn my prayer had taken, and what it had to mean, and before I had time to start analyzing WHY it was happening, it got even odder; the words, the syllables, that I was uttering were suddenly… jumbled. I still had no control over it, and again had that perception of not being able to do anything about it, although I might have been able to if I’d pushed hard enough. Because of the people praying loudly around me, I couldn’t hear myself clearly, but I kind of think that even in absolute silence I would not have been able to really focus on the sounds I was making to try to attempt to analyze them. It didn’t last long, I think it was under 2 minutes, and then someone started proclaiming VERY loudly, and I switched to listening and just saying “yes” when the other people did (I’m still learning how to fully participate in this group prayer thing, so I still follow the lead of others rather then acting at random).

At the time, I didn’t really think about what it all meant. It wasn’t until I was home alone later on that it occurred to me that this must have been what they mean by speaking in tongues. I shared what had happened with the members of my online prayer group, and those with experience in speaking in tongues said yes, that’s what it was. The people from my church that I have since spoken to have agreed.

So, it’s official:  Speaking in tongues is REAL, and I can do it. That’s TWO major spiritual things in just 3 days!! God is AMAZING!! I can’t wait to see what comes next…

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