Friday, March 24, 2017

Tangible, Visible Evidence

Ephesians 3:14-16 "For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in Heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man." 

A question was asked of me, of others this week, "how have you seen a visible, tangible, representation of God--His Holy Spirit dwelling in you?

When I opened my spiritual eyes, recognized my wretchedness before God,  my own sin, then responded to His calling, His open arms and smiling face, I received His Holy Spirit. In that moment of surrender, of knowing I am in need of His mercy--that intimacy between myself and His Spirit recreates a miracle and the connection to His Holy work, that which He willed for my life. This is a constant prayer, "Lord, Your will, not mine." The spiritual becomes the tangible in changed lives, changed desires, changed conversations, changed hopes and new dreams. It also allows a unique perspective, to see more of God in every thing, no matter how random, how insignificant, how worthless the world might judge. That is Holy Spirit.

Everyone sins, misses the mark of perfection and thus, separated from the Holy, (Romans 3:23). At first I just knew from what I was taught-- God made me, and that His Son, Jesus, died for me and that God is Love. If I believed that, I would go to Heaven one day and live there forever. Of course, when you are nine years old, that seems pretty reasonable, simple. God whispered in my ear, "I love you, will you love Me back?"

"Yes," I answered. God came into my heart by means of asking for forgiveness and receiving the Holy Spirit. Can I explain that at the age of  nine? No, but I knew I belonged to Him that day. Serving Him has always been important to me as I studied His Word and served in various ministries. In all this time, some 50 plus years later, the Holy Spirit navigates my steps to a deeper relationship with Him. Have I spent some time being idle, drifting? Yes, I have gone down wayward roads and sat for too long on the bench for the luke warm, watching but not participating. He calls me back and convicts my heart, leading me into His grace and fellowship. I know and recognize that God dwells within me in the form of the Holy Spirit. I didn't need a bunch of classes, a party or a ceremony to know that, to experience His indwelling in me. My prayers for more of Him, my proactive trust--enough. My growing faith in story--evidence, tangible and visible.  And then there are those goose bump moments. That IS Holy Spirit.

We all want to test the world, and we all wander, striving, curious humans we are. When God keeps ringing your spiritual phone of your heart, and He hears busy signals or hang-ups, or just no answer at all...but He persists by sending certain people and certain circumstances and signs--that is tangible Holy Spirit.

When  placed in a compromising situation or have to make a choice and most say one thing, but your heart is saying another, you are feeling that voice of discernment giving you strength--that is Holy Spirit.

When one longs for their mom, sister or brother,  spouse, the kids, best friends, the neighbors, to walk along side you in this journey, seeking growth and knowledge, wisdom and blessings, hope and purpose, pure fellowship of His goodness---more of Him, --that is Holy Spirit.

When you are called to a ministry you never thought possible, to leadership positions and opportunities no one would have placed you in, when scripture comes alive and is always applicable to your situation and prayers, when you have the constant desire to be in His Word, fellowship with His people and seek Him through your trials and adversity--that is Holy Spirit.

One day, my mind and heart crashed and melted. Grief-stricken, drained and depleted from my own thoughts and words, God took over. His Spirit activated a palpable, tangible love on me and began the process of showing me how to lift my head again. I look up and I look back... and I know His grace. His promises I find within me, even more intense than before,  guiding me to His purpose. Part of His healing plan, He stirs and sieves the brokenness, replacing it with Hope. It is tangible, like a frown becoming a smile--that is Holy Spirit.

He lifted my head, to see not one, but dozens of swallowtail butterflies coming down from the trees filtering my grief-filled prayers up to Heaven. They surrounded me in the Light of a new day and a different life, but a hope-filled life. Ten years later, another single, transformed butterfly of the same genus, a swallowtail, lands on my windshield as I am stopped at a light and dances across to my driver's side, constantly fluttering, encouraging me and loving me, a tangible reminder that His Spirit, the Holy Spirit dwells in me and I recognize and feel  LOVED as tears flow. The radio plays Chris Tomlin at that very moment--and that is Holy Spirit, and that is God!

There's a place where sin and shame are powerless.
Where my heart has peace with God and forgiveness.
Where all the love I've ever found.
Comes like a flood,
Comes flowing down.

At the CROSS, that is tangilble, visible in my heart. Hallelujah! 

The butterfly is not something to be worshipped, for it too is temporary, a manifestation of His beauty in creation, but scripture reminds us in Romans 1:19-20:

...because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and devine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 

and in Luke 19:40  "And He answered and said, "I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!"

Father God, thank You for my salvation and that I know and want more than just the promise of Heaven. Your Holy Spirit was sent to believers so that we can participate in the Holy and receive Your power and strength. You saved me so that I may glorify Your name! What a privilege to be called to Your Plan, to find my own purpose within the gifts You have given me and the discovery of so much through fellowship and Your Word. Because Your Holy Spirit dwells within my soul, my Helper, Strength-giver and Inspirer, I can accomplish mighty things for Your Kingdom, for Your glory, in that I am awed and humbled, thank You Lord. Holy Spirit, thank You for hearing my long prayers, my simple prayers, my utterances and all my thoughts towards wanting Your Will and even those words and thoughts not aligning with Your Will. In that, You bring about Your discerning wisdom and lead me to better places and/or bring about obedience which leaves tangible evidence, for Your glory. Thank You Lord for Your prompts to pray, to listen, to watch and to wait. Thank You Lord for giving me Hope. As I have told my story, some have said to me, "I don't see God like you do..." Oh, Lord, I know that they can, if only they take the time to humble themselves, be authentic before You, asking You for that gift You left for us, Your Holy Spirit, God dwelling within us and among us. God, You so loved the world, every one of us can know You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit--You are welcome here. Amen.


                                           FRANCESCA BATTISTELLI ~  HOLY SPIRIT

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Greater Grace

Psalm 86: 12-13  "I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Thy name forever. For Thy lovingkindness toward me is great, and Thou hast delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol." 

I said goodbye to a collegue, a man whose friendship I treasure and whose wisdom and grounding in Truth encouraged me at work. He retired. Bon voyage, Art. I will miss your greetings across campus, "How ya doin' Sis?!" Grace is made greater when friendships are centered around His faithfulness.

I honored a classmate's passing; again cancer rears its ugly head and wins the earthly battle, but eternity is a victory. I didn't know him in school, yet I knew him in what we shared; God, classmate friends, family love, a neighborhood and The Dodgers. RIP Alan.  I now have two new friends, your son and daughter. Grace is made greater when we can serve one another.

February 27th this year fell on Monday. Ten years ago, it was on a Tuesday. Myself, my husband and my youngest son received the heart-breaking news that our oldest son, our brother, did not survive the clutches of a deteriorating disease he suffered with most his life. He was only 26. His name is Timothy. Grace, my emulsion, my strength, my soul-giving breath continues to guide me and strengthen me to understand a God who is great, a God who is good. Even in the darkest of times, God's grace is greater.

In my time with my writing group this week, our prompt for our journal session was to write about grace, its impact on our life. Well, I kidded with the my writing partner who penned this particular opening segment of our curriculum...

"I wrote a whole book already on that subject!"

She laughed along with me, knowing that "grace" in itself, is what we all write about in every word we attempt to put together to makes sentences, to explain our insignificant lives--but how He in His grace set upon and in us, changes us. He makes us significant and continues to do so.

So, I wrote and in my "not allowed editorializing" before I shared my words, I stated that this might just be the beginning of another book of my amazing moments with God who so lovingly shows me His care of my heart concerning the loss of my son. His visible grace I received on a day marking a 10-year anniversary and I serve a God who lavishes lovingkindness on me and delivers my soul in a very clear yet personal way. So Amazing. So thankful. So Good.


Dylan. He is 20 now, so that would make him 10 years old when we first moved here, just 5 short months after Timmy died. We shared this townhouse, his family on the other side of our common wall.  Dylan and his brother Jordan came over frequently, to love on us and share with us. Their mom and dad, Raul and Ronda became like family.We felt for the first time in many years like we were "home." That was so God. He graced us with this home, orchestrating this place...these neighbors, so we could settle in, so we might grieve surrounded by His care and love. It DOES come generously in His servants.We love those two boys, and I believe God placed us here, next door to the Zavaletas for His purpose and comfort.

So now, ten years later,  my husband and I plan a half-day at Disneyland, dinner somewhere--just be together to remember the day Tim went to heaven. It rained, poured hard all the way to the Park, but stopped as we parked following the car in front of us. We merged from our vehicle as the occupants next to us do the same--Dylan, and his girlfriend, randomly parking right next to us in the biggest parking lot in the country. After the laughs, selfie-taking, and chit-chat, they went on their way and we did the same. I felt God...I heard God say to me...

"Remember...not just Timmy, but how I chose to bless you, give you comfort in your grief. I moved you to a better place, a good place, and surrounded you with love. Dylan is that reminder, of 10 years in your home and 10 years of seeking Me and allowing Me to love you and show you My glory." 

I knew we would have a good day.

We chose ESPN Zone to have dinner, a place represented by sports, fans and good food, three things my son loved. The server walked us to a booth right in the middle of the restaurant with a clear view of the huge TV, the LA Kings skating against the Minnesota Wild. Ted and I ordered and as I enjoyed a glass of wine, I read the scrolling trivia atop the screen, the "Did you know" questions and answers zipping by as the defense and offence slashed across the ice below.

"Did you know that Barry Bonds holds the home run record of 762 runs in his career? 

As a matter of fact, I DID know that, because a chapter in my book recollects that moment he hit that ball, achieved that record the summer we moved, the summer right after Tim's death...the summer I thought a lot about heaven.

Then those dates scroll along...1954-1980.

I have to wait another 10 minutes for the board to repeat itself so I could see those dates again. Those dates...get its content. I knew what they meant to me.

1954, the year I was born. 1980, the year Tim was born.

..."but he does not hold the world record. That is held by Sunahara Oh, a Japanese player who out hit Barry Bonds by 160 home runs in a career spanning from 1954-1980."

I take a picture on the next loop with my cell phone.

Later that night, I would ask my husband, Ted, what he thought that meant--seeing those two dates, those years on that screen as we were "celebrating" a heavenly birthday. Ten years of hearing from God and receiving His grace and comfort in so, so many significant and amazing ways--I am always the one to interpret, to know the meaning, to ponder and recognize.

But not this time. I asked Ted, not even trying to analyze it. I asked the father of our son to tell me what Our Father meant by showing me those dates.

"God's showing you the bond between a mother and a son, that He understands and knows you miss him. You and Timmy--together, forever."

(Did he know he used the word "bond?"...that was unintentional, right)?

God is so Good. His lovingkindness towards me is great! Greater than a huge parking lot with thousands of cars and people. Greater than cheering crowds and professional hockey players and broadcast capabilities. Greater than Disneyland and rain storms and home run records!

His lovingkindness is greater than my grief. For I have experienced the depths of that emotion and God has delivered me from the part that leaves me feeling alone, insignificant, angry, questioning, worthless, empty, fearful...doubting. He made Tim's time here significant. Grace does that. Grace continues to do that. He keeps giving and showing me beauty in this ugliness of what we call death. For death in grace is only an earthly, flesh, temporary departure. Death in Christ is a home run straight to eternity. That is something so significant, one can't help but proclaim His goodness, scroll it out in the words and actions of my heart. 

Thank You Lord for your grace, your lovingkindness towards me. Thank You for the grace that saved my son and brought him to eternity where we will see each other again in Your Glory. Thank You for giving me such amazing moments that point to Your lovingkindness towards all who believe in You and seek You in their time of great need. With all my heart, I cannot thank You enough for Your gift of grace, an undeserved favor from You, the Holy One, my Creator and Giver of all things good. Help me Lord to also be a grace-giver in these times when Your lovingkindness is needed in so many dark places.  You are good, Amen.

                                                Your Grace Finds Me ~ Matt Reddman