The Blessing of His Presence

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From Public Domain images

We are familiar with the Aaron’s blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26

“The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”

When Billy Joe pastored our first small Methodist church one of my favorite portions during the Sunday morning service was the benediction. It was such a comfort to go out with this blessing ringing in my heart, surrounding me with His presence as I charged forth into the week ahead.

Many times as a harried mother of 4, Sunday was not the most restful day of the week. My husband was the pastor, so he usually left early to prepare for the day at church, which meant no help getting ready for the big day of the week. “The Sunday Morning Service.” By the time I walked into the quietness of the sanctuary I had fed hungry mouths, found missing socks, retrieved shoes from the toilet (literally!) and wiped snotty noses. Yet we proudly walked to the front row with hair combed, clean clothes and even bows in our hair.

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I sat in a pew with three wiggly bodies (one in the nursery, PTL!), critiquing my husbands sermon (Oh yes, I did! Sorry BJ), and checking the faces of the congregation to see who might have been offended that week. ‘Did I turn on the crockpot with the roast inside?’ ‘Did I turn off the coffee pot?’ I’m afraid I didn’t receive very much insight into the word. But at least I was able to sit for a while. That pretty much summed up my ‘worship at church’ during this new season of my life.

All too quickly, BJ was finished and I had missed the main point. Again.

Then came the Benediction.

“The Lord bless you and keep you.”

My spirit would leap up passed the confusion of my mind and the tiredness of my body, like a dry, thirsty entity to grab hold of those words. “The Lord Bless you and KEEP you.” Like a warm blanket, these words took on tangible meaning in my heart. The Lord Himself would keep me, surround and protect me. Protect me even from the fear and anxiety of being a young pastor’s wife. You see, BJ went to school to become a pastor, but unfortunately there was no school for a pastor’s wife, and my fabricated image of who I should be was skewed. I had expectations of myself that were unrealistic and certainly not demanded by the precious people in our church. Yet I could not see it at the time and I lived with great anxiety and fear of being found out that I was NOT who they thought was.

“The Lord make His face to shine upon you.”

His face. Not the faces of the needy, the offended or even the friendly faces. His face. His smile, His delight, His pleasure. To know and feel His acceptance and love, even though I felt I was the least to deserve it.

“The Lord lift up His countenance upon you.”

His Countenance. This word also means his face, but in my heart it meant more. His presence, His light. His protection. It was a though this very word meant He looked up to the rest of the world and said, “This is my daughter and I am pleased with her.” Amazing validation, which opened my heart to the clincher, the last sentence in this extraordinary blessing.

“And give you peace.”

Shalom. More than a quietness. The fullness of the word Peace. Everything brought back into the full restoration of the Father’s original intent. Nothing missing, nothing broken, all whole again. Shalom, Peace. Rest for your soul. And strength for the journey ahead.

Today, I am reminded again of those wonderful, frightful, early days in ministry. I have shifted in so many areas of my life over the years. And throughout, His blessing has never changed. It has grown richer and deeper in my heart, and still brings that warm comfort and peace to my soul.

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From Public Domain Images

My hope for you, whether you are a young believer or a seasoned prayer warrior, is that you too would remember, embrace and walk in the fullness of this blessing. Aaron’s blessing.

The Blessing of His Presence.

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A Good, Good Father

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Mildred Bean, an amazing Bible teacher and dear friend grew up in the Bayou Country of Louisiana. Recently she called and, tongue in cheek, told me she was developing some new teachings called Bayou Bible School, because she realized that some of her foundational lessons of life came from the Bayous of Louisiana. I have asked her if I could blog some of her tales.

 

 

Our Last Bayou Bible School Lesson: The Last Deer Hunt

15 years ago on a warm sunny afternoon, Dad asked me if I wanted to go deer hunting. Although not his ‘little Milly, the hunter’ any more, I knew I was still ‘his girl’ and sensed a special moment in the making. As a creature of comfort, hunting on cold days is not my thing, but I made a mad dash to get a hunting license, grabbed my gear and climbed into his jeep heading to the hunting camp.

Hunting has certainly changed over the years. He dropped me off at a high, enclosed deer stand, quite different from the old stump that was my original stand. Then he handed me his rifle and drove away as I climbed into the stand. Enjoying the time alone with my Heavenly Father in His amazing creation I worshipped, I listened and I watched. An opportunity to kill a buck did not seem to be my priority at this point, I was basking in the presence of the Lord of Creation.

Bayou Sauvage NWR Mammals
Bayou Sauvage NWR Mammals

As the daylight was just beginning to wane, several graceful doe silently eased out into the clearing. Quietly I watched as the buck sauntered regally out of the brush. Remembering the training learned from my dad, I put the scope on the deer and squeezed the trigger. Deer scattered every direction! Not seeing the buck fall, I simply waited patiently in the stand for my dad. I knew he would come quickly. And he did. Scouring the brush for a trail, Dad stepped out of sight into a nearby thicket. Suddenly I heard whooping and hollering and laughing. My dad had found the buck and was much more excited than even I was. Just hearing him laugh and seeing the pleasure on his face because of my accomplishment was much more rewarding to my heart than even the thrill of bringing home the prize.

Later, I reflected on our Heavenly Father and how He takes great pleasure in our success. He is delighted in our obedience and rejoices over our achievements. He’s a good, good Father.

Luke 10 indicates that Jesus jumped for joy when the disciples returned with their amazing testimonies. And in Zephaniah the Amplified version says, “The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior who saves! He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest in silent satisfaction, and in His love He will be silent and make no mention of past sins, or even recall them; He will exult over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 AMP

So today, know that your heavenly Father also rejoices over you. Just as my dad put me in the best stand in the best location for the best opportunity for success at deer hunting, so your Heavenly Father God is setting up circumstances in your life for your success. And always remember, He is for you, not against you. He knows the plans he has for you, plans to give you a hope and a destiny. As the song says, He’s a good, good Father.

Listen and enjoy!

Bayou Bible School, Milly, the Deer Hunter

11951895_10206576568788815_5607146155687526682_nMildred Bean, an amazing Bible teacher and dear friend grew up in the Bayou Country of Louisiana. Recently she called and, tongue in cheek, told me she was developing some new teachings called Bayou Bible School, because she realized that some of her foundational lessons of life came from the Bayous of Louisiana. I have asked her if I could blog some of her tales.

Bayou Bible School Lesson: The Deer Hunt

As I reflect on my early hunting experience with my dad, I learned by observing and mimicking. My dad was my hero and role model. When he stopped, I stopped. When he looked into the trees, I looked into the trees. We did not chatter as we walked, but were as quiet as possible as we trudged through the forest floors laden with tree limbs and dry crunchy leaves. We would walk a short distance, then stop and remain very still, always looking and listening. Was this early training for me to be a watchman for the Lord? Even then God was preparing me to walk by His Spirit, to do what I see him do. Not only were we alert for our prey, but also for sounds that might signal danger. More than once we heard the shaking of a rattlesnake’s tail. But regardless of the danger, I felt perfectly confident that I was safe. I was close to my dad.(Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. Prov. 22:6 KJV)

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Annie Oakley??? Nope! It’s Mildred

Not only did I squirrel hunt with my dad, we also went deer hunting. The strategy for deer hunting was quite different than squirrel hunting. On these hunts we went out very early in the morning while it was still dark. Again I walked step by step with my dad because he knew where he was going, even though I did not have a clue. He would make sure that I had what I needed for the long hours I would be left alone on a deer stand. This was before the days of modern deer stands high up in the trees. In the early morning darkness I was positioned on a tree stump. Dad assured me he would return at some point later, but that he would also always know if I needed him. With no cell phones back then, how would he know? I’m not really sure, but I do know this: he knew where the other hunters were positioned. Our strategy was that anyone could shoot in any direction and not harm another person, yet if a deer tried to slip through between the different stands, someone would see it and have a chance to make a kill. My dad was a wise hunter.

Sitting on that stump in the pitch black dark, my imagination ran wild. I would sit intently still and wait. And wait! And wait! Turning my head sharply at every sound, peering through the slight break between trees and seeing movement, it was difficult not to jump or run at these shadowy forms. But as daylight crept through the trees, most of my fantasized objects of dread turned out to be only big, dry bushes or hollowed out trees and the movements came from birds or squirrels foraging for food. After much ‘on the job training’ I learned to discern whether this noise was something, someone, or just a noisy armadillo trying to cause a distraction.

“For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:13-14 NKJV)

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Mildred, the deer hunter!

Proverb 4:18 declares, “Yet the way of those who do right is like the early morning sun that shines brighter and brighter until noon“. (The Voice)

Many mornings I would become very restless after a few hours, but I knew that to leave my position would be dangerous. I could get lost or too close to another’s firing range. But most importantly I needed to remain right where my dad could find me.

He seemed to always know when I was too cold or too tired, and showed up earlier to take me back to the warm, crackling fire of the camp house. Looking back I realize that I never doubted that he would come back for me. He was there when I needed him, and I was secure in my father’s love.

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Mildred’s Mom and Dad

Bayou Bible School, Little Milly and the Snake!

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Mildred Bean, an amazing Bible teacher and dear friend grew up in the Bayou Country of Louisiana. Recently she called and, tongue in cheek, told me she was developing some new teachings called Bayou Bible School, because she realized that some of her foundational lessons of life came from the Bayous of Louisiana. I have asked her if I could blog some of her tales. I think you will enjoy hearing the story of little Mildred and the snake!

“About one third of Jesus’ teaching was in parables, brief stories from everyday life told by way of analogy to illustrate spiritual truths”. (New Spirit Filled Life Bible)

Bayou Bible School Lesson 1

“Righteousness will go before Him, and shall make His footsteps our pathway.”Psalm 85: 13 (NKJ)

I began to go hunting at an early age (6-7 years of old) with my dad. Today I realize that it was not because I liked to hunt – I had no clue at that age- but is was because I wanted to spend time with my dad and I liked what he liked.

05-bayou-pop-top-ladyThe woods in central Louisiana bayou country are very dense with trees, briers, thorn bushes, palmetto (thick fanned shape plants), with scattered boggy water holes during the rainy fall and winter months.

I remember that my dad made certain I dressed properly for the hunt, not so much for me to be camouflaged, but for my protection as I followed him through those thick, brushy woods. Thicker pants and a long sleeve shirt or hunting jacket was my attire. When the briers would try to tear at me, I was protected. And of course I needed good boots, not only to keep my feet dry through the muddy water holes, but also and more importantly, for protection against snakes.

11041145_10205882926688196_1187870115772654674_nMy dad loved to tell stories of my first few hunting adventures with him. On these grand exploits he would walk directly in front of me to forge the path through the thick undergrowth, protecting me from the briers or Palmetto branches that would want to flip back into my face. Being taller, he could see where we were going and where to step carefully. I knew it was very important for me to step where he stepped. On one particular adventure a snake suddenly appeared on our path and my dad stopped dead still. Fear gripped me and I began to run, back through the woods, away from my dad and this deadly snake! After a brief run through the thick brush I finally heard my dad’s voice shouting at me to stop. And I did. My Dad would laugh and enjoyed telling the fact that, first of all this was not a poisonous snake but a blue runner, and that I was running side by side with the snake. He couldn’t decided who was more afraid, the snake or little Mildred!

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The Holy Spirit began to speak to me through the remembrance of this tale. “In this season, you will be walking through some ‘dense places’. Your Abba Father has made sure you are clothed correctly for this journey. It is important to walk directly behind your Father, stepping in His footsteps. He knows where He is going and can see when you can’t. He will forge the path ahead of you so don’t let sudden fear lay hold of your heart and change your path. Don’t run with ‘fear’ or with snakes, for that matter! Walk in faith and trust! Stay next to your Father, listen to His voice, and obey Him.”

“Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 AMP  

Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal

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What an amazing statement. Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal.

This morning as I was sitting staring out into my back yard, my heart was aching for some of my loved ones who are broken, desperate and hurting. Quietly, deep in my spirit I began to hear the words to David Crowder’s song: “Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal.”

Then the next line came, “So lay down your burdens, come as you are.”

You know, it doesn’t matter if you are crying out to Him for the first time, struggling with an addiction or you have faithfully walked with Him for many years, there is still a place where we all come, broken hearted. Yet, in our desperate cry we hear the echo of heaven: “There is no sorrow that heaven can’t heal!” What a simple but profound statement about our magnificent savior. There really is no sorrow that He did not make provision for on the cross and in his resurrection.

I’ve heard many sermons on great theological truths. I have heard many anointed men and women of God releasing instruction for living and how to walk in the kingdom. I have books and files of information about Spiritual warfare, evangelism and other essentials in our Christian walk. And we DO need that information and revelation.

But when it all comes down to our basic relationship with Him, the time when it’s just you alone, when your heart is laid bare, it is this statement that brings hope at the deepest level: ‘Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal. So lay down your burdens. Come as you are. To the foot of the Cross.’

Today Paris is still grieving, the world is in turmoil, human trafficking is out of control and my heart aches for all of this. But I also know of dear ones around me who are in desperate need and pain. Their pain is probably small in light of the world’s agony. But it is pain and suffering none the less.

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My heart is overwhelmed that my savior, Jesus, Yeshua, the one who loves me best, is enough. Enough for all. Regardless of how huge, how deep, how small, how quiet, desperation and heartache is desperation and heartache.

Even as these cries rise from the earth,

Heaven victoriously shouts back:

THERE IS NO SORROW THAT HEAVEN CAN’T HEAL!

So lay down your burden.

Come as you are.

Run away or Come Away!

Have you ever wanted to run away? I certainly have. We have an old children’s video about a lost puppy who is adopted by a family of rabbits. Any time danger came near, the bunnies shouted “Run away! Run away!”  This was so against the puppy’s nature, but he learned to run away at the least little scare. When things get stressed or hectic in my life, I often hear that same voice shouting, ‘Run away! Run away!” I feel panic rise in me, because I don’t know where to run. Or do I?

Recently when browsing through a Southern Living Magazine I came across this Go RVing ad:

“AWAY is a place that’s not on any map. But you know it when you find it.”

Go RVing ad, SLM, July 2015
Go RVing ad, SLM, July 2015

I heard the Lord’s voice whisper, “I’ve not called you to run away, I’ve called you to Come away!”

This ad is true spiritually. Away is NOT on any map, but you know it when you find it. It is that quiet, peaceful place in your heart where you feel and know. That secure, safe place where he speaks softly, “I’m here and I’ve got this.” It is simply taking a moment to STOP and acknowledge His presence, His love, His kindness, His magnificence, His majesty, His gentle peace. In this place you can stay a few moments or a few hours. In this place your spirit rises up to connect with His Spirit and He brings your weary or frightened soul into His peace.  In a busy mall or in a tranquil, fragrant garden, in a chaotic household where every other word is ‘Mommy!” or a by a crashing, rushing waterfall, he calls us to ‘Come Away!’

Life always has those moments of decision. I believe the Lord allows these times to come so that we have the option to choose his blessing of peace or the chaos. It gives Him great joy and pleasure when we make the right choice.

Will you choose to run away?

or Come Away?

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On the Side of a Starbucks Cup

Smooth silky & creamy
Smooth, silky & creamy

Don’t you just love little inspirational tidbits, fun sayings, especially those inside a Dove Chocolate wrapper. As the warm, delicious dark chocolate melts on your tongue you read: “This is Your day! Take some time for you.” That’s sort of like a mini vacation for your soul.

This morning, on the wrapper of my Halls cough drop I read: “Bet on yourself!” “Put a little strut in it!” “High five yourself.” You never know where you will find inspiration for your day, even from a cough drop.

A few years ago I was enjoying a cup of Starbucks coffee, “Tall Latte with cream on top, please” and I noticed some writing on the side of the cup and read it. I was so blessed and encouraged.  I thought I’d share it with you.

The way I see it  Starbucks # 165

Warm, comforting
Warm &  comforting

I was ahead in the slalom. But in the second run, everyone fell on a dangerous spot. I was beaten by a woman who got up faster than I did. I learned that people fall down, winners get up, and gold medal winners just get up faster!”

Bonnie St. John

1984, she was the second-fastest amputee skier in the world and won the silver medal in the ParaOlympic downhill ski competition.

Winners get up and Gold Medal winners get up faster. That statement dropped deep in my spirit. Yes, we all fall down. But winners get up. That is a good thing to hear at this new beginning of 2015. We all make our plans, resolutions, goals. And if the truth be told a huge percentage of us will fall down. God knew that. Remember he made us, he knows our frame, and he even said the same thing in his word: “A righteous person may fall seven times, but he gets up again.” (Proverbs 24:16, God’s Word)

So don’t be afraid or hesitate to make those over the top resolutions. Set your goals high this year. Sure, you might fall down. Simply get up and go again. Winners get up. Gold Medal winners get up faster.

Go for the Gold!

Bonnie St. John Silver Medal winner
Bonnie St. John
Silver Medal winner