There is Hope in Our Mourning, Part 2

Last month I shared about our hope in knowing we will see my brother again when we get to heaven. This month, I find myself being reminded that when unexpected tragedy strikes, that hope is still alive to carry us through. This time, though, the news is still so very fresh.

Just over a week ago, a family gathered for worship in their little country church in Texas. It was a small church very much like where I grew up. As the associate pastor stepped up to bring the message, a gunman entered the sanctuary and hit nearly everyone inside with a bullet. Many were wounded, and 26 were killed that day – 10 victims representing 3 generations of the Holcombe family – including a baby yet to be born but already given nickname by older siblings.

My friend JoCheryl Holcombe’s brother was the one preaching that day. She lost half her family in a matter of seconds. I won’t go into the devastation – this part is within reach for us to imagine.

What I find harder to imagine is the unspeakable peace the remaining family members have been experiencing this week. Even they are astonished. But why should we be surprised? The world was praying for this family. They felt it. In fact, one family member commented to another, “did you feel it?” As they compared notes, they found that ALL of them felt a wave of peace wash over them the day after this horrible loss.

 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

There was no natural explanation for this peace. But there was a supernatural one. God promised to send the Holy Spirit as our comforter and advocate. The prayers of so many surely moved the Spirit to be present in the hearts of those who were mourning.

Memorial Crosses at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church – Photo Getty Images/Scott Olson

The intention was defeat and destruction, but this horrendous act unleashed a torrent of love and goodness. I hope and pray this family will see fruit from this story for decades to come.

Today, the Holcombe family laid to rest their 10 family members. Yes, it was gut-wrenching, but it also was a testimony to the fact that these folks who so tragically lost their lives will live on through their story. A story of hope and love, and the knowledge that they are together in heaven now, and this is not the end.

Here are a few words written by JoCheryl in a public post on Facebook – I don’t think I could be so eloquent nor gracious at such a terrible time….

we made it through this day…i’m sad, but you know…i’m also filled with bliss because of LOVE, and…i’m actually filled with so much love, and friendship and memories and the joy from being around authentic awesome people whose faith is stronger than any tragedy…so proud of my brother, who i will miss so much…but oh WOW!!!! his awesome family…and my parents who exemplify joyful living, who know how to be strong and tender, joyful and heartbroken at the same time. as the days get easier, i want to write a few stories about those who have left and the rest who are left behind…so much inspiration…

yeah, my guts were wrenched today, but there were so many people there with their arms around us holding us, the comfort far outweighed the sorrow!

i am so grateful for the thousands of people who stood in line for hours, some only to get turned away because there was no more room, i am so grateful for all the people who drove HOURS to get here from all over Texas, (some drove 10 hours, and waited in line only to get turned away at the last minute ) i am so grateful for all the people who were there that i didn’t even get to see…i am so grateful for all the professionals who took a chaotic, unprecedented, event of enormous proportions and turned it into the most amazing beautiful celebration with the most poignant creative touches.

i am grateful for friends and neighbors, who hosted the most amazingly delicious meal and country gathering that was filled with love and joy, perfection and beauty.

i am grateful for old friends and new friends, and i am grateful for love that spans a lifetime…i am grateful that we have forever!

i am grateful for all the local and county police and sheriff’s departments and DPS for keeping the press away and coordinating traffic and managing a procession that stretched from one town to the next and still kept coming.. we had no intrusions as we celebrated and mourned.

i am grateful for the streets lined with people who stopped their days, held their hands over their hearts in vigil for that long procession paying tribute to my family, for all the signs along the highway, for all the flowers along the route, for the mountains of cards, for all the hugs, gifts and expressions of love, for the beautiful memorial at the church in Sutherland Springs where my family members graduated to heaven.

this was an awful thing but it was also awesome because love is eternal and we will all be together again. may the love unleashed today be ever present in all our lives

as i reflect on this last week i can say that there is absolutely no way a person could ever imagine what it has been like, i pray nothing like this EVER happens again to anyone…it should not have even happened this time…

so, when you think of those you love and it feels like you have forever, just remember you don’t, but then again, YOU DO! make this life matter, our soul is the only thing we take with us when we are done…it’s worth tending, it’s worth making meaningful deep connections and living each moment in the fullest most meaningful way. BECAUSE everything can change in a holy instant.

i love you all, thank you for making this so much easier for my family..i feel like i have thousands of new family members.

Our hope is not in this life, but those remaining still have to live this life without 10 members of their family, and it will be so very hard. Please continue to pray for the families of those lost in the tragedy in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

More info here: Houston Chronicle Article

Click here for Financial help for the Holcombe family

 

I’m Being Pruned!

In the beginning of 2017, God told me this was going to be a year of growth and preparation. I did not know what kind of “growth and preparation” he was going to put me through. I am in the start up phase of my business so at first I pictured the growth of my business. I had dreams of what this year would look like with many clients, creating courses, and such. However, that is not the kind of growth God had for me.

This growth was more of an internal growth and preparation. Let me give you a picture. Think of plants and how they grow. If you let them grow and grow and grow without ever pruning them, they would get out of control. There is a hibiscus bush outside my front door. I get so excited when I see blooming red flowers! But then when the bush is overgrown the landscaper trims it and the flowers are gone. It’s a sad day when I come home and see the flowers have been pruned. However, when the flowers grow back they are more vibrant than ever before!

I see this as the life God has for us. He is the vine and we are the branches that continually get pruned. It hurts and it’s painful, but it’s for the best. I am in a pruning season. Pains I have avoided in the past are coming to the surface and I have a chose to either deal with them and uproot them, or to avoid them. Avoiding has not done me any good so I am choosing to deal with them. And let me tell you, it is not easy. I have been seeking outside help, which has been hard but so good at the same time.

I encourage you to look at the areas of your life that need pruning. We cannot be all God has called us to be if you do not deal with our pains, and our struggles, and our sins. We are not perfect which is why we go through these seasons of pruning. Let me tell you, even when you feel as though you are in the thick of it, God will never leave you. He has told me over and over that he is never leaving me and let me tell you, I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit even in my darkest moments. Trust the process and let God do the work he needs to in you. He will NEVER leave you.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

 

Entertaining Angels

My grandma would say, “Treat everyone with love and respect because you never know when you are entertaining angels.” And it wasn’t until years later (ok I’ll admit this year!) did I realize this exact phrase is in the Bible! My grandma knew the Bible like the back of her hand and I did not appreciate her knowledge until I grew older.

“Do not forget to entertain strangers for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2

When I was younger I did not understand this statement. I had heard about angels but didn’t fully believe they were actually real and around us. This was a concept my head could not wrap around. I was too much in my head. I was trying to think logically. I couldn’t see them, how could they be real? This is where faith comes in.

I have heard stories of people being visited by what they thought were angels. The more I learn about God and the Holy Spirit, the more I become curious and want to know for myself.

Grandma would tell us a story she claimed taught her faith and the provision of the Lord. One day, during the Great Depression, there was no bread for lunches when she and her siblings left for school. Their mother instructed them to come home for lunch, which she recalls was not a short walk. When they arrived at home, their mother still did not have anything for them to eat. At that moment there was a knock on the door and a man stood before them with a loaf of bread to advertise a new bakery in the area. Their mother came in the the house with her eyes full of hope, lifted up the loaf of bread and exclaimed, “The Lord will provide.”

Grandma would tell me this story when I was a little girl, but when she told it she would say the man at the door was an angel. She would say the Lord sent him to provide food for her family. You never know when you are entertaining angels! 

A Heavenly Language

Speaking in tongues was something that once terrified me, I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. I experienced people speaking in tongues in a disordered way, and I know this happens a lot in the church. People will speak out loud in different tongues when it should be a precious moment between you and God speaking to him in a heavenly language. Only and only if there is someone to interpret should you speak louder. This is clearly stated in the Bible and we need to obey and not scare people away. I know I am not the only one who was turned away from the ways of the Spirit because of people making a scene. It’s not about you. It’s about God. Don’t put yourself on this platform because you can make strange sounds with your mouth. These gifts should not be used to edify yourself, but used to glorify God. Too many people abuse the gifts and do not use them properly to build up the church. Here is what Paul says about speaking in tongues:

For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God…He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophecies edifies the church…Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me…For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says.” 1 Cor 14:2,4

I experienced an orderly way of someone speaking in tongues. I was sitting on a bed in between two of my friends. The friend on my left was praying in tongues and the friend on my right was praying in English. In that moment I felt as though one was interpreting what the other was praying. And I felt the presence of Holy Spirit in that moment. I was not afraid of the unfamiliar language I was hearing because one, it was coming from a trusted source, and two I was also hearing someone in a similar breathe praying in my native language.

A friend of mine and her mom both speak in tongues and at one point they were telling me to just start saying random words, and make up sounds and it would happen. Deep in my spirit I knew it wouldn’t. I felt God telling me it would happen but not in that moment. We can ask God for things and he will give it to us, but our hearts need to be in the right place and ready to receive and in that moment I was not ready. 

6 months later I was lying on the floor in Thailand in the presence of the Holy Spirit, God had used me to pour out his spirit and baptize others in the Holy Spirit and then he flattened me on my back. As I was laying there I was praying and it happened. Unfamiliar words were coming out of my mouth and I started laughing and crying! It was happening. This occurred after I had obeyed him by praying over his children and showing them a God they had never met, introducing them to Holy Spirit and then God gave me a gift, the gift of tongues. And I wasn’t speaking loudly, no one else could hear me. I was having a conversation with God in a different tongue. It was a precious moment between me and my heavenly Father.

(This is an excerpt from my book “A God You’ve Never Met” which is still in the process of being written.)

(In Thailand worshiping with the Thai and Burmese Refugees.)

GRADUATION DAY

Graduations are in process now at Universities, Colleges, Tech Schools and High Schools.  This is a life changing event filled with hope for the future. For most it is a step to further learning and degrees that will secure good income to support their families.  It is a big accomplishment, and I offer my congratulations to you and your family members for pursuing and completing that dream.

college-graduationThe dictionary offers one definition that works for this writing today: to change gradually or by degrees.

As I reach my 75th birthday I can honestly tell you that life is a learning process.  Oh boy, is it ever!!!   We can all identify with that fact!  The struggles….the victories!  The sad times…the happy times!  But, that’s what learning is.  If everything was easy we wouldn’t learn from a failed test.  Failing isn’t all bad because we can learn from our mistakes and improve our grade the next time there’s a test!!!

Have you noticed……life is a classroom of tests.  And the Unchanging Teacher is God through His Holy Spirit, and the text book is His Word….The Holy Bible.

The Book of Proverbs is full of wisdom.  In fact it says to not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight; preserve, keep sound judgement and discretion, and they will be life for you.   Wisdom is found in those who take advise.

King David says in Psalm 19:73…….Give me understanding to learn your commands.  And Job 34:4 says ….. we should discern for ourselves what is right, and learn together what is good.

Well….if wisdom is found in those who take advise, let me give you some advise, since I am a white-headed elder who has come through years of “gradual change”!!!

Read…study God’s Word so that you may learn wisdom and understanding at the Highest Degree.

LOOK FORWARD TO THAT GREAT GRADUATION DAY WHEN YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER SAYS “WELL DONE GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT…..ENTER IN TO THE JOY OF YOUR SALVATION”.

YOU CAN’T GET A HIGHER DEGREE THAN THAT ! ! !

Are You Honoring Your Body?!

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” 1 Cor 6:19-20

Are you taking care of the body God has given you? Are you honoring God with your body?

We have been given a gift and many of us are abusing that gift.

Your body is something you should love and care for and yet we are doing the opposite. Many of us hate how we look and feel. We struggle with body image. We stand in front of the mirror and a rush of negative thoughts come flooding in our minds. We expose too much and do not respect ourselves. We stuff our faces with unhealthy food that makes us feel sick. This is not what God intended when he gave us this gift.

Do you know that God sees you as fearfully and wonderfully made? He calls you beautiful and his child. We need to take a step back and look at ourselves as God does. We need to start loving ourselves and flooding our minds with positive thoughts. Once we love who we are, where we are we can honor God.

How do you honor someone?

Honor means “high respect”

Are you respecting God by treating your body, the gift God gave you which you do not deserve, with respect? Are you feeding it the proper nutrients? Are you exercising and moving to strengthen and support your muscles? Are you drinking water? Are you looking at yourself in the mirror and telling yourself how beautiful you are?

These are ways you can show God and yourself respect. Start taking ownership of the temple God has given you here on this earth.

I am on my own journey to love and respect my body to honor God. I am learning to love myself the way I am, but to also take action to live a healthy lifestyle so that the body God has given me is in the most optimal condition. If you think about it, when you feel good and look good you tend to be more confident. You tend to step out, take risks, love others and most importantly love yourself. I am not saying you need to be skinny to be happy, you need to love yourself in your own skin and make good decisions based on what you feel God wants you to do.

This journey I am on I am not doing alone. God is with me every step of the way. He continues to tell me how important my health is and it is becoming very important to me as well. God is giving me his eyes to see myself the way he does.

I have had multiple dreams in the past month (and I don’t normally remember my dreams). In each dream I look fit, strong, and healthy. I know in my dreams this represents not only my physical health but also my spiritual and emotional health. I believe God is showing me what it looks like to be at my best. The way He created me to be- strong and confident. And in these dreams I am living out my calling as a life coach.

How are you going to honor God with your body this week?

Let’s be on this journey together!

Nikki'sBirthday-67

Choose Joy

Last week a friend and I got together and I had worship music playing in the background. She was talking and sharing with me all that God had been doing in her life recently. She was in such awe of God and how he had been providing for her and showing up in unexpected ways.

As she was sharing with me I felt God say, “Praise me. Thank me. Worship me.” I stopped her and said, “God wants us to praise him and thank him for his goodness.” I turned the worship music up and little did I know what would happen next.

We were sitting on my couch worshipping God and I felt so at peace. I prayed aloud praising and thanking God for all he has done for us and she did as well. After praying I got hit with laughter. I began laughing uncontrollably. I was laughing so hard I was crying. Shortly after I began laughing, my friend sitting next to me began laughing as well, so hard she was crying. Every time I would touch her, I laughed even harder. The Holy Spirit was in the room and present in both of us!

As I was sitting and laughing God was telling me things. He told me

“I have big plans for both of you.

“Trust me.

“Keep your focus on me and I will show you where to go next.

“I know the desires of your heart.

“Trust me.”

It was beautiful! Although I was laughing I felt such peace and comfort.

Last night this same friend and I were talking and she was sharing with me that she has been experiencing so much joy and she doesn’t want it to ever leave her.

I asked her this question, “What are you doing now that is causing you to experience that joy?”

She answered with, “I am praising God no matter what and thanking him and keeping my focus on him.”

I responded, “Well, joy is a choice, and when you feel like you have to choose joy more than ever at a certain point, do the things you are doing now. Praise God, thank God, and keep your focus on him.”

I say this to you as well. Joy is a choice. You must choose joy every day. No one can do that for you. It is your responsibility. If you are struggling with choosing joy, praise God in the midst of the storm, worship him, put on worship music and sit in his presence. Allow the Holy Spirit to touch you. It’s not scary, it’s comforting, and renewing!

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

choose-joy

Walking in Freedom part 2

About a month ago in March, I went on a mission trip to Mexico with my church. We went into Tijuana to work with our church plant and share the great news about Jesus and the new church.

I had no idea what to expect on this trip.

No one did.

God moved in ways I couldn’t even come up with!

I feel there are multiple steps to be able to walk in freedom. The first one I mentioned in my blog “Walking in Freedom,” which to summarize is to allow Jesus to enter the place of shame or guilt or anger or whatever it may be and picture him there with you. I did this for a certain area of my life and recently Satan tried to bring me back to that place again, but I pictured Jesus grabbing my hand and walking me out of the situation. It was freeing.

The other part to freedom, I feel, is surrendering all that you are to God and letting him come into every crack and filling it. I experienced this for the first time when I told God out loud “I SURRENDER EVERYTHING TO YOU!” And then I experienced so much joy that I began to laugh and rock back and forth uncontrollably. It was incredible and very freeing.

My friend Brea has been deaf in her left ear her entire life of 25 years. She has been praying for God to heal her because she believes he can. In Mexico, God said, “Now is your time.” Brea went up to the pastor during worship and told him her story. He began praying for her and I felt I needed to go up and pray for her too. Me, the pastor and other girl named Rachel were laying hands on her and praying for her. The power of God was so mighty and powerful that she was bent over as the pastor was laying hands on her ear. He told her she had something inside of her that was holding her back so he prayed healing and freedom over that area of her life. She fell on her knees and we continued to pray for her. Rachel was praying over Brea in her left ear, and Brea told her to pray again. Brea began to scream and exclaim, “I CAN HEAR! I CAN HEAR!” And we all jumped up, started cheering and crying and praising and giving glory to God!

 

God healed her!

 

She said before she heard Rachel pray in her ear, she heard God say to her, “You are my child.”

That is walking in freedom. Free from the bondage.

God wants to free you from bondage. He wants you to walk in the freedom he has given us.

“And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Cor 3:17-18

IMG_3189

(Me and Brea in Mexico)

KEEP THE MAIN THING…THE MAIN THING!

We all come from different backgrounds.  We are a diverse generation with differences in social, cultural, economic, political and religious thoughts.  Our world has become smaller in that we are able to see and try to understand the ways of the many people groups.

The difference for those of us who believe in the One True God is that we know there is only one way to Him and that is through His Son Jesus Christ.   Many arguments begin at the mention of that truth because the influence of many world religions have caused us to wonder….are there other ways to redemption and everlasting life?  To convince another person of the only way truth is difficult……because the Holy Spirit has to do the work in each individual heart.

My point today is, that you and I as believers in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the redemption of our sins should not get into arguments.  What we must do is live the life as a witness to the life-changing power of Jesus.  To be ready at any time to show and speak (if that is what the Holy Spirit is prompting you to do) to someone about how they, too, can have salvation through Jesus the Savior.

Colossians 4:3-6 “…..pray for us too, that God may open the door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ,……..pray that I may proclaim this clearly, as I should.  Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders, make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

As you all probably know US Supreme Court Justice Scalia passed away suddenly a couple weeks ago, and now we wait to see who will be appointed to take his place.  It is a big deal because he was a conservative vote.  (Pray that the new appointee is a person who seeks God’s wisdom and stands for morality and ethical Biblical principles.)

What impressed me most about Judge Scalias’ funeral is what his son, as the officiating Catholic Priest said……..”We are gathered here because of one man.  A man known personally by many of us, known only by reputation to even more.  A man loved by many, scorned by others.  A man known for great controversy and for great compassion.  That man, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth.  It is He whom we proclaim!”

How’s that for KEEPING THE MAIN THING……THE MAIN THING?  What a witness to thousands of people.  That is an example of how to be ready in any circumstance to make the most of every opportunity!

DSC_0434a

God bless you today as you strive to be like Jesus, and to be His witness in every area of your life. Not easy, but doable if you continue to learn about Him and submit your life to Him. We are all on this journey…..we support and pray for one another.  I am not perfect….but at my age, and for the past 69 years (I was 4 when my Mother led me to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ) He’s still workin’ on me!!!!!

When Heaven and Earth Collide

On Thursday I was worshipping during a corporate worship service and I felt as if heaven and earth were colliding. It was the feeling as if things of heaven were coming down to earth and all the saints were in one room together along with angels. The presence of God was so overwhelming in the room that I was flat on my face lying on my stomach on the floor.

While I was lying on the floor worshipping there was a presence of someone else worshipping with me. Yes, there were many other people physically in the room, but I felt as if someone was with me spiritually. It felt as though someone I dearly love who went home to Jesus about 6 years ago was with me. That presence was my dear Grandma! It was beautiful. I felt as though my grandma and I were worshipping our God together! I had tears of joy streaming down my face. She and I were laughing together and singing praises to our Savior. The moment was wonderful and I didn’t want it to end.

I know for a fact my grandma is in heaven and I believe God gives us gifts from heaven like visits from the ones we love who have gone before us.

This is not the first time my grandma has visited me. Almost exactly a year ago I had a dream that was so vivid I felt as though my grandma was in the room with me. She told me she was sent from God to bring me reassurance and hope.

Before my grandma’s visit last week, I was missing her and wishing she was with me. I want to talk with her so badly about all the things God is doing in my life. I want to sit down over a cup of coffee and have a conversation about Jesus. Even though I cannot physically see her or give her a hug, I was reminded on Thursday that she is with me. She is seeing all that God is doing in my life, and we shared a special moment together in the presence of God. What an incredible gift!

DSC07508

Hillsong has a song called “Heaven and Earth.” The chorus is

Heaven and earth collide
The Savior for everyone has come
Bringing the dead to life
All for the glory of Your name

This is so true! The savior for everyone has come. He came to this earth and is alive in heaven. He brings the dead to life, which is true in many ways, but in this case, my grandma “died” on earth, but is alive in heaven with Jesus! And I was able to experience her being alive to bring glory to the name of Jesus. He is the only reason why I was able to worship with my grandma and see her in a dream.

I hope this is an encouragement to you! That you will experience heaven and earth colliding. Worship God, give thanks to him, praise his holy name, ask for an encounter with him, and you will experience the greatness and glory of the Lord on earth as it is in heaven.

 

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1: 18-19

 

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.” Matthew 6:9-10