The Chocolate Milk “Martini” (Shaken, Not Just Stirred)

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  Romans 10:12

Now, I have zero experience—and about an equal disinterest—in the art of bartending, but I’ve always liked Sean Connery’s cool rendition of James Bond.  I do remember that 007 liked his martini “shaken, not stirred.”  While I’ve always kind of rolled my eyes at that line, thinking it was just the smug order of a man who liked to believe his preferred method of doing things was superior, I may actually be getting the science of it this morning. Perhaps not with an alcoholic beverage, but something actually available in my kitchen cabinet: chocolate milk.  Humor me…I know sometimes I draw weird analogies, but there’s always a nugget of truth in here!

Too many times as believers, we’ve been stirred but not shaken, not changed if you will.  Stirred like cold clumps of powdered chocolate milk mix floating round and round in the top of the glass but not dissolving.  Could it be that as soon as we “feel” God’s presence, we often go no further… and so we just stay on the surface, going around in circles?  How do we get beyond just a momentary experience, to become strong, powerful, victorious believers?

I’m Pentecostal, teethed on the church pews.  I love the tingly, goose-bump feeling of a good worship service or a time of extended prayer-closet time when the Lord chooses to allow a tangible refreshing to come…but I also know that this feeling alone is not enough to sustain me in an attack of the enemy.  I saw a dear loved one wrestle with this for years, who felt that unless there was a shouting, jubilant feeling in every single church service, the Lord wasn’t really present and that it was just “dry.”  That person didn’t realize that many times the Word of God comes without a warm fuzzy feeling; and so there was power that essentially lay untapped because it didn’t “feel” powerful.   The result was a lifetime of going for the “fix” of another good feeling, then being terrified of having to go more than a day or two without another chance to experience the shout because that was this person’s only assurance that God was present.  Feelings pass…so unless what you’re feasting on has the ability to carry you beyond an ecstatic moment, it won’t help you live a victorious life when you’re outside the walls of the church.

Bible study’s not usually a shouting, in-the-zone experience, but you need Bible study as much as you need the energetic atmosphere of a lively praise service.  The Word will change you…what you think, what you do, what you say, and it will remain embedded in your heart regardless of what you feel.

How many times have you heard it said, “Boy, the preaching was sure good today!”  And when you ask the person what the sermon was about, the response is something like, “I don’t remember, but the preacher was sure on fire!” I’ve probably been guilty early in my Christian walk of saying the same thing…thinking I got fed because the service was exciting.  We need the fire, yes; we absolutely need the outpouring of God’s Spirit with signs, wonders, miracles.  How we need it.  But we must also take care that we’re not as the crowd which Jesus scolded for seeking nothing but a sign.  We must not just be after the loaves and fishes. The Word is the REAL take-away.  We must be willing to ingest His Word and allow it to go deep into our lives; to get in ALL OUR BUSINESS and to root out all doubt, all bad attitudes, and all those things about which we get so on-the-defensive when the Word shines a light on them.  I wonder, when the prophet Amos spoke of a coming famine of the hearing of the Word of God, could we ourselves be living in a state of starvation when we seek merely the emotional experience, and stop short of feeding on His Word?

Listen, all the previous shouts in my life were not what brought me through the agonizing months of healing from our wreck.  When we went through the season where the residual effects of my husband’s severe head injury were at their worst, I flat-out had to fight to keep my sanity.  THE ONLY THING that got me through was the Word.  The Word, echoing God’s will back into my ears.  The Word, giving me something to speak against the attack of the enemy.   The Word coming out of my mouth, when I didn’t “feel” one flicker of hope in what I was speaking.  The Word, like a hammer whose repeated blows would shatter the obstacle over time instead of in one big, explosive moment.  I couldn’t do spiritual warfare with a mere feeling or a previous emotional experience…but when I spoke the Word, it was effective and it brought the anointing to break the yoke.  When Dana lay hallucinating in a hospital bed, tormented and angry and frustrated—sometimes he didn’t even know who I was—I would set the volume on low and play tapes of the reading of the Word, to drive away the evil spirits which tried to attack us even as we slept.

I pray today that all of us will experience both.  May we have those times when we dance, run, shout, cry, laugh, rejoice…we ought to be so happy to worship our Lord, after all He’s done for us!  But may we get, with that visible evidence of our gratitude, a deep rooting of the Word inside our spirit man.  Not unmixed clumps to be fished out of us with a spoon, but something shaken so well into us that it would be impossible to separate it from who we are.

We need God to mix it up in us.  Lord, shake us.  Mix Your Word so thoroughly into us that every single drop of what comes out of us contains You.  Don’t allow the contents to settle in the bottom, or float on the surface, but a through-and-through, lasting elixir of Your abundant life.

If you live in Me [abide vitally united to Me] and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.  John 15:7 AMP

©2012  Lisa Crum

The Sweet, Chewy Center of Peace

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)

Remember the line in the movie, “Forrest Gump,” when Forrest is sitting on the bench with the lady sharing the highs and lows of his life story, and he says, “Life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re going to get?” It makes me think of when Dad would buy one of those big off-brand boxes of assorted chocolate candies at Christmastime, and my brother and I would raid it.  I remember one time we got in trouble because Mom discovered that every piece of candy in the box had a thumb indent in the bottom, where we’d pushed the chocolate in to make sure we weren’t choosing one of those icky pink, green, or beige-colored centers!  Well, after that, I became an expert at “divining” the caramel centers from the others—just by looking at them!  I could clear out all the caramels in one fell swoop!  Haha!

When we examine the above Scripture, it doesn’t read, “Ask God and He’ll say ‘yes’ to everything you request.”  No, it quite specifically lays a foundation for the prayer protocol.  There is a right way to bring our requests to Him.  But that next passage shows the guaranteed, sweet, “chewy” center hidden in the piece of chocolate:  PEACE…heart and mind-guarding peace.  I’m talking about a trusting, resting, courageous peace no matter what His actual answer to the request.  In one sense, peace IS our answer.  In fact, it may be the most important part.

In prayer, we can’t see the exact end result as we’re asking, but that’s where faith in His promises kicks in.  Faith comes from hearing the Word of God, so when we ask, we really need to know what His Word says about the particular need (or want) we’re addressing.  When we know the Word, we can then come to His throne equipped with what He’s already agreed to do.  As mature believers, we also need to come to the understanding that, when we ask for His intervention, we likewise surrender the steering wheel to His hands.  We may not get exactly what we want when we want it (and thank heavens that sometimes we don’t!  Oh, the foolish things I’ve asked for in my life!) , but our faith must lie in the truth that His answer to our prayer will be/is the RIGHT answer, not just what we’ve tried to orchestrate in our mortal minds.  Oh, there are those times when the outcome is exactly the way we’ve imagined, or it turns out exactly as prophetic word over your situation indicated it would be, but not usually.  His answer will never violate His Word, rightly divided and taken in context, but it may still vary from our actual expected outcome.  Knowing His goodness makes this not a scary or bad thing.

But let’s go revisit the answer to the prayers.   Sometimes the answer is, “No.”  Many times it’s, “Yes.”  Or, “Wait.” Or, “I have a better plan.”  Sometimes the answer doesn’t come right away, and sometimes we may feel it never came at all.  But a prayer brought to Him in faith, in the way He’s instructed us to approach Him, is never disregarded or unheard.  Only when we consider His immeasurable love for us and His infinite wisdom do we realize that, no matter His answer, it will be the very best path for our good.  The God Who sees the end from the beginning, Whose vantage point is certainly better than our own finite fields of vision, will not only give the right answer, but Romans 8:28 assures us that He’ll work all things together for our good—yes, even those things which aren’t in themselves “good.”

We all know that His answers to our requests vary according to His will and wisdom, but we may not understand the “why” behind them all.  Still, it changes the attitude and anticipation (and in my opinion, amps up our level of faith in the outcome), when, having made our request, we then deliberately receive His peace.  Remember, that peace guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  It lessens the pain of uncertainty while we’re in the waiting place, and it drowns out the voice of the enemy who would try to tell you that God will not answer your prayer, or that He’s playing roulette with your feelings.

Now, there are those times when the brake pedal fails, or something else sudden just causes us to cry out a desperate, “JESUS!”  He hears those one-word prayers too, and answers; but I challenge you, the next time you come to the Lord with your thought-out request, do what that passage suggests.  Come in the manner He’s instructed, but then after you have quoted back to Him what His Word says about your particular situation, give Him thanks.  And then, RECEIVE HIS PEACE.  The conclusion of your prayer might go something like this:

“Heavenly Father, I have come to you with my needs and desires, and I have spoken back to You what Your Word says about my situation.  Now, I receive Your answer in faith—faith that all the fine details will be worked out in the way YOU know will be best.  I trust You to order my steps, and in asking for Your intervention, I also surrender to Your final authority in this matter.  I trust You completely, and I believe that Your wisdom and love for me assures the very best answer to my prayer.  You have an awesome plan for my life!  As I wait for Your intervention, I now take upon me Your peace, which goes far above my understanding, and I allow it to guard my heart and mind while patience has her perfect work…and while You operate on Your divine timetable.  I am whole and entire, wanting for nothing.  Thank you for that peace, which I receive in Jesus’ name.  Amen”

 ©2012 Lisa Crum

(No) Left-Foot Braking

driver-traffic-safety-sign-nhe-14295_1000“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”  (Deut 6:5-9 NIV)

In tenth grade, in 1983, I won the Drivers Ed award.  Now,  I don’t think I won because I was necessarily the superior driver in our class…I’m pretty sure that it was because of the notebook.

Mr. Harold Jude was our teacher, and much to the disappointment of our young expectations, the greater part of our time wasn’t going to be spent actually driving; rather, it was going to be reading about driving.  Gee, it had looked so fun in junior high when we’d covetously watch the older kids behind the wheel of the student driver car, pulling off the parking lot to go who knows where–we just knew they were going to get cheeseburgers or skip classes or some other awesomeness.  What a shattered illusion!

No, the driving part would come later on—but for right now, our teacher was going to drill us over and over again on the rules of the road.  Part of that process was that Mr. Jude assigned us to do a notebook which would be turned in and graded, and it would count as a significant percentage of our semester.  At the end of each chapter was a long set of questions.  He would make us write the question and then write the answer in our notebook.  Well, Little Miss Perfectionist decided to go the extra mile, typewriting and color-coding my notebook on my old manual Remington typewriter  (a hospital dumpster dive rescue, and yes, you may laugh)…black for the questions, red for the answers.  I wore holes in the typewriter ribbon, but it got me an “A!”

At the time, I thought the notebook was a bit unreasonable.  But, an impatient teenager just wants to cut to the chase and hit the highway!  I realized down the road, however, that he was aiming for something other than eating up my free time with his homework assignment:  he was making sure that when we did actually get out there, those rules would be tattooed on our brains!  (Plus, Mr. Jude being tasked with the hard stuff like helping me not to freak out at sharing the road with coal trucks, parallel parking and the like, Dad would in turn only have to teach me how to drive a standard shift later without stripping the gears out of his little Ford Escort…which is a story for another time.)

Among other rules he drilled into our heads, Mr. Jude repeatedly said, “No left-foot braking.”  Now, I can’t remember whether it’s an actual code in the WV Drivers Manual, but I think the reasoning behind it was that in order to hit the brake, one would have to take the right foot off the gas pedal to engage the brake, thus preventing an accidental engine surge when the car needed to stop.  I can remember a hilarious incident where Mr. Jude had us in a big open field, where the Matewan Town Hall now sits and the Magnolia Fair is held, letting us drive around and round to practice.  One of my classmates which shall remain nameless was at the wheel that day, and she did exactly what he had told us not to do…and when she did, she stomped on the gas pedal instead of the brake and had us in a cloud of dust, barreling toward the river like a runaway train.  Those of us in the back seat knew we were goners.  Since the drivers ed car had dual controls, Mr. Jude stopped the car and cried out, “Now don’t…be…doing…that!”  I laugh every time I remember it, because I still hear it in his understandably rattled voice.  God bless him, he deserved the Drivers Ed award instead of me, just for agreeing to take on our bunch of greenhorns.

It was a hard habit to learn, right foot braking, but all this came to my mind yesterday as I glanced down and noticed that my left foot was tucked back against the car seat—something I had begun doing all those years ago to prevent that foot from creeping up to that brake pedal…just to keep my teacher from scolding me!  In trying to prevent being told I was doing it wrong, I inadvertently began doing it right!  

So what have rules about driving got to do with one’s spiritual life, much less life in general?  It’s actually a pretty good analogy.  If we don’t learn the rules of engagement, we’ll almost certainly try to do the right thing the wrong way.  That’s true whether we’re learning to drive, play an instrument, develop any kind of life skill, and yes, grow to maturity in our Christian walk.  Somewhere along the way, while going over those questions and answers over and over in this notebook assignment, I became a better driver before I was even entrusted with a set of keys.  Interesting, huh?  Going over and over the Scriptures throughout my life has sure helped me live a lot better, too.  Oh that I’d followed them in every situation I’ve encountered!

Sometimes when I read the Bible, particularly the Old Testament when God was setting forth His laws to His children in the wilderness, I marvel that He would even have to tell them (and us) not to do some things.  In fact, some acts seemed to violate common sense even before they hit the sin category…such as God telling us we shouldn’t commit bestiality or murder.  Yet, the Lord has always known that we humans, when left to our own devices, will go and do what defies even common sense.  Romans 1 is a good New Testament example. Was He trying to insult our intelligence when He was so specific about the do’s and don’ts?  Of course not.  He just knew that humankind’s tendency is to let soul override spirit in the decision-making process.  An unsanctified soul will always pair up with its cohort, the unsanctified body, unless the Word is alive in our spirit man and drawing our head knowledge toward the spiritual rather than the carnal.

Sex within marriage?  Not a sin.  Sex outside marriage?  Sin.  Left-foot braking…taking something which is right and going about it all wrong.  The right foot’s still on the gas and the left foot’s trying to hit the brake, and we slam into the guardrail…assuming of course that there even is a guardrail.  The curve may be steep and cliff may be high…if all we get are a few dings and dents and a higher insurance premium, we’ll be getting off easy.  We may wind up, however, with an unplanned pregnancy, jealousy or difficulties in marriage or later relationships, a soul tie with someone we can no longer stand, AIDS or some other dreaded disease.  And worst of all, we’ve just sinned against God and against our own bodies.

That’s just one instance of left-foot braking.  What about our other appetites?  One cookie turns into a whole pack.  A craving for momentary satisfaction turns into a violent addiction.  A few dollars from the cash drawer, with an intent to pay it back, later becomes a regular practice of “borrowing”  followed by a jail sentence for embezzlement.  Why?  Because the flesh will never say, “No” or “Enough.”  The flesh will never say, “Deny yourself” or “Wait” or “Do the right thing.” The flesh-driven soul reasons that although it may have gone terribly wrong for someone else, it won’t happen to you.  You can control it.  You can quit any time you want.  Right?  Wrong.

The truth is, we need a rule book.  We need God’s Word to tell us what to do, how to respond, how to pray…and when we mess up, how to recover.  Personally, I’m glad that God has made life an open Book test, with all the answers where we can freely access them.  When we regularly talk about them, write them, rehearse them, they become ingrained in our thought pattern.  We may have temptations, but when we choose to use our spirit—our right foot if you will—to accelerate and to do the braking too, we’re so much more likely to please our Teacher.  And when we’re trying to do the right thing, grace is that second brake pedal on His side of the car.  He is well able to keep us from falling, or in this case, crashing.  And I’m so thankful that for all the times I’ve failed miserably, not once has He stopped loving me.

Makes me want to get it right…how about you?

©2012 Lisa Crum