THE WEAKEST LINK

 

A chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link, is an often quoted phrase which originated back in the 1700’s.  It is a truism which has stood the test of time. It is one that has been marinating in my head for a while. So, of course, I had to write about it. If for no other reason than to get it off my mind.

       

My research took me to the local Lowe’s. Chains come in all sizes and colors. Size is not an indication of the amount of weight a chain can carry or hold. A better indication of this is if the chain has been soldered.  When the links in a chain are soldered they are united/joined in a way that fuses them together without having  to melt the pieces down. Next time you are picking up an item at your local hardware store check out the chains. See if you can tell which has been soldered and which has not.

  

 

An article I read recently confirmed the aforementioned thought running through my head was indeed a topic warranting putting virtual pen to virtual paper. The author describes a normal life. One of seeing to the needs of those around them and growing in their faith sans bells, whistles and megaphones announcing all they are doing and learning. The blogger wasn’t seeking to have the spot-light on them. They weren’t developing their “future ministry”. They were attempting to be present and in the moment to minister where they were.

It got me thinking.

What if a missing link weakens a chain? What if, because of the no-where-to-be-found joint, the chain itself becomes unuseful. Continuing along the twists and turns of the tracks my thoughts run on, what if the soldering of that link was incomplete?  It might look sturdy, even strapping, but, when put to the test it would be found lacking, wouldn’t it?

When a link goes AWOL, its absence is noted almost immediately. Its presence is integral for the chain’s purpose and function. Each coupler supports the others.  The chain is strengthened when each link is present and accounted for.

I am guessing you are getting the analogy. When we are missing in our communities, homes, work places and other spheres of influence our absence is felt. When we are seeking to develop “our” ministry, careers, etc. over being present where we are, our absence causes a ripple effect across all those spheres. Opportunities are missed to grow and develop not only personally but, to help others do the same.

I am seeking to be present. I am finding it challenging. I know what I want and how it will look when it arrives or least … I think I do. Being present allows for sweet surprises along the way. If I am AWOL, I will regret missing those serendipitous moments. Guess how I know.

How do we stay strong and present and not become the weakest link? Great question. Here’s my heart’s response:  The LORD our God is One. Love the LORD your God, with all your heart, soul and mind and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.

Join me, won’t you?

~DP~

 

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RACHAEL’S STORY

I  had the privilege of walking with Rachael through a portion of her journey. I am honored to call her a friend. Redeemer is my favorite word for our God. She is truly an ornament of His splendor. DPH               Read on…

 

I never was good at relationships.  I had a lot to hide. I held people at a distance, afraid if they really knew me they would be disgusted, appalled, shocked and want to run. I was overly-concerned with what people were thinking about me.  Looking back, I was always striving to please and give an impressive presentation of myself suitable to the person I was deceiving.

I didn’t know who I was. I hated the woman I had become.

When I didn’t measure up to people’s expectations or even worse, my own… I would plunge myself into condemnation.  A shame so deep that it kept me in a cycle of addiction and performance for over 20 years. I couldn’t breathe. The panic and anxiety related to failure had stolen my breath. I was lifeless and looked like it.

Almost two years ago, I was at that place again… Smoking, drinking, homosexual, hopeless, suicidal, addicted, lying, stealing, trying to maintain, barely surviving and completely desperate.  I was headed for jail or rehab again. That’s usually where I ended up.  I just wanted to die. I would imagine and plan my death.

I believed in God. I was raised that way.  I was a Christian who couldn’t find God when I needed Him the most.  I remember laying in bed night after night crying out to God, sometimes begging in desperation and sometimes mad as hell. I tried everything to get His attention.

I heard in Job that if you cursed God you would die. I did. I didn’t die… at least not the way I thought I would.

Rock Hobbs from Transformation Ministries told me about a lady coming to speak to the prison ministry teams and recovery groups at Church of the Highlands and suggested I come hear her.  He said he could introduce me and maybe I could talk to her about what I was going through.  I went.  I was high and weighed less than 100 lbs.  This beautiful woman got up and she was glowing. She was excited about God. She was just on fire!  She gave her testimony about how God had radically saved her and delivered her from a 26 year addiction to crack and a life of prostitution.  And… How He had given her a vision to have homes for women in addiction and bondage to teach them how to live and be on fire for Jesus.  I could feel hope being birthed in my soul and tears started pouring down my checks.  She said, “If He can do it for me, He can do it for you!”  I believed that and I wanted it more than anything.  I met Dawn that night. The next day she said if I was serious about getting help, then I could come back to Daytona Beach with her and live in her Radical discipleship home for women.  I said, “Yes.”

Down at the house, I started learning about a relationship with Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit.  I wiped the slate clean of my mind and heart from everything I learned in Christian school, college and growing up in church. I asked the Father to teach me about His love for me. I began to die.  Sometimes it was instant and sometimes it was a process.  I’m still dying… it is so ugly and beautiful at the same time.  I can tell you I was instantly healed from all my addictions and had no withdrawals, which is a huge miracle.  The Lord started renewing my mind in His presence and with His word.  We spent a lot of time on our faces, hands and knees in the living room at 6am just listening to worship music, soaking in His presence and letting Him lavish His love on me.  It was different than anything I had ever heard of or tried.  One morning, in His presence I had a vision of Him. The Father was holding me as a baby, probably about a year old.  He had my head cradled in His hand. He was washing my hair with His other hand, and then He took a cup of water and rinsed my head. He bent down and kissed me on my forehead. Then my nose. Then right on my lips.  He said, “You don’t kiss other people’s babies on the lips, only your own flesh and blood.  You are mine!” That completely changed me.  That was my first time getting wrecked, completely undone in His presence by His touch and voice.  All of a sudden in an instant He was real and I was His.

As my old self continued to be exposed in order for it to die, my true identity began to come to life.  The Father started showing me how I am a precious, princess and all He wants is for us to spend time together.  He relates to me. He gets me.  He knows everything about me and has always been there and will be.  I am in awe-struck wonder of His love for me.  He has taken the limits off what He can do!  I have seen Him heal mental illness, addiction and restore families that were “beyond repair”.    He does miracles on a daily basis and impossible things are “normal” for me, as His beloved daughter and heir.

In Florida, I have a PIN number which gives me entry into every prison in the state.  I have ministered to the women on Florida’s Life Row ( death row, renamed by Dawn Adkins and the Holy Spirit).  God is so good!

I believe God has brought me back to Birmingham for Freedom.  Not only am I a carrier, but I am contagious.  The Father has some precious little ones here who are bound by addiction and performance and He has heard their cry, just like He heard mine.  He has given me a vision to open a home here so that women can have an intimate relationship with Him and learn how to live, “On earth as it is Heaven

 

A Bow in the Sky

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I didn’t want to go. I was following what I sensed was a gentle holy nudge. As I parked my car, I noticed a small crowd had gathered just outside the building I was dreading entering. They seemed to be delighting in something just over my shoulder. I turned. There it was. A beautiful view of 3/4 of a rainbow. A young friend informed me of its size. I immediately recalled His promise found in Genesis. Rainbows always remind me He is faithful to His promises. Seeing His bow in the sky never fails to be a serendipitous surprise.  He promised.  I gasped. I always do. I sensed He was up to something. But, what…

I entered the meeting skeptical. I have been to many of these types over the years and thought I knew what to expect. I even mentioned my years of experience to the pastor leading this gathering. As the evening’s events came to an end, the three folks sitting at my table chatted a bit. The lady to my right confessed she was 70. She didn’t look 70. I can only hope I age as well. She confided she had been in church most of her life. She recently realized she and Jesus didn’t know one another. She had just become a Christian and this was all so very knew to her. I could relate to her story. My own story is that of a recovering Pharisee. I was in church and a real good person but, I didn’t know Him. Knew about Him but, didn’t know Him. Walked an aisle at nine but, didn’t surrender to His wooing until my 30’s. Life is definitely messier now but, so much more joyous, loving and free. The young man to my left had just met Jesus. He was fully delivered of addiction the night he came to Jesus. Said he could feel the chains falling off of him. He and I shared similar giftings and personaltiy traits… God love him. He tends to have the gifting of speaking the right word at just the right time. Kind of prophetic, if you will. My new young friend who informed me of the size of the rainbow earlier, popped over to oooh and awe over the few pictures I captured of it. She also shared with the young man and myself she had been drawing rainbows all week. I mentioned how cool it was that God painted one for her on the canvas of His sky. She gave me a big hug. One of several I received from that 9 year old young lady. She also pointed out what I was calling purple was actually lavendar. The young man beamed, looked me in the eyes and commented, “The rainbow means the storm is over.” I knew, that I knew, that I knew in that moment I had indeed followed the holy nudge of the Spirit of the One True and Living God to that meeting. His words washed over my dry, weary and parched soul. My eyes began to puddle up to the rims with tears. I thought they were going to overflow their boundry and run down my cheeks. It was the “now” word I so needed to hear.

He promised. I cried. I almost always do.

~DPH~

Wear the T-Shirt

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I attend a Wednesday night prayer group my pastor co-leads. It is open to the entire congregation. One evening, before the meeting began, two of the attendees were having a conversation about road trips. The genisis of this conversation was the T-shirt one of them was wearing. The T-shirt wearing member was asked when he’d been to a particular watering-hole out West. Surprised, Mr. T-Shirt inquired as to how this person knew. She indicated it was by the T-Shirt he was wearing.  I delighted in the innocence and lack of self-awareness of my T-Shirt wearing friend. The inquiring friend was also unjaded in her question. She was genuinely interested in his travels.

I have been ruminating over their conversation for about a year now. I find a question keeps popping into my head: “What if we all wore out T-shirts to church?” What would they look like? What would they reveal about us and who we really are? What if we showed up in them without pretense, just as we are…where we are?

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Would we be as unaware, unashamed and welcomed as my friend was? Would we feel free and invited to join in praying for one another as my friend did? Believe me, when I tell you would want this six foot five inch +/- former marine and gentle giant of a man praying for you. What story would our T-Shirts tell of where we had been? Of how we got from there to here? 

Imagine what fellowship would be like if we all wore our T-shirts to church this Sunday…and every Sunday thereafter. Imagine the reconciliations which would take place. Imagine the restorations among families, friends and fellow Christ-followers. Imagine the healings on all levels and of all kinds taking place, just because we were our T-shirts. Imagine others, from outside the church walls, showing up in their T-Shirts.  Kinda sounds like revival doesn’t it?     Imagine….

~DPH~

ASCENT

I have been walking a particular path for almost 16 months.  In March of 2016, I received a measure of healing in my knee, which needs to be replaced. My life changed for the better. I now walk, on average, 14-17 miles a week. Not too shabby considering I haven’t been able to stand, much less walk, for any length of time on that knee prior  to its healing.

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Over the last 16 months, I have been surprised by what captures my attention on the walking trail. On an excursion about 9 months ago, I noticed a bend in the path I hadn’t seen before. This week I noticed the inclines on the track began earlier than I had realized. I walk backwards on these sections. It’s great for balance and exercises a totally different set of muscles. Plus it burns tons (slight exaggeration) more calories than forward walking. So I seek to begin the turnaround in my walk where the rise in the path begins. I discovered I have been listening to my breathing to judge when to change my mode of walking, rather than observing the road itself. Consequently, my backwards walking has markedly increased … as have my thoughts on ascent.

Ascension is not for the faint of heart. It takes endurance, pushing through pain and heavy breathing and consistency. There’s a rhythm to it… putting one foot in front to the other. Or, in my case, behind me. Rising to the crest on the path of one’s journey is as unique as the gait of the individual walking it. Not all ascents are the same. Some are steep and are happened upon suddenly. These rises can leave one startled and disoriented. Others are low in grade and deceptively long in reaching their peak. Low slow-to-rise grades can leave one confused and riddled with doubt about their ability to achieve the end so readily in sight. One can second guess themselves concerning whether they should have even started their ascent. These inclines also seem to go on and on and on… Each of these thoughts can be derailing.  Slivers of pebbles of unforgiveness, bitterness, loss of hope or joy, false pride, etc. can also be derailing. Be prepared to get those out from around the feet and in between the toes ASAP.

Ascension requires a bit of a visionary view, for the crest always seems be on the horizon. It is possible to be so focused on the achievement of the goal that the process is overlooked. Oh, the things we miss when we attempt to blaze past this mile marker on the trail. Often, the sweet surprises on the way up are the sole reason for our ascent.

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As I have journeyed on this passage way for the past 16 months, I have received clarification on a few things. (Many more are awaiting their epiphanies.) Some peaks on this beaten path called life will be attained this side of heaven. Some will not. Hence the need for a long-term perspective. So, don’t get tired of doing good. At the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up (Galatians 6:9). Stay the course.

~DPH~

Two Dogs, a Stick and a Fish

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It was the perfect day. I went fishing a few weeks ago. I haven’t fished in years. I was pleasantly surprised to discover I can still cast a decent line. As I mentioned, it was the perfect day. Cool spring-time 70 degrees in Alabama under a crystal blue sky. A gentle breeze was blowing which prevented overheating while waiting on “the big one”. Birds were singing. Bees were pollinating. I was in the company of a good friend and our granddogs. Life, this side of heaven, just doesn’t get much better.

One of the dogs loves to fetch sticks. He will bring his chosen branch and lay it near you. He will patiently wait for you to notice said limb needing to be thrown. You can feel the hole being bored through you if there is a delay in his play. He will pick up the stick and incrementally drop it closer to your feet until it is on top of them.

Oblivious to his plank resting atop my foot I  drank  in the surrounding scenery. I found myself wondering  what it was like to catch fish with a net the way Peter did in the Bible. I noted the birds singing, the bees pollinating…oh, look there’s a butterfly…. I was drawn back to my physical location by someone calling my name. My friend was asking me what was going on with my line. My line? Seems the way the bobber was bouncing around upon the water my 3 worm hook just might have snagged something. Something other than one of the several lost rods resting in the bottom of the lake. Present and aware, I began reeling “it” in. My friend called out to stop. Turns out most of my line was on the lake’s bank rather than on my reel.  The dogs and the chewed up stick were tangled in the line.

My friend took charge. He began to untangle that twisted mess while he fuss-cussed the dogs. He periodically asked them what they were thinking and logically pointed out to the animals the need to stay out of the path of fishing lines. With order finally restored, we resumed fishing.  The day’s fish tally was Friend: 1 Me:0.  This was pointed out to me later in the afternoon. I am due another fishing expedition, needless to say.

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The day’s events got me thinking… as Christians we are called to fish. Jesus’ call to Peter and Andrew was to follow Him and He would make them fishers of men. (Matthew 4:19)

There’s a whole lot more to fishing than just the ability to cast a line or a net into a body of water. We need the right equipment and the knowledge in how to use. We need to know the habitat and the depth of the water. We need to know just what type of fish we are fishing for. What is their favorite food? What is the best time and season to catch them? With all these elements in place and the line cast, we wait. All the while observing that line for the slightest tug of a bait-nibbling fish.

These thoughts led to a question: Do we, as Christians, take the same amount of time and care as we seek to reach those who don’t know Jesus as we do in catching a wiggly fish?

My friend’s faithful patient wait yielded a pretty bass. It was exciting to watch that beauty being reeled in.  There was a small celebration before his catch was released back into its home. That one fish was worth the mini trial of the day.

Let’s follow Jesus. Learn His ways in relating to people and catch some fish. There is to be a major party we will be celebrating for about one eternity called The Marriage Supper of the Lamb at the end of the day.  (Check out the book of Revelation) Imagine what it would be like to see a few people there whom you invited…

~DPH~

~DPH~

THOUGHTS ON PRAYER: A GIFT

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