To Follow = To Go

Today I’ve been discussing the scriptures with my nearly 70 year old friend, Vern…Adam and Eve, Ananias and Saphira, the resurrection, the road to Emmaus, the resurrection of the saints, the man of the Gaderenes who was set free from Legion. Quite the conversation.

As we talked about that last one, the man who was set completely free, something occurred to me. His instinct was to cling to the one who set him free. He literally begged Jesus to let him follow him as he left.

“As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him.”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭5:18‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Who can blame him? I would too! I’d never want to leave Jesus’s side after that miraculous moment.

But Jesus had a superior idea. Doesn’t he always.

“But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.””

‭‭Mark‬ ‭5:19‬ ‭NLT‬‬

His devotion to his Savior would not be shown by simply following him around, as admirable and understandable as that may seem.

The better idea was for this healed man to go home. It was to tell the people who knew him before, even in the face of disbelief, what had just happened. It was to proclaim to old friends, mockers, family and townsmen the outrageous mercy of a man like no other man – this man called Jesus.

I also see Jesus saying the same thing in John 4 to the Samaritan woman as he sat there with her by a well.

“The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone…So the people came streaming from the village to see him.”

‭‭John‬ ‭4:28, 30‬ ‭NLT‬‬

What does it mean to follow him today? Like the man set free of his demons and the woman set free of her shame, we don’t have the privilege of following him around physically from place to place. But remember this: later, he said, “it is better that I go, so that the comforter can come”. It is better for us, he said, because we have the gift of his comforting, guiding, convicting and sweet Spirit…24/7. And it is BECAUSE we possess this gift in us, we can truly follow him.

As we spend peaceful pockets of time with him in secret places, bursts of worship, or as we dive into the sacred and ancient text…we are filled with his truth and revelation. And then we have the opportunity – no, commission – to GO.

Go and tell your old friends, mockers, family, the downtrodden dredging about your town. GO and tell even those whose bony fingers and cutting slander pointed your way. Tell as many as you can, of all that Jesus has done for you. Look to recent events. Don’t just pull the biggest miracle from the timeline of your existence and tell of that…expand it! A recent testimony will bring a depth of vulnerability and relevance, and will have more impact than you can imagine.  

What did he do THIS WEEK?! This month? 

HOW was he merciful to you? 

WHAT did he free you from? 

Take a few moments, pray and inventory this last week or month. Jot down what you got, then shoot a video, write a post or simply go out and tell it to anyone and everyone. The personal (your own) first-hand story of redemption will boost belief in the hearers. I promise. It may not be evident in the seen realm, but keep doing it. It is what is revealed I the unseen that truly matters.

  
This is how we let faith arise.

To tell is not to follow. But I’m beginning to think one cannot truly be a follower without a consistent, uncensored personal telling of the goodness and mercy of this man 

called Jesus.

He Would Not Believe

2/2/16:

Our next door neighbor has chosen today to die. He is using assisted suicide, I’m sure to make it easier on his wife as she navigates the difficulties and grief of caring for him at home, during his final stage of ALS.Last week, I thought to visit, thinking it was the day he chose to pass. Someone had misinformed me. It was the day he chose to die…10 days later. So I got to see him, touch his shoulder, talk to him and ask him questions. And listen to his responses come out of a speaker across the room. I watched his eyes focus on letters on a screen attached to his wheelchair, and slowly make words. Half of which he did not intend to make. But the ones he did intend were, “i’m ok”, “Julie is nice to me”, and “no pain”.
As I took the hint that it was time for me to leave, knowing that they were against “religion” and prayer of any kind, I had to ask him, “would you like me to pray for you?” I would have quoted from memory as best I could, Romans 10:9, and thanked our God for his immense love for this man. But as soon as “…pray for you?” came out of my mouth, his head shook, no. I looked up, to see his wife’s head already shaking no, as if to imply, “don’t even try. It’s useless”.

My prayer would have to be spoken in my spirit.

It was an awkward walk back to the front door. But we hugged, and she did thank me.

I’m learning…It is an especially sad thing to experience someone’s outright rejection of God… Utter disbelief in his love, in their final days of life.

My only prayer, borrowed from a close friend,would  be for an angel of God to visit him in his last day – his last moments here on earth. And in those moments, his heart would become soft and humble and he would believe.

Ricky, Public Speaker Extraordinaire  

This week my Ricky was asked to speak on Sunday to singles at church, on Wednesday to his largest crowd yet (close to 300?) to current students, faculty and alum at our old High School, Westside Christian, as an “Honorary Alum”, and then on Friday to 22 murderers at the Oregon State Correctional Institution. What a range!

He also got word of a Wash.Co. Drug Court participant who wrote a paper on HIS book, PCS & PHD, quoting parts of it that meant a lot to him in his journey toward sobriety and rehabilitation and success in life. Seems like he even quoted Proverbs from each chapter of Rickys book without even realizing that they were from The Bible. Hope is Hope and when God anoints it, it changes hearts. So much hope being released in Jesus’ Name. So, so proud of my husband.

   

    
    
 

The email from Ricky about the Drug Court participant is as follows:

 First, know I’m not tooting my horn :)
Everyone in Drug Court has to write a short paper on something they’ve learned in Drug Court before they can Phase to the next level (5 Phases total). 
This guy chose to write his paper on my PCS&PHD book. He’s not a Christian but he loves my book and shares it with people. I’m not sure he knows the “quote references” in my book are from Proverbs but he’s still getting the Word! 
There are so many different ways we can mentor/disciple people. Don’t underestimate yourself!!! :)
Read below for the letter he submitted to the court to move to Phase 3:
503-505-0995 • http://www.rickyrussjr.com
Begin forwarded message:
From: Stephen M

Date: December 21, 2015 at 10:01:21 AM PST

To: “abcruss@gmail.com” <abcruss@gmail.com>

The book I chose to read and relate to my life is PCS & PHD written by Ricky Russ
Each chapter in this book I’ve already used and can use in the future to help me in my recovery and lead me to positive choices and outcomes in my everyday life.
Chapter 1. Yesterday

Ive never liked to focus on what can’t be done, rather what can be accomplished. Not to say being realistic isn’t important in recovery it is. However when taking advice, especially from someone in a mentor role I seem to get much more out of a positive approach, rather then someone telling me I can’t do A,B or C because of my past. I realize I have to be responsible for my past and the the things I’ve done but the longer I let that dictate my future the longer it takes to get back to where I belong.”Fear based decisions have a shelf life. Their results are short term,whereas hope-based decisions bring life”. I’ve been given some tools to deal with the things I’ve done and put people through in my past. I’ve learned that as long as I remain true to myself and make that next right choice good things will come. “The wicked are edgy with guilt, ready to run off even when no one’s after them; Honest people are relaxed with confidence bold as lions(28.1). “There will always be those who mistake your confidence for attitude. Stay humbly bold. The author also mentions “Transparency” in this chapter something that is encouraged in drug court. I feel me being an addict this is so important. I need to be open and honest with myself and the people in my support group in order to remain on even ground.
Chapter 2. Today

What I take out of this chapter is that I have to surround Myself with positive influences. My environment is essential in continuing to grow and form positive relationships. “If your serious about discovering all thats inside you, you’ll find a place to do so. Find people and places that strengthen your plans”. I also take out of this chapter the importance in time management and being prepared. If I want to be successful and be able to deal with the problems in my life that will come up, and they will, I have to be willing to go the extra mile even in the things I sometimes don’t want to do. “Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you farther behind.”(14.24). 
Chapter 3. Tomorrow

I take out of this chapter that while technology is great, and should be used, theres a lot to be said for good old fashion do it yourself education. I should learn from my elders, take advice from those who have, been there, done that. I should listen more and not be afraid to ask for help.”The wise accumulate knowledge-a true treasure; know-it-alls-talk too much-a sheer waste (10.14).
Chapter 4. Haters

This chapter is Important for me and my recovery. I use to take things personal, and ill admit i still do ,this is something I continue to work on daily. However its up to me how I react and their opinion doesn’t change who I am or where I’m going . “The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that(29.25). This part of the book also helped me realize how important discipline is.”Discipline produces something that cant be bought”. I have to be disciplined in my everyday choices to stay on the path of remaining clean and sober. 

Chapter 5. Advice
I learned that advice comes in all forms. I don’t have to like what advice is being given or the person giving it ,however I shouldn’t disregard it I should always consider it and try and use it to better myself. ”Although spite isn’t the best motive for not doing wrong it can work. If you choose to put “spite” in the passenger seat, be sure to let respect and honor ride in the back seat as well”. Im working on listening to any advice that comes my way because my ego and closed mind has caused me to miss out on a lot of good advice I should of taken. ”Simpletons only learn the hard way, but the wise learn by listening”(21.11).

   
    

What To Do With Anger

I was angry about something and ranting just before I went to sleep. The more I talked about what made me mad, the madder I got! I actually put my hot head on my pillow and fell asleep right after that. But the Holy Spirit must have had other plans. I believe it was He who woke me up a half hour later to tell me, that’s not how to deal with anger, as a child of God who is filled with and led by His Spirit. I got this strong impression in my mind, to pray about that issue before going back to sleep.It took longer than I thought it would, for me to humble myself enough to bring it up in prayer out loud to the Lord. Part of me wanted to let my rant be. And be ok with it. Some would call this “venting” (which to me, is usually a prettied-up word for gossiping or sinning in your anger. It’s like “Poopouri” -that sweet-smelling fragrance you spray on poop. Mask it up all you want…it’s still poop).

Well anyway, I was TIRED. I wanted to go back to sleep! 😴 Not the best motivation to pray, I’ll admit. But He knew it’d work.
So I took Ricky’s hand and told him what was going on in my (renewed) mind – the mind of Christ. And I prayed through it for a few minutes.

Praying did two things for me in that moment of anger:

1.) it dug out any prideful, worldly or self-righteous attitude-weeds that were telling me I have the right to express my anger without involving Jesus or inviting him into it to help me deal

2.) it joined me together with my sweetie as we sought the Lord together to ask him to calm my heart and trust him to help me with the root issue of why I was mad, and give me wisdom 

3.) OK…3 things. It put me back to sleep in seconds, like spiritual melatonin!

Thank you Jesus, for leaving your Spirit here with us after you ascended. Thank you for convicting us and helping us process through our anger. We know we can ALWAYS go to you cause you’ve been through it all, + WAY more. You’re so amazing.

Family Photos from the Fall 2015

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
 

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
 

   
    
   
   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
 

The Gratefulness Shift

It was the year 2001 – one of Rick’s crappiest years ever. He was fired from a job he’d been working for over a year (a while for him); fired because there was missing inventory – an accusation – and a false assumption it was him. His employer eventually confessed, but it was too late. A few months later, he was arrested and jailed for 3 days for possession and distribution of a controlled substance – crimes of which he was not truly guilty. He enrolled in college that fall, but never started. He just didn’t know what he would do with his life. Finding work was impossible.
When Thanksgiving came, and the family decided to go around in a circle and name one thing we were each thankful for, it seemed like a great idea. There’s always the default answers, “family” or “friends”, but when it was Rick’s turn, he didn’t even say, “pass”. It was worse than “pass”. It was his turn and he looked up and said, “Nothing. I’m not thankful for anything.” As his wife of 4 years, I sat there in disbelief, “What?” I thought, and immediately took offense. “My life sucks” he said, and at that, I walked quickly out of the room looking for another room where I could weep. But I wept for him too. Everything shifted and awkward silence gave way to sadness in that living room. His ungratefulness was enough to change the entire holiday that night. 
What did we expect? He was a candid man. It was his first reaction – his gut response to every unjust, humiliating or frustrating event 2001 sprayed in his face. He was trying to live a right life, a life for God, but it was so incredibly difficult.
What does God expect? What does he want from me in the middle of a crazy season, stress, an argument? How does he want me to react? Can I vent my frustration? Should I discipline my child? Should I file a complaint? Cry for a loss? Scream in anger?

Perhaps.
But first… It is his desire that I give thanks. 

Even if it makes zero sense. Even if it feels forced at first. The giving of thanks moves unseen obstacles, just as removing a large stone from a riverbed allows the water to flow more freely there. His Spirit is in a way, freer to move and bless the lives of his thankful ones.
Today that same man is a pillar standing tall for the transforming power of Christ. He’s in two men’s groups ~ one for Christian Businessmen and the other a Bible study led by a local district Judge. The same Judge that sentenced him, over 14 years ago. Rick now speaks at churches and prisons and mentors people in “drug court” with a message of hope and potential. He went from a newspaper-thrower to a self-taught entrepreneur with a web design and consulting business, he’s writing his third book and just invented an educational game. Do I need to say it? Gratefulness pours out of him! Every week at his men’s groups, he’s often the first to speak about all God is doing in his life. And it sets the atmosphere.

You know what? The Lord gave me a word in 2005, about Rick. Things at that point were a lot worse, but I remember writing this out in my bathroom. Job 42:12 – “So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning…” It was not just about Job. It was about my husband. What’s even more exciting to me, is realizing now that the second half of his life has just begun. And I get to be a part of every part of it.

Gratefulness paves a road in our hearts – a road that leads to worship. Worship full of respect and awe puts a huge smile on God’s face. And when he is pleased, his heart is often moved to bless.
So if I’m stuck in a job that is demeaning, demanding or distressing, if I’m feeling small or weak or not enough, if I believe that God is distant, or I’ve lost all control, there is one thing I CAN do. Believe me. It’ll shift the whole atmosphere…
I will give thanks.
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that can’t be shaken, let’s continue to express our gratitude. With this gratitude, let’s serve in a way that is pleasing to God with respect and awe…”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:28‬ ‭CEB‬‬
“Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:18‬ ‭CEB‬‬

Ken from Providence ~ Spirit’s on the Move!

Four days ago, Friday night, Sept.19, 15, Ricky and I had a date night. We drove an hour and 20 minutes to watch a screening of “Holy Ghost Reborn”,  the 5th film in a series of documentaries about the power of the Holy Spirit, directed by Darren Wilson. After the film, Ricky and I stood in line to be prayed over and blessed by the people of the church. My hands were turn upward I was singing in the spirit and I walked through this line with probably 20 people on both our left and right sides…blessing us with short prayers of impartation and kindness.

Two days ago, the Lord gave me an opportunity to pray for a complete stranger in my client’s doctor’s office lobby. He was in terrible back pain. After seeing him wince in pain as he sat down, I felt compassion and a strong urge to pray for him. So after his wife’s appointment was over, I followed the two of them out to the middle lobby and said, “Excuse me…Hi!” They both turned around. “I noticed you seem like you’re in pain. Can you tell me what happened?” After he told me his back pain stemmed from over-compensating for an injury of a 1.5″ tear in his rotator cuff, I said, “this might seem foolish, but would you let me pray for you for that?” They were both shocked but both overjoyed that I even asked. “YES!” So I did, just like how I’ve seen Todd White do it on YouTube videos and others on scenes from many of Darren Wilson’s movies.

Well, it took two prayers, (first it decreased from an 8 to a 5/10, then it was nearly GONE). Ken left that lobby almost completely healed. He bent clear over and touched his toes, with a smile on his face…not a wince. It was more than amazing. They let me take their photo and were talking excitedly as they left. 

THEN, when I got home a few hours later, a woman accidentally dialed my phone number, but I immediately thought – that was no accident. Before she hung up, I asked her if  I could pray for her for anything. And she said, “well…this is quite remarkable.” She had been struggling with back pain too, that came from (of all things) getting down on her knees to pray last week before her Bible Study began. “Isn’t that just like the enemy?” she asked rhetorically. I chuckled. Back pain, huh? It was like the Lord set me up perfectly to tell the story of how Ken was healed just earlier that morning. Her faith was elevated so much, she wanted to test her back out as soon as I was done telling it! But she did let me pray for her, right then, over the phone. Barabara, an old lady who called me “by accident” put her own hand on her back, listened with faith and then put the phone down to check her condition afterward…was completely healed as well. 

Isn’t that just like our God?! Ha! I shared with her Mark 16:16-20 and said you gotta go! You have a story to tell! “I certainly do!!” She exclaimed.

We have the same power and authority to bring healing and wholeness anyone, given to us by Jesus himself. All we have to do is believe it…and risk looking foolish. It’s a small measure of what I believe Revelation speaks of when John wrote on how we overcome: “…and to not love your own lives unto death”. 

One more thing! Here’s a message I just wrote to Ricky about last night when I prayed with Genese downstairs:

“I received a word from God that went along with one Kylie and Genese had, that we would not be ones to allow the premature death of anything – a movement, a dream, a revelation, an implementation of his plan…Because the environment is not nurturing and cultivating that. Let us recognize that we have much ability to control our environment, wherever we step foot, like the womb can be a safe or hostile environment nurturing or aborting the process of establishment, growth, and development. Are we allowing for the miscarriage of God’s directives? The cutting off of what he longs to do? 

Or are we intentionally being and becoming apostolic agents of the change and maturity of His purposes and plans? 

I for one, will not stand by idle in an environment hostile to the intentions of our Faithful and caring God. 

I want to … I will see His plans come to full-term, healthy and filled with joy and promise!”