The Hot Flame of Calling and of Gifts

Most of us have heard accounts of inventors, politicians, and book writers, among others, who despite repeated failures and agonizing vexation continued with their dabblings, their strivings, their speeches, their art . . .until finally the edgy, splintery pieces came together, and a starry thing of glorious success exploded into being. Sterling examples are President Lincoln who is perhaps the epitome of the person who scratches and claws through repeated adversity, but who rises to the top, along with Thomas Edison who, despite his startling inventions, has multiple failures to his credit. Take a look here at an astounding list of 100 famous book rejections. These accounts make for inspirational reading, and are unsurpassed fodder for motivational speeches and for casting vision by the leader who would urge forward his camp.

20140814-untitled (91 of 187)

Think, though, of the actual living through these trying processes when most working days of such men were struck through with failure, and with dark and dank frustration. Likely, cracks were snickered behind hands held to mouths, jests were whispered against turned backs, eyes were rolled, and muted conversations questioned the sense of the projects; and sometime along the way came an alteration to the old saw, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” and now the words bandied about were, “If at first you don’t succeed, stop; don’t make a fool of yourself.”

20140814-untitled (92 of 187)

Know, however, that within such men of success a creative spark burns that refuses to extinguish itself, and when the flame flickers and through the inky night threatens to die, its keeper bends low, coaxes and feeds fuel, and the heat remains.

Such is true with men and women who are called by God to do His work. I understand that when we take on Christ we are each to be a witness of this great salvation and to spread the Word of the Gospel and of this abundant life. Beyond that, though, there are others who have additional deep callings, and upon whom God has placed gifts, and within whom God has implanted vision. I speak to you today.

No matter how many times you have failed, the call remains. Despite your confusion, your frustration, your wondering, the call remains. Despite taunting, whispering campaigns, discouragement, your own wrong choices, your laziness, your misjudgment, despite those who look sideways at you and mutter, “A man’s gift will make room for him,” and you know you have the gift, but where is the room? . . .despite these, you are called and God says He will not take back that calling; it is without repentance.

“You can’t sing,” she is told. “You can’t write,” the critics say. “Your mind is too simple, your gifts too small, you cannot sculpt, the light bulb will not burn, your speeches are too shallow, your connections non-existent, you’ve made too many blunders, you have not enough money . . . Perhaps you were never called.”

20140814-untitled (86 of 187)

But we sing on, we write, we preach, we sketch on toothy paper, for beating hard within the breast of “the called” is the flame of God, hot and irresistible.

 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. Verse 29 of Romans 11

Note: This was first published in 2015. So timely, I decided to post it once more. May its message speak to each of us.

Footwashing Rebellion

Then cometh He (Jesus) to Simon Peter . . .. Peter saith unto Him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me.

St. John 18 7-8 (portions)

Not sure I’ve ever told anyone before, but frankly, I’ve never cared too much for foot washing services in our church. (She says, shielding her head as she runs!) Do you? Or do you even have such ordinances in your church? We do in ours, as we follow the example Jesus left for us. And, of course, when the opportunity is offered I dunk my feet (that I’ve scrubbed at home to be sure they were clean–imagine that!) as do my sisters who are lined up on chairs, feet bared, with basins spread before us.

I’ve considered the matter, and have concluded an issue of pride to be involved. A kind of reverse pride than what you may be thinking, for it does not trouble me to wash the feet of the others. Rather, the edgy part is when my feet are dipped into the water, and a person is kneeling before me, and lovingly bathing my feet. Makes me uncomfortable. You see, I know myself rather well. I’m aware of my shortcomings, my sins; my far less than perfect ways. I feel unworthy, so lacking, so undeserving.

Can you imagine Peter, that roughshod, loose-mouthed fisherman as Jesus approaches from across the room and says, “Peter I want to wash your feet.”

Can you imagine it?

Jesus wanting to kneel before Peter who would in a short time say he didn’t even know Jesus. Wash his feet! Jesus kneeling at your place, saying, I want to wash your feet. “Oh, Jesus, no! You cannot wash my feet.”

So in reckoning with this issue, I’ve decided I lack in humility. People do so much for Jerry and me, and I try to be gracious and grateful and appreciative. But I see that I want to push back a bit. I’m not totally comfortable with appearing–actually being–needy. I find it challenging to be more on the receiving side of things than on the giving. I’m understanding that I prefer to feel capable and effective.

Like yesterday when Winston started barking loudly–as he is much too prone to do–and I peered out the front deck window and there was Brother Patrick Garrett going about the business of shoveling off snow and ice remnants. He had removed the covers from our two wood racks that were nearly empty of wood. “What are you doing here?”

Then at the end of the deck popped up the grinning head of Brother Andrew Chavez.

“What’s going on?” And then I saw that a pickup truck was parked at the end of the deck, and those two men, and two little Chavez boys were pitching up and stacking firewood.

Also, Andrew, my youngest son, a couple of days before had called to check on us when he learned of our furnace problem. A few weeks ago he had taken my camera that needed repairs to a shop in San Diego, and when we talked he told me it was ready to be picked up. I wanted to know the charge, and we got into a little wrangle about it, for he wanted to pay, and I didn’t want him to.

“Mom, you’re being rude.”


“Yes, you’re rude to God when someone wants to do something for you, and you resist.” I said no more.

Look at these people, these dear people. I feel hypocritical, for I know that surely I am not worthy of such sacrifice, such love.

And so I said thanks and cried and offered up. Two cups of hot chocolate. Two cups of coffee–one black, one with cream and sugar. That’s it.

My feet were washed. Lovingly. Undeserved. Unmerited. Cleansed.

Last Year’s Seed

(Anyone may read this piece, and I hope you are blessed by it, but I wrote these words with one person in mind. You will know who you are.)

It was a few weeks ago that I noted it. I wish I had gone straight to the house, picked up my camera and returned to photograph the fledgling. But I did not, so I’ll just have to tell you how it looked. Growing within the tiny cracks formed by slabs of rugged wood and aged bricks was what appeared to be viable, healthy greenery, and not at all resembling  any weed with which I was familiar. I bent low, thinking, That surely resembles a plant that flowers–a Marigold, to be exact. It was so tiny, though, so insignificant that I walked on, at the moment paying little lasting attention. The plant, though, was not hindered by my ignorance of its being, nor did it shutter itself for lack of companionship, nor for the understanding that its spot was not a carefully prepared flower garden with plentiful fertilizer and abundant water. Rather the plant struggled about in the paltry dirt source and continued to push up stems and leaves, and though I could not see the activity, somewhere deep within its system, bright, fragrant flowers were forming. I began watering the little fella, for I finally understood that indeed growing within our back yard was a healthy, progressive, insistent Marigold plant. There are no other such plants in our gardens. Last year, however, I had a pot full of the beautiful little yellow and gold flowers.

DSC_4145One day not long ago, I photographed this beauty. I then sat down on the step where it grows and cried, as I do now. I cry for you who as this moment know you are a scattered, neglected seed. You know you should be tended, but you are not. You should be watered, and fed, but often you are not. You should be cultivated.

But God made you to produce, to blossom, to bring forth new life. And so you will.

No doubt my little seed came from last summer’s healthy flower pot. At summer’s end, the once beautiful group faded, the golden leaves brittled into brownness, and then fell to the earth. Beat about with rain, and sleet, and covered with snow, the seed settled into a sandy crevice between stone and wood. He survived cold. He endured neglect. He coped with booted heel that walked over his tenuous spot. Perhaps he shivered. Perhaps he gasped in thirst. And had there been thinking abilities, he might have wondered if he could actually make it by himself.

But that scattered, unrecognized seed was far from extinction. It made no difference to him that for most of the spring no human being even knew of his existence. It was of no consequence that I tended other flowers, that I groomed their beds, fed them, talked to them, and showed them off. No, for that seed in my back yard bulged with life, and NOTHING would keep him from doing what God destined him to do.

And you, a human being called of God to live for Him, to blossom and to share your talents and abilities will find a way to do so. For you bulge with life, with passion, and with purpose. Such traits are given of God, and can be destroyed by no man.

DSC_4148Buds which have not yet opened depend on you, on your growth, on your development.

So, I challenge you, my friend. Be as strong, as brave, as beautiful as the Marigold plant that blooms at this moment in my back yard. He let nothing deter him. Neither neglect, disdain, nor ignorance kept him buried in a grave. He shot forth, his every talent and ability used to its maximum capacity. And so will you, somehow, some way. It’s in your blood. It is your DNA. It is your salvation.


Three Lions I Know

20150518-untitled (8 of 9)“Where is the dwelling of the lions, and the feeding place of the young lions, where the lion, even the old lion, walked, and the lion’s whelp, and none made them afraid? The lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his hole with prey, and his den with ravin.”

These verses from the second chapter of Nahum struck a chord in me as I read them early this morning. The house was quiet. I was the only one awake. I began to think of three men; two young beings, and one who at 59 would be categorized as late-middle age. The two younger ones are my grandsons. The one pictured in this piece is Nathaniel, 18 years old, who in three weeks will graduate from high school. The other young one is Gentry, 17, who will graduate next year. The third is the late Samuel Gutierrez, who last Sunday morning in that mysterious way slipped off  his exasperating human cloak, tucked his arms through the sleeves, and settled into his eternal righteous garment.Sam Guiterrez was the associate pastor of The Anchor Church in San Diego, CA.

Lions. All lions.

20150518-untitled (6 of 9) Whelps. 20150518-untitled (1 of 9) I know my grandsons well. They are fine young men who love God and who have committed their lives to Him. I fear, though, they have little comprehension of the challenges and sorrows that life is about to heave at them. Despite their eagerness and their excellence, if one looks quickly and closely enough, a blink of tender baby may be glimpsed. A grey shadow of vulnerability flutters about the air where they stand.

They need old lions. Yes, they do. These boys of mine–and yours–are in need of mature, heavy, fierce old lions. Our daughters need them. Lions who will pace, and who will tear apart the charging, treacherous enemy, who will feed his whelps, and who will provide for his lioness.

I didn’t know Sam Gutierrez well, but I recognize that he was an old lion. Daily I have come to understand that my life would have been enriched had I been given the opportunity to call him friend. I know him from afar, from watching him preach over the internet, from reading the numerous accolades that have been published since his death, from hearing the words his pastor Jim Larson spoke as he tried to express to their church his barrenness, his sense of loss, his shock at the loss of this man, this exceptional man, this great man.

I know him from hearing the sermon he preached exactly two weeks before his death. Entitled The Compromise of Jehosophat, with stunning boldness he preached the necessity of upholding Apostolic, biblical principles. A masterpiece.

I know him from words my son Andrew tells me. “It’s interesting that he was a youth leader at his age,” I said to Andrew on the phone. “He was timeless, Mom. Timeless. Everyone loved him.”

Gentry was with Andrew and his wife as they visited in the hospital just hours before Brother Gutierrez died. The condition was grave as he struggled with death; blood pressure plunging, in and out of consciousness. However, when the three walked into the room, he opened wide his eyes, looked at my 17-year-old grandson, and said, “Hi, Gentry.”

An old lion. Standing before him was a whelp over which he must guard. Painfully. within the steel grip of death itself, he paced, and tore, and fed. Surely burned into the brain and soul of Gentry is the image of this remarkable man who fought for him, who made him safe. Who is now gone.

Lions. Old lions. We need you. Fathers, pastors, youth leaders, friends, mentors. We desperately need you. In homes around the world, in churches, in community centers, in schools, in congress . . .

“Where is the dwelling of the lions, and the feeding place of the young lions, where the lion, even the old lion, walked, and the lion’s whelp, and none made them afraid? The lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his hole with prey, and his den with ravin.”

20150518-untitled (9 of 9) We don’t know enough. We’re not strong enough. We’re too frail, too little, too inexperienced. We need old lions. The roads ahead are treacherous. We’re in danger. We need old lions . . .to fend for us . . .to show us the way.


Some of you who will read here will be friends of Sam Gutierrez. I would so appreciate it if you can take the time in the comment section to tell something of him. Additional old lions may come to the minds of others. Please tell us of them.

Of Two Women

By an entry in a book titled The Intellectual Devotional, I recently was reminded of Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643) who was an early female religious leader in America and who was expelled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony after she refused to stop having church services in her home, even though Puritan authorities had ordered her to do so. On Mondays she opened her home to women to discuss the previous day’s sermons, but John Winthrop, the colony’s governor warned her that these activities were “not tolerable nor comely in the sight of God, nor fitting for your sex.” She rejected his orders and was excommunicated from the colony.

The role of women in the church, and especially what God intends in that area, always makes for a lively discussion, and while in this piece today I do not wish to examine the issue, I must point out that in all Christian churches today, women play a much more visible and important role than they did in generations before.

My interest was piqued in the subject by the recent death of Jan Holmes, a Pentecostal pastor’s wife of Little Rock, Arkansas. I was not privileged to know this person, who by every account was a sterling, exceptional being. By internet radio I listened to her final ceremony; a magnificent service, fit for royalty. The music was stellar, nothing short of glorious, and varied from vocals to instrumental offerings. I am told that in attendance were 400 ministers from all over the country and from other parts of the world and that the total attendance was between four and five thousand persons. Numerous dignitaries from the political scene were there, representing the state, the county, and the city.

It interests me that in this very conservative Apostolic church the majority of the speakers were women. So far we have come. What a telling contrast between the opportunity given and grasped by Jan Holmes and by that denied in that long ago era to Anne Hutchinson.

Unhurried LANDMARK and a Remarkable Family

Without question it is to my disadvantage that I do not know the Haney family well. Some of us are acquaintances, of course, seeing that for years Jerry and I were active in the Western District of the United Pentecostal Church, as were several of the Haney family. Though I do not know them closely, I deeply admire those great people and the work their family has done in the city of Stockton, CA; indeed around the world. I believe their church building is the largest in California that was actually built as a church; it seats several thousand. On another piece of property stand their older auditorium and multiple other buildings, including a Bible school campus.

Well beyond my admiration for the physical monuments the Haneys have erected is my respect for their attitudes, their closeness to God, and their obvious deep dedication to works of The Spirit. Last night’s service of their conference LANDMARK was an example of what I feel and am trying to say. I watched on my computer by live-streaming. Let me make a list; It is a short, but notable list that certainly will not encompass every positive aspect of the scenario, but it will help you understand the remarks I am making.

1. From the beginning I was struck by the lack of “hurry.” It was slow and deliberate, quite lacking in frenzy and any sense of desperation. The opening prayer service, led by Pastor Haney, lasted at least thirty minutes, and during this time, “we” were led into the Shekinah. True worship sang throughout that magnificent auditorium.

2. Pastor Haney gave every appearance and every sound and every sense of having been long in the presence of God. He was comfortable with it. He was authentic. He exuded a drift of foundation–deep, solid, robust. Yet, Pastor Haney appeared humble and unassuming. An aura of the Holy wound about him.

3. The musicians and singers were multiple, and almost without exception when the camera would pan on them, they appeared to be in a state of worship, sometimes with tears running down their faces.

4. Boldness, still without hurry, was marked throughout the service, as Pastor Haney ministered, calling groups to the altar area, and then other groups . . .and healings came and miracles, no doubt.

I believe it good for you to know these things.

Perhaps in the Fields

What a God we serve; indescribable, whose depth of wisdom we cannot fully probe.
untitled (50 of 76)

Let us look on the wide harvest fields; fields where the heads of grain are bent heavy, where those with checkered pasts, and those with less than stellar family lines may be the very ones whose hearts burn fiercely after God. Is it possible they are those whom God has chosen to effect end-time Apostolic revival?

A question even more crucial for it speaks to all of us: Where am I in the harvest? Is that a sickle in my hand? What of the heavy grain about me?

The Holy

Never far from a dominant place in my mind is that of admiration for people who totally give themselves to the work of God: People who may forgo comfort and ease, who may move thousands of miles from their families, and who may assume simple and sacrificial ways of living. Sometimes these people are missionaries to foreign countries, sometimes they pastor or otherwise work in mission churches here in America. Some are called evangelists and they travel in motor homes or in trailers towed behind their cars, and that vehicle is their home, and sometimes they rear their babies in that way. They are the givers. The sacrificers. And there are others. We might never see them or know of them, for they work in the shadows, unseen, unnoticed, but they are there: They of the Holy.

Yesterday on Brother Daniel Scott’s facebook site, I saw this picture.
untitled (1 of 1) It struck me in my heart, and I typed in a comment to ask what this picture represented. This was Brother Scott’s response.

Sister Shirley: I am assuming you are speaking about the Album of the construction of the church in Quininde, Ecuador. This was the first church I constructed in Ecuador. The environment was very primitive at that time (today it is modern as anything in the United States). I created a church plan that I could present and solicit money for from my Partners In Missions, and know how much it would cost, what materials to purchase, etc. The previous church building is shown, and Paul Hosch from Dallas, Texas, sent me the money for this church. From there we duplicated the plan. To day those churches are running from many hundreds to such as the church in Quito, seating nearly 2,000, yet having to have three services each Sunday with firm request that no one attend a second time. Nice huh! Brother Battle and I worked very closely togather.

I cried when I looked at that picture for I knew it represented someone’s leaving their home to do God’s work, someone’s massive struggle, someone weeping in the night and working until their strength and their bodies were racked.That image haunts me and is etched in my heart

And then today I learned of Brother Willoughby’s death, and when I thought of the circumstances, I literally grew weak.

I have found a wonderful video, a tribute to the lives of Brother and Sister Willoughby. I post it here to honor not only them but Brother Scott, Brother Battle and their families, and you, and others of The Holy. You who give all.


In a conversation yesterday, someone noted that the UPCI–the ministerial organization with which my husband is connected–is now bigger than ever before, and “it literally has strengthened its financial position to a degree where we will soon began (begin) financing our efforts through the interest earned on our invested monies…”.

One of my sons is connected with the WPF, a ministerial organization that was founded a few years ago. I have friends in other ministerial organizations, and many friends, and family–also ministers–who choose to belong to no organization, but who are classified independent. Since many of those who formed the WPF came from the UPCI and the UPCI is now bigger than before, it seems to me that within the small circle of church work with which I am acquainted, the dividing and expanding has worked to grow the organism. I choose not to address my personal thoughts about all the ramifications of such a move for a couple of reasons: The primary reason being that I suspect few give a flip about my observations in that regard. 🙂

From the mix of the conversation yesterday came to me a reminder of the importance of doing the basic work of God wherever we are, however we can, and with whatever tools have been thrust our way. Humbly. Not as a peacock admiring his own tail feathers.

Within the minutiae of my notes, scribbled on a faded yellow lined scrap of paper in my handwriting is an account I read somewhere–who knows where?–I wish to share with you.

As the doctors were arguing over his care–who would put in the chest tube, the patient pled, “Somebody please save my life.

While the others argued, two other doctors took over and saved his life.”

untitled (26 of 56)