Reaching into an empty barrel only to find more than enough

Sometimes we have nothing left in the tank. The sense of tiredness is real. Self care is essential, so as you read, balance the message with permission to rest.

We reach into the empty barrel believing we have nothing to give; only to find an abundant flow.

I was at kindy pick up for my 3-year-old son when I saw a mum who I had prayed for previously at a play date. She had asked why I was fasting. I explained Australia was in revival and a mighty move of God was afoot across our wonderful nation. As we spoke, she shared some of her private and very painful history, after which I prayed for her. While I prayed, she felt electricity running up her arms, and she cried, feeling His presence course through her body. She had encountered a good and loving God.

On this day, she looked tired. I asked her about this, and the tears flowed. I gently placed my hand on her shoulder and prayed, releasing peace and rest. She reported her sleep was ok, but she was not feeling refreshed from her sleep. I prayed again, asking that one hour of sleep would be as four. I hugged her, nearly crying myself, and said to call if she wanted prayer again.

With said 3-year-old in tow, I planned to head home. Instead, I ‘knew’ I needed to go to a local shopping district. It was close to Christmas, so shopping was not what I felt like doing. However, hearing the nudge, I headed to the store I felt compelled to visit.

Uncertain why I was there, I looked. Feeling exhausted, I did not believe I had anything to give.

My barrel was empty.

Wandering about, I feigned interest. I noticed a woman with a brace on her wrist.

‘Person found,’ I thought.

I approached her and asked about the brace.

She had torn tendons in her wrist and thumb, so I offered to pray. She agreed and as I prayed she felt tingles, which continued long after I finished and she completed her shopping.

I turned towards God once more, knowing I had not completed the task. I felt tired, so I argued a little, but ultimately decided I would stay.

I could not shake the feeling I had not found who or what I was there for.

A woman had watched me closely as I prayed. I was aware of her, but I had ignored the feeling. I felt her watching me again and wondered if she was stalking me through the store.

 

Crossing her path, I smiled and turned to pass politely, but she suddenly stepped forward to speak.

Earnestly she said she felt stressed. She explained the stress was because she was hosting her son’s wedding reception at her home, followed closely by Christmas.

I agreed that would be stressful.

‘Thank you,’ she said.

The exchange puzzled me. Perhaps she needed to be seen.

I wandered on with my son, but there she was again…

I was sure she was intentionally placing herself in my path.

She engaged me in further conversation.

Tired, I did not want to chat. Small talk is a gift, a gift I do not posses. I have to work at it.

I stopped the sour grapes and simply threw caution to the wind. I offered to pray.

Excited, she readily agreed. She said she saw me on the other side of the store, praying for the other woman.

‘Ah, she had been watching me,’ I thought, ‘and she wanted prayer.’

Her name was Joy, so I prayed for Joy. I prayed for Joy to be released into her destiny; for joy (the Spirit of Joy) to come upon and within her; for Joy to receive ‘joy’; and for Joy to be Joy and all that entailed. In fact, it was the season for JOY!

I also prayed for the other circumstances she had shared.

As I prayed, I looked at her.

‘You can feel that, can’t you?’

She nodded, close to tears.

When I finished, she stared at me and asked if I knew some Christians on her street in a nearby suburb.

‘Oh no, here we go,’ I thought, but then she told me their names.

They were my pastors!

She said I was just like them – she told me she had been watching them.

‘… and now she had been watching me too,’ I thought wryly.

It was clear in that moment God was on her case. It was not a coincidence I was in that store. I was there for no apparent reason other than a hunch. My pastors’ witness impacted her. She was the one God had set His heart upon and sent me. She had a hunger to encounter the God my pastors knew; the God I knew; the God she wanted to know too- the one we all called ‘Lord,’ the one we all called Jesus.

I was there for her!

I explained I had not known why I had come to the shop. Yet, it was now apparent to me I had come for her.

It was apparent that God was on her case.

I wished her well and finished up in the shop.

My barrel was empty today-but God.

Life is busy at Christmas time. Children are excited, their behaviour can challenge. People make demands; others can be unkind. We can feel our barrel is empty and we have nothing to give.

However, God’s barrel is never empty. Despite me and my circumstances, as I reached into my empty barrel, God came through and touched three women – all in the space of an hour. Each woman needed a touch of God; all for different reasons.

As long as I will stop for the one, regardless of how I feel, regardless of me, my God will move to touch a hurting world.

Today I saw His arm long enough to embrace others through me; His grace sufficient for my needs to be met and His desires fulfilled. My barrel may feel dry, but His barrel is always full – His power is ever present.

Despite me, wine will always flow.

Since this day I have discovered people are watching. I know if they watch for long enough I will disappoint them because I am mere human; but if they will see through me to Him… that will not disappoint.

I have prayed for many who have yearned for a touch from God. There have been many such occasions. In my daughter’s school, a young teacher cried when I offered to pray. She explained she had been waiting, hoping for prayer. This shocked me, because I always felt so awkward in offering. But here was a woman desperate for the moment God saw her heart’s cry. Through her tears she said she thought she was going to miss out; I assured her God saw and loved her- she would never miss out.

We may think we are at the bottom of our barrel, there is nothing more to give. But, in the empty barrel, there is always more.

Wine will flow regardless of me because…

God is Good!

 

Special education her passion; Heaven her destination, God is Good!

With a new school term upon us, my daughter and I made a dash to our local shopping centre to ensure shoes would fit properly for the coming days.

As we ducked through the department store, a jumper (sweater) caught my eye. In a flash, I felt to buy it. On checking size and colour, I proceeded to the cashier’s desk.

A beautiful young girl called ‘Alicia’ came to serve us. We chatted as she processed the sale, and I knew I was to ask if I could pray for her.

Words of knowledge rapidly came to mind, so I gently felt my way through what I was hearing as we talked. I mentioned that working for the store was not her destiny. For some it is, I knew a girl years ago who loved retail and went on to a very successful career, but it was not for Alicia. In sensing this, I asked her about it, and she told me she was studying to become a teacher. I explained I was a Christian, and asked if I could pray for her, for her destiny to open up. She readily agreed. So I took her hand, listening for what God wanted me to pray. My 9-year-old daughter by my side.

The word ‘travel’ came to mind, and I sensed it was for overseas travel. I asked her about this and she said she was saving up to travel overseas. And so with the start of my ‘assignment’ I blessed her finances and declared ‘open doors’ to her destiny.

As I prayed, I ‘heard’ the words ‘special ed’.

 I queried her again, saying: “I know you are studying to become a teacher, but I sense that your heart is in special education, is that right?

She took a breath, responding that yes, special education was her passion.

So I prayed open doors into the field of special education, and I blessed the desires of her heart. I told her she would be a marvellous special education teacher. I did so because I knew she would. Indeed, I declared she would bless many ‘special ed children’ and their families, and she would alter destinies of those she taught for the better. I told her what I knew, and I stated as I prayed she would be a great blessing. It all encapsulated her heart’s desires, and I knew because it was God’s heart for her too.

I then heard the words ‘UK’ – ‘United Kingdom’

Again, I clarified by asking her if she was travelling to the UK. She said she wanted to travel to the USA to meet friends that were ‘having a blast.’ Smiling, I encouraged her to her to consider the idea of travel to the United Kingdom, explaining there might be opportunities and open doors there for her to teach in special education. I said to her that the UK was a wonderful place to live, but I also said:

I could also be wrong in that… just don’t discount the idea,’ and I smiled.

My daughter looked up and grinned at me, tugging my arm in excitement. Alicia stood in awe, amazed I would know these things about her. So, I explained I knew these things not because I was special but because she was special. God saw her. God wanted me to know them about her, so that I could pray them for her, that they would come to pass. In my knowing these details about her life, showed her that there was a God that knew her, saw her, and loved her enough for me to stop for her.

I then felt the nudge to ask her if she wanted Jesus Christ in her heart.

‘You haven’t asked Jesus into your heart yet, have you?’ I asked,

She replied no.

On the unction, I asked her if she wanted to do so.

She thought for a moment, ‘yes, I do!

So in the women’s clothing section of our local department store, a young woman gave her heart to Jesus Christ, accepting what He had done for her on the cross, and asked Him to fill her heart.

Once finished, I felt to give her my mobile (cell) number and name. I briefly explained my background so she would be comfortable to know I was not a Fruit Loop, and I left – my daughter’s face shining; me thoroughly washed in the love of Jesus (because that which flows through you, leaves a residual Presence, which is why it is so much fun to do this); and with Alicia staring at us as we left.

Anyone watching would have seen an ordinary mum and daughter, off to buy school shoes, hand in hand, leaving behind a beautiful and much-loved young woman, a bright destiny open, and a gift of salvation received.

‘Did she call?’

It would surprise me if she called.

There was no surprise. There was no call.

Some have criticised me for this, for leading someone to Christ but not following them up personally, taking their phone number, buying a Bible etc. Those people rarely stop for anyone as they go, so it’s easy to criticise. Some do stop and always follow up – I honour them. The year I had this encounter, I would have stopped for over 1000 people on my way. Some I mentored, others I prayed for and released to God.

The critic always plays a perfect game from their place of comfort.

I used to follow up every single one that I led to Christ, and in the early days I would follow up every one I prayed for too. I ran myself ragged. No one would help me from my local church, and I simply could not do it all on my own with two young children. By this stage, I had peace.

If God prompts me to get their number and chase them up, I will. If not, I know and trust He has their best interests at heart. I trust He will call them into His Church, into His Body, and I leave them free to contact me as and when they wish. It is their journey with a loving Father, and hence literally their call if they reach out to me for more for:

…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Cor 3:17)

Regardless, I do what I feel I am required to do. I ‘go about My Father’s business’ (Luke 2:49), as best can, and as I do, I am certain that they will know, that Alicia knows that…

God is Good!

 

The God who sees (part 2)

© Sam Manns
God gave me kisses on Thursday. I had been flat, I needed encouragement.
He is the God who sees…

The next day, I saw a great friend. You know the type: encouraging, positive, loves your quirkiness and knows you well enough to brush the dirt away gently to reveal the gold while calling you higher. Community matters!

Home again, I sorted daughter responsibilities, and felt to take our dog for a quick walk. Her life long buddy died recently, and she is more needy these days.

As I walked I thought about two random moments from years ago. Both these moments involved drunk guys. Andrew had stopped for them. One was a homeless man whom Andrew took shopping – he had cried tears in delight as Andrew ‘just happened’ to pick up his favourite foods and load up the trolley. The other man wept in the dark as Andrew sat by his side in the local football stadium, talking about his broken marriage.

These ‘random’ memories should have pointed me to what would happen next – but I was none the wiser.

As I walked into the local footy oval, I saw a man to my left. At his feet was a wine box, with a couple of bottles of champagne.

© Michael Odelberth

He averted his gaze. I sensed sensed his shame and as I did my heart went out to him. His despair and sadness was tangible. With a nudge to acknowledge him as I walked past, I smiled gently.

‘Hello,’ I said.

A quiet ‘hello’ came back.

I continued to walk, and I ‘saw’ in my mind’s eye a picture of me sitting next to him on the park bench, talking.

I never choose to sit down next to drunk men at parks.

I prayed instead.

The image in my mind stuck.

‘I will stop for him and sit if you like. Just let me know if I stop on my first or second lap.’

As I came near to where he sat, he got up.

‘Oh, he’s leaving,’ I thought, ‘missed it.’

However, to my surprise, he merely shifted along to the next park bench. Some men had been working on the turf, so I reasoned he was perhaps uncomfortable. He seemed a gentle soul. He later told me he had become too hot in the sun.

His shift of seating made it difficult to join him, so as I walked close to the boundary fence instead and said, ‘Are you ok?’

‘No, I’m not, I’m actually really struggling,’ he replied.

His vulnerability was raw.

© Alicja Gancarz

‘Wow, that must be tough. Do you want to talk about it?’ I asked.

He did, and he started talking.

After a little while, I mentioned I was a Christian. I explained I had felt prompted to come over to see if he was ok. Note: I have great local non-Christian friends who would have done the same.

I told him about the picture I had of us sitting and chatting. He said that sounded nice.

We sat side by side on the park bench. I listened some more. He spoke. I prayed for him. He wept.

I told Him about the God who sees him, who loved him right as he was. I spoke briefly of my messes…

I told him God did not judge the drinking, the pain, the mess, the self medicating; instead, I explained, God adored him. I responded to a comment that God did not judge him, that Jesus had dealt with all that, but then I said I was not there to preach.

I repeated God loved him so much and merely hated the drink because it hurt him. I also said that God sees and hates the hurt that he was trying to stifle, and like a good Father wants to see him set free in order to have a wonderful life.

© Jen Theodore

As I prayed, I saw a picture of a little boy. The boy was so full of joy and excitement about football that his eyes shone with delight. Speaking to the broken dream in his heart, I prayed for the boy who had played football and cricket at the very oval we sat beside.

I told him he could not be any more loved than he was right now, just as he was. He shared his struggles to believe in a God that could ‘allow’ such pain in the world. I told him he had good questions, and I responded by telling him of my own struggles with faith when faced with the brutality my refugee clients had survived.

We kept talking, he wept, he drank, and my dog sat patiently by my side.

Eventually he said how much my saying ‘hello’ had meant to him.

It was a tiny, yet significant, act of kindness.

I shared how God prompted me to sit by his side, and how I had prayed for him as I walked all around the oval.

‘Really?’ he said…

© Natasha Ivanchikhina

I said simply, ‘He is the God who sees, He loves you, He cares’ and I thought of my encounter the day before.

He is the God who sees…

Eventually I stood, I needed to leave. I had to return home to help my mother, whose sister (my aunt) had just died. Promising to leave Andrew’s number at the reception of his accommodation, I said we would love to see him for a coffee. Drunk or not, it was ok; he was welcome just to catch up.

He said he would like that.

I felt the urge to give him a hug; but ignored it the first time. Feeling it again, I offered him a hug. He immediately responded ‘yes’ and threw his arms around me in a way that he was desperate for love. He was hungry for the acceptance that only human warmth can provide. As I hugged him, I hoped he felt the Father’s heart. I could feel his basic human need to be seen and to be loved.

I hope he calls for a cuppa.

I also hope he can kick the addiction and step into his inheritance. I had prayed a future I saw.

He has kicked the habit before. I believe he will again.

Yet, even if he can’t, he knows there is a God who loves him, right where he is at. He knows there is a God who sent a random female stranger to sit and talk on a park bench for an hour.

Yesterday, God gave me kisses…

He was the God who sees…

Today God gave him kisses…

He IS the God that sees…

I hope and trust that this man at the park tasted to see that…

God is Good!

© Suhash Villuri

It’s the little things…

Community matters
© Beth Kennedy 2021

I felt the nudge to get out and go for a walk in the sunshine. There was 40 minutes before an online class started. I was a little flat, and did not feel inclined, but I recognised the nudge and so I knew to go.

Heading out, I asked which way. In my ‘wisdom’, I was sure a walk towards the beach was in order.

‘Turn right,’ I heard instead, and flashes of my local coffee shop played across my consciousness. ‘Head there, get yourself a coffee and head home.’

‘Alright’ I thought and enjoying the sunshine I did. I walked to the local that knew and loved me well.

While there, one of the junior staff members asked me how I was. In return, I asked her too.

‘Not too well’ she responded, and after enquiring further she told me her concerns, and her thoughts around the next steps she might take.

‘Give me your hand,’ I said. ‘I’m going to pray for you.’

She did, and I did.

Coffee in hand, I wished her a brilliant day, and headed home. Thinking I would head back the quick way, I checked with Him who knew…

Nope.

A clear picture emerged, and I felt a prompting to walk home past the park, essentially the way I had walked before.

Sipping my coffee, I was happily anticipating my online class. I felt sheer delight in God, and I could tangibly sense His pleasure in me and in my delight in the morning adventure. Yes, I know. It is a tad ‘Pollyanna,’ but I don’t care. We need more Pollyanna’s that delight in the little things, for they release joy as they go!

As I walked past the park, a lone koala teddy bear toy caught my gaze. He was lying face up on the footpath. I considered leaving him on a fence so the family could return to find him readily; but seeing children playing in the park, I felt to head over and check who he may belong to, even though it may well run me late for my class.

Checking with the few mums who had children and prams, I came up stumps. Readers, in Australia this means I had no success.

Noting the time and wondering if I might have just left it on the fence, yet knowing I had heard not to, I headed back to place the teddy on the fence. I took photos so I could post it on a local Facebook group and hoped that the little owner would reunite with what looked like a well loved toy.

As I finished taking the photos, I noticed in the distance a mum with a child in a pram, hurrying up the path.

Picking up the teddy, I headed towards her. A little shy face peered at me, and with an outstretched hand the little person took the precious koala from me.

Delighted, the mum said what a beautiful thing to do. I felt silly and said she would have found him, anyway.

We exchanged a few more words, and I said goodbye, wishing her well, agreeing that our local community was a lovely place to live.

I walked home logging onto my class late. I briefly wondered what it was all about. Had I missed it? Perplexed, I dismissed it, giving it no more thought.

It was not until this morning as I again headed out for a quick 20-minute walk in the late morning sunshine that it came to mind. God had reminded me I needed to buy some food for 4 hungry boys due to arrive after school, and He encouraged me to go before my class. It was on this walk I asked again what this minor interaction had been all about.

‘Community matters,’ He said.

‘Community matters?’ I responded. ‘I know community matters…’ and then the penny dropped.

Face-to-face connection is so important. I was a stay at home mum. I have also worked from home for 20-plus years. I know how important it is to get out and talk to real live human beings; to smile at people; be in the sunshine; grab a coffee on a walk; sit at a coffee shop to work where they know you and you know them. The brief interactions, the smiles, the encouraging words, and exchange of loving ideas and knowledge about life… it all matters.

In the grand scheme of life, these are such little things – but are they?

In responding to a prompt to have a quick walk in the sunshine, towards my community, rather than in isolation along the beach, I received and gave some loving interaction. I know Christians and non-Christians that are great at this. In this season we are being called to our neighbourhoods.

The Sesame Street song comes to mind that asks ‘who are the people in your neighbourhood?’

The walk blessed me. I chatted to people in my local coffee shop; I stopped to listen to a young girl with some challenges; I smiled at the people doing yoga in the park; and I nodded at a shop owner as I passed by. I stopped to chat to mums in the park, and finally, I chatted to the mum with the child that had lost the toy koala. All incidental moments; all Kingdom in design.

That interaction with the mum, while it ran me late, showed that mum, who perhaps was a little lonely, that she lived in a community that cared enough to stop for the little things, like a lost toy. A little thing to me – a huge thing in a mum’s life with a little one that needs that toy to sleep.

I looked at her and said she looked like she was doing a superb job. We exchanged a few ideas. I said it gets easier, that they end up in school in no time. And I verbally affirmed that she indeed lived in a beautiful neighbourhood. (Bill Meyer I see you!).

And, overall, it blessed me, probably more than I blessed anyone I stopped for.

It reminded me, community matters!

I know the sort of community I want to live in – and so I seek to be the change…

And so how do we create the community we want to live in?

It’s the little things that matter.

We stop for the one.

We chat, we love, and we encourage.

It is in this way that together we impact a nation, one kind act at a time… a grassroots movement…

It is the little things that matter, and God sees them all and cares for each one because…

God is good!

Stop for the one regardless of lockdown

Late last year, I bumped into a friend I had not seen for years.

We briefly chatted, and then she surprised me by suggesting we catch up. She said she loved spending time with me years ago, and would love to catch up for lunch. I was delighted, but a little surprised.

Trust me… I am nothing special.

We had lunch and chatted and spoke a little about our own personal challenges. She shared her heart and as she spoke I saw a picture of her sitting at an easel doing art. I asked her about it, explaining that I ‘saw’ her doing something like painting under a tree.

I need to state this friend may not label herself as a ‘Christian’, but she does believe in the goodness of human beings. She believes that we are responsible to others and ourselves to make good choices. She believes it is our responsibility to leave the world a better place than it was before we were in it.

She does know that I do call myself a ‘Christian’, and she accepts me, for all my flaws and inconsistencies that brings.

I go gently in my Christian talk, because I don’t want to offend her – she is my friend, and friends are kind to one another. Friends do not shove values or belief systems down each other’s throats, yet they are not threatened by a difference of opinion, or a healthy discussion. Friends can agree to disagree while honouring the difference of opinion. I find her attitude generous and gracious.

The last time we spoke was years ago, pre prophetic training. I was prophetic back then (news flash: we all are!) but I just didn’t realise I was and I had not learnt how to listen and then mention what I ‘saw’ or ‘sensed’ for people.

So I asked about the painting (with no Christian ease) and she told me she LOVED painting/drawing. I told her what had happened; she accepted what I said, and we moved on in our conversation.

I encouraged her to join an art class, buy some supplies, and recommended a few more personal things, and we went on our way. She was encouraging to me too; it’s a two-way deal people. She was not, and is not a ‘project’, she is a friend, a real live friend, and I see her because I want to, not because she needs saving…

Red hot keen Christians that carry belts with notches please read the above paragraph again…

My friend is not a ‘notch on the belt’… I like her and accept her, and I would continue to see her as a friend even if she never accepted Jesus into her heart!

People can smell belt notching a mile away!

Hence this story…

Within 24 hours I received a message saying that she had ticked off all three items we discussed, and we promised we would catch up again – she would tell me how she got on with her projects, and I would share how I was getting on with mine.

We caught up briefly before Christmas. At the time she was very thankful, and I felt embarrassed because while I was the mouthpiece and the ears (I listened to her and God), I just encouraged her to step into something she loved, into something God created her to do…

Well…

Fast forward to lockdown stage 4 in Melbourne, Australia. We can now be out for total 2 hours (with one other person if they are not from our home). I have thought of my friend a few times over the last 6 months, but about 10 days ago, I acted on the thought (I believe the prompting) and I texted her to arrange a walk.

As we walked, our discussion got deep quickly, and she asked me a little about my belief in God. She shared her views on many things, God, faith, spirituality. She chatted, I listened; I chatted, she listened…

We will catch up again this Wednesday.

Christians on social media seem to think because we cannot gather in a church building that somehow we cannot do anything effective for the Kingdom, we can’t impact people.

This is nonsense.

There are many ways to ‘stop for the one’.

Sometimes it means stopping for the one stranger on the street – as you walk past you offer to pray, or give them a word of encouragement, or just shout them a coffee.

Other times it’s the phone call that you feel you could make, or the email you could send… and you call or you send it.

Sometimes it’s the prophetic inclination you have for your boss and you share it at work, without declaring ‘thus says the Lord’… there is no need to declare a prophetic inclination in that way – just be relatable.

Other times, it’s just catching up with a friend who happens, unbeknownst to you, to need encouragement. That friend needs someone to SEE them warts and all and call out ‘you are loved my friend’. Sometimes we just need to call out the gold… regardless of whether they ever come to Christ.

It’s about being the Body (not doing the Body). It’s about being human. It’s about moving in response to His heart beat for yourself and others, and in this all will see that…

God is Good!