Sunday, February 28, 2016

Awaiting The King

Awaiting the King ~ Art Reflection by Margot Cioccio 

Standing in the great hall among the mighty pillars and arches, each pearl like, golden and glowing in His presence. The Bride has crossed time and eternity, this moment has been so long awaited. Looking around, surprised by the vastness of the river that flows from His presence. Recalling just moments before the walk along the river through royal city where the fragrance from the trees could only be described as breath taking. What one might have imagined during the earthly sojourn is nothing compared to the sights, sounds and fragrances in this place. It is like having had the dingy cataract scales removed and finding the colors suddenly vibrant and alive. Even that is not enough. Everything seems to be alive even these mighty pillars and arches. The many verses and promises come to mind but this is so much more than we ever imagined. 

The river stands before me, and I feel the currents swirling around my feet. I would swim or fly or walk on water to reach my beloved at this point. In that instant I see Him standing in the door way , the mighty Lion, the King of kings. I am washed or perhaps baptized in the glorious presence of His love. All the grander of the great hall fades and pales in comparison to His gentle kindness that led to my repentance. I am swept up in his love and find myself breathless, with no words left to describe what I feel and see.

Revelation 19:7  “Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. 

The artist of this piece is James Nesbit. He has been called one of the leading prophetic artists in the earth today by C Peter Wagner and Cindy Jacobs. He is a digital artist who creates amazing prophetic artwork. This is just one of many inspiring works of art in what his website calls the Bridal collection.

Spiritual gifts develop as we practice them. What you see here is a prophetic spiritual gift mixed with a creative one. James Nesbit goes beyond words through his use of imagery. He helps us to see in an instant what thousands of words would fail to describe. 

James Nesbit believes his calling or his assignment is from Habakkuk 2. To write the vision and engrave it plainly, in his case through the medium of digital imagery.

He writes on his web page about this particular piece “In this prophetic image the bride who has been made ready is standing in a river, representing being baptized in the glory, awaiting the Lion of Judah, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, standing in the doorway at the end of the great hall.”

How we, who become this beautiful spotless bride and go from our individuality to become one collective in the beloved continues to boggle my mind. I am sure my words or even this rich artwork from the vantage of this earthy life do not begin to do justice what that moment will be like.  I can only imagine…….
As you continue in worship allow yourself to slip away from the struggles and trials of this life and to put your focus on His love for you, part of His waiting bride. 

Revelation 22:17 (NIV)
17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Humble Myself - Doodle Prayer

I have been doing some doodle praying or coloring while I pray. Today I picked the central theme to be Humble Myself from James 4:10. I started by drawing the box in the center with the red ruffle boarder. I didn't know what my topic was going to be at that moment. I stopped and picked up one of the little booklet called The Anointing that Empowers the Word by Rev. Cal Pierce the founder of the Healing Rooms Ministry. Last week when I was there praying at the healing rooms I felt like I needed to go get some of his books because there were some puzzle pieces that I needed to find with in them. So I pick up that book and read the first pages. "God wants you to humble yourself before Him in order to receive the anointing in your life. You've go to humble yourself, or subject yourself to God. You cannot receive the anointing unless you first begin to walk in humility."  The reason for this is found in 1 Peter 5:5-6 is because God resists the proud.

So this is speaking to me because I have been seeking the Lord over the past week about the direction of my massage business. My gut feeling has been that something is off and I need to solve it before God will send me people. I've included another doodle drawing called My Path and on it I had put drawings and doodles of the many things I find myself doing or involved in. If you look at my picture you will notice the massage hands on the right side of the page almost don't fit. I've been seeking the Lord about what is it you want me to do with all these different things. Do I need to do some house cleaning and get rid of some of them, or is there a way to make it all work together. So I feel pretty clueless and I am just drawing and coloring before the Lord when I hear in my mind "I simply call you to be a light. Shine forth my love in everything you do." Well that takes some of the pressure off.

There is a part of me that is a bit resistant to business building. Because I truly believe that unless the Lord builds the house those who labor labor in vain. That does not mean that I am being inactive in the process but having walked with the Lord for about 35 years. I know when something is off and I wonder why I am feeling resistance. So back to the subject at hand. When I am in tracking mode I am very aware of the things I am led to read, or things that people say. I knew there were some keys in these books that I needed to find to help me on my journey.

So humility, I found myself thinking as I made bubble letters for the words Humble Myself.  Then I thought I wonder what Mother Teresa had to say on the subject. I mean if I was giving out humble buttons she would be on the top of my list. “Humility is the mother of all virtues; purity, charity and obedience. It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent. If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal.”

So my next person I wanted to weigh in on the subject is one of my favorite thinkers of our time. CS Lewis. He says "Humility is not thinking less of yourself, It is thing of yourself less."
In another quote he says " To even get near (humility) even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert. Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call "humble nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is a nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking of himself at all"

There are tons of verses in the Bible on the subject of humility. There are 15 verses for the word humility, 73 for humble. Humble Yourself there are 6 verses. So there is plenty of food for thought and one could cover this topic for quite a while to talk about them all.

The verse I selected is from Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

So I began thinking where am I falling short in showing humility. Ok my marriage - ouch Lord but you know I am always right - right? My husband who is a good and kind man, puts up with my all too often superior attitude. We often clash because he has one correct way of doing things where I have at least six, some better than other. Because I have more ideas I should win right? No humility would be to keep Philippians 2:3 in mind. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves"

I went on to think about how I do better to focus on others, looked at areas where I have had some spiritual pride and thought about areas of my life that needed to be submitted to the Lord. We've all got our stuff and I have mine as well.

I found a quote from Augustine that I liked. "I you plan to build a tall house of virtues, you must first lay deep foundations of humility." I just kind of liked the image of a tall house that came to mind and had fun drawing it after examining myself.

My final thought was that I can be fully who God has created me to be. I can be good at many things and enjoy life. keeping in mind that I am the clay in the potters hands. He fashions me for his purposes.

So maybe you want to try doodle praying for yourself. You might put a name of God in the center or the name of someone who needs prayer. If you think of a bible verse write it down. Its really not about creating framable art its about focusing your thoughts so you can pray and hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to you as he leads your thoughts and ides. You don't have to be a great artist just someone who can draw shapes, lines and squiggles. You can color as you go or do your page of doodles and color it afterwards or not at all.  Maybe you are stressed out - put the word peace in the center and see where it takes you.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Search for Kingdom Treasures

I have spent most of the last 30 years working in churches and involved in a variety of ministry work. I've done everything from worship music, kids ministry, to feeding homeless people. I've been on committees and church boards and worked on staff on occasion. I've done just about everything except church finances. It was my own safe little world. I knew what I believed and knew the standard answers for most of the things I or other people struggled with. I spent a lot of time in the Word and in prayer and being led by the Holy Spirit.

I few years ago much to my surprise God let me know it was time to begin a new adventure out side of the church. Up to that point I felt my calling was to encourage mainly believers in their walk with the Lord. There are times in our lives and walk with the Lord when like Abraham the Lord says follow me I'm taking you from the land of familiar out into the unknown.

When I became a believer I left behind a world of new age beliefs and practices. At the time I consciously distanced myself from the whole lot of it because I didn't know enough to rightly divide it and determine what fit in my new Christian paradigm. I thru the baby out with the bath water and really didn't look back and decided I would deal with it later. So you can imagine my surprise after 30 years of avoiding that subject, when God's direction was to go back into that world and search for kingdom treasures.

After six months of prayer and soul searching I finally decided on a direction and enrolled in Massage school. I have since graduated and am building my private practice. In massage school I encountered a lot of what I would have formerly thrown in the basket labeled "new age" and simply avoided. I found myself at first just listening to other peoples ideas and beliefs. I told people, I don't have to agree with you on every point to like you and be your friend. I am able to agree to disagree.
I found myself doing a lot of translating. I was often surprised to find names for things I already practiced and had discovered through prayer. I found people who are very hungry for spiritual things but expressed and looked at things from different perspectives than I had formerly considered.

I am still constantly wrestling with how and where does this or that idea fit. I have wrestled and continue to wrestle with the ideas of various types of energy work, healing stones, reincarnation and karma, Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine and so much more. The easy thing would have been to continue in my dogmatic stance and say its all of the devil. I have found that I have had to re-think my beliefs in light of Gods love and mercy. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows James 1:17I have to consider the possibility that I have been like a blind man trying to describe and elephant and realize that others may be trying to describe the same elephant just from another direction. They like me may have discovered things about God but like me did not have a name for that idea or concept. Their descriptions of spiritual things are heavily influenced by their culture and world view as is my own. So I have majored on loving and listening in this season.

I have to admit that this journey has profoundly challenged me and in many ways humbled and changed me.  There are many days that I spend wresting with the Word, praying and asking the question is there any other way to look at this or that passage as I try to harmonize it with my expanding world view. It has not been easy but at the same time I know I have not walked away from the love of God. He has sent me here and I am His ambassador. That does not mean that I am handing out the Four Spiritual Laws or the Romans Road,  people seem a bit jaded to that approach. I have found that they are surprised when you are willing to actually listen and hear their spiritual take on things. They are so used to Christians trying to force their vies as the only way and always having an agenda rather than taking time to listen. While ultimately truth is truth, God is able to meet each of us right where we are at this moment and help move us a little closer to knowing His love and our destiny and purpose.  None of us when we first encountered Jesus had our theology all perfected. He loved us right where we were and then little by little brought us up in His kingdom thinking. It is after all, His kindness that leads us to repentance.

We all too often have used fear to motivate people into the kingdom and I believe we have missed the mark in that regard. It is quite often fear that I have to wrestle with that I might some how displease or dishonor God in my questioning of ideas that are new to me. Fear keeps us stuck but love allows us to soar and discover truths hidden all around us.

During this journey, I have constantly looked to Daniel and Joseph who found themselves thrust into a foreign culture. Daniel becomes the top most respected wise man of his day. He had to have studied all kinds religious views, and the latest knowledge and wisdom of his day. He was one of the brightest and best of his day and found favor before the king and before God. Some how he managed to remain faithful to God in a foreign pagan land. I believe it was his influence that trained the previous generations of wise men or Magi to be watching for the star that would lead their ancestor to the Christ child far off in the future. They were ready for the Messiah when most of Israel didn't even recognize what was happening right under their noses in Bethlehem.

Joseph is a similar story of living a life of integrity in Egypt. Even when he is thrown in prison finds favor with the guards. Out of prison he rises in and leadership second only to the Pharoh to make a place for his family who had betrayed him and sold him into slavery to be rescued from the famine of the day. He had to fit in to that culture and Pharaoh gives Aseneth, the daughter of Potipherah priest of On to Joseph as a wife. Genesis 41:50-52  Aseneth bore Joseph two sons Manasseh and Ephraim who become part of the 12 tribes of Israel. She's the daughter of the priest of the sun god.  I'm thinking that Joseph while remaining true to God had to consider some aspects of his wifes world view. I have to wonder how her views may have played out in the lives of their sons and in Israel.

I thought Alice Linsley of Just Genisis had an interesting insight. She seemed to think that Josesph and Aseneth were probably cousins and that even in Egypt the Horite marriage patterns continued. Thats a whole fascinating study found at her web site.  She says in a comment to the article Potiphar, Son of Horus "Also, you are lifting up something that many Americans don't understand about slavery in the ancient world. It was mostly high-ranking people who were slaves. The nobles among conquered peoples had greater skills, education, connections, etc. They were the ones taken as slaves. The peasants were ignored or killed if they resisted." Blood lines were a big deal to God and to the Horites it seems. I can't help but think that there is so much in history and antiquity that we probably don't fully understand.
I read these stories and I think God is not bent out of shape by the same things that get our religious panties in a knot. I think of the hymn The love of God by Frederick M. Lehman that says...

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell.
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell.

I think God has far broader reach than we dare imagine and a far greater love for all of His creation than we can begin to conceive. In all my wrestling what I have decided is to stand on what I know and that is the great, great love of Jesus. Like Jacob who wrestled with God who said he was not letting go with out Gods blessing. I continue to wrestle and believe that God is not put off by my questions. If he would bless me to show others His kindness and love people till they ask why - I will have been found faithful in my life and walk in God's favor much like Daniel and Joseph. 

So the kingdom treasures that I seek, I believe to be both people and ideas that have been overlooked and discounted by the church. I pray for wisdom and discernment to be led every step of the journey by the Holy Spirit into all truth. I expect there will be times when I will have my thinking and perspective all tangled up but I trust that God in his infinite wisdom will help me to sort it all out. 

Along the way I have had Christians ask me what my thoughts were on various subjects like yoga and healing crystals and I have been able share my take on those and other subjects. What this journey has done has been to draw me closer to God as I have sought to gain His perspective on the ideas and culture of our day. Quite honestly its not all evil and of the devil as I once pridefully assumed. Anyway I am probably getting closer to being able to write more about that journey and the many interesting things I have discovered by taking my head out of the sand.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Sailing Into A New Year

Sailing into the New Year Prayer Loft 
I have been creating prayer lofts for the past 3-4 years at my church. We change the theme about every two to three months.

When the idea first came to me it was vision of a river. I sketched out rough sketches and pitched the idea to my pastor thinking he'd likely think I was nuts, but he loved the idea and found me some funds for the project. It has become a special unique aspect of our particular congregation and our style of worship and connecting with God through the arts.

I had noticed that learning to pray can be intimidating when one is a new believer. It can be overwhelming even for folks who have been busy serving in the church for many years - after all how does one approach the God of the Universe?

For many years I had been writing songs in my quiet prayer time before the Lord, but what if there were other tangible creative ways to connect with the Lord in a meaningful way. How could art be incorporated into a prayer experience that left people feeling encouraged rather than frustrated. Like the disciples they couldn't pray for an hour with out falling asleep or being board to tears. We live in a fast paced media driven world - the art of quiet reflection can easily be lost in the busyness of our daily lives.

As I thought about things that would help people. I realized the when I approach the Lord often it is because I am seeking direction or encouragement. Quite often I don't know how to pray for a situation and I am ever thankful for the gift of speaking in tongues. The Holy Spirit does know and the word says it builds up your spirit.  

Romans 8:26, 27
"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God."

I personally don't think that speaking in tongues is a badge of spirituality. This post really isn't about speaking in tongues. When I pray for people I always ask them if its is ok with them that I pray for them in my prayer language. Often I sing over them in my prayer language. Sometimes God gives me a sense of what it was about, or what some call an interpretation.  It has always been very well received by people even in my non charismatic, evangelical church. I bring it up because it has been a wonderful gift that has helped me to pray and connect deeply with God.

The bottom line is that God wants to have an intimate relationship with you. I realized that God was willing to meet me however I chose to express my thoughts and feelings and concerns to him.
I have for many years spent my quiet time journaling. I write for a while then I listen and write what I feel the Lord is saying. Often He will lead me to a verse in the bible that is precisely what I needed but would not have been able to find on my own. In writing what I think God is saying to me I may not get it right all the time but at least I am trying to listen. Sometimes I feel like the Lord is saying go to page #___ in the bible or some other book and generally what ever I find there pertains to what I had been praying about.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV) "16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." Much of what has found its way to our prayer lofts have been things that I have enjoyed doing or found helpful in my own journey to learn to pray. 

I think half the battle is deciding that prayer really does work and your are not just waisting your time talking to yourself. I think too often prayer is a last resort that people try when nothing else has worked. I want to encourage people to make it the first resort. Start with prayer and allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you in discovering the solution. 

Some of the things you might find in our prayer lofts are scrolls. Some are passages that I have taken from various devotional posts that I have written some are from a wonderful book called Blessing Your Spirit by Sylvia Gunter and Arthur Burk   The idea is that the Lord would lead you to pick the one that will encourage and speak to you. 

Another thing you will often find are colored glass stones that have a Bible promise verse references on the back side. Again a way to allow the Lord to speak to you.
Glass Stones Promise Verses
The prayer loft often has candles for people to light. They are like a reminder of our prayers rising up to the Lord like a fragrant incense.
Many people pray and then light a candle as a way of lifting their prayer to the Lord.

Art Reflection Cast Your Nets by Greg Olsen
There is generally some art work of a beautiful inspiring scene or of the life of Christ.
It is a way of meditating or thinking about what the artist has captured. This picture makes me wonder what it be like to have breakfast prepared for you by Jesus on the beach after a long night of fishing? Really that amazing intimacy is available for every one of us. The disciples were for the most part fishermen and so Jesus met them where they were at and transformed them in to fishers of men. He wants to meet you right where you are at doing the things you enjoy doing.

More recently I have started creating cards, book marks and other things that people can color as they pray. In this picture there are little 3x5 size cards with nautical line drawings and a bible verse. I think I did 16 different designs this time. At Christmas I did 8 different greeting cards.  Our church is a coffee house during the week and church on Sunday. We have found that people like sitting at the cafe tables. Often you will see people taking these coloring projects back to their seat and working on them during the service. They make a nice thing to give to a friend or loved one to let them know you were praying for them.

The prayer loft generally has a theme. This one is Sailing into the New Year and has a variety of stations that help one to find encouragement for the journey ahead.
The down side of meeting in a cafe is that it has to be set up and taken down every week. In our previous location we were able to set it up and leave it installed. So this takes a bit more work and I have to make it so that it does not take too long to set up or clean up.

The prayer loft is a ministry under my direction and leadership but I am glad for the creativity and help of a number of other people. God has provided others who have been inspired and excited at times when I was not and I have had the opportunity to encourage others to create hands on ways for people to connect with God.

Our service has a very open worship time and people are up moving around the room. Some singing along with the worship team others praying for prayer requests that are written on poster boards frames that hang on the wall. You see people writing their own prayers or praying for the prayers that someone else has written. I often hear from people say, I wrote something on the prayer wall and to their surprise and delight God answered their prayer. There are a couple of other things in this prayer loft that didn't get photographed. There are small globes to hold in your hands as you pray for various places in the world. There is a pitcher filled with water and a glass bowl, the idea with that one is to pray your prayer and then pour a little water in the bowl. As others pray our prayers mingle together before the Lord much as the water mixes together.

 The important thing is that we want people to come and connect with God.
Should you happen to be in the Spokane area and want to experience the current prayer loft it is up on Sunday's and located at The Gathering House, A Covenant Church and Coffee House in the Garland District.  

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Spikenard - More than a costly perfume

Spikenard - More than a costly perfume
by Margot Cioccio  

It was probably 3 years ago in a service prior to Easter and our pastor brought in a bottle Spikenard, it was my first encounter with an essential oil. The tiny bottle was passed person by person through the sanctuary. As people rubbed a drop on their hands the room became filled with its earthy aroma. Spikenard is an odd smell to the modern nose of our day and age. To me it smells like an ancient library. The dry dusty smell of old paper, ink and dust. In my mind the smell of the Ancient of Days and the libraries of the wisdom of time and eternity. It is not your common citrus or flowery smell. It smells of earth and its musty but I particularly love it because I imagine it to be the smell of Jesus prior to the crucifixion. 

I thought I would look at where Spikenard is found in the bible. I have gotten off on a goose chase trying to sort out Mary’s and Simons and exactly how many times Jesus was anointed. It would be so much simpler if the characters in the Bible each had their own unique name. Really was Mary the only girl name out their at that time. I’ve read commentaries from various camps and I admit I would like it to be more black and white but I seem to find a sea of grey and the lines around the edges are kind of blurred. I find myself asking who were these people who surrounded Jesus, we get just bits and crumbs of their stories in the Bible. 

In the Old Testament we hear of Spikenard in Song of Solomon 1:12 “While the king sat at his table, My spikenard sent forth its fragrance.” Truly it is a distinct and lofty fragrance.  

Again in Song of Solomon 4:13-15 with others that are called there the finest spices. I think about how we might make our lives a fragrance that is wafted abroad. I can open any of my essential oil bottles and a single drop of the highly concentrated, steam distilled oil is enough to fill the room. I am amazed at the healing properties of essential oils - that God knew and put in the essence of plants the very natural chemicals that could heal people. It makes me wonder where else God has hidden things for us to find. 

Song of Solomon 4:13 -15
“Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates
         With choice fruits, henna with nard plants,
14 Nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon,
         With all the trees of frankincense,
         Myrrh and aloes, along with all the finest spices.

15“You are a garden spring,
         A well of fresh water,
         And streams flowing from Lebanon.”

16“Awake, O north wind,
         And come, wind of the south;
         Make my garden breathe out fragrance,
         Let its spices be wafted abroad.
         May my beloved come into his garden
         And eat its choice fruits!”

Moving to the New Testament, there are two verses that actually mention Spikenard. 
It is confusing as to if this anointing by a woman happened one time and its all different versions of the same story or if there was more than one occurrence possibly as many as three. I’ve read a number of commentaries and some of them are quite dizzying.  So here are the two verses that specifically mention Spikenard. Same event or different I will leave it to you to decide for yourself. 

Mark 14:3 And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.

John 12:3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

In one story it is the feet that get anointed in the other its the head. In one the woman is unnamed and the other is Mary.  What we do know is that it was a beautiful act of gratitude and worship. Most people came to Jesus wanting something - she or they came to offer a beautiful costly precious gift. Jesus says in Mark 14:9 I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her. 

Spikenard oil or ointment was a type of investment that people with means would have procured. They didn’t have banks in those days and things like costly oils were good investments. They held their value and didn’t take up much space and you could sell or trade it for things you might need in the future. The disciples talk about how it could have been sold for a years wages and used to feed the poor. One had to go all the way to India to get Spikenard. I wonder how these women or one woman, Mary came to have it in their or her possession. Spikenard is still pretty expensive it cost about forty dollars for a half ounce of 100% Spikenard essential oil. It says that Mary used a pound of Spikenard. There is an earlier story in Luke 7:36-50 of a sinful woman who comes to a dinner at the house of a Pharisee named Simon who pours perfume on Jesus feet. I think this is a separate incident and who knows what kind of perfume she might have used. In this telling there is no fuss over the cost of the perfume. Rather the fuss is over Jesus letting a sinful woman touch him.  In the later stories just days before the Crucifixion it seems unlikely that two different women would anoint Jesus a few days apart from each other. In these a big deal is made of the cost of the Spikenard. One story mentions Mary, and its unclear if they were at her house or at Simons and was this the same Simon from the earlier story. I admit that I have already spent way to much time trying to sort it all out. 

Spikenard is an Indian plant called Nardostachy jatamansi and it is grows in the Himalayan mountains.  The word for “spikenard” in Greek, means genuine and pure. Spikenard is not simply a costly fragrant perfume. It is a medicinal oil with many health benefits made from the Spikenard plant. It is antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and a sedative. It is also used as a deodorant, a laxative and it stimulates hormone production in the reproductive organs. 
Its can be used for treating a variety of health issues. I don’t know if it was commonly known when Jesus was anointed that it had healing and sedative aspect as we know today. I’m sure God knew. 

In John 12:7 Jesus says  “Leave her alone, It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.  Since the movie the DiVinci Code there is all kinds of speculations about Mary and Jesus. Verses like this one make you wonder if Jesus and some of his followers were planing for his burial ahead of time. Is there deeper significance to this beautiful act that is left out of the story? History gets a bit muddled in my opinion the stories that we know are those of the victors of any conflict. Sometimes the truth is lost or hidden in the shadows of history and we can speculate till the cows come home but it is only just that speculation. I believe that God has recorded each of these stories and if there is more to be known I suspect the place to find the truth is at his feet. Which is a beautiful example that is set for us by Mary who brings her devotion as a fragrant offering to Jesus.

Psalm 141:2 says, “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” As I think of the wafting of garden fragrances and my prayers rising like incense. I think about how much plant material must be gathered to make small little bottles of essential oils. In the case of roses it takes 60,000 roses to produce just 1 ounce of oil, and ten thousand pounds of rose blossoms to produce 1 pound of oil. I couldn't find the statistics for Spikenard only that it is endangered due to poor harvesting practices. If my math is correct based on what a half ounce costs a pound would even today cost $1,280 dollars. So me coming to Jesus with my tiny half ounce bottle of Spikenard that I dole out by individual drops certainly pales to Mary's extravagant anointing. 

My final thought is simply what if  God has some process by which to distill all the prayers of the saints. In Revelation 5:8 “And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.” I wonder how long did it take to create 24 bowls of concentrated prayer. Often it is life’s difficulties that brings us to our knees and it is the in crushing, pressing, steaming that fragrance and oil is extracted, perhaps it is true of our prayers as well. 

Asleep In The Light

Asleep In the Light  ~ by Margot Cioccio 

Luke 6:19 (NIV) and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.

I read Luke 6:19 and find my self trying to imagine what that scene was like. The plain is crowded with people from all over the place who had heard about this guy Jesus. They didn’t have the radio or tv to spread the word it was all word of mouth. Someone in some little town encountered Jesus and got healed or set free from demonic bondage and then told their friends. Their friends said wow! - maybe he can help me. So they went to see what was happening and probably brought along some friends. They must have thought, theres something really different about this guy, he can do things the rest of us can’t. 

What did so much energy surging from him look like, smell like, feel like? Were people able to see the energy or simply the effects of it on those who received healing.  I took a moment to look up this passage in the Message. 

17-21 Coming down off the mountain with them, he stood on a plain surrounded by disciples, and was soon joined by a huge congregation from all over Judea and Jerusalem, even from the seaside towns of Tyre and Sidon. They had come both to hear him and to be cured of their ailments. Those disturbed by evil spirits were healed. Everyone was trying to touch him—so much energy surging from him, so many people healed! Then he spoke:

You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all.
God’s kingdom is there for the finding.
You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry.
Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal.
You’re blessed when the tears flow freely.
Joy comes with the morning.”

John 14:12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

I often think about John 14:12 in light of verses like Luke 6:19 and I find my self wondering when  the church took a turn towards ritual and tradition and stopped expecting to see the preaching of the word validated by signs and wonders. When did we start to accept leaders simply because they were a good orator or counselor but had no miracles to back up what they preached. Why is it that we venerate those few who do manage to have some miraculous happenings that accompanied their life and ministry. Why are they the exception and not the norm among believers? 
You and I say we believe and there for we are in the camp of the whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing. How many of us lay hands on the sick and expect to see God actually do something?

When I am at the Healing rooms each Thursday praying for people I often find that my hands become very hot. Quite often people comment about how they can feel the heat or healing energy coming from my hands when I pray. Sometimes we see people instantly healed or at very least come into a place of peace over what ever was troubling them. Even there where miracles are expected we come no where close to seeing the kind of healing and miracles that accompanied Jesus. I wonder if our “whoever believes” is become kind of wimpy. 

I wonder if we have lowered or expectations and forgotten the kingdom resources at our disposal. We have turned to our government, health care systems and insurance companies and in many ways written the need for God miracles right out of the equation.  

Mark 16:17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

1 Corinthians 4:20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.

I recall the lines from a Keith Green song that probably ruffled a lot of religious feathers at the time. 

“The world is sleeping in the dark that the church just can't fight
'Cause it's asleep in the light
How can you be so dead, when you've been so well fed
Jesus rose from the grave and you, you can't even get out of bed”

I love this next quote. 

“When God made it possible for the Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead to live in you, He made powerlessness inexcusable.

Jesus did not leave us powerless. He never desired us to go without power. To do God’s work we need God’s power.  There is no witness without power.  A good news without power is not good.” ~Bill Johnson

I suppose revival starts when I choose not to point my accusing finger at everyone else but stop and look at myself and say “ Hey Margot, You are not coming even close to doing the kinds of things Jesus was doing, your expectations are terribly low. Perhaps its time to repent for my low expectations and sleepy walk before God. There is a hurting world all around me, if I want to heal and help like Jesus did I can’t take the power of God out of the mix. My own words tonight convict me and so Lord I pray, let revival begin with me, allow me to shine so brightly for you that others see, feel, notice in some way your life and energy surging and flowing through mine.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


Shells - by Margot Cioccio
(Written for a service at the Gathering House Church in Spokane Washington)

Psalm 111:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.”  I wonder if we are missing something here. Yes, God is big and powerful, but God is love and God is good. Perhaps it is not that we should fear him but rather get over  our fear of him so that we may know him. There is a line between what we fear and what we most want. We want to know God but our fear keeps us from moving past that fear into really knowing him. If we get over our fear of God perhaps that is where wisdom truly begins because then we find ourselves in his presence.  In his presence we are changed. 

My Journal excerpt: I awoke from sleep, having spoken to the Lord about my fears. My fears hold me back from doing things and being who I was created to be. I have discovered the line between what we fear and what we desire is the same line. We must cross over our fear to get to those things we most desire. It is all to often easier to stay where we are miserable but familiar than to cross over into the unknown. What holds me and pins me in? It’s my fear on so many levels. Fear of doing the wrong thing, fear of what others will think, fear of disappointing God, fear of not being able to handle things, fear that I wont like the new thing any better than where I am presently. Fear that I may learn and grow and then no longer fit or belong among the people am around. Fear of having to go on alone. Fear of having to share what I really think, fear of being rejected. Fear of loosing my way, fear of being different, fear of not being understood. There is fear of loss, fear of the new, fear of embracing new ideas and beliefs. I fear loosing my own identity, that being with others with stronger personalities that I will meld into them and loose my individuality. Yet I don’t want to walk alone. I want to share my thoughts and my feelings and to do that I have to let people in. “ 

In my comfort zone, I am pretty secure and confident. Out side of it is where I realize that I have a lot of fear but to grow and move forward, I must somehow take down my walls. My fear was stopping God from taking me further up and further in. I didn’t want to remain in that place of fear so I had to conquer and overcome these fears many others I have not even realized. I had to find the roots to them and dig them out of the garden of my heart and mind.”

Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  How can one have knowledge of the Holy One without crossing over the barrier of fear of the Lord?  I am reminded of a C.S. Lewis quote. Mr Beaver said “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”  The children in the Narnia stories move past their fears and come to know and love Aslan the great Lion. I suppose crossing the line between fear and desire is never safe but we have to trust that we are crossing it with God who is good and who loves us more than we realize.

When I first thought about using shells in this series I thought it might be something about listening to God. You know how if you listen carefully you can hear the ocean in a shell. As I thought about how shells relate to pursuing your dream I had another idea. I realized that we all build walls and have our familiar shells from which we face the world. Our shell may many different things. It could be group of people we feel safe around. It may be our home, school or our church or somewhere we work. It could be our behavior or attitudes. In that shell we feel safe and we know our boundaries. We know what people expect of us and the way we relate to others in that safe environment.

Hermit Crabs are interesting creatures. They have their own semi tough exterior but its not much protection against predators.  To truly be safe they find discarded shells of other creatures and move in and call it home. Eventually they out grow that home and have to go find a new one. If they don’t they will die. If they do they will continue to grow. The same is true for us. We need to keep growing. Parents don’t want their babies to stay in diapers forever. 

I'm growing up and continuing to learn from my mistakes and trying not to make the same ones over and over again, but am I going to live in a shell, or am I just going to hide from everybody and not do anything? I don't think that's the way I should live my life, and I'm not going to do it.  ~ Johnny Manziel

It's when you begin to think about going to your dream that your dream is always outside of your comfort zone. It's always beyond what you've ever done. ~ Bruce Wilkinson

A couple of years ago my job at this church ended. I was challenged to take a period of time to really pray and seek the Lord about what was next. I felt the Lord calling me to do something new and different but I didn’t know what. I knew it was something out side of my familiar safe comfort zone of the church. How could I use my spiritual gifts and talents outside of the church. For 30 some years I had done art, music and ministry. So I spent almost 6 months trying to figure out what I might possibly do. Counseling, Nursing, Art Therapy, Teaching, Missions, Massage were some of the ideas I considered. Really none of those ideas excited me all that much at the time. They all sounded like a lot of work. Rob gave me books and so did others. I read them all and didn’t feel any closer to knowing what to do than before. Some days I felt like throwing all the books against the wall. Why wouldn’t God just tell me what He wanted me to do? I don’t like the in between places, the are really uncomfortable. I felt adrift in an ocean of possibilities. I was waiting for God to tell me what to do. God was waiting on me to decide what I wanted. I got a lot of good ideas from the many books but it was a book my dad gave me called What Should I Do with my Life? in which I finally found something that really clicked. It said towards then end of the book
“Here’s my point” usually, all we get is a glimmer. A story we read or someone we briefly met, a curiosity. A meek voice inside, whispering. Its up to us to hammer out the rest. “ ~ Pi Bronson  In that moment I realized I was looking for a revelation not a glimmer. Once I started to look for the glimmers, I realized that there was a glimmer around the idea of massage. I had been drawing pictures of hands for months. I kept finding verses like

Zechariah 8:3 that said So I will save you and you shall be a blessing. Do not fear, let your hands be strong.”  One day flipping though my papers I noticed there was an open house at a massage school so I called and made a reservation to attend. While I was at it I called some other schools.  Once I decided on a direction the rest came together very quickly.  I found the school I wanted to go to and just needed to figure out how to pay for it. Even that answer came unexpectedly. September two years ago my life changed in so many ways and I began a new adventure. Today back in the prayer loft there are shells with glitter on them to remind to look for the glimmer as you look for that next larger shell so you can keep growing. Change is often frightening and uncomfortable - in the end its worth it to be able to keep growing. There is one picture in my illustrated journal that I goes along with the idea of moving out of your old shell. My journal will be back in the prayer loft if you want to take a peek at some of the other drawings from my journey to find a new life.

Lord help us to over come our fears and to notice the glimmers’ so that we may continue to go forward with you on this grand adventure called life.