For I am with You

Yesterday marked a significant milestone in my life. I was ordained at my home church, Dwelling Place Northeast, as a pastor. Since I was 13 years old, I have felt the call of God to do ministry full-time. Since then, I have sought out opportunity, after opportunity to engage in ministry and to learn the ropes from other men and women of God that God has placed in my life.

Yesterday, after the ordination service and a full day of celebrating with friends and family, I finally climbed into my bed and tears of joy came trickling down my face. I so was overwhelmed by the faithfulness of God. The way that God loves me and fathers me became so real to me in that moment. The God that is aware of all of my flaws and imperfections saw it fit to bring to fruition the dream of a 13 year old girl. He has spent the last 15 years refining me and preparing me for this moment. At times I thought the process might kill me, because sometimes preparation involves embracing pain and moving forward. God has used this season to stretch, grow and mature me. But I never thought this would be my year to see this particular dream fulfilled. Looking at my circumstances and my feelings, it just never occured to me that God was setting me up for this huge blessing.

As my pastors prayed over me, my pastor said, “God has known all along that August 27th, 2017 would be the day that he would fulfill this dream.” With that one line, the tears began to flow. This year started off rough. It was a defining season, but at times it felt like the weight of it would crush me. Even then God knew all that He was preparing me for, all that He intended to bless me with. And I remember a simple sentence He spoke to my heart, as I wondered and prayed about the pain I was going through. He whispered to my heart, “It’s not permanent.” Another night, as I cryed myself to sleep, He repeated over and over in my spirit, “From the breaking point to the breakthrough…from the breaking point to the breakthrough.” Yesterday, as I stood before friends and family to celebrate God’s faithfulness, I recognized that right in this moment, I am breaking through.

The thing that God marked my heart with more than anything else yesterday was that He is with me. The night before Sunday service, I was feeling all sorts of emotions. I wanted the moment to be perfect, special because it meant so much to me. It dawned on me that although many friends and family would be there to celebrate this moment, there would be someone present who has been there through every moment, both good and bad, and that someone is Jesus Himself. It occured to me that whoever else showed up, whoever else would be in the crowd or part of the festivities afterwards, my constant partner and supporter, the one who has been my cheerleader through all the ups and downs would be standing right by my side. This was our moment. A special moment between a girl and her heavenly daddy. I pictured it as though I was standing at the microphone and He was right at my side, holding my hand and whispering in my ear, “You did it baby girl.” And this is what I prayed. I prayed that He would take that position right next to me, even though I knew in my heart that I didn’t even need to ask. He would already be there.

When the service ended, my Father, who has shared this dream with me all these years and who had no idea of the prayers of His neverous daughter the night before, told me, “When you were up there, I knew that Jesus was standing right beside you, holding your hand.” I simply smiled and told my dad, “Yes. I asked him to be there.”

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isa. 41:10).

Tear the Roof Off

A little over two weeks ago, I began leading a women’s Bible Study for my church based on the book Fervent by Priscilla Shirer.  The book’s focus is how, as women, we can become more strategic and deliberate about prayer.  It’s a book I enjoyed reading for myself and have been enjoying reading with the ladies at church as well.  In the first chapter of the book, the author points out that many of us don’t pray like we should, because we have lost our passion.  She emphasizes the point that our passion only comes from God to begin with and encourages the reader: “Praying-reaching outward and upward to Him-is the only way that passion comes down.  Even prayers that begin with the blunt edge of willpower, dragging your heart along kicking and screaming can soon begin to shine with the cutting edge of hope, faith and passionate confidence in Christ.”  Passionate confidence in Christ…that’s what I’m after.

Priscilla Shirer challenges the reader with various scriptures.  One scripture caught my eye and I looked it up in several translations, choosing the Message version as my favorite.  The verse was Deuteronomy 30:6: “God, your God, will cut away the thick callouses on your heart and your children’s hearts, freeing you to love God, your God, with your whole heart and soul and live, really live.”  God has been speaking to me alot lately about what it means to be free to love God with everything I am.

While I was away in Kona, Hawaii recently, serving at YWAM’s University of the Nations, I woke up one morning with so much heaviness that I could feel it in my body.  I felt very flu-like symptoms, every joint and muscle labored to move and it was a huge challenge just to get out of bed.  Nevertheless, I knew something spiritual was going on, so I managed to get up and get going.  Although I had planned to attend a group outing to the beach, instead I chose to participate in a women’s conference being held on campus.  After the conference, I took advantage of the prayer room to rest and to reflect on what God could possibly be speaking to me through all that had transpired that day.  As I laid spread out on the prayer room floor, I felt the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart.  I felt God was saying that the same weight that I felt in my body that morning was the same weight I have been feeling both mentally and emotionally.  He told me that I had allowed various things to drag me down and that I had been walking around carrying and holding unto things He never intended for me to carry.  God showed me that I had not been living to the 100% potential of who He has called me to be.  The reasons for that are numerous: fear, insecurity, shame over my past, feelings of inadequacy…I had allowed all these things to hold me back.  I had been afraid to step out to far, afraid to take big risks, petrified of making mistakes.  So I held back, keeping myself within parameters I felt were safe.  Now God was telling me it was time to knock the walls down and tear the roof off of the limitations that kept me engaging in life with only half of my heart.

God will cut away the thick callouses on your heart…freeing you to love your God with your whole heart…and live, really live.  That’s what I want…to live…REALLY LIVE!  I have asked God to help me to freely love Him and to truly live.  When I show up somewhere, I want to show up 100%.  I want to be fully present and engaged with each person in front of me and in each task I put my hands to.  I want to live with the kind of passionate confidence in Christ that doesn’t depend on my circumstances, but stirs and grows as it reflects and meditates on the promises God has made in His Word.  Every morning, when my feet hit the floor, I want to carry the confident expectation that God is going to do something amazing that day.  I want to move in my life with such mountain-shaking faith that people and situations around me can’t help but to align themselves with the truth of God.  And when I can’t see the change, when all appears to be the same, I want my bold prayers to touch and move the heart of God, until what I am praying for in the spirit, becomes visible in my natural surroundings.  I want to persist no matter how long it takes, because I am so convinced of God’s power, so undone by His love for me, so aware of His presence and His faithfulness.  I want to drop the lies that have been holding me back like a bad habit and press into the plans and the purposes of God.  It’s time to tear the roof off.

In Luke chapter 5, we find the story of a paralyzed man who is healed by Jesus.  Men came carrying the man on a matt, but they were unable to get inside the place where Jesus was preaching because of the crowd.  Everything was standing in the way of this man getting his healing.  He was paralyzed.  There were literal walls between Him and Jesus.  The crowd was in the way.  So what did these men do?  They tore the roof off.  With persistance and tenacity, they tore down the barriers standing between them and destiny, between them and freedom.

What barriers have been standing in your way?  What lies have you allowed to limit your capacity and keep you living for less than what God designed you for?  It’s time to tear the roof off and to live…really live.

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Blossom

Recently, I returned from a trip to Kona, Hawaii where I served as a part of the Missions Builders Program at Youth with a Mission’s (YWAM) University of the Nations.  For the next several weeks, my blog posts will focus on all that God spoke to my heart during my time there.

One particular night in Kona, as I was lying in bed, I began to fade into that fuzzy place between wakefulness and sleep.  Floating through my head came a stream of images, all of flowers in bloom.  I roused myself awake and asked God what He was saying to me about blossoming.  Over the past several weeks, God has continued to speak to my heart on this topic.

I was led to the following two passages of scripture:

And why worry about your clothing?  Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow.  They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you.  Why do you have so little faith?  “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat?  What will we drink?  What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.  “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matt. 6:28-34 NLT)

My lover has gone down to his garden, to his spice beds, to browse in the gardens and gather the lilies.  I am my lover’s, and my lover is mine.  He browses among the lilies. (Song of Songs 6:2-3)

These passages highlighted such beautiful truths to me about how God’s love towards me provokes my life and my heart to erupt and blossom into the fullness of beauty before my Heavenly bridegroom.  I blossom as I put my trust in Jesus.  The less I worry about the cares of this life and the more I choose to place my focus on Him, the more my heart opens up before Him, the more my character as a woman after His heart develops and the more the path of my life unfolds in accordance with His desires for me.  In Matthew chapter 6, we are compared to the lilies of the field growing, beautifully dressed and wonderfully cared for.  We are reminded of the simple but transformational truth that God loves to watch us grow in the fields He has planted us.  He loves to dress us up and cause us to radiate His beauty.  He delights in the way the sparkle in our eyes and the warmth of our smile can so clearly express and communicate His love.  And His care and concern for us is wonderful.  As we seek God above all else, He promises to provide everything we need to sustain and to bring about more growth in our lives.  He asks us to focus on what it means to appreciate and celebrate the beauty of each moment. As we continue in faith day by day, our lives unfold delicately and delightfully before Him, according to the rhythms of His grace.  As we do this, He is faithful to come into our garden.  He comes to enjoy us, to love us, to be with us.  In this place of intimacy, openness and transparency before Him, He whispers to our tender hearts, “I am yours and you are mine.”

During my time in Kona, the Lord convicted me that I was not living to the 100% potential of who He has called me, fashioned me and created me to be.  I was allowing worry, fear, my past, my weaknesses and my own sense of inadequacy to keep me in a holding pattern of living a life with limits.  I was keeping far too much of my potential locked inside and hidden away from the world.

I recently read the following beautiful quote by Anais Nin: “And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom.”  I did my research on the author of this quote and while I don’t think I would agree with the majority of her work (as it does not glorify God), I did find the words expressed above to be beautifully articulated.  They express something I have begun to feel stirring from the deepest parts of myself.  Now is that time for me.  The risk of keeping myself locked away, only living to half who God has called me to be, is far greater than the risk of blooming before Him, fully trusting Him and allowing my whole heart to give way to His passion and purposes for my life.

I wonder how many of us are living closed lives, tight in our buds, afraid to open our hearts fully, afraid to fully engage in life, afraid to take risks and afraid of what might happen if we actually trusted God to direct us and guide us in His purposes and plan.  I believe the time has come to blossom.  Invite the King of your heart to step inside your garden.  Find out how wonderfully He cares for you.

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From the Breaking Point to the Breakthrough

Do you ever have those perfect storm moments in life?  Those moments when everything seems to come crashing down all at once?  I have experienced several of those moments over the course of my life.  God reminded me recently of one particular time I struggled through a perfect storm.  I came home one night and crawled into my bed.  As I tossed and turned through the night, in the middle ground between sleep and consciousness, I remember this one thought playing on loop in my mind: From the breaking point to the breakthrough, from the breaking point to the breakthrough, from the breaking point to the breakthrough.  I know that was the whisper of the Holy Spirit speaking directly to my heart.  I certainly didn’t feel anything remotely like breakthrough was happening, but I was aware that I had reached my breaking point.

Although I surely hate the breaking point seasons of life, there is a lesson God is repeatedly teaching me: Breaking is good and God wants us broken.  It is a tough pill to swallow, but it’s true.  I have learned that God wants to break my self-will and my self-reliance.  He wants to bring me to the point of recognizing my limitations and realizing that the weight is too much to carry on my own.  He wants to get me to the place that I am willing to admit that I have no idea what I’m doing, I don’t have it all together and that I have more questions than answers.  He wants to expose my faulty patterns of thinking and relating to my circumstances and make me aware of the holding patterns that have kept me in bondage.

In my brokenness, I am able to truly humble myself before my creator.  I am able to surrender the reigns of control to my heavenly Father.  I am able to lay down my agenda and my own will, to fully pursue and follow His purpose and plan for my life.  When the Lord strips me bear of every false comfort and causes me to look at myself for who I truly am, I am able to recognize my need for my Savior to govern and watch over every single area of my life.  When I am broken, I am able to lay down my pride and be honest before God and others, regarding my true heart condition.

This place of brokenness, honesty and humility is the breeding ground for breakthrough.  God breaks us of every chain that has held us back and hindered us.  He breaks every curse and strategy of the enemy.  He breaks every branch that is not bearing fruit, in order that we can thrive, grow and flourish in ways unimaginable.

Brokenness is a tool that God uses.  Unfortunately, the enemy uses it to.  He has a way of distorting our perceptions, so that all we see in our brokenness is pain.  When all we see is our pain, our brokenness feels dark.  It feels ugly.  It feels forever.  It feels like an end.  It is not.  If we allow it to, our brokenness will be the point through which God shines most brightly in our life.  He will bring beauty out of the ashes.  And what feels like an end will only be the beginning of the amazing work God plans to do in and through you.

If you will allow it, God will use your perfect storm moments in life to display His perfect power in the midst of your biggest weaknesses.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Cor. 12:9)

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