Respond to the Roaring Lion.

It’s been one of those days. One of those two cups of coffee and a long shower and no noise kind of days.

Last night, I feel asleep on the living room floor watching the Tour de France race through the mountains. Though my bedroom is right upstairs, I couldn’t bring myself to get off the ground and walk fifteen seconds and crawl into bed. It’s like I had melted into the earth beneath. So, I slept on the floor. All night long.

It’s not the first time I’ve had unconventional sleeping arrangements. My beds across the world have looked like a pile of blankets for a bit of padding, a one inch pad on roughly finished concrete and dirt, an air mattress, a couch, a rooftop. Last night’s snooze shouldn’t have been a surprise for my body.

But today was rough. The first words from my father when he saw me were, “Wow. You look like you’ve been hit by a truck.” And I sure as heck felt like it. My hair was a mess, yesterday’s make up was running down my face, and my neck and head were throbbing to the ticking beat of a bomb getting ready to explode. I remember waking up multiple times throughout the night to flip, turn, sleep on one, two, or no pillows. I was a mess. In hopes it would take the pain away, I barely remember guzzling my coffee. Praying it would relieve some tension, I took an extra long shower.

I decided I needed to get out of the house and drove to my local coffee shop. With my purse, books, and favorite zip up hoodie wrapped around me, I curled into the leather chair, popped in my headphones, and savored the fresh brew.

Nothing.

I read some, talked to a few people that wandered by my seat, yet I still felt nauseous from the pressure traveling up my neck and around my head. This is stupid, I thought to myself. I don’t have time for this. And how embarrassing, since I technically chose to sleep on the floor.

I changed my music to sweet Steffany Gretzinger and dear Kim Walker-Smith, and decided to create something new by surrounding key words and coloring the page of an old book. Cracking open to a random page in a book printed in 1922, I went after it. And, oh how sweet my morning became.

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Prince. It’s all about royalty.

Cold ashes of the fire. How my body and soul felt.

Full-grown king lion. The One who walks among us.

Our confidence. Remains in the Roar.

To my surprise, as I drew and worshipped, the tension left and the nausea fled and my pain was relieved. Which really is no surprise at all. I was sweetly reminded of how our Father hates when we’re in pain, whether we choose it or not, and how precious His healing touch is when we approach His throne in worship and confidence.

Let us all join together in worship and urge the Father to gently  heal our hearts. The King Lion is calling; will you respond?

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You’re In Good Company

I woke up today refreshed after a very long time. Snow falling outside my window and a thin blanket of white covered the ground. The same stillness and hushed gentleness that echoes over Christmas day lingers well into this morning, and today I am able to pause, breathe, and reflect.

Since my last post, our family has experienced challenges and transitions within all of our lives that none of us could have anticipated the actual magnitude of energy taken from us. Plenty of joys walk side by side with a handful of hardships. But, I wake up today able to breathe deep and taste goodness.

One beautiful moment during this time was the pursuit of long-term work in India. Aside from working full-time, emails and meetings consumed my hours with determining the organization to join and be sent by. This past week, I received the official yes to join a group of hard-working, Holy Spirit led people who work around the world to advance the gospel and to join God’s work through them in India.

Holy shmoly.

And throughout this process, I realized that I (maybe we) have spent so much of my life pursing my future and my dreams the wrong way. Though wrong stands more as a generic description.

Backward. Lazy. Flesh enhancing. Faith lacking.

Whenever I or others would ask God to open doors or to tell us what to do, when we would say, “God, I just want to do what’s right,” my stomach would do a slight flip. Those prayers, though most likely with sincere intentions, are limited prayers. They are prayers that place all of the energy and emphasis and effort on God, then justify us to sit and wait and do nothing. These prayers are one way conversations of old covenant thinking because they highlight that we have no authority, no power, no freedom to do that, which in contrary, the Holy Spirit has actually imparted to us.

I have known far too many people who pray for God to open the closed doors ahead of them, and reveal to them the right door to walk through. I’m not negating the verses in Matthew in which Jesus says, “…keep on knocking reverently and the door will be opened to you.” However, we miss out that Jesus prefaces the open door concept with, “Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find…”

You see, we have work to do before He will consider opening the door. He wants to see that we’re responsible enough to take the keys of the family business and build something. As any healthy relationship goes, we are to carry on a two way conversation with God that entails continual asking and receiving, continual seeking and finding, and then continual knocking and opening. And I think that the knocking is something that continues as the asking and seeking occurs.

I’m reminded of Isaiah 30:21, which reads, “And your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it, when you turn to the right hand and when you turn to the left.’” It’s the voice of God behind us that trusts our directions and His presence comes with, whether we choose the right or the left.

As carriers of God’s Spirit, it is our responsibility to walk in the Spirit. I’ve learned that when I remember my responsibility, I also remember the authority, power, and freedom I have because of Christ in me. My prayers these days are looking more like, “Ok, God. You trust me. I am going to keep walking in this direction. The doors are open and peace reigns in my spirit. Would you shut the doors and give me anxiety if it’s not the path You are walking?”

Forward. Hard working. Spirit magnifying. Faith inducing.

God really does want to give us good things, one of which is the Holy Spirit. And if we walk in step with the Spirit and in such unity and accordance with who He is, then God entrusts mighty Kingdom advances into our hands, and the world will know His everlasting love.

So, may we be people who pray forward, who work hard, who magnify the Spirit, and who live in an ever so dependent faith. It’s quite the adventure, and I ask you to join the angels and cloud of witnesses before us who lived in such a way. You’re in good company.

Saying No

There’s been a lot going on lately.

I feel like I’ve been split between two extreme worlds: that of the seen and that of the unseen. Which, when looked at with the right eyes, is both seen. I’m constantly trying to find the balance of physically living in the natural, while continually engaging in the spiritual. The more I partake in the spiritual world, the more I recognize that it is far more powerful and interactive than we realize, and to have an equal balance between the two mutes the advancement of any divine movement we could experience. One has to overcome the other.

I grew up in a fantastic, loving, safe home. I learned about Jesus, acted in church plays (represent Gabriel from 1994!), and said my prayers before bed. My brother and I played soccer, and my parents had stable, secure jobs. While we looked great from the outside, not all was perfect. For a short, but impacting time in my life, I experienced verbal and physical abuse firsthand from an outside source. The words spoken over my life at such a young age, though it did not last for a very long time, carried strong repercussions for the years to come.

These words created within me a realm of fear that overflowed into years of bondage and insecurity. Thoughts of not being ___ enough led me to become a person who wanted everyone to be happy, to say yes to whatever someone asked of me, to not maintain boundaries so that I could please others. In return, this led to a world of being led by man and not by God. Man dictated my actions, rather than Father guiding me. Man controlled who I was, instead of living in the identity of Christ. Man’s words screamed death in my ears, rather than Holy Spirit whispering life and life abundant.

People pleasing is the smiling mask worn over the ugly scowl, known as a fear of man. This was a stronghold that I allowed to reign for almost my entire life. Over this past year, I have been trying this new thing of being truly honest with myself, and most recently, I recognized that a fear of man is something I carry. Or, rather, something I used to carry.

There are things in which I am being led to pursue by God, yet my fears have sounded something like this:

What will people say?

I don’t have a complete plan or absolute details figured out.

I don’t know even what I will be doing.

It probably won’t look anything like people expect.

What if I don’t have answers to their questions?

Actually, I’m pretty sure I won’t have answers at all.

Then what??

But God. God has said something and all I am asked to do is walk out in faith, one step at a time, without knowing anything else. The Kingdom of God is ruled by a King that imparts power to His people to push back darkness with the ever-victorious Light, not invite more darkness and let the candle flicker out in the corner.

These two worlds are always in contrast with each other and they vie for our affections and attention, steering us in one way or another. The enemy instills fear and attempts to keep us from being obedient to following the King’s mandates. For me, the fear was of man, his reactions and responses to my obedience to God. This fear was driven by the enemy, and it’s time that I’ve had enough of it.

These days, I’m allowing the Kingdom of God to outpour through me from the spiritual world into the natural because I’m saying no to people pleasing, no to fear of man, and absolutely no to the enemy’s attempt to steer me away from the King and His mission for my life. Because when I really look at my Jesus, He was a man who was fearless and loving, ferocious and peaceful, relentless and gentle. He not only taught against the status quo, but lived against it as well. He was nothing short of life abundant, and died so that others may have the same. He reigned with power, and in no way allowed fear to creep into His life.

That’s who I follow, and that’s who I stand by, until the day I die. I’m saying no to anything else, and yes to the King of all.

What about you?

Present Anticipation

I’m living in anticipation these days.

When I landed in good ol’ America five months ago without a scheduled exit date, it was a struggle to stay present. I can’t remember the last time I was somewhere without knowing when I would next be hopping on a plane, train, or car, and walking into a new season of life in a new place with new people. Instead, I treated the start of this season differently, as less than any other season I had walked into. I started a new job with new people, but in the same town and under the same roof I grew up in. I was not ok.

I’ve traveled the world, seen color and beauty like no other, done things that make my heart leap, and breathed out the Spirit of God on the lands of Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. It’s incredible to think of the places I’ve walked in my short 25 years of life, and I’m deeply grateful for the doors that have been opened to me. Now, I’m back in Dallas and, no offense to my family who always, graciously welcomes me with open arms, but it’s the last place I want to be.

Transition has been rough. It’s never easy for me, and this time was no different. I fought being here for so long. I was like a child who was being picked up by her father from her favorite toys and put in the cry room. The room full of rockers and pillows and tissues and sound proof walls. I sat and banged my fists on the ground, asking, “Why? Why? Why am I here, and not there??” I didn’t understand the Father and I questioned everything on a daily basis.

Through the loving, but piercing questions from new friends, I have cried many tears that flooded and overflowed into the deeper, ugly parts of my soul. Until this season in my life, deep down, I had given up on the church in America. Washed my hands and walked away. Decided that revival in America was for somebody else to carry and definitely not my responsibility. I would think to myself, Surely I’m meant to be overseas. Surely I’m not supposed to be in America. I’m made for more than this place. Get me out of here.

I’ve realized that everything about that thinking is wrong.

When the nastiness of our hearts are exposed, we are left with two decisions. One, to allow it to remain and continue festering in our souls, feeding bitterness and cynicism. Or we kick it out, fists flying and hearts racing, and bring in truth and beauty to fill the spaces.

I talk a lot about how we carry the presence of God, putting on new glasses, looking to where God is at work and joining Him in that. For me, it’s easy to live in that way when in a country full of idols staring at you and buildings blaring the mantra of the day across the city. Of course, my God is the same there as He is here, but I think I have been afraid to admit that I didn’t actually believe that. And that is ugly.

Because here, it is the same situation. The idols look different and the mantra sounds unconventional, but it’s still a place of people walking through life empty, hurting, and broken. If the purpose of life is to join God in His work of bringing all peoples of the world to praise His name, then my ears need to be tuned in to listening for where I don’t hear the name of God being lifted. That could be across the world, or here in the city I grew up in. It’s my decision to choose if I want to actively listen.

Though it’s still a struggle, I’m becoming more and more present. I wake up and choose to live in present anticipation. Not anticipation of leaving Dallas (though I would get on a plane tomorrow if I could), but of hearing and seeing where God is moving in this place, in this city, in this nation.

I’m sitting on the edge of my seat, standing on the edge of a cliff, and I see Him swaying among the trees and pages that flip when He walks by. I’m excited to be here because I know, in the depths of my heart, that He is here. His presence is near and alive. With eyes alight, I’m listening for the ones crying out for more and I’m willing to say, “Here. Come. Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Because, my friend, He is good. In every place of the world, He is good. He reigns. He is worthy of praise, regardless of where we are. Live in present anticipation of His movement today, and I promise you will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Arise and Bless

The way G42 worked in Spain was that each week, a teacher would speak on their life message, try to help us understand what they were currently learning themselves, or whatever they felt God was leading them to say. Usually, it was a combination of the three. These teachers flew into Spain from all over the world and were used mightily by God, influencing and changing me in ways I’m not even sure I could describe. They would live with us, pray with us, eat and drink with us, laugh and cry with us. They put their lives on pause so they could come and pour themselves out, simply because they love Jesus and believe in us as the next generation.

One day in class, I was having a sneezing fit and completely disrupted class from the brute force rising up within me and shaking my entire body. As the teacher paused for me to finish, a classmate hollered across the room, “Bless you!”

Before continuing on with the lesson, the teacher looked at my friend and asked, “With what?”

“What do you mean?” my friend replied with a curious look on his face.

“With what do you bless her?” my teacher implored.

We sat there in silence. It had never crossed my mind to think about what I was saying when someone sneezed and I mumbled a blessing to them. I’m not even sure why we choose to bless people when they sneeze, but since that is a cultural norm, then what exactly are we saying?

If someone were to ask me, “What do you mean when you bless someone? What does it mean when someone says they’re blessed?” I’m not sure I would have an answer. Growing up in the South, “Bless you child” or “I’m so blessed” or “Bless your heart” are everyday phrases one can hear. If I were to actually think about it, I suppose I would have said we were wishing good things upon the person, or that good things have already happened. #blessed

I was reading an article the other day that talks about this topic and what it means. The authors define blessing as two different perspectives. One side of the coin shows that blessing is when future destiny or goodness is spoken over someone or something, resulting in the person or thing being blessed. On the other hand, blessing is the fulfillment of what was promised. When observed carefully, both definitions are seen to have one thing in common: a blessing begins when something is spoken out loud and life is the resultIt is seen with the combination of efforts put forth by people and the beautiful presence of God, intersecting with His power, to produce more life.

In Acts 20, Paul traversed all the way over to Troas to stay for the week in order to encourage the church. The one story recorded of this visit shows that while Paul was preaching on past midnight, a man named Eutychus fell asleep in the middle, fell out of a third-story window, and died.

Though not everyone saw Eutychus fall, they all heard the thump as he hit the ground. The first ones to make it to him picked him up and declared him dead. However, Paul reacted differently. After he buried his face in Eutychus’ chest and embraced him, Paul lifted his eyes to the crowd and said, “Do not be troubled, for his life is in him.” And sure enough, Eutychus was alive! The Bible doesn’t explicitly say that Paul raised him to life. However, it does say that Paul threw himself upon Eutychus and interceded on behalf of him, believing that he could live when everyone else had stated he was dead.

Paul blessed Eutychus that day with life. The article stated earlier reveals that the idea of blessing remains linked to the idea of life flourishing toward an intended fullness. To bless someone doesn’t necessarily mean that a dead man will rise, like in the instance of Paul and Eutychus. To bless someone means that life will be restored, illuminated, and divinely abundant. Jesus gives a few examples of blessings in Matthew 5:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I went to church this morning and ran into a dear friend of whom I hadn’t seen in months. It had been some time, and I was eager to see her because of some things the Holy Spirit had revealed. After embracing each other, we sat down on some stones to the side of the main area, next to a small stream. I could see the weariness, the exhaustion, the longing for something more in her eyes.

I looked at her and shared the simple words God had for her. Words of listening and awareness, of patience and answers. As I spoke, I saw life being restored back to her eyes, back into the depths of her soul and spirit. Our eyes were locked in the divine moment and she shared with me a specific request she was asking God for, but that things had been as stagnate as the stream next to us. Yet, because I spoke, she felt encouraged to continue petitioning to the Father, trusting in His faithfulness.

That’s what speaking life does: the speaker and the recipient both walk away more alive and more blessed.

God’s covenant with Abram in the book of Genesis declared that He would bless Abram so that he would be a blessing to others. This blessing has trickled down into believers here and now. We have the power (because of Christ in us) and the responsibility (as ambassadors of Christ) to be a blessing and to bless others.

For it is in the blessing that barrenness turns into fruitfulness, that dead men come alive, and that intimacy is restored with the Father.

On New Glasses and Feelings and Truth.

Last weekend, I got a new pair of glasses, but I can’t show them to you. Actually, nobody can see them. I won’t describe them to you and I won’t tell you how much they cost. I will, however, wear them around you, and maybe you’ll notice, maybe you won’t. It’s really up to you to keep a lookout for them.

Let me explain.

Last Saturday, early in the morning after the sun had just risen and it was a cool 80 degrees outside, I was spending some time in prayer. As I was praying for restoration and healing in hearts, I became overwhelmed. I started questioning the actuality of those things happening, wondering if there was something I could do, trying to configure a plan to make people and lives and hearts better. As if it’s my job.

The Lord intervened in my spirit and said, “You cannot worry about other people. Trust that I see them as much as I see you. I’m taking care of them. I’m loving them. When you take your eyes off Me and look around, you start to sink.”

The Holy Spirit then prompted me to read the well-known story of when Jesus walked on water over in Matthew 14. Since I had read and heard that story countless times, I sat there, refusing to read the story, staring at my open journal and closed Bible. Finally, I threw my hands up, flipped open my Bible, and started reading.

And this is when I got my new glasses.

A quick summary of the story goes like this:

The disciples are in a boat that is being tossed by wind and waves, probably wearing flip flops and tunics, while Jesus hikes up a mountain to pray and process the past few days of ministry. At about 3 am, Jesus decides to join the disciples and chooses the quickest route to them by walking on the water. Tired and weary, the disciples notice a figure coming towards them, think it’s a ghost, and become overwhelmed with fear and emotion. Jesus tells them who He is and not to worry. Quick-witted Peter yells, “Hey! If it’s really you, then tell me to walk on the water and come to You!” Of course, Jesus says, “Come on!” So, Peter puts his swimsuit on, climbs over the edge of the boat, and touches his toes to the water. Upon realizing that he’s not sinking, he starts to walk towards Jesus with joy and excitement. Unfortunately, the wind around Peter causes him to become frightened and he starts to sink, while at the same time crying out for Jesus to save him. He was almost there! In typical, loving, Jesus fashion, He reaches out His hand and saves Peter.

First off, please grant me some grace towards my modern-day rendition of this story, as no offense or harm is meant to be caused. This is the story that I saw when I read it the other day. I could suddenly feel the humidity rising from the water, smell the freshly caught fish, see the shadow of Jesus in the distance, hear the wind howling through the boat, and taste the water as it hit Peter’s lips when he started to sink.

I read this story from the Amplified Version of the Bible, which I highly recommend to anyone wanting deeper and richer meanings to these sacred words. This translation relays Peter’s experience of walking on water as one that all humans go through. It says that “when he perceived and felt the strong wind, he was frightened, and as he began to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me from death!’” (v 30). I had always thought the story went that Peter took his eyes off Jesus, saw the storm and waves, and became afraid. That would make sense, right? I think the Holy Spirit, through Matthew, wanted to convey the deeper, heart issue that hits each of us when we walk through life.

I don’t think the point of this story is that taking our eyes off Jesus and looking at a storm causes us to sink. Nor do I think that the lesson is to keep tunnel vision on Jesus so that we don’t see any storm around us. The verse says that Peter perceived and felt the wind, and he became frightened. He began to sink and realized that he was headed towards death when he cried out to Jesus. It was Peter’s perceptions and feelings that caused him to fear. His fear caused him to sink towards death. All while a few steps away from his Savior.

This story of Jesus and Peter on the water is what the Holy Spirit used to hand me a new pair of glasses. I was presented with a real, sensory story and saw myself in Peter. My fears and insecurities rise up when I try to step forward based on my perceptions and feelings. I quickly sink towards death when I stand on circumstances and emotions.

Peter’s story is about standing on and walking toward the I AM, regardless of perceptions and feelings. Oh, that we may be a people who quit living based on emotions and circumstances. Rather, may we be people who step out of the boat in confidence and bravery, trust and security in the One who calls us onto the waters, regardless of what we perceive or feel around us.

For feelings lead to doubt and death, while faith leads to obedience and life.

And I’m pretty certain I want to live.

Aslan Is On the Move

I’m one who likes to stay posted on world news and happenings. I think it’s smart to keep in touch with the realities of what is happening in other places outside of my own so that I don’t walk in the naivety that everything is flowers and roses. Lately, however, the news headlines, just from this past week, seem to be worse and worse each day:

The Ebola epidemic, stretching from Guinea to Nigeria, has killed over 1,000 people

ISIS attacks and unrest continue in Iraq

Suspected suicide of Robin Williams

Africa’s last polar bear died

Missiles being shot across Israel and Gaza

Boko Haram continues to kidnap young women in Nigeria

Teenager sets himself on fire while his mother helps

Protests in Missouri over alleged racist killing of an 18-year-old, resulting in release of the National Guard to protect citizens and police

Plane crash kills a Brazilian presidential candidate

Ukrainian government continues to fight pro-Russian separatists, resulting in over 2,000 deaths

I have opted in to receive automatic notifications from my CNN app to help me stay on top of things. Last week, I remember looking at my phone and seeing yet another blurb of bad news from CNN, and thinking to myself, “When will this stop?” I sighed a release of exhaustion from reading these things, paused for a brief thanks that I don’t have to dodge missiles or fear Ebola creeping in my organs, and continued about my day pulling espresso shots and making latte art.

I began to become bothered at how these notifications did not affect me like they really should. Sure, I was sad to see something else going on, but it didn’t hit me deep in my spirit like it should. It was like I had come to expect bad news, instead of expect good news. So, what do I do when bad news isn’t surprising anymore?

Since Eve first made headlines from eating the forbidden fruit, bad news has come to perpetrate our every day lives. It has instilled mistrust, fear, and instability in a world that was originally intended to walk in harmony with the Father. People lay their heads down at night hungry, sick, and hurting in places deeper and more complex than where bone and sinew meet. What’s the point of all this wrong? Why is it happening?

When Jesus was on the earth, He taught the disciples how to pray. The beginning of the prayer goes like this:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Jesus said that we should first recognize God as our Father and as holy. Then, He calls us to pray for His kingdom to come and His will to be done–the same on earth as it is in heaven. No pain, no fear, no bad news. Rather, He wants us to pray that earth would look and smell and feel and taste more and more like heaven every day. If I may be so bold, I don’t think that means us as Christians are to sit and pray and wait for God to come and eradicate all that is evil in the world. I think, instead, it is a call to action. A call for us to start spending our time, talents, and resources to transform earth into a more heaven-like place.

I recently read a book that briefly speaks of this world that God longs to see. The author, Sarah Bessey, references a popular and powerful quote from a classic C.S. Lewis tale after describing a place without fear and evil:

The Table may be loud and dominant, but love and freedom are spreading like yeast. I see hope creeping in, destabilizing old power structures. I feel it in the ground under my feet. I hear it in the stories of the people of God living right now. We’re whispering to each other, eyes alight, “Aslan is on the move.” Can’t you feel that? The kingdom is breathing among us already. -Jesus Feminist, 4

I believe that Aslan is already on the move in this earth, and that if we look closely, we can see His hand pushing out the enemy’s strongholds and His breath consuming things in opposition to Him. I believe that I (and all followers of Christ, for that matter) carry the power to transform this world into that which God desires it to be. I believe that Jesus commanded we pray for kingdom to come to earth just like heaven because He believes in us to join alongside His already existing work in the world in restoration and love. Colossians 1:27 confirms this power by declaring that the mystery has been made known, “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

While there are thousands of people living in fear around the world, I think it’s time we rise up and declare the hope of Christ. We don’t have time to waste sitting in our safe homes, ignoring the cries of desperation, while God is asking us to be His mouthpiece to the hopeless. People are waiting for us to walk through the door and whisper into the depths of their souls that today is the day when fear dies and love prevails. It’s when we surrender our perception of safety and security that we can step beyond ourselves, look to where God is already in momentum within the world, and partner with His work in bringing His kingdom to earth, just as it is in heaven.

Do you believe it is actually possible for earth to be like heaven? Do you have your ears and eyes in tune to see the work of the Holy Spirit already moving? Are you ready to join hands with God and bring hope to this seemingly hopeless world?