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.