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?

Drowning for Love

It’s been a while since my last post. Almost three months. And for that, I apologize.

I have so badly wanted to write and share with you about my visit to the Middle East and the final weeks in Spain. Ideas would come to mind about things I could say, but as soon as I would sit down to put the pieces together, I couldn’t get anything out. Stories would wake me in the night that I would want to remember to paint on paper the next day, but by morning, they would have faded from my thoughts. I would write ideas on notes at random points, start posts, but somehow couldn’t finish them.

I longed to write. Just write. But God said no

He wanted to spend time with me. Nothing to do. Nobody to be with. Just me and Him.

The past few months, God took me to a place of raw honesty with Him and with myself. A place that was more on the hard end than the easy end. A place that I couldn’t avoid and couldn’t escape anymore, yet no matter how much it hurt, I truly felt safe. I finally sat at the table with the Father, where He had been waiting all along, drank pots and pots and pots of coffee with Him (He takes His coffee black, by the way), and went through a bajillion boxes of tissues. And because I sat down, He had the chance to ask me questions that, though I was afraid to encounter the true answers, dug deep and drew out the unrighteousness and unholiness hidden deep within me.

It was in the chaotic place of rawness that I found peace. It was in the midst of exposing darkness that I walked in light. It was upon recognizing death that I became alive.

Sometimes, God strips everything just so He can take you to deep waters of intimacy with Him. To have you release your grip on all things that help you float so that you can drown in the tidal waves of His love.

The pain. The tears. The exhaustion. I can honestly tell you that it’s all worth it to be fully loved by Him.

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Are you being honest with God and yourself in the innermost part of your being? What are you clinging to that is preventing you from allowing Him completely love you? Are you willing to release whatever He asks so that He can fill you even more?

Children and World Changers

If somebody were to ask me if I could change the world when I was younger, I would have said, without hesitation and with complete confidence, “Absolutely! Why not?” Of course, my dreams were to be a police woman so I could drive fast or a professional soccer player like Mia Hamm, but I still believed that, somehow, I could change the world. At some point, unfortunately, the world changed me. I no longer believed that I had anything to offer, anything worth saying, anything of talent or significance. I think we all hit this point in life. However, I think only a few ever fight against these lies, crawl out of selfish thinking and poverty mindsets, and actually believe that they can change the world, like when they were young.

But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” -Mark 10:14-15

If we can define the kingdom of God as reversing oppression on earth, then Jesus is implying that it is up to children to change the world. I don’t think Jesus meant those ages two to ten years old are the only ones who will manifest the kingdom, even though they surely can. I think Jesus meant something more.

A child is tiny and fragile, but resilient to bumps and bruises. He is ready to jump and run and fly and fall. He laughs from his belly at things that are funny, and he cries from his heart at things that touch him deeply. He is completely dependent upon his parents to provide everything he doesn’t even recognize he needs. A child trusts until he finds a reason not to trust. He sees a world full of rainbows and flowers and grass and dirt, and will do whatever it takes to live life fully.

That’s who Jesus says the kingdom of God belongs to.

In class, names are used as examples who have impacted cities, nations, and the world for something greater than themselves, Martin Luther and Mother Theresa as our primary go to people. Martin Luther. Mother Theresa. Martin Luther. Mother Theresa. Martin Luther. Mother Theresa. Not to disregard any work or impact they made on the lives of countless people, but a somewhat scandalous thought ran through my mind the last time these names were referred to. What about me? Will people, decades and centuries later, grandchildren and generations from now, speak my name as part of that list? Will I be remembered for the impact made, for the imprint left on this earth?

The world is waiting for God’s sons and daughters to come forth, manifest His truth and love, freedom and redemption, healing and restoration. To live with a faith that runs and laughs and falls and cries and believes and pursues the reality that we have the power of Christ in us to change the world. I’m ready to be a child of His and change the world. Are you?