The Night We Bought the Red Scion

The drive to Vancouver took two hours on the nose. Ricky had to get creative with where and how to relieve himself on the way there, and we got a good deal on this little 2006 Toaster ~ I’ll be the one driving it. ☺️ We could’ve looked longer for a “better” deal, but didn’t want to make Braylon have to share his navy blue Toaster with me, another day. Now he really does have his own car AND a license to drive it. At the same time.

I am reminding myself tonight ~ every good and perfect thing comes from above. And I am really really thankful. Mostly for the living, breathing good and perfect things in the photos below. Taken at The Cracker Barrel in Jantzen Beach.

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Did Jesus Ever Feel Obligated to Do Anything?

How do you feel when there is a sense of obligation tied to plans you have? Rarely is the word obligation associated with a positive sense of responsibility, although that is clearly one of its definitions. But I’d guess 96% of the time, when you feel obligated to make or keep plans, go somewhere or do something, instead of a right sense of duty and just weight you are honored to carry, there is a sense of… “I wish there was a way to get out of this.”  When telling others about these plans, you use words like “have to” “need to” or “should”.

I was processing this while on a walk a few days ago, and I began to compare this way of thinking to how Jesus would have thought.

I find myself doing that the more I study Him.

So the resounding question in my mind became, “would Jesus have ever felt obligated to do anything?” And I may be wrong, but I can’t see it happening his whole life long, according to the accounts of Mark, Luke, Matthew and His closest friend, John. Well, up until the night before He was crucified when he said “O my Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”  But in many accounts, He didn’t even finish his sentence before adding:  yet not my will, but Yours be done.

In adding that last part, he was essentially saying He had a will to survive (like every human being innately has), but He had another will – one greater: He wanted the Father’s will – even if that meant suffering. Even torture on a cross.

Because Jesus declared his own will to match his Father’s, the only sense of obligation I see in his life – even in the angst-filled hours in the garden, was in a just and right and responsible sense – a heavy weight He was honored to carry and carry through to completion. This obligation – in the right, just, responsible sense, actually refers to Him being bound.

Bound?! Jesus? The very embodiment of freedom?

Yes. Because He is Truth. You’ve heard the saying “My word is my bond” – well, the only human being who can say that and mean it is Jesus. He is bound by His own word. But His word is the only thing that could or did ever bind him.

He may be persuaded to change the course of a circumstance because of faith put on display, but He is not a man that He should lie.  He speaks peace or order over a thing, and it follows His command – from eyes to wind. Light to death. His words are power. He fulfilled every single prophecy spoken about Him from the beginning of creation.  Like it states in the first definition above, He is “legally bound” – or obligated – to complete, fulfill, follow through on his own word.

This should make us, his followers, sigh the biggest sigh of relief and rest peacefully every night, knowing and believing His promises will come to pass for us as a people – and as His individual friends.

In pretty much every other sense of the word, I think it is safe to say He never felt obligated to do anything.  We can also sigh in relief knowing we never have to feel obligated to do anything either! No wonder the feeling we get when we cancel plans we’ve been dreading is the feeling of freedom! Here’s why:

Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing.  The time He’d spend with the Father created a bond between them that afforded Him security, power, authority, and reassurance of His identity. If you continually walked in these things, would you ever feel obligated to do anything? Not in the negative sense. That kind infers bondage.

For if there is something we ought to do, the Holy Spirit will speak to us saying so, and cause a stirring in our heart to desire it because He desires it.  Now, the enemy may attempt to make us believe a lie and feel terrible or feel responsible for things we ought not. But let’s train our spiritual ears to hear our Shepherd’s voice. Let’s reject the imposter’s voice that would have us take on more than we should, resulting in heaviness, stress, co-dependency and more. That is not part of the abundant life He has. We are safe when we can pinpoint and embrace with confidence the things the Lord is telling us to commit to (and to let go of those things he is saying to let go of – to free yourself of the responsibility of – without feeling guilt or shame).

Our response of YES to his invitation, because of the bond we’ve created with Him over time, means, I WANT to do it – because YOU want me to, Abba Father.  Hmm… Sounds familiar. Kinda like, “…not my will, but YOURS be done.” This matching of the mortal will to the Father’s can only happen safe inside a deep-rooted, trust-filled relationship. Oh that we could all experience that!

One of my favorite lyrics by Hillsong United is, “Break my heart for what breaks Yours. Everything I am, for your Kingdom’s cause.” It shares this same sentiment.

This is my prayer – that my heart would break with His, and rejoice along with His. So that every action I take – every reaction I make throughout my days would come from a place of total trust and resulting obedience. And like Jesus, may my only sense of obligation – the only way I am bound – be to my word.

Heaven has Style

The church the kids and I have been going to on Sunday nights recently lead this song for the first time. “Garments”. Somehow, earlier that day, I felt we would be singing it that night. So when it started, my soul lept a bit.
 
The melody used to annoy me. I don’t know why. But since Corey Asbury’s Reckless Love album was released, the more I would listen to it for its content and not just the melody, Garments has slowly become one of my favorites (next to Your Love is Strong, Born Again, Reckless Love and Endless Alleluia).
Let’s remind ourselves that He has already laid out our outfits each morning before we rise. Figuratively, but I picture a caring and intentional dad setting out his 1st grader’s clothes for the next day.
This song speaks to me that our Father in heaven does the same – but what He prepares for us to wear with pride are garments not of cotton, but praise. Joy. Mercy. Let’s see them and put them on: divine dreams, Christ-centered identity, light so we may shine in dark places. Victory in adversity, confidence amidst criticism. Belonging and acceptance as a crucial part of the family, resurrection-kind-of-power, peace, restoration, beauty, freedom from shame and the greatest garment of all, love.
 
That’s a lot of garments. But it’s winter. We’re used to it, right? When I walked in my door today from work, I chose to take my Nike jacket, gray scarf and tennies off. Then I put ON music and wrapped myself in the biggest, softest, newest blanket in the home.
Have you ever thought of this… that it is a spiritual right and privilege to be able to choose which virtues we put on and take off throughout the day. Let’s choose to wear only that which He has laid out for us.
People will notice – heaven has remarkable style.

This Weekend’s Stranger Encounters

On the way home from a date night / benefit dinner (the majority of our date nights the last few years have actually been benefit dinners we’ve been invited to, which give us a good excuse to get away, have a yummy dinner and hear about some good in the world), We were almost home and my stomach was a little upset, so 7-up sounded great. So I asked Ricky to stop for some. He chose a minimart in town, where I walked in and happened to be the only customer.

I immediately noticed the woman behind the counter and wondered if she ever felt threatened or objectified by men coming in there. As I checked out, I decided to strike up a little conversation starting with asking her name (Mary Jane), and “how do you like your job?” She answered genuinely and I replied, half-way looking behind me, “I know this might sound weird, but is there somethin’ I can pray for you about? Looks like there’s no one behind me waiting!”

She graciously accepted. Now that she had earned her license and bought a car, she needed a second job, and a place of her own where she and her son could live independently.  I prayed and we talked for at least 5 more minutes. Ricky got kind of worried about me so he actually got out of the car to see what was taking so long.

It was a brief (to me) moment – but one that I truly hope left her thinking that our God is (“Jehovah Roi”) the God who sees her. And loves her.

~~~

Then today, as I took Angel to Walgreens for a thumb-wrist brace, I was exiting and noticed a man walking down 99. I’d noticed him walking many, many times before, and thought to myself, why not ask his name? Nearly everyone likes to tell people their name and hear it back. So I rolled my window down and did just that. He slowed down, took his white earbuds out, and walked over to my car as I waved him closer. We could tell he didn’t expect us to address him. His hair was in pulled-up dreads. It was salt-n-peppered and matched his stubble – and his skin was dark brown.

He replied, Mike. I said it back and introduced myself. He asked me why I asked and I told him I see him walking a lot, and thought it’d be nice to pray for him by name.

He sort of took a step back and looked up and off to the right, saying he could use a lot of prayer.

And then he added, “I was just preachin’ about this.”

About what?

“Being a light wherever you are.” He showed me a glimpse of his cell phone, “I was just writing about it too!”

Really? Where do you preach?

“We all preach, right?” he jumped over my question with a better one. It made me think for a second, that when we open our mouth every day, what we say could be considered a sermon. What’s our message?

He followed his own question up with, “We’re all priesthood.”

That’s right!

My eyes lit up. He was speaking my dialect – from the language of found identity.

I was so encouraged in my spirit that he had been given and received this kind of revelation from God. May we be a people who stop our thoughts mid-stream when we presume someone is a certain way because of how they look. I didn’t think anything bad about him before this, but also didn’t expect what he said. All I knew is that God drew my attention to him and to some kind of engaging.

It was a quick conversation and we went our ways. I took the opportunity as we drove to Starbucks, to ask Angel to pray for him – by name.  So that we don’t turn into the type of people who say they’ll pray for someone – and then forget. She prayed a very sweet and heartfelt prayer that God would give him words and lead him with more “knowing”.  I followed, with my own prayer for him.

Now whenever we see him walking near the Goodwill on 99, we will have more context. Not a lot, but more. And we’ll pray for him to grow even more in his identity as a believer, preacher, writer…  God knows what will come of it!

I’m becoming more and more convinced that what’s important when we go about our lives – wherever we are – and whoever we speak to – it’s not about closing a deal or getting a random stranger to say a prayer after us – or even to accept Jesus. That may not be what’s in order. I think it’s actually about

  • listening to God’s spirit,
  • following what he’s telling us to do or say as best we can with the courage he himself provides,
  • listening to that person – closely with love – no agenda, and
  • trusting the Holy Spirit to a.) give us words for the next sentence and b.) do the heart work necessary for a change and for eventual complete restoration.

A 4-year Faith Journey Recap + Announcement for a New Writing Project!

Its been nearly 4 years since we discovered who we were created to be. Our identity. I mean, we’re still learning, of course, but November of 2014 was when our true selves and the knowledge of all that entails went from head-knowledge to heart knowledge. And when that happens, let me tell you – everything changes.

Something happened that late November weekend. It was like an unlocking or opening of a door to the supernatural – a realm that I didn’t know we could experience, interact with and even influence, like I know now.

At a small conference held in the gorgeous First Baptist Church downtown, I found myself surrounded by stained glass and the presence of God. It was the first time I had heard of Todd White as Renee Boucher casually said his name from the stage – something like, “you’ve probably seen things like it on a Todd White video…”.  I immediately wrote in my journal, “look up Todd White on YouTube”.

After I got home, I did, and I was immediately addicted to his videos displaying a level of healing power, words of knowledge, and boldness I hadn’t seen before. I texted Ricky (who was on a sort of business trip staying at a mansion that belonged to a CEO of a global Christian nonprofit). He obliged me and watched a couple videos too, and interestingly, the gut feeling he had about saying “NO” to partnering with this man – was confirmed right afterward.  The CEO was just going to use him and try & manipulate him like he did with many, many others.  God saved Ricky from making the poor business decision to partner with him.

That was the same trip (Atlanta) where I secretly shoved “Who I Am in Christ” into Ricky’s carry-on. Those Todd White videos led to a more open mind and heard for both of us, and increased our faith like crazy.  For Ricky, they led to him memorizing the 33 statements Neil T Anderson wrote, on Who We Are. What else was he going to do with his 5 hours on his flight home?

Once home, we exhausted Todd’s videos which led us to some other Youtube videos – we were careful which ones to watch and made sure to exit out of anything that had a prosperity-gospel bent or a way about them that was way to weird. We leaned into God and tried to let him direct us. Dan Mohler soon came across our “recommended” videos – an everyday “no-name” pastor from Pennsylvania (Todd’s first mentor) and after watching his videos, we were so pumped and encouraged that we started exploring prophetic risk-taking in our day to day lives.

Around that time, things started shifting in us. We’ve stopped being influenced negatively by media/news, offended and hurt by people, scared by life’s circumstances or Satan’s attacks, even getting sick much, having financial hardship, or dealing w/“normal” tough breaks like car breakdowns or job losses. We also started doing our own learning of the scriptures and worshiping at home more often than we ever used to. The atmosphere at home changed. Conversations changed. Our Sundays changed…and expanded.

We can’t explain it, except that it aligns with what we studied for nine months together earlier that year ~ what the kingdom of God can be like here on earth. It looks like favor, blessing, love and power on display. It feels like peace and flows over with righteousness.

This all may sound like a testimony of what WE got. But it’s not about us. In fact, it is actually the story of Matthew 6:33 on a personal level: seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, & all these things will be added unto you. It’s about the seeking and coming to know our Creator more intimately. We were seeking. Like we still are, and like we’ve never sought before. Especially never as a couple.

Could it be – that all our needs could be met and more…could it be that we could take part in divine interactions, and literally be used as conduits of his glory FOR his glory, here? Could we not only see miracles happen and not be surprised – and not have to wait for someone more “holy” or “qualified” from the church establishment to be in on the kingdom action? The only way we could really know was to sniff out and shut out the world’s lies we’d heard and believed – especially the religious doctrines we’d heard over the last 4 decades, as pastors’ kids and church junkies. We had to strip away all the add-on’s that were never there in the original text of four gospels. I had to ask myself – If Jesus was our example, why am I not doing what He did?  The answer came to me – because I was taught variations of the truth. Not the solid, undiluted truth about Jesus, His character, His lifestyle, what his death defeated for us all, and what His Holy Spirit provided us when he left the earth.

A new dimension of his love has been revealed to us and it keeps growing. We are so grateful. It has reached down from heaven to our searching hearts.

It has cleared up the cloudy, stabilized the shaky, restored the broken pieces of our past and made us secure ~ in every way.  Isn’t it amazing and crazy and almost hard to believe?

That’s why I praise him. I love filling the house with songs, sometimes yelling them as loud as I can. I would not care if windows broke. I would just laugh. Because after all we’ve gone through, there’s one thing I know for sure – He’s worthy!!

So what’s next?

We just can’t get beyond the subject of that book that mischievously found its way into Ricky’s carry on back in 2014.  We’ve realized we may never go beyond it, because it is FOUNDATIONAL to the Christian faith, to overcoming and to expanding the kingdom of God. Identity.

Ricky has written over 10 books since then, and after receiving two very specific prophetic words from Godly men who don’t know each other (or me, very well)… I am finally embarking on a writing journey of my own. I am super excited to put it out there – that I’ve started writing a book, well, actually it will be more like a study journal,  that will dispell many lies, shed light on many truths and establish that crucial foundation of real God-designed identity – in the hearts of its readers. Its truth will (I say in faith) bring them out of depression, bi-polar and other mental illnesses…set free those pummeled by addiction…clear up misconceptions about who we are and why we’re here on the earth, and set aflame a desire for the “more” that is available in the Spirit. For there is always more.

It will serve as a tool for men and women both, but I’m guessing more women – to be aligned with the person God always created them to be – and to discover how close that looks to who HE is. Those looking to mine the gold from their past will discover how their past experiences have shaped them into the one of a kind mosaic work of art they are, and how their unique beauty will shine now.

I’m embracing this truth once again, only this time throughout my writing journey, for myself and for my readers: that NOTHING is impossible with God.

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How to Know When You’re Deceived

A close friend of mine quotes this phrase to me at times, “The very nature of deceit implies you don’t realize you’re held captive by it.” Sounds like something else, doesn’t it? Like being in denial? We’ve all known someone who’s been in that dark and disillusioned place, and may have called it home, ourselves.

What a hopeless state, where you can see someone you love is being fooled, or lied to; you can see the lies affecting them in a constant drip, never letting up, but your important words seem impotent. You watch the cycle of believed lies bearing rotten fruit which poisons the soul – yet your truth and guidance seem to fall on deaf ears.

These times can turn into seasons, marked with wrong thinking. And seasons, into a defeated life. How can anyone return to truth and reality when the lies we believe – we call the truth, and the facade we believe – we call our reality?  Another name for this is “belief perseverance“. Even when overwhelming evidence is presented, one’s false belief can be sustained (because fear is motivating them to stay in it).

Before change can occur, something needs to switch first. This switch must be the work of God, and its name is revelation. Only God can reveal to us what is fully true about a situation or about a person. Scripture says He is truth. And He is really, really good at gently revealing things to us when we ask.

Did you know the word “verily” means truthfully? In the single gospel of John, Jesus says the words, “Verily, verily…” 25 times! He was trying to get his listeners to trust that what he says is always true.  Are you one of those listeners today? Ask Him to give you some of His thoughts on what is true, and He’ll deliver. Pray for revelation.

What if you’re in that very situation where you don’t realize you’re believing lies?  You can actually start a new habit and ask God in every season, even if you think you’re “good” – “Am I being deceived about something right now?” What a simple prayer. His answer may come quicker than you think.

He may bring a phrase to mind. Or a person who is fooling you into believing something false about yourself.  He longs for you to know the truth, and not just keep it at knowing, but to take it further into believing. Along the same lines as the famous Edmond Burke quote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”, a dormant (unbelieved) truth may as well be an active lie. We all believe lies and lies by nature, bind and enslave, whether we’re conscious of it or not. But truth can only lead to fruit-bearing freedom when it is shared in love and rooted in belief.

There is a line from a song that reads, “Jesus, the name above every other name”. As I was thinking about the defeating effects of name-calling a few weeks ago during a church service, everyone started singing this song. And this line became highlighted to me in a whole new way. And I prayed, Jesus, may your name be elevated above all other names. May the names you call me be the names I call myself – may they be above every other name I’ve ever been called or call myself as a result of a deep-rooted lie.

Disclaimer: the truth can look ugly at first. This kind of truth is called confession. Even if it feels ugly, and is difficult to utter, if it is admitted with a humble heart, this kind of truth is beautiful and nurturing. When it is spilled out, it can water the ground for more truth to grow in your heart. It can look like this, “God I suck at being a friend. I’ve failed so many times. Help me.” And then his overcoming truth will start to populate your mind with encouraging thoughts, “You’re my child. Of course, I will help you.” “My mercies are new every morning.” “You are not a bad friend. You’re just struggling with the concept of loyalty to this particular person, in this particular season.” “Keep your eyes on me, I will help you because I love you and you are worth it to me.”

As you can tell, this isn’t a step by step guide to knowing when you’re deceived, but more like a few ways to equip you to climb out of that ditch of denial, and to pass along the hope I have that real and loving truth, when believed, will bring you to a place of unbelievable freedom.

Let’s dare to ask for revelation and insight, dare to confess the hard truths in order to change our thoughts to match his, and also dare to be that friend who persistently loves with the truth, no matter the cost.

A New Default for Problem-Solving

How often do you find yourself in a situation where you’re at a loss of what to do – or how to react?

Maybe you’ve already tried 6 ways of dealing with a specific child, and have run out of the energy and even the will to come up with one more thing that could solve their current problem. It seems that whatever group of children I have in my care, there is usually at least one who, for a season, makes me truly at a loss. So if I’m not conscious about its spiritual aspect, I will let it go on for days or even weeks – trying to come up with solutions using human logic and reasoning.

I forget sometimes, that I serve a God who solves problems all the time, and his solutions often bypass logic and reasoning. He was showing me this week that the road to discovering a divine solution (revelation) is paved with relationship. It is not in his nature to always come right out and tell us what the answer is, or see us trying different things and then suddenly download a wisdom file about the issue at hand. Instead, he waits for us to make the first move. Kind of like he did with Jeremiah:  “The Lord gave him this second message… ‘ask me and I will tell you some remarkable secrets about what is going to happen here’.” (33:1-3)

Logo-White-BlueBackground

This week, my challenge was to stop making my own ways of problem-solving – my default ways. And to make going to Him for his thoughts – my new default setting.  If there is emotional or relational chaos, frustration, anxiety, confusion, academic setbacks, depression, rage or other behavioral stress, He is reminding me that I can ask him what his solution is. And then wait. Expect him to answer. This is where I can go off-track too. I can pray…and even expect him to answer me, but then forget to listen for the answer.

Listening for an answer is a discipline that takes focus and intention. It takes turning down the noise of the everyday activities…and getting quiet. Last night, I prayed for a solution for a child, and the Lord literally woke me up at 2:30 with one. Even then, as I pondered it in bed, my natural first thought was not to thank him for doing this. It was, “Why am I thinking about this in the middle of the night? I should be sleeping!” And then it hit me. “Ohhh… that’s right. I prayed for this. God, this isn’t me, it’s you. You’re answering me. Thank you.”

See, this is the point where I have been deceived so often. The enemy has convinced me that it’s just my own voice, when God Himself has spoken. And sometimes because I don’t hear Him audibly, and all I get is that whisper still and small, the enemy comes in, lies to me saying it’s just me (minimizing or discrediting the voice of God like he did to Eve) and that’s all that I need to hear, to dismiss it – forgetting that the closer I grow with the Father, the more my voice sounds like His voice. For the Word of God through Paul says (“But we have the mind of Christ [to be guided by His thoughts and purposes].” –1 Corinthians 2:16).

Why did He reply to me in the night? It’s when I’m most at peace, and when it is most quiet in my home.

I believe the more we realize we can come to Him and ask “Can you tell me your thoughts about this?”, the more of a space it creates for intimacy to grow between us and the Father. And that intimate space is perfect for kingdom-secret-telling. It is a natural space that has actually been ours to share with Him since the day we said YES to following Jesus and everything in Him became our inheritance. We just don’t realize or utilize fully the access we’ve inherited. 

Here are some scriptures I found on getting closer with God and how He can hide and reveal wonderful things to his kids:


Daniel 2:22 (NKJV) says:  “He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, And light dwells with Him.”

In John 15:15 (NIV) Jesus talks about abiding in him (referring to ongoing connection and intimacy) and says the sweetest thing: “I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”  

So could this mean that what qualifies someone as a friend of Jesus, is the passing along of revelation He’s gotten from his Father? Solutions – new names – purposes – concepts – words of wisdom and knowledge – bold and creative ideas – He feels comfortable sharing these with us. And this three-way communication between Father, Son and us – His adopted and beloved, means we’re friends. How humbling this is to accept.

Proverbs 25:2 says “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.”  To me, this is referring to God – as the King of kings – and us being the lower-case kings. It’s saying he loves to bring glory to himself by keeping things from us for a season, because he knows that the experience we have in searching out his answers and finding them at just the right time – is a glorious adventure, for us!

Ephesians 1:9  “He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ”

Proverbs 4:18 “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”  What a vision that is. We are declared righteous…and our path in life – or perhaps in a season of life – is meant to grow lighter and more clear – like a pathway illuminates with the sunrise. I love this so much.

Let’s trust that He’s never ever stumped – He knows with omniscient wisdom the solution to every single problem we face – at school, in relationships, at home – everywhere! He’s just waiting for us to switch our default setting to “ASK…LISTEN…WAIT…and TRUST”. So lean in. He will speak to you, passing on what you need from the Father – because believe it or not, he calls you His friend.