prophetic journey

Genie in a Bottle

Earlier this week I posted a very personal word from God. Someone asked me why I would put anything so personal out into the world for all to see. The answer is simple. Everyone needs to know that regardless of what any of us has done or not done; regardless of whether we are living in relationship with God or not, we are divinely and uniquely made and we are all incredibly beloved by God. While there are personal layers and meanings specific to me in that word, the essence is for everyone. God. Loves. Us.

I have spent most of my life longing for and running from God’s love. Sometimes at the same time. If you had asked me about this at any point in time, I wouldn’t have seen my actions for what they were. I would have told you how I felt my relationship with God was based on how well I thought I was performing at the time. Or how steeped in religiosity I was. Or how beaten down and alone I felt. My response would have been based on emotion or performance, not on relationship at all.

As a young child, Jesus was my imaginary friend. We spoke all the time and often it was just Jesus and me because there was no one else.

In my teens there were times I treated God like a genie and times I treated Him like a welcomed confidante. All those hours spent in my room with the door closed were spent trying to figure out the hormonal angst that had become my life, however much of the relationship was one way. I was spilling my guts to God, but I wasn’t actively listening to Him.

In college I ran. I mean I really fled from God. Which is a little ironic as I was attending a faith-based college at the time. It was during this time that all my issues seemed to coalesce and I was confused enough to fall into pitfall after pitfall. There was a point in time when I felt like nothing was going right and God was allowing disaster to befall me in Job-like proportions. If God was going to punish me, I was going to walk away from God. At the very least, I was going to keep Him at arm’s length.

I look back now and I can hear the Holy Spirit snicker, “Yeah, good luck with that.” There’s no escaping God. Elijah learned that as he tried to hide from God after having battled the priests of Baal. Just thinking that there is a way to hide from God is a human attempt to make Him smaller than He really is. We are very accomplished at making God small.

And that’s what I have done most of my life. I have stuffed God in a box and put the box on a shelf and told Him to stay there until I decide I need Him. Then He’s allowed to step out in all His glory and set my world to rights.

This faulty thinking reminds me of Disney’s animated movie adaptation of Aladdin. When Aladdin was trying to wrap his head around just who and what the genie was, the genie explained that he was a being of phenomenal cosmic power trapped in an ity bity living space.

 

The genie was an enslaved magical being and not God, but I think this is often how we see our Heavenly Father. He’s majestic and mighty and the creator of our very universe, yet we treat him like His hands are tied. Just like Aladdin’s genie’s hands were tied.

If we view God as being too small or as less than all-powerful, can we really believe that God has this amazing and unfettered love for us? Can we trust that when God looks at us through the filter of Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross, He sees us as redeemed? Can we even begin to grasp what it means to be a much-loved child of God, let alone the ridiculously cherished bride of Christ?

It doesn’t take a gifting in the prophetic to see where this path leads. It leads to rules and religion and believing those insidious little lies about the nature of God that ties our own hands behind our backs and makes us less effective in the Kingdom than we could be. By making God smaller, we are diminishing ourselves, our ministries, our relationships, our experiences. God is bigger and yes, He can do great things despite our lack of belief or understanding. He can choose to give us amazing experiences and put incredible people in our path. At the end of the day, it’s our own values and belief systems that diminish what God wants to provide for us.

I’m learning this quickly. As God was giving me that incredible word, He also saw fit to shed light on some areas of my life where there is bondage and on the forces that have been working in opposition to God for years.

This is what I find truly amazing. God knows what He wants in my life. He has always known. He knew that for me to reach this next phase in growth that I would need support, that I would need desire, and that I would need to hear just how He sees me over and over and over again before the walls of steel and stone I erected around my heart could start to crack beneath the weight of His truth. Timing, it seems, is everything. I may have been offered similar windows of opportunity in the past, but for one reason or another I didn’t see them for what they were. I didn’t recognize them as gifts of great love.

This time is different. That box I stuffed God into, it’s starting to disintegrate. No more am I treating my Almighty father as a genie in a lamp or just a sounding board. This time I have a trusted friend and mentor in Claire. This time something has shifted enough in my belief system that I desire this growth and no longer want to walk this half-life I have been living. I want to take this time to break those bonds and to start to experience God’s goodness in all it’s fullness.

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You’re F**kin’ Perfect To Me

Claire had a word for me earlier this week. A profound word that I received from her while I was at work. A word that drove me to my knees, figuratively cuz, you know, at work. But there in my cubicle I fought the need to cry until the desert within my soul was saturated with tears of release and longing. To rage at the sky at the hurts I have buried deep within my soul, at the things that have been said over me and done to me and agreed to by me that have done nothing but tear away at my sense of self. This word has ripped me apart inside and when the pieces are put back together I know I will never be the same.

[Y]ou are a talented, intelligent, beautiful, capable woman. You are gifted. The Lord has deposited His image in you. It’s a unique image. No one else on the planet, past, present, or future has this particular image. Your expression of this image is your own, and He is excited to continue revealing it to you and others day by day. You, therefore, have no need to compare yourself to others.
Comparisons are pointless. It’s like hummingbird comparing itself to an orchid. The hummingbird is iridescent and beautiful. One must look hard to see it. It is made with purpose. Everything about the hummingbird allows it to do exactly what it was purposed to do. The orchid, on the other hand, lives in rainforests. It’s not even a bird! Like the hummingbird, it’s a rare beauty, but it’s wildly different. The two cannot be compared. How are they alike? They are alike in that they are  magnificent. They are wonderfully made. They cause one to stop and stare.
When hummingbirds are in action, pollinating flowers, sipping nectar, people gather because the hummingbird in action is a wonder. When the orchid is at rest it seems to just be a collection of leaves. Nothing special. But when it blooms, it stuns. Each variety of orchid is different. In fact, one can’t even compare orchid blooms to each other because they are so different and beautiful.
To compare a moth orchid to a Lady Slipper seems almost like a crime. It denigrates their beauty. Each one is incomparably lovely.
For you to compare yourself to another person decreases your worth. It insults God. He thought you up before the foundations of the world were set in place. Everything about you; your laugh, your eyes, your spirit, your hair, even the way you walk. The name given you. The way you drink your tea. Your creativity. Your longings and secret desires….your desire for more. It’s all known by Him and to compare yourself others, to agree with anyone else, natural or supernatural, that you, as you are, in the eyes of God are somehow lesser or less beautiful or too much or not enough in comparison to someone else is wrong.
Come into agreement with who God says you are. On the day He thought you up, He declared to the Heavens–“I  made her. And she is. ‘She is fearfully and wonderfully made.” Agree with that. If you ever get confused go back to that. If you ever lose your way go back to that.
“I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am good.”
“I am as magnificent as a hummingbird and lovely as an orchid.”
“Incomparably beautiful. There is no one like me.”

This was the first part of the word. It went on from there to show me generational sin and agreements in my family line. In my own life. God used Claire to show me how God sees me and to let me know that in some of the deepest and darkest moments in my life God didn’t abandon me. Which I have always known on an intellectual level but truly believed? No. You see, there’s always been this voice in my head telling me I’m not worthy. I’m not worth God’s love. I’m never going to really be His daughter because I’m broken beyond repair. How could a good and perfect God love someone like me.

That voice sounds an awful lot like my grandmother. But it’s not her. Sure, she spoke words over me that were curses rather than blessings. And the spirit of victimization, the spirit of poverty, a spirit of jealousy started to become empowered in my life. It hurts to type this. I am looking back over events in my life, at social ostracization, at always being on the outside even within my own family and I see a girl who had no idea what was at work in her life. And I see a broken view of God. He wasn’t big enough or didn’t care enough to stop these things. He didn’t stop my grandmother from speaking curses over me time and time again. He didn’t stop the mean girls from making sure my life was a social hell. He didn’t stop the sexual abuse or my own choices that occurred after.

I’ve been harboring anger at God. As for how I feel about myself, I’ve been seeing myself as too much and not enough. Always reaching but never deserving.

God spoke to Claire and she imparted to me that God was with me through it all – the good and the bad. And God has never seen me as lacking. He was with me and He knew He would heal me. God is outside of time. Heal me then, heal me now, does it matter? There is healing. God is there, holding my head through the darkest memories and like a good parent, He is telling me that it will be okay. Telling me He knows it hurts, and hurts horribly to the point where I don’t know if I can stand through the pain. But He will heal these hurts and tend to my wounds. And He wants to do that now.

God also knows that like Thomas I have doubts. Prove it to me, Papa. Prove to me that you were there and that you have always planned to heal these wounds. Prove to me that you can. Prove to me that you loved me when I see myself at my worst. Prove to me that nothing I have done to dare Heaven has diminished your love for me. Prove it, Papa.

Since God knows this part of me, He had Claire tell me that it was okay to ask the hard questions and go into those dark and devastating memories and look. He will be there. He has always been there. Even when I raged at Him for not loving me enough, for playing favorites, for letting dreams fall to dust. For not saving me from myself. God basically dared me to bring Him any bad memory and He will show me where He was and what He was doing. He will show me His goodness.

Funny how well God knows us. Had He not dared me, I wouldn’t be writing this post. Had He not said, “bring it” I would have taken this word and I would have tucked it away. But I wouldn’t have done anything with it. I wouldn’t be sitting here telling God to show me exactly where His goodness was when in sixth grade all it took was one sick day for the head mean girl to turn my best friend of a year against me. When upon my return to class she was mocking me during lessons and ridiculing me at lunch. Where was HIs goodness when that same mean girl made it her mission to turn every new student our age against me to ensure that I was always on the outside and alone? Where was His goodness when I was abuse by babysitters, by a family member? Where was His goodness when my grandmother told me time and time again that I would never be enough. When she would destroy my mother in my presence and then turn to me, daring me to cross her, flaying me verbally when I did.

And God wouldn’t be patiently showing me exactly that. Or He would be, but I wouldn’t be listening. I would have my eyes closed and my fingers in my ears chanting, “la la la, I can’t hear you” like a stubborn strong-willed child.

I certainly wouldn’t be listening to Pink’s single F**kin’ Perfect over and over again, the words a love song to the child I remember and the adult I am becoming because seriously, I think God wrote part of that for me.

You’re so mean, when you talk
about yourself. You were wrong…
Pretty, pretty please, don’t you ever  ever feel
Like you’re less than, less than f**kin’ perfect
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever ever feel
Like you’re nothing, you’re f**kin’ perfect to me

There’s more to be done. More conversations to be had between God and I. There are old  agreements to abolish. There is bondage to work through. Legal rights to revoke. Exchanges to be made. And healing to be had.

This is an opportunity. An open door. And I have a choice to be made. Will I hesitate to walk through that door and enter into the work of healing and divine acceleration of growth that God has placed in my life? Or will I exchange poverty thinking, fear and judgement for compassion and knowing, really knowing my God-given worth and step through that door?

We all have these moments in our lives, moments of great opportunity that may seem like they carry great cost. And evangelical teachings tell us that the cost is to be weighed and never taken lightly. However, I am reminded that God gives us all we need in order to pay the cost, which in essence means we don’t really pay anything. God does. Why do we fear then? Why do we resist? Because we believe the lies and look at what we have and decide it’s comfortable enough here, where we are. And we miss out on so much.

I don’t want to be afraid anymore. I want to see myself as God sees me. I don’t want to be angry anymore or tired of fighting or lonely in a crowd of people. I want something more. Don’t you?

I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down

I was anticipating an opportunity to practice love with boundaries this week with a visit from my MIL. We knew she was planning on coming to town over her spring break (she teaches at a community college down South). We had discussed whether to invite her to stay with us or not, and to make a long story short, because my husband does love his mom and want to spend time with her, and because he feels a strong sense of family obligation, he wanted to extend the invitation. I was less excited about this proposition but after prayer, felt the Holy Spirit tell me to say yes. That in order for the family to truly understand her mental illness and how it impacts their lives, they need to see her. Truly see her.

So, we extended and invitation when she requested to spend a portion of her stay with us. I was cleaning like a mad woman, knowing that while she is here, she wouldn’t say anything about my particular brand of housekeeping but she would judge it nonetheless in looks and sideways digs. Never in front of her son. Always in front of me, or directly to other people who she knows will repeat her words back to me.

How difficult it is to see someone like this through the eyes of love. Or to treat someone with compassion and gentleness when they treat you in the opposite spirit. As I cleaned, I started to feel dread bubble up within me. Scenarios based on past experiences played themselves over and over in my mind and I started to feel paralyzed. My eyes, they weren’t on Jesus. They weren’t on who I am in Christ. They were on the dread I felt every other time my MIL visited in the last twenty years. I forgot about the freedom I have in dwelling within Christ.

I cried out to God in that moment. I couldn’t live in a world of what if. I couldn’t walk on eggshells in my own house just because my borderline MIL was here. I couldn’t live through another visit where I felt like we were playing tug-of-war with my husband, his mother against me, may the best woman win. I couldn’t handle being reminded in direct and indirect ways that I was a disappointment of a daughter-in-law. And I couldn’t extend grace I didn’t feel. So I prayed. I asked God to stand before me. To protect me where my husband either could not or would not. To expand in me enough to fill the hurting, betrayed places and to start to heal them. To give me a vision of my MIL, something to help me see her not with my own judgement, but how He sees her. I asked that the words of judgement be left outside the door. Not just her words, but mine as well.

I don’t know how God is going to ultimately answer that prayer. You see, my MIL decided at the last minute she would stay down South for her spring break. The relief I feel is almost a living thing, beating strong and bright in my body. She’s not coming. I have a reprieve.

But the issues, they remain. Even if my MIL is out of sight, the issues she represents are not out of mind. Nor should they be. You see, while my MIL is a source of pain in my life, she is but a symptom. The real issue is within my marriage – which is another post or series of posts entirely.  It doesn’t take one gifted in the prophetic to see that when we don’t see an issue in our lives, over time God will use different messengers to illuminate the issue until we can’t ignore it anymore.

This isn’t God’s way of shaming us or being the cruel man up in the throne room of Heaven. God doesn’t shame. God doesn’t want us to live in situations that are hurting us, either. How He is going to resolve the situations and behaviors that are damaging to our growth and well-being, that will be unique for everyone. But I know in my heart of hearts, He doesn’t want me to live in fear and pain. He doesn’t want me to see myself as undervalued and less. He doesn’t want me to continue to live in the old nature, the nature that died on Calvary.

My MIL, she reminds me of who I was, and I forget

 “This is why we are not to be caught out dealing with the old nature. We are not pastoring someone who God has already deemed to be dead (Romans 6:11). That would be like babysitting a corpse! “If we have died with HIm we believe that we will live also with Him” (Romans 6:8). We are walking in newness of life learning to be alive only to God (Romans 6). We are therefore not declaring what we are not, but proclaiming who we are in Jesus. No one can be ordinary when they are in Jesus. It is not allowed. Heaven comes to us because of our placement in Jesus, not because of our performance as believers.” ~ Keys to Brilliant Focus, Graham Cooke

So, my MIL is not coming to visit but the issues her presence, or the threat promise of her presence, those remain. And I give them power because I declare who I am not, rather than who I am.

“Take a few moments to really imagine what it feels like to have Jesus reside in you. Ask for his perspective on that part of your life that needs an upgrade. Ask Him to show you what He is seeing and thinking about you in Him. Relax into a place of thanks and rejoice in His presence.”–Keys to Brilliant Focus, Graham Cooke

Jesus will answer my prayer, to expand within me, to stand for me. He’s reminded me that my MIL is not the enemy. He’s reminded me that my marriage is a three-way partnership and that if any part of this relationship is neglected for too long, the foundation will do more than crack. But He’s also reminded me that He holds great things for me, for my husband, and yes, for my MIL. To see that, I need to find that place of thanks and rejoicing. That upgrade. That future. No more focusing on what was. How simple. How difficult. How very much like God.

Love Me Tender

Life would be so much easier if we always interacted with others from a place of love and grace and compassion and mercy. That is who we are becoming but it’s not always how we live. We can’t treat others in a manner counter to how we treat ourselves. We can’t see others in a way we don’t see ourselves.

Who I am in Heaven and how I live my life now are often at odds with each other. When this chasm in who I am and how I behave is pointed out to me, my first instinct is to defend my behavior. And shift blame on to others. She made me do it. He made me so angry. There was nothing I could do. The devil made me do it.

Raise your hand if you’ve reacted to criticism in the same way? This reaction that we think is so normal is rooted in fear and shame. Why should we be defensive when a person or the Holy Spirit is pointing out an area in our lives that are in need of growth? Why should we be afraid of growth? We shouldn’t. But the enemy is If we grow, we become more like Christ. We become stronger and more able to resist and triumph over the the schemes of the ruler of this world.

I was reminded recently that part of the prophetic journey is not just to remind others of who they are in Christ and the great gifts God has for them, it’s for us. God wants His people to be filled with His compassion so we can be that compassion for others. We live in an age of grace. Judgement for the world was poured out on Jesus at Calvary. Jesus was judged for sin past, present, and future. He was punished for our sin. He paid for our sin. We are no longer bound by sin. There are natural consequences to our actions, sinful and otherwise. But God is not sitting up on His throne casting judgement.

God speaks to us in love. As His prophet, I need to be filled with this love. Without this love, I am prone to judgement. If God is not judging in this period of grace, I certainly should not be judging. The church shouldn’t be judging. Anyone. There’s a lot of judgement in today’s church. Heck, in today’s world. We don’t agree with someone, we judge them. Someone offends our belief system, we judge them. Someone hurts us, we judge them.

I’ll admit it, I get something out of judging other people. I feel smug and superior and for a girl who always felt less than, this can be a heady experience. This is not a helpful thing for a prophet. Or for any Christian for that matter. We aren’t better than anyone else. In God’s eyes, we are all equal. He doesn’t see castes of believers and non believers. He sees His children and He wants to reconcile the relationship with each of us. That takes a whole lot of love. He knows that most of us will reject Him and yet He showers us with His love anyway. And it is this message of love He wants to spread through His prophets. This is why the first lesson the prophet needs to learn is about love. 1 Corinthians 13 love. The way God loves us, that needs to become how we love others.

I’m not there yet. I still find myself sitting on my high horse at times. But I see things differently. 1 Corinthians 13 is taking on new meaning for me. It’s not an unattainable standard we will never be able to live up to. Turn it around. Don’t read it as though it’s a manual for us. Read it as though God is speaking to us. Read it over and over again and ask the Holy Spirit to show you the passage from God’s perspective. To show you God’s deep and abiding love for you. For us. It will start to really change your life.
It’s been changing mine.

Just The Way You Are

Sometimes God talks to me through my radio. I know that sounds strange and may have you running for the hills, wondering if I’m unbalanced or mentally ill. I get it. I know how that statement sounds. God, speaking through the radio? Seriously? Does he, like, take over the airwaves and speak to you? What happens if you change the station? Honestly, do other people hear him when he “talks” through the radio?

I see how this can look like I’m living under a grand delusion. Let me reassure you, it’s not like a voice starts to talk to me over the airwaves. It’s more that God knows a message I need to hear and He shares that message through a particular song that is playing on the radio at a particular time. This has happened to me on several occasions that when I start the car and turn on the radio, the same song will be playing. Or I’ll be driving along feeling really crappy about myself or my circumstances and I turn the station from talk radio to music and a random but totally appropriate song is there, revealing to me something about God’s character or about how God sees me.

Along with my identity issues, I have an image problem. I look at myself and I don’t see a beautiful woman. I often see someone who is overweight, plain and unremarkable. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way about myself. Many people, especially women, have body image issues. It’s epidemic and it’s so very sad. This is not how God sees us. He doesn’t create unremarkable. He doesn’t care what the current fashion is or how the world sees us. He looks at me and He sees a woman who is beautiful, who is talented, who has a great laugh, gorgeous eyes. He sees Himself in me, and God loves Himself completely. He can’t love me any less. He can’t see me as anything less.

I was feeling rather down about myself, feeling ugly inside and out, so much so that as I was driving to work I was crying. I forget the reasons why, I only remember swiping tears from my cheeks as I drove toward work, wondering if I had anything in my handbag that would allow me to mask the redness that would surely be in my eyes. There was a stupid commercial on the talk radio station I usually listen to during my commute, so I changed the station rather than endure the commercial break. Then God’s message to me poured out of the radio through the unlikely voice of Bruno Mars.

Her eyes, her eyes, they make the stars look like they’re not shining…

I remember I continued crying, so hard in fact I had to take an exit ramp and pull off the highway to a parking lot while the song continued to play. God was telling me that He loves me. He was telling me how He saw me. He was reminding me that I am amazing. Loved. Beloved. I felt touched in a way I hadn’t before. I felt humbled, and I also felt cherished. I hadn’t felt cherished in a long, long time.

I know, I know, when I compliment her she won’t believe me
And it’s so, it’s so sad to think that she don’t see what I see
But every time she asks me, “Do I look okay?” I say…

For a month, this song would be playing every time I turned on the radio. Every. Single. Time. I could be at home, in the car, or at work, and there it would be. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Sure, it was a popular song and received more than it’s share of airtime, but really, what are the odds that song would play every time I turned on the radio? No matter what time of day or day of the week? God was making sure I understood how He feels about me.

When I see your face, there’s not a thing that I would change, because you’re amazing just  the way you are. When you smile, the whole world stops and stares for a while, cuz girl you’re amazing just the way you are

~from “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars

Does this mean there aren’t things about my character that need to grow and develop? Or that God won’t touch parts of my life and tell me, “Now, let’s look at this, shall we? Is this in line with your identity?” No, He will still do those things. He sees me as I am in heaven and He’s working with me to become that person in the here and now. But I needed to know and believe that God loves me with great abandon and that I am beautiful. Loved. Beloved. Cherished.

God was using popular music to help change the narrative in my head. I can’t help but smile now when I hear that song and know God is so happy with me. I don’t see myself as beautiful all the time. I’m still learning about my true identity and I’m still becoming who I am in heaven. Now, through that song, I have another piece of the picture of my present future self, a piece I didn’t have before.

Isn’t it amazing the lengths God will go through to show us who we are to Him? Nothing is beyond His reach. Nothing.