prophet

Losing My Religion

I seem to be ranting a lot about the spiritual teachings I experienced throughout my life. Please don’t get the wrong impression. My parents are good and well-meaning people with their own biases and experiences that have shaped their own faith and belief in God. They didn’t abuse me or force me to walk a certain path. My decision to be baptized at the age of twelve, that was all me. In fact, my parents attempted to talk me out of approaching our pastor about being baptized because I was only twelve and did I really understand what I was doing? As it turned out I did.

My parent’s church was made up of people who were trying to live faith as they understood it. They meant well. They were earnest in their belief and I think they truly loved Jesus – as they understood him anyway. I have no idea what they though of the Holy Spirit for he was never really discussed. God, well, it depended on who you talked to, but by and large God was always referred to as Father and we spent a great deal of time worshipping God. The teachings themselves were more about being worthy and the change we need to make, rather than the change God makes within us. I do have some memory of some talk about the power of God. Those pale compared to what we were supposed to learn from characters in the bible, and the morality teachings. Youth group is a blur of mean girls, cliques and “you are set apart so live like you are set apart.”

My experience in church is likely not very different from anyone else who has attended an evangelical church. There are good people within those walls, people who earnestly love God and want to live life according to His precepts. People who truly see God and have a strong and loving relationship with Him. As a whole, it is the broader teaching of churches that is errant. Instead of teaching what Jesus taught, these churches unwittingly (or wittingly depending on the leadership) teach rules and judgments and works based faith. In fact, most of these churches, mainline or evangelical or charismatic, preach religion not faith. I’ve been to many churches in my forty some years, so I know of what I speak. And note, I said most not all. There are some exceptional churches who are grounded as a whole on their identity in Christ. It’s also not all teachings that are shrouded in religion, but enough that it keeps people from really seeing God.

So, while I speak out against the religious teachings, I recognize there are amazing people within those walls who see and hear and live the truth of who God is. These are the people to get to know. There’s something about them that is authentic, peaceful, joyful and filled with grace. These are the people to seek out if you want to learn what Christianity is all about, even if you’ve been attending church since you were a babe in arms. These people will speak a different language – one of grace and reconciliation. They aren’t filled with judgment and they won’t speak of you as if you are a sin filled person in need of redemption. They will love you for who you are and will see you as who you are in Heaven. They will show you what a relationship with God really means.

I’ve had a few of these people in my life along the way. Sometimes I listened to them and attempted to live a different way. Sometimes I ignored them because being around them made me feel like I was less, unworthy. What I didn’t know was that this was the religiosity in my life rebelling against God. I was resisting my identity, the nature God bestowed upon me when I laid my life at the foot of the cross.

There are people in church who can and will make a difference in your life if you let them. There are people who don’t attend a church for various reasons who are in a deep and abiding relationship with God. These are the people I seek out. They are my people, if you will. I want to learn from them. I want to enter the journey with them. I want to have honest discussions about God and religion and life with them. As a prophet, I want to give them the gift of seeing more of who God is for them and a deeper look into their identity.

I would love for everyone one who was a member of a church or had ever been involved in a church, to get to know God the way I am getting to know him. I would love for the well-meaning and earnest believers in my life to let go of rules and works and struggle and religion and find a relationship with God. I am beginning to experience such immense freedom and grace. Imagine what the world would be like if everyone experienced this? If we were able to let go of the religiosity of Christianity and focus on the grace and relationship.

It would be very easy to look back on the teachers and influencers that have been a part of my journey and to see them through the eyes of condemnation. I’ll admit, I’ve been tempted. My self talk can turn to pointing the finger at them and blaming them for the length of time it took me to really enter into to life with God. Just like I’ve been tempted to blame my grandmother for her part in my distorted view of my identity. Or how I want to blame the man who sexually abused me. Or the fiancé who took advantaged of a vulnerable person and emotionally abused and manipulated me. Or the employer at a faith-based non-profit who treated me unfairly. Or the mean girls in youth group and the youth leaders who let them get away with malicious character assassination. Or …

That’s not fair – to them or to me. God has been there all along the way. God has been speaking, guiding, nudging. God will redeem the time. God is accelerating my journey. And He will do that to anyone who comes to Him and asks. So no, I look at the people on my journey and I see where I made choices ,where I adopted mindsets or beliefs, where I was shaped, and where God has been working. I am where I am. And the things He is doing in my life now despite and because of where I’ve been.

So, while I rant against the religion in my life, I choose to love the people. To partake in the process of forgiveness. I choose to enter in to life in Christ fully.

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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.

Love is a Battlefield

I’ve been thinking about love and prophecy and marriage and people in general. As a follower of Christ, I believe Jesus gave us a new law and covenant. It’s easy to remember as it only has two parts. Love God with everything and love others as you love yourself.

As easy as this is to remember, it’s difficult to live by. Why? In all my study of human nature, I think it boils down to this: humans look out for themselves first. There is no judgement in that statement. We have this internal drive to survive, even thrive so we put our needs and wants first. It is part of the foundational way we are taught through experience and observation. We don’t want to be hurt in relationships, so we insulate ourselves somehow, holding something back from others. Or becoming cynical and expect to be hurt so when the big let down happens, we tell ourselves we weren’t surprised therefore we aren’t hurt that badly. Of build a wall between ourselves and others through shame and judgement.

This is a simplified explanation, mind you. It doesn’t explain how deep or repeated trauma impact a person’s ability to love and trust. And again, I’m not judging. I live with this subconscious mindset every day. I hold back parts of myself from people because I want to feel safe and to put myself out there, I feel unsafe. I lock onto views and impressions of people and hold those beliefs close to my heart because to bring them out and examine them in the light of true unconditional love, I may be wrong. And being wrong hurts.

To truly love someone else, to be unconditional, we need to step outside this propensity to put ourselves first. I want to get something straight here – I’m not talking about not taking care of ourselves. I’m not talking about not doing the work to be healthy so we can enter into healthy relationships. To be healthy people who are capable of loving others as we love ourselves, we need to do the work. And sometimes doing the work may mean we deliberately put our need for wholeness ahead of nurturing others. I’m also not talking about putting others ahead of ourselves. Though sometimes love shines through sacrifice, this is not where I’m going.

Where was I? Right, loving others as we love ourselves. Engaging in self-growth allows us to put others on the same playing field. As we grow we see others differently. We open up ourselves to others. We learn to see others without cynicism or the baggage of our past. We aren’t swayed by the opinions of others as we once were. We seek out the truth because we are finding the truth within and around us.

Love others as we love ourselves. I can’t love someone if I don’t love myself. I can’t give love if I don’t know what love looks like, feels like, tastes like, sounds like. I can’t be healthy in my relationships if I don’t have a true view of myself as beloved by God.

Without these things, I, we, judge. And we do it well. We compare. We resent. We open up ourselves to bitterness and anger and cynicism and capriciousness.

I can’t be a prophet if I don’t have a foundation of love. The visions I receive, the whispers from the Holy Spirit about others, they could easily lead me to feeling superior. Better than the person the Holy Spirit is giving me words for. I definitely wouldn’t be driven to pray and speak with humility and compassion. Mercy would not have a place in my vocabulary.

Love is so very key. I’m not there yet. I’m a work in progress. Take my feelings toward my MIL. I resent her. I find it difficult to think kind or loving thoughts about her. I want to clench my jaw and tell her all the things God is showing me, not to edify or build her up, but to show her just how awful she has been and to shame her. Yeah, not very loving.

God is using my MIL to help me see some of these very difficult things about myself. Oh, he’s patient. So very patient. And he has a sense of humor. Amidst the pain associated with lancing the poisonous bile of judgement from my spirit, God shows me the funniest pictures of my MIL. Not to shame her, but to help me understand her motivations. They make me laugh, but they also drive the point clearly home. My MIL is a hurting woman with a mental illness. She is responsible for the consequences of her actions, but she is also worthy of grace. She is beloved by God. Cherished. We have that in common. We have my husband, her son, in common as well. I can start here, with the Holy Spirit showing me just how loved she is. And reminding me of how loved I am.

Love is a battlefield. Not because love itself is war, but because there are so many things out there that want to kill or warp the perfect love of God.

Without Love

When I first ran up against the spiritual gift of prophecy I had this image in my mind of the prophets of the bible. Or my Americanized version of grizzled men who were at turns angry and depressed. Men who beat their chests and ranted at the people, spouting words of judgement. Who wants that? Not I.

This is part of what I was running from when I ran from myself. I was already a melancholy soul. I didn’t need visions  of destruction and despair driving me deeper toward depression. Never mind that when I “saw” people, while I might not always see their best sides, I always saw them with a layer of grace. I can only attribute that to God because my nature was to judge and to use what I saw to build up my own self esteem. Looking back, I wasn’t secure enough in myself and my relationship with God to truly embrace the prophetic. I didn’t love myself. I couldn’t fully love others. And without love, all the other spiritual gifts are just noise. That’s what I Corinthian’s 13 taught me.

One of the first lessons I learned from Claire was that a seer must love people. It took a while for that to sink in and wasn’t really put to the test until I had to apply what I was learning to my mother-in-law. Isn’t it funny how it’s usually from our relationships with family that we truly start to see our own growth points?

I don’t have an easy relationship with my MIL. I wish I did. I do love her and she has her strengths. I have learned about dreaming big and a strong work ethic from my MIL. But there has been something that has never been quite right between us. She is different around me then she is around my husband. Passive aggressive. Laying claim on my husband and all that she perceives belongs to him in subtle and not so subtle ways. I’m never restful around her. And yet she presents a very different face to my husband and his siblings. To everyone else.

For the longest time I thought it was me. That I was the one who was off in our relationship so I tried harder to love her and to see only the good in her. I made excuses for her behavior. She was lonely. She had been hurt, likely victimized growing up. She had low self-esteem. I compensated. Some of this compensation was to allow my husband to stay stuck in unhealthy patterns and to put pieces of my marriage on the line.

What I didn’t realize was that the nudges and the unease was part of my gift. I was seeing her true self and God was telling me there was something wrong. He was urging me to pray, but I had numbed myself to the prophetic so that all I knew was that I saw someone very different than everyone else did. This is a risk I’m learning about this particular spiritual gift. I see the world through a different lens.

When there was a death in the family I was filled with an unease that bordered on panic. I did what I usually do. I prayed. And I called Claire. I prayed for love and to see clearly. God spoke to Claire and gave her a vision of a hen trying to be a peacock. A woman who wanted to be the center of attention, to be the epicenter of her family. We both got the sense that there would be bad behavior from my MIL the weekend of the funeral and we both felt strongly that the most loving thing to do was for me to pray for eyes to be opened so her children could start to see her true self. See the bad behavior that has always existed in a way that they could no longer ignore it or overcompensate for it.

This doesn’t sound loving, but it is. I’ll tell you why. My MIL has borderline personality disorder. She has not allowed her children to differentiate from her. She has in a sense brainwashed them that certain behaviors are acceptable in her relationship with them. For her children to heal, they needed to see so they could ask questions, see her behavior superimposed against normal, positive behavior. For her to heal, she needs boundaries set by her children. They love her. They want relationship with her. But they won’t be able to grow to their full potential in their marriages, in themselves, if they do not address their mother’s mental illness.

So I prayed. I asked for grace and mercy. For eyes to be opened. For my mouth to be kept closed and my inclination to protect my husband to be numbed. I prayed for my MIL, that she would allow herself to be truly known by her children. That she would see God’s love in a new way. I prayed for God’s vision of her to replace my experience.

And in the end there was a breakthrough. There was bad behavior. There was questioning. There was a turning in my relationship with my husband.

What does this story have to do with the prophetic? It was time for a family to start down the road to acknowledgment healing and God needed me to hear this so I would take the information He gave me and hold my family in prayer. A prophet doesn’t always speak, but a prophet needs to have a relationship with God so she can discern a clear interpretation of the information God is sharing with her. And she needs to feel God’s love for people. If I hadn’t had that, I would have been so smug when my MIL starting behaving in such an outward manner no one could miss it. I would have felt self righteous. I may have even held this over my husband.

I was tempted. Oh, the times I was tempted. Instead, I prayed for a vision of love for her and her family so I could see what God sees. Without love, I wouldn’t care about the relationships or the pain. I certainly wouldn’t care about anyone’s journey of healing.

There may have been easier ways to learn this lesson, but as usual I’m pretty sure I was deaf to the more subtle messages God was giving me. So, instead of waiting any longer, God threw me into the deep end of the pool. Thankfully, I had a good friend and the Holy Spirit to help me swim.

Beginnings

There are defining moments in everyone’s lives. Events that shape our world view or our sense of self. Joyous occasions such as a wedding, the birth of a child, realizing along sought after dream. Sad moments like the death of a loved one or the loss of something deeply meaningful. Even damaging interactions intersect our lives and change us forever.

For me, one of those defining moments was the first time I looked at someone and saw something about that person I should not known. Heck, I couldn’t have known. I was in high school, hang with friends at youth group. More accurately, they were hanging together and I was hanging on the outskirts, observing and longing to be a part of the easy friendships. In my forties now, I know that high school friendships are anything other than easy, but my adolescent self didn’t know the complexities of human relationships. All she saw was social ease, laughter and belonging. Oh, the siren song of belonging.

I often journaled when I was younger, and those journals were never far from my side. If I wasn’t going to join into the melee and the laughter, I would observe it and write about what I saw, what I felt. I would try to make sense of the life that was being lived around me. Like King David of the Old Testament, my journals were also my cries to God and my attempt to build relationship with him.

My journal open, I was writing my thoughts and my prayers and asking the question of why it appeared so easy for this one girl, we’ll call her Sally, to build friendships and it wasn’t easy for me. As I wrote, the page began to blur and I saw Sally. I saw her parents verbally abusing her and withhold emotional support if she didn’t fall in line and meet their expectations of who she was supposed to be and how she was to act. I saw Sally run to her boyfriend for solace, only to be taken advantage of sexually.  I saw how Sally viewed her own worth – as a being to be used to live out her parents’ dreams and expectations or to be used by boys/men sexually.  Sally didn’t see herself as beloved, as precious, as real outside of these two extremes. But God did. I felt more than saw that God loved Sally and didn’t hold her choices against her. He saw her as perfect. As whole. As radiant and adored. He wanted Sally to feel this, to see this and to be healed by the immense and total love He held for her.

I didn’t know what to do with what I saw and felt that day. I know I treated Sally differently. I was no longer jealous of her. I sometimes felt sorry for her. And in weak moments, I felt superior to her. But I never told her what I saw. I never told her what I had felt that day. And to this day, I regret that. I hope Sally has been able to meet God in that space He is holding for her.

Ever since that day, I have felt things, seen things, sensed things about people. I thought I was just highly intuitive and decided to put my skills to use as a therapist. After earning my degree and working in the field for some time I soon learned that while I love the act of learning about therapy and psychology, I do not like being a therapist.  So I left the field and bounced around in jobs in special education and higher education. And through all this time I remained slightly to the outside, observing, seeing, sensing.

It wasn’t until I met a dear friend, we’ll call her Claire, that I learned I wasn’t just intuitive. I wasn’t going crazy. I am a seer. A prophet. It is part of my gifting in the Spirit. This wasn’t exactly news to me. Every time I have taken a spiritual gifts assessment, prophet, wisdom and teaching always appear. Always. Yet, no one could tell me what it meant to be gifted as a prophet in the 20th century, let alone the 21st. Growing up, I was taught that Jesus was the last prophet. Or that John the Baptist was. And that the word really meant being able to understand scripture and exhort.

So I hid my assessments and didn’t talk about my gifting and I used wisdom, discernment and teaching in my ministry and my life. But it was there. Waiting for me. God was holding open the door and I refused to walk through it. I argued and ranted and turned my back on the gift. Prophet, who would want such a downer of a gift? Not me.

Then I met Claire through a quirk of fate (or providence if you’re more into that) and we got talking. There were many similarities to our lives, just as there were many things that were incredibly different. But we both had a deep desire for relationship with God and others and we both saw, felt, heard, sensed things.

It was Claire who told me  I couldn’t hide what I was any longer. Claire who patiently took me under her wing and started to teach me about my gifting. Claire who loaned me some teachings by Graham Cooke, a gifted teacher and prophet.

It’s been almost two years since I have acknowledged this part of my being. I’m still learning and failing and learning some more. I am also learning that being married to a seer is no easy undertaking. Opening myself up to the prophetic and to the filling of the Holy Spirit has changed me and my marriage. My husband is very black and white and as such doesn’t understand my journey. That’s okay, most days I don’t either.

This blog is my space to chronicle my journey  of discovery and how this impacts my life and marriage. I don’t know many prophets. We don’t tend to put out a shingle and announce to the world we are here. We aren’t mediums or psychics. We don’t do readings, we don’t speak to the dead. We see what God shares with us,  which may also include a message to be shared, or a need to bring to prayer.  We observe.  We pray.  We love our fellow man and we extend grace.

I am a seer. A prophet. This is my journey.