A few weeks ago, my friend MJ and I went to a conference where the focus was on living the upgraded life in Christ. We went full of anticipation that the Holy Spirit would move over the course of the conference. The speaker was a teacher we both respect and this conference was an extension of one we attended the year prior. God moved in amazing ways, with great acceleration in growth and understanding for myself, and in new provision and favor for MJ. Over the last year God has been more present than ever in my life – or more accurately, I have been more present for God. I would have gotten to this place eventually, and perhaps with lessons that didn’t cut as quick and deep as the ones I’ve experienced in this past year. But isn’t it amazing to see how God redeems time and accelerates the learning?
We got to the conference and something seemed off. There was this spirit of religion that appeared to be filtering the words of the speaker, the worship, the words of prophecy. It was a struggle to stay engaged and volunteers seemed tired, working out of their spirit and not the Holy Spirit. We left the first session for lunch somewhat perplexed. What was going on? And was this going to be the tone for the entire conference?
Something had shifted. Instead of fighting to focus on what God intended us to hear, there was peace. The speaker’s message flowed with great compassion and amazing gentleness from that point forward. And we left the weekend blessed. I can only pray the speaker was blessed as well.
A couple of times through the conference, the speaker invited us to stand and enter into a greater sense of divine acceleration in spiritual growth and relationship with God. The past year, it was the start of something holy. This next year would see even more growth. At the first invitation I stood. I opened my hands to received and I heard water. A bubbling brook. I thrive near water. If I could live near the ocean, I would. I live near water and often spend time just meditating and praying by a creek not too far from home. The bubbling brook? I took it as a sign. God was pleased. God was going to move things in my life, as a river moves objects from one place to another. God was going to renew and refresh. The second time we were invited to stand and receive, I felt my hands grow hot, burning, and I swear I felt a hand cover my own.
I have prayed for signs, mostly to conquer my own issues with faith and belief. Like Gideon, I have placed my fleece on the ground and stating that if the fleece is covered in dew but the ground around it is dry then I will know God is speaking. Interestingly enough, God has often told me after I have given him an “if this, then that” task, He has told me that I am limiting not only the depth of what He wished to do for me, but my own journey. Still, He has honored my request. God is good that way.
I have not felt the Holy Spirit move in what I would term dramatic ways. I have not received visions while fully awake or heard the audible voice of God. And I have felt that I have been lacking. That perhaps God is speaking but I am too blind to see or hear.
So to feel God’s presence in such demonstrative ways was…a balm. He is speaking to me. I am listening. It may not be in the grand gestures in my secret heart of hearts I long for, but He is there, touching me in real ways every day.
I think I get so caught up in looking for the grand gesture that I forgot to open myself up to the every day. To the little kisses from God in the form of a gentle breeze, an unexpected call from a friend when I needed it most, the joy in seeing a bird of prey in unexpected places, or the raucous laughter of song birds outside my window. I long for signs and wonders and have felt like I’m subsisting off crumbs from the table of God. How wrong I have been. God is not stingy with His revelation. Not all signs are giant explosions of fireworks or deep tremblings of the earth.
God gave me a bubbling brook and a clasp of the hand at the conference. He invited me to join with Him as an active participant in my spiritual growth. I have this feeling that if I am willing to fully enter in, this year will see some of the growth I have only imagined in my life. God has some amazing things He wants for me. My role is to enter in to the process and the relationship. To abide.
Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up
Jesus, I ask you for you. For the real you.
Those are the words I pray every day. I have been praying them since the beginning of December when I read the beginning of John Eldredge’s latest book Beautiful Outlaw. It took me a long time to pick up this book. Why? Because I didn’t want my image of Jesus to be challenged. Lame excuse, I know. But true.
I’m reading the book very slowly. I’m only into chapter three. I’m compelled to read each sentence over and over again, as though by doing so I will somehow imbue these words, this true image of Christ into the very fabric of my being. Who I thought Jesus was, what I have learned Christianity to be is not accurate. My vision is off. Or the picture I’m looking at is sadly out of focus.
I had this dream in September or October. So did Claire. In this dream, there was Jesus looking at the temple. Calmly watching the money changers and the swindlers who were preying upon the devote poor, the afraid, the weak. They were showing doves without blemish, pocketing the coin and marking an inferior beast for the sacrifice. The doves on display were promised over and over again to the trusting public who never realized they were the victims of a bait and switch scam.
There was Jesus, watching. Waiting. Calculating. And while the scene that had been playing itself out for centuries continued on, he started slowly, calmly weaving a whip out of several thin strips of leather.
Jesus was, and is, deliberate. He didn’t react out pure passion and righteous indignation at the temple that day. He watched. He likely prayed. And he fashioned a plan. I can’t speak for what went on in his mind as he went postal on the money changers. I don’t know if he acted out of rage or if he deliberately walked in and calmly upended the entire enterprise. But he was outraged. And in his way he was taking care of his people by confronting the issue and shining light on the truth so people could see they were following a false and errant practice, not what God intended.
The Jesus I met growing up is a savior of works. If you do good, you know you are saved. But you must continue to do good works or your salvation may be in question. Do, do, do and don’t worry about burn out. You’re doing for the Lord! He will sustain you and if you aren’t sustained, search your soul because there must be something unconfessed blocking your spiritual life. You know, like a lack of fiber can block the elimination of waste from the body.
Oh, and he was a Lord of rules. Always with the rules. Don’t listen to rock music. Don’t date. Don’t read about or think about sex. Ever. Don’t see movies with violence or sex. Don’t swear. Don’t indulge. Don’t put yourself first. Be mindful of pride. Don’t drink. Don’t dance. Real Christians live clean and pure lives. They are set apart by this completely unattainable goal. By trying to live by these rules, we remove ourselves so thoroughly for the world and God we are in danger of becoming the Pharisees. Caught up in outward expressions of devotion and in bondage to these rules.
I have been stifling and slowly dying under this yoke. And this is not Jesus. Not the true Jesus. This is a false Jesus pulling the wool over my eyes and hoping I toe the line and not question. For the moment I do I will see the false for what it is and will run.
But without the True Jesus, I leave myself open to be seduced by false representations of him. This is where Beautiful Outlaw is as healing as it is scary for me. It’s showing me a picture of God who became flesh and shining the light of truth on this picture so I cannot help but see the false images I’ve been worshipping. There can be shame in that. God is not a god of shame, however, so as I read the Holy Spirit whispers in my ear that Jesus loves me. Wholly. Completely. All he wants is for me to know him in all his glory and truth.
The shame, it’s all mine. The love, that’s all God. Jesus I ask you for you. The REAL you.
Who is Jesus?
I was having an insightful conversation with my friend Claire about the evangelical church in general and my church in particular. Comments shifted, as they do, to the heavy heart I have for my pastor and his wife. They are wonderful people. Gifted. Talented. Both have a strong desire to serve God and to shepherd His people. Both are under a yoke that is not from Jesus. They have a picture of Jesus and it is not the true Jesus. It is something false and it is sucking the life out of them.
So many people have a false picture of Jesus. And they are loathe to let go and embrace a clear, truthful picture of who Jesus is. This runs rampant not just in Evangelical Christian circles, but everywhere. My BIL is an atheist and he rejects Jesus because all he sees, all he had been shown growing up, is a false Jesus. He is right to reject this false Jesus. What he’s not willing to do is seek out the true Jesus.
I understand. I almost walked away from my faith because of the oppression and the false beliefs of who Christ is that I had been taught and modeled. I attended a faith based college and if you ever want to see the faith community in action, check out a campus at any faith based higher education institution. After putting in my four years, I was turning cynical and questioned everything my younger self ever believed of who Jesus was and what it meant to be a Christian. The instructors, staff and students at this college may have been willing to accept legalism, false humility, the subjugation of women, and a works based faith, but I wasn’t. There had to be something more, something different. I needed it to be different.
I married and moved to a new state. I attended bible studies and joined a sunday school class with my husband. I did my devotionals. And I cried every day because none of these actions felt as though they were leading me to the God my grandmother introduced me to. Instead of feeling love and compassion and acceptance, I was judged. If I spoke an opinion or asked a question that caused someone to think (gasp), I was shut down. I was told I needed to be more like the Proverbs 31 woman. I needed humility. I needed to encourage my husband to be the head of my household and essentially think for me. When I discussed my desire for a career, I was shut down and told a good Christian woman and have babies. Make a home my husband would long to come home to. Pray, study, serve.
I was not attending a cultish church. This was a very mainstream, very large church in my community. There were professional women in this congregation, but the overall teaching was to do, to follow a model someone decided was the one size fits all answer for every married woman.
Initially, I did pray that God would remove my longing for a career, to help people in a different way. I prayed my husband would make enough money I could stay home and be a homemaker. I prayed for the desire to be a homemaker. Which is really funny in retrospect because anyone who knows me knows I don’t love to clean house and cook meals. I’m not fond of my vacuum cleaner and doing dishes gives me a rash. Laundry? A necessary evil. I would do really well with a maid. In one sense, those prayers did help me see the value in those acts, but they didn’t remove the desires that were imprinted upon my heart.
I felt called to be in the workforce so I was. I sought out God in the “secular” world and believe it or not, it was there and not in church that I found Jesus. You see, Jesus does not live in an ivory tower. Jesus embraces the masses. Jesus is unafraid of getting his hands dirty. He meets needs. He loves. He laughs. He lives. Jesus became real to me when I stepped outside of the teachings of my church and stepped into life. My prayers took on a conversational tone. Here was someone who wanted my questions, my opinions, my fears and my joys and didn’t care if they were all a messy tangle of need and longing. He just wanted me to be real.
I am still learning who Jesus is and am learning to distinguish between what Jesus asks of me and what false spirits masquerading as Jesus want to take from me. It’s not always easy to distinguish between the two, but I’m learning.
What does this have to do with the prophetic? I need to know whose voice I’m listening to. If it’s not Jesus then I need to shut it down. How do I know I’m hearing Jesus? In the words of Graham Cooke, if the words are full of the fruit of the spirit, then it’s God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
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.