WHEN GOD’S PRESENCE IS ENOUGH

Some of my most treasured moments with God have been in the simplicity of peaceful silence with him. Sitting on my patio breathing in the fresh air, taking in his sweet presence, or laying in my hammock tied between the trees. I whisper words to him in my spirit and take a breath in awe of the fact that he loves me so much to give me the freedom to peacefully rest with him without working for something in that moment. Nothing more, nothing less.

If I’m completely honest, however, when I first found myself enjoying the presence of God above anything else in such an organic way, a confusing thought would sometimes creep into my mind.

I wondered if by “doing nothing” (from an earthly perspective) I wasn’t being as spiritually “productive” as I should be. I wondered if by embracing this priceless moment of allowing him to just love on me, and me love him back, I was somehow wasting time that was supposed to be spent on “greater things”.

I felt somewhat selfish because I thought that maybe by just sitting there, I was missing out on opportunities to produce fruit for God’s kingdom…. I mean, aren’t there people out there who are dying, countries that are in serious threat, and what about the brokenness in hearts of so many people? What am I doing sitting here enjoying this as much as I am, while others are suffering and I could be interceding for them?!

Through these questions, I realized something I don’t think I ever truly understood in earlier seasons of life: He desires that we deeply fall in love with his companionship. This comes before what we need to accomplish.

He desires that, in both the high and low seasons, we discover what is feels like when HIS PRESENCE IS ENOUGH.

He wants us to experience the healing that emerges in his presence. This intimacy is the very substance that fills us and equips us to accomplish what he’s called us to do. He wants us to hear his voice louder and know that we too are enough.  

((The closer we are to God, the more we are like our true selves, and less like the self that developed out of unresolved pain. The closer companionship we share with our father who made our hearts, the more in touch and know where we are of our hearts and who we truly are. We begin to see ourselves less and less through the lens of problems, other people, bad experiences, and everything that tainted the heart that God so perfectly fashioned. The closer to the one who created us, the more we embrace our personal creation. When we are disconnected from God, it is impossible to know who we really are. No one else out there knows a single thing about our heart or the way it was designed since the day we were born.

The closer we are to God, the more we are like our true selves, and less like the self that developed out of unresolved pain. The closer companionship we share with our father who made our hearts, the more in touch and know where we are of our hearts and who we truly are. We begin to see ourselves less and less through the lens of problems, other people, bad experiences, and everything that tainted the heart that God so perfectly fashioned. The closer to the one who created us, the more we embrace our personal creation. When we are disconnected from God, it is impossible to know who we really are. No one else out there knows a single thing about our heart or the way it was designed since the day we were born.))

BEYOND FUNCTIONAL- LIVING LIFE TO THE FULLEST.

6/23 – A lot of people know that the coping mechanisms we developed to get through pain when we were younger stick around in adulthood. Usually, they don’t exactly stick around for the better.

Growing up, I learned what could “get me through” painful circumstances.To escape. Compartmentalize. Somehow my mind could switch it off the section that hurt as though the pain wasn’t really there. Although lacking fullness and completeness in my spirit, I “functioned” by escaping the pain.

I felt more in control of what hurt when I toughened up, numbed my emotions, stashed away the tears, and forgot anything hurt at all. Once I put a deadbolt on the door to my feelings, I learned to emotionally run away so that I wouldn’t consider picking up the key to that lock. I ran away through activities, relationships, overstretching myself with commitments, constant busyness.

By forcing myself to shut down certain parts of my heart, I continued to function in the midst of circumstances that would have naturally led me to some much deeper, darker places. On the flip side, acting like my pain wasn’t there required me to ignore some very important parts of my heart that were needed in order to flourish to my fullest potential. I continued to practice this method of coping well into my adult life without even realizing I was doing it. When things felt to painful to handle, or when my heart was breaking, my heart turned to what it knew best in order to function throughout my adult life.

(( Can only hurt us when unnecessary as adults. But, I didn’t think about how the reason God allow those coping mechanisms to develop is so that we could continue to function. So then, overtime, I used the method I knew best. To escape. Compartmentalize. ))

Now I am determined to feel and not run away. No wonder my functioning become so stunted! No wonder I struggled so much with the daily life, working productively, hitting personal deadlines for errands, remembering basic things, getting up in the morning. My usual “method” of functioning (escapism) is no longer here. My heart and mind never learned how to do it otherwise, so I am finally going through the process of re-learning how to develop the ability to effectively function in daily activities and ability to honestly recognize both positive and negative emotions. The Holy Spirit is patiently walking me through what it looks like to constantly be honest with myself, while I take baby steps towards becoming who I was created to be. It is such a beautifully terrifying experience! The more I see Jesus in my life in an abundance of circumstances, the more I realize that in the pain he can make me stronger, the bolder I become. Hope is taking root inside of me in a mysterious way I haven’t experienced before. Though I might oscillate between fear and peace from one hour to the next on some days, his love is steadily seeping through every crack of my heart. In his love, I’m finding the strength to dream, to take risks, and to trust. I still have so much left in my heart to surrender to him, but he knows my desires and meets me so graciously exactly where I need to be found.

The only way I will truly learn to fully develop both of these areas in my life simultaneously is complete reliance on Jesus. As my spirit becomes more united with his, and my devotion is more true and consistent, my ability to function will naturally fall into place. But this time, it will be done right. This time I will not just be surviving while I function. I won’t just be functional. I will be living my life to the fullest exactly the way my Father intended it to be. No need to run away, no need to replace my sadness with busyness. No need to neglect the pain that desperately needs healing. The pain is very real, but so is the comfort and the embrace.

** Maybe insert something about piece- to get to know yourself, first know your creator. This is what this time does. It allows you to get to know him and therefore to know your own self outside of the “you” that youve known and develop identity. ** Maybe could also lead into writing about the “you” that developed out of unresolved pain and the ways I learned to cope and “function”. You begin to start over on learning how to function the RIGHT way. Doing this without intimacy with God is extremely discouraging and exhausting.

 

Have you ever felt like all you really wanted was recognition from someone that meant the world to you?

How different would it be if we all learned to find complete joy and satisfaction in the time we spend with our Father…If we knew the value of our relationship with him FIRST. How different would it be if we really understood what we mean to him before running to other lovers to complete us.

You see, God’s perfect presence knows exactly how to fill the empty places within us in ways that we aren’t designed to do on our own.

This doesn’t mean we don’t need to participate in daily devotion with him or that we not be diligent in what we know to do as followers of Christ. As disciples, we place a limit on our capacity to live our lives to the fullest or build the faith necessary to walk in our calling unless we wholeheartedly commit to prayer, God’s word, worship, and sharing the love of Jesus with those around us.

While not neglecting the basic principles of good stewardship, it’s so important that we accept the reality that sometimes our Father just wants us to be. He also desires that we just let him be. We may not fully understand it, but the power of God’s presence transcends beyond anything we could ever accomplish on our own time or with our human hands. The reward we receive for this time with him is a stronger relationship with his precious Spirit. As his spirit consumes more of our being, we create a FAR GREATER impact in his kingdom!

Embrace your time with him and allow it to be spent the way the Spirit leads you. Relax and have peace in his presence. Let him first equip you for what is to come by establishing your identity in him.

Be still and know that I am God – Psalm 46:10

WHEN UGLY REPRESENTS THE UTMOST BEAUTY

God recently spoke a word to me and said I’ve been going through a “beautification period”, similar to the way that Esther went through a season of preparation before she was selected as queen. He also said this period is soon coming to an end and that I will be stepping into the whirlwind of my destiny.

As I heard this, I was in immediate agreement regarding this season of life as it has been one of spiritual cleansing, renewal, and preparation. I knew God wasn’t referring to physical beautification. He’s truly been uprooting things that weren’t aligned with his timing and replacing them by things that were. My favorite part is how he lavished me with his love and made me feel so worth it. He ignited a previously dormant desire to be in passionate relationship with him.

Yet if I’m completely honest, I thought to myself, “Wait a second…I’m still a mess. Yes, you’ve done more in my spirit than I ever imagined you would, but I’m definitely NOT beautiful yet! I have so much left to fix. It’s still so ugly in here! So many things feel ugly! I’m not ready at all, not any time soon.”

Then, I remembered something he had shown me just a few days before, not realizing at the time how fitting it would be for this very moment…….

First, let me explain that I am a dancer. My feet are…well, not the most manicured. They look like they’ve been through some rough times, and to the non dancer, my feet would probably be considered ugly. I. on the other hand, love my feet.

Why?

Because every single bruise, cut, callus, and floor burn has been part of the magnificent process of perfecting my art. The uglier my feet, the more beautiful of a dancer I have become. Sometimes I look down at how worn out they are after hours of rehearsal and feel a rush of gratitude. What appears to be ugly represents an underlying beauty to me. This hidden beauty leads to an admiration for what God has led me to accomplish through hard work and commitment in my gifting. I also know that if my feet looked like a foot model’s foot, it means I would have neglected my passion and missed out on becoming the person I was meant to be.

I realized this is exactly what my Father sees in me now.

I feel ugly because I have faced my struggles. I feel ugly because I still grieve and I still feel pain. I don’t run away from the pain like my heart was trained to do for so long. Instead, I’m handing over my aching to Jesus and allowing him to finally work with me through this process.

Of course it feels ugly- surrender and change don’t typically feel pretty when you’re in the middle of it.

The process of uprooting the old and preparing the soil for the new is not a pretty one. There’s dirt everywhere, holes in the ground, and nothing is really sprouting. At least not that I can see yet. But what he sees lies far deeper and is absolutely beautiful.

Whatever “ugliness” I feel today is just proof that I’m allowing my heavenly Father to guide me toward my original design. It is a symbol of the beauty that will radiate tomorrow.

My friend, be encouraged in knowing that this is how our heavenly father sees us in our struggles. He’s not focusing on the imperfections so that he has a reason not to call you beautiful.  His perfect, unconditional love takes all the ugly bits and turns them into gold.

Allow him to make you uncomfortable for a season and watch his goodness overflow into every ounce of your heart. Allow yourself to feel ugly in his presence.

After all, only your creator knows your true beauty.  

COMFORT IS NOT THE GOAL. IT’S ONLY THE BEGINNING.

My favorite part of being home is it’s large, green, peaceful backyard. I love to sit quietly on my patio and soak in the Father’s creation. At the beginning of Winter, the yard is filled with hundreds of dry leaves that have fallen and remain on the ground from the prior season. Eventually, these leaves need to be cleared out in order for the grass that is beneath to grow.

This is exactly what God wants to do when we allow him to get rid of what no longer has a place in our lives from prior seasons. He doesn’t just clear them, he makes room for something else to grow. When we come to him with questions or in despair, he doesn’t only want to respond and comfort us. He gives us peace so that the burden we previously carried is removed and no longer blocking what he wants to GROW in our lives.

I hope that at some point we’ve all know what it feels like to bring our troubles to God and feel a weight lift from our spirit. It’s a wonderful, priceless experience. The problem is that many times, once we feel lighter from receiving the emotional and spiritual relief we longed for, we decide that’s good enough. We engage in our daily routine, focus on everything else that needs to get done, or on what is simply more interesting than prayer and devotion. Meanwhile, God is still waiting on your heart. If we are honest with ourselves, this relationship dynamic with God is strictly self-seeking.

When you truly desire God, when you truly desire his presence, the removal or lessening of your troubles is nowhere near enough. In fact, it’s only the beginning.

It’s an entrance to a whole new place with God without the disruptions and burdens that were there before. Now is the perfect time in which you can actually begin to experience him in a way like never before.

The primary goal of prayer is not to achieve personal satisfaction so that we can move on to something else. Prayer brings us closer to the heart of our creator. From this closeness, our desires align with his and our hearts become fuller than ever. 

If you’ve received what you’ve been asking for, praise God for who he is! Praise him, then keep on going into another level with him. Keep going by diving in more deeply and craving him more strongly. It’s time to embrace his love presence and to walk with the most openness to hearing his voice.

The Holy Spirit is not intended to be a band aid.

God didn’t put his spirit in us so that it could be all about us. He gave us the Holy Spirit because he LOVES us so much that he provided us with the guarantee that we can be in constant communion with Him if we so choose. When you truly desire a relationship with God to the deepest depths he has to offer, you just don’t stop with a sense of satisfaction from receiving what you asked for. That is never enough. Be encouraged to not move on to other spiritual priorities once the Holy Spirit brings you comfort. Use it as a jump start to so many things to come that are in his plans for your relationship together. Plans that are far better than what you can ever imagine.

As you find peace that surpasses all understanding in his beautiful presence, as you receive forgiveness through his grace, and as you rejoice in answered prayers, embrace it knowing that the path has been cleared for you to experience the Father in a way you weren’t able to before when everything else was bringing you down.

If you took your heart to him and he met you exactly where you needed to be found, let this be a catapult for the rest of your journey as a follower of Jesus. God wants to bring you out of your prior season for NEW THINGS to grow. He’s not clearing out the dead leaves so that your land can remain dry and barren.

Whatever he clears out from your life he does with the purpose of allowing his precious living water to permeate your spirit and bring you the clarity needed to keep moving toward your purpose. This, my friend, is a process that should never come to a stop.

 

REJOICE ALWAYS DOES NOT MEAN BE HAPPY ALWAYS

One of my very favorite verses in the Bible is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. It’s such a beautiful verse.

I think, however, that sometimes Christians read bible verses similar to these and don’t look deeply enough into what it is actually saying.

We often equate the idea of rejoicing always with, “Don’t be sad.” As a result, we create an expectation in the body of Christ that you’re not allowed to feel suffering, that “rejoice” cancels out sadness. A completely unreasonable expectation. What this and so many other bible verses are saying is rejoice IN your suffering. Keep praising and being thankful in everything, including your sadness. We are called to keep rejoicing in the good moments and the bad ones because God is still good in all of them.

Over time, rejoicing helps to bring healing. The more you rejoice and walk in gratitude, the more light shines in your dark situation. It’s true that this is a choice we have to make. There’s a purpose in this verse in 1 Thessalonians, which is to glorify God in everything and therefore bring life to your circumstance. It isn’t demanding that you not be human.

It doesn’t mean you can’t allow your self to feel sadness because the bible says to rejoice. One isn’t supposed to entirely erase the other.

God created us. God created feelings. In the beginning, God didn’t create two robots in the garden.

God created man and woman- in his own image. Does God have feelings? Absolutely! The Old testament is filled with story after story reflecting God’s emotions towards specific individuals, his beloved Israelites, and humanity as a whole. As you read, you see God feeling sad time and time again.

Even better, the whole foundation of what we believe as followers of Christ is that he LOVED us so much he sacrificed his son so that we could be in constant, eternal communion with him.

That’s some serious love.

Isn’t love a feeling? Let alone one of the strongest feelings that can be experienced?

So if we are made in the image of God, and God clearly has an abundance of feelings, we are also created to feel. EVERY feeling. Not just happiness and gratitude. Not just hope and gladness.

You’re not letting God down when you find yourself experiencing sadness. In fact, that moment when you transparently acknowledge the way you feel may be the first time in a while in which you’re giving him the opportunity to fully embrace your heart and pour out a giant wave of healing on the pain that you’ve been denying.

I’m not implying that we allow our sadness to take priority over the hope offered to us through Jesus Christ. I’m talking about fully surrendering our hearts to the comfort of the Father, and without being honest about your pain, there is no complete surrender.

It says in Romans 12:12 to be, “joyful in hope, patient in affliction.” It doesn’t say you’re not allowed to feel the pain. Romans 5:3 tells us to rejoice in our sufferings, then the rest of the verse goes on to explain that statement, “…knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

The more pain I’ve experienced in life, the more I realized that the moments I shut off the pain were missed opportunities to see God’s goodness.

His presence in the hurting, his quickness to send an outpouring of love from all directions, the beautifully creative ways he showed me his heart’s response to my pain, all were things that marked me forever. Without allowing him to step into the places I had no idea how to mend, I would have never known him the way I do today. And let me say, I am so thankful I don’t see him through the same lens I used to.

Only with Christ is it possible for sadness and rejoicing to fully coexist and intentionally work together.

So if you’re sad, be sad. There’s not point in anyone telling me or you to be happy when the obvious thing to feel is sadness.

Yet also rejoice. Rejoice in the weakness that gives our Father a wide open space to be strong on our behalf. Embedded within the pain, we have the freedom to rejoice in knowing we don’t have to carry the weight alone. We rejoice in that we have someone who steps in to fill the empty places. We don’t have to carry around a fake smile so that everyone knows we’re being a good Christian. We don’t have to pretend that our rejoicing cancels out our sorrows.

I rejoice in knowing I’m free to be sad, knowing that the love of Jesus will shine the most brightly in the darkness.

EMPTY PROMISES vs GOD’S PROMISES

God is the only One who always means what He says.

In Acts 27, Paul was traveling on a boat with a centurion and some prisoners when the weather became a threat to continuing on their course. When Paul saw this, he warned the centurion saying that if they continued it would result in a disaster and potentially cost them their lives. Paul’s warning was ignored and they found themselves in a raging storm and it says that “neither sun nor stars appeared for many days” (Acts 27:10). They began to throw cargo off the ship and all hope of survival was lost. When least expected, Paul stood up and offered something they didn’t have before:

A PROMISE.

Paul told everyone they would survive. He explained that an angel came to him and said, “Don’t be afraid, Paul. You must stand before Caesar; God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you” (Acts 27:24).

How did Paul respond to the angel’s message? He simply said, “I believe God because he said it.” Period.

Wait…Think about this for a moment. Paul and these men were in a storm that was so intense they were literally on the verge of dying. The only natural response in this situation is complete panic. Yet Paul immediately believed what was told to him, his only reason being that God said it. 

Initially, it was hard to wrap my head around it. I don’t know about you, but I’ve suffered greatly from broken promises. How many times have people you trusted spoken things to you, made promises you held on to, only to rip them away like your heart is far less than the treasure it was created to be? And as a result, you too may not have see the sun nor stars for many days.

I believe that our ability to hold on to the word of God as a promise can be heavily tainted by all the times our trust has been violated by others. As humans, we naturally guard the areas of our heart that have experienced pain. The greater wound, the greater the protection. We experience an empty promise, maybe a few, and forget that there is One is who will NEVER take away his plan for us.

When something comes out of the mouth of God and into our life, it is our responsibility to make room for his words to grow roots in our spirit by believing and walking in obedience. He doesn’t take back what he said, he doesn’t change his mind. Notice that many verses in the bible end with “The Lord has spoken.” This may seem like a minor detail, but it is a powerful statement. I think so many verses end this way because it’s equivalent to placing a seal. Similar to when the Kings wrote a decree and would complete it with a seal so no one could change it. “The Lord has spoken” means it will come to pass.

What I think is the best part, is that he LOVES us too much to make an empty promise.

Everything he speaks to us- personally, through his Word, through others, comes out of his immeasurable love that no human on will ever match. When we experience heartbreak or disappointment from an empty promise, he is sad too. He feels disappointment with us.

Remember… he knows what all these things feel like. Jesus knew the deceit of a broken promise when Judas, his disciple sworn to loyalty, turned him over to a humiliating death with kiss. God knows what it was like to be abandoned by the Israelite people whom he deeply loved in old testament times again, and again, and again. God doesn’t give empty promises- he has been in our position far more times than we have!

Please friend, don’t limit the desire of your Father to bring to you what he has promised. He made a huge sacrifice so that you could always hold on to his promises- no matter how wounded you are, how much you’ve been let down, or how often you see others receiving their promises while you wait.

Ask your Father if there is anything you haven’t realized that could be standing in the way of you and your promise? Ask with a humble, open heart.

Ask him if there are any areas in which he has been trying to grow you, and you might be pushing back?

Ask him if there are steps of faith He’s waiting for you to take?

Perhaps none of these things are the case for you. Perhaps he wants you to trust, wait, and continue to walk in confidence.

Wherever you may find yourself, let his words seep into your spirit and make residence in the most callused areas of your heart.

God says he created you and what he creates is perfect. Your flaws don’t change that. He means it.

He says that when you’re weak, He’s ready to be strong. He means it.

When others walk away because you’re too much work or too much responsibility, he says he’s ready to fight for you. He means it.

He says that when you forget about Him, he pursues you. He means it.

He says that he will never move on to the next best thing or to someone who is easier to deal with than you are. He means it.

He says that when you fail and others give up, he will NEVER give up on you. He means it with all his heart.

He says that it would it would break his heart to lose you. He means it.

He says you are enough, you are worth it, and he will keep holding on. He means every single word he says.

When the Lord speaks into your life, friend, don’t resist it or doubt it. Don’t let someone else’s mistakes steal what God is excitedly desiring to give you. Hold on to what he speaks to you like it’s the most valuable and priceless treasure you will ever receive, because it is.

To God, your heart is not a joke.