It is short. It is sweet. The message I sense the Lord has put on my heart for the church today is:
The world is very united in its suffering right now. Every nation is affected by this virus and every person experiencing the consequences of its spreading in one way or another. Here in Norway we have been under a national quarantine for about sixteen days now. As I wrote in my previous entry, All that is shaken, the virus suddenly changed everything about this season of life for my family and I all in one weekend. The impact hit the hardest that first week of quarantine. Yet as the days marched on without restraint, everything settled into the stillness of my Rock and Refuge whom had never left my side. I began asking God, “What are You doing in the world, and how can I join you?”. This took my eyes off myself and the immediate situation before me, lifting them instead to the One seated on the throne higher than it all. There was this endlessly rich sort of rest that He was calling me and many others into. It’s the kind of rest the quiets your soul while simultaneously awakening your spirit into action. This revelation came as I read through Hebrews 4. A perpetual state of rest, that we should’ve already been living in. In this rest you not only receive, but you have a burning inclination to give. It is here that you find a love that can’t be contained. A love that hits your core so deep and spews out like a geyser hitting the sky. This is the yoke Jesus offers to trade us for in Matthew 11:28. And from the outside, this kind of love looks a lot like raising a flag while running to the front lines of battle. This kind of love activates you. But only if you believe it.
So today, if you hear the voice of God, will you harden your hearts?
The enemy seeks to kill, steal and destroy. But Jesus, the man and express image of God, He came to give us life and life abundantly (John 10:10). We can easily get this twisted and completely pervert our view on the character and nature of God. When the foundation is on unsteady ground, the whole house is unsteady. We need to know who God is, and then we will want to make Him known. Because He is just that good.
I sense the Lord is raising up heroes in the faith. Men and women of valor who have hidden themselves in the shelter of the Most High, and yet are shining so brightly that the whole world can see. They are rooted and established in the love of Christ, and still they will risk it all to carry that love to ends of the earth. They mourn with those who mourn, all while the joy of the Lord bubbles up and strengthens them within. They still themselves when they must be still and yet their lamps do not go out at night. They rest and yet they fight with weapons not of this world.
As I prayed into this, I saw a picture of an American flag with blood dripping off the ends. I sensed from Holy Spirit that this was because the flag no longer flies stagnant on a pole in front of cement walls, but it is carried into battle. I believe the emphasis wasn’t solely on the U.S., but was a message for the church as a whole. The vision went on as I prayed. While many in the world began to retreat from the enemy’s advances, these mighty men and women of valor screamed to their evacuating brethren, “Don’t retreat!” The fear was tangible as thousands ran away from the frontlines of the battle. All the while these heroes in the faith raced forward, towards the front lines as they continued to plead those two words, “Don’t Retreat!” with their fellow countrymen. And if this is starting to sound like a scene from The Patriot that’s probably because Holy Spirit was inspiring relevancy through it. The men and women of valor grabbed their banner, Jehovah-Nissi The Lord-Our-Banner, and ran head on into the enemy’s advancements. As the fleeing soldiers saw the courage and tenacity, saw the Spirit in these heroes, they began to stop running away and turn to follow suit. They were weary, beaten down and close to defeat from fighting a losing battle and yet in that moment as they saw the faith driving their brethren, they chose to believe again. The moment that decision of belief was made, Jesus met them on the battlefield. I saw Jesus kneeling before the weary soldiers and washing the dirt off of their faces. Lord brought rest on the battle field simultaneously as they pressed on the front lines. Soon there were too many to count of the brethren hastening towards the enemy lines that there was no longer a distinction between hero and retreater but they were all one, spearheading the enemy together. And of course from there, we know the end of the story already. We. Won. Read that again. And again. The battle was won. Not because of our own strength or for our own glory, but because of Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith. He is the FINISHER. Ya’ll! The gospel of Jesus Christ is the POWER of God unto salvation for EVERYONE who believes, to the Jew first and then the Greek (Romans 1:16).This is not blind faith, this is real, activated, nation-catalyzing faith!
During this time in history I charge you heroes to stir up the Spirit within and rise up in faith. You have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and sound-mind (2 Timothy 1:6-7). I feel the Lord asking those of you who have begun to retreat to stop, turn around and pick up your Banner named The Lord. Repent and be refreshed as you believe in the Truth. We have been liberated that we might through love serve others (Galatians 5:13). We must unite not only in our sufferings, but in the reality that is our victory. Press in! For the joy set before Jesus, He endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the Father. This is the same One that we are following after. Raise the banner, rally the troops, and run into the frontlines; the Way has already been made. God has equipped His children for such a time as this because it is to the GLORY of the Lord. The victory is already written.
My head hangs a little as I look down at the dark ground. The first thing I notice is fog curling at the edges of a mirror in front of me, reflecting my old faux-leather combat boots. Behind that small one sitting on the ground, is a floor length mirror reflecting all of me. Beside those mirrors are rows and rows of mirrors encircling me. As I slowly turn around, utterly bewildered, I can see every angle of myself. It’s dark all around what I assume is a room, but I can’t really see where walls would be. It’s all just…darkness? Something like a spot light is shining directly down on me, as if I’m in some teenage clothing store’s dressing room. In fact, that thought brings a flashback to when I was fourteen standing before a mirror not so different from the one in front of me.
In the memory, I was at a local mall with my aunt shopping for new, trendy clothes for my first day at a public high school. I was transferring from a Christian private school, and I was terrified. This was my first time to even try on clothes at a store like this. A dimly lit teenage clothing store with paper thin models in swim suits, loud music, tight-fitting clothes and perfume clouds seeping out of the main entrance. I knew this wasn’t me, but I also knew this was the type of style the kids had at my new school. So here I stood with a size small covering me like a second skin. I refused to go up a size because the thought of wearing a size ‘Medium’ formed a knot in my throat and an onslaught of hot tears. I stared at my reflection and hated everything I saw looking back at me. Two years before that I stood in front of another mirror in a bathroom and thought for the first time that I was fat. This night I was at a twelve year old’s Halloween birthday party in which I made my own cute witch costume. I loved being creative, and honestly we couldn’t afford to buy one if I wanted to. My hair had gotten so long and curly. This was a time in my life where I first felt my body changing, maturing, and thought to myself that I was becoming a beautiful young girl. At the party there was a ton of pizza and I was trying all the different types of it because, I mean-do I even need an explanation? Come on, it’s pizza! But this young boy whom I had a crush on sat across from me, and laughed with a friend of mine while I ate. I smiled thinking he was just saying something funny to me, but then my friend yelled across the table, “he’s laughing because of how fast you’re eating!” It doesn’t sound that sinister, but the thought that food consumption could be something that made others look at you funny hooked a twisted self-image into me that grew into a mental prison over time. That night, at twelve, for the first time in my life I went into the bathroom crying. I looked at my reflection, turned to one side, and sucked my stomach in. I remember wondering if I could manage to stay focused on breathing ,in a way that wouldn’t make my stomach extend in and out while also continuing to clench my abs together, for the rest of the night. No more care-free eating, Lacey, for the next seven years of your life. I was caged inside the self-image nightmare with the name “Eating Disorder” branded on my sticking out collar bones.
So there you have it. Mirrors. And here I was again, standing before hundreds of them, big and small, and all around me. Unsettling. Yet this, I knew, was merely a vision. Honestly mirrors hadn’t bothered me much in a long while. Not since, Jesus crouched down and set me free from my eating-disorder prison at age nineteen. That was almost seven years ago now. Having two babies, gaining the weight, and dropping it in a healthy way was so healing for my soul on top of that radical deliverance as well. Now at age twenty six, food is normal, food is necessary, food is healthy, food is down right delicious- most of it anyways. Truthfully, sometimes I eat too much chocolate after my kids go to bed. Nonetheless the thought of running to the bathroom to purge what I just binged does not ding into my mind like an unwelcome fruit fly. No more starving myself or binging/purging. No, you see, that stronghold of fear of man and self-image has no authority over my life any more. As a matter of fact in this vision right now, the woman looking back at me looks rather ticked off. Hair, a blonde curly mess. Eyes, squinted in frustration. Lips curled in a snarl. Yeah. Okay. I see you.
This entire mirror worshipping, self-image enslavement culture, has been breathing down our necks for too long.
In this vision I am surrounded by every angle of myself, with mirrors yelling at me to criticize myself and step into the psychotic appearance mantra. Whether it’s an eating disorder or the deceivingly simple “just worrying what other people will think” continuous mindset, self-image is a consuming god that wants all of your worship. The only problem with it is, you were never meant to be afraid of man. Engraved self-image is what the media vomits over us every second of every day, but it is a deception. And thankfully there is light in this darkness. If you want to see your true reflection, look into Papa God’s eyes. In the vision as I look at my many reflections, I am filled with a holy anger at the familiar lies coming to choke out the freedom Christ intended for every person to have. I sense Holy Spirit here with me. He puts a baseball bat in my hand and tells me, “Have at it.” I’m filled with anger at that the thought of the countless girls and boys riddled with so much anxiety and fear that they can’t even see reality when they look at theirselves anymore. So many young people afraid to dream big and do what they are passionate about, what they were actually created to do, because it doesn’t fit into the duct-taped success box society stuffed them inside. So many people living every day completely consumed with fear of what others will say or think about them if they make one move that goes outside of the cultural norm. Enough is enough. With Holy Spirit’s words I give it a go. I begin smashing every single one of those self-image mirrors until there’s nothing but dust and fog. No more. The war on inaction has begun. No more sitting idly by while the walking dead roam the earth. I used to be a zombie, until the Cure found me. Jesus. Searching for temporary satisfaction, but now I found the real thing. Jesus. Whether it’s freedom to eat a salad or freedom to eat dessert. Whether it’s preaching the gospel on a stage, or praying for a crippled man to walk on the streets. I’m done worshipping my image and being afraid of man. I’m out here smashing mirrors. And it’s so not about me. It’s about God. And what He created us to have. Perfect relationship with Papa God through Jesus. That’s what you call, life, and life abundant. It’s not about me. It’s about you. God so loved..you. Don’t waste another thought in your mind thinking otherwise. Grab that lie and take it by the neck to kneel before the King on the throne of your heart. Jesus. Watch Him crush that slithering snake’s head before your eyes.
As I stand in this place with a baseball bat still hanging from my right hand, something tightens around my neck. It’s a thick chain that you may have seen a dog tied up with. The mirrors are gone, but now this is closing around my neck and pulling me back. I can’t yell and am losing the ability to even breathe. My nails dig into my skin as I try to loosen the hold on me, but I’m not strong enough. Suddenly I see Jesus standing before me. His eyes are wide and looking into mine. As if talking to a spooked child he gently steps toward me and says, “Put your hands down and let me take it off you.” I relent, and He pulls the chain up and over my head with ease. I can breathe again and I have my voice back. Jesus says, “This chain was shame.”
Shame. It chokes the life out of us. It keeps us silent. Shame holds back confession and stagnates change. It quiets a song and extinguishes a warrior’s battle cry. We were created for open fields with hair flowing in the wind. We were created to dance, laugh, love, scream just because we’re happy, run, skip, climb mountains, do the things, enjoy life with God, enjoy life with people, follow God’s wildest dreams, walk in His power and love. This is the garden that we can return to with Papa God through Christ.
I believe the Lord gave me this vision to identify some strongholds hindering the church in this season. Self-image and the fear of man, along with shame. It could look really glittery and religious. In fact it typically is. Jesus called them a “brood of vipers” when they tried to tape good fruit on their rotten trees. He’s after that heart transformation, that freedom from the inside out. But religion also institutes self-image and fear of man as well. It could look like a really bright and fine thing to quench the Spirit and trade in just an inch of your freedom in Christ to submit to the religious norms around you. Like conforming your appearance, your behavior, your words, and dreams to the degree of what’s acceptable by those around you, to the patterns of this world, is really the ‘right’ thing to do. Maybe it is. But maybe it isn’t. And maybe God is wanting you to let Him break through with freedom and release you into a greater revelation of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. No need to fear whatever mirrors surround you. Holy Spirit is with us, empowering us to walk out the fulness of intimacy with God. Maybe He’s offering you a baseball bat today and releasing you to smash some mirrors or empower someone else to smash theirs. Ask Him. Jesus is so present, so willing to take your shame and give you His inheritance. The First born inheritance is no joke, ya’ll! Let’s press in to God and go after walking out the full inheritance package Christ died for us to have. We don’t worship a dead god, no! Jesus is ALIVE. The tomb was empty. We need to quit looking for Jesus at the grave. He’s not there. Life. Life. He came for life. Let’s embrace it. Let’s embrace Papa God, Jesus, Holy Spirit- three in one. Talk to Him about all things. There’s so much He has for you, you only need to look up.
Glittering threads, frozen spider webs The fine details of life are made evident on a snow-fallen day.
A once invisible breath escaping from lips becomes a cloud of warmth puffing away.
The moon herself never shines so bright, like a sunlit night, than when she hangs full atop a winter’s land.
The glory of sun rays may be hidden beneath blankets of gray, whilst the heat lingers as memory and the frost nips your hands.
And yet if you are still enough to listen, rising early enough to witness morning rise upon the snow, you will hear with your ears and see with your eyes a kitten’s gliding paws leaving behind life’s gentle trail. If you are a watchman for detail, you will find beauty in the frost amidst the coldest seasons of time.
Because only in the winter are branches truly seen; and when all is shaken what is hidden will remain.
Beauty in the Frost by L.S.
Finding Beauty in the Frost was written during this holiday season as I accompany several friends walking through deep valleys. My role as a prayer warrior has been taken completely serious because I know only God can deliver them, us, out of these troubles. My faith stands fast in Christ, in His love and His power; even amidst the apparent waiting for results after praying out the bold prayers. I know God is moving, even when we can not see the work with our physical eyes. But can we? If we look closely? I’m learning to believe that the work needing to be done is, in fact, already finished. It was finished on the cross when, “He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” What Jesus accomplished is a finished work for us all. This knowledge, the knowledge of Christ, is a hidden treasure; one tucked beneath the folds of our hearts. A treasure brightly shining within us fragile jars. When the darkness of our circumstances threatens to crush us will we choose to pull open the lid and allow the light to pierce the veil? Somewhere, buried within the heart of a daughter or son of the Living God, is a cry of faith that can not be shaken. Hear it rising. Feel it rumble. Let it roar.
Sometimes my life feels so normal and other times, times like today my family’s path becomes so narrow that I can feel the branches on either side of us scratching my arms as we squeeze through. Always fixing our eyes ahead, though. Pressing onward to the light that we can see shining at the end. Reminding ourselves that the open space is sure to come soon. For the joy set before us, we endure.
Earlier I logged on to social media to message family about an urgent prayer request for my husband. We are a family in overseas Christian ministry, and my husband is currently on his first solo trip in a nation in the Middle East. I typed the brief request on my laptop, partially hoping for some sort of quick response to ease my nerves, yet to no avail. And so I began mindlessly scrolling through my news feed simply attempting to not think for a few seconds; mind wandering as the words and images blurred upon the screen. Meanwhile my children continued to talk across their beds to each other in the other room despite me having already visited them four times asking them to be quiet and go to sleep. The kids and I have to catch an early train in the morning to get to the airport, meet my husband there after he flies back from his trip and then we will all fly together to stay in another country for a few weeks. Before January we had never left our home country, and now by the end of 2019 we will have been to thirteen nations, traveling and sharing the gospel of the kingdom. Whoa. That’s wild. I can hardly grasp it myself. A lot.
Peace. Come in with Your peace, Daddy.
Facebook will never meet that requirement for me. Nor chocolate. Or my favorite Scandinavian pastries. And neither can people, honestly. They can encourage us and usher in the Lord’s presence who in return will bring peace. But there’s a Divine flow that can only drench us fully when it comes straight from the Source. The River of Life. So I sat, waiting. And He came. I knew He would. I thrusted my cares on to Him, knowing that Jesus endlessly cares for me. And His peace washed over me like cool water on a warm day. For several months now I have been intentionally practicing living in the peace of God. This mission hasn’t been an easy one. I’ve basically offered myself up to be refined and purified. Willingly choosing to become more aware of how much time I spend outside of the pool of peace that was always meant to be my inheritance in Christ. A life without peace becomes so noticeable once you begin actively pursuing the real thing. And that’s what I had, a life without peace. Of course there were countless moments of peace that came and went, but the moment adversity arose I was panicked and desperate.
Help me, Lord. I’m sinking!
I am full of faith. I can walk out on to the water with no hesitation. The moment God calls me to something I jump, “Here I am, send me!”, taking the huge leaps of faith with little flinching. But without the peace of God over me, suddenly the waves would begin to lick my ankles, a panic would rise from my gut to my throat and before I knew it I would begin to sink.
Help me, Lord. I’m sinking!
Moving forward in bold faith with peace that came and went looked like frequent stops atop the sea in order to be lifted out of sinking waters by Merciful Hands. With that I am learning that faith and peace are not the same.
Chaos. Anxiety. Stress. Overwhelmed. These are big words that no one wants to identify with but many are caught up within the endless rotation nonetheless. These are senses of reality that I, now, consistently rely upon the Holy Spirit to not realign with. I am witnessing firsthand that it is possible, to live within the peace of God. This year has been one of overcoming. My greatest fears and challenges have taken place, and within the fire there has been another One standing with my family and I. Jesus has never left our side. He has been glorified through every ounce of victory we’ve had in the trials. Yet I realized that even overcoming all of these crazy, radical things did not organically cultivate a life of peace. Peace was an inheritance I still had a choice to steadfastly claim or not.
“All your children shall be taught by the Lord, And great shall be the peace of your children.“
Isaiah 54:13 NKJV
This mission of peace was kickstarted one day when I heard the Lord tell me to consistently pray that scripture over my children. God knows us so well. He knew I would truly receive it if the revelation came through parenting. So I started praying claiming that peace would be my children’s inheritance. Being a missionary child is not your typical childhood. My husband and I’s prayer has been that throughout all of the changes in our journey as a family, the peace of God will remain constant over us. But I didn’t notice until I kept praying and attempting to force peaceful behavior, that I was never really taught by love to receive this peace inheritance from the Lord myself. How then could I possibly train my two under-5-year-olds to live in the peace of God? This was something I needed first. Something I truly longed for. And so I merely asked.
I want to dwell in Your house forever, God. Give me Your peace.
He’s a good Dad, He gives good gifts. Peace is a part of my inheritance in Christ and I claim that over myself. Before long, in the midst of our multiple travels I noticed that long-lived knots began to work out of chest. Thought patterns were molded and transformed in truth. Peace became a Person that I was in relationship with daily, and He also goes by the name, Jesus. Something wild happens when you begin to actually get to know God. As you talk with Him and discover more about about Him, your heart begins to expand with a love unfathomable and your mind renews with a freedom unattainable in your own strength. He is just that good.
My husband has been gone for four days now on this incredible, miraculous trip seeing God move in a new way in a nation that will effect the world. While he has been away, I have had to slow down my pace of life to be able to thrive with my kids. The change of pace has brought rest and also revelation to my life. Living in the peace of God doesn’t mean adversity stops, it just means you have a fortress to live inside regardless of what comes your way. Changing up the kids’ routine by not having their daddy around was a bit of a frenzy those first few days. We fought to remain in peace. Monday rolled around and I dropped the ball in maintaining the peace in our household. Getting them dressed, fed and dropped off at school was rushed because I needed to also lead worship that morning. And my hastiness choked out peace for myself and my son. He refused to be dropped off at school. Screaming and clinging to me when I tried to leave, fighting off his teachers, and completely not acting like himself. I knew I shouldn’t leave him, but I was so upset without fully understanding why. I tearfully put his snowsuit back on and stomped back over with him to our house. In the absence of peace, stress created anger. He was upset. I was upset. I quietly let frustrated tears slide down my cheeks as we sat down on the floor of my kids’ bedroom. I had no clue where to go from there. Then the Lord drew near, put His lips to my ear, and whispered to me, reminding me of His peace.
Oh right. I’ve been living outside of it again.
I repented for projecting my stress onto my kids and eventually letting anger flood my actions. Following that, revelation swept in. Instead of leading worship for our community, I had an opportunity exceedingly more important in that moment. I excitedly ran to get my computer, returned to his room, and put on some soaking instrumental worship music. I began leading myself and my son into the presence of God. He sat in my lap for a few minutes and we both were still as we let the instruments wash over us while listening to the voice of God. I encouraged my son to ask God if there was anything God wanted to say to him. Fifteen or twenty minutes of quiet worship and little words spoken went by while my son periodically moved about the room, laying down, sitting up, and playing with toys here and there. My son was lying on his belly, rolling his sapphire blue marble across the floor when he said,
“He told me that I need to get peace and then I can go to school today.”
“God told you that?”, I asked while holding my breath. “Yeah.”, he said with a smirk and shrug of his shoulders.
My heart exploded. The reality of that scripture I had been praying over my children was occuring before my eyes (ref. Isaiah 54:13). My children are taught by the Lord and great is their peace. My four year old not only hears God’s voice, but he chooses to live in God’s peace. Not by my control or manipulation, but out of my willingness to provide space for the choice of peace to be made. We laughed and talked for a while; so full of gratitude for the Lord coming in that room, the Prince of Peace Himself coming to meet us in our mess. Afterwards my son felt the peace of God and wanted to return to school. We walked back and attempted to drop him off again. This time I took my time with him. Soaking in every moment that I had rushed through the first time. And the day went on, not ruined by one moment of things not going my way which ultimately resulted in me choosing to sin. I chose peace, and the man Himself came in glory not only for me but for my child. He is just that good. I’m excited to continue on this journey of getting to know God and make Him known.
Things will not always go my way. Like Peter, I’ve given Jesus permission to call me out on to the water with Him. And He responded. He has called me to be with Him, to be like Him. I’m out on the water with Jesus. Sometimes the waves will reach my waist, sometimes the wind will toss me off my balance. Adversity will come. I’m not asking for it, but I know that if I share in the sufferings of Christ then I have a solid hope that I will attain to the fulness of His resurrection as well. To fully know Christ, and glorify Him to the nations. He is Jehovah Shalom. The Lord my Peace.
From side to side she sweeps her bow across the strings. Eyes closed, lips pressed, shoulders hunched forward, and body pulled with the vibrant tug of the melody. She is gripped by the music. Lost, and yet utterly found. This is her place. Here in this creative space, pouring into her cello words that could never be spoken and emotions that language can’t express. The conductor silently swings his baton in precise angular movements, directing the orchestra to surround her song. Together the symphony builds and builds into a beautiful crescendo as the remaining strings take over. Leaning back in a moment of reprieve, she grips her bow and rests it against her right leg. She gulps down the air with steadied, deep breaths as she waits for the moment the entire concerto was written upon. Her moment. The climax, her solo, at the beginning of the final movement. So much history is here in this exact solo for her, so much pain, but there is no time to dwell. She pushes it all behind her and commands her entire being to focus on each individual breath while waiting, listening to the rest of the orchestra build a tower of notes meant for her to jump from. She waits. Suddenly with one sharp swing, the conductor waves his baton and she explodes into motions. Gently holding her bow like a feather as she violently brushes it across her cello, a sound so furious, yet captivating bursts into the atmosphere. Her fingers move fiercely up and down the fingerboard in a dance only she could perform. She has never been more free, never been more vulnerable than here in this place of pouring her whole heart into her cello. So beautiful, so lovely. She becomes the music. The orchestra jumps in and together they create a vigorous symphony movement that captures the entire room. Everyone is touched as she moves as one with her cello. And then so abruptly, you’d thought you had imagined it, her beautiful performance cuts off as strings rip off her bow. The conductor calmly silences the orchestra with a wave of his hands. She professionally addresses the audience with grace, explaining that she will quickly go change the broken strings on her bow and return to finish the movement. With a small bow she smiles and turns to head to the back stage.
Did that truly just happen? The crowd instantly murmurs.
An announcer speaks over the intercom assuring the room that the orchestra will continue the final movement shortly. Whispers coat the air and the sound of instrumentalists resting their instruments pierce the silence. Everyone waits for her, the star of the show, the star that failed during her most crucial performance. And as if this wasn’t enough, the announcer informs everyone that this is the second time she has broken the strings during this exact same movement in this exact same concerto.
How could this be? Failing so drastically, t w i c e ?
Could she have watered down her performance more so that the strings on her bow stayed intact? Put less emotion in her music to save herself from making the same mistake twice? Was this even a mistake of her own doing, or was it merely a product of bad circumstances lining up like rocks for her to stumble over? So many questions flooded her brain as she swiftly walked behind the stage to her dressing room where she began to efficiently restore the strings on her bow. Eyes followed her exit like darts aimed at a target. Putting all of her internal questions aside, she moved, falling at ease into a routine she knew well. Replacing the strings was one of the first lessons she had learned.
It was part of the art. A part of the process in continuing to move forward; a process of building and pausing, running and resting.
How challenging it is to reveal this process publicly. Failing for all to see. Especially amidst such a prestigious, black and white crowd with no room for grey areas.
The first time this happened to her she could hardly bear the humiliation. There in the heat of the symphony’s final movement, her passionate creative expression came to a halt as strings ripped from her bow. The failure sucked the breath from her lungs. She knocked over her music stand as she quickly arose to change the strings, clumsily tripping over the hem of her dress while running back stage. She refused the offers of help from back stage employees turning pitying glances her way. That time, she cried silently as she replaced the strings aggressively. Scraping tears away she returned to finish the concerto all mind and no heart. Pouring out of her heart simply wasn’t worth the risk anymore.
After the concert, she remained in her chair bewildered as her coworkers patted her on the back before exiting the room. She wept every night after that for weeks as she practiced the same movement over and over again until the callouses on her hands cracked. Even so she relentlessly pushed herself further still. One thought pounded through her veins.
She must redeem herself.
Make the wrong, right. This continued on an empty stage with just her and her cello every night at a local music hall for months. She practiced and practiced until one night, she pushed herself so hard that finally, she broke. Her fingers bled, and a cry ripped out of her heart. The failure of her performance weighed down on her more than ever before. Caught up in her self-torment the cello slid to the floor with a crash. Throughout her school years and her adult career, she spent the mass of her life striving to be the best cellist, the perfect performer. She sacrificed everything to be the perfect musician that she was today. And she succeeded. She became, one of the most talented, prestigious musicians of her time.
A rose among thorns.
But as she progressed fear of failure also grew along with her as a subtle thorn wrapping itself around her stem, slowly choking the life from her. In this practice session after her cello crashed down, she too allowed herself to slide from her chair and crumble like a cloth onto the ground. It was there in her desperation that another sound penetrated the rattle from all the arrows she threw at herself inside her mind.
A loving whisper, one of mercy and grace.
A voice from the One who gave it all so that she could have room to grow with Him again. He comforted her with His love, and clothed her with His grace. “My grace is sufficient for you.“, He said to her. It was enough, enough of a shock to revive her heart back into motion. Enough of truth to clear out the thorns and give her space to grow. Jesus can handle her failures, she need not fear them. If she allows herself to share in the sufferings of Christ, she will also attain the full resurrection with Him. She must press on. Not to attain perfection on earth, but to attain that which comes from a grace-filled life walking in the righteousness found only in Jesus. Becoming like Him. This awareness that, because of Jesus she was in right standing with God, stripped her from all forms of fear which had once gripped the wellspring of life within her. She wasn’t made to fail, but she had to give herself the freedom to do so if it meant she could grow.
And so, the show went on. This second time around she kept that revolutionary encounter on the center stage of her mind while she restored her bow and eloquently rushed back to the music hall’s center stage. The whispers were hushed but the stares continued. She could not care less. She was confident of one thing. Her right standing with God, and that was enough. Quickly tuning her cello, she nodded to the conductor and he motioned for the rest of the orchestra to begin a few measures prior to where they stopped before. Despite the large audience waiting with dismay before her and the eager orchestra surrounding her, she allowed herself to drift to that secret place once again. Suddenly she was back on that small dimly lit stage sitting upon a worn wooden chair with just her and her cello, only this time she knew Someone else knelt beside her as well. Awaiting the cue from the conductor, she gently hovered her bow near the strings of the cello and felt the pleasure from the One kneeling beside her brush away that nervous sweat that had been beading upon her brow. He wasn’t bothered by her mistakes. He loved to watch her passionately pour her all into this life with a heart abandoned, ever after Him alone. And so her moment came anew. Whether she failed a third time or a thousand, she would keep pressing on because she loved every bit of playing and wanted to let her music shine. To let her process shine the light of a gracious Savior. She closed her eyes and exhaled a breath she didn’t realize she was holding as music exploded once more from her hands. Release. A distant understanding lit like a match in her mind as she killed the vigorous final movement of the concerto so fearfully and wonderfully. She let go of everything in that moment, and yet so skillfully she played nonetheless. It was her many tries and fails that allowed her to do this very thing, to naturally overflow anointing from a place of letting go. Like an evergreen spruce tree she could remain bearing fruit and fragrance amidst the coldest of winters so long as her roots abided in Him. Living out of this secret space filled with grace to merely be and grow with her Beloved.
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.“
My little family went on a mission trip to Thailand for six weeks over summer last year. The entire time was challenging and beautiful, life-changing and transforming. Near the end of our outreach, all four of us got sick. It started with our two kids. They spent a few days with a fever that would come and go, sometimes they had stomach problems, but after several days it stopped for them. The following week, Brenner and I came down with the worst illness we’ve ever experienced. It was far worse than whatever the kids had previously had. Our brains hurt. Our eyes could hardly open due to a constant pain behind them. Muscles and joints ached severely. Fever came and went rapidly. Food wasn’t even on the priority list because moving was so excruciating.
I put all of my strength in just living. I had never felt like I was fighting for my life before that. After two days of dealing with this, Brenner and I decided we needed to seek emergency medical care because we sensed that we had something extremely serious. Prior to this happening, we had visited a village in some remote mountains in Thailand where mosquitoes carried disease and illnesses. Therefore we went to the hospital to check ad see if we had anything serious. As if we hadn’t already felt minorities in Asia, we were very obvious Americans in a giant hospital containing nearly a thousand patients from all nations in the Golden Triangle (Laos, Myanmar and Thailand). Everyone stared at us. And yet, I was in such critical condition that I didn’t care.
“Just save me, God.” This was one of the few thoughts I kept on repeat in my mind while hardly being able to speak.
We were directed to a separate wing of the hospital. There a team of Thai doctors made a make-shift office sitting on a table outside the hospital. The sun was blinding and the heat nauseating. Upon looking at us and asking us what was happening, they immediately felt that we had dengue fever, a mosquito borne illness. The skin tests they ran confirmed that Brenner had the illness, and my results were inconclusive. Still, I remember seeing them write a large “D.F.” with a sharpe marker and circling it at the top right corner of little sheets that identified us out of the other hundreds of patients. They were convinced that we had the illness.
Our contact person accompanying us carried these papers from department to department as we were transferred around the giant indoor/outdoor hospital. I write ‘indoor/outdoor’, because many of the waiting rooms packed with sick and injured patients were outside in the heat. The indoor parts of the hospitals also had wide open doors and windows subject to the elements. The entire place was hot and packed with people. It was a hospital unlike any that a Westerner like me had been to.
My husband and I were sent for further blood tests. We had our missions team contact person with us. His name was Jai Jai. He was someone from the same unreached people group that our missions team had come all the way to Thailand to minister the gospel of Jesus to. This man was part of the less than 2% of evangelical Christians within his entire people group. And boy, was he was on fire for Jesus. He prayed and sang worship songs over Brenner and I throughout the entire process of wheeling me around the hospital in a wheel chair and translating to nurses, doctors and other medical staff for us. I was in bad shape, vomiting, drained of color, couldn’t lift my head while lying limp in my chair with eyes closed. I was a sight to behold for the many masses surrounding us in the different, giant waiting rooms. I couldn’t pray much outside of my one internal cry for God to help us over and over.
Instead of praying or thinking, I listened to Jai Jai praying and singing over us. He was going to battle for us against this sickness that could kill us, a sickness that had killed many. We were silent, but somehow, by the grace of God, unafraid. As wild as it might sound, I knew if dying was a part of this, that I had lived my life for Jesus. To live is Christ, to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). That became real for me. And if it wasn’t time for that eternal gain, then I just wanted the medical team to help us get better. Again, this is intense for me to write out, but I can’t tell you enough that the sickness was extremely painful. There was so much we did not know. So much mystery. So there with closed eyes, I gave God my trust, my hope, my life, my husband, my children, my everything. again. and. again.
We went to another office and had our blood drawn. Then wheeled over to another place. We covered so much ground in that hospital. And hardly knew where we were going or what was happening. After several hours of waiting, we were taken to one last doctor.
Jai Jai wheeled me and Brenner over to the new doctor. Brenner was in bad shape too, but not as bad as me so he helped in whatever way he could for me. They helped me sit into the seat before the doctor’s desk. I remember thinking , “Wow, finally some air conditioning.”
She questioned me about the village in the mountains we had been in, and said we had to wait longer for the blood results to come. I remember being on the verge of tears because I didn’t want to leave her office to go back into that hospital crammed with people, sticky with humid heat while also feeling like death. But before I could say a word, her computer made a ding sound. She shockingly announced that the results had just came in. The words that came out of her mouth and then Jai Jai’s translation will remain in my mind for the rest of my life.
P U R E.
Miraculously our blood came back completely pure. Those were the doctor’s exact words.
“Your blood has come back pure.”
They were all a bit confused because our symptoms screamed that we had a mosquito-borne illness, and yet from our blood they could find nothing wrong with us at all. It was a good report, one that we received in shock. God was working miracles on our behalf, but we still couldn’t feel it in the physical 100% yet. I had to stay at the hospital for several more hours to receive fluids. My husband had to return to the place we were staying at in order to be with our children, and Jai Jai had to go back to work but would return to get me after the fluids were done. Which meant I would have to remain there by myself for several hours. I had no phone and was afraid to be alone there but at the same time I was too miserable to protest. I laid on a stretcher in a room with thirty other people. Some lying on stretchers, some were nurses busying about. It was crowded, with no privacy, but it was air conditioned and so much better than the waiting rooms. I tried to will myself to sleep but I was in so much pain that I couldn’t. The fluorescent lights were so bright behind my eyelids, and I shivered despite the heat. I was hooked up to several IV’s. Nurses, doctors and patients spoke and laughed around me in a language I didn’t understand. It was a lot for me. But there wasn’t much I could dwell on or worry about in the moment. I just wanted to live. I did continue thinking that I had no way of keeping track of time and was a little worried about Jai Jai not coming back for me. Slowly the overhead lights began turning off and someone wheeled me out into the hallway where I laid on the stretcher for another eternity, or so it felt. The waiting room was surprisingly empty. This part of the hospital was clearly closing for the day. Several employees came near and talked to one another right beside my head. I had no idea what they said but they soon left. I was a alone in a dimly let hallway. Later someone else came up and took the IV out of my arm and walked away. No one ever told me anything but I wouldn’t have understood anyways. Finally a male nurse or hospital employee came up and began rolling my stretcher outside the wing of the hospital. He took me behind the hospital to an elevator in the back. At this point, after the fluids ran through my veins and hydrated my body, I was feeling a tinsy tiny bit better. So my logic returned to me and I began thinking about everything I had been warned about in coming to a developing country like this. For example, being an American young woman by herself, vulnerable, and without a form of communication. Something rose up in me, a will to live and a fight to be done with this insane situation. Despite my wariness, the man rolling my bed across the parking lot and hospital grounds did in fact take me into another part of the hospital. He left me at the front doors of the hospital’s main entrance. I laid on the stretcher in front of hundreds of people sitting in the waiting room wondering if my ride would know where to find me since I had been moved and the hospital was so big. I waited for a while, still no way of checking or asking for the time. And finally I made the resolve to just leave and walk back to the hotel that our team was staying at. I knew how to get back, but the walk was about two miles and I still felt horrible. Even so, I was done with this situation. So I put my sunglasses on, peeled myself off the stretcher and left without checking out.
Who knew if that was even something that was done here?
I didn’t at the time. I walked back to our hotel in the beating sun with my eyes half closed due to the intense pain in my head. I know now that I wasn’t exactly thinking clearly, but after so much pain and enduring such harsh conditions I was totally done. I wanted it to be over and I wanted to be with my family. Jai Jai found me one block away from our hotel and drove me the rest of the way back. He had to return to the hospital with my passport to check me out and get my medications. What an awesome man dealing with us wild, sick Americans. Still I made it ‘home’ to the hotel with my husband and kids after all of that, and I was pronounced to have pure blood! You would think things got easier. But not quite yet.
Afterwards, recovery was not easy. Despite the good report, our symptoms raged on and the situation remained the same. We practically laid on our backs in darkness for the next two days. As parents, we had to force ourselves to try and get up for the sake of the children, to care for them. And thankfully we had a friend on our team help us a few hours a day to play with the kids, as we hoped and prayed for rest and healing.
On the second day after leaving the hospital, I had had enough of this sickness, enough of crying out to God and seeing the same awful results in front of me. I had so much faith, I loved God with everything in me, I had given up everything to follow Him, literally, and yet we were still so very sick. I began to plan for the worst. I told our team leader that we needed to find a way out of this small village and get to a bigger city with a bigger hospital. I said that we needed someone close to us to come be with the kids, and maybe we needed to be flown back to our home in Norway or even to the U.S. if this sickness went on any longer. We couldn’t take it anymore. The entire situation had become too unbearable. Brenner was in an even worse condition than before, I wasn’t doing any better, and the kids were tired of sitting in our tiny hotel room all day everyday. I felt helpless. I wanted my husband and I to be healed. I felt like a failure. Failure as a Christian, for not having enough faith to be healed. Failure as a mother, for not being able to care for the kids the way I normally would. Failure for getting so sick during a mission trip we prayed for months for. I felt like a failure, for all of it.
The agony of my great weakness and my great need for God came crashing into me in a way I had never felt before.
I laid in bed with my eyes closed, tears seeping slowly between eyelids, hoping for a slumber that wouldn’t come. And so suddenly I felt God lean over me and say, “I am taking care of you.“
I saw the shadow of a figure hovering over me. I heard the whisper. I felt the pressing of someone leaning over me. I’d have thought it was a dream if I could have actually fallen asleep. It was real.
I am taking care of you.
Did I imagine that? How could that be true?
Is this what being taken care of looked like?
I genuinely felt so baffled that God would say such a thing when nothing about my reality looked like care being given. My shock was not malicious, I genuinely contemplated what caring for a child looked like and wondered in what ways this could possibly be that. Still I recognized His voice and I grabbed on to His statement as if it were a rope descending into a dark pit in which I sat at the bottom of. I wrapped this glimmer of hope tightly within myself… and slowly a sound sprang up in the pit.
A distant song began to stir within me like an echo of old. It steadily grew louder and louder, and I soon felt l like I was being electrocuted with the power in the melody.
All my life, You have been faithful.
First, it was just a thought in my mind. But immediately upon thinking it, the truth resonated within me. It pulsated through my bones, bringing warmth into my aching joints. The song pumped with my blood, beat through my heart, and I felt a real revival, from death to life, spark inside me.
All my life, You have been so, so good With every breath that I am able I will sing of the goodness of God
I opened my lips and with a cracked whisper I began to sing this song to the Lord.
As I whispered the song, I actually felt the pain behind my eyes start to fade away. Very quickly I was able to open them both. The pain receded instantly in one eye, and then slowly, the other. The pain in my body began to leave too. Joint by joint. Muscle by muscle. At last, I sat up. I placed my feet on the cold tile floor without any pain in my brain or body and it was then that I realized what just happened.
I was healed.
It was a miracle. A real healing miracle from God. When I was able to give nothing, God came in with everything. He saved me, as He always has. All my life He truly has been faithful. Something about meditating on His goodness in my life, even when I didn’t feel good, even when I could no longer see His goodness, something about remembering His goodness changed everything for me in that moment. He was caring for me as He always has. That was a knowledge that was so above me, I still don’t understand it fully. He is my Daddy, and He is good. Despite what I see, and despite what I feel the goodness of God is a tangible flame of truth that can pierce through the darkest of nights.
I jumped out of bed singing this song, “Goodness of God” by Bethel Church. I was amazed! I began praying for Jesus to heal my husband, who still laid in the bed and then I took the kids to play outside. I could now be outside in the, once excruciating, bright sunny afternoon. While I was out, my husband also cried out to God for healing and he received instantaneous healing as well. We saw God move in a way we never had personally before. We went through our lowest valley, but God showed Himself in so much glory. He is faithful and that is something we will never forget, something we will shout from the roof tops. God is faithful. Trust Him. Believe.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
John 15:16 NIV
This was a word the God gave my family when we arrived to Thailand, and it remained true through our entire journey there. The knowledge of His faithfulness is one of the fruits that we will carry to the ends of the earth. Be encouraged, friends. God is with you even when you can’t see Him. God is good even when your circumstances don’t feel good. Remember all that He has done, remember His goodness.
Now my family and I are back as missionaries in Norway. We are confidently unsure but unafraid of the unseen journey that lies ahead. We have been miraculously healed and have endured some seriously hard battles. Taking up our cross is not easy but it’s not about us really. All the glory goes to the Father. And one thing we know, He is worthy of it all. Wherever He calls us, however He calls us, He will never leave us or forsake us. He is a good Daddy, and He cares for us. Even in the wilderness. Even in the desolate places.
And that I now know without a shadow of a doubt to be true.
That’s what they said before Joseph’s brothers plotted to kill him out of their own fear, jealousy, and selfish ambition. They were too focused on Joseph to seek God in their own destinies. If they asked, they would be told of all the unique and world-changing promises God had for each of them. One big purpose being that they would, together, become the great, twelve tribes of Israel. The brothers only saw their present circumstances, while Joseph saw his future.
“Look, this dreamer is coming!”
I sense the Lord is saying that this statement, this taunt, this mocking jab towards one’s purpose and calling is clanging loudly throughout the earth still today. It is the sound suffocating a child’s wonder and creativity out of her, wavering her direction to go up a success ladder of consumerism and personal gain. It is the deceitful whisper telling dreamer’s of change to point their guns at one another.
It is the sound of the enemy.
“Look, this dreamer is coming!” His finger, pointing at you in disbelief; preceding a plan, an attempt, to silence your voice and capture your identity, to kill your vision and crush your dreams. It is here, encompassed with this feeling of being stupid, so stupid, to believe in such big dreams, that many are stuck. Listening to the devil’s taunt on repeat, mocking who they could be, the dreams they once had, the calling that was too big. It is the sound of the unbelieving taunt, the unbelieving sin, that so easily entangles us.
Coming in agreement with that unbelief will bring about an inner torment that will rewire your brain from its original design. And soon your personally-designed, real purpose in life becomes so lost that it is now you pointing your finger at the other dreamers of the world. This has been me many times.
For so long humanity has listened to this clanging symbol, labelling the dreamers from the normal people, believing the unbelief, and hence, never stepping out into the fullness of Christ. But I sense that God is saying, first,
“Enough is enough.”
Enough of settling for the lie, and remaining outside of the abundant kingdom life God has in store, right here and now, for His beloved.
Oh the dream! His dream for His children.
That the body of Christ would walk as one Bride in the fullness of Christ, the glory of God made manifest in her, the abundant life that Jesus Christ died for her to live.
What if the key is this…
What if we were all made to dream? Made to cast vision for the impossible to become possible through Christ in our lives?
I believe we can.
Second, I sense that in this season the Lord is awakening the dreamers to dream once again. He is transforming that taunt, meant to snuff out our fire, into a steady beat for us march to in pursuit of the goal for the prize of the upward call in Christ (Philippians 3:14). And He wants us to know that there is a tool we can use, a belt that we can fasten upon ourselves to secure us against the unbelieving taunt from the devil. God is highlighting the belt of truth for His people to put on once again. In this season God is calling us to boast in our weakness, boasting in the truth. The truth that our dreams can not be accomplished without Him, without God’s all-sufficient grace. This is the armor covering you, His armor. This is the light, the light of Jesus Christ, keeping your eyes fixed upward. This is the melody, the song of deliverance, surrounding you, and playing louder than the unbelief. You are loved. You have a purpose and a calling. And Jesus? Jesus is coming back, and He is calling His Bride to ready herself. To realize that she carries the kingdom of God on earth, and to not merely be a hearer of the word, but a doer.
If we step into this open invitation from the Lord, an invitation to dream again, could we unite as one body in Christ and celebrate each other’s progress? Could we not only dream the impossible in faith, but also see it come to pass? The miracles, the healings, the deliverance, the chains falling off of nations? Could we see in our lifetime the glory of God covering the earth as the waters cover the sea(Habakkuk 2:14)?
I believe we can, if we are willing.
There is another piece to all of this that the Lord is reminding us of in this time as well. Our walk of faith, our obedience to the call, will not come without challenges. You see, we might think that Joseph had a special calling. But God doesn’t show favoritism (Romans 2:12). Your calling is just as big as Joseph’s was, and his dream came with many struggles. Yours will too. Joseph was betrayed by his own brothers, sold into slavery, shown favor, but then betrayed again and thrown into prison. Still, God never left him. God never stopped working things out in Joseph’s favor. Even though Joseph was brought low. Even though it seemed that the odds were always against him. Even though his circumstances didn’t line up with his dreams. Joseph believed that God was able. And He was. Through it all, God brought the vision, the dream to pass. I can hear Him whisper to us,
The hardships were part of the dream coming to pass.
To press on in this new season, we must know that our present, past and future hardships are all being worked together, by God, for our good.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28 NKJV
So love God. Dream again. You are called. You have a purpose. And no matter the trials that lie ahead, remember that God is working it all out for your good. Believe, not in yourself, but in Him who is able to do exceedingly, and abundantly above all that you could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20-21). To Him be the glory forever and ever.