I met Peace

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.”

Whoa.

“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.

The Redeemed Tragedy of the Cellist

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.

Philippians 3:7-14 NIV

They May Say I’m a Dreamer

“Look, this dreamer is coming!”

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.