I Can Trust God with My Children

My oldest son, Cole, is in Marine boot camp right now.  Actually he is in the middle of the Crucible, and my mind is going crazy.  I am trying to remember him in prayer at all hours of the day and night without letting my thoughts lead to worry…

and the worry lead to impatience…

and the impatience lead to “what ifs”…

and the “what ifs” lead to panic.

I thought back to October of last year when he first told me that he wanted to join the Marines.  He didn’t talk about the benefits or the pay.  He said he wanted the brotherhood, the character development, the challenge.  At first I wasn’t sure I wanted my son in the military, so I asked God about it.  He gave me peace and the impression that this would be the very best thing for Cole.  Pretty soon I was feeling that joining the Marines would be the most important step for him to take after High School.  I had been praying for a long time that Cole would find a positive focus for all of his teenage energy.  Finally he had found it!

As a mom, I can worry about absolutely anything!  So my son had made the very wise choice to pursue a career in the Marines.  But what if his enthusiasm waned?  What if he got in trouble and became disqualified?  Boot camp was a year away.  What if he didn’t make it there?!

On October 28, 2017 the worries were getting the better of me. It was the Saturday morning of his very first Marine work-out.  One of the stipulations of the delayed entry program was that Cole had go to the recruiting office once a week to prepare physically and mentally.  A recruiter was going to pick him up early that morning to take him to the work-out.  I had to leave even earlier to make a trip to the farm. There was dew on all the blades of grass and all the colorful leaves.  The sunlight peaking over the horizon was like white gold glittering on every water droplet.

I wanted to enjoy the beautiful drive and the peaceful time alone…but I was feeling guilty and worried.  Cole was NOT a morning person. What if he didn’t get up in time for the workout?  I should have stayed at home to make sure that he did! What if he wasn’t serious about this Marine thing? What if all God’s plans for his future got derailed?

A song on the radio washed over my mind with the power of the Holy Spirit.

                “Death could not hold you, the veil tore before you.

                You silenced the boast of sin and grave.

                The heavens are roaring, the praise of your glory.

                Yours is the name above all names.”

The worries were replace by a picture of Jesus on the cross, conquering death and sin, then rising again victorious, becoming the Savior of the world.  I saw the Good Father allowing His beloved son to come into this world that did not love or receive Him.  All of hell was working against Jesus and much of the earth and mankind as well.  A million different things could have gone wrong. Countless roadblocks stood in the path for Jesus to become all He was destined to be, to accomplish all He was meant to accomplish.

Yet the Good Father was able to keep Jesus and guide Him perfectly.  He could do the same with my children.

“You mean I really don’t have to feel responsible for making sure my children achieve their purpose here on the earth?  That I could really just trust you to do it?” I asked God, trying to let go of years of ingrained thought patterns that always led to worry.

                “You know that you never could, no matter how hard you tried. That is why you worry. That burden is not for you to carry. Just trust me,” came the whispered answer.

When I arrived back home, Cole had already left for his workout.  I didn’t need to worry!

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Cole and I a year ago after he swore in to the Marine delayed entry program.

Now he is almost done with boot camp, just hours away from becoming a Marine.  I didn’t need to worry. But I still did.  About EVERY little thing over the past year. I decided that I had to remind myself of all God had spoken to me.

When I went back and read my journal entry for October 28, 2017, this is what I had written.

                “You are the Good Father who puts his children in this world and then brings them through the crucible victorious.”

I had written that before I knew anything about the Marines.  Long before I understood that they had the toughest and longest boot camp out there.  Before I had any idea that the culminating event of Marine boot camp was called The Crucible; 54 hours packed with missions to accomplish, obstacles to overcome, 45 miles to be hiked, and very little sleep or food to be had.

                I had been prophesying and I didn’t even know it!

So as I am imagining every possible thing that could go wrong with Cole out there in the rain and the cold and dark of The Crucible, I chose to remember;

I can trust the Good Father with Cole and his destiny.

God will bring him through The Crucible Victorious!

 

 

This is a New Season!

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There is a new season that I believe God is leading us all into. He is whispering in our ears, He is wooing us with His love, He is drawing us to follow Him out of the desert.  The desert season was full of disappointment and wounds.  It was full of waiting and hope deferred.  Yet God was saying through one of His prophets (Sue Roby), “The Delay is in your favor.”  I tried to hold on to that thought, to continue to believe that all would work out for the good…but I let some of my faith slip away.

A few months ago another prophet (Tony Brazelton) came proclaiming, “The Delay is over!”  My spirit leapt when I heard it. Could it really be time?  The time I had been praying for?  Yet the fear of disappointment almost choked this new hope to death.

In September God gave me two scriptures to read, Isaiah 65 and Psalm 144.  These same scriptures had been a source of strength during the lowest point in our lives as a family.

Is 65 had been God’s way of announcing to me that I was pregnant, back in 2010.  Verse 9 says, “I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah those who will possess my mountains; my chosen people will inherit them, and there will my servants live.”

I was happy to be pregnant and to feel the presence of a fresh new spirit within me.  I didn’t even need to take a pregnancy test.  Yet also I was ashamed.  Ashamed that I was pregnant for the fourth time in 5 years.  Ashamed that we still lived in a two bedroom townhouse and had to go to the health clinic for lower income families in Colorado Springs.  Ashamed that we struggled to pay our bills and had to set up a nursery for our baby in our walk-in closet.

The baby girl was due in January.  Right before Christmas Chris was laid off from his job.  We didn’t know what we would do.  We tried to enjoy Christmas as the debts grew.  I had a difficult time with Ashlyn’s birth which I wrote about in Birth Story Part 3.  Yet when she was born I was filled with peace and bliss.  My perfect baby girl!  God was so good!

The very next day the doctor informed us (devoid of compassion) that something was definitely wrong with our baby, but they didn’t know what.  Then began the many tests and scans.  Problems were found in her lungs, diaphragm, and heart.  We didn’t know what was going on.  We asked our church to pray and the only word they had for us was that this was my fault, that I was being too prideful.  I asked God if they were right.

That is when God gave me Ps. 144.  I felt peace flood my soul as I read:

“Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace.  Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision. Our sheep will increase by thousands, by tens of thousands in our fields; our oxen will draw heavy loads. There will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, no cry of distress in our streets.”

Amazingly Ashlyn was cleared and was released to go home after just two days, a perfectly healthy baby girl!

ashlynA perfect baby girl…until the results of the Chromosomal analysis came back.  A part of her 6th chromosome was missing but no one knew what that meant.  No one had ever seen this before.  We began this journey of parenting a special child, one who didn’t grow and develop like the other children.  One who had to wear a brace for a dislocated hip and a patch for strabismus in her eyes.  A child who needed physical therapy to learn to sit up and occupational therapy to learn to drink from a cup.

This is when Is. 65 became even more meaningful.  God had brought her forth and had told me that she was destined to take mountains.  She was not a mistake!

By April Chris still hadn’t found a full time job.  Our church kicked us out and shunned us.  Our mortgage and second mortgage were threatening to foreclose.  Our townhome association was threatening to take us to court.  Ps 144 didn’t appear to be true for us.

Yet God worked His miracles, one at a time.  He gave Chris a new job, sold our townhouse, brought us home to Pennsylvania, led us out of debt, and blessed Ashlyn with supernatural health.  More financial struggles, hardships with the children, and failed business ventures followed.  But we were home in the land of our inheritance.  We had friends, family, and a church that loved us!

When I started reading Is. 65 and Ps. 144 again this September, I was reminded of the encouragement I had received from them years ago.  Yet, I didn’t really want to delve into them, to relive the pain we had been through.  I kinda thought, “I know these verses inside and out.  I’ve been there and done that and I DON’T want to do it again.  Can’t I read something else?”

But I felt God saying, “Take another look.”

I discovered that these words, written thousands of years ago, were perfectly tailored for my life.  Not just my life back in 2010, but my life in 2017 and beyond.  I received revelations that I was not able to receive back then.  That our church in Colorado was not pleasing to God, but HE HAD BROUGHT US OUT OF IT to possess His Mountains.  Not because of anything we had done but because His faithfulness, He saved us from that situation and now we are taking mountains for His Kingdom.

Then I saw all the promises that God had for His servants (Is. 65, verse 13).  We will eat, drink, rejoice, and never be put to shame!  This has happened in our lives.

Then I read a verse that I had never noticed before, verse 16b.

“For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes.”

If God can forget the past, why couldn’t I?  I felt Him saying to me, “I am bringing you into something new, something you haven’t seen before.  You don’t have to interpret current events through your past experiences.  You don’t have to look into the future through the lens of the past.  I am going to give you a new perspective.”

I had been gaining a different perspective, an aerial view like that of an eagle.  I didn’t want my thinking to be clouded by people’s opinions, ever changing circumstances, or the dark clouds of depression.  I wanted to be seated with Christ in heavenly places, to see things from his Eternal perspective.  God was telling me that I was meant to be an eagle.   I was trying to fly, but I really needed some help.

I asked God to let me see a real eagle, and He answered my prayer just weeks later on our family vacation up north.  See my previous articles, “A Hawk, A Vulture, and an Eagle Part 1 and Part 2.”  I felt elated!  I felt inspired!  I felt ready to fly!

Of course vacation has to end and normal life has to begin again.  Could I see an eagle during the course of my daily routine? Chances were no.

I have made a weekly trek to a farm for years now.  At first I never noticed the birds flying in the sky.  Not because they were not there, but because I was not looking.  After God started speaking to me about being an eagle, I began to search the skies.  I loved watching all the birds – the swallows, the robins, the wrens, the sparrows, and even the crows.  They looked so free.  Even better that those birds were the large birds that flew high above the rest.  I felt inspired by their flight…until I realized that they were vultures.

Months I spent searching the sky for eagles only to see vultures, buzzards, and more vultures!  Ahggggggg!  At the end of October I made this trip for the 20 zillionth time.  I saw a large bird swooping down over the highway.  Another vulture, I said to myself.  Still, when I got close enough I turned my eyes away from the highway and up to the sky just long enough to see…

A bald eagle!  I saw the brilliant white head and the powerful straight wings!  I was not expecting that at all!  An eagle in my own neck of the woods!  In the midst of my normal routine!

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This seemed very significant so I asked God if there was something He wanted to tell me.  Immediately I heard this verse on my Bible CD:

“‘The One who is coming will come.  He will not be late.  The person who is right with me will have life because of his faith.  But if he turns back with fear, I will not be please with him.’

But we are not those who turn back and are lost.  We are people who have faith and are saved.” Hebrews 10:35-39 (ICB)

Fear has been my normal reaction to many things, so normal I hardly realize that I am choosing fear over faith.  But I am not one who turns back!  I am one who believes!  I will choose faith!

I heard God say to me, “I want you to be ready to see eagles where in the past only the vultures flew.”

How to Rise Above the Vultures

We all have them.  Bad days, bad weeks, even bad months…when it feels like we are living under a dark cloud of depression.  All circumstances seem to agree with the discouraging thoughts inside our heads.  Yet if we know Jesus, we understand that this is not the abundant life that Jesus promised.  We realize something is wrong, but exactly what and how to fix it is a little fuzzy.  Fuzzy because the vultures are circling overhead, creating a dark atmosphere that blocks out the light of the Son.

                How can we live a life without those pesky vultures bothering us?

For me, they speak a language that I readily understand.  A language of condemnation, self-doubt, and self-pity.  Whenever I fall short (which is every day), my perfectionist nature can hear the toxic voices of the vultures.  I agree all too often and lose sight of God’s truth.  How do I stay out of their reach?

The book, The Final Quest offers a clue.  In Rick Joyner’s vision, he was fighting in the Lord’s Army.  He saw many Christians in the enemy’s camp being held captive by weak little demons of fear and being oppressed by the vultures of depression.  They could have easily fought off these puny creatures with their glorious swords, but chose not to.

Even the Christians who were not prisoners but were mighty warriors on the mountain of the Lord, were still vulnerable to the vultures. If they drifted too close to the edge, they could slip on the condemnation vomited on the rocky cliffs by the vultures.  Once they had fallen off the mountain, they were easily carried off by the enemy.  Rick avoided this fate by spending his free time driving his sword (the Word of God) deep into the side of the mountain and tying himself to it.  He finally climbed to a level that was above the reach of the vultures.  This level was called, “Galatians Two Twenty.”

                “…and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (NRSV)

This scripture speaks of a life I have not yet learned how to live, but I want to.  I want to climb up that level where I dwell in the reality, “I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”

My life is no longer about me.  My life is about Jesus!  No one (not even myself) has any grounds to judge me.  My value doesn’t come from being good, or perfect, or hard-working, or talented.  My value comes from the value God puts on me.  He knew me before the world began.  He made me.  He knows who I am in the depths of my being.  He knows who I will become.  He knows that His word is powerful to enable me to do anything He tells me to do.  He knows His finished work in me.  He says that I am worth His Son – His Life, His Death, His Resurrection.

                It is no longer about me!

                It is Christ living in me!

 My past mistakes – Jesus has signed his name to those and claimed them as His own.

My victories – I win them in His power.

My weaknesses – He is turning them into strengths.

My Strengths – It is His likeness in me.

My embarrassments…

My insecurities…

My shame – They no longer apply to me!

My condemnation – I say to those vultures, “Take it up with Jesus!  This life belongs to Him!”

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It is not I who live but Christ who lives in me!

When I start to get discouraged, when I tumble down the slippery slope to depression, I am focusing on myself.

My failures

My faults

Why I am to blame for all the imperfect circumstances.

Why other people don’t like me.

How I could never become the person God wants me to be.

Why all His goodness doesn’t apply to Me!

 I AM SO TIRED OF FOCUSING ON ME!!!!

Even Bill Johnson said that no one comes out of a time of deep introspection encouraged.  There are times that the Holy Spirit will lead us to look into our past or look into our hearts, and shine His Light and Love on whatever we find there. But looking inward all the time with our own understanding makes our world smaller and smaller, darker and darker.

“Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.” Romans 8:6 (MSG)

I want that spacious, free life!  I want to soar above the circumstances, soar above the vultures.  I want to mount up on wings like an eagle and rise above the grey clouds, to see the sun paint glorious colors on the sky.

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When I am being bothered by those vultures and thinking all sorts of disparaging thoughts about myself…

I turn my gaze to Jesus!  I start to worship Him for all of His excellent attributes.  I rehearse all of His goodness to me.  I see how beautiful and powerful He is.  I give Him His job back, being the King of the Universe.  My burdens become light.  He becomes so big.  My problems become so small.  I lift my arms in surrender and I feel faith arise within me.

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                I feel my wings unfold.  I feel the wind of His presence lift me high.  High above the vultures. High above everything…

except HIM.

 

 

God Encounters ~ Part Three; Maleficent offers a message of Hope!

Maleficent

After going through a season of loss, it is hard to allow yourself to dream again.  There is something beautiful and freeing about surrender.  Lay all my dreams down and cling to God alone?  Sure, I can do that.

But what happens when I feel dreams stirring in my heart again?  Old dreams.  New dreams.  Forgotten dreams.

It should thrill me and fill my heart with excitement…but instead, I feel fear.  The fear of being disappointed again.  The fear of being wrong, of being foolish, of going around that same painful circle again.

God sent me a message that gave me permission to dream again.  And he sent it through a famous Disney villain – Maleficent!

If you haven’t seen the new live action movie, Maleficent, you might want to watch it before reading this article (I don’t want to ruin any surprises for you).  I never had any interest in seeing this movie.  I hate Disney villains!  They are so scary!  I don’t let my small children watch them.  Yet when the movie Maleficent came on the TV, I was drawn in.  Maleficent was a young girl with piercing eyes.

young Maleficent

She was a powerful fairy.  In fact, after the death of her parents, it fell to her to protect the fairy kingdom of the Moors.  She didn’t look at all like a fairy with great horns growing out of her head and massive, dark wings.  Yet she was wise and good.

I was captivated when I watched her flying with her strong wings,  joyous and free, shaping the clouds with the force of her flight.  I wished to do the same!  My recent obsession with eagles that I wrote about in “God Encounters ~ Part Two”, fueled the desire that I could enjoy that same freedom that Maleficent had.

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She trusted a young boy even though humans were usually enemies of her kingdom.  She and the human fell in love, and on her 16th birthday, the boy gave her, “true love’s kiss.”  Her trust was rewarded by abandonment and an empty heart.  Soon the boy forgot about her in his ambition to become King.

Years passed.  That boy had become a man and returned to Maleficent with kind words.  She forgave him and let him into her heart again, only to be betrayed. The man had intended all along to kill her, for whoever killed Maleficent, the great protector of the Moors, would be given the human kingdom that wanted to conquer it.  This man couldn’t bring himself to kill the dark and beautiful creature he had once loved.  So instead he drugged her and cut off her wings, thinking that this would be all the proof that was needed.

Normally I am not that deeply impacted by a Disney fairy tale, but this time I truly grieved for Maleficent.  To see her painfully crippled by the one that she loved hit close to home.  I could feel her pain.  What a tragedy for her to be earthbound when she was created to fly!  The sorrow and suffering turned into bitterness in Maleficent’s heart, and she cursed the daughter of her betrayer, Aurora.

Aurora was so sweet, so happy, so innocent, and so defenseless that Maleficent began to love the child despite herself.  She became Aurora’s sustainer and defender, her “fairy Godmother.”  As I watched Maleficent’s heart turn from unforgiveness to love, I still felt so sad.  Sad to see her only a shell of what she once was.  Yet that happens to many of us in this life.  I comforted myself with the thought that even if our physical bodies are broken and our circumstances are prison-like, we can still be free on the inside.  Our spirits can still soar above the clouds in God’s presence.  Still, we long to see restoration with our physical eyes.

Maleficent tried to renounce the curse she had put on Aurora, but she could not.  When Aurora turned 16 and fell into the death sleep, Maleficent showed no concern for her own life when she brought a prince into the castle to give Aurora “true love’s kiss” and break the spell.  It didn’t work!  Maleficent was heartbroken, coming face to face to with the fear that has always haunted her – there was no such thing as true love.  She promised to always protect the sleeping girl.  When Maleficent stooped to kiss the one she truly loved with a selfless devotion, the spell was broken!  Aurora was awakened!

The king, now a tortured and crazy man, did not even notice that his daughter was well again, so intent was he on killing Maleficent.  Aurora ran from the battle and came upon Maleficent’s wings, locked in a glass case.  They were still alive and flapping!  This was something I never expected!  Cut off a body part and it surely dies.  In the years that had passed, they would have decayed and been long gone…yet here they were, as strong and true as ever.

Aurora shattered the case and the powerful wings were reunited with their owner, carrying her above the battle.  Maleficent’s true identity had been restored, and it was a wonder to behold.  This was a miracle!  I was rejoicing!  This is the type of miracle that only happens in fairy tales…or is it?

Could this just be a message from God to get my attention, to lead me to the real miracle of the restoration of all things found in Is 35 and again in Is 65 all throughout the Bible?  This will really happen in all people and to the entire earth…someday.

But what about right now, inside of me?

Could it be that God is restoring my true identity – the parts of me that were stolen or crippled?  My true self, my purpose and all of the freedom and thrill and excitement that comes along with it?  Could God be storing up all of the dreams I ever had, all the dreams He ever had for me?

-before they got trampled and crushed by life.

-before I experienced betrayal and pain.

-before I hear the words “You can’t,” “You shouldn’t,” “You Never Will!”

-before I morphed into a shell of what I was created to be, a wingless eagle living in the dirt.

Could those wings of mine be alive and viable somewhere?

Perhaps I WILL feel the wind rushing around me!

Perhaps I will rise above the earth again.

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Perhaps I will see the miracles I once expected.

Perhaps I will be whole and strong.

Perhaps I really will be a fearless one!

Perhaps I  was born to fly!

And perhaps you were too…

 

 

 

God Encounters ~ Part Two: The Sky and the Ocean

It has been a difficult season for me, being sandwiched between the needs of my children and my mom.  I feel so busy, so responsible, and so drained that it is almost suffocating.

Yet, all this is pushing me deeper into God.  I am asking for strength and for wisdom.  I am asking for His love to flow through me when I am empty.  I am listening for His voice.  He has answered me with the most beautiful string of encounters with His presence.

                One – The Wind

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One February night I was having a quiet time in my room.  I turned on some “Bethel Without Words” and just sat in the music.  I felt God’s presence.  It was like a wind blowing through me and around me.  I was reminded of my childhood, when I used to climb the maple tree in my front yard.  I loved to climb as high as I could, until the branches got thin enough to sway gently in the wind.  I felt a breathless exhilaration.  I felt peace and joy.  I felt the wind.

                “That was me,” I heard God whisper.  “The wind was my presence.  I have always been with you, even before you knew me.”

The presence of God was so sweet.  It blew away my fears and left me feeling refreshed and new and loved.  I practiced trying to find this “Wind of His Presence” during the course of my day; when I was stressed about all I had to do, when I was worried that I wasn’t enough, when I felt my frustration rise and my sanity shaken.  I would close my eyes and feel the wind softly rock me back and forth, like a mother rocking her baby.  I was safe and loved, and this reality was where I wanted to live every hour of every day.

                Two – The Heartbeat of Love

About two weeks later I was enjoying worship at my church on a Sunday morning.  It is so easy to connect with the presence of God in that place.  I felt the wind again.  Then it began to pulse through me like a heartbeat.  I began to awaken to the truth that this love was also pulsing through everything everywhere…All THE TIME!  The universe was founded and built by His love.  It is operating and expanding by His love still.  This love is alive and active like the wind blowing, like a river flowing, like blood being pumped through every cell.

This was challenging my current world view.  I had seen the world as a very cold and hard place much of the time, full of dangers and toxins that I had to protect my children from.  Many scenes that flashed through my mind were not pretty; broken down cities full of corruption, once beautiful wilds polluted and dying, great mountains of decaying garbage inhabited by sick and hopeless humanity.   Yet God was telling me that His love was pulsing through all of this.  Scenes of great evil, people experiencing unspeakable horrors at the hands of other people, also flashed through my mind.

“There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still…”

I knew that Corrie ten Boom had said this after living through a concentration camp, but now God was telling me that it was really true.  HIS LOVE IS EVERYWHERE!  Of course there is a lot in this world that IS NOT love, that IS NOT part of God’s original plan.

But His love is still there, bigger and stronger.  If only we could be aware of it.  If others have found His love in the depths of darkness, certainly I could find it in every circumstance of my life.  If His love can bring redemption from the worst of the worst, certainly He can do the same in my slightly messed up life!  When I began to look at the trials as potential miracles, my burdens began to turn to wonder.

              Three – The Eagles and the Wind

Eagle silhouette in Kachemac Bay where many birds can be seen

In the following weeks, I practiced feeling God’s heartbeat of love pulsing all around me and in me.  I imagined it flowing thought everything I looked at.  I imagined it touching everything I thought about.  Many times I would feel the wind of His presence, so full of love.

At the same time, I found myself searching the sky for eagles.  I know that there probably aren’t many eagles around here, but I was eager to see any bird of prey.  God speaks to me so often through nature, and right then I had an obsession with eagles.  It started when I wrote the article,  A Cure for the Negativity that is All Around , in which I told about a vision I had about 12 years ago.  I saw a nest full of baby eagles on the side of a rocky cliff.

God said, “You are eagles and you are to raise your children like eagles.”

Eagles play a huge part in the visions that Rick Joyner tells about in the Final Quest Series.  The eagles seemed to represent the prophets, flying high enough to see clearly what others cannot see.  They instruct, encourage, and warn the other believers.  They bring refreshing winds of healing when they flap their great wings.  They set believers free when they devour the snakes of shame. They carried many scars from the battles they had fought with courage. The Final Quest books have impacted me deeply.  I have read them many times and felt challenged and uplifted each time.  A small, timid voice inside my heart would say, “Perhaps I am meant to be an eagle.”  My mind would quickly dismiss the silly thought…until I remembered that vision.

I still didn’t understand how I could be an eagle in the spirit, but I wanted to find out.  So I began to search the skies for a sign.  Perhaps if I caught sight of the noble creatures (even a hawk would do!), they could teach me something.  As I drove through the country to the farm I frequent once a week, I would see large birds high the sky.  I would marvel at their freedom and wonder what they were seeing.

“How I wish I could fly up there like an eagle!  How I wish I could feel the wind as they do and see as they see!”  I thought to myself.

As I watched, I realized that they usually didn’t work hard or even flap their wings.  They simply allowed the wind to carry them.

                “The Wind of my Presence will lift you up so you can see like an eagle.  Being in my presence is the key to the vision you desire,” I heard the Spirit of God say to me.

In a split second He married my two obsessions, the wind and the eagle. I wasn’t crazy!  God was taking me on a journey that I didn’t understand, but it seemed as though He wanted me to be an eagle as much as I wanted to be one!

The scripture I received at the Women’s Encounter brought all of these encounters into focus for me.

Psalm 27:4-5 “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life (His presence – YES!  That is what I want more than anything!), to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.

For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” (That’s where my baby eagles and I live!  That is where He is positioning me!)

Four – The Sky and the Ocean

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One Evening in April I was attending Women’s Prayer at my church.  The worship that night was simply a play list on a cell phone plugged into the sound system, yet I felt the Presence of the Lord so deeply.  I felt His love pulsing through me!  I felt His wind!  I imagined stretching my wings.  The beautiful wind lifted me high above the earth, above my circumstances, above the doubt and fear and anger of this world.  I could see that all was love, all was victory, all was good.

Right at that moment a song came on that I didn’t know, but the vocalist was singing about the wind of God.

“I can feel your wind blow through me.  All of me cries out for all of you!”

The words perfectly captured what was going on in my spirit. (Later the leader told me that she hadn’t picked that song and didn’t know why it had come on…but I did!)  I was soaring on the inside and feeling incredible freedom and peace.  Then I encountered the clouds in the sky.  I became the rain, falling to the earth.  I became part of the great waterfall that Hannah Hurnard talked about in Hinds’ Feet on High Places.  I was one of those happy drops of water, throwing themselves down from the High Places with thrilling abandon to be broken on the rocks below.  We continued to flow to the lowest place, down to the Valley of Humiliation to bring life and love to suffering humanity.  The water persisted in its journey until it reached the ocean.  And there I was, water in the depths of the ocean.  I could lay my life down to bring His love in the lowest place.

The wind and the rain

The Sky and the Ocean

             “This is what I am offering you.  This is the necklace from your dream.” The Father whispered.

Then I remembered necklace and my dream (God Encounters ~ Part One)!  The beautiful silver necklace with light blue jewels each inlaid with smaller dark blue gems.

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The light blue was the wind.

The dark blue was the rain.

The light blue was the Sky.

The light blue was the Ocean.

The Sky was limitless freedom and potential and vision.

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The Ocean was His Love and Peace in darkness and suffering, humility and servant-hood.

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My Father was offering me the vast expanse of the Sky and the deepest depths of the Ocean.

How could I, an imperfect mortal be worthy of such a gift?  How could I even understand such a gift?  How could I ever accept it and live in its reality?  Then the answer came.

                “You can’t work for this.  You are my daughter.  This is your inheritance.  Just accept it.”

So in my spirit that night, I accepted the gift that I could barely comprehend.  My Father, the King, placed the necklace around my neck and clasped it in the back.  It felt light.  This was no burden!  This was no heavy yoke!  This was the Sky and the Ocean…and it was mine.

 

 

 

 

Fear Won’t Steal My Voice

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As a young child, I believed several lies about myself.  I felt that I was vastly inferior in certain areas such as physical appearance, social graces, coordination, athletic ability, and the ability to speak with people I didn’t know very well.  I was sure that I would be rejected, so the fear of rejection was my constant companion.  I didn’t know about “the fear of rejection”, this was just my reality.  It was just the way the world worked, and I lived and made decisions to protect myself from rejection.

In Elementary school I always got an “A ”in conduct, because I was well behaved and talked very little.  I didn’t want to do anything that would draw attention to myself. I wanted to hide or at least blend in to avoid any negative reactions.  In new situations with new people, I felt almost paralyzed by the fear.  Faced with a social situation that required small talk, my mind became absolutely blank.  I couldn’t think of a single thing to say.

Fear would steal my voice.

This continued until junior high when something amazing happened.  God began to alter my path.  My first boyfriend, Jesse, invited me to his church (Word Fellowship which is now Life Center) for a youth event.  I agreed to go simply because I liked Jesse so much.  I found myself in the church gym, surrounded by the overpowering smell of fresh onions, helping to assemble hundreds of subs for the youth fundraiser.  [Here is a little fun fact: who do you think rode into the gym on a skateboard and was introduced to me as Jesse’s best friend?  None other than Chris Brandenburg!  Of course I was too shy to really talk to him at that point.]

This youth fundraiser was also an overnight event complete with food and fun games.  Jesse was very outgoing and knew everyone at the church.  He also loved the game of bombardment, which is similar to dodge ball.  The thought of participating in anything that would expose my physical awkwardness was terrifying to me.  I was hoping that Jesse would sacrifice his love for the game to stay with me.  But he didn’t.  He left me in the youth room while he returned to the gym.

I found a chair to sit in and felt completely alone.  The fear of rejection had me so paralyzed that I didn’t move from that spot for what seemed like hours.  Other students came and went, some sitting close to me to carry on a conversation.  But not a single person spoke to me.  I didn’t move or even look at them.  I tried to become invisible and wished I had never come.

Yet when Jesse invited me to come to a Wednesday night youth service, I found myself saying, “I’ll be there.”  I showed up that Wednesday night, but I still felt very uncomfortable.  A ray of sunshine by the name of Patty Leach (wife of the youth pastor) shone on me.  She said with a big smile on her lovely face, “So you are Anne?  You are a lot prettier than Jesse’s last guest.” [Disclaimer: Jesse’s last guest was a boy so this was not really an insult to say that he wasn’t pretty.]

Just the fact that someone had spoken to me and called me pretty was very encouraging!  I continued to come for a few months and felt confused by this charismatic church culture.  It was all new and strange.

One wintery Wednesday night changed everything for me – forever!  There was a guest speaker who I had never seen before.  At the end of his sermon, he asked us to come up to the front if we wanted prayer.  I found myself standing in the front with a whole crowd of other teenagers.  I don’t know how I got there, as usually fear would have me rooted to my seat.  He began to pray for the students and they seemed really impacted. A few of them started to cry.

“I wonder if he will know that I don’t believe in this stuff.”  I thought to myself.

Sure enough, he knew.  The youth pastor, John Leach, appeared seemingly out of nowhere and asked if I wanted to be saved.  The truth was, I didn’t know what “saved” meant and had never heard the “sinner’s prayer.”  But I said yes, and repeated the prayer after John.  I hadn’t been looking for God.  I didn’t believe in Him or felt that I needed Him.  Yet He burst into my heart anyway.  I felt Him and I felt His amazing love for me.  The scales fell off of my eyes and the world seemed entirely new to me.

This was the beginning of my freedom from fear!  It didn’t happen overnight.  I came each Wednesday night to youth group which was called Heirborne, but I still hadn’t made many friends.  It seemed that everyone else was a part of the group but me.  I was a silent observer most of the time.  One night I went home feeling the sting of rejection.  No one had been mean to me, but I felt like such an outsider.

“I can’t continue to do this to myself, this is torture.” I reasoned.  I would just have to tell Jesse that this church thing wasn’t really for me.  I was very serious about never returning to Heirborne again.

I never did have that conversation with Jesse. I was probably just too shy.  I found myself at youth group each Wednesday and gradually I made friends.  Slowly I learned that small talk wasn’t brain surgery.  Slowly I began to feel like I belonged there.

Sometime during my high school years, John’s brother Bryan took over as youth pastor.  He had a crazy idea; the youth should help to lead Heirborne.  He chose a group of us and called us the SALT team (Student Action Leadership Team).  Just the fact that Bryan had chosen me sent me an important message.  I had value.  I didn’t have to be like anyone else.  I could be myself, and I could be an important member of the team.  Bryan and his wife Marcey helped me to realize my worth.

We would meet once a week to pray and plan the next youth meeting.  We would take turns being responsible for different parts of the service – offering, announcements, and the teaching.  We would brainstorm wild ideas for skits or fun games that would illustrate the main point of the teaching.  I found myself up front speaking, teaching, or even dressed in crazy costumes doing ridiculous skits.  Talk about being out of my comfort zone!

Just the fact that I was able to get up in front of a group of people and talk was MIRACULOUS!

Once I was chosen to portray a “party girl” in a skit.  It was supposed to be a game show that had many different types of people answering the questions.  I would have never chosen this character for myself, being just the opposite of a “party girl.”  Yet I was determined to do the best job that I could.  I wore the closest thing to a mini skirt that I owned (which really was practically down to my knees).  A friend teased my hair until it was perfect 80s “big hair”.  I got out there with all the other crazy characters and acted as loud and obnoxious as I could, yelling out about wanting a case of “Red Bull.”

I felt absolutely ridiculous, yet there was no fear!  I wasn’t worried about being rejected by the other teens at youth that night.  I was just having fun and hoping that I could help the other teens have fun, feel a part of the group, and learn about God.  I stopped thinking about myself and began to want to be a blessing to others.  Fear became less and less a part of my life as I graduated High School and did missions with Youth With A Mission.  Preaching in front of others and meeting new people from all over the world became exhilarating.

I came back from YWAM and married that kid on the skateboard, Chris Brandenburg.  After a year of working and being youth leaders, we moved to Colorado Springs. We became part of a small church, but after 7 years I experienced the biggest rejection of my life.

I had always dealt with the FEAR of rejection but now what I had dreaded had come upon me.  The church (which was comprised of our leaders, closest friends, and spiritual family – almost our ENTIRE support network there in Colorado), kicked us out.  The main leader, Mary, told Chris that we could no longer be part of the church because of MY iniquities.  She said that I was interfering with their prayers.  She said I was holding Chris back from his destiny and that I was not the woman that God had wanted him to marry.  She said that I would one day leave him.  Once that happened, Chris could return to the church. Imagine hearing these words from someone you honored and respected as your leader.  I honored and respected Mary, but I also feared her. Mary had spoken harsh words to me before.  I had tried my best to follow God, yet she was always able to find something about me to criticize.  I remember thinking, “I will never be free until Mary dies.”  Isn’t that horrible?

Thankfully Mary didn’t have to die for me to be free from fear.  She just had to reject me, and God began to set me free!

I sought God like never before and do you know what I realized?

All of His words to me were good!

He loved me, more that I could take in or comprehend!

He delighted in me and actually liked me!

He gave me so much joy, more than I had ever had before!

He began to show me that the church that had rejected me did not have His heart.  Rather, they were working for the Accuser of the Brethren.  I am sure that the enemy of my soul, that dirty rotten liar of an accuser had a plan that he thought was fool proof.  He would link my heart and my identity to this little church and then turn them against me.  I would finally suffer the dreaded REJECTION and receive a mortal wound that would fester until the bitterness had consumed me.

BUT GOD…

GOD came down and saved me and filled me with His acceptance.  He loved me no matter what I had done right or wrong.  He loved me whether I had accomplished anything important or not.  Because of Him, I had a value that nothing could ever take away.

I had come face to face with my greatest fear.

I had met REJECTION and stared into its ugly, contorted face and you know what…it wasn’t so bad.

In fact, I actually felt honored that a church that had fallen so far from the Amazing Grace of God had rejected me. I wouldn’t have wanted to be the type of person that they would have accepted – one that feared men more than God.  It was a compliment that The Accuser had felt that I was enough of a threat to come after me like that.

Now I look back at that rejection and feel that it was one of the biggest blessings in my life!  I learned so much about God and about myself, and I was set free from that cult.  Of course I had a lot of healing to do, a lot of wrong teachings to unlearn.

Again, Life Center played a big role in my freedom from fear.  A year after that big rejection, Life Center offered Chris a job and helped to move us back to PA.  The atmosphere of love and acceptance at that wonderful church was just what we needed to heal.

I would love to say that now I never feel fear, that I boldly go speaking the Words of God wherever I go.  That is not the case.  Fear, specifically fear of rejection, is still my biggest hurdle to overcome before doing anything out of my normal routine.  Something as simple as making a phone call, walking across the street to talk to a neighbor, initiating a conversation with a stranger, or speaking in front of a group can bring on a flurry of anxious thoughts.  I would rather stay in my safe zone and never have to risk rejection again.  But now, it is usually very easy to silence those thoughts.  I simply stop thinking about myself and ask God to make me a blessing to whoever I am going to encounter.

Speaking at the Propel meeting was just an example of this.  I have enjoyed attending the monthly Propel meetings over the last year.  I have sat in the audience and looked up on stage at the many beautiful women and have been touched by their amazing stories.  Yet, I would think to myself, “I would never want to sit up there with them where everyone could see me and realize that I am not as pretty as the others.”

When Patty called me last week to ask if I would share at the February meeting, immediately that fearful thought flashed through my mind.  I heard myself saying, “Yes, I can be there,” because there was a much more dominating thought.  That thought was, “I know that God has put something inside of me that could be a blessing to the other women…

 and I don’t want fear to steal my voice again!”

Fear tried to silence my voice.  But in God I have found my voice.  Many times when I talk to a group or one on one – I can feel God speaking through me.  I feel lies being broken.  I feel atmospheres shifting.  I feel hope rising.  I feel peace coming down and settling.  When I am in tune with Christ, THERE IS POWER in my voice!  Yet many times I must chose to overcome fear before I am able to open my mouth.

Fear feels to me like Paul’s thorn in the flesh.  In 2 Cor 12:8-10 he says, “Three times I pleaded with the LORD to take it away from me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

There is also power in my written words.  Power to crack open strongholds.  Power to impart wisdom.  Power to lead others to God.  I have loved exploring the power of my written words with this blog.  There is a certain amount of fear involved with telling your inner most thoughts to the world.  But I am not trying to make myself look perfect to avoid rejection.  In fact, most of my articles are about my weaknesses, my insecurities, my mistakes, and my failures. That is where I find His Grace.  That is where my real power lies – in my imperfection.  For when I am weak…

Then God shows Himself Strong!

Breaking Through to Prosperity

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“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2

I had always found great comfort in this verse during times of trial, knowing that no matter how hard my life got, God would not let the troubles overwhelm me.  Most of these trials have had to do with finances.  How many times can you drive around the same block of “not enough in my bank account” before you realize that you are in the wrong neighborhood and hightail it out of there?  Seemed to me that we had tried a million different paths to a million different locations and always ended up in the same place – that run down, ugly part of town called “Lack”

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otherwise known as “Hope Deferred”

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or “Too many Big Dreams and Not Enough Money.”

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I was praying again for some insight on how to conduct our lives in a way that would lead us to that abundant peace and prosperity that the Bible is always talking about.  Again God gave me Isaiah 43.  But this time I understood it in a very different way.

Perhaps the most dangerous and powerful rivers in this life were not hardships as I had supposed.  Perhaps success, wealth, and the praises of man were far more perilous.  Perhaps the fiercest flames were not that of failure and rejection but that of acceptance and comfort.

My husband, Chris, loves music and had gotten in the habit of watching the TV show “Behind the Music.”  I don’t know very many popular bands, but I could predict the basic story line of almost every show.  A few guys had some talent and big dreams to become rich and famous.  They achieved their dream after varying degrees of time and effort.  They were worshiped by fans. They had enough money to make every desire and whim become a reality.  They had everything they ever wanted…and it just wasn’t enough. They would spiral out of control with excess; drinking, women, and drugs.  Many of them ruined their families and careers.  Some even lost their lives.  The blessed few humbled themselves and got their lives back on track.

What I learned is that quick and easy success is no blessing!  The adoration of fans is no blessing!  Abundant wealth is no blessing…if you do not have the character to handle it…it will destroy you.

If all our dreams came true tomorrow, I wouldn’t become a drug addict.  Chris wouldn’t become a womanizer.  Yet we could become prideful without even realizing it.  We could rejoice in our own wisdom and power.  We might be tempted to lead others to our most excellent way rather than point them to THE WAY.  We might become too comfortable to seek His kingdom first.

I began to read Isiah 43 in a new light.  Chris and I had learned so much through our 19 years of marriage.  How to better budget our money.  How to work as a team.  How to pray and trust God more.  How to leave behind generational curses.  We had made so much progress, yet we still did not see the prosperity that God had promised us.

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Then I heard His still, small voice.

“What is left is for you to do is to seek me and know me more.  Every moment of everyday, take the opportunity to sink your roots deeper into the soil of my love and truth.  I am withholding the mighty river of overwhelming blessing simply because you are not yet ready to handle it. Until your roots are firmly anchored in me, it could sweep you away.”

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I am so thankful that God is keeping me safe from myself.  I am so thankful that his promises mean that someday I will be like Jesus; able to steward great power and responsibility without letting it control me.  Being able to humbly accept both abundance and lack and be content.  I will be able to follow the advice of Rudyard Kipling.

“If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same.”

Triumph and Disaster and are powerful forces that could consume all that is good in our lives.  Yet if we are already completely consumed by the Lover of Our Souls, those two impostors have no chance at moving us… except deeper into his embrace.

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