Deeper

As a kid I loved to nab one of the few pair of goggles at a pool party so that I could dive down deep into the water. Below, all of the laughter, conversation, delighted screams of children splashing were instantly muffled and distant.

As you’re introduced to this new space beneath the surface, everything you know about breath and balance above the surface are changed. I remember being mesmerized by the strange quiet and the way the light shone through the endless blue and how everything slowed down. 

Losing track of time I’d emerge from the water, made anxious by the thought I may have missed something going on at the party. Why didn’t everyone want to dive in? Isn’t this what we came for?

I believe in life we are often reluctant to fully surrender to God because of what we may miss. We are made anxious by this need to follow the crowd and as a result we often sacrifice depth for relevance. But what could be more relevant than time spent diving deeper and deeper into the Father’s presence?

 I’ve realized that there will always be something else to do instead of worship. There will always be tasks to perform and people to see but we can’t live satisfied with surface level revelation of the person of God and miss the beauty of the depths of His heart. We must learn the rhythms of daily surrender.

In the Waiting

Naturally, entering into this new year felt like stepping over the thresh hold of an entirely new realm of possibility. I love new beginnings. Fresh Start is my middle name. I have come into this new year positioned for the impossible to be made manifest in my life. I’m carrying a word from the Lord like I’ve got gold in my pocket, a promise that’s sacred and priceless and…I don’t know what to do with it! Anybody been there? Anybody carrying a promise from the Father? I stepped into this new year believing it was delivery time, only to find that I’ve merely entered a new trimester. Anybody waiting? I’m in the promised land but there are giants here and the land is uncultivated.

When you’ve waited, what does waiting some more look like?

I’ve been decluttering my house today. There are tied up bags and boxes everywhere. Every surface of my house is occupied with odds and ends I can’t remember ever having had a purpose for owning. What’s funny is I just did this about a month ago believing I had finally gotten rid of all the excess only to find hidden junk in just about every nook and cranny of our tiny house.

The site of it all, piling up around me, made me feel anxious. Why is this stuff still here? I thought I’d already taken care of it. 

Our hearts are a lot like that. One day we make room for Jesus only to find that a week later He’s become cramped by the junk that we should’t have been carrying. Junk like doubt that leads to hopelessness. Junk like frustration in His process. Junk like disinterest in His presence unless I get something for abiding in it.

All the junk has led me to return again to the place of laying down. When I thought I had already laid down everything there was to lay down, I lay me down again. Instead of having a heart that demands the promise, I desire to have a heart that is continuously laid low. To have a heart that seeks to relinquish every space to the Father, so that He may have full authority over what fills each space of my heart.

The Lord is saying, when the promise has come, will you? Will you still come to abide in my presence?

It’s easy to begin to fall in love with the wonderful things Jesus reveals to you, losing site of His face. It’s easy for a person with a heart for giving, to use times of worship for receiving songs, prophetic words, a message to preach, a post to share, or a blog topic to write, rather than for heart-to-heart connection with the Father. Often, relinquishing control of such moments means our reputation is sacrificed on the altar, but this is the price we must pay to live captured.

As I scooted around the boxes on my bed tonight to find a place to sit and type, I heard the Father whisper, “permeate.” He wants to permeate every space. So the answer to the question, “now what?” is, now you soak. Now you soak in the presence and forget the promise for a little while. Go again to that low place at His feet and love it there again. Love that lowly place like you did when the promise of high places was light years away.

Seeking direction for this new year, I prayed for a fresh vision concerning worship. The Lord showed me an operating room and a person laying on a gurney. I heard Him say, I want to perform open heart surgery. I believe the Lord deeply desires to address those needs within our hearts that have gone long ignored. He knows that in order for our hearts to have space to receive His promises, they must be free from the clutter, cleansed of the corrosion that sin and pain have wrought.

I used to feel condemned that I could not spend more time in the Father’s presence daily. I have since been made free of condemnation, and if you’ve beaten yourself up for not spending more time with the Lord, know that you’ve been made free too. I have also discovered that I cannot live life to the full if my heart is empty of time spent soaking in His presence.

I know that you are eager for the promises of God to be made manifest, as I am. And I believe that what is being made manifest in the lives of God’s people is big, loud, and powerful, but let us not miss this quiet invitation to surrender. Allow the Lord to permeate every space as you give Him access to the hidden places of your heart. Allow yourself the freedom of being captured once again by the face of Jesus.

She Laughs

Proverb 31 infamously describes the super woman every Christian lady aspires to imitate. She has been studied in small groups, spoken of at conferences, written about, and meditated upon as the perfect picture of Christian feminine power, but if I’m being honest, I share little resemblance with this spiritual giant. I’m not all that resourceful, I’m not the greatest housekeeper, and my entrepreneurial endeavors are dwarfed by her successes. However, I’ve come to discover our heroine’s secret power and it is this, “she laughs with no fear of the future,” Proverbs 31:25

One day last year I was doing my hair, thinking on all there was for me to do that day and how overwhelmed I was, when those old familiar voices came rushing into the room saying, “look at you, you’re nobody and you have nothing to offer. You’ll never get ahead. You take one step forward only to take 2 steps back.” Have you ever heard anything like that? As I looked at my face in the mirror I could see my soul sinking into oblivion.

Then, like a hand reaching out to draw me out of deep water, my spirit rose up within me and I boldly declared over myself and to any enemy listening, “I will never quit! I will never stop worshiping. I will never relinquish the promises of God. I won’t stop. Ever.” This went on for several minutes and as each declaration left my lips I saw the strength of the Lord wash over me and my countenance was changed into that of a relentless champion, and do you know what, I began to laugh.

Your greatest weapon of spiritual warfare in this life is your joy. When we begin to speak and think from a place of victory rather than identifying with defeat, we make way for joy to flood the soul. What could be more deflating to the enemies of our soul than for us to counter each attack pronounced upon us with genuine laughter? Does any other reaction speak more exuberantly of the transforming nature of knowing who we are in Christ? What could be more satisfying than to lay waste with laughter the very enemy who tries daily to lay waste to you? Joy diffuses the fiery darts of Satan and makes a mockery of him as much as it gloriously displays the goodness of the Father.

Joy is as beautiful a mystery as the Holy Spirit himself, but it is a treasure he labors to help us uncover. Because I saw the word J-O-Y so often in the culture, on bracelets, t-shirts, stationary, you name it,  I found that the word itself held little meaning to me. I couldn’t pin down what gave it relevance, but in as much as the subject eluded me, I was drawn to search it out and discover its application in my daily life. The book of Nehemiah says, “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” Having a proper understanding then, of what Biblical joy is and how to walk in it, is paramount. These few things that I have come to understand concerning the joy of the Lord have emerged from my own study and are in no way exhaustive.

One of our greatest misconceptions about joy is that it is an emotion. Though joy effects us on an emotional level, Biblical joy is not an emotion. Joy is not natural, it’s supernatural. The joy of the Lord is indeed meant to transform our mind, will, emotions, and personality in a profound way but joy itself does not come from any of those places. Joy comes from Holy Spirit. It is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22).  And because it comes from Holy Spirit, it cannot be fabricated. That’s one reason why we shouldn’t pressure others to exude Christian joy when they have no revelation of what joy really is. This is both foolish and insensitive on our part and can be detrimental to others. I mean, you try living a life with a smile on your face when you’re broken within. Maybe you’re there or you’ve been there. The last thing you need is someone telling you to “wear a smile anyway.” Christ didn’t call us into a life of “fake it ’til you make it.” He has called us into a life of exuberant joy.

If we could really come to understand by revelation that joy isn’t an emotion nor is it altered by any circumstantial experience we face, I think we could experience a lot more freedom in the body of Christ. I know I have felt pressure over the years to appear happy, smiling, and content when I was anything but on the inside. If it can be manufactured, it’s not joy, it’s just uncomfortable. Joy is the very nature of Holy Spirit spilling over from the inside of you. And like Holy Spirit, you always have access. Joy is not something we are reaching for. Joy is the seat upon which we have been seated in Christ Jesus already. Not one day. Now.

Picture it. That moment at the end of a boxing match. You know, when the bell dings and the referee is holding your fighters glove high in the air. The crowd is cheering. He’s won the fight. And because he’s won, you’ve won. Nervous anticipation gives way to exhilaration. That’s what takes place in the spirit when we identify with Christ’s victory over death, hell, and the grave. Our fighter has knocked the socks off our enemy. Our opponent is shouting threats at us but he’s on his way down to the mat. The fight is over. It’s already won. This was the joy set before Christ, that we would identify with his victory and live a life transformed by that identification. He fought the fight but we receive the title. Champions. That’s what we are. When we live from his victory, we counter every attack with joy because we know we win!

So how do we access joy? How do we get more of it? How do we identify with the victory we’ve been freely given in Christ? Proverbs 31:26 goes on to say, “she opens her mouth in skillful and Godly wisdom and on her tongue is the law of kindness.” Open your mouth. Fill it with the word and the let ‘er rip. It’s not enough just to read the word. You’ve got to speak it! Boldly declare over yourself who it is that you are and whose you are. And do it every. single. day.  Identify with Christ’s victory over every enemy that tries to put defeat on you and you will find yourself laughing.

 

Partnering with God

I love the relationship I see growing between my mom and I. We are at the threshold of crossing over into what is one of the most powerful friendships I’ve ever experienced but we are still very much child and momma. What I’ve observed in my mom over the years is a relentless hope to see her children step into the fullness of our individual callings and her care for my being fully equipped to do so, occupies our every conversation.

I’ve witnessed my mom POUR OUT blessing for her children over the years. Anything I have needed in order to fulfill what  I’ve heard the Lord speaking to me to do, she has helped me to achieve. Be it through finances, coaching me through job interviews, encouragement, a roof over my head, her time, her resources, there has been no end to her willingness to “sew seed into me” as she likes to say. I know that she does it all in hope  to one day see me standing on my own two feet. Not because she no longer wants to be a support in my life, that will never change, but because the greatest reward for her as a parent is to witness her children applying the principles she has taught and modeled and enjoying the victory we were destined to enjoy.

That is when the relationship of mother and daughter evolves into that of a victor and a victor. This is a parent’s dream for their children, so naturally this is what the Lord desires for us in our relationship with him. He desires a partnership with you.

The Father would be so bored simply dictating to us for our entire lives about what he thinks we should do and where we should go. He longs to see us stand in our inheritance. Personally, I came to know the Lord as Father at an early age and that is one of the revelations I’m called to teach, but I am only just now coming to know what it is to be his friend and equal partner.

See, God in His goodness has made us sons and daughters so that we can partner with Him in the earth. My Mom invests her time and resources into me because she loves me, but I want to endeavor to earn her investment. I’m not saying I want to earn her love. You can’t earn what’s freely given. I’m saying I want her to trust me. I want her to gain a return from all that she has invested in me. I want her to be excited about sharing vision with me because she knows I will faithfully carry and nurture it. I want to be someone my Mom would go into business with. Likewise, when the Father pours into my life because He loves me, I want Him to expect, based on a history of good returns, that I will be faithful to tend that seed and bare much fruit.

Walking in your inheritance means taking up the authority you have in Christ. The authority through grace by faith that boldly declares, I am who he says I am. I can do what He says I can do. I can go where He says I can go. And I can work with him and when need be, I can make decisions in his stead because I know his heart and I walk in Godly wisdom. This is partnership. This is what I desire most to cultivate with the Father in this new year.

Happy New Year to You and Yours!

Grace to Grace

As a recovering perfectionist I understand the immobilizing effect of setting impossible standards for yourself. Some of the most talented individuals on the planet walk around full to bursting of potential that goes unrealized, because they fear failing their ideal. When I realized that whatever I can sow in faith, God can multiply, I finally felt free to simply be and do the things I love without putting pressure on myself to perform.

I’m learning for the first time that there is power in completion. I remember agonizingly wading through the murk of English papers during college. Why I chose a major dependent on complete thoughts and meeting writing deadlines, I have no idea! It feels so good to now be able to write quickly and concisely and after one edit, share it and be done. It’s a little bit addicting. I find myself writing constantly now, when before I’d labor over a single concept for weeks on end and still never share it!

And that’s what happens when we lean into our own understanding and fail to acknowledge the Lord’s leading, His grace, and His multiplying power at work in us. The greatest revelation of my life has been in knowing what is in me, is not my own. Likewise, what is in you has been given to you so that the Lord can love the world through you.

I want to do my best in all I do, but I no longer withhold my work from the Lord because I’ve deemed it unworthy. I no longer presume to call unworthy what the Lord has called worthy. I simply release what I create in faith and let the Lord take care of the rest. As I’m faithful to offer the little that I can offer, I know in time I will see increase. I will produce fruit!

By simply finishing what we set out to do, our faith is bolstered and our confidence increases. As we are faithful to step out on grace, grace increases in our lives. Our complete inheritance in Christ is realized when we learn the discipline of follow-through. We move from grace to grace. So, to all my perfectionists out there, you have permission to release what the Lord has placed within you. You were born to be fruitful.

Being Still in Busy Seasons

After wrapping up my final semester of college, nearly 10 months pregnant, working a part time job, and juggling my roles within the church, I was burning the candle at both ends. Ever been there? Perhaps you are there now. Only 3 days after my college graduation our little girl came into the world full of life and light. There was no time to let the dust settle from my school venture before beginning the most daring adventure of my life. Of course everything was going to change but I struggled in particular to see how I, frazzled as I was, was going to find the quiet of God’s presence.

You see, sleep has escaped us, we are a constant circus of bottles, burp cloths, diapers, laundry, and tears, sometimes our daughters, and sometimes our own. Yet, Psalm 46:10 beckons us to,

“Be still and know that [He] is God.”

Even as I’m writing this, I’m getting up and down to tend my little girl. There is zero “still” in my current season. So, I began to ask the Lord, how do I respond to this beckoning in Psalm 46?

What does it look like to be still when I’m constantly on the go?

For starters, the Lord reminded me that worship is active, it moves, it breathes, sometimes it’s messy, sometimes it’s risky, and occasionally it looks a little silly. What a relief! Ultimately, it looks like inviting Jesus into your messy day and doing everything you do as worship unto Him. Colossians 3:17 says,

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Worship is not a place that I visit, a song I engage with, a clear schedule, or a perfect setting. It is engaging with the voice of the Lord in whatever I am doing and with whoever I am with.

Worship is setting my heart and mind on Jesus, here in my mess.

He is not afraid of getting his hands dirty in the busyness of your day. He wants to breathe His life and His will into all that you do. Through simple prayer and communion, His presence will transform any atmosphere into a place of meeting. And in the shower, while you’re doing the dishes, on your commute, before the kids awake, there it is, a time to still your heart and mind before Him. He will speak. His Word will speak.

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You (Isaiah 26:3).

I challenge you to ask yourself, what are some practical ways I can begin to engage with the Father at a higher level? How can I engage with His word today?

History with Jesus

“I thought I was going to die,” reads a journal entry I wrote following my first experience climbing in the Colorado Rockies. Trincherra Peak sits at 13,517 feet and from tree line to summit you feel every inch of it. With every step, your breath grows increasingly more shallow, you hope, sometimes falsely, that the rock you’ve chosen to cling to doesn’t give way beneath you, and all too frequently you pause to relieve your aching legs and throbbing feet.

“Why did I think this would be fun,” you ask yourself.

But slowly and steadily, 1000 ft become 50 ft, becomes 1 step and you’ve summited the peak. The rush of relief and joy you feel are enough to knock you off your wobbly limbs.  As you stand (or collapse) in breathless wonder, basking in your achievement, you feel both strong and so very small in the vastness of it all. And there, to commemorate your success is a monument of stones placed by climbers who have made their own journey to the top.

As I proudly placed my stone on the pile commemorating my journey to the top of Trincherra that day, I was reminded of those old testament believers that built similar altars to commemorate the good things God had done on their behalf. For instance, Genesis 28:10-19 tells the story of Jacob having a powerful prophetic dream and being transformed by the presence of God, he lays up a stone in his camp site and calls the place Bethel, meaning, house of God. Forever after, that stone would be a reminder to Jacob of his encounter with the living God.

We are daily building just such altars in our lives. Sometimes, we build these altars without even knowing it. It’s only when we look back we see stone after stone, moment after moment where seemingly insignificant connections to the Father, were mountains we summited by His grace. When I’m faced with new challenges I return to those monuments I’ve built over the years, those places where the Father rushed in like a flood to save me, when obedience to him paid off, when he comforted me through pain, whether I caused it or not.  My life is a series of monuments built in remembrance of the goodness of God.

So, what monuments have you built as a response to God’s goodness in your life? What memories of His working in your life do you hold most dear? I encourage you to make a list and if you’d like to share, please leave a comment!

Jump

There was only the hint of heat in the morning air as I sat in the amphitheater with my pen in hand and journal laid open. My heart was ready for whatever the Lord desired to do. I was deep into a summer of church camp internship and I’d found a few moments to steal away and quiet my mind. I savored the time, taking in the beauty of the trees overhead and the lake in the distance. Then, like warmth on the summer breeze, that still small voice whispered, “Go jump in the lake.”

“What?” I sat bewildered. Then again the whisper came, “jump in.” As I sat quietly, I began to picture the whole scenario. I’d stand up, cross the amphitheater, descend the path to the cliffs along the beach, take my stand above the murky waters below, and then, fully clothed yet compelled beyond control, I’d jump into the lake. By now my heart was racing. The urge became so strong to follow through with this strange plan I thought my feet might involuntarily carry me to the water’s edge. I imagined my team asking, “Where’s Antonette?” Then the reply would come, “Oh, that crazy girl, she jumped in the lake.” Drenched, I’d step into the lodge before my peers, feeling and looking pretty silly.

“I can’t jump in the lake,” I told the Lord with a bit of an attitude. “I don’t even know how deep the water is.”

Then, understanding my hesitancy He replied, “I’ll catch you.”

Now picture Jesus, standing in the water, hands outstretched, looking at you with absolute love in those deep brown eyes that know you beyond words. In that moment of connection he is drawing you to a deeper place of intimacy and to a greater place of dependency. Sure, there’s really no telling how deep His glorious love is. And to surrender to the depths of His grace would mean living drenched, forever feeling out of place and more than a little silly on dry ground. Oh, but how can you resist once you’ve locked eyes with Him?

This blog is one ripple in the wave I created the day I said “yes” to Jesus in that amphitheater 7 years ago. No, I didn’t literally jump into the lake that day if you’re wondering, but I did make the decision to live out of my depth, to discover a life lived in over my head. This blog is dedicated to that journey, and to those who are wading the depths of His grace with me.

Have a nice swim!