Rivers in Dry Land

Isaiah 43:18-20

18 “But forget all that—
    it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
19 For I am about to do something new.
    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
20 The wild animals in the fields will thank me,
    the jackals and owls, too,
    for giving them water in the desert.
Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland
    so my chosen people can be refreshed.

We entered into the land God promised a little over a month ago. Naïvely, I expected to immediately declare “it is well with my soul!”  

I didn’t. 

Expectations are a finicky thing, aren’t they? They’re often prone to fail us when we create them in a mind that is still in the process of being renewed….

The Lord took me back to Isaiah 43 in the secret place this morning. It’s a familiar passage for me personally, and I’ve referenced it frequently in ministry to others. Today, I continued reading through Isaiah 44. You know how when the Holy Spirit BREATHES on His Word, you get that punch in the gut, that slap in the face, that AHA moment?! Yep. That happened. There it was, written in black and white, from ages past: the blessing of the Lord over me and my family. My mother received and prophesied this Word over me, literally on her death bed 4 months ago. She had an encounter with the Lord through a dream while my husband and I were shopping for houses in FL. (You can read about it here: https://deepintothewater.com/2021/04/19/go-on-to-glory/) I’m so grateful that God sent His message through her. It encouraged my soul, and it is a moment with my mom that I will cherish until my address changes to heaven too. 

As the revelation of Isaiah 44 hit my heart, clarity of Isaiah 43 came. My perspective immediately shifted. For so long, I was focused- fixated rather- on the dry wasteland I was living in. I was constantly frustrated in Egypt (believe me, I REPEATEDLY let God know allll about it!) 

I prayed for deliverance. Instead, He gave me dreams.

I prayed for rain. Instead, He gave me a plow.

I prayed for repentance and restoration in His body. Instead, He gave me the gift of prophesy to encourage His people.

I prayed for rivers. Instead, He gave me a well of living water. 

But the past is in the past, right? I’m no longer in Egypt. I’m IN the promised land, so I shouldbe shouting from the rooftops, “IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL,” right? Why look back? Just look forward, right? Wrong. By looking back, I see how the Lord delivered me from Pharaoh’s hand. I see that I am no longer in bondage to the empire he is building. I see that I am no longer a slave to the drudgery and demanding work he requires. I see that I have been set free from the oppression of Egypt. I see that I’ve walked THROUGH the wilderness. Yes! Amen!!! Praise and honor to the Lord for all that He has done. And all that He is still doing. Allow me to explain….

As I wrestled against dark principalities and powers in Egypt, real people spoke real words of false accusation against me. I was betrayed by those closest to me. I was rejected by my own people. As a result, the dry and weary land I inhabited began to invade my heart. My soul became a lonely, barren wasteland. Unaware of the cost of following the Spirit into the wilderness, I continued to pour my life out in intercession. I wept for those living under the oppression of Pharaoh. I preached the good news to them. I encouraged them to trust in the Lord. I pleaded with them to cry out to Him for deliverance. I wanted so desperately for them to taste and see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, as I had. I longed for them to encounter the Messiah at Jacob’s well as I had. Even to this very day, my heart breaksfor them. I wish I could relieve their suffering, but… I am not their Savior. I am merely a soldier in the Lord’s army. I follow commands, I don’t give them. I know this, but sometimes I fail to do this. Occasionally, in my effort to “help” people, I inadvertently start swinging the sword of the Spirit in my own strength; tearing down instead of building up. I continually need to be reminded that the battle is the Lords- not mine. I am simply His servant, His slave, His soldier. A soldier that needs time to rest, recover, and receive. 

How beautiful that He confirmed His Word through the elders and leaders of our new spiritual family (https://hotfm.org)shortly after we arrived. They knew by the Spirit that we were planted in infertile ground in the previous season, but that the Lord transplanted us into a rich land flowing with milk and honey, where we will flourish. They knew that we had suffered from the laborious work of plowing hard soil. But now, that assignment is over. It is finished. The sowing in complete. It’s a new season. It’s time to harvest, to heal, to build up, to laugh, to dance, to gather stones, to turn away, to quit searching, to throw away, to mend, to speak, to hate, and to have peace!

I fought the good fight of faith in Egypt (because God SENT ME to Egypt, just like He SENT ME to The Promised Land). But now, He’s doing something new. Do you see it? He’s creating rivers in my soul. Hallelujah!!!

Ecclesiastes 3

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
    A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
    A time for war and a time for peace.

Timing is Everything

Ecclesiastes 3:1-14

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
    A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
    A time for war and a time for peace.

What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.

14 And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose is that people should fear him.

They say that timing is everything. I know this statement is true. In fact, it’s Truth, according to Scripture. Still, in this current season, I have wrestled with God’s timing for everything. 

If you’ve been following our journey to the promised land, you know that I have much in common with the children of God. Like the Israelites, I’ve whined. I’ve complained. I’ve questioned. Yet, at the same time, I’ve also praised Him for the countless miracles He’s provided: Clouds by day. Fire by night. Water from a rock. Manna from heaven. Quail. Yet, every day, I seemed to forget how faithful He was the previous day!

It’s become a family joke when the kids reminisce about their childhood. “Mom, don’t you remember such and such?” I usually stare blankly into the abyss. “Um…no.” “Mom, seriously, remember so and so was there and we did such and such?” “Um…no.” It’s probably one of the reasons I loved to scrapbook when they were little. I tried to capture every moment in film and write a short description about the image so that I could remember. 

In this time of dying, killing, tearing down, grieving, scattering stones, turning away, searching, throwing away, being quiet, hating, and declaring war, I needed to remember…

Let me be honest. I’ve struggled to see, feel and hear God in this wilderness season. As I poured out my heart, He remained silent. It perplexed me. Quite frankly, it pissed me off! So, as any strong willed little girl would do, I kept nagging Him. Like that persistent widow that annoyed the judge until he rendered justice on her behalf, I continued to ask, seek, and knock on heaven’s door.

No answer.

Just silence.

No visions.

No dreams.

No prophetic words.

Nothing.

He wasn’t talking to me!!! At least, that’s what I thought.

I was wrong. 

He was simply communicating in a new way, in a new season. 

Matthew 4:4

But Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man is not to live on bread only. Man is to live by every word that God speaks.’”

And when my ears finally heard what He was saying, I remembered…. journal entries I’d written, blogs I’d written, words from others I’d written down, typed and saved on my computer. The words were filled with Spirit and Truth; Prayer & Scripture that were preparing me for this current season!

I had wrongly assumed that God’s apparent “silence” was an indication that He was mad at me. I thought (and others unknowingly validated): I must be in trouble. I must be sinning, and need to repent. I must be full of pride. I must be deceived. I must be failing to do what He said. I must be failing to be still. I must be failing to know that HE is God, and I am not. I must be failing to obey His will. 

No. NO. NO! 

The enemy is a liar. God never left me. He will never forsake me. He was with me in the wilderness all along. For heaven’s sake, His Spirit led me into the dang desert! 

His perceived “silence” was actually an opportunity to remember…. 

  • who He is
  • who I am 
  • what He said 
  • what is written about me

How beautiful is the love of the Father.

His love is making everything beautiful, in His time….including me.

Home is where the heart is

Romans 2:4

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

I’ve often been critical of the Israelites in their rebellion towards God. But this week, I realized: I’m just like them.

Our family is on a journey to the land God promised. The battle has been brutal. The number of casualties continues to rise; and another idol just perished in my life.

We’ve made eight offers on six houses in Polk County, FL. Yes. That’s correct. 8 offers. 6 houses; 2 of which we made 2 different offers on. On Monday, one of them was accepted on our dream home- a Spanish style hacienda in Haines City. Fully remodeled on half an acre of land, complete with courtyards accessible from every room, an outdoor fountain, and swimming pool! Our realtor had fought a good fight on our behalf. We had prayed, and prayed and prayed some more. Beating out the competition with cash offers and higher escalation clauses, the owners felt compassion for our situation and accepted our offer, after we agreed to their high-risk counter.

Once the contract was signed, I immediately felt sick to my stomach. I told my husband my concerns. He agreed with my assessment, but both of us continued to wrestle…not understanding why God would allow us to win, yet feel so defeated!? The next blow came when we showed our kids the photos of “our” house. Their reaction was not what we expected. Instead, their words were an exact confirmation of the warning signs I just voiced to my man a few minutes earlier, behind closed doors. Since it was nearly midnight, we decided we needed to sleep on it. Sleep didn’t come. At 4:30a, I shot out of bed when I heard the Word: 

Psalm 106:13-15

13 They soon forgot His works;
They did not wait for His counsel,
14 But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness,
And tested God in the desert.
15 And He gave them their request,
But sent leanness into their soul.

Ungrateful for the manna God continues to provide us in this wilderness season, I had been whining for quail! Hidden in the dark recesses of my heart, I was secretly longing for the comforts of my home in Egypt. I believed I had suffered enough in this barren wasteland- losing my mother & moving in with my father. “I’m done!” I repeatedly told Him. So, He gave me what I asked for: a beautiful home. Because, after all, home is where my heart is. Did you catch that, friend? HOME is where my heart is. 

What my Father won’t do to rescue me from the bonds of slavery. What He won’t do to deliver me from the control of Pharaoh. What He won’t do to prove His love for me. He longs for my reciprocated affection. He wants a deep, intimate relationship with me. He wants my heart. My whole heart. He is a righteous, jealous God. So, as every good father does, He disciplines those He loves so that they will repent and return to Him. I gotta tell ya, friend, this spanking was painful. I still feel the sting, but I also feel incredibly loved and grateful that He intervened before we lost more than our reputation. 

We called our realtor Tuesday morning to deliver the news and to apologize for our rebellion that impacted her- as well as the owner, selling agent and other buyers. She was gracious and continues to intervene, naturally and supernaturally on our behalf in this crazy market. 

God’s promise for our family still stands. He has called us to be a part of a covenant community in Lakeland, FL. He will provide the right home, at the right price, at the right time. It may not be our dream home, but it will be a house of prayer. It will be a place where the hungry are fed and the filthy are washed with the Word. It’s what He said. His Word will not return void. He is faithful. He is just. He is worthy to be praised in the wilderness, for  

He is my Promised Land. 

He is my home.

I MUST complain!

Job 7:11

11 “I cannot keep from speaking.
    I must express my anguish.
    My bitter soul must complain.

“One of the most consistent teachings of Scripture is that moments of difficulty will come. Rather than grumblingwe should pray and push forward, trusting God to expand our souls.” 

This morning as I read the excerpt above from a devotional written by a well-known Christian leader, my eyes fixated on the words, “we should.” As I paused to consider the proceeding phrase, “rather than grumbling,” I became angry. I agreed with the sentiment of what the author was saying, “we should” pray. However, I found myself adamantly opposed to the statement that suggested what we should not dogrumble– or as Job puts it, complain. In the current season of my life, I have felt the sting of familiar religious phrases from the friends of Job who tell me what I should and should not do to end my suffering. The words they communicated may have been true, but they did not taste like the sweet fruit of love.

We should” reeks of a religious spirit. Its motivation is that of obligation to the law, not love. Jesus never taught His disciples to perform the ten commandments perfectly to please Him. Instead, He invited them- He invites us- to love Him; thus, fulfilling the most important commandment in the law of Moses. The Lords desire is that we trust Him with all of our heart (mind, will and emotions).

I know about loving Him with some of my heart. I was what some would call a strong-willed child. And that strong will didn’t go away when I was born again! As a young believer, I was on my way to becoming a well-respected religious leader. A Pharisee of Pharisees. I worked diligently at transforming my mind. I disciplined my will to submit, submit, submit. But I was absolutely void of any emotion in my relationship with the Lord. I had spent an entire lifetime learning to stuff my feelings. I knew how to pray and push on. That is, until 2011, when I saw JESUS face to face while receiving healing and deliverance ministry from others in the body of Christ. During that encounter, I was SET FREE from emotional bondage! By the power of His Spirit, I could no longer keep from speaking. I HAD to express my anguish. My bitter soul HAD to complain. As I did so, the Light of the world exposed what was hidden in darkness, thus releasing a floodgate of tears that as Corey Russell says, turned into liquid prayers.

My friend, I submit to you that we SHOULD grumble, complain, throw a hissy fit, or have a temper tantrum! God already knows what’s in our hearts. Why are we so afraid of expressing it to Him? Do we fear His rejection? Do we believe He will leave or forsake us if we don’t perform our religious duties perfectly? Or do we fear what our friends will think or say if we absolutely lose it? I encourage you to read to the end of Job’s story in the book that bears His name. Yes, God rebuked Job for his pride, but He did not condemn him for expressing what was in his heart as he suffered great loss. 

Let us, like Job, bare our souls to the One who knows every intimate detail of our lives. Let us trust that when we have a 4-year-old meltdown in our room, our mothers garden, or the Walmart parking lot, He can handle it. Let us believe He is who He says He is: comforter, healer, deliverer. Let us remember, He is a good Father, able to give us good gifts and a good spanking, when we need it. Let us be like little children, expressing the good, bad and ugly in His presence, without fear. This is how we learn to love Him with ALL of our hearts.

Valley of the Shadow

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd,
[a]shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside 
[b]still waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the 
[c]paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the [d]valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no 
[e]evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You 
[f]have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
[g]Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will 
[h]dwell in the house of the Lord [i]forever.

Growing up in the Presbyterian and Methodist church, I learned the 23rdPsalm by merely repeating it over and over again during Sunday Services. Everyone knows the passage – even unbelievers can recite it from memory at funerals. We did so at my mother’s Celebration of Life last month. I know the words, but His Spirit is making the Word known to me in the valley of the shadow of death. 

It seems as if everything in my life is dying. I am surrounded by:

The death of my mother.

The death of our church community.

The death of our ministry. 

The death of relationships with family and friends.

The death of our home in North Carolina.

The death of unmet expectations as offers are rejected on homes we’ve bid on in Florida.

In the valley, there are shadows of death. In the shadows, we are surrounded by darkness. In the darkness, our vision is limited. And what we cannot see, we will fear. 

I’ve discovered that when I react to fear, I will either dismiss or deny pain. If I choose to dismiss the pain of death, I will rationalize my feelings by comparing myself to others, thus determining that I shouldn’t be depressed, angry, or disappointed. In that headspace, I belittle my suffering when stacking it against those that, from my perspective, are enduring greater hardships. If I chose to deny the pain of death by pretending it’s not happening, I will suppress my feelings, or try to avoid them altogether. The strain of carrying such a heavy burden will inevitably lead to a collapse- physically or emotionally.

With each passing day, I realize more and more that I cannot go through this valley alone. God has been faithful. He has never left me. He will not forsake me. He is with me, walking me through it. Although there are times I want to, I know that If I try to run, I’ll miss the green pastures and still waters. So, He is making melie down in the grass to receive rest and rejuvenation. He is leading me to stillness; to drink, so that I may be refreshed and restored. 

My friend, I was made- YOU were made for intimacy with the Lord. But let’s be honest. In our busy, distracted, self-important lives, we rarely take the time to pursue Him. Heck, we barely devote any time to genuinely pursuing righteous relationship with others! But isn’t it interesting? When someone dies, our calendar miraculously clears. We’ll take the time to be with friends and family in their grief. We’ll spend the money on airfare. We’ll rent a car. We’ll book a hotel. We’ll take a meal. We’ll sit and talk and laugh and weep with those who weep. Death causes us to see, if only for a moment- the reality of life. It’s in the shadow of death that we ponder- and perhaps ask the hard questions. It’s in the shadow that our ego is revealed. It’s in the shadow that He uses the rod and staff to discipline us. It’s in the shadow that we feel the loving sting of His correction. It’s in the shadow that we feel His comfort and care for us. It’s in the shadow that the things of this world grow strangely dim. It’s in the shadow that we are redeemed. It’s in the shadow that we are restored. It’s in the shadow that we see the Shepherd. It’s in the shadow that we realize that we, like sheep, have all gone astray. It’s in the shadow that we are prepared to face our enemies. It’s in the shadow that we are anointed with the oil of joy. It’s in the shadow that we learn how to dwell in the Father’s house- forever, and ever. 

Amen.