The Cost

Luke 14:25-30

25 A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them26 If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone elseyour father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sistersyes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple27 And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.

28 But dont begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?29 Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you.30 They would say, ‘Theres the person who started that building and couldnt afford to finish it!’

According to “experts,” the 5 MOST STRESSFUL LIFE EVENTS are as follows:

  1. Death of a loved one
  2. Divorce
  3. Moving
  4. Major Illness or Injury
  5. Job Loss

My friend, we have suffered three of these in the last fourteen months. Yes. Three. My mother died unexpectedly in April 2021, we moved from NC to FL in July 2021, and my husband was laid off unexpectedly in June.

Why are we surprised?

The Lord said that being a disciple would be costly. He even warned me in a dream before we said “yes” in following Him to the Promised Land.

Jesus counted the cost.

In return, He is simply asking, “are you willing to do the same for me?”

He suffered.

And our family is suffering.

He carried His cross.

And we’re carrying our cross.

He chose to obey the Father.

And we’re choosing to obey the Father.

Why?

Because we love Him – as He first loved us.

A friend recently sent an encouraging text, letting me know she was praying for and with us, asking if we felt a bit like Job in this season. Indeed. We do. In fact, that very morning, before her correspondence, I re-read his story. Like Job, we have suffered much loss. Like Job, we’ve been encouraged by those who’ve simply sat and wept with us. And, like Job, we’ve also been discouraged by those who’ve misrepresented the Father’s heart, in comforting His people. I throw no stones. In my religious zealousness, I too have tried to give the right answer to the questions people have when grieving. Many times, I accurately recited the law, but in the end, I failed to love. It breaks my heart, as it does His.

Regardless, this season of suffering is not about our friends, it’s about us. Specifically, it’s about our hearts. The Lord is allowing the Accuser to test us- shaking the walls of our protection, our property and our prosperity (Job 1:6-12). As we’re being sifted like wheat, I see areas of pride that hinder me from pursuing the Lord with all my heart. THIS is Good News! Our circumstances haven’t changed, people haven’t changed, but I am being changed.

My friend, HE is worth it!  

Matthew 13:45-46

45 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. 46 When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!

Who is my Mother?

Matthew 12:46-50

46 As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.47 Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, and they want to speak to you.”[a]

48 Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 49 Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. 50 Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!”

The Lord began highlighting this passage of scripture years ago, when He called me, like Abraham, to leave my father’s land to go to a new land which our family would inherit. In the midst of the process of uprooting from North Carolina, God continued asking: “who is my mother?” Simultaneously, He continued confirming His call to leave everything and follow Him over and over again through Scripture, dreams, visions and divine appointments with complete strangers! One dream in particular, He whispered “consider the cost…” I had NO way of knowing at the time, what that Word would require. Sure, I knew to some extent the “cost” would include physical hardships in selling a house, buying a house and moving a lifetime of stuff from NC to FL. And I knew there would be a spiritual battle as I obeyed. But what happened, was completely unexpected, as warfare often is. At some point in the process, many people I love opposed the Word in me. Yes, friends and family, alike, knowingly or unknowingly partnered with the accuser of the brethren against the promise I carried. The enemy would not go down quietly, without a fight. He wanted my soul to stay in Egypt; in bondage to Pharaoh, enslaved to the work of churning mud into bricks without straw (He literally gave me this vision at a corporate prayer meeting one night). Battered and bruised, I would not be moved! That slithering serpent even sucker punched me, with one final low blow beneath the belt when we arrived in Florida.

I realized pretty quickly, once we got somewhat settled into our new home and covenant community that I needed to come off the battlefield to rest and recover in the RED CROSS tent.

I’m still there.

It’s a strange thing to be living and growing and learning in the fertile land God promised, while simultaneously allowing the Lord to bind up my broken heart. In this season, I am surrounded by mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters in the faith who are caring for me in ways I cannot begin to comprehend. It’s miraculous. I’ve found my family!!! And we are living together in our Father’s house; a house of prayer- in central Florida, surrounded by cows and citrus farms! Multiple times a week, I meet with other intercessors who carry a burden to see His Kingdom come, His will be done. I often praise the Lord on my drive to and fro, “THANK YOU, Lord. You are faithful! You fulfilled your promise! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!” Gratitude explodes from my heart. And yet, sometimes…even in the proceeding moment- I cry out in the deepest grief.

How can this be?

I believe it’s all a part of the process ….of being transformed into His image.

You see, it was His Spirit that whispered the promise my elder Brother heard from Our Father in heaven. It was His Spirit that gave me the faith to obey His command. It was His Spirit that prepared me to leave Egypt. It was His Spirit that sustained me in the wilderness. It was His Spirit that enabled me to continue marching on towards the land flowing with milk and honey. And, it is by His Spirit that I am coming up out of this present wilderness, leaning on my beloved as I grieve the loss of my mother, leaving my father and sister, my spiritual mommas, and extended family and friends.

He is still with me; in gratitude AND in grief, He is with me…

Comforting me with His rod and staff.

Leading me through the valley.

Renewing my strength.

Guiding me.

Preparing me.

Honoring me.

Pursuing me.

And I will dwell in His house forever and ever, Amen!  

THIS is family.

John 19:25-27

New Living Translation

25 Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” 27 And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home

As my man and I traveled back from our first HOTFM home group meeting last week, we were discussing the difference between this community of believers and those we’ve been a part of for more than 2 decades. We had a hard time articulating what we felt. We couldn’t quite put it into words… it’s just… different.

The next day, with a BOLD cup of coffee in hand while watching the sun rise over our lanai, revelation hit:

THIS is family.

This is what Jesus died for!!!

This is not a corporation.

This is not an empire.

This is not a circus.

This is not a one man show.

We’re accustomed to the local church operating as a business with a CEO, CFO, Boards of Directors, etc. etc. etc. We’re used to performing our religious duties in order to be praised and promoted by men. We know how to work the system to receive affirmation and affection from big daddy- aka the senior pastor. We know the drudgery of making bricks without straw for Pharaoh. We know the bondage of Egypt.

Let me be perfectly clear. I am not under any false illusion that the people of HOTFM are practically perfect in every way. No. They are maturing in Christ, just as we are. The difference is: what we previously experienced and what we’re currently experiencing is that this group of believers was birthed by the Spirit- not a business plan. Led by the Spirit, not the flesh, a church was constructed on THE cornerstone. Governed by the headship of Jesus Christ, a family of fathers were appointed- a plurality of elders, as written right there in black and white in the OLD and NEW Testament! (Plural, as in adding an “s” on the end. Meaning, more than one.) Fathers and mothers training & equipping ALL of God’s children. And ALL of God’s children doing their part in the family (ministry) without competition or comparison!

Welcomed as new members of Heart of the Father Ministry!

THIS is family.

THIS is what Jesus died for!!!

Sons and daughters that share the same Father.

Sons and daughters that share the same older brother.

Sons and daughters that share the same Spirit.

Sons and daughters that share the same blood.

Sons and daughters that share the same name.

I gotta tell ya. Getting here came at a cost. I spent 7 years groaning, weeping, and laboring. I spent 7 years asking, seeking, knocking for the door to be opened. I spent 7 years feeling rejected, betrayed and abandoned by those I love.

THIS is what I died for.

THIS is His Kingdom come.

THIS is His will being done.

THIS is on earth as it is in heaven.

My friend,

Have you found your family? It’s time. It’s time to come home to the Father. It’s time to know the Son as Savior AND Lord. It’s time to overflow with His Spirit. It’s time to celebrate with brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s time to share everything you have with a community of Spirit filled believers. THIS is family. THIS is eternal and abundant life.

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.

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.