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]quiet 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.

I’ll be honest: I was hoping to be out of the valley by now. For heavens sake, I’m IN the land God promised me and my family! Away from the bondage of Pharoah. Out of the dry, barren land of Egypt. *We left the circus. No more Sunday morning show. No more ring leaders juggling the praises of men and people pleasing. No more clowns performing for the crowd. The lions have been released from their cages and they are ROARING!!! (*a prophetic picture of the church in Egypt) We are IN green pastures. We are being pastored by shepherds after Gods own heart. No more manna. We’re eating delicious milk and honey. We are part of a family of believers who truly desire to “give God what He wants.” Worship is focused on THE Man; Jesus. Prayer is intercession: seeking Gods will and declaring it back to Him. Teaching is the Word of God. God’s will has become our reality.

My Spirit is jumping for JOY!!!

My soul, however….is not.

The shadow of death is longer and wider than I expected. There was so much loss and letting go in the wilderness. I assumed once I got out of the desert, it would all be over. But its not. I’m still grieving the death of my mother. I’m still grieving the death of our homeschool. I’m still grieving the death of our ministry. I’m still grieving the death of our home. I’m still grieving the death of relationships with family and friends.

Death is over, but the darkness surrounding it remains.

This is the shadow….

This is the shadow of the cross.

This is the shadow of resurrection.

And,

This is the way…

This is the way of the Good Shepherd.

This is the way for His sheep.

His sheep know His voice.

His sheep walk through the valley.

His sheep are not afraid of the shadow.

His sheep follow Him unto death.

His sheep receive His rod and staff.

His sheep lie down in green pastures.

His sheep drink from quiet waters.

His sheep are restored.

His sheep just want Him.

Into the Land

Deuteronomy 6:10-12

New Living Translation

10 The Lord your God will soon bring you into the land he swore to give you when he made a vow to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is a land with large, prosperous cities that you did not build11 The houses will be richly stocked with goods you did not produce. You will draw water from cisterns you did not dig, and you will eat from vineyards and olive trees you did not plant. When you have eaten your fill in this land12 be careful not to forget the Lord, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt.

Matthew 1:18-25

New King James Version

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit19 Then Joseph her husband, being [a]a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is [b]conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name [c]Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and [d]did not know her till she had brought forth her[e] firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.

The Lord brought our family into the land almost 5 months ago. Possessing the promise has been an exciting, exhausting process. How best can I describe the pain of the previous season?

Pregnancy.

A reallllllly loooooooong pregnancy.

Imagine carrying such a burden- a baby, of the Spirit, for YEARS (did I mention it took YEARS? Yes, my friend: YEARS!) During pregnancy- natural or spiritual- every thought, every decision, every action is made in consideration of the one that depends on you; the carrier of life. A pregnant mother is literally subject to the demands of the seed that requires body & soul  to survive and thrive to maturity. The same is true of spiritual pregnancy. A person literally surrenders to the Spirit so that the seed can survive and thrive. Spiritual pregnancy follows the same painful process of natural pregnancy:

Conception.

Growth.

Contractions.

Labor.

Transition.

Delivery.

But, OH the joy when that precious little one is finally born! In the euphoria of the moment, a momma forgets all the pain of the previous season as she holds that newborn in her arms…all too quickly, however, the moment is over. More pain is coming:

Post-partum.  

Nursing.

Colic.

Vomiting.

Diarrhea.

Screaming.

Sleeplessness.

Welcome to motherhood! Congratulations for surviving pregnancy. Now you must persevere YEAR after YEAR in the process called maturing. Some say parenting is an 18-year commitment. I believe it’s a covenant between God and man for life.

And so, here I am. A new spiritual momma to a new spiritual baby that I love, but don’t yet know. In a new spiritual land, in a new spiritual family, in a new spiritual house. The pain of pregnancy, labor and delivery is behind me. The adventure of maturity lies ahead. But just for a moment, allow me to praise Him for all that He has done in the previous season….

Lord, thank You for,

Bringing me out Egypt, in the midst of famine.

Giving me Yourself and Your Spirit.

Baptizing me with Your fire and power.

Placing me in family, to grow and produce good fruit.

Teaching me to pray.

Rescuing me from captivity.

Helping me forgive those who’ve oppressed me.

Binding up my broken heart.

Delivering me from slavery.

Sustaining me in a dry and weary land.

Making a way through the desert.

Giving me manna from heaven, and water from a rock.

Discipling me.

Disciplining me.

Giving me Your Word, causing it to take root in my heart, and grow.

Prospering me in a city I did not build.

Stocking my house with goods I did not produce.

Supplying water from cisterns I did not dig and food from vineyards and trees I did not plant.

Help me never forget, Lord….

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.

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.

Parents, Do Not Provoke

Ephesians 6:1-3

Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord,[a] for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.”[b]

Another parenting failure.

I’ve had a few (thousand) in my tenure as a mom.

Recently, I ignored anotherwarning from the Spirit about one of our children. As a result, I failed to intervene on their behalf, again. So, the Lord spoke through two of our other children to get my attention. Hello!? Did you hear what I said? He pursued and corrected me through our kids!!!

Humbled.

Grateful.

Thankful.

Ephesians 6:4

Parents, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.

I used to think the above-mentioned verse meant that parents only provoked their children to anger by commission. As a kid, I often erupted when my parents disciplined, said “no,” or restricted me from what I wanted. And I’ve experienced the same backlash from some of our strong-willed kiddos. But today I saw this passage differently. I realized children can be provoked to anger by omission.

In the midst of this latest parenting episode, our child was lashing out in anger because of what I didn’t do. I ignored the Lord, neglected to intervene, and justified myself in being passive. In so doing, I failed to see what was happening in the unseen. Our child was battling, unsuccessfully, against an enemy that is continually trying to steal, kill and destroy their life.

But, God.

GOD!!! 

God, our helper – the One who knows all and sees all, gave dreams, wisdom and discernment to several of our family members. The result? Difficult discussions and a willingness to admit failure, but not defeat. God was faithful! He provided a way of escape for ALL OF US! 

Now before we go blaming the enemy for everything, let’s get one thing straight: Satan and his legions have no authority unless we give it to him. Our child was not some innocent bystander (neither was I). And this particular onslaught was not a result of us advancing the Kingdom- thus, ticking off the enemy’s camp. No. Repeated rebellion against authority resulted in an invitation to torment. Deliverance and discipline (boundaries) was needed- and has been implemented. Boundaries guard the heart! An unguarded heart is open to all forms of attack. And an unguarded heart is easily provoked to anger. 

I gotta tell ya…

Every failure I’ve endured as a parent is a result of a childish heart that rebels against the Father. Every success I’ve enjoyed is a result of a childlike heart that bows to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And every triumph is a result of a humbled heart that obeys and overcomes by the power of His Spirit.

My fellow parents,

I plead with you, for the sake of future generations. Throw out your self-help books. Ignore the educated experts. Reject the advice of the world. Stop making behavioral excuses because of labels (I have a child on the Autism Spectrum and one with ADHD. I understand the science- but the Spirit trumps all in the training of our children). Seek the Lord. Fear Him. Obey Him. He alone is the creator and sustainer of family. He alone is the One who beckons prodigals to return home. Let’s get to know the Father. Let’s train our kids to know Him. The eternity of their souls is at stake.