The little golden foal had just had her fill of fresh, warm milk from her mother. She was now leaping around the hillside while her mother continued grazing behind her. Tall green grass peeped beneath the foal as she pranced around, frolicking through scattered wildflowers. She almost seemed to laugh as tiny orange butterflies flew away from their resting places upon her arrival. A small whinny burst from her strong chest in glee at her new companions’ flight. The wings of a few butterflies flit against her muzzle and she sneezed. Everything was so new for her; as she was new for it. This world. It was massive to her, unending. Unyielding. As far as she knew. The fields were endless. The trees could touch the sky. Oh the sky! The thought had her throwing back her head, running in a circle and bucking her back legs into the air. She sometimes daydreamed that she was one of those birds soaring way up high.
What would it be like to fly?
But then she would miss the thrill of a good run. How she loved to run. Nothing felt more freeing. She never felt stronger. Lighter.
Almost like she was flying. Running was her flying.
The foal imagined that her passion to gallop was akin to the eagle’s love for soaring. In this they were the same. Created with a purpose. One that was both necessary, yet also a gift just for them. Just because it seemed good to Him.
Passion in purpose.
She was made for this. This innate ability. This intentionally deposited passion. To run.
And dare another try and stop her. She was wild. She was free. And she was made to be. One with the world sweeping under her as she blitzed across the open plain like an arrow. Just for fun. This was what freedom felt like. Her hooves stomping beneath her. Every muscle in her body working in tandem to move her onward. She felt the tension, the pressure and the exerting of energy that required perseverance at times. But the physical exertion grew dim in comparison with the joy of being and living and moving exactly the way she was made to. Freely. Unrestrained. And she imagine that the One that made her, smiled as He watched her. His creation living. Living how He had made her to be.
Could it be? That my greatest worship is to be fully me unto my King.
Where passion meets purpose.
A design intentionally crafted and uniquely me.
Not a mold or chisel that I take upon my flesh. Not a lover of self, but a freeing, unrestrained yielding to the One in whom I have become one with. To the One in whom I live and move and have my being. Could this be my truest worship? to walk to run to fly in my original design, both spirit and in truth? Could it be? An offering of life, to live for Him my purchased life. Could this be death for me, to live as truly me in Him?
Could our greatest stumbling block, our sneakiest sin, be our own desire to be other or less than all that Creator has made us to be?
From side to side she sweeps her bow across the strings. Eyes closed, lips pressed, shoulders hunched forward, and body pulled with the vibrant tug of the melody. She is gripped by the music. Lost, and yet utterly found. This is her place. Here in this creative space, pouring into her cello words that could never be spoken and emotions that language can’t express. The conductor silently swings his baton in precise angular movements, directing the orchestra to surround her song. Together the symphony builds and builds into a beautiful crescendo as the remaining strings take over. Leaning back in a moment of reprieve, she grips her bow and rests it against her right leg. She gulps down the air with steadied, deep breaths as she waits for the moment the entire concerto was written upon. Her moment. The climax, her solo, at the beginning of the final movement. So much history is here in this exact solo for her, so much pain, but there is no time to dwell. She pushes it all behind her and commands her entire being to focus on each individual breath while waiting, listening to the rest of the orchestra build a tower of notes meant for her to jump from. She waits. Suddenly with one sharp swing, the conductor waves his baton and she explodes into motions. Gently holding her bow like a feather as she violently brushes it across her cello, a sound so furious, yet captivating bursts into the atmosphere. Her fingers move fiercely up and down the fingerboard in a dance only she could perform. She has never been more free, never been more vulnerable than here in this place of pouring her whole heart into her cello. So beautiful, so lovely. She becomes the music. The orchestra jumps in and together they create a vigorous symphony movement that captures the entire room. Everyone is touched as she moves as one with her cello. And then…so abruptly, you would have thought you imagined it… Her beautiful performance cuts off as strings rip off her bow. The conductor calmly silences the orchestra with a wave of his hands. She professionally addresses the audience with grace, explaining that she will quickly go change the broken strings on her bow and return to finish the movement. With a small bow she smiles and turns to head to the back stage.
Did that truly just happen? The crowd instantly murmurs.
An announcer speaks over the intercom assuring the room that the orchestra will continue the final movement shortly. Whispers coat the air and the sound of instrumentalists resting their instruments pierce the silence. Everyone waits for her. The star of the show. The star that failed during her most crucial performance. And as if this wasn’t enough, the announcer informs everyone that this is the second time she has broken the strings during this exact same movement in this exact same concerto.
How could this be? Failing so drastically, t w i c e ?
Could she have watered down her performance more so that the strings on her bow stayed intact? Maybe if she had put less emotion into her music to save herself from making the same mistake twice? Was this even a mistake of her own doing, or was it merely a product of bad circumstances lining up like rocks for her to stumble over? So many questions flooded her brain as she swiftly walked behind the stage to her dressing room where she began to efficiently restore the strings on her bow. Eyes followed her exit like darts aimed at a target. Putting all of her internal questions aside, she moved, falling at ease into a routine she knew well. Replacing the strings was one of the first lessons she had learned.
It was part of the art. A part of the process in continuing to move forward; a process of building and pausing, running and resting.
How challenging it is to reveal this process publicly. Failing for all to see. Especially amidst such a prestigious, black and white crowd with no room for grey areas.
The first time this happened to her she could hardly bear the humiliation. The memory took her back…
She was there, in the heat of the symphony’s final movement. When suddenly her passionate creative expression came to a jolting halt as strings ripped from her bow. The failure sucked the breath from her lungs. She knocked over her music stand as she quickly arose to change the strings, clumsily tripping over the hem of her dress while running back stage. She refused the offers of help from back stage employees turning pitying glances her way. She cried silently as she replaced the strings aggressively. Scraping tears away she returned to finish the concerto all mind and no heart. Pouring out of her heart simply wasn’t worth the risk anymore. After the concert, she remained in her chair bewildered as her coworkers patted her on the back before exiting the room. She had wept every night after that for weeks as she practiced the same movement over and over again until the callouses on her hands cracked. Even so, she relentlessly pushed herself further still. One thought pounded through her veins:
She must redeem herself.
Make the wrong, right. This continued on an empty stage with just her and her cello every night at a local music hall for months. She practiced and practiced until one night, she pushed herself so hard that finally, she broke. Her fingers bled, and a cry ripped out of her heart. The failure of her performance weighed down on her more than ever before. Caught up in her self-torment the cello slid to the floor with a crash. Throughout her school years and her adult career, she spent the mass of her life striving to be the best cellist, the perfect performer. She sacrificed everything to be the perfect musician that she was today. And she succeeded. She became, one of the most talented, prestigious musicians of her time.
A rose among thorns.
But as she progressed fear of failure also grew along with her as a subtle thorn wrapping itself around her stem, slowly choking the life from her. In this practice session after her cello crashed down, she too allowed herself to slide from her chair and crumble like a cloth onto the ground. It was there in her desperation that another sound penetrated the rattle from all the arrows she threw at herself inside her mind.
A loving whisper, one of mercy and grace.
A voice from the One who gave it all so that she could have room to grow with Him again. He comforted her with His love, and clothed her with His grace. “My grace is sufficient for you.“, He spoke. It was enough. Enough of a shock to revive her heart back into motion. Enough of truth to clear out the thorns, and give her the space to grow.
Jesus can handle her failures, she need not fear them. If she allows herself to share in the sufferings of Christ, she will also attain the full resurrection with Him. She must press on. Not to attain perfection on earth, but to attain that which comes from a grace-consumed life. From walking in the righteousness found only in Jesus. Becoming like Him. This awareness that, because of Jesus, she was in right standing with God, stripped her from all forms of fear which had once gripped the wellspring of life within her. She wasn’t made to fail. She was made for victorious living. Which meant even failure was but a means for victory in Christ.
And so, the show went on. This second time around she kept that revolutionary encounter on the center stage of her mind while she restored her bow. Then she eloquently rushed back to the music hall’s center stage. The whispers were hushed but the stares continued. She could not care less. She was confident of one thing. Her right standing with God, and that was enough. Quickly tuning her cello, she nodded to the conductor. He motioned for the rest of the orchestra to begin, only a few measures prior to where they stopped before. The large audience waited with dismay before her. The orchestra waited eagerly all around her. Yet she managed to allowed herself to drift into that secret place once again. She was no longer in a concert hall, but back on that small, dimly lit stage, sitting upon a worn wooden chair- just her and her cello and One who knelt beside her. He couldn’t wait to watch her explode into creative motion. Awaiting the cue from the conductor, she gently hovered her bow near the strings of the cello. In this posture she felt the pleasure from the One kneeling beside her. His delight in her brushed away that nervous sweat that had been beading upon her brow. He wasn’t bothered by her mistakes. He loved to watch her passionately pour her all into this life with a heart abandoned, ever after Him alone. And so her moment came anew. Whether she failed a third time or a thousand, she would keep pressing on because she loved every bit of playing and wanted to let her music shine just for Him. To let her process shine the light of a gracious Savior. She closed her eyes and exhaled a breath she didn’t realize she had been holding as music exploded once more from her hands. Release. A distant understanding lit like a match in her mind as she killed the vigorous final movement of the concerto so fearfully and wonderfully. She let go of everything in that moment, and yet so skillfully she played nonetheless. It was her many tries and fails that allowed her to do this very thing: to naturally overflow His anointing from a place of letting go. Like an evergreen spruce tree, she would remain bearing fruit and fragrance. Even amidst the coldest of winters. So long as her roots abided in Him. Living out of this secret space filled with grace to merely be and grow with her Beloved.
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.“
Philippians 3:7-14 NIV
(Revised edition. Originally posted November 20, 2019)
It is short. It is sweet. The message I sense the Lord has put on my heart for the church today is:
The world is very united in its suffering right now. Every nation is affected by this virus and every person experiencing the consequences of its spreading in one way or another. Here in Norway we have been under a national quarantine for about sixteen days now. As I wrote in my previous entry, All that is shaken, the virus suddenly changed everything about this season of life for my family and I all in one weekend. The impact hit the hardest that first week of quarantine. Yet as the days marched on without restraint, everything settled into the stillness of my Rock and Refuge whom had never left my side. I began asking God, “What are You doing in the world, and how can I join you?”. This took my eyes off myself and the immediate situation before me, lifting them instead to the One seated on the throne higher than it all. There was this endlessly rich sort of rest that He was calling me and many others into. It’s the kind of rest the quiets your soul while simultaneously awakening your spirit into action. This revelation came as I read through Hebrews 4. A perpetual state of rest, that we should’ve already been living in. In this rest you not only receive, but you have a burning inclination to give. It is here that you find a love that can’t be contained. A love that hits your core so deep and spews out like a geyser hitting the sky. This is the yoke Jesus offers to trade us for in Matthew 11:28. And from the outside, this kind of love looks a lot like raising a flag while running to the front lines of battle. This kind of love activates you. But only if you believe it.
So today, if you hear the voice of God, will you harden your hearts?
The enemy seeks to kill, steal and destroy. But Jesus, the man and express image of God, He came to give us life and life abundantly (John 10:10). We can easily get this twisted and completely pervert our view on the character and nature of God. When the foundation is on unsteady ground, the whole house is unsteady. We need to know who God is, and then we will want to make Him known. Because He is just that good.
I sense the Lord is raising up heroes in the faith. Men and women of valor who have hidden themselves in the shelter of the Most High, and yet are shining so brightly that the whole world can see. They are rooted and established in the love of Christ, and still they will risk it all to carry that love to ends of the earth. They mourn with those who mourn, all while the joy of the Lord bubbles up and strengthens them within. They still themselves when they must be still and yet their lamps do not go out at night. They rest and yet they fight with weapons not of this world.
As I prayed into this, I saw a picture of an American flag with blood dripping off the ends. I sensed from Holy Spirit that this was because the flag no longer flies stagnant on a pole in front of cement walls, but it is carried into battle. I believe the emphasis wasn’t solely on the U.S., but was a message for the church as a whole. The vision went on as I prayed. While many in the world began to retreat from the enemy’s advances, these mighty men and women of valor screamed to their evacuating brethren, “Don’t retreat!” The fear was tangible as thousands ran away from the frontlines of the battle. All the while these heroes in the faith raced forward, towards the front lines as they continued to plead those two words, “Don’t Retreat!” with their fellow countrymen. And if this is starting to sound like a scene from The Patriot that’s probably because Holy Spirit was inspiring relevancy through it. The men and women of valor grabbed their banner, Jehovah-Nissi The Lord-Our-Banner, and ran head on into the enemy’s advancements. As the fleeing soldiers saw the courage and tenacity, saw the Spirit in these heroes, they began to stop running away and turn to follow suit. They were weary, beaten down and close to defeat from fighting a losing battle and yet in that moment as they saw the faith driving their brethren, they chose to believe again. The moment that decision of belief was made, Jesus met them on the battlefield. I saw Jesus kneeling before the weary soldiers and washing the dirt off of their faces. Lord brought rest on the battle field simultaneously as they pressed on the front lines. Soon there were too many to count of the brethren hastening towards the enemy lines that there was no longer a distinction between hero and retreater but they were all one, spearheading the enemy together. And of course from there, we know the end of the story already. We. Won. Read that again. And again. The battle was won. Not because of our own strength or for our own glory, but because of Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith. He is the FINISHER. Ya’ll! The gospel of Jesus Christ is the POWER of God unto salvation for EVERYONE who believes, to the Jew first and then the Greek (Romans 1:16).This is not blind faith, this is real, activated, nation-catalyzing faith!
During this time in history I charge you heroes to stir up the Spirit within and rise up in faith. You have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and sound-mind (2 Timothy 1:6-7). I feel the Lord asking those of you who have begun to retreat to stop, turn around and pick up your Banner named The Lord. Repent and be refreshed as you believe in the Truth. We have been liberated that we might through love serve others (Galatians 5:13). We must unite not only in our sufferings, but in the reality that is our victory. Press in! For the joy set before Jesus, He endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the Father. This is the same One that we are following after. Raise the banner, rally the troops, and run into the frontlines; the Way has already been made. God has equipped His children for such a time as this because it is to the GLORY of the Lord. The victory is already written.
I woke up late that morning. “7:29 a.m.” gleamed at me on my phone screen and the snooze timer counted down the seconds until the next time it would attempt to wake me. That current season of life had been so busy. I was staffing my first Discipleship Training School with my husband, and it had been some of the most intense and exciting months we’ve had in ministry together yet. Still there’s a cost, and sleep was one price I was okay with losing some of. We had spent the past three months living in close community with thirteen students, young and old, from all of the world. Sharing meals together, having heart to heart connections with, receiving healing from long lasted wounds, growing in the Lord together, ministering on the streets together, and everything in between. They became instant family.
We were two weeks away from going on outreach, which would consist of two months of evangelism and ministry. Outreach is the whole point of the Discipleship Training School. My husband and I had spent the entire school planning and connecting with the local contacts we would work with during our outreach: praying with our team, casting vision, setting up housing, meals, budgeting the expenses, etc. All we had left to do was pack our bags. We were ready, and excited to go, as was the rest of our team.
We had pressed into the Lord as a school and seen wonders and miracles as the Holy Spirit moved in and through us. It was incredible how willing all of the students were to receive all that God had for them during the school, and even more incredible how quickly God showed up in a powerful way. Our second week of school several were baptized in the Holy Spirit and many received the fire of God. Everyone in the room that day night and into the next day was encountering God in either laughter, laying out on the floor, weeping, sitting still, or a mixture of the sum. God manifested a small bit of His glory to us and it was wonderful. This fast beginning launched us into a radical several months of seeking God and finding Him in all of His splendor.
The night before this morning, we had an evening meeting updating the students on the COVID-19 situation. Currently we would have to stay one meter apart from one another, and eating in the cafeteria would look a bit different as the kitchen staff would have to change the ways they distributed food. Three of our students were missing because they were in a ‘quarantine’ of sorts from a stomach bug. The base leadership was requesting anyone that had any hint of illness to stay in their rooms. After the announcements we prayed for the nations and for our school during this crisis time as the virus spread. We took communion together and then began spontaneously singing out worship and praise to the Lord acapella. “Fearless forerunners carrying the fire and fragrance of God” That was the banner the Lord gave us staff for the school. And that was exactly who we were. I could see it before my eyes as we sang out in one accord together. It was beautiful. As the hours went on many left and many stayed to continue spurting out heart cries to the Lord in song, exalting Jesus over this global crisis. I didn’t know then that would be our last time worshipping together as a school.
So after the intense night I didn’t get as much sleep as I would’ve normally, but it was worth it. I quickly turned off my alarm that morning and was excited for the day ahead. Because of the mandatory national closure for all schools in the nation we were living as missionaries in, my kids’ kindergarten school had already been shut down the day before. So I didn’t have to get them ready for school that morning, and quickly ate some toast, poured a cup of tea and rushed out to class. I led the typical Friday’s Bible reading morning; still working through the book of Acts. The staff that normally led this morning was in quarantine for a sore throat. The base wasn’t taking any chances. The speaker for the week’s teaching on ‘relationships’ came in after our Bible reading session, and we began our final day of teaching on the subject. There was an uneasy feeling in the room, at least I could feel it. Something was off, and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. The world was in a panic over this virus spreading globally, and we were on the edge of everything tipping over as the balance became one-side too heavy here.
During the last session of teaching that day, us staff present on the school’s team were notified that the base leadership was calling a mandatory meeting for all people on the base to attend after lunch. Our school leader informed myself and my fellow staff (also close friend) that the leadership was shutting down our school. My heart sunk in my chest. Everything from then on felt like slow motion. We all stood in the room two meters a part and listened to our base leader update us on the national proclamations for this virus, and how our base would take action on it. The nation we were in had become level 3 on the global health advisory and everything was about to change. Serving food had to stop, meeting in groups had to stop, isolation in our homes would be our priority and amongst a long list of other changes, the main one that took our breath away was this: everyone that could leave had to leave, effective immediately. Basically if you didn’t have your own unit, your own home with a kitchen and bathroom, then you had to move off of the base for an unknown amount of time. This meant all of our students and also a good deal of international/domestic staff.
What. Seriously? Our students cried, we cried. Everyone was shocked. In one hour, our entire lifestyle was flipped upside down. Many began buying tickets for flights home and planning to leave. I didn’t have many words to say. The students and our staff were heartbroken. The future was uncertain and we weren’t gauranteed that we would all get to be together again. We had three weeks left of school, and that was all put on hold. The outreach we spent months planning was cancelled. We weren’t sure (and still aren’t) when nations will begin opening up their boarders again. And so we had to send students back to their homes without getting any sort of preparation, reverse-culture shock training, or debriefing in order to return back to their homes. Our dreams and hopes for finishing this season seemed to be ripped out from under us and crushed in front of our eyes.
We had a rushed, thrown together dinner that Friday night where we all said our, ‘goodbye’s’. A dinner in which many were too stunned to even eat. People cried while they sat at a table quickly decorated for the fast departure party. We gave spontaneous speeches, cried bitter tears, hugged, and tried to encourage one another in the only hope that remained, hope in Christ. But it wasn’t anywhere near closure. It was sudden and it hurt our hearts. It hurt mine. Over two to three days, most people left. It was quite traumatic to have your entire daily schedule, group of people you do life with, weekly ministry times of worship and prayer, and close community living completely shatter in a matter of one day.
Helpless is a good term for how I felt. Of course I prayed, and my heart still praised the Lord despite it all. Yet the way everything ended so suddenly, it hurt my heart. I had so much faith that God would get us through this crisis time, and it didn’t turn out the way I envisioned it. But over this week and a half since that day, God has spoken so much to me. Trust and hope.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13 NIV
I had to wrestle with the Lord in why things didn’t turn out as planned. Why didn’t people do this instead of that? Why didn’t we seek you more or try other options? Why are people so afraid? So many why’s, and still there was just one heart that Holy Spirit seemed to be the most concerned about… mine.
I was frantically looking for solutions, frantically praying for Him to pick up the pieces that had just been scattered all over the world by COVID-19. All the while joy and peace began to fade as my trust in God became the real issue for me here. I wanted Him to bring things back to they way they were, and yet everyone around me was proclaiming that was impossible. I was so set on proving them all wrong that my trust actually became misplaced. I trusted that our leadership would keep the school running, and when that didn’t happen for many reasons I was in despair. I trusted that we would do whatever it took to get all of our students and staff back together again as soon as we were able. Again that wasn’t able to happen either. My trust was in people. My trust was in the results of my labor looking a certain way. All the while God wanted to fill up my pleading heart. With hope. A hope that resulted in joy and peace that would overflow hope to other people.
I was trying to save the world, and He was wanting to steady me.
God’s agenda was a little different than mine…maybe because He already did all of the saving. Thankfully there’s grace for me and I can joyfully repent which just looks like me turning to Jesus, confessing my sin and asking Him to change the way I think. Throughout this global COVID-19 crisis, my daily routine has been shaken. My living conditions have shaken. My friendships and family have been shaken. My plans for the next month have been shaken. Even my trust has been shaken. And out of all that has crumbled in the shaking, what cannot be shaken has remained. That is the kingdom of God inside me. The kingdom that wants to be released out. So this is me letting it shine. And my declarations of truth will be shouted out louder than the chaos
I am God’s daughter carrying His authority and power by the blood of Jesus and the Holy Spirit upon me. I am a co-heir with Christ, seated in the heavenly places with Him. I am rooted and established in the love of God. I am no longer a slave to fear, but I am a child of the living God. I am a disciple of Christ, called to be His witness to the nations, and signs and wonders will accompany this call. I am strong and courageous and will not be afraid or dismayed for the Lord, my God is with me wherever I go. I have hope, joy and peace in Christ. I am a city on a hill that can not be hidden. My family and I are dwelling in the shelter of the Almighty and abiding in the shadow of His wings. I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone that believes. I have received a kingdom that cannot be shaken.
As for the school, the vision remains the same. We are fearless forerunners carrying the fire and fragrance of God. This our time to walk that out. Myself included. The future might be uncertain for some, but it’s not for me. I know my God has a plan and a purpose for my life that nothing can hinder. Though my heart and my flesh may fail, God is the strength of my heart and my portion f o r e v e r. The wind and the waves will come, but through it all there is so much more to be thankful for. Because Jesus is alive, and He is faithful.
Here are some questions I have for you today. Grab a pen and take a moment to process.
-Where were you the day this virus changed the regular flow of your life? —-What were some of the consequences of the changes that had to be made (i .e. social distancing, lack of usual supplies, school/work shutdown)? -Where does your trust lie right now? -What are your “I am” truth statements? -What are ten things you can thank God for today?