it wasn’t me

Psalm 34.

That’s the one that talks about how good God is.

That’s the one that says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

That’s the one that says, “Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces will never be put to shame.”

That’s the one I love. I’ve read it many times. And though I’ve read it many times, today, it read me.

I was struck, more than anything, not by the words that I’ve read many times – but by the events that led to them.

This is a psalm, “of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.”

Though David chose to change his behavior, and as a result, saw his enemy flee, he doesn’t take the credit for his deliverance. Psalm 34 magnifies the Lord, not David.

So, while, sometimes, in my life, deliverance from my enemies only comes after a change in behavior on my part – God is still the means and the source of freedom. And God still gets the glory.

Check this out:

“I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears”.

“This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him.”

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.”

If David’s behavior is what drove the enemy out, what did God have to do with it?

Maybe He gave David heavenly wisdom, teaching him how behave in a way that would drive away his enemy. Maybe His Spirit gave David the faith, the courage, and the power to obey this strange call from God. Maybe God gave David the breath in his lungs and the blood in his bones to even be able to live.

If the change of behavior didn’t necessarily cause the deliverance, but God moved through it…why did it work? Why did God choose to move through David’s obedience at that very moment?

Maybe God knew the depths of David’s dependency upon his Heavenly father – and maybe, because of David’s humility, God allowed him to participate in the act of deliverance, without the risk of pride swallowing his praise.

Because even though it seems like David saved himself, he knows that God is the one who did it.

And God knows it too.

How can we posture ourselves to live in a way where a miniscule change of behavior, fueled by faith and filled with the power of God, can drive out our enemies?

 

the grain’s gotta go

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”

‭‭John‬ ‭12:24-26

Sometimes I forget that Jesus is almighty.

His words are not just words on a page. He is the Word. He is the Word that accomplishes its purpose. He is God.

He speaks through scripture; then confirms through nature. He listens to your prayer, then answers you through the mouth of a best friend. He dispenses grace upon grace that flows through specially timed conversations – ones that require a sensitive spirit to follow. And he beckons us to keep up.

Whoever serves Him must follow Him. Just as He only did what He saw the Father doing, now we are to do only what we see Him doing.

The question is – how can we see what He’s doing?

We can only see what He’s doing when we allow our agendas to die.

If we desperately told tightly to our grain of wheat, we’ll remain alone. But if we allow our measly manipulative motives to die, we have the promise of “much fruit” – fruit that can only come from abiding in Him, from working with Him.

He’s at work – and He invites us into it.

Think about this verse for a second: “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.”

Where is Jesus?

Sometimes He’s hiding in His room praying to the Father. Sometimes He’s out on the street, healing the sick. Sometimes he’s reclining at the table of the people who hate him.

Sometimes He’s receiving adoration and worship, allowing His feet to be kissed and drenched in a perfume with a fragrance that fills the home.

Sometimes He’s teaching.

Sometimes He’s rebuking.

Sometimes He’s prophesying.

Sometimes He’s crying.

Where is Jesus?

…or, maybe I should ask…where are you?

Have you died yet? Or are you still sadly clutching onto your stalk of grain?

Only when we die can we truly find the hand of Jesus. Only when we die can we live His life…with His eyes, His heart, His power, His compassion, His patience, His faith, His purpose, His wisdom, and His love.

Only when we die.

dear isa

Dear Isa,

I never knew you. I only knew that your mother loved you.

She still does.

Though her body doesn’t want to believe that you’re gone, you are. You’re gone.

You’ve gone away, far far away.

You made your mother fall in love with you, and then you left.

Why? Why did you let her love you so when you were simply passing through?

Why did you have to be so cute?

Why, oh Isa, did you fit so perfectly on her chest? How will she live the rest of her days?

Will all her days be hard? Will her heart ever heal? Will there be a new start? Will she still be strong? Will she ever be the strong one again? Will she still be who she’s been?

Or is she new?

Your life was taken. Is your mother’s life taken, too?

Or is she still alive?

She’s still alive.

I pray for her days. I pray for strength. I pray for hope. I pray for healing. I pray that heartache will bring hearts together. I pray for her.

I love you, Isa. I’m sorry I never held you. Please know I’m not mad at you.

I just wish you knew how beautiful you were. I wish you knew your mom would’ve healed you if she knew you were sick. I wish you love. I wish you were still alive. I wish.

I wish.

cycles

Look at the lilies that never spin,

Look as they watch your cycles of sin…

Sin that I became so you could bear my name.

Do you hear the hush of pride, hiding off to the side saying, “Shh. Stay silent.”?

Do you?

Don’t lie to yourself.

Let me show you your cycles as they spell your heart’s story.

You want to be seen. You want love.

You’re afraid that your well is too deep for me.

But I say,

I see you.

All of you.

Fear not – you’re not forgotten.

Fix not your problems before you enter my presence.

Just

Come.

He’s in the room

“And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them.”

Luke 4:38-39

Jesus is the image of the invisible God – the exact representation of God’s character, God’s love, God’s power. We can confidently assign the acts of Jesus as the present-day acts of God. What Jesus did then, God still does now.

Here, we see sickness; and we see a miracle.

At the start of the scene, we see that the woman, Simon’s mother-in-law, is ill. Her fever has risen so high that she cannot recognize Jesus. Thus, though her Healer has entered the room, her illness prevents her from seeing him. She cannot petition for a prescription for herself.

But she is not alone. Her advocates have the ability to see who she can’t see – the Healer.

Thankfully, the disciples do not allow her illness to deny her healing – they beautifully appeal to Jesus on her behalf.

Jesus heals her. She rises and begins to serve them.

Why is this short story so significant?

There are seasons when we cannot pray for what we need. Our illness prevents us from seeing Jesus in our situation. Our tongues are tied by the lies we’ve believed; and our words won’t work. Our problem blinds us and barricades us from our solution.

But God, in His loving kindness, allows us to share a room with those who can see what we cannot –  those with eyes to see the Healer dwelling directly beside us. These friends who feel like family will appeal to Him for us; as we passively receive our freedom / our answer / our healing without ever having to pray a single prayer.

And yet, things change. Sometimes, we’re the ones standing in the room, appealing to God on behalf of the sick and lost and hurting beside us.

Today, who are you?

 

like it never even happened

Some time ago, I wrote a post about the armor of God. I wrote about the importance of applying the armor and the blood of Jesus daily – for we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

And so, we’ve got to stay strapped.

Now, here’s another little nugget for you to add to your armor-bearing – the Holy Spirit recently highlighted this text for me as I read through 1 Timothy. The 18th verse of the first chapter reads:

“This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare…”

Say whaaaaat?!

What prophesies have been made about you? What has God spoken over your life?

Wage the good warfare by them!

How do you do that, you ask? Here – I’ll give you an example.

On December 31st, 2018, my roommate Sasha and I attended the dReam Center Church of Atlanta’s New Years Eve service, where we heard a powerful word from none other than the bold, the beautiful, Reverend William Murphy.

The title of his topic was “Like it Never Even Happened”.

While I truthfully cannot recall what Scripture was spoken over us, I’ll never forget the word from the Lord. The Lord spoke through his servant that night, directly to me. He said that if I was willing to walk in obedience, the Lord would make it like it never even happened.

What is “it”? It is the struggle. My struggle. I know what “it” is; God knows what “it” is too.

He said that I had been an exile in a foreign land – that the fight I was fighting was never meant to be mine. And that if I had the faith to believe it, I could walk into 2019 and drop the struggle as if it never was mine. He said that in 2019, the Lord will reverse the effects of rejection – and that in the best possible way, He will wash my brain, that I may walk in true freedom, free from flashbacks of sin.

How do I have this memorized, you ask? Because I recite it over myself every day!

Every morning, as I apply the helmet of salvation, I wage the good warfare by the prophesy spoken over me on New Years Eve. I decree and declare that the Lord is washing my brain by the power of the Holy Spirit – that He is renewing my mind in such a way that enables me to continue to walk in this newfound freedom. I verbally pronounce my position as one no longer an exile walking in a foreign land, but as a powerful daughter of God walking in my inheritance.

And it works.

Don’t believe me? Try it!

Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of a time when something significant was spoken over your life. The Spirit of God may have spoken to you through one of His servants, or through His word, or through His creation. Once He shows you, verbally pronounce it over yourself as you apply the armor of God.

He may have revealed something promising to you about your future – weave that promise into the shield of faith!

He may have spoken to you through His word – wield that truth with the sword of the Spirit!

However He did, and whatever words of love He said, I encourage you to wage the good warfare by His truth. For since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak.

Speak.

Then sit back…and watch God’s power infuse your days.

 

who am i?

Tuesday night, swerving on stools beside the curved wooden bar of an expensive Decatur steakhouse, a handsome man with green eyes and a goatee asked me something deep:

“Gina – name your 3 biggest passions. Go.”

Without hesitation, I rattled them off real coy:

Worship,
Laughter,
Food.

Bam bam bam.

I’d bet you that no one else on earth who might find themselves in a similar situation would answer those questions in that particular way. And I think – no, I know – that’s one thing my God loves about me. He loves that I’m confident in His call on my life. He loves that I don’t conform to the life of another – because I can only fulfill what He has for me by being me. I believe my God loves that I’m not afraid to be me.
I’m not afraid to be free – and I’m not afraid to be me.

Being free has its perks, trust me. Being free makes the gospel attractive to others. Being free teaches those around me about the impossibly possible love of Jesus.
But being free also comes with a responsibility – not to use my freedom as a license to sin, thus contradicting my so-called freedom from sin; and instead, revealing it as slavery to sin. Instead, as followers of Jesus, we are called to be so infectiously free that we inadvertently invite others into said freedom.

Anyways.

Forgive me for rudely ignoring your obvious question – how I even found myself in that conversation?

Well, first, let me tell you about that day.
On that day, I felt super “adult”. I filed my taxes and successfully switched to a more affordable car insurance. Two major wins.

While most 27-year-olds might not see anything too triumphant about these activities, this 27-year-old doesn’t quite feel like an adult yet. Most days, “Adult” is the antithesis of how I see myself. While moved out of my parents’ house 3 years ago, in many ways, I just see myself as “GINA”.

Not a child, yet not quite an adult….maybe Britney Spears circa 2005?

I digress: when I do something uncomfortable, whether it ends up a success or a failure, I feel like I need to counteract the uncomfortable with something comfortable. And I find comfort in doing something that reminds me of myself.

What reminds me of myself?

Food.

I celebrate saving money by switching from Geico to AAA by strolling into an obviously out-of-my-budget steakhouse, (only after making eye contact with the handsome piano player through the window), parking myself at the bar, flipping my hair and smiling at everyone who seems to care, chatting it up with the piano player after his shift, and confidently ordering a couple of overpriced glasses of New Zealand Sauvignon blanc and a souffle of truffle Mac & cheese.

And suddenly, I feel like me again.

But what defines me?
If truffle Mac & cheese means me, then I’ve traded my identity as a child of God for a food fad from 2010. That’s cheap.

Here’s the problem with this approach: if I continuously counteract the uncomfortable with the comfortable, I’ll never actually grow in holiness. And I’ll never truly be free.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

What is that same image that we all are being transformed to? The image of Jesus.

How can transformation happen if I continue to reward my flesh right after my faith has risen to new heights?

Now, while filing taxes doesn’t take much faith, it does take discipline. Why counteract discipline with gluttony? What is the return on overpriced mac?

Sigh.

Listen.

At the end of the day, I’m just trying to live life abundantly. I stay covered in the blood of Jesus; I attempt to keep in step with the Spirit – and I just try to be me.

Yet, while it does feel good to be me, let me not neglect the voice of one crying out in the wilderness.

For ultimately, He must become greater,

and I must become less.

 

fasting meditations

And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”

Mark 7:14-15

Have you ever fasted before? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it.

Fasting from food, drink, or any substance or activity connected to your temporal comfort enables an emotive understanding of your heart’s current climate. You’ll be able to see yourself for how you truly are.

How so?

Well, I’ll use myself as an example. This month, our church is undergoing a 21-day fast to kick off 2019. During prayer and preparation, I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me to give up both a substance and an activity: coffee and watching Netflix.

I’m about halfway through – and boy, has it been a journey.

While people may not be defiled by what goes into our mouths, withholding those things from our mouths will surely cause our defilement to arise. In my instance, fasting from coffee has caused notably convicting words to escape my lips.

Early on, I sputtered a few concerning sayings at work early in the morning.

“Sorry if I’m grumpy, I’m fasting from coffee.”

While that may not be too far-fetched in a society that celebrates caffeine addiction, it is still cause for concern – that a beverage, or lack thereof, could alter my mood so much that I need to state a disclaimer before I speak an unkind, sarcastic smirk.

That’s not very Christlike.

But, to be fair, after those words ejected from my mouth, I caught them mid-air with a concerned frown.

That shouldn’t be. I didn’t say them again; and I tried harder to be patient with those around me.

But the words and thoughts expressed most often in my coffee-deprived state have been, “Sorry if I’m being a little slow this morning. I’m fasting from coffee.”

In other words, I don’t want you to think that my performance is lacking because I’m dumb. I want to be very clear about this. If I am not exceeding your expectations continuously, it’s because I’m fasting from coffee – not because I’m not capable of blowing your mind. 

Oh, Lord. Give me a break!

Do I really place that much pride in my own abilities?

Yes.

See, it wasn’t always like this. We’ve all been through seasons of struggle. Seasons where nothing seems to click. Seasons where we come to doubt our purpose and our understanding of ourselves and others; until we finally surrender to the Spirit’s work in our lives.

Then, little by little, God empowers us. We see glimpses of being fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. We surround ourselves with people that we aspire to be like; and we begin to change for the better. We grow confident.

However, if we’re not careful and prayerful, confidence can very easily conform to pride.

During this fast, the Lord is revealing just how much of the fissures of my heartstrings are connected to my dependence on myself. I inflate when I’m complimented, I deflate if I do not impress. And in my own limited understanding, I cannot even fathom a freedom from this way of thinking.

But He who began a good work in me will carry it through to completion. 

Though pride may whisper that it’s too late, the Lord will deliver me from myself. Though pride may hyperbolize my abilities, there’s one thing I know that I cannot do on my own  – free myself from my own pride.

For that, I need a savior. I need a savior to remind me that He gave His life for me, so that I could give my life for His glory – and that I cannot desire both greater measures of His glory while desperately clinging to my own.

There is freedom for me.

Freedom to receive a compliment or a criticism with equal measures of peace. Freedom to fail. Freedom to hope in the Lord, not in myself. Because I will always let myself down.

But those who hope in the Lord will never be put to shame.

simply obey.

“Simply obey.”

Easy to read, hard to receive.

For a long time, I thought there was a formula to freedom.

I thought that if I had completed x amount of deliverance sessions, combined with many months of fasting, and sealed with a fiery prophetic word, I would be free.

The Spirit and the gifts are ours.

We know that these gifts must be used to help strengthen our spirits to receive what God has for us.

However, nothing,

no, nothing,

can replace the significance of simple obedience.

Sure, deliverance is crucial. Generational cycles of sin and shame have sold themselves through blood lines since the dawn of desire.

And sure, fasting helps. After a sacrificial gastronomic fast, I guarantee you will feel a shift in the struggle against yourself.

And of course, I would not be where I am today had countless timely prophetic words not fallen on my ears; particularly while passing through life’s continual crossroads.

But at the end of the day,

all efforts are null unless we obey.

The significance of obedience doesn’t go away.

But here’s what does:

Our fight.

We give up.

We give up the game of walking too close to the edge

and instead,

we walk in places with plenty of space,

so that we

don’t fall.

I did not seek deliverance from the depths of my darkness just to stay down there.

I did not fast intensely, only to then reverse the effects by destroying the health of my spirit.

And I know this to be true, too:

Any prophetic word sent from Heaven will be hearsay,

if I do not obey.

Simply obey.

where are you, God?

And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.

Hosea 2:19-20

I am forever trying to find the formula for an unforgettable moment.

Is it the perfectly rare concocted blend of sensory nostalgia, coupled with an encounter with emotionally evocative relatives, combined with a physical reaction to all of the above? Is that what makes a moment unforgettable?

Hard to say. Some moments are unforgettable, just because.

One of those moments was during the fall semester of my sophomore year of college.

My “college experience” was atypical. At 19, I lived in midtown Manhattan and attended an academically rigorous and politically pretentious private Christian liberal arts school called The King’s College. Our campus held classes in the basement of the Empire State Building, our “dorms” were full-fledged New York apartments adjacent to Koreatown, and our “sororities” were “houses”, bearing a striking resemblance to Hogwarts.

It was weird.

It was also lonely. My freshman year had been full of firsts and friends, friends who were Bible-belt rebels. Most flew south after their first year to finish their higher education at state schools closer to home.

Without them, the city felt lonely, particularly at night.

One perfect New York night in my fall semester of sophomore year, I sat in the Starbucks on 34th between 5th and 6th; and I cried. I cried out to God in a new way – in desperation.

“Lord, I need you,” I remember saying to Him as I opened up my Bible to a random passage and read a few verses. I had never felt such longing, such void. My friends were my world – and then, they left. The city, though wondrous, feels forsaken without friends or family in moments of sadness.

In hindsight, I see that I was at a crossroads.

I had a choice. I could choose to fill this spiritual void with the power and presence of the Lord; or I could allow the desires of the flesh and the world to come creeping in, to occupy that space.

I chose the latter.

As a curious 19-year-old with a fake Jersey ID working as a maitre’d at a popular restaurant staffed by alcoholics in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s, I was bombarded with endless opportunities to let the darkness occupy my space. I let it in; and I let it create a taste for death. This taste led to full on feasts of debauchery, disappointment, and delinquency – otherwise known as academic probation.

Now, on the heels of my 27th birthday, I can look back and praise God for His protection, provision, and peace. I know that I know that He knows everything I did in those years;  and that every single thought and deed has been smothered in the blood of Jesus. I stand, not condemned, but celebrated, because I wear the righteous robes of Christ.

But what if I could go back to that moment? What if, in that moment of longing, instead of giving up and letting the world fill my cup, I instead chose to relentlessly sit at the feet of Jesus and beg for a crumb to fall from the table?

Would that have worked?

Would I have been satisfied?

I’m not sure.

Recently, reading through Hosea, the Lord showed me something.

When the Lord told Israel that He was going to fill their void for love and belonging through betrothal, He wasn’t speaking to a singular person. Though we love to read the Bible as God speaking directly to us as individuals, the entire book is directed to an entire nation. When He says, “I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord,” He’s talking to an entire people group.

But what’s peculiar about this people group is their location. A few verses up, God lays out His plan for winning back his lover:

 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.”

If Israel runs from the wilderness, they run from the place where God can mold her valleys into doors of hope.

I was so afraid of that wilderness.

I was so afraid of how long it would take for God to fill that void that I rushed to fill it immediately with whatever was right in front of me.

But if I had stayed in that place, if I had stayed in that wilderness for longer than a weekend, I would have found that though I may feel lonely, I am not alone. I would have encountered the many others who are too aliens in their own land. Through His sovereign spirit, I would have stumbled upon the nation of Israel – the people of God who are today, sons and daughters of faith, all walking in the wilderness together.

And loneliness would no longer define my association with the Father.

Are you afraid of the loneliness that comes from following God?

Newsflash: God wants to be faithful to you. He wants to be all you need. But if you isolate yourself from the nation of God’s beloved, you cannot expect to be wrapped up in the betrothal of His faithfulness. In order to be betrothed to the Lord, we must be in covenant with the people of the Lord.

Don’t be afraid of the wilderness. It is in the darkest moments when His light shines most brightly.

And when you see in His light, it’s unforgettable.