Preparation

I was standing at the front of the sanctuary in a very old mountain church, looking up at a painting of John the Baptist. He was wrapped in his camel hide, hair unkempt, wild eyes. I knew God was telling me something, but I just couldn’t place my finger on it exactly.

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We were there with John’s family the day after Thanksgiving. We had all spent Thanksgiving day with his grandfather, and then drove up to the Blue Ridge Mountains to spend some time together and to pick out our Christmas Trees, a sweet family tradition. Again, as it happens every month, I was waiting to see if I was pregnant this time. Just a few more days until I would know for sure. I have learned not to get my hopes up, but not to let hope die, either. Trust, sometimes, looks like slowly walking the olympic balance beam.

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So there we were, all sitting in the pews of the tiny wooden chapel, listening to the automated message about the story behind the frescoes. There were three – two small pieces on either side, a pregnant Mary to the left and John the Baptist in the wilderness to the right, and Jesus on the cross in the middle. Together, they told a story about the Promise of God – expectation, preparation, then fulfillment.

Mary was looking dreamily at her pregnant belly, her skin fair and flushed, representing the expectation of a promise. I looked on, my first thought being, “I just want to be like that. How long will our expecting season last?” We feel like God told us a promise about our own children, and we expect it to happen, but we’re not past this stage yet.  The waiting is long.  A small pang of sadness. I thought, perhaps, her picture would stay with me through the day.

But then, as the message moved on to John the Baptist, something stuck out to me.  He represented Preparation. After the expectation of a promise being fulfilled, is the preparation for the fulfillment. The promise still isn’t there yet.  The “waiting” is in two seasons.  I felt God telling me John and I are past Expectation, and are going into our Preparation.  “But what does that look like for us, God?” I whispered in my heart.

We are walking a road we didn’t expect to be on for so long. The first year of trying ended in a brief pregnancy followed by loss. We are now, as of this month, one year after that. As the months have passed, I have wondered about God’s promise. Did we hear him right? Is it just not like we pictured it?  Pregnant Mary was a picture of the Expectation of the promise, the hope of fulfillment –  but it wasn’t just hope, there was substance. There is substance in hope and expectation, in waiting, even if the fulfillment is not yet.

I had made the phone call earlier in the month that made my heart shatter like glass. There was nothing more my regular doctor could do – the next step was to go to the fertility specialist. “We can’t be there yet!” I thought, agitated. That is not something any healthy 29-year-old wants to hear.  I have prayerfully gone through healing/deliverance, I’ve changed my diet, had people pray over me, exercised more, cut caffeine – you name the wive’s tale remedy, we’ve probably tried it.  We have tried not trying.  We were in the parking lot at Aldi, my face frozen with the phone to my ear, and John waiting patiently (in the car before a grocery run is as good a time as ever to call the doctor, right?)  After praying and waiting some days (and more than a few, “Is this still faith?” conversations) we felt like it was time to make the appointment, still several weeks out, and just see what we felt in the meantime. Though I felt sadness, and a little fear, I felt peace.

This past Wednesday we had our first appointment. I was a little on edge, as going into any unfamiliar situation can be. I woke up that morning and, before my feet hit the floor, I very clearly heard, “Read Matthew 3.” I have learned not to question when those sorts of specifics pop into my head, just investigate!  I sat down in the living room on our blue chair and flipped my faded Bible open, “Okay God, what are you saying this morning?”

Matthew 3 is the story of John the Baptist in the wilderness, preparing the way for Jesus. I began to weep as I read the description of his appearance, over and over again – “…a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey…” – just like the fresco that stood out to me so much that morning in the mountains. God was letting me know, so clearly and gently and perfectly timed, that this stage is not without him. This stage is not our white flag giving up on waiting for him, it is a part of our preparation. He is doing something extraordinary, all I have to do is trust him.

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A Day at the Fair

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Jesus is not just “in heaven”. He is living within and resting upon those who have believed on Him, who have received the Spirit of Christ (Eph. 3:17). This is not theology…this is a living reality that if we begin to really believe, we will be people for whom nothing is impossible. We can not be so focused on the Christ who is to return, but must commune and abide with the Christ who dwells within us at this very moment. He wants to release His dominion, power, authority, and abounding love through US (His chosen people) this very moment. What a glorious King!

The Lord has given me some amazing friends! I feel so blessed to get to go out with these brothers on a weekly basis to intentionally bring the Kingdom (the King’s dominion) into public places. They are such an encouragement to me. I see in them the desire to give their whole heart and whole life to Jesus. Each one of them has been an inspiration to me.

Last week we had the opportunity to go to the state fair together! We went with the intention of bringing God’s Kingdom (acts of kindness, love, healing,salvation, and deliverance) to people there. It was a treasure chest. Thousands of precious, valuable hearts and lives packed into a small area. God was bound to show up if people were willing to partner with him. God is looking for partners. Whenever we go out it takes a few minutes to get ramped up, but we always can trust that Devin won’t let that last long! Lol Just a few minutes in we were close to the waterfall and there was a group of 12-15 black kids. Devin went right into the middle of the group and asked boldly, “Does anyone have any pain in their body right now!?” One of the older ones there spoke up and said, “I do. I have back pain.”Devin responded, “Jesus will take that pain away right now if you let us pray for  you.” We prayed and immediately the pain went away. She was thrilled. Then another girl spoke up, “I have a headache.” We prayed. Immediately the headache left. By the time we left that group we had prayed for over 7 people with pain in their bodies that left once we laid hands on them. They were thrilled and excited about God’s kindness and what we spoke about Jesus and His plans for their lives. We prayed and many of them prayed to receive Christ into their life right there in the middle of the state fair with crowds swarming around us.

We had many heavenly encounters that day. I will not be able to record them all here but I will share a few more. We prayed for a lady who was selling natural healing ointments and medicines. She was in the building with all the artwork. She asked us ,”Do y’all have any pain in your bodies?” We said “no, do you?” She said that her left elbow down to her wrist was always numb and then she said “some people don’t understand that numbness hurts.” We asked her if we could pray for her in the name of Jesus Christ. “Sure!” she said. We prayed and she immediately felt the numbness and pain decrease. We could see the shock on her face!! We prayed again and bound the numbness in the name of Jesus Christ and commanded it to leave and never come back (Matthew 18:18) and we commanded every injury to be healed. As we walking off she tested her arm and said “Wow!” and a look of astonishment was on her face. Thank you Jesus that you are real and very present with us!

As we walked by the big slide in the kids section of the fair. A young man was hollering at us, “COME EAT WITH US! WE HAVE SEATING IN THE BACK.” We walked over and greeted them then asked, “Does any one need prayer or have any pain in their body?” One woman spoke up with knee problems and another guy said he had pain all throughout his body. As we prayed for the man, you could feel the presence of God. He said that he felt peace throughout his entire body and the pain was not present any more. He then told us that he gave His life to Christ at a church 4 years ago. When it happened, he wept for a solid hour. I asked him if he had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit when he believed? He said he had not heard of this. I told him that Christ said, that he who believes in me streams of living water will flow forth from within him (John 7:38). I told him that Jesus said, “It’s better that I go, so that the Holy Spirit my come and dwell in you…He will lead you into all truth and remind you of all that I have said. He is your Helper in this life.” I asked him, “Do you want to receive the Holy Spirit, because if you have given your life to Christ He is yours to receive.” He said, “Yes”. We prayed with Him, and immediately the power of God came! Thank you Jesus! We prayed in tongues and prayed that he may receive the Holy Spirit, the precious Spirit of Jesus, the spirit of adoption that cries out “Abba Father” and testifies to our spirit that we are children of God. He was lost in the moment, swaying back and forth, and he would have fallen down had we not held him up. This was a just normal dude working at the state fair. When he came back after about 5 minutes of prayer…He testified that he just had an out of body experience with the Lord (2 Cor. 12:1-4). He said it reminded him of when He first repented and turned to Jesus. He said, “I am seeing different colors right now and have so much peace.” We told him to expect to have an increase of encounters with the Lord and hearing His voice more clearly.  (Read Acts 8 if you have questions)

To save time I want to briefly mention that there were numerous fair workers who received  healing from various injuries and were given words of knowledge(1 Cor. 12:8), many recommitted their lives to the Lord, whole groups witnessed various miracles, heard about Jesus, and experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit. I share all this to testify of God’s reality this very moment. He was not the God of power just in the Old Testament or even the New Testament. He is the God who raises the dead TODAY. I want to be very clear in saying that WE are nothing special. God is using people all over the world to do the impossible right now, and it is increasing day by day. God is ready to use any christian who believes and obeys. The things of the Bible…the fruitfulness, the miracles, the intimacy with the Holy Spirit, the suffering, the joy, is for every christian. This is the normal christian life. We don’t live it perfectly, but our Lord Jesus is perfect in His ability to complete the work that He began in us. If you believe on the Lord Jesus and have given him your life…this is for you.

John

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I wish this would have been clearer. After the one in the blue shirt got completely healed (leg). This whole group of kids started cheering and jumping up and down, because Jesus is REAL and love us a whole lot.

Hope

I hadn’t been looking forward to August.

I have wanted to share this for a while, but haven’t quite known how to start.  We all go through hard things, and I think it can be difficult to know when to share with others.  I think I imagined sharing my hard times in hindsight, once I had passed through it and could speak from a place of victory, fulfillment of promise, or seemingly having my stuff together.

Well, I don’t have my stuff together and I am still waiting on a promise.  Even so, I want to open up and share about the road I’m walking, while I’m still on it.

August was our due date with our first positive.  The very day I found out we were pregnant I had already started dreaming and praying and imagining who that little life would become.  Three weeks later, a week before Christmas (when we had planned to tell family), I bled, and it didn’t stop.  It happens, a lot, not that that fact makes it any easier.  We had been hoping to have a baby for about a year prior to that.  To those who hope, whose hearts blossom in thankfulness, and then have that same hope deferred*, it can be a longer, tougher road to hoping again.

That has been my road the last 9 months.  A slow road to hoping, trusting, and softening again.  The hardest part was to remain with some thankfulness even in the face of month-after-month deferred hope.  Month after month of friends’ baby announcements, seeing their bellies grow with life, the subtle sting of hope fulfilled for others, the slow dull of emotions, the reeling it in, and the quiet “thank you” eeped out.  I have celebrated those beautiful gifts, while deeply longing for my own.  It can be both, celebration and longing.  It didn’t start out that way, but it can be both.

Every month of this year that has gotten me closer to this time has been hard, and I’ve felt my heels digging in the ground along the way.  I didn’t want to get here, surrounded by others whose positives turned to babies born, still waiting.  Loss is confusing, and the road to Trust is a bit more disorienting than I expected.  But it’s here, and we’re here and we’re breathing and eating and loving and being loved and sleeping in a warm bed.  And so I just keep gathering up my thankfulness like tiny little seeds one by one, so small, and hold them out to be planted and turned into something bigger and more beautiful and more life-giving than I can conceive at this point.

To all the mothers out there still waiting, I’m with you.

God is good.  In the face of loss he is good.  In longing, in waiting, in hurting, he is good.  I do not want that to be a tired and dusty adage only for the hamster-wheel of my mind.  I want it to be alive and growing and explosive with belief in my heart.  Even when I wait.

-Sam

*Thank you Casey Tait and your beautiful book “WAIT: Contending with Hope” – for those waiting in any season of life.

// (below is a poem I wrote in January after our miscarriage.  softer & stronger, all at once.)

 

for a while there

with a pain in my chest

two lines on test

i knew a you was there.

 

i was full once

alive with another life

and my blood pulled and rallied

i wondered in my heart.

 

you do not let us dream

so heart-fully in vain.

there is a place in your room

where blood pulls and rallies

for things such as these.

 

breaking so deep

makes us stronger

and softer

all at once.

Whenever. Wherever.

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I have recently been listening to a band that I like called Bombay Bicycle Club. As I was driving to Aldi to pick up a few things for dinner last Friday night I was listening to a song by them called “Whenever Wherever”. I was thinking about the incredible time that I had had earlier in the day in downtown Raleigh. My friend Devin and I have been going into downtown Raleigh on Fridays to learn (yes…learn) to do the things that Jesus did.  God has been showing up and meeting people on the streets. As I was listening to this song I began to hear Abba singing the chorus over me. “Whenever you want it, wherever you want it…Whenever you want it, wherever you want it”. I felt that He was singing it in regards to Him showing up through me in signs, wonders, and miraculous encounters with people! He was telling me, “John, whenever you want to bring the Kingdom, I will do it! Wherever you want to bless people with a miracle, I will show up.” It really gave me a revelation of His heart to do amazing miracles for people every hour of everyday. Our lack of faith limits us from truly walking like Jesus walked…in the power and love of God every moment!  Our Papa loves faith! He wants us to be living encounters with His power and love just as Jesus was when He walked this earth. Jesus said, “As the Father sent Me, so I am sending you.” Also, “Greater works will you do, because I am going to the Father”. We have to take off our religious glasses and put our bad theology on the shelf or better yet in the trash can. It’s time to live the “normal Christian life!” Now let us fly highhhhh!

John

No Limitations

IMG_8765While sitting in Jubala, Sam gave me a blank page. This is what came out.

Jesus never gave any pardon or acceptance of fear. He never sanctioned or endorsed fear. He attacked fear with a solid rock of unwavering faith, belief, complete assurance, and foreknowledge. His disciples would be rebuked for living and operating in fear as we see after Jesus calmed the storm in Mark 4:40. Jesus takes it even further when He corrects his  disciples for not being able to perform incredible miracles…deliverances, food multiplication, etc. It seems that He lived in a realm of personal responsibility and had an expectation for normal people to operate in the supernatural…whether He held this standard for all could be debated (perhaps you could argue it was just for His disciples). We see Him reprove an “unbelieving and perverse generation” in Matt. 17:17. This indicates that He had expected a supernatural ability from the “normals” of society. We laugh at this today…to expect miracles from normal people? This is utterly ridiculous to so many of our pastors and church leaders in Christendom. It is clear that Jesus Christ not only operated in “God is for me”, but God is for you! He walked in a faith that made heaven’s realities, earth’s reality. We cannot attribute this to His deity, because He took on the limitations of a man (Philippians 2:7). The Alef (Alpha) and the Tav (Omega) limited himself, while being unlimited because of His relationship with Abba. He was an ordinary human with an extraordinary Abba who knew Him, and heard His every prayer, who was thrilled by His obedience. A son who could be trusted with all of heavens resources and authority. This supernatural ability came at a price… it could not be given if Jesus wanted man’s approval more than Abba’s, if He had a spirit of unforgiveness, or if He had pride in His heart. This supernatural ability and authority was given as over time as Jesus grew in “wisdom and stature and favor with God and man”. God had to “grow”!  That is pretty incredible! We see Jesus teach that he who is faithful in little will be entrusted with more (Lk. 16:10). As we cultivate intimacy with Abba, welcoming the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts and lives to clean, correct, prune, and grow godliness and righteousness we are creating a place or portal that God may exercise HIS ability and dominion through our little life. We don’t need to be perfect before this starts. Let it start right NOW in our hearts! Some people may have different arguments against this idea, but it is my belief that as we become more “Holy” (meaning sin is removed and righteousness is present through walking in obedience to Jesus) we move into a realm of freedom, blessing, provision, power, authority, and prosperity. Righteousness is blessed and all of heaven will be released for a man who walks uprightly and humbly before God our eternal Abba. The supernatural becomes natural for a Holy man…because Heaven listens. Heaven has been known, received, and cultivated in His heart (the Kingdom is inside you!). This man can be trusted with God’s Kingdom and Abba’s joy overflows onto his life with no limitations.

This is a life worth leaving every thing else behind to discover! Jesus is worthy!

John

Pressing In

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Hello dear family and friends!  Grace and peace to you in the name  of Jesus our Lord!  We are so happy to update again after a few months of living in and loving on Israel.  Thank you for your love, support, and patience as we have been gathering up experiences and treasures with Jesus, and doing a lot of praying and listening.

Almost one year ago exactly, we had just packed up our first  apartment together, packed our bags, and headed off on a journey with an unknown course ahead of us.  We left with open arms, open hands, and beating hearts.  We began with three months in Harvest School, worshipping and listening to the Father in Africa, with 250 students from all over the world.  This was a definitive start of dying to self and following the voice of God on a direction-by-direction, day-by-day basis.

We know that this lifestyle of unknown, this daily trusting and openness of plans, has been an adjustment not only for us, but also for those closest to us.  Our families have to regularly let us go, embrace that we don’t have a clear plan except Jesus, and be emotionally prepared for our coming and going.  They are learning how to best love us and care for us, when even we don’t know what  this looks like for us right now.  God is doing a work on the earth, in NC, in America, and across all of the nations.  He is doing a work in all of us and teaching us how to follow Him and love like He does.

Thank you for loving us.  We are so thankful for your love, support, and patience with us as we are learning and listening, asking and waiting.  We do a lot of asking and waiting : )  This time has been marked with learning an intimacy and tenacity in God’s presence.  Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities.  We feel that here, and so we worship!  Worship is such a powerful weapon.

So – onto the practical updates!  

Sam has been spending a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking lunches for the volunteers and staff.  John has been helping out with maintenance jobs and cleaning.  We both have also enjoyed leading worship for the volunteers and guests during a daily worship hour.  This has been one of our favorite things!

Living and serving in community here has been a ministry in itself.  There are volunteers and staff members from all over the world.  We have really prayed a spirit of unity, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit over this place!  We also welcomed our house parents from Harvest School to the guest house in August, and we have loved having them here as friends and partners!

We have enjoyed getting to know the Messianic Congregation here.  The services are all in Hebrew, but we have translation and have been able to make friends.  We have been able to teach the boys bible class (like Sunday School) twice, and also babysit one of the boys for a few days.

We have visited Jerusalem, Eilat, Yavne, and Petra.  Every time we travel around here, it reminds us of the bigger picture of what’s going on in the nation, its unique spiritual atmosphere, and unique needs.  We are still learning.  Being here has been both underwhelming and overwhelming.  All we know to do is worship, pray, and enjoy the people we meet.  There are still so many unknowns, but we are learning to let go, laugh at the days to come, and press in.  More time is needed in the quiet place at His feet!

We continue to pray that Father would open up our path before us as we seek Him.  When we crossed the border from Petra and back, we were granted one month more of our tourist visa, meaning we will need to be out of the country by October 10th.  We’re thankful for a direct answer, and are praying into whether we should travel any before heading back home.

Praise God for a beautiful introduction to the Middle East for the past 3.5 months – it’s only the beginning! Please pray that we would really dig deeper and finish strong in the coming weeks, and that the future would not be a worry or a distraction – just more trust and laughter!

  • Please pray that we will continue to pour out into our relationships and give the Father’s love extravagantly.
  •  Please pray with us regarding plans after this trip
  • Pray for our dear friends and volunteers at the guest house.  Pray for unity over the administration and workers here, and a deeper understanding of the Father’s love, joy, and grace.
  • Please pray for trust even when it’s difficult to see if there are any seeds taking root. We know that if we are faithful to plant, He is faithful to make it grow!
  • Please pray for practical needs to be met above and beyond during our time home (place to live, work for our hands, time spent with family and community)
  • Please pray for an outpouring of creative anointing!  We’ve really been enjoying writing and worshipping in the past few months!

We love you and are so thankful for you!

Love & Presents

Photo courtesy of Live View Studios

When I was a little girl, younger than 5, I used to be so excited for my dad to come home.

“Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” I would scream wildly as I ran to meet him at his car.  He worked a respectable, full-time job, and I felt the reassurance and safety of his love when he responded to my screams with equal excitement and laughter.  He crouched down to meet me, bear-hug me, and kiss me.

This is just a blip, a short moment saved in the memory of time.  As is often the case with mothers and fathers for many of us, we can readily remember those hurtful things, the moments we realized our parents are just people, with pasts and memories stored up of their own parents.  It’s something like learning about Santa.  The magical glasses we’ve had the ignorant and childlike bliss of looking through are taken off and we see flesh and brokenness, theirs and our own.

Today I was worshipping.  I was worshipping in the face of a difficult circumstance, and feeling like I needed a defender ASAP.  Living in community rubs like sandpaper sometimes.  It can smooth you if you let it, or it can drive you crazy enough to throw your hands up in defeat.  Over the last three months I’ve acquired a sizable collection of “I’m so over this!” thoughts, each time realizing anew that this is a dead-end street.  Coming to the end of self is always good – unglamorous and gritty, a feeling like being found in your birthday suit in front of a crowd, but so good.

So I worshiped.  And after spilling out in song and honesty, whispers and cries, I lay down.  “Just talk to me, God.  I just want to hear you.”

“I’ve got something for you.”

And I saw me running towards my dad, screaming, “Daddy! Daddy!” equal parts delighted to see him and hoping that he had brought me something.  I always expected from him – I trusted his love and acceptance, and expected a present of some kind.  Something he had picked just for me – candy, a dress (a denim jumper with a sunflower on it comes to mind), or a trip to the park.  My delight was sheer and overwhelming in those moments.  Daddy’s home! Love and presents!!

Love and presents!

Our Father speaks our heart language.  He uses memories and significant things to us to woo us back into trusting him, back into his love which never faltered or changed along the way.  He’s got something for me and you that we can expect and be sure of, something we love, something just for you.  He’s a good Dad, and he always has whole, accepting love and awesome presents when we run to Him!

May we be more childlike than ever in our expectation of Him!

-Sam