Free To Worship

 

worshipI love to watch people worship.

It’s seriously one of my faves.

I remember 13 years ago when my hubby (boyfriend at the time) took me to church with him.  I was so intrigued – and a little weirded out – by watching the people worship during the service.

I had never seen anything like it.

I didn’t grow up in church and the handful of times I did go it was stiff, we sang hymns with thy, thou, ye, etc. (Nothing wrong with that by the way, I just didn’t understand), and I just remember itchy clothes, the smell of moth balls, and wondering why grown people would stand up at the front of the church and cry while they were talking.

When I went to church with Tony (the hubs), he took me to a multi racial, multi cultural, non denominational Bible church.  We were running late that day and we entered the service during the worship set.

Hands were raised in surrender, people were crying, people were smiling, some were dancing.  They didn’t seem to care about who was around them or what anyone else thought.  It was a little odd to me but I was certain that I wanted whatever it was that they had.

As I fell in love with Jesus over that next year I remember lifting my hands in worship for the first time.

I just knew everyone was staring at me and everyone knew I was a fake.  I was still such a hot mess and I could only truly think of myself the whole time my hands were lifted and how I really wasn’t worthy to lift my hands to such a Holy King.

But I lifted them anyway.

It took me years to become comfortable with being free in worship.

The more that I learned to trust God – through some SERIOUS trials and Him coming through – the freer I became in worship.

Oh my goodness – when I walked up out of a year of paralyzing anxiety, panic attacks, and depression I could NOT keep my hands down.  Even during communion (when most people are sitting, I was standing with arms raised high).

You see, I knew what God had done for me. He had proved Himself faithful over and over and over again.  I knew He was worthy to be praised and if I didn’t praise Him the rocks would cry out in my place.  Ain’t no rock taking my place in worship.  **Waves finger back and forth**

I started to think about how I would worship Jesus if I could physically see Him standing in front of me and it helped me to get past my natural mind.  I started to realize that the people standing next to me in a church service are supposed to be my brothers and sisters in Christ – we’re all in this together … so why would I care what they think?

I love to watch people worship because I love to see freedom manifesting into the natural that spills over from the spiritual.

I also remember that first church service I went to with my now husband.  The people I saw worshiping. Their freedom caught my attention.  Their love for Jesus pouring out in worship caught my attention.  Their obedience in worship pointed to Jesus and not to them.  It wasn’t for show or to bring them attention. They were simply just responding to The Father’s love.

When we are free in worship we give others permission to be free in worship too.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Years ago I attended a church with an incredible worship team.  I wanted to be on that worship team SOOO BAD! I specifically remember God telling me no. He told me that I was a balcony worship leader.

This church was pretty large and had a balcony.  Those in the balcony seemed to be a little more reserved than those down on the floor.  Me and Tony loved sitting in the balcony so we could watch The Spirit move over the congregation as they responded to Him in worship – raising hands, dancing, singing loud.

It was harder to be free in the balcony because often times you would literally stand alone and be the only one singing … and people would know where it was coming from.

When God told me I was a balcony worshiper I started pushing past the walls of embarrassment in my mind and began to stand, arms reaching toward heaven, singing loudly, eyes closed and just being free.

I would start to hear other voices and when I would open my eyes there would be multiple people standing, arms reaching for Daddy, some crying, some singing loudly, some dancing – all worshiping freely.

It was never easy to stand and worship with hundreds of others around me who were sitting quietly – but I did it anyway because God is worthy to be praised regardless of background, personality, or if anyone else is standing with you.

I’m that weird person.  Yup.  Sure am.

I’m inviting you to be that weird person too.

I’ll leave you with this:

Last week I hosted a women’s night of prayer and worship.  One of my friends who is newer to her walk with Jesus was sitting behind the women.  Another one of my friends who has been walking with Jesus for quite some time was there as well and she was responding freely in worship with arms lifted high and singing loudly.

Both of these girls are pretty introverted and reserved.

My younger friend was amazed by the older friend’s freedom and especially since they both have similar personalities.

I had lunch with the older friend and shared the younger friend’s amazement – to which she smiled and responded with, “If I can’t be free there in worship, where can I be free?”

This pierced me.

If you can’t be free in worship – where can you be free?

Worship is not songs or hands lifted …  worship is a condition of the heart – how we live our lives.  That’s where I think a lot of people get it wrong.  “corporate worship” is when we gather and worship through song together.  We are literally ushering in the presence of God by saying ‘we want you here’ … why would we ever want to put up a wall against that?!

So I just wanted to share this with you because it was heavily stirring on my heart today.

I just want to encourage you to be free in your worship of Jesus.  It gives others permission to be free too.

Be bold.  Bring it. If anyone is watching and judging you they are obviously there for the wrong reasons.  Don’t let that stop YOU from responding to The Father’s Love any longer.

You are loved and FREE and God is worthy of all our praise and worship – Amen!

April

 

 

 

Comma

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This past Saturday was lovely.

It was a hot, sunny, summer day.  Around 1pm I had the opportunity to sneak out to the pool (kid free) and have some alone time.

As I soaked in the rays I had this thought that I wanted to get out for dinner with a friend. As I was thinking about where I wanted to eat and who I wanted to spend time with, I heard The Holy Spirit say, “Don’t make plans for tonight.”

Back in the day I would question this “thought” and talk myself out of what I know I clearly heard.  But over time I have  learned to stop second guessing everything and trust that the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in me and is in constant communion with me.

I didn’t think much about this word from God and just finished up my pool side alone time.

My daughter had been begging to go to the pool all week long and when she got home from her grandmother’s house on Saturday she asked could we go to the pool later that evening. It was the perfect night for a trip to the pool and I didn’t have any plans so I agreed to take her for a bit.

I told Trinity that while she swam I was going to spend some alone time with God and do some writing.  I swam with her for about 30 minutes and then sat down to write.

As I opened my notebook this young boy came to the side of the pool and started talking to me.  His name was Colton and he was as sweet as could be.  He was in 7th grade and new to the neighborhood.

He was extremely chatty and moved from one subject to the next.  I was happy to hear from him for about 5 minutes and then he started cutting into my alone time.  I felt myself starting to get annoyed that he wasn’t accepting the ‘hint’ that I was giving him for alone time.

As he continued to talk and I continued to feel annoyed, I heard The Holy Spirit say to me – “This is why I didn’t want you to make plans tonight.” I immediately surrendered my desire to write and turned by body and my attention towards Colton and just let him talk while I listened intently.

You guys – it was such a precious evening.

Colton started to share about how he got picked on at school because kids called him weird.  He was definitely socially ‘different’ but just because he didn’t have the same social queues as others didn’t mean there was anything wrong with him .

He confidently said to me, “I like being weird. It’s what makes me ME. It’s what sets me apart from everyone else. I’m fine with being weird.”

I told him he was a very wise young man and that it took me 30 years to finally be okay with being me – and accept the fact that I’m weird and set apart too.

We talked about being okay with being YOU.  Then he shared with me that his father died two years ago and he still struggles with that loss.

Colton was telling me about a letter he wrote in regards to his dad.  He said, “I wrote, ‘My father was a loving COMMA kind and funny person….”

He went on to share the details of the letter but I couldn’t get past the fact that he verbally expressed the comma in his letter.

Over the past few months God has really been speaking to me about being set apart. So many years of trying to fit and getting so frustrated that it just doesn’t ever seem to work out.  But I’ve come to be okay with not fitting. I have finally realized that we can not fit and seek Jesus like crazy and still totally love those around us. I decided to stop focusing on not fitting and just move on. And I did.  And my eyes opened to how much the enemy has tried to keep me in bondage by constantly being discouraged by the fact that I don’t fit or belong.

Duh.  If you are truly seeking Jesus you are not going to fit or belong.

Get over it.

Like, right now.

(I’m talking to myself)

So back to this comma –

Do you know what a comma is?  It’s a punctuation mark used to separate.

Ha.

Separate.  Set apart.  Comma.

I believe I wasn’t supposed to have plans on Saturday evening because I was supposed to meet Colton.  I had the honor of encouraging his sweet little heart – but God also used him to deliver a word to me too.

“Comma.”

A sweet ‘God-nod’ to let me know that He sees me.  He’s near.  He has called me out.  He has separated me and set me apart.

And you too.

As Followers of Jesus we do belong to the Body of Christ – The Global Church.  We are the Bride of Christ and He’s coming back for us. God didn’t separate us by periods so that we’re completely alone – but by commas.  We’re still connected to our brothers and sisters but we’re set apart.

 

We each have different talents, gifts, passions, and works that God created for us before we even existed on earth.  Each of us bring something unique and beautiful to The Body.

Maybe you need to know that you’re a comma too. You’re not an outcast because you don’t belong.  You’re actually right where  you need to be. God specifically designed us for His works and to bring Him glory – only you and Him know what that looks like.

We’re just strangers passing through this earth … commas.

Don’t let your heart be troubled or discouraged.

You are loved, friend.

April Poynter

 

 

Beauty In The Broken Story

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So, some of you may remember last year when I found out, after 30 years of family secrets, about my birth father and then I discovered I had 5 sisters by my birth father as well.

After a year I finally feel ready to share a bit of this story.

I grew up as the middle sister between two brothers.  I longed for sisters.  I never really fit in the girl groups (although I forced myself in by trying to take on their identities so I would fit – but I still felt like an outsider) and I always felt that if I had sisters I wouldn’t strive so hard to be liked by other girls.

When I was a child my grandmother told me my dad (the man my mother was married to) was not my real father.  What does a 5 year old girl do with that?!  I’ll tell you what she does with it:

She gets confused.

She wonders where he is.

She gets excited because she may have sisters out in the world somewhere.

Then she stuffs any emotions or thoughts in regards to this big family secret way down deep.

She moves on.

I grew up with an incredible dad.  My mom got pregnant as a young teen with my older brother and the guy left the state as soon as he found out she was pregnant.  My mom dropped out of high school and took care of her responsibilities – I mean, she had to.  Her mother was an alcoholic who chose men over her.

My mom was the youngest of 6 siblings.  Her father died when she was 4 years old. She saw her mother work multiple jobs, drink and get physically abused by men. To this day my mom still doesn’t talk about fun, happy childhood memories.  I don’t think she has many.

My mom was pregnant with me and had a toddler when she met my dad (he IS my dad.  Other dude is ‘birth father’).  18 years old and this man takes on a woman who has a small child and is pregnant with another.  He was at the hospital when I was born. He wanted me.

Because of my dad, William, I have never felt abandoned by men.  I have never had ‘men issues’.  It was not hard for me to accept my Heavenly Father’s love for me – because my earthly father wanted me from the beginning – even if I was not his blood child.

Now- don’t get me wrong…  go back to when I was 11 – 20 and I would write this a lot different.  My dad was not and is not a man of many words.  He never told me I was beautiful or amazing or funny or smart.  He maybe said ‘I love you’ a handful of times in my younger years. He really never said much of anything.  But I knew he thought those things about me. He didn’t have to tell me.  I just knew for some reason. He was consistent and he was there.

My parents moved us from Oklahoma to Tennessee when I was a baby.  All I know is Tennessee. They moved us away for ‘better opportunity’.  Which I never understood as a kid who lived in Williamson County and lived in a trailer out in the country part of town.

I didn’t see “opportunity”.  I saw us as poor little critters smack dab in the middle of a community we didn’t belong in. My mom was a high school drop out who worked CRAZY hours in a warehouse and my dad worked on cars.

I wanted different parents. A big, nice, brick home.  I wanted to be cool and fit in. I wanted a different life.

I didn’t have a clue.

You see, when you encounter the love of Jesus, He starts working on your heart and mind right away.  I can sit here now and tell you I love my parents more than I ever thought I could love them.

I honor my mother for not aborting me after my birth father left her (shortly after he found out she was pregnant).  Two for two, mom.  That takes strength to keep pressing on.

Some of you mamas know what that feels like!  To have a man walk out on you and leave you with the responsibility that he clearly contributed life to. I can only try to imagine and it hurts my heart deeply.   You are so honorable, ladies.

I honor my dad for taking on a woman with a child and another on the way at 18 years old – with his whole life ahead of him. Who does that?!?  I know some of you dads do – and you are honorable.

See- God makes beauty from ashes.  He’s a creative God and all things are possible through Him.  He can restore and reconcile even the worst relationships. That’s one of His specialities.

At 30 years old, late at night on a call with my mom just chatting about life – The Holy Spirit pressed on my heart to ask my mom about my birth father.  I was terrified to ask her.

Rumors had flowed into my ears just a few times in my life about my birth father but I never paid any attention because I had a dad and didn’t need another one. One day my older brother told me that my mom knew that I knew about my birth father but she was too afraid to have that conversation with me and wasn’t going to tell me unless I asked.

So I stuffed it again.

Until last August. I just came right out and told her that I knew and I wasn’t mad at her.

She shared stories with me about my birth father that left me in tears.  Awful, awful person.  But she also shared that she was certain I had a sister ‘somewhere out there’.

That’s all I need to hear! SISTER!!

Within 72 hours I had not only found a sister but 5 sisters.  I later found out there is actually one more who is a lot younger than the rest of us and she was given up for adoption – no one has any details about her.  So, yeah.  6 sisters.

You can imagine my excitement and joy as I had FINALLY found what I had always longed for – until I actually talked to them and my expectations and excitement crumbled quickly.

I wasn’t really received with open arms except by one.  I can’t say I blame them either.  This was not a fairy tale ending. We are all living our lives. Some of these girls had experienced severe trauma because of this ‘birth father’. One of the sisters would not have anything to do with me.  It wasn’t personal – she had just moved on in her life and how can you receive a ‘sister’ who the only thing you really have in common is a birth father that you’re trying to forget?

I grieved for days. I grieved on behalf of them. The stories that were shared with me will have you bend over in agony. I grieved the sisterhood we never got to have together – that deep bond that is rooted when you’re kids.

In selfishness, I questioned my identity. I felt rejected. I finally found the place I was supposed to fit and I still didn’t fit! How could they not receive and love me!?! I had longed for them my whole life.  And here they were – finally.  I knew their names, I saw their faces via social media. I got to talk with them and see my nieces, nephews, brother-in-laws via social media.

The family I had always longed for was right there.  Literally all 6 of these girls at one point were right here in Tennessee with me and I never knew – but there was a huge wall between us.

And then God asked me to surrender them. I love these girls so much and maybe one day I will meet them face to face – but I want God to navigate that journey and not me. He hasn’t opened that door – and not because I can’t go or they can’t come … but sometimes things are best left where they are. You know?

I don’t say that to sound hateful and girls – if you’re reading this – I pray I’m not offending you. It’s just the truth.

I remember crying in my car in a parking lot one day after finding these girls and The Holy Spirit gently saying to me, “This doesn’t change who you are and it doesn’t change Who I Am.”

I had a choice to make. I could receive them as the blessing they were – right where they were.  Or I could play victim and drag this drama out for years and years.

I went with a grateful heart instead.  The mystery is no more.  I can see each of their faces (out of the 5) as I type this and it makes me smile. I love who they are, right where they are.

Shortly after the family secret came out I went to my parent’s house while my mom was not home and looked at my dad in the face and said “I want you to know that I know about my birth father.”

He was completely caught off guard and in a defensive tone snapped back with, “AND??!”

I sobbed.  I fell into his arms and held him close and said, “AND … it only makes me love you so much more than ever.  Thank you dad for being my father.  For loving me and giving me boundaries. Thank you for protecting me. I always thought you were being hard on me but you gave me structure.  You were always consistent and even if you didn’t tell me how amazing I was all the time – you never called me anything negative. You never spoke death over me. I married such an amazing man because of your example! I can see love through action and not through empty, fluffy words. You never caused me confusion. I love you so much.”

Then my dad, with a soft heart, started sharing things from his own childhood (neither of my parents ever talk about their childhood), how he found his own father dead when he was about 16 years old.  How his father drank and was abusive.  He showed me a scar on his face from where his dad slapped him across the face with a kitchen plate when he was a small boy.  How he had to grow up fast.

My love for my parents grew so deep that day.

How often I wanted a different life.  How often I didn’t see the whole picture. When all along my parents were doing the best they could with what they had.

Hurt moms usually create hurt daughters – even when they don’t want to.  Years of emotional abuse and codependency was healed YEARS ago when I forgave my mother… when I stopped holding things over her head and being a victim from my childhood.  When I traded hate for love.  When I stopped expecting apologies and just laid the pain down over and over and over again until God took it away! When I realized that my mom didn’t get to hinder my purpose or predict my destiny – ONLY Father God could do that!

Then I saw her through the eyes of love and my heart broke and I couldn’t help but just lavish love on her. Writing this tonight my heart is spewing with love as tears stream down my face.  I’m crying because I know God performed a miracle between me and my mom.  He is still the God of miracles.  He is not out of them.  He didn’t run out when the scriptures were completed.

No. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever and he’s loaded with miracles – if only we would be willing to lay down our own pride, our victim mentality, and seek God for those miracles, I believe we would see them all over – unexplainable and giving God all the glory.  I believe many would come to Christ because they would see this change in our hearts and in our words and actions and know that the Spirit of God came and released a miracle.

There would be no other explanation.

I don’t have any other explanation.

But God.

Don’t you see He is using our stories? Our battered stories don’t get to define us.  They don’t get that power in our lives.

We take those broken stories.  We lay them down in surrender to Jesus.  We trade our lives for His.  We stand on those broken pieces and say – “HEY! Look over here!  Look at this mess that was made.  This broken hot mess was my story BUT GOD showed up and redeemed me from the pit REGARDLESS of how broken my story may be.  AND guess what??!!? My story is not over.  The best is yet to come because I allowed Jesus to come in and restore my broken heart. He shines through this jar of clay so that you can see Him and not me!

Conceived out of wedlock from a drunken ‘fun time’, while in the womb my birth father left me.  No ‘father’s’ name on my birth certificate.  Codependent.  Sexually abused. No identity. A gossiper. A slanderer. A girl who would make really close friends and then break their hearts so that I could hurt them before they could hurt me AND it felt good to see them cry over me. My goal was to crush them so I could feel loved by women – the love I longed for from my mother.  It made me feel validated!

A girl who would physically fight others because if people feared me – they liked me. A girl who went on a sexual sin rampage for 4 months of my life as a young adult because I was finally free to live my life the way I wanted and hey – the show Sex In The City made it look so fun! A girl who cried out to God to not let her be pregnant and it seemed as though the only time she actually turned to Jesus. A girl who stole, who lied, who pretended for the majority of her life -full of shame and guilt and anguish and so much more.”

THAT WAS ME!

I’m standing on all those pieces saying- LOOK!  Hot mess express on a chef salad!

Look at it! It’s filthy! Disgusting! Gross!

I’m not that mess though. I am a child of God.  Look at how He’s pulled me away from all that mess.  Look what He did in my life and He’ll do it in yours too!!!!!

He came to give you abundant life – right here, right now. Not just in eternity.  Abundant life is NOW through Christ Jesus. Right now, today.

Too messy?  Good! I see you standing on a pile of rubble.  It’s your mess – it’s not you.  You are standing on it and you are taking back your freedom.  You are stepping into the life you were created to live – for God’s glory.

He’s going to receive the glory that comes from your testimony.

Who do you need to forgive?

Who do you need to release?

What is it in your heart that God has been tugging at recently – even today – and you keep resisting?

He’s calling you sister. He wants to take that burden – right now. Stop holding on to it.

You’re grieving in the inside because you were made for more and you know it.

You’ve got one foot in seeking Christ and the other in the pain of your past.  You can’t serve two masters.  One will win.  God is a jealous God. He wants your whole heart.

The mess is not in you anymore – it’s under your feet.  Today you walk away in freedom.  You don’t have to know how … you just need to know Who … and His name is Jesus.

Father,

In the name of Jesus, I pray for whoever is reading this right now.  You know their inner being. You see all of their days from start to finish.  It’s not too late for them.  That lie in their mind that ‘it’s too late’, ‘you’re too old’, ‘you’ve done too much’ – In the name of Jesus, I bind that lie and silence the enemy.  That lie will no longer have ahold of your daughter.

God, I thank you that you’re going to use her for your glory even though she doesn’t see it or feel it right now. That’s what makes this journey with you so awesome!  We don’t get to predict it or map it out – but even in the unknown it’s always a plan of good – even when it doesn’t feel good.

Father, may your daughter go in peace.  Right now would peace from Heaven rain down on her.  Freak her out with your peace ;o). I pray she would physically feel something from you.

I see her holding your hand. She doesn’t really know you or know if she trusts you – but in faith, she’s reaching out to hold your hand even if it looks crazy.

Guide her and direct her.  Stir up a hunger for your Word in her heart.  Make it very clear when lies are coming at her thoughts.  Thank you God for restoring your daughter’s heart right now as she seeks you and surrenders to you.  I pray she would begin to see Your love for her like she’s never seen or understood it before.

Thank you, God.

In Jesus’ healing name –

Amen.

Sister – you are loved dearly.  God sees you. He loves you so much. Go in peace.

April

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fully

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You guys!!!!!!

The other day I posted a live video on Facebook to share a word that I felt the Lord had given me in the midst of insecurity and ‘all eyes on me’ types of moments. The word was : “Bring fully you and step into fully Me.”

God was saying bring it all to Him. All of who we are, who we’re not, where we struggle, where we doubt, where we feel inferior or not good enough or that we don’t fit – all that … The areas that are still broken, the struggles, the fear … bring it to Him and His love will FULLY encompass us and we’ll be able to move freely in worship (which is not just the beginning of a church service where we sing songs but the way we live our lives).

I thought the word choice, ‘fully’ was interesting. As a writer, it doesn’t flow well in the request and as much as I want to say God said ‘Bring yourself wholly and place it wholly in me’, that’s not what He said. He specifically said ‘fully’.

Wholly means: entirely; fully

Fully means: completely or entirely; to the furthest extent.

Wow. Even his word choice is better than our own.

I have always had a love for Grace Chapel after spending 7 years there while God allowed my world to crumble and then through Pastor Steve Berger’s teaching and many other lovely saints there, put me back together and launched me out.

This video came across my news feed and I just bawled.

My friends, Followers of Jesus, THIS is what it looks like when you bring fully you and place it into fully Him.

What a beautiful sight. Oh, that we would let go and let our weaknesses collide with God’s greatness.

Fully.

See the video from Grace Chapel below:

You are loved so much!

April

 

 

You’re A Weirdo. This Is Why.

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So – Jesus called me a weirdo.

I know Biblically I could cause an argument right now.  But He didn’t call me a weirdo in a bad way.  He called me a weirdo in a joking way.

It made me laugh.

He makes me laugh.

He knows my heart.

He gets my sense of humor … He created it.

And yours.

I posted a Facebook Live video the other day in regards to bringing all of you and placing it into Jesus – ‘bringing fully you and placing it into fully Him’ specifically.

That day I was wrestling.  The day was great, my outlook was great, and as I entered my daughter’s 3rd grade orientation at her school and ‘out of nowhere’ I kept hearing in my mind “You don’t belong, you don’t fit.”

This is one of the enemy’s oldest lies that he uses on me.  It has worked for years to shut me down by making me feel insecure, inferior, and lonely.

But on this particular day that I mentioned above – the voice wasn’t so much ‘inside’ my head.  It was more outside of me.  I know that may not make sense but basically it was VERY clear that it was a lie.

I mean, I’ve known it’s a lie for a long time but this time it didn’t feel apart of me anymore.

I counteracted the lie by saying out loud with an attitude and boldness  (like a crazy person walking through the halls) “I do belong here.  I do fit.  My daughter, a student, goes to this school and I am her parent.  Parent / Student Orientation.”  Then I entered the classroom.

In the car on the way home that evening I was in that place where you feel you’re on the verge of breakthrough with God (and not that I was struggling or anything – I was just wrestling in my spirit over a new season that I know God is calling me to).

I didn’t have words so I just burst into tears and cried out to God, screaming my head off and proclaiming truth and prophesying over myself and my life and thanking Him for Who He is and all He’s done and all He’s doing.

Then my mouth and spirit were silent.  I felt peace as I pulled off to a parking lot and just sat there in the stillness and attempted to clean the mascara marks off of my face.

I gathered myself and went to a gas station to put gas in my husband’s car (which I didn’t really feel like doing but he asked me if I would – so I did).  So many things went wrong while I was at the gas station.  I knew they were going wrong but I didn’t really pay much attention.

The pumps were full so I had to wait until someone else finished but once they did I pulled up and began pumping gas.  My heart and mind were so focused on Jesus in the moment and I realized my foot was getting wet.  I looked down and saw gas was coming from the back part of the gas pump handle.

I released the metal on the handle that makes it automatically pump and then squeezed it tighter and opened the metal piece again and the gas stopped spilling out of the back part where the hose meets the handle.  I let the gas continue to pump as I continued to focus on Jesus.

Right then The Holy Spirit said to me – “Have you noticed everything that has gone wrong while you are attempting to get gas?”

I answered, “Ha! Yeah.”

He said, “It hasn’t even phased you.”

I responded with, “Hm. You’re right. It hasn’t.”

He said, “And you didn’t even want to be here getting gas because you’re tired and just wanted to go home but out of an act of kindness and service to Tony you came over here without grumbling or complaining.”

“Yeah, I guess.”  I said.

Then He said, “That gas was spilling on your foot and although you realized it was happening you weren’t thrown off by it because we have been standing here in communion this whole time.

Plus, you already know that the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy.  You know that your flesh and spirit are in conflict with one another.  You know that the enemy is going to try to distract and frustrate you – you’re past that.  He’s there, he exists, he’s the father of lies – moving on.

April, life happens.  Things go wrong. Things don’t work out according to plan sometimes. People disappoint. Relationships get bruised. My calling on your life may freak you out a little – but all you have to do is keep your focus on me.  That’s it.”

You guys! Tears started streaming and relief came over me and I’m not even kidding you the puddle from where the gas spilled was gone and my foot was dry.

Now I know that it was a hot night and the gas could evaporate BUT … I didn’t even smell like gas.  At all.  It was as if the gas spill never happened.

What the?!?!?  Come on, y’all.

I finished at the gas station, pulled over in an isolated place and ….  cried.  A good cry.

As I sat there The Spirit started to speak so clearly to me and take me back to things in my childhood.  Awesome things.

“April, you were a young child with the fire of God in your belly and you didn’t even know me yet. Remember when you used to have ‘God parties’ and you would get two cups of water and bring them to your little table in your room and invite me to drink water and hang out with you? [*Sidenote* I TOTALLY did that! lol!  Don’t know why, didn’t grow up in church or hearing about God like that … I just did this random God Party … a lot!]

Remember when you were afraid and you would ask me to hold your hand and we would snuggle at night?  Remember when you were in elementary school and you would save me a seat at lunch?” [*Sidenote* I TOTALLY did this too! I would literally tell people they couldn’t sit beside me because Jesus was sitting there. What?!]

Then he continued,

“To some degree you are always gonna [*sidenote* Jesus says ‘gonna’ *End sidenote*] feel like you don’t belong. I mean, you used to save me a seat a lunch, you weirdo!  But don’t be discouraged.  This is why being connected with the local church and the global church, The Body, is so important.  They are weirdos too.  You belong with them and you belong overall.”

I was so encouraged and laughed so hard.  I’m like, “Jesus – did you just call me a weirdo?!”  LOL!

So anyway – all that to say, I found the picture above from a while back.  That’s my son jumping off the slide.  One of his teachers sent it to me last winter.

The timing of this picture was interesting.  I opened it and started cracking up.  The children are in community and they’re grouped together – but my boy – my little weirdo is jumping off the slide … not sliding … but jumping.  Look at the joy on his face.

God created each one of us in a very unique, weird way.  It’s not by accident that you might feel out of place in certain areas.  The main place the enemy is attacking you is most likely the main place God wants to use you.

If Satan can keep you tied up and insecure in that area – then he’ll render you useless in what God is calling you to.  AND you know God is calling you to it.  You may not know all the details or how it’s going to happen but it is never our place to know the details of ‘how’, it’s our job to move in obedience and watch God orchestrate the ‘how’.

Do you have that fire in your belly too?  I believe you do. I know I’m not in this alone.

I’m here to tell you, just as the scripture says, when we seek him with all our hearts – we’ll find him.

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:12-13

Revival is coming, y’all.  God is moving in mighty ways – right here, right now.  You need to be apart of this.  You have something in you that needs to get out.  We need it.  I need it.  We’re not complete as the Body of Christ without it. 

Maybe that ‘weird’ thing you run from is actually the reason you were created – to carry that thing and somehow reveal God’s glory through it??!!?!?

My son, Sway, inspires me so much.  I look at him and see boldness.  He’s gentle and sweet but he makes up his mind easily and he doesn’t think twice.  He doesn’t second guess, he doesn’t doubt himself, he’s had lies proclaimed over his life but never knew about them – never heard them – never believed them – never operated  (or shut down) under them.

A clear picture of what The Holy Spirit was telling me at the gas pump – Yes, Satan exists.  We know he’s there spewing lies constantly BUT we’re moving on.  We can choose not to hear them, believe them, operate under them, and shut down because of them.  Let’s not put too much focus on the lies of the enemy and instead keep our time, energy, focus on the Truth that sets us free.

You don’t have to carry the lies that have been spoken over you either. You want to jump off the slide?  Jump!  Who cares if others seem to have it altogether and you don’t?  Who cares if it looks weird?  Who cares if it will make people stare, or judge, or talk …. guess what?  They’re gonna talk whether you do it or don’t do it – SO DO IT!

This passion comes from such a deep place in my heart.  It overflows because I have seen and SEE how God can take a freakin’ hot mess express like myself and make beauty out of it.  Even when it’s hard to see sometimes – I know what He has done.  I can’t take any credit for it.

My desire is that you would know him in a way that’s not dead religion, or a bunch of rules and expectations you can never live up to, or based off of what Granny and ‘nem told you about Jesus (unless they told you the Truth about how his greatest desire is to LOVE YOU and you don’t have to do anything to EARN that love).

I pray that you would have a life altering encounter with Jesus that would leave you wrecked (in the best way ever).  That would have you walking through elementary school halls talking to ‘yourself’ (rebuking the Devil).  That would have you spilling gas on your foot and yet it never touched you and then you write about it – as if that’s not weird.

We are weird.  We’re gonna be weird.  Jesus was weird when he walked this earth too.

Weird is the way to go, folks.

Gosh, I love Jesus and I love you – you weirdo.

Deeply,

April

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“You Suck At Community”

crying-friends

I’ve been thinking a lot lately.  That can be dangerous.  Just kidding, well – me thinking a lot can be dangerous but … I wouldn’t say this is so much thinking as it is The Holy Spirit stirring something up inside of me.

This week it hit me like a ton of bricks;

I suck at community.

I try not to give life to negativity or speak out of my mouth (or hands – through writing) anything that goes against what The Father says about me.  But I just kept feeling in my heart “You suck at community.”

Now, I’m not saying Jesus said that to me.  He didn’t.  I think He has stirred some stuff up and “you suck at community” is what came to the surface – my thoughts about myself, not his thoughts … however, a little bit of conviction came along with that stirring.  So let me stop rambling and jump right in.

One of my deepest desires has always been to be surrounded by a group of girls who love Jesus, love me, and love each other.  To have community with healthy individuals who know who they are in Christ and cheer their sisters on instead of look for reasons to chop them down – that’s one of my deepest desires.

When I started walking with Jesus 11 years ago I soooo wanted this type of community that I tried to fabricate it among the group of friends that I already had.  They weren’t terrible people but they didn’t quite fit the mold of what I was looking for. So I tried to control them and create them the way I thought they should be.

I tried to make them more holy.  I tried to preach to them and make them desire more of God so they  could in return be more of what I needed them to be –  **Blank Stare**  Yeah, because that’s what God truly wants for his children.

Forgive me.  Please.  It’s no secret that I have been and can be a HOT. MESS.  I’m just keepin’ it real here.

I would go to church and seek out groups that I wanted to be apart of, try to force friendships, and then get upset when they didn’t turn out to be who I needed them to be as well.

Throughout my 11 years of walking with Jesus I have learned that He truly is (TRULY) full of mercy and grace. He let me roam this earth, chasing after him and just being a sloppy hot mess wherever I went.

I didn’t know.  I really didn’t.

I was judgmental.  I put extreme pressure on people to make them do better and be better. In Jesus’ name of course.

I meant well.

I had experienced such a life altering encounter with Jesus and I wanted everyone to know about it, encounter Jesus because I told them to, and then be radically changed forever – oh, and be an incredible friend to me as well.

Well – my approach didn’t work.

It actually blew up.  In my face.  Hard.

After suffering through a year of anxiety and depression with constant panic attacks in 2011, let’s just say The Lord rewired my heart and mind and allowed me a chance to start over with fresh revelation and a humble heart.

After 2011 – walking through ‘life or death’ day by day, The Lord helped me to eliminate my unhealthy desire for friendship and the heavy expectations that I set up for people (which were so heavy they were destined to fail as my friend).  As God helped me to start over I began to unknowingly set up guard rails and fences all around my heart for protection.

I figured if I kept people at a safe distance I would never have to worry about destroying the relationship or them disappointing me – and we could be cool and nice and carry on with our lives as sisters in Christ.  Safe. Predictable. Good.

I have done this for many years.  Even my closest and most trusted friends don’t have access to my whole heart.  I thought they did but as God stirred my spirit this week He showed me that they don’t have that access.  I keep them at a distance.

When people are hurting I don’t know how to serve them.  I want to.  I think about them constantly, cry with and for them, and pray like crazy for them – but  I have no clue what to do for them.

I play it safe with ‘Hey, if you need me LET ME KNOW’.  If they were to ask I’d be there in a heartbeat but let’s be honest – how often, during terrible times, do people actually reach out for help?  They don’t know how to ask for help because they don’t know what they need.  They just need us to do something and do it however God prompts us to do it.

My best friend was at my house the other day and as we were talking I remembered that she had bronchitis over the past couple of months.  I asked her was she feeling better and inquired about her life since we had last spoken (she’s not much of a texter / social media chick so you have to invest in some old school time with her to know what’s going on).

When she was sick I did not stop by her house to serve her.  I didn’t check in much to see how she was.  I could have loaded her dishwasher and straightened up her kitchen.  I could have brought her dinner. I could have watched her child for a couple of hours while she rested.  I could have sent her flowers or a card or a note telling her I love her, miss her, and am praying for her.  But instead I did nothing. Because if she really needed me she would let me know.

Tonight my heart is breaking because earlier this year I had bronchitis and it was hell. This same friend dropped a pot roast dinner on my door step one night while I was going through this terrible sickness and messaged me to check in numerous times.  And I’m realizing that while she was ill I pulled the safe card “let me know if you need anything” and carried on with my life.

She’s my best friend.

Come on now.

That’s unacceptable.

So this week – after moving and then being on ‘staycation’ and skipping out on church a couple of weeks due to preparation for the move and the move itself I started to feel that longing for community again.

I realized that this is a pattern in my life.  It’s one that shows up as a true longing but then the enemy uses my past to try to punch me in the forehead.  It’s a cycle.  It happens every now and then and I battle with Truth and carry on.

But this time was different.

Instead of engaging in warfare I didn’t give the enemy any time or energy and just went straight to Jesus and said, “What am I missing here? There is something going on in my life with community and consistency and I need your help to straighten this out. Help me identify what’s going on so we can move forward from this mountain.”

My friends – God listens and He answers.

So my heart starts stirring. My flesh starts to wrestle.  “You suck at community” wells up.  Then God’s gentleness shows up with conviction. Not judgement.  Not condemnation.

I cry.  I repent. I receive forgiveness from God. I forgive myself. My eyes are opened and I’m prompted into action by The Holy Spirit.

So why am I writing all this and sharing all this super vulnerable (even for me), embarrassing (even for me) stuff?

Because.  Because we were not made to be alone.  We were made to serve God and walk in community.  Even when it gets messy and people get on our nerves and we blow it and we get it wrong.

We were made for community even when we speak out of term and we are having a bad attitude and we say something about a sister that we really don’t mean – and we may need to apologize and experience the pain of hurting another person and face the reality that we are not perfect.

You can set up as many fences and vaults that you want around your heart and yeah, you keep bad stuff out but you keep good stuff from coming in.  You’ll stand on the outskirts of life in community and long for a taste of sisterhood.

Social media won’t fulfill that longing.  It will curve the appetite but it won’t fulfill the craving.

We, as believers, are The Body of Christ.  We are to be seeking God and holding steady TOGETHER.  You should not crave community more than you crave Jesus.  This is where I got it wrong in my early walk with The Lord.  I thought if I just had good Christian girlfriends then I would be closer to Jesus.

No. You get close to Jesus because you desire to be close to Jesus.  Seek Him first.   Matthew 6:33 says “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

You don’t have to manufacture friendships and control people and even if you do – it will never satisfy.  You’ll go through the motions but you’ll never be satisfied.

I always thought if I could just love God and love people from the distance then that would be enough … but it’s not enough.  It’s grieving the Spirit within me.

In Matthew 22:36-40, one of the Pharisees, an expert in Religious Law tried to trap Jesus by asking Him what was the most important commandment in the Law of Moses and check out Jesus’ response in verses 37 -40:

“37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Jesus didn’t tell us to love God with everything we have and then love everyone else only if its safe.  He said to love your neighbor as yourself.

Wow, you guys.  I have a lot to learn and I really feel I’m headed in the right direction to get down from this mountain of isolation and safety.

I really do want Jesus to lead me where my trust is without borders.  I don’t just sing that song (Oceans) because it’s a pretty song.  I mean it when I sing those words to The Spirit.

He is a good, good Father.  It’s taken me 11 years in my Christian walk to receive this revelation that I’m sharing with you tonight.  He is truly our Helper and our Peace.

I don’t suck at community. I’ve just been deceived for many years by the enemy.  He gets no credit – God has used those years to prepare my heart for loving people deeply and authentically even if it causes deep pain and rejection.  God gets the credit.

I bind and break any deception that the enemy has wrapped around my mind, In Jesus’ name.  I am not in agreement that I suck at community – I’ve just been a little off course.  God has a plan for my life and I play an important role in The Body of Christ along side my sisters and brothers who play very important roles as well.  I am not going to always get this right and that’s the beauty of our weakness colliding with God’s greatness.

What about you? Have you come into agreement with lies that the enemy has spoken over you?  No more!  You’re no longer walking under that deception.  In Jesus’ name I break the lies that have been spoken over the person reading this blog.  I bind the work of the enemy in the thoughts that they have chosen to think and believe.  Father- would you breathe fresh breath into their lungs and help them to exhale every burden that they have been carrying on their own. From this moment on they will see their worth.  They will be able to clearly identify the lies that come at them and combat those lies with Truth.  Thank you God that they don’t have to figure it all out today or ever – they just have to simply come to you and surrender.  Give them peace and let them recognize Your great love for them right now in this moment.

In Jesus’ Mighty Name –  AMEN!

You are loved by God, my friend.  AND you are loved by me.  Like, for real.

April