Winter School

I had the privilege of attending Winter School at Hillsong NYC last week and have tons of great notes and thoughts from Robert and Amanda Ferguson who teach out in Sydney Australia.

One of the things I didn’t account for was on the final night, Robert Ferguson calling on the Holy Spirit.

Now you’re either thinking one of two things:

  1. It’s church, isn’t the Holy Spirit always there?
  2. Oh here we go, this is a charismatic, Assemblies of God thing.

Now let’s be real here. As a Christian I think I’m fairly good when it comes to the Holy Spirit. I like when the Holy Spirit is happy inside of me even when I want to feel sorry for myself some days. I like when the Holy Spirit helps me recall good verses in the Bible at random. I like the Holy Spirit how I like coffee..I’m not a big drinker but I appreciate it every now and then.

When it comes to the Holy Spirit though, for me, it’s really easy to get freaked out.

I feel like I told this story before, so if you have heard it bear with me. I don’t remember how old I was. Younger than 3rd grade I would guess, so about 7 or 8 at the oldest. And I remember that my aunt and uncle were in town visiting. At the time my parents were separated and I remember sitting on the couch in the living room with them, while my mom ran an errand or was outside for some reason. And I remember them trying very hard to teach me how to speak in tongues. I remember as a small child being really confused and almost embarrassed that this was happening. I didn’t get what was happening and I felt like I was disappointing my aunt and uncle somehow by not being able to speak how they spoke.

So that’s my first memory.

Fast forward to about four or five years ago, when I had my next really odd experience with what I still can’t be sure was the Holy Spirit at a gathering outside of my church. I remember being in a dark place, feeling depressed, and raising my hand for prayer. Long story short, I felt this really weird hot dripping egg yoke falling all over my body from my shoulders where strangers’ hands were laid on me to my toes. Once it was over I felt like my entire body was on fire, and sick to my stomach. So sick in fact that I had to leave the gathering before the sermon even started and proceeded to spew my insides all the way to the station where I thought I would be able to take the bus home.

Yay?

So needless to say I still have a hard time with “the Spirit” and “tongues” and all that.

I simultaneously want God to do His thing with the Spirit and am actually scared of what that will feel like.

So I’m at Winter School and Robert is closing the final night in prayer and he prays for the Holy Spirit to come and basically descend on us.

Now it might seem odd to you since hey, I’m a Christian so I should be okay with this, but I start to get sweaty and panicky. I start to think am I going to spew everywhere once it comes? Will I just start babbling? Will I be slain in the Spirit like they show on TV?

Haha. Anyone else?

I recorded both days in the sermon so I don’t remember at what point it hit me, but all of a sudden. Boom.

I kid you not it felt like someone shot me in the heart with a paintball pellet. Like actually it felt like I was hit with something but then it dispersed. Like it cracked open once it hit me. Like a snowball that whacks you in the chest for a second but then falls apart and spreads out.

I don’t know what that means.

It’s not like I started speaking another language or anything at all. I just sort of paused, expecting something weird to happen, but nothing did. Except the feeling that the Holy Spirit punched me in the heart.

I look forward to kind of, figuring out what all of this means in my life. Do you guys have any interesting stories? Am I the only one that is still sort of….anxious about this whole thing? If not, be of good cheer, I’m still sort of bashful about this whole thing too.

 

The Life I See

As I was drifting off to bed last night after a long work day I had two thoughts:

 

  1. I’m missing my #100daycreativechallenge post
  2. I’m feeling delusionally inspired to write a mini manifesto for the life I want

 

I’m equally tired and delirious tonight but not only do I want to write my life manifesto but I also owe myself and the creative challenge a post for today.

 

So here’s what I will write for The Life I see:

I see a life that is filled with laughter and purpose

I see a life that contains a family fully focused on Jesus and His kingdom

I see a life with a family of sons and daughters

I see a life with a  family of adopted sons and daughters

I see a life of writing adventures inspired by God’s faithfulness

I see a life that includes people who are not included

I see a life that is filled with unexpected generosity

I see a life that has a home where anyone is welcome to stay

I see a life that contains travel and conferences and speaking engagements

I see a life that is ever focused on drawing closer to God

I see a life that never forgets its purpose

 

Tuesday Inspiration 6.9.15

Found on madbeephoto.com

Life can be exhausting—even in good ways. I am happy in my job, with my blog, in my church, etc but you can also tire out. Just because things are good doesn’t mean they can’t be hard. Work-life balance is challenging at the moment for me and I feel like I have been drifting away from my regular posting which I refuse to do. I just need to refocus, maybe wake up earlier, write tired, all of those things. But on a practical note I want to encourage you all with the following points I’ve read in Scripture this week.

If you feel exhausted remind yourself that:

1. David felt too young, too under-qualified for his job (1 Kings 3:7 MSG) but God used him mightily.

2. Sometimes you just need to give something up. It might be down-time reading a book or watching that show on Netflix but sometimes you need to give something to get something. In Job 37:14 it says “Pause a moment, and listen; consider the wonderful things God does.”

3. Evaluate if the things you are doing are actually beneficial to your life. Sure, you might be taking photos for a hobby, but if that’s at the expense of your true calling maybe you need to take photos less and grow your real gifts/calling. Hebrews 12:1 says “Let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back…and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us”. Meaning sure. There are plenty of things I wish I had time to explore i.e. dancing, art, learning guitar or drums, etc. But ultimately I know these are just time-wasters for my own journey. I need to be focusing on writing, speaking, leading, encouraging, and all of the things I have a passion for and know God created me for. I need to be prioritizing my gifts and not squandering them in pursuit of things that aren’t mine to carry. In other words as far as I can tell, I’m not meant to be a worship leader, or a dancer, I can enjoy those things, or appreciate people who do those things, but I need to be a good steward of my time and resources for the particular calling I have. And let those with the dance or worship calling carry that out.

So beautiful girl reading this..handsome boy, we can do hard things. We were created to do hard things. We were created to carry our own creative crosses and walk out the missions we are given. Sure, in a face-paced creative world, do we all sometimes feel that we need to improve our Instagram game? Or sign up for Snapchat or learn how to play that instrument that everyone seems to be playing on YouTube? Yeah, but ultimately we’re not all meant to be that triple-threat where we can do it all. The Trinity is my triple threat. I just have to play my small part. And so do you.

Much love,

Jess

Tuesday Inspiration 1.13.15

Ezekiel 34:11-16 MSG “‘God, the Master, says: From now on, I myself am the shepherd. I’m going looking for them. As shepherds go after their flocks when they get scattered, I’m going after my sheep. I’ll rescue them from all the places they’ve been scattered to in the storms. I’ll bring them back from foreign peoples, gather them from foreign countries, and bring them back to their home country. I’ll feed them on the mountains of Israel, along the streams, among their own people. I’ll lead them into lush pasture so they can roam the mountain pastures of Israel, graze at leisure, feed in the rich pastures on the mountains of Israel. And I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep. I myself will make sure they get plenty of rest. I’ll go after the lost, I’ll collect the strays, I’ll doctor the injured, I’ll build up the weak ones and oversee the strong ones so they’re not exploited.

I love poetry. I love beautifully written words. When I saw this quote a few weeks ago I pinned it immediately. So often we can see storms and think they are only there to rip us apart, to cause destruction and damage. This small quote reminds me that no matter what the storm can wash us clean. It can soften our rough edges. The ocean waves that crash around us can heal our infected wounds with its salt water. The harsh winds can blow us in a direction we wouldn’t have wandered to on our own. The cyclones can uproot what has been planted in bad soil and force us to replant in better land. You see what I mean?

Job 37: 14-18 MSG...are you listening? Have you noticed all this? Stop in your tracks! Take in God’s miracle-wonders! Do you have any idea how God does it all, how he makes bright lightning from dark storms, How he piles up the cumulus clouds— all these miracle-wonders of a perfect Mind?

I love this verse because it reinforces the idea of our perspective in storms vs. God’s. We see a dark storm. He sees bright lightening. Light in the darkness. One of my favorite quotes in literature is about water. While I don’t attribute power or authority to the elements of the world, I do think the message within it is worth investigating:

“I can see you have a great deal of water in your personality. Water never waits. It changes shape and flows around things, and finds the secret paths no one else has thought about — the tiny hole through the roof or the bottom of the box. There’s no doubt it’s the most versatile of the five elements. It can wash away earth; it can put out fire; it can wear a piece of metal down and sweep it away. Even wood, which is its natural complement, can’t survive without being nurtured by water. And yet, you haven’t drawn on those strengths in living your life, have you?” – Memoirs of  A Geisha

In other words, God formed us. The same God who can control all of nature and its storms created us. If we are made in His image than we have the same ability to control these storms–to be undaunted by these storms. I desire to be fluid like water. “To change shape and flow around things, and find the secret paths no one else has thought about — the tiny hole through the roof or the bottom of the box.” In other words to get through obstacles that no one sees a way out of. We are able to do this as children of God–not in our power but His.

Source undefined. Found on Pinterest.com

Monday Inspiration 1.5.15

Sometimes life can be hard. You want things to work out; you want a job, a spouse, salvation for a loved one, to be cured of an illness, whatever it might be. And often times it’s very hard when tragedy strikes or prayers go unanswered. I love this simple scripture because it puts everything into perspective. This life is fleeting..our life in Christ is eternal. Our God is greater. We can be stronger to face the days ahead when we remember this.

Photo credit: Flickr.com

Friday Inspiration 1.2.15

I’m not feeling well. I’ve had a minor cold the past few weeks and yesterday I spent all day sneezing. Over and over and over. So I hope this post makes sense today! Keep me in your prayers.

It’s officially 2015. I am expectant that many people’s prayers will be answered this year and that many people will come to know Jesus as their savior. I want to continue to be generous with my life, time, and money.

Some steps I’ve taken this year are: sponsoring a child, donating to various efforts like sex trafficking and child hunger, and trying to tithe more consistently.

Acts 20:35 ESV:

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Proverbs 11:24-25 ESV:

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 ESV:

“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”

What are some steps you can take to be more generous with your life, time, or finances? I challenge myself and whoever is reading this to make 2015 the start of more generous living.

Be blessed.

Be Free

I found this organization after reading a Buzzfeed article. I think it’s a wonderful idea. So often when it comes to New Year’s, we become consumed with what we can do personally to improve our own lives. However, I want to continue to find creative ways to help people. This could be as simple as deciding to buy jewelry or a handbag from this company, sponsoring a child, or donating to a local cause. Mirriam-Webster defines a “resolution” as:

res·o·lu·tion

noun \ˌre-zə-ˈlü-shən\

: the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc. : the act of resolving something

: an answer or solution to something

Since when did a New Year’s resolution become something as shallow as working out more, traveling, treat yourself more, or any of these somewhat trivial things? I encourage us all to become people who challenge ourselves with each new year. What are we doing to improve as Christ-followers? What are we doing to make an impact? What are we doing to improve the lives of others? What are we doing that has lasting success and not just temporary satisfaction?

I think these are worthy challenges and worthy New Year’s resolutions. Challenge yourself to do something more this year…I plan to.

Happy New Year.

Works-in-Progress

I had a situation from my past come up yesterday. While I dealt with it better than I would have previously there were still some missteps that I immediately confided in God about. Unlike in the past where I would allow the Enemy to torment me for not doing things a certain way–I gave it to God and weighed the victories and losses. Today’s blog post comes from the current state of my heart and I hope it encourages you.

It’s still hard for me to really fathom God’s love. I think this is the case for all Christians if you’re really and truly honest enough with yourself. We know our pasts, our current struggles, our bad thoughts, our temptations, whatever they might be. And because we are humans and somewhat obsessed with comparison, we can often wonder why God even bothers with us. I want so badly to be pleasing to God, but I think this can often manifest in unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves or what we might have grown up hearing in church. We are not Jesus. Just because we’re Christians and covered by His blood and adopted into eternal salvation, doesn’t mean we are going to make the cut all the time. We are a living oxymoron. We are still human, broken-vessels and in essence Jesus’s blood spilled on the cross simultaneously poured into our lives to cover our brokenness and also made it possible for us to be formed into a new vessel. I think the church for a long time has failed to really explain how this works. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the church expects you to poof into a brand new creation. Salvation isn’t a microwave. A lot of the time it’s a slow-cooker. Sure you can be 100% saved but that doesn’t mean that doesn’t take a life-time to walk out.

I remember being so mad one time a year or so ago when I watched a televangelist scolding a man who asked for prayer because though a Christian who asked Jesus into His heart, he still struggled with alcohol. I think it’s a sad thing when instead of reminding people that we are all carrying our crosses daily, and that we will all fall short of perfection until we reach Heaven, that we often become the mouthpiece of the Devil. Harsh? But true. The Enemy is the King of guilt and shame. I’m not saying wrongdoings aren’t wrongdoings but we are all stumbling through life. We are covered in grace on one hand but we are like infants learning how to walk at the same time. Luckily God is merciful and instead of becoming fed up with humanity as we read so many times in the Old Testament–He brought the final act of generosity which was to send His son. To teach grace and forgiveness. To tenderly guide us, to show us the way, to show that while we fall short, He never will. A simple Google search showed me this passage which I thought was very well said:

In Colossians: 3:12-13


, God instructs us on how to deal with each other as he deals with us: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another…” Stan did that for me. I became one of the best cutters the company ever had. There was nothing I would not do for my boss. I continued to work for him until they closed the plant. I was one of the last employees out of 200 to be laid off when the plant closed several years later.

God deals with you and me the same way Stan dealt with me. God invests a lot of time in us and is not ready to wipe us out because of our mistakes. Instead, He encourages us not to quit.

So the next time you or someone you know makes a mistake, be gentle, kind and encouraging. Look for ways to solve the problem and don’t quit! Treat others the way you would want to be treated if you were the one who goofed. Look beyond the mistakes in yourself and in others and see the potential. We will all say the words, “Oops, I made a mistake,” many times before we reach our full potential. But keep trying. Keep learning. Keep forgiving. We can all be in God’s Kingdom some day in spite of our mistakes. [http://www.ucg.org/christian-living/oops-i-made-mistake/]

I think that’s beautiful. In no way am I saying deliberately take advantage of God’s grace and do whatever you want, but I think we need to stop listening to the voice of the Devil and even the condemnation heaped on us by other Christians and remember that God’s voice is the only one that matters. God is not shocked by our mistakes. He is not stomping His feet and throwing tantrums in Heaven. Luckily He knows who we are growing to be, and since He exists outside of time, He does not grow weary of the journey we are on to get there.

God I thank you for Jesus. I thank you for your love and kindness towards me when I know I do not deserve it. In the grand scheme of things I am not special. I am not that great and yet you still remind me that You created me on purpose. I am not a disappointment to You and I am not an accident that You made in Heaven. God, help me to see my mistakes in life as bumps in the road. I can trip but I do not have to fall and never get up. Thank you God that You see me in my final stage and therefore nothing I have done, am doing, or will do in the future will ever take that fulfillment away from me. Because of Jesus I am sealed. Because of my humanity I will fall short. Teach me to fail less but also help me to forgive myself more. We are all a beautiful mess made perfect by You. Amen.

Found on dailyletterings.tumblr.com

ANOMALY

“We are infinite. Made for one another. Made for love. We are undone by our own humanity. By moments of nearness. But we break with distance when we are alone. It gets so dark we almost wish it was never light. And then in one moment, one precious moment, a light shines in the darkness.”

I have been waiting for this film since it was announced as a project in 2013. Two talented members of Hillsong church Dan DiFelice and Salomon Ligthelm announced their collaboration on Kickstarter. [ https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/639662626/a-n-o-m-a-l-y ]

I just watched the film which has a running time of 37:54 and loved it from start to finish. It’s a different way of re-telling the classic Biblical account of the birth of Christ. There aren’t too many differences outside of the time being set in the 1960s, and instead of the Star of Bethlehem it’s the Bayt Lahm comet which will signify the arrival of the baby Jesus. We also don’t have three wise men coming to see the child and present him with gifts, and the birth of Jesus takes place in a hospital where the mother is alone as opposed to a stable alongside Joseph.

None of these creative tweaks bothered me because everything critical to the story remained the same. Oliver, Anomaly’s Joseph, is shocked to find out that Haylee, Anomaly‘s Mary, is pregnant when they have not yet been intimate. Oliver’s family is unhappy with Haylee even before we find out that she’s pregnant and it is assumed in the film that they have a break-up of some kind before Oliver launches into space to fulfill President Kennedy’s challenge to achieve the longest continuous space flight to date. As an astronaut there is definitely an obstacle to his physical ability to be present during the birth and also an emotional obstacle because he believes that Haylee has cheated on him in order to have become pregnant. I think it was a smart choice and definitely a creative way to navigate how the Biblical Joseph would have felt. In Matthew 1 (MSG) it says:

20-23 While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—‘God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.” This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term:

Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;
They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”).

Joseph would have been torn back in that time. Even in the 1960s I’m sure many people would have still looked down upon an unwed mother. So imagine what his inner turmoil would have been like. In the film Oliver literally has a “way out” and can disappear into space–as far as you can get from Earth. However, the God of the Universe still has access to him no matter the distance. We get the idea of this through the blast of light from the comet and the rattling of the spacecraft while Oliver is in space.

As I was writing this, it also occurred to me that there was the idea of three wise men through the NASA analysts instead of the Biblical magi or astrologers. These are very smart men and you can see from the beginning of the film that they are all shocked by this comet. It doesn’t make sense to them.

2014-12-24_1225

Years ago a scientist named Noel Fitz had predicted the Bayt Lahm comet and it is assumed that he was not taken seriously. I think in a way the character of Noel fills in the historical detail needed to explain the birth of Jesus and I like the idea I came up with of him being a physical representation of Biblical prophesy.

I also liked the name of the comet “Bayt Lahm” which I Googled and found to be very significant:

Bayt Lahm – a small town near Jerusalem on the West Bank of the Jordan River; early home of David and regarded as the place where Jesus was born – http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Bayt+Lahm

I’m curious to see what you all think of the film or if you picked up on any symbolism or cool aspects that I may have missed.

Merry Christmas!

Have courage and be kind.

“I have to tell you a secret that will see you through all the trials that life has to offer: have courage and be kind.”

I saw this movie trailer today and it brought me unexpected encouragement. For those of you who keep up with my happenings on this blog you know that I was approached about a potential new job. I was filled with a combination of curiosity and guilt. Curiosity because it is a fantastic company with lots of potential to figure out what I really want to do with my career and guilty because I feel very loyal to my current employer and genuinely love all the people I work with.

Well all of this resolved yesterday when I received a call from the potential new employer and they offered me a substantial raise. I had prayed to God, God I only want this job if it is from you. You brought me to my current job and I love it here, but if my time is up–albeit sooner than I ever thought–make it clear to me. I want them to either choose someone else or offer me a significant raise. And much to my surprise they offered me the latter.

I still have to break the news to my boss during our weekly meetings together tomorrow and I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t very nervous to disappoint him but ultimately I believe this opportunity is too good to pass up and more importantly I believe it is from God. I didn’t look for it. It came to me. In the same way that this current job came to me. God’s ways are not mine, and part of being a Christian is learning to go when He says go, and being okay with being uncomfortable.

I actually found another WordPress Blogger who feels the same way:

“Those times when you feel so led and so scared at the same time….THOSE are the opportunities God wants you to pursue and not because you can handle them alone, but because you can handle them with Him.  And when you choose to obey God and go down those scary, unknown paths….it is then that He knows how much you truly trust Him” – http://michelletraudt.wordpress.com/tag/getting-uncomfortable/

In other words some people love singing the song “Oceans” by Hillsong but not all of them are comfortable in the deep end. I definitely don’t like it..figuratively and literally. But Jesus calls us out on the water into uncomfortable terrain:

Matthew 14 (MSG):

24-26 Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.

27 But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

28 Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

29-30 He said, “Come ahead.”

When He calls us out we can take courage in knowing it is Him calling out to us, and therefore we don’t need to be anxious in where we walk out to. If He called us we can go.

I also like Isaiah 51 (MSG) which begins:

1-3 “Listen to me, all you who are serious about right living
    and committed to seeking God.
Ponder the rock from which you were cut,
    the quarry from which you were dug.
Yes, ponder Abraham, your father,
    and Sarah, who bore you.
Think of it! One solitary man when I called him,
    but once I blessed him, he multiplied.
Likewise I, God, will comfort Zion,
    comfort all her mounds of ruins.
I’ll transform her dead ground into Eden,
    her moonscape into the garden of God,
A place filled with exuberance and laughter,
    thankful voices and melodic songs.

in other words I am one solitary woman. But God is calling me and blessing me and multiplying me. I used to loathe going to work before this current job. I have spent many days over the past five months here being transformed. I was in some ways beaten down and discouraged because of the verbal abuse and stress from my last job that in comparison this place was a cakewalk. It restored me to better health. And honestly, I would have been content to stay here for a long time, I was happy to no longer have to look for another job. To rest. But God is never done. He’s not content to leave us in any one condition for too long. My God, the God of the Universe and everything and everyone, He wants to transform everything including me. He wants to make what I see as dead into an Eden..into a paradise. He wants every place to be filled with “exuberance and laughter, thankful voices and melodic songs”. 

While Disney gets it right to an extent by turning what is “dead” or poor or unnoticeable in Cinderella is what God already authored in my life and has been writing into every human heart since the beginning of time. Through taunts and tears and discouragement in my past my Father finally brought me to a green pasture. And being who he is, He’s not content to leave me there. He wants to bring me to the “castle” not because I need Him to, not because I asked Him to, but because He has the power and desire to.