Monday, November 16, 2015

The Jesus I Never Knew

This is one of the best books I've ever read and may ever read. It's clear that Yancey did extensive research and soul searching to produce this head-scratching, heart-opening text. I admit to forgetting who Jesus is, forgetting what He's done and continues to do, even though I am living proof of His grace. Yancey presents simple yet overlooked characteristics of Jesus that I never really took the time to meditate on until now. There are so many gems in this book - only a few are below, but they struck me especially. If you get a chance to purchase this book (or want to borrow mine), you definitely won't regret it! Believers and non-believers alike - get to know this God we all think we have pinned down.

According to Jesus, what I think about him and how I respond will determine my destiny for all eternity.

Other people affected Jesus deeply; obstinacy frustrated him, self-righteousness infuriated him, simple faith thrilled him. Indeed, he seemed more emotional and spontaneous than the average person, not less. More passionate, not less.

One day miracles seemed to flow out of Jesus; the next day his power was blocked by people's lack of faith. One day he talked in detail of the Second Coming; another, he knew neither the day nor hour. He spoke eloquently about peacemaking, then told his disciples to procure swords. His extravagant claims about himself kept him at the center of controversy, but when he did something truly miraculous he tended to hush it up. As Walter Wink has said, if Jesus had never lived, we would not have been able to invent him.

The Master of the universe would become its victim, powerless before a squad of soldiers in a garden. God made himself weak for one purpose: to let human beings choose freely for themselves what to do with him.

The more I get to know Jesus, the more impressed I am by what Ivan Karamazov called "the miracle of restraint." The miracles Satan suggested, the signs and wonders the Pharisees demanded, the final proofs I long for - these would offer no serious obstacle to an omnipotent God. More amazing is his refusal to perform and to overwhelm. God's terrible insistence on human freedom is so absolute that he granted us the power to live as though he did not exist, to spit in his face, to crucify him. All this Jesus must have known as he faced down the tempter in the desert, focusing his mighty power on the energy of restraint.

I believe God insists on such restraint because no pyrotechnic displays of omnipotence will achieve the response he desires. Although power can force obedience, only love can summon a response of love, which is the one thing God wants from us and the reason he created us.

This quality of restrain in Jesus - one could almost call it a divine shyness - took me by surprise. I realized, as I absorbed the story of Jesus in the Gospels, that I had expected from him the same qualities I had met in the southern fundamentalist church of my childhood. There, I often felt the victim of emotional pressures. Doctrine was dished out in a "Believe and don't ask questions!" style. Wielding the power of miracle, mystery and authority, the church left no place for doubt. I also learn manipulative techniques for "soul winning," some of which involved misrepresenting myself to the person I was talking to. Yet now I am unable to find any of these qualities in the life of Jesus.

He has nearly inexhaustible patience with individuals but no patience at all with institutions and injustice.

Jesus did not mechanically follow a list of "Things I Gotta Do Today," and I doubt he would have appreciated our modern emphasis on punctuality and precise scheduling. He attended wedding feasts that lasted for days. He let himself get distracted by any "nobody" he came across, whether a hemorrhaging woman who shyly touched his robe or a blind beggar who made a nuisance of himself. Two of his most impressive miracles (the raising of Lazarus and of Jairus's daughter) took place because he arrived too late to heal the sick person.

Like a bell tolling from another world, Jesus' promise of rewards proclaims that no matter how things appear, there is no future in evil, only in good.

Human beings do not readily admit desperation. When they do, the kingdom of heaven draws near.

"I find it strangely heartening that the Bible remains offensive to honest, ignorant ears, just as it was in the first century. To me, that somehow validates its significance." -Virginia Stem Owens

"If anyone proved to me that Christ was outside the truth...then I would prefer to remain with Christ than with the truth." -Fyodor Dostoevsky

He brings to the surface repressed sin, yet forgives any freely acknowledged sin.

Perhaps prostitutes, tax collectors, and other known sinners responded to Jesus so readily because at some level they knew they were wrong and to them God's forgiveness looked very appealing.

Jesus proved in person that God loves people not as a race or species, but as individuals. We matter to God.

Jesus never met a disease he could not cure, a birth defect he could not reverse, a demon he could not exorcise. But he did meet skeptics he could not convince and sinners he could not convert.

"Jesus' healings are not supernatural miracles in a natural world. They are the only true 'natural' things in a world that is unnatural, demonized and wounded." -Jurgen Moltmann

I have marveled at, and sometimes openly questioned, the self-restraint God has shown throughout history allowing the Genghis Khans and the Hitlers and the Stalins to have their way. But nothing - nothing - compares to the self-restraint shown on that dark Friday in Jerusalem. With every lash of the whip, every fibrous crunch of fist against flesh, Jesus must have mentally replayed the Temptation in the wilderness and in Gethsemane. Legions of angels awaited his command. One word, and the ordeal would end.

"Anyone can be sentimental about the Nativity; any fool can feel like a Christian at Christmas. But Easter is the main event; if you don't believe in the resurrection, you're not a believer." -John Irving

God has always chosen the slow and difficult way, respecting human freedom regardless of cost. "God did not abolish the fact of evil: He transformed it," wrote Dorothy Sayers. "He did not stop the crucifixion: He rose from the dead." The hero bore all consequences, yet somehow triumphed.

In many respects I would find an unresurrected Jesus easier to accept. Easter makes him dangerous. Because of Easter I have to listen to his extravagant claims and can no longer pick and choose from his sayings. Moreover, Easter means he must be loose out there somewhere.

By ascending, Jesus took the risk of being forgotten.

God has not absconded at all. Rather, he has taken on a disguise, a most unlikely disguise of the stranger, the poor, the hungry, the prisoner, the sick, the ragged ones of earth: "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me." If we cannot detect God's presence in the world, it may be that we have been looking in the wrong places.

"First we meditate on Jesus, and then we go out and look for him in disguise." -Mother Teresa

When Jesus departed, he left the keys of the kingdom in our fumbling hands. 

Our real challenge, the focus of our energy, should not be to Christianize the United States (always a losing battle) but rather to strive to be God's kingdom in an increasingly hostile world.

If the gates of hell cannot prevail against the church, the contemporary political scene hardly offers much threat.

History gives ample precedent for legalism and also for decadence. But how does one hold to high standards of moral purity while at the same time showing grace to those who fail those standards? How to embrace the sinner without encouraging sin? Christian history offers few facsimiles of the pattern Jesus played down.

I must admit that Jesus has revised in flesh many of my harsh and unpalatable notions about God. Why am I a Christian? I sometimes ask myself, and to be perfectly honest the reasons reduce to two: (1) the lack of good alternatives, and (2) Jesus. Brilliant, untamed, tender, creative, slippery, irreducible, paradoxically humble - Jesus stands up to scrutiny. He is who I want my God to be.

It is through the Servant's wounds that we are healed, said Isaiah - not his miracles.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

One Thing You Can't Do in Heaven

Not gonna lie, I don't even remember reading this book. And I don't see it in my personal library, so who knows when this happened...Oh, December 31, 2013. Yikes! That really shows how much I've been neglecting this blog! Reading over what I marked nearly two years ago, I'm very convicted. Like to the point of anxiety. I definitely don't witness as much as I should, and this author seems to feel like what we call "living a Godly life" isn't enough of a witness. Actually getting in front of, speaking to and engaging with people is witness. Anyone else feel like they fail in this area? ...Anyone else wanna go out and witness with me sometime?

"It is of great importance that the sinner should be made to feel his guilt, and not have the impression that he is unfortunate. Do not be afraid, but show him the breadth of the divine Law, and the exceeding strictness of its precepts. Make him see how it condemns his thoughts and life." -Charles Finney

"To be laughed at is no great hardship to me. I can delight in scoffs and jeers. Caricatures, lampoons and slanders are my glory. But that you should turn from your own mercy, this is my sorrow. Spit on me, but oh, repent! Laugh at me, but, oh, believe in my Master! Make my body as the dirt of the streets, but damn not your own souls!" -Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Do you realize that when you get rejected in the name of Jesus, God has rewards waiting for you in Heaven that will make any earthly reward seem like chump change? That is truly amazing.

Let's not separate ourselves from the lost, but take our light into the darkness and watch the Lord work in amazing ways.

If you decide to date rather than court, why does a date have to involve going to a movie or a party? Why can't a date consist of going to a mall to witness?

Too many times believers worry what others think. However, when we are witnessing to people, what is the worst thing they can do to us? They can kill us and send us to Heaven. Is that such a bad thing?

If you are not eternal friends, are you really friends at all?

"Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that." - Charles Spurgeon

As a believer, you have the Holy Spirit living within you to help you understand God's Word (1 Corinthians 2:12). You can comprehend spiritual truths that a lost person can't.

Therefore, before you leave your house, it's important to pray that the Lord will lead you to lost people during the day, and that He will soften the individuals' hearts before you even begin the conversation.

"What's your email, phone number or address, so when I find the answer, I can get it to you?" This allows me to follow up with people.

"To be a soul winner is the happiest thing in the world. And with every soul you bring to Jesus Christ, you seem to get a new heaven here upon earth." - Charles Haddon Spurgeon

We can know where we will spend eternity. That is very important in witnessing. If we know that when we die we'll go to Heaven, does it matter what a lost person does or says to us as we share our faith? No, it doesn't. Don't ever forget that as you boldly make your stand for Jesus.

One of the biggest lies Satan tells the lost is that they will be good enough for God on Judgement Day. If they helped an old lady cross the road, thew a few dollars into the collection plate, had the best-kept yard in the neighborhood, etc., then they will be just fine on Judgement Day. Do you see how the Law works to break through that lie?

When a person is born again, his life changes. It certainly doesn't mean that we become perfect when we get saved; there is definitely a sanctification process, as we grow in our faith to become like Christ. But there must be a desire to change, or there won't be any change.

A great statement to use with both saved and lost people is: It doesn't matter what you believe, it matters what is true. People need to think about truth rather than just belief. I might believe the earth is flat, but it isn't. I might believe the sky is green, but it isn't. I might believe you will send me a thousand dollars, but you probably won't! We must help people distinguish between their beliefs and what is true.

Here is one of the arguments I use: "Adolf Hitler killed six million of God's chosen people. So as long as he believed in his heart that it was an ok thing to do, then it was definitely ok to do, wasn't it?"

Every time you see a shirt, you know it has a creator. Every time you see a watch, you know it has a designer. Every time you see art, you know there is an artist. Every time you see order, like twenty Coke cups in a row, you know there is an orderer. When you look around the universe, what do you see? You see creation, design, art and order. If every other thing has a creator, a designer, an artist and an orderer behind it, why would you not think that there is a Creator, a Designer, an Artist and an Orderer behind this universe?

There have been more than 25,000 achaeological finds relating to people, places and events in the Bible, and not one has contradicted anything in the Scriptures.

If you can believe the historical and archaeological evidence for the Bible, why don't you think you can believe the spiritual part of the book?

I point out to people that when the Bible was written, 25 percent of the content predicted future events (eg. Micah 5:2, Zechariah 11:12-13, Psalms 22). And every single one of those prophesies has come true in the minutest detail, except for the few remaining prophecies about the return of Jesus Christ to earth. Statistically, there is no way that man can predict the future with 100-percent accuracy. I then as people, "Who is the only one who can do this?"

Even Darwin stated that the fossil record should contain millions of transitional forms to show that evolution is true. Interestingly, the fossil record doesn't contain a single transitional form! It contains only complete kinds, but no transitional forms.

Why are there no missing links today? We see only whole dogs, cats, horses, birds, etc. We do not see creatures that are half cow and half whale, or half dog and half cat. They just aren't there.

Evil doesn't prove that there is no God; it only proves that there is evil.

Love by definition demands a choice. We can choose to love our parents. We can choose to love our spouse. We can choose to love our kids. We can also choose to love God, or choose not to love God. The evil that we see around the would is because people choose not to love God and obey Him. If we truly believed that people were made in the image of God, we would no do the things that we do to other people.

There are hypocrites in the mall today, and it didn't stop you from coming to the mall. There will be hypocrites in the restaurant tonight when you and your girlfriend go out to eat, and it won't stop you from going there. So why in the world would you let hypocrites stop you from finding out about the one true God who loves you unconditionally and wants to forgive all your sins?

If you want to become a better evangelist, fall more in love with Jesus.

Remember that if you are not fishing, you are not following.

During a battle in World War II, General Douglas MacArthur said, "The enemy is in front of us. The enemy is behind us. The enemy is to the right and to the left. They can't get away this time!"

The people I meet who are continually fired-up for Jesus are those who are doing the work of the Lord. They are active in their faith: They work at homeless shelters, witness to the lost, write school papers from a Christian perspective, visit prisoners, etc. They are putting wood on their fire. And if you do this continually, not only will the fire not go out, it will grow larger. God doesn't want us to be mere campfires; He wants us to be bonfires, raging infernos for Him. Keep doing the things of God, and your passion for Him will stay strong for the rest of your life.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

How to Run Your Business By THE BOOK

I finished reading this book months ago and marked so many passages that I put off typing them up until now! I initially bought "How to Run Your Business By THE BOOK" because I figured it would contain some Biblical principles that I could apply to my part time wedding photography business. Turns out, it really spoke to me regarding my full time job at The Salvation Army and harshly revealed areas where I really needed to grow. I'm so thankful that I can already see tangible improvement in those areas, and I pray God continues to push me! This is a fairly long post, but you'll find some gems in it!

You honor the leader above you by being publicly loyal to him or her, while confronting difference privately. You look for ways to make him or her look good. You volunteer to take on tasks that may not be within his or her strength zone, but are a better fit for your own abilities. You refrain from gossip and never conduct an "If I were in charge around here" conversation with subordinates.

...render unto your leader as you would render unto God.

Becoming more precedes doing more. The "becoming" must happen first and includes increasing in maturity, discipline, humility, knowledge, competence, righteousness, and focus.

If you're truly gifted, people will find you. During the times when no one seems to notice you or your contributions, practice the discipline of becoming more valuable so that you can add more value.

Moving fast in order to give the impression that you're more accomplished than you actually are is both dangerous and delusional.

You're never likely to get all of your work done because in a growing organization there's always an infinite amount of work to do. Thus, focus on getting the right things done first, and stop doing the wrong things well and often.

Students of THE BOOK are the best decision makers because they have a holy filter through which to strain their deliberations.

Imagine the state of your spiritual, mental, and emotional health if you'd spent the same amount of time deepening your love and knowledge of God and family as you do engaging in the mindless.

There is little that provides greater evidence of pride than prayer-lessness.

Maintaining flexibility and giving others a chance to make decisions, employ their ideas, solve their own problems, and have their way, builds a wall of humility around you that will be difficult for pride to penetrate.

In the wake of a great victory where do you head, to the bar or to your knees?

(about Mother Teresa, Gandhi and Jesus) Their strength and leadership ability was anchored in their lack of self-interest, their focus on the edification of others, and a willingness to decrease themselves so that others might increase.

Which best describes your work ethic: "just enough" or "and then some"?

According to Christ, if you do only what you are required to do, your performance is nothing special and is unworthy of acclaim. (Luke 17:7-10)

Listen with the intent to understand and not to reply.

Don't interrupt people or finish their sentences for them.

You develop charismatic people skills when you take focus off of yourself and put it on the other person.

Part of becoming better at serving others is forgetting your service.

He (Paul) also instructs that you should focus more on the humble task of judging yourself, rather than judging others.

But if you are real with others - if you don't hide your fears, your doubts, your weaknesses, your struggles - they will know that you are real.

To enhance your people skills and workplace charisma, be more of a partier than party-pooper, greeting others with an uplifting attitude, always ready to listen to them, advise them, and lend a helping hand.

You might also give the person you're ready to judge some benefit of the doubt by assuming the best about them rather than the worst.

You reach people by giving energy and attention to what you have in common and not by how you differ.

When you pray for someone, you will begin to look at them differently - as God sees them.

Grasp that one of the great paradoxes of God's world is that when you take your focus off your own wants and needs and put it on the wants and needs of others, more of your own wants and needs are met!

...discipline is simply making yourself do the things you know are important, even when you don't want to do them; once you do them long enough they become habits and no longer require the effort they did at the outset.

...when you feel stress, it indicates you've lost your sense of gratitude.

Discipline does not restrict, it liberates.

Perhaps the two most effective words to finding balance in your life are "be there." When you're at home, be there! When you're spending time with your family or on vacation, be there! And when you're at work, be there, too! Fully engage yourself where ever you are at the moment because one of life's most draining and stressful activities is to be one place physically and somewhere else mentally.

..don't let the blessings you receive from God cause you to forget about Him.

This is when you must remember that giving is not a logical issue of the head but a character issue of the heart.

Tithing demonstrates obedience and the humility to put God first.

After all, God is glorified not so much by preserving us from trouble, as by upholding us in trouble.

...great teams were built with intent and not by chance.

Give up power so that you can go higher! You will never build an inner circle if you continue to do too much of the work by yourself! The measure of your leadership is not how much you can do personally but how much you can get done through others. Remember that perhaps the greatest leadership lesson of all time is that you can't do it alone!

To put God's love and grace in perspective, we should never ask, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" Instead we should stand in askance and awe and declare, "How do so many good things happen to us even when we're bad?"

The prayers and praises of Paul and Silas in the midst other crisis didn't only benefit themselves. All those listening to them had their doors opened and chains loosed!

As God continues to conform you to Christ's image, pray that through His grace you may begin to face crisis with a new strength and hope; considering them less a price you are paying and more of a prelude to the miraculous. 

Your vision should contain bold and measurable components to be accomplished within a predetermined time frame. 

Structure creates internal energy that generates momentum.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

It's Not You, It's Me

Ever use that excuse when ending a relationship? I have. And I'm discovering just how true it really is.

I've never been in a serious relationship. I've had opportunities to be and decided to end them, often prematurely. One red flag? I start to back away. Two red flags? I'm outta there.

But what exactly is a red flag? Abuse? Total red flag. Ego? Definitely something to take note of. Still "finding their way" in life? Maybe not grounds for termination.

Yet all of the above, and several other traits, have led me to retreat. As soon as flaws (or things I sometimes wrongly categorize as flaws) emerge, I shut down, as if I don't have any of my own to work through. The idea of taking on someone else's baggage seems like too much of a task, not enough fun. Why waste my time?

Yet Jesus takes me on every single day. He takes my flaws, my anger, my confusion, my everything, the bad and the good. He never sees me as a waste of time or hopeless or a terrible partner. He sees my potential. He builds me up. He doesn't run. In fact, He's promised to never, ever leave me (Matthew 28:20).

My response to this unconditional, unfailing love has been less than stellar, both in past years and very recently. Why have I never realized this before? Perhaps my pride and fear blinded me. I thought my tendency to isolate myself was normal, a comforting safety net. A protection against all the guys who would only end up hurting me anyway. But who will ever gain access to my heart if I never crack open the door? How will I ever grow if I don't allow another person to grow alongside me?

I feel like all I can do at this point, and really the best thing to do, is lean on Christ more than ever before. To ask for His help in understanding how He can love me so much despite my shortcomings. How He always believes in the good that is to come. And how I can extend the same grace to men navigating this wild world of late 20s/early 30s dating.

If any of you happen to read this, and you know who you are, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for not giving you the chance you deserved, for overlooking the value and beauty of who you are, for being flat out selfish. Most of you have surpassed me in life and in love, and rightfully so. May this be a lesson to me now when it should have been then. May I live without fear and with grace, and may His will always be done.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

These Are My Confessions

"How do you think it'll happen?"

My dad asked a question I've posed to God numerous times.

"I have no idea."

Perhaps fellow single ladies can relate. Every Christmas (and every summer, usually around July 4), the feelings return. The thoughts return. And no matter how hard I try to block them out, the memories return.

Confession #1: I've been single for five years.

Five years is a long time. Especially when you expected to at least be in a relationship by now, let alone married. Granted, three of my five years have been spent growing closer to Jesus since He saved me. That I wouldn't change for the world! I've been growing in glorious ways. Would a relationship that started a few years ago have endured? I'm not sure, but I am sure that I've become a more loving person in this waiting period. That will no doubt benefit my future relationship. Still, waiting is hard!

Confession #2: I haven't dated anyone for longer than 2 months.

There's no skirting around the fact that I dated all wrong. From my first boyfriend at age 18 to my last at 23, I either picked losers who used me or winners whom I used. My sinful relationships naturally imploded, and "long-term" seemed like an unattainable term. Now, when troublesome memories surface, I take the opportunity to pray for my former suitors. There are so many things I would change if I could, but what I can do is ask God to bless them in every area of their lives, including current/future relationships. Sometimes, I begin to regret decisions I've made and wonder if (fill in the blank) and I could have lasted longer. The answer is no. We lasted 2 months or 2 weeks or 2 days because we weren't meant to be. Not at that moment, most likely not ever. I can't be ashamed of my dating history, as sad as it was. I can only be hopeful for the future.

Confession #3: I've never dated a Christian.

Sub-confession: This terrifies me. When a great, Jesus-loving dude comes along, will I be able to date him well? I certainly know how to date wrong, and though I now have the wisdom to date right, I still question whether or not I can actually do it. What if old habits surface? I believe I am a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and I'm continuously learning how to walk out this purified life. However, I falter almost daily, resorting back to words, reactions or thoughts the "old me" would have. How will my past affect my future spouse? Can bygones truly be bygones? I hope my man is compassionate and understanding that old wounds occasionally surface. I don't want to set myself up for failure, but I want to be realistic about the challenges I may face.

Confession #4: I sometimes wonder if it will ever happen.

Any single guy reading this (how many of you peep my blog?) might instinctively run in the opposite direction now that my lid is uncovered. Truth is, no one has run toward me in quite a while haha! This leads to questioning. When my dad asks how I think it will happen, I'm not so sure it will. I have a good heart and God loves me, so why am I approaching 29 with no prospect in sight? Maybe He has more work to do on me first. Maybe He has more work to do on my guy. I don't want pestering doubt to deflate my faith. My dating story is painful and embarrassing, but Jesus can make it honoring and beautiful.

Challenge: Be transparent with yourself (+ significant other if you have one), and pray about your hopes and fears in relationships. Confess to the Lord how you truly feel, and see what He reveals to you.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Prophecy Room

“You haven’t done it yet, because you know that when you do, you’ll have to surrender.”

She was right. I was scared.

My friend looked at me with compassion, knowing that spending time with the Lord can often be more intense than we expect.

On March 4, I visited Resting Place’s Prophecy Room. Several people, including myself, had signed up to receive prayer from volunteers/staff who knew nothing about us. The pray-ers asked God what He wanted to say and then shared His personalized words with each of us. In case we wanted to reference them in the future, or were too emotionally wrecked to really pay attention in the moment (I hovered in this arena), the pray-ers were kind enough to record our entire individual sessions.

It was one of the most incredible evenings of my life, one when God felt nearly tangible, as if He were sitting right in front of me. I made plans to write about it right away. But I didn’t.

I was so shocked (uncomfortable even) by God being so close to me, that I feared what could happen if He approached me with such intimacy again. The Lord had spoken to three ladies I never met, sharing with them the quiet details of my heart. I believed in prophecy beforehand, though it was made much more real to me that night.

I just listened to the recording for the first time, six months later.

There is so much truth, so much emotion steeped in what was said, that I’m not sure I can properly process it here. I’m only going to touch on a few points in this entry, though it’s clear that I should listen to the whole of it countless times in the future.

“He’s highlighting the arts. He sees that part in your heart that wants to create. He values that so much about you. Sometimes, it feels like maybe things don’t come out as great as you want them to. He still cherishes the small beginnings. He cherishes the effort. He’s encouraging you because He placed that inside of you for a reason. What you care about, He cares about.”

I started pursuing photography in January, and anyone who knows me or has seen my Facebook at any second of any day, knows that I absolutely adore it, to an unhealthy degree. There’s no doubt in my mind that God gave me the desire to create art through photography, though there are many doubts in my mind that I’ll ever be good enough to “really do it” as a career. To know that He cherishes my small beginning is to know that He’ll bless my growth. I wonder how He sees my future in photography. What will I shoot? Who will I meet? How will blessings flow out of it? Will this actually become my life, more than it already has?

“I see relationships, like family and friends and friends you consider family. Because you declare life over them, they’re going to receive life. Because you stand your ground and say, ‘My family shall live, my family shall not perish.’”

I was definitely moved when God wanted to speak about my love for art, and I was definitely wrecked when He went here. I love my family and friends so much that it pains me to see them walking without the Lord. I know that their salvation is as much their own choice as it is His, and I can’t bear the thought that I may not see them in Heaven someday. Even now, it hurts to see areas of their lives that could so easily and so quickly be healed by Jesus’ touch, if only they’d receive it. To think that my prayers and my heart could possibly lead them Christ is overwhelmingly powerful. Does God love me so much that He’d answer my prayer? Does He love them so much that He wouldn’t let them fall, no matter what?

“He is asking, ‘What do you want, Elyse? What’s in your heart? What’s your dream? Ask me.’”

I’d say no tissue could remedy my snotfest at this point. This is when He was more real than ever before. I don’t often tell Him what I want or ask Him to bless my dreams (heck, I’m not even sure I know what they are!), because I question whether or not my desires align with His. The fact that He cares about what I want seems so unlikely, coming from the Most High God. Aren’t there more important things to worry about in the world than what little ol' Elyse wants for her life? He might say, “There are many important things, and you are one of them.”

What do I want? I want a husband and children to love. I want to make people smile, with or without a camera in my hands. I want to learn more about photography and grow in my craft. I want to see my family happy and blessed. I want to make memories with my friends. I want to impact people’s hearts because they see Christ in me.

What’s in my heart? Hugging the hurting. Finding the lost. Surprising the lonely.

What’s my dream? Somehow living in balance with all of the above and keeping Jesus at the center. Having a relationship with Him that surpasses my imagination.

“Hallelujah! It’s time to rejoice again, to start laughing again, to start seeing His promises.”

I don’t rejoice enough. I don’t laugh enough. If I believe the Gospel, I should be doing both daily, without even thinking about it! The world is a cruel place, and I let it rob me of my joy. I need help with this.

“Open up your mouth, and declare His promises over your life.”

I admit that I haven’t read the Bible aside from a little daily devotion for months. I can’t declare His promises without knowing them! I just read aloud the verses highlighted for me in this prophesy session, and doing that felt powerful. I need reminders, and I need the desire to seek them out in the Word.

“Don’t compare, thinking that you’re not blessed. Look at what you have, and invest into it.”

This could relate to several thoughts – “Another friend just got engaged” or “Someone else is having a baby” or “My photography sucks compared to theirs.” They say comparison is the thief of joy, and I don’t avoid it enough. I have abundant blessings in my life and certainly want to invest in them.

“You give a timely gift. You give a perfect gift. It’s nothing extravagant, but it’s exactly what people need. You are their answered prayers. You have a generous, sensitive heart. You see the poor on the streets, and your heart aches for them because that is the kind of compassion that you carry. There is so much beauty that comes forth from the little things. It’s the little things that transform a life. It’s the little things that make people see that God is real. It’s not the shock and awe. It’s not the lighting and earthquake and fire. It’s the small answered prayers.”

I know tangible examples of when I’ve been an answered prayer for someone, and it’s crazy to think that God would use me in that way. In some cases, it’s been to the poor in the streets. I can no longer ignore what’s in front of me, and I love that the Holy Spirit stirs my heart to meet needs. I want more of those opportunities.

“The Lord is going to bring community to your life that is going to hold your hand, understand you and uplift you. Know who to listen to, use discernment and be wise. Search out for a prayer covering. Friends are called to war together. That’s how you know who your real friends are – they go to war with you.”

My friends constantly astound me. Their spirits are some of the purest I know, and I am so blessed to have them in my life. They’ve taught me what friendship really is, as referenced above, and I am forever grateful to the Lord for placing a seal on our connection. I truly need to listen to their voices (Him speaking through them) above my own, and I love when they correct me to do so!

“You eyes are finally on me, and I love it.”

This doesn’t seem true most days, as my eyes and mind flutter about countless things. But oh, how I want it to be true! This hit hard. It took years and years for my eyes to focus on Christ and say, “Wow, there you are!” He is a patient God. He is a loving God. I’m so thankful that He waited for me and continues to wait for me when I go astray. Seeking Him pleases Him, and my Father in Heaven being pleased by me is a wondrous, glorious thought.

“You were destined to be a woman of excellence. Other women will look to you as an example and see that there’s an excellence about you.”

What a word – excellence. It almost feels egotistical to desire it. How do you carry an air of excellence that doesn’t seem like an air of arrogance? Here I go, trying to put a negative spin on a word God gave to me! Must…fight...doubt. Truthfully, I would love to be a light to others and someone to look up to.

“Beauty is all over you. He’s writing it on you. What He says of you is your true identity. You are perfection from head to toe.”

I think we all have days when we don’t feel beautiful or handsome or worthy. I must remember that my identity is in Him, and I’m beautiful inside and out to Him despite my flaws and shortcomings.

I am forever grateful to Resting Place and the ladies who were willing vessels of God’s voice.

In closing, my tearful response to Daddy God after listening to the session:

You didn’t have to choose me, but I’m so glad you did.