In the Book of Revelation, we see the prayers of the saints coming before the throne like sweet smelling incense before the Lord, and heaven responding to this perfume. I wanted to capture a bit of that idea, and also remind us that 2019 is a great time to allow God to fully open our hearts to the place of deep worship again.
In any relationship, an open heart is so important. You can't work or communicate well with a person who's heart is closed to you. When things happen to strain a relationship, sometimes our hearts tend to close out of self-protection. God is the same way-- sometimes our hearts get hurt or we are disappointed by life, so our hearts are a little bit less excited about our relationship with Him. Yet God is constantly there for us and with us. His love never changes, and He's as excited about us as ever! Nothing can separate us from His love.
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38, 39
As we start 2019, let's ask the Father to fill us with His love like never before! Let's bring before Him everything that's on our hearts, and ask Him to heal, restore, and refresh us so that we can open our hearts fully to Him and enjoy His love fully. From this place of worship, mighty things happen that change our world as we worship the King!
Prayer: Father, I love You. As I begin this new year with You, show me if there's any area in my heart that has become closed to You. As I bring my heart to You, please refuel it with passion so that I can worship with heart fully abandoned to You!
The term means: innovative, fresh, unusual, unprecedented, inventive, pioneering, radical. I created this picture with the idea of the ground being ready, even before the shovel actually starts to go to work. The soil is loose and soft enough to be worked, and it's time to start tilling. 2019 is a great year for "ground breaking," new things!
There are so many seasons in our lives. Sometimes we invest into something that doesn't produce the harvest we hoped for, and it can be disappointing. I remember one year where several of my ministry project failed, and I was frustrated,because I really believed I was obeying God by investing in these ways. During this time, God gave me a powerful picture of how to process this disappointment...
One day I was driving through Arkansas and noticed fields of golden wheat whose heads were hanging low with the weight of the grain. On closer look, the grains were bulging and starting to turn brown, like the wheat was starting to turn bad. Someone told me,
“Every few years, the farmers will grow a field of wheat, and instead of harvesting it, they'll let it over-ripen and then till it back into the ground as natural fertilizer. Instead of an immediate harvest, he nutrients of the crop is invested into the next season.”
This made so much sense to me, and I realized that God did the same thing in my life. Even though my creative projects hadn't reached the “harvest” I was hoping for, they carried a lot of learning lessons, and I was able to apply what I'd learned to the next season and get a “richer harvest” because of it.
God cares about the “soil” of our hearts-- even enough to give us seasons that produce less harvest than we hope for so that we can be more fruitful in the coming seasons. I pray that we'll be able to run after the Father and dream His dreams this year-- whether it's sowing and receiving a huge harvest, or learning valuable lessons that prepare us for what's coming next.
For me, I've got some new things that are “ground breaking” in my world! They are new and exciting, and a little scary! I 'm choosing to trust that God will use EVERYTHING for His glory in this new season... and even things in the past can become “fertilizer” if I ask God to help me learn and grow in wisdom so that I can have a better harvest in what is coming. Like this picture, I'm trusting God for good soil as I sow into His new season!
Prayer: Father, please take every piece of my past- the blessings and the hardships- and use them for your glory. In 2019, may there be many new groundbreaking moments that happen by Your leading!
While praying over the new year to come, I saw an image in my heart and decided to create it. I saw a branch with golden keys growing on it, just as fruit would grow on a tree, and knew the title should be “Tree of Life.” The keys represent wisdom from the Lord, just as we call answers to a difficult situation, "the key."
Scripture speaks about the Tree of Life in several places: the beginning, middle, and end of the Bible. I found it a fascinating study and a great place for us to look at as we prepare for a new year!
The first mention of the Tree of Life is in the Book of Genesis when God placed the sacred tree in the Garden of Eden for His children to eat, but they chose the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil instead. The last is reference is found in Revelation as God promises to reinstate access to the tree for those who obey His commandments. (Genesis 2:9, 3:24, Revelation 22:2) This makes a good history lesson and future promise, but what can the Tree of Life offer us today? In the middle of Scripture, we come to four references that can apply to us right now.
As we prepare for the year ahead, let's ask the Father for the keys of wisdom for our journey!
Father, I ask You for the wisdom that You have promised. Please show me how to RECEIVE the keys You have for my life and BE a source of healing and life for others!
Merry Christmas! In the midst of the season of giving, I've been thinking a lot about the kind of gift Jesus likes...
Sometimes people tell me, “Oh Rebecca, think what you could do with a huge crew and a million dollar budget for your films! You could accomplish so much more for God's Kingdom with your talent.” It's natural human reasoning to think that, but only if you believe that talent is a gift that pleases God.
The truth is, God doesn't need our gifts. I believe God is not interested in my talent-- He's interested in my heart. He doesn't anoint talent: He anoints obedience. Obedience is the seed that grows great faith. (In fact, the things He chooses to use are often the things that I think are the most ridiculous or least “talented!") This is why we are called to surrender our gifts and talents to Christ-- because without the component of obedience, they are unusable in the Kingdom of God. No matter how “talented” we are, He looks for a heart that follows hard after Him and puts Him first. God wants to do amazing things with people who choose to say "yes" to Him!
Last year I was working on my first film about the Celtic saints, and I couldn't figure out why on earth God was asking me to do this film! There were so many other people who were more knowledgeable, skilled, and better funded than I for this project. I tried to figure out if there was something in my skill set that qualified me for the task, and I finally shared my question with my prayer team,
"Why is God calling ME to do this film?"
One of my prayer partners responded,
"Because He knows you'll do it."
I laughed-- God wasn't giving me this assignment because of my skill set, rather, He was calling me to do something so big that He would get the glory... because I had very little to offer other than simple obedience. God is simply not interested in our talents (although I believe He honors those who refine their craft) but what He really wants is our obedience to dare to follow Him into adventures of faith!
The beauty comes when we learn that God wants to partner with us in creativity, and that He's able to co-create with us in ways that defy imagination. Repeatedly I've watched Him rearrange weather patterns in order to stage the perfect conditions for a film shoot. Sometime He brings people into place just a few hours before a shoot, including the costumes, props, and skills that are just right for the scene. One time He sent a stunt choreographer for a pirate scene in Alaska just when we were shooting a “fight” scene-- this man just happened to be visiting the church I was speaking at one Sunday morning and heard the call for extras that afternoon. Other times He puts rainbows in the sky in a perfect place, or sends a weaver to donate a special length of hand-woven cloth to the film shoot. At times, I've felt angels on site while filming.
Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." John 15:5
This Christmas, I challenge you to give your life to Christ as a gift, surrender all your talents and dreams to Him, and then follow His lead. He might just use you and a camera... you and a laptop... or you and an idea no one has ever thought of before to change the world. You never know where life with Jesus will take you!
Prayer: Lord, I surrender every gift, talent, resource, and idea to You. Show me how to follow You in the mundane things, and help me to trust if You ask me to take a leap of faith to pursue Your call on my life!
I don't know about you, but I'm ready for 2018 to be finished so I can “turn the page” and start a new year! I created this photo with the idea that the Bride of Christ is sleeping, but midnight is about to strike and a brand new day will begin. This bride has become pretty comfortable with her current position, but the time that is coming that she will need to arise and prepare for the new day so she can meet her bridegroom in it.
Notice the clock in this photo: it's nearly midnight- just on the verge of a brand new day.
A quick study on the word “midnight” in the New Testament paints an interesting picture.
It's the most inconvenient time of day: Then, teaching them more about prayer, he [Jesus] used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ Luke 11:5-7
It's easy to fall asleep: Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight... As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he fell sound asleep and dropped three stories to his death below. Paul went down, bent over him, and took him into his arms. “Don’t worry,” he said, “he’s alive!” Acts 20:7,9
Breakthrough happens at midnight: Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! Acts 16:25, 26
The Bridegroom arrives at midnight: "At midnight they were roused by the shout, 'Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!' Matthew 25:6
We're on the verge of a new year, and I believe God is about to release new things into the earth. During this “almost new day” season, I feel like this poses the same challenges and opportunities that these scriptures reveal about the midnight hour:
-There's lots of inconveniences. People sometimes display more needs at Christmas time, and since there's often a lot of un-met expectations, it's easy for our lives to take on added drama.
-It's easy to “fall asleep” spiritually because there's a lot of extra options and demands on our time.
-Breakthrough happens when we worship and pray!
-It's the time when the Bridegroom calls us to go out to meet Him! God is getting ready to meet us for the new year with new dreams, strategies, and open doors!
As the Bride of Christ, let's make the decision to be “awake at midnight” so we can tap into the blessings of this season! Here's a few ideas:
-Stay intentional about spending time with Jesus in your personal prayer time. It's easy to get so caught up in the glitter of celebrating Christmas, that we forget to spend time with Jesus!
-Remember how Paul and Silas received freedom as they worshiped and prayed at midnight: I believe this can be a time of great break though! Let's make time to worship and pray, even in the business of the season.
-Listen for the Bridegroom's voice. He is ready to give fresh direction, strategies, and insight for the new year. Let's keep our ears open and listen for His wisdom!
Prayer: Lord, show me how to prepare for the year ahead. Tune my ears to hear Your call, and give me the wisdom for the new season, so that I can be ready for what you have created for us to do together!
Over the last few days, I've been astounded by the faithfulness of God. Sometimes He brings amazing people into our journey in a way that's deeply humbling, and opens our eyes to see His hand even in the most difficult of situations. It's a beautiful reminder that He wants to be a part of our lives even more than we want Him to, and He really is working on our behalf. 'Though the wind and waves crash, we can rest assured that our God is faithful.
Often the things God wants to reveal to us cannot be seen with our human eyes. In fact, if we only see with our eyes, our perspective will often lead us astray from God's plan. Sometimes it takes closing our eyes to a situation in order to fully see what God is doing, and peaceful clarity comes when we seek God's vision in prayer.
Seven times in the Old Testament, God asked the prophets, “What do you see?” (Jeremiah 1:11, 1:13, 24:3, Amos 7:8, 8:2, Zechariah 4:2, 5:2.) One of these times Zechariah was even awakened by an angel “like a man awakened from his sleep,” and his eyes were opened before the angel asked what he saw. Jeremiah was blessed by the Lord for reporting what he saw, and was told “you have seen beautifully/well.” Each time, God wasn't asking for their perspective on current events or what they saw with their natural eyes, but rather if they were seeing the specific thing He wanted to show them. Each time they saw what God was revealing, God brought revelation that was specific to their circumstances, and unveiled His plan.
I created this picture to remind us that the unseen world is mostly where God speaks. For many of us, He doesn't show up with a bold of lightning or write in the sky the answers we seek. In fact, we may discover Him in the most unusual of places. When thinking of this, I recalled how the Apostle John was a prisoner on the island of Patmos when he saw a door opened in heaven (Revelation 4:1). John had been exiled for the gospel's sake to this remote island, and I'm sure there was nothing comfortable about his surroundings. Then one day, traditionally while in a cave, he suddenly saw Jesus, who told him to write what he had seen and was about to see (Rev. 1:19). A door opened in heaven, and John was invited to see wonders that would unfold God's perspective about life on earth. When Jesus invites us to “come and see,” He invites us into heaven's perspective.
Many of my greatest experiences with the Lord have happened in "cave" places of solitude where I've just been crying out for an answer in prayer. Sometimes it's when I'm pacing in the bathroom (which is a nice, quiet place to pray!), or recently it's been when I perch on a cliff overlooking the beach, armed with a notebook to journal and write out my prayers. My situation may look bleak, but suddenly I have a "come up here and see" moment, where the Lord gives me a perspective that suddenly changes my entire outlook on the situation. Mountains become molehills and impossibilities become possible when He shifts my perspective and I begin to see through a new lens-- and none of this happens through my natural eyesight. Sometimes it happens with a thought impressed on my heart, and other times it occurs as I read the Scriptures, like King David who prayed,
Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law.
Maybe this week we won't be caught up to heaven like John did, but we can still seek the Lord's perspective on situations that happen to us every day. Like this photo, sometimes it means deliberately choosing not to look on things with our natural eyes, but to kneel before the Lord on prayer and seek His perspective. We have open access to heaven, and God longs for us to see like He sees!
Prayer: Lord, open my eyes so I can see You! Show me Your perspective as I lay situations at Your feet and desire heaven's plan.
Recently I've been drawn to Luke 7:2-10 which gives us a fascinating glimpse into what Jesus calls “great faith.” It tells the account of Jesus healing the Roman centurion's servant, where the soldier sends word to Jesus saying,
“Just say the word, and my servant will be healed! I too am a man under authority, having soldiers under me, and I say to one, Go, and he goes, and to another Come, and he comes; and to my servant, Do this, and he does it.”
Jesus marveled at this request, and called it “great faith.” To understand why, let's take a little deeper look at the life of a soldier.
Military personnel understand both being in a position of authority and being under it: they knew how to lead and how to serve. This soldier knew that he taken a pledge to immediately obey a superior officer's command, and he also expected the same instant obedience from warriors under his leadership. Somehow he knew that Jesus was in a position of authority in a heavenly Kingdom and could easily reach across space and time to heal his servant with just a word – sickness would bow its knee to the superior word. Something of this military understanding and application to faith deeply impressed Jesus.
Recently I've been embracing the position of being a warrior “under command” to the King of Kings. We talk about “being in God's army,” but how many of us really have the mindset that we are under the command of great Warrior and His orders require swift action on our part? Sometimes we brush the gentle prompting of the Spirit aside and are slow to respond, when His words are sometimes the very thing that would bring us the answers we seek.
Even as a child, I was fascinated by stories of militant faith; the kind that requires the swift response of a soldier in action. I remember a story told to me when I was about eight-years-old by a man who was witnessed the Jesus Movement in the 1970s. Apparently, a group of hippies lived together in a house in the inner city of Milwaukee, and after getting radically touched by Jesus, they wanted to witness in every possible situation so they wrote scriptures on their windows. The neighbors were openly hostile, and would sometimes throw rocks through the windows in protest against the “Jesus freaks.” My friend told this story in his deep, booming voice, but when he approached this point of memory, his voice lowered into a slightly secretive whisper.
“There was one man,” he confided, “who was so close to the Lord that He could clearly hear God's voice and obey at a moment's notice. One day, he heard God say, 'Duck!' He instantly obeyed, and a rock smashed through the nearby window and sailed over his head, in the very place he had been standing.”
Like the centurion in Luke's gospel, this man recognized that just a word from Jesus carried great authority. In this situation, his quick obedience possibly saved his life.
I can't say that I've achieved this type of complete trust and obedience yet, but I've recently been challenged to obey God in big ways. Sometimes I'm not sure if I'm hearing from the Lord, so I try to take extra time to figure that out rather than dismissing it. Other times, I know a prompting is from God, and I have to choose to obey, even if it's not my preference for the moment. That “inner nudge” of the Holy Spirit always points toward greater peace, even if it means going against the crowd or makes us a bit uncomfortable. Following Christ always pays off!
This week, let's seek to listen intently to the Lord, through His Word and Spirit, and rise up to respond quickly, just as warriors who seek to follow their commanding officer!
Prayer: Father, I want to hear Your voice clearly and have discernment to follow Your leading in both big and small opportunities. Give me the heart of a warrior who knows their assignment and carries it out completely, and let me see Your hand showing up in my life as a result!
In Celtic writings, the Wild Goose has been used as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit. Rather than portraying Him as the gentle dove, they felt more comfortable with a bird who expressed the wildness and un-tameable nature for the Spirit of God. It is said that the early Celtic believers in the Dark Ages would fast and pray, and then launch from their coasts in a boat with a sail and no rudder, simply believing that the Spirit would direct the winds and blow their vessel where He wanted them to evangelize or set up a prayer cell on some coastal island. For them, the Spirit of God was as wild as the Irish Sea, and the call of the goose represented that part of His nature.
Celtic artist Mary Fleeson says, “The Wild Goose tells a different side of the Holy Spirit. To begin with, wild geese aren’t controllable, you can’t restrain a wild goose and bend it to your will. They’re raucous and loud, [and] unlike the sweet and calming cooing of a dove, a goose’s call is strong, challenging, strident and unnerving - and just a bit scary. In much the same way, the Spirit of God can be demanding and unsettling, and at times even a little scary.”
Jesus foretold that His followers would embrace this aspect of the Spirit:
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)
There's something about this aspect of God that we often miss, since our Western culture seems bent on making everything as comfortable as possible. But what if God was less interested in our personal comfort and more passionate about helping us live out our calling? In this photo, I wanted to show the Bride of Christ being moved by the call of the wild goose, and drawn to step into an adventure that's a little wild and crazy, but exactly what she was born to do.
This week, let's ask the Holy Spirit to enable us to hear the "call of the wild goose" that prepares us for new and exciting adventures!
Prayer: Holy Spirit, cause me to hear Your voice, and show me how to follow as You lead on the beautiful adventures You've prepared!
This photo is a bit different that what I've posted previously, because I used three elements to create it: light, time, and oil. Light and time are used to create a photo with a camera, and then I painted with oils on canvas and imposed that element on top of the photo. Watch this video to see the creative process!
I created this photo with the idea of capturing a moment when we're aware of God's Presence in a very special way. This moment of connection happens differently for each person-- some hearts are moved by nature and being surrounded by God's beautiful creation, while others experience the Holy Spirit through worship or reading the scriptures.
Recently, I've been thinking about how we sometimes miss out on these encounters for the simple reason that we don't practice longing for them. King David, a man after God's own heart, unashamedly wrote songs of wistful longing as he prayed for encounters with God.
As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
Psalm 42:1, 2
O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
I believe that one mark of a new breed of warriors God is raising up is the deep hunger for the Presence of God-- not simply a desire for signs and wonders, but for God Himself. This holy ache can only be satisfied by God Himself, and nothing else will satisfy other than God showing up and completely having His way in our lives.
In Hebrew, the word for “presence” is the word paw-neem, which means “face.”
This word is translated as both "presence" and "face" in our English Bibles. In Hebrew, to seek God's Presence and to seek His face mean the same thing: when His Presence comes, we make eye-connection with the King of Kings and we have His full attention. It's also interesting to note that to avoid His Presence means avoiding His face. Here's a few scriptural examples:
God promised Moses that His paw-neem would go him and give peace.
Enemies perish at His paw-neem.
Fullness of joy in God's paw-neem.
Justice is decreed for us from the place of paw-neem.
God calls our hearts to seek His paw-neem.
Adam fled from God's paw-neem when he hid in the garden of Eden.
Jonah fled from the paw-neem of the Lord.
Sometimes we may go through seasons where we take God's goodness for granted, like that of an old friend who's somehow obligated to help us, and we don't spend time seeking His face. How much more we could experience if only we cultivated the heart of David who spent time longing for God! This week, may you carve out some time for this type of prayer: to spend time longing for God. I've often prayed, God, I'm asking You to show up! However You want to do it is up to You, but I am waiting and watching for You to come!
Every encounter I've had with God's Presence makes me long for more, even the times when He corrects me and shows me an area where I've gotten off track. Feasting on His Presence is completely satisfying, engaging, and makes me yearn to be like Him and know His ways.
Prayer: Lord, I ask You to place a deep hunger in my heart for more of You. Make me thirsty for encounter, and then meet me with Your Presence, as only You can do.