Sometimes My Time in Brazil is Like a Dark Night of the Soul

Beach Day

I got to enjoy a day at the beach with some of our ladies…

” Through the dark night of the soul there is still a bride coming forth…” – Rick Pino

 I arrived to Brazil filled with uncertainties. I had no idea what to expect. I knew in the depths of my soul I was meant to be here and I knew there was something God needed to do in me during my time at Shores of Grace. Before coming I ordered a book from Amazon titled “Mansions of the Heart”. I’d heard a lot about this book from one of my professors and mentors at Nyack College: Dr. Rob Reimer. My first two weeks here in Brazil I absorbed  this book learning many deep, valuable lessons that would prepare me for what I was going to experience here.  In hindsight it is amazing to see that God was so intentional about preparing me for the dark night of the soul. He would lead me into during my time here.

Thomas Ashbrook describes the dark night of the soul in his book “Mansions of the Heart” as a time in which the light of God lands on all of the dark and ugly things hidden in the depths of our hearts. It is a time in which God seemingly withdraws and painfully deals with us. My time in Brazil has been just that, a dark night of the soul. A time of growth. A time of healing. A time in which the light of the Father shone brighter than ever on the deep wounding of my heart and the behaviors that were patterned by them.

Street Church

Street Church. I met Luis a ex-convict who was hungry for the love of the Father. It was was so easy to love him and feel Gods compassion towards him. But it wouldn’t have been, if I had not allowed God to break me first.

I have battled with my beliefs versus the selfishness, fears, insecurities, doubts and anxieties that dictated  my actions and decisions on a day by day basis. And I came to a real place of brokenness and need which is exactly where God wanted me.

 God spoke over me, every single day; “It’s time” as one of my spiritual fathers always says… It was time, it was time for real, authentic, lasting change. It was time for me to stop running away from the ugly things hidden in my heart and instead allow the Holy Spirit to expose and remove everything that gets in the way of His love.

You know it is really easy for us to sit and read good books that teach us about Sonship, or sit in a class that teaches us how to allow the Holy Spirit to transform us from the inside out. Most of us have all of the right answers. We know what to do and how. But I think many of us are afraid to go deeper.  We are afraid of what we will find if we truly allow God to unmask and unveil our hearts. So instead we turn to needing the approval of man, working extremely hard or hustling, perfectionism, jumping from one relationship to another, sexual addictions, drugs, alcohol, etc to mask what’s going on within. We do not understand that God is a good father, that he exposes our ugly with the desire to teach us who we truly are, and replace that which was broken with the beauty of His son.

Banquet Ready

With Corey and Kaci ready for the Betania girls banquet here at Shores of Grace last week. It was so much fun honoring and showing our girls how loved they are.

 The dark nights of the soul are never meant to destroy us, yet often times because of our lack of cooperation they do. I remember God leading me into a time like this 2 years ago.  Instead of dealing I fled to drinking, smoking and refusing to see what laid deep inside. In the process I hurt many people I loved and even led. This time around I choose to say “yes”. I bore the pain, because after all Jesus suffered a lot more than I ever will. I didn’t turn my face, hide or pretend I didn’t see what was in my heart. I laid still on the operation table and as painful, miserable, hard, frightening it all was, I gave my perfect Father the opportunity to take the cancerous thoughts, failing organs of self, and replace them with himself.

CTA button for Blog ATSAnd now as I look in the mirror, as I prepare to leave Shores of Grace and Brazil I see a bride coming forth. I see the beauty of the kingdom on the inside me. I feel the confidence of the spirit of Adoption. I recognize the face of my Papa in my own. For the first time in my 6 years as a follower of Jesus Christ, I see a woman who is fully alive, dressed in white garments of praise, joy, and thanksgiving, girded in the truth and crowned with grace and mercy and walking on the shoes of peace.

May you too say “yes” and not choose the easy way out and see a bride come forth from the dark nights of your soul.

banquet Decorations

God exchanged the broken things for gifts and new delights. Some of the decorations we made for the Betania banquet.

Working with a Brazilian Ministry: From Orphan to Daughter

StreetChurch

Made a new friend at street church, she wears an eye patch because she was shot in the eye, and survived. This past Sunday she oded on crack, in the hospital a woman told her she wasn’t going to die because God has a plan for her. I came with the same message… He chases so hard after His loved ones. Truly He does not relent. Love never stops loving

I love Brazil. I love that I am literally living a dream, I dreamt for nearly 10 months. It is a privilege to do the little things to help keep this ministry (Shores of Grace) running, I have learned to love those things. My heart burns within me when I hit the streets with my team, my new family and I see the faces of those women, young men or children. Tears often fill my eyes as I experience the love of the Father towards them. The years at Camp of the Woods as a Guest Service representative comes pouring out, and I love it, the nights we have the Father Love Banquet. Oh what a delight it is to serve a drink to someone who is thirsty.

Yet my dream, Gods dream for me here in Brazil has proved to be a difficult one. These past few weeks I have been wrestling the skeletons of insecurity and pride, that have been rooted into the closet of my heart by the lies of the orphan spirit.  To be honest I was not expecting to come to Brazil and have the rug pulled out from underneath me. Looking back, I realize that expected to come here with so much to offer, so much to give and do and instead God brought me here to break me. To cut some more dead branches out of my life and to teach me how to truly be a “wounded healer”.

Banquet

Shores of Grace staff and volunteers ready for the Father Love Banquet.

I have spent days feeling alone, feeling not good enough, inadequate, and empty handed. And that’s because I have based my identity and my truth on what I could do, and on what others think of me. At home it was easy. I sang, I preached in certain places, I am in prayer ministry teams, I have good grades, people who see and call out my gifts, I have plenty of friends, a good reputation that follows me, but here I have NOTHING. No friends, no reputation, nothing to base my worth and joy upon other than God.

And that is where the struggle began. Because while I thought I knew who I was and whose I was, I surely did not. Let me tell you, this lesson has not come easy to me, at all. I literally feel like the dog who goes back to its vomit, nearly every day. I go eat the good meal of what God has to say, I throw up the lies and then bam, 2.5 seconds later I am eating my vomit and wallowing in self-pity as I do.

But I have made a resolve to win the battle for the inner life as Dr. Rob Reimer would say. I am not, nor will I be a victim. I will no longer be ruled by the opinions of man. Nor will I allow what I do or do not do define me. I am choosing to believe that I AM A DAUGHTER. Whether you think I belong in the family or not =).

A few days ago as I laid in bed with fever over and over again I heard God say, “I have chosen you, I have called you, I have chosen you, I have called you, I have put treasure on the inside of you, I will reveal my glory through you as I desire, when I desire, you are mine, you are mine, YOU ARE MINE.” These words pierced my heart and I literally laid there and cried.

CTA button for Blog ATSI know I am not alone in this struggle, I know many of you like me, truly don’t know who you are, you think you do, but if all of those things you base your identity on were pulled like a rug from underneath your feet, you’d end up on your face, just like me. But the good news is, God longs for us to be free, to walk in wholeness and experience the Spirit of Adoption that already defines us, in full. It’s time to kick that orphan spirit in the butt and embrace who we are!

Here are the ways He is teaching me how:

1- Soak in God. Practice His presence. The word says His thoughts towards us are so great in number, they can’t be told. Yet He burns to tell us what thinks about us. He wants us to know how wide, deep and long His love is for us.

You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.- Psalm 40:5

2- Word. Word. Word. – Get in it. The word is a double edge sword. It literally pierces our hearts. I am finding that the mPromisesore I read, the more I soak in, the less the lies play over and over again in my mind. Because truth sets the captives free.

3- Community. Seek it out. Speak. Be honest. And allow others to speak into you. Hiding, pretending does not help anyone. Want to live your best life now? THEN BE REAL ( Preaching to myself here).

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine. – Isaiah 43:1

                                         I am His. You are His. We are sons & daughters of the Living God. And so here in Brazil I am learning how to move from being an orphan to being a daughter…

“Abuser of God’s Grace”

Eating dinner at PF Changs in Boston

Eating dinner at PF Changs in Boston

Tomorrow as we all gather together with our friends and families to celebrate Thanksgiving, we have something very special, undeniable and unmerited to be thankful for; Grace.  Grace is the gift from God that keeps on giving. The gift that connects us to Him and His great love. Grace is the reason I and many of you, are still alive today. God’s grace is the life-giving blood of His son, that has opened the door for us to receive eternal and permanent forgiveness and entrance into a love relationship with the God of the universe. Without grace, you and I would have no reason to be thankful, joyful and filled with hope. And while grace is a wondrous, beautiful gift, one I am sure many of us have or at least should have experienced a hundred times over, it is also one of the most abused God given gifts.  And I too have been guilty. I too have been an “abuser of God’s grace”.

 Two weekends ago, I took a drive with two friends to join a bunch of other friends from Eating Dinner  ATS and church ( Living Christ Church in Nyack, NY) for “Holy Spirit weekend”. We make this trek yearly to join Dr. Rob Reimer, Dr. Martin Sanders and Dr. Ron Walborn at South Shore Community Church in Brockton, MA, as they address topics like; the soul, the gifts of the Spirit, healing (of the soul, body and mind) etc. We go to these weekends in a search to learn, to grow and to encounter the Lord in a fresh new way and every year we come back renewed. This was my first Holy Spirit Weekend in Brockton. I was excited, filled with hope and expectation, sure that God had something new for me there, and surely He did.

 We got there 30 minutes before the first service Friday evening after being stuck in unpleasant traffic. I set up my table display for ATS with the help of a Nyack College colleague and got ready just in time for the worship to start. Dr. Martin Sanders spoke that night and out of all the wonderful things he said there is only 1 phrase I could remember “some are abusers of God’s grace” ( slight para-phrase). I remember this statement because of the way it pinched my heart, and I could not understand why. I chose to ignore the pinch, but that did not last very long.

At the end of the message, there were different response stations set up, for us to go to and be with God. A cross set at the front left of the sanctuary, for us to write and nail down our sins, struggles etc to the cross. A resolution station at the back left of the room, for us to make and write resolutions with God. A communion station in the back right, for us to partake of the Lord’s supper and a prayer station in the front right corner, to receive prayer from others. I went to the cross and found myself nailing some very familiar struggles to it. Then I confidently walked over to the communion table.

I picked up my little cracker and cup filled with grape juice, as I began to thank God for His sacrifice and prepare to take the communion, I heard God in my heart say very clearly; “You are an abuser of my grace, do not take communion, turn around and repent.”. I felt a deep sense of guilt, I knew God pegged me. He was right, I was/am an abuser of His grace.

Thoughts of the many times I have sinned knowing subconsciously He would forgive me, plagued my mind. Don’t get me wrong, I am not the kind of person to do something wrong just because I could get away with it, at least consciously. I never fell into temptation with the thought “well at least I know I can get away with it, cause God will forgive me.” But I have always known that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9) and I have learned that even in my failures, I can come boldly to the throne of Grace and receive mercy ( Hebrews 4:16).  And so this sense of knowing that I am forgiven, in a sick and twisted way, propelled my fleshly addictions.

 As I turned around and walked back towards the front with my cup and cracker in hand, I felt my heart-break. I knew I had offended God. I knew I had taken advantage of His goodness and mercy and it made me nearly sick to my stomach. I used to despise when people “abused His grace” and yet I was guilty of the very thing I once hated. I hastily wrote my sin on a piece of paper, nailed it to the wooden cross and took the communion. As I walked back with my little cup, I could not hold back the tears. I saw one of the awesome girls from my church and I told her what God spoke to me and why. I cried tears of repentance, tears that longed for deep change and tears that were aware of how much my struggles, hurt God.

My friend prayed for me and something she said really stood out to me ” God is saying Thank you, thank you for acknowledging me…” And in that moment I felt His grace and love once again. Because really all God is looking for; are hearts that are willing to admit their sinfulness, hearts that are willingly exposed before Him, hearts that long for true repentance ( a turning away from sin) and hearts that yearn for Him, to please Him and love Him above all others.

 So many of us have been stuck in cycles of sin, we make excuses ( I am really good, at finding those), we sin, confess, and sin again. This is offensive to God. This hurts His heart, but in His great LOVE, MERCY and GRACE,  He continues to shower us with the same grace we take advantage of.

My resolution is to NEVER BE AN ABUSER OF GOD’S GRACE, again! To be a woman who truly lays a hold of His forgiveness and kindness and turns once and for all from the very things that nailed Him to a cross.

Because truth is when He forgives us it’s permanent, and so is His freedom from sin over our lives (so let’s walk in it)!!

And THAT is something to be Thankful for!

     HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!! 

Thankful

Death First

“Death first” was a statement made by Dr. Rob Reimer jokingly deeper lifeas he spoke at the Nyack College Deeper Life session on Tuesday night. And while the context in which he made the statement is different from the way I am about to use it, ” Death First” perfectly articulates what God has been doing in my life.

Since Brazil, and in the midst of the craziness that is new student orientation, plus the add/drop period for Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary, God has been talking to me consuming fireabout death. Yes, you read right, death. God is calling me to die, to deny myself and my pick up my cross and follow him daily ( Luke 9:23). He is challenging me to learn how to live my life as a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1-2); To be one who offers up her life to the Lord wholly, so that His will would be done in my life, here on earth, as it is in heaven. 

As I tried to process and explain to my friends what God was doing in me, I was having real difficulty, until Dr. Reimer spoke on it during chapel at ATS.He helped me understand that what God was asking of me was completely normal and necessary.

 Truth is, Jesus very much meant what He said when He called us to die to ourselves. And most of us live under the false assumption that we already do this. We think that because we stopped doing the things we use to, or have dealt with some of the heart issues in our lives, that we have learned to die.

But death to self goes deeper still. It is a realm of self-denial that forces us to love our enemies as ourselves. It is living in a place where, truly, it is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me (Galatians 2:20). It is surrendering ALL that we are, ALL that we have and allowing God to do whatever, however, whenever, with ALL of our lives. It is living a life that says, “God this is what I want, this is what I have, this is who I am, take all of it, consume it, and do with it all, what you will.” It is no longer making decisions and asking God to bless them, but truly asking; “God what is it that you want?” and walking under His leading.

And I have come to realize that unless we learn to live “Death Surrendered at the AGSM retreatFirst”, we are going to miss out on truly seeing God and His move here on this earth. Dr. Reimer touched on this while he spoke in our chapel. He mentioned that unless we live in this level of Holiness, we will not see God (Hebrews 12:14). We pray and plead with God for revival yet we are still the masters of our lives. We still live with division amongst us. We still live being offended and angry with one another. We still control our decisions and the things we do. We want to see God, without living wholly, Holy lives and that my friends will not work. 

CTA button for Blog ATSYou want to see God?  Choose ” Death first”. Choose to surrender all that you have and all that you are and let God have His perfect will done in you, as it is in heaven. 

“We desire that God would give us the death-stroke; but we long to die without pain; we would die to our own will by the power of the will itself; we want to lose all and still hold all. Ah! what agony, what distress, when God has brought us to the end of our strength! We faint like a patient under a painful surgical operation. But the comparison is nought, for the object of the surgeon is to give us life — that of God to make us die.” François FénelonSpiritual Progress 

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