Flowing With the Unforced Rhythms of Grace

Changing my hair has been a catalyst for some serious transformation and major insight in my life.  I decided back in February, at the start of an extended vacation, that at the end of it, I’d start the process of loc’ing my hair (dreadlocks).  I remember how I kept thinking and saying, “It’s time (for change).”  I had no idea what I was in for.

It’s funny how something as seemingly simple as hair, can affect such major change in one’s life but it does (ask Sampson, lol), and with locs, I hear many, many people echo the same sentiments. Not to sound all exclusive, but starting this journey, I feel I have joined the ranks of a group of people who are in touch with themselves in a very different way.  It’s a new level of inner knowing.

I think, in part, it has something to do with going off the beaten path, especially against others wishes, and coming out stronger than ever.  I experienced this when I started unschooling my then, only child.  I literally had the unflinching support and cheerleading of one person, my grandfather, and he passed a month before I officially took my daughter out of daycare 16 years ago, and began our journey.  Setting off on a new and different path that I’d never seen modeled, changed my life in many extraordinary ways.

When I decided to embark upon my first birth without medication, I caught the same flack.  When I decided to give birth at a freestanding birth center with a midwife for my second birth, then at home with a midwife for my third, I learned something about myself.  I learned how very powerful and capable and strong my body is and I went on to give birth twice more, at home with no midwife, doctor or doula, just my body, baby and family present.  My husband learned how capable and strong he is, as his hands were the very first to touch his sons as they were born.  My children, all present at each other’s births, all learned how beautifully boring but also magically amazing birth can be; they aren’t afraid of it at all.  Lol, people like to say, “Why give birth naturally, you don’t get a medal for it.” Those people have no idea what one gets from such a birth.  No “medal” can compare.  I got so much more.  I gained something that no one could begin to try and take away.  Even with having earned medals from running races, I am not certain where those medals are as I type this, what I gained from doing it is far more valuable to me than the “bling” I gained and still gain from running.

My hair looks wild right now.  It looks rough and “unkempt” and unruly and not only do I wear it proudly and boldly, I absolutely, unequivocally love it.  It mirrors the part of the journey I am on right now. Some days have been hard, filled with tears, anger, and even guilt and shame as God reminds me of things past. He is teaching me through so many entities, to face the ugly truth about things I was once confused or deceived about. He is walking me along a path that I must travel to subjectively realize complete healing, wholeness, and forgiveness. On the harder days this week and last, He gave me my beautiful friends, Evelin, Julissa and Lissandra whose support and love I can’t imagine doing without.  He gave me frequent “kiss attacks” from my 4 year old son and the beautiful closeness that comes with breastfeeding my 1 year old.  He gave me the beauty of having a cousin over for a few weeks and her laughter joined with my other children is so stinkin’ cute.  He gave me my doting husband, who insisted on taking me on dates, surprised me with flowers and a massively loud dance party on a Tuesday night, starting after 11pm. He and our children danced, screamed and had a blast until we were all drenched in sweat.  I would have called the police on us, lol, but Abba knew it was so needed, and no one did.

This journey I am on is very hard but I see so much beauty and freedom in it. I am choosing to flow with it unapologetically. In the past, I’d fought hard against it when the Lord was doing something new in me, for my growth. Not this time. I am done fighting against Him, I can’t win anyway, lol. I will flow with the unforced rhythms of grace and come out more glorious than ever. Many blessings to you, dear reader.

What’s On Your Plate?

It’s been a little while since I wrote last.  At least it feels that way.  I haven’t really known how to say what I want to say at times.  Other times, I simply haven’t had much to say, and I won’t write if I have nothing to say.

I am on a journey to greater awareness of myself.  I am learning what makes me tick.  I am learning what triggers me to emotions like anxiety, anger, fear, sadness and my favorite, happiness.  I am good some days, and some days I am not doing well at all, but, God is here, taking me along this path that I must travel in order to get to a place where I see myself not as my parents have taught me to see myself, but as He sees me. He knows me best and His view of me is what will ultimately help me to be the best Patrice I can be.

A group of friends and I do prophetic assignments together every now and then.  One assignment had us envision a plate on a table.  The plate was filled with many things and so was the table.  We were to ask the Lord what, if anything on our plates, should be removed, decreased or increased, and what on the table that perhaps wasn’t on our plate, should be added.  I got a one word answer and then a moving picture.  My answer to what needed to be removed from my plate was simply, “People”.  Then, I saw the Lord remove the people from my plate and He got on my plate, arms outstretched, smiling, until He filled my plate with Himself.  Then, as He filled my plate, I saw all kinds of things go back on my plate but through Him, because as I said, He covered the plate.

I don’t consider myself a people pleaser, but I do love people and am very much an empath who has no problem at all feeling compassion for others.  My issue is that I lack compassion for myself.  I very easily leave myself out of the equation and that must change.  I need balance.  One dear friend, Jackie, has been pretty much saying this for a few years now.  Mothering and nurturing others is a skill at which I am a natural.  I love it.  I am learning to turn some of that mothering and nurturing onto myself and see myself as worthy of the time, attention and care I so easily give others.

He is to be the lens through which I see and do everything. I believe wholeheartedly that He is all in all anyway.  Nothing is changing on His end with this.  It’s my perspective that’s changing.  My subjective reality is matching up with what is and always was, because of Christ’s finished work.  I am healed and whole and waking up to that realization more and more.

I encourage you to do the assignment my friends and I have done.  Ask the Lord.  What’s on your plate that needs to be removed, increased or decreased?  What’s on the table that isn’t on your plate at this time but should be added?  Take time to dialog with the Lord about this and journal what you get out of it.  I’d love to hear about it too.  This exercise started a very serious and deep look at my life, like how my past affects my present.  It has highlighted different traits about my personality, habits and more.  Do this for yourself and see what God does with it.  It could very well change your life as it has mine.  I love you dear reader, Patrice.

Building Strong Children

I am going through something that I honestly don’t feel as free to discuss as I’d like to.  This fact makes me very angry.  The problem is, I am unfamiliar with exactly what to do with my anger, as I never felt able to express it in a productive manner.

Something happened that made me cry.  My 4 year old son started to cry in anger because it was time for him to get ready for bed and he wanted to keep playing a game.  Most parents (that I know), when faced with their child’s anger, seek to shut it down immediately.  There is no room for a child to even learn to express their anger or process it in a productive way.  Perhaps this is why there’s so much rage just beneath the surface with so many adults- they weren’t allowed to express  and work through their feelings as children.

I hate how boys aren’t “supposed” to cry.  What are they supposed to do with their feelings, then? I hate how anyone who cries and makes others feel uncomfortable must stop, suck it up, shake it off, or get over it.  That is stupid and I am tired of it.

I don’t know how, but I believe God will help me to help my son learn to manage his feelings appropriately.  I will not shut him down.  I won’t make his moods or behavior about me and take it personally.  I will help him as best I can and I will do my best to protect him from other adults who have faulty thinking in this area and are broken themselves.  I will not allow someone else’s insecurities and inabilities to break my son.  When he needs to cry like he did today, I will do my best to be available to help him through it in anyway I can.  I will hold him as long as he lets me and talk things through with him as best I can.  I will remember that he is, after all, a little boy (of 4) right now.  He is learning and growing.  I want to help him along. Lord help me to do this right.  We don’t need anymore broken men.

As Frederick Douglass said, “It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Let’s build strong children.

 

Early Perceptions of God

A dear group of friends and I are having a discussion today (as we do most days) and my friend Juli said the following: “I remember that before I was a ‘born again Christian’, I used to believe that by default God loved me, no matter what.”  She went on to say that at different churches, she learned things that she is now needing to unlearn. We all began to chime in saying we have felt the same way.

When she said this, it really struck a chord with me and took me back to my own childhood.  I remember very clearly feeling that not only did God love me tremendously, but I was and am somehow, very special to Him too.  I never felt it was to the exclusion of anyone else, in fact, it had nothing to do with others.  It was just me, and Him, and in that context, He absolutely adores me, period.

Some of the ideas I have had throughout my life, I am only now beginning to give voice to, with certain people. I have oftentimes felt that the God I felt drawn to, close to and loved by privately, was an altogether different person from the one I was taught about in church.  The one from church was wishy washy and temperamental.  He might strike me down at any given moment.  He was scary, never laughed, was very far away and too busy to be bothered with my stuff on a daily or even weekly basis.  As my daughter Jaiela says, the god from church needed a certain level and type of prayer, fasting and effort to even hear you, let alone answer your prayers.  In order to get an answer from this god, there’s a certain amount of time one must wait to hear back from him, if they ever heard anything back at all.  It was all so strange.

The God I know and love is the one I met in the innermost parts of my being.  He made me know I was and am special to Him.  He isn’t angry with me at all.  He’s not waiting for me to mess up so that He can strike me down.  He loves me without conditions.  I can’t do anything to diminish or increase His love for me.  He just loves me, and you, plain and simple.

I wonder if my friends and I are alone in our experiences and feelings.  Outside of all the teaching, good or otherwise, what were your feelings about Him?  Have you always seen Him as distant, or close?  If you don’t know, I pray you come to know Him soon, in a real and tangible way.  No one has or will ever love you more.

 

 

 

 

Father’s Day Ramblings

Sometimes, following God’s leading makes no logical sense to me, but, when I feel that familiar tug in a specific direction, I always go anyway.  The results of doing so, always ends up being nothing short of spectacular.

Back in December, I began to feel the Lord was leading me away from my commitment as one of the leaders in youth group.  I felt it was to take a more concerted effort to write. Of course it turned out to be more in the end. I cried profusely about it as I spoke with the youth pastor and another leader.  They laughed at me and assured me that all was well and that we are all still family.

Since then, God has been making sense of everything I have been feeling for a few years regarding my theology and what I was raised to believe about myself, Him and others.  Things are changing in the best way.

Recently, as I walked and talked with the Lord, I admitted to Him that I am feeling as if I am being pulled away from church (attendance).  I cry easily, and did so as I admitted aloud to Him that I don’t want to go to church anymore.  Learning what He is teaching me is making it hard to sit and hear the opposite.  Because He knows me better than I know myself, I asked Him why I don’t want to go anymore.  I feel it’s Him leading me away again.  Now please don’t read between any lines here.  This is my journey. I am simply telling my story.

I asked Him several very specific questions and asked Him to give me the answers in dreams because I couldn’t dismiss dreams.  Dreams just are, what they are, without my meddling and changing things around.  He answered every single question in spectacular fashion and in response to my question about not wanting to attend church any longer, He had a friend mention a book to me.  The books title is, So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, by Jake Colsen.  I borrowed the audio version from my local library and devoured it in short order.  It explained my feelings exactly, even touching on house churches.  It answered my questions, and some I hadn’t considered, and, I gained a greater sense of peace.

In the meantime, I am enjoying meeting with other believers to simply hang out, eat and more.  I am learning a lot more about the people I love than I ever did attending church meetings with them.  There was never any real time to learn about them and their lives in that setting anyway.

Another thing that has been happening is that a group of friends and I have been asking God questions each day.  This started from a short clip of Shawn Bolz, teaching on hearing from God.  He said to ask the Lord something like, what you are here to do and what He likes about you.  On another day, my friends and I asked the Lord why we don’t always trust what He says and why we sometimes doubt Him.  On another day, we asked Him to show us where we are and where He wants to take us.  It has been wonderful getting answers and sharing them with one another.  I have done these exercises with my sisters and my children as well.  I encourage you to do it too.  We are doing it for 30 days.

In the midst of all this, Abba has been giving me specific instructions on how to go about reaching various goals I have set for myself.  We have been talking about hair, weightloss and more.  Talking hair with my Abba was an exciting and endearing first for me.  I am so enjoying these conversations with Him.

We also had an amazing thing happen a few days ago.  My children and I decided to go for a walk in a nearby park, after dinner one evening.  As we walked to the car, I noticed, but stepped over an envelope on the ground.  My oldest, who was behind me, is naturally more curious than me and she picked it up saying someone named Wayne lost his card.  I smiled and watched her open it.  My smile dropped when she pulled out cash and screamed, “WAYNE!!!!”  We all saw and started looking around frantically and screamed for a Wayne we didn’t know.  No one answered.  Everyone admitted feeling awful that someone had gone out of their way to thank Wayne and give him money and he’d lost the card.  We prayed about the situation and remarked at how bad we felt.  No one enjoys losing money.

When we got home, we read the card again, as it was dark outside when we first looked at it. There was a keyword- coach- Wayne is a coach in our area.  Long story short, my oldest was able to locate Wayne, and because it was a bit creepy, I called him the next morning.  We found him, well, she did, lol!  We met him later that next day at a nearby store and gave him his card and money.  What a load off!!  It turned out that the family giving him the card were the ones who lost it.  We thank God that we found it and was able to get it into the right hands.  God is so gracious and kind.

I will end this week’s post by saying Happy Father’s Day to all whom it applies.  We are eagerly waiting for our guy to get home from work so that we can dote on him.

The Happiest Father’s Day of all goes to our beloved Abba.  You are literally the best Father ever!!

Psalm 22

All my life, I have been told that the word Gospel translates “good news”, when a lot of what I was taught afterwards was anything but good news.  I am having my world rocked nowadays and I am honestly loving it.  I am blissfully and truly seeing the Gospel as scandalously, amazingly too good but true, news.  I feel a very different but remarkable sense of freedom as I now read the Bible through this new lens of God truly being good.  Even the tough parts, I am able to see differently and what I don’t understand, I ask Abba to help me with that, and I believe He will.

I am reading one of my required books for seminary called Cosmos Reborn by John Crowder. It is amazing.  I had to stop reading it to write this post because I am so excited about what I am learning.  Bare with me as I share my excitement and tell you things you may already know.  I have actually gone back and forth, tempering my feelings about my theological journey as I am now seeing things in ways that are at times in opposition with the beliefs of my loved ones.  It is important to me to keep connections strong, but as an old song that comes to mind implies, I can’t keep it all to myself! 🙂

One thing among so much that I see differently, is the idea that God turned His back on Jesus while he was on the cross because of what Jesus said in Matthew 27:46 (My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”)  I was taught that it was at this point that God, who cannot even look upon sin, turned His back on His son Jesus who became sin for us.  A side note from this idea- if we are so awful and filled with sin, such that God can’t look at us, how is it that we come to Him at all? How would we be able to even face Him enough to accept Jesus’ sacrifice if He couldn’t look upon us? How could we even survive without His constant gaze upon us?  So many thoughts and questions come to mind… Ok, back to the topic at hand.

Not only do I now believe that Jesus, in that moment was identifying with what we feel and experience when we sin, (I mean really, who sins and wants to run straight to God without feeling crazy?) but it was so much more than just his identifying with us in that moment.  Jesus, in that moment was making a big statement, a statement that every Messianic person watching him hang on the cross understood clearly in that moment.

It is my understanding that during that time, they often sang the Psalms of David in synagogue.  Not too many years back, I heard and was surprised to learn that King David is counted among the prophets of the Old Testament. I totally see why, now.

If anyone was to recite the start of the lyrics of a popular song, you’d likely pick up on it and end up singing it too.  That happens often. That’s what Jesus did.  He recited the start of a Psalm they all likely knew, and it very likely blew some minds as he did, because the Psalm was about him and described very accurately (and probably eerily) what he was experiencing right there in that moment, on the cross.

Read Psalm 22  here. I can only imagine how floored they were in that moment of realization.  The song mentioned his thirst, his dislocated bones, his blood poured out, how he didn’t even look like a man anymore.  It mentioned the mocking, the gambling of his clothes and then, in verse 24, it says the Father did not look away, but was there all the time! Wow!!!  Can you imagine?  It reminds me of how Jesus went to synagogue, stood before them and quoted Isaiah 61:1 and then said, “This Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing today.” Boom!!! (Mic drop) He was essentially and effectively doing that again, on the cross!!! Amazing!

It was always said that the Gospel was offensive.  I see this from a different perspective now too.  It is most certainly offensive, but not quite in the way that I first thought of it.  Think about it, who in the Bible seemed to stay mad  and offended at Jesus? The religious folk.  It was the Pharisee’s who were often angered because Jesus chose to hang out with tax collectors and prostitutes. Forgive my silliness, but the reality is, them hoes loved Jesus. They loved him so much, and he them, that they didn’t want to whore no more. It was the ones who looked down on others that were offended.  The very ones who just knew they were right and everyone else was wrong and should follow them.  They felt Jesus should act like and hang with them.  He should have been the first to sock that prostitute in the head with a rock when she was caught in the act of adultery. How dare Jesus let her go?  They were the ones who were mad, offended and wanted to kill him. The Good News irked their religious nerves. Jesus was there for them too but they didn’t believe it. They were too entrenched in law to see Love.

This all just blows my mind and screams, “Good News”! I love it!!!  The Gospel is changing me in the very best way.  I look forward to seeing my Abba more and more clearly and correctly.  Jesus embodied the Father. He is good.  That, my friends, is the Gospel.

On the Subject of Perfection

I am a heretic.  I embody the definition of a heretic.  I am a nonconformist, a freethinker.  I am a person holding an opinion at odds with what is generally accepted (on many fronts in life) and,  I believe you are perfect.

Once, while at a conference with John Crowder, he said to look at your neighbor and say something “scandalous”.  I turned to my gorgeous neighbor and without thinking, I gave her the biggest smile I could, and blurted out, “You are perfect!”  She smiled and we moved on.  On one hand, I don’t tend to take myself too seriously.  There are times though, when I blurt things out without thinking, I know it’s not just me talking, it’s a God breathed Word.  Those moments of foreshadowing are put on a shelf for later review and that “reviewing” is always amazing and transformative.

As usual, the Lord soon highlighted His Word to me in Colossians 1:21-22.  In the Mirror Translation it says in verse 21, “Your indifferent mindset alienated you from God into a lifestyle of annoyances, hardships, and labors.  Yet he has now fully reconciled and restored you to your original design. 22 He accomplished this in dying our death in a human body; he fully represented us in order to fully present us again in blameless innocence, face-to-face with God; with no sense of guilt, suspicion, regret, or accusation; all charges against us are officially canceled.”

Let’s look at these same verses in The Passion Translation, 21, “Even though you were once distant from him, living in the shadows of your evil thoughts and actions, he reconnected you back to himself.  He released his supernatural peace to you through the sacrifice of his own body as the sin-payment on your behalf so that you would dwell in his presence.  And now there is nothing between you and Father God, for he sees you as holy, flawless, and restored.”

There is a prevailing thought process (that I don’t understand) within the Body, that is in conflict with itself.  You are imperfect, struggling daily with a sin nature whether that sin is yours or some ancestors, but somehow, you are to not only run into His courts with thanksgiving and praise, but you are to also do greater works than Jesus himself did.  How does this work when we see ourselves far beneath how our Heavenly Father sees us?  Why do we make this all so difficult?

I looked up that “problem word” ‘perfect’.  It means having all the required, or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be. It means absolute, complete, faultless, flawless, etc. Sounds like you to me.  It also sounds a whole lot like Colossians 1:22 .  What part of you was left out of the equation when Jesus sacrificed his life and declared, “It is finished!”?  In Revelation 13:8, The Complete Jewish translation speaks about the Lamb who was slaughtered before the world was founded.  If Jesus came to take away the sin of the world as John the Baptist stated, and he did so before the world was even founded, in that sense, did you even come here with a sin nature to begin with or is there a greater Truth (Jesus)?  Where were you before the world was founded? Now, I am not saying that I am a Universalist who believes all are automatically saved. I just know I was taught that until I invited Jesus into my heart, I indeed had a sin nature that needed to be taken care of, and I could take care of it myself, by accepting Jesus.  All I had to do was invite him in because Jesus was far, far away from me and my sin.  I was taught that until one invited Jesus in, they had no semblance of God in them at all.

I now understand that Jesus was already in my heart, he is all, in all.  I can’t even take a breath without his input.  He was already in my heart, wooing me to wake up to the realization of all he already accomplished for me.  He was and still is awakening me to all that I am, have and can do, because of what he did.  I couldn’t “invite” someone in that I didn’t know was even there.  He had to help me with that too.  It’s all a gift that I accept.  He didn’t suddenly take up residence in my heart and life when I walked down an aisle or filled out a slip of paper or said a prayer.  He was always there. I just didn’t know it.  He did it all.

In considering what the problem could be, I can only point to “the flesh” and our free will as what trips many up.  The flesh is often seen as problematic in Christian circles when, not only is the flesh itself not bad, but just to drive the point home, Jesus came in the flesh and died in the flesh to make sure we knew our flesh is in good standing with him too.  He is so genius that he used our free will in his ultimate plan to die for us, showing us just how far he was willing to go to show us that we are included, loved, wanted and accepted.  He knew we’d use our free will to literally kill him and he walked into that willingly, and powerfully.

Our free will wasn’t a problem for Abba. He isn’t afraid of our ability to choose. It’s only a problem for us.  He wasn’t kidding when He said He’d work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  You are amazing.  You are magnificent.  You are loved.  You are perfect.  It’s time to start to see yourself as He does, beloved.  Be free.