God With Us – Emmanuel

Somehow, more than a week has already flown by since my last update… Time seems to be moving so fast and so slow!

Here at YWAM, we are still settling into a routine and adjusting as our schedules change. Our environment is saturated with worship, oral teachings, required readings, and good conversations.

Since I arrived on campus, I have been constantly encouraged and comforted by the presence of Scripture everywhere. All of the teachings and spontaneous words we have been receiving have been grounded in the word of God, and many of them have even had a topical focus related to the power of the word of God.

But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

John 6:68 (NKJV)

It has been an amazing experience to see the “words of eternal life” seeping through from every direction. In class this week, our DTS leader Hannah Suggs is teaching us about hearing God’s voice, reviewing passage after passage that speaks of God’s heart to connect with us, to speak, and to lead us out of captivity. In our first meeting for the Worship Elective, we also learned about prophecy in worship.

The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones.

Ezekiel 37:1 (NKJV)

In Ezekiel 37:1-14, the prophet is spiritually led to a valley, where God begins commanding Him to “prophesy” over the dry bones laying there. In Strong’s Concordance, the Hebrew word used for “prophesy” is naba, defined further as “to prophesy, to speak (or sing) by inspiration…”. Our teacher pointed to this passage as an example of how God loves to co-create with us: to use us as His instruments to touch people and speak to them. As worship leaders, we have a unique privilege to sing songs that can break down emotional barriers and spiritual strongholds in a person’s heart, paving the way for encounters with God’s “still small voice” [1 Kings 19:12].

The passage from Ezekiel 37 stayed with me, and I dove further into it in my own personal study. When the Lord calls Ezekiel to prophesy at the beginning of the story and the end, He ends the prophesy by saying each time “then you shall know that I am the Lord” [v. 6] and “then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it” [v.14].

So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Ezekiel 37:10 (NKJV)

In the context of the entire week (learning about prophecies, the voice of God, and our entire class crying out to hear from the Lord and feel the presence of His Spirit), I felt the Lord calling me to remember all the things He has already done in my life and in the lives of others I know. Through my short time at YWAM, God has already been hammering in the power of our individual and corporate testimonies. Even though He provides us with so many avenues and ways to know Him, often the stories of how He has moved in the lives of individual people with hearts surrendered to Him are the ones that resonate the most.

After my experience last week of feeling lonely and struggling to make meaningful connections, the truth of “God with Us”, a personal God who draws near to us and wants us to seek His face in return, is sweeter than ever. Since the beginning of the week, He has been nudging our small body of students individually to lay down idols that have been blocking a singular view of Him and to come sit at His feet — to just be present, to just breathe, to just be still. He has been confirming this truth in my own life by stripping away all distractions and calling me to go further into His presence.

Please pray for guidance and clarity for our leaders as circumstances in the world change. Please also pray for continued vulnerability and willingness from our student body to be open to hearing God’s call. Thank God for the work He has already done and the work He is still doing. He is worthy of all praise!!

Thank you for reading. 🙂

P.S. I was tickled by the fact that this song was just released by Dante Bowe just 5 days ago (see below), just in time for our class focus. God can speak to us in so many different and personal ways. How do you recognize His voice?

The Lord Will Provide – Jehovah Jireh!

Dear Readers,

I will start this blog post update with a PRAISE REPORT! I am so grateful and humbled to announce that I am FULLY FUNDED FOR BOTH MY CAMPUS AND OUTREACH PHASES OF MY DISCIPLESHIP TRAINING SCHOOL. Thank you to everyone who has given sacrificially to support me. It has been such an encouragement to receive your financial support, kind words, and prayers.

Today was the first day of our Orlando Discipleship Training School at Youth With a Mission. There are many changes and adjustments that have the power to wear me down mentally, emotionally, and physically. But God has been continuing to renew my spirit through prayer reminders, corporate worship, and the presence of His comforting Holy Spirit. Over the past few weeks, I have been reading the book of Isaiah. This morning, I opened by Bible to Isaiah 61, which begins:

This passage and the subsequent chapters were an encouragement at the beginning of the morning that God is sending me into this experience for a reason and He is paving the way for relationships, outreach, and the songs that I am praying to receive from Him.

Through the fast-paced settling in process, I have been experiencing some doubts and heaviness centered around leaving home and my treasured community there. We started our first group DTS meeting by worshipping together as the staff prayed over the students and we declared God’s promises. I declared that– even though I am in a new place and there will be awkward moments– I am not alone!

Never been so free caught in Your love for me

Never been more secure, knowing Your heart, Lord

“Joy” by Housefires

Thank you for reading! More updates coming soon. 🙂

Our beautiful campus

Abundantly Ready

I was made to love You

It’s all I really know for sure

All I am is wrapped up in You

The center of my world

“Forever Amen” by Steffany Gretzinger

With less than 5 days remaining before the beginning of my DTS program at YWAM, I have been focused on packing my belongings, spending last days with dear friends and at my home church, and planning the next months. Needless to say — these few days are flying by!

Even in this busy season, God has been dropping constant reminders that I am on the right path.

I am overwhelmed with the generosity of people who have supported me financially. Giving requires sacrifice and obedience, and I am so thankful. Through your gifts, my Campus Phase (my first three months training in the Orlando base) is already fully funded. Glory to God!

Regarding the final 2 months focused on ministry work, an outreach location has not been decided yet so we are still unsure what the final financial amount will be. Please continue to pray for discernment for our leaders as they pray and listen for God’s direction.

Other reminders from God have come in the form of teachings and worship songs (follow my Spotify playlist for this new season!). In our Oasis Women’s Bible Study on Tuesday nights, we have been learning about the Names of God and hearing testimonies from women in our community every week. Each week I am reminded of a different side of God’s character and how indescribably vast, powerful, and loving He is.

This past Tuesday, I was asked to give the featured testimony. What an honor! Though it was challenging, God knew that it was exactly what I needed to finish off this season at home — and He brought me clarity through the process of writing, as He so often does.

Watch the full message from Heather Funk or just my testimony at the end through the YouTube link below.

Full Recording of my testimony at Oasis Womens’ Bible Study

All things are “working together” in this season, and though it feels strange to admit it, I feel ready to leave. I have experienced seasons that have been much more hectic and less prepared than this one, and I know that the future holds more of them. Yet in all times, God still holds me in the palm of His hand.

More updates will be posted after my arrival at YWAM! Stay tuned. 🙂

Racing to the Starting Line

“Search me, O God, and know my heart

Test me and know my anxious thoughts…”

Psalm 139:23

I find this popular verse increasingly relevant in each period of life. Sometimes I will recognize a pattern of anxiety in my habits that has gone unnoticed in my mind for days, weeks, or months. Once I recognize the pattern, it takes even longer to diagnose the source or reason for the nerves.

“Test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Although I am sure this verse has meant many different things to different people, to me it means this: God knows the source of my anxiety before I know it myself. And spending time with Him points me in the right direction — spending time in His word helps me to know myself better.

A few months ago, after making the decision to enroll in Discipleship Training School at YWAM, I experienced a compulsion, which I can only liken to the nesting of a pregnant woman (LOL), to clean and organize my living space in preparation for my upcoming departure, which was still several months away. I gave away bags of clothes and excavated storage boxes from my closet that had lain untouched for years. Even though I was still juggling more pressing duties like finishing school, my anxiety was centered on my departure from home.

Those “anxious thoughts” have gradually transformed into nervous excitement as my DTS approaches in less than a month. May-August was a blur: I completed my last school semester and started shifting my focus towards practicing musical instruments and leading worship. Since my graduation in early August, I have been learning our Audio Visual system at church and practicing acoustic guitar.

One of my last times leading worship for the Evening Service at Calvary Miami Beach

Grace (pictured above on the left playing the cajon) and I had the privilege this week of listening to some videos of a recent songwriting retreat with workshops from some of our favorite songwriters. It has been such a sweet time to spend together before I leave Miami and to refine the skill we both love. Amanda Cook led a session teaching about the importance of extensive reading and habitual, disciplined writing for any kind of aspiring writer.

Bethel Songwriting Retreat

Good writers are readers.

Amanda Cook, Bethel Songwriting Retreat

My own reading has mostly revolved around topics that remain a priority since June. Racism remains an ever-present reality in our country as shootings and protests continue. I pray for God to open the eyes of the blind, including my own. Although not all the works I have been reading are from a Christian point of view, I am thankful for the perspective and humility that their stories bring.

This is a deeply “saturated season” for me as I soak in the work of talented writers and endeavor to pour out my own thoughts. I am so thankful for the privilege of leading worship and expressing myself through music.

With my departure for YWAM only 27 days away, the sense of anticipation is growing! God has opened doors for me to spend quality time with new and old friends, and I am so thankful for that community.

Thank you for supporting me through monetary gifts and through prayer! I am overwhelmed by the generosity of those who have already given sacrificially to help send me to YWAM. It’s not a small sum, but God has proven himself faithful! That being said, I am still not fully funded for my Discipleship Training School. If you have not already given, please ask God if He has chosen you to give a gift of any amount to my lecture phase and outreach next year.

Not sure on how to give? Find the directions here.

Sunrise with God and another dear friend

The Shield of Silence

I often feel that I have nothing to say. On the topic of racial injustice and many others, I have generally remained quiet because I sensed and felt guilty of hypocrisy by simply posting a viral video or picture of a person whose name I will mostly likely forget. I know that I am imperfect and I know that I will forget. I can’t remember all of their names because they are so many. And it’s easy for me to forget because this is not a reality I live with every day. Even the difficulty of remembering is evidence of the privilege I experience. Every day.

I see evidence of my own privilege in the fact that my most prevalent reminders of racial injustice are the waves of posts that I see periodically of a face and a name on social media: stories of real horrors happening all over our country and world. What could I possibly say? How can I add anything of value to the dialogue? I’m so keenly aware of my ignorance and horribly ashamed of my tendency to forget. 

So I say nothing.

Once again a face is circulating our feeds. The name “George Floyd” is accompanied by videos, pictures, and hashtags. Everyone cries out for justice.

As I scrolled and read caption after caption, still feeling that a simple repost would never be enough, I searched for other ways to help. Books to read, organizations to follow, research to conduct. I found others who shared their stories of remaining silent and realized that it takes courage to invite the challenge. My ignorance is not something that should prevent me from speaking and listening– only by joining the dialogue will my actual prejudices be revealed and challenged by those who know more than I do.

I am finally able to break my silence when I remember that I do not have to say something profound.

Marianne DiMascio in “The Deafening Silence of Whites“, an article written OVER 20 YEARS AGO

This article, written over 20 years ago, changed my perspective. The issues discussed are still extremely relevant today. Sometimes it’s not enough to just listen. I am so thankful for those who have loved me enough to challenge me on other social issues and for what I have already learned. I know that I will never be done learning.

I thank God for reminding me that the first step is to educate myself and not to be afraid of starting conversations. I found some books to read and I know that God will open the doors for real conversation in His timing. I only pray for the courage to be vulnerable and not to protect my ignorances and prejudices behind a shield of silence. I pray for reminders to continue the fight whether the voices are deafening or silenced.

Today I am saying that black lives matter. I am recognizing that we live in a broken world where both systemic and individual racism still exist. I believe that we are all created in the image of God and this God whom I worship “shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35). As one post (see below) declared, “I worship Jesus Christ — a dark-skinned, middle-Eastern Jew!” His Spirit inside me is the only One who can bring true conviction and remembrance to my limited viewpoint.

So challenge me! Send me book recommendations or other content that has guided your learning experience. The conversation is open. I am ready to listen but I am also ready to speak freely and act openly.

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