I was sitting down for a minute reflecting on Christmas and thinking about what story to share next. There's so much I wanted to write about and share, but the Lord just wouldn't release me until I wrote about the thing He's been asking me to write about for months. It didn't feel like such an awesome Christmas message, but as I prayed about it, I saw that it actually kind of was...because everything wrapped around Christmas is meant to be about everything but us. It's meant to be about the love that our Lord has for us. All that the Lord has for us. And as we get ready to head into the new year, I want to know that I am in a place of total readiness for all the Lord has for me. So this is the story of the moment God whispered to me unexpectedly in the middle of a worship service.
I wasn't asking any questions of the Lord at that moment. I wasn't in the middle of a deep, thoughtful prayer. I was simply enjoying worship during a service one evening, when out of the blue, the Lord showed me a picture that was as clear as could be... so far as images go. And I knew immediately the Lord wanted me to write about this. The picture was so clear and the message was even more clear. I knew I was supposed to do it right away.
That was two months ago.
I don't know why I didn't write it at that moment. Honestly, it would have been so easy to do because the Lord put it all right in front of me - both the picture and the words. But I hesitated. And that hesitation turned into a week of doing everything but write. A week became a month, then two months. And now here we are. I know I've said this before...and I guess it stems from my insecurities, but I feel like I need to say it again. I know that you all aren't sitting on pins and needles waiting for the next blog release. But I actually believe God is waiting on it. He has asked me to write my story and when I don't, I believe I live in a space of disobedience. So the other night, as I was taking a break from graphics, doing everything else but write, I read a word posted by someone I follow. In it, she addressed the double mindedness that so many of us live within the confines of. She quoted from James 1:7-8 in the Passion Translation "When you are half-hearted and wavering it leaves you unstable. Can you really expect to receive anything from the Lord when you’re in that condition?"
What it took to make me sit at my computer and actually begin writing, was the Lord nudging my heart and two simple terms...double minded and half-hearted. Suddenly I was reminded of the message that the Lord had given to me in October about High Places and the simple vision the Lord gave me out of the blue, of a cigarette butt. It was a weird picture. Not such a big deal by itself, but the words I heard whispered in my spirit were what stood out to me...Stop blowing smoke. What???? That felt kind of harsh. Not really a message that seems like anyone would want to hear. What was I supposed to do with that?
As I typically do when I get a message or vision, I dig into Scripture and into the words or parts of it I may not understand. I began with the the phrase "blowing smoke." I felt like I knew what it meant, but when I looked it up, I saw the deeper meaning I never realized before and what I believe the Lord was trying to show me. The phrase "to blow smoke" often means to intentionally misinform or deceive, or to make plans without any intention of following through - or to conceal the secret behind the stereotyped situation. The origin of this idiom came from the "old magicians tricking style, when they would release smoke to conceal the minor tricks they perform to (prove) their magic."
As I was standing in the sanctuary that evening watching the worship unfold in front of me, I realized I was watching a real life picture of "blowing smoke." There was so much fog filling the air that often the view of the people in front of us was obstructed, blocking them partially from my sight. And it suddenly struck me...blowing smoke. It's what we often do in life. We put up a "smoke screen" so people can't see the real us. We put on a production or a show and before we know it, it's the new us, or at least the "us" that the world now sees. Whether it's on a stage in church or just doing our everyday life. We put up this front so we don't risk vulnerability, showing our inner weakness and insecurities. Before we know it, we have a world full of production, replication, duplication and smoke screens. Blowing smoke so we don't have to deal with the junk inside that we don't want to deal with and the things we certainly don't want others to know about. And I think maybe even blowing smoke so we can keep God at an arm's length. Because if God gets too close to our heart, He might just want to clean things up a bit. And that might get painful. Or embarrassing. Or uncomfortable.
So instead, we light up our "cigarette", let out a puff of smoke and create this nice little screen in front of us. Not really going much deeper than we need to. And never really knowing how much more the Lord could do for us if we allowed Him in to do some house cleaning.
I'd been spending a lot of time reading through the book of Kings and there was something that kept jumping out at me that I never really paid attention to before..."nevertheless, the high places were not taken away." And I wondered, what exactly were these high places and why were they so detrimental to worshipping Yahweh and yet surprisingly so acceptable at times? So I began researching what the high places actually were. What I found was that they were localized, regional worship centers dedicated to a god to which people brought sacrifices, burned incense and held feasts. They contained altars, graven images and shrines. When the Israelites first entered the promised land, they were told to destroy the high places, idols and molten images. Some of the kings did, but surprisingly a lot didn't. Sometimes it was out of ignorance and sometimes it was out of disobedience. Solomon, the king who actually built the temple for the Lord, ultimately ended up building high places for all of his wives foreign gods. "Now King Solomon loved many foreign women..His wives turned away his heart after other gods and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord God, as was David his father." 1 Kings 11:4
The question that popped in my head as I read through these scriptures of the kings who kept the high places versus the ones like Hezekiah who destroyed them, was what if we gave up the high places in our lives? Whether they were put there out of ignorance or disobedience, what would happen if we cleared them out and only worshipped in the temple of the Lord? And I wondered, could we really give it up? Could I? The things we hold tightly to...and I'm not just talking material things. I don't actually believe God was giving me this message as a "give up all your possessions" kind of message. I think He was giving it to me as a "are you willing to give yourself fully up to Me?" kind of message. I believe He was asking, What are you holding onto so tightly that it might be hindering your pure worship with Me? And I began wondering for myself and for others, what could God do with me or any of us if we weren't hindered by the things weighing us down? Or hindered by the image of who we created with smoke and mirrors for everyone else to see? Or hindered by things like religion, tradition and fear that we tuck deep in the crevasse of our hearts?
What I've found, in my experience in slowly beginning to destroy those high places, is that it has created for me a release to hear from the Lord more clearly. Because instead of spending my time trekking up the mountain to my high place, I'm spending it in the presence of the Lord, in His temple. Not divided by anything, it creates a blank slate of sorts. A pure and cleaned out heart dedicated solely to the Lord. And I believe it creates a place of rest and peace. Because all of a sudden the striving, performing, production, blowing smoke kind of living, becomes ones of pure authenticity, trusting in the Lord to mold who and what we are. Freedom in showing others who we really are. Being vulnerable. And giving God room to move.
I had been praying earlier this morning before I sat down to write and felt like I was supposed to extend my hand. While my hand was extended, I had a vision of a watering can pouring a solid stream of water into the palm of my hand. And then, in the background a second watering can appeared and began pouring water as well. I felt in my spirit, the Lord saying I’ve done it before, I can do it again, this time in double portion.
I'm telling you that vision and whisper from the Lord, because I felt like it was confirmation of what I had just spent time reading in Job, “If only you would prepare your heart and lift up your hands to him in prayer! Get rid of your sins, and leave all iniquity behind you. Then your face will brighten with innocence. You will be strong and free of fear." And it reminded me of what the Lord spoke to me about blowing smoke and high places. If only we would prepare our hearts...get rid of our sins and leave all iniquity behind...ultimately destroying our high places, purifying our hearts and then stretching out our hands...our faces will brighten with innocence. We will be strong and free of fear. The Lord will pour the living water out on us.
And we will be the version of us that is authentic and true. The version of us that God created us to be.