Monday, September 23, 2019

Habitation 2019: A Recap

There was no blog posted last week because I spent Wednesday through Saturday in Orlando, FL for a life-changing few days of Pastor William McDowell's Habitation conference, where the theme was “As it is in Heaven.” I’ve been talking about attending Habitation for the last four or five years, but every year, something came up and I wasn’t able to go. Each year in the third week of September, I’d live vicariously through pictures and videos on social media, and long to be there in person. This year, I felt an especially strong pull to attend, and everything lined up perfectly, so I jumped at the opportunity and registered minutes after the site opened.

I’ve been to a few conferences over the years, so I prepared for the usual. I packed my Sunday best and a few comfy items to travel in, and brought extra makeup so I could beat my face—because 1. Things like this are typically recorded and 2. You never know who you’ll meet. I just KNEW I was about to be ready for my close-up, and I was—just not the kind of “close-up” I expected. I was running late the first night so I ended up just throwing on a Jesus tee and some jeans and opted to skip the makeup. It was a good thing I did, because the glory in the place hit us like a tidal wave! I quickly learned that Habitation was not a “cute” conference, but if you go, you should be ready for your close-up: an up close and personal, face-to-face encounter with God. After the move that took place on Wednesday, I decided that I needed to wear comfortable clothes and shoes every day of the event. God needed me there just the way I was, with no frills, no makeup and flexibility to flow with His spirit. It wasn’t about being seen, but rather, hearing and being heard by Him. 

Each day, God revealed Himself to us more and more as we basked in His presence. The glory was tangible as He breathed on us. The anointing swept over the room as we cried out to Him in worship, and I watched in awe as people from all over the world laid on their faces in between the rows of seats to reverence Him. The sermons, given by an array of prolific speakers, preachers, and teachers, were so poignant and timely.

Even the psalmists, the who’s 
who of gospel and CCM, were in rare form. Tasha Cobbs Leonard and Nathaniel Bassey wrote songs on the spot in spontaneous worship, and Steffany Gretzinger’s set was so intimate, it almost felt as if it shouldn’t have been recorded. If you know me, you know I love a good concert. I’ve been to about 65 concerts in my lifetime, and most of them have been gospel. I usually try to record as much of a show as I can, to watch it later for memory’s sake—but this was different. This atmosphere required you to be fully immersed in the moment. It was perfect for tapping into God’s voice. 

Friday, Pastor William McDowell, the facilitator of Habitation, released his new album, The Cry. The first single on the project is called “I Don’t Wanna Leave,” a sweet song that invites the presence of God in. It essentially became the unofficial musical theme of the conference, and it embodied exactly how I felt when Habitation ended.

The song says:

Surrounded by Your love
I found a place of peace
Found a place of grace
Wrapped in Your embrace
And I don’t wanna leave

Here in Your presence
Such a sweet release
I can feel Your joy
Rushing over me
And I don’t wanna leave

On Saturday, I said I didn’t want to leave Habitation, but it wasn’t just that I didn’t want to leave the event itself; I didn’t want to leave the atmosphere that was set there. I’ve known God personally for 19 of my 25 years, and I’ve never felt Him move the way He did in that space. He’s been speaking to me so clearly in the last week, it’s almost frightening. Because of what He imparted to me in the sweet stillness of Action Church, I’ve never been more sure of my purpose than I am right now. This was my first Habitation experience, but it definitely won't be my last.

I was listening to “I Don’t Wanna Leave” on the flight home yesterday, and I heard God say, “You don’t have to.” I was trying SO hard not to ugly cry, but the revelation was too great: Habitation is held annually, but it’s not an event you go to just for the sake of tradition. It’s not a conference, it’s a lifestyle, a heart posture. God inhabits the praises of His people. That means Habitation happens inside of you. If you invite Him in, He’ll meet you wherever you are, and you won't ever have to leave His presence. So, let it be on Earth as it is in Heaven.

*All images are from Instagram. Visit for information and updates about Habitation 2020.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

#WednesdayWisdom: #NoFilter

I didn’t know what I was going to write for today, so I got quiet and let God tell me what His people needed to hear. This post went from 0 to 100 REAL quick because He said, “Tell them what I told you.” This week’s #WednesdayWisdom has #nofilter.

Image source: Peta Pixel

Many people ask me how I know God is real. I know He’s real because of who He’s been to me. Notice, I didn’t say “what He’s done for me.” As I’ve grown in my Christian walk, I’ve learned that if you really want to know God, you should ask to see His face instead of His hand. You’ll see who He is when you ask Him to show Himself to you. You’ll see Him most clearly when you try (and fail) to do things in your own strength. If there were no situations in our lives where we had to trust Him, if we could do it all ourselves, what would we need Him for? God will let you get thisclose to rock bottom so you’ll recognize and acknowledge that you need Him.

I’m reminded of Jason Nelson’s song, “I Am.” In it, he lists who God is to us, but what gets me is when he says that God says, “Just let Me be who I am for you.” I know it’s not comfortable to admit this, but the truth is, we’re not strong enough by ourselves. Here’s the good news, though: God’s strength is made perfect in your weakness. 

I was raised on the belief that “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” I got saved at 6 years old, but it wasn’t until my 20s that I realized that that principle doesn’t apply to God. I’m naturally empathetic. I was (and still am) the “go-to girl” for other people to vent to. It was like I had a sign on my forehead that said, “Got problems? Share them with me!” I was always the listening ear, and I never told them about anything I was going through because I didn’t want them to feel like they were burdening me with their issues. I felt like I had to be the one who had it all together for them, but behind closed doors, I was collapsing under the weight of their problems and mine. To my surprise, as I brought other people’s requests to God and asked Him to heal their hearts, He reassured me! He said, “I already know who you are. You don’t have to impress Me. Just press in to Me.” In those moments, I confessed what God already knew—I was broken, too. I learned how to cast my cares on Him, and I was astounded. For the first time in my life, I could hear Him speaking to me about me. Now, I know that my responsibility as an empath and encourager is to help people give their issues over to God, just as I do myself. 

Your prayers don’t have to be riddled with “thees” and “thous” in order for God to hear you. Getting to know Him is simple. Just go to Him broken and ask Him to fix you. Your brokenness is healed in his presence. Too many of us are afraid to admit (to God and to ourselves) that we’re broken, because society has conditioned us to look whole on the outside when we’re shattered on the inside. God is not Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. You don’t have to put on a filter for Him. He doesn’t expect you to be perfect, because He already is. Admission is the first step to recovery. Get real about your pain so you can get restored! Remove the filter and let Him do His job.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Wait: Act Like You Know

Over the past three days, I read a Bible plan on the YouVersion Bible app called "Waiting Well."

Image Source: YouVersion

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that I’ve spoken candidly and extensively about “the wait” in the past. It’s become sort of a series, beginning with my thoughts on saving sex for marriage, and continuing on how to wait for pretty much everything. Since this plan is called “Waiting Well,” I figured it would be the perfect way to jump back into the topic, and the principles here can apply to whatever you’re waiting for. I took notes each day as I read and compiled them into one post. After you sift through my major takeaways, I encourage you all to walk through the plan on your own time. It’s definitely worth the read.

Day one of the “Waiting Well” plan requires us to read Psalm 27:7-14 and 1 Samuel 1:1-11. Here’s what I got from it: Take your burdens to God. Just because you don’t have the thing you want right now doesn’t mean you won’t ever have it. Trust God’s timing and stand on His promises. He has not forgotten you. God remembered Hannah and gave her the son she longed for—in His timing, not hers. God rewards us with the desires of our hearts when the posture of the heart is bowed down to Him. 

And this was, in my opinion, the most important thing to remember: There was no guarantee that God would answer Hannah’s prayer and she believed for it anyway. We have to have faith in the midst of uncertainty even when our preferred outcome isn’t guaranteed—because even if He doesn’t do the thing we want Him to do the way we want Him to do it, He’s still good. 

Day two’s required reading was 1 Samuel 1:12-28, and I was getting revelation after revelation. In these verses, Eli initially thought Hannah was drunk until she clarified that she was praying. Don’t let people make you think that your praying is silly just because they don’t understand it or because it doesn’t look like what they think prayer should look like. Everyone communicates with God differently. No matter what, stand on what God promised you! 

This plan links directly to a sermon I’ve been binge-watching for the last few days called “Crazy Faith” by Pastor Mike Todd. He breaks down the definition of “crazy” as it pertains to faith in part one of the sermonic series. Watch the clip below (source: YouTube):

Secondly, Hannah promised that if God gave her the child she desired, she’d give him back to God—and she did. Maybe the reason why God is making us wait for what we want is because He wants to make sure that when He gives it to us, we’ll give Him the credit, the recognition, the acknowledgment, and the tithes that He deserves. Nothing we get belongs to us. Everything we have should bow in reverence to Him. If He’s holding out on the promise, perhaps He wants to make sure not only that we can trust Him, but also that He can trust us.

This led me to one of my go-to scriptures, Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” I read that verse whenever my faith needs a pick-me-up, and even though it wasn’t required for this particular reading plan, I thought it was fitting. Pastor Todd referenced it in yet another excerpt from part one of his “Crazy Faith” sermon (source: YouTube):

If we don’t believe the promise itself is substantial, tangible, attainable, our faith will be more prone to waver. If your hope is not SUBSTANTIAL; if it bends in the face of adversity, if it can’t stand up to uncertainty and doubt, then it won’t hold up long enough to see the EVIDENCE of the promise!

Day three focused on several verses (1 Samuel 2:1-10; Jeremiah 29:11; Philippians 1:6; 1 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Timothy 1:12), and taught us that in order for your faith to be substantial, in order to see the physical evidence of what you hope for, you have to act like you KNOW! Even if you don’t know how or when things will turn around for you, you know Who you believe in, and you know He always causes His children to triumph. Ironically, today’s “verse of the day” in the Bible app is Deuteronomy 31:6, “'Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you'” (NIV). Faith moves its feet. Fear stays stagnant and stuck. Neither one knows what’s next, but only one chooses to move forward. One holds you back, the other takes you in the direction of your purpose. Which one will YOU choose? Everybody’s waiting for something. Whatever you’re waiting for, wait well.