Sunday, November 8, 2015

Part 3 - The Song and the Prophesy

In case you missed them and need to catch up: Part 1 and Part 2

As you can imagine, at this point I'm just about undone. We have NOT EVEN BEEN TO THE WORSHIP NIGHT YET and I'm beside myself entirely. We left the breakout and I couldn't even really form the words that were in my heart. It was like I could ONLY communicate in emotion as the human language could not contain nor understand my feelings at all.  

On our way to dinner, we didn't really say much. What could we say? Disbelief was the predominant feeling. We reached for normal - such as, what do we have on our pizza? Lemonade, or soda? Are we getting dessert? We called our families and checked in. We 'stole' electricity to charge our phones - well, we ALL didn't do that, but one of us did :)  We reached, but we feel a little short. 

On the walk back, I said that the one thing that would tip me over would be if someone were to prophesy over me at some point this evening. I remember laughing at how greedy that sounded - the first half of the night was so incredible that even IF it didn't happen, it wouldn't have tainted my experience. Little did I know that my desire WAS something that God had put in my heart and WAS something that He had for me. 

As we were walking back in to the venue, I was getting a little overwhelmed. I LOATHE crowds - especially gigantic auditoriums full of strangers - and so I jokingly said to one of my friends that I really hope we can find 3 seats together - and maybe on the end so we don't have to be next to people. We walk in, and what do we see? A FLOOR, SIDE SEATING section with ONLY 3 CHAIRS THERE. Meaning, we each get one. Meaning... NO ONE else would be sitting WITH us. I could have cried. I swear the angels all gave a resounding hallelujah and pointed us directly to those seats. 

So we sat. We chatted. I freaked out at how pumped I was. We took selfies and posted on Instagram - as any normal person would haha! We talked some more. As we sat, soaking it all in, I turned to my friend and said - I really think they are going to play the song Closer (it holds a special place in my heart - but that's another blogpost for another time). She smiled her beaming, beautiful smile and said that she hopes they do (for me, of course - because she's amazing like that). 

Remember my #fangirl worship leader? Well, she couldn't sing that night. I was B U M M E D O U T but I couldn't really be mad after all that had happened already. So the team comes out and propels us right into heaven. Being a pourer-outer of worship, it felt weird to be on the receiving end (live and in person with a band. I personally lead myself in worship OR listen to Bethel or other worship teams online).  At one point, I felt FULL of JOY! I mean - the kind that radiates from your heart - I felt like it could possibly look like a Care Bear when they do a Care Bear stare (google it if you don't know... shame on you if you don't haha!). I mean - the dazzling, leaping, shining, reaching, cascading joy. Never have I felt anything like it. Ever. 

I remember at one point having a vision of people returning to churches in droves. Crowding at the doors on a Sunday morning - much like we did to get into the venue to see this concert. 

I remember at one point praying these prayers that I didn't know were in my heart. Out loud. I feel like I was yelling them pretty loudly, but my friends say they couldn't hear a thing. I have never EVER felt so sure that my prayers were being heard. Sometimes we pray and we wonder... this night I prayed and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my God heard me...I could feel that He is our faithful Father, our constant friend; He is closer than our breath and despite the fact that He made the UNIVERSE, He still knows me. And You. I've had encounters with God before... but this one wrecked me.

We worshiped our way to 'half time.' The lights came on for a little while. I was really anxious to get started on the second half considering what happened in the first. The girls were good though - keeping me busy during the brief intermission. 

The lights dimmed. The songs began. I got right back in to the throne room of heaven. I knew this was it, so I threw my WHOLE self into it. It was near the end when I heard the piano begin. I threw my hands up and turned to my friend next to me - and I said - THIS IS IT!! That song? That song 'Closer' that I was waiting for? They were starting it. And I was beside myself. 

As the leader sang out the first line of the song, I settled in and decided I wasn't going to sing this one, I was going to just let it wash over me. As I surrendered to it, I felt what I KNEW was a man's hand touch the top of my head. As SOON as it happened, I felt the surge of the Holy Spirit run through the tip of my toes. I slowly lowered my arms down and turned to look. It was him - the worship Pastor from earlier. The one who was pointing at me without knowing. 

Here I am. In Portland, Maine. In a crowd of about a thousand. In an auditorium. In the dark. During a song that I knew in my Spirit was going to be played - and at that moment realized that it was going to be the trigger to hearing the prophesy that I knew was coming all along. 

I looked at him. He introduced himself to me. I smiled, nodded, and inclined my heart and ear. Before I tell you what he said, I have to tell you this: after he introduced himself to me, he got a perplexed look on his face. He said 'have we already come to you?' and I said no. THAT was the confirmation I needed that what was about to be said was DEFINITELY for me. He felt like he had already done this - well, he hadn't, BUT it certainly WAS a divine appointment because my Spirit knew that someone would be coming. 

It is a very VERY powerful and moving experience. 

Before I tell you what he said, I will tell you THIS - there is absolutely, positively NO WAY that anyone could have made this up by just looking at me. Not possible. He just didn't come up to some random person and say some random thing that made no sense. NOPE. He came up to a random person, and said some specific things that made TOO MUCH sense. NO ONE could have guessed these things. Not without God's help and guidance. 

Some of this is quoted, some of this is paraphrased - but here it is: 

In a firm and sure voice, he said "I see You. God wants you to know that He sees you, but He also wants you to know that I (insert his name here) See. You. I do. You are SEEN. You are free from being behind. You are freed up from the back and you're being pushed to the front. There are people who you hold in esteem above you - and that holds you back - but that is BROKEN TODAY. That is NO MORE. NO. MORE (caps indicate intensity and urgency). You are seen. People SEE YOU - and I want them to. Its time to come out of the shadows - ALL of them - and move to the front. 

And then he walked away. And then I COMPLETELY LOST IT. With shoulder shaking sobs, I collapsed in my seat. I couldn't believe that had just happened. I couldn't believe what he said. I still don't. I processed for a minute, and then took out my notebook and dumped all those words on a page so I wouldn't forget. 

I gathered myself back together just in time for the song to be over. Honestly though? I'm not upset about that. I realize now it wasn't the SONG that I needed to hear. The song was the catalyst for the word. 

So - I am FASCINATED by the idea that God is El Roi - the God who sees me. I've even blogged about it before (find it here) .. That the lead in would be "I see you" is incredible. Another fun fact: When this pastor introduced himself to the breakout group earlier in the day, he said 'you guys all need to know me because I will be hanging around today. I am ____ and I do ___.' I believe he mentioned music production. I gave a quick chuckle and turned to my friend and said - I think I DO need to know him since being a published artist is on my bucket list. And then for him to follow the I see you from God with an I, Pastor ____ see you made me wonder ... I hope that doesn't come across as me thinking I have a 'network' with him - or even a chance of ever meeting/seeing him again - BUT it did make me think...

I struggle with confidence issues. I know a lot of people do, so I'll spare you the details - but it is a definite struggle for me. I am sure some of you who know me just said 'no she doesn't'... but trust me when I tell you I do. I just make the conscious decision every day to push through them. Some days are easier than others. Because of this, I am VERY MUCH content to be in the background. I don't need center stage. And here he is, telling me that I am seen. People see me and I can't hide anymore. Bummer haha! But as much as that scares me, it also gives me a great sense of wonder at what God would want to do with me when I'm not 'hidden.' 

This one thing though - the one about the people I hold in esteem and because of that I am being held back. THAT is what broke me. There are a select few who know this (more now, obviously haha!) - but there are a select few who KNOW that this inferiority is a VERY real issue that I have - but only with certain people. And he was SO RIGHT that it holds me back because I fear rejection from them... And that he would say those chains are broken? I never thought it possible........................................................................................................................I'm here to tell you, it WAS possible. Because for the first time in my life, the people I hold in this esteem no longer have that stronghold of authority over me. Let me be clear here - these people have NO CLUE of their position in my life - meaning - they have NO CLUE that I struggled with that. These are people I love to the ends of the earth and for some reason, I put them on a pedestal that I thought would always be too high for me to reach. And I can see CLEARLY now that the esteem actually held me back. It smothered me. It made me believe things that were  NOT TRUE. It was broken that day. I am free from it. And I am SO grateful for a God who sees me. 

The rest of our night was pretty uneventful - I mean, WHAT could possibly compare to what had already happened? My girls were in shock with me. I couldn't sleep. The tv at the hotel was TERRIBLE so I couldn't even use that to take my mind off of what happened. I ended up spending the night reliving every single event that happened. I ended up spending the night in awe of our Father who knows our every want and desire - and who meets us right where we are. The whole experience was such an incredible blessing. I can't imagine God outdoing that one. Even if I never have another day like that day, it was powerful enough that I would be ok with that. 

That day changed my life. Forever. Since then, I have taken more chances. I have written more spontaneous songs. I have pursued Jesus harder. I have spent more time in worship and prayer. I have leaned IN to my calling instead of bending away from it - and He has blessed that over and over again. I have cemented the reality that there IS a God and He is all knowing, all powerful, and all seeing. I pray that one day, you can have an encounter that does the same for you. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Part 2 - The Dream, The Point, The Wisdom, and The Experience

* In case you missed yesterday's Part 1 post, Click Here to get acquainted *

I pretty much floated in to the venue after what had just happened. I honestly could have gone home and been ok with that. We picked up our tickets at will call and headed in to the breakout session. 

The breakout session was a small group - MAYBE 60 people - and the worship team. We had an AMAZING time of acoustic worship where we sang some of my favorite songs and where I found myself praying fervently that ANY walls around my heart would come down so that I could really immerse myself in what was going to happen. I could feel something stirring in my Spirit even then. 

I need to jump back for a second though - Before the girls and I left in the morning, we stopped for breakfast. At breakfast, I told them about this crazy and VERY real and VERY weird and VERY scary dream I had a few nights before. I am a 'dreamer' - I dream as though its real life. I dream vividly. I dream in color and I dream with emotions. This particular dream, however, was a new kind of experience - too wonky to really get in to via a blog post, BUT, I had to tell them because I felt like I did... and I honestly needed to talk it out. 

Fast forward...

We are at the breakout, we have AMAZING worship, and then the team files in and has a seat. We open with prayer and the questions began to trickle in. Remember my #fangirl worship leader? WELL. At one point, someone had asked her a question and she started talking about a prophetic dream that she had and then she stopped dead in her tracks and said - We need to pray against dreams that are from the enemy - and she prayed this MIGHTY prayer that really came up against those kinds of dreams. Coincidence? I think not. Not for ONE second. She could have been praying for ANYthing. There were MANY needs in that room. And yet she prays for the dreamers? I just can't even handle it. I looked at the girls, they looked at me and we could only muster a small shake of our heads. We knew. 

After the breakout with the worship team, the Bethel worship Pastor came out and began to talk to us. He had a word of knowledge as he was speaking, so he stopped to share. At first, he asked if there was a Maria there - and there was a couple. He also handpicked a couple of other people from the group. As they stood, he was talking to them. As he was talking to them, he began to point. At me. He wasn't looking at me. Not once. Not ever. But I would move, his finger would follow me. Side to side or staying still - it didn't matter. We couldn't believe it. I remember looking at one friend and giving the 'are you seeing what I'm seeing' look - and she gave it RIGHT back. I'll bet you're wondering what he said. Well.. He said that "the time of darkness and depression is coming to an end. He said we are a diamond, and we've been hidden in a cave. What we used to only see from afar, we will now see up close. As the diamond is taken from the darkness into the light, it will shine and the rays will reach impossible lengths because of the Son. We are going to be propelled to places beyond our current reach."  This is not an EXACT quote of what he said, but its pretty close. And again - ALL THE WHILE that he is saying this and looking at the people standing, he is pointing to me. Unknowingly, I am 100% sure. The FUNNIER part? The part that really showcases God's sense of humor? For the past couple of years, my brother has nicknamed me "Maria" (said with a Portuguese accent)... And so, it doesn't REALLY strike me as THAT odd that he was pointing.  Additionally, this word was VERY VERY timely for me. I'm waiting on the second half of it, but I have seen glimpses of stronger light lately. 

After the word, I was honestly a little overwhelmed. My heart was racing, my mind was racing - I wanted to cry and laugh at the same time - it was a large conflict of emotions. As he moved into his preaching, I thought that I would have to emotionally "check out" as they say to preserve the rest of my sanity, but about 2 minutes in, I KNEW I needed to hear this message. While I can't steal all his thunder, here is my takeaway: Picture a stage in your mind. Now, I love a good visualization - so here is mine: My floor is beautifully marked and scuffed wood that shines in some places, and not in others. It's slightly higher than most stages, and there are three ways up - two side staircases and one center one that gets wider as the steps get closer to the top. The curtain in the back is deep, deep black - the kind of black that you aren't even sure you can see. The side curtains are a vibrant red, they are velour; they are heavy. The tiebacks are sturdy and strong. The curtains, though old, are in great shape - they hang perfectly like my favorite dress would. On that stage, for this particular scene, there is a box that creates a stair and another platform. On top of that platform are 3 chairs, side by each. The chairs have a rounded back and a wide seating area. They are old and faded burgundy. The wood is smooth and still rich in both color and scent. There are tarnished studs holding the cushions together. In front of these chairs is one spotlight. It sits in the center - so it shines on the center seat, but the corners of the light overflows on to the seats on the side. I am the only one in this audience that can see this stage. I sit middle row, middle seat, middle section. 

So he tells us to picture a stage in our mind. On that stage is 3 chairs. Each one of those chairs represents one of three ways we respond to any situation - fear, pride, and from the position of our identity and calling in Christ. DURING this preaching, I got a text message from the worship leader that was supposed to lead on Sunday. He had an emergency and had to go out of state to handle it. This meant I had to lead - this is an important part of the story that I will resurrect in a little bit. Anyway - so you will always respond to a situation with fear, pride or identity. He said that we need to ALWAYS position ourselves in the identity/calling seat. So, when we feel fear, we need to visualize getting up OFF the fear seat, walking over and sitting in the seat of our identity/calling. Same goes for pride. The goal is to consistently find ourselves sitting in the identity/calling seat at any given time. He said that if we commit to doing this, then we will only grow closer to the Lord. 

SO - lots more happened that night, but I'm saving that (the best!) for part 3. Maybe tomorrow :) 

HOWEVER, before I end this, I have to fast forward you to that Sunday where I had to unexpectedly lead worship. 

Worship leading... oh worship leading... UP until this point, it was ALWAYS an act of obedience. I can't recall if I ever wrote about how worship leading all came about, but let's just say that I call it my 'accidental gift.' The one I never even knew I had. TO THIS DAY (3 years in to it..) I STILL get unbelievably nervous before I lead. Upset stomach, the flight response in full effect. Good thing I have an AMAZING and supportive team. Anyway - this particular Sunday found me leading from the piano and with a drummer who is really a backup vocalist/saxophone player so it was not the usual set up. I was SOSTINKINNERVOUS - honestly. I got there early, we were warming up and I could feel myself sinking into my fear. What if I blew it? What if church couldn't connect because I was doing so badly? I'm just not good enough to do this today... And then I remembered the preaching. I took a minute, closed my eyes, envisioned myself getting up from the fear seat and sitting in that middle seat - the seat of my CALLING and the seat of my IDENTITY in Christ. I opened my eyes and decided that I would lean in to my Jesus instead of my flesh and the WHOLE atmosphere changed. 

It was in that moment that I truly believed - for the FIRST time - that God gave me (literally - gave/gifted me a talent i didn't previously have) the ability to lead worship. He gave me the ability to share my heart through a melody. He gave me the desire to connect with people in a song so that we can go straight to His heart and rest there. And so from that seat of my calling and my identity, I decided to give God back the gift HE gave me and surrender completely to it. 

Instead of a half-hearted attempt at leading that day, worship THUNDERED forth. It burst forth - like the spring time at its peak. I felt the shift. My team even felt the shift. I believe church felt the shift - it felt like we were finally moving forward and pressing on. Remember that vocalist/saxophone player who is also a pinch hit drummer? He dubbed this "the Bethel Effect." And you know what? It fits. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Bethel - Part 1 - The Drive and The Meeting

Consider this fair warning. I have a LOT to say. A LOOOOOOTTTTT. If I had to guess, this will probably be the LONGEST blogpost I've ever written. I actually may put it in parts/separate blog posts - THAT is how much I have to say. Because what I'm about to write about doesn't even seem like it could have possibly happened. Even now, 2 months removed from it, I STILL look back and absolutely CAN. NOT. BELIEVE. IT. 

It all began on the day I found out that the Bethel Church worship team was coming to the Northeast. I had actually put a trip to Bethel on my bucket list (it's still there!), but this was a way that I could satiate my appetite to worship with them in the meantime. When I purchased the tickets, I just KNEW that something big was going to happen. Didn't know to whom, but I KNEW KNEW that it would be something that none of us would forget. Before I forget though - I went to this concert with two of my dear friends - and thank GOD because they can vouch that every single word I am typing here is the truth! 

My dear, sweet friends dubbed me #fangirl for the day (well, honestly for the weeks before) because of the way I would spill over excitement and expectation when anyone even started saying ANYTHING about this worship night. If we only knew...

On the way up there, or perhaps just a little bit before, I had mentioned that there was one worship leader that I was REALLY praying that I could meet one on one - or at least have the opportunity to tell her - that she was such a MAJOR catalyst in my life. I 'grew up' these past couple of years watching her worship and being able to connect with it - and by proxy, being able to connect with the Father. I had this VERY strong NEED to tell her this, but the main message that burned in my heart was that I needed to tell her that SHE was the one who gave me permission to worship in Spirit and Truth in the way it felt right to me. I can't really explain it much more than that - it was her ability to worship with absolute abandon that permitted me to do the same. Do I still hold back when I'm leading, of course (working on it...) ... but I will say her example has helped me open up a little wider each time. 

Despite the fact that I could have crawled out of my skin from the excitement of what was to come, the drive up to Portland was uneventful - just a few friends, talking and encouraging and speaking truth in love. When we got there, we didn't really know where to park. We stumbled on this parking lot - it was one of those pay to park deals. We pulled in, I was getting VERY anxious because it was creeping close to the time we had to be there for the early breakout session and I did not want to miss one second. One TEEEENY parking space (for my friends NOT SO TEEEEENY SUV), two attempts at the parking ticket machine, and three or more questions to the lot attendant, we FINALLY were able to head over to the venue. A solid 30 minutes later. Those 30 ridiculous minutes? Divine intervention. 

As we were waiting for the parking debacle to be taken care of, I said for the 1,637th time that I really REALLY hoped to be able to tell this worship leader the profound impact she has had on me. 

Now - Portland is a hustling, bustling city. People everywhere. Prius' and food trucks abounding... There were many people walking up and down every street. Each going in their own direction, here and there... <- an="" fact.="" font="" important="" is="" nbsp="" this="">

As we are walking and we turn the corner on to the street that the venue is on, there are suddenly NO other people around. It was bizarre considering the amount of people we had just been with. I have a bad habit of looking at the ground when I'm walking. And so as we turned the corner, I happened to look up. In the distance, I see these two ladies walking towards us. One with red hair, the other with black. From far away, I couldn't REALLY tell... BUT ... my Spirit leaped  - sort of like I imagine the baby in Elizabeth's womb leaped when her sister Mary greeted her. I KNEW God was about to give me the most amazing gift. 

Everything was simultaneously speeding up and slowing down. I panicked. I turned to my friends in disbelief and I said - that is HER. (#fangirl, remember?). I said to them that I couldn't say what I had to say to her because then I would TRULY be a #fangirl - but they encouraged me and said I HAD to... In hindsight I really did HAVE to... I think I needed to tell her just as much as she needed to hear that. Why else would God orchestrate this whole thing? Why else would God delay our parking, clear the street, then put them STRAIGHT in my path so that when I lifted my gaze, I saw them? 

And so.. I pulled them aside - MIND YOU - there are STILL NO OTHER PEOPLE on this street or near us. It was like we were in a bubble. Speaking of, I bubbled over with all of the words and feelings in my heart. And she stood there, smiling and twirling the hair of her sleeping baby that she wore...and at the end of it all, I could have gone home and been satisfied - worship concert or no worship concert ... 

Little did I know that was JUUUUUST the beginning of something spectacular... 

** Clearly, I decided to split this up .. come back SOON for part 2 **