Learning To Dance In the In-Between

You can find prints of this new lovely on my Etsy storefront
You can find prints of this new lovely watercolor on my Etsy storefront.

Two months ago I sat down to write here more regularly.  Then life happened.  I gave up eating 95% of anything that was not plant-based for health reasons.  I discovered coconut milk coffee creamer.  My apartment/studio/office flooded for the 4th and 5th times with waste water. There was mold, rust and general environmental mayhem. My laptop became a wastewater casualty, along with whole grad school notebooks of notes that succumbed to mold and water damage… in the middle of semester finals no less.  I wound up with around 15 days to move out of my apartment.

I packed up my world up and moved it to storage. Not a small feat considering I can pack an apartment like I pack a suitcase. I encountered one of the worst moving companies on the planet who actually screamed profanities at me when I left an honest, even generous, review. I moved in with family for the summer as we figured out what was next. I updated some things around here (love the new banner) and on my design studio site because, well, they needed updating.  My business has been in a holding pattern.  My health has been hit hard.  It has been a battle.

13490688_10209889049289834_3950160464243038224_oBut… today, I BOUGHT A HOUSE!

There has been a lot of living in the in between these last few years since returning from Africa.  But, once again, God used a seriously bad situation to open an amazing door of opportunity.

I no longer will have to live in my office!  I will have a separate room with a door I can shut when the work day is over. If I could have sketched the floor plan of my ideal setup for this season, it would have wound up being the layout of this cottage style house.  Grateful is too small a word. It is my cozy bungalow.  A blank canvas I can make 100% my own.

When I asked Jesus to speak into my living situation, I felt led to look up the street number of this home in the book Psalms right after we initially viewed it.  My apartment had just flooded for the 5th time, I was sick and I was so frustrated with everything. The street number took me to Psalm 29 where it says the Lord sits enthroned at the flood. He did.  Sit enthroned. Five is the number of grace.  And there was.  Such extreme grace at every step. There is much more woven into this house’s story and how it marks a huge seasonal transition but, suffice it to say that it is not simply a commitment, it’s a calling.  Jesus  has such a sense of humor!

I’m stepping out into new mission field that is just as broken, hurting and desperate as any I have served in before.  The brokenness here just looks different.  I don’t know where the steps will lead in the days and months to come, but I know the One Who is leading the dance.  And that is all that matters.

 

Save

Jesus, Be the Centre

38-1a-2Today I celebrated another year of life. The big 3•8. I’m in no way shy about my age. Some of you might say I’m not shy period. Every year is another miracle of grace.  Every year, every day is worthy of massive gratitude.

I have a feeling this year is going to be the brightest one yet and I am standing in the middle of an orchard of His fruitfulness ready to break open around me.  {And, yes, I am standing in the middle of an orchard above.}

At the threshold of another year, I like to set my gaze again on the road ahead.  To celebrate all that’s been and welcome all that is coming from Him. Tonight my prayer more than ever spills over with the worship lyrics:

Jesus. Be the Centre. Be my Source. Be my Light. Be my Song. Be my Vision. Be my Path, be my Guide. Jesus. Be the Fire in my heart. Be the Wind in these sails. Be the reason that I live. Jesus. Jesus.*

38. It is a year of Jesus being the Center in even deeper ways… not just of my life but of the message I am called to bring. It is time Church to refocus our gaze and make Him central again. It is fire in my bones.

This year I’m making a renewed commitment to simplify to centralize.

The simpler I make my world the easier it is to focus on His face.

I’ve been dramatically cutting down on social media: taking specific time, even whole days, away from the online fray and re-framing how I use what. {I use Instagram for my art/illustration (@micheleperry). I use my personal Facebook profile only for close friends and family I keep in regular contact with and no longer friend folks I don’t know well face-to-face. But you can find me on my Facebook page where I love to keep in touch with my broader world, am so blessed by all your comments and messages, and direct a good portion of my online energies. I barely use twitter at all these days and Pinterest is now mostly for research.}

I’m making time to read books for pleasure. To savor words that breathe life into my soul and spend concentrated time out in creation where my heart comes alive. I’m learning to forage for wild edibles and where to buy local organic food free from GMOs (a girl has to have a hobby!), and making eating clean a primary priority for myself and my family. I’ve started to make my own beauty products and am taking time to systematically purge my world from the petroleum-based, chemically-contrived substances I just plain feel better without.

It is a year of clearing the clutter and fixing my focus on Him to be ready for all that lies ahead. Of all the gifts in my life, one gift I am most grateful for are the beautiful friends and family I journey with. Thank you again for being here! More adventures to come and I look forward to sharing them with you.

*Thank you Michael Frye for putting words to the cry of my heart.

Simple.

aspen-629371a copyYou may notice a different tone around here.

My heart has been longing to strip off old seasons struck through with gold, like autumn trees letting go to the winter winds. 

Some of you may think this website changes color more often than leaves do.  And you are probably right.  Yes, I am one of those odd people who rearrange their furniture just because I can.  I know when something feels right, when it is a hair off or has grown stale.  I might not always know exactly where I am going but I usually do know when I have found what I’m looking for.  Found it!

This little online home.  It’s been simplified because simple is the pull in my spirit.  Focused.  Uncomplicated.  Still. Clean.  Pure.  Simple lines and loops making letters and words that speak His truth in love and call for change where change is so very needed.  What once felt sterile or stark to me in terms of design, feels uncluttered and peaceful now.

When I wrote from Africa, I wrote to connect with the unfolding story around me.  And to share it with you that we might journey together.  It has taken me two years to figure out, really nothing has changed.  This chapter in the story just looks a bit different than the last.

I don’t write to impart some vast deposit of wisdom.  I write to understand my own meanderings, my own wandering with Jesus, my own journey deeper into the heart of God.  The better I know Jesus, the simpler this journey gets.  Deep does not mean complicated.  Deep means still and powerful.

There is so much spilling from my heart friends and I’m finding His rhythm again.  My feet are finding this season’s sound and purpose.  So the tone is changing. But my heart is remains simply offered and poured out on a page that we might continue this shared journey into His heart.

Grateful for you beloved!

What Maturity In Christ Looks Like

nature-768458 copyMy heart has been burning for a while now.  These words threaten to spill in a fiery tumble onto your screen.  My heart, seared with Paul’s message to the Corinthian church.

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.  2 Co 11:3

Dear beautiful western church, it isn’t about the size of our buildings or our meetings.  The size of our ministry platform has NOTHING to do with the size of our reward in heaven nor does it necessarily reflect the scope of our obedience here on earth.  If our meetings grow because they are benignly catering to popular culture, we are missing Jesus.

Maturity in Christ is not measured by the edginess of our spiritual encounters or the complexity of our spiritual systems.  Maturity is not mastering some new heavenly protocol of engagement.

In our western world, the complex is often heralded as the purview of the mature and wise.  But Jesus never, ever made the simple complex.  That is what the pharisees did.  They “complexified” {yes I just invented a new word} what God gave and then became experts in the field of their own religious intricacies. Jesus warned us about that.  Watch out for that kind of leaven {Mt 16:12}.

Maturity is not measured by the scope of our influence, the number of prayers miraculously answered or by how many ministry training events and mission trips we have completed.  It isn’t determined by our Facebook following or social media reach.

Maturity is found in the simplicity and purity of devotion to Jesus.  Period.

I’m burning on the inside because I’ve been watching deception and distraction take out people I care about.  It isn’t OK with me.

Maturity is not found in embracing esoteric “elohim energy” or “agape frequency” or programs of mystical fasting that come directly out of Hinduism from New Age Yogis.  Breatharianism is not Jesus- it is straight-up occult spiritism. I lived in India. I have seen this thing up close and personal.  Last I checked, Jesus said to taste and see that He was good and He is throwing a wedding feast. He is very much into eating.  I am beyond disturbed folks I know (and love) are welcoming this as the next big God-thing into their lives and the lives of those they influence.  IT. IS. NOT. OK.

I’m watching others get pulled away by focusing on nephilim agendas, aliens and transdimensional “prophetic” experiences so much that their theology is becoming closer to a Star Trek episode than the reality of Who Jesus is.  Basically the enemy is successfully offering genuinely hungry hearts a dressed-up hipster version of gnosticism as new revelation, a quest for secret hidden knowledge and power. But it is in JESUS all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found {Col 2:3}.  Inside of Him.  Inside of His heart.  Not anywhere else.

Gut honest.  I wrote a book about the biblical supernatural lifestyle available to us in Jesus.  I still believe in everything I wrote (as it was rooted in Jesus and in Scripture}, but I don’t even like to use the word supernatural anymore.  It has too much potential mixture in it.  I think I want to start calling our journey the “super-normal” Christian life.  Where God’s normal becomes our natural.  It is the Christ-centered life where He is our aim, our goal, our focus, our delight, our joy, our everything.

Maturity is when we no longer have to be spoon fed and hope that the next event will sustain us through… to the next event.  Does God use meetings and conferences to pour into and encourage us?  Absolutely.  But following our five favorite ministry speakers from event to event cannot be the core of our journey with Jesus. I fed my kids in Africa when they were little.  But as they grew they learned how to feed themselves.  Feeding a 6 month old every meal by hand was right and healthy.  Spoon feeding a 16 year old is a sign something is seriously wrong.

Beautiful church, we must, must cultivate our own personal history with God.  No one can do that for us. He must be the center.  Him.  If anything or anyone else has taken center stage in our hearts, it’s idolatry.

I know I may have stepped on some of your toes in this tumbling discourse.  You are absolutely free to disagree with me. You are free to be mad at me and think I just don’t get it or am beneath your spiritual plane. No worries at all.  But may I ask you this?

Where is the living, breathing person of King Jesus in the midst of your spiritual pursuits?  Is HE the center of your gaze, the focus of your fascination, the deepest hunger of your heart, the greatest goal of your desire?

If He isn’t, there’s no condemnation here from me.  None at all.  Just an invitation.

Maybe it is time to ask Him to refocus our hearts, to spend some time out in creation with Him away from latest spiritual fads and trendy doctrines to listen in stillness. Perhaps it is time to let the daisies and the grass of the field which Jesus clothes in splendor remind us of maturity, simplicity, humility and abandoned devotion.  To let His love’s gaze strip all the complexity away until it is just us and Jesus again, spun round and round in His arms until all we can see is Him.

Dear Jesus, it is You and You alone Whom I endlessly crave.  Selah.

The Power of Simplicity in Christ

canotreesThe last few weeks have been intense.  Hmm, OK, intense is a dramatic understatement.

Between my own health hurtles and helping my folks navigate theirs, it has been a nonstop medical merry-go-round of specialists and hospitals, of navigating stormy diagnoses and mitigating medical side effects.  I’m shocked to see the horrific quality of over processed non-food served to patients in our local hospital.  So much so I got permission to bring home cooked meals and fresh vege/fruit juice to a close family member who is having to stay over a few days there. How can ANYone get better on food that has had the nutrition modified and processed right out of it?

So it is back to my Africa days of meal delivery to family in the hospital.  That is just what love does.  Period.  Love looks like something here just as it did there.  Some days love looks like hand delivered nutritious kale tonic (kale, apple, lemon & cucumber juice) and running medical interference to make sure the best course of action is being followed.

It is simple. Really simple. But we so often make it complicated.  It doesn’t have to be.

Over the last few years, I’ve watched a preponderance of teaching creep in at the edges of some streams of the Body under the banner of the prophetic and try to arrest her gaze and draw it to focus on things that are peripheral at best and straight-up deception at worst.

I believe in the prophetic.  My whole walk with Jesus has been shaped by profound prophetic encounters with Him. I’ve even had some really strange out of the box experiences spiritually.  So I am not negating genuine Jesus-centered encounters- even ones that seem weird or out of our theological boxes.  God is really big and equally creative.  Please hear me there.

But I have been in settings where the instruction very intentionally pulls the focus off of Jesus and draws it into complicated systems of “heavenly legal protocol”, laborious methods of spiritually cleansing DNA or super obscure marginal biblical references to things like “the nephilim”.  And I have seen first hand people in these settings get so confused and tormented, they began to doubt if their relationship with Jesus was enough.  In one particular event, I spent most of my time in between certain sessions having covert God set-up run-ins to counsel, encourage and break fear off participants from the previous session’s content.  That is just not OK.  At all.

Rev 19:10 makes things pretty clear, “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”  If the spirit of a prophetic insight, revelation, teaching or experience doesn’t point to Jesus or reference His heart or character, proceed with caution.  Jesus said the Kingdom comes to little children.  I have never seen a loved five year old stressed out over issues of legal protocol.

Are there elements of Kingdom protocol?  Absolutely.  But they are simply centered in a love relationship with Jesus not elaborate ceremony, structure or systems.  Does our generational line or DNA need cleansing and restoration?  Definitely.  But it doesn’t center around a herculean effort in prayer that we tediously perform hours a day weeks on end.  It centers around what Jesus has already paid for and accomplished on the cross.  It’s simple a matter of receiving by faith and thanksgiving what He has already done.  Again, it is all about Him and His work, not our works.

As for peripheral, obscure references of giants and nephilim taking center stage, I am well sure if I ever run into one Jesus will know exactly what to do. And He’s WAY bigger than they are so I’m not in the least concerned.  Beyond that, I am too busy falling in love with Him over and over again to let anything that isn’t centered in Him steal my gaze.

When I really need clarity from all the noise of different voices and views, I unplug and go find a quiet wooded cathedral of trees where all creation is groaning for Jesus to be revealed in us.  There in the stillness and the silence as I sit with Him, what is muddy becomes clear and I am embraced by the calm assurance He is ALWAYS enough.

Sitting under some trees with Jesus recently, I was thinking about all of this and He reminded me of the passage in 2 Cor 11:3.

But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. {NKJV}

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. {NASB}

When I dug a little deeper this verse becomes even more relevant to this conversation.  Here’s my extended translation from some of the original language used:

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived (seduced wholly) Eve by his craftiness (trickery, subtlety, false wisdom that is superficially plausible but misleading in appearance and ultimately wrong), your perceptions and purpose (mind and thoughts) may be led away and corrupted from (shriveled, withered away, be defiled from) the simplicity (singleness, purity and openness of heart) that is in Christ.

I’m sharing this, not in any way to say we need to shrink back from pursuing all that Jesus has for us in every way He chooses to reveal Himself and move in our midst.  Never.  Instead, I want to run headlong into Jesus’ embrace more everyday until all I am is hidden in all He is.  I want to be hungrier for Him and His Kingdom more today than I was yesterday.  I want to walk with Him in such a way that the reality of His heart and of the Kingdom of heaven breaks forth every place I go.

You too?  May I pray for you?

Jesus, if anyone reading this has gotten entangled with peripheral, confusing or harmful teachings that don’t lead deeper into You but rather to a place spiritually they no longer wish to be, would You please recenter and refocus their gaze?  Please cut them free from any heaviness or confusion attached so they can freely embrace and be embraced by Your beauty, grace and the fullness of Who You are.  We love You and are always amazed by Your love!  Amen.