Episode One  – “The Drought”

As I sit here in the presence of God listening to worship, the Father is refreshing my soul and spirit.  There was a day and time when frustration and negativity consumed a lot of my thinking and most of my feelings.  Many times I walked into a room and began to create a negative environment by casting judgment, hurling insults, and wearing dissatisfaction on my face.  I’m so thankful for the work God has done and is doing in my life.  I never dreamed of refreshing waters like this on a daily basis.  Now  I find myself walking into a room and desiring to lift up the people in it.  I can’t help but see the beauty in people now.  This didn’t happen overnight for me.  I was saved at the age of 17 and had a radical conversion. From orphan to Son, bully to crying baby, wounded to healed.  In a moment God changed everything with this statement, “Son, I love you.”  Instantly love poured into places that were dry my entire life.  My new life in Jesus changed so many things yet at times I still felt negative to the core.  I was like an orphan who finally received adoption (Ephesians 1:5) after years of waiting and wishing, but once it happened I would not believe my adoption to be true.   I am realizing now that negativity is simply the warning signs of drought.  Wherever there is a drought from the Father’s love in any area of life, negativity is always ready to step right in.  It takes time to saturate the dry places especially if you don’t realize they are dry.  Right now California is experiencing a drought season that is quite alarming.  The waters of huge lakes throughout the state have dropped twenty, fifty, even a hundred feet in only a few short years.  Negativity so easily creeps in like a drought.  One dry season turns into many and it seems like “out of nowhere” we are dry.   The longer we go without the love of the Father touching us the drier and more negative we become.

It is interesting that on the other side of the country there has been a record-breaking winter with crazy amounts of snow and rain.  Without knowing it, our life can look just like the situation in the United States.  We may be getting drenched in one area yet in another area of our life we see drought.  For some of us, we have never seen water in certain areas of our heart, and deserts have formed.  We try to focus on the areas being maintained with an average amount of rainfall and hope one day the desert will be watered.  Meanwhile the drought keeps nagging and sabotaging way beyond its borders.

The effects of drought can look and sound like this.  Where faith once existed to move mountains, there is now such a low expectation of God’s move in your life that you struggle to get to church on Sunday morning.  Where love used to pour out overflowing to others, it has now dried up and everyone seems to be taking and increasing your deficit.  In this place, any giving out becomes frustrating at best and resentment for others begins to set in.  You once cheered people into their dreams, now no one can please you with the high standards that circle around in your mind.  When you see a dreamer you know it is only a matter of time until they are crushed like you.  Even your loved ones are not safe.  They slowly become an irritant taking up your time.  Then the guilt of harming those relationships and causing disconnection starts to eat away at your heart.  To top it off, here comes a negative thought about how God is not doing anything and your anger turns toward Him.  You frequently find yourself saying, “I just need a break!” Yet somehow no matter how much time you seem to capture, the negativity bounces back strong.

Why do we  experience drought in our lives?  Is God withholding the rains of His love so that we  dry up?   Maybe our negative thoughts are right about God?  No way!  The God I know would never hold hostage the love and refreshing we need.  He didn’t withhold His Son so why would He withhold anything we need?  Romans 8:31-32 in the NLT says it best, “31 So what should we say about this? If God is for us, no one can defeat us. 32 He did not spare his own Son but gave him for us all. So with Jesus, God will surely give us all things.”  With powerful scriptures like this, why does it seem that drought is winning in so many Christian lives?  The answer to this epidemic is the Father’s love getting to the dry places.  All the way down into the deep dark hidden places.  A few years back I had a dream that impacted me to the core.  I can still to this day picture every detail and all the events that took place.  In this dream I was on a beach with a handful of people and I was their leader.  On this beach was an old broken down bridge with missing pieces and a fire pit just to the right of bridge.  The large pieces of this bridge were scattered all around the beach.  Then the voice of the Lord came to me saying, “put all pieces of the bridge back together and I will do a miracle and heal the bridge.”  I called the people together and we began to gather the pieces of the bridge and place them where they belonged.  It was exciting and filled with purpose.  In a short time we were putting on what we thought was the last piece.  We stood back and looked at our finished bridge and waited for the miracle.  As we waited longer and longer we realized the miracle wasn’t going to happen.  I was so confused because I knew it was the Lord who promised to heal the bridge.  Then His wonderful voice came again, “I said you must put ALL the pieces of the bridge back together.”  I answered back, “Lord, where will I find the missing pieces?”  His reply shocked me, “They are buried in the fire pit.”  I jumped into that dirty, ash filled pit and began to dig and dig.  I finally hit something solid and pulled up a beautiful antique lamp that mounted on the side of the bridge.  With a joyful declare I cried out, “there’s more pieces in the pit!”  At the moment I  woke up knowing I just received a revelation from God.  As I played the dream over in my head I began to understand what that pit was.  The pit was my pain.  It was all the dark and dry places the Father wanted to get at.  He wanted to water the depths of my heart so that I would never again feel the effects of drought.

Take a moment to picture this with me.  Wouldn’t it be an amazing thing if we could pick up California and hold it under the record-breaking rains in other parts of the country?  It wouldn’t take long to hydrate this state with the amount of rain and snow coming down on the East Coast.  If we could saturate California for a few weeks it would begin to fill and penetrate the depths of the soil.  The first  few days the water would run off and only the surface would get wet.  But as the watering continued,  rivers and lakes would fill up and the soil would drink up the water.  The mountains would turn white with beautiful powder and a surplus of water would be stored for the coming seasons.  It would be so wonderful to see this instant transformation.

Unlike California, we can pick up any area of our life and hold it under the deluge of His love.    The rain of God’s love is a constant downpour!  Your entire life can be held in His constant downpour, and drought can be a thing of the past.  Negativity would become a distant memory.   Areas in your life where you have taken drastic measures  to reserve water would be released for the pouring out for others to drink.  There would be more than enough.  All the ill effects of the drought would be reversed in your life.  It would be so wonderful to see this instant transformation.  This can happen today if you are willing.  It can happen now!  The deluge is here and the Spirit of God has the biggest watering can you have ever seen…and it is aimed at you.  One of the most amazing things about God is that He is always just one small step away.  With one step from any position in life we can step into the waters.  There is no backtracking to a better time or place.  There is no need to strive for that time you were close to Him before; He is already in front of you.  Step into the rain.  If you feel lost and you cannot seem to find the rain, don’t fret.  Don’t try to  be good or more spiritual or better behaved to get back in connection  with Him.  Maybe if you were separated from Him that would work but  He  hasn’t gone anywhere.  Rather, find the pit and you will find the rain.  God is at the driest places knocking at your door.

When I say a life without drought and negativity I am not talking about a life that is free from trouble, trials, heartbreak, pain, and loss.  Life does have difficulties woven throughout and there is no avoiding it at times.  I’m talking about staying connected to the Father in such a way that we have a constant revelation that we are in the rain whether we are in good times or bad times, whether we are feeling up or down, sinning or holy, joyful or mourning, at the grocery store or at church, having dinner with the family or quiet before God in the secret place.  If He is constant than I can go through anything because my lifeline doesn’t depend on my efforts.  My watering doesn’t depend on my efforts.  It all depends on Him and He has found it pleasing to send a downpour.  It’s a gift to be received not a mandate to be achieved.  My mood can change or the world could come crashing down, yet the knowledge and revelation of my standing in Him doesn’t have to change.  Faith is the receiving of this grace filled rain but I pray that you also feel the drenching of God.  I hope you have an experience with the Father that sends you sinking in oceans of His love with no life raft in sight.  This kind of encounter with God will take your faith to wide open spaces.

Are you in a drought?  Wherever you are right now, stop and take a moment to imagine that you are standing under the flood rains of your Papa’s love.  Don’t leave that place.  Soak it up like a sponge until you overflow; until the drought is history!  Don’t worry that this won’t last, for your Father is doing a lasting work in you.  It’s the very reason you are reading this.  His desire for you has brought you to this moment.  Your drought is over and gone and you never have to be dry again.  If you find the negativity warning signs creeping back in simply take a step under the constant shower of love.  Remember His love is on all the time.  It never stops, it never ceases and it’s directed at you.

Here is an exercise to get you started in receiving this downpour.  Find the quietest place available and get comfortable.   I like to start with worship to get my mind to slow down and be in the present moment.  Begin to thank God for everything that you are grateful for.  Keep thanking Him and go deeper with each and every item that He has so graciously given you.  Do this until you feel the thanksgiving in your heart.  Thankfulness does something special in the heart.  It will begin to help you see all the amazing details of the people that you love the most and beyond.  Thank God  for who they are and He has made the very details of their personality.   You will begin to see what a blessing they really are.  Nine times out of ten that drops me right into the heart of my Father as I thank Him for my wife and kids.  In this loving place I want you to say this mantra that I borrowed from Graham Cooke, “He loves me, because He loves, because He loves, because He loves me, because He loves me.”  Don’t stop saying it until your heart catches up with want you are declaring.  This mantra helps me connect with God and has gotten me through some really tough times.  It’s easy to lose sight of who you are when difficulty clouds your vision.  There is something special that happens when we realize He loves us just because that is who He is.  Anytime I need centering I put this mantra on repeat in my heart.  Once you feel your heart responding to His presence take a few minutes to relax.  Rest.  Soak it up.  Drink it up.  Let it go even deeper.  His presence will begin to touch even the child inside of you.  Peace will overtake all stress and you find yourself abiding in Him.  You may fall asleep and that is just fine.  Tears may come streaming down and that is good too.  When I get to this place I feel really safe in His arms.  In this safe place I ask Him to show me the dry places He would like to water.  I ask Him to show me the treasure that lies hidden under the ashes.  When He has revealed His will simply invite Him to have His way.  That’s it!  You have begun the journey to a life of the constant downpouring love of your Father.

Let’s look at another scripture to help drive this even deeper.  In Matthew chapter 28 Jesus tells His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Did you know that baptism means to submerge fully until saturated?  Jesus literally commanded His disciples to end the drought in all nations.  WOW! There is no way for use to even fully understand how we have benefitted from that commandment and the work of the first disciples.  We wouldn’t know the good news of the gospel if it weren’t for their incredible obedience and sacrifice.  What compelled them to take on such a bold mission to the nations.  Even more mind blowing is that work has been passed down to us for this generation.  What did Jesus want us to understand?

As I read this scripture I can’t help but wonder what did the disciples observe Jesus do on a daily basis?  Jesus’ words sound very intentional about the next generation of Christ followers having access to all He taught them and observing the commands he revealed during His ministry on earth.  The word “observe” in this passage means to continue.  I believe Jesus was empowering them to continue what He did on earth.  What character and patterns did they see Jesus do as they followed Him all over the country?  Did you ever think about how many sermons the disciples heard from Jesus compared to the amount of meals He had with them around a table?  Clearly the times spent at meals greatly outweighed the times of formal teaching He gave them.  When Jesus says, “teach them to observe all that I have commanded you”, I believe the disciples were reflecting upon those meal times of fellowship.  They were remembering the laughter along the walks to the next town, the friendship formed by nights around a fire, the deep connection through ministering together, all the special moments, all the incredible miracles, and especially the one on one times with Him.  This is the continued commandment that Jesus was talking about.  Jesus wanted the disciples to pass down the abiding life with Him that they had and continued to have through the Spirit of God.  The disciple’s perspective of the great commission was an invading of everyday lives of everyday people and connecting them to the ever present God-friend.  This is what drove them to give their lives for their Lord.  He was real and present in every moment.  The ups and downs, victories and defeats, no matter what His love showered on them.  This wasn’t your average religious commission, rather it was an invitation to open the doors of the heart and let this God-friend permanently move in.

I love that “all authority” has been given to submerge people in the deep waters of relationship with a kind and loving Father.  This is the true heart of the gospel and negativity doesn’t stand a chance once our hearts have seen and heard.  Just as darkness cannot overtake light; drought cannot overtake the seas of His love.  Let’s just listen to the last part of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 28:20.  Did you hear Jesus’ words by any chance?  In case you didn’t here it is again, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  When Jesus says “behold” this is the equivalent of Him gently getting our attention by taking our face and turning it to His to make sure we see His eyes.  Behold wasn’t just some proper grammar to start a good sentence.  Behold means to pay very close attention to what I’m about to say.  It’s of the utmost importance.  Jesus was saying, “Listen up my son.  Listen here my sweet daughter.  I am with you always.  I’ll never ever, ever, ever, leave you.”  Negativity can never co-exist in this kind of love.  He is constant.  He is always with us.  His love is constant and always with us.  Don’t you see what this means?  You and God are in this thing for the long haul.  You are joined with Him no matter what.  When you gave your life to Jesus Christ, His life and your life became forever one.  No longer does negativity have the authority to have it’s way in your life.  There is a much greater force than negativity; it’s the love that comes from the lover of our souls.  Every room in your heart that may be storing negativity can now be filled up with Him.  You are His lighthouse!  Shining from the fullness of His delight.  You are a no force to be reckoned with.  You are nothing short of a soaking-wet, drought killing, negativity defeating, favored child of the most generous Father in the universe.  This is who you are; enjoy it!

 

Cover Artwork: Jessi Stafford / Editors: Jessica Gomez & Heather Capristo