I hate to admit that Covid and the stress of it all has really done a number on me. I am a planner, a doer, a striver, a get-er-done kind-of person, and Covid put a halt to all “my” well laid plans. I had a beautifully crafted calendar for all the experiences we would hold in 2020 at Selah Ranch. Then a complete shut-down, robbing my security and leading me to a murky, not-so-pretty pit of self-pity and despair.
“I’m done,” I indignantly told God. It is nothing new, this battle between pushing through and wanting to resign. I know it well. But in the middle of the battle, seemingly out of nowhere there is always a tug from something greater within me that keeps me fighting, that keeps me believing. God never lets me fall too far before he swoops down, picks me up, dusts me off, and carries me back home. As he travels along with me in his arms, I can feel his delight as he whispers in my ear simple reminders of who I am and why I’m here.
There are two many God confirmations to share in just this one post, but over the years he has continually pointed me back in both subtle and obvious ways to Deuteronomy 11:11 and Isaiah 54. Both emphasize the work of his hands not mine; his provision, him expanding and doing, not me. But I just haven’t been able to surrender to this fully. My doer, striver hasn’t wanted to let go and take the leap of faith.
Do I truly believe he works all things for good? Even the devastation I feel. I do. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and felt it in the depths of my soul. We are blind to our own habitual and unhealthy patterns. Meaning we often don’t see the ways in which we are enslaved to our way and the world’s coercion. And it takes an awakening of sorts, often through pain to get us to look honestly at what isn’t working in our lives so that we are opened bare and willing to see if God’s way may be better.
I felt led two weeks ago to attend a church I don’t regularly go to. It was such a strong impression that without hesitation I followed the Spirit’s leading and went. The pastor of the Dream Center in LA happened to be sharing his testimony that day. Their business model and way of operating in the world is not of this world. It goes against every guru and strategist. The world will tell you that you have to create value by what you charge so that people will honor it. But Pastor Barnett did something radical, unheard of by earthly standards and decided to give everything away for free. To “be unusual” and love without borders or financial barriers! This way of operating resonated deep within me. Afterall, what trumps love?
Later that week, I had gotten a new book from Henri Nouwen about Discernment. He spoke over and over a phrase that described the community he wanted to build, and it lit up like a revelatory light within me. He used the phrase, “radical hospitality”. When I went to Onsite for a behavioral health leaders retreat, one thing that I experienced that lives with me still to this day, is their value that “hospitality is healing”. I knew after leaving there that this was a value Shine would hold as well. I felt so loved, so seen by their hospitality and all the little added touches and details they did to make us feel special and cared about.
Mind you these concepts and foundational principles that God has been molding in me, has taken years not days. God has been revealing little by little these principles and concepts in bite size portions. It is as if he is planting seeds that need time to grow roots within and be tended to. Because the truth is we struggle to believe in things that take pure faith. We just do and God knows it.
One morning in my quiet time as I was mining all these little signs God was presenting, I heard him say, “Give where the world’s message would tell you not to.” Hum…this gently nudge came while I was in the middle of researching and working diligently on a proper business model and revamping my website. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying any of that is bad or even that charging for services is wrong. It isn’t. But God simply had a different plan, an unusual way he wanted me to personally operate under (probably because of my stubborn, do-er personality). So, I knew what he was asking of me but not yet convinced, I blurted out, “How, Lord, can I give these experiences that cost so much away for free?” And he said, “Because you’ve been given everything for free.” You see fear and the world’s prevailing message has told me, “I can’t”. I have to work hard, charge my value, and build my platform to be successful!
I was literally at the end of my rope, exhausted and defeated with trying to live up to this view of what a successful ministry needs to look and feel like. Everything God does is unique and no matter what, we have to stop comparing what God wants to do uniquely in us with what God is doing uniquely in someone else. I kept sensing that something was off. That the way I was going about it still had a touch of fear leading the way and I wasn’t fully allowing God’s specific design to come to life.
Then suddenly, I get an out of the blue text from our biggest funder. He was sending me a package and he wanted to chat about it when I received it. Well it came in the mail and when I opened it, I have to be honest I didn’t want to face what he might have to say. I was already feeling like this year had knocked me off my feet and I had failed once again to measure up. I couldn’t face him, but I had no choice. I made the call and don’t you know God was building me a ladder. He planned it all perfectly to pull me out of the muck I had been stuck in and the pit that was blocking my vision.
As the call went on, I proceeded to be honest with him about where I was and how I was feeling, and he loved me so well in that moment. Instead of rejecting me and pulling his funding he told me, “Josie, do what you do best. Love these women and let me fund it.” I don’t have words and so wish I did to describe what his words of genuine love did for me. Shame made me want to hide and just as it always does, love won!
God’s has always had an “unusual” plan for Selah Ranch. Years ago, I started seeing 1:11 and 11:11 all the time. I began to understand that this was God’s promise to me. His promise to expand this ministry by his hand and through my faith and not by my effort and performance. It has taken me years to shed layers upon layers of this pride in me. The “I’ll do it myself and I’ll just try harder” mentality has wrecked me, burnt me out and left me discouraged. This has been my way of protecting myself and fighting for my own significance. This way must be surrendered. It is the only way to enter the promise.
You see in Deuteronomy 11:10 he is telling the Israelites you can’t keep doing it the way you did when you were a slave. Your way will always enslave you. They did everything with their own hands and their own feet. They relied on themselves and they were bound. But in verse 11:11 we see a mighty shift in perspective. The land (the inheritance we are promised as God’s children) he was giving them would require them to do the unusual. To stray from the way they’ve always done it. To cease from their work and what they’ve been enslaved by in order to find freedom in letting God do what only he could on land that he had promised them. It says, “The land you are about to take over…is a land that the Lord your God cares for. He watches over it through each season of the year!”
All along all he has wanted me to do was drop my pride that tied my value to what I do and let him provide. He was gently asking me to stop trying so hard in my own strength to make happen what only he can. Now, even with this truth being etched in my soul, I have lived long enough to know this battle is not over. The battle in my mind. The battle between my heart and my head and the fact that the enemy won’t stop trying to kill, steal, and destroy this vision and dream in my soul for a space where love wins. Where women can come and be wrapped in an embrace of radical hospitality that leaves them speechless and feeling more loved than they’ve ever known. A space where God’s heart and vision for them becomes clear and they dance to his rhythm within their soul. A rhythm that plays back to them their unique song and reminds them of their true-identity and how dearly loved they are.
This I will keep fighting for!