That Time Spring Hit the Colorado Rockies (And My Life)

I didn’t plan on spending five or six weeks of my spring 2018 in the mountains of Colorado. Not that I’m complaining, mind you: spring in Colorado is gorgeous. Witnessings the transformation into spring is even more of a marvel. But it wasn’t on my plan. (Hello, that’s why I call myself a “recovering control freak.” Because sometimes the control thing still peeks out. 

Anyway, when I arrived in Colorado it didn’t look much like spring at all. In fact as late as April 20th, winter was still in full effect. Consider this photo from my first weekend in Colorado Springs, where I stayed with longtime friends on the Air Force Academy base: 

Yeah, not much spring to be seen there. I despaired that God had brought me out of monochromatically gray Milwaukee, only to drop me into another monochromatic winter landscape. Everyone had been telling me how beautiful the sun would be. How plentiful the wild flowers. Yet I still couldn’t see it, even though May 1st was just around the corner. 

This lingering winter seemed to be a metaphor for my own life. I had believed God for breakthrough: a serious shift in my circumstances that would allow me to quit traveling from place to place and go back home to Milwaukee to settle. I loved traveling, yes. The Holy Spirit had told me to ‘take no money, take no luggage, and go into whatever house will receive you.’ And I had obeyed. 

But I was tired now. Sick of endless weeks on the road with no real purpose or activities to shape my day. Sick of always looking to the horizon for something—anything—to happen. Sick (if we’re being honest) of praying and seeing … absolutely nothing.  

I started taking my friends’ dog, Buddy, for twice daily walks. Every day I kept my eyes peeled for the famous Colorado wildflowers, even while I prayed to Heaven for a glimpse of a single petal pushing above ground in my own life. 

For awhile, it continued to look like this: sunny, but barren. The weather warmed. And yet nothing pushed above the soil.

By the time I left for Milwaukee to lay hold of the place God had given me there, the slopes of the Rockies were carpeted with God’s most beautiful flowers.  

It took a lot longer than I would have wished, yes. But the season of flowering did come in God’s time. 

Be patient through the late springs snows, and continue to watch daily for the first signs of color amid the grass. Your time of breakthrough will come if you do not grow weary. 

I believe the real test of our faith is not what happens in seasons of victory and activity, but what we do in seasons of silence and barrenness.

Those six weeks of silence, during which I saw almost no flowers pop up on those daily walks, was one of the longest and hardest I have endured. My patience and stamina were nearly at an end. I napped a lot—because there was little else to do.

Still no flowers. Anywhere.

And yet, somehow in the absence of the physical evidence I craved, Spring came. During that time I really re-committed my life to do exactly what God wanted. I heard the call to begin speaking His Name and His Word more intentionally in my relationships. Things that had been “out of order” in my life got placed back into order—none of which would have been possible had I been distracted by other things. 

God even sent me a few rainbows and beautiful sunsets to encourage me that His promises were true, and in the acceptable time, He would shift my circumstances.

There’s a funny thing about praying for God’s “acceptable time,” just as it says in Psalm 69. God’s acceptable time is very rarely ours. His time for flowering often does not match ours. We are impatient. He has infinite patience. We want to run ahead though we can only see in the moment. He sees what’s coming, and acts accordingly.

In God’s acceptable time, breakthrough did come. I got a huge tax refund—several months late—that enabled me to return to Milwaukee and pay the avalanche of bills that were coming due in June. I let go of the last of my old life and got on board with God’s program.  

And yes, the wildflowers did come out. By the time Buddy and I finished our daily routine of walks, the hills were abloom with Colorado’s finest. 

By the time I left for Milwaukee to lay hold of the place God had given me there, the slopes of the Rockies were carpeted with God’s most beautiful flowers.  

It took a lot longer than I would have wished, yes. But the season of flowering did come in God’s time. 

Be patient through the late springs snows, and continue to watch daily for the first signs of color amid the grass. Your time of breakthrough will come if you do not grow weary. 

Where Souls Cry: Walking the Berlin Wall

My entire life, I’ve heard about the Berlin Wall.

I was just six years old when it fell. Before 1989, it was something the newscaster spoke about on my mom’s radio programs. After 1989, it was something everyone looked back on. I vaguely remember my parents reading voraciously about the circumstances around this historic event which led to the reunification of Germany. 

Twenty-eight years later, I got a chance to see and touch it for myself. 

On a blustery day in December I bundled up myself and leashed Sam the dog—the Aussie shepherd I was pet sitting, who already had a bundle of fur to keep him warm. It took us about twenty minutes to walk to the Wall Memorial from Sam’s owners’ flat.

Later, I found another Wall guard tower right in our neighborhood an learned the Wall ran almost literally under the flat itself. But I didn’t know that yet. So I took Sam for a walk in the park where parts of the Wall are now preserved for posterity, along with gravestones and various sculptural pieces. Nearby also stood the Wall Memorial Museum, a chapel dedicated to the memory of victims, and other sites of interest.  

I’m glad I took Sam with me. I cannot now imagine having done the Wall Memorial without his gentle, steady canine presence.  

Mostly because for the first time in my life, I could hear the spirits screaming.  

Let’s face it: the ground of Berlin is soaked in blood. 

It’s not just the blood of Jews. It’s also the blood of Germans trying to cross from East to West. The blood of the Roma people who were slaughtered en masse, and other nationalities too. I told someone later that Berlin, to me, seemed like a giant collection of “apology monuments”—places now dedicated to memorial, for atrocities committed against some internal group who had once found shelter on that ground.  

The Berlin Wall Memorial just happens to be the most famous.  

I found it particularly moving to walk past the names and photos of individuals killed while trying to cross the Wall. As I viewed each face, I wondered, “Whose son is that? Whose sister? Did their families ever know what happened to them, or did they simply leave—and never return?” 

The atmosphere in the park was appropriately subdued. People walked from place to place, murmuring to one another. Taking discrete photos that seemed less voyeuristic and more commemorative. Over it all, a weak European winter sun shone down, its diffuse light softening the harsh contraption of concrete-and-wire that was all now left of the wall. 

I think perhaps the most bearable part of the whole experience was the chapel.  

Somehow, in the middle of a space where the spirits of the dead still cry out for full justice, that place was a refuge. I could not take Sam inside, so we only stood at the threshold. But even as we stood there I drank in the serenity of that faith-designated ground.  

In the middle of despair and chaos, the church represented hope and peace.  

In the middle of loss, the church represented eternal rest. 

In the middle of pain, the church was a balm for the soul.  

Though what happened in Germany during those terrible years cannot be altered, the future still remains to be written. It would have been easy for me to avoid the Wall Memorial altogether during my time in Berlin. But I’m glad I went. The chance to pay my respects. To understand more of what happened and gain greater perspective. The opportunity to hear those souls crying out from the ground and know that spiritual warfare is real. 

Sometimes the most uncomfortable places are the most important ones for us to visit.  

Just … take a big, empathic Aussie Shepherd with you if you can.  

I promise, it makes all the difference. 

How Can I Hear the Voice of God?

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 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.“
– John 14:26

There’s a lot of talk in our culture about people who hear voices. It’s one of those topics that’s mostly a joke … until it’s not.

Let’s face it: most of us know “someone like that.” Someone whose carton is a few eggs short. The one who does crazy (or even morally wrong) things, then says to us, “The Voices told me to.” The one everybody avoids at the family reunion. The one whom everybody cringes at when they pop up in Messenger. The one whose mug shot we see in the local paper.

It’s not super popular to be a person who hears voices. Which is why people get weirded out when you say you hear The Voice on a daily basis.

The Voice of God, that is.

There’s a lot of difference between a voice and The Voice.

I believe that not everyone who hears “The Voice” in their head is crazy or deluded. God says in His word the Bible that He speaks personally and individually to anyone who has chosen a relationship with Him through His son, Jesus. This voice is less an actual audible sound and more a deep prompting rising up from somewhere within. And it’s quiet. In fact, the Bible calls it the “still, small voice.”

People tell me all the time, “Lisa, I’m a follower of Jesus, but God doesn’t speak to me like He speaks to you.”

I’m here today to call that a lie, and the sooner you stop believing it, the faster you’ll start hearing from God, too. Because the problem isn’t that God isn’t speaking.

It could be that you’re so afraid of the “crazy person” designation—and the attendant potential ostracism—that you’re blocking The Voice from coming to you at all.

It could also be that you’re not quiet enough to hear Him.

Shhhhh… God is speaking!

Getting quiet enough to hear the Voice of God is not merely the province of gurus on mountaintops, or a saintly nun tucked away in a cloister. It’s a process of coming face to face with all the noise inside us: all the unaddressed trauma, and fear, and anxiety that keeps us running for our lives day to day. It’s the to-do list. It’s the pile of bills to pay. It’s all the voices that haunt our sleep at night, replaying angry cut-downs spoken by people who were supposed to love us … and left instead.

As long as you run from all that internal clutter, instead of running to it, admitting it and allowing Jesus to heal it, you’ll never really be able to heard God the way He desires you to hear Him.

Because you can’t hear Him and your fear at the same time. You can’t listen well to His plan while also trying to calculate your own next move.

The Devil loves to keep us running in place, always looking backward.

Anything to distract us from the still, small voice.

Run straight into the mess, not from it

So you want to hear from God? Radically? Like, the kind of hearing that has Him telling you not only what to do next with your life, but also what to eat for breakfast and which route to take on your drive to work? Then it’s time to stop hiding from all the mess inside.

For me, this process began two years ago when I went through an unexpected (and undesired) divorce. It was only as my life unraveled that I began to fully understand how my decisions and my lifestyle had been driven by my fears rather than my faith, by my insistence on listening to false voices who told me I was Not Enough, rather than the voice of God who said, “I am Enough for you.”

It took God pushing me literally flat on my face to finally see the truth. In July of 2016 He sent me a wham-bammy of an emotional experience that dropped my whole body into what I like to call a “six-day heart attack.” I was running three hours a day for no reason, not able to breath, unable to eat, dealing with 9000 lb weight on my chest and surges of internal energy I could not control.

On the sixth day, I smashed my face into the rug on the terrazzo floor of my apartment and begged Him to make it stop, or take my life.

In that moment, the pressure dropped, the world got still and I heard the Voice of God for the first time. His inaugural observation?

You do not know how to receive love.

The truth hurts, but it also heals

Um, wow. Yes. I knew immediately that this was true. I could not explain where this crystalline insight had come from, except that it was completely intelligible and somehow had come from complete silence. And it was completely true.

It all flashed through my mind: the struggles I had had growing up, my endless battle with perfectionism, man after man in my life who didn’t see me as “worthy” romantically (including my soon-to-be ex-husband), my battles with intimacy that left me feeling like less of a woman, all the fear and anxiety I lived with on a daily basis, my endless feeling of isolation.

All of that … because I was unable to receive love?

It was a crushing blow, and the beginning of real healing. Because from that day forward, I began to hear God’s Voice more strongly. Sometimes He told me things about myself or others. Sometimes He asked me to do something simple—like eat oatmeal for breakfast, or turn right and take a back way instead of turning left for the more obvious route.

At first I thought I was crazy. But as time went by, I realized that He wanted to be involved in every aspect of my life. Not just the big things. But the small things too. I simply had to do the one thing that seems harder for human beings than any other.

Listen.

Like, really, truly listen.

It’s your turn. Are you ready?

People ask me all the time now, “How can I heard the Voice of God, too?” Well, assuming you already have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ—the only way you can hear Him on this level—I cannot guarantee for you when and how you will begin to hear that voice. All I can tell you to do is to begin to pray. To seek His face and ask Him for His favor.

You will also have to begin cleaning out the emotional clutter that works like supernatural distraction for your eyes and supernatural cotton in your ears. That looks like actually dealing with:

  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Insecurity
  • Anxiety
  • Silence
  • Lust
  • Isolation
  • Addictions
  • Experiences of rejection
  • Past abuse experiences

You see, most of us never really deal with the emotions around these things. We simply stuff them down—like I did with anxiety, sexual dysfunction, and feelings of failure and isolation. Talk to a trusted friend or mentor who can help you process through experiences that may be very tender. Don’t try to do it alone.

But the point is … let that stuff out. You might need to scream. Cry. Pound a pillow. Let yourself sit in a corner and shake like you never have before. Speak what happened to you, even if you have never allowed yourself to utter it aloud to anyone.

In short, you have to let yourself fall apart, so real emotional healing can begin.

Dare to become a beautiful mess

In our culture, we’re so afraid of these experiences. We do anything to avoid feeling pain, and when we do, we try to drown it out with exercise, work, or any other busy-ness that will keep us running to the next thing. Which is, by the way, precisely why we can’t hear God the way we want to. When emotions get lodged inside our physical body, they create barriers to our spiritual sensitivity and freedom. It’s like our whole being is “numbed out” trying to deal with what we were never meant to carry around inside.

I’m not saying by doing this your life will be perfect overnight. Or that you’ll suddenly hear The Voice fifteen times per day. But if you stick with prayerful practices of emotional clearing, you will be amazed at the luscious empty space inside that begins to form when you finally let go of all the pain you are hanging onto, and let God take it.

You’ll also find that you are suddenly able to be quiet and listen. Because it’s everything undealt-with inside of you that is keeping you from sitting still and really hearing the Holy Spirit.

The choice to hear God is yours

The Devil would love for you to remain in emotional bondage so that you miss out on the still, small Voice of God.

Don’t give in. You know now what’s up. He can speak to you just as He speaks to me, comforting me, guiding me, showing me each step on the road ahead—whether it’s my next big move, or my breakfast menu.

Rise up. Tell all that emotional clutter that it will no longer have you and keep you in bondage. Ask Jesus to break those chains. Pray. Praise. Speak with someone who also loves God who is qualified to help you get free.

And then get quiet.

Really quiet.

Because the Voice of God may be a whisper, but when He hits your life, trust me. Even the oldest, strongest foundations will shake.

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