Choose: River Shallow or River Deep

After awakening from my dream, I was reminded of this picture taken while I was traveling the Oregon coast. The dock in the dream was similar to this one.

photo taken by Julie Austin, May 2012; Tahkenitch Ramp, Oregon Dunes. After awakening from my dream, I was reminded of this picture taken while I was traveling the Oregon coast. The dock in the dream was similar to this one.

I had a dream last night and want to share it with you. . .

I was traveling with several people I knew, and our journey together was led by a man called, The Traveler. He led us on a journey along the northeastern border of Minnesota. We stopped at various historic river towns. One particular stop had great spiritual significance and meaning. He wanted to take us to a hidden spot with a dock  where one could dive into the deep part of the river. Unfortunately two ladies in our traveling group did not want to get in the river by way of the dock, they were afraid. They had heard that the waters at this dock were dark and dangerous. Instead they went to the very public river shore and entered there, along with others I did not know. They waded into the river water, up to mid-shin, near the shore, and splashed around getting their bodies wet from the sprays of water. I watched them enjoy the water.

Then, The Traveler spoke to me, as I was observing them and said, “come with me to the dock”. I follow him to the dock and saw for myself that the water there was not dark, dangerous, and muddy but rather – clear, calm, and deep. The Traveler then said, “dive in here, for the water here is pure, clear, refreshing, and deep. The water here brings healing”.

Immediately, I knew I must tell my traveling friends the truth about the water at the dock. I ran to the shore with urgency and cried out to my friends, “Don’t enter the water here; its shallow and muddy. Let me take you to the river water at the dock – it’s pure, refreshing, deep and brings healing. You’ll have to take a risk though and dive in with abandon, fully immersed. Your feet won’t touch the bottom. You’ll have to swim or tread water. You can’t gradually get in here, you’ll have to take a dive. There will be initial shock at the cold, deep, and change of situation, but you’ll quickly adjust. You’ll soon be refreshed and your body will respond to the deep and receive healing.”

My traveling friends heard me and looked down at the streaks of mud on their damp clothing, proof of the muddy waters they were in. Their clothes were damp, not soaked, for only splashes of water had reached the upper part of their bodies. They looked down at the shin-level water they were standing in, and they could not see their feet, even though the water was shallow. Yet they were in control here, they were able to walk in only as far as they wanted. They chose to be close to the shore; they had chosen the river shallow. Moments earlier they had been having fun as they splashed around, but now they realized they were covered with streaks of residual mud. They understood there were no healing properties here, unlike the river deep, the waters at the dock. They knew then they needed to get out and follow me to the dock. Will they dive in?

Well, I never saw this portion of the dream for the scene changed after we reached the dock. The next scene alludes to the fact that myself and one other dove in, but I’m not certain about the others, nor these two ladies traveling- they were not in the next scene which was essentially our return home after our adventurous journey with the traveler.

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A Brothel Psalm of Lament –

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Oh God above, we pray for human trafficking victims! Rescue and bring hope. -Photo taken by Julie Austin, August 2014

Oh God above, we pray for human trafficking victims! Rescue and bring hope. -Photo taken by Julie Austin, August 2014

I am part of a non-profit, Pillars of Hope, Inc. This organization is dedicated to fighting human trafficking and their purpose is to bring restoration and safe housing for survivors of human trafficking. Thrivent Financial is giving up to $20,000 to a California Bay Area non-profit that receives the highest number of votes. This campaign is called Share the Vote! Help Pillars of Hope, Inc. receive funding for a safe house by clicking on the link below and selecting Pillars of Hope. It only takes a minute and you do not have to live in the Bay Area to vote. Watch a promotional video my friend and I made and read this psalm I wrote below. This psalm is dedicated to any and all victims here in the U.S. and all over the world. You are in our prayers and hearts. Our prayer is to help bring an end to this modern-day atrocity. Check out the links below the psalm and vote. Voting ends soon, August 24th.

 

A Brothel Psalm of Lament – by Julie Austin

-loosely based on Psalm 137 and written in a modern-day context, an assignment for one of my seminary classes.

 

In the darkened brothel room we sat chained to our beds, remembering the safety of our homes.

Our dreams of the future, dreams of a college career, and a future family – dashed in thin air.

 For in this room, this house of horror, our pimps and johns demanded from us sex bringing wealth and status to them, fulfilling their dreams.

 We cry out resisting with questions, “How can I pretend to enjoy this when it’s bringing you and them happiness but pain and anguish to me?

 I don’t want to forget what it’s like to be free and to hope again.

 To forget my home, my family, and my dreams is like death. When being raped, beaten, and sold, I pray my memory brings escape, causing my thoughts to daydream of a better place, my home.

 God, remember those who watched us each be taken away. Remember those who stood by knowing we were not our own. Remember those who ignore us thinking were prostitutes and criminals deserving punishment in prison.

 Oh crime ring, you will be judged and punished. Lucky are the ones who get the privilege of catching you, reporting you to the police, cuffing you and sentencing you to life in prison.

 Lucky is the one who takes away your dream, destroying it forever.

 

Vote and then share the vote. The non-profit with the highest number of votes receives up to $20,000. Voting ends August 24th.

Share the Vote YouTube Video Promo:

http://youtu.be/gIYtPSKwWFA

The link to vote is:

https://service.thrivent.com/forms/thriventchoice/vote.php

Link to Pillars of Hope, Inc. is:

http://www.pillarsofhope.us/

 

 

 

Solitude: An Oft Forgotten Spiritual Discipline

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Photo taken by Julie Austin, June 15, 2012 at Castle Valley, Utah on cross country road trip

Photo taken by Julie Austin, June 15, 2012 at Castle Valley, Utah on cross country road trip

Few are the moments I remember spending extended time in solitude. I can count the number of times throughout my life on both hands. My first memories of solitude were the times I would walk to the beach down the way from my house in Kake, Alaska when I was but a teenager. There were a couple of boulders I liked to hide beside and get alone to collect my thoughts. However, my first memory of an extended period of time in solitude was a day in the Trinity Alps of California. I was twenty-years-old at the time. I was training for my mission trip to Europe. Each person traveling that summer had to embark on a week-long wilderness trek to train, and part of the training was to spend a large chunk of one day alone in the wilderness. Another time of solitude I remember occurred while traveling on the mission trip to Europe. Circumstances on the trip had become difficult, I needed to just get away for some solace, so I walked around the river-walk through the town of Zurich, Switzerland.

Since, my early twenties the moments of lengthy solitude have grown fewer as the concerns and duties of adult life invaded my day-to-day living. An extended period of solitude that comes to mind of recent is a road trip I took across the western United States in the summer of 2012. This trip was a journey to my grandfather’s funeral. It was a trip that marked the beginning of a season of grief and sorrow that would last for a period of 2 years. Though the grief and mourning surprises me in moments, no longer do they shadow me with continual presence. The intensity of loss and remembering has lessened. However, I reflect back on that cross-country trip with gratefulness knowing that God was preparing me for the season that was ahead. I needed time alone with Him to prepare.

Two weeks ago, the Lord began to impress upon my heart with urgency the importance of solitude again. I needed to spend time alone and quiet, listening for His voice. Silence is a difficult atmosphere to create in such a busy society as we have today. Even if silence from the outside surroundings is achieved it is still difficult to silence the many thoughts that seem to fire rampantly across the mind. Yet, I knew that solitude was what the Lord desired from me. I went to my church for several days and waited in the sanctuary with only the light from the overhead clock to light the room and I sat in stillness. It took a while for me to squash the numerous thoughts. I had to also set aside the to-do list that seemed to roll though my mind like that of a calculator, but instead of printing numbers, it printed tasks seemingly more urgent than time spent with God in solitude.

Finally, by the darkest part of the night, I was still with only the voice of the Lord to be heard in my thoughts. He was reassuring me of His love, challenging me to set aside my selfish ways and to put Him first. Silence from my mouth was broken as I wept tears of sorrow. I had forgotten my first love, my Savior and my God. I placed a blue cotton pillow on the neck of the chair in front of me. My crocodile tears soaked the pillow as I planted my face on it. All I could feel was remorse over my sin. I simply indulged in the pleasure of food because I wanted too and could. The Lord was calling me to self-control, for food in itself is not bad, but my motive was rotten. Self was my ruling guide and self was the voice I heard above the voice of God. Self-indulgence and self-gratification were sin for they had not been tampered by the Holy Spirit. Food is to be enjoyed for His good pleasure and at His bidding for the strengthening and health of my body, His temple. Food is delightful but must be tasted and eaten in balance not in extreme or simply because I wanted it. God wrapped me in love and reassured me that His love for me had not changed but that He needed to address His concern for me in solitude, just He and I.

Solitude is a place where God can meet us, for in that moment of solitude, we put self aside and all our distractions and wait for His gentle whisper. His whisper is one that encourages, assures us of His love, corrects, counsels, and once again fills us with His love and peace. Solitude becomes sacred as our attention and affection is set upon Him, it is Holy ground. He meets us just as we are and it becomes a place of transformation. Transformation comes at a cost. I had to be willing to change my schedule and set aside time to wait, remove external distractions, cast aside internal thoughts and to-do lists, listen, and continue listening. Solitude is rare for it is an aspect of our Christian walk that is often forgotten, but I am proposing that it be resurrected and remembered once again. Solitude is a spiritual discipline that is necessary today because too many people are lost amidst the noise. They are running away and drowning out the still small voice of their Creator God, even those who know Him as Savior.

Authenticity & Love: The Power to Heal, Inspire, and Transform

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Smiling Jack, Photo taken June 19, 2012 in Neosho, MO

Smiling Jack, Photo taken June 19, 2012 in Neosho, MO

My dad had become very ill and was rushed to the hospital in January of 2012. My sister called me letting me know how serious his infection had become; they were not sure if he was going to make it. I remember praying to God for a miracle. “Please Lord, heal my dad.” The Lord heard my prayers and my dad was healed over a period of 3 months. He was released from the hospital in March significantly lighter in weight. I visited my family in Missouri for Easter that year and was able to spend the whole week with my parents. Yes my dad was lighter in weight, but I also noticed that the weight shed was more than just pounds. He had shed some walls. I noticed that deep emotions and thoughts that he once kept to himself and never allowed us to see were being freely shown. Numerous times he would share stories of his childhood or even precious memories from when my sisters and I were small. He shared a vision he had while he was unconscious in the hospital – Him in a courtroom with Jesus Christ beside him standing before God the judge. This was a sobering dream for him. He shared dreams he had  throughout his life. He also expressed his new found resolve to get in shape and improve his health. During these times of sharing, no longer did he hold back his emotions and sometimes that included his tears. Dad had been humbled by his time in the hospital, and now he was unafraid of vulnerability and authenticity.

His vulnerability and authenticity went beyond expression toward immediate family. He even shared this new found freedom with his larger extended family – brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and childhood friends. At his father’s funeral, my dad was assigned the task to speak briefly. He shared a verse about the House of David in scripture and declared that we were the “House of Jack”. What he shared was inspirational, and to this day our family will often speak of ourselves as the “House of Jack.” Yet most touching of all was his ability to be vulnerable and authentic, crying in front of this large group, freely expressing his grief and mourning at the loss of his dad. Immediately our hearts were touched for many of us had rarely seen these moments of genuine emotion with tears shed. He taught me in that moment that it is okay to be real, genuine, authentic . . . vulnerable during times of grief.

Finally, he taught me one last lesson on the power of vulnerability and authenticity when he preached his last sermon. I was blessed with the privilege of having my dad anoint, and bless me at my ordination ceremony for ministry.

Ap. Julie Austin's ordination ceremony July 22, 2014 at New Nation Church International, Concord, CA

Ap. Julie Austin’s ordination ceremony July 22, 2014 at New Nation Church International, Concord, CA

At that ceremony, very few of the people present did he know, yet he was real and honest, he even dared vulnerability. He expressed his joy and happiness for me when blessing me; he expressed his care and love for me, even shedding tears. In that moment, he had dared to express openly the depth of love he had for me, his daughter. This is a memory I will cherish forever; it touched my spirit and soul to the deepest level and brought healing – all because he was willing to risk, share and express. He depicted authenticity.

L: Ap. Todd Cataldo, R: Rev. Jack Austin Jr. Photo taken, July 22, 2012 at New Nation Church International, Concord, CA

L: Ap. Todd Cataldo, R: Rev. Jack Austin Jr. Photo taken, July 22, 2012 at New Nation Church International, Concord, CA

Learn from my father’s example and take a risk. Share the depth of your love and appreciation for those nearest and dearest to you – your spouse, child, sibling, relative, friend or mentor. Now, I challenge you to take an even bigger risk and love those that are difficult to love. Jesus challenges us to take a risk in love and the Message Bible relays this point poignantly in Matthew 5:46, “If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that.” (MSG)

If this seems too hard, here are a few steps you can take. First, make a decision and practice love and authenticity with those nearest to you. Second, branch out and extend beyond that inner circle. Then, extend your love and authenticity with strangers and casual acquaintances. Finally, take the risk and share the same love and authenticity to those difficult to love – which includes your enemies. This reflects the love of Christ.

God will be faithful to reveal what that expression of love might look like in each circumstance. It might mean a kind word, a smile, an acknowledging glance, a cup of cold water given, a question asked, a prayer, or simply speaking the truth. Not truth spoken with condemnation but IN LOVE! Even the harshest of truths spoken are to be given in love. This step of bravery is still being vulnerable and authentic – taking a risk. However, you can be secure in the risk for great is the Father’s love for you and that is a foundation you can rest securely upon – therefore no need to fear and refrain from taking the risk – love with authenticity and vulnerability.

God-Connection Made Priority

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Are you God-connected?

Are you God-connected?

“You say that you desire to know Me deeply, yet you busy yourself with activities, many of which are noble and bring Me great delight. Still you feel unsatisfied. More, you say; I want to know You more. Well, you must settle down and sit a while with Me. Be still and listen. Spend time with Me alone. Clear your worries from the day and hear My words that bring you great delight, then you will draw close to Me.” These were the softly spoken words of the Holy Spirit that played through my mind as I busily planned out my study and work schedule for the week. At first, I heard the familiar sound of those words, but quickly dismissed them. Seemingly more urgent matters pressed upon my conscience.

Another ministry activity was on my schedule for that evening and I pressed on as usual, except this time I experienced a new level of connection with Father God. This connection was not easy to come by for it required perseverance and a resolve to continue worshiping the Lord despite my tiredness. What had been words spoken by a still small voice earlier in the day, were now lyrics to a new song surprisingly spilling off my lips. The message was short, “Die daily”.  I sung the lyrics repeatedly. This time I heard the message and took notice. I knew what those words meant, I needed to die to my selfish desires and self-absorbed distractions, and focus on the Lord. The lyrics were like a love song begging me to set aside time. No other kings should be on the throne of my heart but Him alone, not even King Self. He was jealous for me and longed for me to die to self and sit a little while with Him, and respond to Him as King enthroned upon my heart.

I could not run away from His beckoning call. Even after the ministry event was over and I returned to study, the message was clear. Every book I picked up had His message imprinted upon the pages, words wooing me to die to self, be still, and connect with Him. Finally, by night’s end, I found a quiet place and sat in the stillness. I pushed the distractions aside, each and every thought seemed to dart through my mind with precise clarity and magnetic pull, urging me to think on anything other than my God, my Savior, my best friend. Then after what seemed like countless minutes, the darting thoughts were silenced and removed. My attention was focused on Him and my ears were tuned into His presence and His every word. Tears streamed down my face, evidence that His words were speaking life and healing to my soul and body. Only He could speak both correction and encouragement in one fell swoop. I knew what I must do, die to self, for this moment, this connection with Him brought greater desire to wade deep in His love and grow in intimacy with my Lord and Savior. His words brought life and refreshment.

My desires flippantly expressed earlier in the day now had meaning and context; they had been met with but a little time spent connecting. This encounter changed my priorities and wrecked my previously planned schedule for the weekend, but I knew I must connect and spend time with Him; it was a priority!

A Cup of Joe and a Lesson on Attentiveness Learned

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Oh the many lessons learned over a cup of coffee!

Oh the many lessons learned over a cup of coffee!

I had been studying for classes and preparing for a sermon for two solid days. I needed a break. I left my place of study and continued my efforts in a new environment. Starbucks was my decided location and would soon be my day-long place of study, or so I thought. God had other plans. . . Once there, I sat in a comfy brown leather chair with my tall coffee in one hand and my cell phone in the other. I only had a few minutes to spare and I decided to use those precious minutes scanning my Face book news feed and catching up on events that happened since I last left my cocoon of study.

I looked up to notice a middle-aged woman with short dark hair sitting in the chair next to me. Normally, I’d respond in a polite but introverted manner, and simply look up, nod, maybe offer a brief smile and then continue what had previously captured my attention, but not this time. I noticed a look of desperation on her face and a longing for at least one small signal from my face that showed her interest.

I heard that still small voice of the Holy Spirit prompt me and say, “set aside your agenda, and reach out to this woman”. I put my phone down and responded back with more than a smile, striking up a conversation. Time passed quickly and I later realized that over an hour had passed, maybe even more, yet such joy welled up inside of me. God was teaching me a lesson on attentiveness. I needed to be attentive to someone other than myself, and in this case, a lonely woman desperate and starving for relationship, community, and friendship. I made a friend that day. I am not sure if our paths will ever cross again, yet still we connected and offered one another the gift of friendship even if it was for but a brief part of one day.

Through that gift of friendship I revealed a bit of my love for Christ by willingly setting aside my plans and agenda and being attentive to her. In exchange, I received an afternoon filled with joy and a sense of fulfillment. We both swapped stories, and though her story was initially one of heartache and distress by the conversation’s end she had changed her thoughts about her own situation. Realizing her need to bring the concerns of her day to God, her thoughts turned to God, thoughts that had previously never entered her mind. Her faith in God had been forgotten, washed over by the concerns of the day. Her once droopy countenance lifted, and resolve appeared – a resolve to reach out to others in the community in greater distress than she. A miracle happened right before my eyes; she changed from distressed and disheartened to relaxed and hopeful even sharing with me the joys of her life. All I simply did was respond with a smile, initiate conversation, listen, and share bits and pieces of my own life story when appropriate. I was attentive. May we not miss out on the opportunities provided if we are but attentive, opportunities to share and reach out to the lost, desperate, lonely, and overlooked. I challenge you to be attentive today, and see what the Lord will teach you.

Rekindle Your Fire for God

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Below is a poem I just wrote inspired by a quarterly worship event called, Rekindle Your Fire for God (RYFG). The Lord has met me in powerful ways in past Rekindle . . . events. I praise the Lord that the event has not only expanded in length, but has now gone global. RYFG is a 26-hour worship event thru music, art, dance, and writing. This event has joined other local events, The River and Midnight Hour, worship and prayer events of Sanctuary  Ministries. Both The River and Midnight Hour are considered predecessors to RYFG that have influenced the very DNA of RYFG.

The vision for this event started as three students decided to take on a class project at a local bible college, College for Global Deployment, for their Worship Practicum course. The first event was held in November of 2012 and was such a huge success, that one of the students, Stacie McKay of New Nation Church International, felt the call of the Lord to continue this event quarterly. The Lord was faithful to build her team and soon after, the Lord blessed Stacie, with a co-partner to lead this worship gathering event, Kimberlie Smith of Sanctuary Ministries and has added additional team members. Today we celebrate a new season of this event as the Lord expands it and is faithful to provide. Stacie and Kimberlie are united in their desire to see the Body of Christ come together and break thru the ceiling of Diablo Valley in the San Francisco Bay area thru pure worship in all its varieties. I gladly add that the faithful supporters of this event join these two ladies in their desire and longing to see the Glory of the Lord  hover over the valley, the Bay area, our state, our nation, and the world. A part of this prayer is answered in this next event as there will be worship teams from Uganda, Africa and India joining our 26 hours of worship via Skype.

Body of Christ ARISE! The Lord longs for His people to join together with a heart for the Lord being the uniting link! Enjoy the poem below and I hope to see you at the event.

taken by Stacie McKay, June 21, 2014 @ Ocean Beach, California

taken by Stacie McKay, June 21, 2014 @ Ocean Beach, California

by Julie Austin 6/27/14

The Body of Christ is beautiful.

Brothers and sisters in The Lord commune together

With diverse gifts and a heart of unity

Their eyes on the Lord

They long for the divine gaze

A glance, a touch, a sound

A taste that the Lord is good

Believers worshipping in awe and wonder

Encouraging one another

Then with a gentle breeze from heaven

The angles join and the place is full of the weight of His glory

Momentum occurs,

A spark is lit,

A fire rekindled

Divine synergy.

Saved souls, healed bodies, delivered people, imparted gifts

God’s army mobilized to spread the good news

A glimpse of the Kingdom of God here on earth.

From sparks of divine encounters to the CHURCH ablaze!

Come, rekindle Your Fire for God!

 

 

Deeper in God, 2014: Enter the Deep Waters of His Love, Communion, Fellowship & Intimacy

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The Lord has been speaking to me the last few weeks about going deeper . . . and to “enter the deep waters of His love, fellowship, communion, and intimacy”. These waters are cool and refreshing and I’ve been called to NOT be satisfied with “dipping my toe in the shallow end of the waters and instead step on in, come a little closer, wade deeper and deeper, until I tread, immerse myself, swim and dare to dive down into the deep waters without fear. Trust Him while fully immersed in His waters and depending on Him for my very breath and delight!”

The Lord gave this word to me over a series of visions at the One Thing Conference in Kansas City, Missouri I attended this past December. He used my memories and my fear of water as a child to reinforce His point. Therefore, I choose the picture below to post today. Dad was walking me out into the water helping me overcome my fear. A precious reminder of God, My Abba Father, and His loving approach with me.

In light of God’s recent ministry and revelation to me for this New Year, 2014, and in memory of Dad, my one word for the year is DEEPER. Below is a picture that reflects this word-theme.

Based on your quiet reflection, What is your one word for the year? What photograph best depicts your 2014 word? Feel free to comment and share.

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Times of Devotion – what is your view, obstructed or clear?

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Are you spending time with The Lord, and resting in His presence? These two pictures recently taken on a road trip to Napa remind me of two possible scenarios. The first picture was taken quickly while passing by beautiful scenery. I was originally bummed when I realized the trees were in the way and blocking the beauty. Are you busily going through life hoping to experience refreshment, rest, clarity, and revelation but you’re barely taking time to pause and reflect on His goodness? The second picture brought a sense of awe and wonder as the beauty of God’s creation was in full view, free from obstructions, even beautiful and useful obstructions! Are your times of devotion and reflection on The Lord clear of distraction and centered with clear view of His beauty and goodness? How are you spending and setting aside time for Him, like picture 1, picture 2, or a mix of both?

Picture 1: Drive-by Photo taken in Napa Valley by Julie Austin

Picture 1: Drive-by Photo taken in Napa Valley by Julie Austin

Picture 2: Terrace view photo taken at Sterling Vineyard, Calistoga, CA by Julie Austin

Picture 2: Terrace view photo taken at Sterling Vineyard, Calistoga, CA by Julie Austin

Rain and Reminiscing

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Rain, oh how I love waking up to its sound and smell. It urges me to snuggle up in pj’s and a comfy blanket with a cup of coffee and a good book in hand. Rain reminds me of winter in Northern California and all of the seasons in Kake, Alaska – places I’ve called home. There are many a great memories I have in the rain. Oddly and unexpectedly rain reminds me of dad, yet I suppose it makes sense because so many great memories were with dad on days just as this one. He was a lover of coffee, books, and Kake, all of which represent happy sentiment and now I add to that list of sentiments – dad. Sentiments evoked by the sound of pitter patter, the smell of damp earth and air, and the felt shiver from the cooled atmosphere – a simple pleasure, rain.

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