*This first part is a recap of my last blog – “Esthers Arise.” You can skip ahead to the indicator line if you read my last blog, if you choose. If you did not read “Esthers Arise” I encourage you to pray about reading it. Although long, it is a much-needed message for today.
A few weeks ago, after dropping my daughter off at school, on my way home, I encountered a lady that was determined to beat me. At one point she almost forced me off the road and put both of our lives in danger all because she was determined to get in front of me. She literally started to merge right beside me. I honked two times but it became obvious that nothing was going to stop her from merging in front of me. I admit that her determination also caused me to want to join in this game. However, all the while this obsession was starting to overtake me, I couldn’t help but think about the worship that was lost with these thoughts and the anxiety that was replacing it, that I should have just let it go and turn on worship music, creating time and energy that would not be taken away from me. After it was over and she finally turned another direction, I asked God what He wanted me to learn from this. He said over and over, “People are in a race to get nowhere.” Such truth! People work so hard at life and completely miss the point of it. For the only things that will matter are those things that will count for eternity, those things that God includes in the race that He has laid out for us.
Two weeks later during church, God spoke to me about joy, even telling me that there would be joy in the wedding that my husband and I were going to photograph that afternoon. As I went to sit down, I did so to the Casting Crowns song “Who Am I,” hearing “Who am I that the voice that calms the sea calms the storm in me?” We all need to reflect on this truth.
And what God was about to reveal to me later that day was how Satan is of course also pursuing the people, the Bride of Christ. Satan wants nothing more than to put her out of commission. To stop her light from shining for he knows what defeats him, Revelation 12:11 – They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the Word of their testimonies. Our light shines through out testimonies, through out sharing of what Christ has done in and through us, and Satan knows this.
Later that day, Joe and I went to photograph the wedding. I knew God wanted us to do this wedding because it literally just fell into our laps. I even tried at first to get out of it, thinking that our wedding photography days were behind us. But God had a reason.
However, wow! How to describe it. This insight is solely based on the revelations I now have about the day, for in the moment, I was so confused and felt briefly like Satan was running the show. For, joyful? Was the wedding joyful? I guess so, for people seemed to have a good time and the reception had the typical cake, dancing, and bouquet toss, etc. However, once I describe this wedding, you will understand why at first, I doubted greatly whether I had heard God in church correctly, at least the part where He said this wedding would be joy and talked about my own season of great joy coming. For, we got there to find that the bride’s wedding dress was black, the color of mourning. She also wore a big black veil upon her head that draped down her entire back all the way to the floor. Knowing God uses weddings in my life to speak about being the Bride of Christ, you can only imagine the sinking feeling that welled up within me. (If you have not read or watched my message “Bride Has Made Herself Ready,” I hope you will be inspired to do so, for these were the last weddings that God orchestrated in order to speak about the status of His Bride. Things haven’t improved much).
Anyway, at first, I felt a darkness, especially as I briefly also entertained the thought that God was prophesying me. Was I a bride in black, in mourning, or somehow evil? All sorts of thoughts went through my head, especially as I noticed that their cake topper was two skeletons, and that intermingled with the typical fall elegant table decorations were jars of fake blood. I began to spiral downward fast, something that always happens especially when I fear that I have heard from the enemy in my prophetic words and not God. So, I began to ask God over and over what He wanted me to learn from this. What was He trying to say to me through this death theme? What came to my mind was the phrase, “Displaced joy.” Over and over, I heard, “Displaced joy.” I didn’t quit understand this at first, but I had to start taking pictures anyway.
And it was rough. It was difficult to take the normal wedding pictures, like the one of just the dress hanging on the wall or even more difficult, the actual bridal portraits, but that is what this bride wanted. Again, a true first for us, for nothing about this wedding was unusual or unlike the other weddings we had photographed except for the bride’s choice in dress color and a few dark décor elements. Other than these choices, her bridesmaids wore the typical fall color dresses of a beautiful rose/maroon color, as did her 5-year-old daughter who was her flower girl. The groom and groomsman wore vests that matched this same maroon color, again typical for this time of the year. The mother of the bride and the mother of the groom both wore dresses that were almost a spring rose/pink color. The guests at the wedding all looked like your typical nice, well dressed, average wedding attenders.
So again, all seemed normal except the bride. To even prove this point, later in the evening Joe and I ended up talking with the caterers, a husband-and-wife team. After they had finished serving everyone, they got their plates and sat at our table to eat. The first thing the wife said was, after pointing to the bride across the room, “Is that one in black the bride?” I could tell by her expression and voice tone that she was surprised by what she as seeing. I knew that what she was really asking was “Is that one that doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest, the bride?” We said yes. She then went on to tell us about a Halloween wedding that her and her husband had once catered where everyone came in costumes. She said that the bride and groom dressed up like hillbillies. They both then alluded to something that I had been thinking all day, that that type of wedding would almost be easier to accept. For, if they had chosen to have that type of wedding, or a full-blown goth-type wedding, it would have made more sense to me, not that I would have wanted to photograph that one, but this one confused me because like that lady pointed out, only the bride seemed out of place. However, despite these thoughts, I really knew deep down that God had a reason for this. For had the wedding not looked like other typical weddings we have photographed, for the most part, He would not have been able to symbolically get His point across – that there is an issue with His Bride, an issue of displaced joy.
For, I do admit that there was joy. Everyone seemed happy they were getting married and had a good time. And there was definitely joy in the face of her little 5-year-old girl. She was so excited that her mom was getting married and that she looked like a princess in her flower girl dress and tiara headband. She danced around and said many times, “I look like a princess,” which is what made my next photos to capture the hardest of the day. For her mom wanted pictures of her daughter in her wedding dress. Ug! I will never forget placing this sweet, innocent, princess on that beautiful white velvet lounge couch and watching her mom place that dark covering over the top of her head. In my spirit it felt like she was draping her daughter in death and darkness, in a funeral gown. Yet, all the while the little girl beamed with joy as I took her pictures, still excited her mom was getting married and still excited that she was a princess. What kept repeating in my head was “From generation to generation.” What legacy are we passing down to our children?
I then really struggled with my thoughts about this bride, much as I had done with that one bride that we had found to be drunk when we showed up to take pictures at the beginning of the day. I couldn’t understand what kind of woman would get drunk on such an important day, at least that early in the day. Now, I couldn’t help but to think what kind of woman chooses to wear black on her wedding day? For, I see black very differently than I used to. I used to wear a lot of black myself, almost only black, until just about a year ago when God told me to stop wearing it. He knew that I used it, especially as an introvert, to hide. Instead, He told me to come out, to stop hiding, to stop hiding my light and instead to shine for Him. He said that His ambassadors don’t wear black, at least for the reason I was wearing it. Ever since then, I have seen black quit differently and so her choice in dress really bothered me. For, much like the houses I drive by decorated for Halloween, I wondered why she would want to cover herself in death. Or why she would want to proclaim or prophecy over herself darkness, mourning, or even despair. How did this make the groom feel? If I was a groom and saw my bride walking towards me in black, I would think that she wasn’t hopeful about our future together or that she wasn’t interested in having a wedding but instead a funeral.
Why do we wear a white wedding dress? Well, I chose my white wedding dress to symbolize that I am the Bride of Christ. I also chose for the women that danced at my wedding, both Jew and Gentile, to also wear white, for we are all pure and holy, spotless Bride’s covered by the Blood of the Lamb. I wore white to reflect that I was a light-bearer, meant to proclaim to everyone watching that I was called to be the light of the world. I did so to proclaim hope and to prophecy a bright future to come. To this day, I always picture myself in my white wedding dress dancing with Jesus when I truly worship.
Later I was led to Psalms 45 and saw that it was a wedding song. Verses 13-15 says, “All glorious is the princess within her chamber; her gown is interwoven with gold. In embroidered garments she is led to the king; her virgin companions follow her – those brought to be with her. Led in with joy and gladness, they enter the palace of the king.” Verse 17 then says, “I will perpetuate your memory through all generations; therefore the nations will praise you forever and ever.”
“I will perpetuate your memory through all generations.” From generation to generation what are we passing down? Although we don’t know whether or not this woman’s wedding dress in this psalm was white, we do know that it was interwoven with gold and a beautifully embroidered garment which alludes to it being bright and a symbol of the joy and gladness of the day, as this entire psalm is mostly symbolic of being God’s Bride and entering His presence, the presence of Him, the King.
So again, from generation to generation, what are we passing down to the next generation as the Bride of Christ? Hopelessness, evil, darkness? Or true joy, light, hope? I began to ponder this throughout the day. I had several moments to sit by myself and wait for the next photo moment and as I did, God began to bring light to the darkness in my own mind and heart. And although I knew that He was starting to show me the current status of His Bride, the Church, as a whole, I also knew that this included me. For, I began to reflect on my own despair and depression that had started to creep in over the last week or so. I began to think about all of the fulfillment to promises that God has prophesied this year that I was still waiting on, and about all the things in my day-to-day life that were really bringing me down, not to mention the weight of the world. And as I did, a verse strongly came to my mind after which it all became clear and I knew exactly what God was saying. The verse was Nehemiah 8:10b which says, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” I then thought about something that my pastor says a lot. He often asks the question, “Where does your joy come from?” He then points out that true joy should not come from external circumstances. With that thought, God brought me strong revelation and my mind then began to flood with all the things that I have been trying to find my joy from lately, especially in terms of fulfillment. I always think that in order for me to be truly happy that fulfillment, or even just simply life, should look a certain way. But what God heavily laid on my heart is that none of that really matters. Our joy should not, and will not, truly stem from those things. Our joy and strength come from the Lord, period. Job is one of our greatest examples.
I then asked God again what He wanted me to learn from this experience and He said, “Susan, My Bride is dying. The joy of the Lord is to be My people’s strength but right now they have displaced joy. True joy and strength are found in Me, nothing else, especially circumstances. The future will only be bright and joyful if eyes focus on Me.”
In that moment, my spirit knew exactly what God meant. For, it’s true. Times are dark, and the future is getting darker and if we don’t focus on the Lord and find our true joy and strength in Him and instead in our external circumstances then we will truly be like a bride dressed in black, dying, in mourning, instead of in white, radiant and shining for the Lord. The joy of the Lord is our strength. Job’s world fell apart all around him, but he stood firm, knowing where his true strength came from. What if the same happens to us?
What God then brought to my mind was Peter walking on the water, along with the phrase, “He was dying.” Peter was actually dying. He was in the process of sinking and drowning because he took his eyes off of Jesus. He took His eyes off of Jesus because of the wind and the waves that crashed around him, because of the distractions and the chaos, the fear. This is exactly the state of being that God says we are in right now. It is the place where Satan wants us to be for when we are distracted and have given into fear, we are out of commission. We are useless, for great, overpowering testimonies that defeat the enemy are not taking place, are not forming, testimonies that God wants us to pass down to future generations. This is exactly where Satan wants God’s army, His Bride, to be, in despair and under his heavy covering of oppression and darkness, all while enduring his constant fire.
Still on a break, I then picked up my phone and opened Facebook and the first thing I saw was a picture a friend had posted of a moment she had serving overseas. It was a picture of her in a black hijab. All you could see were her eyes, and in that moment, I knew God was speaking and I knew exactly what He was pointing out. He was clearly pointing out that Satan’s oppressive covering truly had befallen His people, even me.
It’s a two layered covering, for not only do we have the weight of the world’s problems to worry about and to get us down, to weigh heavy on us, but again, our own personal problems. Lately, I and my friends, have truly felt this weight. For life is busy, rushed, and difficult. It’s clear that Satan wants us all running around like a chicken with its head cut off, for that is how I and my friends have felt lately. I personally have said and felt like I have been failing at life, at balancing all of my responsibilities and I then have felt guilty of not finding time to pray for the world like I should. Is it true that all of us are, through Satan’s tactic of chaos and confusion and definitely distraction, truly in a race to get nowhere? I sure feel like I am. However, Satan on the other hand knows he is in a battle and a race for time. Do we? Instead, we need to choose this day whom we will serve and in what race we run in. Hopefully with God’s redeeming and restorative power, we can turn back to the race that the Apostle Paul talked about in 2 Timothy 4:7, 1 Corinthians 9:24, and Philippians 3:14. For, if you are like me, before I even knew it, I found myself in a deep dark place that week prior, depressed and in despair, yet like Joe, my own bridegroom said towards all of this, “But all the while the wedding is still happening.”
The wedding is still happening because our God is a covenant God. He will get the victory because He died to set us free, free from the enemy’s oppression and power. So, let us remember that our Bridegroom deserves better. He deserves a Bride that isn’t drunk yet fully attentive and there, but also fully alive and shining bright, portraying hope, light, and life, not only to the dark and dying world around us, but for future generations.
The next day, I thought about how I was not looking forward to editing these wedding pictures. However, I was thankful to God for renewing my perspective, for restoring my displaced joy, or at least my understanding of where my true joy needs to come from. During my quiet time I actually found myself praying that God would restore me and then found my devotional to be on that very topic. I am now convinced that my future will be filled with great joy, that I will have a season of great joy just as God prophesied. Will it be because times get brighter? Maybe not. Will it be because fulfillment will look the way I expect? Maybe not. I don’t know such things but I do know that it will be because, despite any circumstance that come my way, or how dark the world may seem, that the joy of the Lord will be my strength. And that whenever I forget this important truth, which I probably will, that I have a God, a covenant God, that will not leave me this way. He will always be there to renew and restore me, to rekindle my light, and to realign me to His perfect will and put me back on the true race I need to be running.
We all need to remember this and we all need to master this idea now, for if times do get harder and darker, we need to live this truth. We need to truly know where are joy comes from if we are not only going to survive like Job, but thrive and shine and be useful in the battle. And we definitely need to pass down this truth to the next generation, whose battle may be even harder. For, as God has clearly shown me, and all of us, based on the times, we still have an enemy out there to defeat.
I knew after photographing that last wedding that God was somehow forming a message for Hanukkah but I didn’t understand why He was doing it so soon, but it then became clear that it is because we desperately need it! For, the message behind Hanukkah has a lot to do with the status of the Church right now, or Christ’s Bride, and God’s desire to renew her, renew us. He longs to rekindle our fire, to realign us with His perfect will for our lives.
Two weeks ago, with Hanukkah approaching, or the Feast of Dedication, I decided to search within the Bible for a passage that talked about this feast in Jesus’ life. I then found in John 10 that it mentions that Jesus was walking in the temple during the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22). I saw that this brief mention was right smack dab in the middle of an entire chapter dedicated to talking about Jesus as our Good Shepherd. After discovering this, I picked up my daily devotional like usual to find that it also revolved around John 10. With that, I knew God was trying to show me something so I lifted it to Him. He then laid on my heart what He had taught me the first time He called me to celebrate, or honor, the Feast of Dedication.
In 2012, a verse really stuck out to me in my devotional. It was Revelation 2:4, which says, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” That same night, God spoke even more as I sat in my first Hanukkah celebration, for I heard the pastor talk about the purpose of Hanukkah. He talked about how it was the Festival of Lights and a season meant to be a time of rededication. As I listened to him talk about a focus of Hanukkah being lighting candles, God opened my eyes. In that moment, not only did that verse came back into my mind but I also began to envision a gift I had just received from a friend. After receiving a gift of a lantern, I had asked God what He wanted to say to me. He said, “Susan, let your light shine before men that they might see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” Deep down I knew that He was saying this because I had been struggling to keep Him as my first Love and because of this had fallen away from His true purpose for me which was to shine for Him through the Word of my testimony. God knew that I needed my mission in life to be renewed or rekindled, something, as I went on to find out, was symbolic of the story of Hanukkah.
This history of Hanukkah is that a few Jews at this time mustered enough forces to eventually overthrow the Syrian Greeks. They engaged in guerilla-like warfare, like hammers, and took back the temple. After a three-year fight, the temple was recaptured, restored, and rededicated, and Hanukkah commemorates and celebrates this rededication of the temple. Tradition also teaches that when the temple was restored, only one vial of oil had the seal of the high priest on it, indicating that it could be used in the temple menorah, or the candelabra. But that one day’s worth of oil miraculously lasted for eight days, which was long enough for more oil to be prepared so that the temple could be ritually purified.
What God brought to light in my mind concerning all of this, like I mentioned, is that He likewise wanted to rekindle me, that He wanted to relight me. I went onto learn about the Shammash, which in Hebrew means “servant.” This is the ninth candle of the Hanukkah menorah. It is a picture of Jesus. He was holy, separate, and above all, yet He came down to give light to the world, and as the servant, still desires to give us light, if we will only hold out our wicks to be lit. Jesus is the Light of the world, and Hanukkah is a time to say to Jesus the Servant, “light my light,” a.k.a. rekindle me. The written Word of God is a light to our path, and Jesus is the Living Word, but we need to continuously dedicate ourselves to following His ways, the written Word.
As the Feast of Dedication came to an end that year, I didn’t even believe that it was by accident that the final day of that celebration landed on my birthday. For, I knew that all God had done in my life that year had truly led to one thing, to His ultimate desire or gift to me: new birth. The greatest gift that God gave me that year was in fact rekindling me. He relit my fire, causing me to once again be a holy consecrated dedicated temple called by His name.
After this recollection, what God laid on my heart is that when we let Him realign us back with His will, to help us become sheep aligned once again with the Shepherd, sheep who hear His voice and follow Him, that we truly are within the will of God. That we truly will be renewed and rekindled. For, because of the weight of the world right now, we have lost our glow. We have stopped shining the Light of Jesus Christ for the world to see. And therefore, it is time for Hanukkah NOW. It is time to be rededicated NOW. Lord, help us! I don't believe that it is by accident that Jesus was walking through the temple in John 10 during the Feast of Dedication. For He knew that He had come into the world as the Light of the World to rededicate a desecrated temple, a desecrated people, people who were sheep without a Shepherd that were being led astray. He came to be our Good Shepherd, to be the voice of truth in our lives that we, as sheep, are meant to trust and follow.
That Sunday (11-5-23) in church, we had a guest speaker who said something I was inspired to write down. It was, “When we slow down, we become open to interruption.”
The following Saturday (11-11-23) I attended a breakfast at church where we watched a video with a theme that matched God’s on-going theme in my life of slowing down and focusing on the Lord. It revolved around the elimination of hurry. At one point it encouraged us to think of how many times Jesus was interrupted in His daily life, yet He still showed up in the moment completely. There was that theme again. I knew God was speaking to me for this is one of my biggest weaknesses, not being more open to interruptions. I am not very flexible and love to know how my schedule is going to play out. But, in order for Jesus to be the Lord of my schedule and my Good Shepherd, I need to work on this.
I then began to pray for moments to slow down, especially for the sake of my family and God answered instantly. For that afternoon I was able to take my daughter to the park to ride her bike. It was a slow moment in time and I enjoyed being out in the fall weather walking around as she rode around. Spending time with her, in such a way, caused me to actually slow down. Then that evening, my husband, daughter, and I went to a choir concert. I’m so glad that my husband was able to go with us because once again it created an environment to slow down and savor. I enjoyed sitting there listening to soothing God glorifying worship songs while snuggling close to my husband and staring at his hand in mine. God gave me a chance to savor both my daughter and my husband that day. He really does provide everything we need if we surrender to Him first.
The following day (11-12-23) in church, God spoke. He said:
Time is ticking away My people. Though My timing is unseen, I assure you a deadline is set for My Son’s return. Therefore, what will you do with this wisdom? Stop squandering time. Stop giving into Satan’s tactics. He is a slavedriver. I am not. He fills your life and schedules with seemingly important things but THEY ARE NOT, at least in terms of My agenda and plans for you. For, he has convinced you that you have no time for Me, no time to be still and reset your focus upon Me. Don’t be deceived, though My date is set, I still require you to stop, slow down, focus on Me, My face, and in doing so you will allow Me to realign you with My plans for you, along with regaining a much-needed eternal perspective. Though My timing is unseen, unlike the timing that Satan gives you for the things of this world, I ASSURE YOU THAT MY TIMING IS VERY REAL. Therefore, get to work. Get to work doing the real work AND BE STILL. SIT AT MY FEET and let Me renew your mind. For, someday that which I have spoken about within the spiritual WILL become physical and the only things that will matter are those things you did unto me. So, STOP. Be still. Trust that as you do that, I WILL add everything else onto you, even the time you need to live life in the flesh. For, I care about you. I care about your homes, your jobs, your families, and your friends. Remember that I am God and that nothing is impossible for Me - NOTHING. NOTHING. NOTHING.
Susan, the same goes for you. Though you give Me time you NEED to give Me more. Have I ever denied you time to accomplish any task? I have always provided. I need you to be MORE flexible. You need to make room for interruptions for the life before you will truly be one of living by and being moved by My Spirit and you must be willing, with joy, to go with My flow. Let My glory flow freely through you. Not only through your writing but through your feet. Look at the life of the disciples, apostles. They never had a single day unplanned by Me. They always had to go where I led them and each day was different. This is the great adventure, Susan. THIS is the great adventure that I have planned for you – great, great change. . . Start to be flexible now and TRUST that I will sustain you in life, and help you to accomplish everyday tasks. Trust Me. Trust Me for I know what you need. I know what your husband needs and I know what your daughter needs - ALL. I will provide. I promise.
I then heard the worship team sing, “The Lord is our shepherd. The Lord is our helper…” I then heard the Lord say:
I am a good, GOOD, Shepherd Susan. My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me.
I then began to envision myself once again laying on that altar I recently saw at that museum, continuing to see myself lay upon it. A man then got up and said to all of us, “Are you willing to lay yourself on the altar of the Lord and be baptized in His holy fire? That is what the Lord is asking of you today.” My pastor then followed by quoting two scriptures, saying, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest for my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Mathew 11:28-30).”
I shared that portion God spoke directly to me because oh, what truth for us all! I also want to point out that even though God speaks through me that I am no master. I am still learning and in need of God’s grace! But God’s message is clear. We NEED to give Him more time! This is necessary if we are going to allow Him to renew us, rekindle us. And, we MUST let Him glory flow freely through us, every part of us. We are simply meant to be vessels for Him and His will on earth therefore no one knows our true schedules better than Him. So, I challenge us all today to trust God, to surrender our wills to Him and trust that He will equip us with what we need for each day, even moments to savor with loved ones. But we must, MUST, savor time with our first Love first. So, let the Feast of Dedication, or Re-dedication, truly commence! I’m ready! I’m in! I’m surrendered! Time for the true Great Adventure! Join me!