What I've Learned at The Covenant Center
(I shared this a couple of weeks ago as I said goodbyes to so many lovely people at the church community I have called home nearly ten years. This is where I was safe, healed, and formed. I am in ministry because of the care and love I have experienced with this "family" and it will always be a spiritual home. I will post audio when it is available.)
Download a PDF copy of the following teaching notes.
As I prepare to move into a new season in my life in a new place, I thought I might share about what I have learned in my time here at The Covenant Center. But, as I began to make my list, I quickly recognized that these are not so much concepts that I have learned and sort of have in my pocket for the journey, but practices that I continue to live into. It’s more like they are things I’ve learned to learn. I don’t HAVE any of these concepts, unless I continue to DO them. These are what I recognize, looking back at ten years here, as being the most significant in my own healing and training. I think all are important to any Christian, but for prophets, I do believe these are vital in order to do our job well!
When I first came here, I had absolutely no emotional intelligence! I remember first meeting with Pat and she of course began to ask me about what I was feeling. I couldn’t tell her. I had no clue. I literally had to keep a sheet with lists of emotions and their descriptions with me in my journal for a couple of years in order to learn to not only allow myself to feel, but to learn to recognize what I was feeling. This was often painful, I think it’s easier for many people to feel negative emotions than positive, at least it was for me.
This may seem like much navel-gazing or psychological distraction. But, I believe this is one of the most important aspects that we must develop as prophets in order to grow in intimacy with the Lord. Our most primary role is to be intimate with God. God is very emotional! We just can not have the level of intimacy that births prophecy from the very heart of Jesus unless we allow God to teach us how to embrace emotions.
We are in covenant, which is a relationship, with a God who loves, rejoices, grieves, longs. A God who suffers. We are created in God’s image. We are called to be intimate emotionally, not just to understand concepts or to do right actions. Though those are important, our culture provides a great deal of training and practice in those skills, but emotional ability is not something most of us grew up learning. It is truly a learned skill, and a practice. It does not come naturally to women any more than men, though I know that is a common belief, I think most women would refute that assumption. The only men and women that I know who I believe are emotionally mature have been through a process in order to become so.
Dealing with emotions can be hard. For those who have suffered much, or for the abused, it can be harder to heal than it was to experience the abuse itself because we might not have felt much at the time of our trauma. Shutting down emotionally is one of the ways we survive the pain of this world. But I promise you, the level of intimacy that is opened up with the Lord when we are able to engage with our hearts and be vulnerable in the pain of our deepest emotions is worth it. It is so worth it! While deadening our hearts is a way of not feeling pain, it also kills our joy, passion, and hope. So, I encourage you to engage in your emotional life. If you need help, there are many here who can help. Yet, Holy Spirit will always be your main guide, and Jesus will welcome you into a deep intimacy of both suffering and joy.
“Never Let Go of the Presence.” by Being Present
I think the original advice “Never let go of the Presence.” came from Cathy and arrived for me through Becky. As I got more in touch with my heart and developed a sense of intimacy with God, I also became more able to recognize when I “feel lost”. It used to be that I could go several months without recognizing my heart was closed down and I was not really connecting with God or others or myself. It would seem that I could not hear anything from God. There are times when God is quiet, but I’m talking about those seasons where I become lost or disconnected because I have shut down my heart.
I have learned that the best way for me to “Never let go of the Presence.” is to practice being present. I usually lose that sense of intimacy when I am too concerned about my future, engaging in anxiety or constant attempts to figure out how God is going to do something, or too concerned with my past. I might be engaging in regret or un-forgiveness toward God, myself, or others. Though it is important to work through the past and when we are casting vision for the future, I have learned that those tasks also happen best from a place of presence.
To be present means to deal with the truth, with reality, with where I am and who I am, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It means to know Jesus in this moment, as Truth, as Real, as Present. To look and see Who God Is for me right now, knowing that also deals with both the past and the future.
There are all sorts of ways to practice presence. One of the ways I am usually able to re-engage with presence is to take a long walk in the woods, breathing, praying, releasing, receiving. A lot of it for me has to do with acceptance and gratitude for my present life. It really is true that we live in the moment. Jesus is here, now. Always. And tomorrow, Jesus will be here, now. And he was here, and now, in my past. Time is nothing to Jesus, but I can only really experience intimacy in this moment.
As prophets, we find ourselves often spending a lot of time in the future. We have words, we see ahead. We have vision. We are created and gifted to do so. But our hearts can grow weary in waiting. I firmly believe God loves us and wants us to have joy. In order to live well, and to serve the church and the world well through our prophetic gifts, I believe that we must learn to “Never let go of the Presence.” by learning to be present.
Jesus is truly the life in us, the source, the spring from which a ministry of prophecy flows that is alive and brings life. We must learn to be in the moment if we are to release the Rhema word, because that is its nature. It is a happening, proceeding moment, like a river that we flow in, and we don’t want to prophesy from any other place.
Listen, being a prophet is more art than science and any art requires a lot of observation. I really suggest the practice of paying attention. God teaches, trains, and transforms through all sorts of ways.
One of the most beneficial practices I learned here is to seek out mentors. Early on, after my decision to follow Jesus, I prayed and asked God to bring at least three mentors into my life who had been walking with Him for over 30 years. I was very specific about this. I prayed, “I don’t mean they have gone to church or have been Christians for 30 years, I mean people who have walked with you for real and been in the journey for that long. People who know you.”
God provided men an women who fit the bill within the next six months, and I paid a lot of attention. Since my life was in a time wilderness shut down as God was breaking down all my well-built systems of survival so I could learn to trust, I decided to use the time wisely. I had a boss that once explained to me the phrase “Either fish or cut bait.” People kind of use it to say either do something or give up and bail out, at least that is how I understood the phrase. But it really means that if you’re not fishing, be getting ready to fish. Since God had me in a season where my life was very constricting and I couldn’t do much, I tried to participate with the season.
Besides mentors, it is good to pay attention to our friends and brothers and sisters in Christ. Around here, we have a community of people who are happy to share with you! Sometimes we are maybe too quick to do so, but there is much to learn from one another.
As prophets, it is important to be grounded in scripture, to type out your prophetic words and dreams, and to journal. I truly believe God develops symbols and language with each of us that can vary from person to person because He speaks to us in ways we can understand. While there are great resources on symbology, I try to not let those replace relationship and my own asking and listening.
Develop intimacy through prayer, worship, and a lifestyle of listening to God through whatever means He provides. Ask, seek, knock! Record! (Check into 1 Chronicles 16:4 to learn what it means to zakar.) I have come to know that God really wants me to succeed and is not withholding from me but I do have to participate by paying attention. Paying attention to a variety of ways in which God may speak is one of the most fun practices of the prophetic art, I think. It’s like putting puzzles together and is one of the best ways to learn to trust your sense of God’s voice. God will encourage you in this, I promise.
Give Expression to the Impression
“Giving expression to the impression” is another catchphrase I have learned to live into and practice here. As prophets, there comes a time where we must release what we are receiving. A prophetic person or church is called to release, and without that, the flow seems to get stopped up at some point.
I think this has to do with truths about giving in order to receive and about coming to understand that God does bless us but as individuals but we are always a part of a larger community and purpose. If we don’t bring the piece that God is giving to us, the community is never fulfilled. We each see in part and know in part. We each have something to offer.
Of course, there is a lot to learn about how to give expression while still preferring others and avoiding the pitfalls of control. There is a lot of fear and anxiety to overcome in giving expression and there is almost always resistance either from our own inner thought life or the adversary. Just like any artist must, I encourage you to push through it. Expect it. Expect to second guess yourself after you give some sort of expression. This does not make you a failure. Expect that this is actually part of any creative, expressive process and that you are learning to practice prophetic arts. But once we can handle the emotional side of giving expression, and have learned to be present to God’s presence, and have learned to pay attention, this all leads to expression. Just like any artist, there is a flow.
And, honestly, there is much that is learned in the expression itself. Teaching, writing, doing art or any other way in which God calls you to release to others provides an activation and experience in which you come to know something in a way that is more real than just thinking about it as a concept. Expression of the impression helps to impart it to you as much as others.
A lot of people say “I can do nothing without Jesus.” Well, that’s partially true, I can do a LOT of stuff without checking in with Jesus. Years of stuff, in fact! I think it’s more honest for me to say that I don’t want to anymore because I’ve learned that there is a big difference between myself and God. There really is!
I have a pretty high view of people, I think all people are made in God’s image, and without truly knowing the full reality of that truth or knowing Jesus, are capable of beautiful acts of love and kindness. However, I know that even my best expression of compassion, for instance, while it is an inclination in me that came from God and can be a blessing to people, pales in contrast to the healing power of the compassion of Christ that flows through me.
I’ve been learning to think of humility less in terms of debasing or having contempt for my self and my weakness as it is about exalting Jesus. It’s not feeling bad about my humanity, because God doesn’t. It is about realizing that I was created to benefit from God’s divinity. Humility is a really joyful thing. It’s freedom. It is living as fully human, because I was created to be dependent. So I want to rejoice in that and enjoy it too. I am learning that, for me, humility is easier to grasp when my eyes are on Jesus. It just sort of happens in the light of Christ. I get pretty prideful pretty quickly when I lose that vision.
I know that for prophets, this is a vital practice. There’s a fine line between celebrating the gifts God has given us, and how He uses those gifts, and beginning to think that we are something special or unique. Prophesy is not a special gift, it’s just one of the gifts God has given to the Body. It’s not better than any other way that God is working to bring the Kingdom. Receiving an accurate word of knowledge or seeing someone healed when you pray for them can be exciting, but it’s still a gift, which means we didn’t earn it. Receive it, practice it, be grateful, but above all, be humble.
Trust the Process
My final comment is to “Trust the process.” I still have to catch myself when I start trying to figure things out. I am learning to make plans and hold them loosely. I am learning that God does fulfill promises and prophetic words but rarely in a way that I would have expected. I am learning to wait, and to be in the journey.
Part of this came for me just from getting too tired to do otherwise. Even burnout is useful! Pretty much anything is useful if we allow it to bring us closer to God, and that should be how we measure all things in terms of their goodness or badness for us.
In nearly ten years here, I have learned that God is for me, and is leading me, and is loving me, and is teaching me, and has my best interest at heart while still having the best interest of community and Kingdom at heart at the same time. A lot of these wonderful lessons were learned in a lot of pain. I’m not able to see and understand why that is. I have to trust when I don’t understand.
I have had to let go of linear thinking because I used to have goals and end games and points along a spectrum that I would just want to get to some next level or some place or some situation. I’m learning to not only trust, but to enjoy the process, even the painful parts. And I know that in another ten, twenty, or thirty years, I can look back on this expression I am releasing today in this message and probably say…wow you still had a lot to learn, Heather! And I’ve learned to be okay with that, too.
So: emotions matter, be present, pay attention, give expression, and trust the process. That’s what I have learned to be learning and practicing as I grow in intimacy and in the prophetic gifts. Maybe that will be helpful to some of you who are new to this experience. Maybe that is familiar to some who are much further along in the journey than I am.
Either way, I bless you, in Jesus’ name, to learn and to become the prophetic people and community that God has called you to be.