God, Timing, and Saudi Arabia

Today I went to a park to talk with God. I felt I should go to a certain park I’d never been to before. I was there over an hour, hashing out some things with the One Who knows me best. It was getting cold. I wanted to go. There was a pause in my spirit, “Don’t leave until 4pm.” It was 3:40. Again, I was cold. I wanted to go, but I felt the Holy Spirit was doing something so, I lingered. Right after 4pm I left. While driving home I saw a friend walking. I passed her and then felt I needed to turn around and offer her a ride. I did. She got in the car and said, “This is interesting because I was thinking about you a couple days ago and wondering where you were and if you were back in Iraq yet.” She asked about my trip. I began to tell her a story. She interjected with, “Yeah, that’s like when I was in Saudi Arabia.” “What?! When were you in Saudi?” I asked. She went on to explain how she lived there three years before 9/11.

It was not merely shocking that she lived in Saudi. It was shocking because one of the last things I talked to God about at the park was an opportunity I have to take a team to Saudi in May. I REALLY want to go and see the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia fall in love with the true King.

From there she thanked me for going to Iraq and being faithful to fulfill what God was calling me to. Tears came to her eyes, and to mine. She said she would be praying for me. I thanked her and dropped her off at her destination.

I don’t know how God choreographs things like that, but I appreciate it. In fact, I really don’t understand a lot of things in my life right now: massive miracles splashed against massive challenges. My pastor, Bill Johnson, says, “If you want peace that passes understanding you have to give up your right to understand.” That is one of my favorite sentences. I think a lot of times we aren’t willing to step out in faith because we are afraid of failing, looking stupid, getting rejected, being misunderstood, and sometimes we’re mainly afraid of disappointment and loneliness. Personally, I am really thankful for all the years of painful stretching, radical belief, and sacrificial living. I have had the opportunity to ascend into higher levels of truth and deeper levels of love.

Moreover, I’ve had so many moments like today when God has blown my boxes to smithereens yet again. He is 100% faithful. It does NOT matter what your circumstances look like. In fact, the more we learn to focus on the unseen and what God is doing behind the scenes, the more we will see it manifest in the physical. What you focus on grows. Your thoughts and words are powerful.

Closing thoughts: for me, I dream that today’s road takes me to Saudi Arabia soon. I dream that it takes you to your destiny full of joy and power.


Humorously, this is the graffiti on the wall next to my niche at the park today. Eerily wonderful.

Girl pushes boulder

Last June I received a card in the mail from a friend. As Holy Spirit often teams up with the postal carrier, it was aptly-timed. The image brought tears from my internal well. Then I read the note of encouragement inside and all well broke loose. ha. It’s a picture of a little girl pushing a huge boulder, seemingly believing she can do it. I am that girl. Today the image caught my eye from its framed location on my wall. I was reminded again of who I am and the greatness of the One inside me.

Let’s move some boulders.

When God Calls You By Name (PART 2): An excerpt from my book


Approximately a year later I was at church one evening when two prophetic ministers were visiting: a married couple. The service was coming to its end as I was standing near the back of the room. And there was my name again. “Would Dawn please come up here?” one of them said. Yikes! I had never met these people. God certainly has a way with words – especially when that word is your name. In a state of arrested attention, I walked up. They placed their hands on me. They waited; and the power of God began to loosen the bolts of madness inside me. Then one of them said, “The oppression and depression is over. It has been a long night, but the oppression and depression is over. It has been a long night, but a new dawn has come.

I collapsed to the floor. The Holy Spirit stepped up to the plate and hit me out of the park. Home Run. I was out for around thirty minutes and by the time I arose, nearly everyone had exited the building.

When I got up I was


The Holy Spirit’s

home run ball

slung into the window

of my sad house

splintering depression

into trillions of pieces.

His winds

Blew those pieces

East from west

Away from me.



Truly, a “new dawn” had come. And I was her.



the wildest kind of enthusiastic optimist

“The triumph of the gospel is enough to make any man the wildest kind of enthusiastic optimist. the unifying of the nature of God and man is the crowning achievement of Jesus Christ. the reason for the cross was thus revealed, man in God and God in man, one spirit, one purpose, one effort, one power and one glory.” 


“When you and I are lost in the Son of God, and the fires of Jesus burn in our hearts, like they did in Him, our words will be the words of spirit and of life, and there will be no death in them.”

                                                                                                       – John G. Lake

the lion who always hugs

While waiting to exit the plane in Minneapolis yesterday a little girl (turning six next week) with a floppy, fluffy lion backpack stands behind me. Attached to the permanently-hugging lion is Clifford the Big Red Dog. The tiny thinking people at my internal coffee table look at each other and chuckle. I ask the girl if the dog and the lion are friends. “Yes, they are,” she answers. “Do they talk to each other?” “Yes, they do,” she replies. “Wow. That’s great! Have they always been friends?” “YES!” she says. “The dog wasn’t scared of the lion at first, then?”  “No.” she says emphatically. “So, you didn’t have to teach them to be friends, it came naturally and easily?” “Yes! It came naturally,” she said, enunciating “naturally” and thereby deepening her command of the word and its meaning. “That’s amazing!” I smiled. She looked off in the distance, into her thoughts. I pondered how the Holy Spirit must like this moment, this lion and dog image, the natural harmony; and how the lion was hugging the girl, much like how the Lion of Judah is always hugging me.

I love prophetic images; and I’m struck by the friendliness of such a fierce creature on a child’s back: both protector and friend. I also like how the dog and lion got along easily: YES! “enemies” turned friends. I feel my spirit swoon; the swoon stirs a gentle murmur – as I feel the vibrations more intentionally I realize it’s not merely a murmur, but a roar. . .

a roar that hugs the world to life.

loving with abandon, and other things worth the “ouch”

I’m 9 days from beginning my journey to Baghdad, via England. This takes me away from dear friends and family for 2 months. The imminent goodbyes are pinching my heart. Ouch. I really love people, individually and generally.

It isn’t merely the 2 month separation, but the fact that I know this is the short-term goodbye for what is about to become a more long-term goodbye when I begin to work overseas next year. Tonight the tide of sadness slid onto my sandy shore. Tears stood on their tippy toes and waved their hands over my eyelids’ banks. My apartmentmate said, “It’s because you have loved with abandon.” I smiled and my mind began to walk a wooded path: paved, but picturesque.

I admit the last few weeks I haven’t wanted to love with abandon. I’ve wanted to distance myself to diminish the pain of the unavoidable goodbyes. Then love kicks in more fully; and I want to hug everyone – strangers included.

Then curiosity sets in: what will my life look like a year from now? Who will be my circle of friends where I live next? I remember the stretching of life in Bethlehem: the culture gap, the language delay, and the trails of loneliness that often drifted to my doorstep in the still of night. The idea of saying, “It was worth it” does not do it justice. To be in the center of one’s destiny is a fire and a storm, a hope and a vision, the likes of which nothing can compare. It’s peace and it’s fury. It’s wizened confidence and youthful learning. It’s life: in the very best, most LIFE-giving sense of the word (not the contrary way people often say, “Oh WELL, that’s LIFE!”).

Life is about living. It’s about breathing. It’s saddling every day with adventure and a romantic ride into the sunset. It’s about being present, engaged, committed, and alive. It’s about faith, hope, and love. It’s about the risks of loving well. It’s about jumping up and down when you’re excited and letting tears scramble down your eyes’ fire escape when you’re sad.

It must be about loving with abandon. It simply must.

In the sacrifice of love is an ecstasy of love. In the tremor of a goodbye is the value for love, for life , for friends. A friend of mine recently said,

“Dawn, fulfilling your destiny is the best thing you could do for all your relationships.” 

This thought devastates me, in a good and glorious way. To acknowledge that in the positioning of God, in following His leading, even when it navigates the turns of painful goodbyes, is the best path, is both liberating and catalytic. I am most loving my friends and family by being every iota of who God desires me to be- though it takes me far away, sometimes made further by cultural differences and the space of time zones. Yet, in this faithfulness to follow my beloved Jesus, I am blessing those closest to me, even as I leave their side. In fact, I am stirring the Holy Spirit’s movements in their own lives as well; that they would be similarly stirred to beautifully walk into their own destinies.

This is glorious. As we love God with abandon, we love people with abandon. It should be a natural continuum.

And on top of all of this, God is always with us. We never have to say “goodbye” to our biggest fan and closest friend.

On that note, breathe Him in. Wherever you are, whatever transition you are walking out, whomever you are bidding farewell to,

fear not. Simply BREATHE HIM IN.

(This song is from my friends’ Katie and Bryan’s new album.)

Robin: the homeless guy who lived in Baghdad

We really need to redefine “normal.” To God, many things are normal which should be normal to all Christians: after all, we are seated in heavenly places with Christ. Too often we frame God shenanigans with “It was so weird” when really we should perceive it as commonplace. Even if it isn’t yet our ongoing physical  reality, we should train ourselves to see it IS our spiritual reality. What I mean is, what’s normal in heaven should seem normal on earth, particularly to people with heaven inside them. In that vein, I’m more intentionally re-thinking my language when I refer to such experiences. One of those areas is divine coincidences.

Like an alcohol-fragrant homeless man in Redding, California sitting down at your table and proceeding to tell you about how he killed seven people while in the military, oh and, by the way, HE WAS IN BAGHDAD.

That’s what happened today. I was walking in downtown Redding and I had the sudden unction to sit down at a concrete table and read Psalm 1. Then I read a number of other psalms. About fifteen minutes after sitting down a man sat down opposite me with the words, “You don’t look like someone who smokes.” “No, I don’t,” I replied, understanding his indirect request for a cigarette. Then, he started talking about life: the homeless shelter, the lost dreams, and how he can’t seem to move past killing people in The Gulf War in 1991.

I listen. I ask questions. I counsel him. He says He doesn’t think anyone can ever forgive him. I tell him God is willing to forgive our wrong doing, even when we feel it’s impossible or we are wracked by guilt. He’s intrigued by this. We talk back-and-forth about God’s goodness and his generosity evidenced in Jesus. I ask if he wants a new beginning. He does. He dreams of being married with kids, but wonders, “Who would ever marry someone with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder who killed seven people? I mean, would you want that person to be YOUR Father?” he asks. I smile. “God has a knack for redeeming things and rinsing off our pasts. He loves to do that. He wants you to flourish. You have a bright future.”

So on and so forth. Then, I ask, “Where were you stationed?” Very curious to know what part of the beloved Middle East he got to know. “Baghdad,” he replies. My spirit hops, tripping over an unexpected exactness. My only response to him is, “How was it?” He asks if I really want to know. “Yes,” I say, internally asking the Holy Spirit to physically manifest healing in this man’s soul. He slides into 120 degree heat, sand fleas biting his legs, loud bombings which took 75% of his hearing, scary days, stress-filled nights, jitters and fear, and awful everything and “It was war, you know?” he finishes. The way he says, “war” hurts my heart.

Eventually I lead him in an inner healing prayer and explain what it means to follow Jesus. He succinctly says, “I can’t do that yet. I don’t trust anyone.” “You mean you don’t trust Jesus?” I ask. “Yes, I don’t trust Him yet,” his eyes stab mine with a blend of want and fear. We chat more.

I have him say out loud, “My mind works properly. I bless my body with life.” I tell him he’s important and I want him to be whole so he can live the amazing destiny that is distinctly his.

After all this, as he apologizes for telling me so much, I assure him with, “It’s an honor to meet you. And it’s pretty amazing to meet you right now because I’m going to Baghdad in a few weeks.”

He freezes. My future seemed to poke a pressure release straight into his past. He asks who I will work with. I say, “a non-government organization.” I’m not sure where his mind went, or what visage of war crept into his sight, but it looked like he’d been brought into a here-and-now reality suddenly. His old ideas of Baghdad were now being remodeled. His memories were being overtaken by my hope.

I slipped him a “hopeiraq.com” postcard, bearing the lovely image a friend of mine painted for a particular leader in Iraq. He touches it. He thanks me. The postcard now between us like an equator, with the water draining clockwise on one side and counter clockwise on the other. His Iraq felt hopeless. Mine is hopeful.

Something shifted. He stared at the image.

I got up and we said good bye.

And it made sense that I met a homeless man who used to live in Baghdad while I was reading the Psalms at a concrete table in Redding. Of all of the possibilities for that hour, somehow, given God’s track record, that was not at all surprising. God is so much like Himself. And, wonderfully, I am so much like Himself too. As is Robin.

Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the one 
   who does not walk in step with the wicked 
or stand in the way that sinners take 
   or sit in the company of mockers, 
2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, 
   and who meditates on his law day and night. 
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, 
   which yields its fruit in season 
and whose leaf does not wither— 
   whatever they do prospers.

 4 Not so the wicked! 
   They are like chaff 
   that the wind blows away. 
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, 
   nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

 6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, 
   but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

The Holy Spirit Grew Up In Ramallah: An excerpt from my book

I’m on page 140 of the book I am writing. I was doing some editing today and I thought I’d share a snippet with the world. Enjoy.


     With a sigh and a giggle I made it into Ramallah unscathed. Now I was to follow my instructions: “Go to the city center and find a policeman. Ask the police man how to get to the Ministry of Interior.” There was one major problem: it was the day before Ramadan and it was a Friday. Streets were overloaded with thousands of people walking and shopping. I was driving in a river of salmon madly swimming upstream as if their lives and legacies depended on it. I carved a path through their splashes and flops, a steady, “Well, at least its ten miles per hour” path. Creeping my way to the traffic circle bulls’ eye was tedious.

     Upon entering the confluence of this hub of streets (there are six streets which reach out from the manara/city center), I knew it was tactically unsound to attempt to stop in the whir of cars and people to ask a policeman for directions. I asked the Holy Spirit instead. “Holy Spirit, which street should I go down?” My eyes were drawn to the right. I knew it was that one. I turned. The very next cross street held the grin of a large police station. It was as if the Holy Spirit had grown up in Ramallah. The grin of the police station was an open driveway with a conspicuous, “NO PARKING” sign.  I read it as “Reserved for Dawn Richardson.” I pulled in. Arms waving, a policeman jaunted to my open window, “You can’t park here! You can’t park here!” I smiled, “I saw the sign, I just need to ask a question.” “What?!” he responded. “How do I get to the Ministry of Interior?” I asked, our conversation taking place in Arabic. He began to answer with landmarks, not street names: “Go down to Abdul the butcher’s, turn left, go two streets until you see the green door with the plastic tiger in front next to the old house where the mayor used to live, turn right, pass the pharmacy, go right, pass the Dar Awwad neighborhood, take the second left…” I was wide-eyed. The layers of insider knowledge and hard-to-catch landmarks were vast. I silently asked God to send me someone who spoke English who would get in the car with me and show me the way. The policeman saw my mental overload, “Wait. Let me get someone who speaks English!” “Okay,” I smiled. A young man hopped out of the building moments later and began giving me similar directions, this time in English. I started to write them down. “Wait. Could I get in the car with you and show you the way?” he jutted his epiphany-ized head at mine. “Yes, that would be great,” I answered. He slid around the car and into the passenger seat. This made the journey, while serpentine and complicated, smooth and relaxed. I was touched by Father God’s kindness.

     When we approached the Ministry of Interior, the policeman out front gave us special permission to park at the curb. When we walked inside the security officers knew my navigator-friend Ahmed and welcomed us cordially as we left our keys in their plastic tubs. When we ascended the escalator into the head office, the secretary, initially flustered by my foreignness, calmed under my new friend’s gentleness. Still, she said, “You wasted your time driving here. There is no way you can get this permission by Thursday. You can’t speak with the man in charge, because I know he will say, ‘no.’” I politely asked to see him anyway. “No, it is not possible,” she retorted, annoyed by my outlandish request.

     As with dozens of times over the previous two weeks, I crossed my arms casually and waited silently, thinking, “I’ve responded to the Holy Spirit, now it’s your turn.” She waited for me to leave. I remained. “Okay, I will ask him to see you,” she spouted, releasing inventoried air from her lungs’ warehouse. A moment later she said, “He will see you. Go on in.” I smiled, laughing to myself and thinking this woman did not yet realize she had become a significant role in The Play of the Miraculous, my Father, the Director was putting on.

     We entered the office and sat down. “What can I help you with?” the man queried. I explained, “I need an ID card for a girl from Bethlehem so I can take her and five other youth to a conference in Israel Thursday.” “That’s not possible. It takes at least two weeks to get an ID.” “I understand that’s the norm, but I am here to ask you to do what you can to make it happen by Monday so all six kids can go to the conference. It’s a really big deal for them and I am certain they will all go.” Back and forth we went: my “I don’t think it’s impossible” bouncing against his, “It’s impossible.” After a few rounds I said, “Could you call someone and ask?” “No,” he said. “There must be someone,” I added. “Well, let me make a phone call,” he said, his words wiggly like gelatin. He made the call. “I don’t think it will work,” he said. “I think there is a way and you can make it work,” I said sweetly, not impatient, but insistent. He shifted in his rolling office chair. I think he was especially squirmy because I was a woman, evidenced by the fact he continually turned to my friend and asked him to tell me it was “impossible.”

     Then he rolled back toward his desk, “I’ll be right back,” he spurted. I turned to Ahmed, “Do you know what a ‘miracle’ is?” I asked. “What?” “A miracle, you know muahjdeze,” I added. “Yes, I know what it is, but I have never seen one,” he explained, eyebrows vaulted. “You are about to see one,” I responded. “What?!” he said fascinated, and also a bit uncomfortable. “You are going to see a miracle,” I said. His furrowed forehead leaned in for more of an explanation, as the boss walked back in the door. The boss sat down. He wrote something on a business card and slid it across the desk to my hospitable hand. “This is my phone number. Call me on Sunday and I will make sure all the paper work is completed and the ID is in the Bethlehem office Monday morning.” I cracked a smile, my three year-old after a temper tantrum had walked gently back into the room and said, “Mommy, I love you.” Ahmed dropped his jaw, sharply yanking his eyes toward mine in shock. We stood. I thanked the boss; Ahmed nodded in a sort of traditional Palestinian salute to an older person. We walked out the door. The secretary was somewhere between baffled dismay and incomprehensible awe when we told her the ID would be ready Monday. We descended the stairs, collected our precious metals (keys, etc) from the plastic bin, and slid out the door.

     Upon entering the car Ahmed sat silently, eyes locked on the road. He gave me a few gestures to indicate where to turn, and then he said, “I have never seen anything like that.” “What do you mean?” I asked. “You knew he was going to get you the ID. How did you know?” “Well, I know God wants these six kids at the conference so I trust he will make a way for them to get there. He’s a good Father and He gives good gifts. I know God loves me and wants to do miracles for me.” “I have never thought of that!” he exhaled/exclaimed. “What do you mean?” I said. “I have never thought of God like that,” he added. “Oh, well, He loves you too. He wants you to know Him and He wants to do good things for you. If you talk to Him and ask Him to talk back to you, He will. He longs to talk with you.” “This is the first time I have ever heard of God like this. The God I hear about is harsh and you never know if He will accept you or not. He is not a friend.” Ahmed said.

     After he said this I began to prophesy over him: bits of his life dreams, his strengths, and his future. He was dazzled and a sort of rapturous delirium enveloped his face. I spoke a world into existence for him. He began to say, “I’ve never known people could hear God’s voice like this,” “Yes, and you will too,” I smiled. He began to get excited, “I’m going to start talking to him all the time: at work, at home, walking in the city. This is going to be great!” I was tickled by his enthusiasm and renewed sense of personal value. I dropped him off in the city center and he thanked me for changing his life. (Really, he used those words.) I drove safely and securely back to Bethlehem.

The Reformation Manifesto


Today I read 214 pages. An entire book. Just ask the Sacramento River, my reading buddy for most of it. My feet in the river’s heart, my heart warmed via my cold feet in its chilly water. My heart electric with passion for the nations – particularly one nation: Iraq. I’d wanted to read The Reformation Manifesto by Cindy Jacobs for about a year, but over the last few days the want became undefiable. Today I set off to work on my book, the one I am writing, but the metaphorical key was not working in the lock. I could not stop thinking about this other book. I was famished for some vision-casting for nation-building. Thus, I opted to look for The Reformation Manifesto at Barnes & Noble, no avail; next stop: Bethel Church’s bookstore. FOUND. While there I got to jumpstart someone’s car, fun! I love people.

the river rushes to the lowest place

I usually say I don’t believe in bad days, and I don’t – in that everyday with God is still guaranteed to be moving from glory to glory (even when I don’t observe that with my eyes); it is at its core, a GOOD day. However, rough spots happen. Personally, I’m terrifically exasperated and looking for resolution in the midst of it. I’m living in the divine tension of resting in knowing God is moving on my behalf, and also doing the part I am responsible for. I’m stir crazy and yet, I simply want to be still. I want to go somewhere wonderfully intoxicating like the Amazon and yet I want to simply be in Redding and drink the luscious stars in the night sky. I want to see whole cities engulfed by love and I want the homeless guy I passed today on the street to be engulfed too. In all that I am waiting for several major things to take flight. Like a housecat who sits at the door calmly waiting to be let in, and moments later is digging her claws deep into the door in frustration and eagerness – I am torn between patience and impatience.

These times are an opportunity to let love lead, not emotions, not circumstances, but the forever FULL love of God. For me they are a time to practice the fine art of rejoicing when I don’t feel like it. One’s soul, the seat of one’s emotions, is subject to one’s spirit, the part of you seated with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6) and thus innocuous to one’s atmosphere. God turns even exasperation into joy. Sometimes it’s merely about getting alone with Him in quiet, laying down, and chatting with Him – not for answers, but just to chat. It’s like having a conversation with a good friend – you don’t only talk when you “need” answers, you talk to get to know the person and to be known by her.

If you are in the exasperation zone, I declare NEWNESS to you today. Today is a day when mountains will move, peace will come, and HOPE will rise. God wants to meet with you. He wants to talk with you. He wants to share His heart with you. He LOVES you and accepts you fully. He champions your dreams. He is your GOOD Father.