Happy Perseverance: Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”

In 1 Kings 18, the land was in its third year without rain. The people were waiting.


Elijah comes out of hiding east of the Jordan, speaks to King Ahab, and calls the people to come up on Mount Carmel for a display of authority over the god Baal and the prophets of Baal.

The God of Elijah, the GOD of ALL, shows up. Fire consumes water on the wet altar and the promise of rain is released.

This display of God’s power is a call to repentance for the nation and one of Elijah’s greatest moments as a prophet.

After this breakthrough, Elijah says RAIN is coming. And he is looking to the sky for a marker. He is about to do something else absolutely incredible. He is about to be overtaken by the spirit of might and outrun a chariot!

And so he gets ready for this incredible “physical” feat by


He doesn’t do leg stretches or run laps around Mount Carmel. He doesn’t occupy his mind with plans for his run or anxiously pace back and forth. From what scripture says, it seems like Elijah was practicing the fine art of “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) He was waiting and watching the sky.

He had already displayed that God’s ways are not man’s ways by releasing fire over a wet bunch of rocks and a bull. He had already trumped the “natural” idea of reality.

Now, it is not indicated that Elijah knows he is about to run faster than a chariot, but it is indicated how Elijah waits and watches God for a sign: he sends his servant to look toward the sea seven times. Finally, a cloud AS SMALL AS A MAN’S HAND rises from the sea! He then sends man, in the form of King Ahab, in his chariot toward home because THE RAINS ARE A’COMIN!

That is all it took – a cloud the size of a man’s hand. In the natural that might not have seemed an indicator of an incoming deluge, but Elijah knew it was the sign he was waiting for. He knew it was the promise fulfilled.

And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.

“Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked.
“There is nothing there,” he said.
Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”

The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.”
So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’ “

Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. The power of the LORD came upon Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.

Part of what I adore about this story is how Elijah sent his servant SEVEN times to look at the sky. I have stood on Mount Carmel in Israel and looked out toward that same sea. I imagined a cloud the size of a man’s hand appearing in an otherwise cloudless sky. I imagined the feelings of that servant, “what exactly am I looking for?” and the thoughts of Elijah after he came back to him with “nothing” the first six times. I have felt that same prophetic unction rise up in me, as I hear the story, “Go back! Look again! It’s almost here!” And my heart leaped at the mental image of Elijah throwing up his cloak and taking off like a man on a mission across the Jezreel Valley. Elijah knew what was up.

Those who purpose HOPE in their hearts will gain strength while waiting. It is guaranteed.

“Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength;

They will mount up with wings like eagles,

They will run and not get tired,

They will walk and not become weary.”

Isaiah 40:31

They will walk to the edge of a mountain seven times expecting their breakthrough,

and they will not be discouraged when they don’t see it the first six times.

They will prepare themselves by watching the sky.

When I look back at my journey to Israel, I laugh. I knew I was called to the Middle East when I was 16, and every January first (post high school) I would ask God, “Is this the year? Is this the year I visit or move to the Middle East?”

And it wasn’t and it wasn’t and it wasn’t … for ten years. And then IT WAS.

In February 2006, God said it was.

And I began to prepare myself. I saw the cloud in the sky. The RAINS were a’ comin!

A lot of people asked  me if I was taking Hebrew or Arabic classes or hanging out at a local mosque.

“No,” I would answer, “I don’t feel like I am supposed to be doing that kind of preparation.”

My preparation was more about watching the sky: learning the signs of God, training my heart to follow Him better, praying into the months ahead, and many long walks and bike rides spent talking things over with God. And standing on the promises of God through the breakthroughs I needed between February and August: new jobs, new house mates in our ministry house, raising support, miracles in our neighborhood, etc.

Whenever people ask me what I did to prepare for such a move and then ask me what they should do as they prepare to move overseas, I emphasize spiritual preparation: inner healing, developing a support group who will pray for you and encourage you once overseas, learning healthy communication with people, reading books like “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend, and growing the garden of His Presence and His peace in your life. Train yourself to strengthen yourself in the Lord.

Don’t run laps around Mount Carmel. Look at the sky.

And whatever you do, DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED


Joshua 1:6 is one of my favorite passages,

“Be strong and courageous,

because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.”

God says in Deuteronomy 7:17-19:

You may say to yourselves, “These nations are stronger than we are. How can we drive them out?” But DO NOT BE AFRAID of them; remember well what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt. You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the miraculous signs and wonders, the mighty hand and outstretched arm, with which the LORD your God brought you out. The LORD your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear.

I think this passage is hilarious: “Dawn, you may think you are looking at something bigger than you, that you can not topple, but DO NOT BE AFRAID. Remember my provision. Remember my words. I am 100% faithful. And I always will be. I will push the enemy out of your land.”

David walked out courage in 1 Samuel 30. His own men spoke of killing him. His wives and children were taken. Their homes were burnt. 13 years after being anointed to be king, he was still waiting.

In 1 Samuel 30:6 David is shown to make a decision out of line with the “look of things” but IN LINE with God’s perspective.

“David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters.

But David found strength in the LORD his God.

He defeats the Amalekites, Saul dies, and three chapters later in 2 Samuel 2, a matter of mere DAYS has passed and DAVID IS MADE KING OF JUDAH.

Good thing David kept walking to the mountain’s edge and looking at the sky. Good thing he didn’t give up or give in. He stood until the promise was fulfilled. And that is what it is to stand in faith: to keep standing. How long? Until the promise is fulfilled. Not just until the third time you are tired and your car breaks down, yet again; not until your next vacation; not just until something happens, but until the PROMISE is fulfilled. And the secret is: there is happy rest in the waiting when you wait with HOPE. The secret is: it’s joyful to walk to the mountain’s edge seven times when you are delighting in the Lord. The secret is: it’s always fun to be with Jesus, even alone on a mountain waiting for rain – when you are lovesick, you’re crazy in a GOOD way.

The secret is: faith is powerful. And it often wears the clothes of perseverance.

So, be encouraged today. You are victorious. The word of God to you WILL HOLD. You have a part to play in seeing its fulfillment though. You must stand firm. You must keep walking to look toward the sea. Five times, six times, seven times. Hold on. Absorb the gorgeous view. Absorb the Presence of God in this moment, today is the only “today” you have to drink up His Presence and His fullness in this moment.

The cloud the size of a man’s hand will appear. The RAINS ARE COMING!

Tell your Sarahs: their promises will be fathers

Tell your Sarahs: their promises will be fathers.

I woke up this morning to find four Sarahs, all not pregnant, bustling around in my room.

I think they were looking for something to do.

I didn’t know what to tell them.

I felt at a loss. And tired. (Why was I tired after eight hours of sleep?)

One of them said something about having some rugs she could shake out. “It’s raining. There’s nowhere dry to shake them out” I replied, silently wondering if in her zeal for a task she would still take the big rug in my front room outside for a good dust out-shaking.


I used to be more suspicious of God. And not in a good way. I just didn’t quite trust the Guy. I wanted to. Or at least I thought I did, but He always seemed so wriggly in my brain. I couldn’t understand the sadness, the dozens of bricks of sadness that seemed stuck in the wheelbarrow inside me. I knew He could lift them. And I knew I asked Him to. A lot.

When I was seven years old it seemed a building, a long abandoned building collapsed in some far off land – very far from my hometown of Pleasanton, California. And somehow the bricks and rubble had been blasted into my heart. I was despondent. And I cried myself to sleep weekly. The injustice of millions of orphans seemed to be walking through the valleys of my heart. Painful. Abandoned. Grief-stricken. I felt I might die for lack of hope. I thought I might die at my own hands.

I remember thinking I was boxed in. I would sit on my bed and often, unannounced, the room would get larger and smaller. My eyes were open and I felt I was in an abyss with no humans and no love anywhere to be found. I was horrendously scared. And the appearance of four darkened forms seemed to claw at the last vault of truth inside of me. I saw them clearly. And they were approaching me. I knew with horror what they wanted – my very life. A relative of mine had recently attempted suicide and the figures said they would do to me what they did to my uncle. They were bent on destroying my life.

For this reason, for years I avoided opening the silverware drawer. The grapefruit knives, with their serrated edges tempted me. I imagined them cutting through my wrists. I wondered how much I would have to saw into my skin until I bled to death. I hated those knives. Vehemently, as if they had betrayed me like a lifelong friend.

Yet, there was something I hated more than those knives. Myself. I felt powerless and alone. I didn’t think I deserved to die, but I wasn’t convinced I deserved to live. So if I bumped my leg on a coffee table, something in me said I deserved it and even suggested I hit my leg harder… or hit all of me harder until I physically bashed  myself to pieces.

I did sometimes consider that it was unusual for someone in elementary school to feel this way. I didn’t know of anyone else who saw demons. I didn’t use the word demons at the time though. I actually called the four figures “the hamburger men” because two of them were like horizontal ovals – a tad like a hamburger shape.  I would break out in a sweat when they showed up. My body was fear-stricken. I knew they were from the enemy. And nothing I did or said seemed to make them leave. I cried out to God. I whimpered to the silhouettes, “go away… go away.” I ran to my mom in a feverish madness screaming “the hamburger men! The hamburger men!” but my mom didn’t seem to have a grid for such extreme encounters so she would send me back to my room trying to assure me I was okay.

The irony is: I wasn’t. Okay, that is. I was traumatized and burdened by fear. I followed Jesus since I was two years old. And I knew He was somehow the remedy to all this, but asking Him to rescue me didn’t seem to alleviate the situation.  In fact, it seemed to tear my heart. I pleaded with God, “Why aren’t you doing something about this? Where are you? I love you! Why is this happening?”

The seemingly one-way conversation went on for years – until I was 18. The demonic visitations were about monthly for the first several years, and then they tapered off a little, increased again, and eventually faded away when I was 16. The residue lasted longer. I still felt grief-stricken. I still wrestled with hopelessness. And I still thought about killing myself. I wept a great deal.

I knew God was there. I knew He was with me. I heard Him say the depression would end, but I was overwhelmingly confused by the waiting. “When?! When will it end?!” I screamed and cried into a physical emptiness. I was furious with God. We talked a lot and I knew I heard His voice and I loved Him more than anything. I knew my life would always be for His glory. And I knew He was more beautiful than I could fathom. So, WHY? Why was I waiting? Why did God even speak a promise to me – a promise of deliverance – when I would have to wait years for its fulfillment?

Those years felt like torture. And training for a marathon. Or a war.

A glimmer cracked into the horizon when I was 17. I was at a winter camp with my youth group. Everyone was in groups praying and crying after the evening message. I didn’t feel like joining a group. Instead I grabbed the Bible underneath the chair next to me (which happened to be a different version than my own) and headed for the stairway. And there on those uncarpeted wooden slats I opened unintentionally to Isaiah 9 and verses 1 & 2 grabbed me.

“But there will be no gloom for HER that was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zeb’ulun and the land of Naph’tali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.” (RSV)

and if you read verse 2 in the NIV it beautifully says, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has DAWNED.” (hence my current email address haha!)

I knew I had come to God’s exact words for me at that moment. And I heard Him say, more loudly than ever, “I am bringing this depression to an end.” In my emotional rawness I was equally assured and equally indignant, “oh yeah!? You have been telling me that for ten years! WHEN? When are you going to bring it to an end!?” And with the weight of a bag of flour dropped from a shopping cart TEN STORIES UP, He said, “SOON.”

And I knew it was true. He was my everlasting Father and He would show Himself faithful.

Nearly a year later I was at church in Fresno, CA (my family moved to Fresno when I was nearly 10) when a very prophetic couple was visiting and ministering to people. I was near the back of the room in a crowd of about two hundred. And then, lightning struck my heart. Suddenly one of the couple said, “Would Dawn please come up here?” I didn’t know them. It was a powerful word of knowledge. God was calling me by name. I walked up. They prayed silently for me and then said, “The oppression and depression is over. It has been a long night. It has been a long night, but a new dawn has come.”

A trillion weights flew off me all at once. My body buckled in freedom. I crumbled onto the floor in a violent, sobbing heap. I was free. The prison door vanished and I felt my soul walk out in complete freedom. I was on the floor there at the altar for quite a while. I was totally unaware of my surroundings. I could breathe again. Deeply. I felt safe. Like someone on a ten-year one man safari through a dangerous country would feel upon reaching civilization. Relieved in every fiber of my being. By the time I rose from the floor there were only a few people left in the room. And the bouncy balls of unrest that had reverberated and tyrannized my soul for ten years were gone.

Jesus engulfed me.

I was delivered instantly. No more depression. No more suicidal thoughts. Love broke through.


That was 12 years ago.

Now I’m 30.

And there are four Sarahs in my room.

Sometimes they laugh when I tell them Isaac is coming. “Don’t worry, I know you are old and appear unable to conceive, but the seed of a Promise is stronger than the seed of this world.”

I even put up a sign on my wall, “No Ishmaels allowed.” By this I mean, “No taking matters into your own hands, Sarah. Don’t settle.”

The Everlasting Father put every star in the sky as if the sky is the womb and the stars the seeds. Jesus’ birth was marked by a star. I tell the Sarahs about Jesus. They think it’s funny that a person could be the “yes and amen.” They punctuate their uncertainty with side glances toward Hagar. I tell them to act like she doesn’t exist. As far I am concerned, she doesn’t. I know my Father. I know the faithfulness that floods in warmth when I lean my head against His corduroy jacket. I know the comprehensive watchfulness of His eyes when He watches me swing on my tree swing. I know there’s a lot that I don’t understand which he understands perfectly. As if one of His eyelashes holds all the answers in the universe.

I will be content to live with unanswered questions.

I prefer He be close.

I wouldn’t want Him to step back while I “figure things out” – for He is my deepest yearning.

I would rather have intimacy with Him than all the answers in the world. I would rather swing on my swing and laugh at the jokes He tells me and look like a fool to passersby than leave the swing and the deep satisfaction that comes from the wind in my hair, the sun on the apples of my cheeks, and the limitless exhilaration of the view from higher and higher. I will never stop going higher. I will laugh forever. And I will be consumed by Love. I will stay. I will become Love.

I will believe because His palpable goodness has convinced my soul that Isaac is a guarantee – as real as those same stars. All four Sarahs are bound for motherhood. And grandmotherhood. Galaxies of hope from the wombs of their dreams. Sparkly and fierce. We are all pregnant with galaxies of hope. Our dreams will soon run and play. And swing. Higher. As High as they want to go.

Through the canopy of expectation.

Beyond the sound barrier.

Out of earth’s atmosphere and into the realm of materialized faith – where dreams are as much reality in seed form – in promise form – as they are on the day when Isaac, the promised son, becomes a father himself. Our promises from God are not only reality, they are FATHERS. Spread the word.

Tell your Sarahs.