I Trust You God… But Where’s My Rent? (Part One)

I Trust You God… But Where’s My Rent? (Part One)

I first started writing this particular blog because I felt a need to chronicle so many of the amazing ways I witnessed God supplying provision for me. I realized as I wrote it that ever since I was a little girl I remember being fascinated by testimonies of answered prayer.

I had many favorite records from the scriptures, as well as testimonial narratives of people like George Mueller who was a man who ran orphanages in England in the 1800’s. George Mueller was convicted that he would never tell anybody but God of his need and then received miraculous solution after miraculous solution. He ran orphanages primarily as a demonstration of God’s willingness and ability to answer prayers.

I also loved to reflect on and repeat stories my mom told me of answered prayers. One of my favorite stories was the time she needed four dollars to give each child a dollar to pay for school lunch. But she was completely tapped out broke. No money, no where. No change, nothing.

She searched through every pocket and every old purse and every coin purse searching for any missed money or change, coming up empty every time. She came to God and demanded that $4.

She said, “I have to have this!” Then she felt that God was telling her to go back to a specific coin purse, but she had already looked in that coin purse – multiple times! She said she had even turned it inside out previously – and there was nothing in it. But she obeyed the prompting she sensed, and looked in it again and she found $4 there!

I want to fill this blog with pictures of things given to me from many different sources.

I love this story for many reasons. That she did what she knew to do, that she came boldly to the Father, and that there was NO WAY she had “missed” the four dollars previously, because she had even turned the coin purse inside out, but God miraculously put $4 into that coin purse for her. Still blows me away!

I longed to have those kinds of tales to tell of God’s goodness and

Cooking with gifted cookware

provision for me!  Yet, the reality of God supplying for me in amazing, supernatural ways was far different than I expected.  In those places where I had no means to supply my own needs and had to fully rely on God, places where my flesh could not provide the answer were far harder than I anticipated.

This gift of cookware was one of my most ecstatic.

See, to rely on God meant NOT relying on myself. And that sounds logical and like, of course! But if you haven’t lived in those places where your human ability is exhausted and you have no five-senses solutions, you won’t probably fully grasp the humbling of that place and how walking out trust and faith are very different than sitting in a Sunday sermon saying, “Amen!”

To continue reading part two – click here!

 

Offended at Jesus

Offended at Jesus

There’s an important component to my story that I don’t shy away from telling in person. But when the thought came to me to write a blog, I felt myself recoil in disgust and horror at writing about how I am a Christian delivered from being offended by the true person of Christ.

It was never something I meant to do of course, and I thought I was the one with the superior knowledge of Jesus Christ. I thought all those other Christians who praised him and cried about him. I thought they were the ones who had it all wrong. Except…they didn’t. I did.

It’s difficult for me to know quite where to begin. I have been able to look back and determine that I did know Jesus as a little girl when I accepted him as my savior at 4 years old. The last few years I have been able to remember my passion and enthusiasm for Jesus. But, I believe by 8 years old I was embracing a form of religion that held components that drew me away from the true Jesus.

I was in a ministry that taught several things different than mainstream Christianity, and it was what I knew and I embraced the teaching. I am still sorting through what parts I believe from the teachings of my childhood and what teachings I no longer accept.

Some parts of it, honestly, I never quite understood, so I cannot even fully explain them to you here. But we did not speak of the kingdom as a current reality. So, when I began attending mainstream churches in 2014, began hearing talk about the kingdom, I was so lost. I really had no idea what it meant. Truly, I’m still just beginning to get the faintest grasp on it.

Again, there was teaching about this and I cannot say they didn’t say we were in the kingdom of God, because I personally was always confused by that section of their teaching. I can remember sitting through a class where the teacher spoke about the topic. I can remember the charts and the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Christ and they said all time was under the kingdom of God, but the King had to be personally present on earth to be under the kingdom of Christ and I never quite got it, so maybe it’s still got truth.

But there was definitely the idea that Jesus Christ was a millennial king, that he wasn’t currently functioning as King, that he would be King of Kings and Lord of Lords when he returned with the gathered saints, and not before.  The point of that is that I did not think it appropriate to consider him as my king and worst of all, it somehow slipped into me not allowing him to be my Lord. I have thought back about these things so many times over the last four or five years, trying to understand how I got so manipulated and deceived. I quoted Romans 10:9 and 10 like an anthem and it clearly states that we are to confess Jesus as lord.

There was also this thing where in my ministry we didn’t say just the name Jesus. We talked about Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus, it was like we couldn’t say just Jesus without the Christ. One pastor who came out of that background and is helping people overcome aspects of incorrect application has since said, it’s not like it’s his last name, is Christ. And I can remember the intense anger and discomfort and rage I felt around people who talked about Jesus and wailed the name of Jesus. Oh, how I hated them! I could not listen to that wretched Christian music with all its inaccuracies going on and on about Jesus. Yes, that is how I once felt.

I know that some people say that once you are born again and receive the gift of Holy Spirit, you cannot have a devil spirit. I don’t know if that is true. I haven’t found a verse that says that. Part of me would like to believe that is true. But I believe I was born again, and it also seems as a saved Christian I had devil spirits.

I absolutely believe I was born again at four years old. I spoke in tongues at six years old and I don’t believe it is possible to fake that. And I believe that only people born again can speak in tongues. I don’t believe you have to speak in tongues to prove you are born again, but I believe it is only available to those who have accepted Christ.

I also believe I got into agreement with devil spirits not that I knew that that was what I was doing. It is possible that the devil spirits were not in me, but around me, but that is not how I remember it feeling. I wasn’t fully able to express it at the time, but I wrote several poems and journal entries about how my soul felt crowded out within myself.

I remember that sensation that within myself I was taken over and I wrote about how it was as if my very soul was pressed into a corner as my internal space was taken over. When I wrote it, I did not know what I spoke of. Now that I have been set free from so many horrible demons, I believe what I was describing was that internally my mind was overtaken by demons who were not concerned for my well-being or the best interests of my soul life. They are parasites who feed on the human soul and body. They destroy us and I believe they are the true cause of many strange, inexplicable devastations to the mind and body. I understand you may think I’m taking this all a bit too far and I’m not saying this is anything other than my personal belief. There’s more to why I believe this, but I’m not going to get into all that here.

Later I felt God show me a picture of my holy spirit, wrapped up in so many levels and multiple layers of impenetrable covering that he was saying to me that even when I felt overrun by devils inside my soul, that he knew how to keep that Holy Spirit safe and uncontaminated by the filth of that evil.

But I believe that I was deeply in bondage to many demons, especially a spirit of anti-Christ. I fully believe now that the rage and anger and contempt that I felt for other Christians who praised Jesus, I fully believe that was the spirit of anti-Christ that resided in me. I can remember the rage so clearly and I thought it was that I was right, that I had a true understanding that those other contemptible, ignorant Christians did not have. Again – when I write those kind of words – I am expressing to you, not what I feel or believe today, but what I did feel and believer for most of my life.

Now, I can look back and see that I tried to somewhat cover the disgust and rage at the rest of Christianity, and it wasn’t that back then I would have ever spoken it that clearly as I did in the above paragraphs. But now, I can also look back and be honest about the rage and disdain that I believe I felt because it was that devil spirit in me who hated, hated, hated Christians, hated, hated, hated those people who praised Jesus.

Jesus Sermon on the Mount by Carl Heinrich Bloch

The ministry I was in at some point did a teaching about how there was another Jesus. There is scripture that talks about another Jesus and I was taught there is a false Jesus that is the name of a devil spirit. In my deceived and darkened understanding, I was convinced that I knew the true Jesus and all the rest of Christianity was pursuing a false Jesus.

It’s really sad and hard to write about this stuff. I know how many people will just shake their heads or think how they would never be conned into such a thing. I wasn’t alone. I was among many. Our agreement strengthened my conviction. Lucifer was an angel of light. He is subtle and persuasive and tricky.

He doesn’t begin in blatency and blasphemy. He smudges and nudges and whispers his way there. How many times have I looked at Eve in the garden with judgement and said, Why, oh, why did you talk to him?

Only recently have I even begun to recognize the subtle doubts that are considerations and conversations where I am beginning to engage with the enemy. It’s so easy to look in on other people’s failures and know all the answers. If we dare to be honest, we can recognize that is is rarely ever so easy in our own failure to see so clearly.

Now, I believe that part of what the spirit of anti-Christ hates about the name of Jesus by itself is that there’s an intimacy to that. The teaching I grew up under said that the power was in the name Christ. Now, I don’t think it’s a magic trick to use either the name of Jesus or the name of Jesus Christ. Now, I believe the power is in the relationship with the Lord Jesus. The true power comes from intimacy with the Lord and humility to his leading.

I was taught Jesus is the humiliated one, but Christ is the anointed, risen one. And boy, was I a Pharisee. I certainly wanted nothing to do with the humiliated Jesus. I was all about the power of the risen Christ. I was even under teaching that neatly removed concepts of suffering or trial in the modern Christian life. I was all about the authority and power of the risen Messiah. So sad.

Now, I recognize there are many facets to the Christ life. And because Christ conquered all does not exempt me from pain or suffering in this life. I don’t believe that God afflicts or that God initiates sickness to teach humility. But being a Christian doesn’t exempt me from difficulty. I believe that God will use difficult circumstances to teach me about dependence on him and relationship with him in all things. I could never understand those concepts before. Oh, my God was so small – he could not be any larger than I understood and I realize there’s so much more than I can fit in a single blog about the ways I was misled and deceived about who Christ really is and what it really means to know him.

I write in several blogs about my discovery of Jesus as an adult, as a life-long Christian who did not know Christ. The Days Before my Day with Jesus, Encountering Jesus, Looking Unto Jesus Literally. I have also blogged about the hatred I felt for the symbol of the cross. I now believe that was another of the effects of that spirit of anti-Christ. In the blog, Looking Unto Jesus Literally, I write about trying to see his face and how it literally brought mental pain to me. Now, I believe that is because I was seeking Jesus while still under the bondage of a spirit of anti-Christ and that it hurt that spirit when I turned my face to find the face of Jesus.

I write about how I could not find his face. I could not picture it. I feel that was a blindness from the spirit of anti-Christ. In the vision where I sought Jesus, there was also a distance between us, a chasm of deep separation. I write about the night that Jesus closed the gap and my face was buried in his shoulder. He moved toward me. He crossed the distance.

It was this very month as I was seeking the face of Jesus that I went to a deliverance session with two powerful ministers. I shared with them about how I was seeking the face of Jesus. I told them about the mental makeover I gave him where I removed his robes and put him into jeans and a mock turtleneck and cut his hair.  I was too embarrassed to tell them how I could not yet see his face. Later they shared how excited they were by my pursuit of Jesus.They released me from a spirit of anti-Christ along with many, many, many other spirits. More than I can even remember in full honesty.

When I left the session the space, the room I felt within my mind actually frightened me. I had lived so crowded by demons for so many years that the silence and the emptiness was so different I didn’t quite know what to even think. Honestly, it felt incredibly weird and not necessarily right or good immediately.  I drove home for ninety minutes repeating, Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. Literally that’s almost all I did for a ninety minute drive.

Freedom has taken time to become familiar. And God loves to keep expanding our territory of freedom. The Israelites did not occupy the promised land in a day. They took ground and as they took ground, they had to learn how to hold the ground before taking new ground.

There are many bondages that can hold people. The spirit of anti-Christ was not even the most powerful of bondages I was freed from. Fear was the strong man who held me captive and I have continued to walk out my freedoms with the help of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and the angels of this beautiful kingdom.

The truth is there’s still so much I cannot explain to you, teach you from scripture yet, but I have an experience of the Godhead. I have an experience of angels. And I hope I am able to explain more as I go, but the experience of the true and living Jesus has caused my need to understand and explain things in a way I can verify and scripturalize as so much less important.

Vintage illustration of The Good Shepherd with Jesus holding a lamb; lithograph, 1930s. (Photo by GraphicaArtis/Getty Images)

More than most, I recognize the need for scriptural basis to avoid deception. Yet, I was in a ministry that defined itself as a biblical research teaching and fellowship ministry. I looked at the Greek and the Hebrew and the Estrangelo Aramaic. I studied Eastern customs and mannerisms because the Bible is an Eastern book. I took classes and studied and memorized verses and definitions for decades upon decades and all my studying did not lead me into an experience of the true and living Lord and Savior.

All my supposed knowledge did quite the opposite. It was not a balanced walk despite all the teachings I heard about that very thing. Honestly, I heard teachings about all the things I should and shouldn’t do and could never even see how I was living in complete and utter hypocrisy and blindness.

I knew definitions for grace and mercy and love and not a single experiential understanding of any of it.  It was not until I let go of my need to be able to define and quote a scripture, about what I was experiencing that I actually experienced a much greater fullness of God.

I was limping through life in an impaired relationship with the Father, because I essentially thought Jesus was off limits. Jesus was taboo. And one more thing I didn’t know and still can only begin to explain is that until I allowed Jesus to be King of my heart, I didn’t have an experience of the Holy Spirit. I write about meeting Mr. Holy Spirit and I didn’t know who or what he was!!

I was taught that I should not exalt Jesus above God the Father. I was taught that was wrong and that was idolatry. That’s why I felt justified to be angry at those other Christians who praised Jesus. I truly thought they were misguided. Then I saw in the scripture how God exalted the Word above his own name. I had always only thought that meant the word as the scripture, because I could never understand the first chapter of the gospel of John where it talks in part about how Jesus is the Word.

But I never saw that truth – that God exalted the Word – Jesus above himself until after I accepted the person of Jesus into my life as my Lord. I began to seek the person of my Lord Jesus before I was free from the spirit of anti-Christ, I began to seek Jesus while he still offended me. And even after the spirit was gone, the habits were not. And I kept coming up to offense at the true person of Jesus.

And if I am being fully honest, still, I come up against places where Jesus still challenges me and I come up again against offense at who he truly is and the gospel message he truly presents. Jesus who says to be willing to be last when my flesh screams, me above all. Jesus who says to lay down my plans and my desires and my way of doing things, to take up a cross? That Jesus, he does present a hard message at times, but when I turn to gaze upon his face, the light of God is so gloriously reflected that I am overcome in love and awed by his beauty.

I don’t yet live the Christ life perfectly. Still I come up against offense at the message he imparts. But Jesus is gentle. Jesus is patient. Jesus is kind with me before I am ever any of those things.

The greatest woo to my heart is how Jesus pursued me when I was a true enemy to the cross. Jesus pursued me when I embraced hatred of who he truly is. He saw my hatred. He saw my offense. He saw my disgust and my rejection of him, even as I called myself an adherent and a disciple of his. He saw the truth of me, long before I saw the truth of him.  I called him my Lord, but I didn’t even know him. Oh thank you God, for your mercies. Oh, thank you Jesus, for pursuing me while I yet hated and despised you all in the name of Christianity. What a Lord. What a King. What a Savior. What a friend indeed. He is my Jesus.

A Life of Victory & Suffering

A Life of Victory & Suffering

I grew up hearing a lot of biblical teachings about an abundant life filled with power. I appreciate this teaching, however, verses about persecution, tribulation, trials and especially suffering were glossed over, and never much addressed. I always believed God wanted the believer victorious. Wonderful verses like Romans 8:37 assured me I was more than a conqueror!

Romans 8:37 NKJV

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

It’s beautiful. It’s true. But I now realize I lived most of my life with this verse out of context.

What are the all things that we more than conqueror over? Well, let’s back up a couple verses.

Romans 8:35 Amplified Version

Who shall ever separate us from Christ’s love? Shall suffering and affliction and tribulation? Or calamity and distress? Or persecution or hunger or destitution or peril or sword?

The verses do not say that we won’t have suffering. The verses do not say we won’t have affliction or tribulation. These verses don’t say we will avoid facing calamity or distress or persecution or hunger or destitution or peril or sword. It says even in those things we are conquerors through Him who loved us.

In the difficulty we can prevail over the difficulty not by not experiencing the trouble, but through the power of Christ we are able to not succumb to the hard thing we are going through. Having Christ doesn’t exempt us from experiencing the hardships of life. Quite the contrary, we are promised to have trouble and difficulty because of our love for Christ!

Does life ever feel this way for you?

Barne’s commentary says of verse 35, “As all these things happened to them in consequence of their professed attachment to Christ, it might be supposed that they would tend to alienate their minds from him. But the apostle was assured that they had not this power, but that their love  to the Saviour was so strong as to overcome all, and to bind them unalterably to his cause in the midst of the deepest trials.  The fact is, that the more painful the trials to which they are exposed on his account, the more strong and unwavering is their love to him, and their confidence in his ability to save.”

The word “in” isn’t some special Greek word that means something other than IN the suffering, IN the affliction, IN the tribulation, IN the calamity, IN the distress, IN the persecution, IN the hunger, IN the destitution, IN the peril, IN facing the sword.

I make such a big deal of this because I was taught that as a Christian I had authority over difficulty, that my authority and my believing should actually keep me from experiencing trouble – notice the emphasis on my authority, my believing – that was also part of the understanding I was given – I was responsible to claim my authority, I was responsible to believe appropriately. I believe part of that is accurate, but the authority I am able to exercise comes out of a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. And while I am responsible to feed my mind good thoughts and to diligently and intentionally work on casting down erroneous thoughts, I am so imperfect, so frail, so inadequate as a human being to have the ability to accomplish much in “my” believing. I have found that I need to rest in the surpassing power of Christ Jesus. It is in my very weakness that the strength of Christ is made perfect!! So, I had this perception that any and all trouble I faced was from the adversary, the devil, and I simply had to claim my “rightful authority in Christ Jesus,” and the trouble would have to flee.

That’s such a lovely thought. I wish that were the truth. Ha! But the truth is that we don’t get to send trouble away with the whisk of a hand and a commanding rebuke in the name of Jesus Christ! The truth is that it is the grace and power of Christ that allows us to endure trials and to remain joyous even in hurt and distress because we know the difficulty we are enduring will not last forever, and we are fully persuaded that God WILL work good out of the tribulation and trial! I believe it means that the calamity and the distress doesn’t have mastery over us, but we arise over the things that should conquer us, not because we are so marvelous, but because Christ is!

Hebrews 12:1 talks about how we set aside the sin “which doth so easily beset us.” And later in the same chapter it talks about how God trains and disciplines the children he loves. I believe God will use the difficult circumstances of life as an opportunity to teach and train us. God doesn’t tempt us, but I don’t think he necessarily always wants to remove every difficult circumstance we encounter.

James 1:13 CEB

No one who is tested should say, “God is tempting me!” This is because God is not tempted by any form of evil, nor does he tempt anyone.

Everyone is tempted by their own cravings; they are lured away and enticed by them.

Once those cravings conceive, they give birth to sin; and sin grows up it gives birth to death.

Don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sister.

Every good gift, every perfect gift comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all.

I think there are times God wants us to take authority in situations and say, Not today, Satan! But there is so much scripture about how we will have difficulty, but we look to Christ to overcome it. I think that is a process, to count it all joy, to say God you are good when we are going through different types of turmoil. I absolutely don’t believe most Christians start off counting it all joy. I think it is an intentional, ongoing pursuit while we are in relationship with the Lord to discover how to count it all joy. At this stage of my walk, I don’t think that “counting it all joy” means that I find the painful moments joyful, but rather that I can find joy in the process because I expect God to turn it to good whether in this life or the next.

The realization I have had and that I’ve heard many experienced Christians share is that sometimes God removes the trial, and other times he gives us the strength to get through the trial. Life isn’t one victory after the other, a string of endless triumph with no trouble or defeat or difficulty in understanding occurring. There is learning and time in between things. God will absolutely at times invoke miraculous solutions to our situations, but there is also a lot of life that is about the processes that God has set up. A lot of life is faithfully obeying and enduring and doing right. Like a faithful diet of healthful food and movement provides balance to our weight and our ability to move without pain, so I believe a lot of the Christian walk is about the day in and day out faithfulness to do what is right and righteous in our behavior and attitudes.

I now also believe that there are experiences that God actually brings us to that he wants us in to learn important things. The truth is it’s immature and arrogant to think that we always know best what should happen in our lives.

James 4:13-16 CEB

v13. Pay attention, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such-and-such a town. We will stay there a year, buying and selling, and making a profit.” v14. You don’t really know about tomorrow. “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for only a short while before it vanishes. V15. Here’s what you ought to say: “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” v16.  But now you boast and brag, and all such boasting is evil.

I used to snort in derision of Christians who said, if the Lord wills it. Now, I can see that I was filled with pride and haughtiness. One day I want to write a blog about some of the crazy prayers I prayed, chief among my seemingly crazy prayers was the repeated and passionate prayer for God to take me low. I prayed it because I was deeply aware of the ego and conceit that exalted itself against God and against those who truly spoke for God. I had been delivered from a spirit of pride, but still felt conceit and haughtiness that swelled up often and inappropriately within me. I was boastful and a braggart and those attitudes were indeed evil and I am grateful to have come so far in my journey to be delivered from much of that pretension.

I think there are times in life when God will remove our power to handle things, or bring us to things so big so as to demonstrate our powerlessness to handle it without God’s sustaining power.

I have known many Christians who have refused to learn these lessons, who declare it is not so, that God is not so, and I sincerely question if they have genuinely allowed themselves to be humbled under the mighty hand of God. Personally, God has brought me to seasons where he has said to me that he wanted me to be utterly dependent upon him. Honestly, these were very, very hard seasons for me, because when God sustained me, it was obviously of God’s power and not my own and that was very crushing to my human pride. Which I know is a good thing in the long run, but in the crushing period, it is crushing and painful!

But as I wrote above, I also implored God to bring me low. I know that not everyone seeks that, and I know now had I understood the cost involved, I would not have necessarily prayed those prayers! But, I also don’t believe that I yet know fully all that I gained and learned in that season.

I once heard a pastor say God will either do something through you or for you and most of the time the majority of the effort and work is figuring out which way God wants to work in the situation – for you or through you. So, in the seasons where God works through us, it can look, I think, pretty spectacular! In the seasons where he works for us, um, it’s still spectacular, but, well, I don’t know, as I think about it, all of it has felt rather painful! Like when I walked out of my apartment, it WAS incredible to see the Father lead me into a situation I could not at all have put together, not in my power or in my strength! Yet, trusting him to follow through on that, had a lot of pain. There was also an incredible glory to me and to some who saw it, though many around me still doubted and didn’t believe God actually PLANNED that, but rather thought I fell into the situation.

I remember a conversation with another pastor where he honestly shared how sometimes Jesus showed him how to do something, and then the man would promptly forget that it was the Lord who revealed the insight and the understanding on how to do that thing, and the man would begin to think, in a bit of pride, that he had discovered that understanding. I really appreciate that he shared that with me, because I catch myself in this same type of thinking all the time, thinking I am somehow strong or wise or powerful in an area that the Lord has taught me and led me and helped me and I, quick as can be, have forgotten the goodness he shared with me did not originate FROM me!

I am currently in a period of life where it seems God is repeatedly reminding me of my complete powerlessness without him. Perhaps it is a continuation of the learning to be utterly dependent upon him. Maybe it is a continuing answer to my prayer to be made low. Perhaps he is simply continuing to deepen the understanding as he likes to do. I have had a break from the intensity and deep painfulness of this lesson, but still, I am not yet rejoicing for the return of these challenges where the Lord lets me experience such necessary dependency. I know that ultimately it is a kindness of God to let us see that, but right now, I’m still rigid with indignity.

I like to think this is true.

I think about Joseph who had a mighty calling on his life but he went into slavery and then prison – as a sex offender no less! Yes, he was wrongfully accused, and yet, you never see him say a word in his defense, you never even see anything that indicates he complained or whined or groaned. I don’t know that he didn’t, but there is no record of it. Honestly, I really appreciate the abundant records of Job and David pouring out their complaint to the Lord, because I am somebody who feels – well I FEEL – EVERYTHING!!! So, I am just about always pouring out my complaint and frustration  – as well as my thanks and my gratitude and my praise to the Lord.

But Joseph, Joseph didn’t stand up, snap his fingers, and say, “Not today, Satan!”

Personally, I lean toward thinking God showed Joseph not to say a word. I don’t know how much God revealed to Joseph in the process of things, I don’t know if Joseph got that this was part of his training for reigning. I don’t know. By the time he faces his brothers years later, he has not a single word of reproach for them, but rather weeps to be reunited. He says, you meant it for evil, but God worked it for good. I don’t know how early on Joseph got the message that God was working all these ill deeds toward his benefit, but any season of doubt or questioning, is not recorded for us.

So, there was this season that Joseph had to go through, and I do fully believe he did have to go through that. It wasn’t sinfulness that brought Joseph to those places. Yes, he was youthful and required maturing and developing and gosh, I certainly would never select those circumstances to be trained in – slavery and prison. But Joseph continued to serve God in all those terrible difficult circumstances. He didn’t say, “Oh no, you don’t devil! You back on down and get on out!” No, that was not the word of the Lord for Joseph. Or David. Or Job. Or Jesus.

 

Sometimes God does sprinkle his glory glitter on your life and changes everything in an instant.

There are lots of records of folks who didn’t just whisk away the problem with their Godly authority. There are lots and lots of records of people going through the difficulty clinging to God in trust and hope. Sometimes, yes, God does move into our circumstances and brilliantly and beautifully alters all the ugliness into beauty in an instant, and I have experienced that, and that is a God-specialty that he loves to do! But it doesn’t mean we get to never deal with trouble or challenge. Honestly, it is in the trial that I have truly, truly discovered so much about the beauty and firmness of the nature of God. I really sorta hate to write that, because I am right now in the middle of difficulty and trouble, and I don’t like it! I don’t! Right now it just hurts! Right now I’m in the place where mostly I feel mad that this is happening and I haven’t yet discovered anything beautiful or lovely here in this place. But I know that is coming. I do. I know it. I know it. I know it. I know it.

I know it because I have experienced the faithful delivering hand of God time and time again the last many years. I have leaned into Jesus so hard, and clung to him and wept into his side, and howled inside the tower of refuge that is my God as the Holy Spirit has wrapped himself around me. However, the comforter doesn’t erase the pain, doesn’t dismiss the difficulty, but it allows me to no longer be swallowed up in it as I once was. The hardship and the difficulty of life used to overwhelm me, used to have the mastery of me.

And I tell you, I do still fall, all the time. I am still so weak so much of the time. Sometimes I think, how can I write a blog, like I have some sort of understanding or like I have life figured out. Sometimes I think, how can I share my story when I’m still so fragile and broken? But no longer does my weakness defeat me, no longer do I fall so as to not rise again. Now, I stumble and I fall and I trip and I weep, oh Lord, do I weep, I am certain I have cried rivers of tears, Olympic size pools of tears. I think God, how can you not be tired of collecting my tears? I am so tired of crying them! But, still I reach up for my Daddy God, I cling onto my Lord Jesus and I demand of the Holy Spirit his promise of comfort. I seek it. I howl for it, I cry for it. I demand it. I am the widow who howls for justice. I beat upon the door demanding answers. And sometimes, yes, it seems as if all my prayers come up against the tower wall of God to come sliding back down without answer. Sometimes it feels very much like I am not being heard. Sometimes I just cannot make sense of the circumstances. And maybe I need to learn more to sit quietly before the Lord. I do eventually quiet down some, get resigned to moving on and beginning to make sense and find peace in the tribulation.

The answer often doesn’t come immediately, but I am assured it WILL come eventually. The comfort doesn’t swallow up all the pain in five minutes, but it allows me to breath and to get up and keep going, where I used to be shut down. It’s not a perfect life yet, but I have a perfect Lord and a promise that he will finish the good work he has begun in me.

Even in writing, which I do most of all because I am so deeply convicted that it is what God wants me to do – I know first and foremost it’s for me and my healing, and my hope is that he will use that to help others along the way, but when it comes to me writing, when I sought insight from God several years ago, I heard the Lord clearly indicate to me that there would be pain and difficulty even in the thing I feel he is calling me to do in writing. And as I write so many of these blogs in weeping and in tears and many times in late hours or difficult days, I remember what he spoke to my heart and hope that it will not necessarily always be so.

My first Thanksgiving in Albuquerque I met a lovely family and I expect sometime to share a blog about that. At the end of the evening as I was bidding farewell to the patriarch of the family, he said to me that life is filled with struggle and triumph. Struggle and triumph. “Some struggles,” he said, “last longer than others. But there is always triumph.” The experience with his large family had been overwhelming for me in its goodness, and I wanted so much to believe him, but was also overcome by the immensity of good, and a cynical thought began to rise up in me to think, he probably has hidden sin, I began to seek a crack in the facade. I did this because I was challenged, not by a perfect family without the very struggle the great-grandfather was speaking of, but by a good and large family. As though he sensed my internal turning, he turned and seemed to pin me with his gaze, looking me straight in the eye, he asked me intently, “You do believe that don’t you, Jenne?” I released the fear and the cynicism and gave into the goodness of the moment, responding firmly, “Yes, I do.”

Struggle and triumph. Not mutually exclusive. But often hand in hand.  A life of victory AND suffering. A life of power AND weakness. A life of abundance and want. This life doesn’t hold all the fullness, we do get lots of tastes of glory, I fully believe, but we continue to experience a life-long dependence on the faithful, good nature of our Father God.

 

Encountering Jesus

Encountering Jesus

I want to express at the start of this blog how little a person I am. Of myself I am incredibly small and weak. I have no greatness.  All that is appealing or winsome about anything I do or express is so very much of God and not me. I know that without the strength of Christ and the genius of the Holy Spirit, I have no power, no strength to win or influence or inspire. I must pray through so many moments of every single day because that is literally the only way for me to make it out the door and through the process of regular life. I pray through dishes and showers, through walks and work. I am a praying fool because I must to survive and even begin to succeed at the most minimal of matters.

And yet, I feel so strongly that God has called me to share my story, not as somebody special or extraordinary, but as someone in constant desperate need of God’s intervening hand. I don’t ever mean to say that my experiences are a standard of right. I simply am endeavoring to share with you, the reader, the places the Lord has brought me and the wonder and understanding I feel I have gleaned in this process. I struggle often to write these blogs, to share the challenges and the beauty that I experience. I know there will be detractors who scoff or mock or disagree, but I push past that for people who I feel will gain something from my story and my experiences.

 

So, there I was. August of 2014 just home from a stunning, life-changing weekend of God’s word, friendship and healing. Lying on my bed my first night home in wonder and awe at the transformation Jesus had wrought inside of me in the previous year after a lifetime of bible study and following God. After decades of calling myself a Christian, I finally felt as though I had met Jesus and could actually call him a friend.

One of the songs we often sang in the home churches I grew up in was “Constantly Abiding.” The second stanza of that song, that we slightly modified, reads:

“All the world seemed to sing of a savior and lord.

When peace sweetly came to my heart.

Troubles all fled away and my night turned to day,

Blessed Jesus, how glorious thou art!”

I used to literally sing this song and have no idea what it was about. I had never experienced a relationship with Jesus that I could remember.

Then that Sunday night at the start of August 2014, I pondered what I could give King Jesus as a gift.  I was remembering the lyrics to a song where the singer gives his song as a gift. Lying there I thought, I have no musical ability, I have no song to gift, what can I give him?

I’ll give him my heart I thought. In my mind’s eye, I placed my heart on an altar to the Lord Jesus. I wasn’t thinking about how my heart was a bigger gift than a song. I wasn’t trying to be clever or look good. I was being genuine in the privacy of my heart and soul, lying on my bed.

I couldn’t have anticipated how much my life would change from this act. I didn’t know that misleading teachings had led me away from allowing Jesus Christ to truly be my Lord and Savior.  I didn’t understand so many things in the moment that I did them. But that is life. So much of life we don’t understand till later. A book I was reading recently said we live life forward but we understand it backwards.

I had confessed Romans 10:9, 10 as a four-year-old girl, confessed Jesus as my Lord and Savior and looking back, I think I did know Jesus then as that little girl confessing Jesus in the chapel of the Christian pre-school I was attending. However by eight years old already I began to come under the grip of religion on the one hand and hurt on the other hand. These two great lies, two sides of evil that are both wrong, usurped King Jesus from his rightful place on the throne of my heart. I’ve often wondered why I was saved at such a young age, and I think now that part of the reason is so God could save me before I went down a twisted road of interior corruption.

God showed me a picture in the fall of 2014 of how he had guarded and protected my inner spirit from all the wrongs and hurts and twisting from the crazy paths I went down. Some people go down those roads without God and meet him afterwards and are made clean. I do believe he was with me through it all, but much of my thinking became darkened and deceived, and I had to be cleansed and healed afterward.

Romans 10:9, 10 from my KJV bible.

Romans 10:9, 10 in the King James Version that I grew up on reads:

9) That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

10) For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

So many incredible things happened in the coming week. Part of me wishes I had journaled more from that week, but I didn’t fully understand many of the things happening, so I’m not sure how much I could have journaled.

I had an experience that I will describe as the personal presence of the Lord Jesus. I have met people who have literally seen and spoken to Jesus. I did not have that experience, but for a day his presence was so tangible I could clearly speak to him in conversation and receive responses. It was incredible and beautiful and life-changing.

Toward the end of the day I was at the sink washing a dish and Jesus and I were having an exchange of humor and love that was healing me in a category. In that moment I thought, I can do anything with you by my side. With you Jesus, I am invincible.  I will be able to proclaim you and be victorious. That was the moment I realized this experience wasn’t going to last.

Yet, even as I realized this powerful sense of the presence of Jesus wasn’t going to remain with me for the rest of my days, Jesus told me he was never going to leave me and that he would always be just as present in moments where I could not feel him, as he was in that moment where he was so vivid and clear.

I have read and learned and believed all my life that God in Christ is present with me always, yet when Jesus said it to me that day it became real in a whole new dimension. I once heard a teacher say that God won’t give you revelation of things that are in his word. The exact example he used was that God won’t tell you by revelation that he loves you.

I think about that and how in my experience of the presence of Jesus, one of the most meaningful conversations was the one where he told me he would always be just as present with me as he was in that moment. All my life I’ve read in scripture and believed God is always with me, but now on tough days, in painful, devastating moments when I cannot “feel” Jesus with all my feelers turned on – I draw on that experience and I hold fast to the truth that Jesus Christ is just as present with me today as he was that day when I could see him so clearly in my mind’s eye and hear his voice strong and clear in my heart.

His presence was thrilling, exciting, funny….and overwhelming. By the end of the day, I realized, I couldn’t handle the strength of his presence, even where I knew I wasn’t fully, fully experiencing him. He had me laughing so hard as I tried to watch a favorite TV show, I was shushing him. I know it sounds nuts to watch TV when you have the Lord Jesus available for conversation, but I was getting maxed out on what I could handle and I still wasn’t sure how much I would continue to feel and sense him. I didn’t know it was really just that day. I don’t regret how I lived that day. It was beautiful and wondrous and he revealed much understanding and reassurance to my heart.

At one point I asked him why when I imagined his eyes I saw them as blue when it seemed to me that as a middle-eastern man of Jewish descent his eyes should be brown or black even. He expressed to me an understanding that people see him as they are able to receive and understand him. It was especially fun when the following year I sat through a class on the prophetic where a whole line of people stood up and gave a “word.” We were instructed to go to the person who gave a word that we felt was for us. Well, individual after individual gave a word that resonated with me. But then, almost the last person, a woman gave a word that also sang to my heart, and then she added, “And he says his eyes are blue.” Well, I knew that was the word for me!

The wonder is that me, a girl who wrestled with suicidal ideation for more than thirty years, a girl who spent a season having to check herself into the psychiatric ward to avoid harming herself, the girl who spent four years using cocaine on a regular basis, along with marijuana and another number of years abusing other medications – this girl has found that in Jesus all her wrongs are made right and all of her mess is turned into something useful.

I am made new again and again in his presence and in his friendship. He is my constant friend and the Captain of my Salvation. I seek to spend all my days glorifying him, becoming more like him, collapsing against him in my struggles, slipping into him for strength beyond my own.

That is the most wondrous discovery of it all. Jesus is the pearl without price. Jesus is the prize. To find Jesus is to find the way. To find Jesus is to find the truth. To find Jesus is to find life.

 

Unfamiliar Terrain

Unfamiliar Terrain

Growing up going to elementary school during the Cold War, I was intrigued by stories of life in the Soviet Union. I longed for children in the USSR to be free from the tyranny and lies that held them bondage as I understood things in my child’s mind. I now feel as though I spent so much of my life in bondage while a Christian because I was deceived in believing I had a superior understanding of Christ and the scripture. I held myself completely apart from all things mainstream Christian. When I look back at how the Lord began to work in my situation to get some Christian teachings to me that were outside of our group, it is as astounding a feat to me as when people used to smuggle bibles and cassette teachings into the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

I still mostly feel like a kid in a candy store. I wonder to myself sometimes – How long has all this been going on that I haven’t been aware of? The first several years, I felt so completely foreign in churches, struggling to understand their language and I felt like everyone knew things I didn’t. I was excited to explore new church communities, yet I also felt strange and awkward in all these church cultures.

I grew up in small home churches. Not because we couldn’t afford a

Celebrating a holiday meal with my home fellowship.

building, but because we believed that was the direction God took the first century church, more for intimacy and closeness than economical straits of the early church. When I left the group I grew up in, I was 39 years old and I went to a church that came out of the same group and had a similar structure. The couple who coordinated the home church I began attending in the autumn of 2012 also visited a large, local mega-church. As we grew closer, I began to visit there with them sometimes. Our usual meeting night was Thursday, so Sunday was open for church services.

My first visit there I encountered the mass produced communion cups or “wafer and juice set.” In our living room churches, there was a good loaf of maybe sourdough and I hoped they didn’t tear off too large a chunk for me to dry chew and swallow before the wine/juice.  Sometimes there were mini plastic shots with grape juice, and other times a beautiful, heavy goblet, that coordinators carried with a linen napkin and an incredible skill to wipe the lip where we sipped, turn, offer the wine, wipe, turn. It was a thing a beauty I tell you the way some of them worked the wine, the napkin and the turn. Drinking from the same glass maybe also tested our faith in the healing powers of communion!!

I remember sweet Denny showing me how to work the tabs on the communion cups to get both the wafer and juice seal off. Man, the first time I tasted one of those crazy little wafers was bizarre! I still am not entirely convinced they aren’t actually some Styrofoam derivative!! That family loved me so well, with such a pure love of God that had been missing from my life for many years. Their love healed me in so many ways that I still can’t understand, and I was so against mainstream churches that I needed their example to give me “permission” to explore this other world.

At the end of the service that church would offer prayer based on the topic of the teaching. For example if they were teaching about trust, they might say something like, “Those of you who feel you are being called to step out in greater trust, please come down so we can pray for you.” That’s a really huge generalization of something they might say, but I can’t remember a better example right now. I just remember that the invitation for prayer that first service I attended seemed to be a call that went into the innermost parts of my soul and I wanted so desperately to go for that prayer, but we were in the balcony and I felt so awkward for my friends to see me go for this prayer. I knew it was crazy to feel so self-conscious, but I still did.

I was super happy that the next time we attended we sat on the ground floor so that I could actually access the prayer without too much awkwardness. Later the husband commented on me going for prayer. I don’t know that he actually called me brave for going down for prayer,  but if it wasn’t that word, it was an idea similar to that. I was thinking, gosh, he doesn’t know how desperately I wanted it the time before. I even wondered if there was something a little wrong with me that every invitation for prayer, whatever the perimeters for the invitation, that it felt like such a burning need in my life. But looking back, I did have a huge amount of need.

Still, this journey has also felt lonely and difficult many times. Several years into my new life, I wept bitterly when I came to a point of feeling like not only had I left the church I grew up in, but then I kept going.  I kept going further out into more and more terrain and I felt ruined to ever go back to anything resembling the teachings or culture of my upbringing. At that point a couple years ago, I thought of the Spanish conquistador Cortes who famously burned his boats so that his men did not have the option to turn back. I felt like I had twice burned my boats and there was no way back if I should ever want it. And I felt angry at God. I told him he had ruined me for going back to familiar terrain.

I realize now that’s not entirely or necessarily true. It’s too soon to know where my future will lead, and at least now I can relax enough to know not everyone else is in on a secret that I don’t know. I also realize now that eventually even Cortes returned home, so maybe there is a way back somewhere down the road should I want to take it.

When I speak to people in my job with thick accents obviously from other lands, I wonder, why did they leave? Why have they come so far from their point of origin to here? I feel particularly fascinated by it in the past months. I want to know their stories, I want to know why they have traded the familiar for the unfamiliar. I know there are many reasons for people to transplant. And I know when the wanderlust struck me I was so bored and so tired of where I was and so hungry to be anywhere but there.

But then there are seasons, and while I don’t want to go back, I’m not entirely ready to make any huge leaps forward. Granted, there’s still so much to explore in the new terrain of my life. I’ve accepted that I am a seeker and that God has a purpose and a place in his plan for seekers even when we’ve found Jesus.  Being a seeker has led me to visit and explore many different Christian cultures and find the beauty of God in all of them. I don’t believe everyone is called to do that, and sometimes I do tire of the varying cultures, but I embrace the Jesus I see in all these places from the extremely charismatic to the cathedral atmosphere of “High Church.” I find the beauty of our Lord in all these places and I feel his smile in the wonder of it all.