His Eye is on the Sparrow

What is the price of five sparrows — two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. – Luke 12:6-7 

I couldn’t believe it. God just used a faithful friend to give me turn-by-turn directions for something seemingly insignificant. How could it be that the God of the universe would care about something as small as a piece of code I was writing for a work form? Even now, my mind has a hard time catching up with my heart which knows God cares about all of the details of our lives, big and small. I hope my true story (from two weeks ago!) will encourage you.

As hour four quickly closed, I felt no closer to figuring out how to write a particular piece of application code that my supervisor wanted than when I first started. I admit to feeling a little hopeless at that point. I may be in the computer field, but I am not a programmer. I stared at the code with frustration for a long minute.

“Ask me,” the Lord stirred within in my heart in that familiar still, small voice.

“Okay,” I responded obediently, unsure what to ask exactly. “Lord, will you point me to the right resource?”

A few minutes after hearing nothing more, I texted a friend who knew the code language that I needed (I laugh now as I write this post because I think I felt like I needed to help the Lord answer my prayer). My friend tried to help and pointed me to a couple of sites, but my particular code issue was not something he was familiar with writing. The sites were useful suggestions, but after another hour fiddling with the code, I realized I was getting nowhere fast. As a last resort, I used my lunch to post a plea to Facebook for help.

“Now, what do I do, Lord?” I sighed.

A minute later, my smart phone buzzed with a message from another friend named Faith who responded to my request for help on Facebook (my friend’s name is not actually “Faith.” However, per her request, I changed her name as part of the permission she gave me to use her part of the conversation that you will read below).

“Did you ask the Holy Spirit about the code?” Faith asked.

“I asked Him for a solution,” I wrote back quickly.

“I agree He’ll lead you to a solution. I’m asking for a word of knowledge about it. I have no idea in the natural [physical world]. I’ll let you know what I hear in a few minutes.”

About ten minutes later, I received a follow-up message from Faith, “There’s something in the second part of the code. Does that make sense at all?”

I went back to my original code and started at the second sub statement, which happened to be the part I was struggling with all morning. Knowing that she had not seen the code and wasn’t a programmer, I started laughing at my excitement at what the Lord was doing through her, “Yes, your response makes perfect sense! I still need to get clarification on what to do with the second part though.”

“Okay, I didn’t know if codes have parts. LOL! I’ll ask what to do with it,” she confirmed before shortly continuing a minute later, “Delete something is what I heard. Like there’s too much maybe?” she mentioned.

I instantly recognized what she meant. “Yes, I think I did add too much to my code,” I agreed.

Although Faith could not hear me, I was laughing again as I looked at the code and removed what I suspected was incorrect from the overall module. When I was done making changes, I eagerly tested the code, but encountered an error.  However, I remained determined and I felt in my spirit that we were on the right path.

“I have no idea what I’m talking about,” Faith texted.

“That is funny to me, because I do know what you’re saying,” I confirmed. “I deleted the problematic code, but something is still missing.”

“Okay, I’m asking,” she responded and quickly followed up with “I am hearing something about a closing statement. Do they have those in programming?”

“Yes, closing statements are in programming” I confirmed.

I scrolled to the last closing statement, but nothing looked wrong. Everything appeared to be in order, and the syntax appeared correct. While I was still searching for my mistake, I received another message from Faith.

“Maybe not in the closing closing statement but one further up in the code?” she urged without knowing I was still struggling.

Her words suddenly made sense. Of course, the issue was with the end sub statement at the tail-end of the second sub command. It was the same code I had wrestled with all day. Immediately, I found the syntax error and corrected it. My fingers couldn’t press the run button fast enough when I realized that error was likely the last barrier to making the code work. Believe it or not, it worked! Perfectly! Only God could do that. I am still in awe.  

I’ve thought over the last several days why God would do such a seemly small thing. That piece of code would never have cured cancer or solved the problems of the world. It was a mundane script for a simple operational purpose at work. Why would God bother to help me with something so menial?

I believe God is involved in the details of our lives for many reasons. He’s a good Daddy. He loves us. It’s also a testimony of His great love in the little adventures of our everyday lives for others to see. If the whole event teaches someone about His love in even the smallest way, I feel it was worth doing and certainly worth sharing.

Peace and love to you, and may you experience His reality in your life — even in the smallest of things. If He cares for each tiny sparrow, He will certainly love you that much more!

Sincerely,
Heather

The Dreamer, the Deceiver and the Unbeliever

“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” – 1 Corinthians 4:20

Does God still give gifts of apostleship, prophecy, miracles, healing, discerning spirits, words of wisdom, words of knowledge, tongues and interpreting tongues to Christians today? Theologians and otherstackofbibles_sm Christian experts frequently debate this subject. As a result, I decided to write a post about this question, not from an argumentative standpoint, but as a way to understand my own personal journey and remain grounded in the Scriptures. Over the years as I studied the Bible, examined the Greek, and witnessed God’s hand in my life and the lives of others, my thoughts about the existence and use of miraculous gifts has shifted.

Early in my Christian journey, I regularly dreamed of real events involving friends and family which had not yet occurred. These dreams were so startling they prompted me to engage and encourage the person I had dreamt about. As I interacted with friends about what was happening to me, I quickly learned these gifts were not considered “normal” within my Christian social circles. As a result, for many years I ignored these gifts which I often called “curses” because I did not understand them. I usually kept them to myself. At the time, I was very young, and I didn’t understand what those gifts are, why they happen, and from whom they are given (1 Corinthians 12:11).

As the years passed, I saw spiritual abuse by people within other denominations who claimed to have gifts like mine, using it as a gimmick to get money from gullible people. It became easy to distance myself from those false prophets. I already wanted nothing to do with my gifts and primarily went to churches that believed in cessationism, meaning the miraculous gifts ceased with the 12 Apostles. I convinced myself, despite my own experiences, that all people claiming to operate in the miraculous were frauds and fakes or they were fooling themselves.

More years passed. I knew doctrine. I knew Jesus saved me, but my spiritual life was stunted and without power for various reasons. Life was often distracting and difficult at times. God was real, but I didn’t see Him actively moving in my life; and at the time, I so desperately needed Him to show up.

Then the year 2012 happened. That was the year God encountered me and everything changed. He used a tiny prayer room, Spirit-filled Christians from different denominations, and the wife of the minister to physically heal me from an anxiety disorder that I had suffered from my whole life. I was healed in an instant, and my life transformed forever because God heard the prayers of Brothers and Sisters that night.

As I walked through the days and weeks that followed, the transformation in my life became more evident. I wanted others to know what Jesus did for me. Most of all, I wanted other people to be free. If he did it for me, I knew he’d do it again for someone else. However, as soon as I shared my testimony, I met familiar resistance. Many people around me didn’t know what to think of my story. Some try to argue that God didn’t use that night to heal me, but it was tough to disagree that I was not the same person. What really happened to me?

Soon after being healed, I moved to a non-denominational, charismatic church and witnessed believers and non-believers become healed from cancer, injuries, mental oppression, and illnesses. I also met other

Drawn for me by a lady at my church (a stranger at the time) who didn't know my story, but she said felt like God was saying He was making a beautiful flower from the ashes.
Drawn for me by a lady at my church (a stranger at the time) who didn’t know my story, but she said felt like God was saying He was making a beautiful flower from the ashes.

Christians who prophetically dreamed like me. Suddenly I was normal and ordinary which was comforting.

Experiences are great, but they can be deceiving. I appreciate them because they provide valuable perspective, but what do the Scriptures say about the miraculous gifts? The best answer I can give you is “read your Bible.” His Word is my litmus test. To settle the issue in my own heart once and for all, I researched many verses and dissected them in their original Greek. Some of the verses I reviewed were:

  • Acts 2:17-18 a reference to the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy in Joel 2:28-29 stating God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh in the last days [Greek lexicon]
  • Acts 4:10-16 the Apostles were identified as being sent by Jesus and performing miracles in His name and under His authority
  • 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 the gifts of prophecy and tongues are temporary [Greek lexicon]
  • 1 Corinthians 14:21-22 – the gift of tongues signifies that salvation is available to gentiles (also see Isaiah 28:11-12)
  • Romans 8:24 a possible connection to the “day of perfection” in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 [Greek lexicon]
  • Ephesians 2:20 a reference about the gentiles being included into the family of God upon the foundation of previous apostles and prophets. This verse is often used to state that apostles and prophets are no longer needed because Jesus, as the cornerstone, completed the Temple of the Lord.
  • Ephesians 4:11-13 Gifts and offices of the Spirit including apostles with a little “a” [Greek lexicon]
  • James 1:25 This passage talks about the perfect law has already come to compare it to 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 and Romans 8:24 [Greek lexicon]
  • Hebrews 2:3-4 Apostles (with a capital “A”) were identified as those who had been with Christ and performed signs and miracles in His name [Greek lexicon]

I hope the verses above help you come to your own conclusions, because after all the research I’ve done, I have decided the answer to whether or not God still regularly gives these gifts is not definitive. Phrases like “prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless…but when the time of perfection comes, these things will become useless” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10, emphasis added) and “[Miraculous gifts] will continue until we all come into such unity in our faith…” (Ephesians 4:11-13, emphasis added) are not easily discernible. What is the “time of perfection” and “unity in our faith”? Do these passages refer to Jesus when He walked among us, or maybe they refer to when we die and we’re united with Christ? There aren’t clear answers to these questions, and the Greek fails to define these verses in enough detail. And what do the experts say? That answer also varies depending on whom you ask. What now?

At this point, I pray. I ask God for wisdom. I ask Him for discernment. I examine my experiences with a critical eye. I ask myself if those experiences have been tested or can be tested (1 John 4:1-3). Do the experiences proclaim the Gospel and point to Jesus, or do they simply exalt a person? If they do not point to Jesus, they are not from the Lord.

No matter what stance you take on this issue, it’s not the primary focus of our lives. That designation is reserved for Jesus alone. I hope this post encourages you on your faith journey.

In His love,

Heather

Giants in the Promised Land

She stared at the monumental task before her. Its completion seemed impossible. She understood how David must have felt with only a sling and a stone to take down a giant. Her mind raced. Her heart jumped. How would she get through this moment? Wasn’t she in the center of God’s Will? Didn’t she go where the Lord had called? Why was each step such an enormous effort? Did the Lord intend for her to fail?

I can think of countless times I’ve experienced that exact distressing scenario, wondering if maybe I heard God incorrectly or somehow removed myself from His Will and protection over my life. It’s not a fun place to be. Sometimes, we further confuse ourselves when we agree

Arriving

with well-meaning but uninformed clichés, suggesting God will always remove every obstacle and open every door when we’re on the right path.

It can feel distressing when you reach a new chapter, a momentary “promised land” in life and quickly discover it’s not going to be easy due to “giants” (obstacles, challenges, struggles, problems or seemingly impossible situations) in the land before you, threatening to spoil your victory and ruin you at every turn.

One evening a few months ago during my prayer time with God, I was particularly upset and confused about a giant in my life. I complained to my Abba Father for thirty minutes, asking Him why my mission field was enormously difficult and expressing how discontent it made me feel. I can almost imagine as I whined that God was calmly listening with an “are-you-done-throwing-your-pity-party-yet-so-I-can-talk” type of look on His face.

“Please speak to me through your Scripture, Lord,” I asked piously after concluding my rant (I understand if you’re snickering at me, dear reader). Little did I know how much God would use that request to teach me about how He felt my journey was going.

Soon after I voiced my request, the reference Acts 20:19-21 came to mind. As I wrote it down, another reference, Zechariah 4:10, popped in my head. I quickly wrote it below the first reference.

I was curious to know what the verses said as they were not immediately familiar references to me. I opened my Amplified Bible and leafed through until I found the first passage from Acts:

“Serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and trials which came on me because of the plots of the Jews [against me]; [you know] how I did not shrink back in fear from telling you anything that was for your benefit, or from teaching you in public meetings, and from house to house, solemnly [and wholeheartedly] testifying to both Jews and Greeks, urging them to turn in repentance to God and [to have] faith in our Lord Jesus Christ [for salvation].”

The verse and section in context was Paul explaining that his ministry was difficult from the first day he entered his mission field in Asia and often accompanied by tears and trials. However, he concluded the end result was worth the struggle because it furthered the Gospel and glorified God.

I was floored. Did I just read that right? Did I not just complain to God about the giants in my mission field being too tall and the road too hard and too long from the first day I began this journey?

“Okay,” I mused aloud. “You’ve got my attention.”

I flipped eagerly to the other verse, now acutely aware the Lord was speaking clearly about that which I was groaning:

“Who [with reason] despises the day of small things (beginnings)? For these seven [eyes] shall rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the Lord which roam throughout the earth.”

The second piece of Scripture was a bit more difficult to figure out because of the metaphors, but with some simple research, I eventually understood. The passage was about the construction of the Temple and God’s pleasure as He oversaw the building process. Maybe I’m just seeing what I want to see, but the message was clear in my mind: The Father saw the construction within me, His Temple, growing pains and all, and was pleased.

I sat in my chair for several minutes, staring at the verses I just read. I was speechless. The words were not easy to read. God was delighted with how my journey was going. But was I? Not so much.

I wanted God to simplify my mission and agree with me to take away the obstacles, but He didn’t. Instead, I found myself having to face my giant head on. But I never fought the battle alone.

God often shows up in the most incredible ways in those dark moments when we find ourselves in Goliath’s shadow. Defeating such a giant requires faith and trust, even when the current circumstances look a lot like failure. It often means we keep fighting until we’ve reached the end. Only then do we realize God is always for us (Romans 8:28) and He’s always with us (Deuteronomy 31:6). He uses our weaknesses as His strength. Our victories over the giants in our lives grow us and prepare us to fight bigger battles. It witnesses to those who don’t know our loving God about His reality. Our testimonies of overcoming adversity teach others and build their faith to believe that they can do the same with God by their side.

Wandering in the Wilderness

“Everyone wants the promise, but no one wants to be pruned.” – Kris Vallotton

The journey of life is full of new beginnings, unexpected turns, and course resetting. Often times, when we feel like we’ve arrived, a new change shakes us or grows us. Many times, this process is painful but necessary for maturity.sand_sm

I have experienced many of my own twists and turns throughout my life journey; but through it all, God has been with me, guiding my steps and whispering reassurance to my heart along the way. You can read about my testimony and God’s goodness through my life struggles on my About Me page.

Earlier this year, I found myself at an unexpected crossroads in my career and life in general. I call it “unexpected” because I had known for years that God’s will for my life was to remain within my place of employment where I had been for the last 15 years in different positions. He confirmed His will for me to remain where I was many times by providing opportunities for me to minister to others through love and encouragement. He gave me moments to share His love and His nature with the lost, hurting, and broken. He gave me lifelong friendships for encouragement, correction, and growth. He even used my workplace to bless me with a husband who is the love of my life.

Amid the blessings were also job struggles and pains associated with maturing and disappointments along the way. In many ways, I believed my place of employment was my long-term “Promised Land” because it was where God had sent me. But then it happened — change.

Sometimes, the change in course is obvious, but sometimes it isn’t. In many previous crossroad situations, the choice was often not obvious; but in this particular case, there was no mistaking it.

Months earlier, I began to feel a deep stirring of the Spirit, nudging me and telling me it was a season of change. It was time to move. To be honest, I wasn’t excited. I know I should say I was giddy with anticipation about the prospect of moving on to a new adventure, but I wasn’t. I was finally feeling settled and comfortable in the position in which I had been placed. It certainly had its challenges and issues. In fact, there was a storm going on in that area of my life; however, I assumed it was one of those issues that would eventually get better. Plus, I knew I would give up many blessings to change careers — daily interactions with amazing friends, a position that gave me direct access to the organization’s decision-makers, and knowing how my role fits into the organization. But my heart became restless and many nights were sleepless.

I realized the first day I felt the tug of the Spirit on my soul that God was also giving me a choice. Although He told me it was time to change course, I also felt Him telling me I could remain where I was and He would bless me and others for His Kingdom’s purposes. However, I knew if I moved, it was the best choice that He had for my life. Even so, it was not an easy decision.

I asked God, “Where will you move me? Where do you want me to go?” When I didn’t receive an answer, I prayed and waited.

Although I really hate change and my stomach was quite unsettled, I answered one morning, “I am willing to go wherever you called me.” In that moment of submission, I felt like God was saying to me through unspoken words to my heart, “Understand there will be a sacrifice; but if you lean on me and relinquish control, I will give you new coordinates for your life and career. I know you’ve dreamed for many years about a specific type of job. If you go where I’m asking you to go, your dream will be realized. But it won’t be without a cost. Spiritual growth and trust in me will be necessary to see it through to the end.”

When I asked God what the path ahead would look like, desperately wanting a roadmap to make the process less intimidating, I felt like He was telling me it would look nothing like what I could anticipate, and I wouldn’t know all the answers until the end. But He knew. I just had to trust Him. As I considered the terms, I took a deep breath and watched as my season of change was set in motion.

The trust aspect became the greatest trial I faced. There were plenty of twists and turns and lots of confusion like a complex maze, just as God had warned. The process of moving took much longer than I thought it would. Patience is still an area in which God is constantly teaching and correcting me. Several days, weeks, and months passed before the process was complete. Also, there were multiple interviews at different places. When something appeared to be working out, it suddenly fell through, and I really didn’t know what or where to go until the last minute. Even after I arrived in my new workplace, I was in constant transition and helping in a couple different areas for several weeks. Although I struggled and change was hard, God was faithful and kept His promises, and I suddenly found myself with options to go into the field I love.

“Almost there! Just keep going!” I would tell myself. Some days, I said it to myself through tears. Did I mention change is hard? Sometimes, I wondered if I’d be in the Wilderness forever. For a restless heart, sometimes the waiting period can feel that way. It can be easy to lose your way and lose hope if you take your eyes off of Christ and focus on all the uncertainties. But God kept every word of the promises He gave me.

People often think of the Wilderness as punishment. They think of the Israelites wandering in the desolation for 40 years. Instead, it is usually a time of testing and trials intended to grow and strengthen us. It is a time of preparation for our next life chapter which requires more than previous situations had demanded. Wilderness moments, although sometimes extremely lonely and discouraging, is never without God’s grace (Mark 1:13). For me, the greatest experiences and often the closest I have felt to God occurred during my Wilderness moments. It makes the life struggles worth the perseverance when we see God move miraculous ways.

If you find yourself in your own Wilderness experience, take heart! You are not forgotten. God is preparing you for your next adventure. He’s giving you an opportunity to see Him move and to mature spiritually. You will see He is faithful, and you will eventually reach the end and discover your Promised Land.

May God’s peace, love, and joy accompany you along your life’s journey.

The Covert Christian: How Transformed Lives can Secretly Transform the World

In a world that’s becoming increasingly hostile to the Gospel, how do we fulfill the Great Commission to share our faith and make disciples, especially in places where it may be cropped-cropped-cropped-joyinchrist1.jpgrestricted?  For some Christians, this task may seem daunting, paralyzing or impossible.  What do we do?  Do we give up?  Do we defiantly disregard the rules placed upon us and share anyway?

As Believers, we are called to follow God’s laws over man’s laws even at great cost; however, we are also given the responsibility to exercise wisdom and good judgment when facing scenarios in which sharing our faith is restricted (Acts 5:29; Ephesians 5:15-16).  You could disregard the rules; but in many instances, this may not be the wisest option.  In some instances, disobedience may be necessary, and should be used as a last resort (Acts 5:29).  In other situations, you must weigh the degree and necessity of actions which may cause you to lose access to the people to whom God called you to minister.  We must always do what is right, but we must also ask who will reach the lost if we’re not there as His testimony and witness.

The Power of a Transformed Life

One key way to share the Gospel in our workplaces or other places where we may face restrictions is through transformed lives.  Actions almost always impact people more strongly than words.  The words we speak may tell people who we are and what we think, but our actions tell people what we believe and Who’s we are.  When others see how we live, it should cause them to wonder why we live that way and for whom we live.

A Changed Heart Begins with a Renewed Mind

Before we can live in a way that reflects Jesus, our lives must be transformed from the inside-out.  This means our minds must be renewed, and Jesus must drive our new motives and mindsets (Romans 12:2).  A renewed mind means we change our ways of thinking, hoping, believing, and trusting.  We have new perspectives, new motives, and allow His will to become ours.  It means we choose to let go of the attitudes that once controlled our thought life and drove our motives without God (Romans 6:6).  As with salvation, once we have renewed minds, we act out what we believe in our hearts (Romans 10:9-10).  What we act out should be evidence of the motives of our hearts and what we believe.

Evidence of a Transformed Life

The Scriptures place a high emphasis on our lives as a powerful witnessing tool and declaration of what we believe (James 2:17-18):

  • Our thoughts and attitudes change to reflect His Spirit within us. – 1 John 3:5-6
  • We produce the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. – Galatians 5:22-23
  • People will know we are Jesus’s followers because of our great love for each other. – John 13:35
  • Our eyes reflect His light of purity and righteousness within us. – Luke 11:34
  • We chose mercy over judgment even when the world claims we have a right to be justly unmerciful. – James 2:13
  • We speak the truth and mean what we say. – 1 John 3:18-19
  • We “do what is right” when faced with tough moral choices. – 1 John 2:29
  • We keep God’s commandments. – 1 John 2:3-5

I’ve often found that when you exhibit facets of the character of God through the fruit of the Spirit, other people notice.  I don’t say this pridefully.  After all, it’s not me whom they see.  It’s Him.  If we live our lives in a way that reflects who He is, other people will be drawn to His attractive nature within us.  Questions like: “Why is there something different about you?”, “Why do you live that way?”, and “How can you forgive when I never could in your situation?” are open doors to share the Gospel with others.

May God use your life as such a powerful testimony of His love, mercy and grace that people are drawn to the Light you carry.  May they also see the radiance and genuine expression of grace and mercy that clearly reflects the evidence of a transformed life.  In many ways, this is the call of the In-Place Missionary — which is you!

An Encounter with God through Prophetic Ministry

I hear His voice again — it’s the familiar, gentle nudge to speak a specific word of encouragement into a person’s life. The word fills my ears, although my natural ears never hear it. It becomes my breath, permeating the air around me. It floods my mind and soul. The word He gives is specific and deep yet simple.

friends

I glance over to the woman for whom the word will be given. My introverted, shy heart races; and doubt suddenly clouds my mind. What if I heard wrong? What if she isn’t receptive? What if she rejects me?

“Faith requires risk,” I remind myself.

A second gentle nudge shakes away the confusion. His tender voice repeats the same word. Peace accompanies it and anchors within my heart. As new courage builds within me, I walk over to deliver the word. Now, it’s time to speak.

The person before me stares for a long moment with curiosity as the word flows from my mouth like a living spring. As it touches the woman, her eyes well with tears. The word ministers to her in ways I can only imagine.

“How did you know?” she asks. “I’ve prayed about that issue for months.” It takes her mind a moment to realize God just encountered her for something her heart was desperately seeking. Her shocked expression shifts to a broad smile.

For a moment, I see through His eyes, staring upon her with unfathomable love, grace, and mercy. I feel His immense compassion; my heart is full of uncontainable joy. The emotions are overwhelming. My eyes also fill with tears.

Recent strangers quickly become sisters. The woman hugs me. The Presence of God always carries relationship from which life and love flow. We celebrate God’s revelation for her, and we pray together. The woman is forever changed by her God encounter. Honestly, I won’t be the same either.

This story is from another “ordinary” day as a follower of our amazingly loving and personal God. Like you, I am a simple conduit of His love. The story above is true and an illustration of how God can use anyone to minister to people. We just have to be willing to wait, listen, and respond when He calls to us.

Love and peace to you, friends. I pray this story encourages you to seek His Presence and share His love boldly when the opportunity arises. It’s time to be His hands and feet to this broken world.

Today is a Good Day

Have you ever had “one of those days”? I’m talking one of thosesmiles can’t do anything right, your car dies, you’re sick and nothing is going right kind of days? Sometimes, it’s hard to feel thankful when the day seems to exist just cause pain and misery. Today has been one of those days — um — weeks for me. The transmission died on my car. My health has been poor. Fire ants invaded my house by the hundreds (counted by the number I saw/squished as they crawled across the floor). The electricity inside my house went bonkers and has already knocked out a panel in my television, ruined one telephone and drained my smoke detectors. And to add to all of those things, the electrician forgot to show up this morning. I spilled scalding, hot soup all over myself. It seems everything I have touched has gone terribly lately! Sigh…yeah, it’s been one of those kinds of weeks.

On days like these, how do we find joy, peace and grace? As I ponder this question today, I am reminded the blessings in my life far outweigh the bad things. Even if I lost everything tomorrow, I am still the richest woman alive. I have wonderful family and friends. I have a good, stable job. I can pay my bills, and I have food to eat. My health issues, although annoying, are few and temporary. I was born in a country where I can worship how I like and write blogs like this one without fear. I have the love of my God, and He calls me “highly favored.” I have carpet and tile under my feet, a big squishy chair to sit upon as I type this blog entry, heating and air conditioning and fresh, clean running water. Yeah, life is pretty good.

So instead of feeling sorry for myself for the cruddy day/week I’ve experienced, I’m determined to say, “It has been a good day. I’m a daughter of the King, and I’m highly favored.” I choose joy. I think the day is looking up already. 🙂

Who God is to Me

How do you know God is real? Various people in my life havebutterfly-lens-flare asked me this question from time to time. And it’s a good question. I truly respect people who can say they have the faith to believe in a God they never see, hear or experience; however, I struggled occasionally with a certain level of doubt about who God is and at what level He is involved with humanity. This is my open and honest self-assessment.

Most of my Christian life (about 20 years) was based on faith alone. For a while, that was good enough, but it was difficult to maintain. I grew up in a church that claimed to believe in a powerful God, but I never saw Him move. I just knew He saved me, and that was enough. And it truly IS enough based on Jesus’s “mustard seed” statement in Matthew 17:20. But I wanted more, and my whole life was about to turn upside down.

The past three and a half years have been the most transformative years of my life. My life changing journey began with a simple prayer to know God at a deeper level. I told Him I was thankful for saving me, but I wanted to actually know Him as more than my “knight in shining armor.” I wanted a real relationship beyond saving the “damsel in distress.”

A couple of weeks later, I was offered an opportunity to join a discipleship group with two other wonderful women. This was a major step for me as an introvert. I didn’t know either of the other two women very well, and it caused major stress and discomfort for me at the time. However, I decided I would never grow spiritually if I didn’t try something; and, I reluctantly agreed to join the study.

A year passed, and the strangers in my discipleship study became like close sisters. Each of us had our own journeys and struggles, but we perfectly complimented each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I’m extremely thankful to God and to those two women for those days. I’m not sure I could have made it through the months that followed without such amazing support and love as my foundation. By the end of the discipleship study, I began to realize I didn’t know God well at all. This realization broke my heart, and it pushed me even harder to keep searching. Was it a divine appointment for the three of us to meet? I’d like to think so.

The months that followed were some of the hardest in my life. I’ve mentioned different pieces of this part of my life in previous blog entries. I’ve come to understand that, at least in my story, it’s hard to truly know God if you don’t have a situation where dependence on His provision and divine intervention aren’t required. That story is long; therefore, I’ll simply point you to a previous entry that details a series of amazing events that occurred. Here’s very short summary: In a day, I was pulled out a dire situation and given a new opportunity. I was healed from a crippling anxiety disorder and learned the immensity of God’s love. These events radically changed the direction of my life and a level of understanding God.

For months after that life changing moment, I experienced and witnessed things I couldn’t explain. I was from a denomination that didn’t believe in speaking in tongues, but I spoke in tongues anyway. I watched the emotional crutches (over-planning for every situational outcome) I had been using to cope with my anxiety slowly dissolve away. Even my own family admits I’m a different person. I’m strong and confident (although still an introvert). I can speak in front of large crowds, and I don’t become a quivering puddle of gelatin. Life still has its stressful moments, but I’m not anxious. What a difference!

During the last year and half of my life, I saw two dear friends come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior. They claimed some of the events that led to their decisions to follow Jesus were supernatural in nature, and I believe them. They are both normal, logical and sane individuals. How do you explain away things like a car radio cycling through stations with static except for the words “don’t doubt the Word of God” with each word on a different station? My friend’s daughter witnessed the whole thing. If it wasn’t God, but it really happened, then how did it happen?

I’ve also witnessed and personally experienced physical healing. How do you explain away a fever leaving a body or pain and swelling leaving a pair of legs in a moment of prayer? Both occurrances happened. The girl with the fever was one of my discipleship study friends. I was the one with the swollen shins. These experiences as well as being healed from the anxiety disorder have recently stirred a passion to join a local healing ministry to help others find wholeness is Christ.

At this point in my life, I’ve experienced too many seemingly coincidental or unexplainable moments to not believe God is real and deeply cares about us. He cares not just about our final destination but about the person we become and the lives we touch along the way.

Confessions of a (Mostly) Reformed Control Freak

Okay, I admit it. I’m hopelessly addicted to trying to control my own situations and the outcomes — or at least I was. Now, I’m jumping into the abyss with both feet, and I’m learning how to not be afraid to fall.

Take a dive

People who don’t know me well may perceive my new found disregard for over-planning and over-strategizing to be reckless or naïve, but I assure you this assessment couldn’t be further from the truth. After years of trying to do things my own way, I’m finally learning to let go of my controlling death grip one finger at a time and just trust God. He is constantly faithful even when I fail to trust His plans and timing (Psalms 136:1-7).

My over-planning antics aren’t working so well. I have spent the majority of my life meticulously planning, strategizing, and implementing all sorts of scenarios, attempting to anticipate the outcomes. I feared the “what ifs?” of life, and anxiety was usually the root cause of the need to feel in control. Although I no longer battle the same level of unhealthy anxiety I once did (see blog post “My Encounter with the God of Love“), I’m hardheaded enough to still demand to do things my own way; and, as a result, I cause needless turmoil for myself along the way. I want to live a life without surprises and without heartache; but God continues to lovingly remind me that I’m never really in control no matter how hard I try (James 4:14-15).

Sometimes, painful experiences amplify spiritual immaturity or weaknesses. The biggest revelation regarding my control freak issues occurred within the past couple of years. I was confronted in my spirit that my struggle for control over the little things in life have caused me to be less willing to relinquish control over big things. In essence, I was indirectly demanding for God to take a backseat while I handled whatever the issue of the day was on my own. In my blog post “He is Worthy to be Trusted, Part 1: My story of hope during financial crisis”, I described the terrifying situation when my husband’s job and the family business was simultaneously lost shortly after he and I married. This was one of many circumstances God used to show me just how out of control I am and how sovereign and trust worthy He is. Glory be to the God who hears our cries and lifts us from the miry clay of our circumstances. As difficult as some situations can be, I don’t regret the out of control moments. The most spiritually growing times of my life have occurred in the midst of trial or pain.

God is a loving father. Do I believe God caused the job loss or the turmoil surrounding the situation? No, I have never believed He would do harm to His children, but I do know that He will use a bad situation to strengthen us, to teach us how to trust, and to grow closer to Him. Also, I believe the submissive act of relinquishing control allows God to use us. If you are willing to trust, He’ll never fail you, and you’ll never be too afraid to jump (Romans 8:28).

In Summary. I’m not trying to suggest with this blog post that planning and strategizing are bad efforts. They are good practices for aiding us with achieving the optimal goal. After all, you will rarely go anywhere without first planning to eventually end up somewhere. However, it’s important to remember that sometimes we don’t have all the answers and we need help. Sometimes, life is difficult and a situations get out of control. The good news is that God knows every situation and its outcome; He is always in control. The only way to know for sure if what God says about being worthy of trust is true is to hold you nose and take the plunge.

When He calls you to walk upon the water with Him, will you trust Him to guide you atop the violent waves of this life? The most liberating decision I ever made was just to trust God at His word and let the rest go.

 

 

 

My Encounter with the God of Love

I suffered from an anxiety disorder most of my life. In addition to this disorder, I felt shame and unworthy of God’s love and grace even though I had been a Christian for almost 20 years. But now, I can’t deny I’m loved.

In September 2012, I found myself sitting in a prayer service thanks to the strong urging

Joy and freedom

of a good friend. I remember listening to the live praise music and other Christians around me worshiping God with a love and adoration I didn’t yet understand. I felt nothing. After months of crying and begging God to pull me out of a desperate situation that had only deepened my anxiety and depression, I was completely drained.

“I know you’re real and powerful God, but where are you?” I remember thinking.

The prayer service message that night was all about oppression, mental and physical bondage and how our spirits are affected by these things. As the prayer director spoke, I realized I was the person who needed to hear the message.

“What an odd coincidence,” I remember thinking. But now I know it was a divine appointment.

When the message concluded, there was an opportunity for prayer and worship before we were dismissed. That’s when I felt a tug on my heart as if God was saying, “Go ask for prayer” – so I went to the alter. As the prayer director began to pray over me, she motioned for an intercessor to join us. The girl who assisted didn’t know my story, but immediately said words I’ll never forget, “God wants to know He hears your cries. You think He’s not listening; but He hears you, and He loves you. He calls you His precious daughter.”

After the young intercessor spoke, the prayer director placed her hand on my forehead and prayed for God to break the hold of spiritual oppression and restore my joy. Suddenly, I was overcome with an immediate feeling of immense love and joy. It struck me so hard and so fast that I felt like I might stagger backwards during the prayer, and that’s when the giggles started — and I couldn’t stop. During prayer, joy and happiness overpowered me, and the silly giggles increased into laughter. I felt the love of the Father completely engulf me, sweeping away the pain and the darkness I suffered for so many years.

When the prayer ended, I realized I was a different person. My anxiety disorder was gone and peace had replaced it. I undeniably know God loves me. I will never question His love for me again. For the first time in my life, I have learned to trust with my whole heart.

Thank you for reading my story, and I hope it has encouraged you.