Fear Won’t Steal My Voice

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As a young child, I believed several lies about myself.  I felt that I was vastly inferior in certain areas such as physical appearance, social graces, coordination, athletic ability, and the ability to speak with people I didn’t know very well.  I was sure that I would be rejected, so the fear of rejection was my constant companion.  I didn’t know about “the fear of rejection”, this was just my reality.  It was just the way the world worked, and I lived and made decisions to protect myself from rejection.

In Elementary school I always got an “A ”in conduct, because I was well behaved and talked very little.  I didn’t want to do anything that would draw attention to myself. I wanted to hide or at least blend in to avoid any negative reactions.  In new situations with new people, I felt almost paralyzed by the fear.  Faced with a social situation that required small talk, my mind became absolutely blank.  I couldn’t think of a single thing to say.

Fear would steal my voice.

This continued until junior high when something amazing happened.  God began to alter my path.  My first boyfriend, Jesse, invited me to his church (Word Fellowship which is now Life Center) for a youth event.  I agreed to go simply because I liked Jesse so much.  I found myself in the church gym, surrounded by the overpowering smell of fresh onions, helping to assemble hundreds of subs for the youth fundraiser.  [Here is a little fun fact: who do you think rode into the gym on a skateboard and was introduced to me as Jesse’s best friend?  None other than Chris Brandenburg!  Of course I was too shy to really talk to him at that point.]

This youth fundraiser was also an overnight event complete with food and fun games.  Jesse was very outgoing and knew everyone at the church.  He also loved the game of bombardment, which is similar to dodge ball.  The thought of participating in anything that would expose my physical awkwardness was terrifying to me.  I was hoping that Jesse would sacrifice his love for the game to stay with me.  But he didn’t.  He left me in the youth room while he returned to the gym.

I found a chair to sit in and felt completely alone.  The fear of rejection had me so paralyzed that I didn’t move from that spot for what seemed like hours.  Other students came and went, some sitting close to me to carry on a conversation.  But not a single person spoke to me.  I didn’t move or even look at them.  I tried to become invisible and wished I had never come.

Yet when Jesse invited me to come to a Wednesday night youth service, I found myself saying, “I’ll be there.”  I showed up that Wednesday night, but I still felt very uncomfortable.  A ray of sunshine by the name of Patty Leach (wife of the youth pastor) shone on me.  She said with a big smile on her lovely face, “So you are Anne?  You are a lot prettier than Jesse’s last guest.” [Disclaimer: Jesse’s last guest was a boy so this was not really an insult to say that he wasn’t pretty.]

Just the fact that someone had spoken to me and called me pretty was very encouraging!  I continued to come for a few months and felt confused by this charismatic church culture.  It was all new and strange.

One wintery Wednesday night changed everything for me – forever!  There was a guest speaker who I had never seen before.  At the end of his sermon, he asked us to come up to the front if we wanted prayer.  I found myself standing in the front with a whole crowd of other teenagers.  I don’t know how I got there, as usually fear would have me rooted to my seat.  He began to pray for the students and they seemed really impacted. A few of them started to cry.

“I wonder if he will know that I don’t believe in this stuff.”  I thought to myself.

Sure enough, he knew.  The youth pastor, John Leach, appeared seemingly out of nowhere and asked if I wanted to be saved.  The truth was, I didn’t know what “saved” meant and had never heard the “sinner’s prayer.”  But I said yes, and repeated the prayer after John.  I hadn’t been looking for God.  I didn’t believe in Him or felt that I needed Him.  Yet He burst into my heart anyway.  I felt Him and I felt His amazing love for me.  The scales fell off of my eyes and the world seemed entirely new to me.

This was the beginning of my freedom from fear!  It didn’t happen overnight.  I came each Wednesday night to youth group which was called Heirborne, but I still hadn’t made many friends.  It seemed that everyone else was a part of the group but me.  I was a silent observer most of the time.  One night I went home feeling the sting of rejection.  No one had been mean to me, but I felt like such an outsider.

“I can’t continue to do this to myself, this is torture.” I reasoned.  I would just have to tell Jesse that this church thing wasn’t really for me.  I was very serious about never returning to Heirborne again.

I never did have that conversation with Jesse. I was probably just too shy.  I found myself at youth group each Wednesday and gradually I made friends.  Slowly I learned that small talk wasn’t brain surgery.  Slowly I began to feel like I belonged there.

Sometime during my high school years, John’s brother Bryan took over as youth pastor.  He had a crazy idea; the youth should help to lead Heirborne.  He chose a group of us and called us the SALT team (Student Action Leadership Team).  Just the fact that Bryan had chosen me sent me an important message.  I had value.  I didn’t have to be like anyone else.  I could be myself, and I could be an important member of the team.  Bryan and his wife Marcey helped me to realize my worth.

We would meet once a week to pray and plan the next youth meeting.  We would take turns being responsible for different parts of the service – offering, announcements, and the teaching.  We would brainstorm wild ideas for skits or fun games that would illustrate the main point of the teaching.  I found myself up front speaking, teaching, or even dressed in crazy costumes doing ridiculous skits.  Talk about being out of my comfort zone!

Just the fact that I was able to get up in front of a group of people and talk was MIRACULOUS!

Once I was chosen to portray a “party girl” in a skit.  It was supposed to be a game show that had many different types of people answering the questions.  I would have never chosen this character for myself, being just the opposite of a “party girl.”  Yet I was determined to do the best job that I could.  I wore the closest thing to a mini skirt that I owned (which really was practically down to my knees).  A friend teased my hair until it was perfect 80s “big hair”.  I got out there with all the other crazy characters and acted as loud and obnoxious as I could, yelling out about wanting a case of “Red Bull.”

I felt absolutely ridiculous, yet there was no fear!  I wasn’t worried about being rejected by the other teens at youth that night.  I was just having fun and hoping that I could help the other teens have fun, feel a part of the group, and learn about God.  I stopped thinking about myself and began to want to be a blessing to others.  Fear became less and less a part of my life as I graduated High School and did missions with Youth With A Mission.  Preaching in front of others and meeting new people from all over the world became exhilarating.

I came back from YWAM and married that kid on the skateboard, Chris Brandenburg.  After a year of working and being youth leaders, we moved to Colorado Springs. We became part of a small church, but after 7 years I experienced the biggest rejection of my life.

I had always dealt with the FEAR of rejection but now what I had dreaded had come upon me.  The church (which was comprised of our leaders, closest friends, and spiritual family – almost our ENTIRE support network there in Colorado), kicked us out.  The main leader, Mary, told Chris that we could no longer be part of the church because of MY iniquities.  She said that I was interfering with their prayers.  She said I was holding Chris back from his destiny and that I was not the woman that God had wanted him to marry.  She said that I would one day leave him.  Once that happened, Chris could return to the church. Imagine hearing these words from someone you honored and respected as your leader.  I honored and respected Mary, but I also feared her. Mary had spoken harsh words to me before.  I had tried my best to follow God, yet she was always able to find something about me to criticize.  I remember thinking, “I will never be free until Mary dies.”  Isn’t that horrible?

Thankfully Mary didn’t have to die for me to be free from fear.  She just had to reject me, and God began to set me free!

I sought God like never before and do you know what I realized?

All of His words to me were good!

He loved me, more that I could take in or comprehend!

He delighted in me and actually liked me!

He gave me so much joy, more than I had ever had before!

He began to show me that the church that had rejected me did not have His heart.  Rather, they were working for the Accuser of the Brethren.  I am sure that the enemy of my soul, that dirty rotten liar of an accuser had a plan that he thought was fool proof.  He would link my heart and my identity to this little church and then turn them against me.  I would finally suffer the dreaded REJECTION and receive a mortal wound that would fester until the bitterness had consumed me.

BUT GOD…

GOD came down and saved me and filled me with His acceptance.  He loved me no matter what I had done right or wrong.  He loved me whether I had accomplished anything important or not.  Because of Him, I had a value that nothing could ever take away.

I had come face to face with my greatest fear.

I had met REJECTION and stared into its ugly, contorted face and you know what…it wasn’t so bad.

In fact, I actually felt honored that a church that had fallen so far from the Amazing Grace of God had rejected me. I wouldn’t have wanted to be the type of person that they would have accepted – one that feared men more than God.  It was a compliment that The Accuser had felt that I was enough of a threat to come after me like that.

Now I look back at that rejection and feel that it was one of the biggest blessings in my life!  I learned so much about God and about myself, and I was set free from that cult.  Of course I had a lot of healing to do, a lot of wrong teachings to unlearn.

Again, Life Center played a big role in my freedom from fear.  A year after that big rejection, Life Center offered Chris a job and helped to move us back to PA.  The atmosphere of love and acceptance at that wonderful church was just what we needed to heal.

I would love to say that now I never feel fear, that I boldly go speaking the Words of God wherever I go.  That is not the case.  Fear, specifically fear of rejection, is still my biggest hurdle to overcome before doing anything out of my normal routine.  Something as simple as making a phone call, walking across the street to talk to a neighbor, initiating a conversation with a stranger, or speaking in front of a group can bring on a flurry of anxious thoughts.  I would rather stay in my safe zone and never have to risk rejection again.  But now, it is usually very easy to silence those thoughts.  I simply stop thinking about myself and ask God to make me a blessing to whoever I am going to encounter.

Speaking at the Propel meeting was just an example of this.  I have enjoyed attending the monthly Propel meetings over the last year.  I have sat in the audience and looked up on stage at the many beautiful women and have been touched by their amazing stories.  Yet, I would think to myself, “I would never want to sit up there with them where everyone could see me and realize that I am not as pretty as the others.”

When Patty called me last week to ask if I would share at the February meeting, immediately that fearful thought flashed through my mind.  I heard myself saying, “Yes, I can be there,” because there was a much more dominating thought.  That thought was, “I know that God has put something inside of me that could be a blessing to the other women…

 and I don’t want fear to steal my voice again!”

Fear tried to silence my voice.  But in God I have found my voice.  Many times when I talk to a group or one on one – I can feel God speaking through me.  I feel lies being broken.  I feel atmospheres shifting.  I feel hope rising.  I feel peace coming down and settling.  When I am in tune with Christ, THERE IS POWER in my voice!  Yet many times I must chose to overcome fear before I am able to open my mouth.

Fear feels to me like Paul’s thorn in the flesh.  In 2 Cor 12:8-10 he says, “Three times I pleaded with the LORD to take it away from me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

There is also power in my written words.  Power to crack open strongholds.  Power to impart wisdom.  Power to lead others to God.  I have loved exploring the power of my written words with this blog.  There is a certain amount of fear involved with telling your inner most thoughts to the world.  But I am not trying to make myself look perfect to avoid rejection.  In fact, most of my articles are about my weaknesses, my insecurities, my mistakes, and my failures. That is where I find His Grace.  That is where my real power lies – in my imperfection.  For when I am weak…

Then God shows Himself Strong!

Areli’s Adventure in Australia

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Areli says that she is not a writer, so I will try to tell her story as best I can.  The real beauty of this article will be all the wonderful photos that Areli was able to capture on her Australian Adventure.

This adventure began back in September of 2015.  This was when the youth leaders, Ben and Dylan called a meeting for anyone interested in going on the summer missions trip.  I took Areli, who was so excited to finally get the opportunity to try missions.  I was thrilled as well, having done 5 trips as a young woman.  I understood how impactful and life changing they are.  We learned at the meeting that the destination of the trip had not yet been determined, but it would probably be somewhere in Africa, Asia, or Europe.  Oh my…that is most of the world…and so very far from home.

Areli jumped into the unknown with two feet; praying, seeking God, and participating in fund-raising events.

Sometime around February, the exact location had been chosen…rather revealed by God, and it wasn’t Africa, Asia, or Europe.

It was Australia!

                Someone had been praying for Dylan and prophesied to him that he would lead a team to Australia.  Then one of the girls on the team had a dream that they were all on a beach in Australia helping a man in a red shirt.  When the leaders shared this dream with their contact in Australia, Nick from Kenmore Baptist church, Nick said that they had a group in their church that wore red shirts!  They were called “The Red Frogs” and they ministered to young adults.  So Australia it was!

It turned out that the only time that the team could travel to the “land down under” was the perfect time to be there.  It was during their winter break when the Kenmore Baptist Church ran the Kids Holiday Club.  This ministered to 380 children, many of whom were unchurched children whose parents needed a safe place for them to be while they were at work.  Also, Georgian and Winnie Banov just happened to be at Glory City Church in Brisbane during this time as well!  I love how God works out the perfect place at the perfect time.

The team (which consisted of two guy leaders, two women leaders, 16 high school girls, and three high school boys) dove into training almost every weekend starting in April.  They had homework each week, to read a chapter of Translating God by Shawn Bolz and complete the workbook.  This included many practical applications such as giving encouraging words to three people during the week.  I highly recommend this book.  I have only read three chapters of it so far and I have encountered revelations from God’s heart that have opened my heart and mind with each chapter!

They practiced listening to God, praying and prophesying over each other, and praying and prophesying over strangers.  They practiced treasure hunting at Lancaster’s First Friday.  Areli and a group of girls prayed for God to give them clues that would lead them to His special treasure (a person who He wanted them to share His love with).  One of the girls got an impression in her mind of the name Angelica.  Areli decided to purchase a bunch of flowers and they started giving flowers away while they searched for Angelica.  It was time to return and they hadn’t found her, so Jessica yelled out, “Angelica!”

A girl close to them turned around and said in shock and amazement, “How did you know my name?”

“God loves you and he knows your name,” Andrea said.  They gave her their very last rose and Angelica walked away still marveling at the fact that God had called her out of the crowd!

Chris and I were a bit concerned about the $3,000 Areli needed for her trip.  “Where God guides, He always provides,” we used to say in YWAM, and Areli didn’t seem worried as she enjoyed preparing for her trip.  Almost immediately Areli received generous donations that covered her entire trip!

My mother’s heart was overwhelmed and undone, and I felt God say, “None of Areli’s faithfulness has gone unnoticed by me.”

You see, Areli works in the home day after day cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and taking care of her special needs sister and her younger siblings.  She almost always has a good attitude.  If she worked out of the home doing the same things, she would have quite a nest egg by now!  She pours herself out every day for her family, and now her trip was covered!

She still needed spending money, some new clothes, and her dream was to get a new, better camera to satisfy her passion for photography.  Now we felt confident that God would provide all of those needs as well…and He did!

Quickly the time for the most anticipated trip had arrived.  The team was traveling on Air Canada, and I downloaded the App so I could follow their progress across the world and pray for them.  Throughout the day on Wednesday, June 29th, I saw that their first flight out of Baltimore was being delayed again and again.  They finally took off, but their connecting flight in Toronto was supposed to be leaving as they were descending into the Toronto airport.  Air Canada held the airplane as the missions team RAN through the airport and security as fast as they could.  They made it!

After a 5 hour flight to Vancouver and a 14 hour flight to Brisbane, they were there…and they had lost Thursday.  It was now Friday morning even though their bodies were ready for bed.  They decided that the best way to beat the jet lag was to stay awake all day and spend it at the beach, the Gold Coast Beach.  It was a little cooler there (sixties) being the dead of winter, but it was a lovely day!  They even found some strangers to pray for and encourage.

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On Saturday the team visited the Byron Bay Light House and explored and treasure hunted.  Areli’s group got the clue, “Bumble Bee” but they weren’t sure what that meant.  Later in the day, they saw a girl dressed in yellow and black and talked with her and prayed for her.

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Sunday morning the team had to pack up because they were leaving the basic motel where they had been staying.  The leaders were preparing the students for the worse, hinting that they would probably be roughing it in conditions far inferior to the motel.  Areli said they were all bracing themselves for what was coming next…when they arrived at a beautiful 10 bedroom, 6 bathroom mansion!  This was a “God thing” as the tennis team who had rented this house for the week had just pulled out before one of the leaders had called to inquire.  And it was less expensive than the hotels in the area.  It was right in the city and prefect for the youth training meeting that they would be hosting for Kenmore Baptist Church.

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The team threw a surprise party for Gillian

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Sunday the team went to encourage racers in the Gold Coast Marathon.  Dylan and Leah actually ran the half marathon while the other team members ran part of it or cheered and encouraged people from the sidelines.  Areli ended up speed walking for 6 miles and she was exhausted! The team still had energy to try some surfing.

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That evening they attended the service at Kenmore Baptist Church and met a lot of the members of the church that they would be working with.

Sunday night while they were all sleeping, it was just Sunday afternoon here in PA.  Chris and I decided to invite the amazing families of the missions team to our home for a cookout.  Many of the parents and their other children were able to come.  We had a wonderful time getting to know each other better and sharing the sketchy details that had been trickling in from our children.  Some of the parents had purchased international packages for their child’s cell phones and were able to talk or Skype, but not very much.  We hadn’t purchased one, but had hoped that Areli would be able to connect to Wi-Fi to message us.  It turns out that in Australia Wi-Fi is not such a big deal and hard to find.  Still, I had received an email and a text from one of the leaders, Amelia, who was able to send me a Picture of Areli smiling on the beach.  That warmed my heart and put my mind at ease.

Areli on Gold Coast

I thought about what faith my mom had to allow me to travel to Mexico for two weeks without hearing a word from us until we returned.  I missed Areli so badly and wanted to hear from her about all that she was doing.  Well, talking to the other parents was the next best thing.

Soon all the parents retired into the sitting room while the children went to shoot hoops at the park.  We had peace and quiet to share amazing stories and pray for the team.  There was such a sense of joyous expectation for what God was going to do.  I was sad that I wasn’t able to go to Australia myself, to participate in this wonderful trip.  Then I realized that I was sending my very heart and soul and DNA; all that I had taught Areli and invested into her was now being released to bless the people of Australia!  One Dad mentioned how a teenager grows and comes into their own on a trip like this in a way they never could do with their parents with them. Another Dad said he saw springs of living water welling up in the floor in the middle of our prayer circle and going out to all the world.  I was so encouraged by all of these things.

Monday the team spent the morning helping with the Kids Holiday Club and made some great friends.

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Areli and her new friend Alexia

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The afternoon was spent training the youth and young adults of the church in prophecy.  The Kenmore Baptist Church was just beginning to discover the gifts of the Spirit, and most of them had not prophesied before.  Prophecy is simply sharing with other people God’s heart of love for them, sometimes tapping into God’s knowledge of things that we would never know on our own. This was a key ministry and transforming for the young people of the church.  Some of them heard God’s voice for the first time!  Areli prayed for an Australian, Alexia who would become one of her best friends on the trip.  Areli had received the word “Hope” by one of the leaders.  Areli saw that Alexia was like a hope dispenser, giving hope to everyone she met.  Alexia was quite moved by this revelation.  (Sometime later in the trip it was clear that Alexia’s prophetic gift of bringing hope and encouragement had indeed been activated!  She went from person to person on the bus, praying for all who were present.  Then she continued praying for every shop with in sight.  She was catching God’s vision for people and the city and she just couldn’t stop!) Following the prophetic training, they all went out treasure hunting and then returned to the house for an American style Fourth of July barbeque.

Tuesday was more Kids Holiday Club, Prophetic Training, treasure hunting and a bonfire with the church youth.  Wednesday’s schedule was very similar with the treasure hunting taking place at Southbank.  Areli’s group received the clue “orange” so they walked towards the orange Brisbane sign and then towards an orange bridge behind it.  Once they got there, they saw a boy in an orange shirt.  They tried to talk to him but he spoke no English, only Italian.  This was discouraging because they had been walking for a long time and seemed to have hit a dead-end.

After walking a bit longer, Emma and Gillian both began signing the same song about a consuming fire, so “fire” was the next clue.  They encountered Ben who encouraged them that the Italian guys were probably a clue that was pointing to the Italian restaurant across the street.  As they walked towards the Italian restaurant, one the Australian guys said he got the clue, “woman” and “broken foot.” They saw another restaurant setting food on fire so they continued towards the fire.  Then they kept going towards orange traffic cones (from the original clue) until they got to the street corner.  Around the street corner they saw…a woman with a broken foot!  The entire group was taken aback by this very obvious fulfillment of the clue and how many clues it had taken to get them there!  They prayed for the woman and she was very blessed!

Another team was running along the streets because the time was running out.  One of the Australian guys stopped running and Andrea asked him why.  He said that he had an old ankle injury that prevented him from running.  He had been big into riding his mountain bike in competitions.  Andrea prayed for him and his ankle was miraculously healed.  (Later in the trip his wrist was also healed.  Another healing happened, but I am not sure exactly when so I will include it here.  Emma was praying for a teen who hadn’t been able to touch his toes since a childhood skiing accident.  He was healed and Emma got a video of him happily touching his toes about a thousand times!)

Thursday morning the team visited the Kai Coffee house, owned by a friend of Ben.  They prayed for and encouraged this friend and his family.

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After that, the team went hiking on the sunshine coast.

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They attended a revival meeting in the evening.

Friday they got to attend a leadership workshop given by Banning Liebscher of Jesus Culture.  That evening they went to Glory City Church for Georgian and Winnie Banov’s service.  They all prayed for people at the end.  Areli and a few other girls were praying for a woman and Jessica got the word “child” for that woman.  She said that she and her husband had been trying to conceive a child, so the girls prayed for God to send her that very special blessing!

On Saturday the team helped Kenmore Baptist Church with a service project.  They built a fence around the yard of a single mother who had two daughters.  One of her daughters had special needs like our daughter Ashlyn.  However, this girl couldn’t talk or walk at all.  Apparently she was very good at getting around despite her disability, because there had been an incident when the neighbors noticed the girl crawling down the street while her mother was unaware in the house…hence the need for a fence!  When I saw pictures of the white picket fence and the raised flower beds that they created around the yard, I was struck by how beautiful it was!

Saturday evening was spent helping Georgian and Winnie again.

Sunday morning the team went to street markets and did some shopping.  They visited the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

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After that they had fun on at a local watering hole.

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They attended the evening service at Kenmore Baptist Church.  Ben and Dylan preached and the team prayed for the people.  Many of the Australians went out to eat with them, and they said their tearful goodbyes.  The team had gained such wonderful friends, and they all want to go back and visit.

Monday morning began their 28 hour return trip home.  I was so excited the entire day and watched my phone to track their progress.  Cadin was counting the hours until Areli walked through the door because he was tired of cleaning the kitchen, he said.

Areli came home at midnight, tired but happy.  Over the next few weeks she has been telling us the marvelous stories.  She said that the biggest thing she learned on the trip was that praying for strangers and making new friends was not as hard as she thought!  The team’s love and wiliness to work impacted everyone they met.  What is more, the gifts that they helped to discover and activate in the youth of the Kenmore Baptist Church will continue to transform the Brisbane area and beyond with the love of a Good Father who knows each of His children by name!

God is ALWAYS better than we think He is

“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

This is a famous quote from the Hiding Place, a true story written by Corrie Ten Boom.  She and her sister Betsy had defied the Nazis by hiding Jews in their home.  When their house was raided, the Jews were never discovered in the expertly designed hiding place, but Corrie and Betsy were taken into custody and eventually put into a concentration camp.  Corrie experienced the horrors of a hell on earth.  She witnessed the death of many, including her beloved sister.  Yet she learned that in the darkest pit, God was there…and He was good…so incredibly good.

She came out of that experience more in love with Jesus, more devoted to following Him.  She spent the rest of her life encouraging other people to love Jesus.  That is a testimony that no one can deny.  No imaginary God, no fairy tale God, no boring or religious God could work a miracle like that; placing a life into the crucible of suffering and making it a joyous offering.

I have often pondered Corrie’s life and wondered what I would have done in her place.  It is unlikely that any of us will have to make the choices she had to make.  Yet each one of us will have our own personal hell on earth that we will have to navigate through.

On Thursday night, I heard the stories of five women from my church; each I knew well; each had faced their own crucible.

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Kristi is a wonderful deejay on the local Christian radio station.  She lives in my neighborhood and I sometimes see her pass my house, taking a walk with her little boy in a stroller.  She told how just months after their marriage, her husband was diagnosed with cancer.  Years later cancer was found in her body as well.  In addition, the doctors told them it would be impossible for them to have children.  Her story wasn’t about the seven long years of treatment and tests, sorrow and disappointments.  Her story was about the goodness of God, His healing power, and their miracle baby!

Bobbie is the mother of one of my first youth leaders, and one of the hardest working, sweetest ladies you will ever meet.  She faced breast cancer and multiple cancer scares after that. Does she live in fear?  No!  Her life is full of joy because of her amazing God!

Tiffany was just a junior higher when I met her.  I was in senior high and would sing on stage with the youth worship band.  She wrote me a sweet little note at one of the youth retreats that said something like this, “I see you on stage with such grace and confidence, and I know that God does that.”  Well, my singing voice is not what it used to be, and I have faded into the background.  Now I watch Tiffany on stage worshipping with a clear and powerful voice, singing songs that she has written and recorded, and I am looking up to her in admiration!

Tiffany told the story of suffering a blood clot in her lungs, dying twice, and surviving a surgery that would have killed 499,999 people out of 500,000.  Her story wasn’t about the pain and suffering she had to enduring during the recovery process.  She didn’t complain about the interruption in their lives with two little girls and a newborn baby boy.  She told of how God’s goodness was there every step of the way.  She said, “You can NEVER exaggerate the goodness of God.  He is ALWAYS better that we think he is!”

Sharon was a leader in youth group when I was in high school.  A few years later, I actually saw myself in her wedding album.  She and her husband were honeymooning in Boston.  I just happened to be there on a missions trip with YWAM, and we randomly ran into each other on the street and snapped a picture!  I admired both her and her husband, and when I heard the news that he had left her for another woman while she was pregnant with their second child, I was heartbroken for them.  She was devastated and was a single parent for almost 15 years.  Yet her story is not one of loss and betrayal.  It is a story of learning to love herself, learning to forgive, and learning how much God loved her.  Now she sees restoration in all the broken relationships and just married a man who is better than the very best she had ever imagined for herself.  God gave her more that she had asked for!

Sue is a powerful woman of God at our church.  I first met her when I volunteered to help out with vacation Bible school when I was in high school.  I was assigned to help in her room which was the dancing room.  Each day, four different groups of children would rotate through our room.  Sue led them with a microphone (which she really didn’t need) and tireless energy. I had never had so much fun at vacation Bible school before!

Sue told of her battle with cancer.  She was in so much pain that she wished for death.  She survived the surgery that took out her entire stomach, part of her esophagus, part of her intestines, and her gallbladder.  Her doctors were so surprised, they hadn’t developed a follow-up plan.  Cancer free six years later, she doesn’t moan about how unlucky she was.  She sings and shouts and passionately tells of her beloved Jesus!  She looks like she would explode if she didn’t proclaim her love.

How can this be?  Shouldn’t all these women be bitter and cynical, wondering why a loving God would lead them through the valley of the shadow of death?  All of these women have a real relationship with a real God who never left them for a moment.  In fact He was always right there with them, carrying them, listening to them, speaking to them, and healing them.  He was sending answers, giving provision, working miracles and loving on them until they were filled to overflowing with that love.

This is a God that we just cannot deny.  I pray that you and I will be encouraged to trust more in His great love for us and have the courage to say in our own trials…

“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

 

Explosion!

We love because he first loved us. 1 John:19

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                This is the beginning of a new year, a new and fresh start for all of us.  I thought I would share the story of how I became new.  It started around this time of year, 26 years ago.

I was in Junior High and had been attending a new church with my “boyfriend”.  I had no interest in God, yet I really liked this guy.  I felt very shy and totally out of my comfort zone.  I was trying to sing the loud and crazy worship songs that I had never heard before.  I didn’t understand anything that was happening in this contemporary, charismatic youth group.

A guest speaker was there one night, and I can’t even remember what he talked about.  He invited us to come up to receive prayer.  I didn’t consider getting prayer, yet I found myself up front.  I had no memory of standing up, no memory of moving my legs to walk towards him.  Yet somehow I was there, waiting for prayer.  When the speaker prayed for the guy beside me, he started crying like something was touching his very soul.

“I wonder if this preacher will know that I don’t believe in this stuff,” I thought to myself as he approached me.

“You are having doubts about all this stuff.” He said, as though he was reading my mind.  Suddenly the youth pastor was right next to me and asked, “Do you want to receive Jesus into your heart?”

I had never thought about asking Jesus into my heart.  I didn’t even know what that meant.  Before my mind could tell me “yes” or “no”, I heard myself saying, “Yes!”

I repeated the prayer that the pastor prayed for me.  It went something like this;

“I believe in you Jesus, that you are the son of God.  That you died and rose again to take away my sins.  I ask you to forgive my sins and come into my heart.”

Immediately I felt something explode in my heart, and my eyes were opened to a wondrous and completely new reality.

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I never expected this to happen!  I didn’t even know what being “saved” or “born again” was, yet here I was experiencing it.

I spent the next week in a glorious daze!  Everything was lovely and fresh.  I never realized how beautiful a tree was!  How amazing a doorknob could be!  Or how much I loved my parents!  The world was different because now I knew that God loved me.  Since then I have learned that long before I ever thought about God, he was pursuing me.  Even when I wasn’t seeking him, he was seeking me.  I am so glad he found me.

I have also learned that new life isn’t something that just happened to me once, 26 years ago.  It is something that happens with each new day because his mercies are new every morning.  Jesus promised that we would have streams of living water coming from our inner most beings.  The adventure of this life is accepting and allowing and enjoying that pure, fresh spring every single day!

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Happy New Year!!!  I hope you have fireworks of his love exploding in your heart.

May you enjoy a Happy New Year… every day of the year 2016!

It’s a Christmas Miracle!

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You may not think that lip balm is the stuff of miracle, but you would be wrong. I was getting ready to make my weekly trek to the farm where I buy raw milk and free range eggs, Beulah Land Jerseys.  I had used the last of my lip balm that morning and couldn’t scrape any more out of the container.  It is a special kind that protects me from the painful cracking that I had been prone to.  I don’t like any of the products that are sold at our grocery store, but I hadn’t been able to make a special order online.

“How am I going to get some lip balm today?”  I wondered to myself as I walked out the door, already feeling like my lips were getting dry!

I got to the farm and there was a display set up that was never there before.  Raw honey and homemade lip balm!  I was ready to write a check for the milk, eggs, and lip balm when I realized that all my checks had run out and I had forgotten to get new ones.  Yet I found enough cash and coins to pay my bill exactly…and I almost NEVER carry cash.

A Christmas MIRACLE I tell you!!!

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It is my tradition to shop at Community Aid before Christmas.  I go on their half off day.  This year I found this simple yet beautiful angel, other lovely decorations, a box of books for the children, four bags of stocking suffers, clothes for my baby girl, a purse and hat for me, plus a few other gifts.

ALL FOR LESS THAN $60! Another Christmas miracle!

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Trying to make Christmas special for nine children is a challenge, especially when money is tight.  The grandparents who live in Colorado decided to send us money to buy presents, rather than sending them all through the mail.  Chris and I received the great joy of shopping for brand new toys and gifts for our children.  I joked with Chris that we should save a little money to buy tickets to the new Star Wars movie, a Christmas gift to each other.  We had so much fun shopping for the children that there was no money left.

A day later Chai came to me after school, very excited about something.  It turns out that a local church wanted to bless some families in the area.  Someone at Chai’s school had nominated our family.

“We got five $20 gift cards to Wal-Mart, Mom!” Chai told me.

I was considering what we needed the most and then I had an epiphany.  Wal-Mart sells gift card to other places!  So Chris and I went to Wal-Mart and bought a few little things for the house and…

A DATE NIGHT that is completely paid for.  I am so excited to go eat a dinner that I don’t have to prepare or clean up, a leisurely dinner with no interruptions.  I am beyond excited to see a movie in the theater, which happens less than once a year.  The joyful anticipation of going out with my husband is such a gift.

A lovely Christmas miracle!

These are seemingly small things, but they remind me of how much God loves me.  He cares about the little things and plans the working of the universe in advance to put these lovely circumstances into place.

Of course the real Christmas miracle is something that none of us can completely understand.  That the Son of God, who had all power and all authority, limited himself to become one of the most vulnerable and powerless creatures on earth – a newborn human.  He allowed himself to become totally dependent on his mother for the development and nourishment of every cell in his body. He placed his most precious life into the hands of his adopted father.  He trusted him to protect and listen and guide. He put himself at the mercy of imperfect parents to provide all the love his ancient yet somehow brand-new heart craved.

I find my heart crying out, “Jesus, I am in awe of you!  You are the miracle that I will never tire of, never get over, and never reach the end of!”

Merry Christmas to you all, and may you all feel the wonder of this miraculous season!

 

Happy Heavenly Birthday Dad!

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My Father, George Redman Beyer, passed away last year on July 31.  In honor of him, I would like to post here the words I spoke at his memorial service.

 

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All you who knew George, whether it was for 5 minutes or fifty years, knew that he was very kind, calm, patient, slow, methodical, and very intelligent.

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He loved history and could remember facts and figures with an almost photographic memory.  Most of those official blue and yellow signs you see around the state of PA were written by my Dad.  When I was little I couldn’t remember the name of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, so I just told people that my Dad was a Historical Marker Maker.  They gave me funny looks.

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I got even stranger reactions when I told them that we were Quakers and went to Meeting instead of Church.  Dad was always a man of peace.  I almost never heard him criticize other people and I almost never saw him get angry.

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In recent years, he had to bear with my five wild boys running around the house with nerf guns, squirt guns, and cap guns.  Still he was very patient with them.  He spent hour after hour after hour reading to all the grandchildren, snuggling on the sofa.

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He answered question after question, read book after book.  He rejoiced at the birth of every new grandchild and enjoyed them immensely.

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This was an intense week for our family.  Dad was sent to the emergency room on Monday with blood clots in his lungs.  He stopped breathing and received CPR three times.  When I saw him that evening, he was unconscious and the hospital was still trying to stabilize him.  That night I prayed those deep, desperate prayers.  I love it how God draws so near to me in times like these.  I felt like He said to me, “This will end in death, but it is OK.”  Then I saw a picture in my mind.  I saw my dad as a young boy, running in the summer twilight.

scan23He had perfect shalom, “perfect peace, nothing broken, and nothing missing.”  He was running into the arms of God the Father.  They both had such joy and excitement about being together.

On Tuesday the hospital thought they might be able to stabilize Dad and wake him up.  Then we received a call that he had taken a turn for the worse, and we better get in there as soon as we could.  Again I began praying in the car, and I was desperate with God.  I said, “You can’t let him die if he’s not ready, if it is not his time.  I haven’t done enough. I haven’t told him enough about you.  I haven’t shown him enough love.”  Again the sweet presence of God surrounded me and said, “It is already done.  I have already done it all.  All that is left is to trust me.

So as we sat in Dad’s room watching him peacefully pass away, I again thought of him running into the arms of his Father.  I heard the Father God say to him, “George, it doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t do in your lifetime.  I want you! You are my reward; You are my pearl of great price.”

Mom told me in hospital that Dad had recently attended a conference at Life Center and loved the Song, “Abba” which means Daddy. (Click here to listen to the wonderful song.) We sang that song in Worship tonight.  This confirmed to me that he had a longing in his heart to know God as his Daddy, and now his heart’s desire is fulfilled.  He feels for the first time the full strength of the unconditional, all consuming love of the Father.  Dad had loving parents and a loving family.  Loving relationships are the joy of this life.  But they are just the first morning rays of sunlight peaking over the horizon.  Now he is standing in the brightness of noonday, and I am so happy for him!

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I love how God gives us signs to explain what is happening in the unseen realm.  He gave me a sign.  My mom had transplanted lot of flowers from her yard to into my yard.  The irises and hyacinths have been blooming for many years now, but I have never seen the resurrection lily.  I just thought it had died, and I had forgotten about it.  But the day after my Dad died, I looked out my window and I saw it blooming!

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I love you Dad!

The Power of Praising Through Pain

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I attended the memorial service for the mother of a dear friend of mine.  This friend is my age, and we have known each other since junior high school.   It was much too soon for her to have to say goodbye to her mom.  I was deeply touched by everyone who shared memories and thoughts and prayers.  I marveled at the joy and pain mingling together as we sang songs of worship.  Our pastor stood up to share. He began to talk about how we each encounter situations in life that don’t make sense, that seem too difficult to be God’s best for us.  We all ask God the question, “Why?”  He listed the many famous men of the Bible who asked why.  Then he made a statement that cut to the core of my being.

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“There was one ‘why’ that swallowed up all the other ‘whys’,” he said, and I instantly knew what he was talking about.

Jesus, hanging on the cross, became sin and cried out from the anguish of his soul, “My God, WHY have you forsaken me?”

Jesus knows how we feel as we navigate through this journey called being human.  We all suffer pain, heartbreak, sickness, and loss.  We all have our faith shaken and our knowledge stripped and our understanding emptied until all we can say is, “Why?”  Jesus was at the very same place Himself, and He put himself in that place on purpose so that we didn’t have to be there alone.  He is always right there with us, whispering, “I understand…and someday you will too.”

And love’s voice answers from a cross:

I bear it all with you;

I share with you in all your loss, I will make all things new.

None suffer in their sin alone,

I made – I bear – and I atone.” – Hannah Hurnard

 

God made us for Eden which means “delight” and “pleasure.”  We were made to live in perfect shalom; peace, nothing broken, nothing missing.  But our world was plunged into darkness and put under a curse because of sin.  The effects of that gloom always seem so wrong and unfair and foreign to us.  That is because they are.  We were created for something better, something perfect.

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis

While we are here in the Shadowlands, we have a unique and very short-lived opportunity that we will never have again once we have crossed over into glorious eternity.  We have the privilege to have faith in something we can’t see.  Faith in a good and amazing God.  Faith that all things will be redeemed and restored.  We have the chance to touch our Father’s heart as we praise Him through our pain.

Rick Joyner received a vision from God in which this was shown to him in a marvelous way.

“I saw the Father.  Millions and millions were attending Him.  His glory was so great and the power of His presence so awesome that I felt the whole earth would not have even measured as a grain of sand before Him…His robe was composed of millions and millions of stars which were alive…I knew I could dwell before Him forever and never cease to marvel; there was no higher purpose in the universe than to worship Him…

“Then I was in a different place, beholding a worship service in a little church building…Everyone in the battered little room…were experiencing severe trials in their lives, but they were not even thinking of them here.  They were not praying about their needs.  They were all trying to compose songs of thanksgiving to the Lord.  They were happy and their joy was sincere.

“I saw heaven, and all of heaven was weeping.  I then saw the Father again and knew why heaven was weeping.  They were weeping because of the tears in the eyes of the Father.  This little group of seemingly beaten down, struggling people had moved God so deeply that He wept.  They were not tears of pain, but of joy…

“Jesus turned to me and said, “When you worship without seeing His glory, in the midst of your trials, this is worship in Spirit and truth…Do not waste your trials.  Worship the Father – not for what you will get, but to bring Him joy.  You will never be stronger than when you bring Him joy, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

One Sunday at church I was inspired by a testimony of a woman who had been miraculously healed of cancer.  I love it when God’s power is so visibly demonstrated here on the imperfect earth among broken humanity.  I clapped and cheered for this one soul who had received a death sentence and then had that terrible pronouncement revoked.

But I was deeply touched and moved and undone by something else.  A man who had recently lost his wife to cancer was raising his hands to praise God for the healing of another.  I felt my heart deepen and stretch to try to contain the grandeur of that one small act.  I thought I heard heaven weeping because this man had so touched the Father’s heart with his praise.  The greatest victories of the Christian life occur when we suffer crushing earthly loss and still praise God!  The “Whys” get swallowed up by such praise and we get catch a glimpse of the world we were really created for.

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My Adventurous Husband with the Crazy, Impossible Dreams Might Just Be Right

 

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My husband, Chris, is very different from me.  In fact, he is quite the opposite.  He is spontaneous and impatient, prone to making rash and risky decisions.  He is also very driven.  When he has a certain goal in mind, all else fades to the background as he plows through valleys and climbs over mountains to reach that goal.  When he gets an idea in his head, it seems like an obsession to me.  I am a steady and reliable creature of habit.  I like to dwell, remain, and stay in my comfort zone.  I feel no need to go trailblazing into unknown and possibly scary territory.  To change my course is like trying to alter the flow of a river.  I have found that trying to deter Chris from a goal is like trying to stop a freight train once it is barreling down the tracks.  It is much easier to jump aboard and enjoy the ride!

We faced our first major financial decision as newlyweds.  Our apartment had washer and dryer hookups, but we had no washer and dryer.  We would spend hours at the Laundromat.  Chris reasoned that if we could put our Laundromat money towards payments on our own washer and dryer, we would be much better off.  I agreed, but when I saw the large price tag, I was terrified.  We ended up in our car in the Sears parking discussing the pros and cons. The worry of making a bad decision brought me to tears.  We ended up buying the brand-new, super-capacity Kenmore beauties, despite my abiding nervousness.  Eighteen years, 6 moves, and eight children later, they are still washing 2-3 loads a day!  Chris was totally right!

In 2006 we were renting a nice house on Market St where I found my Little Piece of Heaven.  Sure, I wanted to move eventually, but I figured that God would bring that opportunity right to us at the proper time.  But Chris was obsessed.  He was unsatisfied with our living conditions and upset that our rent money was going into someone else’s pocket instead of building up equity for us.  He talked to realtors.  He got lists of homes sent to him every week on the internet.  He kept finding houses that he wanted me to look at. The available four bedroom homes priced around $100,000 were not at all what I would call attractive or comfortable!  I didn’t want to look at these homes, not to mention consider living in them.  But I did it, because Chris asked me to.  We even put offers on two of them.  They had been on the market for a long time.  We thought we could get a good deal, fix them up and then sell them for more…all in an effort to get closer to our real dream house.  Both houses were snatched up right before our offers came in.

Chris didn’t give up, however.  He talked to other realtors, looked at other houses, and kept viewing homes on the internet.  None of the homes interested me at all.  Basically, I had given up on owning a home.  One day Chris came across a picture of an older home, shrouded in dark awnings and overgrown shrubbery.  He set up a time to see it.  He walked in the front door, took one look at the high ceilings and beautiful woodwork and thought, “This is it!”

There was just one mountain of a problem.  It was more than twice what we could afford.  He set up a second time to view the house and wanted me to come along.  I so desperately wanted to refuse him, and I almost did.  I didn’t want to go see another ugly house.  I definitely didn’t want to go see a beautiful house, fall in love with it, and then have to face the reality that we could never afford it.  But I did it, because Chris asked me to.

The house was built in 1924 and was in a beautiful neighborhood with tree lined streets.  I toured the gorgeous home, loving every detail of it! I tried NOT to love it…but I couldn’t help it.  I took a paper containing the specs of the home that included a tiny black and white picture of the exterior.  In my mind, that dreary picture was a picture of my dream home.  I placed the paper on top of my filing cabinet.  Every time I passed by and caught a glimpse of that paper, I would pray that God would do a miracle and give us that house!  Every time we passed the exit on the highway that would take us to the house, longing would fill my heart that someday that exit would lead to my home!  Every night before bed, the children would pray and ask God to give them that house!  Chris’ obsession had become a family obsession!

The realtor went to the owners with a crazy idea.  Even though the house had only been on the market for two weeks, he urged them to consider a sellers agreement, where we would make payments to them directly and take over the mortgage in a few years. It seemed like an eternity before they responded…THAT THEY WOULD!  Amazing miracle number one! Yet our soaring spirits sank a bit as we heard the terms.  The monthly payment was way too much, and we had to come up with $10,000 upfront.  Chris countered with $300 less per month.  They accepted! Amazing miracle number two!

Time came to sign the paperwork, and we still had no money to put down. Chris continued to plow ahead, scaling that mountain and signing away!  I was terrified and thought back to the washer and dryer purchase so long ago.  How small that decision seemed compared to this one was!  I sat with the realtor, the paperwork, and a kitchen timer in front of me.  I was timing contractions that had been coming every twenty minutes for baby number six.  I was about to have a baby, and here I was, facing one of the biggest decisions of my life!  I wanted to call it all off, or have a conference like we did in our car in the Sears parking lot.  I wanted to cry my heart out and beg Chris to back out of the whole thing!

Quietly a peace descended upon me, and my emotions stilled.  My contractions stopped.  I saw the hand of God moving heaven and earth.  I saw that it was He who had put that obsession into my husband’s heart.  I signed the paperwork and believed that God would work out the rest.  Amazing miracle number three!

I didn’t have any more contractions for almost a week.  My grandmother joyfully offered to give us the money we needed and a bit more!  Amazing miracle number four! Chris’ mom flew in from Colorado in anticipation of the new baby’s arrival.  That night my water broke, but there were no contractions.  In the morning, we thought we would pass the hours by showing my mother-in-law our new home!  It was a hot and humid day in August. I walked around my home, and I began to get contractions.  They increased as I showed off my four large bedrooms and gigantic bathroom on the second floor.  They increased even more as I went down to view my spacious and clean basement with shelves and shelves of storage space.  Finally, we all gathered outside to return to our rental house.  I leaned on the truck with one intense contraction.  It was hard to escape the pain with heat emanating from the sun above and rising from the blacktop below.  I thought, “What have I done, coming here while in labor?  I need to get home!”

We arrived home in plenty of time to fill the baby pool in our bedroom and call the midwife.  Our little Cooper was born a few hours later, healthy and happy!  Some weeks after that, we began to move into our new home.

june 2014 229We are still in this home, paying the mortgage (our mortgage!) eight years later.  That is the real miracle!  We have weathered job losses, economic downturns, and debt reduction programs.  We were close to foreclosure during the hard times, yet we are still here!

Three years ago Chris became obsessed with another goal, to become a business owner.  He talked to a business broker and received emails about local businesses for sale.  He read books about entrepreneurs and conversed with friends who were business owners.

“Oh brother,” I thought. “Here we go again!”

He inquired about a Signarama shop just blocks from our house.  He went to visit with the owner and saw the shop.  He was convinced that this was it.  He wanted me to see it all and tell him what I thought.  I really didn’t want to!  But I did, because he asked me to.

When I saw the shop I thought, “This is definitely NOT it!”  A sign shop, full of vinyl to make signs?  How boring!  I never had any interest in being a business owner, nor ever thought about making signs.  Chris began the slow process of turning my course.

We talked with the regional VP of Signarama to learn more about the franchise.  What emotions surfaced when I thought about this proposition; spending all we had plus going into debt to acquire a business?  Terror!  Pure fear!  Fear of not having enough to pay our bills.  Fear of heading towards foreclosure again!  Fear of making a big whopper mess-up of a decision!  Quietly peace descended upon me, and I heard the voice of God.

“Do not fear making mistakes.  Mistakes aren’t as powerful as you think they are.  You see them as huge giants that can rob you of your destiny.  That is not true.  Your mistakes cannot negate my promises or my power or my faithfulness in your life.  I can cause all your mistakes to prosper and use them for good.  In fact, your mistakes are your servants.  Use them to learn about me, yourself, and your destiny.  Use them to draw near to me.  Do not fear making mistakes.  Make all decisions in confidence and faith.  I AM able to lead you and keep you in my perfect will.  I AM faithful!”

So we took the plunge into business ownership.  It has been harder than we had ever imagined.  Some of my fears have come to pass, but I realized that they weren’t so bad after all.  God is in control, and He is bringing us through this into the abundant prosperity that He has promised!  Chris is learning to slow down his freight train to prayerfully consider my wisdom.  I am learning that my adventurous husband with his crazy obsessions might just be tapping into the very heart of God!

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“The moment you are in is pregnant with possibility.  DON’T kill it with fear.” – Bill Johnson

            I won’t kill it with fear!  I will move forward with faith and confidence!

I WILL ENJOY THE RIDE!

           hershey park

Ordinary or Miraculous?

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We all hope and pray for that divine moment when life passes from ordinary to miraculous.  Yet as I have experienced miraculous breakthroughs in my own life many times, I am struck by how they are always surrounded by the normal, everyday things.  I think most miracles in the Bible occurred on ordinary days in ordinary lives.  The people were still people like us; hot or tired, scared or angry, awkward or confused, obedient or backslidden…with faith and doubt living together in their hearts and minds.  Perhaps they were battling just to keep afloat, yet secretly wishing they could give up and slip into a dark and peaceful oblivion.  And after the heavens opened and the glorious event occurred, there were still battles to fight, details to agonized over, persecution and annoyances to deal with.  There were still journeys as long as a lifetime to be navigated…one step at a time.

I have been reading 2 Chron 14-16 a lot lately.  I am encouraged when I read about how God won an amazing victory for King Asa simply because the king relied on Him.  An army of a million men were defeated before the small nation of Judah!  Extremely perplexing to me, however, was the fact that the prophet Azariah came to Asa and encouraged him AFTER his stunning victory.

“The Lord is with you, while you are with him.  If you seek him, he will be found by you…But you take courage!  Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded,” the prophet said.

Wouldn’t such a phenomenal victory be enough to show Asa that the Lord was with him?  Wasn’t he already on such an incredible high after seeing the Almighty God answer his prayer, save his life, and deliver his nation from defeat and annihilation?  Why did the prophet come to him AFTER the victory rather than before?

Recently we have had a miraculous breakthrough occur in our own lives, yet we still need many more miracles and feel overwhelmed by it all.  I think I might understand why Asa needed that encouragement.  He probably became king in his early twenties.  He inherited a nation full of idolatry, foreign relation nightmares, and huge needs. He had a kingdom of people with problems, all looking to him for the answers.  Being a man of integrity who sought the Lord, he felt the full weight of the responsibility that he was carrying; to please God and serve the people.  He probably would have rather died in that battle than to turn out to be a lousy king and have the people suffer under his lousy rule.  History tells us that he was a very good king, but he had no assurance that he would be.  He was probably plagued with doubts and concerns…just like all of us!  One miracle was not enough for Asa. One miracle is not enough for us.  In order to take courage, we need the miracle of God dwelling with us everyday, just as Asa did.

Isn’t it glorious that God promised that He would NEVER leave us or forsake us?  Isn’t it mind-blowing that God promised that NOTHING could ever separate us from His love?

The miraculous is ALWAYS at work, in every mundane step of the journey.  We all long for that moment when the power of God becomes undeniably evident.  Yet the miraculous is in the here and now, in the imperfection of ordinary moments.  It was surrounding me this morning as I was lying on the living room floor doing exercises to alleviate neck pain and Coldplay was on in the kitchen and my child was asking if he could have sugar on his oatmeal.  I wanted to just pause and take it all in.  The vastness of the universe, complicated beyond my comprehension, forever expanding, and being held together by His words.  The inconceivably minute details of every one of my cells, burning energy, producing life so I can exercise, listen to music, say, “Just a little bit of sugar on your oatmeal!” , and ponder the unexplainable mysteries of the cosmos all at the same time.  The wondrous is all around us.  The supernatural is on the inside of us…that is…if we have invited Him in.

How much of that miraculous are we missing today…simply because we don’t realize that it is here?  Can I be like a prophet speaking to you, as Azariah spoke to Asa, when I type these words that God led you to read?

Take Courage, the Lord is with you!  And with the Lord, every moment of your life is pregnant with divine possibilities!

Are You in Over Your Head?

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Are you overwhelmed?  Does your life feel impossible?  Do you feel completely inadequate and incompetent for the task before you?  Good!  You may be in just the right place…to see God do the impossible!

I am very familiar with the feeling that my life is out of control, being a mother of many children!  I don’t often get to attend special conferences at my church, but I love to listen to the CDs of them at home.  I was listening to a CD of Lesley-Anne Leighton talk about her amazing adventures as a missionary.  God would regularly do miracles for her as she stepped out in faith.  For example, she was taken into custody by Chinese authorities (China is very hostile to the Gospel of Jesus).  She was miraculously released after she started speaking to the men in Chinese…and she didn’t know how to speak Chinese!  She would do training schools all around the world to teach people to live a supernatural life like hers.  As I listened to her teaching on this CD, she said she would share with us her strategy for living such a life.  That caught my attention and I listened carefully; so much so that I remember what she said 9 years later.  Her strategy was simple; she would follow Jesus wherever he led!  This meant that she would get in over her head and watch God do the miracles on her behalf.

A new thought began to dawn in my mind.  This was a great strategy for a missionary, traveling to hostile and dangerous parts of the world.  But I knew that motherhood was a dangerous and perilous journey as well.  Mothers needed miracles just as much as missionaries did!  I knew that I needed some!  And Lesley-Anne had just told me that it was actually a good thing that I was in over my head…because that is the place where God moves!  My courage began to rise.

I had felt in over my head since my second baby showed up and didn’t get the memo from his big sister on how to sleep.  He would cry louder than I had ever heard anyone cry, and deprive me of my sleep and almost my sanity! He continued these nighttime disturbances even after I became pregnant with number three.

I had felt overwhelmed since I had three little children and a special needs baby who required many doctors’ appointments and special care.  I had no one close by to help and my husband, Chris often traveled for work, being gone for days or weeks at a time.

I  had felt overwhelmed when I had three little children, a special needs two-year old and a five-week old baby boy AND Chris and I had to pack up our home, drive cross-country (praying the whole way that I wouldn’t fall asleep at the wheel and kill us all!), and set up a new home in Pennsylvania.

I had felt overwhelmed since I had seven children, home schooled, and enrolled my special needs daughter in a therapy program that I was supposed to accomplish by myself, at home.  The man in charge told me that Ashlyn’s therapy program would be fairly easy, only requiring 6 hours a day.  I thought to myself, “How can I ever do that?”  Yet I wanted to try, because I wanted her to be better so badly.  I also felt that God had led me to this program for Ashlyn AND had led me to home school all the other children.

I would wake up at 5 am each morning, immediately feeling nervous about the coming day.  My mind would instantly begin to churn with all I had to accomplish and the fact that it was nearly impossible to do so.  Life felt like a test, and I would pass the test only if I could accomplish everything I my to-do list.  But almost every night I would go to bed with tasks left undone and the feeling of failure.  There were a few rare days that I finished everything and thought briefly that I had succeeded…only to look back over my day and realize that I had plowed over everything and everyone who stood in my way.  My victory was meaningless, because I did it without love, and my children suffered.

Thinking on these past failures, I would go from being nervous to panicking!!!  Lying in bed in the morning, trying to work up the courage to face my impossible day, I would pray.

“Oh, God!  I want to love my children today!  I want to do therapy with Ashlyn so she can be well!  I want to do home school with my children so they will be smart!  But I have so many other things I need to do!  I should have been up hours ago!  There is no way I can do this.  This is IMPOSSIBLE!  I am in WAY OVER MY HEAD!”

Then one day I was quiet enough to hear the Spirit’s still small voice.

This day is not a test, it is a gift!  I want you to open your eyes and see all the treasures I have hidden for you in this day.  Let me bless you in the midst of your business.  You are right, my child.  Your life is impossible.  I designed it that way.  I never intended for you to live a safe, easy, comfortable life.  I didn’t design you to merely do the possible.  I am the God of the impossible, remember!  I designed you to do the impossible through me!  I can’t fully show my glory unless the situation is Impossible.  All that I do through your life is changing eternity.  So be at rest.  Be at peace. I AM in control.

That voice changes everything for me!  It immediately tears the veil between my crazy, earthy life and the Holy of Holies.  I can step out of the temporary and step into the eternal.  I can step out of my failures and step into the finished work of Christ.  My life takes on a while new significance when I realize that the Most Holy God wants to dwell with me and do miracles through me! And what could be more miraculous than living with so many children and having perfect peace!

Now we have eight children and a ninth baby that takes a lot of time and resources – a new business!  I have so many things to do at home, and Chris has so many things to do at our sign shop.  I try to help him at the shop and he tries to help me at home, all the while being mindful of our precious children.  We are busy almost all of the time.  What little “free” time we have is not really free.  We are so selective about how we spend our time, trying fiercely to follow Jesus and no one else.  There isn’t time and energy and devotion to waste on anything less!  It is going to take a miracle to raise our children the way we should AND make our business successful. Both Chris and I are sure that we are in WAY OVER OUR HEADS!  Yet we know that Jesus led us here and through him we are doing miracles.

I am so encouraged by Mark Batterson and what he wrote in The Circle Maker.“If you’ve never been overwhelmed by the impossibility of your plans, then your God is too small.”

So are you in over your head?  If you got into this situation by following someone other than Jesus, start following him now and just see what he will do!  If it was Jesus who got you into the crazy mess called your life, let your heart take courage!  This is his specialty, doing miracles through little you!  So relax, let go, and enjoy riding on his waves of grace…and expect signs and wonders to follow you.