A Return Trip to my Alma Mater, YWAM Tyler

When my firstborn daughter, Areli, invited me to her graduation, my first thought was, “There is no way I am going to be able to leave my family and fly all the way to Texas!”

Talking with Areli on the phone during her Discipleship Training School had reminded me of the raw faith I had when I did my DTS, 25 years ago. Areli had the faith that God could get me to Texas, why shouldn’t I?

I had not taken such a trip without my husband since I had gotten married.  Yet Chris, really wanted me to go.  He felt that to visit my Alma Mater would be such a special time for me. Boy, was he right!  God orchestrated a delightful and refreshing getaway!

My one year old daughter Aria and I traveled for about 8 hours before we arrived in Tyler, but the trip had gone better than I had hoped. One of the YWAM staff picked us up at the airport, and she was beyond friendly, carrying all the bags and taking us to the grocery store.  She dropped us off at the base hotel, and we found the loveliest accommodations waiting for us.  I had been given a small apartment with a living room/kitchenette and a king-sized bedroom.  It was just perfect for Aria and I!

Soon came a rap on my door.  I opened it and there stood Areli, my beautiful daughter that I hadn’t seen in person for 5 months!  Such joy!

Later Areli took me to supper in the new Paris Fellowship Center.  Such a lovely facility.  Such friendly people everywhere I turned.  During my 4 days at YWAM Tyler, I got to meet the students and leaders of Areli’s DTS in addition to students of many other schools.

Each day we took a long walk around the base.  It looked so much the same as it did 25 years ago.  Wide open spaces, beautiful and peaceful. We enjoyed the warm sunshine and the mild weather. 

We visited the charming chapel and the playground by the lake.  We always stopped by the lake to eat a snack.  One day we visited the new SST Village. 

Another day we visited Ag Tech.  I loved it!  What a brilliant way to raise vegetables and eggs for the base.  New and better farming practices and prototypes were being developed, and then taken out to the mission field. What a practical way to bring God’s love to needy places.

We went to the Base Worship on Friday morning. It was a simple affair with voices and a guitar.  The spirit was sweet and God’s presence was transformational.  God gave me a breakthrough in my thinking, perhaps the biggest breakthrough of my life.  I will write more about that in a later article, but it felt almost as if I had been born-again…again!

That evening Aria and I were welcomed into the girls’ dorm to participate in a pre-Love Feast nail-painting party.  It was so fun to be among such sweet ladies.  I got to see the bunk that had been mine in DTS. 

I remembered the good times I had spent in that room with the five other girls, three of whom became my best friends. 

Sue, Charlene, and Maddy above. Charlene, Maddy, and I below.

A year after DTS I traveled to be in Maddy’s wedding, and a year after that she was in mine.  I am still good friends with her and one other roommate, Sue. What a blessing they have been to me over the years.

Saturday was the big day!  There was a Friends and Family Reception where the leaders talked about YWAM, DTS, and SOE.  Leland Paris spoke with his kind and powerful voice, so much the same as he had spoken to my school 25 years ago. 

“We have been serving Jesus together, what could be better than that!” Fran Paris said about their 50+ years of marriage.

I was impressed with the fire and maturity of the leaders.  Areli’s DTS had been very much like my own: same themes; many of the same speakers; same structure with work duties, one on one discipleship, small groups, and intercession groups.  Yet it seemed like the details had been honed to perfection, and the training held the depth of wisdom gained through experience. I was so very pleased that Areli had chosen to come!  I was thrilled that she planned to come back for the SOE!

Next we all chose seats at the eloquently decorated tables.  We were served a lovely dinner by the new students.  Areli told me that the base chef had been working on the meal for days, and it was exquisite!

After the Love Feast, there was worship, and Aria began to do the cutest baby, butt-wiggle dance.  She looked at the young man standing beside her and decided to raise her hands like he did.

We returned to our seats and listened to stories from the Family DTS.  It was the first DTS of its kind at this base, and it was amazing!  Entire families were learning and ministering together.  One of the families I had known from back home.  I was so amazed at how they had sold everything and came when God called them.  The father and son testifed about how the son had heard God’s voice and prayed for a man, and that man had received healing in his eyes!

Then Areli’s DTS took the stage.  I heard a girl talk about hearing God’s voice for the first time.  I heard a young man tell about God’s creative way of showing him how to let go of his anger. I heard another guy tell of when he witnesses a healing after he prayed. The evening wrapped up with the SOE telling their stories, and each student received a diploma. Everyone was overflowing with an awareness of God’s goodness!

Sunday morning we had time to take one last walk around the loop.  I hated to leave this special place. I was reminded of the many walks I had taken with God on this path.

“There was the exact spot that God told me that I was going to marry Daddy,” I told Areli and two of her friends.

Where we stopped for a snack at the water’s edge was where I heard God speak to me so clearly as I prayed about finances for outreach and my future.  He gave me this scripture:

“They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jer 17:8

I still remember this scripture and think of it often.  I am not a missionary depending on monthly support, or traveling to strange and exotic locations.  But I do have 10 children, which sometimes requires a leap of faith to just get out of bed each morning!

I recalled all that I had learned here on this base and how it changed the course of my life. My expectation for DTS and SOE was that I would learn about how to evangelize and about how to be a foreign missionary.  Yet almost every speaker who came to our school, every book that I read, every encounter I had with new friends taught me about something different.  Something I desperately needed to know but didn’t know that I needed to know.  Something that would prepare me for the future that God had planned, a future I had never even guessed at 25 years ago.

God taught me about marriage, raising children, homeschool, and His heart for families. I hadn’t thought much about these subjects previously.  I had been focused on getting good grades in order to get into a good college so I could become a teacher.  Once I began my YWAM journey, I fell in love with it!  I continued with SOE and at the end of it, I pictured myself as a missionary with everything I owned strapped to my back.  I was excited to go anywhere.  I prayed about the next step, and all I heard God say was, “Go Home.”

I didn’t understand it at all.  Yet I obeyed.  A month later I was engaged to my high school sweet heart.  A year later we were married.  25 years later we have 10 children. I am living my destiny, and I love it!

Now I can see that God had perfectly prepared me.  YWAM was a huge part of that! I can also see that all my mistakes and missteps along the way just brought me closer to Him. What would I say to the new DTS and SOE graduates?

“God is using everything in your life to prepare you for your purpose.  It is ok if you don’t have a full picture of that purpose, God does!  Whatever you are picturing, it will be totally different anyway! It is usually harder but better!  All your experiences give you something important, even the painful ones, even the ones that seem like mistakes or failures.  Make the most of your YWAM experience!  The time set aside to seek God is sacred and will bring great rewards in the future.”

As we walked back to get ready to leave, I felt so thankful for my Alma Mater.  I felt thankful that Areli was experiencing it too!  Perhaps there was a deposit in little Aria’s spirit that would bring her back here for her own adventure, to this extraordinary place that has brought generations to the feet of Jesus!

He Wants His Love to be Known

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Photo by Tim Rebkavets on Unsplash

The prince was kneeling before his father, the king.  This was a good and wise king.  His kingdom was vast and his subjects were too numerous to count.  His dominion was full of prosperity and peace.

                “How much like me this son of mine is,” the king thought to himself.  “He has grown into such a fine young man.  He will be wanting to take a bride soon.”

                “Father,” the young prince began as though he had read his fathers thoughts, “I have found my true love. I have come to ask your permission to pursue her.”

                “Very good my son! Who is she?” the king answered with a hearty smile.

                “Her name is Marie.”

                “Marie,” the king’s smile faded. “Her name means ‘bitterness’, and it describes her well.  She lives outside of the boarder of this land, in our enemy’s territory.  Her life has been hard, and I fear that there is very little beauty or joy left in her, even though she is still young.”

                “This I know, father.  I met her once on my way to the Outer Lands.  She was rude to me.  She was dirty and dressed in rags.  Yet there was something about her that has captivated me.  I feel that there is a treasure beneath the filth.  Every night I have dreamt of her, and I cannot forget the haunted look in her eyes.  Perhaps my love could banish that emptiness and transform her from ‘Bitterness’ into ‘Full of Grace’.

                “Son, consider your decision well.  Do you truly think that Marie will be a princess befitting our glorious kingdom?  Will she make a fine queen someday, able to rule at your side?” the king questioned.

                “I know that my choice seems irrational, even reckless.  Presently she would make a horrible queen.  But I love her, Father, with everything in me.  I love her!  I know that I can save her from her life of misery and her bitterness. Please let me try.” The prince closed his eyes and bowed his head, awaiting an answer.

                The king’s deep voice quavered with emotion, “Son, I am so very proud of you.”

The prince lifted his head suddenly. He searched his father’s eyes, the eyes that always seemed to hold the answers. The king went on.

                “You see, Marie was born in this Kingdom and royal blood flows through her veins.  She was meant to be your betrothed.  I knew that she could become a woman worthy of you, my noble son.”

                “What happened to her?” the prince asked with a new passion in his eyes.

                “She was kidnapped at a very young age and carried away as a slave.  She has lived in the enemy’s land, misused and deceived for all of her life.  She may be saved, but there is no guarantee. She does not recognize her dishonorable condition, because she has never known the beauty of our kingdom.  She may become offended by your purest intentions. ”

                The words of the king seemed to ignite a fire in the already love-struck heart of the prince.

                “I must go to her!  Father, I must show her that she is loved.  That she is worthy.  That she is destined to be a queen!  Please Father, let me go into the enemy’s territory.”

                “You must understand, son, that your quest is noble and born out of true love.  But you will suffer.  You will suffer all that Marie has suffered…and much more.”

                “I know,” the royal son replied in a passionate whisper, “Somehow I have always known. But my suffering is a small price to pay for Marie…for my love.  To live here in the glory and abundance of our kingdom without her would cause me greater suffering.”

                The prince paused as if the very thought of a life without his love was too terrible to express. He stood to his feet and raised his voice, “I am ready, Father.  I must go to her!”

                The king stood as well and enveloped his son in a strong embrace. 

“You are right.  You ARE ready.  Marie IS worth the price. I will miss having you here by my side, but I am confident in the future. A future where both you and Marie are reigning with me.  This quest is your destiny.”

The prince thought he saw a tear roll down the strong cheek.  The King continued in a whisper now.

                “This quest…it will cost you everything.”

 

As I watched this scene unfold on the stage of my mind, I knew that my assumptions were changing.

My paradigm was shifting.

My world was transforming.

This prince wasn’t afraid or reluctant.  He was confident and bold.  He was longing to go into hostile territory.  Like a courageous warrior, he was willing to suffer and to die for the object of his love.

This prince was Jesus.

This Marie was me.

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Photo by Kenny Luo on Unsplash

I was the prize that fueled His courage.

I was the treasure that energized His passion.

I was the pearl of great price that He sold everything He had to obtain.

He pursued me like a man pursues His bride. And He found me.  He saved me.  He turned me into “Full of Grace.”

He is still wooing me.  He is still fighting battles for me. I am not yet a queen worthy of His great Kingdom.  He is relentlessly pursuing me until I truly know who I am and whose I am.  I feel Him teaching me His ways day by day.  I feel His patience and His passion.  I feel His delight and His desire.

He is pursuing each and every one of us, but only a few of us are aware.  The rest go about their lives oblivious of the glorious kingdom for which they were born, the love that chases them.

Men and women all through the ages have encountered this love-sick warrior prince.  Sometimes they caught just a glimmer of His smile, just a glimpse of His fiery eyes.  Other times they have been washed by His love, wave after relentless wave until they were happily drowning in it.

Some have written about it.  One such man is Cory Asbury.  I found in the words of his song “Reckless Love” a confirmation of my own experience.

When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me

You have been so, so good to me

When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me

You have been so, so kind to me

And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine

And I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

There’s no shadow You won’t light up

Mountain You won’t climb up

Coming after me

There’s no wall You won’t kick down

Lie You won’t tear down

Coming after me

One night I was able to steal away to the prayer room at church.  I got so caught up in my love for Jesus that my words just came spilling out in a passionate prayer.

                “Jesus, you are everything – all we want.  You are the goal, the prize, the destination, the journey, and every step in the journey.  You are everything!”

I felt a small twinge of guilt.  I offered up a silent prayer, “Sorry Holy Spirit. Sorry Father.  I didn’t mean to forget about you.”

Then I saw the Father smiling down on me with pleasure, just as any good father would do while witnessing his son and fiancé being clearly head over heels in love with each other.

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Photo by Joshua Rodriguez on Unsplash

                “You have chosen well, my son,” I heard him say.

I was shocked to hear this.  I simply don’t see myself the way the Father does, the way Jesus does.

I am so thankful that He will never be satisfied until I do.

I am so thankful that He won’t let me go.  That the fire in His eyes and the burning in His heart will never be diminished.

Jesus is the prince.

I am HIS PRIZE.

YOU ARE HIS PRIZE.

He will never give up us.

If you have never encountered this love or long to encounter it more, listen to “Reckless Love” and ask Him to reveal himself to you. This is a prayer that he has suffered, died, and now lives to answer.

He wants his love to be known!

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.”