Precious moments: being “too Christian” in graduate school

In graduate school I was “too Christian.”

We were training to be teachers in the humanities department, and I was taking a required colloquium in teaching class as a graduate assistant. That day, Professor X came to guest lecture. X was telling us how these vulnerable freshmen come to us and have been raised in a bubble all their lives. He said, back in the late 90s, “Just like that: Bill Clinton, Jesus, and Santa Claus.” He followed it with a WHOOSH sound, as if to say the reality that none was real overtook these poor misguided kids.

You could see my reaction. I was indignant It was not raging anger, not hatred, certainly not agreement.  I was indignany that somehow Jesus was supposed to be reduced to fantasy if I were an intellectual. I knew better.

It was October, and since August I’d been on a new spiritual journey, unlike any before in my Christian life. I had a spiritual mom in my life who prayed with me often, who talked to me about God like He was a real person. And I had begun to change. I was alive again. Alive for the first time, really. And there was no way Jesus was in the same category as the fallen Bill Clinton and fictional Santa Claus. I felt like someone had just dissed by BFF. Because he did.

I went quiet the rest of the 2 hours and 40 minutes. It was a turning point in my spiritual life, that day. It was the day I knew I either had to acquiesce to the culture around me, or stand up for what I knew was true. My job as a teacher was not to change student’s beliefs; it was to help students question things in a productive way to ensure they understood what they espoused about anything. That’s a fine line, but it is a distinctive one. One tears down, as if to say “I’m right, and you are misguided.” The other deconstructs and puts the pieces back together one at a time to build understanding and come to conclusions. My job was to create learners and thinkers who could construct knowledge and induce reasoning to deduce the world in which they live. I was not going to be part of telling people their beliefs were wrong. I was going to be a part of helping people figure out how to be sure of what they believed—whether about human nature, personal values, or Jesus Himself.

That week I prayed. A lot. I talked to my spiritual mom. I wrestled inside myself. I knew it was a turning point. The next week I showed up to class in a t-shirt that had the Bible verse where Paul says, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2). That was my answer. Looking back I see it was a bit “in your face,” but I think God honored me because of my heart, if not my methods. I didn’t stick my backside at anyone so they could read the shirt or anything, but I wore in on purpose; I wore it for myself, my banner. And the class debrief began.

The teacher asked what we thought of Professor X’s lecture. And the students gave all the right answers. Except me.

“I didn’t appreciate what he said about Jesus being a myth.”

The teacher backtracked. “I don’t think that’s really what he meant,” she said. But I quoted him again. “Yes, he did. He said that exactly.”

That wasn’t the end of the Christian debate. The next week was the time to highlight all the “embarrassing” Christians. You know, the ones “with bumper stickers that say ‘I heart TBN,’” one said. “Or Precious Moments,” someone added, giggling at the cheesiness. “Someone gave me a bunch of Precious Moments stuff,” she said, sarcastically.

That was it. Without missing a beat, and without a hint of anger, I opened my purse and took out my checkbook. My Precious Moments checkbook. The one I thought was cute, and was no reflection on my level of thinking ability or intellectual endeavor. I liked seeing praying kids and scriptures when I paid bills.

I showed them the checks.

The one making fun of it immediately looked a bit embarrassed, and she genuinely and kindly offered to give me the Precious Moments gift she had been given. I still appreciate that because I saw her heart was good and she didn’t realize that her attitude could be perceived as negative. But in most cases I just became a freak show.

Later that class the teacher said, “You know, SM, you really might consider going over to the education department to get your degree since humanities is more for future professors, and you just want to teach junior high.”

“No,” I said, resolutely, “I’m positive I want the master’s degree in humanities.”

And so I stayed. But not as much because very suddenly there was no graduate assistantship left for me. I was half time, and it seemed they needed to cut back on half-timers. I knew darned well that wasn’t the reason. Most people need assistantships to stay in school. It was a push to get me out. In fact, they told me I wasn’t really like everyone else because I just wanted to “get [my] degree and get out.” There was a club forming in the humanities department, and I was too Christian to be in it.

I walked over to another department where I had a bit of work experience in their field and applied for an assistantship. I got it. I was paid double, kept all my benefits, and worked half the time as the other one. God took care of me better than if I had stayed. It was one of my first lessons of Him honoring His word and those who keep it.

I had switched major advisers early on, and I had a lovely woman who supported my work and research. I’m not sure where she was as far as sharing values, but that’s good. She didn’t let her opinions be known. This endowed professor and scholar of worldwide renown taught me, mentored me, and got me through my thesis research, which was especially controversial, but fully substantiated. Now I see it was also prophetic. Since that time I have literally watched things I wrote about being possible in the future fully come to pass.

The day came to defend my thesis. I had one person on my committee who was having issues with some of my assertions, such as things I said about the right-to-die movement. He was going to be my only hurdle, and while I knew it would be okay, I was trying to fully prepare for a real defense. Would you believe he was too sick to attend? He got better, but he actually felt so bad he was unable to come–he had an ongoing problem, but that one day, it was just too much for him. Since the rest of the committee and grad school faculty were there, the defense went on. I did well. Really well.

The icing on the graduate school cake happened that day. The director of graduate studies commented that my thesis was more well-written than the dissertation that just got defended last week—and said I needed to seriously consider coming back to do my doctorate. There. In the department that wanted to move me to the other school. It was the ultimate vindication for me in that entire experience. I finished in about three years, average time for that program, which included both a thesis and comprehensive exams. During most of that time I was working in another department and just taking classes because after the first year, I was not conformed enough to join the prevailing thought and ways. I realize that statement sounds dramatic, but it’s also true and I was told as much many times. I had to examine a lot in those years, but soon after the class confrontations came my deepest encounter of my life with Jesus—one that impacts me to this very day. In the season I was most challenged to either conform or be set on the back burner, I had enough in me to know what my choice was.

The opening of my thesis includes a reference to Romans 12:2: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” In the end it was published—and, ironically, sits in a specialized research library in Washington, DC, where my research contributed to the body of work on topics of nonconformity.

What I learned most in my season of graduate school wasn’t about other people. The Bible tells us people will be hostile to–or at the very least not understanding of–Christianity. What I learned was what I ultimately wrote about in that same thesis: That we must know why we believe what we believe, or when it is challenged we will fall. I learned that my faith was real and worth standing for. at whatever the cost, and it did cost me. But God covered me too. I don’t even remember at this moment the precise moment, but at the end of my program right around my defense, the Lord gave me Isaiah 55. The part that I recall sticking out the most was this:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts. (v. 8-9, NKJV)

As I reread this chapter to quote here, I was also struck by the fact this was at the end of my program that the Lord gave me this and what it says in that chapter:

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

“For you shall go out with joy,
And be led out with peace; (v. 11-12a, NKJV)

This was my promise fulfilled. I went out with joy and peace. But I didn’t do it for the promise. I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen; what I knew was that I loved God more than being part of the jokes about him, no matter how logical they seemed.

In the end, Professor X’s visit was a blessing. God will use anyone and anything He wants. Professor X was never my enemy. He was a catalyst to a great move of God in my life.

And that’s the moral of this story.

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“Billy Graham Rule” on being alone with females more prophetic than personal

I’ve been watching some Facebook posts tonight on a discussion on the “Billy Graham Rule,” where the Lord led Billy Graham to never meet, eat, or travel alone with a woman. One article, reporting on Graham’s grandson, Tullian Tchividjian, admitting had an affair and resigning from his pastorate as a result, posed a posed a question on whether this hurts women from “climbing” in Evangelical leadership. Many comments are saying this rule is ridiculous, and still others that that was “personal revelation” to Billy Graham.

First, maybe the reason Billy Graham is pushing 100 and is one of the most respected Evangelical leaders ever is because he actually bothered to live circumspectly (Ephesians 5:15) and err on the side of caution. For Pete’s sake, he didn’t do it to prevent a woman from “climbing” in Evangelical leadership–and what the heck is ANYONE doing trying to climb some ladder in ministry.  If God doesn’t open the doors, get out! You’re in the wrong job!

Second, it’s not a stupid rule in a litigious society where a number of the leaders we used to know and respect have had affairs, and half of the rest have had false accusations railed against them by opportunistic people. It’s not stupid to be cautious. I myself have never been tempted to sin in situations where I have found myself alone with a man. I can say that with a pure heart. If a man would have made an advance, I would have run from the room–in fact, once a man began behaving inappropriately (not in a ministry situation) and I was out of there faster than you could blink–and I told people right away what happened and never went near him again. There is absolutely merit that we are responsible for our behavior and will do what we have resolved in our hearts to do. That said, what if I were in a ministry meeting with a man and he got mad at me and decided to say I came on to him. It works both ways? Remember Joseph? This isn’t a newsflash, people. It’s not narrow-minded to be careful, especially in high profile leadership. The world is ugly and people like fame–at anyone’s expense, sometimes. Being careful is wise.

Finally, the idea that Graham’s rule was only for him, the way God may give someone a personal conviction about eating meat, is what’s actually stupid. The Bible clearly says to avoid even the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22). Imagine what you might think it appeared like if Billy Graham had come out of a hotel alone with a woman–even if they were innocently eating dinner while having a ministry planning meeting. Recently I was in a meeting with a leader of a major ministry–in a room with windows all around it and masses of people outside those windows so we could be seen at all times but still talk. I like to take pictures of everything because that’s part of my personality. We went and found another person to be in the selfie so that it would not be one man alone with one woman. Stupid? I call that wisdom. I respected it completely.

In the name of avoiding anything “religious” we have lost our reason. The Billy Graham rule was more prophetic than it was personal. It’s not religious, controlling, or petty to care more about our integrity than some rule. I am a woman, and I suppose to some degree I am still in ministry. I have spent a good five years of my adult life in ministry. Not once, not ever, have I felt I could not “advance” in ministry because of a rule like this. What a ludicrous statement that gives no credit to God to do the advancement Himself.

As a final note, I have to add that I work in a secular environment, and while our rules are certainly more lax than a ministry, here are a couple we have in our office. My boss always meets with people with his door open and a secretary outside the office. He is extra careful when the meeting subject is a female, for the very same reasons most men who are careful would be, but this goes for any meeting that could be misconstrued by anyone, true or not. We have an annual award’s ceremony in another city and if the recipient is male, a female cannot take him alone, and if the recipient is female a male cannot take him alone. These are not rules. They are how we conduct things based on wisdom and plain old common sense.

Graham’s rule was wise, circumspect, and from the Lord–but it wasn’t a personal word for him. It is a model for us.

it’s nine o’clock somewhere

One of my favorite books in the whole world is Nine O’Clock in the Morning by Father Dennis Bennett. Fr. Bennett was an Episcopal priest back in the 60s and 70s*  He got filled with the Holy Spirit. All that Charismatic stuff that gets bad wrap was the most pure and beautiful thing ever told through his eyes. I came across the book many years ago when I was becoming part of the Charismatic movement myself. I wasn’t sure what to make of a lot of things, but his book was my favorite because it was pure. Fr. Bennett was just minding his own business when he ended up at someone’s house hearing about “more.” Soon they were more house meetings, and stuff happened—people carried joy and diseases got healed and the power of the Holy Spirit was real. No one was arguing in these meetings about things being real. You can’t debate experience. When the Spirit of God shows up, you don’t argue. But Fr. Bennett caused some arguments, and he ended up being pushed out of his proper church. It’s the story of many Charismatics in denominational churches. But he was the priest. If I am pressed to choose one book besides the Bible as my favorite book, I always say Nine O’Clock in the Morning. This is because even though the book takes place over many years, Fr. Bennett and those with him never, ever lose their excitement and passion. You see, when I had my vision of Jesus, I instantly became a worshiper. I had already discovered the power of intercession a bit, but worship got combined with it and that was all I wanted. I wanted prayer meetings and worship services. All. The. Time.

I had the mistaken thought that I was behind as far as Christianity and now that I had found the secret I would fit in at church and with Christians instead of being that “second class” Christian I perceived myself to be because I never got the passion people had. Instead, I was merely tolerated, and often told I was “too heavenly-minded” or in the “cage stage” and would calm down eventually. Fr. Bennett taught me I never had to calm down. It was possible to keep excitement about Jesus and never lose passion. I wanted so much to be in that world. That book has held its impact on me because it is what I want. Even in the down years, it’s what I have wanted deep inside because I know the only times I have had true contentment have been times of deep prayer and worship. There, I am with Jesus, and there is the only peace and life that exists.

I remember the day I decided I loved my pastor in Tyler, TX. Pastor Jerry was preaching one morning and was leaping around the stage, whooping with excitement about Jesus. He wasn’t worked up in some Charismatic fervor. He was genuinely filled with the passion of his love for Jesus, even after, at that time, 20-plus years in ministry. I loved him because he would never tell me to calm down about my faith. Others did. And I did; I hate that, but wanting constant prayer and worship meetings isn’t mainstream most of the time. My heart never changed, but I put up walls to protect it. I was in awe of Fr. Bennett–and Pastor Jerry, and Rees Howells and John Hyde, and all the great heroes of prayer over the years, and how they had resolve I could not sustain. But in my heart I wanted it. I have always been drawn to the people who encouraged me to pursue with passion. I read Acts, and I see that only 120 of the thousands end up in that upper room when all is said and done. I want to be one who would have been there. People, that happened. After Jesus left. I want that.

I reread Nine O’Clock in the Morning pretty regularly, at least parts of it. I try to read it again every year. It ignites fire in me. When I came home from The Miracle, I pulled out almost every book I had on the Holy Spirit, which is a lot. They sit on my bed, my coffee table, the bookshelf near my bed. I somehow must think if I read have them close I will take the context in by osmosis. I’m reading a devotional type book by RT Kendall on 40 Days with the Holy Spirit, which studies a different facet of Him–and He is a Him–each day. I sometimes find my heart stirred. I get up and started praying. I brush my teeth and on my way to bed I start pacing and worshiping Jesus because the urge hits me.

Tonight at church I had a long conversation with a dear woman of God. She’s an older lady, but her spirit is young and fiery I have loved her from the beginning. I have a love for her I don’t usually have for people until I get to know them. She was telling me about being filled with the Spirit in that same time frame when Fr. Bennett wrote. She talked like she was in this book, so I asked her about it; she knows it well. Her stories and hunger for more of the Lord consuming everything after that filled her beautiful eyes that radiate Jesus. I was trying to find a way to explain that I sort of got what she was saying because this is how I have been feeling since The Miracle. I could go to a prayer meeting every single day and not be tired of it. I want more.

I don’t know that there is a whole lot of difference from the private home meetings of the 70s where people discovered there was more than dry Christianity than there is in what happened in that living room on March 7 in Texas. That same power flooded the room, flooded my mind. How do you explain when the Holy Spirit surges through you and literally rewires your mind so you can see and think in a way you couldn’t just an hour or two ago? You can’t reason that one away. Especially 10.5 weeks later when I still want the same thing. Sure, the “newness” of that moment may wear off day-to-day, but then new comes again and my fire is ignited. It wasn’t a high; it was an empowering like I have not known since the day of my vision. What I have learned since then, though, is how I have to fight for that to stay alive–the me part of it. The Holy Spirit is alive and unchanging, but as the parable says, the cares of this world can consume us. I am desperate to be the same age as this dear woman, as Pastor Jerry, as Fr. Bennett before he died, and to still have fire. I am desperate for that now.

Tonight I looked at my new friend and said, “Why can’t we have that now? Why can’t it be like it was?” She said she didn’t see why it couldn’t. I said, “Then let’s do it! Let’s go after this again!” Without missing a beat, she said, “Okay, let’s do it.”

I don’t now what that means. But I know she means it. I know she was one of the first to jump at the idea of a new prayer meeting. She walked in last week and her face was on the floor in worship and prayer in moments. Later she told me I was “on fire.” But I told her, “you’re the one on fire.”

Maybe we can burn together.

That’s what happens when the Holy Spirit comes, you know.


*Back before the Episcopals did things like endorse abortion; now there is a Spirit-filled offshoot of Episcopalianism which has retained its godly roots, that emerged from Fr. Bennett and this movement.

what I’ve learned about prayer in the last two days

On Sunday after church, I booked it (within the speed limit) to see my closest friend, with a purpose really just to pray for a couple days. I’ve only done that one other time in my life, with my (former) spiritual mom, and then I flew halfway across the country to do it. I have said many times that we do what we care about. And I cared about prayer.

On March 7, as everyone who knows me knows, I experienced a spiritual miracle. I call it The Miracle because it was so big it deserves its own proper noun. This happened in the same place I have been praying the last two days. While I didn’t go off social media or email, I have not done much but upload some pictures and keep up with work. The bulk of the last two days has been spent in prayer and worship. Just two people in a house. No special band or anything.

And no limits either. I won’t write much in detail here, but I do want to write about principles I think are important, as much as they are dependent upon us in given situations, and lessons I want to apply in the future.

  • Take the clock away. This isn’t news to me, but rarely do I get to experience times f prayer or worship where there isn’t some time limit or people shuffling in and out distracted. When you have hours for Jesus, He hangs out for hours and does stuff.
  • Take the limits away. We may pretend we don’t have them, but most of us do. Do you know what it may look like when the Holy Spirit moves? It may not look “proper.” It may not always be humanly comfortable, but it’s always spiritually comfortable. You know when it’s Him. The definition of whether something is from God isn’t if we have experienced it before. We have not tasted and seen every facet of Him and how we moves. Experience isn’t definition; the Bible is, and if you read carefully, there is some wild stuff in the Bible, including after the ascension of Jesus.
  • Linger. Don’t change songs if one song is doing something. Don’t move on to a list if the Holy Spirit is highlighting something. If He moves, move with Him and stay there. For Pete’s sake, stay there! Nothing is more important.
  • Do what works. God is a multiple choice God in lots of things. Not sin or anything important like that, of course. He is God and His standards don’t change even when we want them to. But He is, as the Bible notes, loud and quiet, flagrant and subtle, tender and firm, gentle and roaring. It’s not more holy if it’s loud or danced or whispered or whatever. It’s more holy when you are worshiping and glorifying Jesus and responding to Him how He leads.

These sound like I’m making some sermon outline to discuss prayer. I’m not. I’m telling you what I have experienced this week in the act of praying. Real learning comes from doing. I’m speaking generally since some of that was intimate, but I didn’t think of good points to put in a blog; I’m pondering what things I learned and took away that I can apply anywhere. Except the time one. That one only works if the people involved are on the same page. But trust me, food and texts and sometimes even the bathroom can wait. And if we wait, He will come.

Like fire. Like water. Like wind. Like rain. Like a still small voice.

And sometimes all in the same few hours.

images

writing light

I used to literally, physically feel darkness when I wrote. Words are powerful, and repeating them makes them potent.

I’ve had more dark days than I care to admit, days where I was flooded with despair, but since I was alone in a physical sense, to deal with the pain, I would talk—or write—about it. And that deepened the darkness. I come from a stream of Christianity where sometimes people over-ascribe things to the devil that are really just our own sinful flesh. But this one I think had some gas stations in hell, also. There were times I would write that I felt fueled. I would begin writing a story of something, much like this blog is telling a story, but then I would get to something really negative and write faster and with more emotion. Sometimes I would write negatively about myself, such as how awful or stupid, or something equally as negative, I was. And, well, this is sort of scary to say to a public audience, but I felt darkness take over. I don’t mean like some creepy horror movie. Satan isn’t a genius, but he’s smarter than that. I would feel bad inside, and as I typed, I would feel worse, and the awful things I was saying about how awful I was would feel bigger and worse. I hated myself more as I wrote, but I was in a war of needing so desperately to talk and get it out. The result was I would send the story or email and feel even worse, creating a dark spiral. And one day in one of the darker phases of my pain in 2012, I recognized what was happening: the literally power of hell was fueling my words. I would type faster, more heated, and feel this rage and pain spew out. It went from the flesh to the enemy in just moments.

This matters because of what’s happening now. Many people know that at the beginning of Lent I decided to do two things: read a Lenten devotional and write something every day. Anything. It didn’t matter if it was about the reading or not. I just wanted to form a good habit. It was 2.5 weeks after the start of Lent that The Miracle happened. And then you can just imagine what became of my writing. I was pouring out stories of the Holy Spirit, of what happened in my prayer times, of worship, of powerful encounters with Jesus as I danced. I couldn’t keep up but I wrote a lot of the highlights down; I still do write a lot down as I am nearing halfway through a second journal. And one night I realized something as I wrote things about what the Holy Spirit did and how deeply I wanted more of Him—more experiences and encounters and power and passion for the Lord—and I would write it that way with details. And you know what happened, don’t you? Heaven fueled my words. My pen got faster, and my spirit rose inside me. Love overwhelmed me. Excitement and anticipation would rise from deep within me. And one night when I realized that I remembered the parallel. It was the contrast of darkness and light. I was feeling the power of the Holy Spirit on my words. I was repeating the goodness of the Lord and the miracle of His power.

It worked in reverse! It was a wonderful realization. Since The Miracle my tolerance for the negative has declined rapidly. I mean, who likes negative anyway, right? But complaining, bitterness, calling political leaders names, criticizing things—even bad things—with an angry tone, all of it began to really impact me. I couldn’t read things the same or hear people the same. Please understand: I do not mean I separated from reality. I am not talking about being a goody two-shoes Pollyanna. In fact, I freelance for a pro-life news service and expose and report on the bad things happening in the abortion industry. The other day I wrote a story about a woman who paid $25,000 to abort her 8-month old pre-born baby. I know the darkness in the world. I know avoiding reality is a one-way ticket to destruction, but rehearsing darkness versus bring darkness into light are different things.

The first summer I worked in Kansas City, I worked for a leader with a national ministry that spoke against some issues in the news, like abortion. I would sometimes be in a position to tell him something that just got reported in the media, or to read an email to him that was negative. Every time, he listened, responded, and then—every single time without fail—said “let’s pray for_______.” And we stopped and prayed for the person or situation—even when it was a person against him or it was a corrupt and evil situation in the world. What I learned from this man was priceless. I learned how to face reality but leave the room feeling like the discussion was productive because it was then channeled into prayer.

The same principle is at work in writing or talking. Words matter. In some Charismatic circles words are used as magical incantations. If you “speak forth” a new car, the Lord will give it to you. B. A. L. O. N. E. Y. God is not a genie you rub by using magic words. That is not what I mean, and that abuse of the principle of words being powerful is one reason I eschewed people for telling me not to “speak negative things.” That’s unfortunate.

If I may backtrack for a moment: I have mentioned previously in this blog how I realized the power of worship when I had my vision of Jesus in 1997. I discussed how I don’t, in general, listen to secular music, not because I think it’s “evil,” but because I saw what the power of those words of worship did in me. If worship was that powerful and those words became life and a vision that was supernatural, then those were the only words I wanted.

How then could I not comprehend that writing down negative things would not be counterproductive. One of the most dangerous outs we give each other as believers is the “right to vent.” I am not going to lie to you and tell you I have not vented. I probably will again. Most of the time it’s sin. We don’t really have a right to vent because, in the Kingdom of God, we don’t have a right to our “rights” or anger when it’s about us. Jesus never got angry on His own behalf. He got angry at injustice. I fully believe—even when I do it wrong, truth is still truth—that the more we rehearse our personal perceived injustices, the more we make ourselves feel worse. God doesn’t have to “punish” us—our words bore into our souls and do the job, separating is further from Him in that moment.

There is a time to talk about bad things—for the purpose of productivity, to solve a problem, to fueled informed prayer. Ignorance is no more godly than slander. But the lesson I have been learning lately is that when the Bible says “life and death are in the power of the tongue,” that isn’t just about tearing someone down like we think about. It certainly includes that but it comes when we write or speak our unrighteous anger too.

For me, the contrast of the actual physical fueling of my spirit was convincing (and convicting) to me. In darkness that day in 2012 when I first experienced it and knew that was the enemy’s power upon me was one side. In light—that night a few weeks ago when simply writing in my journal about an ordinary thing filled me with joy and caused me to stop writing and worship because I was so alive is the other side. Those contrasts have taught me more than anything about the power of my words and others’ words around me and how they impact my spirit.

I want to be like that leader I served that summer and bow my head in prayer after every discussion or thought that fuels negative. Only then is the discussion productive.

I hope my lesson on my own power of writing and speaking helps you in some way, but really, this one I have written so I could have a record. Also, do I even have to tell you how alive my spirit feels right now after writing all this?

My work load is getting much lighter for the next few months, so I’ll be back to more regular blogging. I have so much to share with you about the power of God in my life and the things He is teaching me—assuming you want to hear these testimonies and lessons. As my friend and our mentor in prayer that season in Kansas City when he worked with our team, George Otis, Jr., used to tell us all the time, testimony is one of the most powerful keys to transformation and revival. The Bible is truth but it’s history too. That makes it harder for some to grasp, but when the Bible comes to life now, today, in the life of someone who was dead and now is alive, then people see and hear and often put their trust in God. I hope I can help that happen to my little slice of influence.

May Jesus be glorified in all things.

And may He remove all the things in me that don’t.

still in it for life

It was a long time ago but it was yesterday. Standing in a stadium in California, stranger to the thousands, tired, sunburned, ready to be done with my first-ever significant fast, not even sure what made me spend over $350 on a plane ticket to go volunteer and pray in a place where I knew no one. Then it happened, late that evening, as I sat, alone. Ready to go but wanting to hold out. The verses. Bible verses. That was all. She read a stream of them, what the Word of God said about the shedding of innocent blood.

I wept.

Standing there, utterly exhausted and as in the flesh as a human can be, I wept because of what the Word of God said. In that moment I knew beyond the shadow of the slightest human reasoning that I was called to do something about abortion. I didn’t call it being called until later. I didn’t know what happened, but I knew that it wasn’t emotion that moved me. I had none left. I was exhausted. It wasn’t friends; I didn’t know a single person there. It wasn’t the speaker. She was a girl reading verses, non-dramatically. The Word of God is alive, active, shaper than a two-edged sword, cutting to my marrow. Yeah, that’s a verse in Hebrews, but it’s also reality. Because it did. It cut through me. I went home to Texas, but I was never the same again. That moment would define much of my future.

It was less than a year before God had launched me into pro-life ministry. I did pretty much nothing. It was the first time in my life I didn’t have to work to make something happen. One moment I was posting a pro-life article on Facebook and the next I was the author of the pro-life articles. I led a ministry in AL where people responded—to pray. Shoot, people don’t often come to prayer meetings when it’s something happy or neutral, let alone about abortion. I got invited to speak places, then got asked to write for a national blog, then found myself onstage speaking to stadiums. Me. The girl who just felt like she needed to go pray. If ever I knew God was doing something, it was in that. He had called me; I said yes.

This is what eventually landed me in the roles I had at IHOPKC, even though that went to all of the justice issues by then. Every Friday morning you could find me on that podium, usually with Action Figure Arm, crying out for life. My sweet leader, Ben, would often let me go first even though he was the leader of the pro-life department at IHOPKC. I didn’t care what order I went in as long as I got to take what was inside me and channel it into intercession.

And then it unraveled; it was crushing to my spirit. It was the 2012 election. In fact, it’s been stirring up lately with all the candidates throwing their hat in the election ring for 2016, reminders of those weeks. I wrote stuff people didn’t like because it was about the nominee. It was okay when he was only one of many candidates, but when he was a nominee, they insisted I was campaigning for the other side. I was campaigning for truth. What I found, as I have detailed before, was that people’s faith in God being in control of an election only extended as far as their candidate. It was impossible to believe, for most, that the “other” guy could get into office and God could still move. I became Public Enemy Number One to some of my circle. And it broke me. I found I had more faith than I knew because that was tested. I was disowned by some, rejected by others. Then there were the dear people who always loved me and stood. In fact, to this day, I love Ben because he was the only leader I had who ever, every single time he was checking in with me, asked “How are you?” and when I answered about what was going on with ministry, he said “I don’t want to know about your ministry. How’s your heart?” I cherish that still. He knew what mattered most. But by then my heart was too far gone. If Ben had been a woman, I might have answered more clearly because I might have broken down crying. But I felt like I had to be tough.

I’d like to say my faith in God moving no matter who was elected was all pure faith, but I had facts from the past that helped my faith. Since the last election, we had had more pro-life laws than ever enacted—and that proved true again. In fact, since the election of a man who fully supports all abortion rights, we’ve had more pro-life laws in our nation since the advent of legalized abortion. This is why I did not worry on this issue. I knew God was bigger. I dare say now that had we gone the other way, abortion would be more accessible.

Now I’m not here to argue politics. For the love of all things holy, please don’t argue politics. Little can divide the church so much. That was my last straw before my fall.

Eventually I left the ministry side of being pro-life. I was done. Without faith that God really was in control, I felt confused. What would we do when things got too hard? We couldn’t live without creamers that were made from tests that came from aborted fetal cells, so what would we do when our actual nutrition depended on standing for life? My heart got ugly, offended, aching, and I was done.

But I wasn’t done with being pro-life. You see, if God calls you, He doesn’t take it back. I am forever thankful for the pro-life news agency who hired me as a freelance writer about that time. In fact, they hired me about one month before I left pro-life ministry, which I see now as the Lord keeping that door open because I am called to life. Thus, I have been able to continue being a voice where the Lord called me, but without that ministry label that was so destructive to my heart (through lots of fault of my own, by the way, so don’t read this as a criticism of others).

Last week something happened I didn’t expect. I don’t need to detail that because the what isn’t important. What’s important is that without warning my heart beat fast, and my eyes filled with tears I couldn’t allow out. What’s important is that I wanted to stand up and tell everyone about abortion and Stericycle and medical incineration and fetal cell coffee creamers. So I wrote. I wrote so fast I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to read it later. I spilled words out to a private page, trying to harness thoughts I could not explain. Except I could. I knew that feeling. I had it that night in 2008.

As quickly as I could, I left where I was and got in my car, and as soon as I turned onto the road, I cried. Heaving, heavy sobs, for life, for legalized murder, for people all over who did not learn from history, for people all over who were ignorant as to the present. My heart broke for the heart of God which weeps all the time for what I only weep for when He touches me that deeply and I let Him. My heart broke for the ones who can’t weep for abortion, who have closed their hearts to prevent pain, who have denied the reality in the name of progress or financial independence. My heart broke into shreds there on the highway. I pulled over once I was away and I cried, and shook, and ached, and grieved, and I asked what this meant, what was next.

I have never doubted my call to life. What happened to me in that stadium was too profound. But I didn’t know what rose up in me that night last week could be so powerful again. I don’t know what the Lord is having me do with it, if anything other than remind me of what He has said and keep writing in a forum He has allowed me.  I have zero interest in entering ministry again, and yet I realize I have a purpose in pro-life ministry and that may happen again one day. I’m not doing anything to make that happen, but whatever He asks, my answer is only yes because we all know I have no interest in going backwards.

I don’t have a massive point to make with this entry. Really, I needed to write because the strength of the feelings overwhelmed me. I sat on the entry for a few days, but I still don’t know why it hit me as it did. I suppose if there are any morals to this story they are, in this order:

  • When God calls you, you don’t get uncalled. He knew what He was doing in the first place
  • Don’t elevate politics to a spiritual place it’s not. Do your part, follow your conscience as it’s rooted in Jesus, but remember that there really is one King, and He can take care of even what we see as negative.

 

adressing the elephant before the next post

Before I continue this blog, let me just call out the elephant in the room. A few weeks ago I started this new blog, at first because I knew I was going to write about IHOPKC, and I needed a neutral forum in which to do so. Search engines do not index my blog. That simply means it does not show up in a Google search result, but it is still public. That keeps away the spam from places that just use key words. That’s why I was rather stunned by the thousands of people who read the IHOP blog—and still are, it seems. To be sure, there is a reality to reaching the world with a click of a button. Nations I didn’t know existed saw that blog—and it was all from organic sharing, not search engines. And that’s the elephant in the room because now I am returning to writing about my regular old spiritual life, but I don’t want to pretend that blog wasn’t in the middle of it. So let me throw out a few comments to end that chapter:

I didn’t write the IHOPKC blog to start a blog about it, nor did I write it to debate. I settled that debate in my heart before I wrote it. I did not approve any comments that rehashed the debate or argued, not because I am afraid of those views but because those views are indexed by search engines, and my blog isn’t intended to debate or create a forum for such things. If you want other opinions, they are plentiful and Google will lead you to them. My blog is not the place for debate–those debates, in my belief, do not glorify Jesus, and that is my heart with what I write and do. I have taken two years to hash it out in my heart, and the last nine months coming to terms with what I believe and feel. I said everything I need to say. I wanted to say that because I want you to understand why those comments do not appear. I almost approved them simply because I am not afraid of them, but I ultimately decided against it since they were a rehashing of what is out there already, and they are not fruitful for anyone.

While I am at it, I want to say a few other things. I have received many comments, some private, as well as emails and messages, thanking me for helping others articulate what they felt. Many people were (are) hurting deeply from the accusations and, sometimes, what they see as betrayal. It’s been touching to me to read these heartfelt comments. I am grateful for how the Lord has used this.

A couple other thoughts: I have discovered that when people really want to know something, they will read as many words as it takes. Due to the unique nature of my involvement with IHOPKC, and my need to contextualize situations, as well as make it accessible to those unfamiliar with the ministry, those who reviewed the blog for copy editing suggested I not cut anything because as those unfamiliar with the intricacies, they needed it to understand. I specifically asked them what I could cut and keep the meaning. This may be an SMS culture that lives to tweet and text, but when it matters, people will read. This encourages me, and I hope we will do it for all the things that matter—most of them matter a lot more than this: the Bible, news stories that may affect our lives, even long emails from people we love who need to share their heart. Reading isn’t dead. That blog was one of the longest pieces of work I’ve written, but it’s also the most read. I’m surprised, but pleasantly so. I shared it exactly once on my Facebook, and on my Twitter (where that page is private and only reached 45 people at the time). The rest was organic sharing from people who cared to know.

Finally, since I am making a comment on this, I want to make something clear in case I hurt you. In the rough couple years I had, I sent my FB through some metamorphoses. Without detailing what occurred, I felt like I needed to remove everyone from FB who 1) I didn’t actually know, and 2) that I had not had any interaction with in a year or so. This happened in two phases. I found out through publishing this blog that I hurt some feelings that way. For that I apologize. I was coping with my own issues and they were deeply painful at the time. I had been burned through “behind the scenes” Facebook talk and no longer felt safe with random strangers on my Facebook. A year later, the things I wrote about RAD and the close friends that didn’t comment or respond exacerbated this to my over-magnifying heart. Now I would not take that personally, but at the time I was just in a hard place and figured they didn’t “want” that part of me—and I figured that because so many had said as much to me directly. Many people have re-friended me, and I accepted gladly. If you happen to see this and were hurt, please forgive me. This was a lot more to deal with my own pain than any comment against you. I sincerely apologize.

I wasn’t going to comment anymore at all on the blog because I wanted it to be a one-and-done, a saying of my peace. I don’t want to use it to gain some readership or ministry platform. This is not an IHOPKC blog. I have no ministry, and I am not looking for one; if God leads me to ministry again, my guess is it won’t be one focused on blogging about another ministry! I am loosely considering opening the blog to search engines, since apparently it’s helping people to read, but apart from that, the purpose of it all along was to details what I know firsthand and to offer another take on the situation which has been maligned by sensationalism and misinformation.

I hold no grudges. I am not angry. I love the ministry, and my friends who remain there. I feel deeply for those who were in the real cult that came to IHOPKC and continue to suffer. And I continue to pray for their healing. I do not deny their pain or victimization in the slightest. I just think that many used that to make IHOPKC something it was not. And as my email and responses have indicated, that was hurting many innocent people.

I encourage you, again, to not make a blanket judgment, especially if you know nothing firsthand, and to remain listening until the other side of the story is revealed. Sometimes there is more to perceived “silence” than you know. You’re going to have to take my word on that one (or not, but I do mean it with concrete reasons, not speculation). And above all, I encourage you to pray. Clearly there is much pain from what has happened. That’s legitimate. People need to experience the love of Jesus—especially those victimized by the cult happenings—and everyone in pain needs healing. We would do well to pray every time we heard anything related to it, no matter which side we are on. Virtually everyone on both sides claims to love Jesus and be a Christian. Our duty, then, is to be a light to other Christians and to the world.

Now, with all that said, I am going to resume blogging about my spiritual journey, insights, etc. I am afraid some you may be bored if you followed my blog, but you are welcome to read! I just want to talk about Jesus and what He is doing in my life, and so my awesome April 4 blog is coming later. I just felt odd not discussing the elephant before I segued into my personal stories and insights again.

Thank you for reading; thank you for your personal comments to me; I tried to honor all the requests on my blog that asked me to not post the comment publicly; I don’t believe I missed any. Of all the comments I received, only three were negative. I’m sure there is a lot I didn’t hear, but the weight of that showed me the need for people to hear another side too–and it showed me the pain in many who have been silently grieved by the bad comments that have been the focus. I believe there will be more revelations of good, of fruit, of commitment to Jesus. Don’t throw anything aside yet.

“Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord. -Psalm 27:14 (NASB)