Not ambidextrous, just double-minded

Christians, pro-lifers, we have a heartbreaking problem. Yet again today I encountered a familiar name–a governor, one I’ve written about often. A proclaimed Christian. A pro-lifer. One of the good ones, who has signed incredible pro-life legislation. I have found myself writing stories about these folks and declaring “I LOVE YOU!” at the screen, meaning I love what they are doing and uncompromising truth that comes forth, rallying for LIFE.

And then.

Then the nation turned its focus to education. Hear me. Not to teacher greed and fights against administrators, but to the situations of students, classrooms, materials, texts, heating and air conditioning, mold. The nation has been focused on this–especially with Oklahoma’s recent outcry. Now we have Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, and West Virginia was before Oklahoma. More will be coming, by the way, just watch.

And then we have social programs, such as WIC, prenatal care, housing for the poor. These are lifelines for the women we plead with to keep their babies.

I could make this an incredibly long post. I could detail every pro-life legislator I used to respect, from our local state house, to governors across our nation. And I could show you how ANTI-life some of them are.

See, life is about more than being sure that baby is not aborted. That is the most urgent of crises because it’s happening this moment and waiting even a day could cost a life. I get that and stand behind that. But after she says okay, she will keep her baby, to cut her programs that help her, to reduce budgets for social services, to underfund and reduce funding year-by-year for schools, and to sign pro-life legislation with one hand and then sign away bills that support life with the other makes these leaders not ambidextrous, just double-minded. And the Bible has some things to say about that.

Here in my state, the strongest voice supporting a funded and equal education in our legislature, a hero to us all, is a Democrat. Sadly, he cannot run again due to term limits.  The entire Democratic platform states its pro-abortion rights stance. But then I found out–from a very reliable source who has worked with him–that this man is a practicing Catholic, and is genuinely pro-life. See, real pro-life is wonb-to-the-tomb. You can’t do one without the other. That is the reason we have accusations railed at us that “they only care about the baby being born.” How dare we? What a despicable shame if our definition of pro-life is simply to prevent abortion. That is step one! You cannot be pro-life and support any abortion. You simply can’t. It is never okay to say a child may die.

However, it is also never okay to say now that the child has lived, we’re done. I am ashamed of these leaders who I thought were on my side, who have signed good legislation, such as forbidding abortion because a baby is diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome. Of course no child should die because of this. But many parents of a special needs child will tell you if not for public school programs, their child would not have made as many strides. When you cut funding to schools, when you hire people who aren’t even real teachers and are so shorthanded, then that the one certified teacher you do have is doing all the IEPs and paperwork all day long (because legally she has to), and the children with profound needs are at the hands of someone who doesn’t have any real teaching skill, who is learning on the job with these precious children as guinea pigs. That’s one of a multitude of disastrous examples that should remind legislators they should stop being so proud they signed that important bill to help the child live, as if that were the end. Yes, that was good, but how are you helping the child live now? What sort of programs will you have in place when he turns 21 and can’t have those special services? If you cut those too, he’s stuck. Surprise, a parent can’t do everything for some special needs children without help, especially a parent without a lot of money. And those poor women are the ones who often go for abortions–and are recruited by Planned Parenthood, I might add, especially minorities. What promise of life can our state, our nation, give these people?

What about those kids in foster care? DHS is both underfunded and shorthanded? To call yourself pro-life and cut these areas that serve and help children is plainly immoral.

To be pro-life is to be pro-child.

We can say “the real answer is that state agencies need to be audited” (they do). Or that “school districts (DHS, healthcare agencies) need to trim the fat off the administrative costs and all that money will exist” (we could all use some trimming, just like the legislature, but that’s an exaggeration that all the money will reappear.

We have a tragic problem. I think it’s both political problem and a church problem; the church is in collusion with bad politics and calls it Jesus when He doesn’t endorse such practices either. I cannot in good conscience call myself a Republican based on what I have seen even in my own state. But I clearly cannot back a party who has abortion rights as a key area of its platform, so I am certainly not a Democrat. Nor do I care much about those labels. To me, the only reason to register under one is to vote in primaries.

We need to be genuine Christians who have a big picture of what it means to be pro-life. That means being pro-education, pro-state human services. Look, you guys, I realize that in some states being pro-education and pro-state human services then crosses the Christian’s moral lines. But looking at many of these conservative states that claim, fallaciously, to be Christian, we see that these moral issues don’t come into play–other than the immorality of what we do to children, the elderly, the school system, et al.

In the recent Oklahoma education battle, many Christians condemned the walkout because OEA was a leader of it,and OEA is the state affiliate of NEA. That much is true. But what no one who cried moral foul ever pointed out was that 1) OEA has no power over Oklahoma schools because they are not unionized. 2) There has been zero debate over issues that compromise Christianity in the walkout; this has been about basics, not sex ed, questionable curriculum, or anything else like that. 3) Thousands of the teachers and principals–and superintendents–these people who supported it–were not even OEA members or supporters. But some threw away the whole movement because NEA has some ideas of propagating perversion. Know what? It DOES. But NEA isn’t running these non-unionized schools. Are we so narrow minded that we cannot critically think and understand the real issue? I read ministry letters that discussed the walkout and had the facts wrong! Things I knew first hand were reported inaccurately and a whole argument was based on it.

Christianity is about truth, about living an upright life that emulates Jesus. That means not hindering children–in the womb or out. It means speaking truth, whether that is getting the facts, not hiding behind a ghostwriter that we never give credit to but “we always wanted to write a book” or anything else morally questionable. We are to be above reproach, not walking the blurry line of “how far can I go?” The whole WWJD movement wasn’t really a bad idea as far as how we should think. Would Jesus choose to support the oil and gas industry that gave top dollar in election donations over being sure kids who are educated in 105 degree heat are allowed a working air conditioner or books that actually discuss 9-11 because they were published after 2001? Really? Do we have to ask this?

I considered running for state representative this year. My current representative is infamous in our state for being anti-education–despite coming from a family of educators. He likes to vote for positive teacher bills, but will never actually vote to fund these bills because “I have to do right by [the oil and gas industry”; he said that. But if I were elected, unlike some representatives, my job is such that it would be a conflict-of-interest, so I would lose it run for representative I would lose my job, and I know I am making an impact where I am as well and this is not the time to do that. But Christians, if you have a lick of political sense, and you can actually be wholly pro-life and defend the causes of Jesus, not of rich corporate executives, then please consider running. Whether it’s giant border walls that invest unreal amounts of money to keep the alien and stranger out, rather than simply dealing with lawbreakers as infractions occur, or whether it’s choosing to undertax big business, giving them tax breaks that are so high that the common resident actually suffers, these “Republican” and/or “conservative” ideals are anti-Jesus.

I honestly see that our testimony as Christians is suffering nationwide; no wonder other nations send missionaries to us now! A friend recently made a Facebook post of how we are so quick to overlook and forgive President Trump’s repeated sexual affairs, harassment, indiscretions–and foul language. Yet when we in the church make a negative comment about those issues–or even question the testimony we’re making by publicly supporting these things–we are not forgiven nearly as quickly; in fact, a majority seem to receive anger, criticism, judgement (“why are you persecuting him?”) and all sorts of negative responses–so that forgiveness only seems to extend to one side to most.

I don’t know who you hang out with or how much you see going on in the nation, but because of some unique experiences and perspectives I have, I see a lot. Additionally, I am well-read and well-traveled, with myriad friends on both sides of the aisles, as well as in the crevices. And I can tell you, with confidence, the Christian witness has been compromised, is being compromised. It is very easy for me to understand this “progressive” Christian movement. I disagree with it and know it undermines the gospel, but I see the power to draw people because the heart of Christianity is social justice–life more abundant. Salvation is step one, but we are meant to thrive. When we see leaders in bed with both big business, as well as with women who are not their wives–and we excuse it, many seek a more genuine Christianity. Sadly, some are deceived into thinking a progressive gospel is the answer. It’s not. The gospel is an uncompromising truth and must include an inerrancy of Word of God. But the gospel’s real focus on money is about giving it away and helping others. The gospel is founded on “God so loved that He gave.” The gospel is about letting children and families thrive, of caring for the poor, of loving the unlovable–all without compromising truth. The progressive church compromises truth, but an increasing large chunk of the rest of us compromise the spirit of the gospel. Jesus never put the focus on making more money above caring for people. But you’d never know it listening to my representative who is continually introduced as a “man of faith and family… teaches Sunday school….” It almost would be better not to mention our faith if our proclamations of faith causes others to stumble. I have watched person after person leave all organized religion and churches over the compromise. There is a significant difference between the old line of “They are all hypocrites” and expecting perfection out of imperfect people. That won’t ever happen. But that’s not the same as churches, pastors, leaders, elected officials who name the name of Jesus, saying and doing things, not as mistakes but as a justified lifestyle.

Look, people, I like money too. I am raising money right now–or am trying too–we’re stuck at the moment–for a pro-life trip to help orphans. I am paying down a bazillion dollars of student loans and would love is oil and gas could line my pockets. I work for a very poor state, but I am in a fringe group that does not get raises when there is a “state employee pay raise.” My own boss has been here almost 30 years and he makes only about 5K more than I do in base pay. We don’t get raises. I like raises. I need money. But never at the expense of compromising livelihood. I am not a Socialist. I want to keep what I earn. I don’t like taxes, but if I see that children are suffering and a small tax increase can change that, I care more about those children than I do my pocketbook.  To think that public education doesn’t impact us, when in my state alone 92% of all students are publicly educated is a short-sighted view. These are the people working in our communities, who are our society. Same with social services, Meals on Wheels, you name it.   It is not a Socialist ideology that votes for those who will do the most good for all of society vs. the rich. If the gospel is not about us and our wants, why do we change that when it comes to politics? We can’t–at least not if we think we’re walking in truth.

I challenge you: either be pro-life or don’t, but this lukewarm Christianity movement is making us taste like something the world wants to spit out of their mouth.

At the end of the day, when I try to look through this with the eyes of Jesus. I look long and hard at that Democratic legislator who is pro-life and votes for babies, participates in pro-life marches, etc. (it’s legit to be Democratic at the state level and be pro-life; nationally, it would be impossible to be elected and actually maintain that, sadly), who also supports schools, healthcare (no Planned Parenthood or pro-abortion issues in our state healthcare agenda, by the way, so that one isn’t in play). Sure, he probably has some views that need refining. He has flaws, perhaps flaws in how he upholds some areas of righteousness as we all do. But I think Jesus would see him as a flawed but righteous man trying to legislate. I also think Jesus, from what I know of Him from His own Word, would be much less pleased with the Republican who writes pro-life bills every session but votes against everything that would help other people, especially those moms–and doing so at the expense of profiting the rich, not only in legitimate ways since they worked hard for their money, but literally letting them pay less than anyone else so they will come running to our state–causing us to have the opposite of abundant life due to the catastrophic financial situations we end up living as a society.

There is a reason Jesus said it is easier to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And in American politics, I see it more than ever.

I am grieved to my core when I see leaders in our states who claim to love Jesus, speak of their faith, and then, apart from the “big two” issues of faith that merge with government, do everything to undermine the heart of God for the people they are elected to serve, lead, or minister to.

When the history books are rewritten and public schools can afford to buy them, which chapter will you appear in:

  1. Democrats and their rule in the land?
  2. Republicans and their rule in the land?
  3. Jesus followers and their rule in the land?

Hint: only one is eternal.

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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.

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.

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)

This is a new blog because I have so much to say. Some of it’s really exciting about Jesus stuff, and some of it’s really heavy stuff I need to say publicly. I haven’t known exactly where to start so this testimony seems a good place.  I told God I was going to be posting this because I just knew he would do it. So please wade through the first part that may sound like complaining; it’s not.

Two days ago I got some really strange pain, sort of in my back, lower abdomen, maybe kidney? I couldn’t totally tell. I do have regular back pain, usually when I sit for too long. My doctors have always told me running helps it. Monday I ran 4.5 miles–and the pain continued. It didn’t get worse, but it never lightened up much. It wasn’t horrible then, but it was making my run a bit less fun. I finally decided to slow it down, so I could enjoy it more. It ended up being a good run, but with the cloud of pain. It didn’t get any worse from the run, but even sitting hurt. It bothered me because it was NOT like any of the pain I sometimes have. I knew it was different and it was making me nervous, but I didn’t want to be all whining about pain on FB. Monday night I went to bed at a normal time, planning to rise early and get on the road to Kansas. I had glimmers as I went to bed that I might wake up worse since the pain was getting worse, and even had the thought I might not be able to drive 6 hours.

At 3:44 a.m. I awoke. In pain. Serious pain. I went to sleep with a lidocaine patch on (leftover from a procedure a few years ago), and then wrapped a back brace over that, lightly. It didn’t help. The pain was so deep, and when lidocaine doesn’t work, you know it’s not a certain type of pain; that scared me more. I was in too much pain to get comfortable to sleep. It wasn’t that it was so terrible like I was keeled over as much as it was nothing would help it. I was miserable, sleepy, and praying as coherently as I could do. It was then I realized I might have to cancel a trip because I was too sick to drive. I even wondered if I couldn’t run. Run streakers run with the flu (only a slow indoor mile), so you can imagine how troubled I was to think that. I took some Celebrex, an OTC sleeping pill, and waited to sleep. It took an hour to fall back asleep and I didn’t bother with the alarm. I awoke again about the time I was planning to leave. I decided if I could just get there, that was accomplishment enough.

I took a couple prescription pain pills that don’t affect my driving, and packed up. I was feeling better—and was somewhat encouraged that at least pain pills worked (I was too sleepy and uncomfortable to get out of bed the night before and get these—and the Celebrex and other Advil I had was messing up my stomach so I added that problem to it.

The pain subsided enough that I felt better about driving. I knew I’d get good medical care in KC if I got there, so I just went for it. I drove straight through to Wichita and seemed to do okay. I went to the restroom and got gas, and headed for the last 2.5 hours of the drive. Almost as soon as I got back in the car, the pain was dominant. It wasn’t excruciating, but it was scary. Like walking or moving had triggered it all again. I could not get comfortable. I was scared at this point. This was not some running pain or strain from a bad workout. My pain pills were in my trunk, and I just wanted to get to Kansas so bad that I didn’t want to stop again. I only had NSAIDs in my car and wasn’t up to messing up my stomach. As it was I knew I had to get some stronger antacid meds until this passed. I felt like my body was falling apart. When I got to just outside my destination, I found a Target that was on my way to where I planned to go run. I had a goal of mileage for the day, and while it wasn’t long, I had given up and was going to settle for one slow mile to keep up the streak, if I could do that without extra pain. I was genuinely scared of this pain. I had goggled both appendicitis and kidney infections. Thankfully, I didn’t have a fever. I was getting nauseated, but mostly I think it was from the pain—you know how when you hurt too much it can give you chills and make you feel like throwing up? Or I was trying to deny that symptom.

I didn’t say anything because people always talk about this and that hurting, and plus, who wants to hear horror stories of what happened to someone else? So I was just praying a lot. I was so uncomfortable that my own prayers and worship would get interrupted because the pain was distracting me. At Target, I got some Prilosec, which I inhaled, and barely anything else because that involved walking. I was 15 minutes from the lake where I planned to run (hobble). I took two more pain pills and the Prilosec. I was feeling decent when I got to the lake, again, relieved that pain pills worked. I couldn’t be that sick if they worked right? Appendicitis wouldn’t respond to some piddly pain pill! I felt encouraged by that.

So I got out of the car to run and within the first 1/10 of a mile was smiling. It was cold and I was in a tank top and shorts—and that was my biggest problem physically. I have never thanked God so exuberantly for being too cold! The run (only 1.76 miles—which was more than I planned but felt so good) refreshed me and gave me hope. It recharged my prayers and I had a wonderful worship time as I drove to the running store. When I finally checked in my hotel, I was feeling lots better. It had been about three hours since the pain pills and I could tell the pain was coming back a bit, but it didn’t feel too bad—but I knew it was there. I had relief but I was not healed. I took another dose and another antibiotic, wanting to keep it in me if there were an infection.

I finally texted my friend and told her why I didn’t call while I was driving as we planned—the wind was loud but I was just too uncomfortable to focus on talking. I told her to pray. And later I emailed her with a lot of these details in asking her to pray.

I was just happy the pain hadn’t flared up as I went to bed. I got out two of the pain pills, one antibiotic, filled a cup of water, and got my OTC sleep meds and lay them all next to my bed. If I did wake up when this round of painkillers wore off, I would have it all right there to take and be back to sleep sooner. And I prayed some more. Because I wanted more than just relief and Jesus was working in my life a lot lately and I knew this was nothing. What happened the week or two before was a much bigger miracle. This wasn’t knocking me out.

So I prayed a lot. Well, I sort of pray a lot anyway now (see other posts of my crazy life!) But I was walking around like a crazy Charismatic anointing myself with oil because, well, there were no elders, so I decided I was the elder in my house and car! I have always had some unexplained faith for physical healing. I have never been a sickly type, something for which I am grateful and realize is a huge blessing which I do not take for granted (especially in understanding other types of chronic battles). But when my vocal folds got damaged when I was a teacher and singer (like I kind of needed healthy ones for every single thing I did!) I even had surgery by a guy who has operated on celebrity singers, and that didn’t help! I was sick for 13 months. One of the worst memories of my life as a worship singer was the night Mark (he’s not the bad memory) said, kindly, that maybe I better not sing that night because my voice wasn’t even holding out at lower notes. 13 months and some days after I first injured it, I asked a random person I just met (now my very dear and bestest friend, Camilla, who also had a vocal issue going on but was a worship leader, how she managed to just hand the mic to her sister to lead when her voice went out and not feel such grief. That night was the beginning of our friendship (14 years ago in May), and maybe that’s why God used that moment, but she prayed for me, a casual sounding, non-dramatic prayer (she’d just met me) and the next day I woke up with a full voice–and it never went away again. I don’t even know that I have been extremely hoarse when I got sick! In that same season I remember having what was probably arthritis in my thumb, constantly bothering me, and praying and praying–and Jesus healed it. Never happened again. In that same season once He even healed a cold. No joke. Jesus can be the cure for a common cold. (Wish that worked all the time). So I already had faith for physical healing, from those small experiences–except the voice thing wasn’t small; it altered my whole life dramatically–though the fruit of that was I began to dance more and that’s one way God used it. I couldn’t sing my worship so I had to dance it.

All that to say that between that and a natural faith I have always had, without any real experience with sickness in me or those close to me at the time, I have been able to believe for healing more than I can explain, and so I was on it with this pain.

This morning I did not have to set an alarm, so as I went to sleep the mystery was if I would wake up in the middle of the night or not. I woke up at 8:34 a.m. and realized immediately I had slept through the night. This time the pain pills had worn off and I didn’t need them! Then I turned over in bed. No pain. I got up to start my day. No pain. Was I healed? I wanted to run first, to be sure it wasn’t like how I was fine sitting in the car but when I walked in the travel center it triggered it.

I thought it would be good if I could run at least as long a I did Monday. 6.55 miles later—the longest run since my 15K in Tyler—at a faster speed than some races I have run, I knew I was healed. Zero pain, twinges, or anything else in that spot. The rest of me felt like I had just run 6.55 in the cold and rain, and my hips felt a bit of a strain. My abs felt it—but all of it was nowhere near the pain that had scared me.

How little it must sound to some to report a two day pain went away. But it was such a unique and scary pain. I could poke that area and feel it. It was not generalized like most pain. It was in one spot, and I was sure it was not okay. I have always believed your body gives you warming signs when something is really wrong. Most people I know who got a serious disease could identify small precursors and stuff. I don’t take stuff lightly. It’s never wrong to pray too hard or believe for too much healing, you know?

For two days (only two days, thank the Lord) I was afraid, nervous, distracted, unfocused. And in unusual pain. And Jesus healed me. And I told Him if He did I was going to tell everyone, and I do so with great joy.

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The glass of water and untaken pills. Amen.

This is a minor chapter of a major thing going on right now. Two weeks ago I was not the person I am now. It’s exciting, invigorating, fun. I feel like a child in awe of a new discovery. I have known the Lord a long time, but I have spent many years with a more cerebral knowledge than anything, trying to hang on to a faith that was damaged and actually did hit rock bottom one day about 1.5 years ago. That was one of the scariest moments of my life. In past years I would have never believed that I would passionately and excitedly write about Jesus healing a pain that hadn’t even been diagnosed as anything. But that’s the bigger point here. When Jesus comes in that way, everything changes—sometimes in a moment. That’s’ what happened for me. And this seems like the best place to start this new blog. Most of my personal thoughts are in an old-fashioned handwritten journal, some of them also go to a friend, but then I have bigger thoughts and experiences that I hope will encourage others.

Nothing has changed circumstantially in my life. I didn’t make a new friend, meet a guy, get another job, find a church, or anything else. Jesus changed me. And even if I wanted to shut up, I couldn’t right now. There’s nothing more important. Healing is a byproduct, but today I rejoice and praise Him for it.

Stay tuned for more spiritual adventures and spiritual commentary about some things it’s about time I talk about. But don’t stay tuned for any negative drama because that’s not how I roll.