Armoured Up

Archive for the tag “Church”

Flashback Friday

flashback_friday

Flashback Friday…the day folks who forgot to post on Throwback Thursday get a second chance to go back in time. I went back in time to a not so great time. You know it’s a trip when you say “those were the good old days,” and those days were not too long ago. I mean, seriously, I can almost look over my shoulder to those days.

I got hurt in church. That’s a fact…yep, it happened. The truth of the matter is that most ALL of the hurt I’ve sustained as a Christian has been at the hands of Christians. That is what has been on my mind on this fine “Flashback Friday!!”

If I were NOT a Christ-follower, I suspect the hurt would roll off of my back eventually.  I’d be irritated, bitter, hard hearted and unforgiving.  I would write off my oppressors and look forward to the day that they “got theirs,” preferably at the hands of another, but hopefully loud enough for me to hear about it.

If I were a Christ-follower I suspect the hurt may or may not roll off of my back, I’d withdraw, say I have forgiven, but be confused about what forgiveness looked like, and I’d probably be bitter, (if I was being totally honest), skeptical and unwilling to engage ever..period!

I was that hurt, bitter, skeptical unwilling to engage ever..period Christ-follower.  It’s crazy to even type that admission after I type “Christ-follower.”  Following the leader usually makes one look and act like the leader, huh? Not always, at least not in my case and I would venture to say I’m not alone.  When I left church on that last day, I knew it was my last day and I left unannounced, uncelebrated, unnoticed…just like I had arrived.  But I left with a secret, since I had a year to sit in my hurt right there at the scene of the crime.

I was pretty giddy as I got into my car that day.  Freedom feels good!!!  My secret?  Some church was about to be blessed big time.  Some church was about to be the recipient of a family who loved God, loved people and was willing to do whatever it takes to follow the leader…Jesus!!

I purposed in my heart to stay at that church and not take all of that hurt with me.

I had a residue when I left and I had to reprogram my heart and that’s where being stubborn and steadfast worked in my favor.  There was no way I was going to allow people to change or alter my course or rearrange my purpose.  Now, I so recognize the walking wounded and it hurts me in a different way.  I’m saddened because there are so many not plugged in…just roaming, some hoping to re-engage some day, some too embittered to want to try again, some giving up altogether.  This topic keeps showing up within me because I keep running into my brothers and sisters who don a fresh limp…a limp that makes me flash back.

Here’s a great quote I ran across in a study I’m doing in a “Think about it” section….

People we love have a unique capacity to hurt us. We are vulnerable to them in a way we are not vulnerable to others. Sometimes, this vulnerability is so painful that we pull away from connection and close off to others, hoping they won’t be able to hurt us again. But when we do so, we also close ourselves off to experiencing joy, happiness, gladness, and delight with them and even because of them.

What courage it takes to expose our hearts again after we have sustained great hurt. I would venture to boldly say that the people who hurt us were sent to heal us if that hurt drives us to the only One who can heal us.

The truth is that the enemy works the hardest within the walls of the church. There is no way he wants the church to be healthy, whole and free.  That would be too great a threat for him and his kingdom.

Be healed church…move forward.  There is a Body…there is someBody and you are the gift which that Body needs.

 

Led by the Spirit Lifer

imageslif•er
n. Informal.
1. a person sentenced to or serving a term of life imprisonment.
2. a person committed to a professional lifetime career in the military.

Lifer…I’ve heard people use that expression as it relates to their careers and I’ve also heard it used at a church where I was once a member.   After reading the above definition, I’m not sure that I much care for that term, actually!!

Recently, my husband commented that he really thought we would be “lifers” at our last church…so did I.  Our family is faithful.  We tend to stick and stay…same doctors, same supermarket, same dog groomer, same hairstylist (for me), you get the picture!  We’re pretty stable and loyal once we find a place to “hang our hat.”  As far as church is concerned, we are super vigilant and purpose to be loyal, not only because it is right and for our own good, but because there are two sets of eyes watching our every move and recording every decision.  We’ve never been the sort to church hop…we don’t even do much church visiting and if we do, our first stop is always our home church.  That’s just how we do it.

Last week my daughter was traipsing down memory lane and asked me how long we attended our previous church and with my response I started wondering if we would ever be lifers at a ministry.  For a split second (and believe me it was just that fast) I wondered if something was wrong with uprooting the family after just a few years…(5 years and two weeks to be exact:).

This past weekend I gained a whole new perspective on that lifer business as we witnessed Pastor Mike welcome a batch of newbies to partner up with him and the church to make a difference in the world, to grow, to share their gifts in what he phrased as “this Jesus movement.”  I love how he phrased that and I especially loved how he prayed over them.  He said something in that prayer that caught my ear…he prayed that for however long they were partnered at this church (whether a few years or many) that they would grow in their knowledge and love for the Lord.  Pastor Mike apparently does not expect these partners to be “lifers;” however, he does pray that during the time at the church, that they grow up and go out strong in order to make a difference wherever they go.

This morning his prayer came to mind again and I sensed the Holy Spirit showing me that I am a lifer only in the sense that I am committed to my marriage for life.  I would imagine if one goes into any situation with a plan for life (other than marriage), they would be excluding the possibility of being led by the Holy Spirit, thereby being limited by their planning.

Tonight when my girl comes home, I will explain this lifer deal to her and her brother so that they would understand the importance of being led by the Spirit of God…not emotions or people, or habit, etc.  I will reiterate that the Holy Spirit’s leading is always followed by peace and order and I will let them know that we will be officially making our new church our home church this summer.

I’m praying that we would hear the voice of the Lord and be led by His Spirit; that our decisions would be in line with His will, plan and purpose; that our intentions would always mirror His heart for those whom He places in our path and that He be glorified always and in every way…in Jesus’ name!!

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.
Psalm 37:23

A Perfectly Woven Web

When God has His sights set on someone, there’s no changing His mind.  He will move heaven and dip into hell to free the one who’s lost; He’ll leave the 99 to go after the 1 and He’ll use you to do it.  I received a prayer request about a lost dog and I found myself praying like never before that Comet would be found.  “Lord, show Yourself strong on behalf of this situation; prove that You have heard their cry and bring back Comet.”  Well, He heard; He moved and Comet is back at home.  I revisited this prayer request and once again marveled at its request-or.  I smiled as I recalled how God put us together, once again recalling with amazement the perfectly woven web He created…too perfect to be regarded as coincidence.  So perfect, it could only be God!!

Earlier this year, I received a 911 call from Victoria, a sister from church, about her friend (who had just started attending our church) who had absolutely stretched her to the point where she felt her counsel would be fruitless.  She said she called me because of the counsel I had given her in the past and she looked up to me, etc. etc…you see where this is going too, huh?  She wanted to know if I knew “someone” who could minister to this fiery little Puerto Rican.  Victoria knew exactly what she was doing, but as I listened I wondered if I would be up for this challenge, since I was still licking my wounds from a hurt I had sustained.  (God saw this as a perfect opportunity for me to finally disengage from my pity party…hearing myself encourage someone else using His word would no doubt shake me out of my funk.)  Of course, I took her number and called her and we spoke for quite a while and though she quietly listened, I felt that I needed to see her and sensed a bit of urgency since Victoria informed me that she was off to see a “spiritual healer” later that week.  I switched some things around and met her at Starbucks where we met over coffee, tears and transparency.  She released a whole lot about herself, her past, her present and her uncertain future, all pointing to someone who was desperate, scared and wanting to change…needing to change, but not having a clue where to begin.  As she was talking there was a familiarity about her.  I figured it was that we were both Puerto Rican…both fast talkers (not in the shady way) and I knew all about the fire I was picking up from her…that stubbornness…strength…loyalty…genuineness…love of family.  Let the weaving begin…

I wanted to switch channels to give her a minute to recover so I asked her about her family…where they lived currently…where they were from in Puerto Rico.  Her response almost knocked me out of my chair.  Her family is currently living in Chicago (I have family spread out in Chicago and Indiana).  Her extended family on her mom’s side lives in a small (I mean super small town) in Puerto Rico…the kinda small that says that if you meet someone who is from there, the chances are great that you are related somehow)…well as it turns out, my parents are both from this small town as well (they are NOT related, thank you very much:) and we’ve narrowed it down to where we must be related on my dad’s side since we share the same family name.  Get outta here!!  God’s got jokes indeed.  Now, it has become personal and I am fully invested.  We say our goodbyes and I promise to keep in touch…Oh, you bet I did!!  And so the weaving continues..

I got home and called my girlfriend who was busy preparing her message for a weekend retreat where she would be sharing her testimony.  She was excited at the prospect of my having met a potential family member and joined me in awe of that divine appointment.  She shared what she would be speaking on and as I listened I realized that her testimony was one that my newly acquired family member, “Mary,” needed to hear.  Rashayna would be able to speak to her and touch those areas that I would be unable to reach because she had the benefit of experience and had been to those places from which Mary was struggling to be freed.  Rashayna suggested that I invite Mary to the retreat (DUH, me) and I jumped on it!!  Remember Victoria the girl who called me to counsel Mary?  Well, I was reminded that she and Rashayna were former roommates and I later discovered that all three of these women worked for the same organization at one point.  Mary had heard of Rashayna.  Coincidence?  Nope…just part of that perfectly woven web.

I got “Mary’s” voicemail and left her a message inviting her to the retreat, telling her that I know that she’d be blessed by it.  I explained that I realized that it was super short notice and that she shouldn’t allow finances to affect her decision about going.  She would be covered.  I hung up the phone and prayed for her.  I knew the enemy was working overtime to keep her isolated.  I felt that she was probably regretting sharing all that she had with me and was most likely wishing that I’d just go away.  Rashayna and I began to pray for her.  Mary and I traded phone calls and we finally connected, she being prompted to trust me by Victoria (whose phone I was absolutely blowing up) trying to ensure that she get ahold of Mary since I couldn’t seem to get her to answer.  Persistence and I are one:)

I had to now brace myself for the retreat.  I wasn’t really too keen on going myself.  I didn’t want to process any pain in front of anyone…me and my hurt little self could handle it on our own as we usually did.  I knew this would not be the case now that Mary had agreed to join me.  I still wasn’t keen on going but now I had a purpose…oh silly me — who am I to think I have anything under control…the web was half way completed.

I couldn’t have been happier seeing Mary come out of the grocery store pulling her luggage, a look of uncertainty in her eye.  Her outward look matched mine; however, I wore mine on the inside…

I’m going to pause here and pick it up tomorrow.  I don’t want the length of this one to scare anyone away.  🙂

“For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.”  Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you.  Than you will seek Me., inquire for, and require Me (as a vital necessity) and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.  I will be found  by you, says the Lord, and I will release you from captivity…”Jeremiah 29:11-14a AMP

Jehovah Rapha, My Healer

Exactly 11 years ago this month, I was living in the ‘burbs, as an at-home mommy to toddlers born 21 months apart. My baby was 14 months old. My husband was on the road a lot making it extremely difficult for me to get to church, which was quite a distance. My son was super busy and my daughter was super clingy and at the time, our church had no children’s church. The thought of schlepping all the way to church with two babies who I’d be chasing the entire time was not appealing so I was M.I.A. quite a bit. (I see clearly now the importance of a LOCAL church and it was by design that I eventually taught in children’s church, giving moms that much needed time in service to fill up!!) During that time, I found myself too busy and tired to even get in the word. After dealing with kids by myself all day and cleaning the house when they went down for the night, I would fall into a catatonic state in front of the tv night after night. My fire had definitely been put out. My first love was no longer first…He may have actually been at least fourth, before me, on a good day…and I can’t help but think that if He were keeping score, He would have felt used and tossed away. I had made Jesus my personal genie, benefitting from His goodness from the miracle births of my children to my staying at home with them to every other material blessing we received. He was now propped on a shelf somewhere, like my bible, if I could find it…collecting dust, I’m sure. It’s like I said, “I’ll take it from here, Lord,” and with a wink and a nod, I moved on and into a nightmare.

The Diagnosis

That day in August, I went to sleep feeling tired, but no more than usual and I woke up feeling strange. My legs felt cold, and like I had rubber bands fastened around them cutting off circulation. My feet were tingling. The symptoms progressed to where I lost feeling in my hands and my fingertips were now tingling. I would have what I call a feeling of “electricity” or a shock down my back whenever I bowed my head and I was exhausted….unnaturally exhausted. This went on for weeks without me sharing with anyone. When my husband finally came home in mid-September, he encouraged me to see a doctor. I was referred to a neurologist, but not just any neurologist!! I was referred to a spirit filled believer who put me through the most horrendous nerve conduction study before sharing the diagnosis with me. I was stricken with a mysterious neurological condition, called Guillain-Barre Syndrome…

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a serious disorder that occurs when the body’s defense (immune) system mistakenly attacks part of the nervous system. This leads to nerve inflammation that causes muscle weakness and other symptoms.

He had studied this disease, knew all about it and had even taught about it during his days as a professor. He said he had seen it pass through the system and there was nothing we could do except wait for that to occur. He would see me every three months. I asked him three questions…(1) Should I read up on it? “No.” (2) How long will it take for these symptoms to diminish? He responded, “Anywhere from now to up to 7 years.” (3) Will you pray for me? “I wouldn’t let you leave without first praying for you.” What a blessing to have my doctor lay his hands on my head and pray the prayer of faith over me.

I left his office that day and called my sister who works in the medical field to let her know how my appointment went. I mispronounced the diagnosis and heard her reaction followed by “Thank God you didn’t say Guillan-Barre. That’s a horrific condition.” She went on to tell me about patients she has seen with it. My legs got weak and I told her that was exactly what I had. Bless her heart…she tried backpedaling a bit, but it was too late. I know why my doctor didn’t want me to read up on it. He later confirmed that he didn’t want my faith to be shaken.

The Fight

The scandal was that I was in for a fight and couldn’t even find my bible.   Although I had left my first love, He never left me. He orchestrated that meeting with my neurologist. He was so good to me even though I felt so undeserving. I recall that first night, putting the kids down and collapsing on the couch and saying “Lord, I know You didn’t give me these kids for someone else to raise. If You heal me, I will serve You all the days of my life.” Side note…”If” is the badge of doubt in a prayer when you know the will of God. It is His will that we prosper and be in health as our souls prosper!

I began to feed on every healing scripture I could find. The pain was tormenting and the enemy did his best to weaken my faith. The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus came so that I would have life and have it abundantly. You know when you are in the fight of your life, you have no time to put down your weaponry because at every turn, the enemy takes swipes. His tactic is to wear you down…to chip away at your armour…to catch you napping. I recognized the pattern from my last fight of faith and I would not be moved, but that does not mean it was a walk in the park!! On three separate occasions I took some shots. One day I was driving and listening to Focus on the Family. I love testimonies and was enjoying hearing a pastor speak of his return to God after his father was taken from him suddenly..a victim to Guillan-Barre. Ooh, that hurt. Weeks later, my brother died suddenly which provoked an onslaught of symptoms, namely the news literally taking my breath away. Thank God my husband was home to help calm me and I dodged that bullet. Several months later, I was still experiencing symptoms…on and off and they seemed to flare up every time I talked about being healed. I was having dinner with my sister and her friend, a hospice nurse. She spoke of a patient…a young man in his 30’s whom she had been ministering to and there was some urgency, since this man would not survive. He was hooked up to a ventilator and was unable to move anything except for his eyes. He suffered from a “mysterious neurological condition,” she said. I asked her if she knew the name of his condition. Of course, it was Guillan-Barre. As soon as I heard that, I lost my appetite and noticed the symptoms were back stronger than ever. Side Note: How interesting (or typical of the devil) that since that time I have yet to hear of anyone having that disease.

Enough is Enough!!!

The year is now 2008 and life has gone on. I’m not as tired anymore, but there are still flare ups and the occasional feeling that I’m all abuzz. I sat in my favorite chair one morning with my healing scriptures on my lap writing in my journal…crying out to God, asking Him when I would be completely healed. “Please Lord…I’m your daughter! Don’t you hear me? Why haven’t I been healed. It’s been SEVEN years now!!” Did you catch that? In a split second I was reminded of the doctor’s time frame when he said I could be healed immediately or it could take up to seven years. I clearly recall after he said that, I counted seven years and thought to myself “that’s not too bad…I could do that.” I quickly repented for my lack of faith..for being double minded.. and in tears I declared my healing at that moment in Jesus’ name. With my hand on my heart, I promise you that every symptom left and I stood up from that chair completely healed and have been symptom free now for 4 years, this month.

This was a long one, and I pray you stayed long enough to hear that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever and He is no respecter of persons. If He healed me, He is willing and able to heal you. Don’t put your confidence in man or in man’s opinion. Put your confidence in Him and trust Him now for your healing. Do the Hezekiah (as I like to call it) — turn your back on that negative doctor’s report and focus your attention on Jesus…the author and finisher of your faith. Jehovah Rapha, my healer – He is faithful and moves when words of faith are released. Try Him! As my blessed mother-in-law would say…the only thing He cannot do is fail…and I’d add to that that the other thing He cannot do is lie!

Peel that Onion Please

This morning I had some great girl time with my baby girl.  She was telling me all about her yesterday.  She met up with her “BFF” at church where they served together on the last day of VBS.  Afterwards, she went to her house where they swam, ate dinner, went shopping and ended the day at a yogurt shop.  She was showing me pictures and showing off her latest “BFF” gear.  How many BFF’s does a girl have, I wondered.  I asked her what her other “BFF” would think when she saw her pictures on Instagram.  “She’ll know how I feel when I see her pictures with ‘Roni.'”  My mommy ears perked up and I asked her if it hurt her to see those pictures.  She said no and was adamant about it not hurting.  Were you at least tweaked?  Pinched?  Bothered at all by it?  Nope, she said as her eyes welled up with tears.  Oy!!  I’m needing some quick wisdom here.  Do I impose MY belief on her that I do not believe in best friends?  Do I break it to her that your best friend usually has a best friend besides you and chances are great that your best friend has shared a tidbit or two about you?…that’s what best friends do!  I was on a quest for an answer before I broke it down to her.  I switched roles with her and asked her to teach me.  Show me how one can have so many “best friends” without there being a conflict.  She named her besties and it would appear that they are separated by category.  There’s the school BFF; the neighborhood BFF and the church BFF.  What happens, I ask, when you have a party and they all come?  Who’s your BFF then, huh?  She looks at me all puzzled, like I’m the one who is confused.  I’m thinking I may be overthinking this BFF thing, so I’m thinking I should stay in my lane and instead address those tears I saw in my girl’s eyes.

Well, that exchange prompted a discussion regarding emotions and the reality that we have ’em, but they shouldn’t have us.  They shouldn’t change us, paralyze us, debilitate us.  I encouraged her to acknowledge her emotions so that she could avoid the tendency to cover, conceal, deny them, which would invariably give them power over her.  I told her not to be ashamed to be vulnerable with someone she could trust; someone who won’t judge her (LIKE ME—CHOOSE ME); someone who could be her soft place; someone who will encourage her; listen to her; pray for her; hold her and tell her it’s gonna be better.  With that she snuggled next to me and put her head on my lap.  I brushed her hair back and did just that.  Instead of breaking it down to her (my BFF theory) I told her about my onion theory.  I explained that an onion consisted of many layers and  peeling those layers back makes you cry…it’s uncomfortable, messy and rather annoying, but it’s necessary.  I told her how people have a tendency to cover their hurt…to never address their issues.  Instead they add layer after layer thinking that if they cover the hurt and not address it, it will go away.  It never goes away, though.  We just create onions and the peeling away of those layers make you cry, is uncomfortable, messy, rather annoying, but necessary.  “I don’t want you creating onions, Mariah.  Address your emotions, acknowledge them and heal.  Don’t bury them…disable them!”

We were interrupted by my husband who reminded her that her BFF would be by to scoop her up for day two of BFF time.  She sat up and gave me a kiss.  I walked into her room a short time later and as she was tying her shoes, she looked up at me and said, “thanks for loving me, mom.”

Should I have shared my BFF theory?   No, she’ll either see it my way or prove me wrong.  I’m hoping and praying for the latter!

What if

What if the world were as friendly as the bloggers’ world I find myself in?  What would something like that look like?  A place where we’d honor one another with gifts and surprises that cost us nothing but time and reflection.  A place where we’d “like” each other for a change.  A place where we would be able to speak from our hearts our hurts and our stresses without fear of judgement, for those who would be of the judgement sort would just hear and not reply and leave us untouched…unphased.  What would our world look like if we would encourage each other, celebrate each other, pray for each other, spur one another to greatness?   What if there were no strangers, everyone was welcomed, supported.  What if the world were as friendly…<sigh>

Moses, a Friend, and a Stranger

I have been walking with the Lord…oftentimes limping…sometimes even being dragged  for 15 years now.  Along the way, there have been people who have imparted such wisdom and have shown me such love, whose witness has impacted me, who have left an indelible imprint on my life.  There have also been people whom the Lord has used to woo me, who never knew the impact they would have on me.  They were simply living their lives (some louder than others) while I was watching and listening…while He was wooing me…drawing me.

I was probably 13 years old when “Moses” became our new neighbor.  I don’t believe I knew his real name.  My brothers named him Moses because he carried a bible constantly.  I never saw him leave the house without it and the only time he ever talked to me was to ask me whether I was saved.  Saved from what?  Naturally, we thought he was a nut.  He was bold and brash, a strict disciplinarian.  I felt sorry for his daughters.  He both intimidated me and sparked a curiosity within me and all these years later, I never forgot ole Moses.

Then there was my co-worker friend, Clare, a bubbly, charismatic, Irish Catholic girl who it seemed left one way on a Friday and came back a totally different person on Monday.  I never quite got the back story of Clare’s conversion because she simply freaked me out.  I secretly judged her while at the same time I was completely taken by her and totally intrigued.  I thought surely she was confused and certainly hell bound having left the Church, but I was so curious about this new Clare.  I wondered what happened to the old Clare.  I could not get over the change and as she spoke I thought “how in the world does she remember all those scriptures and what in the world do they mean?”  I don’t remember Clare ever trying to impose her beliefs on me although she certainly was not shy about what she believed.  She seemed so confident and knowledgeable about this Jesus thing.   We eventually parted ways but the impression she made on me was a forever one.  One thing that was undeniable about Clare…she had been touched and I saw Jesus in her eyes.  I never forgot Clare.

Years later, I was sitting by myself having lunch, in the middle of a pity party in the Plaza, when out of nowhere this young woman approaches me and takes a seat next to me.  She wore a pony tail and a smile and had a soft voice.  She began probing into my life and I wasn’t budging.  I rather enjoyed being pitiful, okay?  She finally got around to inviting me to her church.  I told her I was a Catholic (a non-church going, infertile, depressed, fighting with her husband, Catholic) but hey, I had a church..had no idea how long it had been since I’d visited, but I belonged there!  She persisted, telling me that her church meets in a gym while they are believing for a building.  I totally thought she was a part of a cult.  No thank you.  Every day after that I would duck when I saw her – even pretending to be asleep many times and this girl was relentless. She would pass by me calling my name…”Arlene, is that you…are you sleeping?  Just wanna tell you that Jesus loves you.”  Ugghhh!!!  She annoyed me…Eventually, she moved on and I never saw her again, but I never forgot her.

Three different people over many years in three different states; three memories forever etched in my heart and one big, loving, relentless God in hot pursuit of me.  Know this…someone is always watching your witness, recording your words, being impacted without your even knowing and those times that you are seemingly rejected as you share your faith, recognize that you have planted a seed and He will see to it that that seed gets watered and after the harvest, many, many years later you just might meet up again…if not here, then there for sure.  Oh happy day!!

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” 1Corinthians 3:6

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