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Roger’s questions (by Billy Coffey)

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You wouldn’t know by looking at Roger Willis that he’s one of the best Christians the world has ever known. I always thought that was his secret. You know, being meek and lowly in spirit and all. Jesus said blessed are those. And that’s Roger.

He’s not tall—five-foot-seven, five-foot-nine in his boots. A scraggly gray beard juts out almost perpendicular from his chin. Aside from the occasional trim, it’s sat untouched for the last fifty years or so. Just there, jutting out and seeming to defy gravity, as if daring the world to hit the man behind it.

And the world has been happy to oblige. Roger hasn’t had what most would call a good life, and what’s worse is that he’s innocent of making it that way.

Things started off well enough in that true, Southern way. Roger was born to a farmer and a school teacher soon after Hitler called it quits in ’45. His childhood was the perfect blend of innocence and dirty hands, and he was kept free from the realities of the world until two weeks after his tenth birthday. That’s when his father was killed when his tractor rolled on the back forty of their farm.

It was just Roger and his mother then. The two made due well enough. Roger’s mother kept him in school until the ninth grade, at which point she bowed to his wishes to devote himself full time to farming. By then, there wasn’t much choice.

Roger’s mother joined her husband just after his nineteenth birthday. That was a tough time from what I’ve heard, and understandably so. But God was looking out for his favorite Virginia farmer, because right around that time was when Mary Booker walked into his life. Roger remembered her from school way back when, remembered how pretty she was and how nice. The two of them met when Mary began attending the Methodist church where Roger had been born and raised. Their first date was for ice cream down at the Dairy Queen. They were married six months later.

Things turned around for Roger then. The farm was producing everything from corn to cows in abundance, and the Willis family grew to include a son and daughter. I think there are seasons in life much like there are in the world. If I’m right about that, then the next twenty years or so was Roger’s spring, when everything grew and blossomed and the winds were all soft and smelled like new life.

Then came Vietnam. All that kept Roger’s son from volunteering was knowing his father would have to run the farm on his own, but then came the draft notice. His son left Virginia in the summer of ’69. He died in a rice field eight months later. Roger’s spring was over then.

You could say the autumn of his life arrived twenty years later, when his daughter died of what he called “The woman cancer.”

Winter came last year when Mary Booker Willis, Roger’s wife of nearly fifty years, passed on after a stroke. Roger lost the farm soon after. The corn and the cows stopped growing, and he was too old and too tired to start over.

I’ve told you all that just to tell you this: you would not know Roger Willis has suffered such loss. No. Speak to him and you will hear a song in his words and see the brightness in his eyes. Sit near him at church, and you will hear his voice singing above the rest. Listen to him pray, and you will know that Jesus is more than his Lord, He is a friend. Pass him in the store, and you will walk away happier than you were. Roger will make sure of that.

Amazing, isn’t it?

How could he have such faith after such suffering? How could he not simply continue, but thrive?

I asked him the other day at the hardware store, and his answer surprised me.

“I doubted,” he said.

When his father died, Roger doubted. Same with his mother and his son and his daughter. Same with Mary. When he lost his farm, too. He doubted God, doubted His love and even His very existence. He doubted aloud in the darkness of an empty house and an empty bed, calling out to the great Not There. He doubted an answer would come. One always did.

I’m going to remember that. Because I’m often fooled into thinking my faith is made stronger by my answers. It isn’t.

It’s made stronger by my questions.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at his blog What I Learned Today and follow him on twitter at @BillyCoffey

Hit the redneck (by Billy Coffey)

photo of Radivoje Lajic from

photo of Radivoje Lajic from

You could say Radivoje Lajic and I have a few things in common, at least on the surface.

We’re both country boys for one, though what I call country happens to be the mountains of Virginia and what Radivoje calls country happens to be Gornji Lajici, a small village in northern Bosnia. We’re both content to live our own lives and mind our own business. And then there’s the fact that deep down, we both just want to be left alone. We want our lives free of drama and spectacle. We want to quietly go on our way and just keep doing what we’re doing.

Problem is, that doesn’t seem to happen very often with Radivoje. And sometimes it doesn’t happen very often with me, either. Things get in the way. Specific things.

In Radivoje’s case, it’s the aliens who won’t leave him alone.

Since 2007, Radivoje’s small house has been hit six times by meteorites. He has the space rocks to prove it, too. Experts at Belgrade University have confirmed them all as genuine. He even sold one of them to a university in the Netherlands so he could put a new steel girder reinforced roof on his house. He was tired of patching all the holes.

For their part, scientists are still trying to figure out how and why poor Radivoje has been forced to endure this. The odds of anyone getting hit by a single meteorite are about 0.000000136%. The odds of getting hit by six of them? Incalculable.

There is some speculation that either his house or his town sits on some supercharged magnetic field, but nothing has been proven. And even if it was, that wouldn’t explain the fact that all of this seems to happen only during a heavy rain. Never in the sunshine.

A mystery, the scientists say. But not to Radivoje. He knows what’s going on. To him, it’s pretty obvious:

“I have no doubt I am being targeted by aliens. They are playing games with me. I don’t know why they are doing this. When it rains I can’t sleep for worrying about another strike.”

Funny, yes. Funny to me, anyway. I don’t know why this is happening, but to think aliens are floating up in space playing a game of Hit the Serbian seems a bit of a stretch.

But then I thought it over and decided that maybe if Radivoje has his facts wrong, then so do I. Because if you substitute “aliens” for “God” in his quote above, you might just have me.

There are times in my life when I feel like God is targeting me. Lots of times. Many more than six. I suppose in that regard, Radivoje’s gotten off pretty easy.

I’ve been known to believe that God plays games with me. He’ll dangle some blessing right in front of my eyes and then snatch it away the second I reach out for it. He’ll answer little prayers like getting me a good parking spot at the mall but not big ones like not letting my kids get sick. And there are always those infernal lessons He’s intent on teaching me, things like patience and humility and trust, things I’m sure will build me up later but always seem to make me feel torn apart now.

To make matters worse, those lessons always seem to come at the worst possible time. Not when my life is sunny, but when it’s raining on my insides. And the rain always seems to pour harder then, because I’m left worrying what He’s going to do next.

“I have no doubt I am being targeted by aliens. They are playing games with me. I don’t know why they are doing this. When it rains I can’t sleep for worrying about another strike.”

I get that. I get it because there are times when I have no doubt I am being targeted by God. He is playing games with me. I didn’t know why He is doing that. When it rains I can’t sleep for worrying about another strike.

I can’t say there isn’t a little bit of Radivoje Lajic’s thinking in me. I have my moments when I think God’s in heaven playing Hit the Redneck. And chances are good that you’ve felt the same more than once about your own life. As for me, I’m going to work on that.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at his blog What I Learned Today and follow him on twitter at @BillyCoffey

Words, Part 2

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Last week I wrote a post entitled Words, where I suggested that what we write must serve a purpose. I received a comment that I didn’t really understand at first because I was reading it within the context of what I had written. The author was kind enough to explain where he was coming from in a later comment, and I couldn’t agree more with his point:

@kelybreez said:

At the risk of being a hypocrite, because I’m usually guilty of anything that gives me pause…

It troubles me when I read something done in the name of “doubt,” questions about God, or the motives of the church or ministers, etc… And the overall feeling is that the person is actually just trying to fit into the trendy, cute genre of “being a questioner.”

It’s great form these days. People read it. People love it. And so it’s cute, and it’s fashionable…

And the writer doesn’t even have to ask intellectually honest questions of themselves anymore, such as, “Do I really have the doubt myself, or am I writing this to sell my blog more?” (and as a result, their novel, or their persona, or whatever it is they’re trying to drive traffic to.)

Or they don’t ask, “Does this question truly help someone work through their doubts and grow into a place of seeking God, or am I just tossing out controversy for my own benefit?”

Again, I’m honestly not trying to be a stick-in-the-mud. I just want us, myself included, to be honest. When we write our words in such a way that they CAUSE more doubt, rather than with the hope of probing doubt (with a growth of faith as the hopeful result)… Well, then I think we’ve missed it.

If our desire is just to rattle people’s cages so we’ll be more popular, then I’m asking myself, Am I being like Jesus?

He rattled cages, yes, but with a loving purpose in mind. Always. (I think.)

Being the sarcastic and sometimes snarky person that I am, I often find myself laughing at things that perhaps wouldn’t be so funny if I took the time to consider if doing so would be at the expense of others. Yes, I post some fairly outlandish things, but I make a serious effort not to be hurtful. To Kely’s point, I have found some blog posts published by Christians to be mean-spirited and sometimes downright cruel. And I have to ask myself the same question Kely posed: “Does this truly help someone work through their doubts and grow into a place of seeking God, or am I just tossing out controversy for my own benefit?”

A couple of months ago, I watched a video on a very popular Christian blog. There was no story to go along with the video, and as best I could tell, its sole purpose was to laugh at the woman on said video because she was praying and speaking in tongues (and causing those around her a considerable amount of discomfort). Based on the comments associated with the post, the blogger’s apparent intent hit its target. The comments were incredibly cruel and insensitive, and I couldn’t help but wonder how the subject of the video might react to reading that post. I’m not going to mention the name of this blogger, and if you mention it in the comments section, I will not approve your comment. That’s not my point. My point is, if you feel it’s necessary to make fun of an alternative viewpoint in order to bring weight to your own, might I suggest you spend your time making a better argument? As Christians, we can laugh at ourselves and we can laugh with (and sometimes at) each other. Jon Acuff and Matt Appling accomplish this consistently and effectively without being cruel or overly offensive.

Warning: Some may find the following video offensive, but if you’ll hang in there, I do have a point:

I am a Christian who writes a blog, but I don’t consider to be a Christian blog. The words God, Jesus, Christ, church or Christian do not appear anywhere in the title or description of this site. Does this mean I think I have a lesser responsibility to represent Christ through what I write on this blog? Yes, actually. I do think that. Because I’ve never represented this blog to be anything more than my own ramblings. Yes, I write about my faith, but that’s not what this blog is primarily about. I don’t think I’m ever un-Christian, but that’s not my only focus here.

As Bob Kelso says, “There is a time and a place for the truth.” If you’re a Christian, you have the added responsibility of speaking the Truth in love. It may not always be sexy or hip, but consider Who you’re representing and to Whom you belong.

A Simple Country Girl (by Darlene)

If you knew me in high school, you would know not to ask what group I hung out with. I actually pretty much hated high school because everyone felt the need to belong to a group and not venture outside the confines of said group. I don’t like groups of people, I like individuals. But I’m pretty sure if Darlene and I had gone to high school together, we’d have been great friends, and probably gotten into all sorts of trouble together. Because for me, the best character trait a person can have is honesty–with themselves and with others. For those of you who don’t already know her, I am very pleased to introduce Darlene, a simple country girl:

If you don’t recognize me, I am the one who creates a lot of gray space in the comment sections here. Meaning I have a tendency to ramble on and on. Katdish just does that to me. I can only imagine that had we been friends in my small town, north Idaho high school, I would not have been alone climbing out the window during Spanish class. I mean really, the room was packed like fish in a can and oftentimes smelled like it too. Sometimes a girl just needed some fresh air…

Like the freedom I inhaled once I escaped the confines of an overcrowded classroom, Katdish (unknowingly) has helped me break loose of self-imposed blog mould I used to confine myself to as a writer, a storyteller, a patriot, and a child of God. Thank you for helping me be the wiggly blob of Jell-O I always knew I could be. She shares in ways that are real, biting through the fluff and fancy. And in doing so, she reminds me of me.

It can be a bit daunting when perusing in the Land of Blog. Over the last couple of years I have discovered some wonderful writers and so many refined and intelligent Christian women who really seem put-together, both spiritually and technologically. Uh, I am just a simple country girl who drives a beat-up Dodge pick-up truck and I used to live in a trailer, not once, but twice. Besides that, I wasn’t born into a Christian family and I don’t know the order of the books in the Bible. In fact, I struggle daily with dying to the very sin-filled self I made for the thirty-one years prior to meeting the Lord.

In addition, I have a really sorted and stained past…in school I wore mini-skirts and had really short, spiky hair. I had a potty mouth that would make a sailor blush. I used my fists to get my revenge after someone popped me in the face. And I did the same to the boy who abused my sister, plus I spit on him. I used to walk into a bar and come sliding out on my lips. So, what do I have to contribute in a place filled with personalized web sites, accounts that tweet, and blogs with followers? Truth be told, the answer is “not a whole lot,” unless God is holding my hand and showing me the way. His way.

My walk with the Lord began about seven years ago while pregnant with my son. Like most adults, I came into a relationship with Christ, not empty-handed, but holding tight to suitcases packed full of mistakes, regrets, and despair. Up until December of last year I had a story that wasn’t aired. Folks just don’t hang out their dirty laundry for the entire town to see, right? But when God handed me the basket of clothes that He washed Himself, I had no choice but to grab the clothespins and dangle the garments from the line. And to stand in my driveway with a sign, welcoming others to do the same.

Healing Hearts, Renewing Minds is a place inspired by God out of a very wounded woman’s past. My past. I spent twenty-two years heavy-laden with guilt, pain, and shame due to a teenage abortion. Oh, I never really expected to be healed of that wrenching heartbreak and the deep-rooted pain, shame, and unforgiveness. Actually, it all practically strangled me. Thankfully when I started walking with the Lord, He had other plans…

Friends, if you have any dirty laundry that you keep tucked into the hidden compartment of your life suitcases, I pray that you would meet God at the cross and hand it all to Him. His washing machine is really big and He guarantees complete sin-stain removal. If you just want a place where you can soak in some waters of Truth or some hearts to join yours in healing, stop by. I would be honored to hang your clothes next to mine.

Oops. Sorry. Scooch over just a bit, please. I need some room for my soapbox. I urge you to get out from behind the bushes and take a righteous stand in the political arena. Despite what any current bigwig says, men of God built America’s foundation upon Biblical principles. Folks, in these corrupt and challenging times we need more righteous men and women to stand-up, speak out, and yes, thump God’s good Word. After all, in Psalms 82 in the New King James Version, God calls us to “Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy” (v. 3) and to “Deliver the poor and needy; Free them from the hand of the wicked” (v.4). Our Creator most certainly doesn’t call us to sit on our phone-dialing fingers or stuff our letter-writing hands deep into our pockets while our God-given life and liberties are twisted into a moral-less mockery. Please do all you can.

I will continue to cut the fluff and share bits and pieces of my simple country life, even if that means airing my laundry on the Land of Blog’s clothesline. Thank you miss Katdish for showing me that is okay to be tough and gentle, that it is fine to be serious and funny.

Finally I know the Truth, it is best to be a real woman and a forgiven daughter of God.

* You can find more of A Simple Country Girl at Aspire to Lead a Quiet Life where she writes and posts photographs. She is also the founder of two ministries. Healing Hearts, Renewing Minds, a post-abortion ministry site and For the Least of These, an international photography ministry that financially supports orphans in Uganda. But what really floats her boat the most is being a child of God, a wife and a mother. Do be careful though because she also likes to laugh until tea spurts out of her nose.

Ultimate Reality

“There are always those who take it upon themselves to defend God, as if Ultimate Reality, as if the sustaining frame of exsistence, were something weak and helpless. These people walk by a widow deformed by leprosy begging for a few paise, walk by children dressed in rags living in the street, and they think, “business as usual.” But if they perceive a slight against God, it is a different story. Their faces go red, their chests heave mightily, they sputter angry words. The degree of their indigntion is astonishing. Their resolve is frightning.

These people fail to realize that it is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside. They should direct their anger at themselves. For evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart. Meanwhile, the lot of widows and homeless children is very hard, and it is to their defense, not God’s, that the self-righteous should rush.”

 ~ Yann Martel, Life of Pi

“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

~James 1:26-27

An Artist’s Blessing (by Timothy J. Stoner)

The following is an excerpt from The God Who Smokes: Scandalous Meditations on Faith by Timothy J. Stoner:


As faithful image bearers (artists, but saints first),
may you reflect not only the creation,
but its beautiful and good Creator.
May you embrace your true calling
to humbly serve the glorious One who promises you glory.
May you accept and acknowledge
the wound your faithful friend has inflicted,
and may you in friendship and loyalty inflict it on others.
May your art be worship.
May your worship be art.
May you afflict the comfortable with jolts of inconsolable joy.
May you call forth the good, the beautiful, the eternal hope of
your true city.
And when people step back from your painting,
put down your novel,
or leave the theater,
may they leave having been fatally stabbed,
inconsolably wrecked with a longing for home.
And may you reflect faithfully the face of your Father
who strides through the galaxies with a brush in his hand.

Full (by Jeff Hogan)

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We recently finished up a series at C3 called “Full”. Jeff talked about what it means to be full. The following is a brief excerpt from the series where he talked about service. (These are Jeff’s words, not mine, and I appreciate them very much):

What exactly does it mean to love someone? How do you know that someone loves you? How does someone know that you love them?

One way is to say it – you can declare love to someone. But the other way to identify love is to show it. Love gets substance when it’s demonstrated, and that demonstration will often speak louder than the words.

I think real fullness is missing from many Christ followers today because over time we’ve taken a CRITICAL, NON-NEGOTIABLE part of our life in Christ and we’ve made it OPTIONAL. That non-negotiable part is SERVING.

WHY we serve:

We serve because the EXAMPLE was set by JESUS HIMSELF. (Philippians 2:3-18)

While Jesus was here on earth His nature was to serve – even when it cost Him deeply. If we want to be like Christ, we will serve. Remember also that the definition of “Lord” is “Master”. If Jesus is our master, doesn’t it make sense that we would be the servants?

We serve because it actively demonstrates a LIVING FAITH. (James 2:14-17)

What kind of faith is condemned in verse 14? (What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?) Saving faith?

No. This verse is all about dead faith. Bible scholar Warren Wiersbe describes it this way:

“People with dead faith substitute words for deeds. They know the correct vocabulary for prater and testimony, and can even quote the right verses from the Bible, but their walk does not measure up to their talk. They think that their words are as good as works, and they are wrong.” (Wiersbe Bible Commentary, p. 864)

What he is describing is “faith” purely of the mind (or in the mind).

James never intends to suggest that Christ followers should reject faith and try to be saved by works. Action without faith may be productive or even helpful in this world, and may do much “good” here. But it will not even remotely bring salvation. We are saved by grace, through faith in baptism, as outlined by Paul and demonstrated in the book of Acts.

But living things are characterized by action. They grow, change and develop. The only way an organism can be totally inactive, is if it is dead. If authentic faith is alive, it too will be characterized by action.

James is saying that deeds/works/actions are completely inseparable from the authentic faith that motivates them. The only way to remove action is to remove authentic faith and replace it with something else. Like, say, dead faith.

If we want “life, and life to the full,” like Jesus described, we have to act on our faith.

It’s not optional. It’s a matter of life and death.

The beauty of this whole simple Scriptural thing, is that it’s a cycle. As you love God, it opens up opportunities to live in community, and ways to serve the world. But as you live in community and serve the world, the ground is fertile for growing your love for God.

I’ll make no promises of what God might do for you, nor can I predict what He may ask of you as you follow.

But I will say that God has always been about transformation. People that surrender to Him get new life. And wherever He finds a believer willing to yield to His will, listen to His Word, and follow His way, He starts to transform that believer and accomplish amazing things, both in and through that life.

So, do you want to be full? Because, He’s ready.

No longer can we afford to stand on the cliffs high above the cultural mudslide, chastising people for not climbing out of the mess to come up to the higher ground. No longer can we feel content throwing our heroic lifelines of propositions to save…

No, it is time for Christian leaders, tethered to the lifeline of God’s Spirit and the community of faith, to gather up courage and plunge into the swirling mess of the cultural flow. Just as Paul said he did in Corinth, we too must “try to find common ground with everyone so that [we] might bring them to Christ.” We must emulate the God who dove right into the sewer of life himself in the body of Jesus. And we must reawaken his dream — God’s dream of swimming this rescue mission on earth through a new Body — the Body of his church — Christ’s Body re-presented. ~ John Burke (No Perfect People Allowed)

There is a Reason

I’ve seen hard times and I’ve been told
There isn’t any wonder that I fall
Why do we suffer, crossing off the years
There must be a reason for it all

I’ve trusted in You, Jesus, to save me from my sin
Heaven is the place I call my home
But I keep on getting caught up in this world I’m living in
And Your voice it sometimes fades before I know

Hurtin’ brings my heart to You, crying with my need
Depending on Your love to carry me
The love that shed His blood for all the world to see
This must be the reason for it all

Hurtin’ brings my heart to You, a fortress in the storm
When what I wrap my heart around is gone
I give my heart so easily to the ruler of this world
When the one who loves me most will give me all

In all the things that cause me pain You give me eyes to see
I do believe but help my unbelief
I’ve seen hard times and I’ve been told
There is a reason for it all

Don’t Drive Angry

If there is anyone reading this that has not seen the movie Groundhog Day, the following preview will provide a good overview of the movie:

If given the opportunity, would you subject yourself to reliving the same day over and over until you get it right?

I love this movie so much. (Yes, I know it’s old, but still.) Phil Conners is a self-indulgent, jaded weather man who finds himself reliving the same day over and over again. There are some hilarious scenes in the movie, but the lesson is poignant. After many attempts to “get it right”, he finally figures out that a life lived in the service of others is a life truly worth living.

We don’t have the luxury of getting a do-over for the same day, but in some ways each day can be a do-over. We can choose

love over indifference,
encouragement over condemnation,
courage over fearfulness,
integrity over popularity,
grace over revenge,
twitter over facebook (just wanted to see if you were paying attention),
prayer over worry,
confidence over insecurity
fellowship over isolation,
humility over self righteousness

and on, and on…

In the movie, Phil goes to unbelievable lengths to be the man of Rita’s (played by Andi McDowell) dreams. With reckless abandon, he does whatever he feels he needs to do win her heart.

And I wonder, how might we change the world if we pursued the heart of Jesus like that every day?

Your turn.

What will you choose today?

What’s in His Name? (by Kelly Langner Sauer)

Kelly Langner Sauer is a wife, mother, writer, poet, photographer and a self confessed rambler. Her photos are, much like her writing, often beautiful, soulful and breathtaking. I am so pleased she agreed to write a post for me in the midst of the joy and chaos of new motherhood. Here’s Kelly:

Her name was Bethany.

It was such a big deal that her name was Bethany. It still stands out in my mind. I get into names.

She said that God had given her that name.

She said that she had known God intimately, the way I wanted to know Him.

She said that God had taught her to surrender fully and completely.

She said a lot of things.

But she never mentioned the name of Jesus.

Just over a year ago, I received an email from a reader, asking me about the poem I have posted on my blog by S. Lewis. (The poem was written and given to me by a dear college friend during a very rough time in my story, during the beginning of the end of my misconception of God.) She identified with my then-description of myself as Gomer, Hosea’s wife.

And she referenced something I had said in a recent ramble-post, something I was chewing on, something I had scribbled out without too much thought, something about God calling us to do things sometimes that the rest of the world couldn’t endorse.

I had been talking about His calling on my life to love someone. I had been talking about His leading me out of “church” and into Himself.

I was neck-deep in a Flickr addiction at the time. Closed off to my husband. Putting off my daughter. Battling every day to do better before I inevitably gave in and gave out and gave up. Pushing God away for the guilt of it all. The crushing guilt.

At first, Bethany’s email was another distraction. A flattering distraction. I pursued the correspondence, looking for more affirmation, looking for her story.

I got her story all right.

And then some.

She said she was a member of what many have termed a cult.

She said she felt she could talk to me because it seemed I was the kind of person who was willing to listen.

She said God had told her it was all right.

She gave me the website for her organization.

After looking at it, my husband and I agreed with the many.

And we weren’t so certain that God was behind her invitation to engage her in conversation about her “church.”

In fact, I was certain that I was not to engage her. God gave me permission only to speak the name of Jesus.

Billy Coffey wrote about the thin places this week. The places where dark and light collide and mix into inky halflight, the places in our world where there is a crack into another world, the places in ourselves not yet yielded to God in this war between principalities and powers in the strongholds of the spiritual.

I was living in a thin place when Bethany wrote to me.

I had been too willing to pursue knowing God because it was the right thing to do, too willing to leave off Jesus because speaking of Him made me uncomfortable. Embarrassed.

I was living on the edge, and I had no response to her “have you ever surrendered your whole life to God?” I had no answer for her, “I have done that, you can too, if you’ll just do what I did.”

For two days, my husband and I talked. And talked. And talked. Our conversation was long and deep. We talked about spiritual warfare. We talked about who I was in God, about my misdirected passion. We talked about my failure. I named it as the sin it was. We talked about grace. We talked about Jesus.

Her name was Bethany, a name given to her by the spirit who possessed her.

Her testimony was her surrender, her “higher” right, her knowledge of “God.”

My testimony was Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

I had no answer to her story, to her argument, to her deception.

I had no justification for my own sin, my lack of surrender, my thin-place-dwelling.

She needed nothing more than what she had found.

I needed everything. It was a choking, desperate need for redemption.

This is how I learned about the Gospel. This is how I encountered the Truth who is the Way and the Life, the Word who became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, the Lamb who was slain for my justification, from whose hand I can not be removed. This is how I began to speak the name of Jesus, to discern the Holy Spirit from the subtle lies of other spirits.

Bethany had obtained the ultimate surrender. She had become a slave to her god. She was moved by a spirit. She had fellowship with something more powerful than herself.

I had not surrendered everything to God. I still haven’t. I still struggle to offer myself willingly to Him, to let go of the things in me that would identify me as a slave to righteousness. I don’t always recognize the leading of the Holy Spirit in my life. I don’t always feel the nearness of God-fellowship that I want.

But I know this: I am justified in Jesus. Because of Him, I reckon myself dead to sin and alive to God. I am already crucified with Christ, yet I live. My faith is not something I have dredged up through trying to have more faith. It is the gift of God. My redemption comes by this faith in the Son of God who became sin for me.

I still sin. I still fail Him, fail my family, fail myself. I am every day desperate in need of a Savior.

Her name was Bethany, “house of figs.”

Jesus cursed a fig tree once for bearing no fruit.

My name is Kelly, “warrior.”

Kelly Anne.

Anne meansgrace.”

His name is Jesus. Immanuel.

“God with us.”

“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.

Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

“As it is written:

‘For your sake we face death all day long;

we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

– Romans 8:31-39

(Image © Informal Moments Photography)


To read more from Kelly, I invite you to visit her at This Restless Heart and follow him on the twitter at @arestlessheart.

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