Day 2 – Short Circuit (Part 1)

Readers, I would like to take a brief note to thank you for your patience. You have stuck with me through over 60 incredibly verbose blog posts, missed deadlines, and sometimes me dropping off the face of the blogging earth for months at a time–yet hear you are, your beautiful eyes gracing my eager journalism. You bless me big. Thank you.

Read Day 1 here. Want to know what Power Surge is? Click here!

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After sleeping horribly with terrible dreams, I woke up bright and early at 6 and slunk into the kitchen to prepare a pot of coffee (Emily’s family always has the best coffee) and read my Bible before the morning got busy.

Before long, Mark lumbered into the kitchen as well and started moving around to get his breakfast and lunch ready. We talked about how good God is (an endless topic, to be sure). I got the chance to sozo/shabar Mark a bit, and it was absolutely cool because when he pictured a little boy, he saw a porcelain doll of a little Dutch boy. Holy Spirit saw that I was puzzled at this unusual description, so He whispered to me, “It’s like Pinocchio.”

We asked father God what the little boy needed, and His response was, “He needs to be brought to life…like Pinocchio.”

Talk about confirmation! It was so awesome! I got a little bit further in my Sozo tools, but then Mark left for work and I read some Bible.

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Emily and I went to the church a little bit later to drop off sleeping bags and meet the new interim pastor, Stephen. His 18-year-old daughter, Eryca, was there also. Instantly, I fell in love with both of them. They are as loud as I am, always smiling, and can’t seem to go two minutes without talking about how amazing God is.

Emily and I met with Eryca for about an hour where we shared testimonies. I was impressed and inspired by Eryca’s story and how her parents raised her into her identity. She shines so freely! I shared our testimony of God’s faithfulness coming through for our wedding in September, and it was a golden-apple-timely-word of confirmation for Eryca and her family, that I had no idea they even needed! We had a wonderful time, I got to sing over her, and Holy Spirit was ridiculously heavy on all three of us.

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Best. Game. Ever.

After scrambling to get the rest of everything we needed for the retreat, it was go time. 5 o’ clock rolled around and kids started showing up, one by one. I was anxiously waiting for Levi to get off work and drive down to Vancouver, but in the meantime I ate dinner and played games with the kids, getting a chance to get acquainted with them.

I fell fast in love with all of them, particularly Sammy.
Sammy is thirteen years old. He is one of the most optimistic people I have ever met in my life. He’s affectionate, loves games, and absolutely LOVES praying when it’s time to bless a meal.

But if you saw a picture of him, that probably wouldn’t be the first conclusion you’d jump to. Sammy was diagnosed six months ago with bone cancer when a sports physical to clear him for football season revealed a tumor in his knee. Sammy has gone through 40 weeks of chemotherapy, and now that his hair is gone, he prides himself on bearing a close resemblance to Voldemort.

When we were getting in line for dinner, I was just behind him when he asked loudly, “Who wants to pray for me?”

Very seriously, I looked him in the eye and said, “I would love to pray for you. What would you like prayer for?”

Sammy gave me a hard look and said, “What do you think? I’ve got cancer.”

“I know,” I replied, still being absolutely dead serious. “But I don’t want to think of you as just Sammy with cancer. I want to think of you as my friend Sammy, who has cancer for the time being but probably has a lot of other things he’d like prayer for as well.” I told him that I didn’t want to have our relationship revolve around the temporary fact of his disease. I think that really impacted him, because afterward he didn’t say any more, but sat with me at dinner.

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I left early to prepare songs for worship, and Levi showed up just when I was getting super anxious about when he was going to get there. Sweet relief! The youth group filed in for worship and Levi and I began the first song, with me leading on guitar and Levi singing backup while doing some sweet rhythms on a bongo. We were seated on the steps of the stage, at eye level with the group, who sat in a semicircle of chairs around the stage.

The music was great, I was singing my heart out…

Then I stopped. And started talking to the group. My heart was pounding and my mind was screaming WHAT ARE YOU DOING??? because I was going against every performance inclination I’d rehearsed; but I needed to make something very clear.

“Is this what you need?” I asked, taking the time to look each and every one of them in the eye. “Because if this isn’t what you need, we can do something else. We are here for you. It’s not the other way around. And we don’t want to come up here in front of you and go through the motions for the three days that we have together with you, then go home feeling good about ourselves while leaving you with absolutely nothing.”

It was silent in the sanctuary as they realized I was serious, then one or two of them spoke up and said, “This is what we need.”

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So we continued. And we worshiped our little hearts out. I stopped again after the second song to share a word that Holy Spirit put on my heart about a sacrifice of praise in even the worst circumstances and situations, and then Levi and I taught them “One Thing Remains” by Jesus Culture. It felt like we sang it forever, yet it felt like we didn’t sing long enough.

We moved into the youth room to transition into “lesson time.” I had no idea what to give a “lesson” on, and I wasn’t feeling any promptings from Holy Spirit, so I just started to tell my testimony. Little did I realize, the majority of my audience were 13-to-15-year-olds with attention spans that short-circuited very easily. Not even fifteen minutes into my story, I was losing them.

If you want to find out what happened next, follow and subscribe to the blog, and don’t forget to Like the Facebook page!  See ya next post!

Day 1 – Behind the Scenes

Thursday morning, I got on a train to head down to Vancouver.

Levi stayed behind to do two more days of money making, and dropped me off at 7:30 on his way to work. He had just driven out of sight when I saw the sign on the door that said the station wasn’t going to be open until 8:30. I had read my ticket wrong! Instead of my train being at 8:10, it was scheduled for 8:50. There was nobody inside the station yet, and nobody in the parking lot.

So I went around to the side of the building and huddled in a ball, turning my laptop on so it could at least keep my legs warm. I was determined to grin and bear it and have a good two hours of cold solitude.

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…Or not. Within 10 minutes of adjusting to my plight, the door swung open to my right and a friendly face peered out. His name was John, and he volunteered as the agent for the Lacey Amtrak station. He smiled broadly and invited me to come inside. Heaving a sigh of relief, I scrambled to get my things together and hurried inside behind him. Oh, to be warm again! Blessed relief!

It turned out, John was considering not coming in early that morning. He was considering waiting until about 8:20 to come and fire up the heat and get everything going. But he had decided to come in early anyway. Hmmm…

Miracle #1, duly noted.

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I had a wonderfully uneventful 2 hour train ride down to Vancouver, which gave me time just to think about how ridiculously good God is and listen to prophetic words from 2010 (which were spectacular, by the way).

Fro-yo...om nom nom.

The rest of the afternoon was pleasant and sleepy. Gail picked me up at the station, got me coffee, and then we went shopping until late afternoon. We picked Emily up at some point and went to get fro-yo…nothing terribly exciting. When we were all together at the house and Emily’s dad, Mark, was getting everything ready for dinner, Holy Spirit nudged me to ask Mark if he had ever been disciplined with a blow to the head.

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I was reluctant to ask straight out, so I asked what his mom was like. This led to him telling me that he and his mom weren’t really involved in each other’s lives during his childhood, that she had been involved in many other relationships and marriages. He had mostly been raised by his grandmother—who I then learned was a very strict Catholic, who wouldn’t hesitate to take a cane to little Mark’s head in the incident of disobedience.

I shared a smile with Holy Spirit, marveling at how He somehow knows everything (like I should be surprised at this point). Then I tucked that information away for future deliverance purposes. I had full intentions of sozoing him at some point that weekend.

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After dinner, we only had about half an hour before Dawn and Jim, the other leaders for the retreat, were going to get there. I seized the opportunity to snag Emily. We went into her room and I shared some frustrations with her that I was having, just with things I was picking up and not knowing how to deal with and give to Holy Spirit. So we prayed, and then I got to do a little bit of sozo on her (it was glorious!! Holy Spirit got a lot done in only 20 minutes). Then it was time to have our staff meeting.

Dawn and Jim are spectacular; that’s all I’m gonna say. At first I had a hard time letting my walls down and just being vulnerable, but once I started asking questions and trying to see their heart for the youth and for that weekend, I just fell in love with them. They are incredible people and have gone through so much. (Keep an eye out for a guest blog from Jim in the future, by the way!) God is so big in them and I can’t wait to tell you all more about them as the testimonies of the weekend go on.

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After the staff meeting, Emily and I rendezvoused in her room again. I started spacing out and pretty much just being a zombie on my laptop browsing Facebook, but a little movement out of the corner of my eye startled me back into reality. Can you imagine what it was?

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen—it was a hobo spider. Those of you who have known me personally for a while know that I had the immense privilege of being bitten by a hobo spider a year ago. It was in my sleep. And it ended up turning black and I couldn’t walk and I was in tremendous pain and all sorts of gory things happened to me. I still have a gnarly scar to prove it.

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So this reunion with my dear friend the hobo spider totally freaked me out. I was paralyzed by fear, and all I could do was call out for someone to come and kill it for me. Mark came to my rescue, but I was still horribly shaken afterward. As I started getting ready for bed, I entered intense warfare against a spirit of fear trying to close around my heart. I prayed and prayed and prayed and declared peace over myself…but it followed me to bed anyway. I had terrible, skewed dreams about how I was afraid camp would turn out, and I didn’t get restful sleep at all.

That's how I felt when the alarm went off...

But Jesus.

And you’ll find out more about that from tomorrow’s post, so stay tuned! Because tomorrow begins the first day of actual youth camp…day 1 of Power Surge. And that was when God started showing up in a BIG way.

God’s Will, or God’s Won’t?

Last Sunday, our pastor challenged us to ponder a question over the week.

The question at hand: Is everything that God allows to happen, His will?

First of all, my answer is a resolute no.

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I’ll break up the explanation for my answer in a few categories: death, healing, offenses, and free will.

Death
God has given us a good 80-some years to live our lives. Some people make it past 100. I personally believe that the only “Natural cause” for death should be having lived a full life and leaving this earth sometime between 80 and 100 years—not of cancer, pneumonia, injury, or any other disease or pain. I refuse to believe that God’s primary instruments for passing man from here to eternity are instruments of pain and destruction of body or mind.

Last year, I watched my grandma pace helplessly as her mother, hundreds of miles away in Texas, lay dying. My great-grandma Callaway had lived a full life in graciousness and extravagant generosity, yet now her strength, as well as her mind, was failing her. I don’t remember exactly what she had, but I think it was Alzheimer’s that was now sapping her mind of sanity.

Every day, my grandma called her sister in Texas, asking for a report. My heart broke as she absorbed the blow of news of her mother’s rapidly worsening condition. My great-grandmother was waking up in her hospital room disoriented and confused, often in tears as she tried to sort out what was happening to her. Once, the nurses found her huddled on the floor, clutching a teddy bear to her chest.

My grandma put up a wonderful charade of strength for our family over that Christmas and New Year’s Eve, though it was evident her mind was elsewhere. Her usually festive Christmas decorations were absent, and there was a stale atmosphere of false cheerfulness over the holiday. My dad, my aunt and uncle, my grandpa and I all did the best we could to support my grandma, but for the most part, words failed. What encouragement can you offer to someone whose parent is being robbed by disease?

My grandma, through her grief, resigned herself to believe that God must have decided it was time for her mother to pass into Heaven and this was His way of doing it. The injustice of this rubbed me very wrong. A year-old Christian at the time, I was offended in my heart at the idea that it was God’s will for my great-grandma to die this way. I was fine with thinking that her time was up on earth; but I refused to even consider that God intended for her to die in the pain and confusion the disease was causing her.

I don’t have a seminary degree, nor a lifetime of Bible studying beneath my belt. But what I had learned of the Godhead in my short time in His presence was that He is gracious, merciful, kind, loving, and the giver of all good gifts (James 1:5). And I knew that sickness, disease, and death were the fruit of the prince of this world (John 14:30). I also knew that Jesus had said it is not the Father’s will that any should perish, but that all should have everlasting life (Matthew 18:14).

This isn’t a dictionary definition by any means, but when I think of the word “perish,” I think of an early, unnatural death. I think of the grief left in the anticipation and wake of these deaths. The  actual dictionary definition of the word “perish” is ” To die or be destroyed, especially in a violent or untimely manner.” If we put this with 2 Peter 3:9, it says “But He bears patiently with you, His desire being that none should die or be destroyed in a violent or untimely manner, but that all should come to repentance” (emphasis added). As humans being mortal, we all die. Our spirits are eternal, but the houses they live in are “but a breath.”

If it was God’s will to inflict someone—to inflict a strong, faithful Christian—with a disease to kill them off, wouldn’t that be contradictory to His nature? The Bible says that God and satan cannot walk hand in hand, and throughout the Old Testament, God demonstrates His inability to even tolerate, much less partner with, sin.

In tears, I went to God. My spirit was in complete turmoil. “If what my grandma is saying is true,” I thought, “This changes everything I thought I knew about You.”

In Jeremiah 29:11, one of the most familiar Bible verses quoted and memorized by the Church, God says “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper and not to harm you. Plans to give you a future and a hope.” Why would a God with a plan for your life, for a future and a hope, will for you to die before you have that future? When He said that to Jeremiah, He was speaking it into eternity for all who accept it. Even Paul said, “For even if it was written in the Scriptures long ago, you can be sure it was meant for us.” (Romans 15:4)

This is not a conditional promise. This is for everyone. This is a proclamation that spans generations and denominations. We know that God has a plan for every single one of us.

When I was 16, a friend in my class overdosed and killed himself. When I was 18, a slew of students from North Thurston High School were killed in several auto accidents, all within the span of a week. I have known several women who have miscarried and lost their children—some of them lost their faith in those seasons also, because someone told them it was God’s will, or that they didn’t have enough faith to change the course of events that had happened.

My grandma on my mom’s side died in a house fire when my mom was 10 years old. Last week would have been my grandma’s 74th birthday. My mom struggled through the rest of her childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. An orphan in spirit and in the natural (my grandpa, her dad, was alive but absent throughout her life), my mom remains fractured and brokenhearted. I feel the void in her heart that only a mother or an act of God could fill.

You can’t tell me that it was God’s will for my grandma to be killed when my mother was a child. If God’s heart is to comfort orphans and restore them to wholeness, why would He create more of them by killing off more parents? It’s not His nature. Though God is bigger than circumstance and tragedy—He can and does use every terrible thing in our lives for His glory and our healing—He doesn’t need to create a setup of pain just so He can swoop in and save the day.

Can you imagine, if a superhero went around the city causing disasters just so He could come and rescue the citizens, put out the fires, and take the cats out of the trees? The citizens of the city would become his pawns, and his integrity as a hero and savior would be compromised.

On a less anecdotal and more Biblical note, let’s talk about dead raising. If everybody who died short of their 80-some years died of causes that were God’s will, then why was Jesus going around raising the dead? If Jesus went about during His years of ministry, healing the sick, raising the dead, and casting out demons–all against God’s will–then He was the biggest rebel against His Father that history has ever witnessed!

Why would God give us the power, and Jesus give us the command, to raise the dead unless it isn’t God’s will that everyone die when they do? Even in the Old Testament, prophets raised people from the dead. Under Old Covenant, even without the instructions of Jesus Christ telling us to heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out demons! And this was back in the day where if someone accessed or witnessed the glory of God outside of His will, they were killed—such as when when the Israelites were moving the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem, and someone was killed because they reached out to steady it from falling.

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Along the same lines is the topic of Healing. We are instructed to lay hands on each other and pray for healing. We are given numerous promises throughout the New Testament that if we pray for something, it will be given. Jesus healed all the sick in Nazareth and in other cities He ministered in. How are we to do any less?

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My third point is on Offenses.

Sometimes, we pray for something to happen—or not to happen—and they happen anyway. Is it God’s will? Not always.

When I was 15, I had my first boyfriend. He was a Christian, but he was also a teenage boy in his first relationship. I was not a Christian, and I had so many issues with rejection and self-esteem that I was starving for any and all affection he would give me. I placed my desire to be loved above my values to stay pure and save myself until marriage. Our relationship quickly grew physical, and I fell more in “Love” with this boy the more we fooled around. Suddenly, he broke our relationship off, saying he had lost interest—when in fact the opposite was true; God had convicted him of our relationship being lust-oriented, and he was desperate for a way out before we lost our virginity entirely.

Heartbroken, I swore myself away from dating. A year later, God encountered me in my brokenness and I accepted Him as my father. Our relationship didn’t progress beyond that, and I did nothing more than write in a prayer journal and receive comfort from Him. I didn’t attend church and I refused to open my Bible. But I prayed.

A few months later, after my ex boyfriend and I rekindled a sincere, platonic friendship, he invited me over to his house for a few movies. He assured me that his parents would be there at the house. I was immediately afraid that something would happen if I went, but I was afraid of telling him no…so I said yes. While I waited for him to come pick me up from the house, I broke down before the Lord and I prayed that nothing would happen. I prayed that He would protect me and keep me safe, that He would give me the courage to say no, to leave the house, to get away from the situation if the boy tried to instigate anything. But at the end of my prayer, I made a promise: “Whatever happens, I will still love You.”

It turned out that his parents were not home after all. You can guess what happened. Violated and ashamed, and taking the blame completely for everything that had happened (after all, I hadn’t been able to reach my voice to tell him no; how could it not be my fault?), I told no one but my best friend for months. And I kept my promise to God. I still loved Him and I didn’t hold Him responsible for not answering my prayer. Though I was confused and didn’t understand why He would have allowed this to happen, I didn’t let my heart be offended. I needed Him too much.

Was it God’s will that I was humiliated in this way? What about all other rape victims? What about the girls and boys across the world who are stolen from their families and sold into slavery, trafficked across country and state borders, smuggled even into our own country? Is that God’s will? No.

Many people who call themselves atheists, agnostics, or polytheistic use the situations I have previously mentioned to spearhead their argument against God being gracious, sovereign, loving, and all the other qualities we know to be true about Him. A favorite target against God is the issue of world hunger and poverty, that there are hundreds of thousands of children dying due to starvation or no access to clean water. Then there’s the Holocaust, and the millions killed in wars throughout history. How do you explain those away?

To be sure, these are all questions that are meant to challenge our faith—and we should ask them! We are encouraged to ask the Holy Spirit all of our questions, and who better to ask than God Almighty, Omniscient, and Faithful? He is honest and true, and He is eager to answer our questions because if we are asking things of Him it means we are seeking His face. I would like to add as a sidenote, however, that there is a very distinct difference between seeking His face on an issue and demanding something of Him with arms crossed.

In Genesis, when God informs Abraham of His intentions to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham does not stand away from God, offended in his heart—nor does he slump his shoulders resolutely and state that all this is simply God’s will. Rather, he invites the discussion as fruit from intimacy with God. The Word says that Abraham came closer to the Lord: Abraham approached Him and said, “Will you sweep away both the righteous and the wicked? Suppose you find fifty righteous people living…” (Genesis 18:23) The discussion goes on for several verses, down until God promising that if He finds even one righteous man in the wicked cities, that He would not destroy them.

In Exodus, when Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt and through the Wilderness to the Promised Land, the Israelites forgot God and began to worship idols crafted of gold. At one point, God in His anger says He will destroy the children of promise and start over with a line from Moses to inherit His blessing. Moses reminds the Lord of the promise He made to Abraham, and the Lord changes His mind.

God is moved by the supplications of a people seeking after His heart. He isn’t looking for people who know His law, for the law is not the language by which we relate to Him anymore. Now, we are free to come boldly into His presence by the blood of Jesus. Now, we are free to make our requests of Him just as Abraham and Moses did. Now, we can take events in which God allows disaster to happen, and implore that these things be reversed, or used for good and His glory.

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Free Will

Because of Jesus, the curse placed on humanity from the beginning has been finished, and man has been given the opportunity to start over with the original blessing: be fruitful and multiply, and take dominion over all creation. Man has been re-invited to co-create with God through declaration, the laying on of hands, dreaming, imagination, and simple prayer.

But these things are all active, and we must choose to do them. We have been given the world as our land to take care of and be stewards over. Through years of selfishness and sin, we have enslaved each other, killed each other, orphaned one another, and robbed each other. The world we see today is the result of this. Poverty, third world countries, extreme greed and imbalance of wealth, and an earth that is physically groaning with the efforts of holding back its cries to glorify the Lord and be consecrated back to its original design. Proverbs 9 says that the Lord designated the boundaries of the waters of the ocean, saying that it cannot cross beyond its shores.

The Japan tsunami of March 11th, 2011 is a direct rebellion of this Word. Not that we can blame a world that has remained cursed as the result of God’s children’s refusal to rise up and take dominion of what is rightfully ours and God’s.

The reality is that we are partners with God. Though He is Sovereign, the only way He could bring justice and righteousness and peace back into our world is if He were to either kill all who are unrighteous or rob us all of our free will. And because God is a God of relationship, to do either would be a contradiction to His nature.

Earlier, I mentioned the ordeal that happened with my ex boyfriend. Months after I had been hurt, I told my mom about it. I asked her why God had let it happen. She said that though I had prayed, the boy was still a human being with free will. If God were to have been sovereign in the situation, He would have had to compromise His nature by stealing this boy’s free will. He would have had to violate this boy to keep him from hurting me, which would have been no less wrong.

Through the years following, God has healed me of this offense. I have forgiven the boy for hurting me. My marriage has helped me heal from the scars left by rejection and being taken advantage of, and dispelled all lies that I deserved what happened to me.

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Not everything that happens is God’s will. Pastor Bill Johnson explains it this way: “God is always in charge, but not necessarily in control.” Please don’t take this to mean that God doesn’t have the power to control; He does. He is Sovereign. He could step in at any moment and take control of everything. But He doesn’t, and He won’t, because we have a role to play in all of this. God has relinquished control to us as stewards of the earth. One day, He will take His place as King of all, but for now it’s up to us.

So, World Changer. Yes, you. Reading this, right now. It’s up to us. Scary? Absolutely. Impossible? Oh yes. But with God, all things are possible. If He is for us (and He is!), who can stand against us? We have been invited to participate in the grandest commissioning in history! And we have the best partner, whose yoke is easy and burden is oh so light.

Be encouraged. Whatever you’re supposed to be doing, you’re doing it. Right here, right now. You are an instrument of His purposes here on earth, and you are extending Kingdom.