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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Eternal Focus ~By Tyler Goettl

To start off, I would like to give some background on my story. I am being selective in what I tell only to ensure that what I convey relates to what the Lord has done in my life; and what may possibly benefit anyone who has time to read this. You didn’t really want to hear about my 6th birthday party anyway…

As a serious follower of Christ, my story starts at age 20. I was becoming worn out by my secular lifestyle. Halfway through college, success was all but guaranteed, but significance was something I seriously lacked. After shying away from Christian fellowship for five years, a professor invited me to his church and I went. It only took one man willing to ask me to church to turn things around in my life. Confidently, I can say the Lord has treasures set aside for him in reward for his faithfulness. I began pouring into the word daily and soon I met a woman and fell in love.


Her parents, being devoted Christians, would have ran me off in the blink of an eye had they not seen my passion for the Lord. But they trusted me, and a year later I was happily married.


Had I not been following the Lord, I would have missed out completely. So it’s true:

Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all the rest will be added
unto you (Mat 6:33).

After two years of marriage my wife and I were blessed with a baby boy, we had a beautiful home, and a lifetime to share together.


It was truly a match made in heaven. It seemed to be a trouble free time in life and I genuinely couldn’t have asked for more.


One year later, my wife passed away after fighting Leukemia for nearly 12 months.


What was left was a one year old son to be raised, and a man with no clue what life was for and which direction to go. Everything I saw in my future had vanished into thin air. The very thing I had fixed my gaze on could no longer be seen, and my foundation was broken.

After that I held on loosely to the Lord for two years; not willing to let go completely because I believed he was my life support and I was afraid walking away from him would be the same as pulling the plug. But I didn’t draw near to him. My life was full of bitterness, anger, and constant pain.  Trying to move on and searching for purpose, I looked for another woman thinking I only needed to get back to the same place in life so I could continue where I left off. Looking back, it’s almost tragic to see me searching for earthly things to bring contentment into my life. Did I not realize that earthly things had let me down once already? But of course, I got what I looked for, only on my terms and not the Lords. Not surprisingly, it only made things worse. Realizing I was struggling in vain, broken and burdened, I finally turned to the Lord with all my heart. In His graciousness, He picked me up, reassured me, and showed me the truth: We are not here to struggle for ourselves, but for others, and the only things worth having in life, are the things the Lord gives you.  

In all earnestness, I hope that what I am writing will help someone in need.  Though many have suffered more greatly than I, for my own strength I have suffered enough to recognize my frailty. And what comes out of all of the trials is a new perspective.

2 Corinthians 4:18 (NLT) So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on the things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

All the things I struggled to obtain in the past, I realize now, will only last a moment. My job, my hobbies, my home and possessions, even my family and friends will fade away. I’m not saying these things are meaningless, only that we all too easily fix our gaze on these things instead of our Father. So what happens when these things are taken away? Those with everything and those with nothing can switch places in an instant. But when the worldly things are stripped away the only things that remain are eternal things. So doesn’t it make sense to focus on eternal things in the first place since we do not know how long the earthly things will last? Especially since we know for certain they will not last forever? Focusing on eternal things (service, fellowship, charity, worship, prayer, sacrifice, and love) makes a foundation on the Lord that allows us to be stable in all that we do, helps us to give freely of
earthly things, and in truth helps us to appreciate all the earthly things that the Lord so generously gives.

I will end with a scripture that has helped me steel my focus on the Lord time and time again:

Psalms 37: 5 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires (i.e. a Godly wife, a prosperous family, abundant opportunities to serve the kingdom). 6 Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. 7 He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
 
Tyler Goettl
Joplin, Missouri

 
Note from Ronda~

I only got the opportunity to meet Bettina once.  It was several years ago and only for a brief moment, but I remember that I was captivated by her beauty.  Everything I know and have heard of Bettina is that she was a woman of remarkable unwavering faith and that she loved the Lord with all her heart, and all her soul.  She is an amazing testimony and witness for God.

Tyler, you amaze me.  The other day when you sat in our living room and chatted with Sam and me, we were both touched by your stories, and that time of fellowship meant a great deal to us.  I praise God for you.  You have experienced loss that I cannot begin to imagine.  I am so grateful that you have a piece of Bettina in Timothy, and you know where to find peace.  Your peace comes from knowing that God is there, and that He cares for you.

Pastor Larry said something in his message last night that reminded me of all those who have lost loved ones and instead of drawing into God, they pull away.  Our loved ones who are in Heaven with Jesus don't come back to us...but if we have a relationship with the one who loves, we get to go to them. 

Setting our eyes on Heaven and things eternal…

Your appreciative Sister in Christ,

Ronda

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Oh the depth of the mercy of God! ~By Zachary Canady

Ephesians 2:4-5 (New International Version)

4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

I was born in NE Colorado. We spent the first 6 or 7 years of my life in a town not too far from Fort Collins; during those very significant influential years I developed a love and dedication for the Denver Broncos. On a serious note it was in Colorado where the Lord convicted me of sin and drew me to Him. I was probably 5 years old when I asked my dad what it takes to get to heaven and right there on a road in the Rocky Mountains in my Dad’s Volkswagen Bug my dad helped lead me to the Lord.
We moved to Oregon the summer I was about to go into first grade. My life growing up was nothing out of the ordinary; I was your typical preacher’s kid perpetually getting into mischief at home, at church, and at school. Growing up as a PK you really learn all the right words to say to keep people off your case, but even so I wasn’t a really bad kid I was just what I like to call “creative” and “roguish”.  My relationship with God was an on again and off again thing. It seemed that every summer at camp I would get all fired up and then not too long after that fire would fade, but like I said, I wasn’t a really bad kid so I would just kind of slide my way through.
When I got into high school this was where my relationship with God started to become more meaningful. Although I definitely had my ups and downs I really felt like it was my responsibility to represent Christ the best I could. By the time I was a junior I had a reputation for being a nice kid who was yet still a tad mischievous, but what can I say, I really like to have fun and when you're in a small town you HAVE got to get creative sometimes, but I tried to never focus that energy in being mean or singling anyone out.  I had one really strong Christian friend in High School and I believe it was Gods hand for sure we challenged each other tried to keep each other accountable the best we knew how.  Together we grew as young men of God.
All in all I had an awesome growing up experience. Looking back I wouldn’t have had it any other way, another thing I feel so blessed about is the fact that I grew up poor but I never realized it or cared, I knew things were tight sometimes but I also was able to see at a very young age that God always took care of my family and provided what we needed.
After I graduated high school I moved out to SE Wyoming to go to a little Bible College my sister had been going to. Year one: I went nuts! I had so much fun it definitely hindered my studies, BUT I only failed one class and I'm proud of that! By the time my class left I'm sure that we were responsible for doubling the size of the student hand book rules, they just had to clarify what was acceptable and unacceptable behavior. But even though we were very “Creative,” I have to say that I had never grown so much spiritually in my life. The group of guys that were there that first year will be friends of mine for the rest of my life, and the greatest spiritual impact of my life was with that group we challenged each other immensely. The second year of Bible College I settled down some, not a whole lot but I thought “Man, I'm in my second year of Bible College and I'm still single! What up Wit dat? (Kenon Thompson Esq.)” In some ways there is the natural desire for you to find a mate, and for some incredibly weird reason there is actually some sort of Christian Culture that almost convinces young people that if they don’t find their mate here they won’t ever find them.  So year 2 equals new girls that have no idea how retarded I am, “ALRIGHT!” I had matured some from the year before and was more focused on my studies than the year prior. At any rate I ended up dating a girl from Southern Utah and we dated for the next year and a half.
The Bible College was only a 3 year school so in the spring of 2006 I graduated with my degree in Biblical studies, and that summer I was married. The first year we lived in Oregon my mother was going through treatments for breast cancer and we felt like it would be important to live close. My family was blessed with my mother defeating cancer (or as I like to put it, my mom kicked cancers butt!) and at this point my wife really missed her home. My philosophy has always been that it is not where I am that decides my contentment it is my position with Jesus Christ that is the deciding factor. Since I felt like I could be content anywhere I obliged my wife’s desire to live where she wanted. So we moved to St. George, Utah.
I would say from my perspective we had a normal marriage, nothing that I wasn’t ready to work on, even though it may have been uncomfortable at times.  But my perspective wasn’t that these are two different live; we aren’t going to automatically have a perfect marriage. I wouldn’t lie and tell you I was a perfect husband and if I am being completely honest, I wasn’t the kind of Godly man I should have been.
The time in Utah in hindsight was not the time where I hoped we would have grown together as a couple, but truly the opposite. As the year progressed my wife slowly distanced herself from me; she got a good job, she was making good money, and she had started spending most of her evenings at the gym. It wasn’t over night but she had really phased me out of her life for the most part.
I had to go out of town for work.  I had only been out of town for work one time before and so it wasn’t like it was a regular thing for me to be away. But when I got home after that few days there was something horribly wrong.  I thought that she would be excited to see me after the week but she wasn’t even home. I called her and she casually began to make her way home. That night we went to bed and I couldn’t sleep I knew that I was on the fringe of something terrible, but she wouldn’t tell me.
The next morning she went on a long bike ride with her friends from the gym and she left me a note saying we need to talk when she gets back. I knew something awful was going to happen but didn’t know what. When she got back she sat down and told me that she had kissed another man from the gym and that I had the right to divorce her. What goes on in a man’s mind after he has been told news like this is hard to describe, but it’s almost like all of most unimaginable hell on earth has just been poured on his life.
I always thought that that could never happen to me. I had thought that if my wife was ever unfaithful, and that if we didn’t have kids, that would be it. But the reality was even though she wanted a divorce, I thought ‘we can work this out, it will be hard but I can forgive her.’ It was clearly evident that she wanted out and she was looking for an easy way out. She had been convinced that if she is not happy she needs to do what she wants and look for it elsewhere. Sort of like when we moved to UT the grass must be greener and the truth was she was as discontent there as she was everywhere else. Although I was convinced she was a believer, it became harder to believe that as time went on. I understand that happiness is an allusive concept even for the believer; she still was never able to ever find any sort of contentment in anything in her life. Joy and contentment are some of the core elements I believe that a healthy Christian life should have. Many of these things I figured out after the fact but I believe that even our marriage may have been the product of her discontent thinking the next step in her life needs to take place in order for her to be happy. (but I digress)
For the record I chose not to divert into the endless details of what she put me through, the manipulations, the lying, and the lewd behavior. I choose to focus on my gracious God who saved me.
The next period of my life was most certainly the darkest and most terribly excruciating times of my life. All I had really wanted to this point in my life was to settle down and have a family, and truly in the most extreme way my entire purpose was gone. I've heard that when you take away a man’s purpose you give him nothing to live for.  At no point did I ask myself “God why are you doing this to me?” the first thing I did was soberly looking at how severed my Christian walk had become. Not that I was living immorally, or being an overtly “bad” Christian but I had become stagnant in my spiritual life.
In the pit of darkness God called me back and gave me the undeserved forgiveness that I had most certainly not earned. I began to read my bible, pray, and I started to read Charles Hadden Spurgeons “Morning and Evening.” And within a few days I found a quote that became a life verse to me. "It is a poor faith which can only trust God when friends are true, the body full of health and business is profitable; but that is true faith which holds by the Lord's faithfulness when friends are gone, when the body is sick, when the spirits are depressed, and the light of our Father's countenance is hidden." “COULD NOT THE LIGHT OF MY FATHERS COUNTENANCE BE MORE FURTHER FROM ME” I CRIED? But still that is poor faith reasoned. Had God ever given me reason to doubt Him? Was this God attacking my spirit or the actions of fallen man?
There was also a video on the internet at the time that was a skit with the song “Everything” by Lifehouse. It couldn’t have painted a clearer picture of what I had done and all of these things I had put between God and myself.

There are many things that happen to a person in the pit of despair. For me I was alone. I had relatively no friends in Utah, and now even more so. How on earth could I tell anyone my wife had left me? “Christians don’t get divorced” I thought. There were a few people who I confided in and I will never forget them for all of the encouragement and support they gave. I called my friend Josh from McAllen, Texas who helped me and my cousin/roommate from college Lance. By the grace of God Lance was able to move from Colorado all the way down to live with me. WHAT A FRIEND! How blessed am I!
Another stick in the spokes was that I was from a strong Christian family. Each set of my grandparents had been married for 50+ years, my parents almost 30 years and all of my aunts and uncles were all married to the same spouses. I was so proud of my Godly heritage that God had preserved all of those marriages and now I'm going to blow it.  I was so ashamed. I felt so low that I didn’t think they would talk to me. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. My family was so supportive I was blown away (although I shouldn’t have been surprised), My dad through all of this really became one of my dearest friends. We were close before, but God drew us nearer. 
The holidays don’t have high suicide rates for no reason, and even though I didn’t get close to that, I truly had almost nothing worth living for at that point in my mind. I called my Christmas “a Whisky lullaby Christmas minus the whisky” if you are unfamiliar with the song it basically it about a guy who comes back from war to find his wife with another man and eventually drinks himself to death.  Here my sister and her husband had their second child and what an incredible blessing in contrast to the depths of sorrow we were going through. I say “we” because my family was devastated at the whole situation. Although things were so dark the Spirit was in me, moving me, His presence was the only thing that kept me alive in all honesty.
As time went on it was clearly obvious that there was no benefit to me remaining in Southern Utah. One reason was because I was doing no good; my presence had no affect on her behavior, and the second reason was how long do I remain and suffer here? If I was to run into her with another man I don’t know what would happen. Where do you go when you are ashamed to tell anyone your marriage has failed and that your wife left you? Do I retreat to home with my parents and the Church we attended as a married couple? Or disappear for a while? But why put my family through anymore trials? Somehow my friend Josh in Texas opened his home to me. So I packed all of my earthly belongings and headed south east.

What a relief to leave the forsaking land of UTAH!!!!! (no offense) I'm not sure, but I may have cranked “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd 90 % of the trip. I wish all my trials were through by then but they lingered on for some time. There is a transition that someone goes through when their entire life plan has been ripped away from them. What's next? What do I want? More importantly what does God want for me in my life? I was looking into a lot of different things but the truth was I was too busy playing with my buddy Josh really clearly come up with a plan. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way! I know this will seem odd but Josh was just what the Doctor ordered! Between the Golf and hanging with his young family and their amazingly intelligent 2 year old girl it was just what I needed to the fullest. I am forever grateful to them, and especially Kimmy (Josh’s wife) who had the patience to let Josh be a kid with me ha! After a few months of letting the good times roll with my homies in South Texas I felt the Lord tugging on my heart to move back to Oregon with my family. The time in Texas was just enough for me to learn how to deal with the reality of what had changed in my life.  God was mending my heart, the Spirit was giving me purpose, and direction.

Since it was a 40 hour drive I naturally I decided to make it to my family’s house in Colorado (20 hours away) in one day. And if you have ever driven from San Antonio to El Paso (aka Hellpaso) and then into New Mexico you don’t want stop, you just want it to be done.  I spent a few days in Colorado visited family and I was really good. Now the big step is facing all the people who still think I'm married! You would think it would make me feel bad every time someone brought up my ex and I had to explain in one sentence that she left me. Really I had definitely come to terms with that reality, but without fail almost daily for a while I would have to discreetly tell people what had happened. Of course almost every time the person would feel terrible and apologize and I would have to tell them “no, no, no, its fine you didn’t know, don’t worry about it.” It got to a point where I would see someone and knew exactly what they were going to say ahead of time “how’s the wife?” I always loved when people would say “aren’t you married?” rather than “weren’t you married” because I could honestly say “no I'm not married” but I couldn’t say “no I wasn’t married.”

Although pain and loneliness lingered still God kept moving me on, and it was that summer where God gave me a new vision and gave me the desire to serve Him.  So after I surfed my life away for a while and learned to live again, and helped save a kid’s life I ended up where I am today in Kansas City, just graduating from Calvary Bible College looking for a place to serve God!

Gods greatest gift to me was that in the pit of despair God didn’t turn His back on me because I was unfaithful to Him, but HE PICKED ME UP! HE CARRIED ME! HE MOVED ME! HE RENEWED ME! HE SUSTAINED ME! HE CHANGED ME! AND HIS LOVE RESTORED MY BROKEN HEART! MY GOD IS SO FAITHFUL ALLOW GOD TO MOVE YOU TOO! THE LIFE HE OFFERS IS ABUNDANCE AND JOY EVEN IN DARKNESS!

One last thing in closing is that without forgiveness you will never move on and Satan will have a foothold in your life until you do. I don’t pretend to know every body’s life experiences or hearts but I can say that when you don’t forgive you don’t move on, and when you don’t move on you live without purpose, and when you live without purpose you live in a hopeless state. God has the highest purpose for your life if you only allow it.

Zachary Canady, Serving in Kansas City, Missouri

Note from Ronda~

Dear Zach,

I hung on every word because I have been there.  Going through separation, and divorce is made 100 times more difficult when you have to explain it because it wasn’t obvious to everyone.  You go from one day being a couple, to the next not.  I can also empathize with not wanting to destroy the legacy of life long marriages...I was in the same boat. I am so grateful that God put people in your life to love on you.  God did the same for me, and I am so grateful.  I unlike you decided to walk away from God instead of drawing near to him.

Oh but the grace of God.  He amazes me, truly amazes.   He brought me back to him, and now I am even more appreciative of his love for me.

I can also say without a shread of doubt that I appreciate Sam, my husband, so much more because of everything I went through with my first husband.  Sam adores me; I love having a husband that adores me.  Thank you so much for sharing your story.  If for no one else, it was for me.

Your Sister in Christ,

Ronda

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Surrendered ~By Josh Schmidt

My walk, with the Lord, began when I was fifteen, but let me rewind a bit.  I was born into a Christian home I went to Sunday school I heard the stories and memorized the verses, and loved the flannel graph, but none of it was real to me.  For the first fourteen years of my life Christ was nothing more than fire insurance to keep me out of hell while still living for only myself.  I stayed of away from drugs and sex but rock and roll had me like a drug, it was my god.  I listened to grunge and metal and moved into punk rock and it shaped who I was.  I dressed like a punk and I hated authority like a punk.  I was a punk!

I can remember falling asleep every night with this still small voice in my head saying "surrender your life to Me." I also remember looking for the mute button for that voice, but it was constant night after night.  I was confused because I thought the prayer I prayed when I two, asking Jesus into my heart, was good enough.  Yet He wanted all of me.  I remember going to a winter camp and wondering how come these kids that call themselves Christians look different than me?  I had a foul mouth and they did not.  They sang church songs like they meant it.  I just wanted to get back to free time and 'the ladies.'  I was seeing that what I thought was Christianity was nothing more than an empty prayer and I was just like the world.

During that trip I had gnarly run in with a sled, a hill, and ramp made of snow.  The youth pastor thought I was the first kid he had killed, little did we know that he played a role in starting to kill who I was.  It was like during that weekend the I.V. was stuck in my vein and the following months I would receive a lethal amount of love, grace, mercy to kill who I was and finally start living.  I remember the night like it was yesterday that I was broken by the love of God. I wept as I finally saw for the first time how much God loved me and the sacrifice of Christ became more than just a neat story on flannel graph.  After He broke me He put people in my life to start putting me back together. 

One of those people was my uncle Ken who showed me how to study the bible and grow in my new found walk with the Lord.  Another was my now wife of almost 12 years.  She has walked with me since that night that I first started walking. 

We have walked through four children's births, moving out of state to where we knew no one, and walked with me through the darkest time of my life.  I recently went through a dark time of depression where the Lord broke me further than I thought possible.  Through the shards of my broken life I was able to see the roots of pride that were growing everywhere.  What I thought was a desire to serve the Lord was really just an idol.  I was seeking the position in ministry much more than the Lord.  My strength had become sufficient and I was able to do it all, and God needed me to see that I was nothing apart from Him.

I wanted so badly to have Him open the door that He shut, but I never would have seen how sick I was if He had.  I was shown the beautiful reality that I needed Him more than anything and that I could be effective for Him without a church.  I have often said that you can do your best when your in full time ministry, meaning paid by the church, but the moment you give your life to Christ you are in full time ministry.  Ministry is all around us and He has told us in Eph. 2:10 that He has prepared it for us and all we need to do is walk in it

I am so thankful that the Lord, through His grace, showed me how backwards my thinking was.  I am thankful that now I can look all around me and see ministry that can be done.  I am thankful the Lord would choose to use a worthless sinner to do His work.  It is all about Him, He is God I am not.


Josh & Jen Schmidt, Mount Vernon, Washington
Note from Ronda~

When I read, "roots of pride that were going everywhere...", I could instantly picture this.  I had just likened pride the other day to Morning Glory.  Looks beautiful when it blooms, but it is choking the living daylights out of whatever victim it has wrapped itself around.  I am so grateful that you took time out of what I know is a very busy schedule to share what God has done and what God is continuing to do in your life.  You have a beautiful wife and family, and an awesome testimony for the love, mercy, and grace of God.

Your Sister in Christ,

Ronda

Josh is part of a band that loves the Lord and loves making music for him.  If you would like to take a listen to their music you can find them here: The Unveiling

Monday, June 27, 2011

Simply God ~By Josh Hampton

My testimony is a simple one; no great revelations or ‘Hallelujah’ moments, just a life full of growth and loss.

Let me start by saying that I was born into a Christian home, went to church every Sunday, went to Sunday school and saw all the flannel-graph characters, and for a long time that was all they were to me. I didn’t understand that there was a personal relationship to be had; I only knew the stories and the verses… not the meaning behind it all.

My family ran into some tough times when I was young.  My father became an alcoholic, and while I didn’t understand all that it meant, I knew that it was destroying my family. I saw councilors, kept going to church but none of it felt fair. Then, when I was 10 or 11, my father died. His alcoholism caught up with him, despite almost a year of fighting to get healthy and stop drinking, the strain of getting clean caused a system shutdown; he was found dead in my grandparents’ house. I didn’t tell any of this for sympathy, but only to better explain what happened next.

In my anger and depression, I decided that there couldn’t possibly be a God… after all, what king of loving God would take a ten year olds father? What kind of a monster could deprive me of that?
In my wandering I set out, looking for other faiths & religions to bring me peace…I tried Buddhism, Shinto, Hinduism, I even looked into old Celtic Druidry… anything to make me feel more in control of my own destiny, anything to try and erase the memory of God…but it never felt right. My wandering always led me back to where I started, back to God.
I did most of my wandering in secret, since I knew my family wouldn’t approve, but when nothing worked, a long time friend invited me to join the youth group at Machias Community Church… I was still angry at God, but knew now that no other faith was real.  Through my time at Machias I have grown, both as a man and as a Christian.

I learned more in the last few years at Machias than in the decade before.  I am proud to say that now I know, I never was apart from God, I feel that he let me wander, knowing full well that I would come to the only conclusion that I could… He is God.  He is a truly Loving, Forgiving and Perfect God. I was nothing but the prodigal son; I wandered and returned, still loved.

Joshua Hampton and Laura Olsen,  Snohomish, Washington
Note from Ronda~
Sweet and simple, grace and mercy!  God supplies all our needs and he is a loving Father who is doing just as you said...he is with you, he loves you, and he is growing you.  I didn't get to know you all that well when I was there in Machias.  I am so grateful to read this testimony and that you were willing to share it.  Sometimes it doesn't feel like we have a lot to say, but it isn't about quantity of words, but quality of heart.  You got heart brother!  And I appreciate you sharing it today.
Your sister in Christ,
Ronda

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Perspective ~By Jason Williams

Meet Jason.  Jason came to help Joplin. Jesus knocked, and Jason answered.  Halleluiah!


Hey Ronda!! This is Jason from St. Louis. I was saved last Friday by Pastor Barb from Arizona. So...here is my story so you can put it on your blog.

I woke up Friday morning doing the usual.  I got back from a hard day’s work. I learned that we had a Pastor staying with us at the church (ALCC)from Arizona. I kindly introduced myself. At the same time I started to think more about how I got here and why everything that’s been happening to me is so great. Who else better to ask than someone with experience?

I've always believed in God, but never really wanted to learn. At this point I've become confident and sincere about learning more about GOD, Jesus, and more about the Bible. I asked Barb if I could meet with her. She gladly accepted. We met in Sanctuary and I basically said, "I'm just gonna tell what I know, and what I want to learn."She then described parts of the bible and how to begin my journey. We sat and held hands and prayed for my all my sins to be released and cleansed and to accept Jesus in my body and mine into his. I repeated words I cannot remember, but asking for God to accept me into his Kingdom. My heart sank, and then at once it felt stronger.

I didn't realize the full affect of what was to come. But, things started to happen in my life. I met a bunch of people from another Church from my hometown. And quickly became great friends as if I've known them for years. We had a bonfire that evening what started out with 4-5 people grew to about 40. Everyone got up individually and introduced themselves, their occupation, and what they were thankful for. I stood up and professed Jesus coming into me earlier that very day with a sense of pride.
The next day we were sent out to a large farm where the Tornado had destroyed a man and woman’s home. By the end of the day things were winding down. I was walking up and my friend Mandy Wright of Quincy, Illinois said, "You should have just heard what this man said about you." We were out in the field and she said then owner heard of a man's soul being saved, and said his farm was worth being destroyed to save my soul.

I immediately started to cry.

I stared at all the hard work we all put into his farm as I was walking down the hill checking for anything we had missed.  It was then I overheard our Team leader say “that’s him right there!" I walked up and thanked him for his kind words. And he repeated to me “My Farm was worth losing to welcome you into God’s Kingdom." I hugged him and realized this is real.

Earlier before we started to work on the farm Dave Degear (Team Leader) asked who recently got saved and pointed me out to the group. The acknowledgement and love that I've have received since, has shown me very clear my path, and clear to others that his was no coincidence....So, there is my story. And I hope it helps non-believers, like I once was, believe.

Thank you for taking the time to edit and post it.

Yours Truly,

Jason M. Williams
St. Louis, Missouri


Note from Ronda~

Jason,

Joplin is grateful for you.  I am grateful for you.  Many were touched by your testimony…Many will be touched by this testimony.  Praising God for your salvation and praying that he will continue to draw you near and that you will never stop being as excited as the day I met you, for Christ.  Lord bless you Brother!

Your Sister in Christ,

Ronda

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The "F" word

This morning as I busied myself around my house I prayed.  I prayed that God would speak to my heart and give me the words that I was supposed to put down.  I have several testimonies waiting in the cue, but something is tugging at me.  My fingers feel on the verge, like a race horse pressing against a gate; hoofing the ground and snorting air with its nose.  That is how I would describe my fingers in this moment.

Joplin Tornado Debris

Two “F” Words buzz in my brain:
Fear
Faith
Pause for a moment with me.  Big inhale, Big exhale.
God, you are real, and you really love us.  You transcend time and space and have orchestrated the most amazing symphony of life that is playing out throughout all eternity for us, so that we can be near you.  You have an amazing plan and there are so many details that it boggles the mind.  Thank you for the simplicity of your message that you are solid place to stand; sure and steady.  Thank you for the clarity of mind and wisdom that you provide as we seek you and desire to know you more.  Prepare my heart God, give me the words that you would have me write.  Forgive me for my sins…I am so sorry that I keep messing up.  Thank you for your everlasting grace.  Thank you for the beautiful blue sky;  what a brilliant color you created.  Thank you for the green grass, and quiet trees that seem to be singing a song to you this morning as they gently sway in the breeze that you created.  A song runs through my head and heart, I will praise you and lift this up to you.  Thank you for this quiet moment…let little boys who are supposed to be napping surrender to sleep and wake refreshed, ready to have a fun day.
*Pause* Big inhale, Big exhale.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul.  He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Psalms 23: 1-6.
My heart is so tender right now.  The Lord is my shepherd…What a beautiful picture in my mind as I see God, glowing bright, clothed in light, holding a baby lamb in his arms.  Such a simple picture and I praise God for this image in this moment.  God has got you.  In this Psalm we are shown through a touching illustration that God is tending to us.  He is taking care of us, and that because he is taking care of us we have no need to fear.  His rod and his staff comfort us…I stopped when I read this.  These words intrigued me.
Think about a rod; a club, a stick to fend off predators.  He guards us, his flock, with a great big Billy Stick, so we don’t have to be afraid.  And the staff, I picture Little Bo Peep and her staff with its hook at the end.  When a sheep strays the shepherd can pull them back in.  I am so glad that God has a hook at the end of his staff.  I know this first hand as he drew me back in when I strayed.  He is protection, and he provides direction.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is in the LORD.  He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17: 7-8
This is where I constantly fall short.  The verse directly above and the verse directly below…Moolah.  I don’t love money…but my mind tricks me into thinking the more of it I have stashed away the more secure I will feel.  This is a deception straight from the pit of hell.  Money will not give you security, and the more you think that you are secure because of the amount of money that you have the further away it takes you from God.  You make decisions based on your future retirement, financial security,  you are anxious over bills, anxious living month to month…Anxiety is not of God.
Trust God that he will provide your needs.  Change your focus.  Even if you have all the financial security, A) It will probably never be enough, and B) It can disappear in an instant.  Trust God.  Seek God.  Ask for wisdom.  Live for God.
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Hebrews 13: 5-6
He is not going to tell you to go live in the middle of the desert without providing you food and water…Follow God and he will bless your way.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.  But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one.  I died, and behold I am alive forever more, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” Revelation 1:17-18
I put this last scripture there to show you that there is a BIG picture.  We get so caught in our day to day and society induced panic that we become distracted and complacent…I say we, but I mean me, but I don’t think I am THAT special or unique in this regard.  We place so much importance on our place in society, our rank, or social class, our clothes, our savings accounts, the cars we drive…but we miss the mark.  This is about Him, and if we are in him, we don’t have to worry about the rest.  He has got us.
FAITH
I glance up and look out the window, exhale, and then dive back in to these words.  In my life, if I forget in whom my faith rests, fear sneaks in.  When fear sneaks in, my life starts to unravel and the weight of this world settles on my shoulders.  This is something that if you are nodding your head right now thinking, ‘That is me!’ then we need to acknowledge this and give it to God.
God, I want to be a Spirit Builder, like a Body Builder for you.  I pray that you increase my faith through your word and the training of the Holy Spirit in my life so that I can be strong in you so that I won’t be weak and prone to fear and made vulnerable. Thank you for putting this in front of me today.  Thank you for examining my heart and revealing things to me through your word.  Like a protein shake, I want to drink your word in, I want to be full of truth, so that there will be no room for the lie.  I want to know the truth, so that when I see the lie (fear) I will call it out and laugh in its silly little face.  You are an amazing Father and I thank you for your open hand and provision in my life.
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money.  Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds in the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his life span?  And why are you anxious about clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothed the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?  Therefore don’t be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’…Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Matthew 6:24-34
Jesus, sweet Jesus, lover of my soul!  He longs for me to be anxiety free, trusting in him.  I think that is the best way to be.
Many of you know I injured my shoulder last Sunday in a ‘clumsy sleeper incident’ (as Sam so lovingly calls it).  I was making the bed and felt a pop and a great deal of pain.  I want to update you that it is feeling 100% better.  I am taking it easy, and being gentle with it.  I was blessed to have a customer who is a Physicians Assistant in Orthopedics and he took a look at it for Sam and me.  Today I got a text to see how it was feeling; I thanked him for being such a blessing and this was his response:
No good blessings come from me, God is the Great Healer. J I’m so glad you are doing better.  Let me know if anything changes.
Praising God in this moment for people like this who demonstrate the love of Christ and then give God all the glory!  So AWESOME!
Tomorrow starts Man Week…dun dun…dun dun…dun dun…du da du da du da….(supposed to be like jaws).  Testimonies by real men who love Jesus.  I am very excited, but a little nervous (giving my nervousness over to God about this right now), because I only have 3 out of 7 of the testimonies so far.  Guys are not as prompt as the ladies.  No problem, we will roll with it.
xoxo

Ronda
Found the "F" while running...thought about the "H" I found in our yard.  Thank you Lord for these letters that have stirred my heart.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Fake out and the Fallout

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. JER 29:11

I have been feeling tired lately.  I chalked it up to staying up all night in excruciating pain after dislocating my shoulder Sunday night while arranging the blankets on the bed… but a little test told me otherwise.

I have been steadily gaining a few pounds this last month or so to my chagrin. I figured I needed to run a little bit more and keep active, and pay better attention to how many delightfully delicious white chocolate chips I am snacking on… but a little test told me otherwise.

Every time I saw a pregnant lady or a little precious baby I would think ‘awwww… I just want to pinch that chubby little cheek!’ (Baby, not the pregnant lady, I might get smacked!).  I decided I just missed the ‘full’ feeling of being pregnant, and the squishy softness of a baby’s skin… but a little test told me otherwise.

Because of my polycystic ovarian syndrome and not having the normal indicators that one may or may not be pregnant, I occasionally (just to be 100% sure) take a pregnancy test.  So last night when we were at Target I picked up a two pack… never know when you might need a spare.  Last night I needed a spare.

We came home and I picked up around the house while Sam laid the little boys down to bed and the pink Accu-clear test caught my eye.  So I casually walked into the bathroom, and took the test.  I washed my hands, and checked my facebook on my cell phone, not expecting more than the usual one line negative.  I have taken many of these tests over the last several years.  Oh snap…two lines.



Everything made so much sense.  I stood there staring for a while, not moving, just staring and then in a daze with arms tingling, mind racing, I walked into the living room.  Sam was walking toward me and I said, “We’re going to have another baby.”  No exclamation here because I didn’t shout it, or exclaim it…I just said it.

Sam is wonderful.  Sam hugged me and said, “Congratulations, I thought you were.”  He didn’t even know that I had bought a test, let alone was taking one at random.  We sat up for the next 10 minutes talking about all the reasons this made ‘so much sense!’  And how we were going to tell the family, and in that moment Sam decided that he needed to buy a minivan.  LOL.

I told 1 friend.  I gave myself only 1 friend to tell, because if I didn’t, I was likely to burst.

About 20 minutes after the first test I decided it would be wise to make use of that second test.  Second test…two lines.  ‘Snapdizzle, family of five.’  Now I was really going to need that family cart at Target.

It was then that I glanced down at the empty pregnancy box in the waste can that I saw this…



Not two lines like any other test I had EVER taken…no, positive for this test was a plus sign on one side and a minus sign on one side.  I looked at both my tests, just two lines for each.  Negative.  The test assured me of one thing...but a little box told me otherwise.

I can’t say I was relieved.  I can say that I was sad.  I felt tricked.  I felt robbed of all my happy good ‘baby on the way’ future dreamin’ moments that I had just enjoyed.  And I felt robbed that I just munched on a bunch of delightfully delicious white chocolate chips, thinking that they didn’t matter anymore.

Sam and I realized two things last night.  A) We both want more children.  We already knew that, but we have a few years before we were going to put real effort into it, and at this point this has not changed.  B) Reading directions is important.

I will tell you that before I took the test I prayed that God would not give us more than we could handle…so he knows the timing is not perfect yet.  So we will be patient.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. Proverbs 19:21

Xoxo

Ronda (ever humbled)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Testimony of a Teen ~By Persephanie "Penny" Reyes

A thank you letter to God

When I was asked to write my testimony my throat grew small, and I had no idea how to put my words on paper. I am sixteen, and I was queasy on how to even write a testimony. I finally sat down on my bedroom floor and prayed.

"Lord what do I know of your incredible Holiness? What can I possibly bring to people who read this? Please give me your wisdom, put words in my mouth that will encourage, open eyes, and help to brighten people in their lives. Lead me the exact words you want me to write, and I will gladly re-write them a thousand times. Amen."

I can share one similarity with all of you, I am 100% human. I have made mistakes. I was the one who snuck an extra cookie at age six when I was deliberately told not to. I was the one who stole car keys and treated people who were older than me with little or no respect. I was the one who experimented with swear words and revolting sex jokes when I first entered middle school. I was the one who treated her body, her spirit, and her mind like none of it mattered. I was also the one who found the number one reason I am living and breathing here today. I am one of God's little children, and he presented me with a remarkable gift that people would be absolutely mad to deny. The gift of everlasting life!!

While praying I constantly thought, "What am I going to write? What do I possibly know of the Holy God?" That's when these words sounded unusually familiar. After a couple of seconds of you-tube browsing, I found it. Addison Road; What do I know of Holy.



Not many songs about God make me stop and think why the artist would choose a certain phrase or verse, which is why this song is important to me. I am using this song as the foundation of my testimony, or am using it to help explain it. "Here I go God!!"

"I try to hear from heaven, but I talk the whole time. I think I've made you too small."

These words burn so painfully because I know they are true. When I listened to this, I couldn't help thinking how selfish I am on a day-to-day basis. I throw random pity parties about the little things that get me in life. I can hear my Mom's words in my head "You baby, get over it!" Tough love hurts, but as always, she is right. How often do I press the pause button on my life just to listen to my Father speak? Why do I talk and whine about things that won't even matter in twenty years? Even if I know He will still be the most important thing in the universe in twenty quadrillion years from now? He has so much wisdom to share with me and you, so why do we often forget how GREAT He is?

"If you touched my face would I know you? Looked into my eyes... would I behold you?"

"If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." John 15:19

If your like me, you hate being hated. However Satan already hates me because I accepted Jesus. I'm glad I realized that it's a privilege to be hated by the world, because it means I am apart of something so much BIGGER!! I know my AWESOME POWERFUL God died on a great big cross and went through a plethora of pain!! And I have to remind myself to double-take the decision to let my attitude affect others. I don't ever want to hurt someone with a negative attitude, when I could be sharing the gift of Jesus with them!!

I love knowing the fact that I am part of this GREAT BIG FAMILY, and my slate is clean of sin because Jesus died for me!! What an awesome thing to do Father!! I often get so frustrated when I lose sight of the path I am on. Top phobia on my list: burning in Hell for all eternity. I want to stay on the teeny-tiny, winding path that only few get to walk on!! Remember who your Father is, know that you are accounted for. Always hold onto God and it won't even matter if the whole world is against you!! I am waiting for Him to come someday. That will be the day He will wrap me in his arms and I will know him, because I have belonged to him since before time was even created.

"What do I know of You, who spoke me into motion? Where have I even stood, but the shore along Your ocean? Are You fire? Are You fury? Are You sacred? Are You beautiful? What do I know? What do I know of Holy?"

I have known who Jesus was my whole life. It was only a year ago when I put my complete soul in Jesus' hands. I was not a nice person to be around when I was younger. I look back just a few short years ago and I feel ashamed. Teachers did not like my attitude, I swore, many of my peers were not my friends (no one liked my back-stabbing actions), I took the Lords name in vain, and the church was not my family. I have thought about the possibility of people being as grudging as I was at one point.

God has helped me so much in repairing my life. My mouth is a sharp as a two sided sword. That scares me, I could do a lot of damage. I pray everyday that I don't destruct the beautiful creation around me. He molded me, He knew what my quirks would be, He knew the exact genetic make-up I would posses. He gave me life, and I am so thankful. I am thankful I know and love the creator of the stars, sun, moon and sky. What an incredible question you have given me to ponder: "What do I know of Holy?" Now that I know with-out-a-doubt He is my Father I get to spend my life rejoicing and learning about Him!!

Dear Lord,

Thank you for giving me such a soul-searching song to relate to. Thank you for giving me O2 to inhale and CO2 to exhale. Thank you for constantly picking me back up from the ground and standing me up again. Thank you for tugging my heart back to you when I become caught up in my own life. Thank you for giving me wonderful people in my life that you used as tools to guide me to you. Thank you for loving me first, and last. Thank you for putting me on this Earth so I can plant seeds in hearts using your breath-taking name. I need to love you, thank you times a quadrillion for letting me. Thank you thank you thank you!! I am golden, I am good; all because you worked on me and shaped me to be an image like you. You gave me happiness, You gave me tears, You gave me life!!
Love, your daughter Persephanie

Persephanie "Penny" Reyes, Snohomish, WA and Haileigh Bakko


Note from Ronda~

This is my darling Persephanie.  I have blogged about her before.  You can read it here: Penny

Penny,

I stand here, awestruck.  Praising God as I read each word, and now, praising God as I type each word.  I get to praise God for you.  For the blessing you are to me, and for the blessing you will be to all who read your beautiful words that flow from a beautiful heart.

I praise him for putting you in my life.  I am so grateful for you.  I am so proud of you.  I love you so much you might as well be my daugther.  Although that would mean I had you when I was 13 and that would just be strange.  So, I shall love you as a cherished friend, and Sister in the Lord.  Treasured as a gift, because that is what you are.

I am so excited to see all God is going to do in your life as you grow in him.  Your energetic vibrant light shines...keep shining.

xoxo

Ronda

Oh and one last thing...be gentle with people...our bodies can break. (She is a forceful hugger, BUT I LOVE HER!)