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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Choosing Redemption

Lately, God has been revealing to me some ugly truths about my consecration-or lack thereof-to Him. As His light shines upon the dark spaces in my soul, I realize how much of my relationship with Him has been based upon my need for Him, rather than my love for Him. I see how much of my ministry has been based upon selfish motives, and how the cocktail of my thoughts is more often a bitter brew than a sweet Spirit-filled punch. And He's been showing me how these bitter thoughts stem from unresolved anger that I harbor towards Him- anger which began in my childhood and which has subtly choked my relationship with Him over the years.

Roots of bitterness aren't easily yanked from soil that has been rained on, packed down and fertilized by a lifetime of trials, so I don't think God is disappointed that I can't just rip the suckers out with my hands. The traumas I have endured have been severe, and my need for grace has been infinite. Yet I had hoped that after a decade of following Him wholeheartedly, my love for Him would be deeper, and my consecration to Him, greater.

If I ever thought that being in full-time ministry was my calling, I discarded the idea a couple of weeks ago. Well, sort of. I simply decided that I couldn't be used by God in my current condition and that my soul was too shredded to ever come to a truly profound knowledge of His love for me. I'm a walking bag of loveless, irritable bones these days. Maybe it's the lack of sleep. Maybe it's the pain in my hip and back. Or maybe I'm using these problems as excuses to feed those bitter roots of disappointment in God. In any case, God would never use such a person in high levels of ministry, lest the sharks of pride or something worse eat me alive.

Or have I simply been believing a fantastic lie about my usefulness to God and my ability to receive from Him? In any case, the enemy threw some well-harvested salt into the wound created by this belief at a Christian conference this weekend.

I preface this story by saying that God's love towards us and our love for Him can't always be measured by our feelings. Feelings are subject to our biochemistry, and faith has nothing to do with our neurotransmitters, hormones or other chemicals that affect our mood and thoughts.

So when the Holy Spirit touches people, especially at charismatic and Pentecostal healing conferences, and His presence manifests in us as feelings of joy, tears of release, and other warm fuzzy expressions, such feelings shouldn't be used as the barometer by which we measure the quality of our relationship with God.

But everyone still wants a warm fuzzy from God, because fuzzies touch our emotions and help us to feel reassured that He loves us.

So when I was literally (or so it seemed) the only conference attendee this weekend who didn't receive a powerful physical or emotional manifestation of God's presence in my inner being, the enemy vanquished Truth from my mind and said to me, See? You can't even receive God's love.

Normally, my thoughts don't descend into such a dark pit simply because I fail to fall to the ground under the power of God's Spirit, or I don't sense His presence when a well-anointed minister comes and imparts the Spirit to me. But I have never witnessed such a powerful anointing upon one of God's ministers as that which I saw this weekend, and yet never felt so strongly like I was the only one who couldn't be a part of what God was doing.

Shirley Strand was the minister, and as she prophesied and extended her hand to impart God's Spirit to each one of the forty-some women who came to the altar to receive from God, I watched many of them fall to the ground, with shouts of joy, tears of laughter, and other obvious physical manifestations of God's presence.

Usually, in these type of services, not everyone exhibits visible evidence of having been touched by God, but this time, nearly everyone that I saw, did. It was amazing. Every time I looked up to see what God was doing...Bam! Someone was falling down under the power of the Holy Spirit.

But when Shirley prayed over me, I felt nothing. As tears welled in my eyes, I looked at her and said, "I can't receive from God."

She prayed over me once again and still, I felt nothing. She ordered me to sit down, and as I watched her continue to minister over other people, grief filled my chest. Instead of comforting me, God seemed to be confirming my earlier suspicions that I was beyond being touched by Him...beyond redemption, beyond ever sensing His love in the way that I so desperately needed to.
Beyond ever being used greatly in ministry.

But the next thing I knew, Shirley was standing in front of me again. She said to me, "Okay, get up. You're going to come minister with me."

I forced a smile, though I'm sure my expression screamed devastation. If it wasn't, my soul certainly was, but nobody seemed to notice as Shirley took my arm and raised it to the people still awaiting a touch from God. As my hand touched their faces, they collapsed backwards, releasing peals of laughter and shrieks of joy as they went. Some simply fell, struck by the power of God flowing through my hand as Shirley moved me from one person to another. Granted, it was her anointing, not mine, touching the people. I was simply her puppet, but I didn't understand in that grief-stricken moment that God was doing something with me besides trying to get me to smile.

My grief intensified as the women fell. Everyone in the room seemed to be receiving a touch from God--that is, everyone but me- the instrument that ironically, He was using to drop the people to the ground like sacks of potatoes.

Maybe Shirley just wanted to cheer me up, I thought. After all, it was her anointing that was touching the people, not mine. Anyway, I was too bitter to be used by God in that moment...or was I?

The message became clearer when one of the women who had organized the conference came over to me and prophesied over me. She said, "You are a healing minister. I saw it all over you the second you walked through the door (of the church)."

She then told me she thought that it was no accident that Shirley had asked me to stand and minister to the people, because she thought that God was calling me to do the work of an evangelist, too.

It's not the first time I have heard it, or the second, or the third. We are all called to pray for the healing of one another, but as the conference concluded, I realized that God was yet calling me to a position of higher authority in ministry. He still believed that I could be healed of my wounds, and when that happened, it would unfold into the fulfillment of an amazing promise.

I didn't receive a touch from the Holy Spirit as I had hoped this weekend, but as I left the conference, I realized that God had yet reached out to me- knowing, perhaps, that using my hand in ministry and receiving words of prophecy were the only ways that I would be able to sense His love, and receive the knowledge that He yet intended to do great things with my life, despite what I believed about myself. I could have chosen to ignore the signs, and the message. I could have said to myself, "Shirley just asked me to minister with her because she felt sorry for me. The prophet called me a healing minister-but aren't we all?"

As I drove home, I realized that how I decided to view the situation meant the difference between growing my bitter roots towards God or taking another step towards uprooting them.

As difficult as it was to choose, I finally decided that God using my hand in ministry was meant to be a foreshadowing of the fulfillment of one of His great promises in my life. The prophecy was meant to confirm that He intends to use me in an even greater capacity as a healing minister, and that He yet thinks I'm divine material for that purpose. That my lack of consecration, irritability and intermittent bitterness are no hindrance to the fulfillment of His promises for my life- if I keep seeking to be healed from them. But like a surgeon who removes infection with a scalpel or a knife, God must first bring my infection into the light, before He begins the painful work of cutting it out, so that I may eventually be healed.

The choice I made at the conference to believe that I am one of God's sheep, instead of a stubborn little mule who is too broken to receive anything from Him, wasn't just for yesterday. As the daily stresses of life press upon me and symptoms continue to poke at my happiness, I realize that I must continue to choose to see His love and promises through the grind of my day-to-day existence, instead of focusing upon difficult circumstances that blind me to His Truths.

The devil is always looking to slap a blindfold across our eyes and tell us that we aren't really chosen, loved or created by God for great things. He would have us believe that we are more screwed up than any other; that our messes make it impossible for us to receive from God or be used by Him. That lie has never hit me so forcefully as it did this past weekend.

But then God reminded me that the darkest hour in our lives is sometimes just before the dawn. Though I yet long for God to descend upon me with flurries of warm fuzzies, I realize that to see the dawn, I must stop expecting Him to love me my way, and instead allow Him to love me His way. And I must know that He doesn't give up on me, even when I give up on me. Only then, will I perceive His gestures of love towards me in the darkness.

May we know in our heart of hearts that we are not beyond redemption. May we know that there is no soul on this earth that the power of Jesus Christ can't touch, and no wound that He can't heal. May we know that our circumstances and emotions are no reflection of His love towards us, and that when we are tempted to see them as such, we must look to the Cross and know that we are loved, simply because of what He did for us there.


  1. Connie you are a beautiful and amazing being changing the landscapes where you walk... you are the energy consciousness this world needs to expand on faster... I appreciate your strength to be vulnerable, it inspires me.

  2. Wow. This is so great, I'm jumping for joy. That choice - what a great wonderful thing you did on the way home. And deciding to let God love you His way. And focusing on loving rather than needing him. You are literally laying down the stones of the pathway to Him, to your own healing ministry, and to your new life. I am so happy for you and thank you so much for writing this.

  3. Hello again Connie...

    I'm afraid my visits to your blog have been a bit sporadic of late, so when I do make the time to pause long enough from my own wanderings in the wilderness of life to take in your heartfelt outpourings of introspection I'm forced to absorb several all at once.

    Therefore, right now I'm pleasantly basking in the mental images and euphoric poetic metaphors of you wearing a frilly red dress, while at the same time being touched by your honesty and your intense commitment to the purity of your conviction. Hey, it's a true test of a person's "real" faith, in anything let alone their faith in God, to admit when they haven't felt the desired energy move within them. It is even a greater testament to your devotion that you never quite fall for the easy way out and allow your doubts to dissuade you from your personal quest. We are all born with some amount of “intellect”, we are then given access to “knowledge” as we grow, but it is only through retrospection (a.k.a.: life experience) that we gain anything resembling actual “wisdom”. So, continue to be faithful to your conviction but always question the data for the real truth is often only revealed to those that search beyond the obvious declarations of the supposed authorities on the subject. Ever since the protestant reformation and the translation of biblical text into the languages of the masses modern Christianity has taught that we all have a spiritual path unique to each of us. As you have ascertained through your own struggles with chronic illness, just because those deemed as experts have decreed you free of illness doesn’t mean it’s so. And because of the special person that you are, and have become, I suspect you’ll find that your search for inner spiritual security and solace will be similarly difficult to realize until you’ve embraced it through earned “wisdom”. We all trudge down the metaphoric paths offered to us, but as the good book suggests, only the righteous are able to choose the correct routes when faced with a fork in the road. Sometimes the path less taken is the road to salvation. Of course, they also say that “good intentions” pave the other road.

    My continued good wishes and warm thoughts to you… I truly mean that..! :-)


  4. Connie I think that you are wrong. I don't think you are too broken to be used powerfully by God and I don't think that consecration is the problem. Rather, I think that you are hurt and grieving and sick and exhausted and numb and shell-shocked and war-weary. Did you know that for years Bill Johnson was the ONLY one left standing while everyone else had fallen down? Bill Johnson! And now look! Connie, the depth and strength of your faith and your love for Him was clearly demonstrated when you made that powerful choice on the way home to BELIEVE Him. And THAT, my dear courageous one, was your victory. THAT type of faith is why God imputed righteousness to Abraham! THAT gut-wrenching choice to believe Him, all by yourself, in the face of so much disappointment and unmet expectation, is what distinguishes you from all the people who fell down and laughed, and is what makes you a courageous warrior and someone whom He can trust. It is easy to believe God when we fall down and laugh; it is much more difficult to believe Him after we don't end up falling down and laughing. I cannot tell you why you are suffering so much; I don't go near the "Why" questions anymore. But I can tell you this - your faith is more precious to Him than Gold, and He is very, very pleased with you. You don't need an anointed person to pray for you to experience His love, or to fall down and laugh in order to receive from Him; all you need is to exercise that resilient, precious, furnace-purified faith of yours and simply BELIEVE what He has said - that He loves you and that He will never leave you and never forsake you (which means He is right there standing next to you, whether you can feel Him or not). Connie, stop trying to assess yourself; it's not about you or your level of consecration. It is simply about believing Him. This is a walk of faith, and you've got the goods.

    Connie, come stay with me awhile. You need to soak in the River, and I can use the company. xxxooo Teri Holder

  5. Hi Randy and Anonymous, Thank you so much for your encouraging and kind words. I am honored by your thoughtful responses and will try to respond more personally later this week, as I am getting ready to travel over the next couple of days. May you be blessed! Thanks so much for stopping by :) Love in Jesus, Connie

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  7. Hi Teri, Thanks for your wise comments. What you say about Bill J. encourages me :)...well, the rest of your message, too. Thanks for resurrecting my hope and reminding me of so many powerful truths. I often remind myself of what you said to me once about not asking Why- you have a lot of wisdom (I'm telling ya, you should write a book)!. I would love to respond at greater length (and to the rest of you lovely people, too :) but perhaps I can do so later in the week, since I gotta get to bed now. I'm leaving for Costa Rica early Weds., but yes, I would love to come see you at Bethel. Let's touch base soon to see where we are both at with our schedules. Bless you Sister and thanks for your words. Love, Connie

  8. I'm sure the constant and unselfish sharing of your emotional warmth and outward confidence will continue to inspire and motivate many others, Connie. It is only in that with which we question ourselves that tempers our motives and keeps us from false hubris. You should never worry that you aren't feeling fully resolved because that would suggest that there was no more room to grow. We are at our best when tested by fire. A tool is never sharper than when it's just been touched by the grindstone. Of course, we all need rest too, and excessive use will dull even the finest steel. A little time spent in Costa Rica sounds like just the thing for leveling out one's moods. I find that wisping breezes & intermittent rain showers often allow for subtle reflection and a gentle rebooting of my own mood. Of course, I have the luxury of having a profession that leads me from Denver down to the spectacular natural beauty of the San Luis Valley every week. No matter the weather nor the temperature I find it impossible to not be impacted by the awe inspiring grandeur of La Sierra Blanca and the rest of the Sangre de Cristo & San Juan mountain ranges as I enter the central floor of that majestic alpine basin. Perhaps I should just take a lead from Teri and offer an invitation for you to visit. I think that you should at least consider that at some point in your life that you tour the cultural and spiritual cradle of Colorado (, and not just casually visit, but walk in the metaphoric moccasins of the people of the past and learn from their spiritual struggles. It's a story that I think you'd find quite moving and enlightening when you consider and reflect upon your own toils, perils, and tribulations. We have an abundance of churches, and religious and sacred places, and each has its own story to tell. But, please don’t feel compelled to answer in some polite yet dismissive fashion; it’s just a thought… No pressure..! :-) Of course, I invite all your other blog followers to the region as well. It’s certainly not a secret to be too closely guarded. Man has been lured to, and tested by, this inspiring place for more than 11,000 years. I don’t think a few more intrepid souls in search of inner solace and greater edification would hurt anything.

    At any rate, enough of my coy attempts at wit, it goes without saying that I wish you the very best in all your endeavors.

    Safe Travels for you and yours...


  9. Hi Randy, Thank you for so many thoughtful comments, and for taking an interest in my struggles and in the insights that I receive and share with others. You seem to have a gift in encouraging others, and I am blessed by your words and thoughtful perspectives. As me, you seem to be quite introspective, and I appreciate your sentiments about knowledge versus wisdom and the different spiritual journeys that we are all on. Thank you also for the invite to visit the Sangre de Cristo area. I have been there a couple of times, and really appreciated its beauty. Of course, I don't know much about its history, which sounds intriguing, also- so I will be sure to look you up if I feel led to visit the area again. In the meantime, may you be blessed in all that you do, and continue to find pleasure in your work, which sounds quite rewarding. Take care, Connie