Friday, February 8, 2013

The miraculous, the mundane and the plain weird

True confession: I don’t love treasure maps.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out my previous post called Finding His Treasure.

Showing someone that they’re on a map and explaining the whole treasure hunt thing just seemed fake or contrived to me. I’d rather just naturally start talking with people in the coffee shop line-up or in the produce department at the grocery store. But one morning before treasure hunts, a fellow BSSM student asked our leader if he was required to use the map.

The leader said yes, the treasure map can be really powerful. So, I said to the Holy Spirit, “If it’s true that the treasure map is important, can you make something match up on my map today?”

So we set out on our treasure hunt.

It wasn’t the best treasure hunt ever. Our first treasure was a former Bethel student. She was encouraged but it seemed like our words and prayer for her didn’t really rock her world. Then we felt we should walk into a hair salon and bless it. It was a little scary, since we ended up in the middle of the salon with everyone watching and listening. But the owners smiled and seemed to appreciate our blessing, so it was all good.

When the treasure hunt was over, we realized that we’d lost one of our drivers and we had one person too many for the car. I volunteered to wait for Andrew to come and pick me up.

Now I should mention that two clues on my treasure map were “someone approaching me” and “shaved head.”

I was standing there waiting for Andrew to pick me up, and this young guy approached me (!) and said, “I just got my hair cut, but I feel like she just shaved my head. What do you think?”

He and I started to talk. I felt like God was saying something about a job for him. So I said, “Are you looking for a job?” He said that he didn’t have a job but he’s not sure if he wants one because he’s on social assistance. I said, “Oh, because I feel like God wants to provide a good job for you.” He said, “I’ve had experiences with God.”

Really? Wow. He went on to describe a couple of God encounters he’s had amidst his drug-riddled meditation life. The funny thing was, the two God experiences he described sounded authentic to me. He said the supernatural peace he received from God once—when he was not stoned—was way different from a drug high.

I asked him if he wanted to experience another encounter with God. He said no.

As with Rick in my previous post, I felt God's love and compassion for this sensitive, spiritual young man. So I tried to encourage him with some of the amazing things I was sensing about him, but he kept interrupting.

So I listened a lot.

When I knew Andrew would be pulling up any minute, I asked if I could pray for him. He said only if he could pray for me. I was a bit hesitant—after all he did tell me he’s possessed by a demon. But I said okay. He said, “Dear God, bless this nice lady. I hope she has a good day.” I was really touched. Once again I remembered how the Lord promised to encounter me with His love on the streets of Redding.

When I prayed for the young guy, I prayed for more encounters with God, for victory in his life through Jesus, for freedom and love and life and peace.

In reality, most treasure hunts are kind of like this one: a mixture of the miraculous, the mundane, and the plain weird. To be really honest, I don’t know whether our conversation or the prayer were meaningful to him. He didn’t seem to care much what I said. I’m not sure I did a great job of sharing Jesus’ love with him—I even forgot to ask his name.

But I believe that this young man is God’s treasure. And I believe that any time we pray in Jesus’ name, something powerful happens. And I know that his prayer blessed me.

Most of all, I have the conviction that both he and I are God’s beloved children and our Heavenly Father will continue to seek us out to bless us, regardless of how we respond. 

- Anne

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Finding His treasure

His name was Rick and he had fresh stitches down one side of his face. He had a shaved head and piercings. He looked tough. But somehow, all I felt was how amazing he is.

I met Rick during the practical part of our BSSM program is called our “activation.” The idea is that everything we’re learning gets “activated” or put into practice. Andrew’s activation is serving lunch to homeless people on Saturdays. My activation is called treasure hunts.

The idea behind treasure hunts is that each person is a treasure to God. And God is always speaking to His children. It’s our privilege to deliver a message of love, or a prayer for healing, or a word of hope to people who don’t know that they’re God’s treasure.

When we were training for treasure hunts, we were encouraged to ask the Holy Spirit why we ended up in this particular activation. I asked. He answered, “You are my treasure. I’m going to encounter you with my love on the streets of Redding.”

But most mornings when I headed out to my activation, I wasn’t feeling encountered by God’s love. I was feeling scared.

It all changed the morning we met Rick. I woke up that morning with the whispered prayer, “Jesus, I just want my love and compassion for people to overwhelm my fear of offending them.”

When we first meet up on a treasure hunt morning, we get a treasure “map.” The map has spaces on which we can write locations, names and other details that God might bring to mind. Several of us had Shasta College on our maps. So we set out for the campus. My treasure hunt partner that morning, a pharmacist from Montreal named Mher, not only had Shasta College, but also “Rick,” “stroke” and “soup” all on his treasure map.

Once on campus, we approached two guys at a bus stop. We introduced ourselves asked their names. Rick introduced himself. We asked if there’s anything he needed prayer for. He seemed surprised but said yes, his girlfriend’s mother had recently had a stroke. Mher showed him his treasure map, that “Rick” and “stroke” were both on the map. Rick seemed surprised again, and let us pray for her on the spot.

Right about then I started to feel an overwhelming love for Rick. I started to see him through God’s eyes. Rick explained about the stiches down one side of his face, that he’d been drinking the night before, fallen and hit his head on a curb. We prayed again, asking that the skin on his face would heal quickly and scar-free. 

We asked what program he’s in. Culinary, he said. That explained the “soup.” Then I got word of prophecy for Rick that God wants to give him extraordinary creativity in culinary arts, and I saw him bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth when he cooks. Rick began to beam. Turns out, that’s his dream. Also, he loves to cook for homeless people.

He began to talk about the Lord, how he believes in God but doesn’t like church. He thinks that believers should be sharing God’s love outside of the church, like we were doing. Once again, I felt I had a word for Rick, that he was actually created that way—God made him to take love and justice to the streets, not to sit around in a church building. Rick's face lit up even more.

Our conversation continued. We both got more words of encouragement for Rick. Mher talked to him about a relationship with Jesus. Before we left, we prayed once more to bless him and his dreams.

As we walked away, I was walking on air. Jesus gave me such a love for Rick that talking with him was an absolute pleasure. After we initially approached him, it wasn’t scary at all. And I knew that he hadn’t been offended; rather, he’d been encountered by Jesus, who loves him enough to hunt him down.

Three weeks later, I glanced across the big Bethel sanctuary during worship and spotted a vaguely familiar face in a hood. Two songs later, he pulled off the hood and I realized it was Rick. He was there, worshiping a God who considers him a treasure.  

- Anne

Friday, February 1, 2013

Growth and transition

I haven’t written a blog post in a while. Andrew’s done almost all the blogging in recent weeks. I think it’s because during first semester, what God was doing in me was deep and raw, and I had trouble understanding it, let alone expressing it. I’m usually a verbal processor—either out loud or in writing—but the changes that were taking place in me seemed to defy words.

Also, much of what I was thinking about first semester was introspective, and we didn’t really come here for introspection. We came here to learn how to be world-changers for Jesus. So somehow all the navel gazing I was doing didn’t seem fit to write about.

But I now see that God didn’t just want to bring us here to add to our ministry skills, He wanted to truly transform us. And true transformation requires renewed thinking, from the inside out. So no wonder I was spending a lot of time inside myself. 

In short, during first semester God was stripping away all my false identities, everything that I thought was crucial for my relationship with Him. It wasn’t just about losing the proximity of family, community, ministry and everything else familiar, I also, for a time, lost my hunger and passion for Him.

But He didn’t stop speaking. He told me so many things. He sought me out where I was hiding—sometimes literally at the back of the auditorium—and gave me words from people I didn’t even know. One time a girl I’d never met tapped me on the shoulder and described how she was sensing God sees me. Another time a woman gave me some art that she felt had a message from God for me. Those words spoke about how He loves intimacy with me and how He loves the fragrance I bring to worship, whether I feel His presence or not. And of course there were emails and words of encouragement from many of you.

During first semester, God told me that He has me hidden on purpose right now because it’s a time of rest. He told me that this time of rest is promotion, because certain breakthroughs come from rest that can’t come from work. Sometimes you acquire new territory in the Spirit by fighting and fasting and praying for it, and I’ve certainly had times like that in recent years. Other land you simply inherit as a son or daughter. That’s the stage I’m at right now.

God told me that I’m not to work or fight for approval from Him or from people anymore. He wants so much more for me than to base my identity on being liked.

Recently I’ve been fascinated with the Holy of Holies, the part of the tabernacle in the Old Testament that only high priests could enter to represent the people before God. Did you know that priests weren’t allowed to sweat in the Most Holy place? The other day one of our lecturers surmised that it’s because perspiration represents work, and we can’t work our way into the presence of God, we can only rest our way into it through Jesus’ work on the cross. I like that.

This semester is a new season. I feel a new momentum and excitement. I feel so much more secure in who I am in Jesus. I don’t have anything to prove. I want to minister because I’m overflowing with His love, not to earn anything.

In fact I’ve been feeling an aching and burning in my chest in the presence of God these days. It’s almost like He’s growing my heart to love more and better. When I pray and journal, He’s been telling me that when Holy Spirit power and supernatural love come together, heaven explodes onto the scene.

Out of that place of overflowing with His love and power, amazing things are happening when I go out to spread His love on the streets of Redding, as part of my practical aspect of our Bethel program. In upcoming blog posts I want to share some of those stories.

But for now, I want to say thank you to everyone who prayed and encouraged me through an emotionally tumultuous first semester. The light at the end of the tunnel is blinding and beautiful. 

- Anne