December 15, 2010

The Grace Ticket

 Well hallelujah our kiddos have arrived from Missouri. We will have a house full for Christmas and it’s going to be fun. Its always sort of bittersweet to have them here because I know that it isn't going to last and they are going to leave soon, but I’m choosing to enjoy the now and to not think of tomorrow. And we are truly thankful for our 'now' because there just seems to be so much tragedy going on in the world right now. Not just in the news but with people we know. It always puts whatever I’m struggling with in perspective and makes me thankful for those precious ones in my life.

Have you ever looked at a tragic situation and thought, “I don’t know how they are dealing with this. I just couldn’t do it. I just could not handle this if it happened to me.”? A friend and I were having such a conversation recently and we were basically saying these very things. And I was reminded of a story I read years ago told in THE HIDING PLACE by Corrie ten Boom. One night when she was a little girl, as her sweet Daddy was tucking her into bed, she became overwhelmed with the fearful thought of what if he were to die.

(As told in THE HIDING PLACE). “I burst into tears, “I need you!” I sobbed. “You can't die! You can't!” “Corrie,” he began gently. “When you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?” “Why, just before we get on the train.” “Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we're going to need things, too. Don't run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.”

Years later during World War II this came to Corrie's mind as her entire family was rounded up and sent to a concentration camp for hiding Jews in Nazi-occupied Holland. And even through their suffering and the death of her father and sister, God’s strength was there when she needed it and she was not overcome by her circumstances. She did ‘handle it’ when it needed to be handled, but only by the grace of God.

I read THE HIDING PLACE when I was a little girl and as a fear-prone child, this story particularly comforted and ministered to me. I have never, ever forgotten the lesson of this story and it has been proven true to me over and over again and I've seen it proven in the lives of others.

In December 1994, the Navy moved us to Hawaii. Christmas found us living in a hotel suite with two small children and me in the middle of a difficult pregnancy. I loved my own children with all of my heart but I’d never been one of those women whose heart melted at the sight of a baby or who as a girl had gladly volunteered my babysitting services nor as a mother had I ever been overly confident in my child rearing abilities. So every pregnancy, although greeted with great joy was also greeted with a fair amount of trepidation at the great responsibility entrusted to us. I never felt worthy or capable of such a sacred task. And I was especially anxious to have my third baby so far away from my support base of family, friends and church. I just didn’t have a whole lot of faith in myself to efficiently run a household while capably handling three small children and homeschooling my eldest all day long while Keith was at work. The very thought of it greatly overwhelmed me. Yet despite these worries, we had a wonderful Christmas together as a family of four in our hotel room.

Then sometime after Christmas, I went for my ultrasound.

I should have known something was up when the ultrasound tech took one look at my ultrasound and announced, “excuse me I have to get a second opinion” then promptly left the room. But I can honestly say, this didn’t alarm me at all. For once, my overactive, worse-case-scenario thought-process didn’t kick into high gear. I don’t remember thinking anything at all as a matter of fact. Keith wisely kept any concerns he may have had to himself because he knew better. So when Mr. Second Opinion casually commented, “Yep, there’s two babies in there. You’re having twins Mrs. Johnson.” I nearly fell off the examining table. This was impossible. This was inconceivable. Other women had twins- calm, capable, confident women. Not me. Definitely not me. However for a brief holy moment, a sense of awe came over me as if God had especially blessed us with this ‘double portion’. However just as quickly the awe left and panic set in.. "Twins God? Me God? Are You serious?" But the fact remained that for some odd reason God DID choose me to be the mother of twins and it has forever convinced me that He definitely has a sense of humor. :)

That night as I lay in bed, a thousand different scenarios of taking care of two babies at once were played out in my head.
What if they both were crying at the same time. What if they both needed their diaper changed at the same time. How would I choose? What if we were in public and they both needed me. How would I carry them both? Could I take care of two babies by myself while Keith was at work? And what about my other two children? Would they feel neglected? And when would I ever find the time to homeschool? Would I ever be able to go to the grocery store again?
These kind of thoughts made sleep impossible and worked me into a panic. But as I frantically questioned God about this, he reminded me of the train ticket story. And as sure as I’ve ever known, the Lord spoke to my heart at that moment and He said (basically),

“Kayla, my grace is sufficient for you. Right now you are picturing and worrying about things in the future that you aren’t facing now. You are pregnant now. You need my grace for that, not for handling two babies at once. When you have your two babies, that particular grace will be yours as well. But you won’t have it until the exact moment you need it. So quit worrying and looking ahead and deal with today. Relax and trust in me. My grace IS sufficient”.

I cannot tell you the peace and relief that flooded my soul at that moment. I breathed a prayer of gratitude and turned over and fell fast asleep. And from that moment forward a confidence and excitement stirred in my soul. I was even more overjoyed when I found out I was having a boy AND a girl. Although my pregnancy was difficult and I almost delivered early several times, I had an abiding peace because I KNEW no matter what we faced, that ticket would be there when needed. And after they were born, although yes it was often difficult having two babies at once, I think I was more relaxed with the twins as babies than I was with my older two. They truly were and continue to be a double blessing and have been a genuine delight to their dad and I.

God was true to His word and His grace was there when I needed it.

Since that time when God’s ‘grace ticket’ was there for me, I have observed it handed out countless times, at the moment of much more serious needs. I watched our friend George Waites, who while battling pancreatic cancer faced his mortality with God’s peace and a sense of humor. I watched his wife and children walk through that valley with strength and an eternal perspective while proclaiming the goodness of God in the midst of loss and grief. I’ve seen my sister and brother-in-law’s faith and perseverance as they’ve never stopped pursuing God in the midst of dealing with the difficulties and delights of raising their autistic son. And right now I’m watching my friends Jen and Sean face Sean’s terminal cancer and the heartbreaking prognosis that he may not be here by Christmas Day to spend it with their two young sons. And I’m seeing them face this trauma with a gratitude for each precious day together and with a strength that defies explanation.

God’s train ticket of grace is there when we need it to face something that we could never imagine facing before. And like the manna, it is for each day-one day at a time. It doesn’t make things easy and it doesn’t take away the pain, but somehow it is sufficient to bear what would otherwise crush those who have made the Lord their hope. But don’t expect to understand today what you may or may not face tomorrow.Each day has enough trouble of its own. If we’re ever called upon to face something unimaginable, rest assured that grace ticket will be handed to us by our loving Father at the very moment we get on the train, but not a moment before.

2 Cor 12: 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

And please say an extra prayer for our friends Sean and Jen Coffey. Please pray for a miracle and that if it’s God’s will Sean will be here to spend Christmas Day with his beautiful wife and two little boys. But that whatever the Lord chooses, that His‘grace ticket’ would be there exactly when they need it for whatever they will be called upon to face, as promised.

I pray that you each have a very, very Merry Christmas.
God bless you all.

December 11, 2010

Pilgrimages & other stuff

Me and my eldest Haley

Me and my Max
Long time no blog. I’m not sure why October was my banner month for blogging but I seem to have hit a wall in November. Going to try to redeem myself in December I guess. :)
So here’s what's been happening while I’ve been blogless.

Well I celebrated (ha!) a birthday in November. Birthdays these days aren’t as much fun or as anticipated as they once were. This year, because of some circumstances in my life at the time, I admit I faced my birthday with a fair amount of dread. Silly, I realize. I even realized it at the time which made it that much worse. I knew that I should be very grateful for my blessed life and even for my age. But the melancholy persisted so I took it to the Lord and as promised, He heard my cry and answered me. I ended up having a very pleasant day, with a thankful heart for the life God has given me.

But afterwards as I contemplated the emotional contortions I'd just experienced I had to ask- what was that all about? And the answer I came up with was basically this: hope deferred. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” I think most of us have had our own personal ‘hope deferred” at one time or another. We’ve all had dreams not fulfilled, crushing disappointments, that particular something we’d hoped for that didn’t come to pass. I’ve definitely had my share throughout my life. But as I once again marked time with another birthday, it just seemed to hit me that my dreams were becoming more unlikely with each passing year. The cushion of time that kept me hopeful in youth, was now gone. No, I’m aware that I’m not ancient and those older than me will probably say, “Good grief, get a grip woman, you still have lots of time!” Okay, okay, I agree. But this dawning realization of my own mortality was not an overall negative thing in the end. It just birthed a curious determination in me to understand some things once and for all. And although I know that the enemy of my soul was right there in the midst of my birthday angst, whispering despair into my ear, I believe the Lord DOES sometime allow and lead us into seasons of contemplation and sober evaluation.

I guess I'm in good company because King David also pondered, "Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God."Ps. 42:5.

I have had to ask myself- what is my hope? I mean really? I know the answer to that of course but I'm at the point of wanting to not just know the truth but to really experience it. I mean, I want to know Him in all of His glory and to walk in His fullness, experiencing His resurrection power. I want to be aware and in awe of the fact that the Uncreated lives inside of me. I want to take Him at His word, to really trust Him, to live out these promises here on this earth and not just in the sweet by and by. So that’s where my birthday blahs led me: to set my heart on a pilgrimage for TRUTH.

Ps. 84: 1 "How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty! 2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.... 5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. 6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka (weeping), they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.[d] 7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion."

Well, for my birthday I got a plane ticket to go see my kids in St Louis for Thanksgiving. That was really great. I was gone an entire week from my sweet husband and my two youngest, so that was hard, but I really had some time of sweet fellowship with my older two and with the presence of the Lord. The Lord is really visiting Faith Chapel (my kid's church). His presence is tangible. I know we throw that around a lot “wow the presence of God was really there Sunday, blah, blah, blah”, but I mean to tell you THE PRESENCE OF GOD WAS THERE! I mean… really! Okay I know God is omnipresent, but there’s a weightiness of His presence at times that cannot be denied. In His manifest presence, I find that faith arises in my heart. I find that anything seems possible and my worries seem insignificant. There’s just no place I’d rather be. And this is how I long to live.

Anyhow I had a great time celebrating Thanksgiving in St Louis. I am so excited to see what the Lord is doing in and through my children. Lest you feel sorry for Keith and the twins for being home alone while I was off gallivanting in Missouri, waste no pity on them. They were having the time of their lives at a hunting camp in Texas. They celebrated Thanksgiving in their element- outdoors, surrounded by wildlife, in camo and with firearms. Yea boy- hate I missed it. :) But needless to say everyone had a great Thanksgiving doing their own thing. But we will all be together, under one roof once again for Christmas. It should be interesting with seven people and three dogs. I can’t wait!

Speaking of Christmas- here it is again. Every year, despite my resolve to not get so caught up in the stress, I still somehow to end up there. I am not going to lie and tell you that I have succeeded this year in keeping Christmas simple and centered on Jesus. But I have at least longed to marvel at the miracle of Christmas. I guess that is an improvement. I mean we’ve heard the story our whole lives and for most of us it has lost its wonder. But oh that we would be awakened afresh to the miracle of the incarnation.

That we would marvel at the Uncreated One sending His only Son Jesus from His home in glory to become one of us. That we would celebrate Jesus, born of a virgin just as it was foretold by the prophets; born to die for our sins. That we would be filled with wonder that He shed His blood and died a painful death on the cross for us; reconciling us to the Father, who was fully satisfied with His sacrifice. Oh that we would be amazed at His resurrection and His triumph over sin and death and His ascension to the right hand of God. That we would get excited that He is coming back for us. That we would weep at such love and be confident in such authority. And that our reasonable response to all this would be to present ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice, recognizing that we are not our own. We’ve been bought with the precious blood of Jesus. We are His. And it all began for us with Christmas, when that sweet little baby, fully God and fully man, was born in that manger in Bethlehem. A tangible, personal revelation of this is my prayer for myself, my family and for all of you. Because there WILL come a day when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.

"He's not a baby in a manger anymore. He's not a broken man on the cross. He didn't stay in the grave and He's not staying in heaven forever"~Misty Edwards

And for those of us who have chosen to believe Him and to give ourselves to Him, when our eyes finally look upon Him in that day, we’re going to realize that He's all that's ever mattered! May we set our heart on a pilgrimage to know that and live our lives in light of that TODAY. He truly is the reason for everything... including Christmas :). Anyhow, may ya'll have a blessed, safe and awe-struck celebration.

Merry Christmas friends!

How Keith and the twins celebrated Thanksgiving :D
Hannah's Thanksgiving buck

Josephs Thanksgiving buck

Keith's big buck

November 8, 2010

Warrior's Call pics

Keith Mitchell sharing his incredible testimony
Well here are some long awaited photos of Warrior's Call 2010 held in Ruston Louisiana the weekend of October 15-16. The uncompromised word went forth that weekend and the Lord was glorified. We believe that generational strongholds were broken over Ruston as God's word was proclaimed.

My husband, Keith Johnson, bringing the word of God

Byron Earls bringing the Word, Saturday morning

Brother Stanley of Teen Challenge New Orleans also shared

The Teen Challenge guys especially blessed us with their testimonies and faithful witness of what the Lord had brought them through. They touched our hearts in a dramatic way. Keep these guys in prayer as they walk out their deliverance.
Justin Batterton of Teen Challenge giving his testimony

Teen Challenge lined up to testify

Worship led by Andy Richardson

October 30, 2010

The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth

I’ve been so blessed and overwhelmed by the many views and the interest in Keith Mitchell’s testimony that I posted here. It really seemed to strike a chord with so many. The Lord has been highlighting to me the importance of a testimony. Testimonies bring the truth of Jesus and His relationship and care for ordinary people like us down to the experiential level that so often touches our hearts like nothing else. I remember often thinking since I got saved at age seven, that my testimony wouldn’t be very interesting to hear. Now granted I did regretfully backslide from my faith when I was a teenager and then I came back to the Lord later (and I don’t recommend this in order to have a more interesting testimony =) but to me my testimony didnt' seem extraordinary enough to help anyone. But I have found through the years as I've shared my little story that there IS power in a simple testimony of God’s salvation and His kindness towards us. Like the 'begging bowl' story I shared in a previous post, it's not so much our story, as the presence of Jesus when we share Him and proclaim His truth that changes lives. We each are different and our unique testimony (no matter how dramatic or simple) has the power to touch others with hope and to direct them to Jesus.
Rev. 12:11 says “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

Right now I’m reading two books at the same time that are both testimonies. I first read I Dared to Call Him Father by Bilquis Sheikh probably 20 years ago and it had a profound impact on my life. And today as I read it again, it’s still impacting me with insight and conviction. It’s the amazing story of how the Lord supernaturally revealed Himself to a wealthy Pakistani woman. Having been raised a Muslim in an Islamic nation, she knew absolutely nothing about Christianity. She had no frame of reference whatsoever to influence or to teach her. But through the best teachers available-the Holy Spirit and the Bible- she came to understand, to believe and to walk out her Christianity as she saw it in the word of God while living in a culture that was hostile to it. This lady truly lived what Paul talked about in Phil 3:8 “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ”.

But it really hit home to me how that here in the West, being a Christian requires so little sacrifice; where in other cultures, being identified with Christ (through baptism in particular) could mean at the very least, being ostracized and at the most, losing your life. It would be easy to think, "wow it is so much better to be a Christian here in America. We really have it good". But as I contemplate the simplicity and purity of this woman’s faith, unfiltered by culture, tradition or religion, (she learned truth straight out of the Bible-imagine that!), and as I ponder the vibrancy and wonder of her childlike relationship with the Lord, I have to ask myself-- are we truly better off? Don’t get me wrong, I am SO thankful for the freedom of religion that we enjoy in this nation and the easy access we have to the Bible, to church and to Christian resources. I am so thankful to be born in a nation that was founded on Godly principals. But I have been struck with the realization of how overall the Western Church today is failing to teach, exhort and adhere to the unaltered truth of the whole Word of God. A social culture of Christianity has developed over time where ‘being a Christian’ in this day and age requires very little and doesn't look much different from the world. We tend to know more about the traditions of our denominations than about what the Bible really says. 'Being a Christian' in our nation has become more about statistical information (married, white, female...Christian) than about something worth dying for. The 'truth' has been watered down so much in order to be unoffensive or politically correct that it's hardly recognizable anymore, while many of us have come to expect on Sunday, something that makes us feel good, lifts our self-esteem or shows us how to get ahead.  The holiness preachers of old who preached about sin, judgment, repentance and the fear of the Lord are now often viewed with amusement while those who still adhere to the whole counsel of God are labeled as ‘legalistic’. The surprising attitude of many churches in this day and age seems to be, “The cross? The blood of Jesus? Sin? Hell? Those things might offend someone or make them uncomfortable (or worse, they might leave our church) so let’s just talk about all of the blessings in the Bible. Let’s just focus on the positive things”. Some have even taken down their crosses in order to be more 'seeker friendly'! Can you imagine what those in other countries who are gladly risking their lives in order to serve Christ must think of this?

(Added 11/1/10) Somewhere along the way we have lost the trembling holy fear of the Lord. Please understand that I'm not talking about a works-based legalism or an ungodly type fear which can be very damaging. But perhaps in our effort to counterbalance legalism, we've become way too casual with God and way too liberal with His Word. The subtle softening and the careless wielding of truth isn't as obviously alarming as the blaring all-out assault coming against absolute truth that we are seeing in our nation today. But friends it is just as dangerous, perhaps even more so, because it is coming from within the Church! And in these dark days (and they promise to get darker) if we, the Church won't proclaim absolute truth, who will? I realize that this isn’t ALL churches in the West, thank God. And down through history there always were faithful remnants who stood for truth. However this 'softer gospel' is alarmingly becoming the 'new normal' more and more and we must be careful to NOT be swept up in this flow.

And granted, there ARE lots of hurting people out there who desperately need encouragement and who need to know about God’s love. But until one is told the whole truth about their sin, they won’t fully appreciate the depths Love had to come to save them. Until one really understands that they are lost, they can’t truly recognize their need for a Savior. The full truth must be preached to have the full impact. Because regardless of how uncomfortable it may make us, it’s only the unapologetic truth that will set us free and change us. And that’s where we will find the real joy and the real peace that we have been searching for. The world's type of ‘peace’ won’t sustain us when our world is shaken. And at some point in our lives, our world WILL be shaken. We can count on that. But even in the shaking, if our anchor is in Jesus- Who is the Truth, it promises to hold. "So God has given us both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can take new courage, for we can hold on to his promise with confidence. This confidence is like a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain of heaven into God's inner sanctuary." Heb 6:18-19

But we MUST know the whole truth for ourselves. This has just made me realize how much my beliefs have been influenced by what I've been told or by my heritiage, culture or traditions rather than the freshness of discovery in the Bible and intimate experience. I've been guilty of viewing the Bible through these very filters rather than seeing what He's actually saying. I so long to see the truth afresh like this precious Pakistani lady who discovered this priceless treasure in Christ and.who simply took God at His word. In Matthew 24 it tells of the last days, how there will be many who will come in the name of the Lord performing signs and wonders and many will be deceived. Without a clear understanding of the Word of God we have the potential to be deceived and drawn away from the Truth. In Acts 17 we are told of the Bereans who when they heard the word preached, searched the scriptures for themselves to make sure they were being taught truth. And a good pastor will encourage us to check out what he is preaching in God's word and if we find something contrary, to respectfully come and show him. We absolutely must know the Word ourselves and be able to discern and accurately proclaim the truth, especially in these last days.

Now friends on another (although similar) note, please don't forget to vote this next week. I pray that you will vote in favor of those who best uphold absolute (not watered-down or incomplete) Biblical truth.

Let me briefly share some of the thoughts I just heard in a message on voting by Lou Engle. (Not all are direct quotes unless in quotation marks). Lou says, "Voting is a prophetic act of justice". He says we have a moral obligation, a mandate, to cast our vote for righteousness and justice. If God's people would take a stand in these upcoming elections, we could help restrain, to hold back the wave of lawlessness coming against our nation. In this democracy of ours we get the privilege of participating in governing Voting is an act of conscience. It is not a political choice, but it is a prophetic witness to a higher king and a higher law. Elected officials are the elected conscience of the nation. Did Hitler personally kill the millions of Jews in the Holocaust? No, but he killed by decree. In the same way, in our silence and in our voting for pro-choice candidates, we are responsible for the shedding of innocent blood by decree.

So please, vote according to TRUTH. And pray for those in authority and for our governement. (1 Tim 2:2).

My prayer is that we would see Truth, unfiltered and alive, as if for the very first time. "Open my eyes, that I may see Wondrous things from Your law". (Ps 119:18). Despite the traditions of men that have influenced us and despite the the watered-down doctrines that have confused us, may we now truly know, proclaim and obey the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth! So help us God!

God bless and have a great week :). KHJ

P.S. I am experimenting with my blog template so until I am settled on one, it is likely to change... often :).

October 22, 2010

Keith Mitchell's Testimony

(L to R- Keith Mitchell, Leanne Mitchell, me, Keith Johnson-my husband :)

In my last blog post I mentioned our good friend Keith Mitchell's testimony that he shared at Warrior's Call which blessed me so much. I have asked him to share his story with us and he sent me this to share with you. God has done so much in this dear brother's life. I am so excited to have the opportunity for him to share this with you in his own words. He is proof that no one has gone too far or is in too deep for the Lord to redeem, transform and restore. It's NEVER too late! There is HOPE in God alone. His love is so much greater than our mistakes and sin. Read and be encouraged and blessed! :)

My Testimony

Have you ever been so addicted to something you get physically sick? Or at just the sight of it makes your stomach churn to the point of losing control of your bowels? The very sight of it and you can actually taste it. Having to have one more hit of it, or else you know what’s coming, the shakes. You know you have to have more of it, but you have run out of money, to the point of stealing from your wife and your parents. Taking your 1 year olds diaper money and formula money and smoking it up in a crack house. I have spent endless hours on my knees looking for a crumb of crack on the carpet in my bedroom, just to return back to my wallet to find an empty wallet. I’ve done the unthinkable, I’ve gone to the pawn shop and pawned off all my guns, my rings, my wife’s rings, golf clubs etc. I have done all these things. And never gave two thoughts about it at the time. I had to have my drugs to keep from getting physically sick.

June 7th 1982 my baby brother was killed in a motorcycle accident. He was my only sibling. Greg and I were very close. As close as any brothers could possibly be without being twins joined together at the hip at birth. We really shared many wonderful hours growing up hunting and fishing together. The love I had for my baby brother was awesome; in his eyes I could do no wrong. He was really good for my already inflated ego. We fought like all brothers do and I could kick his tail but I wasn’t about to let no one else do it. When Greg died, a huge part of me died too.

About 3 or 4 weeks after Greg died I tried cocaine for the first time. I absolutely loved the feeling. It took some of the pain of losing Greg away. And so I stayed medicated all the time. I have never been too afraid anything and so I wasn’t afraid to try harder drugs. I will go ahead and tell you some of the drugs that consumed me: Cocaine, Crack Cocaine, Heroin, Chrystal Meth, Ecstasy, Mescaline, Oxycotyn, Ghb, Wetdaddy, aka (weed dipped in embalming fluid), LSD, and many others. Lots of prescription drugs. It’s really sad to look back on my life and to see all the unproductive years I wasted.

I remember going to a party one night one night where there were tons of people and me and a couple of friends went into the parent’s bathroom and raided their medicine cabinet. They had lots of pain meds and I was already high on LSD and cocaine. Someone said that the cops were there and so we ran. When they Law found me I had become entangled up in a 6 foot bob wired fence hanging upside down. I had apparently been hanging there for a good while. My heart stopped beating on the way to the Hospital. I was in ICU for days. On another occasion I had been up for 3 or 4 days smoking crack locked down in a hotel room. I had a bottle of valium, bottle of wine, and a whole bunch of crack cocaine. I had become extremely paranoid and thought that the drug enforcement officials were coming to arrest me, and so I jumped through a window and ran. I was so scared I ran down a hill looking back to see where they were at. When I turned around I ran face first into a huge oak tree knocking myself out. I hit the tree so hard both shoes came off. My father found them the next day. I ran barefoot down the railroad tracks cutting my feet to pieces. I had to have 72 stitches in my left foot and 74 stitches in my right foot. I also had stitches in my forehead. That night I almost bled to death, once again I awoke to find paddle marks on my chest where they shocked my heart to keep me alive.

And there are many other really sad stories about my drug use. I had my cocaine dealer hand me a Gideon’s Bible one night. I pulled up to his house to pick up an ounce of cocaine. That’s when he pushed the Bible on me. I was really mad at the time. I told him he was the one who should read the Bible because he was dealing dope, he responded, “Brother you’re not going to be around very long you had better read this”. I threw the bible on the back seat and drove away.

Six to eight months later I wound up in New Orleans, Louisiana, divorced from the woman I truly loved, the mother of my 6 year old son whom I adored. I had once again lost everything. I was no stranger to ruined relationships I was married before and even had two beautiful little girls from that marriage years before. And so now after one rehab to another, someone mentioned a place called Teen Challenge, a discipleship ministry. I was going to have to stay at the place in the lower 9th ward for a year- whatever! There was no way I was going to spend a year at this place!

I was coming down off of heroin when I got there. I had been shooting heroin and cocaine for months. I wasn’t actually in the mood to communicate with others. I was mad at the world. I wanted to get high. After a couple of days the executive director of Teen Challenge pulled me in his office and said to me, “What’s your problem brother Keith?” I remember telling him my problem was I wanted to get high and that I was getting ready to bolt. He said, “That’s not going to stop your problem”. I then asked him what made this rehab any different from the rest. I think Brother Greg was offended, because he was quick to let me know that Teen Challenge was not a rehab. In fact he grabbed a dictionary and turned to the word rehabilitate. He pointed to the word and said to repeat the definition. It said something to the effect of this: “Rehabilitate is to bring something or someone back to its former state.” I remember Brother Greg looking me dead in the eye and saying, “Keith why in the world would you want to be rehabilitated back to your former self? Your former self had you shooting dope and smoking crack & amp; meth”. He said that at Teen Challenge I would receive a renewing of my mind and I would find the Lord and have a relationship with Jesus. I told him that I could care less about Jesus. I just wanted to stop the dope. But I decided to give this place a chance. I wasn’t exactly thrilled because the other guys that were there were always walking around praying, listening to Christian music and smiling.

Meanwhile I was having very tough nights with bad sweats and changing my sheets on my bed every night. Teen Challenge was tough. It is designed to break you down and teach you responsibility at the same time teaching you the Infallible Word of God. I reckon I had been there about 3 weeks. It was March 10, 2003, Brother Sampson, the Dean of Students, had just finished teaching a class and I remember something he said. He said that there was going to come a time in our lives when we come to a crossroads. And we were going to have to make a decision to either live a Godly life or to continue to live a life wandering in the wilderness and serving Satan, who we had been serving and living for our whole lives. He said that if we would surrender our hearts to Christ Jesus, we would have true peace, the kind of peace and joy that we had never known before.

Brother Sampson had been preaching God’s word for weeks and slowly the word had begun to minister to my heart. I had been so angry for years at a God that I didn’t even know. I was very bitter because of losing Greg, and being a victim of an ongoing drug addiction that I couldn’t get out of. I wanted to inflict pain and misery on everyone else around me because of a rage that came from deep inside the very core of my soul. I hated life, and my desire was for my life to end. I had laid awake many nights in my bed wishing I were dead, but was too ashamed to actually pull the trigger. I would lie there thinking about my kids. I would ask myself over and over why I was so weak, and I would tell myself that I was a useless human being and that I was so pathetic and I was getting what I deserved. I was truly selfish. I’d say, “If you are there God please kill me. I’m tired of living this way”. Then I would think to myself, “This is not happening to me! I’m a good guy”. I really liked life and loved people and loved my mom and pop, my beautiful babies. “What has happened to me? Where did I go? Who have I become? I’m lost!”

Brother Sampson left the room that morning after class he said “Guys you can put on some praise and worship music. You guys pray for one another and spend this time quietly”. I will never forget the song that had come on; it was “Open the Floodgates of Heaven” by Michael W Smith. That song was playing and those same guys who had been praying for me for weeks were praying and singing quietly. I started to weep. Then I began to ask Jesus to come into my heart. I was asking God to forgive me for everything in my life that I had done wrong. I remember asking Jesus to take away the taste of dope out of my mouth because I was still having withdrawals from the heroin. Well my brothers there in the room heard me crying. They all came over to me and laid their hands on me and were crying and weeping with me. I had never experienced anything like that in my life. I felt the love of God for the first time. It was amazing! The rest of the day was awesome. I felt like I was clean for the first time in my life. I knew that something was different but I couldn’t explain it. There was definitely something different about me.

That night I was lying in my bed. At Teen Challenge there are 12 beds in one of the rooms upstairs. (You know like the 12 apostles). As I was lying there and I began to ask God how he could forgive me for all the bad stuff that I had done. I was so excited all that day, I had been trying to remember all the sins I could remember so God would forgive me for each one. The numbers were way too high and so that’s why I was asking the Lord how he could forgive me for all my sins. I personally have heard 2 times in my life voices that I know were not of this world. The first was Satan, one night when I was trying to go to bed after being on a 3 or 4 day binge and as I lay in bed one night I heard a voice whisper in my ear, “I gotcha, you can’t quit! You will never quit!” That really scared me to death. But this was the other time as I was lying there that night feeling so good about my new relationship with our Lord and Savior. I asked him how could he forgive me. And this time it was a different voice, a good and gentle voice. It was as if he had knelt down beside me and whispered, “My child, I love you so much that I would go to any length to reach you. I even used your drug dealer one night to get my word to you!” Then I remembered back to when my dope dealer had given me the Gideon’s Bible. Once again I was crying so hard that I rolled out of my bed and began to weep uncontrollably and then all of my brothers jumped out of their beds and came to me and were there again crying with me. I had not felt the Love of God before and so this was all very new to me. And it felt amazing. My time at Teen Challenge was the best year of my life. It was the most productive for sure. The ministers there are men of God that I still seek Godly council from.

When I came back to my home town, I quickly found myself plugged into a good Church and surrounded myself with good and solid Christians. I had no idea what God was about to do in my life. As I told you before the love of my life had left me. She was the woman that I had considered my soulmate. She was actually seeing someone and it was pretty serious. I was sad when I found this out while I was in Teen Challenge. She asked me to be happy for her because she had found someone who was good to her. She said that if I had truly changed that I would want this for her. And so I thought about it and said “Wow this is a real test here isn’t it Lord”. I had been telling myself for months now, that I was seeking God that I was happy being inside of him and he was first and him only. Well I was really hurt because I guess somewhere back in the back of mind and heart I was hoping that Leanne and I would somehow work things out. And now it was apparent she was going to be out of my life forever. So from that moment on I would pray for her happiness. I asked God to bless her relationship with her boyfriend Ben. And I did so every day for the next four months. Well one night at Mount Grace, (that is in Dodson, La) during the second phase of Teen Challenge, I was lying there asleep when I felt something like hit me in the side. It was like I was kicked in the ribs by a mule or something. And it was as clear as a bell. “Keith Mitchell what are you doing praying for that relationship between your wife and some guy who may not take the woman of your dreams and your little boy to church. What in the world are you doing?” So I quickly hit my knees and prayed, “Lord if that man is going to have my wife and little boy in your House serving you and if and only if she is going to be truly happy, then I pray that you bless that relationship”.

And so the months pass and I come home and I am in church and Leanne is I guess watching me from afar to see if this is real. One day she stops by the house to drop Kade off and she just happens to mention that she is not as happy as she once was. She actually asked me what she should do. I said “Hey listen I can’t get involved in this. That is going to have to be between you and the Lord”. The next day she came over and said, “I did it”. I said you “Did what?” She said “I broke it off with Ben”. I waited until she wasn’t looking and I said “YESSS! Thank you Lord!” You see I remember that verse in the Bible where God says “If you seek me I will return all that the locust and canker worm hath devoured from you”. Not some but all things.

God has been so very good to me. I am truly a very blessed man. I love Jesus and I pray that he will create a pure heart within me and put a steadfast spirit in me. Leanne and I were remarried on Dec, 2nd 2003. We have a new addition to our little family, Mary-Micah Mitchell, the little blessing from our Loving Father! She is the apple of her daddy’s eyes. I have 4 beautiful children and an amazing woman who loves the Lord. Who am I, who has seen the ugly things of this world and been in places that would make a billygoat puke, and was so wrapped up in sin, that only a true and real God that loves his children so much would and could reach down and pick me up and set my feet back on solid ground.

There is so much more to this story that I couldn’t possibly put it in here. Maybe I will put it in a book that will somehow give some poor soul that is going through what I went through some hope. Because there is hope and what’s more there is a promise in the book of Jer 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I am Keith Mitchell and this is my Testimony.

October 18, 2010

My Begging Bowl

This past weekend my husband ministered along with several anointed men of God at an event in our home town of Ruston called Warrior’s Call. To put on such an event was something none of them had ever done before. There was worship, preaching and testimonies. It was in the town square at Railroad Park. It had been advertised for weeks. We went in without really knowing what we were doing or why. But this event seemed to have a momentum of its own as Keith’s spoken dreams and ideas quickly snowballed into reality. We knew God was involved because Keith really had little to do with it coming together. He just threw the idea of it out there and his friend Keith Mitchell believed in him, believed in the idea and took the ball and ran with it. It was an organized fact before my Keith could have second thoughts.

Here’s a quick run-down of how the schedule looked. Friday night we had worship with Andy Richardson and his team. Then Keith Mitchell (who I’ll now call KM to avoid confusion with so many Keiths :) gave his amazing testimony and my Keith preached. Then Saturday, there was worship and Byron Earls preached. Lunch. Fellowship. Teen Challenge testimonies. More worship. Then Keith preached again. The presence of the Lord was there and the word went forth clearly with boldness, power and authority. None of the guys held anything back.

There’s so much I want to tell about this weekend and so many layers to it that there’s no way I can do it all justice in this one blog post. There’s so much I want to share about the precious people who worked so hard to put this thing together. I want to share about special friends who came just to hear KM’s testimony, to hear my Keith preach or just to see us. Oh my if I got started on sharing how those precious Teen Challenge guys touched everyone's hearts, that’d be a couple of blog posts alone. Then there’s how the Lord encouraged my husband and really confirmed (as if he needed confirmation) his obvious anointing to preach and to prophesy. Ruston can have no doubt that this weekend a prophet was in their midst. So this will not be the only blog about Warrior’s Call. But before I lose the freshness of it, I want to share a particular personal part of this weekend that is being highlighted in my heart just now.

I once heard a testimony of this lady who was a minister in England. Before a particular preaching event the Lord gave her a vision. In it, she saw herself speaking to a group of beggars who held begging bowls in their hands. As she preached, she saw Jesus walk up to each beggar and place something in each bowl. It was something unique to each one. The lady who had the vision was very encouraged by this vision and began to look forward with expectancy to her upcoming preaching event. The day of the event arrived and as this lady approached the platform to minister she looked out, expecting to see the needy people of her vision. Instead she saw beautifully dressed, affluent people. She thought to herself, “These people aren’t beggars.” She gave her talk. She felt that it was unremarkable and that she did it quite badly. But as she spoke she looked out to see tears running down the faces of the people listening. She saw the proud people’s hearts softening as she spoke. And she realized, it wasn’t her words that were touching them. It was Jesus. He was there. Her vision had been accurate. These beautiful people truly were the beggars of her vision. Despite their affluence they were very needy. And Jesus was tenderly giving each one something different but unique to them and exactly what they needed.

I told Keith this story before Warrior’s Call. He said he’d actually thought about it too. Not that I thought he’d preach badly like the lady of the story did, but I believed that Jesus would be there and He’d make the difference in peoples lives no matter how the speakers did. And of course each speaker did incredibly and Jesus was definitely there touching lives. But this weekend, I was one of those beggars with a bowl whose lives were ministered to.  Jesus placed something specific to only me in my little bowl. The Lord touched many more than just me, but I’d like to attempt to share my own unique perspective and personal experience- the contents of my own personal ‘begging bowl’.

Keith and I are no strangers to ministry but when I heard that Warrior’s Call would be held in our old hometown of Ruston, I was a bit concerned. First there’s that scripture about a prophet not being welcome in his hometown and Ruston is a proud, affluent, religious old town to boot. Plus it is where the vast majority of our extended family resides- parents, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and our oldest friends. Not to mention that Ruston also is the geographical location of where my family fell apart and where I drifted the farthest from my Lord. Despite all that the Lord has done in and through my life these last 27 years, I still had some Ruston baggage. So I didn’t know what to expect from Ruston, or from myself. But Warrior’s Call was obviously something God was putting together, for many different reasons, some I don’t yet know and some I still don’t understand. However, I do know one reason God had it in Ruston was for me. He wanted to get rid of that Ruston baggage once and for all.

Now maybe this will make sense to no one but me, but I’ll try to explain. I left Ruston right out of high school and except for one year in the past 27 I have lived far away. We go home a couple of times a year and we rarely see anyone but family. But despite the years I’ve been gone, in my mind Ruston is frozen in time. Everyone is as I left them 27 years ago. Of course in reality I know this isn’t so. I have facebook. I’ve seen the wrinkles and receding hairlines. I realize that former goofballs are now parents and responsible citizens. But I guess since everyone was frozen in time in my own mind, I assumed I was frozen in my unregenerate state in theirs as well. Despite all of the restoration to my soul over the years, a little piece of that former shame still remained and was awakened every time we’d cross over into those city limits. But God knew and He knew what I needed.

God works in mysterious ways and He knew that I needed to hear the testimony of an old friend. I heard the testimony of someone who knew me back when. He knew the kind of person I was, but like me, he has changed. He had a much harder road than I ever had. He’s been to hell and back and the Lord saved him, delivered him of his addictions, healed him of his brokenness, restored to him love, acceptance, family, respect. The Lord gave him beauty for ashes and the oil of joy for his mourning. I am reminded of that song Restoration. “You’ve taken my shame. You’ve called me by a new name. You’ve taken my pain and in it’s place You gave me joy. You bring restoration to my soul”. That’s what the Lord’s done in me and that’s what the Lord has done in our friend KM.

Now I don’t totally understand it, but KM’s testimony exposed a lie planted in my heart by the enemy of my soul. It revealed the devil to be the liar that he is.

Rev. 12:10-11 “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

Satan is a liar and he is the father of lies. He cannot touch our inheritance. But what he can do is lie and accuse and convince us that the years we spent in sin have forever defined us and are set in stone in ours, others and God’s mind. If he can get us to believe this and his other lies, he can render us silent or too intimidated to step out into the fullness God has intended for our lives. I let him lie to me about this for far too long. Nobody’s sitting around remembering me how I was. Heck, nobody’s probably remembering me at all. It's been big only in my own mind, inflated by the father of lies . What freedom to finally see that!! The Lord confirmed this to me in many different ways this weekend.

So I want to say a big old thank you to our friend Keith Mitchell for being bold and for sharing his testimony of what the Lord has done in his life in our hometown. When we speak out and declare what the Lord has done, God’s light shines before men and before the heavenlies. Angels and demons heard that testimony too! I know the devil is hopping mad to have lost this one. I have a mental image of Jesus when he descended to snatch the keys of death from Satan, saying ‘HA! You thought you had me didn’t you? Well you didn’t! I am alive!!!” That’s what we do when we testify! Jesus shines forth. Satan cannot come into God’s light. His lies are exposed there. It’s in those dark shadows where we have not come into the light that he torments us. And when KM shared his testimony, that light of Christ shone on an area of darkness in my own heart and healed it.

So that’s what Jesus put in my begging bowl this weekend.

More to come on Warrior’s Call. So stay tuned….

PS Please feel free to leave comments. Yes I do check my stats so I know I'm getting plenty of traffic. But comments simply make me happy. :) So let me hear from you. I like to know who you are and what you are thinking...

October 11, 2010

Measuring Stick Repost

I don't usually do this but I'm reposting something I posted a couple of years ago. It really goes with what I just shared about The Rules of Worth. As you can see, the Lord has been bringing this up alot lately in my life. I feel like I need to share it again for whatever reason... that it is pertinent for 'today'. Since it definitely is for me, I thought perhaps it might be for you too.... so here it is again.

Also, I'm really excited to have discovered the 'stats' feature on this blog and to discover I have more visitors here than I envisioned. I'm especially excited to have international visitors. Welcome! So fellow bloggers, if you have no comments, thats not a sign nobody's reading. Check your stats :).

God bless and let me know what the Lord is speaking to you.  Kayla

Here's something simple that the Lord put on my heart the other day...Whose measuring stick are you measuring yourself with?
Are we measuring ourself (and others) with the world's measuring stick, or with God's measuring stick, according to His word?

So often we tend to look at our lives and feel like failures... Or I suppose some people might look at their lives and feel like a success... But the question rolling around in my head is... What is God's definition of success? What is God's definition of failure?

Even as Christians, I believe we have too often adopted a worldly perspective and even have allowed it into the Church... You have the Christian "celebrities" who grace the covers of Christian magazines, some deservedly so, but what does God think? How does He view this? I am not going to pretend to have the inside track on this, but it does cause me to look at what (and who) I tend to admire and to question it...

I think when we get to heaven, we're going to be in for some surprises... I read this in the New Living Translation this morning....

In Matthew 19:30 Jesus says about the Kingdom of God..."But many who seem to be important now will be the least important then , and those who are considered least here will be the greatest then."

When this life is history and eternity is now, how many big name ministers devoid of their bodyguards and entourage will be seated at the lowest place, while seated at the seat of honor will be the little old lady who sat in the back of the church, who received no fanfare when she entered the house of God, who prayed diligently for that big name minister and for the people of God and who served faithfully behind the scenes, where no one saw........but Him. Which of our works will be considered wood, hay and stubble and will be burned up... and what will be considered gold? I believe the wood, hay and stubble vs. the gold, silver and precious stones represent the heart's motive behind the works. Again- the world's measuring stick vs. God's measuring stick...

But on the other side of this same coin- How does our heavenly Father view us? What does His word say? We may not have much of what the world values... money, prestige, fame- but are we known in heaven? And in hell?

When the seven sons of Sceva were casting out demons "in the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches", the demons answered "Jesus, we know and Paul we know about, but who are you?!" and then promptly proceeded to jump on them and give them a good thrashing... (I always felt sorry for these poor dudes)... ....But the point is, Paul was known! In heaven AND in hell! Whoa! He was not a rich man, or a movie star, but he was great in God's sight! How are we viewed in heaven? I have to remind myself constantly... man's vote doesn't count in heaven... Only God's does! And guess what? He LOVES us and sent His Son to die for us. We are valuable enough to Him to warrant the precious blood of His Son!

As I was reading in Exodus for the hundredth time, the account of Moses being called, I saw something I'd never seen before... Moses obviously knew he was called... Although he'd been raised as a man of privilege in Pharaoh's own house, somehow he knew he was meant to deliver the children of Israel. But he went out on his own to try to help his fellow Israelites... When he saw one of the Hebrews being beaten by an Egyptian, he killed the Egyptian... The next day he saw two Hebrews fighting and he tried to correct his fellow Hebrews... but their response to him was, "Who do you think you are?" and they proceeded to tell him that they knew about him killing the Egyptian and then Pharoah found out and yada yada yada, he fled to Midian where he hid out for 40 years, watching another man's sheep... A far cry from the favored prince of Egypt! Very humbling. In the world's eyes he looked like a failure. In his own eyes he viewed himself as a failure because when the Lord called to him from the burning bush... guess what his response was? It was the same basic questioning of his value that was used on him years before by his unappreciative kinsmen- He said, "Who am I Lord to appear before Pharoah?" Later after the Lord finally convinced him to go to Pharoah and he reluctantly came before him to present his request, guess what Pharoah's initial response to him was? "Who do you think you are?" Moses' fellow Israelites, himself and Pharoah all measured him with one measuring stick... but God measured him with another...

"Who do you think you are Moses?" Wow. So it's not just us whom the enemy torments year after year with the same lies! We are in good company! But thank God we don't have to be limited and hindered by the enemy's lies about our worth and the true measurement of who we are!
Obviously God's measurement of Moses was different than man's... For later on it says that God thought of Moses as His friend and spoke to him face to face!

When Gideon was threshing wheat in the basement for fear of the Midianites, the angel of the Lord greeted him this way,“Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!.. Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”” To which Gideon replied,“how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” Again- the Lord obviously used a different stick...

God chose David, the youngest of his brothers, whom his father didn't bother to mention when asked by Samuel about his sons. God made the clear distinction that He measured differently than man...

And the Bible is full of such examples...So how are we measuring our life and ourselves? Whose measuring stick are we using?The Bible says for us to find out what pleases God. If we do, we will find it to be far different from what pleases the world... One look at the broken lives mocked in the entertainment section of the news, will show us the legacy of those pursuing the wrong system... A measurement system that may seem right for a while, but in the end will come up short in eternity!

I for one want to use the right measuring stick!

God bless! Kayla

October 9, 2010

The Rules of Worth

Today I had a text conversation with someone about counting the cost for some future decision they were going to be making. On the one hand was a public platform, recognition and notoriety. On the other hand was equipping, discipleship and accountability. In this particular situation, both couldn’t co-exist. A choice had to be made. This person knows how God is leading them. It’s been confirmed many times. Actually, they’ve already made their choice against the platform because despite the recognition they would get, they know God is saying no for now and they want God’s will for their life above all. Yet still, they are grieving at what will be lost. But their grieving is healthy and wise. There WILL be loss. And they are looking it square in the face today and saying goodbye to it. So there is some sadness….right now.

I do understand because I am familiar with this basic human struggle. Every one of us is. We’ve all struggled with the desire for recognition and to be viewed as a success. From the day we take our first breath on this planet the indoctrination begins. The rules are learned early and they are simple: Those with special abilities, with the most toys or with the best looks are recognized as the winners. Our childhood stories validate these 'truths'. Rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer was a winner only when his ugly nose saved Christmas. Poor funny-looking Dumbo was a winner only when he learned to fly. The Little Princess was considered a winner only when it was discovered she was rich. And of course (we are told) everyone wants to be a winner. Nobody wants to be a loser. So what is the prize we seek to win? Worth, value, significance, approval. We compete for these from day one whether we realize it or not. As we grow older the rules become more complex, but at its core they remain the same. And sadly, many of us waste our allotted time on this earth, trying to win at this impossible game.

I have found in writing this blog that I often have a recurring theme I will write about. This is one of them. I have often struggled with my significance and value. I have been measured or more often I have measured myself and been found wanting. I talked about this in an earlier blog post:

Like most of the blog posts I write, this one is the result of a hodgepodge of thoughts, readings and conversations on a similar theme I’ve had lately. That seems to be how the Lord often gets my attention. But today I read the blog of a dear couple who are in Serbia at this very moment, adopting their long awaited, longed-for child. They have saved and have waited and have prayed for this child for over a year. This precious little boy they are adopting has Down’s Syndrome. They could care less. They love him. They desire to release him out of the loveless orphanage he’s been in for all of his two short years and to bring him home. They have crossed the oceans at great expense to redeem him. Despite his physical limitations, they are so proud of him. His dad said today on his blog that through meeting his son he had a better understanding of the Father’s heart. He hasn’t been focused on “where his son should be” as compared to other two-year olds but rather he has been thinking all day about his son’s progress and what he CAN do. He said that likewise our Father God does not focus on our weaknesses but He celebrates our successes. Wow!

I think most of us need to go through a type of spiritual detox of our soul from this world’s perspective that bombards us at every turn from the day we are born until the day we die. Our spirit was made perfect at salvation but our soul gets worked on the rest of our lives. And it doesn’t help that these worldly rules of worth have often permeated the church as well. We must be discerning at all times.

But the church in the New Testament didn’t teach a value-system influenced by Western Christian culture. They taught the cross and the love that put Jesus there. They didn’t teach a seeker-friendly, prosperity-goaled message. They taught that Jesus is returning soon and we are to be about His business, evangelising the lost, equipping the saints, dying to self, building and forcefully advancing His Kingdom.

His is a Kingdom where the last will be first and the first will be last. His is a Kingdom where we lose to gain and we die to live. His is a Kingdom of humble foot-washing, servant-leaders not a kingdom of Christian celebritys with bodyguards. His is a Kingdom where the meek, not the beautiful or the talented, shall inherit the earth. His is a Kingdom where success is measured by our heart and not by our net worth. His is a Kingdom where a Down’s Syndrome child is valued above a celebrity or a king.

This my friend is true value. And a life devoted to Him is true success. He doesn't have unfair rules or play games with us that we can't win. He values us... just because. We may never fully understand it. But it was enough to send His precious holy beloved Son to the cross for us. And His measurement of our worth cannot be disputed. There is no greater approval. There is no higher authority. What He declares as valuable is valuable. After all, He is God. :)

So Father, please show us Your view of worth. Show us what is precious to You. Show us what we admire, pursue and value that are wood, hay and stubble to You. May we know and spend our life on what is eternal. Reveal to us where we have agreed with the world and even sometimes attributed it to You. Open our eyes and touch our hearts and may we know, not just in our heads, but in the core of our being, Your great love. And may we seek our worth in no other source but You. Amen

October 4, 2010

Happy Birthday Haley!!!

1987 found us stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. During this particular duty station, Keith was more often deployed on submarines than he was home. I was taking college classes to fill in the long hours waiting for him to return from sea. It was during this particular three-year duty station that I found God again. The Lord in His great wisdom and foreknowledge placed Keith’s aunt and uncle on the very same Hawaiian island at the exact same time we just happened to be there. Uncle Herb was a chaplain at Pearl Harbor. They lived just steps from the Naval Security Group where Keith worked. Uncle Herb and Aunt Bobbie took us under their wing, welcomed us into their lives and just loved us. They showed us Christ in a thousand different ways. They weren’t preachy or legalistic. They just lived Jesus and it opened our eyes and changed our lives. This wounded young lady began to see Jesus in a whole new way and to find Him. And in finding Him, to find herself

And God’s timing was perfect. Keith and I had been married for four years, but we had married young so we were in no hurry to start a family. However, as I began to grow in God and to heal in my emotions, I began to wonder if perhaps, just maybe, we were ready to start a family. But I wasn’t sure. I was afraid. I didn’t know if I had what it took to be a mother. I’d failed in so many areas of my life. I couldn’t bear it if I failed in this one too…so we waited. Had I waited until I was ready, I’d still be waiting. But God thankfully had other plans.

I found out I was pregnant in February 1987. Joy reverberated through our entire family since this was the FIRST grandbaby on both sides! I was excited but concerned. I knew absolutely NOTHING about babies. Well, I decided that pregnancy and childbirth were not going to catch THIS girl unprepared, so every single book on the subject was systematically devoured. But no book nor class could ever have prepared me for the moment when I first felt the flutter of life in my belly and the realization that I was carrying life in my womb! Something I had hardly ever thought of before instantly became extraordinary to me and I felt like the first woman on earth to ever experience such a divine miracle. Keith and I had made a baby. A completely separate life from our own yet so much a part of us. I could hardly take it in. Although I had only been praying such a short time, I began praying over my womb and asking God to protect and fulfill His purpose in the life of this baby, MY baby.

We didn’t know whether our baby was going to be a boy or a girl. We had our boy name picked out but couldn’t come up with a good girl name. So again, I prayed. And I asked God about it. One night, I had a dream. The dream was simple. I dreamed that we named her Haley. I woke up and told Keith. He liked it.

Labor was something I had dreaded for the entire nine months. I mean, when you really think of childbirth and what transpires it could definitely put a damper on your enthusiasm. But God’s grace was there and it was bearable. Being my first baby, procedures I had, difficulties I experienced in childbirth that I now realize were not the norm, seemed okay in the moment. I marvel now when looking back, at my strength and bravery at the time. It was God’s grace no doubt. But after a long 24 hour labor and 3 hours of pushing (only to have her delivered through a vacuum forceps-type thing) with NO ANESTHESIA, the doctor announced, "You have a little girl!" She was beautiful and perfect. So on October 4, 1987 at 12:41 am, our beautiful little Haley Elizabeth came into our world. And in one moment, she changed it forever.

She made us parents. In an instant, all of our immature, selfish aspirations for our lives just went right out the window. In one moment, I felt love like I had never known could exist-the love of a mother. Nothing can describe looking at your child for the first time and realizing- she is ours! God gave her to US! It is OUR responsibility to take care of her, to teach her about God. It was a sobering realization. But God’s grace somehow showed these two ignorant, immature parents the way. He saw our desire to do this right, and He helped us.

When she was little, she was feisty and spunky, yet always the girly-girl. A tender heart yet not afraid to speak truth. Keith use to say about her- “Haley is her own dog. She has her own ideas and she doesn’t care what anyone thinks!” And he was right. Haley challenged me sometimes with her ‘right is right and wrong as wrong’ outlook. But she made me think and I often learned from her as much as she learned from me. At times, she stood alone in her standing up for what was right. This often caused her tender heart pain, but she stood firm in her beliefs.

Haley was a most imaginative and creative child. She was a voracious reader. As crazy as this seems now, (since we didn’t have cable TV or computers when she was little), one of the ways I ‘grounded’ her, was from reading! Can you imagine? “Haley if you don’t stop that right now, you cannot read for a week!” I know, but my bluff usually worked. It’s just a testament to her love for reading. To simply send her to her room as punishment would have really been a reward. Then she could just read in peace. (Don't judge me. I had to think of something! :)
As for her creativity-You could lock Haley in a room with a couple of popsicle sticks, glue and some rocks and in an hour she’d reappear with a doll or Barbie furniture or some other masterpiece. She never ceased to amaze me.From an early age, Haley had a distinct steadiness and wisdom. Her younger siblings looked up to her and adored her (and still do). But as they were all growing up, as tiny as Haley’s always been, her siblings didn’t dare cross her. Her tyranny in the car on long roadtrips is the stuff of family legends :).

Then she grew up. Before we had blinked twice she was a young woman in love. She married the love of her life, Joshua Ortego, at twenty. Their relationship reminds us a lot of mine and Keith's. He's an awesome husband to her which is what we always prayed for.
Today I look at my little girl, who once was this tiny baby in my arms who terrified me with her helplessness and dependence on me. I think of the precious child she was, who blessed us from day one with her sweetness and spirit. I look at the woman of God she has become, a prophetess, intercessor and lover of God, and I am amazed at the goodness of God.

He took me and Keith, two broken, clueless kids, and gave us this amazing gift. Through our great love for her and our great desire to not screw-up this parent thing, the Lord in His wisdom, used this to keep our feet on His path and in so doing, paving the way for the generations to come. We knew we would need Him along the journey. So in earnest, we came to depend on Him. And He was faithful. He still is.           

So Happy Birthday Haley! Thank you for rocking our world. Thank you for being a faithful, obedient and Godly daughter. And thank you for choosing the narrow way. It’s the same path that God drew us to, through you. We love you more than we could ever say!
Love your Mom (and I know I speak for your Daddy too)


October 2, 2010

God's Heart

I got really mad today… Really, really mad. My husband told me something that made me want to crawl through the phone line and unleash all 120 lbs of my pent up fury on the object of my wrath (Have no fear. It wasn't Keith).

Someone insulted my husband. A young man about my son’s age. Keith was out of town at a reunion of sorts and he was introduced to an old acquaintance's son. Granted the kid had been drinking, but when Keith was introduced to him, the young man looked Keith right in the eye and called him a (insert the most vulgar phrase you can think of right here). It was totally unprovoked, disrespectful and foul. Keith was understandably shocked, insulted, and then had to call on the Lord to keep from clocking the guy. Thankfully the spirit-man prevailed over the flesh and my husband restrained himself. He uttered not one word to this young man.

My husband served for 20 years in the United States Navy, he’s a skilled marksman and he’s got six pack abs. But even though Keith has strength and skill, Keith’s identity is in Christ first. He’s a man of God first. He’s a preacher, he’s a prophet, he’s an evangelist and he’s anointed. (Also he’s returning to that same town in two weeks to preach at a revival meeting so I don’t think it would have looked too great had he gotten arrested for brawling.)

On a side note, I believe this was a direct assault from the enemy to provoke, to tempt and to discredit him. I am so thankful he didn’t fall for it. Too much is at stake. So please keep him and those involved with Warrior's Call in prayer, as they come in two weeks to build up the body of Christ and to share Jesus in Ruston.

But despite the motivation behind this provocation, I was mad. I thought of Elisha in the Bible, the prophet of the Most High God who as he was walking along, the youths of the town came out and taunted him, calling him ‘bald head’ (which is much better than what Keith was called, trust me!). And how the Lord took this disrespect of His chosen man of God very seriously and had bears come out of the woods to maul them. In my mind, I picture Elisha just whistling on down that path with a skip in his step and a smirk on his face as the bears made short work of those punks. Yep. Where are bears when you need them? My husband is a man of God. Did that dude even know who he was talking to? No, obviously not. Neither did they with Elisha. Nor with Jesus. (And okay- I know Elisha probably didn’t whistle, smirk or skip. But I certainly wouldn't have blamed him if he had).

As I thought about the shame of this youth cursing his elder- a US military veteran, an anointed man of God and MY husband, I turned on the IHOP prayer room. My son Max sings in the night watch and unless I’m up really late, I usually watch his sets in the Archives the next day. I had a headache but I am a dutiful Momma and so I watched. If any of you are familiar with the prayer room you know that at certain times during each two hour worship set, they switch gears from the worship and pray for specific things. I was basically watching just to hear my son sing and to catch a glimpse of him (since he lives 14 hours away). I wasn’t really worshipping along or praying. I was just observing. But as I sat there, still seething in offense and judgment against this ‘youth’ who’d cursed my beloved, I heard my own son sing these words under the influence of the Holy Spirit (I transcribed them)

Reveal to the youth (in Kansas City) Your glory, reveal to them Your beauty. That they’d be fascinated by You God. That You would take their eyes off every worldly thing that they’d be fascinated with eternity. God, capture their gaze we ask. Take their eyes off this world. Take their eyes off this world. Capture their hearts. That they would live for You. Get their eyes off of every worldly thing. That nothing would satisfy them but the Holy, Holy, but the Holy. You’ve made their eyes to see Holy things. Take their eyes off themselves. That they would look up to men and women who are Godly. That their greatest influence would be Jesus. Reveal the treasures in Jesus, Give them a glimpse of eternity.. Their eyes were made to see… the treasures in Jesus, give them a glimpse of eternity. Would you begin to take them up, reveal the One who sits on the throne in all of His glory. Take them up, take them up. I ask for the ones who are fascinated with the music of this world, take them up, take them up. Let them hear heavenly sounds. God wreck them for every earthly thing. Reveal the treasures in Jesus, give them a glimpse of eternity. Their eyes were made to see… the treasures in Jesus, give them a glimpse of eternity. Their eyes were made to see Uncreated Beauty...
Okay- it took me hearing it like three times before it dawned on me, that this prayer /song was for young people just like that one I was dismissing in my mind as worthless. That this song, was a song of the Lord. It was GOD’S heart towards this rebellious young man and those like him. . I can’t believe it but my heart softened towards him and I got tears in my eyes. Who knows what this young man has experienced in his short lifetime to make him so angry. Obviously it hasn’t been too good based on his behavior. But it struck me- He was created for holiness. HIS eyes were meant to be fascinated with Jesus. HIS EYES. Yes, the punk with the filthy mouth.

So I talk to the Lord-Oh God, who am I to look down and write off any of Your creation, the ones YOU died for. I’m so glad that You aren’t like me. So quick to judge and condemn. So quick to determine who has value and who doesn’t. They all have value to You God. To You Jesus, that young man was worth the price You paid on the cross. You said, “forgive them Father for they don’t know what they do”. They didn’t know what they were doing Jesus. And neither does he. So I repent right here and cry out for his soul.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood (this kid), but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms..

So God gently corrected me and showed me His heart and His purpose for this young man who is so bound by the evil one, through my son’s song. He was created for love. He was made to see the Holy. He was meant to spend eternity with Jesus. And right now he is swiftly headed towards an eternity without Him. To an eternity of darkness, pain and torment. But for the grace of God, this kid could have been my own son. So now I will pray that God’s dream for him will come to pass. That this young man will turn his eyes from the worthless things and he will see the treasure that is in Jesus. That he will get a glimpse of eternity. Thank You Jesus! You amaze me!!!
God bless! Kayla

By the way- the thing I dreaded about writing this new post is the fear that nobody will read my previous post. So I ask, if you haven't already, please read my prayer request for our friend Sean and bring him and his family before the Lord. Thanks so much!