Salvation

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Spiritual Journey
My Spiritual Journey: A Conversion Story

As a child I lived in a secret and holy world. It was as if no veil existed between me and the great mystery. I often played alone in my room while my brothers played football on the front lawn, and my two sisters, a year apart, spent hours together in imaginative play. As if angels surrounded me, a calming solace and quiet hum of silence engulfed this secret world.

Yet, somewhere along my journey, I lost this precious, pious child.

Throughout my life, I often imagined her shipwrecked, abandoned on a distant island where the sun shines all the time. I imagined a tranquil haven like the Garden of Eden — a lush paradise dotted with coconuts, lemons, mangoes, and papayas hanging from trees rooted in rich, ancient soil.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when I lost her. Perhaps it happened when, without warning, my parents left the Catholic Church when I was ten years old. Although I don’t know why they fled the church, I imagined that maybe they broke some of the Ten Commandments.

Or, perhaps I lost my holy self a few years earlier, when at 7 years old, I first went to confession.

I remember sitting on the cold, hard wooden pew outside the dreaded confessional waiting my turn, my heart thumping wildly against my chest.

Slipping my clammy palms under my buttocks, I recited sins I’d been fabricating in preparation for the big day. “I lied to my mother and father. I fought with my brothers and sisters.” When a hunched, elderly woman passed through the confessional’s maroon velvet curtains, making the sign of the cross, my heart jumped. I knew it was my turn.

Moving aside the heavy curtains with my small, damp hands, and squeezing through the thin space into darkness, I entered the tiny wooden room. For a moment I found comfort sitting on an already warmed spot on the hard bench, until the confessional screen screeched opened revealing the dark profile of a shadowed priest. I thought he’d speak, instructing me to begin. Instead, a stale silence stood between us.

Managing to blurt out between chattering teeth, “Bless me father for I have sinned, this is my first confession,” I started a trail of weekly confessional fibs.

For a moment, a blank, chilly silence filled the confessional. My hands and nose now felt frozen, as if I sat in a freezer. I hoped mom would rescue me and bring me home so I could run upstairs to my bedroom, cover my body under warm covers, and wail into my pillow.

Finally, the priest offered instructions for penance, which I didn’t hear because my heart beat too fast and hard. But that night before falling asleep, I knelt by my bedside. With my hands clasped in prayer, I recited The Hail Mary and Our Father a hundred times, praying my lies wouldn’t stain my soul.

nun3But then again, my holy child self might have checked out during catechism class weeks before. About to announce the winners of the Hail Mary spelling contest, my teacher, a stern nun, walked up and down the rows between our desks holding in one hand a delicate hand-painted glass statue of Mary and child, and a cheap plastic one in the other.

Her face, full of dichotomies, confused my visual sensibilities. On one hand, her baby soft skin made her appear approachable and kind – I sometimes wished I could touch her skin ever so gently. Yet, at other times, her perpetual frown rigged between a rigid jawline, and her furrowed brows, and stark, almost black, almond shaped eyes, that somehow reminded me of two shallow baby graves side by side, frightened me to the core of my little soul.

The sweeping sounds of her long, black habit dragged on the floor behind me. How I longed to win another glass statue! Stopping at my desk, she bent her tall, thin body over me, covering me in black cloth. Whispering in my ear she said, “You already won a glass statute last time”, and handed me the plastic one. The statue’s potent, plastic scent reminded me of burning my brother’s green army men when we played war by the fireplace on cold winter Long Island nights.

As she stood tall, her heavy, black habit fell off my body, landing heavy to the floor. I looked up to her as if to say, but I wanted the glass statue. Returning my glance, she looked at me with stone cold black eyes as if to say, don’t be so greedy.

nyc3When I grew up, I left the church and religion far behind.

Dressing for success, pulling up my panty hose and bootstraps, I ventured onward toward the American Dream: a Bachelor of Arts degree, a career in New York City, and finally landing my dream job–producing for a leading television network.

What more could I want? I made it. I got to the top.

Yet, arriving, I asked myself the haunting question,“Is this it?”

I admit, at times, a career as producer for television was exciting, but it was also downright exhausting, and often lonely. I kept up a crippling pace. Endless days of air travel from city to city, lonely nights between soft hotel sheets, criminal hours in edit suites, and far too much take-out food. The highs never seemed to transcend the crashing lows I faced each time I finished a project.

Fantasizing about abandoning my career, I dreamed of living a carefree life on a sailboat, on an island far away.

island3

Pursuing insatiable yearnings for ‘something more’, I traveled the world: Mai Tais in paradise; silky, soft, pearl colored sand, collecting shells on tropical beaches; sipping cappuccinos in cafes on Rome’s ancient cobblestone streets; sitting beneath the Sistine Chapel’s dome shaped ceiling, staring at Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam — wondering.

A hard-working, tough talking acquaintance may have been right calling me a “vacation queen.” The world exhausted me, and I always needed ample vacations to rest from the tug of war I waged with the world.

One dismal winter, I stunned my colleagues by resigning from my promising career as a producer for the Discovery Channel, and within weeks moved west to San Francisco. The laid back city and happy evenings sipping cappuccino in North Beach’s Caffe Treiste, or slumped between bookcases at City Lights bookstore reading the beat poets, appealed to my bohemian spirit.

I thought I reached heaven jogging across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, and hiking the sweeping, winter green hills of the Marin’s headlands with a view of the city that made my heart soar.

sanfran

However, I missed ‘something’ in my California dreamin’ life that I couldn’t put my finger on.

While waiting for my NIA dance classes to begin at a Sausalito dance studio, I often scanned the bulletin board jammed with flyers advertising spiritual workshops with titles like, Women who Run with the Wolves, Release the Shaman Within, and Dancing with the Goddess.

Soon, jumping aboard the spiritual train, I began a long-winded, circuitous, kaleidoscopic spiritual journey traversing deep and sometimes lonely valleys spanning diverse spiritual traditions and therapies: shamanism, hours of Zen Buddhist meditation, exploring the exotic mysteries of Tibetan Buddhism, Jungian counseling and body-centered therapies, watermelon fasts in the Sierras and twisting in yoga poses to the Beatles.

an incessant yearning for something more and a deep emptiness still pierced my soul.
At first these fascinating spiritual adventures gave me a sense of hope and adventure. I also benefited from stretching my tangled muscles into yogic poses, learning through meditation to slow my racing mind, and unearthing and healing buried childhood wounds. Yet, an incessant yearning for ‘something more’ and a deep emptiness still pierced my soul.

Even after I married and became a mother, loneliness and restlessness tagged behind.

Until a dream that changed my life.

Only days before, I’d been to our neighbor’s house picking up my son from a play date. A perplexing, contradiction, our neighbor, a Christian who home-schooled her three young children, stood on the porch with a Marlboro in one hand, and a glass of white wine in the other. (No doubt, Chablis from the familiar jug of Gallo, with the spout, hanging off her kitchen counter.) Sponge Bob blared from the television in the living room, where the kids sat in a semi-circle, hunched over, looking zoned out.

My neighbor knew our family was going through a challenging time. This evening, particularly distressed about financial concerns, I felt a heavy weariness hanging from my shoulders like an old, worn bag of laundry. Taking a long inhale from her cigarette, and squinting as if looking right through me, she exhaled, pointing her lips toward the sky so the smoke streamed upward.

Again, she looked at me long and hard, and said, “Kathy, you need Jesus. You need Jesus.”

I didn’t have a problem with needing Jesus, anything with potential to offer help sounded good at that point. I just didn’t know Jesus — or how to need Jesus.

Several nights later I had the big dream.

I stood, a twenty-first century woman in the first century Israeli desert, watching, from afar, the Twelve Disciples walking barefoot through the dry, hot sand in a meditative cadence. Swells of peace, billowing from within like the dust from beneath their feet, rose from a deep, unknown place within me.

Jesus followed behind.

Noticing me watching, Jesus walked toward me. Standing before me, warm pools of agape love poured from his eyes, filling me with an overwhelming sense of contentment.

Then he simply asked, “Would you like to follow me?”

As a child, every night I prayed to the Virgin Mary, and always felt God close. But Jesus? Jesus, the obscure, pitiful man hanging dead on a cross? I didn’t know Jesus. My church emphasized the Mary, not Jesus. When kneeling by my bedside at night, I prayed to Mary.

Yet, after this unsettling dream, when I began studying the historical Jesus and his teachings, I realized his unusual invitation to follow him was a grace infused opportunity to embark on an adventure in a whole new way of living — the way of holiness he taught centuries ago.

Spiritual JourneyIt struck me the way of Jesus is to live a life counter to the American Dream that I had been hopelessly striving for. His invitation meant a life with God as my source of contentment, one filled with rivers of generosity, humility, kindness, forgiveness, and peace – a life that trumped the striving, greed, materialism, worry, anxiety and troubled relationships that plagued my life.

My husband wondered why I was suddenly so peaceful, so content. Where were my anxious phone calls fretting about bills, my late night complaints of discontentment, always wanting ‘something more’? Why, when our life was falling apart did I have such hope? Why did I know everything would be alright, and why did my eyes shine?

In essence, Jesus’ invitation led me to reclaiming the holy child I once was long ago.

This was not an invitation to follow Jesus to some religion, but rather, one to discover the true meaning of religion – religare (Latin) – meaning to bind back.

His invitation was a divine calling to return to God, to my holy self, and to my rightful place in this world as a child of God.

I wanted so much to share this grand journey with you.

photo credit: Peter Kurdulija, Gloria Manna, John K via Flickr cc
I Am Redeemed

It is a beautiful Saturday afternoon as I leisurely walk with my tall, athletic male counterpart on the East Side of Providence, Rhode Island. The local university campus buzzes with activity around us. The day stands out to me, as does the moment itself―as if somehow, one could press pause on a moment in time that is significant in the span of one’s life.

Because he is taller than I, I stride long to keep up to his leisurely pace.

We are having one of a number of conversations that ultimately leads to my conversion. I understand that no man can “convert” another. Only God can birth a spiritual being (John 1:3, 3:6). And that He often uses fragile, hypocritical, imperfect people is a testimony of His amazing grace and ultimate sovereignty.

My friend and I are walking as sunlight pours onto the pavement, spilling gold through green trees, when I suddenly realize that we are three…

Thinking back, until I was twenty-eight, I know I was a wildly liberal, secular-thinking, God-believing, but not God-fearing, humanist. Even before my twelfth birthday, I was reading my mother’s Cosmopolitan magazine, well-versed in the things that this world holds dear. I was not ashamed when a friend who knew me admiringly exclaimed, “You are truly a self-made person!” In fact, I loved it.

If life were a road, I was exceeding all speed limits, heading nowhere and happily discontent with the all- inclusive but illogical philosophy I had come to embrace over time. If I were a car, I would have been a piecemealed hot-rod with an attitude, comprised of stolen parts from all over the world. I would have sped past you on the highway and left you in the dust in my haste to be the first at the finish line. I wouldn’t have even given you a glance as I passed you by, and if I did, it would have been because you were in the way, and I wanted to intimidate you with my fierceness.

The good news of this story is that God meets us wherever we are.

At that moment in time, on that sun-kissed afternoon, my nonsensical beliefs had a head-on collision with an imperfect, but boldly evangelistic Christian.

“Have you ever heard the story of the woman at the well?” he asks me.

I have no idea to whom or what he is referring. I try to stride more effortlessly, as I shrug, anticipating a formal introduction.

He launches into a conversation Jesus had when He and His disciples stopped for water at an ancestral well.

Suddenly, I am standing alone with Jesus. I am part of this story and feel His palpable presence and my own slow awakening. I see nothing but the sunlight’s rays surrounding my friend who recedes into silhouette.

I squint hard into the sun.

 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
John 4:26

Blinking into the light, I feel exposed. My friend is unaware that the Spirit has come alive in me, as we continue our walk and conversation.

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
John 3:8

Though I close the door and say goodbye, there will be more conversations in the future. The seed of faith has been planted, watered, and has begun taking root.

I desire more. Always more. This is my weakness, this is my strength.

God was wooing me, drawing me to Himself, longing to give me more, the more I desired―in His way, in His time and, most important of all, on His terms.

On one Saturday afternoon, I walked into the Light of Christ, by which all are laid bare. I came into the presence of the One True Living God while walking on a city street on a sunny afternoon.

Through a number of conversations my friend and I shared over coffee, meals, and mutual common interests, God revealed Himself and invited me into His eternal Kingdom, and I’ve never been the same.

Has the LORD redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies.
Psalm 107:2

My One Word 365 for 2015 is Redeemed. I share my faith & life journey on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using these hashtags: #iamredeemed #onwardchristiansoldier

refiner’s fire
Chad’s Testimony

What it’s like to go through the refiner’s fire

I participated in my first communion at a Catholic church while in third grade. It was the same church where I had been baptized as an infant, though I was taking the class later than most kids. I was therefore the oldest in my class. My family had a tight financial condition and even finding acceptable clothes to wear was a challenge. My mother, probably at the insistence of her parents, was determined to get me to this supposed important occasion. The whole thing was very forced and rigid and it turned me off to religion in general for long after that season of life concluded.

I seriously felt as though I didn’t belong. Even now, some thirty years later, the first communion class picture still hangs in the hallway of that church and I am easy to spot. I’m the only one wearing a blue shirt as the rest in the group is fully adorned in white from their waists up. Apparently my family missed that memo.

Following receipt of my first communion, mom told me she had done her job and it was not her place to make me get confirmed. The choice, she said, was up to me of whether I wanted to go to church any longer or not. Other than for a wedding or funeral, I didn’t step foot in a church again until after my senior year of high school.

Looking back, I now realize that was a period of time in which my family home environment was starting to crumble into shambles and would have significant consequences and blessings – yes blessings – on the remainder of my life. I’ve come to truly understand something very important.

Life is ordered the way it is for a purpose.

I call that period of my life – between third and 12th grade – my “under the sun years” because I really lived it without regard to God or even a genuine acknowledgement of God’s existence. My parents would go through a series of separations and then divorce three years after the aforementioned class completed. Dad would battle alcoholism and self-worth issues. Mom’s health issues continued a downward direction and eventually crippled her self-worth and ability to work. My older brother would bury himself in his work to be outside the home and away from family as much as possible.

Money would grow tighter – putting us below the poverty level and ensuring I would feel even more outcast from my peers at school and in virtually every other setting. I took on a paper route, the proceeds of which would be used to buy many meals and allow me to pay for at least some of the material pleasures I saw my friends receiving from their parents.

As my senior year of high school approached, I observed my circle of friends becoming more distant. At the same time, I battled with my own personal issues of self-worth and anxiety over the future. I fell into a difficult depression and found myself going absolutely nowhere and had no idea how to steer it onto a more hopeful track.

Then God told me it was time to wake up.

During the middle of a CAT scan, I opened my eyes as I was surrounded by a group of doctors and family members. They all quickly shouted for me to not move. I have been “asleep” for a couple days following a severe head injury that probably should have killed me. I closed my eyes and listened to the machine make its noises and do its thing as I tried to figure out just what the heck was going on and how I got there!

I was released from the hospital a week or two later and began the long road to recovery. I had missed the final weeks of my last high school summer vacation and would be beginning my senior year with a massive gash on my forehead and a misbalanced hairline where my head had been shaved so a probe could be inserted in my head to monitor the swelling and pressure as I was treated in the hospital. The feelings of being distant from my peers were even more pronounced as all this happened.

Just why complete strangers would pray for me and why they believed it mattered continued to itch at my healing brain.
I coped with it the best I could, but also felt an overwhelming tug. I couldn’t reconcile with the fact that I was still alive and I found it more than peculiar when people told me they and their churches were praying for me. Just why complete strangers would pray for me and why they believed it mattered continued to itch at my healing brain.

Approximately six months later, as I was half way through my senior year and just starting to feel a semblance of normalcy in my life, a friend lost his life following an automobile accident. Feelings of despair and hopelessness resumed.

Two of my other friends began attending church with our fallen friend’s mother. They invited me to join them, but I declined, feeling it was a waste of time and I had no place being there. Church just wasn’t for me.

I went on to graduate and started making plans for college in the fall. It was largely the state of my family condition that enabled me to receive the level of assistance I did and – for once – all the years of feeling like an outsider resulted in me being able to leave the nest and join a new social group where we were theoretically all on equal footing.

Just before that would happen, though, I became a Christian at a lakeside while surrounded by a group of friends and acquaintances who showed me what it meant to live with a perspective “under heaven” rather than “under the sun” as I had for so long.

For first time I actually felt like I belonged somewhere.

Chad's testimonyOver the years that have followed, I’ve gone from a tepid newbie Christian who thought he could approach Christ “on my own terms” to one who is realizing how the many happenings of his life has been providentially patterned by the master potter. I am continually being sculpted by the will of His hand and trying to do my best to partner with God so the chiseling, chipping and etching is less painful and more impactful to God’s big kingdom.

Part of this process involved the attainment of a lifelong dream when I saw my first book published at age 31. At that moment, I had experienced a life that had achieved all my foolish dreams; of receiving a college degree, of getting married and starting a family that is totally unlike the one I had been raised in, and seeing a book I had written published and on the shelves at a book store. All of this, I came to realize, happened while “living under heaven” after I had accepted Christ into my life and it was through his grace that I received these blessings.

It was this realization that left me pondering the question, if God has been so gracious to allow me to achieve my dreams, what have I done in return? The answer was “mostly nothing.” Sure, I was a good guy and tried to do right whenever I could. But I really had done nothing for His kingdom. So I examined my life from the perspective of asking how I had been prepared and what God wants from me.

I came to realize that God has made me a writer. It is the one constant pattern throughout my whole life where I felt I belonged, where I naturally excelled, where what I was doing was what I loved to do. It was then that I understood that God wants me to be a writer for His glory. So I dedicated myself to being just that with the establishment of my blog, 1Glories.com, and all the work that stems from it. Over the last several months, God has convinced me that I am not just to write stories, but to help others realize and understand God’s refining work in their lives as well.

You see, we are all works in progress, guided by the hand of God. We are all being prepared for moments that are yet to come. Helping others to see and experience that providentially willed growth is a blessing. Many times, in sharing my own experiences, others start to recognize, understand and align their life purpose with that of God’s will. Other times, readers will share their experiences or observations to help me see with a clearer perspective as well.

Either way, the community at 1Glories is a blessing where, we are all refining life, on purpose. I invite you to join me in the journey.

Linking up with Monday Musings

An Encounter with God

What happened? How could this gentile Jesus manage to get a hold in my life? Truly it was a miracle, that’s for sure. Back to my story at the Sister’s of Maria Del Mar, where I was learning about “Death, Dying, and Beyond” with Elizabeth Kubler Ross. Dr. Schroeder, Maria, (Kubler Ross) and I were the three class dynamite sticks. We connected and worked together extremely well. Maybe it was just about being the greatest extroverts, but what energy! As the class connected and formed its personality I remember feeling totally connected and energized. The energy was wonderful, except for the fact that Marvin, the doctor, followed me every moment out of class trying to tell me more about this Jesus.

I found it totally annoying, interesting perhaps that his Father had carried in the money to start the nation of Israel back in the ‘40’s, but I simply couldn’t connect with this Jesus guy. Days went by, Marvin followed me about like a puppy, telling me about how Jewish Jesus was, how the history of the church began with all Jews, how the temple curtain was torn top to bottom at the time of Jesus’ death, etc. etc. etc. He just went on and on until I felt my head would burst. Actually I remember telling Marvin it was like having cymbals clashed on each side of my head, the noise was getting so painful!

It was now Thursday, the week was typical of the ‘ooey gooey’ encounter work of the ‘70’s, and going well, but I couldn’t take a minute more of the Jesus stuff. I had come to get my head together, and this was interfering with my head. I asked Marvin for the keys to his room, so I could sit quietly by the window (he had an ocean front room) and ‘get the noise out of my head’. I pulled the desk chair over to the window and watched several waves come in and took a deep breath. Ahhhh, enough! Oh no, what was that! Right on the horizon was a huge cross – with someone hanging on it! Good heavens, I blinked and it wouldn’t go away. I scanned the room – was there a crucifix on the wall that I had transposed in my vision? No, no crucifix. How strange, especially to be able to see someone on that cross so far away.

I was pondering this and remembering the angel that had shown up at my bedside several months earlier and taken my hand to bring me up and show me heaven, when an audible (honest, it was deep and resonant and loud) voice spoke to me: “Gay, don’t you understand? I sent that little girl to you so that you could understand the pain it cost me to send my Son to die for you and your SIN”. “Sin”? I hate that word, I had even asked the Rabbi what sin was and he gave me an answer that made no sense. My heart was so hard I had no clue what sin was. Well, this voice, it had to be God, I was totally alone in the room, simply answered my mental question by ticker taping every sin I had ever committed in front of my spiritual eyes from the left to the right, one at a time! I was 38 years old; I remember the first He showed me was stealing 3 trading cards from another little girl at the age of 3.The last I believe, was the box of paper clips I had brought home from Kaiser just before I had the bunionectomy on my right foot. (That is what allowed me to quit my 4 jobs and take this time to figure out how I was going to continue working to support me and the kids.) But I remember also the lying, exaggerating, promiscuity, drugs and excessive alcohol being in that picture show as well, it was staggering.

I found myself sobbing on the floor with no memory of how I got there. Thoughts flew through my head; “Oh, that is sin, I had no idea, He knew my name, He has been watching me, He does know how much Jessica (my daughter who died at 5 from liver cancer) suffered, He does know how many hairs I have on my head like Marvin told me!”

It was literally mind blowing to know that someone knew and had kept track. God did care about me, He knew how painful that death was, He had experienced one also. It was just overwhelming to think God cared about me and knew me intimately. My tears and nose made a puddle on the floor.

The door opened and it was Marvin, coming to check on me – what timing! I lept up and threw myself in his arms, sobbing: “I don’t know what hit me, but I think it was your Jesus!” I am sure he was delighted, and I must have babbled on like a maniac, but I know he was thrilled. I remember that shortly thereafter Marvin took me into Santa Cruz to a Christian Book Store and bought me a bible, and we came back and sat on the beach at the Convent for my first “Bible Study”.

He plopped the bible open to Matthew Chapter 13, the parable of the seeds. It was exactly what I needed to hear. For years, I couldn’t understand why it took God so long to make a connection, why did I have to go through Jessica’s death with no comfort?

“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears let him hear.”

The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” “He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“You will be ever hearing but never understanding
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
They hardly hear with their ears,
And they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts
And turn, and I would heal them.”

“Stop!” I said to Marvin Schroeder. I simply couldn’t absorb any more! I was understanding; I was walking down through that garden seeing the seeds grow before my eyes. I understood that if God had planted his seed in my heart any earlier, it wouldn’t have taken root; I had to come to the very end of myself! The Bible’s words hit me in three dimensional power, it was so alive. Truly alive!

To make a long story short; I didn’t put the bible down for four years! I poured through it cover to cover many times, I admit, looking for loopholes, but there were none. The God of the Jews was the God of the Gentiles, the same one who really cares about us. It was right that the New Testament was bound to the Old Testament.

to be continued…

Lily’s Testimony

If someone would’ve told me 20 years ago that I would someday be a Christian AND a missionary, I would’ve laughed in their face and told them they were crazy.

In my younger days, God or religion wasn’t even on my radar.

I grew up in a non-Christian home, with an atheist dad, a Catholic mom and two sisters. My parents had decided early on in their marriage to never discuss God or religion, because they didn’t want to spend the rest of their lives arguing about it. So the bible was just another dusty book on the shelf, and nobody ever talked about God, Jesus, or salvation.

My mom did occasionally take my sisters and I to Catholic Church though. There I saw people going through the motions. Stand up, sit down, say a prayer by rote, stand up and sit down again…but the rest of the week they acted just like anyone else. The empty religion and hypocrisy that I saw caused me to assume that religion was just a cultural thing, with no actual truth attached to it. So I didn’t believe any of it, and when I was old enough to make my own decisions, I stopped going to church completely.

I started drinking when I was around 16. We lived in San Diego, just 15 minutes from the US/Mexico border, so on weekend nights my friends and I would go barhopping in Tijuana, since they didn’t card there.

Even though I was drinking and nightclubbing as a teen, I was extremely immature and naive, especially when it came to boys.

The combination of alcohol, naivety and not knowing God was a recipe for disaster. One night, I got myself into a bad situation that led to losing my virginity through date rape. Even though I tried to push my feelings away, it was a wound to my heart, and there would be many more wounds to come.

For many years I lived a life that was very far from God. Getting drunk on weekends, partying, materialism, falling for the wrong guys and of course sexual immorality. There was much pain and heartache, which changed the person I originally was, into someone who was insecure, wounded….but sort of numb at the same time.

In addition to the worldly lifestyle, there was also a lot of irresponsibility and screwing up in general. I was terrible with money, and got myself into debt. I was going to college, but I didn’t have much direction in my life. I wasted time doing stupid things. I was a mess, but at that time I didn’t realize how lost I was.

behold-a-pale-horseAround that time, I started becoming interested in politics. Little did I know that this would be the avenue that God would use to lead me to Him. I read a very controversial, hard-to-believe, but fascinating book called Behold A Pale Horse, by William Cooper. That book opened my eyes to what was going on in the world and changed my outlook completely. It talked about how we’re heading toward global government – the New World Order. In the book, I noticed there was a quote from the book of Revelation…I thought that was interesting, but I didn’t think much of it beyond that.

I also had a political website (exposing the scandals of former president Clinton) and because of that site, I was always doing research. I was genuinely amazed at the things I found. The corruption at the highest levels of government was even worse than I imagined, much worse than most people realize. I learned that it was not limited to Clinton, but to other presidents and to those who are really in charge…the ones behind the scenes, who have the real power.

Learning about the evil and corruption in this world caused me to start thinking about the deeper questions of life. Who is really in control of this world? What’s life really about?

The day I began to believe is one that I’ll never forget. I was in my room and I was thinking to myself, “How can it be that the most powerful people on this planet are so evil and corrupt? How can it be that the person who is running the country is someone I wouldn’t even hire to work at McDonalds, because he’s a total crook? With all the people in the world, isn’t there a true leader who we can actually look up to and trust?”

I could see that the world wasn’t all bad. Yes, there was evil, but I could see that truth and goodness exist too. Even though I wasn’t a believer, on some level I knew that those things – goodness, truth, justice – must stem from a source. But I still wasn’t thinking about God at all.

As I kept asking that question in my mind – “Who is above these corrupt leaders?” – that was when God opened my eyes. He gave me the answer. It came to me in a flash, but in a clear, powerful and deep way. God is above these corrupt leaders! JESUS is the true leader of this world. Wow. Mind blown. Some scriptures suddenly came into my mind. Jesus is the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Prince of Peace…He is the true power of this world! It all started to make sense.

I was stunned because I had rejected all that stuff my entire life… but it’s true. The Gospel is true. Not religion. Not the going-through-the-motions cultural stuff I saw as a child. But the simple Gospel. Jesus is the Messiah, the true power of this world, the living God… And He seemed to be “knocking on my door” so to speak. That realization was the biggest turning point in my life.

But I didn’t jump into Christianity right away. I knew that if I were to become a Christian, my life would change in a huge way. I thought to myself, “What if I become too religious and I’ll have to get all new friends? What if this changes my life completely?” I was going to San Francisco State, I had a job I liked, I even had a public access TV show that I produced (long story). My life seemed to be pretty good to me, at that time. I certainly wasn’t looking for God or religion. But I sure found God. Or I should say, God found me!

So I said to myself, I’ll look into Christianity, read the bible, but not jump into anything until I’m ready.

Christian testimonyIt took 2 years from that point until the day I surrendered my heart to Jesus and became a Christian. July 9, 2000 was the day that God forgave me of all my sins and I became a new creation.  When I walked out of the church that day (I had gone to my friend’s church and after the service her pastor led me in prayer to receive Jesus) I was filled with so much hope, joy and a desire to learn more about God and His word.  I knew it was the first day of an entirely new life and new path!

A few years later, I clearly sensed that God was calling me to world missions. I was told about Youth With A Mission (YWAM) an international  missions-sending organization that also offers training for new missionaries. I took a life-changing class called “Discipleship Training School” (DTS), in Kona, Hawaii. I can’t even put into words how great that class was. After the 3 month lecture phase, I went on my first missions trip, to Indonesia and Malaysia, another huge learning experience. After my DTS, I continued my training with YWAM, and I did a bible school (School of Biblical Studies), two biblical counseling classes, and a digital media class.  Most of the classes were in Kona, and one was in Switzerland. The funding for those classes was an amazing demonstration of God’s provision.  Much of it came in truly miraculous ways.

I later served on the mission field in Mexico – in Tijuana del Mar and Mazatlan.

The process has taken time, but God has healed me, restored me, taught me important life lessons… He has given me wisdom, a new heart and even a new name! (You can read about that here if you want).   God has shown me who I really am…my true identity. My identity is in Christ, and I have learned through experience (sometimes the hard way) that God’s ways truly are best, and wisest.    I’m still a work in progress though. I’m continuing to learn, grow, and walk with God…not just on Sundays but on a daily basis, in every aspect of my life. It’s about a relationship with our Creator, not religion.

Even though life in this world is not a bed of roses, I have the peace and security that comes with knowing I belong to God, and that He loves me with an unfailing love.

If anyone reading this isn’t a believer, my prayer is that when God “knocks on your door” you will not keep it closed. He created you and loves you and wants the absolute best for you. Surrendering your life to Him will be the best and most important decision you will ever make!

Much love and blessings,

lily