TESTIMONIES

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story...

overcoming homosexuality
The Hard Step to Take – Michael’s Story

I‘ve been a Christian my whole life, and I have many stories of God’s love and miracles. I’ve personally experienced his healing power, both spiritually and physically. One of these stories, when God healed my lungs of asthma, was what I was planning to share when I was asked to share a testimony. But it’s not what God wanted me to share this time.

God wanted me to share something much more personal than that – something that I have moved past, but that I still have trouble speaking about, even to my closest friends.

I’ve always had the dream of being a father. I’ve always wanted to know that kind of love – the love a parent has for his children. But at the same time, I was scared of that dream. What if I wasn’t a good dad? What if I messed it up and my son or daughter resented me? These were fears I shouldn’t have had for many years yet, but they troubled me during heartbreaks in high school. I began to realize that people there weren’t looking for permanence.

So I blocked off my heart from feeling anything for girls, telling myself I would wait until I understood my calling and had room for a partner.

The problem was – and this is the hard part for me to talk about – I was a teenage guy, and my desires were no different from any other guy my age. And since I had blocked off my heart from running to any woman… I turned to men. There were other factors and reasons – mostly vain excuses – but the fact is that I became gay because I was afraid of relationships with women.

The whole time, I knew it was wrong and that I was giving up my dream of parenthood, and that made my pain worse – so in my pain, I turned to my already twisted relationships to try to alleviate my pain.

During my Discipleship Training School at YWAM, my leaders helped me turn back to God and free myself from this, and I thought I could leave it all behind me and still keep it mostly in the dark. But God kept bringing gay people into my life. I wondered if He was testing me, and why. It was like reopening a scar.

Part of my calling is to minister to the homosexual community
What gave me the answer was when I heard people saying that there was one single thing they told God they wouldn’t do, and that is exactly what God told them to do. That’s what God told me to do. Part of my calling is to minister to the homosexual community – that’s why they keep coming to me. I have agreed with God’s calling for me every step of the way until this came up, and I started fighting because I was afraid.

I’m still afraid.

But now I’m choosing to trust God, because I know He’s right. The fact is, I understand the reasons people decide to be gay, and I can use that knowledge to help them get out of the hole that I fell into.

overcoming homosexualityIn the moment, it feels right. It feels like you’re following your heart. But because I’ve been there, I know the pain, the shame, the fear, and the loneliness. More to the point, I know what God used to get me out of that mess. My heart breaks for those people and I want to help them.

I guess there are three reasons God wanted me to write about this. The first is to encourage you, the readers. That one thing in your heart where you said “no” to God… That may be what God wants for you to do, but it’s alright. God has a reason that you likely won’t understand until afterward, and it really is the best option for you and the people around you.

The second is to say that there is hope. If you’re caught in sin, there is a way out and God will use your past to reach out to others in the same situation. When you minister, you should be able to say “I know what you’re going through. I’ve been there.”

The third reason is more personal. I’ve never fully opened up to anyone on this topic, and I needed to take a step. As long as my past controls me, I’m not free, even if this stays in the past. So by writing this and signing my name on it, I’m finally taking a step forward into God’s freedom.

Michael Krantz

God's unconditional love
The Unconditional Love of God

I am so grateful for the way God has worked in my life. His love for me has been prevalent throughout my past and present. Even before Christ saved me, the Lord’s hand was protecting me.

I wasn’t always aware of the Father. I used to live life on a whim. I never thought about God. When I was a child, my mother made sure I attended church. So, there was knowledge of Him, but I wasn’t able to feel the connection.

I was shy and full of fear during my adolescence years. The feeling of not fitting in with other teenagers was a persistent battle. That awkwardness led me searching to find something to ease those difficulties.

I discovered alcohol and drugs. They seemed to be a solution, but ended up being a life-threatening problem.

Throughout those teenage years getting drunk and high on drugs was my primary focus. They took priority over school, sports, and even girls. Consumed with constant thoughts of ingesting as much of them as I could handle.

The alcohol caused blackouts leaving me no memory of the way I behaved. I became violent and untrustworthy. Sometimes I would wake up with black eyes. They had to beat me up because I was out of control. The only way I thought I could deal with those painful experiences was to continue drinking. That only made it worse.

The drugs caused me to become anti-social. I would use them to the point of becoming comatose blotting out consciousness. The combination of the alcohol and drugs played havoc with my physical, mental and spiritual health.

I almost didn’t graduate from High School, and I know today this was God doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself. At that time of my life, I would have settled for flunking out because all I wanted to do was get high.

After graduation, I joined the Army. One of my friends convinced me to sign up. We were going to enter the military together, but he backed out and off I went. I didn’t like the armed services. The discipline was tough, and my craving for alcohol was strong. I began plotting ways to get out and my first attempt was going AWL (Absent Without Leave). That got me in trouble.

Again, God’s invisible mercy was working in the background.
I finally did get out and the way I did it was dangerous. I took some medication and wrote a suicide note claiming I took an overdose. They rushed me to the hospital, pumped out my stomach and questioned me about the incident. I told them I wanted out, and they agreed. Again, God’s invisible mercy was working in the background. And I walked out after six months with an honorable discharge.

I returned home. Things didn’t get any better, only worse. See, I had not gotten God’s message yet and continued the road of self-destruction. My morality was becoming a problem because I compromised righteous behavior for wrongful action. I had become a thief and stole other people’s items so I could sell them to support my addictive lifestyle.

Just before my twenty-second birthday, my world came crashing down. The alcohol and drug abuse caught up with me, and I couldn’t stop abusing them. I was desperate to quit, but was unable under my limited power. I was powerless, helpless and devastated.

you (2)Then God’s unconditional love stepped in and rescued me. He had gotten my attention and placed me in the position to find support from others who traveled down that same path. The Lord led me to a Twelve Step program designed to help alcohol and drug addiction. God already knew this was the way I was going to activate my faith.

Over the past thirty years, the unconditional love of God has turned my life completely around. I not only have an active faith in Him, but know how to trust His divine guidance. He has introduced me to His Son Jesus and blessed me with the gift of the Holy Spirit. I’m forever grateful for the way He has allowed me to live in His presence.

By no means have I stayed on the straight and narrow. I retreated into addiction. Eight of those thirty years I lived in misery. I experienced nothing but unremitting pain and suffering from turning away from Christ. I never knew how bad things would get without God’s love and grace. I do now.

Today I understand the only way for me to remain in God’s favor is to be a faithful follower of His righteous path.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not thankful for Christ’s gift of salvation. God has proven to me the difference He makes when I’m humble. All I have to do in understanding it is look into my past and see the miracle He has performed in my life. The impact the Lord has made in my life is extraordinary.

Barren to Blessed

I was raised attending church, but not forced to attend.  At the age of nine while riding in the front seat of our old station wagon, I felt this urging and told my mom that I was ready to accept Christ as my Savior. Not too long after speaking with my pastor about it, I was baptized. This was an exciting day in my life.

Two years after my baptism I suddenly became gravely ill. An infection had spread throughout my abdomen, and the damage from it resulted in having a hysterectomy at the age of eleven. The surgery, and impact of it, was extremely difficult to wrap my head and heart around. I was barren, and would be for the remainder of my life.

In that one single moment, everything changed.  I went from believing in this giving; all-knowing Heavenly Father who I had been told created me with great purpose, to questioning what my purpose was.

I continued to believe in God but to be totally honest; I did not know how I could fully trust a loving Father who nearly allowed me to die from a rare bacterial infection. He also allowed my ability to have children to be taken away.

I did not stop believing in Him and was part of a Christian youth singing group for a few years after my surgery. However, as I became an adolescent, I strayed far away from what I once believed to be so important. Straying from my faith led to choices of which I am not proud of. I felt alone in my struggle, and knew that infertility was going to be a life-long road to which I would wander.

Questions like “What if I’m never a mom?” circled around in my mind for years.
In college, I continued to live as though I did not know the Lord, even though I continued to believe that God existed.  I just sort of saw God as this big “tool box in the sky”.  I sincerely believed that all religions were tools in the box that ultimately led to Him. I still had not found a good reason why the Lord would have allowed my illness to happen. Questions like, “Will I ever fall in love and get married?” “What if no one wants to marry me because I cannot have children?” and “What if I’m never a mom?” circled around in my mind for years.

I did meet a guy who accepted infertility. We had a wonderful relationship that was built upon friendship, trust, respect, and love. He proposed, and I eagerly accepted. However, about a year before I was married, I was really struggling with life in general. I had a great fiancé who treated me wonderfully, and was in graduate school working on my Master’s Degree. Things were pretty good for a twenty-something. Despite these things, it just seemed that I could not make out what was nagging at me, and the void I felt. I tried to fill it with friends, shopping, going-out, etc, but nothing worked.

Love Finally, my aunt asked if I wanted to go to church with her. I said, “Yes.”  The service was very casual with contemporary Christian music.  I was nearly overwhelmed with the warmth and love that I felt sitting in the chapel. It was as if I was the only person there. I felt as though the music and the message were surely written just for me.

I began recognizing God needed to be in control because I was clearly not. I was the person who always had a goal, always kept out of trouble, or at least did not get caught; always stayed loyal to my family and friends, and always presented with the “I’ve got it all together here” personality.

But the truth is, internally I was still that child who was deeply hurt, saddened, and longed for an answer.

I began to read my Bible more and listen to contemporary Christian music which provided a great ministry through lyrics. It became abundantly clear to me that God wanted me back. Or, better yet, He always wanted me. It was I who had turned away and chose to ignore. He still wanted me to walk through the pain, but this time, I needed to allow Him to numb it a little. I needed to let Him truly take over and start to put me back together again.

I began seeing Him in a different way. Instead of this loud controlling Father punishing me, I saw Him as this loving, worried Dad who wanted His daughter back.

In the book, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis writes: 

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
C.S. Lewis

God was shouting to me through all of the pain of the years and for the first time I listened.

I sought forgiveness from Him. I felt as though I had been released from the burden of shame I had carried about various choices in life. This helped me to see the true grace of forgiveness. 

For the first time, I felt like I understood the concept of faith as being more than just a blind and immobile notion, but one that required full attention.

Perhaps it was maturity or perhaps it was desperation, but either way, I returned to the God that created me, loved me, and watched me through the years. I was that rebellious child that learned the hard way that it is always best when you really do follow what your parents’ say- especially your omniscient Heavenly Father.

It has been several years now since I nervously walked through the church doors with my aunt. I have not stopped attending church since, but it is not just about attending church.

It is about not stopping in the yearning for the Lord.  It is about not ceasing in praising Him.  It is about serving and loving others as He has asked us to do.  It will always be about living out a life that recognizes mercy, forgiveness, and salvation.

The Lord has not only revealed His love to me, He has fulfilled my heartfelt and desperate plea to be a parent. My faith in Him is what carried me through fostering my children, and it is what continues to carry me through parenting them.

Kids

Another piece of my story is that I work for a Christian child welfare agency that helps to put families back together. I am able to reach out to people who may be struggling with infertility or answering the call to be foster/adoptive parents.  I am truly blessed to have a job that is also a ministry.

My greatest struggle in life was barrenness. However, through the healing redemption of a loving Father, I am now a parent. I am also able to share my story and encourage others through my blog.

The truth is – I love Christ.

I need Christ. 

I am a work in progress…

but He’s okay with that.

photo credit: Randy OHC via Flickr cc
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