Archive for September, 2010

September 17, 2010

Free to Love (Dennis)

Dennis told us this testimony this past Father’s Day of his salvation and how God healed his relationship with his father. Thanks for passing on such an incredible story of how God brings His kingdom in our lives, Dennis!

I became a Christian in August 1966 through the witness of my sister, Rachel, who accepted Jesus as her Savior and Lord a few months earlier. I was twenty. Two years later, the Lord spoke to me and said that I needed to tell my father that I loved him. At first, I said no.  Here’s why….

My earliest memory as a child, I must have been about three, is my mother sitting in front of her vanity’s mirror, combing her hair and telling me she hated my father and wished she had never married him. There is not much from Sigmund Freud that I ascribe to, but I do know that his transference theory – transferring one’s emotions to someone else and they receiving them as their own – is right on.  My mother emotionally and spiritually transferred her hatred for my father to me, and I unknowingly received them as my own. From that point onward a wall was formed, which I now know was demonic, that kept me spiritually and emotionally estranged from him. Mom telling me that she hated Dad when I was three was just the beginning of how she criticized and ridiculed him throughout my childhood and teenage years.

Dad was a large strapping man and a super athlete.  During his senior year in high school in 1927, Dad won a full football and basketball scholarship to Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan. His dream was to become a physical education teacher and a coach. The Great Depression of 1929 shattered his dream.  Financial pressures forced him to drop out of school and move back home to Toledo, Ohio, to help his father run a laundry business. Dad never fulfilled his dream of becoming a coach, but that did not keep him from playing sports.  Athletic federations and neighborhood sports booster leagues were popular in the late 1920’s and 1930’s.  As soon as Dad returned home from college, he started playing football and baseball  with his neighborhood buddies.  One was Jack LaPorte, who had a beautiful younger sister, Sylvia. Jack’s father, an Italian immigrant from Naples, loved having the team over for homemade Italian food and wine. Wilford Belkofer met Sylvia LaPorte at one of those feasts, began dating and married in the fall of 1936. Somehow between 1936 and three years after my birth in 1946, they fell out of love.

I’m not sure of what caused their marital problems. But I  do know that Mom suffered severe post-partum depression after my sister, Rachel, was born in 1937, which was the beginning of mental and emotional problems Mom suffered the rest of her life until she died in 1985. Dad died eight months earlier; both were 74.

During the 1950’s, Mom’s  life became  a roller coaster of highs and lows, long stints in mental hospitals and shock treatments to snap her out of crippling depression that followed  manic episodes. Eventually, she was diagnosed as bipolar. Many of her bouts with depression and hospitalizations happened during the Christmas season, leaving me to be cared for by an Aunt Jo who lived next door. Sometimes my paternal grandmother would move in with Dad and me to help run the house with my aunt until Mom came home. Haunting memories of going to visit Mom in the mental ward, and the clanging of the nurse’s keys as she unlocked the huge metal door that kept patients from escaping, grip me to this very day. So do memories of the patients What I remember most are their  eyes. Lifeless. Expressionless. Blank.  Frozen. It was as if a dead person, a zombie if you will, was staring at me.  And I saw the same deadness in Mom’s eyes. I now know that Valium,  a drug that is used to supposedly stabilize emotions,  is what stripped the life out of the Mom’s and the other patient’s eyes.  And along with the Valium came shock treatment therapy

Whereas Valium is a quieting agent, shock treatments activate the nervous system and literally jolt the patient out of depression. What looks like earphones are placed on both sides of the temple, and bolts of electricity run through them directly into the brain. You can see why it is called shock treatment therapy.  Indeed,  shocking the brain with electricity energizes the nervous system. And  it also  temporarily erases the short-term memory. It’s based on the theory that erasing the short-term memory will help the patient forget what made the depressed. And valium is supposed to keep them stable when the memory returns. This is one huge problem, however: Most people don’t know why they are depressed. And for most people it’s a never ending cycle of sinking into deep depression. Receiving shock therapy.  Feeling better for awhile. Falling back into depression – actually caused at least in part by the valium. And back for more shock treatments.

That pretty much sums up  my mother’s life in a nutshell.

During the time that Mon functioned fairly normally, which could last a year or two, Mom subtly relentlessly vented her bitterness for Dad on me.   Routinely she would say things like he was a sloppy dresser. He ate too fast and had bad table manners. He was always in a hurry and made a mess around the house.  He neglected making house repairs. He talked too fast and stuttered. Never once did I hear Mom praise him and say she loved him.   I don’t remember Dad criticizing Mom. Neither do I remember he praising her. Dad’s method of defense was silence, except occasionally when he blew up and vented his pent-up feelings. What happened one evening at dinner is an example.

Mom made it a habit during dinner to silently get my attention while we were eating and with her eyes and facial gestures let me know she thought Dad was eating too much and too fast. The tension around the table hung over us like a curtain every time we gathered to eat. One evening as usual Mom had gotten my attention and was silently mocking and ridiculing Dad. Though he and Mom did not make eye contact,  Dad felt what she was doing and exploded. He jumped up from his chair, picked up the dining table and toppled it over.  Food, plates, glasses, and silverware  flew everywhere.  Terrified, I ran outside in tears. From that day onward for the next five years, I refused to eat dinner at the table. Instead, I ate on the floor in front of the TV. It was the only way I knew to protect myself emotionally.

I never remember gathering as a family to talk about things like school, sports, religion, politics, or whatever else families talk about.  We never laughed. Joked. Told stories. Or shared what our days had been like. For all practical purposes, we were strangers bound only by the same last name. Even as a young child, I felt the need to be rescued, but from what I wasn’t sure. Physical abuse victims have tangible knowledge of what they’ve suffered. And that can help them to identify the pain and move forward into healing and wholeness. The deadly silence that filled my home was, in many ways, more damaging than physical abuse – because I didn’t have anything tangible to link my pain to. I only knew that I hurt inside and I wanted to be freed from it. Figure skating became a way of escape.  escape.

When I was twelve, I started taking roller skating lessons, At fourteen, I was given my first dance partner and competed in the sport through high school and into my 20’s. My partner and I became a champion team  and rose to the top level of roller dance skating. The hours of practice during my teenage years gave me an excuse to stay away from home. Getting my driver’s license at 16 and having a car gave me another way to escape. One can imagine how popular a 16 year old with a car be. I became “The Chauffer ” for my friends, which grew in numbers as more and more of my high school peers learned that I had a car. Driving around with my friends. Dating.  Practicing skating. I didn’t understand it at the time, but they were my excuses to stay away from home.  I was on the run – from what I didn’t know. I only knew that it hurt to be at home and staying away helped to deaden the pain.

Dad worked as a pipe fitter at the Standard Oil Refinery about two miles from where we lived in Toledo, Ohio. Mom’s medical bills were huge, and Dad worked a second job to make ends meets, several years as a cab driver and five as a bar tender.  I think working two jobs allowed Dad to be away from home and not deal with Mom. It also meant that he did not have to deal with me. I am sure he felt the animosity I carried against him. He may have even resented me. And why not?  Resentment ruled our home.

My sister, Rachel, was led to Christ by a Christian couple she met at a New Year’s eve party in 1965. In August of 1966, Rachel led me to Christ. The change in my life was dramatic and noticeable, so much so that my friends would ask what happened to me without me having to say a word. God’s anointing rested so strongly on me, even unsaved people felt it without knowing what it was.

Immediately with my conversion, came a ferocious hunger for the written word of God. Both sides of my family were staunch Catholics and believed that only Catholics went to heaven. In less than two months after reading the Bible, I knew that wasn’t true and started attending an evangelical church.   To say that  Mom and Dad were very angry about it is an understatement.  Dad was especially hostile.  One evening he saw me reading the Bible, snatched it from my hand and threw it on the floor. He said that too much religion would make me crazy and he just wanted me to be a normal twenty-year-old and read something like Playboy. As time wore on, however, neither he or Mom could deny the change in my life. Dad and I shared the same barber, who I found out was also a Christian. About six months after I received Christ our barber told me that Dad told him that he was unhappy that I left the Catholic church, but he could not deny how much I had changed. I was more respectful to him and Mom. I was getting good grades in college. I stopped curing and smoking and partying with my friends. And for that he was grateful.

Yes, I was a different person.  But for the most part, the wall that separated Dad and me remained. About a year-and-a-half after my conversion, the Lord told me if I wanted a relationship with my father I was going to have to tell him that I loved him. My response: “No way!” Why should I tell Dad I love him, when he’s never said that he loved me,” I  snapped back to the Lord. He snapped back and said, “Did you first tell me that you loved me?  Or did I love you first?” I felt like God had landed a “one-two punch” and split my heart wide open.  But instead of going down for the count, it lifted me into reality.  All that I could say was, “Yes, Sir.  I will do whatever You say.”

The next night, I had a date to see the Supremes. That morning, I was surprised to find that Dad had placed a $5 bill in my wallet  (In 1968, that was equivalent to $25 or $30 today.) with a note that read: Have a good time, Dad. I was pleasantly surprised.  Dad just didn’t do things like that, especially write a warm and loving note.  The Holy Spirit used it to soften my heart for what would happen before I left for my date.

Before I started to get ready, Dad helped me carry my stereo upstairs to my room. There we were, Dad and me. Alone! I knew that it was no or never to tell him I loved him. I wanted to run. Hide in the closet. Fake like I passed out. And I also knew I had to do it, because the Lord told me to.

As I stepped towards him, I was met by the unseen wall that separated Dad and me for years. I froze in my tracks. Just as Dad started to go downstairs, I somehow pressed through the years of bitterness and resentment , yelled, “Dad.! Please stop! I threw my arms around his neck, kissed his cheeks and said, “Dad I love you. Thanks for being a good father.” Stunned and taken off guard, Dad just grunted and walked down the steps. But I knew the work had been done.

For the next twenty or thirty minutes, I lay on my bed and cried tears of joy and repentance.  I did it. I obeyed the Lord and that ugly, horrible wall crumbled. The bitterness. Resentment. Anger.  They were cleansed away by the blood of Jesus.  I was free.  And heaven rejoiced! And my relationship with my father was changed forever.

During the next weeks, I couldn’t get enough of Dad. And I sensed he enjoyed being with me. Going for a ride in the car.  Shopping. Watching TV. We didn’t talk that much. We didn’t have to. The wall was gone.  We were finally bound by a father-son bond.  Enjoying the glow was enough. And we enjoyed the glow until he died in 1985. But not only that,  Dad had a minor heart attack in 1971. When I reached the hospital, I found Dad in intensive care, under an oxygen tent, with fear in his eyes. Right then and there, I asked him if he wanted to receive Christ as His Savior. He said yes and followed me in prayer to invite Jesus to be his very own Savior and Lord. Now Dad and I had the same Father. And once again heaven rejoiced over us.

Fourteen years later, as I was living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Dad called me at work.  As soon as I heard his voice, God’s presence enveloped me like a blanket and my heart overflowed with love for Dad. It was so overwhelming,  I could barely speak as tears of joy filled my eyes.  We chatted for a few minutes and before we hung up Dad said, “I love you son.” That was the last thing he said to me. The next morning, Dad had a severe stroke and died two weeks later.  His good-bye words of love were a gift from the Lord.

Truly, I had  experienced the reality of Malachi 4:6, He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of their children to their fathers. Truly, I was at one with my father’s heart and he  was at one with mine. What a joy it will be for Dad and me to thank our Father when we meet in heaven – because I obeyed the Lord and told Dad I loved him.

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September 10, 2010

Losing and Gaining (Drina)

Here is a testimony Drina gave to us about a year ago about God restoring a specific area of her heart…Thanks for including us on what God has done in you Drina!

August 2009

Well, there’s a long and short version of what God is and has been doing in me.  I feel like it’s important to share the big picture.  I will try to nutshell it as much as I can.

Here’s a little background.  I had a good upbringing, nice parents who were very much in love, not perfect but I was very loved, and I have a good family.  When I was 17 my mom died of cancer.  She was sick for about a year and a half. I was her primary caregiver since my brother and sister were older and already out of the house and my dad worked nights.  I watched my beautiful mom become a shell of who she was on the outside.  Cancer stole her body but not her spirit, she fought til the end, she was 41.  My dad had a difficult time with my mom’s death and it was all he could do to keep himself together so I learned to take care of him and myself at the same time.  He never really recovered from her death and became more of a buddy to me than a parent.

About 5 years ago, both my dad and my grandpa checked into the hospital together to be treated for pnuemonia (my dad moved in with my grandpa after my grandma passed away).  It was then that we found out my dad had terminal cancer.  He was 62.  The time from his diagnosis until his death was 6 weeks.  My sister and I, with the help of our brother, cared for my dad in my sister’s home with the assistance of hospice, we all 3 did it together.  My grandpa passed away 2 weeks before my dad.  That whole experience brought a lot of pain but also healing and is an amazing testimony in itself of how God was there for me and for us, but to be shared another time.

Last summer I flew to Florida to be there during the time leading up to my grandmother’s death (my mom’s mom).   I was leaned on a lot by my aunts and uncles since I’d experience caring for a loved one a few times.  I tell myself that I’m good at it.  I’m good at loss, I’m good in a crisis, I can think clearly and I can be strong for people when they can’t be strong for themselves.

After losing my dad, I spent a lot of time in the Word and the Lord kept pressing on me 2 things- that He would be both my mother and my father and that I would receive double the portion for what had been lost.  Just this week, I admitted to myself for the first time I had been trusting this whole time that the fulfillment of that promise was going to come in the form of a person, a man, a husband.  After believing that, and 5 years later my knight in shining armor has still not shown up yet? God must not be trustworthy.

Over the past few years, I’ve had a couple of disappointing relationships, some health issues and all things combined have shaken my faith to it’s core. My heart became very hard and I’ve had a pretty good case built against God.  I began to believe God has good things for some people, but for me, He has pain, loss and disappointment.  I learned when I was young to take care of myself because no one else would be there to do it for me.  I resorted back into that line of thinking when it came to God: “Don’t trust any longer because you don’t know where He may lead you and it may hurt…a lot.”

But I also remembered the good times I’d had with the Lord, the sweetness I’d experienced, and it left me torn. Which God is He?

At the women’s retreat, the focus was seeing the heart of God as a good Father, as being His “girlies”.  Talk about a laser pointed right at that old wounded spot of mine.  God reminded me He still has more to heal.  I struggle so much with allowing Him to care for me, to take care of me and to trust Him with my heart that He will protect it.    He keeps chipping away at me, reminding me of the truth of who He is.  It seems to be one step forward 2 steps back and sometimes I really feel like a turtle!  Maybe double the portion is double the portion of Himself?  And is that enough for me?  Some days, I can honestly say, yes!  More of you, Lord!  And other days, my answer is, um…I’d really like the knight in shining armor, please.  I’m still a work in progress 😉

love,

Drina

September 8, 2010

Like Moths to the Flame

I have to say, I love this story below.  Can every day of life be like this, please?

Send me some testimonies people, I am not about to let this blog go dry! What has God done or been doing in your life?

photo courtesy Jamie Tubbs

August 2010

On Wednesday, Heidi, Brittney, and I were all working at their
apartment when the fear of finances and various things came up. We
decided to pray for each other and declare God’s favor and truth over
each circumstance. It ended up being a very powerful time. Heidi had
the idea to go grab their downstairs neighbor, Gina, who has a bad knee
and had wanted them to pray. I was able to share the testimony of
knees being healed in Belize just 2 weeks ago, and I think her faith
was boosted. There is power in testimony! So we declared healing to
her knee and she couldn’t test it because she would have to go for a
run to find out. Another hour or 2 passes, and it’s about 6:25. I’m
about to pack up to get ready for prayer meeting, when Gina comes
upstairs and asks me to teach her nieces the 10 Commandments. I was
hesitant, but she insisted. A couple minutes later, 2 Puerto Rican
girls, ages 12 and 14 walk in awkwardly. I ask if they were in trouble
or something, but they weren’t. I humorously explained to them why I
didn’t really feel like teaching them the 10 Commandments, because God
isn’t just there for us to keep the rules and that He’s actually a
loving friend and Father to us. They perked up instantly and started
asking questions. This led into me sharing the entire Gospel with
them, and they had never heard it before! Soon, Heidi, Brittney, and
Karen joined, slightly confused why I was sitting there with 2 young
girls and my Bible open. The girls soaked everything up like a sponge
and they accepted Christ! They even shared with us how they both had
had dreams about God. One has had nightmares, but then this white
light comes and the fears leave. The other girl had a dream where she
saw Jesus on the cross surrounded by all these demons and she had to
dress up like a demon to keep from being targeted, and she made eye
contact with Jesus and He showed her His love. Fortunately, these
girls only live half a mile away and so Heidi, Karen, and Brittney
plan to disciple them! It’s so cool how we often go out to find lost
sheep yet here’s an example of them coming to us! Like moths to the
flame!

-Tommy

September 3, 2010

He’s Working It Out (Marie)

August 7, 2010

Fourteen years ago I had been admonished by several leaders to give up a battle I was in with a con artist. But I could not see my financial empire taken from me by him or anyone else. Months went by…years went by…and my finances dwindled but I would not give in. Almost bankrupt, the judge finally told me what I wanted to hear. I won…I beat the con artist at his own game…I….I…I…I…Down deep I was telling God I could do this by myself…I thought. Here it is 14 years later and it pops up again…only this time, my finances are gone and if it wasn’t for my youngest sister I probably would not have a roof over my head. But, God is blessing me in spite of myself.

This August 4th the worst (I thought) financial crisis shattered me. I wrestled with it, tossed and turned, could not sleep throughout the night, woke up thinking about it, and finally I prayed. I said, “Lord, you told me to give this up 14 years ago and I didn’t. Would you please give me peace about truly giving up this problem? But I want you to be fair…okay?”

I spoke with a couple confidant connections and was stirred again to fight…to “be a good steward over what God has given you.”

I attended Connect Group that evening all set to garner information to fight. Shared part of this testimony with Hue and we talked extensively. I felt I should fight. However, at the very end of our conversation Hue asked me if I would be willing to walk away. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I said “yes” with my lips, but my heart wasn’t in it. I wasn’t at all at peace when I left Connect Group. In fact I cried all the way home. That night was the worst night I had in a very, very long time. I think I have a tiny inkling how Jacob must have felt when he wrestled with the Lord. Songs and scriptures turned over and over in my spirit…”Give it to Jesus”…”He will keep you in perfect peace if your mind is stayed on Him”…”Jesus can work it out if you let Him”…”Cast your cares on me”…”Let the peace of God rule down in your heart”…”Let not your heart be troubled”…and on and on. That morning I continued to vacillate between “yes” and “no way am I going to give this up”, back and forth until finally I sat at my computer and reluctantly started typing the letter to give up my property. I could not believe what I was doing…but oh, the peace that came. I now know what the peace that passes all understanding feels like. I thanked God for his peace. I told my sister, “I feel like flying. I’m free.” I went to the bank, had the letter notarized and dropped it in the mail. The peace of God overwhelmed me and I told myself, “I’m going to stand on God’s Word- I can do all things through Him.”

“That problem that I had

I couldn’t seem to solve

I tried and I cried

But kept getting deeper involved

So I turned it over to Jesus

And I stopped worrying about it

I turned it over to the Lord

And He’s working it out.”

AMEN

Marie

September 1, 2010

The New Normal (Tommy in Belize)

Here’s a testimony from Tommy’s recent trip in Belize. So sweet how God uses our normal times of going about our days to bring His kingdom when we are prepared for Him to do so. There has been so much ministry lately, locally and traveling – please send me any testimonies you have and declare God’s goodness! Don’t hold back people, it’s the internet: you aren’t going to use up it’s space.

Tommy, but not in Belize. :) Photo courtesy Nate Tubbs

July 2010

“I just returned from photographing a destination wedding in Belize.
While I was there traveling with Beki Gangi, a friend and fellow
photographer, we were looking for cheap hotel rooms. In the town of
San Pedro, we saw a “Rooms for Rent” sign hanging, so we inquired on
the second floor. A woman came to the door and followed us back down
the stairs to show us the rooms. As we made normal friendly chit-chat,
she hobbled down the stairs and said life was hard and she lived in
constant pain from her knee, which made it extremely difficult to get
around and run her business and live life with any kind of joy. She
had already been to the States to have one surgery but expects to
return for another. We decided not to stay at this hotel because it
was only for week long rentals, but as we were leaving, I asked if I
could pray for her knee. She gladly accepted, and I commanded the knee
to be healed 100% and for all restoration. I had her test it out, so
she began walking up the stairs then basically floating up the stairs!
Her mouth was wide open. She explained to me that she couldn’t do
anything even close to that before and showed me how she used to take
each step at a time, use her hands and both feet would land on each
step, etc., but now she could walk like any normal healthy person! So
she’s ecstatic, and we walk into her living room. I ask how much
better it is. She replies, “80% better.” “Praise God!! Let’s pray for
100%” So we went at it again, this time Beki had returned and joined
in. Right after, she was testing it out, moving, bending, squatting,
etc. and had NO pain! I explained that Jesus is still very much alive
and heals, and so on. She said she is a believer but doesn’t have much
passion and doesn’t read the Word much. We ended up praying for the
baptism of the Spirit, and she was so so happy. Immediately after, her
husband comes home and she rattles off in excited Spanish how she was
healed and he exclaims, “Pray for me too!” His knee was also bad. So,
we went for it, commanding the knee to be healthy. He tested it out
and said it was about 80% better! We thanked God for what He had done
and then commanded 100% healing in Jesus’ name. He tested it out and
was in shock. We were there for another 20 minutes, at least, and he
kept testing it and no pain was left! Their grandson sat through the
whole thing and I was able to share the Good News with them. They all
proclaimed to know Jesus, but I’m sure this was a tangible experience
of His love either way! As I was leaving, the woman teared up, “The
Lord has sent you here to us today!!” What an awesome chance to be
living normal life and seize the opportunity to show the Gospel in
Word and Power. Hallelujah!!

Tommy