Monday, July 25, 2011

The Basement

(to visit go to: thebasementonline.com)

A month ago, I took my sons to The Basement. For those of you who do not know what this is, it's a movement started for the youth in Birmingham, which has now gone global, to glorify God. They are unconventional, loud, and anointed! I do believe my age finally came out that night. I like to think I'm still 16, but the soon to be 38 year old showed up. As I stood there listening to the music, with my ears covered, watching all of the kids, I was taken back. I realized I had never seen that many young people raise their hands and praise God. All you could see, anywhere you looked, was God's little ones singing to the top of their lungs and just praising! AMEN!

While I was singing one of the songs, God spoke to me about a young man in front of me. There were three young men, maybe in their very early twenties, praising God. Now, the boy to the left was just beyond. He was filled to the top, overflowing, with the Holy Spirit. At first, I thought I was supposed to talk with him. So, I asked God, and He said, "No, the boy in the middle." God told me to tell this young man that He was about to do something mighty in his life. When He does this, he doesn't want him to keep it to himself, but he wants him to witness it to others. Now, since the boy was openly praising God, it made me wonder, if what God was going to do would be so great, that it might scare the boy, and he would be afraid to tell people. I know I feel that way still.

Now, it's not easy, or I should say, it's not easy for me, to tap a stranger on the back and say, "Hey! How's it going? I've got a message from God for you!" As I grow in my walk with God, maybe it won't be anything to say this. But for now, I wrestle with it. In fact, when I got the message, I was upset. I really wanted to experience The Basement, the way my son did. Yes, I see now, how silly this sentence is. What I have learned, is when God gives me a message, He will just stir me up, and flip me upside down inside, till I can't feel comfortable, unless I do His will. So, I said out loud, "OK, I'll tell him!" I had to wait until the music stopped for him to hear me.

While I waited for the song to end, something crazy happened! Once I said I would deliver the message, I started feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit. I have felt that before, that's not what floored me. This is the only way I can describe what happened to me, so bare with me: Although I did not see him, I felt with everything in my spirit, there was a HUGE warrior angel surrounding this boy in front of me. It was so strong, that it knocked me back, and I fell into my chair!

Once the song ended, I tapped the young man on the shoulder. When he turned around and looked at me, he was rather rough looking; his friends were rather rough looking too. I thought, well maybe someone just brought them to this tonight. (because I don't truly see,  I'm still working on this) I told the boy the message. I told him I am very new to all of this, I don't know how it works, or if I'm supposed to say it different. He just stopped, looked at me, and smiled. He said, "Thank you for your obedience to the Spirit and God." I then told him about the presence that I felt, and how it knocked me back. I told him, he must have a big ol' angel around him. He looked at his friend and smiled.

 I went back to listening to the lesson and he did too. They sang some more songs, and then it was time to go. I was trying to tell my son what had happened to me, when he came back to his seat, but it was so loud, he could not hear me. When it was all over, I was going to hug the boy and thank him for giving me such a wonderful gift that night. Before I could turn around, he grabbed me, hugged me, and thanked me. It was very powerful. As the boys left, I looked down the row and saw that they had a man with them who was a little person. Do you remember me saying how "rough" they looked and my thoughts on them? They picked that little man up and carried him like a child. I saw them afterwards, and they carried him everywhere. For young kids, not to care what others think, and just love up on someone who has a disability, tells me they were a special group of young men.

I wish I would have got the young man's name or number to find out what God did in his life. Of course, that's what I want. We all love to know don't we? We, as humans, as Christians, are constantly asking God, why? Why? WHY? I'm sure He does what our mom's did, and what we do, and says, "Because I said so." I decided I would go back to The Basement again. I want to try to experience what my kids have received. I may bring a pair of ear plugs this time.  But, if I go, and God speaks to me again, I think I'll be alright with that experience too.
~Stacy~

John 10:27
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sarah Rodas' Testimony

God is a Subtle Suitor
Our world is full of high tech computer graphics, super-fast information transfer, interactive virtual reality experiences, and a constant barrage of sensory distractions. With all of this intensity, our expectations are heightened. We are disappointed if a movie looks anything but completely real.  We expect constant entertainment. We get bored easily.  Doing one thing at a time feels too slow. We skip Epcot and go straight for the newest, fastest roller coaster. We want our fries super-sized and our movies I-max, 3-D, Dolby surround sound. 
With such a world as this, we can virtually see the most exciting things from the comfort of our living room couches; just from human inventions. We expect God to be infinitely more impressive! After all, He did create all of this. He even created the ability to invent such clever things. He made the sun, rainbows, and the Grand Canyon. He made the crystal clear waters of the Virgin Islands, the mighty great white shark, the beautifully complex human body. God surely is much more impressive than anything we have seen yet.     
The truth is, yes, God is going to blow you away and completely amaze you when we are able to see His full glory.  Being in God’s presence, turned the very skin of Moses white. He glowed and had to wear a veil over his face, for the rest of his life. But the most beautiful thing about God, to me, is the humble way that He courts you. He has revealed Himself to me as a subtle suitor: willing to wait, loving abundantly, needing nothing in return, being completely there for you, and loving unconditionally, forever. He does all of this in ways most of us don’t even notice, much less fully appreciate. It took me a long time to see what He was doing in my life, but when I realized how he had courted me for so many years, I was blown away. And to think, I couldn’t even see Him most of the time! 
I was a girl who always seemed to have a boyfriend.  I had long-term relationships from the age of three, it seems.  The psychology behind that is another story, but suffice it to say, I devoted a lot of my time and energy to boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. There were few times in my life, where a boy was not the center of my attention.  (I do not recommend this to you young people out there!) But, finally, I found myself in the throes of a painful divorce and then a long dry spell of men in my life. 
Through this dry time, I began to learn about myself. I did not see God clearly, but He was there, like a parent who lets you learn on your own, but always there, loving you. These years for me were good, even though they were hard. I spent the time in reflection and growth. Still, I felt lonely. I did not fully see how God was admiring me from afar. He was there in every hard turn, with a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. He didn’t push Himself on me. He just carefully, almost anonymously, placed lessons in my path. I could choose to step over them, and sometimes did; but He extended his hand for me to take when I wanted it. He was loving me truly- not like the men I had been focusing on. He was allowing me to be me, making my own choices, mistakes, accomplishments, and yet never leaving my side. He was there, ready to build me up, asking for nothing in return.  
I learned so much about myself in those years. I learned what I wanted in life and what I had to offer. I had spent so much time trying to be in relationships that I did not know who I was or who I wanted. God was purposeful to shelter me during this time, and He literally hid men from me. I would walk through a restaurant, a store, the mall, and try to find a man I would even consider; and there were none. It was such a strange phenomenon to me. I could do it any time. I could not think of one person I knew, or see one man in a crowd, and think, that is a man I could imagine myself with. This went on for years. I would tell people this and they did not really believe me. They would point out attractive men and my eyes were just closed to the them.  I actually wanted to see someone, but could not.  God was sheltering me from myself and protecting me, yet I did not even realize it. 
After a while, some men began to come into my life that were interesting to me.  I was cautious, but lonely and hoping to find love.  I met the man who bragged and told tall tales about accomplishments.  I met the man who was too smart for his own good.  I met the guy who thought he had it all together, the artist, the leader, the one with charisma, the good looking one, the not so good looking one, the thinker, the strong but silent type, the mama’s boy, the work-a-holic, the devoted one, the one who looked good on paper, the one who shared a chemistry with me, and wow I definitely met a few that really needed me to fix them! Through each one, I learned a specific lesson. It is now so clear how God was leading me through, but at the time, I just noticed that as the major ones moved on, I was still ok. I was anxious at times for my future to be settled.  I was confused at times. But, I was learning lessons. I was not the same, na├»ve girl, who always needed a guy to feel complete. I was more and more ok.
I came to a place in my life, where I knew I could not settle for just some guy to pass the time with. I needed the person God had in store for me or, I needed no one. I had become content with that idea. I knew God could be my focus. He had, after all, everything I needed. He would love me unconditionally, and never leave, cheat, lie. He was all I truly needed. That thought began to comfort me, and give me strength in a way, I had not experienced before. He was not telling me I would be alone to raise my daughter, or to go through life with no companionship,  just that I needed to put my trust in Him.  He would stand up to any test I gave Him.  He was loyal to me.  And still, He did not push. He let me find my way closer and closer to Him. His voice was so gentle, comforting, quiet.  I was learning to be more discerning in my choices, and God, like a best friend who secretly loves you, supported me through every heart ache.  God was slowly giving me strength in Him, but letting me find my own way.
Finally, I found myself in a class at church, about human sexuality; not sex per se, but how it is to be fully man, and fully woman, in relationships with others. God brought me so many words of wisdom in that class, until I became very convicted about where I was going.  I felt strongly that God was asking me to be a Christian woman, following His guidance, putting Him first, and yet willing to share with someone all I had to offer. Then, I relaxed. God was in control. I was to focus on this beautiful life He had given me.  When I finally gave over to His ways, that is when God showed me how much He loves me.  It was like He went down to the jewelry store and picked out the most precious ring that He knew I would love.  He seemed to have been thinking this all along, because the gift He gave me, was made by Him. It had so many special details, I knew they were crafted and chosen just for me.  It was not a diamond ring he picked out for me, but a man who was very good at showing me the love of God.    
Sal came into my life like a whirlwind and God’s voice was all over him!  This man seemed to have so many good traits that were perfectly designed just for me!  It was uncanny.  As we learned more and more about each other, it seemed that God had led us down two paths that were meant to merge.  He even took the times we had gone down the wrong paths and turned them for good.  The man God had prepared for me, wants to live a moral life; he is a man of honor. He works hard, loves family, and has musical talents to support my daughter’s gifts. He likes to build a home for family and friends, likes to travel, honors his commitments; he can teach me things in patient ways. He likes to cook and watch movies.  We value so many of the same things.  But what stands out most in Sal, is how much he loves me. He wants to love me.  He wants to make me happy in so many ways. He works hard to give me the life, God wants me to have.  Sal is a loving person, who is willing to sacrifice everything, to show me love.  He never leaves my presence without giving me a loving hug or kiss; no matter how late he is running. He carefully listens to what I say and thinks about it. He always tries to notice what I need and provide it. He is so focused on caring for me, supporting me, and making me feel safe; that it can be nothing less than God’s love, coming through this man. He is my gift. If I had asked God to build me a man, it would have been this man. 
Sal is not perfect, our relationship is not perfect. We live in a broken world and we are broken.  But, my husband is someone to share the burdens of life with, and he wants to do this with me. God said to me, that if I can see Him, who is the creator of it all, and let Him love me, He will shower me with love and gifts.  He does this in many ways, but He does it most, through the people in my life.  I truly believe that if we allow ourselves to be conduits of God’s love, we will live in a world overflowing with joy.  He wants us to live in joy!  He may have other plans for you, but He has a plan and it includes joy! 

The secret is to give over to His plan. Listen, learn, allow Him to speak to you and through you. Trust Him. Be sure, He will not push us. He is not a forceful, insistent suitor. He is a gentle, subtle suitor. He is helping, protecting, waiting, loving, even if you keep Him away, He is reaching out, trying to love you. He does not need you; He simply wants you. He wants to shower His love on you and through you. He wants to be yours and you His. He will wait for you as long as it takes, but I say, don’t make Him wait. 
Sarah Rodas

Ephesians 3:14-19
When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (NLT)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Annette Henderson's Testimony

Lost in a Sea of Grief
My journey on the sea of grief began on July 17, 1990. It was one of the most bittersweet days of my life. On this day, my first born, Laura Michelle Henderson, came into the world. Four and a half hours later, she left my arms, to be in the arms of Jesus.
Often, the world assumes that grief is easier for Christians to bear. That is not true!  As a Christian, I know that God is all powerful. He could have intervened and healed my baby, but He didn't. I had to deal with that. Have you ever been there; knowing that God could have intervened, but He didn't? That is a hard place to be!

I had read about the stages of grief. I found myself going through shock, denial, then I was stuck in the middle stage of anger. I hit an emotional brick wall, when I realized my anger was fully directed at God. I didn't know what to do with it. I thought that good Christian girls weren't suppose to be angry at God. So, I did what I always do when I'm angry at someone. I stopped talking to him! I stopped praying to God. I stopped reading his Holy Bible. I still went to church, but I was only going through the motions. Most of all, I quit trusting in him. I felt He had let me down when I needed Him the most!

During this time, two books came into my possession. The first book is called Empty Arms by Sherokee Ilse.  This book was filled with practical advice. One of the main points was that grief is unique to every individual. Your grief will not look like your spouse's grief. You need to give one another permission to grieve in your own way. This was timely advice. I was already feeling resentment towards my husband, because he didn't seem as heartbroken as I did. His grief looked very different from mine. When I shared this concept with my husband, we gave each other permission to grieve in our own way. Just because I was having a bad day, didn't mean he had to have a bad day. The opposite was true as well. Just because he was sad, didn't mean I had to feel guilty for having a good day.

The other timely book that came to me was If God is So Good, Why Do I Feel So Bad? by David Biebel. This book encouraged me to be real with God; to share my feelings of anger with him. I couldn't believe it. Wasn't I supposed to be like Job, the great man of patience? I read the book of Job, and found that he was very real with God! Job was angry, frustrated, and depressed. He never lost faith in God, but he freely express his feelings to the Lord. I went back to the grief book, and it explained that God already knows you're angry. Perhaps, God would rather have you talk to Him in anger, than not talk to Him at all. The book went on to say, that being angry with God is not the same thing as unbelief. After all, we don't get angry at someone we don't believe exists. I thought about this idea of being real with God for several days.

One afternoon, I decided it was time to to share my anger with the Lord. I started telling Him how unfair it was that a baby who was loved and wanted was taken; while other babies are thrown into dumpsters, and born to abusive parents.  I ranted and raved, and basically pitched a fit. I had myself a good old pity party! When I was spent and could not shed another tear, I was overcome with this feeling of peace. The Bible describes it as "the peace that passes understanding" (Philippians 4:7) It felt like God was wrapping me up in his arms, saying to me, "I know, I know."

At that moment, three distinct thoughts came into my mind.
First, even if God stood right there and explained why my precious baby had died, my human mind would go,"Huh?" I was not going to understand why my baby had to die, while I was here on this earth. The second thought, was that I would see my precious child again. Third, when I see my child again, she will not say,"I wish I could have lived on earth."

Things changed between the Lord and me after that day. I got back into his word. He showed me He understood my pain. "He is a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering." (Isaiah 53:3) He understands the depth of our heartache. John 11:35 tells us, "Jesus wept." He was crying because He understood the grief of his friends even though He knew He would resurrect Lazarus from the dead.

Ultimately, God showed me He understands what it means to lose a child. God gave His only son for us. " For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) It is freeing to know that I can be real with God. When those waves of grief come, I can hold on to Him and He will lift me up. He is the only one who can take my heartache and exchange it for joy!

 Isaiah 61:1-3
"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-to bestow on them on crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of despair."  

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Child-Like Faith

God is working daily in peoples' lives. We need to encourage others to have their eyes and ears open, be in tune with the Holy Spirit, and be ready to receive. I would like to share a story with you. Through our tragedy, God showed His love for our family. As usual, He spoke to me through a child. Let me explain:

Several years ago, I was attending a revival. A complete stranger came up to me and said something that I will never forget. He said I would be used by God one day, to share with others, about having a child-like faith.  Filled with the Spirit, that same night, two other men who were strangers, said the same thing! One man said this to me before I left the church. The other man, rushed over to me, when I was getting in my car. He said he had to come tell me this before I left. I could not deny this. This was confirmation through the Holy Spirit. As I stated before, for me, God confirms things in three's. The Holy Spirit has spoken to me so many times through children.  I HAVE to be obedient, and share with others, about having a child-like faith.

 Tuesday, June 22nd, our pet dog Sandy passed away. She was scared of the storm and dug her way out of the fence. She was hit and killed by a car. Even though we were devastated, God used this tragedy, to show Himself, and bless us through none the less, a child. It was a very sad day and we had all been crying. At one point, Jack, our six year-old, through his tears, put his arms around my husband to comfort him. He said "Daddy, don't be sad, you were a good daddy to Sandy, just like our daddy in heaven is good to us."

I have been given so many messages from children. For me, it was like God was saying, "It will be OK, I am with you." For our little six year old to compare my husband's love with our Father's love, it was so special and comforting to me. Sometimes, I think it's just this simple. We want to complicate God's love, His message, His presence. That day, our mourning was turned into joy, as God spoke to us through the mouth of a child.
~Mimi Green~

Matthew 18:2-4
He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

Friday, July 8, 2011

Mimi Green's Testimony

My husband and I have been married for nine years. Early on in our marriage, we knew we wanted a child. I specifically, wanted a little boy. However, we knew this might be difficult considering my age (I was 38 at the time). I remember my doctor telling me, "I'm going to refer you to a fertility doctor. It is unlikely that you will conceive without the help of fertility treatments." I did not accept what he told me. I knew in my spirit he was wrong.  I left my doctor's office, threw away the fertility doctor's number, and spoke opposite of it with the scripture  "What is considered by man impossible, is made POSSIBLE by God." Luke 18:27

I could feel God telling me "I know all the desires of your heart Mimi, and I know you want a baby, because I'm the one that gave you that desire."  He knew I did not want to go on fertility drugs. He was telling me that we were going to conceive without them. We waited for confirmation. Confirmations that God is speaking to you, in my experience, come in three's.  Little did we know, we were about to receive our three confirmations.


 While my husband and I were attending a service, we heard of a woman who had been given a gift by God. She prayed specifically for women who had trouble conceiving. We went to her for prayer. I remember she laid her hand on my belly and prayed for "my womb to be made open."  She said she felt God telling her that we would indeed have a baby soon. This was the first confirmation by God that I was going to have a baby.

Around this same time period, my husband and I, took a little mini-vacation, to a Bed and Breakfast, down in South Alabama. A sweet man and woman, who were married, owned the B&B. We had never met them before. As we were talking over coffee the next morning, we began discussing the power of the Holy Spirit; how He works actively in our lives today. She had no way of knowing we wanted to get pregnant. Out of the blue, she said, "You know, this might sound crazy, but God is telling me in my spirit, that your offspring will be used in a mighty way for Christ one day."  I could not believe it! She went on to talk about how he (not she) would be a mighty warrior for Christ. This was the second confirmation.

The third confirmation, came in the way of a messenger, from the church we were attending. He did not know us that well, much less know, we were trying to get pregnant. Out of the blue, one Sunday, he came up to us, and said, "You two might think this sounds crazy, but I had a vision of you, Mimi, holding a little baby boy in front of a fireplace." He went on to say, that God told him in his spirit, the baby boy was to be named, John Emmanuel  specifically. Needless to say, we were floored! We didn't know what to make of all this. We needed some time to process it all. Well, we didn't have much time, because within two months, I found out I was pregnant. The man that had the vision of me holding a baby boy, was at our house shortly after, watching me hold our new baby boy, John Emmanuel Green by the fireplace.   (Jack for short)

Jack is now six years old. He has been such a blessing in our lives. His little heart is so pure and I can tell that God is rising him up to be "a mighty man of God."

Mimi Green

Acts 17:26
I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live. 
 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mike Jones' Testimony

Part 3 (Mike and Tonya Jones)

In August 2008, I noticed a sore spot on my left testicle.  I spent the next month telling myself, I need to go get checked out. I told myself it was probably nothing, and I ignored the pain. Finally, it was hurting so bad, that I could not put this off. I had to go to the doctor.  The doctor looked at me, and said it was probably nothing. He still referred me to another doctor at the Urology Centers of Alabama, just to be safe.  They did a sonogram and determined I had a testicular tumor.  At this point, all that could be done, was to remove the testicle, and send it off for testing.  I had surgery on Friday, November 21, 2008.

I remember being concerned about the effects this surgery may have. My wife and I were trying to get pregnant with our second child. We had been trying since July.  We were both up early, Tuesday, November 25, sitting at the kitchen table, enjoying a rare breakfast with each other. We were awaiting the results of the biopsy test.  It was very unusual for Tonya to wake up early when I do and have breakfast with me.  She did this particular morning.  She made the comment that she felt a little sick, and jokingly mentioned, that she might be pregnant.  Tonya called me at work, around 10:00 that morning, and told me that she was  indeed pregnant! About 2:00 that afternoon, I received a call from my doctor's office. They told me the test results were in. They confirmed it was testicular cancer.  Praise God, He gave us good news of the pregnancy before the cancer bomb was dropped on us!  This was very comforting and confirming that God is with us, and He cares deeply about us.  He was basically telling us not to worry about the pregnancy. He was taking care of that for us.  What a blessing! 

The doctor told me there are two types of cancer; seminoma and non-seminoma.  He said in my case, I had a seminoma tumor, which is the least aggressive kind, and the cancer was most likely, contained in the testicle. They also recommended I undergo radiation treatment to the lymph nodes in my midsection.  This was basically for insurance, to take care of anything that could have spread on a cellular level.  They  expected a less than 2% chance of recurrence, after the radiation treatments.  Apparently, Lance Armstrong, the tour de France competitor, had the same cancer. His was the  non-seminoma, the more aggressive kind, and it had spread to his brain and lungs.  He was cured with chemotherapy. The doctors said this was the best cancer to have if you had to pick one. The treatments they have for this, show almost a 100% cure rate.

I received radiation treatments, basically, the entire month of February 2009.  It was around 17 treatments.  I remember one of the struggles I had with this, besides being nauseated, was the mental aspect.  I was 41 at the time. When I went for treatments, all I saw were 70 year old men, getting treated for prostate cancer. This was hard because I did not feel that I fit in. Being a younger man, it was hard mentally to deal with that.  It made me feel so old.

I remember my last day of treatment. Tonya and Matthew (my son) had picked me up earlier that morning. We had gone to Tonya’s doctor appointment and had the 20 week sonogram. We found out that we were going to have a baby girl.  We had picked out the name Lydia.  We went to lunch and then they dropped me off for my treatment.  As I was lying on that table, I kept thinking about how blessed I was, to have found out we were having a baby girl, the same day as my last treatment.  God is good!

After the radiation treatments, the plan was to do a CT scan every three months for one year, then every six months for a few years, and then every year out to about five years. They do this in an effort to monitor me, in case the cancer comes back. The first scan was sometime in June or July. Unfortunately, the results showed two suspicious over sized lymph nodes, in my small intestine area.  The doctors told me this was extremely rare, for this type of cancer, to spread to this area. The radiation treatments I had, did not treat this area of my body.  After a needle biopsy, the tissue obtained, confirmed it was cancer. They told me I would have to undergo chemotherapy treatment. I started chemotherapy treatments in October of 2009, and they ran through December 2009.  My last treatment was on December 14, 2009.  I had to have three cycles of chemotherapy.  One cycle, which was three weeks long, consisted of one week of five days in a row of treatments, and then two weeks with a treatment only on Monday.

It was either the first or second day of my treatments, when God laid on my heart, to take this one day at a time.  It was too difficult. I could not allow myself to think about how long I had to have treatments.  God was helping me deal with things better. He told me to only think about today. Jesus said in Matthew 6:34 "So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

This became my focus each day. I only worried about getting through that day. He really helped me with this. Towards the end, I did begin to think about having only four treatments left, or only three more treatments left, but by that time, I was thinking of it in a good light, because I was almost done. The treatments were really tough! It was a good thing God helped me narrow my focus to the present, so that I would not get overwhelmed, and lose heart. Praise God! He is with us! This leads me to my intention for writing this, and that is to document the lessons learned from this experience:

Focus On My Relationship With God: During a major illness like I experienced, all the things in which you put your faith and trust in are exposed, one by one. It is like standing up real quick and having a head rush. Everything blacks out except the area of your vision directly in front of you. All the things by which you obtain your identity, and put your trust in, kind of fade into the peripheral vision. The only thing left is your fears and God. This happened to me. The things I tend to obtain my identity from are my job and my relationship with my wife. Also, my reliance on self, most of the time, instead of God. The job and relationship with my wife are not bad things, in and of themselves, but there is a need to be careful, to not let them drive who you are. My fears were of dying. It occurred to me, if it's God's will for me to die now; how I am going to witness to others? I wanted to live strong in my Christianity, strong in my faith, strong to the end. If this was His plan, then so be it. Coming to grips with that was important. The next fear was very sorrowful to think about; leaving Tonya with two kids, as well as leaving Matthew and Lydia without a father. God had shown me, that He had taken care of us this far, He would certainly take care of them still. So, my fears were disarmed one by one. I was left standing there, just God and myself. This really was a blessed time; a closeness that I had not felt in that way before. It was a refocusing time for me. I just hope and pray that I can learn from this experience and not slip right back into those old habits again.
                                                                         

Worship God Everyday: Towards the end of the first week of my treatments, I had a bad stomach problem.  I felt as though I was being eaten from the inside out.  Apparently, the chemotherapy affected the lining of my stomach, and the stomach acid was burning me.  It was pretty bad.  The doctor put me on Protonics, which is medication to stop my stomach from producing stomach acid, or at least cut down on it.  This took a few days to take effect. In the meantime, I was in constant pain.  I remember laying in bed, in the fetal position, crying. All I could do was praise God.  I felt like if this was my last breath, then I was going to praise Him till the end!   


Pray For Our Spouse/Family: I was pretty much worthless around the house during my illness. I could hardly do much more than sit on the couch.  When I did work, it was part time, and when I got home, I would pass out on the couch.  I was worried for Tonya and the kids when my treatments first began.  I was not able to help out with the kids and around the house as I typically try to do.  I knew it was a lot on Tonya.  Lydia was just about two months old when my treatments began.  When people would ask me how I was doing, they would tell me they were praying for me.  I would ask them to pray, especially for Tonya and the kids, because I knew it was so hard on them too.  I prayed for Tonya. I remember praying for God to bless her with energy, His energy.  I prayed boldly that God would bless her with supernatural energy.  Looking back on it now, He definitely answered my prayer.  There were times, when she would stay up with Lydia at night, not get much sleep, and she would be good the next day.  It was amazing how much God blessed Tonya.  She would even comment at times, that she had an awesome energy; that she did not understand where it was coming from, other than God.  I did not tell her I was praying for her until after my treatments were over. I think it speaks to us, that God is definitely there, cares deeply for us, and He answers prayers.  

God placed an important job on me. As head of the house, and spiritual leader of my home, it is important that I take that role seriously. When I am doing my job, holding my family up, and walking in His ways, I feel great blessings from God.  God is good! When my treatments were over, and I began to recover, Tonya began to have much difficulty; I attributed it to not praying for her anymore.  I guess I figured that she didn't need God as much, because I was beginning to become more of a help around the house. I had progressed in my recovery.  I realized quickly, that I should pray for her and my family all the time, that it's very important.

Don’t Think Too Highly Of Yourself: As I stated before, I felt old during my radiation, and chemotherapy treatments.  I watched the others at the treatment center, every day I was there. Most of them were much older, some were very pitiful, not even able to sit up, very sick.  They would roll them in on beds, give them a treatment, then roll them back to their hospital room.  I am not trying to be insensitive here. It's just that, I have been blessed with very good health, my whole life, up to this point.  Even my parents, and most all of my immediate family, have really never had any bad health issues.  I realized that good health is not guaranteed. I am no better than anyone else and  I don’t necessarily deserve good health.  If you have good health, you are really blessed.  There are so many sick people in this world.  We don’t tend to see them much, unless the sickness impacts your immediate family.  Until I was diagnosed with cancer, I had not been impacted with severe illness.  This was a huge lesson. I'm not taking my health for granted any more!  

One Day At A Time: As discussed above, in times of extreme difficulty, God showed me the verse Matthew 6:34. Why would I not think this would apply, at any time in my life?  Of course it applies!  I need to adopt this teaching Jesus gave us every day; worry only about the cares of today.  The verse tells me that Jesus did not hide the fact that we will experience trouble.  He also did not ignore the fact that we naturally worry about things.  He just urges us to only worry about the trouble of today.  Actually, He urges us not to worry about things, but to bring our troubles to Him, who loves us, and helps us. 

Compassion For Others: Tonya suggested to me, that God may be teaching me, to have even greater compassion for others, especially the sick.  He's teaching me to have empathy with those who are really sick.  Compassion for the sick, is an emotion I do not naturally have. God will have to help me with this. In times of opportunity, God let me see how I can minister to those in need. I shared my story with a friend, and their Bible group. He mentioned that he has a radio series, where he talks about moving from sympathy to empathy, as a result of our experiences.  He thinks that is what God has done in me.

My experience leaves me with a deep appreciation for what God has done for me and my family. I cannot simply let that go and not share it with others. I think of the Apostle Paul, when he returned from his first missionary journey. He shared with the church at Antioch, all that God had done with them and through them. This was done, to encourage the brethren in their church. I think this is a vital part of our Christian responsibility today; to share our experiences, namely what God has done with us, through us, and with all those around us that we love.
Praise God!
Mike Jones

Romans 8:37-39
...In all these things we are more that conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither the height nor the depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus or Lord.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mums!

Part 2 (Tonya & Mike Jones)

There was also another gift from God that greatly encouraged me and helped me to endure during Mike's illness. Mike was pretty sickly, but he would have good days and bad days during his treatments. There was a Saturday when Mike was having a good day, and our family decided to head out to do a quick shopping trip to Costco; to get some basics. After we had finished most of our shopping, I came across some beautiful mums. They were so gorgeous and I wanted them so badly. However, we didn’t have any room in Lydia’s little stroller basket. Both kids were getting tired; it was close to nap time. We didn’t get a buggy because we only needed to grab a few items. To purchase the mums, I was going to have to go back up to the front of the store, get a buggy, then go back to the back of the store, grab them, then go back up front…you get the idea. I wanted them so badly! They were so beautiful.  

However torn, I gave it up since everyone was expiring. I told Mike that maybe I could come back during the week some time and get them. Saturday passed, and when we woke up Sunday morning, Mike was feeling good enough to try to make it out to church. As we were backing out of the garage door, I noticed a big, beautiful pot of mums sitting down on the ground in between the two garage doors! I looked at Mike and thought, how could he have done that? I realized quickly that he didn’t do that. I gasped with excitement, and jumped out of the car. I ran over, picked up the card sitting in the mums, and read it. It was from our precious neighbors across the street, Mrs. And Mrs. Heffington, who also attend services with us at Crossbridge. The card said something along the lines of how they were thinking about us and wanting to do something to let us know that we were on their minds, and that they were praying for us. I couldn’t believe it!! How could she have known?

When I later saw her at church, I told her thank you for the mums, and asked her how she knew that I wanted mums. She said that she didn’t know that I wanted mums. She said that her and Ned were talking, and they were trying to figure out what they could do for us; to let us know they were thinking about us. She said, “Mums just popped into my head.” I then recapped the story to her of the experience I had at Costco the day before, and how I wanted some mums so badly. She was amazed. I told her that I knew who put the idea in her head. I then explained to her, that God was showing me He knew I wanted mums, and He was sending that gift to us, through His servant who listened to His voice. You see, any other flower would have simply been a sweet gift from the Heffingtons, but because it was mums, I knew that it was directly from Him to our family. He gave those to us, because He wanted us to know,  He was with us.

Throughout that difficult time, I definitely asked for and received His continual reassurance that He was watching over our family. He is patient and long suffering with us. If we come to Him asking for reassurance, He will do so, because He loves us that much. It reminds me of the story of Gideon; it is one of my favorites from the Bible. God is so good! He cares about all things concerning His children, big and small, just like we do our own children. He is in the details, and He has proven that to me over and over again in my life. I’m so thankful for His comfort and care. He can console a troubled heart like no other. Praise God! Mike has been healed of cancer!  We could never thank or appreciate our Heavenly Father enough for all that He has done for us. To Him be the glory forever, and ever, Amen!
In His Arms,
Tonya Jones

Judges 6:17
Gideon replied, "If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me."

Monday, July 4, 2011

Rays of Light in the Midst of Dark Times

Part One:

In 2008, my family began a season of trial and darkness. Thankfully, however, that season was often wrapped in hope and light. I've noticed that during the toughest times in my life is when I hunger and thirst for God's presence, providence, and power the most. Oh, I know He's always there with arms wide open continually trying to show me glimpses of Heaven; however, I tend to be so much more aware of His hand in my life during the difficult times. His voice does not leave you or I, but my receiver always works best during the trying periods. I tune in better during those times. I wanted to share with you a few of those precious times during 2008 and 2009 when I heard Him speak to me.
After having discomfort in one of his testicles, my husband, Mike, went to the doctor and was told that he may likely have testicular cancer. The way they find out for sure is by surgically removing the area of concern and running tests to see if it is, indeed cancerous. After Mike had his surgery, the doctor told him that he may need to do radiation treatments  as insurance; to make sure they removed all of the possible cancer cells from his body.  At this time, we were trying to get pregnant with another child. We feared that if it was cancer, and if they recommended radiation, this might possibly prevent us from getting pregnant a second time. I remember telling some girlfriends about our desire to get pregnant. I teared up, explaining that Mike was likely going to have to do radiation treatments. I also told them how I was worried about the effect the radiation might have on our chances of conceiving. Fortunately though, God had a plan. Little did I know at the time, that I was already pregnant with our second child.
God blessed us with this special news on the same day that Mike received his test results back. He did indeed, have testicular cancer. The good news of the pregnancy was a ray of hope in the midst of the bad news blow of cancer. God's timing is always perfect! When Mike was at his doctor visit, completing his last round of radiation, I was in the waiting room reflecting over our past several months. It hit me that we found out the sex of the baby on the same day that his radiation treatments were ending. I was excited to tell Mike what God had brought to my attention. When Mike came out into the waiting room, he began to speak to me. He was on the table getting his last treatment, and he had just realized the special timing of his radiation treatments ending and us finding out the sex of the baby on the same day! It was as if a chapter had been started and completed for us. It was a very special moment as we realized that God told us both in our Spirits at the same time that this was due to His perfect timing. It was another way of God showing us, that He was with us. We were going to have our first baby girl!
Unfortunately, we later found out that the pin point targeted radiation treatments were unsuccessful in curing Mike. They found cancer cells in a different area in Mike’s body. We were told that chemotherapy would be the next step. When Mike began his chemo treatments, we had been blessed with our healthy baby girl, Lydia, who was a few months old now. As you can imagine, the sleepless nights a new baby brings, adjusting to a new routine, an energetic 3 year old boy, and a husband who was sick due to the chemo treatments was a tough combination. It was rough at first; however, God was still with us and He blessed me again in a huge way.

My exhaustion and pity party that I had for myself the first few weeks began to turn into great strength, energy, and joy in the midst of our situation. Brothers and Sisters at church would come up to me and ask me how I was coping with everything. I would tell them that I was doing really good, and I could see their amazement to my response. Some of them would question me and make sure my response was genuine. I reassured them that I really was doing good. I told several of them that I felt as if I had been given an energy that was not my own. I told them that I knew that it was from God because I had never felt anything like it. To a few of my friends, I specifically described it as a supernatural strength and energy. It greatly comforted and sustained me during that difficult season.

Quite some time after Mike’s chemo treatments were over, we were laying in bed one night talking. He told me that he had prayed for me during the entire time of his chemo treatments; and that he had specifically requested that God fill me with His supernatural strength. I looked at him in astonishment when I put two and two together! I realized that God had answered Mike’s faithful prayers during that time. For Mike to consider me, and pray for me like he did in the midst of his own sickness and suffering, and for God to answer his prayers exactly as he requested will touch me for the rest of my life! My love and appreciation for my husband, and for God will continue to be forever changed for the better. Whenever I get down now, I definitely need to remember that time in my life, and what God did for me. He is so awesome!!!
In His Arms,
Tonya Jett Jones

Colossians 1:10-12
And we pray this in order than you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Teresa McFarlen's Testimony

I became very sick in October of 2010. I could not eat. I was losing weight. I had continuous anxiety. I was constantly, deathly, nauseated. I went to a gastroenterologist. She said I would have to wait a week before she could do a colonoscopy and an endoscopy. I got sicker before the week was out and went to the emergency room. I remember lying outside the area where they were going to do a gallbladder test, begging God to please let them find out what was wrong with me. I went in and she did the test.

She looked at me and said my gall bladder was completely full of sludge and I had a gallstone. She also said she had never seen a gallbladder that full of sludge. While in surgery, it was discovered that my gallbladder was badly infected and was removed. I went back to the emergency room a week after the surgery. Once again, I was deathly nauseated. They did an endoscopy. They told me I had acid reflux and a hiatal hernia. I was given nausea medicine by IV and I went back home.

I continued to feel sick and I was passing blood. One night, before I went to bed, I told God, "I am still very sick, I don't know what is wrong, and I don't know what to do. If I am suppose to see more doctors please lead me to the doctors because I have no idea who to see." My daughter called me the next morning and asked me how I was doing. I told her I was still sick. She suggested I go see our gynecologist. I told her I would do that in my spare time. (We were in the process of remodeling a house.) She said she had his number in her phone, and she could make me an appointment. I said OK. She called me back in minutes and said I had an appointment at 11 AM the next day. That just doesn't happen at our doctor's office! I went to see our gynecologist. He found blood in my stool. He said I had to have a colonoscopy immediately, and made me read the Katie Couric story. He told me to make an appointment with his gastro doctor.

I made an appointment with my gynecologist's gastroenterologist. They did the colonoscopy within a couple of days. He removed 90% of a pre-cancer sessile polyp. He had to stop at that point because I kept bleeding. He wanted me to come back in three weeks and remove the rest. (We buried my husband’s father one week before they tried to remove the rest of the polyp. When it rains, it pours.) The doctor could not remove the rest of the polyp. He said they would have to take out part of my colon. He wanted me to go to a specialist, Dr. Bishop, at Trinity Hospital. My husband asked if we could use a surgeon at St. Vincent’s Hospital because that is the hospital we normally use. The doctor said no. We had to use this surgeon because he is the best. So, I went home and scheduled an appointment.

I wasn't listening to God. After I had prayed for God to send me to the right doctor, and I immediately got the appointment, which led me to the specialist; I still wanted to do things my way. Here's what happened when I went with my way:

 I went for a second opinion with a surgeon from St. Vincent’s. She does another sig/flex (colonoscopy in the sigmoid area only); because she says she thinks she can get the polyp out. She could not. She came out and said I needed about 12 inches of my colon taken out. She said that this kind of polyp turns into cancer and has to come out. I was sent home with no after procedure instructions. They used the Michael Jackson drug to put me under. I went for a walk, washed clothes, folded clothes, loaded the dishwasher;  before I realized I was not suppose to be doing any of that stuff. A couple of hours after I got home, I realized I had not been given any after procedure instructions. I found my instructions from the two previous procedures I mentioned above, and realized what a mistake I had just made.

I decided I needed to listen to God. I went to the appointment with the surgeon He had chosen. (the specialist I had spoken about earlier) I was armed with 30 questions. The first was: Do you agree based on my test that I need part of my colon removed and he said, "Not necessarily." John (my husband) and I just sat there with our mouths open. He proceeded to tell us about a new procedure called TEM. He went to Germany to learn the procedure. It required special surgical instruments and the polyp could only be a certain number of centimeters from the rectum. He did an old fashion protoscope and discovered I was a candidate. John pointed to Heaven and thanked God. I said, "Praise the Lord!"

 The ladies in my Wednesday night class laid hands on me and prayed for me the Wednesday before the surgery. I have never had such a feeling of peace in my life. It was Tonya Jones who prayed over me. I thank God for her often; as well as the ladies in the class, and their great faith.

 The surgeon God chose had the words Faith Based Care on their letterhead and business cards. I asked the surgeon to pray for me before he took me into surgery. He said, "That goes without saying." He took my left hand; the anesthesiologist took my right hand, and he began to pray. He prayed that God would guide his hands and every hand that touched me during surgery. He prayed God would guide his mind and decisions he had to make in surgery. It was truly a humble prayer. The first humble surgeon I had ever met. When he got inside the rectum, he discovered his surgical tool was too large to reach the polyp. He said, "I stopped and thought for a minute. Am I going to have to open her up laparoscopically and remove part of her colon?" Then, something told him to reach up and see how elastic my colon was. He did, and it stretched right down to where it needed to be, so he could work on it. He created a new procedure! He cut the polyp out and sewed my colon back together.

It has been 9 weeks since my colon surgery. The pathology report showed the polyp had not become cancer yet and Dr. Bishop got all of the margins. I will be checked again in July with another sig/flex, again in six months, and another colonoscopy in 12 months. This is to make sure the polyp is not trying to grow back.

God guided me directly to each doctor that was suppose to take care of me, as I had asked in my prayer. He also gave me faith filled ladies to pray for me, encourage me, and love me through it. He also gave me a wonderful husband to take care of me after both surgeries. He gave me a wonderful faith builder, Annette Henderson, who prayed for me twice after my surgery. God can always give greater gifts than we ask for.  God has truly blessed me. I praise and glorify his name. I also thank Him for his goodness and mercy. I hope my story will encourage anyone who doubts that God hears our prayers. He hears and he cares. I exalt his holy name!

In Christ,
Teresa McFarland  

Psalms 118:5
In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and He answered by setting me free. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Mike Henderson's Testimony Part 2

When I was 40 years old, I became unemployed. I was miserable and worried. My children were still quite young at the time. John was seven and Elizabeth was only five. My fear and depression were such that I went to a seminar in Montgomery for attorneys suffering with job-related stress. At one of the breaks, an older African American lady, who had seemed very outspoken and brusque during the seminar, walked up to me out of all the people in that large room. Being an attorney, who practiced in Birmingham, I did not know her at all. I had no idea why she would want to talk to me out of the blue. She said, "The Lord has told me to give you a message. You are full of fear. But, the Lord says everything will be all right."

I knew she was right. I was full of fear. I didn't know how to get rid of it.

That following Sunday, I went before the church at Crossbridge. We were meeting at the school back then. I told the church about the lady's message and I confessed I was full of fear, and that I didn't know how to get rid of it. Our church body prayed for me to lose that spirit of fear. Very soon, I experienced a profound sense of peace.

Within a week, I received a call and a job offer. I accepted that job, and have been with the same company for the last eleven years. That is the comforting and providing power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:14, 15
Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, "Abba, Father."

Mike Henderson's Testimony Part 1

When I was 29 years old, I became very sick. I remember being at the office one morning with severe pain and swelling in the lower left hand side of my abdomen. My belly was bloated and I knew something was seriously wrong. I was taken to the emergency room, then admitted to the hospital. The doctors told me, "You have a hole in your colon and its contents are leaking into your belly." They planned to do surgery once they treated the infection with antibiotics. Annette (my wife) had everyone praying for me.

Ron and Lisa Dodson, and Greg and Susan Johnston, my good friends, God bless them, visited me and prayed over me. Just before the surgery was scheduled, the hospital did a follow-up CT scan. Afterwards, my doctor, Dr. Hamer, told Annette and I that he wanted to talk with us. He said, "I don't understand it, and I have no explanation for it. The hole in your colon has closed up. It isn't there anymore."

He showed us the before and after CT pictures. Everything had cleared up. Even though the doctor had no explanation, we told him we knew what had happened. God had healed me. That is the healing power of the Holy Spirit!

Psalm 30:2
O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.