The Spirit Contemporary Life

For a long time, I've had a desire to minister to people on a one-on-one basis and by the leading of the Holy Spirit. But, I've not known how to do that without freaking out myself and the people I'm trying to minister to.

After I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and began to move with the charismatic church, I learned some strange behaviors associated with the Holy Spirit. (If you've been a part of the charismatic church at all in the past 20 years or so, you know what I'm talking about.) And, while some of those behaviors have been legitimate and even necessary at times, they have not always been legitimate and necessary. So, over the past few years, I've nearly given up on.... God.... really.

I've nearly given up on being led by the Holy Spirit.

But, it's difficult to completely let go of the Holy Spirit when your life has been so profoundly changed by him. It's difficult to let go when he won't let go of you.

He is faithful to us.

And one way he is faithful to us is to periodically send prophetic people to proclaim a much needed message in order to get his people back on track. I believe that Leon Fontaine's book, The Spirit Contemporary Life, is one such much needed message.

The Spirit Contemporary Life is a book that challenges everyday, Spirit-filled Christians to minister one-on-one to people through the leading of the Holy Spirit - in a natural and relevant manner. In his book, Fontaine relates many of his experiences - working as an EMT, in his family life, and in his everyday life - of ministering the miraculous in a natural way. Alongside of this, he addresses mentalities and habits that have not been healthy for the growth of the church - especially the charismatic church.

One habit Fontaine addresses is extravaganza to the detriment of God's glory. That is, charismatic ministers and believers have had the tendency to believe that God will not heal someone or help someone without them putting on some kind of show - shouting, jumping, abra-cadabra, or whatever. Or, that they have to be some kind of big-time stage evangelist in order for God to minister the miraculous to someone through them. The problem is that this habit and belief draws attention and points to the minister instead of pointing to and giving glory to Jesus Christ. Fontaine encourages his readers that they do not have to be strange or big in order for God to work in the miraculous through them, and he gives many practical examples from his own life and from the lives of people in his congregation.

Another habit Fontaine addresses, that I appreciated in particular, was the language that Christians use in their evangelistic efforts. He admonishes that when we are talking with people, we probably want to avoid using all of this Bible language that we as Christians are prone to use in our fellowship with one another. It is appropriate to use phrases like "the blood of Jesus Christ" and "spiritual attack" in a Christian setting. But, if we use these phrases with people outside of our faith, it will be very strange to them. Along with this, Fontaine encourages his readers about the power of their personal stories and testimonies of their encounters with God.

Fontaine has many good things to say in this book, and I do highly recommend it. Of course, as with all books, I don't agree with everything he writes. I do encourage that readers have personal, extended time of fellowship with the Lord and with reading the Bible so that, whenver you read any book, you can discern for yourself what can be taken from the Lord and what can be discarded.

(BTW: I did receive a copy of this book for free from Blogging For Books, in exchange for an honest review.)

On Why I Chose English as My Major

Alright, Mrs. L, well, you asked me a question, and I am grateful for that. I like that. I like how you ask questions. It shows me that you care about me - my life. And, it shows me that maybe you like a good story, and that you like to learn. Definitely that you like to learn. I used to ask questions, but I got discouraged a bit along the way. I pray God will help me to ask questions again, like you.

Your question was: "Your choice of English as your major, was it mission field driven, or just a degree?"

Well, I've always been good in English language arts. In high school, that was the one subject area that I thrived in. I was a good writer, and I liked to read, and on the various standardized tests, I always scored highest on the language arts sections. But, overall in school, I admit, I was an underachiever. I pin that to various factors in my life, but most of all, lack of fellowship with Jesus Christ and the various life perils that can come along with that. The irony about that though, was that THAT was the one thing that I deeply and subconsciously wanted to pursue the most in my life - Jesus Christ. And, because of that, the only thing that I ever desired to be in life as a teenager, was a "missionary". So, even though I didn't have the fullness of Jesus in my life, I wanted to be a missionary.

After I graduated from high school, I thought I would go to a Bible school, but that didn't work out. And so I became depressed and was without direction for about 6 months. In October of that year (that was 1998) I got a job at the child care center my mom was working at. But, even with that, I was depressed and desperately seeking God for direction in my life. Almost every day after work, I would walk up to the top of a farmyard hill that was outside of our neighborhood, and I would sit on a haystack with my journal and I would cry and cry and pray and pray for God to help me. I wasn't even sure that God was real, but I prayed anyway because that was the only thing I knew to do. Typically, I stayed there for a long time, praying and observing nature until the sun set, and then I would go home.

Thank God I wasn't completely alone and isolated during that time, as I was participating in the college/young adult ministry at my church. Besides attending Sunday night services, I was also involved in a small group with other young ladies of the ministry.

It was in January of 1999 when I met a young lady full of the Holy Spirit. She was a member of the same young adult fellowship, but a part of a different small group that another one of my friends was a part of - that's how we met. She was so full of life and love, and she patiently ministered that same life and love to me. She asked me and some other ladies of the young adult ministry to be her housemate for that summer. In the fall, she and I, and another friend became housemates for an entire year. It was during that year that I was introduced to and received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, making my life in Jesus Christ complete.

To make a long story shorter, after that year, I moved to Evansville, Indiana in order to be with a church in which my Spirit-filled friend had introduced me to. It was there that I was able to fully pursue Jesus Christ and receive much support, and training in my fellowship with the Lord. One thing that I learned during that time was that to be a missionary meant to build the kingdom of God right where I was. If I could not build God's kingdom right where I was, how did I expect to build God's kingdom in a place that I was unfamiliar with?

After about two years in Evansville, one day when I woke up I sensed the Holy Spirit saying to me, "It's time to go to school." So, immediately that day I began the college enrollment process. I called my parents and asked them for financial support, which they freely and happily gave. When I entered school, I really did not know exactly what I should study, but I tentatively enrolled in the English department; my advisor was from the English department.

For one semester I thought I would go into social work because I wanted to be in an occupation where I could help people, and so I took a semester of courses (including an intro to social work) toward that goal. But, after that semester, I realized that if I was really going to help anyone it would have to be through the power of the Gospel, and social work would not permit that. And so, I really felt strongly that it didn't matter what occupation I was in. If I was going to help people through the Gospel, I could do that in whatever occupation I found myself in, and so I just decided to go into what I loved, was good at, and what wasn't a sin - English language arts. I also loved studio art, and so I also eventually minored in studio art.

So, while I have always been somewhat mission field driven, my decision to major in English was not a direct decision based on missions. I concluded that God could use me right where I was, for the people who were around me, with whatever it was that He put inside of me.

On Perspective, Change, and Jerry Naylor

On the last day of school, I picked the kids up early. We packed up our suitcases, bags and travel activities, and we headed north, away from the crowd - schools crowded with students, sky crowded with trees, streets crowded with cars, and land crowded with buildings.

We hadn't been to Indiana in two years, so when we arrived late in the night and the next morning I took a walk to the edge of the neighborhood I grew up in, everything seemed so small and insignificant. Even with the newly expanded I-69 running past the neighborhood, it all felt small.

At the same time, it seemed that all that would soon change.

The houses that were still left at the edge of the neighborhood would perhaps soon be overshadowed by the expanded intersection. What is the plan for that intersection, anyway? An exit ramp? An overpass? Whatever the plan is, I imagine it all someday becoming very suburban.

It's funny. I used to think that place was already suburban, but my perspective has shifted since living in the metro ATL. Now I see how rural my childhood neighborhood actually is. I see how rural and small the whole town is. And that really is what it is: a town. My B-town.

But with that I-69 running through there now, I can imagine my dream becoming reality. I had a dream once, that I was driving through Bloomington with some friends, and as we drove through, it was all very busy. There were flashing city lights and tall buildings and twisty overpasses. It may be like that some day.

For now though, it is just so small. It took less than ten minutes - maybe about five - to drive from the north side of town to the south side, where my parents live. And everything goes in  s   l   o   w    m   o   t   i   o   n.

While we were in Indiana, on Sunday, we fellowshiped with the church I grew up in. After the service, I talked with a friend who had been living in Mexico City for the past 5 years of his life. He moved back to the U.S. not long ago and is now in Chicago. He said when he moved to Chicago - as busy as it is - it seemed so small and spacious to him. I wonder what he'd think about Atlanta.

I suppose perspective really is everything.

I talked with another friend on that Sunday. It was my hope that I'd get a chance to see Jerry Naylor. And I did, praise God. He hadn't died or wasn't homebound. He was there outside of the sanctuary after the service. He was sitting at a table, talking it up with a couple of his older friends. Prof. K. and I approached the happy group. The older couple snagged my Naija-man for some African talk - Africans are a rare treat in those parts - and I greeted my old friend and settled down in a chair at the table with him.

When I was a kid, our family occasionally took dinner with the Naylor family. Jerry Naylor was always telling stories. He told stories about all of his travelling - he was a hobo at some point in his life. And, he told stories about how Jesus saved him, and how he was an academic failure, but how God used, and still uses, his life anyway.

As a kid, I didn't really understand all of the stories he used to tell, and honestly at some point during the dinners, I got bored and mentally checked out in order to fully enjoy dessert and then go play in the other room with my siblings. But, something about Jerry always attracted me.

It wasn't until about a year after Ayo was born that I understood what it was. We stayed with the Naylors in the summer of 2007 so that I could complete my bachelor's degree. When you live with someone day-in and day-out, you get to know them very well. I realized, then, that Jerry was Holy Spirit filled - that's what had attracted me to him as a kid. 

After I had been filled with the Holy Spirit in 2000, and then spent time with the Naylors after all those years in 2007, it all made sense. Jerry made sense. He became my new best friend because my Deep could understand his Deep. So, while we were living there, almost every evening, he carried on in typical Jerry form with his stories and talk of miracles, evangelism, testimonies and at that time, Bill Johnson in Redding, California.

Lately, I've been asking God to help me to talk and tell stories like Jerry does. Not just that, but to evangelize like Jerry does. Because of that, I was so grateful that I got a chance to visit with him while we were in Bloomington.

Again, in typical Jerry form, he talked and talked. This time it was of his salvation, and his Holy Spirit-led, one-on-one evangelism experiences. He relayed a story he had just told to Ayo before I sat down with him. When he was a boy, there was a girl who was about nine or ten years old (the same as Ayo is now) who questioned him about his salvation. He told about how much that little girl's question had really got him to thinking about his life. She had planted a seed in his heart. He told Ayo that story because he knew the power of his testimony, and that his words could inspire her - plant a seed in her heart. I was grateful.

Prof. K. eventually sat down with us, and after Jerry greeted "Kool-Aid", he told another story. One day he sat down at the mall in order to test out a theory about the types of people who visit malls - shoppers, walkers, and people escaping life problems. He asked God to lead him to one of these ones who had problems, and needed to know Jesus Christ. He sat down and a man came and asked to sit down next to him. After a bit of conversation, the man opened up to Jerry about his life and Jerry was able to tell him about Jesus and give him words of encouragement and hope.

He told us several other stories. He mentioned a book that he had read that had encouraged him in his evangelistic ministry - Surprised by the Voice of God, by Jack Deere. (I ordered a copy of it for myself later that night.) Before our visit together ended, I asked him to pray for us - Prof. K. and I. Pray that we can evangelize like he does - naturally, relevantly, and led by the Holy Spirit.

He prayed for us.

And it feels like something's about to change.