The Broken Way

I first met Ann Voskamp in April 2010, after Ireti was born. I wasn't looking for a writer to read, or a ministry for my starving soul - although I needed both. I was looking for a writing outlet - a job, really. Money and purpose were driving me. Through a Google search I found the inCourage website and felt like I wanted to or could write for the website. And I wanted to get a feel for the kind of writing the curators published, and so I browsed the writers's bio page.

On that bio page, it was Ann's face (that exuded a holy, humble beauty) that struck me in the holiest parts of my soul - that is, in the Christ in me. Along with her, I took note of other writers whose blogs I wanted to take time later to read through. As a busy, stay-at-home-mom of two preschoolers and a newborn, when I did find time to sit down to read through those blogs, it was Ann's that drew me in most. The thing that moved me first and foremost about Ann's writing was that it fed my spirit. It fed my fellowship with God, and it fed my relationships with everyone else. And then as a writer and aspiring language arts teacher, it was her writing itself that got me next. I was super impressed with how she poetically weaved in her main topic throughout an entire blog post and then subtly brought it back into blaring focus at the end. And she had this way with allusion, alliteration, repetition, lists, and getting right down into the very real, dirty and beautiful heart of a matter. I kept her blog a secret for the longest time. It was too good to be shared out to just anyone and every-busy-body out there. But then eventually, I did share it with my mom, and a "knowing" friend. (You know the one I'm talking about - the one friend who knows and gets "it" - a "knowing" friend.)

Gratitude was the message that God was trying to penetrate my hardened heart with at that time and He spoke it to me as the main dish through Ann, and on the side by other means. It was the fish principle that finally broke me open and propelled me into the practice of gratitude. After that, I was disciplined in gratitude through Ann's gratitude reflections, which she would post on her blog usually once a week until she published her book, One Thousand Gifts. While I appreciated One Thousand Gifts, I must confess I so much more appreciated Ann's blog and social media ministry. For two or three years I followed Ann and learned much just by "watching" her online.

Ann later published a One Thousand Gifts Devotional, which I appreciated most because of its reflections on gratitude (like on her blog) that I can go back to and meditate on at any time - and I can do it offline. And that's really what I want to get at here, about Ann's writing. Her writing is the kind of writing that can be read over and over again because of the way it points back to Jesus Christ and the truths of the Bible - because of it's devotional nature - which is what I am most excited about with Ann's new book.

The Broken Way, which will be released tomorrow, is a book that I will go back to and read over and over again. In the book, Ann shares her story of realizing that living a broken life is the way to living a miracle life. It's when we allow ourselves to be broken - in essence, to be imperfect human beings - that we can then be put back together again. And we are put back together again only by Jesus Christ, who was broken and given for us.

Somehow, admitting our brokenness and allowing ourselves to be broken, and then holding on to Jesus in our brokenness and trusting that He will put us back together again - through His church or through whatever means He chooses - is the way to live free and whole and miraculously. God wants us to live a broken life before Him so that He can put us together and make us whole and complete, and that is the crux of the message of Voskamp's book. (That's the crux of the message of the Bible, no?) And that is why I will read The Broken Way again... and highly recommend it to my "knowing" friends and readers.

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 out of a book, 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.