Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Life Change

My boys just returned from church camp on Friday.  They joined together with about 250 other teens from all across the state of Indiana.  They played hard during the daytime competing as teams to win challenges and competitions.  Then in the evenings they gathered together to seek more of God during the services.  It was a life-changing powerful week!

The services were a time where teens and adult leaders could focus more on growing in their relationship with God.  There was a guest speaker that shared each night and an extended time of worship.  For those who don’t know what I mean by worship time… it’s like a really good concert that everyone gets into, but its all for God.

As the evangelist shared each night lives were changed in the altars.  People were healed, broken in God’s presence, and set free from everything imaginable.  God became real… up close and personal.  The intensity of hunger for more of God grew each night as the week went on.  The teens pursued God with all of their hearts in surrender.  It was amazing!

It may sound like I was there, but I wasn’t… not this year!!  But, I remember.  I didn’t have the chance to go to camps like this when I was a teen.  I wish I would have had the opportunity.  It would have transformed my life early on.  

I remember the “camp experience” because I was there… as an adult that is.  My husband and I were in full-time youth ministry for 15+ years.  As a result, I have been to roughly 12 life-changing camps as an adult.  I went as a leader to serve, but in the process of serving… God rocked my world!  Never fail… every camp I went to I came home changed!!!

I was changed for the better… God molded me and shaped me, healed my broken heart, and filled me with His presence.  He used me to encourage and pray for others.  He gave me visions and dreams, filled me with boldness, and grew me deeper in my relationship with Him. 

No matter how old I was or how young the teens were, God rocked our world with equal intensity.  I think we were able to focus more on God, because we left the distractions at home.  It’s a lot easier to connect with God on a deeper level when nothing is holding you back or tying you down.  Oh, how I miss those camp days.  I loved it!

I half wished I could have gone to camp with my boys this year as a leader.  It would have been awesome to witness my own baby boys experiencing all the things we helped our teens experience as youth pastors.  I remember those life-changing, world altering moments.  They bring such a powerful transformation to the heart leaving the life radically changed!  So many amazing memories are rolling through my mind now of lives changes as a result of a week at youth camp.

I cannot imagine me as a teen camper.  I was not your typical teenager.  I was quiet, shy, and almost unnoticeable in a room.  I didn’t have a lot of friends because I would have to talk to them and that wasn’t my strong suit.  I preferred small groups over the crowd and quiet over the noise.  I lived in the shadows hoping nobody would notice me.

I was insecure, nervous, and full of fear.  Many gave up on reaching out to me, because I didn’t really respond in way they would notice.  But what they didn’t know was that God was actually doing a lot in me on the inside.

I took the long route when it came to growing in God.  I guess I was hesitant… not skeptical, but cautious.  I didn’t know if I wanted to relinquish complete control of my life to God.  I was a “control freak” in a quiet way.  I didn’t know how to be any other way.  It was scary for me to think about what God might do if I completely surrendered all areas of my life to Him.

It started with a trickle of God’s presence and then it grew to a downpour.  I couldn’t get enough.   I was probably about 15 years old when my interest was peaked.  I went to a large high school.  There were close to 500 students in my graduating class.  In most of my classes at school I didn’t talk to anyone unless the teacher called on me.  I preferred just watching and listening. 

My family and I went to church, but only on Sundays. I watched the youth across the room from where I sat.  They seemed happy, maybe even a tad bit excited about everything.  I didn’t understand why.  They raised their hands and worshipped God with passion during the music time at church.  Then during the preaching they listened intently, taking notes.  I watched them at school to see if they changed.  You know… acted one way at church and one way at school, but they didn’t

Two particular students stood out to me from within the group.  They were on fire for God!  They ran ahead paving the way for others to follow their radical example for God.  They worshipped more, prayed more, loved people more, and lived it out for all to see.  They were different!  God’s presence radiated from them.  They glowed of God not just when everything seemed to go their way, but also when they struggled.  I watched to make sure.  They had experienced the real deal with God and I wanted it too!!!

I was drawn to the reality of God in them.  I longed for that kind of relationship with God… that kind of joy.  I wanted to shine for God too!  I had to find a way to get to that youth group.  That had to be where all this life-changing stuff was happening.  I was sure of it!  I was too shy to just go alone, so I set out to find someone to invite me.

I found my opportune moment to get myself invited while I was in the girls’ restroom at school.  I saw a girl in there that I had seen at the church across the room.  I didn’t talk to a lot of people, but I felt comfortable talking to her.  I said “hi” when I saw her and asked her if she went to the same church I did.  I knew she did, but since I was invisible she probably didn’t realize I went there too.  She asked if I went on Wednesdays and I said no.  She immediately invited me.   Woohoo… it worked!  Perfect!  I was so excited in my quiet way. 

When the day finally arrived I was a mixture of excited and nervous all together.  My parents dropped me off at the appointed time and the parking lot was swarming with teens.  I looked around frantically for my new best friend… there she was!  She dragged me around and introduced me to everyone.  Way too much talking for me, but secretly I loved it!  Everyone was so friendly!  I was overwhelmed. 

When the service started I was surprised to see teens leading the music and helping in various parts of the service.  The youth pastor shared a powerful message inspiring the teens in their walk with God and followed it by an altar call… a chance to apply what was shared to your heart.  

Many came up front to pray while others turned around in their chairs kneeling and praying quietly.  The presence of God could be felt strongly.  I watched quietly as God moved upon the hearts of my classmates.  They cried, hugged one another, and laughed together.  It amazed me.  I had never seen anything like this before.

Almost immediately I became a regular at the youth group.  Slowly God began to work in my heart.  The more I applied the messages I heard at youth group, the more I grew in God.  As a result, I started praying each day, reading my Bible, and telling people about God.  Slowly I began stepping out of my shy comfort zone.  I started doing new things (for me) like talking to people on my own.  Little by little God began to transform my life.  Some where during this time, I recommitted my life to God and became serious about following through with my decision.

A couple years of youth group led to more church involvement, graduation from high school, and eventually Bible College where I grew even more.  Bible College pushed me WAY out of my comfort zone.  I learned so much about God’s word, prayer, and living out what I believe.  I was challenged by the lives of other believers who went there and godly professors who led us.  It was a life-changing season for me.

It seems fitting that it was there, in Bible College that I met my husband.  He was one of those fireballs for God.  He has yanked me out of my comfort zone more than once at God’s beckoning and as a result I am not the same. 

I am so radically different today than when I was a teenager.  I’m SO different that old friends from school wouldn’t even recognize me.  God has done some amazing things in me!  

Would you believe God has allowed me to preach in churches, teach a camp full of girls on purity, lead a bunch of women’s groups, and speak at some women’s conferences?  I am even writing a book.  I am shocked at God’s handiwork in my life!  I am not that same shy girl from high school anymore.  God has brought about a life change in me.

It is that same kind of life change that I long for my boys to experience.  God, I pray that they would become who you created them to be.  Release them to run after you, stir up a hunger within them for more, and help them to never be satisfied with anything else.  May their lives be forever changed by your handiwork God.

God, would you continue to change me too to become more like You?  May I never stop chasing after you and hungering for more.  You’ve done so much in me so far, I can’t wait to see what else you have in store.  I love this adventure you have me on.  It is amazing!  As I continue to chase after you, may I never be the same!


2 Corinthians 5:17 says…

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (NKJV)

I experienced new life in God.  I became a new creation.  If you haven’t experienced this for yourself, you can.  Message me and I can give you more details.  God is the real deal friend.  It’s time for a life change!

Living to leave a legacy,