Monday, December 3, 2018

Sunflowers in God's Garden

Recently, my husband and I visited a beautiful young couple who live in a rural area south of us. Several years ago, they moved from an amazing home in the city to a home that had been in their family for years, a home that needed a lot of love.

Their remodel of this old home reminds me of the remodels done by Chip and Joanna Gaines on HGTV.

In the midst of the remodel, this couple made an unusual request, one I'd never done before and one I've not done since.  "Will you come and write upon the walls of our home?" Of course, I said yes. I delight in the unusual which usually doesn't seem so unusual after I get started.

On a cloudy, misty morning, I journeyed to this home in rural Alabama armed with a collection of writings (songs, poems, quotes, scripture) and several Sharpies. What I found were the bare bones of a house - exposed studs and insulation, plastic, subflooring, old hardwood floors, exposed plumbing, etc. The demo of this house would bring a smile to old Chipper.

 I began to write on . . . and to sing in this house. I don't remember what I wrote or what I sang, but I do remember that deep peace that settles over a place when the presence of the Lord fills a space.

I awakened a couple of weeks ago remembering this moment. (I really haven't thought about in years.) What happened in this couple's home is similar to what happens in God's home - our hearts.

The scriptures say that God is always looking for a home, a resting place, a place in which He can dwell.

Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool.
Where then is a house you could build for Me?
Where is a place that I may rest?
~ Isaiah 66: 1
Our response should be:
Here, O Lord, have I prepared for You a home.
Long have I desired for You to dwell.
Here, O Lord, have I prepared a resting place.
Here, O Lord, I wait for You alone.
~ "Resting Place"
a song written by Daphne Rademaker
When we come to God and ask Him to inhabit our heart, He does a demo Chip Gaines' style. Nothing is left but the skeleton, the bones of the home. Next, He does something wonderful, something mysterious and beautiful.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.
~ Ezekiel 36: 26
I will deposit my instructions deep within them,
and I will write them on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
~ Jeremiah 31: 33
I have been thinking about obedience a lot lately. When anyone mentions the word obedience, we usually think about God whispering something to us that He wants us to do.
However, the obedience coin is a two-sided coin. On one side are those special missions that God has asked us to complete. This is the "do-ing" side of obedience.
The other side of the coin involves "be-ing," everyday 24-7 living. This side of the coin is where the words that God has written on our hearts actually take possession of us and guide our everyday lives and interactions with others and with God Himself.
This is where we take Christ's words into our will so that we can keep them in our actual lives.
I don't know if one side of the obedience coin is more important than the other, but in my experience the "do-ing" does not get done, is not even heard unless the "be-ing" is intact.
Our friends' house is completed now including vegetable and flower gardens, fencing, a good sized pond, and landscaping. Unfortunately, a tornado recently targeted their homestead (only home in that area damaged). Thankfully, only a corner of their home was touched by the storm. They did lose many of their old, stately trees. When we last visited, they had just finished installing the new roof. I am so thankful that their home still stands and that these sweet friends survived the storm.
Thank you, Father, for letting us connect in this world. Thank you for all the sweet things this couple has done for me. They have blessed me so many times - meals in both their homes, flowers and soup and homemade bread and jam when I was too ill to cook for myself, fresh veggies from their own garden grown and harvested by their own hands, words of encouragement and hugs and laughs. And did I mention flowers?
No one leaves their home or them with empty hands or without feeling loved. On our last visit, we came home with freshly harvested sweet "taters" that still had the dirt clinging to their roots and an armload of the biggest, most beautiful sunflowers I've ever seen . . . and feeling loved.
Thank you, my sweet friends, for being living sunflowers of God's love in our lives.
P.S. Those sweet "taters" made an awesome sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving. YUM!



Wednesday, October 31, 2018


contemplation: the action of looking thoughtfully at something for a long time; deep reflective thought; serious and quiet thought for a period of time; to consider something with attention

Yes, I awoke this morning thinking about . . . thinking.

Contemplation is almost a lost art. Why? It requires time and silence and patience. 

Our culture today is literally addicted to noise and busy-ness and immediacy. 

When was the last time you literally sat in silence for any length of time or could find a place void of noise? When was the last time you were not rushing around flitting from one task/place to another? When was the last time you actually sat patiently waiting (not talking about the drive-thru or the checkout)? 

Our culture seems to fear silence and empty schedules and waiting.

Seriously, the noise of this world is deafening. The pace of this world is dizzying. The demand for immediate gratification is distracting. Deaf . . . dizzy . . . distracted . . . sound familiar?

This is not the way we were designed to live. We were designed to be alert and aware and atune to God. Read almost anywhere in scripture, and you'll find admonitions to be still and know, to wait patiently, to be alert and listening, to be focused.

In a worship service, the music and the teaching and the prayers are designed to make us think about God. This thinking is the beginning of ALL worship, a joining of heart and mind. 

It's hard to adore something/someone that you're not thinking about. It's impossible to follow someone if you're not listening to him. It's difficult to receive instruction if you're not waiting to hear. 

Remember falling in love? Remember all the time spent thinking about that special someone, longing to please him, desiring to be with him? Remember how everything else and everyone else suffered because of that special someone, that person who illuminated and filled your empty soul? 

I too am guilty. The noise and the rush and the immediacy of life on our planet affect me as well.

We absolutely MUST make quality time and space for God in our lives. It is essential for our spiritual health and growth. Without it, our intimate relationship with God will suffer.

Julian of Norwich (1342-1413), a British mystic who had an intimate, ongoing vision of divine love which she recorded for all history (because she made time and space for God in her life), offers some advice which will "never fail to lead you to the spiritual wellspring that issues health and strength to your soul."
  • Think on the suffering of Jesus. He gave up heaven to become FULLY man, was tempted in ALL things as we are, and experienced EVERY kind of anguish we can feel. He WILLINGLY suffered a criminal's bitter death, though innocent. He died in OUR place, for OUR sin.
  • Fix your soul upon our heavenly Lover. His love is UNFAILING. He KNOWS our weaknesses, yet His compassion places Him EVER at our side to help us in ALL of life.
  • Set your soul upon the high and noble nature of the King who lives inside. He is sovereign over ALL. As we absorb this truth, an UNSHAKABLE trust will evolve. [It's extremely difficult to trust someone we do not know.] As we trust Him, we will begin to see Him, to know Him as He REALLY is. He is from everlasting to everlasting, containing ALL that is created in Himself, sovereign over EVERYTHING that comes into our lives. 
We could spend our lifetime getting to know the Lover of our souls, but to do this we MUST learn how to enter His rest (Hebrews 4-6). 

  • This walk of faith "will lead us to our ONLY Hope." 
  • This walk of faith "will break our hearts with godly sorrow when we sin." 
  • This walk of faith "will daily renew our soul's devotion to Christ . . . and thereby we remain in the comforting presence of the Lord." 
  • This walk of faith will keep "our soul open to the inner working of grace, which IS the power of our Lord God to fill us with everlasting life." 
Let's do something about our addiction to noise and busy-ness and immediacy.

How? Get up a little earlier than usual.
Deny yourself the lure of social media or 24-hour news.
Turn on the silence in the car instead of Sirius.
Talk to God just like you would to a human.
Take a walk, sit in a swing, look at the stars, enjoy a cup of joe.
Learn how to say "no."
Stop comparing your life with another's and feeling sad when it's not as marvelous.
AND THINK . . . lest we be destroyed by a lack of knowledge of God.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Woke up this morning thinking about the right hand of God.  Nope.  No tequila last night.  Just one of those moments.  

I have read through the scriptures many times, but never have I ever seen mentioned the left hand of God.  Yes, the hands of God are mentioned, but never the left hand of God.

Is God right handed?  Sorry, my lovely lefties.

I have been fascinated with this right hand phenom for 25+ years.  I even have Bibles with RH, RH, RH, RH inserted in the margins throughout.  Several times I thought about researching this right handed thingy and writing a book or something about it, but life always interrupted until I encountered yet another right hand.

So, what is this thing with God's right hand?

Throughout scripture we see reference upon reference about His mighty right hand (and arm).  We see this right hand dole out mercy after mercy after mercy.  We also see it deliver judgment and punishment.  Furthermore, we also discover that Jesus sits at the right hand of God Almighty, so maybe the right side stands for divine authority over ALL.

There is a passage in the Old Testament that describes the initiation ceremony of the early priests.  In these first priests, the ceremony involved an anointing section.  In this ceremony, the priests were anointed on their right ear lobe, right thumb/hand, and right toe/foot.  I understand the symbolism: anointing their hearing, their doing, and their going.  But why not the whole body?  Later the anointing involved pouring the oil on the head and letting it flow over the whole body.  If I'm going to be anointed, let me be like Peter and cry out for more - "not just my feet, Lord."  Why not all of me?

FYI:  When I began praying for people a long time ago, (you know, touching them with my hand) I noticed that my right hand vibrated and trembled, not the left.  I've experimented many times, but my left hand just did not feel God's power like my right.  So what's up with that?  Only God knows.  I love the mystery of it all.

So how did my fascination with God's righthandedness begin?

Well, to begin we'll have to start with the end . . . of the Bible - Revelation.  There we'll find perhaps one of the most beautiful references about God's right hand.

John was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the word of God and for his testimony about Jesus.  While worshiping one day, he had a vision of Jesus, a revelation.

I saw seven gold lampstands. And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man.  He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across His chest.  His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow.  And His eyes were like flames of fire.  His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and His voice thundered like mighty ocean waves.  He held seven stars in His RIGHT HAND, and a sharp two-edged sword came from His mouth.  His face was like the sun in all its brilliance.

When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as if I were dead.  [Here's the good part.]  But He laid His RIGHT HAND on me and said, "Don't be afraid!  I am the First and the Last.  I am the living one.  I died, but look - I am alive forever and ever!  And I hold the keys of death and the grave.

If God, the Son, Jesus, were holding these stars in His RIGHT HAND, then what did Jesus have to do to comfort John?  Yep, lay down the stars.  

Jesus laid down these stars which weren't just ordinary stars and took the hand He had used to hold these stars and touched John.  Wow!  "Don't be afraid!"

How many times has Jesus done just this for me?  I cannot count the times, maybe even more than once a day.  How many times has He whispered to my heart, "Don't be afraid!  I am the Living One.  I hold it all in my hands [my mighty right hand]."

This is a beautiful story of hope in the midst of the whatevers of life.  John's whatever was being exiled on an island.  My whatevers have been numerous and varied.  However, God, the Holy Son, Jesus never fails to come and whisper those sweet words to my trembling heart.

This is why I am fascinated with the mighty right hand of God. 

P.S. Guess what showed up in my devotional reading this morning AFTER I had written this.  Yep, the right hand of God.  God and I had a good chuckle.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

[Sometimes you wake up in the morning
to the sound of a knock on your heart's door.
The visitor is not always welcome.
Happened to me last week.]

Doubt crept in.

"God is good, BUT - - -
Is He good to ME?"

Others get what I desire.
Feel overlooked,
not important enough,
easy to dismiss or ignore,
alone in the midst of this wild, painful place.

"How can I sing Your praise in a heathen land?"

Hate to confess these things.
Feel awful for feeling this way - - - guilty, bad.
KNOW I am blessed and loved
but don't FEEL that way today.

Light suddenly shoved His way through the doorway, the darkness.
Rushed in like a WWE wrestler clearing the ring.

"You know me when no one is looking and life isn't working.
You see me - ALL of me - and You delight in me.
You remind me that the pain, the darkness
creates a vacuum for MORE - - -
a hunger, a thirst to live, to be alive."

Why am I not as hungry when things are "good,"
when life is right and easy and not as mysterious?

You exert no pressure.
You are no authoritarian coach yelling blasphemies from the sidelines.
Your process [RTR] is alive with mercy and grace and forgiveness.
My answers lie solely in You.

I am NOT forgotten.
He is here - Immanuel - very near - God with me.
And He is good, is goodness itself.

Yes, I am weak, but His grace isn't.
His wings overshadow me ALWAYS.

Finally, I admit the anxiety.
"Am I enough?
Do I displease or annoy as I so often do others, 
especially those I love or desire to love?

Faintly He whispers,

To a hungry soul,
even the bitter is sweet. [Proverbs 27: 7]
Hope exists in this lonely land. [Psalm 27: 13]

I have found Life and Love in barren places.
Today, I rest in Your delight.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Helping Hands

Jesus said, " I am the vine. You are the branches." Each leaf, each piece of fruit, each limb, each vine are all part of the whole tree. Because of this connection, each is affected by the life of the other. One of the things I so loved about John Wimber was his love for the whole body of Christ. 

Here are a few current needs in the body of Christ and some suggestions for helping with these needs.

Many members of our fellowship have recently expressed concern over several situations, desiring to help in some way. Gadsden Vineyard will be helping in EACH situation listed below and is inviting you to partner with us.
  • David Finlayson - I have spoken to Gina. Foremost, they need our prayers, specifically that the transplant would occur in 2018 (they have met their deductible for 2018) and that the donor testing would be completed swiftly. Please pray specifically for these requests. Furthermore, there are and will continue to be expenses before, during, and after the transplant. They are currently having to travel between three different hospitals - one in TN, one in GA, and one in AL. All of the required tasks and travels require time, energy, and money. A GoFundMe page has been established, but a percentage of the money donated at this site is kept for site maintenance. Plus, cashing out is not swiftly done. GVC offers another option. We will be receiving donations on their behalf. Donations can be dropped off in the Sunday morning offering basket, in the bookstore payment box, or in the mail drop. Place the donation in an envelope and earmark it accordingly. Donations can also be sent through the mail or through paypal (be sure to mark the donation button to prevent a percentage from being held out). As this is an ongoing long term need, GVC will be collecting donations as long as needed.
  • The Barnetts - John and Marie's daughter recently died. Both of them have been a blessing to GVC, especially to our musicians and worship leaders. Please remember them in prayer. If you would like to join with us in a gift of love for them, please do so by September 1. The same donation instructions apply.
  • The CA Fires - AVC has asked for prayers and donations for our Vineyard family and neighbors in CA. There are Vineyard churches in the area (all safe) who are helping in the relief efforts. Again, you may partner with us in prayer and in donating to these relief efforts. Please do so by September 1.
Thank you for your prayers and for your generosity. 

God bless!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Why Vineyard?  Part 2

"I am the vine. You are the branches."

If you look closely at the above pic, you'll see an elderly vine that is very much alive and fruitful. The leaves and the fruit are thriving and beautiful. Both the vine and the branches are doing what they were created to do TOGETHER. 

This pic depicts the church in God's kingdom. Jesus is the vine; He fulfilled the will of God. We are His branches; our duty is to stay connected to the vine (to Him) and to also fulfill the will of God. 

John 15: 4-5
Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine and you are the branches. The one who remains in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from Me, you can do NOTHING.

This verse is pretty much the backbone of Vineyard philosophy.

In the Vineyard movement, I found the "more" I was looking for. I found the "living" kingdom of God. I spent the first half of my life blindly living for God, but when I encountered the Vineyard movement, I met the KING and immediately fell in love with ALL that He is. From then on, I no longer served out of a sense of Biblical duty; I now serve because I love HIM. I love the King, and I love what and whom He loves. I don't know how good I am at  this, but I am trying. 

The Kingdom of God

John Wimber's life message was about the Kingdom of God. He taught it, lived it, and demonstrated it all over the world in all kinds of churches (yes, even the ones that handle snakes). He loved the King, and He loved what the King loved - the kingdom, the people of God - the church, the Bride of Christ.

 Again, it would take a book to communicate what John valued. He was notorious for repeating these values in his sermons. I remember hearing him say in one sermon after another: "I'll stop teaching on this when you get it. Okay? "

For instance, I cannot remember how many times I've heard him say the phrase "time, energy, and money." He would say something like this: Show me how you spend your time, energy, and money, and I'll show you what you truly value and love. 

He  just told things the way they were. What follows are a few of the values that really shaped me and my life.

Biblical Literacy vs. Biblical Obedience

John taught that it was not enough to know the Bible. We should seek to know the God of the Bible, to have a living, personal relationship with Him which will result in a love that freely desires to obey Him (to be fruitful). 

Throughout the first half of my life I was probably Biblically literate and was as obedient as I could be with the truth that I had. However, something was missing, the "more" I was searching for. I found that "more" in a personal, intimate relationship with God. Having that kind of relationship with God will change you. It will transform your heart and life and your values.

Worship and Service

A personal relationship with the living God will result in love - love for God and love for what He loves - those whom He has created. This being with God and loving Him precedes the doing. The being and the doing are both important, but it's difficult to do the doing without the being first occurring.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment of all was to love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He didn't stop there. We are also to love our neighbor as ourselves. He said that doing these two things fulfilled the entire law of God.

John taught that worship was a choice we make to honor God with all that we are and all that we have. Music is only a small part of that. If we love God, we are to do everything as if we are doing it for Him. It's all about Him. Everything we have is a blessing from Him, and everything we do and say should bless and honor Him.

Koinonia - Kinships

John valued community. A kinship is really just a small group of people who usually meet in homes once a week or a couple of times a month. These groups provide community especially in light of all the things trying to tear us apart in this world.

John's first church actually began as a home group which grew and grew until they had to split to form two groups. This continued to happen until they were large enough to hold a weekly service usually in a rented facility at first.
Thus, the Vineyard Movement was born.

These home groups were usually comprised of three or four parts: fellowship and some sort of food, a brief teaching, worship, and a time of prayer and ministry. The majority of work accomplished in a church was done in these meetings. Things could be said and done here that couldn't be said and done easily in large a morning service. Most of the leadership in the Vineyard churches at large was identified and trained in these safe, small settings.

It has been my privilege to have been part of numerous home groups over the past 34 years, and I thank God for each of those. During those times together, I have seen God move mightily. I love the people I met in these kinships and am so thankful for them. 

FYI: The word "kin" actually means "to know." Our American Indians used the words "kin" and "love" synonymously. To love someone was to know them; to "kin" them was to love them. There is intimacy implied in the terms, the kind of intimacy shared by husband and wife. As we kinned each other, we grew to kin God more and more. It was all interconnected. 

Jesus' Mission Is Our Mission

What was Jesus' mission? The first time Jesus spoke at synagogue, He made this announcement: The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me because He has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the captives. The blind will see; the oppressed will go free. (Luke 4: 18-19 / Isaiah 61: 1-2)

As believers, we are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. He did what He saw His father doing; He said what He heard His father saying. We are to partner with Him and to follow the leading of His spirit - to do and say what we see and hear Him doing and saying.

And to quote John: "Everyone gets to play." This "doing the stuff" is not for pastors and worship leaders and elders and leadership only. It is for ALL of us. Each of us has an important part to do, and no part is small or less important than the other. Each part is vital to the health of the body and to the mission. 

One of John's most powerful sermons was on the power of Holy Spirit. He taught that the Spirit's power is for a holy purpose. It's not just an experience.
It's not to be sought to build ourselves up. It's to be used to further the Kingdom's business is some way. "We are just a coin in God's pocket to be spent as He desires."

Equipping the Saints - Ephesians 4: 11-12

I realize that many churches today have jumped on the motto "equipping to serve," but I honestly believe the Vineyard Movement was the first to express this. This phrase sort of became their motto.

Christ Himself has given gifts to the church. These gifts come in human form in the guise of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Yes, your pastor and mine are gifts from God. So are your elders and teachers. So are your worship leaders.

Their main responsibility is to equip God's people, not their people, to do His work and help build up the church, the body of Christ. 

Why equip the people? So that we ALL can attain maturity in the Lord. In other words, so that we would GROW UP.  John loved to say, "I want to grow up before I grow old." Attaining maturity and pursuing holiness in Christ should be our goals.

Jim, Wayne, and I took this seriously.  In the beginning we bought three of everything, one for each of us. Then we would read it and have long discussions about what we had read or heard. If we couldn't purchase three, we bought the one and shared it. We would each mark the book in a specific way. (I recently found a book that had all three markings in it.) Then we began to purchase literally hundreds of  books, tapes, tracts, albums and music cassettes and gave them away or allowed people (usually students) to borrow them. We gave away Bibles. We attended meetings and conferences and took people with us. We invited people to help minister with us. We taught classes at the church and in our students' homes and churches when their leadership allowed. 

Final Thoughts

I could go on and on, but I won't. I think you get the picture. The Vineyard Movement with its teachings and songs and people have been a very important part of over half my life. I found the "more." Don't get me wrong. I'm still seeking, still trying to grow up in Him, still searching, but there is a contentment in resting in Him and knowing Him now. I still have a lot of growing yet to do. 

I don't know if I could ever share half of what I've seen and learned during these past 34 plus years. But I do have a few closing remarks.

  • Being full of the Holy Spirit is not just exhibiting certain behaviors associated with being filled with the Spirit. Being full of the Holy Spirit is synonymous with mature character (another Wimber sermon). I [Debbie] firmly believe that the Holy Spirit is in the character-building business. 

  • In John's weekly leadership meeting he would ask, "How are we doing? Did we care for the poor this week? Did we pray for the sick? Did we teach the book with no strings attached?" The things John offered always were offered with no strings attached.

  • I close with Wimber's thoughts on maturity in Christ. "The test of spiritual maturity is not gifts . . . It's the ability to love God and others.  It's learning to serve others by loving the unlovely, the less fortunate, the lost, the broken. This is the highest call."
Thank you for travelling down memory lane with me. I really feel like John Wimber will one day be seen as one of the biggest influences on the church today. You can even find "Isn't He," one of John's original songs, in modern church hymnals right along side the much loved Gaither songs. 

If you would like to read more about John Wimber and his teachings, Marty Boller has a wonderful book entitled The Wisdom of Wimber. You might also enjoy Everyone Gets to Play and The Way In Is the Way On both about Wimber and his teachings. I am sooooooo thankful to God for this man ("just a fat man trying to get to heaven) and his ministry to the church at large.

Why Vineyard? Part 1

If you follow my blog, you're aware of my reoccurring nostalgia lately. Even an assignment for our past two home group meetings has inundated me with memories - a brief look back at the history of Gadsden Vineyard which is now 34 young. (That's about half of my life.)

Last weekend, I woke up one morning with an old gospel song playing in my head, and I couldn't shake it. It kept replaying over and over and over again.
And . . . it's not even a favorite of mine. 

I wouldn't take nothing for my journey now
Got to make it to heaven somehow
Though the devil tempt me and try to turn me around
He's offered everything that's got a name name
All the wealth I want
And worldly fame
If I could
I still wouldn't take nothing for my journey now 

After this chorus played about a hundred times in my head, I thought, "Is God speaking to me through this song?" Well . . . Of course.

I really enjoyed sharing the adventures of the last 34 years with my home group because our history was and still is an amazing journey. This week,
I feel inspired to blog about why I chose and still choose Vineyard. Really, Vineyard chose me.

I was raised a Baptist and didn't even know that a modern translation of the Bible existed until I entered college (1971). In college, I experienced different denominations and their values and enjoyed getting to meet and to know these wonderful people from all over the world. I also began to question the values of "my" denomination in lieu of what I was encountering in these different services. 

Music had always been a huge part of my life. I began singing in church and elsewhere when I was old enough to stand on the piano stool without falling off. I traveled and sang solos, in choirs, in duets, in trios, in quartets, in stage bands. College was no exception. There I found a community of musicians who loved music as much as I did.

Contemporary worship was  in its infancy at the time, and I so loved the "God" music that sounded so much like the music I enjoyed on the radio.  Loving this new music almost felt sacrilegious because drums in the majority of churches were "of the devil." God forbid an electric guitar. (I never understood why a bass guitar was allowed when these other instruments were banned.)

I graduated college in 1974 and moved to Gadsden because I had a teaching job. That job afforded me many opportunities to once again sing, sing, sing in many different venues.

In 1976, I met Lanny, who is now my husband and who worshipped in a Lutheran church, and eventually joined him there. I was married in that church and became a part of that community and embraced ALL the differences. I even became their choir director and again, God forbid, moved a piano into the sanctuary and introduced some gospel songs into their mix. WHAT?

Okay. But where does the Vineyard stuff come in. I'm getting there. Please be patient.

Even though I had been "serious" about God almost my entire life, I REALLY got serious in the late 70s, so much so that I recorded my first album, For All Those, and began singing anywhere anyone asked me to sing. 

At the same time, the Charismatic Renewal was impacting mainline denominations. Our Lutheran pastor at the time encouraged us to check out this movement, at least to keep an open mind. (He didn't last too long after that.) A pretty good sized group of our fellowship took him up on it, and it changed our lives. It also got us booted (literally) out of the church. The disenfranchised began a new church that still exists today. 

I've shared all of the above to get to this point. All of my journey so far had left me with an ache in my heart - "There just has to be more to all of this."

Enter Jim Bentley and Wayne Findley who taught where I taught. They too were aching for the "more." Jim was like me and had been in church his whole life. Wayne, on the other hand, was a new believer. We all connected, and BOOM. Things started happening, and we started growing.

None of us realized how hungry and thirsty we were for the living God. We read scriptures and books and magazines, analyzed the things we had been taught and the things we had read, listened to cassettes and contemporary worship (nod to Keith Green), sat with our families and others talking way into the night, shared everything we learned with whoever was willing to listen (many of our students), and began praying for folks. We even encountered the powers of darkness, dare I say the demonic. For real. We were not equipped to handle that.

I met Nori Kelly somewhere in the middle of all of this, and we began working together on another album, Tears for the Harvest. He also became part of this group of "seekers."

One evening, Wayne said that he had found some interesting reading in Contemporary Christian Magazine. The article was about a course taught at Fuller Seminary in California by man named John Wimber. The course  was named MC510 - Signs and Wonders. What we read made so much sense and stirred our hearts, and Jim set out to meet John. 

Jim met John in Nashville and "adopted" Vineyard as his new home. They gave us 100 cassettes of music and teachings (we got to pick), and our lives have never been the same. In 1984, we attended the "famous" MC510 conference at Anahiem. That winter, Jim began meeting in his home. In December of '84, my responsibilities at another church ended, and I was free to come on board. We were incorporated in 1985, and folks, the rest is 

It would take a book to tell the whole story, but I will say this. The journey has been MARVELOUS and has been filled with many peaks, valleys, and pits. Yes, we've had our share of moments (too many for my comfort) when I literally thought we were going to be ripped apart and cease to exist. However, we were determined to let God build this church, and thanks to Him it still exists today. 

And I do wish to thank my fellow travelers along the way for allowing me to be a part of their lives. It has been and I hope will continue to be an amazing journey that I treasure.

Please see Part 2 for the remainder of this blog.