His Pursuit part 1

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A couple of weeks ago I was prompted to write “my testimony.” When I finished it, I immediately began questioning whether it served any purpose to the goals of this blog, and whether I wanted to get this personal. While my life prior my conversion was not outwardly messy, it was inwardly dark. So I’ve been sitting on my story for a while, but like many things in a faith led life sometimes you just have to obey and let God do the rest. If nothing else for freedom’s sake. So with much love here it is part of my story which I’ve divided it in three installments.  

About 13 years ago I came to United States. I spoke not a coherent word in English and I could barely put the words together to understand anyone trying to communicate with me.

I was living at my step-uncle’s house in Southern California. Although he is a Christian man he felt compelled to take me to a Catholic service on Sundays. Like he put it, I didn’t have to go to his church but I had to go to church. He assumed since I was Mexican, my faith was Catholic.

I never had the heart to tell him not only that I wasn’t a Christian, but also that I wasn’t a believer of any sorts. My heart had been hardened, a learned mechanism of protection from the loneliness, fear and the anger accumulated from my childhood. I became skeptical of anything but things I could see, hear and witness in the physical world. I didn’t need things of the heart or spirit for I had a sound and brilliant mind.

Skepticism was a form of life. Very early on I learned how religion was used to subjugate entire societies. I was an avid reader.  My morality: I believed in personal consequences, a loose understanding of karma, if you will, heaven and hell here on earth. The world, the universe was random chaos, no divine justice or intervention. Religions were lies given by churches, monasteries and mosques around the world to the weak-minded to control them, and I was not going to let anyone, or anything control my life or choose my destiny.

Because I was not ready to have those conversations with my uncle, more out of the fact that I could barely ask for salt at the dinner table, I began attending Catholic services on Sundays and it quickly became my weekly break from the English bombardment at home. It was a time for me to turn off my mind through the predictable movements of Mass, which despite being held in English I could follow: Kneel; stand up; Padre Nuestro (it has the exact same rhythm in both languages); now someone is going to read from the Book that I never put much attention, Credo, line up to eat the ostia (you don’t want to let everyone think you carry an unforgivable sin if you don’t partake), etc..

One Sunday morning, during my cousin’s leave after he graduated from Boot Camp, he invited me to join him with the rest of the family for a service at their Southern Baptist Church. That week I had been feeling particularly lonely and homesick so I decided to join them.

The first thing I noticed was the dozens of cute American “churchy” kids about my age. I joined them to their College group, which it was held in a classroom. It felt like Catechism class all over again, yet instead of stories of mythical gardens, giants and endless repetitions of prayers they were having a conversation in History, Theology and Geography. It went right over my head. I only sat there and smiled, with a little bit of pity for their little minds being brain washed while they felt so academic and important.

Then we went to the main sanctuary where for the first time in my life since I can remember my heart was stirred to be connected to something more, at that moment, God began His relentless pursuit for my heart. (I suspect the pursuit might’ve started long before, but my heart needed to be completely broken until I could let Him in).

My command of English was very limited; the only things I could watch in T.V. were reruns of “Friends” because I knew many of the episodes in Spanish. But during worship, for reasons I could not explain I began crying. Maybe I was tired, but I didn’t feel embarrassed to cry in front of everyone. No one minded. Then the pastor began speaking and I could understand every word. I heard the words as clear as any I have ever heard in my native language. It was freaky, but I figured the sermon was to be understood by the masses so the message had to be a simple one– one that I could understand.

Then I heard “for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut 31:6b) No sentence ever spoken before by anyone ever felt that personal. I knew he was speaking about the loneliness I was feeling at that moment. It was directed at me as if preceded by “Fabiola… For the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” I can’t explain it: open ears, open heart. It was a promise for things yet to come. Then I felt warmth in my heart, literally like falling in love. 

When the service was over I didn’t share the experience with anyone and I was shocked when in the van on our way home, everyone’s voices became muffled. Their language undecipherable as usual, I wanted to demand them to speak with the speaker’s voice. “Enunciate,” like my uncle repeated it when I tried out his language in my mouth. Staring out of the window His promise “I will never leave you nor forsake you” began circling in my mind. Could it be true that the Creator of the Universe was after me?

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When asking for signs, be ready to move

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Where am I in the Journey to Amor?

Well, on my knees.

Recently I’ve been thinking why is that I was given the instruction to join Amor? I think it’s because I asked: explicitly and boldly. “Where do you need me?”

Some people have come to me and commented that it’s pretty neat that I get to hear God’s voice so clearly. The truth is that it was not always like that. In fact in most of my life,  ( And I mean as a Christian, because I like to think that my life begun when I met Jesus), God had been pretty silent. Truth to be told I had also been pretty silent to Him.

Praying was not my strong suit. Only when things seemed completely out of my control, did I get on my knees and prayed, really prayed. What I mean is that although we regularly prayed at our home, specially during bedtimes. Those prayers usually came from the innocence of my children, we prayed for others, we gave thanks and perhaps ask for healing of a minor boo-boo or the sniffles.

However, when I was out of my comfort zone, I could do nothing else but to give it to God. And every time He responded. So I learned to pray; but also I learned to start moving with each response, and in these instances God has shown up in amazing ways.

Newbreak, our home church, is going through the book Draw the Circle in preparation to Easter. It’s been an amazing time of prayer and faith and it couldn’t come at a better time in my life. One of the things that struck me is that I should work hard as it depended on me, but pray like it depended on God. This means that with my work I show God that I have faith that He will respond. I move, He moves. For His glory.

But the most important aspect of this, is to pray. Many of the prayers that don’t get answered were never utter.

Some times we don’t pray, because it’s an act of faith. We would be hurt if our prayers would meet indifference. But trust me they don’t. Even when we don’t get the response we wanted, He is a Loving God and He is after something greater, for our good: working, mending, changing us, comforting us always. We just need to keep on praying.

Some times we don’t pray, because we “got it.” In which case, the only cure is to step out of our comfort zone. Start pursuing bold and brave dreams that God put there and trust me when you start stretching He’ll show on a big way.

Some times we don’t pray, because we were waiting for the sign and it didn’t come. Here I think more often than not, we received the sign, we quit on praying and forgot all about it, when the answer came later.

Some times we don’t pray, because what we need is so big and our view of God so small that we don’t trust Him.

Either way. Right now, I’m on my knees. I need Him, and trust Him.

My eleven year old son recently shared with me the most beautiful sentiment of faith. While watching Lark Rise to Candleford, a beautiful show about the life in the countryside of England at the turn of the 19th Century, he said he too had struggled with doubt like the character in the show.

When I asked him what he meant, he said he also had prayed for “a sign.”

He had been praying for guitar lessons since his previous teacher told us his schedule no longer worked for him. I didn’t try to get him a new teacher as I saw an opportunity to save some money in the meantime, because I have not been working since September.

My son says that he prayed knowing God would answer. But His answer took a couple of months. Now for a 11 year old boy that’s a very long time. Yet he kept on praying.

Two weeks ago, without knowledge of my son’s prayers, our church’s Youth Program began offering free music lessons to all kids.  That was all the answer he needed. He’s now learning worship music and enjoying his guitar once again.

I’m grateful he shared with me and it became an opportunity to share our insights about prayer. He told me about keeping a journal, like his leader suggested. “The shortest pencil, is longer than the longer memory,” he said. Which it happened to be what I had just read on that day, day 5 of Mark Batterson’s Draw the Circle 40 day prayer challenge.

So, today I’m kneeling, moving through the prayer section of my journey for direction, provision, faith, rest, vision, heart change and Amor. Steadfast trust in God.

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2