Thursday, March 14, 2024

A Milton Moment

During and after the Holy Spirit conference a couple weeks ago, I believed I was on my way to experiencing full healing and restoration in my body. My pain was decreasing and I have been praying and waiting for God to finish what He started. I have also prayed for others (as usual) and have seen amazing healing occur. Yet, here I am....still in a lot of pain and feeling every bit as terrible as before the conference. 

Monday, March 4, 2024

How Desperate Are We?

 "Just receive." That was the godly wisdom that was given to me by at least two different individuals as I was sharing about my big breakthrough. I had come to the Holy Spirit conference this past weekend full of hope and expectation; and the Lord didn't disappoint. 

It started on Friday night with praise and worship. At one point, people were raising their hands to receive prayer, so I raised mine for healing. My physical pain has reached an intolerable level in my back. The degeneration, arthritis, and inflammation is starting to make walking a lot harder. My feet always feel like I've been standing on concrete all day and my right leg gets so tight to where no amount of stretching loosens anything. I'm 41, but feeling like 81; moving slower and with so much effort that it's exhausting. I've prayed and pleaded for healing, but knew that even Paul wasn't relieved of whatever thorn he had in his side. I've truly been trying to make peace with living with it until I'm either healed here or in heaven. I pray, take medicine and vitamins, wear my back brace, and endure every day knowing that His grace is sufficient for me. 

This is what I reiterated to the young man that prayed for me. He felt a lot of heat as he was praying, but I wasn't feeling it yet. I knew it took time, and even Steve Nicholson (the speaker for the weekend) walked by and assured him that he wasn't done yet. The young man, who was also named Steve, kept praying. I also prayed over him and encouraged him as well. I told him that I was still very hopeful and would keep waiting to see what the Lord was going to do over the weekend. 

When I went to bed that night, it was a rough sleep. I woke up frequently because my pain was really bad; especially in my feet. Tingly, pins and needles, fire, you name it. It was super uncomfortable. Usually, even with pain, I can get to sleep quickly and usually stay asleep for the most part. Still, I was hoping for something better the next morning. 

For the first session on Saturday morning, Steve Nicholson began his message/teaching. It reminded me of the John Wimber Signs and Wonders Conference  (check it out if you never have; it's worth it!). For someone as incredibly sensitive and empathic as I am, it is pretty much a certainty that when Holy Spirit is being talked about, I'm going to be overwhelmed by Him. Right on cue, Holy Spirit took over as Steve was talking about Him; even before he started officially inviting Him to come upon us all and he started looking for signs of Him moving in people. I was used to the uncontrollable twitches, shakes, heat, and racing heart (as well as the likelihood that I would fall down if I attempted to stand up). In fact, there was a moment this weekend where my Fit Bit buzzed me and said that it detected a high heart rate even though I appeared to be immobile. I had to laugh to myself. I wasn't moving, but Holy Spirit sure was! I was sitting down, but the Lord was the one that was active!

I don't know if I can recall a time where I felt so electric (especially my hands)! I've felt it before, but the intensity was off the charts! He asked those who were experiencing it to come forward. I was eager to do so, but knew I had to be careful because I knew I was going down. I made it to the front and sat down before my body gave out under the power. It was overwhelming; and he kept saying "more, Lord." I was like, "Oh, Lord, how can I possible handle any more?!" At one point, he called out "self doubt" and I felt myself tense up and release a couple times. Then, the unavoidable moment where I involuntarily screamed a couple times as this huge wave of intense emotion bubbled up like a volcano and the pressure just burst forth; and I felt myself go limp in the chair as I cried and people prayed over me. It's still hard not to feel a little embarrassed and that others will just see me as being loud and dramatic (but I promise you, this isn't by choice). Thankfully, there's always others that are allowing Holy Spirit to work in them too, and you hear all sorts of things. Steve frequently reminded everyone that they're happy sounds; sounds of freedom, healing, and release. He's right. Any time I've ever had a moment like this, it's been the best thing that has ever happened to me.

This is when God broke through to me in a mighty way. He told me I was storing pain in my body, and then showed me a vision of Christ on the cross. That's where all the sins went; on Him. The perfect lamb. The scapegoat. I realized that God was telling me that Christ already took on all the sins of the world. He carried them. That was His job, not mine. Not that I intentionally WANTED to hold onto mine or anyone else's sins, pains, or ailments in my body; I just hadn't realized that that's what I was doing or how to effectively empty myself of it. He was reminding me that I wasn't supposed to be carrying what He already had. He was telling me to GIVE back to Him what He already died for. He allows me to feel deep empathy and emotion; enabling me to love and have compassion for others. I needed to know how to only feel it for the moment rather than feel/carry it for way too long. Whatever I feel in my heart and my body, I need to give it back to Jesus so that He can bring the healing for it; both for me and to share with others.

As I shared with a few people after the first session, I was encouraged to just keep receiving from Him; especially as I got more prayer for my back. It's hard sometimes, because I always want to be praying, engaging, and connecting. It really is important to just be still and wait. I started noticing that my feet weren't hurting anymore and I felt oddly taller. Some of the tightness in my leg was coming and going as well. My back was feeling downgraded in the pain level. In fact, I took off my back brace after that to experience the rest of the weekend without it. I haven't dared to be out and about without it since I first started wearing it last year, but I wanted to see if I could get a better gauge on where I was at. 

Saturday night, I couldn't stop smiling and felt like I was sleeping/resting in a truly "heavenly peace." I slept WAY BETTER than I had the night before! In fact, my husband's sleep on both nights mirrored mine; or, rather, I think I mirrored his that first night. I remembered just how often that happens and that it's probably some of the stuff I've unintentionally absorbed/stored. I prayed for and released/rebuked it. I even did the same with my high blood pressure and sleep apnea; because I didn't have either of those until Chris had it. I've also often prayed about generational health problems as well. I'll just have to keep giving it all back to Jesus and keep receiving the healing. 

I'm glad I had that personal moment, because it helped me as I prayed for and loved on so many other ladies later on. There was a lot I was able to share with them from the Lord, and I finally felt like I could experience all the various emotions around me without them "sticking" to me. I was able to have a chance to see if I could be rubber instead of glue; letting things bounce off and stick to the cross where it belonged after I felt whatever I was meant to feel in the moment and then release any sad or traumatic things that I was feeling around me. At one point, I and another woman that I was praying over, were breathing in that life-giving breath of God in sync with each other and feeling such peace and joy. That kind of symbiotic emotion is WONDERFUL to experience, embrace, remember, and hold onto forever! 

Grace and peace to you, my friends! All of this is but a fraction of all the amazing things I could share about this weekend. It was so rich in worship, fellowship, wonder, breakthrough, deliverance, and healing for everyone! But, I think I'll leave you with this sonnet that I wrote as I was journaling on August 1, 2022. It came to my mind during the final session as Steve was talking about coming to the end of ourselves and being desperate for Jesus. In America, we really don't know what it's like. Our persecuted brethren in other countries know. If we really want revival, breakthroughs, healings, miracles, and deliverance (both corporately and personally), we really need to be desperate for Holy Spirit. When we invite Him, expect Him, and make room for Him, He'll come. We have to get out of the way, and be ready to die to self. We have to relentlessly pursue Him; asking, seeking, and knocking without end! He will open that door for us to good things. Be desperate! Don't give up! I'm testifying to the fact that He answers our desperate cries: 

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

A Label of Love

For those that knew Randy Walgamuth, several thoughts probably come to mind. They're likely the kind of thoughts that end up in the comments of every Facebook post from Ink Free News that feature his name and mug shot. But for every remark and label that the general public of our community has stuck on him, there are many more that most have failed to mention. This failure is not only due to ignorance, but to the tragic reality that so many people (including believers in Christ) neglect to see an image bearer of God the way the Father sees him.

For this reason, I felt it was vitally important to give you a glimpse of the Randy that most will never know. It's the Randy that Jesus told stories about; a living example of the heart of the Father and what the Gospel is all about. He's the perfect picture of God's mercy; the one that the Lord left the 99 sheep to find (Matthew 18:12-14, Luke 15:4-7). This man taught me more about the love and mercy of God than I could ever learn from any evangelist or Bible teacher; and it has marked me for life.

I have worked at The Salvation Army since 2014. Early on, I was like most people. I couldn't understand why he made the choices that he did. Chronically homeless and addicted, he lived out on the streets and in the woods; and sometimes in the homeless shelter. I've seen so many people (and agencies in addition to ours) invest in him. I'll never get over how much personal time and resources my own boss, Ken Locke, spent on him. No matter how busy or drained he was, he still went above and beyond for Randy like he was his own brother.

Admittedly, however, I used to feel frustrated. Randy constantly made demands and expected everyone to do and give what he needed without delay or hesitation. He also seemed oblivious to the fact that even those who had to be tough with him (whether it was a police officer, judge, etc.) actually cared about him and were way more lenient than he deserved. Countless cups of coffee, food, clothing, rides, etc. were given to him by numerous people, agencies, and strangers. The time and personal sacrifices didn't seem to sink in and make him grateful; nothing about his lifestyle changed and it usually just got worse. So many times, he was in and out of jail (and the hospital as well). In all my prayers for him, I finally lost it one time as I was thinking about the fact that he got all that medical care, but I (a tax paying and law-abiding citizen) had no health insurance. God changed my heart with one phrase, "Melissa, this could be his reward in full."

His reward in full. It broke me. I couldn't get over it. If the most reward he would ever get would be all the things that he gets now, how sad and frightening would that be?! What good would it do me to be angry that he was taking so much now when I would be getting an inheritance for eternity that he may never get to be a part of? Am I really going to be mad about the fact that he got the temporary care for his earthly body that I didn't? What good is it to gain any advantage on Earth but lose your soul (Matthew 16:26, Mark 8:36)? Was I really going to be that jealous brother in the prodigal son story?

That's when things shifted for me; not just in how I saw Randy, but in how I saw everyone. It is so easy to be angry at others when they have something we don't, behave in terrible ways, and even get away with things that they shouldn't. Yet, God sees them the same way He sees us. He forgives their great debt and expects us to do likewise (Matthew 18:21-35). Randy had a record and reputation that everyone could see and judge; and yet God loved and wanted him. I realized just how truly merciful and loving the Father has to be in order to continually and relentlessly pursue this lost sheep of his. If He loves Randy SO MUCH to keep rescuing him and giving him countless second chances, how much more grateful should I be as a child of God? ALL OF US have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Who among us ISN'T a Randy? We have all sinned; and yet, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Every single one of us is a sheep that has strayed. I too have behaved in terrible ways; offending God and others. I can't imagine what my own rap sheet must look like, how great my debt must be, and how much I have truly been forgiven. God has been merciful to me and has spared me from lots of things that I deserved (both here and in eternity) and gave me mercy that I do NOT deserve. The Good Shepherd gave His life for every one of us lost sheep so that we would return to Him and be reconciled through Him (Isaiah 53:6, John 3:16-17, 1 Peter 2:25). I've accepted Christ and am safe. Jesus wanted Randy safe too and this is the verse He reminded me of every single time: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. - 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV).

Left Side Back Row: Friends, Randy and Larry, (both are now home with the Lord).
In what few years I have known Randy, I saw him soften. He even frequently attended church at The Salvation Army (and on more than one occasion, donated his cigarette lighter in the offering plate). I have watched prayers be answered; even when he would tell us outright NOT to “pray too hard” for him. We prayed all the more; and it obviously worked! I saw Randy experience the heart of God through each act of love, mercy, and kindness (even if he didn't recognize it). God moved on the hearts of so many people to share the Gospel, their time, money, and resources. Ken has always said, "No one has heard the Gospel more times than Randy Walgamuth." Every act of compassion sowed a seed; and God was even more patient than we were to see them grow. Year after year, Ken would say, "I don't think he's going to make it through another winter." We dreaded the day that he would be found frozen outside or something worse.

The "something worse" was cancer. Again, no one thought he would last as long as he did. Once more, God showed His amazing love and mercy. Randy didn't suffer alone outside. The last year or two, he was either at The Fellowship Mission, the hospital, or hospice. No doubt the staff was amazed at how many visitors Randy had these past few months. I think he finally understood how to give and receive love. For the first time, he said to me, "I love you, Melissa." I was amazed to hear him say it! "I love you too, Randy." I assured him that there were so many people that did and that God loved him even more. I asked him if he confessed and believed in Christ as Lord. He said, "Yes. Yes I do, Melissa." I don't think any of us saw some big emotional/radical change, but we all believe that on whatever level his mind could still understand, he believed and was making his peace. In fact, that is what Ken assured me of. He said that he had never seen Randy so at peace.

I have many more things I could share; and they're only a fraction of the many testimonies that I know others have. People that have known him a lifetime have told me about how much he has been through; even as a kid growing up. Pain and trauma take a toll. I wonder what his life would have been like if his childhood had been different. It makes me sad to think about what his life has been like and how he's the very last of what family he had (even his only child passed in recent years). Despite all the darkness, the light still won out. Jesus shone through so many people that Randy couldn't hide from it. God had His way. Randy couldn't tune out the knocking at the door. None of us may know for sure when/how he opened that door to Jesus, but we believe that he finally let Him in.....and that Christ welcomed Randy into heaven. We love you, Randy! Thank you for all that you taught us! Until we meet again!

Update: Click here to read an additional post of my thoughts after Randy's funeral.