C. Marie is the author of the book "The Holy Spirit and Christian Testimonies".The Trip
“Stephanie Crowns” was brought up by a family who rarely attended church
services, and if they had, it was during some selective Easter Sundays and
Christmas Day mornings. Inside of sanctuaries, they worn newly bought formal
clothes and presented themselves with beliefs that they looked good and
appropriate to all who noticed them. But over the years, while those holidays
were associated with big dinners, desserts, gifts, bunnies and Santa Clause, the
focus on the Lord became more optional, while those celebrations still
symbolized those particular holy holidays.
By some years later, “Stephanie” had aged and became an adult Christian woman who had a hunger and thirst for developing in the Holy Spirit, and growing in the faith. She hardly ever walked inside of sanctuaries. But the time came when she had a strong demand from within that stuck on her for a while, which constantly convinced her that she needed to attend a church service somewhere. She had some hesitations, due to an issue that involved one’s outward image inside of a sanctuary, as she and her household were accustomed to receiving backlash from the public at times, because of their appearance.
As a single-parent mother who had very little income at the time, the only garments that “Stephanie” had were a pair of house slippers that she worn outside of her home, and an old hand-me-down outfit that should had been discarded long before she received it.
After “Stephanie” surrendered and planned to attend the next church service somewhere, she continued to be uncomfortable because she believed that her and her children’s lack of clothing would cause a lot of unwanted negative attention on them.
When “Stephanie” finally took her children to church with her, they all sat in the last row in the sanctuary because she did not want anybody to notice them. However, she was able to observe many of the people who screamed out their praises, ran around, stomped their feet on the ground, and jerked their bodies around.
Prior to that day, “Stephanie” basically thought that God was a super spirit who was able to step in and out of people’s time, but had not involved Himself with people since the days of The New Testament. She also changed her perception of the Holy Spirit, as she came to acknowledge Him as one who presently interacts with others.
At one point in that same church service, “Stephanie” prayed to God, cried, as well as examined and judged herself in the Christian faith.
“Stephanie” also gave God some explanations of her past offenses, as she repented remorsefully of them. Besides those, she admitted how she sincerely felt about all types of issues that she went through, threw away any grudges and animosities that she had against others, as well as asked God for complete forgiveness of her own transgressions.
After a while, “Stephanie” realized that her time at the church had passed by quickly because the service was almost over and people were invited to come down the altar for ministering purposes. During the altar call session, she walked her children down the aisle for prayers.
A lady touched “Stephanie” and her children with oiled fingers and prayed for them.
Without “Stephanie” saying anything but a statement of being in need of prayers for her family, “Stephanie” was given confirmation from the lady about how she sat in the back of the church and prayed throughout that day’s service.
Then “Stephanie” was informed that God heard all the things that she prayed to Him about.
“Stephanie” was informed that God already began to work on the things that she wanted to be blessed with, way before she walked through the church’s door some hours earlier. She was also told that all of what she prayed for in that sanctuary was already in His will to be answered by Him anyways.
In addition to those, “Stephanie” was informed that her role to fulfill at the time was to come to the church and walk down the aisle to receive the revelations. Since she had just completed that action, she needed to expect her desires to be accomplished at their own rightful moments and until then, just to give thanks to God ahead of time.
After “Stephanie” and her children received those revelations, “Stephanie” noticed that they stood next to an elderly age woman. As soon as that particular woman was touched by somebody’s oiled finger, without a bend of the woman’s own knees, she jumped backwards as if she was hit by a large cannonball. Then the woman safely landed into the arms of some people who stood behind her.
“Stephanie” became flabbergasted because she never saw anything like that before. After the woman was gently laid down on the ground next to some other senior age women, they all shook and twitched their bodies over the floor.
Because of such observations, “Stephanie” became frightened and it increased after she continued to watch the elderly age women. From what she witnessed from a woman who was on the floor closest to her, before that woman had a white sheet placed on her, as the other women were being covered meantime, the woman’s mouth was wide-open and her eyelid was shut closed. But underneath the woman’s eyelids, her eyes uncontrollably flicked back and forth in an involuntarily fast rate. Meanwhile, the woman moved her body around as if she was in a seizure, but no foam came out of her mouth. Everybody else around “Stephanie” who observed the same incident acted unconcerned and nonchalant about the entire situation, as if they were accustomed to such ministerings, unlike her back then.
“Stephanie” and her children attended that same church for a while, and as she enjoyed the congregation’s energy and excitement when they praised God, the sanctuary became her comfort zone besides her own home. Those were the locations where she felt relief from the stress and depression that had bottled up inside of her from over the years that past. As she was overworked and stressed-out, she relaxed at those places too.
“Stephanie” took a weekly break from everything, interacted with different businesses the days before, and served leftovers on paper and plastic items on the days of.
“Stephanie” also felt that she rested spiritually, as she took her thoughts to the Lord and constantly threw her problems in the air for Him to catch and deal with for her. Those led her to continuously feel relieved, renewed, and at peace, while her faith in God increased.
After “Stephanie” acquired a lifestyle in which she regularly focused on the Lord and worshipped God by how she began to carry herself, her life and health continued to feel drastically better to her.
The pastor of that particular church was well-regarded by his congregation, as at least once while “Stephanie” sat in a pew there, heard him preached that people were supposed to respect, love, and pray for him, which was honorable to God. As he had an air of power and prestige on him, she also acknowledged that at least once did somebody state on his behalf that people were to take care of him and feel good going so. Inside of the sanctuary, he always had a crowd of men and his wife nearby on the stage with him, who often fanned him with the church paper-and-stick fans, wiped the sweat from his face, walked him to his chair, and held his watch and suit jacket, all throughout his sermons.
But while “Stephanie” and her children attended the services there, they received various mistreatments.
The pastor and some of the congregation bluntly made their views known. One being that godly people, who were real Christians, were supposed to have been too blessed to be financially poor.
It was also preached at least once that God would never allow His true worshippers to honor Him each Sunday in “raggedy” clothing. Some amounts of the people in that particular sanctrary were disgusted in “Stephanie” and her children. They came across as if she and her family were on God’s bad side. Nevertheless, she and her children had some undesirable incidences from a fraction of that congregation.
Different sermons were preached about damnation and people who attended church services but were not children of God. While those went on, a number of mean glances and dirty looks by some of the church members went towards “Stephanie” and her children’s direction.
On one particular Sunday, right after she and her children walked inside of the church after the services had already began, a female who was on the pulpit preaching announced how ushers had very important jobs to do and sometimes they might find that they ushered the devil. Then the female threw some other direct insults towards “Stephanie” and her children’s direction.
Another isolated incident occurred after “Stephanie” requested a personal advice.
She was then directed to speak to the pastor’s wife for prayers and advices. But underneath the lady’s smile, “Stephanie” was able to notice that the lady rather wanted to speak to anybody else but “Stephanie.” However, they still had a conversation together. As the lady was pretty and fashionably well-kept, “Stephanie” had the impression that the lady viewed her and her children as a family who were grotesque and repulsive in their poverty, based upon how the lady acted uncomfortable around them.
“Stephanie” held one of her children on her lap while she tried to talk to the lady, whose face expression was unwelcoming. The lady went back and forth fanning “Stephanie” and her child with the item up close to their faces, and “Stephanie” translated such action as if the lady automatically assumed that “Stephanie” and the child were too dirty and smelly to be around her.
So based upon how the lady carried herself, she almost hit the child in the face with the stick fan, as the child was quiet and physically done nothing to provoke the lady to act as she had. After that, the lady showed no remorse nor concern for her own behavior, as “Stephanie” knew that she and her children were bathed and clean, even though their garments were far from looking new.
In addition to that, the pastor made it obvious to those who paid attention and noticed so, that he disliked “Stephanie’s” presence in that church. She never paid the annual membership dues for her household. Neither had she ever played a part in any of the fundraisers, bakery sales, nor dinner plates in order to help pay for the fees. Yet she believed that nobody there kept tabs on her to be concerned, involved, or offended if she participated in any of the functions or not. However, she and her children were not individuals who were considered to have been significant, permanent visitors there either.
At one point, it was Pastor’s Day and as the pastor sat in a chair, the people were directed to walk down to the altar to the front of the stage and toss envelopes of money at his shoes. “Stephanie” and her children were in a line to bless him too, while he greeted, hugged, and shook hands with everybody who also stood in a line. But when it was her and her children’s turn, he crossed his arms and gave her a mean look, as if to express that he did not want to be approached by her, specifically. While he watched her place an envelope at his shoes, from how his face expression stayed unchanged, she further understood that she rubbed him the wrong way, by reason that were unknown to her.
Outside of that, as the sanctuary stayed very Spirit-filled, a portion of the congregation sympathized heartily to “Stephanie” and her children. She identified that group as those who were mostly single-parent mothers, both senior age and young, although the one who graciously affected her the most was a young married mother. All of the women were poor, but not to the extent that she was at and throughout the moments when she used to fellowship with them, they introduced themselves to her. Then she was given sincere apologies from almost all of those who reached out to her. Those were based upon the remorse that they felt, due to how they acknowledged that it was unreasonably some of the other church members versus her and her children. Afterwards, they always gave her hugs, prayers, encouragements, and had their own solo, personal collections of items that they offered to her from their own belongings, for her and her children to keep.
On one occasion, a single-parent mother gave a testimony, as she told the church members that she once needed her own automobile. Then God found a way to give one to her for free. She also announced that she lacked employment and had prayed to God for His assistance because she had an unpaid utility bill. But on the same afternoon when the electricity was scheduled to have been turned off, a stranger knocked on her door and handed her enough money that allowed her bill to be paid in the full amount. Some weeks afterwards, that same woman gave “Stephanie” some used clothes for her children to own. Within that same week or the next, the woman was hired for a job position that had a good enough pay rate.
“Stephanie” overslept one day and was unable to attend church services with her children. Then she strongly felt that she needed to stay away from many of those individuals who attended the same church. She clearly understood that they truly felt bitter about her and her children in ways that was adversely affecting her spirit and self-identity.
“Stephanie” inevitably crossed paths with another church and learned that the pastors were a married couple named “Mr. and Mrs. Lewis.” She was unable to recall if they ever claimed that the Holy Spirit ministered through them by the spiritual gift of prophecy. But they identified the Holy Spirit for being the source of their insights and spiritual manifestations. They were referred to as being prophets of the Lord, who people looked upon to receive revelations, guidance, prayers, and oil anointings.
“The Lewis’s” regularly told the congregation to dig deep into their pockets and give faithfully to the Lord. If the church members had no money of their own to do such, then they were advised to borrow it from other people in order to get blessed from God in return. Afterwards, they were supposed to receive enough money from Him and part of it was to pay back their individual creditors who honorably helped them support that Christian church.
“Stephanie” showed mercy to others inside and outside of the sanctuary. She did not have money to give, but found other means to bless people as to how she was able to.
Whenever it was the time for the tithe and offering collections, some amount of the congregation always stared at “Stephanie” because everybody had to stand up and walk down to the altar during that moment. They wanted to see if she would trust God and place her faith in Him, as whatever amount she gave, He was to give her more than enough of the money back. But whenever those particular individuals saw that she remained in her seat on some days, or walked down to the altar with nothing to give on other days, she always felt tension on her. Because she was unable to put money into that church, sermons that had negative tones were often preached about how poor people, who did not tithe, were to remain poor because God was to close His floodgates from Heaven to them, which were to hinder their blessings and stop everything that He would have wanted to bless them with.
“Stephanie” sometimes intentionally walked in late with her children inside of the sanctuary to catch some of the sermons before the congregation was dismissed. “The Lewis’s” noticed.
“Stephanie” often sought “The Lewis’s” for prayers, directions, and oil anointing for herself and her children. One day, “Mrs. Lewis” informed “Stephanie” that she always brought bottles of olive oil for her home and the church, and after she prayed over them, she always sprinkled oil on anything and anybody who she believed needed to be blessed and anointed.
After that, “Stephanie” was given one of “Mrs. Lewis’s” bottles of oil to keep in her home and was advised to occasionally drizzle it all over everything and everyone. But as soon as she left the sanctuary, she wholeheartedly believed that she felt a strong command from within that demanded her to discard the oil immediately and to urgently wash her hands afterwards. Stephanie would later be told by someone else who was not a member of the church that was pastored by “The Lewis’s” with her, that there is power in oil anointments. Depending upon who prayed over the oil and use it, it can be used as a way to bless somebody, if the anointers have relationships with the Lord.
Then the time came when “Stephanie” clearly knew that she was about to learn a lot of things that day and have an unexpected experience at the church that was pastored by “The Lewis’s.” As soon as she and her children stepped inside of the sanctuary, and before she made eye-contact with anybody, the atmosphere hit her hard from a clear sensation that was tension-filled and hostile, which instantly had her frown.
At one time during that service, “Stephanie” and some amounts of the church members stood up and praised God. Then “Mrs. Lewis,” who stood on the pulpit, began to preach a long sermon. The whole oration was harsh, cruel and it all pertained to “Stephanie” and her children.
“Stephanie” and her children were spitefully slandered and mocked, while they were made out to be everything else but children of God, who the devil supposedly made poor and physically unattractive in the eyesight of God and people.
At one point in that sermon, “Stephanie” was falsely accused of trying to find a man, as “Mrs. Lewis” announced afterwards that no man would ever want to be suckered enough to help “Stephanie” raise her supposedly hopeless, substandard children who were to have bad futures ahead of them. So as “Stephanie” and her children were labeled to have been individuals who were unacceptable to the Lord, they were also branded as being evil and fleshy devils too. The actual statements that came out of “Mrs. Lewis’s” mouth were much more offensive and nasty. On top of that, throughout the condemnation speeches, “Mrs. Lewis” repeatedly expressed, “Thus says the Lord!”
In one instance, “Stephanie” was at the altar while “Mrs. Lewis” held her hands and publically spoken about how “Stephanie” was not a genuine Christian. Then she squeezed “Stephanie’s” hands painfully hard and had forcefully dropped them afterwards. Subsequent to that, “Mrs. Lewis,” who weighed much more than “Stephanie,” used her own body to push “Stephanie” purposely in a way that made her trip backwards. But she felled down safely on a front row pew. Because of that, “Stephanie” knew that she experienced enough of what went on that day there, which led her to grab her children, walk out of the building, and she never seen “Mrs. Lewis” since.
But just as “Stephanie” was made to trip physically by “Mrs. Lewis’s” intentional body shove, “Stephanie” came to trip spiritually as well.
Due to how “Stephanie” had minimal maturity in the Holy Spirit and limited understanding of The Word of God, she came to believe that she would never be good enough in the Christian faith. She knew that “Mrs. Lewis” preached things about her and her children that were not true. But her own spirit struggled to toss aside the accusations of how she and her children were supposedly unrighteous in the eyes of God, despite how much she sincerely tried to develop in the Holy Spirit. She eventually fed on enough distractions and negativity that led her to change her God-feared lifestyle. She completely ceased the habit of church attendance anywhere, prayed less often, placed The Holy Bible down, allowed herself to become distracted in the faith, and became influenced by the bait of addiction.
There were times when “Stephanie” tried to pray and have the type of inner peace that she previously was accustomed to. But everything changed and seemed different to her. Prior, she always happily took her thoughts, plans, and desires to the Holy Spirit while she interacted with Him. But after the condemnation sermon and action from “Mrs. Lewis,” “Stephanie” formed a habit in which she bitterly thought about all that was on her mind while she tolerated her addiction meantime.
The scriptures from The Holy Bible became gibberish languages, unreadable, and complicated to “Stephanie,” which aggravated her enough to where she placed The Holy Bible down during those isolated moments. Yet, she often prayed about how she yearned to feel the strong inner peace that she used to experience from within.
Job 14:7-9, “For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.”
“Stephanie” wanted to walk in the Lord and obediently abide by The Word of God again. But she did not think she would ever be acceptable to God, regardless or not if she had an upright heart and lifestyle.
At the time, “Stephanie” regularly prayed to God while she was entertained by the addiction that she accepted. She made herself believe that she could never possibly walk in the Spirit of the Lord as she used to, constantly prayed for the type of relationship that she used to have with Him, and often begged Him to help her quit her addiction. During one of those moments, she strongly felt inner relief and clearly acknowledged from within that she still was able to resume the quality of her previous relationship with the Holy Spirit. From that, she received comfort, and began to refocus back on God and His Word.
Psalms 37:23-24, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.”
Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”
Immediately after that, “Stephanie” strongly felt directed from within that she needed to attend different randomly chosen churches every week for a while. When she had done so, the teachers began to talk about how they wanted to preach about a certain topic, but the Holy Spirit informed them that they seriously needed to preach about something else. Then in their own different words, they claimed that there was a special sermon that needed to be presented to the congregation. Some churches went further and specifically stated that somebody was present in the building who needed to hear a personal word from God. As it became predictable occurrences to her, the different teachers continuously preached about topics that always pertained to her experiences, situations, and conflicts.
During that same time period, many
times when she opened up The Holy Bible to any random page, the first chapters
and scriptures that caught her attention were related to the same issues that
she needed to know. On top of that, whenever she turned the channels on her
television, if she happened to pass by a Christian church sermon, also at any
given moment, she just knew that she needed to tune back to it, be still, watch
and listen to her conflicts being spoken about.
So whether from church attendance, The Holy Bible, or televisions sermons, what one source left off, another one picked it up and took over to address the issues which further educated “Stephanie.” She understood that she needed to treat her overall situations as firsthand, major, educational life experiences.
(© 2012 C. Marie – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)