THE FELLOWSHIP OF SUFFERING


DSCN3556 John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Journal Entry, March3, 2017

My quest to find answers to the tormenting mystery of the JAW-mouth Dystonia continues. Each hour, I continue to rely heavily on Father giving me the strength to endure, uncomplainingly. My seasonal job, delivering telephone books door-to-door, started last week and my body is weary. from the windy-cold and the physical exertion.  Unlike  several years ago, when I bitterly complained to Father that I should be on tour with my incredible band. I told him, how hard it was to have do such humbling work when He had blessed me with such talent.And then the added grief of being misunderstood, alienated from wonderful fellowship and dealing with a tormentically distracting movement disorder was more than any human to bear. Even now, the pain in my (now also)  left jaw is painful and  I can barely stand to do anything. The past nine years of this  horrendous disorder (and the thought that there is no reversal for the damaged joints should cause me to sink into utter depression). Honestly, it has been lonely beyond belief and at times, I deem my small music-compassionate outreach, Brave Flame Productions-Outreach a thankless job, (at times). I am a very social person and  cherish the camaraderie of freinds and loved ones being emotionally and spiritually connected with me.

Nevertheless, I realize that this ongoing suffering has brought about great change in my spiritual outlook and Father’s gloriuous workmanship in my life. This realization had brought me to create my 5 part-series journalism-color photographs and devotional series, ARISE FROM YOUR GRAVE. It has also compelled me to record and produce songs for two concurrent albums, a prophetic rock , Mod Prophet and a worship album, The Anointing, (His presence). One would expect that the result would be a publishing book deal and distribution or at least interest in the recorded works.  My book series still await  publication and my albums are still incomplete.

I wait upon the Lord, for He will renew my strength. What strength? For any passionately creative person in the midst of projects, there’s always the hope of success and renown. For the child of God, renown would be being sought after for the expertise of the skill. There is dealing with the disappointment of struggling financially and/or having few customers-patrons. So, I tell Father, more than anything… I wish to be in His perfect will.

This prayer brought me to place and realization of the precious treasure of His presence and company. In this quiet place of seeking Him above even success in my creative endeavors, He shows me what he truly values as spiritual wealth and abundance.

Each morning, as I arise to consciousness, I’ve disciplined my spirit to mediate on several verses. I have had to train myself because the left jaw is so violently  spastic that I awoke several times duirng the night in great pain. I didn’t want to succumb to anger or bitterness as I had with my past Lyme Disease battle in 1992.

Psalm 19:14

14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

Once awake, I ask Holy Spirit to order my steps and  focus me on what scripture He wants me to meditate on.  During the next hour, He will show me someone who needs a prayerful phone call, a hand-made card or care package. Yesterday, a Christian sister’s name popped into my spirit. I said, “Okay Abba, I will call Jackie, (not her real name)”

sisters-comforting

When .I called Jackie, she replied, “That is amazing, Anita. I was thinking of you just yesterday and i was going to call you.” She asked me how I was doing with my jaw-mouth situation and I immediately gave her details of how I thought I was stopping my own healing. I slipped more often than I’d liked, saying  things like, day , “I can’t do that because of this disabling TMJ-Dystionia.” Lately, I was at least catching myself in mid sentence and repenting and saying, I am healed.” Jackie  admitted she was also speaking sickness over herself., her lungs and poor breathing. Jackie’s lungs had deteriorated so bad in the past year that she was on oxygen all day! I was thankful, that though my jaw-throat situation was very painful and distracting, at least I could drive and walk around freely. Jackie then confessed that during her seeking prayer to God about her suffering, she had deep, unresolved grief about her childhood and past.

I was astounded hen she mentioned her deep grief because i  was presently getting victory over my own many losses by reading a wonderful deliverance book, Pray Through It  by Rob Morrisette. The author was very detailed about the traumas and strongholds of his counselees and I was getting freer and freer reading about the victorious testimonies of the people.  Rob’s counseling manner was very detailed and he stressed bringing every painful incident to God in prayer and asking for healing. Jackie was very excited and wrote down the name of the book. I also shared with her about my joy of participating on the conference telephone line several hours each day with passionate prayer warriors across our nation. I told her how strengthened I was in their company and the powerful anointing of their prayers. She admitted to feeling judged around other brethren  and I felt she was constrained by a spirit of unworthiness. Jackie also took down the conference prayer call number and I prayed with her.

At the end of our discourse, Jackie was in tears and prayed for me. She thanked God for me being obedient God had put me on her heart the day before, but she didn’t call and was grateful that I was spiritually sensitive. I was deeply humbled and broken that Father was so gracious to even use me in such a way..to build up and strengthen my precious sister who  said she felt she was backslidden!

This call was a confirmation that I was  right where Father wanted me to be, sitting in his love and waiting for direction. My direction happens to be the gift of edifying, building up my brothers and sisters who feel broken  weak and unworthy.  Father is not so concerned about my creative endeavors, (however God-inspired they are) but about developing intuitiveness to the needs and brokenness of my brethren. In order to have sensitivity to ascertain that my brother and sister needs tenderness, encouragement or a tangible need, (such as rent money or groceries), I need to stay deeply connected and deeply compassionate, however rough or irresponsible they may seem. I’ve desperately longed for patience, long-suffering and understanding about my weird  movement (with loud voice) disorder and have often been judged harshly and misunderstood. But Father has used these painful times so I can learn long-suffering and kindness.  Separating myself unto Him and worshiping with a thankful heart has borough me to precious places of surrender, where I can give out of a pure heart. Though my physical reserves, (my energy) seem limited, my capacity to  love has so increased. Father is nurturing my capacity to love deeper than a surface level. If I encounter relationships were a brethren seems difficult, a nuisance or unpleasant to be around, I ask Father to remind me that there may be deeply-rooted generational issues or traumas from childhood and up.

The Pray It Through, book  has been eye-opening resource to delve deeply into the hearts of my brothers and sisters and where Father can groom me to love, not just in word and deed, but true empathy! I believe this is what causes strife and rejection in the body. We say we love  (and pray for) our brother or sister from afar, yet we will not come forth in honesty and reason at the table with them and our Heavenly Father.

I pray that my brothers and sisters take a deeper look at their season of suffering and submit it to our Abba. He will show us how he is breaking down ideologies of tradition, religion and even relationships, (as the secular arena perceives them). Our ways are not God’s ways and our thoughts are not His. He uses the weak, broken , ugly things, and even small, insignificant (according to the world’s standards) ministries.

He has made everything beautiful in His time. Ecc 3:11

When mega-churches and mega-ministries crumble at His glorious appearance because they did not minister to the orphans, widows and  foreigner, those ministries build on His compassion will thrive and be the lighthouse to the nations!

Let us remember that the temporary sufferings and lacks are not worthy to be compared with the glories which await us in heaven! be encouraged my brother and sister! God sees and he is pleased.

SILENCING the SONGBIRD


angel in  copper silk gown1“Lord, help me get through this. Help me, please” I kept saying as my jaw and mouth started to throb and convulse. I boldly accepted my pastor’s invitation to perform at the Jackson Baptist glory Celebration, a musical worship concert of local worship leaders and teams. A week ago, I emailed Pastor Sandra that I’d be performing His Eye is on the Sparrow and It is Well, two of my favorites that I sang to the residents of my area nursing home and the local physical rehabilitation centers. Those two songs were staples because they were a reminder of God’s promise to me that He was with me even in the valley. I had to play these two songs on my guitar almost everyday, just to remind myself that indeed, despite the incessant, tormenting pulling in my neck, the jerking of my arms and the rapid opening and closing of my mouth, one day, I would be released. It took every ounce of focus to do anything of substance. During this TMJ-Dystonia tenure, I’d programmed myself to call upon the Lord to strengthen me.. Steadfast confidence and reliance on Him was always the reward. That was who Father was,…always gracious in answering my prayer to give my best to my performances.

As more people entered the church, I could feel the excitement, which propelled me even more to be in close communion with Father. My husband Mark, saw I was in distress and massaged my neck. A girlfriend showed up, excited and encouraging and also gave me a neck massage.
People were filling into the well-lit church while the musicians and singers waited on the platform for the sound engineer to tweak their sound. My turn came and I adjusted the microphone. An older guitarist gentleman told me I could plug my guitar to his box which was a blessing so I didn’t have to set up all my effects pedals. Then I took a back seat near the edge of the church so people wouldn’t see my mouth contort. I hunched over in my seat, trying to take deep breaths to control the violent pulling and spasming in my neck. I felt an anxiety rise up, which always happened when the muscles got inflamed from the continua movement of my jaw. I continued to pray and stay alert .It was getting harder and harder to stay comfortable and I had to fight the impulse to run to the car and lay on my back for relief.

Finally, the concert started with a vivacious acapella trio. I was third in line. Then my Pastor approached the stage and introduced herself and me. I scurried up to the platform, nonchalant about my nondescript and unglamourous appearance. I’d long ago discarded my adherence to looking beautiful and well-coifed because it took so much energy to get through each hour. It had come to the point where it took an enormous amount of focus to do basic chores, my exercise routine, my daily voice scales and guitar practice. My only concern now, was to focus  on my performance-ministering in God’s anointing. To people enduring catastrophic illness, outward, perfect beauty is the last concern. Our symptoms wear us out to the point that we can’t be concerned that our make-up is perfect. Anyway, my lipstick and mascara always smeared or wore off halfway into any activity. My face always ended up leaning on my hands as I tried to position my head and neck in a comfortable way. Such is dealing with an upper cervical-spinal issue. I felt peaceful as I faced the audience.
“I’m so blessed and thankful to be here tonight despite having a very difficult almost nine years struggling with Dystina-TMJ, a neurological disorder similar to Parkinson. I’m so glad to be here to encourage any of you who are stiffening with any kind of illness. No matter who you are, God cares about what you are going through. Indeed, His eye is on the sparrow and as He is attentive to a tiny sparrow falling to the ground, so much more so are you precious in His sight”

The strains of my guitar and voice filled the church and I felt at ease, hardly aware of any muscles neck spasms. It was amazing how relaxed I now felt,compared to the preceding hour of anguish in my neck. I knew it was all Him! At the end of His Eye Is on the Sparrow, I paused for a second.  My eyes swept across the people’s faces as they sat spell bound watching me and listening to my every word. My face softened and I said, “It is well. It is Well.”
I then felt a surge of strength and stated, “You know, no weapon formed against you shall proper and Satan is under your feet. Get a hold of that and decide to walk powerfully in God’s strength. The devil is under your feet!”

JACKSON BAPTIST Church concert June  5, 2016

The audience grabbed a hold of that one and I preceded to sing It is well. I was joyful to hear one of the drummers accompanying me and my performance came alive with God’s hope and victory for everyone who’d choose to believe that all is well because of Christ’s victory on the cross!

By the third verse, everyone was standing and joined in through the end of the song! The chorus…It is well, with my soul reverberated with the layered harmonies of many voices. It was a transcendent moment for me! Father God punctuated His daughter’s glorifying music performance with His healing presence.

As I left the stage with the applause still lingering, the wicked spasms came back with a vengeance and I told Mark and my friend I had to lay down. I rushed to our HHR car and rested, immediately feeling less pressure in my neck. After about a half an hour, I decided to go back in, in case there was anyone who wanted to talk with me or have prayer. I was immediately approaches by several people One tall lady in particular, grabbed my hand.

“Hello sister and what can I pray with you for?”I asked.

“I was so blessed…so blessed by your songs. ” She gushed with tear-filled eyes. ” I have Lupus and have been very depressed for a long time.” She went on to share a little of her story and then a pastor joined me as I prepared to pray over the sister. Quite a few more people approached me to hug me and shake my hand and then I felt weak with the excitement and challenge of the night. I retreated back to the car to rest.

As I meditate and chronicle this pivotal evening of my life, I ponder the mystery of my battle-journey.  This TMJ-Dystonia condition has affected me in so many ways, some bad, but mostly good. Anyone diagnosed with a chronic illness will first ask, “Why me, God?” Then they will become angry at the injustice of it all and then resign themselves, either to resentment-bitterness or they decide that they will fight back and make the best of it! I have chosen to be the victorer and make the best of this daunting trial and trust that father will get all the glory from it!l

My encouragement to anyone enduring a daily or terminal illness is to weight your thoughts, dreams, standards and hopes by God’s word and His living presence. The Bible doesn’t answer all the the Jobian mysteries of a catastrophic health condition. For me it’s been groping my way through a dark maze and then leaving the “out” door onto a terrain riddled with land mines. Failure and death lurks beside every mine and one wrong step could propel you into the cemetery of resignation. I’ve often asked myself why I forge forward in my research, knowledge of Biblical healing and preventative medicine, (natural healing) when I’m daily almost overwhelmed with these devastating muscle-neurological and bio-chemical abnormalities.

I’ve learned from Dr Caroline Leaf (brain scientist) about the utter complexity of how the brain and the nuero-transmitters react to stress and trauma. From her research I’ve gleaned amazing insight on the importance of learning, meditating and relying on God’s divine and superior knowledge. After all, He did create and fashion our bodies in the most unfathomable ways ways!

Coming from a background of extreme abuse (bullying and domestic violence) and suffering much rejection because of generational sins, and then being redeemed  and transformed by Christ’s Yashuha’s love and freedom, reminds me  of my vow to the evil powers that be, that I will never again live in bondage. Though these devastating symptoms threaten me each day to hold me captive, I’ve relied on God’s Holy Spirit to empower me with His all-abiding strength, resilience and the possibility of total healing-restoration! Who else can promise that? Neither doctors, nor the toxic drugs they push can promise the prefect healing of our physician, Christ the messiah whose very stripes enabled us to walk in restoration!

close up anita OG

I, for one, need nothing else, but Him. The irony of my health journey has been that my enemy has tried to silence me by afflicting the very tools of my ministry. A worship leader-psalmist-speaker’s mouth and voice are the instruments with which she/he expounds God’s healing words, promises and anointed presence. Only in God’s presence is healing, so my enemy has chosen to viciously attack me, ( in my neck, vocal chords, throat and jaw) so that he can shut me down and shut off God’s healing works through me!

Ten years ago, somewhat vivacious and passionately aspired to get signed and go on tour, I never would have imagined to join the ranks of the “disabled” population.  Any pride or self-reliance I had is now completely extinguished and I’ve been brought to the place of humble submission…total reliance on Him alone!. This is Father’s refining process for me. I’m on his potters’ wheel and He is shaping me to what he wishes me to be. (Now, I can’t say that I’m always still and yielding) but mostly, I trust that He knows what He is doing.

He is using a chosen instrument, not of my parents ilk. None of my parents were musicians, nether were any composers or played instruments! It has been a testimony for God to teach me how to play guitar and compose the beautiful Psalms he has given me. It will be seven years since beginning the recording of my album MOD PROPHET and then my worship CD,  The Anointing, His Presence. They are nearing completion, getting more polished and glorious with each song. I will not stop and neither shall my enemy stop my mouth from praising Him and teaching the world of His great promises and Love.

The songbird will sing!