From: Assemblies of God Talk (on behalf of Kathi Sharpe) [AGTALK (at) ChristianEMailService.com] |
Sent: Monday, August 07, 2000 9:57 AM
To: rich.tatum (at) tatumweb (dot) com
Subject: Kathi's testimony (Long! but worth it!)
As promised, here is my story. It's terribly long, and some of the information here is terribly personal, but God has called on me to share this story and so I will. Rich already knows some of it through our conversations, but some of my past history was unknown … and of course, the events of the past week that I've been away.
My "brief" life history: I was raised in New England, in a small Congregational church. I was very much a wildgirl, far too intelligent and well-read, even at that age, for anyone in that small town to match. I was also an abused child and really struggling.
At about ten I was kicked out of Sunday school because they weren't prepared to answer my questions. I had lots of them. I became active in the church, served as a candle-lighter, as a junior deacon.but I still had questions. Like why God would allow terrible things to happen to me on a daily basis. Like why God punished some, but not others, both in my "real life" and in the Bible. Being the obnoxious, precocious, ADD-type child I was, I'd frequently ask such questions at opportune moments during the sermon. Of course, you can imagine the reaction I got.
Once I figured out two essential elements, I, of course, had it "all" figured out: 1. All the church did was go through the motions, and 2. God was not really there. Even after visiting a variety of other churches, and even other faiths such as Jewish and Muslim, I felt the same.
From there, of course, I "figured out" that "god" was no-where, and spent some time searching for something else, in all the wrong places: alcohol, drugs, running away from home, horribly abusive men. At one point, I was homeless because the abuser I was living with got tired of me, found a new woman to beat, and put me out. I had just turned 18. I found "work" doing construction, and my boss allowed several of us to sleep at the job site. One night, it was just me and this other guy — and he brutally raped me.
A month later I knew I was pregnant as a result. I'd never pressed charges — too afraid — and the rapist found out that I was pregnant. He informed me that I would have an abortion, or he'd beat it (the baby) out of me. He certainly tried to do so. It's a wonder I'm even alive, much less that the child lived. I fled the next day into the arms of yet another man who abused me, and another, and another. During this time I had another child, a daughter. One day, thanks to some very dedicated, caring people, I finally figured out that I didn't have to get beaten to be loved. I ended my pattern of abusive relationships right then. I left my husband, sought a divorce, ended up on welfare and unable to work due to chronic illness.
During this time I met some women who I felt were very empowered and very knowledgeable. During a visit to the home of one of these women, I found a book that changed my life. It's called "Spiral Dance", by Starhawk, who is a Witch. Not the sort of Witch you find in television horror movies, not a "Satanist". She's part of the modern Pagan movement.an earth religion, a feminist religion, one that espouses both personal involvement and personal responsibility. Goddess-centric. Suddenly, I had found what I was looking for — or so I thought. During the intervening years, I came to have a personal relationship with the gods of ancient Egypt. If anyone is curious about what my life was like during that time, I'd be happy to share more. For now, suffice to say that I was as happy as I'd ever been, made advances in my life such as proper education and a real job, moved South, regained my health, and married a wonderful man (who happened to be Christian, although not at all a church-goer, for many of the same reasons I had as a child.). But I also began to lose my hearing. Gradually at first, and then more and more.eventually, I became 70% deaf and had just bought two hearing aids (last month). In spite of this, I'd achieved a level of complacency and I was pretty comfortable. While something was missing, I didn't really know what, or care to seek it.
Flash forward: Thursday, July 20, 2000--yes, just 18 days ago! I had a dream of Jesus. He appeared as a face in the mists. My reaction was dual — wonder, at why He (of all possible deities) would show up in my dreams, and anger, that He'd have the audacity to do so. After all, He wasn't one of my gods, and I didn't want any part of Him. I told Him to go away, to leave me be!
Thank You, Lord, for Your persistence!
That Saturday night, I had another dream. In this one, Jesus appeared clearly and spoke to me in sign language — a language I have not yet learned, but recognized the need to. Because it was a dream, I do not remember all that was said. However, upon awakening, I looked up the signs I remembered in a sign dictionary … He called me "Deaf girl" (actually, "girl" isn't the right sign either, but it's close), and He signed, VERY clearly, "Come follow Me."
Well. It couldn't get any plainer. I was being Called. It doesn't take a two-by-four, just nearly so. ;)
At my husband's insistence, we attended church the next day. His daughter attends an AG church, and we wanted to find out more about it "anyways," so that's where we went. Morning and evening services. I was determined, though, to not veer from my "chosen" path. I didn't want to give up my gods, my complacent life, the level of comfortability. Besides, I had all those unanswered questions, and felt that Christianity "in general" was responsible for most of the mess our world's in today. I spent both services in tears, torn between what I knew must be, and what I thought I wanted. What a silly woman I am! I also spent some time talking to Christian friends, people who know my history, and know what making a decision to follow Jesus would mean to me. Thank God for putting them in my life, because surely without their aid I would have gone crazy during those few days. I couldn't figure out HOW I could possibly give up all that I was. Really, my whole identity was focused on being Pagan. I was a leader in the community online, I was respected as being a powerful Witch, and my gods were family. Family! But I could not refuse the call of Jesus, any more than the sun could refuse to rise.
So by Monday I was tentatively resolved. Tentatively. I wanted some proof — dreams can come from anywhere. So Monday night I prayed for the problems I've been having with a piece of software I'm responsible for at work to be resolved. This issue has been giving me gray hair for some time, and in spite of asking for help of other people who use this software (weeks before), I'd gotten none. Tuesday afternoon, in my mail, was a letter from Rich Tatum, telling me how to resolve my problem. God bless you, Rich! Now, imagine me, a Pagan still in heart, having prayed to a god that I didn't really believe in, and then getting a nearly immediate answer from somebody from Christianity Online! The fact that he also happens to be from an A/G church just adds to it.
Rich spent about all day talking to me on Wednesday. He told me, among other things, the story of Saul's conversion, and answered many of my questions. At some point that day, I'm not sure I can name the exact minute, but I made the decision, in my heart, to do as Jesus said and follow Him. Over the next two days, my heart became light, and I knew that I had finally come home.
On Friday, my family left for a much-needed vacation at the beach. I convinced my husband that we should go to church on Sunday. I felt that I desperately needed to be there. I am so grateful to God for the power of the Internet, because I was easily able to locate the A/G church in Morehead City, nearby to where we were staying. The service was excellent. God was there. That is still SO amazing to me, I can't put it into words how good it felt. God was there. What a difference from the church I grew up in, with its empty rituals and meaningless sermons.
But I digress. The pastor there was not only an excellent preacher, he was also an excellent speaker. In most situations with a large room and stereo speakers, even with hearing aids I could not hear well. But I could read his lips easily, which is unusual in one not trained to speak to the deaf. After the service I had to go and compliment him on this fact. In explaining why I'd comment on this, I told him that I was 70% deaf and even with the hearing aids, I couldn't hear him well. He asked if he could pray for my ears, and we did. I felt something powerful surge through me. I was still deaf when I left, and I really felt that if the Lord was going to show up in a dream speaking in sign language, that probably meant that Deaf is what I was supposed to be. Oh me of little faith …
Late that night and early Monday morning, I was sick — incredibly, horribly sick to the point of being delirious. I felt like something had to come out of me, to leave. In my delirium, I asked my old gods to leave me. I named each one and told them to go. My poor husband really thought I was nuts. But in the early afternoon, I suddenly felt better, and I could hear. I COULD HEAR! Praise God. I can't tell you how good it is to hear what my daughter's voice really sounds like, or to be able to have a conversation with my husband where he doesn't have to repeat himself. Tears still fall as I write this. It's incredible.
And as if I needed anything else as proof, Thursday morning as we began to pack up our tent, it started to sprinkle. I said "Lord, please.give us an hour before it rains!" The sun came out within five minutes. We scurried around, got everything packed and loaded. An hour and three minutes later, by my husband's watch, as we drove out of the campground, the skies opened and it poured.
Truly, the Lord has blessed me! I am so in awe of all that's transpired. In 18 days, my whole life has changed and I am so incredibly happy. I have been singing His praises all week.
I'm going to end here because I've run out of words, and my employer really WOULD like me to do a little work today, considering I've been gone for a week and have a LOT of catching up to do <grin>. And it's harder than I expected to share this story. I still have lots of questions. There is so much for me to learn. But I've developed an unshakeable faith over the last week and I know that it will sustain my heart until my brain catches up. Thank you for listening.
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The Sharpe Logs: email and chat transcripts with Kathi Sharpe, ex-Wiccan
© 2001 by Richard A. Tatum
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