#183 Goodness in the Pain

 Photo by Trevor Rapp

Two realities can be true at the same time. At this point in my life, I am experiencing deep pain and unexplainable joy. My husband and I long for a child but are experiencing infertility and miscarriage. My pain is rooted in this expectation I had for my life, thinking I would already have children. While the unexplainable joy is attributed to my relationship with Jesus. When I get out of the cloud I am living under, I see the abundant blessings I have in Jesus; and for that, my soul rejoices!

I want to share my story because people need to see the goodness of God even when we experience pain. Most of the time we praise God after we have what we want because it is easy. Rarely do you hear or see people praise Him in the pain. So, I am here to share with you Jesus while we wait, even if it is forever.

Early 2019 I found out I had a miscarriage and we had already been struggling with infertility. I really was not able to process our loss until we were supposed to be welcoming our child into this world. It took me months to recognize a child was not going to be in my arms. It also didn’t help that everyone around me was telling me they were pregnant. And I mean everyone. My heart aches for what I long for and reminds me of the emptiness in my arms. I am so thankful that even in my pain, Jesus found in me a way to rejoice with my friends and even my sister, but it did look very different. My rejoicing includes a lot of tears, difficult conversations, and being present when it is the last thing I want to do. I don’t do everything perfectly, but by the grace of God, He is teaching me how to love when it hurts. 

One verse in particular that has really spoken to me through infertility is John 15:1-2: 

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

I have been holding onto this verse in this longing because I can relate to this verse when I tender my plants. I prune my plants not because they are not growing or unsatisfied by the way they look, but to make them grow stronger, dig deeper roots, and have a firm foundation. We can get caught up in believing lies that God is taking something good from us or we have done something to deserve this. But I know God is pruning me to shape me more like Jesus, for His glory. He is showing me who He is—the Giver is more important than the gifts. I have realized and it is even harder to admit, but it is better to have Him without children than it is to have children and not have Him. 

I didn’t really understand how to be in relationship with the Holy Spirit. Infertility has made me more aware of the Holy Spirit inside of me. The same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is inside of me! How beautiful is this! God sent His Son so we could be in union with Him. Jesus humbled Himself so that I may have eternal life with Him. The Holy Spirit taught me how to become vulnerable. It took me a while, and as I started to share more of my story, the more I felt the presence of God (see 2 Corinthians 12:9-10). It is emotionally and physically exhausting, but God is using my pain to share His good news. I don’t know if or when this pain will go away, but my response can still be pure and obedient. 

This is why I want to share my story. To provide hope in Jesus! Expectations can bring pain, while reality brings Jesus. I know God is loving, and I want people to see He is just as loving and present in the pain as He is in our happiness. I don’t want people to discount the work God is doing in their life while waiting. I am only able to glorify God because the Holy Spirit is working in me. My husband and friends can comfort me—and I believe the Lord uses them to help me—but ultimately it is the comfort the Lord provides through the Holy Spirit that is sustaining me and teaching me how to be joyful in a time of pain (see 2 Corinthians 1:3).

Jesus came to bear my burden and for me to experience Him, and this pain has allowed me to fall into His arms. I have to trust Him in the unforeseen future as He is the same God before I wanted children as He is now (see Isaiah 40:28). Infertility cannot take Jesus away, and this is why I rejoice! God does not promise children but promises Jesus! The pain is deep and may never go away, but the love of God is greater, and the promise of God stands forever. So, I lay it all down at the feet of Jesus.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#169 The Little Church by the Creek: Surrender


Photo by Brianna Rapp

I have been a Christian for 23 years, and about four years ago I started attending the little church by the creek. In this four years, God has used this place to expand my perspective and revelation of who He is and how He works. Each year our church holds a tent revival in our town, and each year I have been blessed and challenged by the messages which have come forth there. Last year I was coming out of a particularly long and difficult season in my personal and professional life. My father had become disabled and I had been caring for him. Our daughter had nearly lost her life to her longstanding drug addiction. I was beginning to feel that my job of 13 years was no longer appropriate for me, but fearful of change and loss of income, I continued to stay. As the tent revival was coming to an end on Sunday night last year, I was powerfully touched by the Holy Spirit. I felt that God was calling me to a new level of surrender to Him. I remembered my baptism that night as a symbol of my willingness to surrender and go deeper. Since that day I have been able to let go of the feelings that I must keep everything together. I have let go of the illusion of control. I found a good caregiver for my father. I have been able to turn my daughter completely over to God, knowing that He loves her more than we do and is reaching her in ways we cannot. I left my job at the end of last year and have been able to begin serving God within my church, and most recently, my community, as an ordained chaplain. God has provided and I have peace that I am in His will and He is more than able to lead me. None of this would have happened without the little church by the creek.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#149 Little Church by the Creek

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff 

God blessed me with a good foundation. I grew up in the church. My grandmother lived with us and we shared a bedroom. She knelt by her bed every night and prayed in a whisper. I could hear her as she prayed for the less fortunate and missionaries. I heard her pray in her prayer language. It was such a blessing, a real learning experience that I didn’t realize I was getting at the time. Mamaw would always help in any way she could. She stayed in the background but taught us how to help and what to do and how to do it. She was not only an example in prayer but also an example in her life. She never preached but her life preached.  

Growing up we went to church every Sunday. I gave my life to Christ at a holiness camp meeting when I was seven years old. Our family attended a very evangelistic church. I remember during church Mamaw waving her hanky and praying with tears streaming down her face. I would say, “Mamaw,” and tap her on the hand and she would say, “Shhh, you will break the Spirit.” 

God taught me many lessons through my grandmother—to be a servant without words. All those years ago in church, she cautioned me not to break the Spirit, and indeed God showed me the fruits of His Spirit working in her life. She was a woman of patience, kindness, and gentleness. She showed love to many people and showed remarkable peace and faith when she faced hardships. When her husband died, she had a graceful, calming presence in that storm. God also showed me the importance of perseverance and faithfulness through her life. If you continue your walk, your faith grows and God gives you the ability to serve in humility. 

Music is in our family. My mom was a singer and sang at almost every funeral, wedding, and revival in our county. My grandmother and I often attended. I am now the worship leader at our church for the first service. I play piano, lead the choir, and pick out the songs. Both of my daughters sing in the choir. I try to impress upon the choir that we aren’t just singing. I encourage them to see what the song means and to convey that message to the people in the congregation and bring them to a place of worshipping God. My favorite hymn is “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” as I think that is the original praise and worship song.

I have experienced God’s faithfulness throughout my life. One particular time comes to mind. I had been working with a ministry and I would hear women give such emotionally gripping testimonies. I thought, “Oh Lord, please don’t make me do that.” But I was asked to give my testimony. I was scared to death. It was last minute—another speaker quit just before and they asked me to share. I turned it over to God and He was faithful. I can’t tell you what I said but He gave me the words. This and many other occasions have shown me that God is always faithful. 

I am thankful for my family, especially for my grandmother who was such an example and inspiration to me. I am thankful for the church of my childhood and the church I now attend, for the fellowship and encouragement of believers and for the opportunity to serve Him through music. God has been good to me and I am so grateful. 

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#139 Do It Again, God!

Photo by Abby Daughtry Photography

Several years ago I looked into my family history. I realized my personal connection to so many people, discovering some dark secrets as well. As I read the Bible again with fresh eyes, I saw that Jesus’ family history was quite colorful as well!

I then began to research the history of my church, St. Paul United Methodist Church. I picked up a history book that had been sitting on my bookshelf since 1982. With a Single Eye was written by a genealogist who attended our church. This tome documented the revival and awakening that took place in our budding city during the mid-1800s, before the Civil War, leading to the formation of many churches in the area. Reading the book piqued my interest, and I started doing more research online.

I found the local newspaper article from 1883 that recounted the “Great Revival of 1849.” The article was taken from a pastor’s speech commemorating the laying of the cornerstone of the first Methodist church organized in our community. He himself had attended the revival, explaining that prior to the revival, there were only seven professing believers in the town. He stated, “The preaching of the gospel was with no regularity, and seemed to produce no fruits.” That all changed that first Sunday in September of 1849 when two Methodist ministers began a revival, meeting every day, once in the mornings in a church in the main village nearby, and once in the evenings at the local public schoolhouse in the new city around the new railroad tracks. The first service was quite solemn and many penitent people came to the altar. The revival meetings went on for 21 straight days. The weather was beautiful and large congregations assembled daily, many coming from 20–30 miles away (remember, there were no cars!) The Holy Spirit moved powerfully, and there was weeping, confession, praying for one another, and much joy! 

One particular conversion stands out: A very respected gentleman of high character in the town, who was the chairman of the court and a successful businessman, was determined not to get carried away with all the “fanaticism” of his neighbors. He was so irritated, in fact, that in protest he went fishing at a place where everyone in the church would see him. He had no bites from the fish but many from mosquitoes! As he heard the songs coming from the church, a remarkable thing happened. He left with his heart and conscience heavy; the next day he was “at the church, a broken-hearted penitent.” This soul and many others came to know the Lord in the great revival awakening of 1849. At the end of the 21 consecutive days of preaching, 100 people had accepted Christ as their Savior. As a result, churches of different denominations were later built in the area, including the first Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Episcopal churches. Soon thereafter was the AME Zion church, and still later, the very first Pentecostal Holiness church in the world!

I now attend this same Methodist church that was built from this great awakening. Last summer, I committed to remembering this great revival and how the Holy Spirit moved so powerfully to awaken many souls. I committed to duplicate the same event, to pray for another revival and awakening in our community and beyond. Several others in our city, representing different churches and denominations, joined me to travail in prayer together. We met each day at sunrise and sunset at the same two sites of the original revival to pray for another great revival and awakening. This time, though, we began on the second Sunday in September, and continued for 21 consecutive days of prayer meetings. We have seen the Holy Spirit move mightily in our community again, and we are trusting that God will bring about another great awakening in His perfect time.

This has been a great revival for me personally, reviving me with a great infilling of the Holy Spirit. On the very last night, glad to be finished, the Lord gave me three dreams in a row, telling me to continue! And so we are, praying still for a great revival and awakening, joining the church all over the world praying for a great awakening, sowing seeds of prayers to blow in the Holy Spirit’s four winds to carry them as He wills…carrying the hope to all the hearts He wants to reach—knock, knock, knocking and waiting for doors to open, so that they will receive the gifts of grace, mercy, forgiveness, and healing, repenting and turning resolutely to follow Jesus. Then the world will know His love, the only true love there is…that there is only one true way to live life, abundantly now and forevermore…for he is the LORD God Almighty, the One who gives life and blessings. No matter how dark the darkness is we may face, no matter our sins and shortcomings, no matter what will come, He is YHWH, holy, holy, holy, who is and was and always will be. Our God! Abba Father God, the Name above all names, we love you, praise you, need you…whatever it takes, Lord, use us to carry out Your will today and every day, until that day comes when we, Your chosen children, will all be together as Your family in heaven, forever. Amen. So be it, thy will!

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#72 It Was Christ In Them


 Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

It was located in a storefront on the bustling street of the mid-sized township. Yesterday the church boldly opened its one door for free coffee and treats for the old town. And they dared to hope that love and expectant happiness might spread. Of course, the central heat died and couldn’t be fixed on time—which seemed par for the course. Everyone huddled in their coats and sipped on hot drinks. 

The following day, Sunday, the people brought an assortment of small space heaters—which of course blew a few fuses. But after some fiddling with switches and outlets, the place was moderately warm. They prepared for a normal day of worship. A few treats placed lovingly, coffee made pot by pot. Two greeters stationed happily to greet the faithful—the ones who came always: the elderly with canes, single young mothers with rambling and bright children, single people, young couples. This was the day to remake Jesus as King in human souls, as the faithful and tender leader—the One deserving worship. The Hopegiver. But, though the people had planted seeds and watered them, they did not make the plant grow. That was the heart-striking excitement of it all! In through the door that day new families and singles and senior citizens streamed through the door. They were not led by any human but, you could tell, by a Spirit more invested, more compassionate, more joy-filled, more merciful than any human. It was God Himself who gathered them up. The Father who sang into their souls: “Come.” Christ Himself who went ahead and behind. The Alive One, the giver of tingling expectation, was the warmth of that gathered family—strangers and friends together. 

The people scrambled to make extra coffee and find more chairs. Some had to wait to sit down to make sure the new ones had a place. In their hearts, working through love and hands, was the Holy. And joy tumbled and laughed and stood up straight with healthy pride. And it wasn’t them, it was Christ in them: the hope of glory.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#53 Listening Taking A Leap Of Faith

Photo by L. Smyth Photography

I have recently been praying and asking that the Holy Spirit would move in me by revealing opportunities to love others, and that when those times come, to give me the boldness and conviction of heart to act.

I am a freshman in college and over winter break I had the privilege of being able to go on a winter retreat offered by one of the campus ministries. I knew that this was a chance to have open ears for different things the Lord might want to show me through worship, fellowship, and messages, and to refocus to keep my eyes on Christ as I headed into the second semester. I was tempted to think it was a chance to get rest that was much needed, but I have been on retreats before with friends, and I knew that there would most likely be very late nights and little sleep.

During one of these late nights, I sought out one of my friends who is a staff member at this campus ministry to pray over me before I returned back to school in the spring. She pulled in another staff member to pray over me as well. Right when we were about to start, three girls whom I had never seen before approached us to talk to one of the staff members they knew. Due to the fact that we were about to start praying, the staff member asked if the three girls would like to join us in prayer. Initially I did not know how I felt about this, but it was not a huge deal. If they wanted to join, why not? There was no harm in it.

The two staff members began to pray over my life. These two have prayed over me before and when they did, I could hear the Lord’s voice and His direction over my life because of their incredible gift to hear from the Lord and speak His truth. Once again, God blew me away with the things He wanted to reveal to me through the prayer of these two.

But the Lord was not finished working in that moment. After the group had finished praying over me, one of the staff members began to speak directly to one of the three girls who had joined us. He said he felt that the Lord was telling him specific ways in which He viewed her and how she was going to serve Him in the future. She replied that he was spot on and that she had been working through these same things he had mentioned.

He then asked if we could pray over her, and she agreed. This is where I witnessed God move and work the most. People in the group begin to pray different things over her including the identity that God has given her. As we prayed, I recalled how I had been asking the Holy Spirit to move in me. I did not know this girl at all and was content to listen and not pray out loud over her. As people continued praying over her, they were saying various things that had to do with the Lord being pleased with her. I kept waiting for someone to actually say this phrase—that the Lord was pleased with her just how she is. No one ever did.

I felt my heart begin to pound and my chest get tight. I really felt like this needed to be said, but did not know if I had the place to say this over someone I had never seen until 30 minutes ago. That was it—I made up my mind that this was placed on my heart for a reason and that I needed to say it. I spoke up and said, “I know I don’t know you very well at all, but I feel like the Lord wants me to tell you that He is completely and fully pleased with you. You can stop striving. He loves you for exactly who you are and where you are at.”

As soon as I said it, the girl burst into tears. She had heard exactly what she needed to hear from the Lord in that moment. I had never experienced anything like this, where God used me so directly to influence another’s life to reveal His truth in their life. I was stunned and filled with joy. Not only did God answer my prayer to fill me with the Holy Spirit so I may be led by Him more, but He showed me that if I would just be willing to be aware of His voice, listen, and take more leaps of faith, He would show up in big ways.

I am extremely encouraged and thankful for a faithful, attentive Father. I am grateful for the prayers of the staff members who spoke truth over my life and convicted my heart. God was certainly glorified in that. But God had even bigger plans that night. He orchestrated every person in that group to be brought together for a specific purpose so that His will would be done and His Holy Spirit would move, calling His children back to Him in love. It was not I, but He that moved in hearts that night and was faithful to my initial request to be moved by the Holy Spirit to act. He is worthy of our trust, faith, and praise.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#6. Saturated With The Glory Of God

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

 I went to Cuba to minister in a number of house churches in 2004. On the eastern side of Havana, there are hundreds of tenement housing projects that were built in the 1950s to house Soviet Army barracks.  Now, literally thousands of people live in each building—and the buildings stretch one after another after another for miles and miles.  During the last morning that I was teaching, my interpreter didn’t show up. I don’t speak any Spanish and they didn’t speak any English. It was really awkward, being crammed into a small sitting room with about 40 people just staring at me, waiting for me to do something.

As I sat there looking at them, and as they sat there looking at me, I felt like the Holy Spirit engaged me in what became a running conversation. I seem to get in these talks often with the Lord, especially when I muster the audacity to kind of argue with Him:

“Sing.”  The Lord told me very distinctly.

“I don’t sing, Lord.”  Like He didn’t know that already!

He said it again, “Sing.”

“I don’t speak Spanish.”  Like He didn’t know already.

For the final time, He said, “Sing.”

“Sing what?”

“’Nothing but the Blood.’”

If you’ve ever been around me during any worship times, you’d know that I have a singing voice that only the Father could love! Ironically though, the Lord used me as the worship leader in a couple different congregations that I pastored when I was a missionary in the Philippines. He’s not really looking for technically proficient singers—just people who worship Him with whole hearts. 

Anyway, back to Cuba. In that small sitting room on that day in 2004, I opened my mouth and began to let it rip. I know this may sound cliché, but suddenly, it was as if Jesus opened the door and walked in the room. When I started singing, I felt like a big bottle of Coke: someone took the cap off and God came rushing out. The whole atmosphere became super-charged with the presence of the Lord. The air in the room began to feel so heavy that when I tried to lift my hands to Him in worship and adoration, I couldn’t even raise them above my head. After a few minutes, my feet couldn’t support me any longer because the spiritual climate of the room was saturated with the glory of God. I had the sensation that if I could just raise my hands above my head, then I could poke through the ceiling and all of heaven might fall down! 

People began to pray and sing in the Spirit, in Spanish, and even in English. I started gently laying hands on almost everyone present just to bless and encourage them—and men, women, and kids began to fall out all over the place. The power of the Holy Ghost was so pronounced that one guy even hit his head really hard against the wall on his way down, and I remember thinking, “God, this better be you…because if it’s not, that dude is gonna be in pain.” 

It was the most intense, power-packed renewal that I had ever experienced. Maybe the Lord wants these kinds of encounters to be normal? At any rate, this environment continued on for maybe 20 minutes until finally another interpreter arrived. Everyone kind of regained their composure, including me, and I began to minister through some of the material that the Lord had given me. As I’ve said about my singing, I’m not the greatest preacher on the planet, either. Yet that morning, as I stood there and simply talked about Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus, people just wept and wept and wept. The floodgates were open. I talked about her posture—how every time she appears in the gospels, she’s always at the feet of Jesus.

The church couldn’t get enough. Jesus was in the room in the many-membered Body of Christ—singing, laughing, weeping, loving. His power and glory were on display in our midst in the most concrete, tangible way.  May it ever be so Lord!

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#3 Love In Any Language

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

I was formerly an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church (in Florida, in the 1970s). In 1989, I was part of another network of churches and I traveled with a group of pastors from various states to Warsaw, Poland to attend the United Methodist Annual Conference.

We had been invited to speak on John Wesley and the Holy Spirit. At the end of the conference, our group divided up and went to different places in Poland. I went to Auschwitz where I spoke at a small Pentecostal church. At the end of my message, I invited congregants to come forward for prayer. Five people came forward and I prayed for each.

Then a man approached from the side of the church. The man was massive, about six foot two and 260 pounds. He wore a rumpled suit and had a strong odor of alcohol and tobacco. His shoulders were slumped, his head down. He made no eye contact and said nothing. His countenance was one of defeat. I put one hand on his back and the other on his chest.

And then something happened that I had never experienced. This man felt like a cold, concrete pillar, and everything inside of me shut down. I had nothing to pray or say to this man. I knew enough not to just make something up that sounded religious, but instead I stepped back and just looked at him. Tears began squirting out of my eyes. I felt as if this man in front of me was the only person in the world and God was pouring His love through me into this man. I had an overwhelming and heartbreaking sense of love and mercy for him.

I placed my hands on his chest and began praying out loud. I was crying, and my words and tears were mixed together such that I sounded incoherent to myself. About 15 seconds elapsed and the man jerked upright and fell backwards onto the stage. The church members attended to him and the wife of the pastor at this Pentecostal church told me that she knew this man well and assured me that he would be okay. I left the church with the pastor and his wife and did not see the man again.

As we ate dinner that evening, the pastor’s wife asked me, “How much Russian do you know?”

I answered, “None, why?”

She had a very puzzled look on her face and told me that I had spoken to the man who had fallen back on the stage in Russian. She told me what I said in Russian to the man when I prayed for him: “Those who stole your heart and your life are smaller than I am. I, the Lord and your Savior, have come to restore your heart so that you may have a new life.”

I asked her why God would have used Russian words to speak to this man . . . we were in Poland. Why not Polish? She answered that the Soviet system forced all Polish people to learn Russian and that the Russians had removed this man from teaching—a job that he loved—and forced him to work in a factory—a job he hated. His hate of the Russians led him to alcoholism and depression. She said, “I think the Lord chose to speak to him in Russian, words of life and love, so he could forgive the Russians and trust God to be greater than they.”  

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.