This Is My Story

Let me set a scene for you…

It’s 2018, Black Panther is dominating the box office, everyone is abuzz about the Royal Wedding, and the closest thing we had to a pandemic was the “tide pod challenge”. My weight had climbed to 580 lbs., by far the biggest I have ever been. I couldn’t go to stores due to how hard it was to stand for longer than a few minutes at a time. I had been out of church for a while and I didn’t have any friends outside of church, so I didn’t get out much. I had a job at least, though that wouldn’t last. I felt uninspired, unable to write anything on my blog. “What good is having a ‘gift’ if I can’t bring myself to use it?” I would think as I stare at a blank draft. On top of all this, my marriage of seven years had taken its last labored breath.

This was the year that began a seemingly endless journey through some of the darkest times of my life. While I have made references to my story over the course of my writing, I feel it’s necessary to delve a bit deeper into my testimony in hopes that it will help someone else.

After our mutual separation, I moved into mom and dad’s new house, my life now tucked away in a box of broken pieces in hopes I’ll eventually forget. The next almost two years were comprised of working, coming home, going to my room, sleeping, and waking to the same mind-numbing routine. The only human interaction I got was with my family and at work. I existed in hopelessness, feeling like I had wasted my only chance at a normal life. At least I had a steady job.

Until I didn’t.

February of 2020, just before the onset of the global pandemic, I lost yet another job. Feeling lost, useless, hopeless, and bitter, and now I felt like a burden to my family. Isolation continued taking its heavy toll as it was affecting how I interacted with my own family. It was during this time I began having thoughts of wishing I were dead. In my mind, it would have been easier for everyone if I wasn’t around to be such a burden. I would imagine someone putting a bullet in my head for that instantaneous release of death I desired. “I’m too much of a coward to do it myself,” I jokingly thought to myself, “but if someone else were to do it, I wouldn’t stop them.”

Toward the latter-end of 2020, mom told me about this small group lead by Matt and Tiffany Hutchinson called “Current”. “Well, any human interaction is better than none,” I agreed with cautious optimism. We met in a small chapel across from the main church building, having open discussion about the chosen topic and anything else that came up. I ended up loving it. Even though I was only there for the final two meetings of the year, it felt like I had stumbled on the desert oasis my mind and spirit desperately needed.

The months that followed saw me return to the depths of darkness. My sweet ma-maw passed away in June of 2021. It was an incredibly difficult time for us, while at the same time celebrating the end of a race well run. Amidst this time of grieving for our family, however, something happened that would forever alter the course of my life.

I was told that Morgan and Joey Nelson were officially taking over Current as Matt and Tiffany were going to lead InsideOut Youth. They decided on a new name for the group: CommUNITY. The mission being to bring together men & women in the 20s and 40(ish) age group to have real discussions of what we are struggling with, and create a unified group of burning warriors of Christ that will lift each other up and go into spiritual battle for each other in times of need.

Something in me sprang to life when I received this announcement, and I felt excitement like I had not experienced in a very long time, if ever. Later that year, we began our meetings in the Great Room at Christ Temple Church, our wonderful home church. For the very first time, I was making real friends and was beginning to engage in discussions with others my age about everything we’re going through. I was still experiencing those dark thoughts and battled extreme depression & anxiety on a constant basis, but at least I had a way to give my spirit a refreshing drink once a week.

In August of 2021 at one particular CommUNITY service, something happened that I believe changed everything. During the meeting, I shared my dark secret with the group, heart racing as I expounded on my innermost fears and wishing I were dead. Then, God spoke directly to me through Morgan as well as Emily Ferguson, who was seated next to me. Essentially, God told me He had been trying to take me out from under the shell I had been hiding under, and that I needed to stop fighting Him to keep that shell. The Lord also said He wants to use me now, not when I’m this ideal version of myself I’ve been waiting on. He gave me gifts to use for His Kingdom right now. Emily also said she pictured me walking along a path with God, and every time I hit an obstacle, I think I take several steps backwards while God is waiting up ahead for me to catch up to Him. The reality is, God is much more gracious than I ever gave Him credit for; He will always come back for me and pick me back up.

The months since then, God has continued to tear me away from my old mindset and ignite a new fire within me that differs from anything I have felt before. The Jewel City Revival was the gasoline to the fire, allowing God to further separate me from the person I used to be. My list of friends in CommUNITY continued to grow in number and in closeness. Slowly, I was beginning to feel like a completely different person altogether. There was just one thing missing…

CommUNITY was scheduled to lead worship the final Wednesday before revival started back up. I of course volunteered; as much as I wanted to, I think my friends wanted it that much more! It would be the first time I had lead worship in close to 10 years (give or take). I was so very nervous yet excited at the same time. I must have had my eyes closed for two-thirds of the time I was leading my song (which was Battle Belongs by Phil Wickham, of course). The response was absolutely overwhelming; so much so, we were invited to lead worship each Wednesday of the upcoming revival, which is still happening as of this writing.

God has poured into me like never before because of my obedience to Him in walking in the anointing He has placed on my life. I can truly say I will never, ever be the same. From wishing I were dead, to now leading others to the same life-giving freedom I now have is something no one can ever take away. To think, it’s still only the beginning…

A New Generation of Revival

There are many things in this world that always elicit a smile, like a peak of sunlight forcing its way through an overcast sky or a vibrant rainbow marking the blessed end to the torrential rains. My little niece Claire and nephew Elias are two such things. Today, we had the pleasure of entertaining them on this frigid February afternoon.

As soon as I heard their familiar shrills of excitement, I smiled to myself. I take a moment to appreciate how easy it is to smile these days. To think that several months ago I was crippled by depression and anxiety; that person feels like a lifetime ago now.

Before long Mom, Claire and I found ourselves knee-deep in art supplies. (Elias has an affinity for video game culture, so his Spidey-senses inevitably led him to uncle Seth’s shiny new Xbox.) Soon, the dining room was transformed into an art studio, and Madame Claire went to work on her next masterpiece. I also made an attempt, and I will only say, it’s a good thing I can write better than I make art.

Claire and me displaying her work of art

Amidst all the laughs and fun times, I can’t help but marvel at how fast they’re growing. I’m fortunate to be able to appreciate these moments while also watching them blossom into who God created them to be. Their personalities are so unique, from Claire-bear’s creative and enthusiastic spirit, to Elias’s sense of humor and intelligence. Each one, like us, has been handcrafted for a unique purpose for such a time as this.

Now, my mind broadens to their generation as a whole. These children are coming up at a critical time, a time that’s seeing our nation continuing to turn its back on God. Young adults of today are more stressed, depressed, and are entering a world where truth is subjective and moral compasses spiral in every direction.

That’s why we as sons and daughters of the Almighty don’t follow a compass, but a light. The Light, that is. Our path is illuminated by Scriptures, and darkness cannot touch what God has covered in His Holy light. It’s important that the next generation understands this and that they know the love of the Father as we do.

So, while we’re making art, playing bean bag toss, or having movie night together, we must also be bold in our expression of praise and worship. They need to see us deep in prayer, or freely worshipping together in church. This needs to be as normal as brushing their teeth (or waking up at 6 am for no reason). I’ve seen what this can do first-hand during the Jewel City Revival. Numerous amounts of kids have made the choice to get prayed for, baptized by water or the Holy Spirit. God is pouring His oil out upon these young people for what He plans to unleash upon the principalities corrupting our nation.

I have to say, that brings the biggest smile to my face of them all.

A Lesson in Boldness

I read an interesting account of events in the book of Nehemiah that I believe holds a lesson or two we can apply to our current day and age.

In the year 444 B.C., Nehemiah, who had served in King Artaxerxes’ court as a cupbearer, lead a group of Jews back to Jerusalem after 70 years of exile in Babylon. He along with the scribe and priest Ezra sought to rebuild the city walls in addition to solidifying the political and spiritual foundations of the people.

When word of their efforts first reached the regional governors Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem, they were greatly disturbed. They began mocking Nehemiah, saying, “What is this thing you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” (Nehemiah 2:19 NASB). Of course, Nehemiah knew God would give them success, so the rebuilding continued as planned.

As their progress continued at a fevered pace, the governors’ rage grew more intense. The three men devised numerous schemes in attempt to dissuade the Jews from obeying God’s plans. These included trying to lure Nehemiah into a trap to harm him (Nehemiah 6:2), making false claims against him (verse 5), using false prophets (verses 7-13), and influencing the the nobles of Judah (verses 17-19). Time and time again, they tried to intimidate Nehemiah from completing the city walls. Time and time again, Nehemiah refused to back down, even to the point of working harder to complete the walls in record time.

So, what’s the point of me telling you all this? Well, as I was reading this passage, I began to draw some similarities to modern times. Here in Huntington, WV, the Jewel City Revival is well underway in its mission to take back the city from the principalities that have a death grip on the people. Decades of poverty, drug and alcohol addiction have reduced this once-great city to its current state.

For the past three weeks, revival has exploded throughout the area, particularly the high schools and, most recently, Marshall University campus. Addiction recovery programs invited any members who were willing to a special service at Christ Temple Church (my amazing home church) where more than 70 were baptized in water, leaving behind their old lives in exchange for a new identity in Christ Jesus.

To say the spiritual enemy in this region is disturbed would be an understatement.

Imagine if you will you’re face-to-face with a huge bear (I promise there’s a point here). How do you fight an enemy that is clearly stronger than you? Well, you appear intimidating and make a lot of noise in hopes it runs away in fear. I like to think this is what Satan does when we threaten his operations. That’s why this revival, and any more like it, will draw very loud opposition.

Understand one thing: our enemy knows all too well what would happen if the bride of Christ took a stand together instead of fighting amongst ourselves. So, much like Nehemiah, we will have to stand against threats of the enemy trying to discourage and dissuade us from obeying God’s plans. Already, we are seeing false claims and an uproar of voices raising up against what God is doing here.

What God has birthed here will continue throughout Huntington and beyond, until the spiritual wickedness has been dismantled and scattered. God is raising up a generation right here that will not be swayed or intimidated. We cannot let up, no matter the opposition. Keep in prayer, keep in God’s Word, and pray for rain. God is sending His rains to flood this tri-state in Holy Spirit revival. There will be deliverance, healing, chains will shatter, and lives completely changed. Dormant churches will be awakened, corrupt vessels purified, and oil will pour. What God has begun, He will complete. I for one will not be okay with just living my life ignoring what’s going on. I pray that God will give me Nehemiah’s boldness to remain steadfast, until the Jewel City Revival expands into the Mountain State Revival and beyond.