On Red Alert for the Spiritual Needs in France

My heart was heavy this morning as I awoke to more news about the awful terrorist attacks in Paris yesterday. As an American, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the attacks on our country on 9/11/2001.

Horrific.  Senseless.  Pure evil.

Pray for Paris

Where were you when…?

Will this be another day in history that we point to like 9/11 saying, “Where were you when you heard the news of the Friday the 13th Paris terrorist attacks?”

Late yesterday afternoon while waiting in the reception room for a chiropractic appointment, to pass the time I scanned Facebook on my cell phone. As seems to be more and more the case lately, that is where I hear of this sort of breaking news.

Friends were posting updates to pray for Paris. My attention quickly switched to the internet for the latest news, but was interrupted when I was called in to see my doctor for an adjustment followed by a well-deserved massage appointment.

Then late in the day my attention returned to the events across the world while watching a network news show dedicated to this topic. I’m not one to watch these sorts of shows, usually focused on sensational journalism and high profile events. However, this was different because I have a connection to Paris and France in general.

Paris police

My French Connection

Ever since my mission to France last fall, the people and this country have more meaning and significance to me and in my prayer life.

I was only in Paris for a few hours between connections while traveling to Grenoble, France where I stayed with my missionary partners and spoke at their church.

I could’ve bypassed Paris, made a shorter layover, etc. However, when I started booking my travel arrangements, I felt God press upon me to visit Notre Dame and to pray for the people of France.

There were many obstacles that I overcame to do that, including averting the Air France strike while traveling. Through God’s providence and against all physical odds, I arrived on the footsteps of Notre Dame Cathedral five minutes before the noon Mass.

I prayer-walked through the cathedral and through the streets of Paris that day. It was a spiritual high for me.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

After having such a spiritual experience in Paris last fall, the sense of darkness hit me again last night as I watched the scenes from Paris: images of people’s bodies lying in the streets covered with white sheets, police cordoning off and guarding areas like armed militia, and hearing eye witness accounts of what happened.

Before I arrived in Paris last fall, I researched the religious history of France. I was aghast at the religious wars that were fought in this country. It led to a huge divide in the country.

Even today there is still animosity and emotional wounds carried down through family generations between Catholics and Protestants in France. This has led to apathy for organized religion in general and a dramatic decline in church attendance.

The Ongoing Battle

Centuries ago, the blood of the martyrs was splattered throughout this country. Yesterday new blood was splattered on the streets of Paris—unsuspecting victims in a new battle.

My heart aches. In my mind I pray more fervently.

Centuries ago the Huguenots fought for their religious beliefs against the kings and queens of France. The battle lines were drawn. There were persecutions, forced conversions, and ostracisms from society.

Today Parisians, Americans, and people across the world are also caught up in an invisible battle for our souls. It is terrorist attacks like the one yesterday that remind us of the evil intentions of cowardly soldiers who secretly plot against our society.

Their tactic is fear. They are being misled by the biggest enemy we have.

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44, NIV)

One of many memorial sites cropping up in Paris.

One of many memorial sites cropping up in Paris.

On Red Alert to Pray

As Christians, we are called to put on the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). Our strategy is to fight our battles in prayer first. Let’s not be misled by the lies of the Enemy.

It is the Blood of Jesus that overcomes the blood that is splattered across the land in countries across the world.

I am praying for the comfort of the families affected by these horrible crimes against humanity. Like a security alert system that sounds a loud signal of imminent danger, I am also on red alert to pray for God’s power to be poured out on the people of France, for a spiritual awakening and renewal of their Christian faith.

Let us all pray as we feel led for the spiritual and physical needs in France.

In times of tragedy, cry out to God. He will hear you.

In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. (Psalm 18:6, NIV)

He is listening now to our prayers and petitions for France.

To read about the Paris attacks from the perspective of my colleagues in France, click here.

A Personal Invitation: Conference & Prayer Journey in Spain

Have you ever dreamed of traveling to a foreign country? Learning about the culture and history?  Walking through the historic or religious sites that are centuries old?  Do you have a desire to visit Spain?

If you follow my blog you know that I’ve done that. Twice!

IMG_0616

In Segovia, Spain on mission, October 2014.

A Personal Invitation to Visit Spain

Since those two trips I’ve become somewhat of an ambassador for Spain, sharing about the country, its culture, and the religious climate any time the opportunity arises. I’ve come to realize that Spain is a very popular tourist destination with Americans—often running into people who have traveled there.  I’ve not heard a bad review of this beautiful country.

Friendly people.

Easy to communicate despite the language barrier.

And a place where Americans and our tourist money are welcomed.

So do you want to go to Spain?

Next spring, missionary and Pastor Josh Fajardo, from the church where I spoke last fall, is leading an organized prayer journey through many of the same places that I traveled to on my personal pilgrimage in 2013—from Madrid to Southern Spain.

As a writer who fell in love with Spain, and has a pulse on the spiritual climate, my desire is to put Spain on the radar, so to speak, for others. So I’m putting on my ambassador hat and inviting you to follow your heart to Spain!

Almudena Cathedral, Madrid, where I worshiped one day while on mission to Spain, October 2014.

Almudena Cathedral, Madrid, where I worshiped one day while on mission to Spain, October 2014.

The Trip to Spain

This 10-day trip to Spain, scheduled for April 14-24, 2016, starts with a women’s prayer conference in Rivas, a suburb of Madrid. The conference is sponsored by Women’s Ministries International, a nonprofit that supports and empowers programs in under-developed countries. Male attendees will have separate speakers and be involved in other activities during the women’s conference.

Prayer Journey 2016During the 10-day trip to Spain travelers will ride via motor coach to sites with historic and religious significance in Madrid, Toledo, Granada, Málaga, and Seville. Each day of the prayer journey portion of the trip starts with a devotional and time spent in prayer.  The mornings are organized group time visiting cathedrals, synagogues, mosques, museums, or royal palaces.

After the traditional midday meal, you are free to explore the city and familiarize yourselves with the culture and the people in a more personal way. Everyone reconvenes over the evening meal (very late by American standards) to share what God is doing in their lives and where He met them in the streets of Spain.

Here’s what Pastor Josh, who organized the trip has to say about it:

“If you studied Spanish history you learned how Spain has influenced continents and has contributed to the economic and spiritual development of many countries in both hemispheres. Today, it’s a different story…Christian history informs us that Spain never experienced spiritual reformation.  This is why we are inviting you to join us in praying for God’s power to be revealed on this nation!  God is calling His people to participate and intercede!  Is your heart moved to pray for a people that have strayed away from God?  Consider becoming a prayer partner, join us on this journey and be a part of a spiritual awakening in our generation in Spain!”

My Personal Experience

As someone who has been to all of these places except Málaga, I can attest to their amazing beauty, and historical and religious significance. Spain was conquered and divided into regions ruled by Muslims and Christians. It wasn’t until the fall of Granada in 1492 that Muslim rule ended in Spain. Granada and the Alhambra, the palace and fortress compound from which the Muslims ruled, will be visited as part of the prayer journey in Southern Spain.  (I toured that in 2013—incredible!!!)

I can also attest to the breadth of religious history and context that Pastor Josh has to impart to those on the trip. For instance, before I returned to Spain last fall, Josh told me about the auto de fé (religious courts) held in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor during the Spanish Inquisition several centuries ago.  I was shocked to learn that after the judgment was pronounced, heretics were burned at the stake (in Plaza Mayor).

Auto de fe by Francisco Rizi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Auto de fé, Plaza Mayor, 1680, painted by Francisco Rizi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I returned to Madrid for the CR mission last October, I visited Plaza Mayor again and saw it in a new light. Josh also told me to look for the sculptures depicting scenes from the religious courts.  This historic scene along with others was barely noticeable on the backs of public benches surrounding the lamp posts in the outdoor plaza.

Plaza Mayor is one of the most popular tourist sites in Madrid, but there is no marker or mention of this piece of history at the plaza. Having this new spiritual context of Plaza Mayor led me to pray for healing in the country in new ways.

Why go?

God got a hold of me and gave me a heart for Spain and the need for spiritual renewal in the country during my first trip there, which was not part of an organized tourist package. What I reference above about Plaza Mayor is just one example from my own personal experience of how seeing a country from a spiritual perspective (like Josh provides) makes it a truly enriching, moving, and life-changing experience.  It will awaken stirrings in your heart for the people of Spain.

I could go on and on about Spain, and as a self-proclaimed ambassador for the country, I will in time write more about it. For now, check out the brochure about the conference and prayer journey, Spain-Prayer-Journey-Brochure-2016, or visit the registration page at Women’s Ministries International.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1, NIV)

Present day Plaza Mayor at night

Present day Plaza Mayor at night

Fertilizing the Soil in Spain & France through Prayer

A year ago at this time I was traveling through France and Spain on a church mission. It was a fantastic trip, and not your typical sort of international mission. The purpose was to spread the gospel by speaking and teaching about Celebrate Recovery (CR), a Christian 12-step program launched at Saddleback Church over 20 years ago.

CR is in 69 countries with the materials translated into 28 languages.  So why did I go to Spain and France? The Lord has given me a heart for His people in Spain and continues to prompt me to pray for their spiritual needs; France because of an invitation from an American missionary and colleague who invited me to share my testimony.

Sharing my testimony at the CR meeting in Grenoble, France (October 2014)

Sharing my testimony at the CR meeting in Grenoble, France (October 2014)

As I mark the one-year anniversary of my mission, it’s time to pass on an update from my missionary partners and to share more about the spiritual climate in these countries.

Preparing for a Harvest in Spain

I’ve always believed that the mission was only made possible because of my personal pilgrimage to Spain in the summer of 2013. I prayed throughout the country in numerous churches and cathedrals. In preparing for that trip, the Lord laid it upon my heart to pray for a spiritual awakening in Spain. Within six months, I was invited to return and lead a Celebrate Recovery seminar in the suburbs of Madrid.

While in Spain that first summer, my prayers weren’t related to Celebrate Recovery or for the Lord to use me in Spain. I liken my prayers to how Jesus spoke in parables about the harvest (Luke 8). My prayers were tilling the spiritual soil in the country. They were focused on preparing the spiritual and physical atmosphere to be open to the Lord’s work. When I returned to Spain on mission last fall, I continued to pray in the same vein, fertilizing the message that was taught in the CR seminar.

The Fruit of our Labor in Spain

If you were to look at the fruit one year later in Spain specifically, it may not look like much. You can’t point to the launch of a CR program at any local churches. You can’t point to continued training of the participants. What you can point to is that the message was received and is being welcomed by the seminar attendees.

We left the attendees with Spanish copies of Life’s Healing Choices (Ocho Decisiones Sandoras), written by John Baker, co-founder of Celebrate Recovery. This book breaks down the 12-steps into recovery choices or principles that are more easily understood in individual and small group settings. Some of the seminar attendees have worked through that book and are eager to share the information they learned.

The CR content is also being integrated into the curriculum being taught at the John Wesley Bible Institute (launched after our seminar). Another exciting development shared by my missionary partner in Madrid, Pastor Josh Fajardo, is that he has been meeting with an evangelical priest interested in the program.

The First CR Harvest in France

While in Spain CR has barely been introduced, in France there is one known CR group that is up and running. That group is led by my missionary partner in Grenoble, Marvin Klein, at E.P.E.G.E. where I shared my testimony. That CR ministry has been active for two years.

Regular attendance at the weekly meeting is 16 people—10 men and 6 women. These participants are wrapping up the ministry’s inaugural step study groups and preparing for leadership. Consistency and momentum grew in the women’s group following my visit.

Marvin also shared with me that they are working on making the ministry more visible to the outside and plan to create a video about the program. He has continued contact with a friend who attended the Spain CR seminar who is interested in applying the CR material to teens and young adults. Marvin is also in communication with a French priest and a missionary in Barcelona who are both interested in the program.

The European Soil – Religious History & Cultural Context

Why is this significant? It’s because of the European religious history and cultural context. From my perspective, the European church is still years behind the shift that the church has experienced in America.

I’ve been in recovery for over a decade. Early on in my journey, I attended one of the oldest CR ministries in our state. It was at a time when the talk about vulnerability, codependency, and boundaries was starting to catch on in the church. Christians attending secular recovery groups like AA and Al-Anon started to drift toward CR.

Slowly the church has embraced the concept of spiritual poverty. Other ministries have been birthed, books and Bible studies have been written, and sermons preached—all pointing to some of the key concepts taught and practiced at CR. This results in Good News for Christians in America. However, I still believe that if people truly embraced their brokenness, CR meetings would be standing room only every week.

France and Spain also both have deep spiritual and emotional wounds related to the Church. It’s similar to the deep divide that occurred in the United States when the Civil War separated our nation between the North and the South over slavery.

St. Bartholomew's Massacre

St. Bartholomew’s Massacre, 1572, Paris (Painted by Francois Dubois)

With the birth of the Protestant Reformation Movement by Martin Luther in 1517, France became divided in its religious beliefs. This led to bloody massacres, a series of religious wars, and forced conversions to Catholicism.  Intense animosity still exists, handed down from generation to generation.   Unfortunately, Europeans in general have turned against the organized church.

The spiritual history in Spain is no less traumatic with the blood of Christian martyrs buried in the soil. The Protestant Reformation Movement never made a stronghold in Spain. However, the Spanish Inquisition was very effective for over 300 years (1478-1834) at keeping heretics to a minimum. The goal of the Inquisition was a pure and unified Spanish-Christian race.

In 1492, over 150,000 Jews were expelled from Spain. Another 750,000 remained and forced to convert to Catholicism. It wasn’t until earlier this year that Spain finally passed a law to grant their descendants the right to dual Spanish citizenship.

Although Spain is considered a Catholic country, most Spaniards don’t attend Mass or practice their faith. The country’s Catholic roots and traditions are prevalent in the government, the monarchy, the culture, and the celebration of holidays and religious feasts and festivals. Sadly, towering Gothic cathedrals serve more as museums and tourist attractions than working churches.

Plaza Mayor, Madrid, a popular tourist attraction, but few realize that heretics were burned at the stake here during the Spanish Inquisition.

Plaza Mayor, Madrid, a popular tourist attraction, but few realize that heretics were burned at the stake here during the Spanish Inquisition.

Prayer is the Work

Thankfully I got to attend Mass at a few of these cathedrals and toured several of them as well. It was where I did my best Kingdom work, praying in these sacred structures that weathered the spiritual and physical battles of centuries gone by. It was like being on Holy Ground. I did the same while in France last year, most notably by attending Mass at Notre Dame while on a short layover in Paris.

I still have a vested interest in the fruit being produced in these countries as I continue to pray for their spiritual renewal and healing. It’s one way I can be used by the Lord and have an impact in the Kingdom in spiritual ways unknown to me.

A spiritual mentor once told me that we can change the world if we are willing to be invisible.  I’ve been blessed to be visibly used as the hands and feet of Jesus in France and Spain on my mission last fall. But it started with being invisible in the summer of 2013.

What I think we tend to forget in our busy American lifestyle is that prayer is the work. Thankfully that message has been resonating in theaters across America over the last month with the release of War Room, and its message to fight your battles in prayer first.

Wherever we are, as Followers of Christ, we have access to our Heavenly Father, to Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Let’s prepare the way for all we do in His Name by preparing the atmosphere of our hearts and the physical and spiritual lay of the land in prayer.

  • To support the CR work in Spain, click here.
  • To support the CR work in France, click here, and select ‘Klein’ on the drop down menu.

And please help fertilize the soil by lifting their efforts in prayer to bring spiritual renewal and healing into their countries.

What if His People Prayed, Part 2 ~ Global Prayers

Before my mother passed away three years ago, my regular prayer life was mostly made up of prayers before family meals and some daily devotional or quiet time in the morning.  I also prayed short prayers intermittently throughout the day. During one period of spiritual seeking I went so far as to venture into an overnight prayer vigil at my church.   I liked that experience, but my church stopped the practice soon after.

Inside my first church in Spain, San Jerónimo el Real, in Madrid.

On sacred ground, inside my first church in Spain, San Jerónimo el Real, Madrid.

Becoming a Prayer Intercessor

I had never considered myself a prayer warrior or a particularly articulate prayer person.   As I mentioned in Part 1 of this 2-part series, that radically changed in recent years. About a year after my mother passed away I took a spiritual gift assessment and sure enough, one of my gifts was intercessory prayer—not something that had scored high in the past.

Embracing this gift has helped me to continue on my spiritual walk across denominations and into the Catholic Church for my weekly appointment with God. This prayer practice has awakened my faith in new ways and eventually led me to Spain last summer where I finally met Rosa, Pedro’s mother. That trip was the trip of a lifetime for me—6-weeks in Spain, immersed in the culture, the food, the language and the faith. My visits to the Catholic Church here gave me a longing to worship in the grand Cathedrals and churches of Spain.

Praying in Spain

While I was in Spain, I attended mass and toured several Catholic cathedrals—13 in all, from central to southern Spain and to the island of Mallorca.  It was like being on sacred ground to visit these massive, centuries-old buildings with intricate stone carved exterior figures and laden with golden altars and statues inside.

My prayers in Spain were much different than in America. Back home, I had lots of private time to thoughtfully pray for people by name. While I was in Spain, God led me to meditate on a passage of scripture in Ezekiel. This resulted in my  praying for unity between Catholics and Protestants, and for revival in the Church of Spain. I had no preconceived notions how God was going to do that. I just knew that He was calling me to pray into this country for a spiritual awakening.

Praying Globally

People pray for global causes all the time. This takes me back (as referenced in my last post) to the words of the Casting Crowns song, “What if His People Prayed”:

“And what would happen if we prayed
For those raised up to lead the way
Then maybe kids in school could pray
And unborn children see light of day”

We pray for government officials and against laws that we believe are unjust. We pray for victims of crime and victims of natural disasters. We pray for the poor and for the hungry.

So why not pray for the people of Spain? They live in a time of economic distress and dramatically high unemployment. According to the Evangelical Covenant Church, although historically considered a Catholic country, church attendance has declined dramatically over the years and a very small percentage have a relationship with Christ.

After six weeks in Spain, I truly have a heart for the people. It started with a heart for Pedro, then his mother Rosa, and on to the remaining 24 members of his family that I met. But more than that, God got a hold of me there and showed me how different the spiritual climate was and the need for people to return to Him. They need His Hope—the kind of hope that does not disappoint. (Isaiah 49:23)

Prayer Works

Earlier this week, and nine months to the day I started my prayers on Spanish soil, I got physical confirmation of what I knew to be true in the spiritual realm. That was when a Spanish pastor and missionary visited the Celebrate Recovery meeting where I gave my testimony. It was his first time at this kind of meeting. We are now exploring ways to bring this healing ministry to Spain.

Is this the start of a spiritual revival in Spain? Is this what God was planning when he directed me to pray? It would probably sound pretty presumptuous for me to declare that (although I am pretty bold with my faith). All I know is that I did my part—and I continue to do so.  All it takes is one person, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed. (Matthew 17:20)

Do you have a desire to go to Spain and pray for the nation and its people?  I invite you to come on a 10-day prayer journey this fall and explore Spain for yourself. And maybe I’ll be there too, if those prayers are answered.  Click on this link, Prayer journey 2014, for more information.

Update 7/23/2014: The Prayer Journey was cancelled for 2014, but tickets are purchased for a Celebrate Recovery mission to France and Spain in the fall of 2014. Prayer appreciated for this mission of hope.

This post is listed on Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays and Missional Women/Faith Filled Friday.

The Road to Spain, Update 7 ~ Spiritual Readiness

After turning my back on my Catholic faith as a youth, I had only stepped inside a Catholic church once or twice in my life, like for a funeral.  The church didn’t seem relevant to me.  It seemed rote—reciting pre-scripted prayers and responses.

However, when I took Pedro, a Spanish exchange student who lived with us, to an afternoon mass in Seattle three years ago, I witnessed something I had never seen before in a Catholic Church (or was too young to notice).  I witnessed people raising their hands in worship during hymns or at times of the rote responses.  I saw genuine worship, expressed like I had only seen done in Protestant churches. It left a favorable impression of the Catholic Church on me and started to erase my leftover bias.The Cross

Six months later when Pedro’s grandmother died, I had a mass said for her (a common Catholic practice).  I also had a mass said for my terminally ill mother. (If you don’t know what that is, think of it as a prayer service dedicated to someone you love).  It was at that mass that God opened my eyes and ears to really being in tune with His voice.

Reawakening my Faith

According to Gary Thomas, author of “Spiritual Pathways”, we are uniquely wired in the ways in which we connect with God.  His book describes ten ways:  Naturalists, Sensates, Traditionalists, Ascetics, Activists, Caregivers, Enthuisasts, Contemplatives and Intellectuals.

After my experiences at this Catholic mass over 2 ½ years ago, I realized I was a contemplative. The defining characteristic of a contemplative is that they connect with God through adoration. So I started to attend mass and a weekly prayer service where I could devote quality time with God.

It was in these times of adoration that He was spiritually preparing me for my trip to Spain.  He has given me a glimpse into the Catholic Church, that at first glance may seem like a strange thing—a Protestant attending mass.  But I believe it is through these experiences, that He has uniquely prepared me to cross denominational barriers and connect with the people of Spain.

Exploring my first church in Spain, San Jeronimo el Real, Madrid

Exploring my first church in Spain, San Jeronimo el Real, Madrid

First Spanish Mass

Ever since these discoveries about myself, I have been looking forward to seeing the historic cathedrals of Spain and attending mass in a different setting and language.  I desired to worship God alongside native speakers and feel God’s presence in this place and time.  All of the pieces have been aligning for this part of my journey.  I left Seattle spiritually ready and open to experiencing God in a new way.

I had a glimpse into that on my third day in Spain when I attended my first Spanish Catholic mass.  It didn’t end up being in some grand historic cathedral like I envisioned.  It was in an old neighborhood Catholic Church with Rosa by my side.  I was pretty lost in the service, not understanding the words, but could generally follow along with the order of the mass. None of this prevented me from silently praying for the people of Spain or preparing my heart for this part of my journey.  When the tears came, as I knew they would, Rosa was there with a comforting hand.

Interior of San Jeronimo el Real Church

Interior of San Jeronimo el Real Church

What’s Next?

This part of my journey is just beginning.  I know I will visit other cathedrals in Spain—and hopefully another mass, as well as a Protestant church service.  My days are long and filled with lots of activities.  It has been hard to develop a routine and spiritual discipline here, but I would be missing out on why I believe God has called me for such a time as this if I didn’t respond to His invitation.

So I am ready physically, mentally and spiritually for this trip of a lifetime.  I have been consciously and subconsciously preparing for it in stages for the last three years.  I know God walks before me into this next phase of my journey.  I am grateful for His pointing me in this direction and for the support and prayers of my friends and family.

~ This completes my “Road to Spain” blog series.  My Spanish travel series starts with España Update 1 ~ The Longest Day.  Adios and vaya con Dios! (So long and go with God.)

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    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

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