Thursday, September 19, 1996

Discipleship, and a broken Bible

Yesterday night at discipleship Deborah stated that she had seen people struggle with drugs and alcohol and such, but never seen someone who's struggles were so much in the spiritual realm. (This was just after I had explained the struggles of the past week and the lessons that had come up in the Campus Journal devotional.)

Last night the longing for Pagan things was so bad, and I was angry at God a bit for both the longing and that He's taken it all from me, I decided to throw my Bible against my bookcase to vent steam. After a few tosses I noticed the front cover was starting to tear off. This pissed me off so I gave it a toss against a wall. The front and back cover - the whole thing - tore off! I had maimed a Bible - a holy book. I glued the side/back cover back on, and taped the front cover to it. But it is permanently scarred.

Thursday, September 12, 1996

The old UU Church

Talk to Margot at the UU Church today basically explaining why I haven't been around. She was very understanding and gave me good advice to stay a member there until I find another church, and not to do anything too hastily. I assured her I wasn't going to rush anything. It was a good talk and she did seem genuinely interested in my well being rather than keeping me as a member.

Monday, September 09, 1996

God on the Internet

(Posted to the Internet newsgroup "soc.religion.christian" on September 9, 1996. It is Charles' story, and it is time that I dust the cobwebs off of it, and give him his voice once more. It is time for others to once again see his view of my conversion. It is very different from mine, and therefore adds to my story, giving it a richness and depth that it could not have standing alone. My story from my perspective can be found here. )

God on the Internet

This is the story of the salvation of a young woman, Victoria, and how she came to know Christ. Contacts offered by an Internet e-mail list played a significant part in this, as did the forum offered by "soc.religion.christian" (a Christian newsgroup). This is an occasion where God has seen fit to use the Internet to His ends.

Charles joined the mailing list in the summer of 1995, and was a member for six months. A brief thread on witnessing to co-workers prompted the formation of a four-member virtual prayer group. It is in existence today. They pray for the needs of others, and provide advice as needed.

That prayer group played a significant role in a Wiccan Witch coming to Jesus Christ. It did so by praying for her salvation, and offering advice and prayers of support regarding the spiritual pressures that arose in Charles' home during (and after) this process.

A brief background may be helpful. Victoria attended a Christian church, but left it for a variety of reasons. First, the image of God she was presented was that of a vengeful, angry killjoy who was constantly disgusted at sinful humanity, and only tolerated us because He had beat up on His Son, Jesus, at the cross. Second, God wanted more than she could give--demanded too much obedience. Grace was noticeably absent from this picture. She was a Pharisee, trying to observe the letter of the law but missing the spirit (and the point!). Third, she had been tricked by Satan into believing she had committed the unforgivable sin.

Not surprisingly, this image of God did not appeal. She left the church, and after some searching became involved first with the New Age and then with Wicca. She was dedicated to the Pagan path four year ago, and initiated as a practicing Witch three years ago.

God was slowly working with her to heal the hurts the she had received from the church, and her anger at Him. A couple years ago she befriended a Christian woman who made a great impact on her simply by showing her Christian love. Several months ago she met another Christian, this time on the Internet, and had extensive contact with him. Due to her academic interest in Christianity, she took a few courses in undergraduate studies at university, and "tuned in" to soc.religion.christian (or s.r.c. for short).

God hooked Victoria and Charles up in February 1996 on s.r.c. They began to have conversations on salvation (she brought the subject up in the context of hell), and the spiritual pressures at Charles' home began to increase. That's when he told the virtual prayer group of the situation, and they began to pray for an end to the pressure, as well as for salvation for her. The prayers certainly helped--although the pressures escalated for a time, they finally waned.

The turning point in their correspondence came when they became friends (Charles does not bestow this title cavalierly). Victoria ceased to be "the Witch with whom Charles is having theological discussions," and became "his friend, who sees things differently in some crucial areas." They discussed their respective struggles regarding God, both past and current. Far from destroying Charles' witness for Christ, his admission of his struggles and rebellious tendencies played a role in showing Victoria the reality of Christ in his life.

Although Victoria was not really aware of it, God was drawing her strongly. At the end of March she passed up two Pagan events to attend a Christian concert (though at the time she was hardly aware she had scheduled it this way). At the concert she clearly sensed the presence of God, and the love she felt made her rethink her image of Him as an uncaring despot. She could then sense Him calling her, which she resisted strongly. While her soul longed for God, her will resisted giving up control to Him. Victoria and Charles corresponded at length on this, with their prior discussion of Charles' struggles setting the stage for her to share her own.

One part of the search involved a Roman Catholic book outlining the fundamentals of Christianity. It said that God had come Himself to personally bear the consequences of our sins, rather than simply beating up on His Son. God continued to draw her in several ways, and even used a bad period in Charles' life to produce an uncharacteristically blunt charge that she stop explaining away the appearance of God and face His calls.

Finally, after 4 1/2 weeks of intense struggle and a great deal of thought, Victoria phoned Charles and asked him to pray with her. At about 6:45 p.m. on Friday, May 3rd (1996), God gave him the privilege of leading a Wiccan Witch to Jesus Christ. It was four years to the day from her dedication into the Pagan path--to the very day.

The changes since her conversion have been dramatic. She no longer considers herself a Wiccan, and has dismantled her Pagan altar. She has been spending a great deal of time and energy searching out local Christian contacts, and a church to join. She has been baptized. On the more mundane side, she is getting along better with her boss at work. The tone of her notes displays more peace, even though her external circumstances are far more stressful than before her commitment to Jesus. As an added bonus, God provided an opportunity for them to meet briefly three weeks to the day after her conversion, when Charles had an airline connection through her city.

Charles would like to thank the prayer group for its efforts, and to let the members know that God has used them for His purposes. We would both like to encourage those who are telling others about Jesus Christ on the Internet that their efforts are not in vain. The seeds planted electronically do indeed bear fruit. Finally, we seek to glorify God, not ourselves. He can indeed work in any situation, and we are very aware of Whose hand was behind every step in this process.

Your brother and sister in Christ,
Charles Scott
Victoria Shephard


Sunday, September 08, 1996

Church Search, Week 18

Week 18: San Francisco Christian Center

black; Pentacostal (more so than Vineyard)

The serivce was at 8 a.m. so I wasn't terrible awake. It could/would have been vastly improved if I had had some coffee before.

This place is more Pentacostal/Charismatic than Vineyard. But unlike Vineyard, this one is seems that it might be more firmly rooted in Scripture. There was speaking in tongues, some ecstatic dancing, praying over people, even some people falling backwards because of the praying. Lots of people raising their hands in praise.

The search may have to go on, but I am tired, of so tired. Yes I'm getting an education but I'm tired. I want to find a church (or a couple) and concentrate on getting to know them better.

Thursday, September 05, 1996

poem: The Final Good-Bye

The Final Good-Bye
Lights shimmer and dance off the night air,
Dancing like the memories in my heart,
Dancing a dirge of moments past
That will never be again.
Dancing a dance of death,
Mocking love, mocking me, mocking everything.

The memories remain,
Unwilling to let me go numb.
As sticky as thick, I move through them
Tears streaming down my cheeks
As I remember.
But even as I say
I wish it had never been
What I am really saying is
I wish it had not been necessary.
Yet needed or no, the pain remains.

But even as I stare out the window,
Swimming through the memories--
Memories I can move through, yet dense and unchanging as God Himself--
I know that the answer is not out there.
God speaks the answer to my heart
Beneath the pain used to cover the truth:
I wish it had never been.
What I am really saying is
I wish it had not been necessary.

Wednesday, September 04, 1996

Church Search, Week 17, and Bernie Ward

(September 1) Weel 17: St. Francis' Episcopal (5th visit)

Sunday (the 1st) I called Bernie Ward's program to tell Bernie the part he has in me becoming a Christian. I called in about 6:15; I didn't get on until about 7:50. An hour and a half wait. I did pretty well. My whole body was shaking, but I sounded calm. And I did it without notes.

Me. giving my "testimony" on 50,000 watt KGO to God only knows how many thousands of people.

Yesterday (the 3rd) was my 4 month anniversary {as a Christian}, and Friday should mark one year in San Francisco. Maybe I'll take myself out to lunch sometime this weekend.

Sunday, September 01, 1996

My Testimony

I'm not sure exactly when this was written, but I think it was the fall of 1996 so I just picked September 1 as a good date to file it.)

Mad at God!

I used to be really angry at Christians. And is it any wonder? They followed a God who was mean, vindictive and would smite you for any little thing you did. He demanded more obedience than I could give. I felt that God was disgusted with humanity. When I lived in Berkeley, California (1990-1992) I used to go over to the university and listen to people taunt the Christian speakers on the plaza. I would involve myself in this as much as I could. One reason I wanted to learn about the Bible was to use it as "ammo" against them. Over a period of about eight years God softened my heart and brought people into my life who showed me Christian love. By the time I took my second undergraduate course at University I wanted to learn about it for the sake of knowledge, not as ammo.

I practiced Wicca for 4-5 years, beginning in about 1991. I was dedicated to the Pagan path that same year by the coven I belonged to, and in 1992 was initiated as a Witch. I also went to many public rituals, and began to make a name for myself by writing articles for Pagan magazines such as Green Egg, Circle Network News, and Hole in the Stone.

The Beginning of the Beginning

In 1995 I began reading my Bible again--going through the New Testament. It didn't seem to do anything at the time except fill some gap. I didn't know why I wanted to read it; I just knew I had an interest in it for some reason.

Salvation begins with God, of course, but He often uses people to accomplish His will. In that sense the beginning of the beginning was with Jim, a liberal Christian I had met on the Internet. In January of 1996 he went through some difficult times and asked me to pray for him. I began by praying to the goddess whom I worshipped at the time, but then thought that I should pray to his God. After all, his problem should be brought before his God.

I remember how humbly and apologetically I approached his God that day. I told Him I wasn't asking anything for myself, that indeed I wouldn't expect anything if I did ask. Then I presented my request for Jim. But I did end up asking for something for myself, and it turned out to be one of the most important things I have ever prayed for. I can't tell you why I did it and even now I'm not sure of the reason, but on two occasions after my prayer for Jim, I tacked on a request for myself: "God, please help me to get to know You." At the time I thought the prayer so important that I promptly forgot about it.

Life continued on as always. But God hears sincere prayers, and He heard that one. He had always worked behind the scenes, but after my prayer he began to work openly. Things began happening, slowly at first. The next milestone on my journey toward God was just over a month away, at the end of February.

Enter Charles

A month after those prayers I met Charles, a Canadian, on the Internet. He became invaluable to me over the next few months. He helped to answer my questions and concerns. I believe he was truly sent from God because the timing was too perfect.

Charles and I met when I was cruising the soc.religion.christian newsgroup. One day I posted this question: "In one hundred words or less, why are you a Christian instead of something else? Why do you believe? Please, no sermons. I've had quite enough. I just want to know why you believe what you do. Thank you."

As you might imagine, I got quite a few responses, some of them very long (I guess they didn't read the part about no sermons?), and some much more respectful of the length. Charles tried to be respectful, keeping his to 150 words. He gave me a clear, concise answer, but that wasn't what caused me to write him back. What caused that was a single line at the end of his e-mail, looking more like an afterthought than anything else, but still an honest question. "Out of curiosity, why are you a Pagan?" he asked. And I replied, and we just kept writing.

God Shows Up

A month after this, at the end of March, I went to a small Christian music concert held in the gymnasium at St. Mary's College in Moraga. It cost only $5 and was really nothing spectacular. Jesse Manibusan was opening for Margaret Becker. I have always loved Christian music and I wanted to buy a tape from Jesse (it couldn't be bought in a store.) That's one reason I went. But at the concert something happened that I will remember for the rest of my life. There I was, minding my own business, enjoying Jesse's music, when I became aware of this incredibly loving Presence that filled the room. After being taught a God that was mean, angry, and spiteful, this Presence of pure LOVE startled me. There was no way to reconcile it with what I had learned. I hated God, ran from Him. I had spent the last several years of my life doing that. Still, He came after me. While I am sure that the Presence was there because of the music and the love of the people, and not for me, there is no doubt in my mind that I was led there. It took me completely off guard, and when I got home that night and found myself alone in my room with my thoughts, I began to think about it, and I knew some things would have to change.

It set me off on a month-long search for this God. During this time many small coincidences occurred, too many and too small to chronicle here, but more than enough to convince me that this God was real, powerful, and that He loved me. It is a scary thing to be chased by God, but exciting, too. You know you're safe and in good hands, but when you're currently worshiping other gods, you don't know which hands are the good ones anymore.

Let me just tell here a couple of the strange things that happened as God reached out for me. Days after the concert, with God very much on my mind, I was listening to a secular lite rock music station on my Walkman when the song "Right Here Waiting" came on. The chorus goes like this: "Wherever you go, whatever you do, I will be right here waiting for you. Whatever it takes, or how my heart breaks, I will be right here waiting for you." I felt God calling me through that song. It was Him singing to me, asking me to come to Him.

The following day I was listening to my Walkman again when I heard the beginning of a commercial. I couldn't tell you what they were selling, but these two sentences leapt out at my ears, "Are you listening? Do you hear it?" That's all I remember, but it was enough to get me to think of God. After all, how does one not listen to God?

A few days later, another song on the radio. The chorus went like this: "I loved you, you didn't feel the same. Though we're apart, you're in my heart. Give me one more chance to make it real." In those words I felt God asking me to seek Him one more time before throwing Him away. I felt Him tell me to stop running and just give in. Trust.

There is one other thing I wish to mention before moving on: two dreams I had, one just before I was saved, and one after. The differences in their tone is worth noting. First, some background and a clarification. The Satanist in the story below is just that—a Satanist. Satanism should not be confused with Wicca, as Wiccans do not worship Satan, and in fact, do not even believe in him. It is impossible to consciously worship something you do not believe in. Most Wiccans I knew (and still know) are wonderful, law-abiding folks who simply disagree with me in some key theological areas. They are not Satanists, and should not be confused with them. However, as a Christian I do feel that because Wicca does not acknowledge the God of the Bible, it is wrong and therefore evil, though Wiccans themselves are not conscious of this.

Ok, now on to the background of the dreams. I was attending college at the time, and in one of my classes was a Satanist, Jay. (I learned his name when we ended up having a few classes together over time and I would occasionally make small talk with him before class.) He was a nice guy, never acted untoward to me, but he freaked me out anyway. He missed a lot classes between the beginning of the year and the midterm, but after the midterm he began to show up more frequently, and instead of sitting in his usual place in the back, moved forward in the desks until, just after my conversion, he was sitting with me in the front row, just a few seats away. Even though he had never done anything to hurt me, his mere presence became a symbol of evil in my life.

Toward the end of April, about a week before my conversion, I had a dream. I had been thinking about God so much that my mind, overwhelmed with all that was happening, put my fears into symbolic form.

I'm walking toward my college campus and it's night. A van pulls up and the Satanist guy from my class is driving. Suddenly, in the way dreams just "move," I find myself in the passenger seat of the van. There is no invitation on his part, and no acceptance on mine. I'm just suddenly there.

I ask him to let me out at the next block, but he just keeps driving, and soon we are away from the campus area. I crawl behind the front seats to the back of the van, but then I realize that no matter where I go, I'm still in the van with him. I realize I need to get out. I crawl back up front. I tell him that I'm a "white-light, fluffybunny" type Wiccan and this seems to turn him off.

But the scariest part of the dreams was when I asked him, "What do you want?" I will never forget his reply: "To get to know you better." I know it was only my own fears, that evil and good were duking it out over my soul, but it shook me up a bit. It took me an hour to get back to sleep, after I had written everything down.

About two weeks after my conversion, I had a second dream, markedly different in its mood. I'm working in the cafeteria (I worked part-time in the cafeteria at my college). I'm just starting my break and am in line at the taco bar to get some food. On the other side of the bar is Jay, also getting some food. He asks me if I would like to go to the movies with him and I tell him no. Right at that point, out of nowhere, a man who I took to be another student, speaks up and tells Jay to lay off me. Jay asks me if he is my boyfriend and I tell him no, wondering myself who he is. Jay and my mysterious "rescuer" exchange a couple more sentences that I don't catch. At the end, Jay tells the newcomer "You'd better be careful," and then he goes to sit down to eat. The new guy just sort of disappears. I couldn't tell you what happened to him. I go to a table away from Jay to eat my food.

Charles said that he thought my "mysterious rescuer" was him because he was praying for me, basically "standing in the gap," and that this sort of thing did not make Satan happy. Perhaps on a subconscious level I knew this and hence had the dream.

Visions and Prayers

There were many times over the month of April that I prayed to Jehovah, asking Him to help me. Toward the end of the month I reached the point where I told Him that, though I wasn't willing to follow Him, I was willing to become willing. Another time, about a week later, I asked Him to help me to love Him.

I prayed that I would get to know Him and learn about Him. I prayed that He would show me the way He wanted me to go, walk with me down it, and tell me what to do to serve Him. Often I "felt" Him listening and knew I was heard.

I knew that if I was going to get to know this God that I would have to learn to trust Him. And so I used a technique I'd learned as a Wiccan.

I visualized myself on one side of a doorway with the Goddess standing near me. Jesus stood on the other side of the open door. I remember saying to Him, "Give me one good reason I should follow You?" His response stopped me in my tracks: "Because I love you." Jesus kept reaching out for me, telling me to take His hand. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't do it.

And then, one night in mid- to late April, it happened. I closed my eyes to do the visualization, and I could take His hand! I knew that He wanted me to step through the door as well, that stepping through the door was a sign of real trust, but it was a few more days until I was able to do that.

Once I had done that, I knew I was crossing a line, a line of trusting God, maybe only a little, but more than in years. He was patiently working with me, knowing that I could never ask Jesus into my heart if there wasn't at least some trust there, however small.

April of 1996 was the most difficult month for me with coincidences abounding. I felt God reaching out for me, and yet I kept shrinking back. Due to my interest in Christianity I was currently attending a class in Christian history at my college. The teacher believed in the hands-on approach, and one of our assignments was to go to some services and write a report. We had to attend Orthodox Lenten and Easter services, and a Catholic Easter service. So there I was, struggling with God very hard, and having to attend all these services. Don't tell me God doesn't have a sense of humor!


Finally, on May 3, 1996 at about 6:45 p.m., I called Charles and had him pray with me, and gave my life to Christ. But it wasn't during the prayer that I felt it. It was when I said, "I want Jesus in my heart" that I felt it. I had accepted Him. I was Christian. Me, the Witch, a Christian! Ironically, this was four years to the day of my dedication to the Pagan path--to the very day.

Later I discovered that Charles had had a strong feeling for half that day that he should pray for me, and that at the time of my phone call he had been, off and on, for about six hours.

Riding the Fence

Of course, I didn't stop my Wiccan activities right away. Soon after my conversion I attended a large Pagan festival in Northern California. I felt it may be my last Pagan "fling", so I went even though I knew God didn't want me to.

However, I didn't count on Him showing up.

Within a day and a half of arriving I was very confused. I realized later that going there was like walking into a spiritual battle without armor on, like Paul writes of in Ephesians 6. As a new Christian I was a target of the enemy, and here I was willingly walking onto the enemy's ground with no protection! I was so confused that I called Charles (all the way in Canada!) on a pay phone. He told me to talk to God. I said I didn't know if God would listen to me because I was being so bad. He assured me that God would hear. I agreed to think about it. Two or three hours later I went out behind the Meadow Building, sat under the oak tree, and began speaking to God out loud, not a prayer really, just talking. But He heard and He came.

I hadn't spoken two sentences when I sensed this Presence under the tree with me. As at the concert, it took me off guard. Unlike the concert, this was a completely personal experience. He was there for me, because I had called Him. I expected Him to be angry with me for doing something I knew He didn't want me to do, but He wasn't. Now I know that He meets each of us where we are and gives us exactly what we need. I needed understanding and compassion at that point, not judgment, and that's what He gave me.

But His presence made me angry. I didn't know what to say, and I wasn't going to repent. He was being too loving by coming to the festival, coming after me, so I told Him to go away. He refused, remaining near. I repeated the command. He still didn't move. Finally I had to get up and walk away. If He wouldn't leave, I would. He remained close for the rest of the festival, reminding me that He was there just waiting for me to call on Him, to come back. Needless to say, all this made a big impression on me. Later, an acquaintance of mine, Bruce, the man who later baptized me, told me He didn't go away because I had invited Him into my life when I gave myself to Him. He wasn't about to leave me alone.

Choosing Sides

I was baptized at the end of the summer, but not without having to first choose sides. Two days before it was to happen, Bruce discovered that I had not yet renounced Paganism. He told me he wouldn't baptize me unless I did. It was hard for him to tell me this, and hard for me to hear it, but it needed to be said. I am glad he put Christ and the Gospel before the comfort of either of us. He helped me to understand how important baptism is: How could I undergo a death and rebirth initiation ritual unless I really was dying to my old life? How could I be raised to new life in Christ if I was still holding onto and practicing the old ways?

I mention my baptism because it was an important turning point. I call it my "Joshua moment" because, like Israel with Joshua, I was being given a choice of whom to worship. I made the same choice they did, a conscious decision to worship only Jehovah. Giving my life to Him on May 3 was only the beginning, as I had not given up worshiping other gods. He worked with me and on me, patiently walking me to this decision point.


Much has changed in my life since I accepted Christ. I have a sense of peace I never had before. Somehow this God puts to rest all the doubts that the Goddess never could. Even when I run from Him I know He still loves me and that someday I will be with Him in heaven. He answers the questions about this life, and the life to come. He tells me everything will be okay, and that He'll never abandon or forsake me. He shows justice tempered with love, which is mercy.

Directly after my conversion my relationship with my boss improved dramatically. Where once he threatened to "let me go" because of my bad attitude, he no longer spoke of this, and became downright friendly. My co-workers also mentioned how happy I seemed all the time. (Dancing with my mop as I clean the floor is not depressed behavior.) Other people have noticed that I complain less. I also worry less. I had a bad attitude and was irritable. The Goddess was not very helpful when I wanted to change these self-destructive behaviors. I was, in fact, unable to change no matter how hard I tried. With God, I didn't have to try. It just happened. The peace and joy He gives really is beyond all understanding, and one's attitude cannot help but change when bathed in this love.

Some people will tell you that Christianity and Wicca can be blended, that you don't have to give up one to practice the other. This is untrue. I tried to blend the two, but at every step the Holy Spirit told me I had to choose (Joshua 24:15).

I've naturally begun to re-evaluate who the Goddess is. I've noticed that there have been times when I was in life-and-death situations and called out to her, only to get no response. One situation occurred in January, 1996 when I was hit by a motorcycle as I crossed the street. In my pain and fear I called out to her. I received silence. She promised she'd never forsake me. She lied.


We worship a wonderful God! Who else than the God of the Bible, the only true God, Jehovah, could take an initiated Witch worshiping other gods and bring her to the Gospel light? What other God would bother? I deserved justice, and justice dictated that I continue to live, and eventually die, in the dark. But God, in order to show His mercy and magnify His glory, stooped down to me even though I had persecuted Him and blasphemed the very glory I should have worshipped.

I used to worship other gods; now I worship the one true God. Under Joshua's leadership, the Israelites were given a choice of whom to worship: "Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:15). Joshua then told them who he would worship: "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (24:15). And the Israelites chose the same: "Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods" (24:16). Like Joshua and the Israelites, I too have chosen to follow the Lord, and Him alone.

This story doesn't have an end, as no story about one's life ends until that life comes to an end. I hope this helps or enlightens you in some way. May God bless you richly as you search for and walk with Him.