Thursday, November 13, 2003
Whew, what a week, it's just been hectic as all get out. I've just received the tapes we ordered at the NWYC Phoenix—and 3 of them were of Mike—it's been healing to hear his voice and have him speak to me again.

I've been listening to "Messy Spirituality", a book I've yet to start, and now I have mixed emotions starting it because it's his last... and finishing it will just be too darn sad... so I've been avoiding picking it up because I just don't want to have it end.

The tape is wonderful—and he keeps speaking peace and grace into my life. I heard yesterday him say that it's because we're so "damn" busy we just don't have time for each other and the real things of God.

In my compulsiveness I've turned from many of my unhealthy, even sinful compulsions to busyness—and I hate it—I've been feeling so driven—so pushed—and it's the difference between feeling like God's thumb (even though I now know it's not Him doing this to me, but myself) in my back or His hand on my face—it's my choice—so why do I keep choosing the thumb...

Just wondering. I love this "blogging"—I'm such a newbie I don't really even feel like I have a right to blog—like I will wreck it or ruin it... like it's almost sacred. I've been so moved by other's blogs lately. I've become addicted to the YS tribute, and it's gotten so quiet there lately—that I'm hoping my own blogging will fill the void I feel.

I'm heartbroken that I will miss the Saturday memorial—I so want to be there to honor him. While being in Phoenix was amazing because I got to actually be with Mike in my critical concern and hear him speak again, I'm sad that I won't be going to St. Loo—to remember him.

I've asked a new friend to light a candle for me at the memorial service on Saturday. I know it sounds silly, but just having her do that for me kind of makes it like I'm there. Like I'm remembering him and honoring him. Oh, I wish I could hear it—I wish they could have worked out the simulcast—it's hard being this far away.

The grieving has been raw, but good. I've purged through a lot of things these past couple of weeks. Instead of it turning my head from God it's actually drawn me closer, and I'm grateful for that.

I gave my testimony on Monday at Celebrate Recovery... boy that wasn't easy. I "redeemed" the truth from the first time I told my testimony when I was 7 and shared about the sexual abuse. My mother quickly reassured everyone that I had made up the event to get attention—and that we came from a good family.

30 years later I finally have the memories back and was able to stand and share what had happened to me. I was hoping I'd feel better than I do—but it was a good start.

At the end of the time I had I shared about Mike, and how my real testimony was finding grace and God in the middle of my "messy-ness"—and that it was Mike who taught me that. That God met me and loved me right were I was—at each step, pulling away the layers and finding Him there each time.

Bringing Mike to a bunch of new people who really needed to hear his story was wonderful, I pray they can be introduced to him and his Jesus just like I was years ago.

I still miss you Mike—thanks again for all you did for me. I wish I could be there on Saturday honor you - but here in Pennsylvania I'll have to remember you myself.

Eternally grateful,

Thursday November 06, 2003
The best things Mike ever did for me...

I was raised in a tiny, ultra conservative (Plymouth Brethren) church where I was taught to trust and fear God. Where I learned as a woman that my role in the church was to be silent and submissive, and eventually a mother and a wife, things I did willingly, but with a feeling of sadness. I had no voice in that church unless it came through my father or husband.

I knew God had a call on my life in high school, and I followed that call to Bible College, (ya, the Plymouth Brethren one) where I diligently learned all the doctrine, theology and practice I could, even though I knew I’d never really be able to use any of it.

My husband and I (who was also called by God to serve Him) tried desperately to find a place to serve him (our denomination didn’t allow pastors, so finding employment anywhere but the mission field was difficult). We did volunteer youth work during the 10 years it took to locate an open door to youth ministry for my husband.

Once in those volunteer years we heard of a training seminar for youth workers in Toronto, it must have been around 1990. We signed up and drove to Toronto to participate. We were blown away. I remember sitting in a church gym and it was lead by this lunatic, called Mike Yaconelli.

I was drawn and repelled at the same time—something awoke within me (within both of us) but the indoctrination of my youth reared up and convinced me that it couldn’t be that free, that fun and that open. The “grace police” from my past sent their guilt patrol and I disappointedly set that experience aside.

It wasn’t until our first year of “paid” ministry that we were encouraged by a fellow youth worker to attend the Nashville NYWC. We had NO idea what to expect. WE WERE BLOWN AWAY.

We had always struggled with feelings of embarrassment because we never wanted to “graduate” to adult ministry, that we truly felt called by God to serve youth. When we got to convention we looked around and saw 1000's of the most varied and unique hodge podge sampling of the kingdom of God.

Remember, we came from Grace Police headquarters—and there were denominations attending that we weren’t even sure were actually going to heaven. And Mike got up at the front of the stage and did his “annual” go take a nap, get a bottle of wine and buy the tapes and we thought we’d died and gone to heaven. GRACE, grace, God’s grace—and we glowed in the shower of the grace that Mike and YS rained down on us that year.

We ministered with new passion and vigor because we knew weren’t alone - there were 1000's of people just like us, we were part of something bigger, something powerful, something grand. And we were respected and thanked, by Mike and the rest of the participants at that year’s convention.

For our second trip to NYWC we drove to Cincinnati and even got to go to Critical Concerns. I was starving spiritually, so I chose the first “Practicing the Presence of God” with Mike and his son Mark. It was held that year in a grand old downtown church filled with oak and stained glass, and it was the most life-changing 8 hours of my life.

Those “grace police” I spoke of earlier also convinced me that everything God had to say to me was “written down” in the Bible—God was no longer speaking audibly to his people. It was there in that downtown church with the help of Mike and Mark that I heard God speak to me—just to me. There I realized that He loved me just as much as Moses and Paul, Mary and Martha—it was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. I wept and wrote and prayed and listened like I had never done before. God moved from my brain to my heart and He’s been there ever since.

After that convention we went back to our backward, little, abusive church and got slaughtered by them. Put through the spiritual, emotional and professional wringer. Both my husband and the Sr. Pastor resigned within two days of each other and we were shell-shocked, wounded and confused.

We knew we were called, we knew we were gifted, and we knew we didn’t want to do anything else on God’s green earth other than minster to youth. We posted our resume on the YS site and began interviewing. We knew enough this time to interview the church as much as they interviewed us.

Because of Mike’s and YS’s influence we found a grace-filled church with authentic leadership and real, imperfect people who love Jesus and were I can serve too, even as a woman. We’ve been here for three years, and each of those years we’ve attended NYWC.

This past year we looked at our calendars and although it made no financial sense we decided to attend the Phoenix convention. And I again “Practiced the Presence of God” with Mike and Fil, this time in a Hyatt Hotel convention room.

I knew when I arrived that I had been avoiding spending silent time with God again because I was working through some past issues that were just too painful. Mike’s introduction told me I was in for trouble. We were going to do Lectio Divina on the woman caught in adultery. I knew there wasn’t any escape - God had placed me there to deal with my pain. To feel through the emotions and to allow Him to begin the healing process in a safe place surrounded by Him and others who loved Him.

Between the sexual abuse in my past and the distorted view of women I grew up with in the denomination I was raised in I was pretty messed up in my view of being female and being called. Mike and Fil gave me the space to deal with both of those issues by working through that passage.

I can still remember it like it was yesterday when Mike said that in closing we were going to focus on the words “but Jesus”—and it was like I was there, that woman in the dirt, looking up to Jesus’ eyes and seeing that I wasn’t a piece of meat, or a second class citizen of His kingdom. Jesus held me there in that chair for what felt like hours, but was probably only minutes.

It was the first time I was redeemed as a woman. Mike gave that back to me. And I sat in my chair and wept. He closed our session by talking about the woman taking one of those rocks off the ground that were once meant to stone her and using it to build an ebenezer, an altar to God—to use the pain, the sin and the grace received as a place to meet God.

I looked up on the wall of the room we were in and there was a bird—a Phoenix and then started to laugh as I realized why Phoenix was so important—rising from the ashes—from the dirt, resurrection and rebirth, and I realized also and why I was back once more to “Practice the Presence of God” with Mike. I made it a point to talk to a local and asked her to bring me a rock from her yard (have you ever tried to find a rock in downtown Phoenix...). She brought me three, and they sit as my ebenezer on my windowsill above my sink and I see them every day as I wash my dishes.

Mike showed, lived, exuded and introduced me to grace, and he was instrumental in giving me the space and permission to hear God’s voice, and reclaim my call as a woman in the kingdom of God.

Thank you Mike! I’m so glad that you don’t have to “practice” any more—enjoy His presence!

Still “practicing”,
Heidi Turner