The Road of Faith and Manhood

Basketball Under WaterI was born to parents who were high school teachers who genuinely loved me and imparted good qualities to my sister and me. Our family attended a Presbyterian church for a while, but it was never a big part of our lives. Little by little, we found other things to do on Sunday mornings.

Even though our family lived apart from God, He amazingly pursued me in my childhood. When I was eight years old, I had a dream about Jesus. The dream had a big effect on me, and I told others about it. Billy Graham Crusades, televised during prime time, also impacted me. I learned the sinners’ prayer and prayed it daily.

Broken Reality

When I was 13, life and the forces of darkness took their toll on our family. I was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer and wasn’t expected to survive. Eight months of nauseating chemotherapy and radiation followed. But thankfully God brought me through it, though I lost my right leg through the ordeal.

Also around that time, family problems began to surface. Suddenly we were dealing with fractured relationships and hidden sin. Without the Lord in our lives, none of us knew how to handle it. Wounds and brokenness resulted. (Side note: Outpost’s Living Waters program was a great help to me in processing and praying through wounds from the past.)

Searching for Truth

Having survived cancer and junior high school (not sure which was worse!), I really began searching for truth. In high school, I took lessons in eastern meditation. But my journey to Christ began in the most unlikely place—the local movie theater. Two friends and I went to see The Omen, a Hollywood horror flick based on the emergence of the anti-Christ. We talked into the night about the Bible, even though none of us knew much about it.

Soon after, my friend Mark and I began attending a series on the book of Revelation at a local church. Stories from Revelation left me more afraid than The Omen did. Jesus is coming back, judgment day is approaching, and I knew I wasn’t ready.

Opening the Door

In college, I really started seeking a relationship with Christ but didn’t understand that it began by faith. This difficult season came to a sudden and joyful end when two Christians knocked on my dorm room door sharing a gospel tract. I invited Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior on February 22, 1978.

Wonderful days followed, as I was translated from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God. My life had been turned right-side up, and I was all in. The Lord brought two men into my life to disciple me, and I was baptized that summer.

Off the Rails

Naturally, I thought my same-sex attraction would go away now that I was a Christian. I was wrong. Rather, it was like holding a basketball under water. My gender identity had gone off the rails when I was an early teen, and it was still off the rails. Becoming a Christian didn’t fix it. As author Alan Medinger has said, I had undeveloped masculinity, and the only solution, was, well, development. I needed to resume my journey into manhood.

Same-sex attraction might seem horrible and undesirable to some, but as Proverbs 27:7 says, “to one who is hungry, everything bitter is sweet.”  I longed for manhood—my own manhood, really—and, eventually, the longing became sexual.

After college, I moved to the big city and lived near downtown. Soon, I discovered all of the places to get into trouble. I hated falling into sin but couldn’t resist the draw. Along with the spiritual consequences, there was real physical danger. It was the early 80’s, and AIDS was spreading unknowingly and undetected. Even though I veered into sexual sin, God spared me from that brutal outcome.

But God had a plan. A job opened up in Minneapolis. I packed up a U-Haul and headed north.

Deepened Roots

Many blessings awaited me in Minneapolis, and one of them was Outpost. I contacted the ministry within days of arriving and started meeting with one of the staff members. He also recommended a good church, which I attend to this day.

The following years brought many opportunities for growth. I was in the thick of things at Outpost as a volunteer and participant in Joshua Fellowship. I also deepened my roots at church where I joined a great small group and participated in a church plant in my neighborhood.

At the time, I believed that my efforts to grow spiritually and emotionally would cause my same-sex attraction to go away. Again, I was wrong. I was still falling into sexual sin from time to time, and I longed to be set free. None of my efforts addressed the real underlying issues.

Breakthrough

Though it wasn’t sudden, eventually there was breakthrough. When I focused on developing my wounded gender identity, I began to experience real change—a change that I would have never dreamt possible. I went on men’s weekends, joined a men’s group, read books pertaining to manhood, watched war movies and hung out at Home Depot. I pursued athletics and relished any activity that involved a power saw. Gradually, my identity changed. With masculinity growing in my heart of hearts, temptations lost their power. I didn’t need the masculinity of another; I had my own.

Same-sex attraction isn’t completely gone, but it’s nearly gone. I spent decades believing that this sort of transformation wasn’t possible. Now I can testify that real change awaits the men and women who embark on this journey. It’s been a long haul, and I’m still on the road. The rerouted journey into manhood that I’ve lived just might be more satisfying than if it had never been interrupted at all.

The Psalmist describes me when he writes, “[God] drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (Psalm 40:2, ESV). I’ve been rescued from the grip of dangerous sin, deadly disease and much, much more. I owe all to grace.

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Introducing Outpost North!

Outpost NorthWe have been waiting for the right moment to announce our new branch Outpost North in Brainerd, MN! Outpost North offers our Foundations course to anyone struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions, family members, and pastors and ministry leaders who want to learn more about Outpost and the healing journey. They have also started an Elijah Company group for parents, family and friends of gay-identified loved ones.

Our Outpost North Coordinator, Angie, has a beautiful testimony of the Lord pursuing her, even in the midst of her sin and brokenness. She now has a husband and a little girl—a little girl who would not exist had the enemy succeeded in his plans to keep Angie from her true identity and destiny in God.

Angie understands by experience that it is the Father’s desire to restore the broken-hearted and restore the family. Malachi 4:5-6 says, “’Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (NKJV). Seeing the restoration of the family is our vision at Outpost Ministries and TCJHOP because we believe that it is the Lord’s end-time strategy to bring healing to families, to the family of God and to our society. Thank you for partnering with us in this mighty work the Lord is doing among us!

Broken Pieces Made Whole

broken glass. . . And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (Corinthians 6:11, NASB).

What a powerful statement to be said over someone’s life: “and such were some of you.” I resonate strongly with this passage. However, I first had to wrestle my way through 1 Corinthians 6:9, especially the part about homosexuality.

I grew up in the church, hearing Bible stories most of my life. I have led youth groups, Christian school groups, and I even went to seminary. I loved Jesus passionately, but I lived a double life. I did not know there was an escape plan that Jesus was offering me, “and such were some of you.” I thought I was a lesbian and that there was no way out. There is a plan, however; there is a way out, and there is Someone who can redeem our brokenness and make us whole again.

I guarantee that there are people among your family members, co-workers, friends, and among the people who sit next to you at church and in your small group who are struggling with SSA (same-sex attractions). I believe that most of these people want out but don’t know there is a way. I was one of those people who just wanted to be “found out” by anyone because I desperately wanted out. I knew I needed help.

My story begins on a family farm in rural Iowa where my family consisted of a dad and mom and four girls. We literally had three TV stations, and the smell of farm manure was the smell of money. I loved growing up on that farm with my family. I loved working outside, the smell of dirt, hot summer afternoons, working hard and spending countless hours shooting hoops in the driveway with my sisters. Every Sunday, my mom would drag my sisters and I to church; my father would stay home to attend to the chores.

In the midst of everything that I loved, I remember being a hurting little girl who was struggling in relationship with her parents. I was swimming in a sea of anger and rage, trying to keep myself afloat. Because of their own brokenness, my father was harsh and unemotional, and my mother was weak and submissive. I grew up disliking my dad and being mad at my mom for not standing up for herself or for us.

Fast forward to my third year of college after a Chicago missions trip. I found myself falling “in love” with one of my friends. We entered into a very emotionally enmeshed friendship that turned physical very quickly. I was shocked at what I was doing, but I also enjoyed this new relationship.

It was a new adventure that seemed to whip me off my feet. I had found someone who accepted me, who loved me unconditionally, who gave me worth. She understood the depths of my heart as we became more and more emotionally enmeshed. It seemed that both of us were made for this type of relationship. My feelings reminded me that I had felt this way for as long as I could remember. I secretly concluded that I must be a lesbian.

This new adventure was actually counterfeit love and acceptance. It was a counterfeit that wore the perfect mask and said the perfect things, but it always left me disappointed and cleaning up the mess. It literally left me hating myself. The adventure was filled with lust, wrong motives, control, codependency and emotional enmeshment.

You need to understand how Satan will present things to people. He will make things look good and look loving, but behind my partner’s words was emptiness and a dark void. Please know that even my words to her were counterfeit and empty, just as much as her words were to me. Her words could never sustain me, and my words could never satisfy her.

It was strange; as our relationship seemed to flourish, as we lavished each other with love, tension grew. Sin is only pleasurable for a season. We began to fight more and more and tried to control one another. I was left with a dark cloud of guilt, pain and depression. During my fourth year of seminary, I spent days in bed and hours on the internet viewing pornography. I was looking for a quick fix, something to numb out all of my pain and shame.

I couldn’t hear God’s voice anymore. I would pray for a way out, for someone to find us out, for someone to call me out. No one took a stance against homosexual behavior; everyone was accepting it, even our Christian friends. Even with all of this acceptance around me, I could not stop the aching inside. It was consuming me. I thought of ways I could kill myself as the dark cloud around me became more and more suffocating. Sin became a cancer in my body; it was eating me up.

Then God spoke!

One night as I cried out to God, I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Angie, tonight you will either choose Jesus or choose your sin.” I told Jesus, “I choose You, but I want to be free from homosexuality, lust, pornography and rage. I don’t care if I ever teach or preach again. I just want to be free.”

The next day, I went to an art exhibit in a church basement in downtown Minneapolis. There, the Holy Spirit spoke to me again through a piece of artwork. The art piece was large; it stood taller than me. As I went closer, I saw that it was the face of Jesus made out of small, broken pieces of mirror. I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me to go forward, and I hesitated. I asked the Holy Spirit, “Have you seen what I’ve embraced? What I’ve laid with? The darkness I’ve slept with? The darkness that’s consumed me? I cannot go closer. I am dirty, too dirty!” But I went closer, and as I saw my reflection in the broken pieces of mirror that made up Jesus’ face, I heard the Holy Spirit, “I will make you whole again!” With hot tears streaming down my face, I knew I was going to be made whole again and set free from sexual perversion and sexual brokenness.

That day in 2001 marked the beginning of a journey of healing and restoration in my life that continues to this day. My husband Scott and were married in 2013. As I rock our little girl to sleep at night and gaze upon her wonderfully-made frame, my heart declares, “My God, You are faithful in all things!”

After the birth of our daughter, Scott and I found ourselves moving to Brainerd in north-central Minnesota for his job. We had no clue what God was up to but knew we needed to be here. My husband and I are excited to tell you about the beginnings of Outpost North. Outpost Ministries’ long 40-year history in the Twin Cities has now come to Brainerd to offer the same ministry of healing and restoration while helping individuals and families experience freedom in Christ.

Outpost North started programming in January. We offer the Foundations course and have started an Elijah Company group. Foundations is a four-week introduction to Outpost and the healing process and is open to anyone struggling with unwanted SSA, parents and family members, as well as pastors and ministry leaders. Elijah Company is a support and prayer group for parents, family members, friends and co-workers with loved ones who identify as gay. We are also seeking opportunities to speak in area churches, especially to youth groups. It is my hope that someday we can offer one-to-one coaching and discipleship for individuals seeking freedom from unwanted same-sex attractions.

We are excited about what God can and will do here in the Brainerd Lakes area. We are excited to see lives transformed, families restored, marriages reconciled and captives set free. Our culture has done an excellent job of normalizing homosexuality. This, however, is not God’s design. It is time to stand up and help those who are struggling and lead them to a place of restoration and reconciliation.

It is our delight to be here in the Brainerd Lakes Area and to be the voice of Truth regarding this subject. This Iowa farm girl is excited to see God go after ones just like me and to set them free. It is our privilege to serve the Lord and to serve Outpost Ministries.

Interested in joining Outpost North’s Foundations class or Elijah Company group or inviting Angie to speak in the Brainerd Lakes Area of MN? Contact us.

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Waving the Flag of Surrender

surrenderAs Christians, we sing and talk about surrender all the time. We often forget that surrender is a battle term. It means giving up all rights to the conqueror. When an army surrenders, the victors take complete control over their lives. When we surrender to God, we are declaring that He has won, we have been defeated and subdued, and we give ourselves over to God’s plan for our lives.

I’m a proud person. I’ve always worked hard, and I have always gotten what I’ve wanted. I studied hard and got a good degree and a well-paying job. I work out and eat well so that I have a strong body. I practice so that I can become a better worship leader.

But when it came to my sexual struggles, it was a completely different story. Growing up, I had a perceived lack of masculine affirmation, affection and acknowledgement in my life. When I discovered homosexual pornography, it was the perfect drug. These were men willing and ready to share intimacy and vulnerability with me. I could control these relationships, and there was no risk on my end. What I didn’t realize was that I was training my heart and my head to receive male love through this avenue only.

It took six years of silent struggle and mental torture before I could write these words in my prayer journal, “I am struggling with homosexuality. God, I’m not asking for You to magically make it disappear, but I do want You to help me change my life. I know You have the power to intervene and change me like nothing else can.” That was my first step in surrender.

After that journal entry, it took another three years before I could take the next step of surrender and confess this struggle to another person. Each time I brought it out into the open, it weakened the pull of my addiction and strengthened my bond with another man in a healthy and legitimate way. There was freedom in admitting that I was powerless, that I struggled with same-sex attractions. But just surrendering to the reality that I was powerless over sin and lust and acting out wasn’t enough. I needed help; I needed to surrender to something or someone outside of myself and my own patterns of thinking.

It was terrifying to come to Outpost for the first time. But eventually, this became a safe place for me and a refuge for my soul. There was also great promise and hope here. I saw men fighting in strength, walking in the fullness of their masculinity, and I saw restoration. I liked what I saw, and I wanted it. So I gave myself to this process of recovery. I came every week. I shared during our small groups. I said yes to whatever the leaders challenged us to do.

From that point, this journey has been a series of cliffs for me to jump off. Each time, it has felt like I would drop into oblivion. Each time, I had to surrender another part of my heart that I had been holding on to in defiance. I had to allow that part of my heart to become reconciled to God.

When we were required to have an hour of listening prayer each day, it meant waking up earlier. And if that meant waking up at 4:30am, then I had to surrender my sleep. When I was still struggling with pornography and isolation, I had to surrender my independence and find a roommate. When I started to develop an emotionally dependent relationship with my best friend, I had to surrender that relationship.

When I pursued relationship with a woman, and she broke my heart, I had to surrender my singleness and my loneliness to God. When I moved into my own place again, I knew I couldn’t have internet. I had to surrender my convenience and only use the internet at work

Each step is another terrifying adventure where God asks, “Are you going to trust Me in this?” I have had to come to the end of myself and finally let God have a personal place in my life. And just when I think I’ve already given my all to God, He reveals another part of my heart I’m holding on to with a death grip. He asks me, “How can you receive more from Me when your hands are clenched tightly around this?”

I need to constantly remind myself to trust in God. If I believe that God knows the deepest parts of my heart better than I know myself, then I can trust Him. If I believe that God knows what will truly make me come alive, then I can trust Him.

I had to surrender my sleep for listening prayer, but this discipline has taught me how to hear God and how have intimacy with Him. I had to surrender my independence and live with roommates I couldn’t stand, but with them, I learned about patience. I had to surrender one of my best friends, but it was only in letting go that we could learn to love one another in a healthy way and have God bring a new depth to our friendship.

I had to surrender my singleness and loneliness to God, but after that I began to appreciate being alone, and being alone with God. I had to surrender convenience by not having internet, but I haven’t struggled with pornography or masturbation since moving to my new apartment.

There’s an illustration that has helped me understand surrender: Imagine life as a rollercoaster. There’s going to be a big drop and bunch of twists and turns. I can try to hold onto the handle bars and clench my teeth, or I can raise my hands and feel the rush. Either way, I’m still going to drop, and I’m still going to be held in. So why not just enjoy the ride?

There can be so much death in surrendering and letting go. But there can also be so much peace and life when we finally give God space in our hearts.

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Stepping into the Light

Celebrating 40 Years of Being Called Out of Darkness40 years

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. —1 Peter 2:9-10

In 1976, Outpost Ministries was born. I was born just one year later. I have often thought of the goodness of God. He knew that I would struggle with same-sex attractions, and He went before me to establish the place where I would ultimately find healing and wholeness in Jesus Christ.

I first set foot inside Outpost in the fall of 1997, and I was called out of the darkness of homosexuality and into the marvelous light of Jesus. True freedom always begins with stepping into the light. I had never before told anyone about my struggle. I was too afraid and ashamed. Now, for the first time, I was in a place where I could be open and honest about my sexual brokenness. How freeing!

In the light, we begin to see rightly. My sight began to heal through my involvement at Outpost. I began to see men and women very differently, I began to see myself differently. Most importantly, I began to see God differently. As I started to see how God truly thinks and feels about me, my heart began to change.

I saw that I am chosen. Growing up, I was not very athletic, so I generally wasn’t the first kid picked for playground sports, or the second or the third . . . We all desire to be chosen, and it’s painful when we are not. At Outpost, I got to know a God who chose me before the foundations of the world. He wanted me on His team!        Since then, I have often marveled at these words from 1 Corinthians 1:27-28:

But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are.

God’s standards are completely the opposite of the world’s standards, and in many cases even the opposite of the Church’s. He intentionally chooses for His team the weak and broken!

I saw that I am royalty to God the Father. What is so amazing about the cross is that not only does it afford us the forgiveness of sin, but it also give us a new identity. We are now kings and priests to God because of the blood of Jesus (Rev. 1:5-6). We have been given authority in Jesus’ name to partner with God in administering justice in the earth (Ps. 149) through our intercession. Our prayers matter to God!

I saw that I am holy. For someone who has lived in so much shame and condemnation for so long, it is an amazing thing for him to realize and truly believe that he is a new creation. In Christ, I have become the righteousness of God and am set apart to accomplish the good works God has planned in advance for me (2 Cor. 5:17, 21; Eph. 2:10).

I saw that I am special. I think my parents did a fine job of letting me know that I was special to them. There is, however, a part of our hearts that needs to hear this word from the Heavenly Father in order for us to feel confident in who we are. One who has heard the Lord affirm that he is fearfully and wonderfully made doesn’t need fame or status. He is already famous in the sight of the Creator of the Universe. It’s the angel Gabriel telling Daniel that he is “highly esteemed” by heaven (Dan. 9:23) or the angel of the Lord informing Gideon that heaven sees him as a “valiant warrior” (Judges 6:12). A person’s soul is set free from always needing to perform for approval when he learns to live before an audience of One.

In the light, I saw more clearly. I saw a God who is mighty to save. At Outpost, I learned to trade my rags for my new identity. Christ had always been holding it out to me. In the darkness, I just couldn’t see it.

Chosen. Royal. Holy. Special. What a glorious exchange.

There has been much fruit that has come forth from Outpost over the last 40 years. I am just one of the many who has stepped into the light because I heard the call of God. There are many more walking in freedom and many more to come. How much more do we need Outpost for the next 40 years! We need this beacon of hope and truth now more than ever before in the history of our nation.

Thank you for standing with us, some of you since the very beginning. It has been such a privilege to run the race with you. I hope to see you at our upcoming 40th Anniversary Celebration and Called Out of Darkness. Let us all come together and proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light!