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Jennifer Maggio Christian Blog and Commentary

Jennifer Maggio

 

Jennifer Maggio is considered a leading authority on single parents and womens issues. She is an award-winning author and speaker who draws from her own experiences through abuse, homelessness, and teen pregnancy to inspire audiences everywhere. She is founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries and writes for dozens of publications. She has been featured with hundreds of media outlets, including The 700 Club, Daystar Television, Moody Radio, Focus on the Family, and many more. For more information, visit thelifeofasinglemom.com.

Encountering God

When I was 9 years old, I gave my heart to the Lord. I walked to the front of my church, told the pastor that I had accepted Jesus into my heart, and went through some Bible classes on what becoming a Christian meant.  That was my very first God encounter.  It was simple and uncomplicated. In my heart, even at such a young age and even if I didn’t fully understand the magnitude of my own sin; I knew I was in need of a Savior. That Sunday began my journey with Christ.

I was recently asked to share on God Encounters in my life.  I sat down to write some notes. I began to reflect on the first time I remember encountering God and the timeline of miracles – both big and small – that were evidenced in my life over the last 30 years.  Beyond my salvation experience (which was a miracle all its own), I remember my first miracle. I was on fire for God, read my Bible every day, attended Sunday school every week, prayed and talked to God. In a simple, yet profound way, I understood that Jesus was my best friend.  My life was pretty crazy, at that time. My dad was an alcoholic. My mother had been killed, years earlier. I was being abused in my home regularly.  It was chaos, yet I was completely in love with Jesus.

It was Christmas time that year, and I was about ten years old. My family was wrapping Christmas presents in the living room, and my stepmom asked me for the tape to use for one of the gifts.  I started looking and looking…. and looking.  I couldn’t find it.  Because I had been abused as a child, I became immediately fearful that if I didn’t find that tape I was going to be in big trouble!  I looked everywhere I could think.  I decided, as a 10 year old little girl, to go in my bedroom, lie across my bed, and pray about it.  I covered my eyes and started asking God to please show me where the tape was. Within seconds, I got up from the bed and walked straight to my parents’ bedroom, into their closet, and picked up the tape from a shelf inside the closet. Now, I know this isn’t some earth-shattering miracle. But it was my miracle, something God had done for me. My childlike faith, believed God heard me and what mattered to me, mattered to Him.

God is in the small things and He’s in the big things. God encounters look different for each one of us.  Yes, God encounters have been big ones for me through the years.

God saved me from the death the morning my mother was killed, when I was in the car with her.

God saved me the day I was choked, almost to death, by an angry relative.

He was there, when I had nothing in my refrigerator and cabinets to feed my children. He showed up as a loving neighbor knocking at my door with a warm meal.

I encountered God, when my 1984 Mercury broke down on the side of the road, repeatedly. With two toddlers in tow, I began the trek home. He showed up as friends who just happened to be driving by.

God was there, when a random one hundred dollar bill showed up in my mailbox with no name or address, when I thought I wouldn’t eat for the week.

He was there my first Christmas alone as a single mom… and he was there my 7th Christmas alone.

God was there when I was beaten, homeless, and hopeless. 

I’ve encountered God in a thousand ways in my life. He shows up in every season, whether we acknowledge him or not. He is there.  Every step of life’s journey leads us to an encounter with our King.

Sometimes, when life has beaten us down, and we are worn out, or just tired of being disappointed, it is hard for us to see the encounters of God. Through his faithfulness in my own life, there are a few things I have learned about God encounters:

Don’t fear the encounter.   We often fear what we don’t understand.  For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 You may be in a season, when you look left and right and cannot see God. You may fear your future. You may fear what your children are going to become. You may fear that you will always be alone. You may fear your financial future. I don’t know what you fear today. But I want to encourage you that in order for God to show up and do a miracle in your life, you need to be in prime position. The problem with receiving a miracle is that you have to be in a position to get one.  And none of us want to be in that position!  God encounters come at the perfect time, His timing, and in ways we don’t understand. But don’t fear an encounter with Him. He’s going to show up.

Don’t fret the encounter.   Has God ever showed up in your life? Has there ever been a time when only He could’ve answered your prayers? Of course! Then, why do we fret that He’s not going to show up this time, in this situation? Philippians 4:6-7 says Don’t’ worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. And then…. You will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.   Don’t worry that God isn’t going to show up. You will encounter him. We spend more of our time worrying about life than actually living life. The recipe for God’s peace is clear --- Do not worry about anything.  Pray about everything. Tell him what you need. Thank him for what he’s already done.

Don’t fail the encounter.  When God shows up, he will show out. He will move mountains. He will bless. He will give freedom. He will replace anger & bitterness with joy. But don’t dare, fail the encounter. When he does show up, don’t you forget to praise Him all the days of your life. Don’t be a fair-weather Christian. When God shows up for us, we get excited and thankful for about 30 seconds. But then we just add another thing to the list. We start asking him for something else. We start looking for the next high—the next God encounter.  If God never does anything else for us, he’s already done enough. He paid for us to live in eternity with Him. He fills our soul with joy. He gives peace that others cannot even comprehend. He turns crying into dancing.

Let us all be patient between God encounters, expectant of future ones, and thankful for the miracles He’s already done.

Jennifer Maggio is a national author and speaker, mom to three, wife of Jeff, and CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is chauffeur, chief dishwasher, carpool queen, and duct tape aficionado. But more importantly, she is passionate about teaching women how to find complete freedom in Christ. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com

            On Sunday morning, July 17, 2016 at approximately 8:30am, six officers were shot in the middle of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was a devastating day for our community, to say the least. The event, in part, was the climax of long-standing racial tension that has existed in the community, in the state, and in the country, for the preceding many months, and even years. I’ve struggled to make sense of it all, like most, and what my role is in helping our community heal. The event brought to mind much of my past experience.

            As a young, single mom, I had two biracial children -- half African American, half Caucasian. As the daughter of a Baptist deacon and a Christian woman who accepted Jesus at nine years old, I wrestled with the shame of having two children outside of marriage for years. The struggle was compounded, after I gave birth, as I experienced the ugly face of racism, more pointed and blatant than I had ever seen before. Through the years that followed, I was fired from jobs, called horrific names, shunned in social settings, and spat upon, as a result of the color of my children’s skin. I have been asked to leave restaurants and shopping centers and gossiped about more than I care to know. But perhaps the most painful part of the journey was my struggle to find a church home and the conversations I had with Christians regarding race. I fell away from church for many years. The desperation of hoping that maybe a local church could help me and the result of extreme loneliness led me to search for a new church family. Much to my chagrin, I could not find an integrated church. And although I eventually did find a church home, I always yearned for my children to have a place where they could see people who worshiped the Lord who looked just like them. 

            My first-born is now 21 years old and the struggle to find him a place to fit in has long been gone. Years ago, we relocated to another city and my children were raised in a multi-ethnic church with friends of all races. But the recent events in our nation have left me pondering ways to eradicate racism entirely and my role in that journey. I don’t have the answers to the racial tensions of this world, and there are others who are far more eloquent and offer greater expertise in this area, but as a Christian woman, I want to implore the body of Christ to be involved in this effort. It doesn’t always mean taking a microphone or publicly beating your chest in indignation. Your role could  be in changing what you say and do. Policy change and political activism are fine, but I truly believe that real change - long-standing, meaningful change - starts long before an incident or a tragedy or a summit or a town hall or a ratification of law. It starts in the hearts of you and me. And it starts by asking yourself some deep questions.

Why should I care about this issue? Maybe you haven’t experienced racism, you don’t have biracial children, and there hasn’t been civil unrest in your community regarding racism. You may be wondering why you should even care about this issue. We should care, but Christ didn’t die for only one race or ethnicity. Heaven won’t be divided into the “black” neighborhood and the “white” one.

 

Do I have friends that look different from me? Now, the term friends is not referencing the neighbor you wave to down the street and see a few times a year. It isn’t referencing a co-worker you see throughout the week. Friendship is more intimate than that. Friends are those you do life with, eat with, fellowship, and vacation with. Who are those people in your life? Do they all look like you?

Have I taught my children the value of befriending a variety of races and ethnicities? Children often emulate what we do, so this goes back to the previous point. But I know that we talk so often in our churches about “the next generation”. The more we instill the importance of diversity into our children’s lives, the more long-term impact in our communities I am convinced we’ll see.

Do I refer to other people groups as “they” or “them”? I have had conversations with many people that were making racist remarks and had no idea they were doing so. Referring to others as they is a prime example. But there are others. Do you unnecessarily use race as a descriptor

Have I made an effort to explore the cultural differences of those who are different from me? Racism is rooted in ignorance. We fear what we don’t understand. We react based on fear. It evolves into a huge problem. We simply don’t know or understand why people don’t do things the way we do. Take the time and make the effort to learn about other cultures and customs. Also, make the effort to not place a stereotype on any group, based on one experience or incident. How unfair to others when we do such a thing!

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corin. 13:13

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal. 3:28

 

Jennifer Maggio is a national author and speaker who is also a wife, mother, and founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She has been featured in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, The 700 Club, Power Women, Daystar Television, and others. She has a passion to see the women of God live free and impactful lives. For more information, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com

*** Article first appeared on iBelieve.com. 

I am such a country girl. I was raised hunting & fishing and lived on a farm. I lived in rural Mississippi, really, really rural! We went to town once a month to get groceries --- and that means --- milk, butter, and eggs.  We grew everything we ate --- all the vegetables, fruit, spices.

Because I was raised that way, my sister and I learned to love to play in the wilderness. We loved being in the forest behind our house and playing  dolls or school or house. We put an old chair out there and dug around in the trash to get goodies for our "home". Hanging out in the wilderness, back then, proved to be great, all-day fun, and it left me with such wonderful memories.

But being in the wilderness isn’t always fun, is it? It can get dark. You can get lost. It can be lonely.

We can go through many tests as a Christian. Tests are actually not our enemies. They are our friends. They teach us. They show us who we are when we are squeezed.

One of those tests is the Wilderness test.  The wilderness test comes when we feel spiritually dry, as if we’re in the desert. As if no one is around , no one understands, and no one cares.

Paul was pressed from every side.  Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 6:4-5, then v. 8-10.  Paul was exhausted and pressed and obstacles were everywhere.

Some of you in the room have been pressed from every side. Your pressing make look different from Paul’s pressing, but you have been pressed nonetheless.

The God who got you through that previous thing is going to get you through this one!

Sometimes, when we are in the middle of the wilderness, in the middle of testing, we can’t hear God. Ps. 42:1-2 puts it like this, “As the deer longs for the streams of water, so I long for you. O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?”

Here’s what you need to do about finding hope in the wilderness:

#1) Read Luke 4:1-13.  What did Jesus do every time he was tested? He quoted Scripture. There is power in Scripture. You must be in the Word to know what power you have. Hosea 4:6 says my people perish for lack of knowledge. You likely don’t even walk in all the power you have been given. When you are in the middle of testing, in the wilderness, you can stand strong on what the word of God says – that is eternal hope. He will not leave you. He will not forsake you. He holds you up with his victorious right hand.

#2) You must learn to be a “driver” in the wilderness.  There’s a big difference between being a driver and being a passenger. Passengers in a car can be completely disengaged.  Passengers don’t have to be aware of where they are going. They don’t have to know the right turns to make. They don’t have to be safe and wise. Drivers  streer  the car. They must be keenfully aware of their surroundings. A Good river takes responsibility for the car and all those affected. Drivers don’t whine. They don’t place blame. They don’t ask why. They just drive.

The Israelites were rescued from slavery through the leadership of Moses. He led a national revolt, because God spoke to him to do so. He gathered the people and they literally ran for their lives as the Egyptians came chasing them. They had been beaten, abused, malnourished, and mistreated. And they get to the other side of the Red Sea --- God showed up and gave them a miracle. And they get to other side of the Red Sea and the real testing began. They waited for their deliverance to the Promised Land for 400 years.  Testing comes.

Exodus 13:17-18  says that God did not lead the Israelies along the easiest route, even though it was the shortest way. He said that if it got too tough and they were faced with a battle, they might just change their minds and give up! They might just turn around and go home!

Think about that for a minute. Have you been asking God why? Why am I here? Why am I wandering? Could it be that you’re being led in a roundabout way, because God is teaching you? Don’t ask why – just drive!

#3) When you come out of the wilderness, out of the season of testing – there’s rest. There’s peace. There’s hope. So replenish during this time. Take the time to assess what you’ve learned during that time in the wilderness. Take the time to rest in Christ’s eternal peace. One of the fruits of the spirit is hope. Hope was given when you accepted Christ as your Savior.

Some of you have experienced a temporary set-back. It could’ve come in the form of abuse or divorce or death or a disappointment or loss of job or hardship. But for whatever reason, you’ve had a set-back.I want to remind you that God has given you every tool you need to survive the set-back. He is the God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is the God of second chances. He is hope for those of you who find yourself hopeless today. He is strength for the weary, overworked, exhausted, and overwhelmed. HE is your all in all, your everything. My prayer is that you would truly embrace the hope that He offers today. 

Jennifer Maggio is a national author and speaker, mom of three, wife to Jeff, and CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is passionate about single mothers and hurting women finding freedom in Christ. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com

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