Changed on the Mountaintop
Dena Johnson MartinDena Johnson is a former single mom to three amazing kids: Blake, Cole, and Cassie and wife to her high school friend, Roy. She strives to follow Christ each day and to lead her children to do the same. She delights in taking the every day experiences of life and turning them into biblical lessons for her children. Dena's daily prayer is simple: Lord, my life is yours. Live through me. Love through me. Parent through me. Let me decrease that you might increase. Dena is the founder of Dena Johnson Ministries, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people find beauty through the brokenness of this life. Her heart's desire is to use her own pain to point others to the power of God who redeems every hurt, every pain. You can contact Dena at Dena@denajohnson.com. You can also find her blog at Dena Johnson Ministries.
- 2018 Jul 25
One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. Matthew 6:12
Have you ever thought about how many things happened on the mountaintop in the scriptures?
Moses received the ten commandments on a mountaintop.
Abraham took Isaac to the mountaintop to offer him as a sacrifice. It became a place where God provided.
Aaron and Moses both died on top of a mountain. Moses was able to view The Promised Land from the mountaintop.
It was on the mountain Elijah heard the still, small voice of God.
Jesus selected his disciples after praying all night on the mountaintop.
Jesus fasted and was tempted on a mountain.
The transfiguration took place on a mountaintop.
It seems as if God likes for people to get away from the distractions of this life to a place of solitude, a place where He can meet us and spend quality time with us.
And when we’ve taken time to get away to a place of solitude, He speaks. He works. He changes us.
A few weeks ago, I told you about Roy and my kids going away to Falls Creek, a camp nestled in the heart of the Arbuckle Mountains. As far as mountains go, Oklahoma doesn’t have anything impressive. But, the Arbuckle Mountains (most people would probably call them hills) is about the best we can do.
The Arbuckle Mountain area is beautiful! Lots of green trees. Spring-fed lakes and creeks. Waterfalls. And hills (or mountains). It’s quiet. Serene. Peaceful. It’s a great place to get away from life and enjoy the beauty God has given us.
It’s a great place for a church camp, a place for teenagers and adults alike to spend uninterrupted time with God.
The kids and Roy have come back from their mountaintop experience and told me about how God was moving. They’ve told me how the Holy Spirit spoke to them. They’ve told me about their experience.
But what’s even better than listening to them tell me is seeing how God changed them on the mountaintop.
I’ve watched my family over the last month. There’s something different in them. There’s a peace in our home that wasn’t there before. There’s a camaraderie among my kids that had been missing for a while. There’s a contagious joy and laughter that had slipped away unnoticed.
These last two years have been full of changes. I’ve watched my kids grieve the loss of their dad. I’ve seen the pain and the anger get stuffed down and then explode at inopportune times. I’ve watched the relationship between my children suffer as they each fought their own battles, became teenagers and find their own circle of friends. I’ve watched my daughter battle depression over her health issues, the uncertainty of her future.
Even in the good things, it’s been a season of change. Roy has been a huge blessing, but it’s thrown us into a period of adjustment as we learn to blend together. We’ve spent the better part of our first year of marriage grieving loss after loss, including his father’s death and his daughter’s behaviors. He’s battled to find peace, to understand why God hasn’t answered his prayers the way he wants him to.
It’s been tough.
But something happened at Falls Creek. Something happened on that mountaintop. And my family has been transformed by the Holy Spirit.
On the last evening of camp, the kids began to open up and share their stories. Roy said it was heart-breaking to hear the struggles, to see the pain that lies just beneath the surface of so many of these kids. But in the midst of sharing their stories, they began to find healing.
All three of my children shared their stories. All three had a different perspective. All three talked about the losses and the grief and the pain and the fear and the disappointment with God.
As they opened up, there were tears. Many tears. Tears from them and tears from their friends. As they shared, there was comforting as they came together to support one another as only three siblings who understand the common shared experience. As they talked, they moved other kids who were silently suffering the same pain. As they told their stories, they were forever changed by the power of God.
I’ve reflected on the change in our home over the last month and why things are different. I’ve watched my kids enjoy each other, choosing one another over other friends. I’ve watched them pull friends into their circle, friends who were silently suffering some of the same experiences. I’ve watched them build a friendship that will never die.
Through watching these precious kids, I’ve come up with three important lessons we can all learn.
Tell your story. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. God gives us a story to share with others. He doesn’t want us hiding behind a veil of secrecy, sharing the Facebook reel of highlights to appear we have the perfect life. He wants us to be real. Honest. Authentic. He wants us to share the good. The bad. The ugly.
Several things happen when we share our stories. One of the biggest benefits is that we get to impact other people. When we tell about our pain, we help others know they are not alone. They, in turn, allow their walls to come down and they are willing to be vulnerable. They find comfort in knowing others understand. And us? We find joy in helping others. We begin to see God use our stories for good when we get the chance to help others…simply because we were willing to be vulnerable.
God is all through our stories. Sometimes, we just have to start talking to see where He is working.
Spend time with God. I so wish I could have gone to Falls Creek with them. I’m so jealous they all had the opportunity to get away from the distractions of this life and spend uninterrupted time with God.
With all of our activities, a few minutes alone with God is a luxury. Yes, we try to make it priority, but sometimes the distractions of life interfere. I want to build margin into my life so I can find ways to get away and spend uninterrupted time alone with God.
I love how Moses face shone brightly and others could tell he had been with God (Exodus 34:35). I want my countenance to always let others know I have spent time with my Savior.
Be sensitive to the call of the Holy Spirit. My family could have walked away without the blessings they received or the blessings they have become to others if they had failed to respond to the Holy Spirit’s call on their lives. My kids could have chosen to walk away from camp and continue keeping their stories to themselves, keeping everything bottled up inside.
But they heard the gentle call of the Spirit. They felt Him nudging them to open their hearts. They responded to His call to share their stories.
And they came home different. They experienced the life-giving power our Father wants us all to experience.
After two plus years of grief, I am beginning to see healing emerge. I’m beginning to see how God will use their pain for good. I’m beginning to see Romans 8:28 become a reality in my family’s life. I’m beginning to see my kids use their stories to help others.
We are but a very short way into this journey, and I can’t wait to see how God continues to move. My kids (and Roy) came back from the mountaintop different.
And I thank my God every single day for the work He began there.