August 20th, 1986 I give thanks to my Father, who has delivered me from the power of darkness, and has translated me into the Kingdom of His dear Son: in whom I have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins: it was 25 years ago, I encountered the presence of the Living God. I was Born Again, baptized with the Holy Spirit & Fire. His Word is like a burning fire in my bones & I can't help but preach the gospel of my Lord Jesus Christ!
It’s been 25 years now and I can still remember the evening of August 20th. 1986. After months of being asked by this couple to join them for a Bible study I finally said yes. I'll share a little history with you so you can understand the extreme encounter I had with the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, I was raised in a dysfunctional family, and by that I mean we put the capital “D” in dysfunctional. Anyway, I never knew what a Christian was until I became one. My dad was an alcoholic and abusive to my mother, and my two older brothers. For some reason he never abused me or my little sister, well, at least not physically. My mom became a mother at the age of 17. I don’t need to go into details because I think that says enough about my mother.
The environment I grew up in was filled with alcohol, drugs, domestic violence, and sexually perversion within the midst of poverty. When I was five years old I was sexually molested by a older female cousin. I faced many challenges growing up and had many obstacles to overcome. I was a lost, confused little girl in a great big world that I didn't understand. The schools I went to were of no help, as far as my emotional needs. I was born at the old St. Joseph Hospital on Bloomington’s west side. The west side of town embraced the blue collar workers, and carried the reputation: “That nothing good could ever come out of the West Side” This carried over into the school system. It was always westside vs. eastside and I didn't’ fit in anywhere. It seemed like there was no one who noticed me. I was this invisible girl that was being tossed around like a ship on a storming sea. And there was no life jacket to rescue me, there was no Light House shining it’s light to show me the way. I was completely empty, lost and alone.
(Psalm 27:10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up)
I was a baby in the 60’s and grew up in the 70’s and I embraced the mystical, experimental drug era. At a very young age my mind was filled with questions. I remember asking my second grade teacher about life and how it came to be. How did all the animals get their names kind of thing, and her answer still echoes in my memory today: “It’s just the way it is, over a period of time man just named everything” and for a second grader, I just was not satisfied with that answer. I asked my mother one time about death and what would happen to me when I died. She mentioned something about heaven. I had no idea what that was. There was a knowing down deep inside of me that knew there was more to life then what I was being offered. Life had to be more than this. Surly if was not just about being born to live, hatred ,crying and then dying. I knew nothing about love. It was not a house hold word, and I never heard the words “I love you” in the midst of the screaming and fighting that went on behind the closed doors of my family home.
With that being said; I started my spiritual journey. A road that would lead me into the depths of darkness. I became dependent on drugs, because it made me feel different about myself and that was a good thing at the time, so I thought. I hated alcohol because of what it did to my family, but I drank to fit in with my so called friends. I opened my heart up to demoniac activity through the philosophy of new age and mysticism. Embracing tarot cards, palm reading, communing with spirits of another kind. I knew there was life after death, and I was determined to find out the truth before I crossed over into it. I began to walk down a road of deception believing in re-carnation, and I thought I had arrived to my final state of Christ Consciousness, (nirvana) that when I died this time I would enter a “god state of consciousness” I thought I had arrived.
(Prov 14:12 & 16:25 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death)
In the midst of my search I met my husband, Thomas James Lentz. It is really a very long detailed story on how all this played out, let’s just say that the sovereignty of an Almighty Loving God had everything to do with it!
Here I am 21 years old. I'm an addict, an adulterous woman in bondage to lust and my mind is deceived with lies upon lies upon lies about myself, about life and death, about God. My eyes were blinded by deception and I was dead pretending to be alive. Yet, knowing inside I was controlled by a power of darkness, but I thirst for freedom, I longed for truth and I knew there was a God out there some where I just didn't know how to get to him.
(John 10:1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber)
(John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me)
I was reading books on New Age, Buddhism and Mystical Experiences and everyone of these books mentioned a man named Jesus, who was a prophet, a good teacher. Growing up the word Jesus Christ was a curse word in my house, I never knew there was substance to His name, That He was an actual person who lived on earth. Now, I'm intrigued by this name. There was something different about this name. I was being drawn by this name. I was taught by my “spiritual mentor” that I could cast out demons in His name. I didn't even know who Jesus was at that time. I was beginning to see that this man Jesus and His name had some kind of power that I knew nothing about.
Tom and I had quick visit to Los Angels, Ca. Again, it is a really long detailed story, let’s just say, God, the creator of the heavens and the earth got my attention.
(Ps 19:1-3 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard)
We lived in LA for a summer and moved back home for many reasons. We went to the Chicago area, then my grandmother had a heart attack and I drove to Springfield to be with her and my mother. For the first time I picked up a Gideons Bible in the waiting room and began to read the First chapter of the book, Genesis wow! I loved the creation story, but I was completely lost after that. For some reason as a child I had a Bible. I never read it, I never even opened it , but I knew there was something special about this book and I kept it in my closet. Anyway, The days and weeks in the hospital I didn't read much of the Bible because I couldn't get pass the first few chapters of Genesis, so I put It down. My grandmother passed away. I was in the room with her at her passing from this life into the next, and all I can say is that she left her body, she was no longer in the hospital room and I wanted to know where she went. I was sensitive to the spirit realm, and there was a presence in the room that was unknown to me.
(Jer 29:11-13 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.)
My search to find out who God was and where did this man named Jesus come into play. I’m still holding unto my mystical ways. Now, I’m reading the last chapter of the Bible “Revelation” I heard that it told the future, not only about life after death, but the end of the world. I was really interested in this topic, because I was convinced that the end was near, and it still might be (Rom 13:11-12 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light)
As I read the book of Revelation, and I read about this woman named Jezabel, I saw myself with that same spirit and I saw what my end would be if this book was true.
On to the night of August 20th, 1986 I had taken Tom to work. He was working until 11:00pm. I came home and did my rituals of candles, burning incense and altering my state of mind through drugs & meditation. I waited for this couple to pick me up. I have to give a little more history here, you see my husband Tom, was raised Catholic, but was far from his childhood faith when we met. November 24th. 1984 He accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, we were not married at this time. He was concerned with how I would react to his conversion, he choose to keep quite about it. The only thing he knew from his Catholic upbringing is that living together was a sin. A very detailed story shorten within a few sentences, He asked me to marry him. I never wanted to get married, and had no plans on marrying anyone. I was a free spirit and no one was going to control me. Well, on December 26th. 1984 I said yes, and we were married. My husband had no idea the hell we were about to go through. Let’s just say; the summer of 1986 my husband prayed a prayer very similar to this; with just his Catholic upbringing again he knew that divorce was wrong and he'd go to hell for it, so he prayed: “God save her or get rid of her” Well, I’m so glad that the Lord listened to the first part of his prayer and not the last. Tom was a new believer with very little to no fellowship. Anyway, the Bible study was on the second floor of a store front in downtown Bloomington. When I walked in, it was like walking into a very bright room. There was a presence there that was familiar to me. It was the same presence I knew from my grandmothers passing. The chairs were set up in a circle around the room. I knew no one except the couple that had invited me, and they never witness to me. They just seemed happy all the time and wanted me to come to their Bible Study. He worked in the same building as I did. I didn’t know them well, mostly because I had a huge thick wall round me, and I would not let anyone come behind that wall, not even my own husband. We are all sitting in this room, and they are singing songs about God. I watched the wife of the guest speaker that night and she was communing with a spirit, I could see the worship alive within her. I was drawn to her and there was a stirring in my spirit as I began to long to know or encounter what she had. The end of the night there was an alter call, now at that time I knew nothing about alter calls. All I know is that something or someone picked me up and I found myself standing in the middle of this room, in front of a bunch of strangers not knowing what to expect. The same woman I watched that night is the same woman who came over to me and prayed with me. As she prayed for me there was a light from heaven that shinned upon me.
(Luke 1:79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
(Acts 26:18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.)
I saw the ugliness of my sin and my need for salvation. (Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.) The power of Satan was broken off of me and I was taken from darkness into light. I fell at the feet of a Holy God who had forgiven me of all my sin and washed me in the precious blood of His son. I was filled with the Holy Spirit of truth and every lie of satan was removed from my mind and I was free!
It was like a crystal clear burning light that shinned around me and through me. I could feel the weight of sin falling off of me as I was being lifted up. I had no knowledge nor prior experience to anything like this before. All I knew is that I had found Him, the one I had been searching for. I knew I had just encountered the creator of all things. I was dead in my sin and in a moment I was alive in Christ. Now at that time I didn’t know or understand what happened to me. I knew I was changed in the presence a Holy God and I would never be the same. My heart was captured by His grace and His mercy was my sweet embrace. Well, I picked Tom up from work that night. He knew I was going to this Bible study. I was so filled with the Holy Spirit I felt like a light bulb was turned on inside of me. Tom and I instantly became one in our marriage, in purpose and have been preaching the gospel every since that night. The Lord of Heaven and Earth has blessed us with two wonderful amazing kids, who are now adults. The Holy Spirit taught me how to love and be loved through my children.
There’s so much more I could say, and so much more details I have left out, but I will share this with you. Christmas 1987. Tom and I hung a sign on our front porch in an apartment in downtown Bloomingtom, on the westside of course, this sign simple said “JESUS” Many people were drawn to His name just as I was and many lives have been changed through the preaching of the gospel at the Jesus House. The First Jesus House at 401 W. Monroe street to the second Jesus House at 724 W. Washington St. And by the grace and mercy of Our Lord Jesus Christ we will continue to run the race, living by faith as we press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
(It didn't take me long to discover that the Bible is 66 books and I didn’t have to start at the Genesis to read it….. lol)