Happy New Year!
And you know what? It believe it WILL be a “happy new year!
Of course, “BELIEVE” is the key word for followers of Christ, especially after such a dark year for the world with the devastation of Covid and terrific turmoil in the United States. But Jesus is the “Way, the Truth, and the Light,” and I truly believe in my spirit that the “Light of the World” is going to chase the darkness away in 2021 to a large degree.
And as far as I’m concerned, it all begins with prayer! So beginning tomorrow — SUNDAY, JANUARY 3, 2021, Keith and I are embarking on an AMAZING prayer journey with my daughter’s AMAZING church, Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama. It’s their bi-annual 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting, and let me tell you — for me (and Keith) — it was life-changing the first year we did it. So much so, that friends and relatives now ask me to remind them when it begins in January. Thus this Journal Jot blog — to remind them and YOU of a life-changing opportunity you will not want to miss!
Begun by Pastor Chris Hodges in 2001, The Church of the Highlands has an incredible beginning that I just have to share because it shows the power of the Highland’s commitment to its annual 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting.
Twenty years ago, Pastor Chris Hodges was a youth pastor with absolutely NO desire to be a main pastor. Fortunately, God didn’t feel the same way because Chris had a dream that shook him so much, he spoke to his pastor about it. The dream went something like this: First Chris was standing on a stage staring at a sea of people and then he was driving down a highway past a huge church that seemed to go on forever. The pastor told Chris something he really didn’t want to hear — that God was calling him to start a church.
Now, not having a clue how to go about that, Chris followed his pastor’s advice and took time off to visit every city in Alabama that God laid on his heart. “You’ll know it when you reach the city God has chosen, and Chris did, because when he arrived in Birmingham, it was like the city was embedded in his heart.
The next thing he knew, Chris and his wife and five kids move to Birmingham in late December of 2001 along with a small contingent of 34 people. Now, everyone expected him to begin services on the first Sunday in January, but Chris decided he wasn’t about to start anything without God’s direction, so he and the church prayed and fasted for 21 days. As a result, The Church of the Highlands’ first service took place on the first Sunday in February of that year — not with 34 people and his family — but approximately 500 people in attendance! Today, The Highlands is the 2nd largest church in the United States with 25 campuses and a weekly attendance of approximately 60,000.
Now trust me, people, when my daughter said to me a few years back, “Hey, Mom, our church is kicking off its 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting this Sunday, and I think you would really like it,” I pretty much froze on the spot.
Why? Well, because I knew the fasting part would be hard and there were certain things I did NOT want to give up for 21 days. “Sure, babe, I’ll check the Sunday kick-off service out online,” I said, fully intending to watch for a few minutes so I could tell her I did, but then letting her know it wasn’t for me because what can I say — I was skeptical.
The pastor reeled me in like a bass on a hula grub in the first five minutes.
Wait … I have to give up what??!!
Yep, “I have to give up sweets, wine, and Amazon for 21 days,” I told Keith in shock, not a bit happy about it.
“What?” Keith stared at me wide-eyed, as if I’d just told him I was giving up writing and reading romance to embark on a career picking up trash on a highway. “Why on earth are you doing that?” he said, jaw dangling considerably. “Because God told me to,” I responded in a mournful tone, never, EVER imagining just how much my life was about to change!
That was the year following my sabbatical to focus more on God, family, and writing for the sheer joy of writing, when I told my editor I wouldn’t be pitching any books or series for a while. Since then, my love affair with God has grown by leaps and bounds, deepening more and more each year after I embark on 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting with Church of the Highlands. As a romance writer, I can now say that the greatest romance of all is the one I have found with my Father in Heaven and my Savior, bringing more joy, peace, strength, and hope than I have ever experienced in over 70 years.
Why am I telling you this? Well, again, because I feel like there may be one or two of you out there that God wants to join me in this endeavor. I meant to tell you about it sooner (duh … before the 21 Days begins tomorrow), but I didn’t, so I apologize. But, it’s not too late because you can start anytime by checking out Pastor Hodge’s kick-off Sunday service to prayerfully decide if the 21 Days is something you want to do. Pastor Chris will explain how there are all kinds of ways to fast other than food, so don’t be intimidated.
For instance, food isn’t a big deal to me, but my nightly glass of wine with dinner and not checking Amazon for reviews and stats definitely are, so that’s what I fast along with sweets and lunch. See? Not too hard, and you know what? Keith and I actually look forward to it every single year like little kids at Christmas because it’s THAT good for our souls and our lives. I know it would be for you too, so pray about it, okay? And if you’re interested, here’s the link to the Church of the Highlands kick-off service for 21 DAYS OF PRAYER & FASTING that will tell you all about it.
Before I go, I wanted to share a few fun pix with you of our rare 2020 get-togethers with our kids and grandkids. I hope you were able to spend at least some time with family to celebrate the birth of our Savior as well.
I wish you and yours a happy, healthy, and holy new year!
2020 Memories for the Lessmans!
Papa and newest grand baby, Caleb!
Our little “heart baby,” Geebie, now 4 years old!
Pirate day at the Lessman’s!
Juju and Wyatt reading!
My daughter’s Christmas pic!
My son’s Christmas pic!
Keith’s and my Christmas pic!