This post will be the first of a (hopefully!) biweekly feature post where we host women of wisdom, experience, or passionate faith to speak words of encouragement to our hearts. Grace Spoken Here is truly intended to be a community and a collection of many voices speaking hope and grace.
And it’s a great honor to introduce as our first post collaboration, the most gracious woman I know, and the singularly most influential woman in my life: My mama, Lana Holt. She is a pastor’s wife, mother of 6 (plus innumerable, unofficial adoptees), talented self-taught musician, and prayer warrior extraordinaire. I have seen her dedication to the ministry demonstrated in actions and in spirit my entire life, and I’m so thankful to be able to share her wisdom and passion with you today! I might have written the fluffy parts, but the message and inspiration was ALL her.
When We Blow Their Minds
And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.
King Herod, supported by the ruthless Sanhedrin, is in the middle of a single-minded endeavor to stop the Christian movement. At the beginning of the chapter, Herod has murdered James the son of Zebedee (known historically as James the Greater) and apprehended the Apostle Peter. On this night, Herod is coming for Peter, very likely to put him to death.
Fearing the fervent support of local Christians, 16 soldiers are tasked with guarding Peter. In the third ward of the prison, two chains and two soldiers ensure Peter doesn’t leave from his cell. Outside the door stand the keepers of the prison.
Suddenly, a light glows. Brighter and brighter, it pierces the darkness where Peter sits in chains. The light is so intensely bright that no gloom can remain in the cell. The irons securing Peter to the wall drop limply to the floor. It is as if the guards aren’t even present. And from the center of the light steps an angel of the Lord.
The angel addresses Peter, commanding him to get dressed and leave the cell. Perhaps Peter fumbles at the lacing of his sandals. Maybe he’s weak and dizzy from lack of food or mistreatment. Whatever his mental and physical state, he follows the angel. In fact, he does so not even realizing that this is really happening, not just a vision or vivid dream borne from exhaustion!
The angel leads Peter past the second prison ward, then the first. His sandal clad feet seem to ring in the eerie silence of the prison. But no one even seems to notice he’s passing! Surely, the iron city gates will stop them, but as they approach, seemingly of their own accord, the gates creak open.
As they pass through the streets, just as suddenly as it came, the angel departs. Peter comes to himself, realizing this was no dream! His cloak rests about his shoulder, sandals on his feet, and he stands in the city, outside of the gates, without irons, without guards.
It is at this moment we find Peter in Acts 12:11. Looking around, probably in half-astonishment, Peter realizes that God has worked an incredible miracle of deliverance! Maybe he had resigned himself to death at Herod’s hand. He surely knew that others expected his life to be over. Yet, against all the odds, he stands free and whole, still a minister of the Gospel.
Peter quickly makes his way to the local Christian meeting house. Standing in the shadow of the thick wall, he knocks quietly. No answer. Peter knocks again and again, losing all reserve and pounding on the door. Finally, it swings open, revealing Rhoda, a serving maid of the house. She gapes at Peter, tear filled eyes round in shock! Turning on her heel, she slams the door in Peter’s face and runs through the house to tell the others.
Rhoda bursts into the prayer meeting, shouting, “He’s here! He’s here! Peter!” Confused expressions appear around the room as more people hear her and come to see what’s going on. Perhaps one older lady gives the girl a look of knowing sympathy, taking her arm to lead her to the couch. They’re praying for Peter to be released, but it’s quickly very clear that no one expects it to happen. But above the murmur of voices comes the sound of someone beating at the door.
Maybe Peter is now glancing up and down the street, concerned that he might once again be captured if this foolishness keeps up. After several endless minutes, the door again flies open, this time to reveal the astonished faces of the members of the Christian church. Eyes still red with sleepless worry and intense prayer, faces lined with the strain of spiritual siege, they begin clapping Peter on the back, offering him food and water, rejoicing and praising God for the stunning miracle of his safe return.
They hadn’t expected him to come back. No one had expected him to come back.
But when God has a plan for you, it does not matter where He has to reach to bring you out or what others’ expectations are. If you’ll follow His leading, you’ll blow their minds.
The Recipe for Mind-Blowing
1. One Test
Herod was coming after Peter that night to kill him. I’m sure Peter hadn’t left the Upper Room rejoicing in the chance that he’d be murdered for the Gospel. I doubt the free-willed Peter relished the idea of imprisonment. But God allowed Peter to be apprehended. And He also provided the means for Peter to escape. God displays His delivering power in both the imprisonment and in the release.
Life can deal us astronomical blows. I’m not talking about a bad day; I mean blows that send us reeling backward, unable to recognize up from down or even our own identity. One day you’re just walking along, and the next you’re in a heap from a hit you never saw coming: financial disaster, spiritual trial, physical disability, marriage falling apart, or family going nuts. Suddenly, you’re no longer making forward progress; you’re adrift and just going with the flow.
2. 3 heaping cups of Faithfulness, plus a few more pinches for good measure
In these moments, there is one life preserver guaranteed to keep you afloat: faithfulness. Your faithfulness to His word and what you’ve been taught, to your habits of prayer and studying His word, to showing up to services and worshiping God wholeheartedly will keep you.
Our prisons aren’t always literal. Our minds and bodies can be prisons. Chains of doubt, depression, anger, anxiety, fear, and worry bind us and those around us more effectively than locks and bars ever could. But in holding to faithfulness, God can lead you out. He won’t leave you there forever.
God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
-1 Corinthians 10:13
4. 1 3/4 Cup of Encouragement
Not everyone around us encourages our goals and aspirations. People speak discouragement and doubt into our lives. But we don’t have to allow their words to be our truth. Not when God has something greater for us.
We must refrain from discouragement. Speaking words of discouragement into young people, our children, and even ourselves hinders the development of what God is trying to bring out. All of us have potential and talents, even ones that we might not even realize are there! Our words can feed or kill the seed He has planted.
The Bible is one of our greatest sources of encouragement. Sometimes we read these stories of God’s deliverance with a sense of unreality, like we would a nursery rhyme or fairy tale. But the people in the Bible actually experienced these situations just like you and I! The supernatural, the miracles, they happened to imperfect but faithful humans.
And your testimony is another incredible encouragement. Someone is coming behind you that needs your experience, your triumph. That person needs to hear that not only do you love them and are praying for them, but you walked where they are and you know they can make it through.
5. 1 Tablespoon of Gumption
God is God, but it’s up to us to latch up our sandals and do what He’s asked. The angel came, but Peter had to get up and follow him or he wouldn’t have been released.
6. Hang in there, stirring as needed
The God of all creation, who flung the stars into space and measures the mountains in a span, knew at all times where Peter was. And He sent an angel, all the way from Heaven, to light the way for one man to escape from prison.
But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
7. Serve immediately
It took me until last year [Founder’s note: Sis. Holt is eternally 29, so 28 years] to realize I have a testimony from what I have gone through. There was a time when I avoided looking back on portions of my life, experiences that I dealt with, not wanting to relive the pain or shame that I felt. But I understand now that I can share those moments. I don’t believe everything that we experience is God ordained. At times we’re subject to the mistakes of failed people and the blackness of sin.
My Testimony of His Mind-Blowing Deliverance
Years ago, my husband and I struggled in a prison of our minds. There were some individuals who came against our ministry, our business, and even our children. For 18 months and for no real “reason,” we endured nearly constant attack that made us question not only our choices but our value to the Kingdom. Though there were no prison bars, chains of heartache and turmoil kept me bound in a fog of hurt, confusion, and disillusionment.
But a phone call came for my husband that was our shining light, and the beginning of our deliverance. It was from a dear pastor, an “angel of the church.” God had spoken to him of not only what we were going through, but what would happen if we stayed where we were trapped. His God-ordained words of wisdom and grace were the strength and guidance we needed to latch up our own sandals and leave the third ward of our mental and emotional prison.
Less than three years later, after a period of healing and restoration, we became pastors of the most beautiful church family (we believe!) in the whole world. Those who had questioned our calling and even my own doubts are blown away by the hand of blessing that has covered us in the ten years since.
But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good
Those 18 months, though painful, strengthened me. In our early days of pastoring, we experienced some growing pains that weren’t always easy. But I knew, deep in my heart, what we had just come out of. Those little bumps in the road were nothing in comparison. I hadn’t stopped serving the Lord then, nothing could hinder us now.
The enemy tried to imprison us then, he even tries at times now.But God provided a way of escape. Jesus kept me in those dark hours. And now I am on the other side with a beautiful testimony of His keeping power and grace. And my heart is to encourage a lady that may be walking, or wandering as I was, in a similar place.
Let’s Blow Their Minds
If you know of a woman that has an incredible testimony or word of encouragement to share, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to feature more inspired articles just like this one!