(Written to honour my 90 year old spiritual mentor, May 2022.)
The first time I met Edna, she came to my office door when I was first hired on as a pastor. I don’t believe she even said, “Hi, my name is Edna.” She came to the door and took up 1/10 of the door frame and out of her mouth came, “If you need someone to pray for you – I’m your woman.”
It was absolute seriousness. She meant business. She was ready to go to war alongside me. She knew better than me the fire I would later walk through as a leader.
So began years of prayer partnering together. She would listen to the Lord and at times share specific words and verses. I remember her giving me Psalm 27. “Wait patiently on the Lord.” It was timely. She had no idea the difficult decision I was trying to make when she sent it.
Edna helped me understand the spiritual realm.
She had served in Indonesia and Philippines where things were in your face including head hunting. Her stories were incredible. She was 43 years older than me and full of wisdom.
It was from her that I think I really learned how to effectively pray. She helped put language to the things I was experiencing and felt in the spiritual realm. We would prayer walk laps around the church building – every Monday morning. The front office staff would cheer us on and remark to us with wonder if the walls were going to fall down.
There was one season I remember deeply. The church was going through a difficult time. We sensed the Lord invite us to pray for repentance on behalf of the church; it’s people and it’s history.
I remember in one month; 13 people came forward to me personally, not knowing what we were doing. They confessed sin or shared deep wounds. I would pray with them and refer many of them to a local counsellor. It got such that the counsellor emailed me. “Who are you and what are you doing over there?”
We prayer walked for families. We prayed for the Kids Soccer Camps we ran and we saw incredible things happen.
She was my spiritual mom for years.
One day she asked me, “Do you know how to fight a bull?” Again, she said this in absolute seriousness. Her dad had a bull in the field growing up. She said to me: “When you come face to face with a bull, you take that ring in its nose and you twist.” At first, I thought she had lost her mind. But, I felt like the Lord said to me, “Take note of this.” I realize I have used that lesson so often, not in the natural but in the supernatural.
Today, I minister to missionaries, pastors, and various ministry leaders all over the world. They are often on the verge of burnout or in deep spiritual oppression. I enjoy walking with them to lead them through it and take the enemy to task.
Yes, Edna was probably the first person who effectively taught me about the spiritual realm. We are seated in the heavenlies. In Christ, we have authority over the evil one. But, we give away our authority when we live in fear.
Because of her, I have multiplied what she has taught me. Her impact is far reaching today as I coach people on the mission field, often in countries like she was once in.
Our friendship was such that we would often joke; if we had grown up together, we would have gotten in so much trouble.
Years ago, she was told she was dying already back then. The news hit me hard. I went to a local retreat centre and spent a day weeping. She asked me to do her funeral back then. She was always a huge supporter of me and my leadership.
We met and prayed and looked forward to riding a motorcycle together in the airstrip of heaven. In her earlier years she had often hopped on a motorcycle after her kids were in bed, and road it up and down the local airstrip for stress relief and prayer. She was my kind of woman. When I pastored, I rode a Honda Ruckus myself and found it great therapy.
Together, we prayed for Edna. Lo and behold, she was healed. The funeral plans were off.
Edna and I enjoyed years of visiting together after that. I would go to her home and ask her what the Lord was telling her and hear her reflections on the Word or her stories. When I would phone her and she’d answer, I would greet her with: “Hello, my friend!” Her response was always so life giving.
Edna passed quietly in her sleep at 90 years of age. She was singing about heaven in the weeks leading up to it. She knew she was getting ready for heaven. I write this having recently experienced her celebration of life. She was a woman ahead of her time. Stories of her life were shared of hiding fugitives in a dangerous country, chasing away thieves, guarding women in the local prison, leading women through 12 step recovery programs, preaching sermons in a day before women really did, hosting the local police for meals in order to minister to them, and speaking at the Bible Camp that I have spoken at for years myself. This is only some of what she did and reminds me why we hit it off.
I miss her deeply as I write this. I lost contact with her in the final years due to my own health crash in 2016-2017, then her Parkinson’s making it hard for long emotional visits and then Covid 19.
I hope we will be riding some kind of joy ride vehicle together up in heaven. I’m sure it’s going to be far beyond all of our dreams.
Edna has left a huge legacy and impact on my life and I can see how what I do in coaching ministry leaders is flavoured by her.
I pray that my life will impact at least 1/10 of what her life has on her family, friends, and those she cared for.
How do we help our kids navigate through a world where leaders are falling in sin like hotcakes, and churches are arguing over divisive topics?
We need two major things.
We need to know the Scriptures and rely on Holy Spirit.
As parents, we need to worship God in both Spirit and Truth and invite our kids to walk in this too. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is true freedom (2 Cor 3:17) – no matter what is happening in the news today.
Now more than ever, we truly need to have a relationship with God rather than merely rely on a doctrine, a church, or a human pastor.
Helping You and Your Kids Hear From God
Children hear the Lord easier than others. The most common block that children face is the unbelief of their parents and leaders. Our greatest responsibility as parents and leaders is to lead the children into an intimate friendship with God, which includes teaching children how to recognize and respond to the voice of God.
We CAN learn to hear God’s voice. John 10:27 says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
The earlier you expect a child to sense God’s presence and voice, the less likely you are to shut down their spiritual eyes and ears. (Don’t be discouraged if you are late in the game to hearing God’s voice. God knows your kids and will lead you!)
Why Teach Kids to Hear God’s Voice?
They can have friendship with God (the most important thing!)
God can help them make decisions (imagine if kids could avoid the mistakes YOU made!)
They can be led by God to minister to others (the supernatural, including hearing God, is for demonstrating God’s power in the world. For children to move in a pure, undiluted gospel of power, they must learn to hear God’s voice.)
How Does God Speak?
His Word, dreams, through others, through parents, a still small voice, spontaneous thoughts, impressions, feelings, inner-knowing, pictures, and circumstances.
Start Practicing Hearing God with Journaling
A “Hearing God Journal” is the best way to practice hearing God’s voice. Dr Mark Virkler taught me this from Scripture. In journaling, you simply ask God and question and then record what you sense God is saying to you. Then, you test it out according to God’s Word, His nature, His Holy Spirit and with others who know Him. Here are some steps for using a hearing God journal:
1. I Quiet Myself. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Our minds can be so busy and noisy that we can’t hear God’s gentle whisper. It’s impossible to empty our minds of racing thoughts. What we need to do is focus on Jesus. Express your love for Him – you can tell him with words, or more with feelings and desire and less with actual words. It’s like sitting quietly with your best friend. Just being together is enough. Listening to a worship playlist may be a great way for you to quiet your heart.
2. I Picture Jesus. Hebrews 12:1-2 says “…Let us run the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus.” Imagine your heart is like a movie screen. Ask God to fill this screen with His words and pictures. Pray, “Lord, I give the eyes of my heart to you. Fill them with your pictures and good ideas from heaven.” Just as our physical eyes see into the natural world around us, our spirit sees into the supernatural world when we ask God to open them. Picturing ourselves with Jesus in a Bible story is a good way to “prime the pump.” In the beginning we may need to “prime the pump” with a little help from the ‘eyes of our heart’ (our imagination), but when we exercise faith, it quickly turns into a pure flow of the Spirit. The water we prime the pump with may be warm and stale, but it is followed by a fresh flow of pure water.
3. I tune to the words and pictures that gently light upon my heart. John 7:38 says, “Rivers of Living Water will flow from the heart of anyone who believes in Me.” God’s voice is like a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:11-12). Usually it is not a whisper that we can hear with our ears, but the Holy Spirit speaks directly to our spirit through spontaneous thoughts. “Spontaneous” means that these thoughts seem to just appear in our hearts. They are not just something we were already thinking about. When God puts His thoughts in our heart, we often feel peace, or faith, or conviction, or a special excitement. God can put a thought, a word, an idea, a feeling, an impression, or even a vision in our heart.
4. I write down. Revelation 1:11 says, “Write in a book what you see.” We call this ‘journaling’. In Habakkuk 2:2-3 God says, “Record the vision…for the vision is yet for the appointed time…though it tarries, wait for it…it will surely come.” Journaling is writing out our questions and God’s answers. Simply ask a question and then write down the spontaneous thoughts that come to your heart. Don’t try to figure out if your writing is God or not until AFTER you are done writing. Nothing stops the voice of God speaking to you more than doubt. After you are done writing you can go back and compare what you wrote with the Bible, ask your parents or pastor if they think it sounds like it’s from God. You can also write down what God speaks to you from the Bible and any other lessons God is teaching you.
Journaling through the New Testament is key to discerning God’s voice. *Don’t attempt to teach your children to hear God without Scriptural foundation. Simply walk through the Gospels to start with alongside your children. Teach them how to journal through Scripture. Read a passage. Ask Holy Spirit to highlight a word/phrase, then how He’s inviting you to apply it. Write out a dialogue with Him. Write out an Action Step from the Scriptures. Go and do it! This is powerful!
Is it God?
How to Test What you Hear:
A big question is whether we are really hearing from God. Explore these questions AFTER you are finished journaling.
Does it agree with the Word?
What do others say about it? God especially speaks through parents.
Do we feel peace about it?
Does it glorify God?
Would it bring the fruit of Holy Spirit?
How to Identify Who is Speaking:
God’s voice – kind, peaceful, truthful, sweet, it always lines up with His Word
My voice – selfish, self-centered, self-protecting, self-serving
The enemy’s voice – condemning, manipulative, persuasive, deceiving, threatening, accusing.
To learn how to hear God and teach your kids, join us for one of our upcoming events! Merri Ellen Giesbrecht, Life Coach & Spiritual Director
Amidst a pandemic, God is doing a new – but old – thing. There is a positive shift happening in the current season we find ourselves in as a church family. We are seeing many parents get back to the basics of disciple-making. Church begins first at home. (And, I’m not talking a livestreamed service.) Faith needs to start at home and this is why.
First, here’s a little peek backwards: I remember the shock of parents and pastors when I began to ask the tough questions about parents discipling their children. It was around 2007 and I was an institutional church pastor. Parents in my area of the world, known as ‘the Bible Belt’, were used to dropping off their kids at Kids Church and Christian school to be discipled by others. In fact, many parents expressed their frustration at the thought of having their kids with them in a church service. They were busy, burned out and happy to have a program to drop their kids off at.
I remember sitting with elders in a meeting and asking one of them how he engaged his kids at home in the Scriptures and prayer. He didn’t. He dropped them off at Kids Church and at Christian School.
How did this happen?
The Sunday School movement in North America originally began as a temporary evangelistic movement for ‘non-churched’ kids in the community. However, in many churches all over, it slowly became a drop off-discipleship method for many Christian parents. Kids were often dropped off at church, or at Christian school, and with little to no faith conversation at home.
In 2011, I was invited to speak to the annual denominational conference, of which I was a pastor, asking the following questions:
What is the church’s role in nurturing children’s faith?
Where do parents fit into the equation?
I began to teach fellow pastors that the church is not to replace parents but to equip them and partner with them in discipling their children. Research from ‘The Search Institute’ in Minnesota years before, already showed the evidence. A child’s faith is impacted first and foremost by mom, dad, then grandparents, siblings, friends, Bible camp, music and movie stars, and then only after that is the Church or Sunday School listed. The research back then began to show that the most important social influence in sharing young people’s faith is what is modelled and taught to them by their parents.
Where does this sound familiar?
This makes sense because of what we read in Deuteronomy 6. God calls parents to love Him first and foremost, being careful to obey His commands, so that life will be long and enjoyed, and then teach their children to do the same:
“These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life… Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut 6:1-2, 5-7)
The modern-day version could be: “Teach your kids to obey God’s truths. Talk about them when you sit at home, when you drive in the mini-van, when you go to bed, and when you wake up.”
George Barna in his book called, ‘Revolution’ wrote this about the early church: “Christian families taught the ways of God in their homes every day. Parents were expected to model a Spirit-led lifestyle for their children, and families were to make their home a sanctuary for God. In a very real sense, the home was the early church – supplemented by larger gatherings in the Temple and elsewhere, but never replaced by what took place in the homes of believers.” – (George Barna, ‘Revolution’, 2005)
For 10 years up until 2016, while an institutional church pastor, I was outspoken on how church leadership needed to carefully and intentionally train the parents to understand their role from God and then equip them in their own disciplemaking to see their homes as a sanctuary filled with the Holy Spirit. My heart was to set up the parents as the main guides and we pastors, as their coaches, rather than taking this responsibility away from them.It was like turning a semi-truck around but it slowly began to shift.
These days, due to the lockdowns of institutional church buildings from 2020-2021, we are seeing a couple of things. People are noticing how watching a livestream church service takes no input. It’s completely 1 way. There’s no need for personal heart engagement. It is simply watching a talking-head on a stage. If your institutional church is merely that, what reason is there to return to a building? My heart is to see church become relational once again, equipping the family and igniting homes to be beacons of light.
Institutional churches who do not champion faith at home, and who instead assume that ‘real’ discipleship happens with adults sitting in chairs side by side listening to 1 person on a stage, only do more harm in damaging the passing on of faith to the younger generation. Soon, that young generation grows up to become adults who view faith as compartmentalized and inauthentic. They will view faith as being a once a week program and not living it out during the week.
Dangerously, after compartmentalization, comes disintegration and eventually a faith uprooted. And when a faith is uprooted, there is no fruit. Just as a tree with no root cannot bear fruit, a child’s faith not deeply rooted in the home, will be more prone to wither and die like the rootless seed in the parable in Mark 4:3-8. Notice carefully the different soils:
“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
How can we provide good soil for our kids?
We want our children to have a living faith that produces a fruitful crop. Thankfully, we see another shift happening in this current season. Parents are being intentional in learning how to disciple their children first starting from home and tilling the soil of their hearts to be truly rooted in Christ. The greatest gift we can offer children is to begin forming and molding their identity in Jesus alone. Their identity, how they view themselves and what they find their worth in, will directly determine how they view God, how they treat others, and how they impact this world.
When one lives with Jesus daily, walking with Him, and listening to His voice, everything changes.
(This is why I love teaching people – young and old to hear His voice. Resources are listed below.)
However, if our children find their identify in something other than Jesus, then they will pursue that thing above Jesus. If they find their worth on social media, in school, their relationships, video games, or sports, there’s no doubt that a once a week Sunday morning church service will be secondary to the pursuits of their lives. They will learn to use everything at their disposal to worship that “thing” above the Creator who made it. Notice the idolatry there which only leads to brokenness and heartbreak. And if idolatry is sadly modeled daily at home, the child will be deeply impacted in this model no matter what is taught at a weekly church service. What is lived out daily at home is what takes root. Parents have more impact on their children through the day to day than they realize. Parents are still the primary disciplemakers of their children in the modern day.
For greater discipleship, churches need to equip parents at home to know how to teach their children the story of the Bible, and not simply telling them random stories out of it. Parents need to lead them through the redemption of Jesus’ story throughout Scripture and then show them how their lives intersect with that story. Parents need first to know how to hear God’s life giving voice and teach their children in order to navigate amidst so many voices today. The tragedy is when a child grows up in a Christian home but walks away from Christ because of what was poorly modelled in their home. This is often because parents have not been discipled themselves and so do not know how to disciple their children. This is why I enjoy passing on to parents some basic transformational disciplemaking skills. I long to see generation after generation passionately following Jesus.
What happened for me?
I grew up each morning digging in the Scriptures and prayer time with my parents at the breakfast table. (I remember, to my parents’ dismay, making faces in the shiny 1969 toaster.) We then prayed for missionaries and various countries. My parents were often hosting people over for meals and helping our neighbours. My dad is famously known for fixing people’s cars and shoveling their driveways. We often gave our vehicle to missionaries who were home on leave and helped people stranded on the side of the road.
In a small prairie church family of only 30 people spanning across generations and cultures, I had the regular benefit of experiencing life together. As a young person, I was often welcome in the adult Bible studies, prayer meetings, and church gatherings. We often sat in a circle, looking into each other’s eyes, serving each other, in each other’s homes. I never felt unwelcomed with the adults.
Their love helped me to know God’s love, and as a result, I know who I am in Him.
I personally love the example of the church in Acts where Lydia, the business owner and seller of purple cloth, the formerly demon possessed girl, and the jailor all made up a church. They became a church family from different generations and levels of status. They also met in Lydia’s home. Can you imagine the impact on a child and their surrounding community from that circle?
Disciplemaking also goes both ways.
As an adult and parent now myself, I have learned lots from my children, their questions and exploring who God is. Max Lucado once said that parenting is better than any theology degree. We are not to underestimate the value of children. Matt 18:1-10 shows us Jesus’ perspective on children and how he loved to welcome them. He even called us to humble ourselves like children to be the greatest in His kingdom. Generations learn from each other while authentically doing life together.
One of my favourite things, as a pastor, was partnering seniors with young families and classrooms of children. I gave seniors a list of 5 or so kids and their birthdays, and parents names and info (getting everyone’s permission.) What began as seniors praying for young families, turned into spiritual adoption arrangements. Some seniors invited the young kids to learn how to cook, sew, or simply to eat together and visit! Relationships that started in 2006 are still going today in 2022 at the time of this writing!
In 2016, the Lord called me, my husband, and 2 boys away from pastoring in an institutional church. We began meeting in our home and serving in our surrounding community including at times helping our neighbours feed the homeless. Being the church in our neighbourhood has since continued and frankly has been a deeply healing and growing experience – going back to simplicity, following Holy Spirit. As a result of this, we have perhaps found ourselves navigating the changes of society more easily than some, in our current season. (I coach pastors and missionaries all over the world and I hear their stories and help them move forward.) From other blog posts, you’ll see an account of beautiful divine appointments and physical healings in our neighbourhood simply from going for a walk and running into our neighbours and praying for them.
I have been deeply impacted with my family as a result of digging in the Scriptures together, praying, and enjoying 2-way dialogue. We are doing life together BEING the church, first launching from our home. From there, we go as He leads us. I hope and pray that my kids grow up seeing the goodness and power of God, in relationship and in community, rather than simply hearing about Him and knowing the Sunday school answers while sitting in rows. I want them to know God’s love and abundant life at home first, in order to live an authentic faith that transforms their world.
Stay tuned!Resources for you to help learn to hear God’s voice and disciple others are listed below…
After serving 10 years as an institutional church pastor, Merri Ellen Giesbrecht now serves as a Life Coach and Spiritual Director to those who find themselves stuck and desire to move forward in freedom.
She coaches people to connect better to God through hearing His voice according to His Word, taking them through unique sessions in order to move forward and receive clarity. God knows each client so beautifully and He tenderly leads by His Spirit in each session.
Merri Ellen’s deep compassion and 20 plus years of people helping have seen her work effectively with professionals such as counselors, psychologists, doctors, pastors and ministry leaders; walking them through heart healing, healthy release of burdens, burnout recovery, ministry transitions, and healthy sabbaticals, as well as hard working homeschooling moms.
She loves guiding people as they explore their dreams, assess their gifts and abilities and pursue their goals.
A major life contribution are her landmark contributions in the area of recovery from depression and anxiety where her writing and coaching have impacted over 2 million people in 120 countries since 2003.
🤩 I felt the nudge yesterday. For every woman who signs up for the upcoming online women’s event, I’m giving a free copy of my book with research and story… for yourself or loved ones going through depression. (This upcoming event: “From Ashes to Beauty” is not ONLY for those in depression. But, it’s a reality for many!) Here’s the book that continues to blow me away reaching over 120 countries from a simple website… and here’s the sign up page for the women’s event Ashes to Beauty, starting Feb 28th:
I recently had the joy of interviewing Murray Dueck who has been a mentor, teacher and such an encourager to me.
Murray has trained thousands of people in learning to hear Gods’ voice through local classes, seminars, and online training through Samuel’s Mantle Prophetic Training School of which I got to be apart of for 2 years.
He is the author of four books; ‘If This Were A Dream, What Would It Mean?’ (Freshwind Press) – ‘Keepers of the Presence,’ ‘On Things Above’ (Samuel’s Mantle Press), and ‘The Dreams We Dream
If you have been apart of my events, I’ve often given away his books!
Are you wondering what your dreams or nightmares mean?
Do you have dreams the leave you feel unsettled?
Do you have reoccurring dreams?
Do your children have nightmares?
Invite your friends…
We are taking women through the Biblical basics in prayer with the Lord, testing it according to what we read in Scripture and fruit of Holy Spirit. It’s been a recent game changer for many of my students and clients.