First of all, thank you for your continued prayers. Kathy is awake and off the respirator. Please pray for her spiritual and mental state right now. I can't elaborate as I have no details and I want to protect her privacy. Just pray that she will rest in Him and be at peace. I do not know any of the test results at this point.
Now, in reference to my title, I would like to provide a little map of how I came out of constricting and debilitating legalism into a spacious and gracious place. I first give God 100% of the credit. He was and is so faithful to meet me where I'm at. As I look back on my brief 30 years, I can see His hand carefully guiding and shaping me. And interestingly enough, He used other people to mold me--many of them regular people, but a few artists thrown in there. So, if you're wanting to move forward in freedom and grace in your Christian walk, here are some folks that God used in my life. You should google them. :)
1. Rich Mullins
You can't listen to Rich Mullins and feel unloved or unworthy. He so captures the heart of God in all of his music. If 80s music doesn't bother you too much, then you'll enjoy Rich. I have always called him a modern-day Apostle Paul. He'd probably laugh if he heard me say that. Seriously, though, the man knew Jesus (he died in a tragic car accident well over 10 years ago). If you want a good biography about him, check out _An Arrow Pointing to Heaven_ by James Bryan Smith. The book blessed me and gave me an even greater picture of who he was and what God had accomplished in his life.
2. Stephanie Thiemann
Now, I don't think Steph is up for discipling you because she lives in India right now, but she is great. Steph got the great job of showing me how legalistic I was and how self-righteous. Fun, huh? But seriously, she was great at it. I never felt condemned by her. Even when I hit my lowest point EVER, she never condemned me. She loved me through it. I've mentioned before the CRAZY prayer journals I used to keep. If you don't recall, they were really bad. I tried to keep each page even and pray with the ACTS method--one page of adoration, one of confession, one of thanksgiving, one of supplication--if I wrote two pages of one, then by George, I better do two pages of each. She told me to stop. That was HUGE. I stopped, and I haven't retreated back to the comfort of the ACTS method. It challenged my prayer life.
This band is amazacrazy. You should check them out if you haven't already. They get it. They get Jesus' love and mission. They also have a great sound--very unique in the Christian arena. This ain't The Gaithers, friends. (Nothing against the Gaithers, I just don't like that kind of music). I really enjoyed their project with 100 Portraits "Enter the Worship Circle". Start there and then branch out into all their albums.
4. Dinah Fox
She has no idea the impact she had on me that summer. I will never forget it. We were sitting in a Sunday School class out in Colorado, and our teacher was being all seminary-like and our heads were swimming as we had no clue what he was talking about. She leaned over to me and said, "If all I ever knew was that Jesus loved me, that'd be enough for me." I had NEVER thought about that. Not that the pursuit of knowledge is evil or a waste of time, it's not. But, how often does our pursuit of it actually lead us to Jesus? If it doesn't lead us to Him, we should abandon it; it's lost its purpose. At that point, I knew I wanted people like Dinah in my life. People who were coming into an understanding of His great and unmeasurable love.
5. Brennan Manning
Dinah actually told me about him. She told me to read _The Ragamuffin Gospel_. It changed my life. I realized I was a beggar at Heaven's door, and Jesus loved me. Really loved me. You should read this book if you haven't. It's transformational.
6. Kristin Ross
Grace-filled woman of God. She talks really fast. And she listens hard. I was able to confess my sin to her without judgment. Through all my tears, she was there, loving me and encouraging me. She was like Dinah--safe. I knew she knew Him like I wanted to.
7. Jeremy Irvan
Jeremy loved me the way I was, and he wasn't afraid to tell me the truth. That's rare. I never felt condemned, but I did hear truth from him. I'll never forget it.
8. Kim Stephens
Loving. Gracious. Healing. Kim is a healer of souls. I believe God has gifted her this way. She nurtured me in one of my most vulnerable states, and I am grateful for the way she poured out her life on me.
9. Megan Dart
She has loved me through it all. Being persistently loved by people when you're unlovely is just so Godly. Megan has been that for me. She never threw in the towel--just like Jesus.
10. David Geidl, my husband
He sees me at my worst. He loves me still. His forgiveness and love have made marriage more beautiful. We're on this journey together, and it is exciting to see him moving on this same path. We encourage one another along the way. He's an oak of righteousness.
11. The Summit Church
They stepped outside the box. It was new for me. It was refreshing. I cherish the four years I spent there with that group of believers. If you're in a church where things refuse to change, you will not see much grace. I'm thankful that the Summit is a gracious body.
12. Marla Livers
Marla teaches me all the time. She is the kind of friend who'll get down in the mud with you and help you get out. She has suffered more than her fair share in life, but she NEVER minimalizes my suffering. She's a living example of God's grace.
13. Melissa Smith
She is my twin in personality. We both struggle with being rule-makers and rule-followers. But we're growing together. We've both changed a lot. But we are a beautiful picture of iron sharpening iron. It's awesome how God has used her to shape me. I can't imagine what kind of person I would be right now if we hadn't become friends.
14. Kathy Ruddick
It's hard to think about her being in the hospital and having suffered so much for the last three months. She is a mighty woman of God. She led me out of an intellectual prison into the freedom of the Spirit. She has never assumed a place of authority over me, but rather, she has served me endlessly always pointing me back to Jesus. "Why don't you pray about that, Amanda?" She always listens, but she knows Who has the answers.
15. Kaysie Steele
Kaysie told me once, when I was hitting a rough patch, "Sometimes, it's just life. It happens. The cause of it isn't really important." Kaysie has gone through so much, but she has such a good perspective on it. She's not blaming. She walks in grace with her family and her friends. You gotta love a woman with a good head on her shoulders.
16. Meredith Mayer
Pure in heart. Gracious. She knows her Father's voice. She is precious and encouraging. She brightens my days with her laughter, and her sincerity can't be beat. We haven't even known one another for a year, and yet, I feel like we've known one another for decades. She loves hard. That's important.
17. Donald Miller
Just read his stuff. He's great. He really captures faith in action--loving people practically.
18. W. Paul Young
Yes, the author of _The Shack_. I don't agree 100% with everything he says there, but this book was a catalyst for me spiritually. It set me on a path to become more aware of God's heart.
19. Wayne Jacobsen
_He Loves Me!_ is awesome. It builds on _The Shack_ in a more Scripture-saturated kind of way.
20. Danny Silk
_Loving our Kids on Purpose_ built on the two previous books (above). It translated for me how to parent like God. How to extend grace in parenting--it's valuable stuff.
21. David Crowder Band
"Church Music" is what I listen to most of the time. This album is so where I'm at right now. DCB is where it's at.
22. Believer's Church
This is a community of genuine folks who let it all hang out--good, bad, and ugly. They're beautiful people with a heart for seeing Jesus all over the world and into the hidden nooks and crannies of our lives. I love 'em.
What I find interesting about my journey is that my list is full of regular people that I have lived in community with at a point in my life. There are so many more people I could have added, but for space's sake, I added the ones that jumped right out at me as I chronicled my journey in my head. We were meant for community--meant to live together, loving one another as Christ loves us, extending His message of grace to those around us. It's beautiful stuff.