by Paige Slighter
Until age fourteen, Becky and her family had a close relationship with God. That all changed when their church cut them out because some of their interpretation of the Bible. This experience shook Becky’s whole world and in her words, “drove a sharp wedge into my trust of anything religious—that’s when I began to equate God with punishment.”
During her freshman year in college, she slowly transitioned into the New Age movement and for decades dabbled in agnosticism, eastern meditation and paganism. Looking back, she says, “Thirty years of meditation, Zen, mindfulness, yoga, psychics—I tried it all with great sincerity. I felt I had learned that the Christian God was harsh and the Christian religion was exclusionary and prone to judgment. But really, I was stuck as that fourteen year old kid inside, still blaming God and hurting from perceived punishment from him.”
The paradigm shift came when Becky found Greg’s book God At War: The Biblical & Spiritual Conflict. During that time, she felt Jesus calling out to her “like a shepherd calling for a wandering sheep, his voice was familiar and very close.” After watching Greg’s sermon “Christus Victor” in 2017, she and Andy were hooked! Tuning in from Gig Harbor, Washington they said, “Woodland Hills has fed our hearts and minds from afar ever since.”
More recently, Becky and Andy were profoundly touched by the December 2018 sermon “Who Shows Up?” where Greg explains how Jesus makes his home in the middle of our pain and sin, and doesn’t separate himself from the unclean, lowly and hurting people of the world. They found themselves in tears, responding from deep within their hearts. Looking back on her past, Becky saw God’s presence with her even in her rebellion. It was such a relief to know that though she had turned away from him, he never turned his back on her. She said the message “made credible the intense love and patience that I knew had been lavished on me—and the whole human race— ‘while we were yet sinners…’” She felt like Jesus was embracing her with a love that was unafraid of her messiness and dirty corners. She says she’s still wrestling with accepting the depth of such love—something none of us will ever truly comprehend!
Andy has been inspired by Greg’s encouragement to allow Jesus into some of his more painful memories, instead of building a wall to protect himself. Ten years ago Andy was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease, which brought on deep depression and suffering. When Jesus came into his life, healing took hold spiritually and even physically—his disease progression slowed considerably.
The Baumgartners are so thankful that Jesus didn’t wait for them to get their act cleaned up in order to establish a relationship with them. He showed up in their mess, as he does with all of us. Becky says, “He is the air we breathe and our source of sanity.” They are continuing to lean on him for all things out in Washington, and we’re honored that they continue to tune into our sermons!
Are you a podrishioner with a fun story about how you got connected to Woodland? We’d love to hear from you! Just shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.