The closer I drew to the God who loved me through Jesus, the more terrified I was of the damning, judging God of my childhood.

I began my walk with Christ at the age of 8, and I was baptized in Artesia, New Mexico. My older brother took us to church every Sunday. In the church of my childhood, I accepted salvation in Christ and was alive with the Holy Spirit. I also learned to fear God, to feel ashamed and unredeemable, to believe that God's love depended on my compliance with the laws of the church, and to see the future as hopeless and threatening. I had many misperceptions about God from this background. Nonetheless, God answered my prayers, protected me from the Adversary and from my second step-father, and lead me into the military service where I met and married my husband, Erik. There we participated weekly in a charismatic prayer group and I learned how to praise and worship God in spirit and in truth.

After separation from the Army, we returned to Erik's home town, Akron, Ohio and started going to "another flavor" of church. Here I heard much about Jesus and that God loved me. In this church, I found fulfillment in service to the church and I began to learn about grace. Inspite of being very active in God's service, I felt empty. I began to wonder if I was too old to feel the Spirit move as I had as a youngster. Then I met Pastor Josh, the first Christian I ever knew who really CELEBRATED his Christianity. I learned that service was in response to God's love and the Spirit began to move in me. I was now ready to face my past.

In 1990 I attended a family reunion and my idealizations about my family were blown apart, as were my misperceptions about God. The closer I drew to the God who loved me through Jesus, the more terrified I was of the damning, judging God of my childhood. The two would have to be reconciled, and the time for God to work grace in my heart was at hand.

Through much therapy and pain and prayer, God erased all that was wrong with my perceptions of Him. Then I felt a blackness and lostness I had never felt before. So many of my core beliefs were distorted, I felt utterly alone. Jesus has, since then, been revealing His true self to me. Utterly faithful, unconditionally loving, endlessly patient, infinite in grace and mercy, relentless counselor and teacher, encourager and guardian. My all and Lord of my life. About half way into my counseling, I experienced a "a deluge" of grace, God poured on me as I sat in church one Sunday. Ever since then I have been sure that I will be with Christ in paradise, and it became clear around that time that God was grooming me for a significant change in my life. In September 1992 I attended a seminar for pastors new to urban ministry and it was there I experienced my call to ministry. God directed me to Ashland Theological Seminary (It would be a joy to talk to anyone about ATS) and the Midwest Counseling Program there. I have earned, by God's grace, a Master's of Divinity in Pastoral Counseling and am now awaiting God's direction for my ministry. One thing I am sure of now is that I will be working with inner city ministry in Akron. God has been grooming me to serve Him as a mature Christian and now I see that I will continue to mature until I die and join Him in heaven.

I have a burden for small groups. I am convicted and convinced that Jesus set the pattern for small groups and that Jesus matures and uses His followers most effectively, within this supportive, accountable and open context.

One of my favorite scripture verses is Ephesians 2:10. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before hand, that we should walk in them."

In Christ,
Cindy Olson