First off…Coffee gleanings is back. After a busy summer and just taking a mental break for a while I wanted to get back in and starting gleaning as much as I can again from some amazing women of God.
I don’t know if I can really put into words how meaningful it meant for the amazing Jerri Benjamin to have coffee with me. She is strong, beautiful, and wise…nope that’s not enough. She is an amazing mother and grandmother that we ALL could learn from….nope….still not enough. Did you know that she raised one of my dearest friends? Courtney Watkins her oldest daughter (my first coffee gleanings) is one of my dearest friends who has been with me in highs and lows. She laughs with me, cries with me, teaches me, holds my hand, tells me when I am wrong, and tells me when I am right. Courtney is my iron…that sharpens iron. She sharpens me…THAT is a true friend….THAT is how Christians should love each other. Jerri raised her…..yet that still is not enough.
The most amazing thing about Jerri Benjamin is this. She LOVES Jesus. No…she weeps at the very thought of it. Over the years of being Courtney’s friend and being invited to different family functions and what not, I have observed Jerri. I’m not a creeper…I just observe behavior. Let me tell you a story.
A couple of years ago we were invited to Hanukkah festivities with the Benjamin family and over the course of the night I saw Jerri sitting back and thanking God in her thoughts for what she saw around her….her children, grandkids, fellowship, community, food, love, fun, and the work of the Lord in the room. She was just looking around and smiling but I knew who she was talking to. Later when she and Gary…her husband…I should have mentioned him earlier. Gary Benjamin is Jerri’s husband….he is AWESOME too….sorry about that. ANYWAYS, when she and Gary were talking about the importance of Hanukkah and what it means to us and how it points to Christ, Jerri began to tear up. She cannot talk about Jesus with out crying. She is crazy head over heals in love with Him….I want that. Actually, I have that…and I want more!!
So…I hope that you glean something from the time I had with her last week. Open your heart and let her rich words settle in there….you won’t regret it.
Me: Okay, so I know all…about…your family but I don’t know your story. Briefly, what’s your story?
Jerri: When I think about my childhood and where I am from I think about the metroplex as being where I am from because I didn’t get here until…I spent one year here when I was in 6th grade. Then once I was in 8th or 9th grade we moved here for good. Before that my dad was a highway patrolman…you know…highway patrolmen get transferred everywhere so I lived in several different places. We were always in church but when I was in 5th grade my dad gave his heart to God. He was even a music director and did stuff in sunday school with kids and he was not a believer. I was with him during all that. So when we first moved to the Metroplex I was in the 6th grade and he was going to the seminary in Fort Worth. Then we moved to central texas and that was his first pastorate and then we moved back up here to Shady Grove. I met Gary here. Actually he wasn’t going to Shady Grove, but Shady Grove at the time back in 1976-77 had a mission church around lake Arlington. I met him there. I went one year to Oral Roberts University and I came back here because I thought I would miss my opportunity with him. Then there is a whole long story of our courtship and marriage and we got married in 1980….7 months later I got pregnant. I was a kindergarten teacher at the academy at the church and then when I was pregnant, I stayed home after that. My life kind of goes along with the history of Shady Grove. Probably for 15 years I was at home with kids….5 kids. Really it was hard with 4 but once the 5th one was born…Courtney was basically his mother…no not really, but her and Destiny really helped out a lot. The 4 of them were really close. When Landon was born Courtney was not even 6…I had 4 of them under 6. It was a blur….you know with potty training…it was interesting.
Me: When did you come to know the Lord?
Jerri: When I was 5 years old.
Me: And it was real?
Jerri: Oh yeah. It really was. Because my husband he has quizzed me about that many times. He wasn’t saved until he was 16, and so our testimonies are drastically different. It was really real it was very real. I remember it and I’m 56. We were at a crusade in a big arena. I just remember…can’t remember who it was…it could have been Billy Graham. I just remember the conviction of the Holy Spirit and I knew that I needed him. When we got home I talked to mom and dad and they said that instead of them praying with me that they wanted me to go to my room and pray to God, and ask Him into my heart and say I’m sorry that I’ve sinned….you know…just explained the whole thing. So yeah…I’ve walked with the Lord my whole life.
Me: So my next question is….I have a feeling I know how you are going to react, but can you tell me about your Jesus?
Jerri: Uh…Wow. (clears throat) He is…..now you are going to make me cry.
Me: I knew you would. I don’t like making people cry but I just know your heart for Him and every time you talk about Him you get teary eyed.
Jerri: (Collects herself) He is so personal and so real to me. It is like I am aware of Him all the time. I can’t always say that is the case. Cause it is a process, life in Jesus is a process. It takes years to grow in your relationship with Him and grow in your trust and your confidence that He is going to work it out. That He will do what He said He would do. That He is in control. Just your trust in Him…and the history. You know? The history in God and remembering the things that have happened and the things that He has done and rehearsing that often. He is closer to me than…I can’t describe it….its like…my breathe. My desire is to glorify Him in everything that I do. I used to tell the kids when they would leave the house to go out with their friends, and I would say, “Okay, have fun, but glorify God in everything that you say and do.” (chuckles) That would be the last thing that I would say before they would walk out of the house. Glorify God in everything you say and do…because that is what it is all about. That is why we were put here to glorify Him so that people can….see….and to make them want what we have. He is my life and I couldn’t imagine doing life without Him…wouldn’t want to.
Me: Speaking of life, we have desert seasons and then times where we are in the promise land. In my own personal life I have learned from several of them, and I know that we all go through them. My question to you is: What is the greatest lesson you have learned in the desert and the greatest lesson you have learned in the promise land?
Jerri: In the desert even if it feels like He is not there….I know that we know this…of course God is omnipresent and always with us….but He is really there. And what He is doing in the desert is that He is wanting us to search for Him. He is wanting us to miss Him so bad that we are willing to do anything to find Him again. There are times like that in everyone’s Christian walk…you don’t feel His presence…you go through dry times. You don’t feel like you are hearing from Him. You don’t feel like He is answering your prayers. It’s just dry. But, what He is wanting us to see is that we miss His presence. We miss Him for who He is to us and not for what He does for us. We miss Him. We miss fellowship with Him. A lot of times people feel like that if they go through a desert time that they have done something wrong or that God is punishing them for something, but that is not always the case. It is part of our journey. The main thing is to not to fret and that this is part of the journey and to love Him more for it. He wants us to yearn for Him.
Me: And what about the Promise Land?
Jerri: The Promise Land…..to stay humble. Because you have a tendency to get a little proud. So, to stay humble.
Me: Okay, so shifting. You are a mother of 5 and I am close to one in particular. As a mom of just 2……5 I know is a whole other world, but just a word of encouragement to moms. I know that moms can in these times be discouraged and overwhelmed, and especially if they don’t have women who have gone before them to pour into them. Is there a word of encouragement or lessons that you could pour into not only myself but also other mothers? You not only raised 5 children….and they are all alive……but they are alive in Christ….all 5 of them love Jesus. (Now I’m crying….smhhh)
Jerri: When I think about it I think….Lord How? How could this happen? How could you bless me so much? I think….for one thing…when they are small like yours. You are in the trenches. It is exhausting work taking care of the kids during the day and then not sleeping at night. Trying to juggle the laundry, cooking,….and trying to keep the house somewhat clean. Like I said when I had 4 little ones it was really a blur….it seriously was. I had a woman of God tell me that this is just a season. See I was wanting to be in the ministry and I also felt bad that I couldn’t spend an hour a day with God like I did before I started having kids….and doing all the stuff that I used to do. We didn’t really let kids keep us back from doing things that we wanted to do we just took them along. That took a lot of discipline because we wanted them to act right…so that was hard. But still there were times that I couldn’t do things. When Gary was a youth pastor and I had always gone to youth camp with him and helped, but when you have three or four little ones…why go to youth camp because you don’t really get to take part of it anyway. I would get frustrated because I was always home, and I can’t do the ministry like I used to do. Then a wise woman of God said…this is your season. She said You are in a season. You are in a special season where you are raising these kids. It’s hard work. It is a season where you are really putting your focus on them and not on other things. This is a season, it will be over soon. I always used to get mad at older women that would say…oh it will be over just like that you better enjoy it because it will be over so quick. I would just think…it doesn’t feel like this is quick and this is going to take forever. She also said that this is a season where God knows the season that you are in and He doesn’t expect you to spend an hour a day with Him. He knows that you can’t. He is not upset with you that you can’t spend an hour a day with Him, and then learn to abide in Him. And It really helped me, and to learn to enjoy it and chill and enjoy the kids. To just enjoy time with them. I still tell mothers this…don’t look at the time that you have to get up in the middle of the night as punishment or as a hardship but just as an opportunity to spend time with them….just them and praying over them and bonding with them.
Me: I’m glad you said that because my son isn’t sleeping through the night. That is a great word. I am pretty sure that Courtney has told me that a few times. Okay, shifting again. I know that you have a heart for Israel. I don’t know if you can kind of explain that to me? Where did it begin? Why is it important for us to have a heart for them?
Jerri: For one thing, you can’t read the book of Revelation without seeing the importance of the role that Israel is going to play in the end times. And so when you see Israel in revelation…its central. The Jewish people are central…it is amazing. So you’ve got that but then you’ve got our Jewish roots. For the first 300 hundred years after the resurrection the church was distinctly Jewish. All of the disciples were Jewish, of course Jesus was Jewish…the church was Jewish. We call it Messianic Judaism. The only thing that changed it was Constantine when he came into power he began outlawing the normal practices that they had done for 300 hundred years like meeting in homes, the services and the way that they did them in the homes….he just changed everything. Constantine changed everything. So from that point on is then where Catholicism got its roots. Even when Martin Luther and his Reformation…he was wanting to bring reformation to the Catholic church and bring it back to biblical principles…but it had already gotten so far away from what it was right after the resurrection in those first 300 years. So it just got way off….the church got way off. Just because of persecution with Constantine and the ones after who outlawed anything Jewish. But when you look back and you go to Israel you are faced with the truth. Even from the word you see that He (Jesus) took part in all of the feasts. He even went to Jerusalem for the feast of lights which is Hanukkah…and so did Paul. He talks about what he grew up doing….it didn’t change when he met Jesus….it just brought more understanding to it, and more revelation. They didn’t stop doing what they were doing. Jesus was the Messiah..who they had been waiting for….so yeah….I can’t go back to this one instance where I got this revelation. Of course it started with my dad years ago when they first started going to Israel,and we even as a church would go to a non-messianic synagogue like once a month and we learned all the Hebrew dances. We got to be friends with this synagogue and they were not even believers…so it started a long time ago. I will just never forget the first time that I went to Israel, mom and dad were doing a tour and they asked Gary and I to go and Gary would lead worship at the different sites. I’m not kidding you…when we were starting to land and the wheels touched the tarmac…I can’t tell you what it did to me….I felt like I was home. It was just….that’s my roots…thats my people. I would go back tomorrow to live…except I don’t want to leave all my family. So….its very important to learn our Jewish roots and what Israel will be in the end times. I was reading something on Twitter by Bob Sorge and he said, in the end America may not be standing but we know Israel WILL be standing….and how does that affect the way you see Israel? How does that affect the way you see the end times? Because it is really true we know Israel will be standing…if people could just get that and the importance of praying for Israel. People will see it…eventually.
Me: This is my last question. For me personally….today…I just want to know what love song Jesus is singing over you lately.
Jerri: I’m learning to trust Him like never before and allow Him to bring peace like only He can do. Life can be a bit stressful. God has been teaching me at work not to internalize stress because I will just take it and not tell anybody, and then it will affect me. So what I have felt Jesus speaking over me in the last few weeks is to just really be at peace on the inside and not holding on to things. Don’t worry. Let it go and not internalize. He has just been singing that over me…peace. To be happy and laugh. That is just a recent thing he has been singing over me. He is peace. He wants the communion that I have with him all the time to expand and he wants to show me a new side of himself….a deeper trust that I didn’t have before.
Well…every time I speak with anyone about the importance of having a heart for Israel it causes me to grow deeper in my love for them. Remembering our Jewish roots as believers is IMPERATIVE…yup I said it. We really need to go back and take a look at where we come from if we are to understand God’s word fully and to understand where we are going. The Lord is never intending the Jewish people to be saved so they can look like us adopted gentiles….we should begin to look a little more Jewish. Isn’t that legalistic? Are you asking me to go back to the law? No. I am asking all Christians to study their roots. You will begin to see the beauty and completion of the story God has written. He is the fulfillment of the law. He fulfills all of the feasts. They are His first child and we are adopted into the family. Let us pray for their hearts to receive this revelation and pray for their protection. We are family.
The next thing that I gleaned was the following statement, “He is wanting us to miss Him so bad that we are willing to do anything to find Him again.” That…I mean…that is a love story. I can just see a movie of war torn lovers who would go through hell and high water to be back in the arms of the one that they love. That love….that is how we are to long and love our Savior. Would we do anything to find Him again? Now….I’m tearing up.
This is where I end. I cry when I talk about Jesus, and I cry now because I saw Jerri Benjamin cry about how much she loved her Savior a couple of years ago. Seeing her cry resonated with me, and it started me on a journey to fall in love with Jesus like that. The journey has been cultivated by many different circumstances and people, but she started it all. Right now as she is reading this…I bet you anything she will cry just thinking about the goodness of Jesus and her love for Him. We ALL should be doing a little more crying when we speak about Him. He is so good….let’s fall in love folks.