Karen Hollifield: Foolishness that Confounds the Wise
Have you ever encountered a person who seemed to know God in a way that intrigued you? It might have been her passion…or the way she prayed…or how she took risks to follow God… Whatever it was, it got your attention – and showed you that more was available in God than you realized.
Well meet Karen Hollifield. She is a wife and mother of four who will celebrate her 50th birthday this month.
As long as I’ve known her [which is at least a decade now] she has exuded this type of knowing. She hears God and obeys Him in ways that startle the unsuspecting. While some would probably chalk her up as a fanatic, what they are actually encountering in her is child-like faith. Faith that has grabbed hold of God in the midst of life’s battles and has tasted His bigness to the point of no return.
When we get a glimpse of the adventure God is inviting us into… When we see Him demonstrate His heart in such tangible ways… There really is no return to “normal” life. Something comes alive inside, and suddenly, people’s opinions of us shrink in importance. They can no longer hold us back from being who we are and doing what He put in our hearts to do.
This open pasture of freedom, life, adventure, and risk is where Karen’s story invites us to come. What follows is a glimpse of what first drew her to this place.
Hungry for God
It was many years ago after becoming a wife and mother that I found myself empty and desperate for something more than a casual Sunday relationship with the Lord. At the time I was a forensics officer with the Spartanburg County Sherriff’s Department. I was surrounded by death on a daily basis. My work required intense focus on crimes – things I now see as acts of evil.
In forensics, you spend much time thinking through crime scenes. My mind became dark because of it. My last couple of months as an officer were mentally and physically exhausting. Not only was darkness ever present at work, but I was also experiencing deep warfare in my own life. I was in the middle of a battle much greater than could be seen with the natural eye.
I knew it was time for a change if my family was going to survive. I left the job to be home with my children. It was a hard transition because my identity had become wrapped up in being an officer. I guess you could say I had hidden behind a uniform.
My past started leading me to search out the things of God. Our challenges were very real during these years. We struggled financially due to the fact that we went from two incomes to one. I felt in my heart that I had chosen the right thing, but that sure didn’t make things easier. Many people questioned my decision to give up a career in order to be just a wife and mom. That would often send me on a tailspin, questioning whether I had made the right choice. My emotions would spin out of control at times.
This hard season took me on a spiritual journey into the deeper things of God. I remember crying out to God one day: My mom tells me you are a good and loving God – WHY is it that I can see evil and I can feel evil, but I can’t see you or feel you?
It was as if God had been waiting on me to ask. Because at that very moment I opened my Bible, and God’s Word began to speak to my heart in a way I had never experienced before. It was the beginning of an incredible awakening. I was amazed by His love for me. God began to teach me who He is and how much He loves me. Then in return, I was compelled to share His love with others.
I was stunned. God, You ARE real! I couldn’t consume enough of the Word. It was day and night. All the time.
Fast forward several years to 2005. My husband and I came home from getting groceries one Saturday, and I was suddenly overcome with a strange feeling. I couldn’t even finish unloading everything. I didn’t know what was happening. I went to lie down.
In our loud house full of four children, I fell into the deepest sleep. It’s still hard to explain what happened, but the Lord visited me while I was unconscious. It was a wonderful experience that brought such amazing peace. I woke up – four hours later – praying in the Spirit. I was stunned and, honestly, unsure of what had just happened.
I didn’t know that my world was about to be shaken.
Three days later, on Tuesday, October 11th while I was driving by Bethlehem Baptist Church, my friend, Jeff, called. “Hey Karen, this is Jeff. I’m down here in the pasture, and your dad…” “Jeff,” I interrupted, “I’m at Bethlehem and I can be there in just a few seconds.” I didn’t know what Jeff had said because I immediately cut him off. I drove toward my parents’ property, praying in the Spirit.
I pulled up to fire trucks and a crowd of onlookers. I got out of my car, fulling expecting that Daddy had broken his leg or injured himself somehow. But because of past work experiences, I knew what death looked like.
Several people from the community were there. But I wasn’t talking to anyone. In this moment, it was just me and the Lord. I turned the corner and saw my dad lying there. Not today I said in my heart. The Lord had told me about a year earlier that it wouldn’t be much longer for my dad. I had protested, of course, telling God that it was way too soon.
I kept hearing my momma’s voice saying “He’s gone.” But I wouldn’t hear it. I kept praying as I approached him.
One of his eyes was shut, and one was open.
I knelt down, praying in the Spirit, laying my hands on him, talking to the Lord…
There were thirty or forty people standing there watching. But it may as well have been a hundred thousand. To me, they didn’t exist. It was just me, the Lord, and my dad. I didn’t care what anyone thought of me or who heard me praying in tongues. I felt God’s anointing upon me in a way I had never experienced before.
I was told later how far my voice projected. The moment was so surreal that I was completely unaware of whether anyone else heard me. All that existed was mine and the Lord’s conversation.
Lord, I’m praying to raise the dead, I told Him. But I need you to speak to me. I need to know whether this is the day you appointed for my dad. I need to know that he didn’t leave one day too soon.
In the midst of asking God, I am seeing a picture of my dad saying to Him, “Please, don’t let her pray me back. I don’t want to go back.”
And I told Him, Lord, as long as I know that he’s with you, that he’s at peace… I’ll let him go.
I heard Him say in my heart, “He is, Karen. He’s with me, and he’s at peace. He doesn’t want to come back.”
My heart sighed. Okay, Lord…then I’m good.
When I opened my eyes and looked at my dad, his second eye had closed. A Peace washed over me…
That experience was a turning point in my life. It unleashed me to walk with God and to walk in His authority in an entirely new way. That day, I was set free from the fear of what others thought of me. I had been trapped by that fear for so many years… But not anymore! His freedom had exploded onto the scene.
I experienced something profound in God the day Daddy died. What I didn’t know was that this was only the beginning. My new found freedom in Him led me into wild experiences that the old me would have been terrified of!
Sometimes He led me to knock on strangers’ doors with specific words of encouragement… Other times, He brought me face to face with the demonic, empowering me to walk in Christ’s authority. He even led me to our local detention center, granting me a beautiful, ongoing opportunity to love our community’s unlovable.
I am in awe of the love God has made known to me – and that He has allowed me to speak His love into others. He promises that those who seek him shall find him when they seek him with their whole heart (Deuteronomy 4:29). He has proven this to be so true in my life, and it’s my desire to see this wholehearted seeking ignited in all of His children!
“She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”
So what is the Kingdom story hidden inside of Karen’s?
Well, there are many more pieces of her journey with God than could ever be explored in this one story. And the common thread running through them all is God’s great delight in using ‘foolishness’ to further His Kingdom.
“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?…For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are… We speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.” I Corinthians 1:20-2:7
Karen’s life is a walking embodiment of this passage. To the natural eye, praying in tongues over a deceased loved one looks foolish. And to think that God would still raise the dead is even more foolish. Taking authority over demonic spirits, addressing them aloud in Jesus’ Name… this seems like foolishness too.
But you know what? God isn’t looking through natural eyes. He’s looking at us – and every single piece of our lives – through His supernatural eyes of Love.
His eyes see us engaging in the battle of the ages – the battle for the human heart. His eyes see us wielding our God-given weapons. His eyes see us pushing back darkness. His eyes see the beauty entirely missed by natural eyes.
With greater delight than a parent gazing at his child, His eyes see and cherish the steps of faith we take toward Him.
He beckons us into the deep, wildly cheering us on every time we risk coming closer. And the closer we come, the less it matters how people appraise us. We get a clearer view of His face with every step… and are so hooked that even our own failures, even being deemed a fool, can’t keep us from moving toward Him.
“My story is His story, really, and one day He will tell it in all of its hidden splendor. I will get to hear His take on my days, His perception of what was going on underneath and behind the scenes. And it will be glorious.” -Stasi Eldredge
Thank you, Karen, for hungering for what is real –
and for inviting us to become undignified (II Samuel 6:22)!
I’m sharing the song below because it captures the fire God has placed in Karen’s heart…the kind of fire of which we can each be a carrier. The foolish kind of fire that consumes us with Love and sets our hearts free.