A shadow without a soul, BUT GOD…


Her foundation was cracked, damaged almost irrevocably; my friend’s young life cradled not by warmth and safety as it should have been, but instead rocked by the abusive hands and harsh words of an angry and drunken father; a man that not only cursed God, but who sat himself upon a self-made throne and ruled with an iron fist.

His family lived scared of him and later scarred by him. For, even after his reign ended in death, the roots he had planted continued to haunt and hurt; to break through and crack almost every inch of the foundation upon which they had landed. Over the years, she lost both her brothers to tragic circumstances and she also seemed destined to continue traveling a dark and cursed road, her choices and current lot in life often colored by her distressed upbringing. She says she often felt like a mere shadow without a soul.

But, God…

My favorite word combination in the Bible, two words used together 43 glorious times in Scripture and a phrase that is definitely cause for jubilant celebration. God’s unbending, unchanging response to satan’s relentless challenges. The bottom line. The last word.

Two words that speak life instead of death. Yes instead of no. Can instead of can’t. Will instead of won’t. Do instead of don’t.

Two words that create freedom instead of imprisonment. Victory instead of defeat.

“But, God” is a game changer. A Holy and glorious intervention.

Below is a poem that my friend, Denny, wrote after God lovingly intervened in her life in the late 1990s during a trip to a Women of Faith Conference in Seattle, Washington. She doesn’t know I am reprinting it and I am praying for her forgiveness in advance. It’s just too good not to be shared; the beginning of her new story—one that has still been filled with chapters set deep in the valley of the shadow of death, but with one HUGE difference.  This time she is accompanied by the Father that loves, guides and protects her just as a father should and who punctuates every stormy, tumultuous chapter with the same happy ending. Two words: But God….

Thank you God for saving my friend and for saving me…for introducing us almost a decade ago over an internet scrabble board…and for etching and intertwining a divine purpose in both of our hearts. May we continue to follow You into this purpose and create works that will grow Your Kingdom and forever glorify You and Your Name.

I also pray that each of you reading this now will recognize  your own “But God” moments. If you are in a valley, I promise you that He WILL see you through. Don’t give up. Look up!

You are prayed for…today and always.

Amen and Ehmen.

 

praise God girl and cross in sky

Photo from crosswalk.com

 

Twelve Disciples Plus One

By Denny H.

Twelve disciples plus one boarded a van one day,

Embarking upon a pilgrimage, we were traveling far way.

Headed for Seattle, to praise and learn and pray,

We didn’t know each other well, but they had much to say.


Sharing testimony, their convictions wound in tight,

It bound them all as sisters as we drove on through the night.

They joined in prayer; they shed some tears; they sang with great delight,

They came to know each other well; they whet my appetite!


Women of Faith is what they were, as we joined, the ebb and flow

Of throngs of comrades joined as one to hear the Word and grow

But I was anxious, I had no right, to think that God would care

What am I doing with all these women, “God, why am I in this chair?”


 I’m not like all these Christians who know the love in bloom,

As brides in their relationship to a God who is their groom;

I’m not a daughter of our Lord, I could never call Him Dad

The God I know is an angry God, a God who is always mad.


The God I knew when I was young, my father proclaimed to be

An irate, furious and abusive drunk, the Lord of our family.

Mercy, compassion, love and hugs were not what we were shown,

But vicious, mean and callous words were all we’d ever known…

Both my brothers and myself were rock, not precious stone.


I recalled our childhood lost to scorn and also so much shame,

How we as children yearned for God, but were deluded by his name.

I mused on the brother that still lived and to the one—discouraged—died

If they in spirit had known a Dad, they’d embrace the love denied.


I thought of me, the years misplaced, a shadow without a soul,

Reaching for wrongs to right my life, to govern and control.

How tired I was of drifting along to a future without a goal,

I felt, if I was to truly live, somehow I must be whole.


So here I am, I’m in this seat, and wearily I began to pray,

While I listened to the gentle speakers, and to all they had to say,

As they shared their lives—their griefs and sorrows—yet held firmly to their trust

That God is there through thick and thin; that God is not unjust.


Then something happened while I prayed; I softly, slowly died,

I doubled over in that chair and I cried, I cried and cried.

I cried for me, and for my brothers; I cried for all the years

That we had lived not knowing God; I cried such healing tears.


I prayed for me that blessed day; how I prayed to be God’s child;

I prayed for Him to be my Dad and through GRACE, I finally smiled.

For in my mind, I saw a girl, brand new and she was me,

Finally now I could embrace my promised pedigree.


I joined my sisters in that van, the twelve of us plus one,

Now thirteen disciples heading home, my new life just begun.

How I sang and shared and prayed as I extolled my Dad above

That I am of His family conceived from His own love.


A soothing balm restored my heart, a spirit set me free.

And I am here to testify, I’m His daughter, yup that’s me!

I searched, I asked, and I received; received His guarantee

That I shall live, because He lived and because He died for me.

He Chose Her Before She Was Born


Writer’s Note: For those of you who know me, be warned, there may be things in this post that you may not know about me, things that I am not particularly proud of; however, as I continue to watch God take both the good and the bad and weave them into the most incredible stories–such as the story of my little girl–I think it is important to be real. Our world today is too much in need of hope to not be real and to show how God is always and in all ways looking out for us. Even when our situation looks like a complete mess, God is busy behind the scenes. What looks like rubble to us are building blocks for our Creator. We just have to get out of the way and let Him work!

Billie was far from an ordinary kid. To tell the truth, she has never been ordinary a single billie preachesday in her life. Even before she had made it out of the womb, this wee little girl had begun spinning a story of goodness and love that, looking back, could only have been penned by the master author Himself. Not to say that God doesn’t leave His fingerprints on all his creations, but with some it is just a little more obvious. Such is the case with my daughter.

Just the knowledge that she existed had lifted me out of the downward spiral my life had taken when I turned 30. Always the responsible, level headed one, something about turning 30, combined with a devastating turn of events in my life, had put me on a path of self-destruction. Alcohol. Gambling. Even drug experimentation and unprotected sex. Things I never thought in a million years I would do. But, for a short while, as a lost soul trying to find my way, I did them.

It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God. In fact, with the help of my college roommate, a sweet and kind preacher’s daughter, I had accepted Him as my Lord and Savior back in college. But that’s about as far as it went. I did consider myself a good person and, upon occasion, would even shoot up a prayer or two when things got tough. Saved or not, however, sitting in a pew was not a place you would find me on Sunday morning at that time in my life. Churches, I felt, were just too full of hypocrites.

And, in my heart, I fully believed that to be true as that had been my experience with the church when I was growing up. Being pushed to the altar by friends who had just the night before drank themselves into a stupor made absolutely no sense to me. Not to mention that it seemed like the preacher was always preaching about hellfire and brimstone; the fearsome, formidable God he painted in his sermons not leaving much room for the loving God of reality.

Yeah, I believed in God, but I didn’t truly know God yet and I certainly hadn’t learned what it meant to fully give my heart and my life to Him; to have a personal relationship and to walk with Him in complete faith.

From my limited perspective at that moment in my life, I was—as I had been for some time—alone. My earthly father had been killed when I was just a little girl and I didn’t yet understand the extent of love, forgiveness and purpose my Heavenly Father had for me. In my mind, I had no other choice but to take care of myself and to be my own safety net. Seeking God’s guidance for my life wasn’t even a consideration at that point.

Fortunately, God intervened anyway.

Enter Billie—the answered prayer that I didn’t even know I needed.

Having veered so sharply off the path, it seemed as if baby Billie truly was God’s way of reeling me back in, bringing the poor choices I was making in life to a screeching halt and replacing them with proof that He could take the most troublesome of situations and use them for good. This yet-to-be-born baby was was a living example that would continue to prove this most wonderful promise over and over as the years went by.

I pretty much did a 360 and began trying to live as healthy as possible, following my obstetrician’s advice to the tee. I quit drinking, smoking and any other dangerous habit I had been dabbling with for the past few months before her conception. I quit not because I thought it would keep me out of hell, but because it was the right thing to do. I had a baby on the way; a life that depended solely on me to survive and I didn’t want mess that up.

I even agreed to marry her father, though we had known each other less than a year. I just seemed like the right thing to do. I can’t really say that I loved him, but I figured I’d eventually fall in love with him. After all, we were having a baby together.

Needless to say, without going into details, our marriage was like the house built on sand. When storms came that first, emotionally-charged and stressful year as I also dealt with health issues and worries about getting Billie into the world safely, the marriage collapsed and we gave up on one another.

God, however, did not give up. Not only did he bring Billie into the world and keep her safe, but He made it more and more obvious that He had a plan for her. And, like David of David and Goliath fame, He had no plans of waiting until she was an adult to use her. Truth was, He started using her before she even exited the womb, making sure that this new baby gave both her dad and I exactly what we needed in our lives at that point. Billie’s dad actually credits her arrival for finally facing and defeating his own demons.

All that said, I still didn’t attend church as Billie began to grow up. Until, that is, the heart-wrenching devastation of Sept. 11, 2001, a day that rattled me to my very core. All of a sudden, I realized that not only had I been holding God back in my own life, but I was keeping the greatest blessing He had ever given me away from Him as well and was compelled to do something about it. We began visiting churches, but none felt right. They didn’t feel welcoming, which I equated to being full of hypocrites. I didn’t yet understand that many people attending church were just as confused and lost as I was; and that it wasn’t necessarily hypocrisy they exhibited, but the same ignorance and stubbornness I had been carrying for years.

Long story short, I continued to search for a church for both me and Billie, who was now in second grade. We ultimately made our way to Harvest Church and—from the moment we crossed its threshold at the Ramada Inn where it was meeting—I knew that we were finally home.      It was an easy choice to make sure that she and I were there every time the doors were open and, with Pastors Jim and Jen as our teachers, we both began growing UP. Billie loved the kids program. She adored the Pink Carpet and her carpet leader, Mrs. Mary. We both loved learning about and getting to know God.

Truthfully, I couldn’t believe the difference it made to know God personally versus simply knowing of Him. He started showing up and showing out in both our lives and it was exciting. It’s still exciting. Even though He has performed and showed me many miracles over the past decade and a half, I still cherish those early God moments that changed my life forever.

Indeed, Billie did grow up at Harvest and I will be forever convinced that Harvest was always a part of His plan for both of us, and most especially for her. In fact, this morning as I watched her—now 23-years-old and the head of the church’s Children’s Ministry—give the message in the main church service for the very first time, my mind rewound itself to a Sunday about 13 years ago when my 10-year-old baby girl leaned over while listening to Pastor Jim preach and whispered this into my ear: “Mom, I know what I want to do when I grow up,” she said excitedly. “I want to preach.”

Well, my sweet baby girl, you did it and you did it good!!!! I love you and I love God for picking me to be a part of your story and, most importantly, for allowing both of us to be a part of His. I thank Him for making you a living, breathing example of how miracles and beauty can come from even the darkest, seemingly hopeless situations. I thank Him for Harvest Church and for making His presence so obvious in the church as well as in both of our lives. May we all continue to fulfill His will and purpose until His Kingdom comes. Amen and Ehmen.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” – Jeremiah 1:5

What should I tell them?


BUT GOD…

If I tell them that you love them and I tell them that you are there, what dear godelse am I going to fill the time with? Surely, I need to say more than that. Should I recite scripture? Should I have them take out their bibles and say “turn with me to Hebrews 12:1? Should I say “Ready Read?”

AND THE ANSWER CAME…

No, my child, tell them that I love them. Period. And then tell your story.

They need to read my story for themselves. And I will open it up to them as they are ready. You need to tell YOUR story. You lived it for a reason.

Don’t just talk to God…Listen…


Writer’s Note: When you pray, make sure to listen, too. God has many wonderful when you pray, listenthings to say. Thanks to Facebook “Memories,” I ran across this early morning conversation I had with Him back on September 18, 2011. It was a tough period when two of my dearest friends had just been diagnosed with life-threatening diseases. And, while there was much sadness and grief surrounding the circumstances on that day and days to come, I have to admit that it drew me closer to our Lord and Savior and I learned to really listen. And for that I am eternally thankful. God, I love you so very much. Thank you for always being there for me! Amen and Ehmen!

Me: But, God, why are testimonies so important? Why can’t we just write fiction? Why do people have to actually live these trials and tribulations; these nightmares?

And the answer came:

“Because, my child, fiction is made up; it is not real. But, I am REAL and so is Heaven and the Eternal Life that I offer. I need all My children to know that it is times like this–times when problems are so massive that the human mind can’t even begin to comprehend–that I do my best work. Read Jeremiah 32:27

Jeremiah 32:27 New International Version

“I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?

I never expected my children to do life on their own. I am, always have been, and will always be right here, just waiting for you to call on me. Read Ephesians 40:28-31.”

Ephesians 40:28-31

28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

My Walk with God: From Aquaintance to Guest to Permanent Resident, Landord and Father


Writer’s Note:  I was one who had always spent her life living on the surface, surroundeddear god by a host of family members and friends that I wouldn’t let go past my first couple of layers—my safety barrier, of sorts. And, while that’s sad, it isn’t near as heartbreaking realizing you’ve done the same thing with God. Sure, I had been saved. I was baptized at age 12 and then as an adult in college I had prayed the prayer of salvation. But, that’s where it stopped. I invited God in, but then I didn’t really doing anything else with Him. Instead of letting Him be my Father, I was treating Him more like an acquaintance, perhaps a distant relative; somebody I might seek out on special occasions or think about in passing. I just didn’t fully get it. I was still living for me. In recent years, however—and most especially within the past decade—I finally began getting what it means to have a relationship with God. A true relationship. Not just the bare minimum I need to get into Heaven. Not just a bunch of religion and rules, but instead a true and honest relationship with the God of our universe, my maker, my father, my friend. And, once I had a taste, I just couldn’t get enough. I just wanted to go deeper and deeper. It’s like being in love. I’m so full of joy and things that worried me before, all of a sudden hold no power over me. Sure, I still had problems. Still do. In fact, for the longest, my life didn’t change a bit externally. But, inside, I was completely changed. And I knew that, with faith, the external would eventually change as well. This is an entry from my personal God Journal’s and today, once again, I invite you into my personal journey as I truly began to walk with My Father; the beginning of a love story that just keeps getting better. I hope that today you are enjoying your own love story with Him. There is no better story that will ever be written. Amen and Ehmen!

God, the day I was baptized, I invited you into my heart, but, unfortunately, that’s about as far as it went. I was only 12 and was really following the lead of my friends and family that had gone before. Of course, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing as they led me to you. It’s just that I didn’t truly get what it meant to be saved and baptized in your name, and though I had found you, I didn’t know what to do next and certainly didn’t know how to follow you. I guess you could say you were just an acquaintance I had made.

Then, when I got to college, my roommate—the daughter of a preacher—shared with me at a time when my mind and heart were more in tune, more open to you. This time, I went to a park where you and I could be alone. I sat under a tree and I earnestly prayed the prayer of salvation. And, in an instant, I felt transformed. I could feel the change inside and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that you had given me the gift of eternal life.

Yet, even with this wonderful gift knowingly in my grasp, I still didn’t truly get what it meant to have you living inside of me. The gift remained wrapped. To my credit, instead of treating you like a mere acquaintance this time, I began treating you more like a guest—someone that I would invite to hang out with me from time to time. For years, decades even, I continued—out of sheer ignorance—to live for myself; to be as independent as possible and take care of everything all by myself and to invite you back only in times of desperation.

And, though I forced you into living in the background, the very shadows of my heart, still you remained steadfast and stayed with me. Regardless of how I treated you and despite my ignorance and stubbornness, you continued to shape me and bless me. Still, you called me your child. Still, you protected me. Still, your love and grace remained unfailing, unending, unconditional and absolutely unparalleled.

I just absolutely didn’t realize it—until a few years ago.

Shortly after the heart-wrenching devastation of Sept. 11, 2001, I began to realize that not only had I been holding you back in my own life, I wasn’t properly introducing my child to you either. I was keeping the greatest blessing you had ever given me away from you and I became compelled to do something about it. We began visiting churches, but much to my dismay, they didn’t feel all that welcoming and they reminded me of my childhood church that just seemed so riddled with hypocrisy that once I was old enough to choose, I chose no. I didn’t yet understand that the church wasn’t a building or that simply attending wouldn’t make me a good Christian. I didn’t yet understand that not all people that go to church are faithful servants; that many of them are just playing church and were just as confused and lost as me; that it wasn’t necessarily hypocrisy they exhibited, but the same ignorance and stubbornness I had been carrying for years. I also didn’t really get that a pastor couldn’t just dip me in some water or wave a magic wand and make me a good Christian. His or her job was really just to be a teacher, a shepherd that could lead me in the right direction, but it was totally up to me to actually get into your word and begin developing a one-on-one relationship. I didn’t yet realize that it was people just like me that are to be the church—your church.

So my search for a church home continued. In looking for something a little different from my southern Baptist upbringing, I tried Episcopal, Lutheran, and even non-denominational, but none felt right. Then, one day, just driving into town, I saw a billboard. On that billboard was a toddler sitting in front of the biggest bowl of English peas that I had ever seen with the slogan of “Now that you don’t have to.” Man, it was like that billboard was designed just for me as growing up I had spent hours upon hours sitting in front of bowls of English peas just like that…just staring at them and hoping tbowl of english peashey would disappear. Well, actually, as I got older, I came up with some tricks like raking them back in the bowl when everyone left the room. I had tried putting them in the trash, but got busted. And, I’d tried slipping them to the dog who, unfortunately, didn’t like them either. I could indeed relate to the kid on this billboard.

Now, don’t be mistaken, even though it was then my choice, I still chose not to do those little round green peas. But, I was intrigued enough with this billboard to try the church it advertised. The church was Harvest United Methodist and from the moment I first stepped into the Ramada Inn where it was meeting, I knew I was home. It just felt right. The people were welcoming, the message was relevant and not threatening to a still new, unformed Christian. And, the congregation was diverse, something important to me. That was almost eight years ago. (In 2015, it will be 13 years)

Today, all of those things still hold true, but I’m no longer a new, unformed Christian. And, God, you are no longer a mere acquaintance or part-time guest in my life; you are now a permanent resident, the sole landlord of my heart.

Thank you for sticking by me and for giving Billie and I such a wonderful church home. Amen and Ehmen!