Walking

Laura and I worked together. I liked her from the moment I met her. She was dedicated, determined, and cared deeply for the residents living in the facility where we were employed. She was also punctual, which says a lot because she didn’t have a car.

During one of our brief opportunities to chat, I invited Laura to a Bible study I was teaching in my home. Since she worked many double shifts, she didn’t think she would be able to come. But God made a way for her to attend.

During discussion time, Laura let loose. I don’t remember what the topic was, but once she started “sharing” our night took a turn. (Some leaders might have seen it as a turn for the worse, but God knew it was a turn for the best.)

As Laura exploded in expletives, my sweet friends just listened with their hearts. Interlaced in a sea of (f) words was a story of abuse, loss, and pain. No one chastised Laura for being inappropriate, they just loved her, listened, asked questions, and prayed.

After the other women went home, Laura sat down at the table while I cleaned up. I could tell she was thinking. After a bit, she said, “I know you care about me.”

“Yes, Laura, we all love you,” I responded.

“Nobody judged me,” she stated, as she looked me straight in the eye. “Nobody said anything about my cussing.”

That night, Laura and I visited for a while. We talked about God’s unconditional love. We talked about healing, forgiveness, and freedom. We talked about a lot of things. Then I drove her home.

After that night, Laura began to regularly attend our weekly meetings. Since she worked most Sundays, she rarely attended church, but it was obvious that she loved Jesus. In the midst of her daily challenges, Laura would silently pray for people, trust God (even in the hard times), and continually give God credit for anything good in her life.

Laura’s death was a shock to everyone. The last day of Laura’s life seemed like every other day. She had set out walking to work, but this time instead of arriving at the retirement apartments, she entered Heaven’s glory. While she was on her way to work, she suffered a severe asthma attack, passed out, and hit her head. She died instantly from brain trauma. Sweet Laura with a heart of gold is now walking on streets of gold.

Whenever I think about Laura, I think about God’s grace and the brevity and uncertainty of life. We never know while on our way to our daily destinations when we will be rerouted to our final destination.

The night Laura opened up her heart and shared her pain, all of us present had a deeper glimpse into God’s heart and His unconditional love for all mankind—reminding us that there is nothing that we could ever do or say to earn or negate His love for us.

Father God is not shocked, nor repulsed by “colorful” language—or “colorful” stories. He is always there with a listening ear and an open heart—just loving us.

Jesus was always walking beside Laura, but Laura didn’t recognize Him until seven years ago when she took hold of His hand and accepted Him as her Savior. The day Laura took her last walk on this earth she went from seeing Him in part, and just holding His hand, to seeing Him face to face in all His glory!

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

Corinthians 13:12 “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely” (NLT).

 

Naptime

“No naaaap!!!!” The ordeal had begun. My daughter had put her then rambunctious two-year-old down for his daily nap. Since I had been staying in the next room, I had the privilege of experiencing the sorrowful symphony in its entirety. It began with wails from the brass section and progressed to the ear piercing high notes of the woodwinds and strings-not to mention the intermediate interjections of the percussion, represented by the pounding of toddler feet against the sheet rock.

As I sat on my bed with just a wall separating me from the drama, I thought to myself, “Come on, Rhett. It’s just a nap. You need to rest. Why are you fighting so hard.”

It was then I remembered the first time God had told me to lay down and be still for an hour. Since “It’s off to work we go” had been my Christian matra for so many years, rest and laziness were synonymous to me. Being still was for sick people, not for a busy home schooling single mother of four.

As I dutifully trudged to my room to lie down and quiet myself before the Lord, I didn’t wail, scream, and kick the wall, but I was internally screaming, “NO NAP!” as my mind, will, and emotions played an encore performance of protest.

My first attempts at being still and resting were more pathetic than productive. I was waiting for instructions or for the next prayer burden, but I heard nothing. After my allotted hour, I would get up feeling less rested and more frustrated.

On the third day, all that changed. I was begrudgingly lying on my bed, watching the clock waiting for “naptime” to be over, when I started to complain: “Lord, just tell me what I need to hear because I have a million things to do. This whole being still thing is a waste of my time!”

God is a good father. When He speaks to us He doesn’t condemn, but He does convict. What I heard him speak to my spirit convicted me to the core of my being. “If I brought you the man of your dreams, and you were lying next to him, just doing nothing, would it be a waste of your time.”

My entire marriage I had longed for my husband to connect with me emotionally. Being still was not about God wasting my valuable time. It was about Him valuing my heart. It was about Him drawing me out of my works mentality into a deeper relationship with Him. It was about emotional intimacy.

Being still taught me to rest in His presence and to be refreshed by His love and care for me. Being still brought more restoration to my soul. And, in time, being still gave me much revelation.

Psalm 46:10 tells us to “Be still and know that I am God…”

We can learn much about God and experience Him through reading the Word, praying, worshiping, and serving others, but to “Know Him” (truly connect with His heart) I believe  we must also embrace “nap time” and be still in His presence.

The funny thing is that even though my grandson fought naptime, he would eventually be still and fall asleep, waking up renewed and refreshed to enjoy the rest of the day.

If God is drawing you to be still and experience more of Him, don’t fight it. As you release your will and rest in His love, you will be renewed and refreshed, allowing you to more fully enjoy Him and the life He has for you.

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

 

What Fruit?

 

As I was writing my last blog about how God grows the Fruits of the Spirit in us in the midst of difficulties, I kept thinking about restoration.  Whenever restoration is mentioned in the scriptures we see opposites-joy for mourning, strength for weakness, salvation for sin, healing for sickness, beauty for ashes. If restoration is God’s gift to bring good out of everything the enemy intended for evil in our lives, wouldn’t it make sense that the fruits of the Spirit would be fruits of restoration.

Understanding the lies we believe about God, ourselves, and others helps to renew our minds. But what about our emotions? Again, the answer is in the fruits of the Spirit. Tamara Patterson from River of Life Church has a really good message about this. You can find it at

https://www.facebook.com/RiverofLifeCorpusChristi/videos/1284210381616590/

But for now, I will just share a brief summary about what I received from her message.

Keep in mind that love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, and self control are fruits OF THE SPIRIT. That means that they are imparted to us by the Holy Spirit, not through our own understanding or efforts. The Bible tells us that we have not because we ask not, so as you read the following I would encourage you to ask for the fruit or fruits you need at this time.

When in fear-ask for revelations of God’s perfect love

When you are anxious-ask for peace

When you are depressed or sad-ask for joy

When you are frustrated or angry-ask for patience

When you feel rejected-ask for opportunities to show and receive kindness.

When you feel less than or flawed( usually because of abuse, legalism, or perfectionism) ask for revelations of God’s goodness

When you feel like hiding your true self or are harsh to others out of self- protection- ask for gentleness.

When you feel out of control because of behavioral choices, entitlement, or feeling like a victim- ask for self-control.

God loves to meet us, heal us, restore us, empower us, and to bless us with good gifts. Ask Him to show you what fruits you need at this time. Then open your heart and receive.

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 NKJV).

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law”.(Galatians 5:22-23 ESV).

 

 

Heaven’s Glory

There have been times in my life where heaven has seemed so close that I felt as if I could touch it. Once was when I was a child. I was suffering from a terrible reaction to the stings from a swarm of yellow jackets. I was dreaming that I was dying. I literally felt like my spirit was leaving my body. But it jumped back in when I was jerked awake by my mother. She had been praying and was calling my name. “Jeannie, I thought I had lost you!” She almost shouted, “You are burning up!” I don’t remember responding before I fell back to sleep. When I awoke the next morning, I had ice wrapped rags on my head and on my horribly swollen hand. Mom was still next to me. She told me I that I had been delirious, but that the fever was now gone and I would be OK. I don’t ever remember talking about it, but in my heart, I knew that I had been a moment away from Heaven’s glory.

My next almost in Heaven experience was when I was in my mid-twenties. I had been praying for hours and worshipping. As I stood with my hands raised, once again surrendering all to God, I felt as if Heaven was filling the room. I sank to the floor, overwhelmed by the weight of God’s glory. I remember saying, “Lord, are you taking me home?” I didn’t go home that day but I felt so empowered by His glory that I ran to my neighbor’s apartment. As usual, she answered the door shaking because she had once again mixed alcohol with Xanax. I stepped into the room almost shouting, “Do you feel that!” God immediately touched her and she quit shaking. She responded, “Yes, I have goose bumps!” We ended up worshiping the Lord and basking in His glory. A short while later, God empowered her to walk away from her addictions.

Since that day, I have had many experiences (sometimes alone and sometimes with others) where the presence of the Lord has filled the room with the glory of God. My pastors call this experiencing Heaven on earth. But the experience that was unlike all of the others was the night my baby brother died.

For a year and a half, I had watched as cancer destroyed my brother’s body. At the end, his 180 lb muscular frame had been reduced to a mere 60 lbs. The doctors had tried everything, and friends and loved ones had prayed everything they knew how to pray. My brother was so convinced that he would live, he didn’t even make a will. My family had experienced so many miracles we all held on to the hope that God would raise him up.

The morning I got the call that he was non-responsive and en-route to the hospital, my heart sank. With tears streaming down my face I hurried to the bathroom to get dressed. Many people say that when people get close to death their spirits can visit loved ones. I can’t definitely say that is what happened, but as I was brushing my hair I heard Mark’s voice, “It’s Okay, Sis. It’s Okay.” My tears instantly dried up and peace filled my soul.

Mark was suffering so much when we arrived at the hospital, it was hard to stay in the room. As I and other family members stood next to his bed, I placed my hand on his head and prayed and sang to him.

Mark was one of those rare guys who had never met a stranger. He was also a wonderful father and had raised his two now late teen children pretty much alone. Even though Mark spent his life serving others, I was deeply concerned about whether he had had a relationship with the Lord.

My family decided to move Mark to the hospice unit where we had moved my mother a week before. As we waited for the ambulance, a dear friend of Mark’s pulled me aside. She told me that Mark had somehow managed to drive to her work the night before. In spite of his frail condition and attached oxygen tank, they had gone to see the movie God’s Not Dead. Since cancer had destroyed Mark’s ability to speak, when the movie ended, he had texted her I’m ready to go be with Jesus. My heart swelled with joy, and I hugged her.

That night, I stayed at the hospice unit with Mom and Mark, going back and forth across the hall praying and singing over them. Up until 2 a.m., a friend stayed with me. Somewhere between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. I fell asleep in a chair in Mark’s room. I dreamed that Mark was in his hospital bed on a stage in a church. In my dream, the tumors on his body disappeared and he regained his weight and became muscular and strong. He then jumped out of bed and began running around the room. As I sat in the church watching the whole thing I said over and over again, “He is healed but he is not healed. He is healed but he is not healed.” Then I suddenly woke up.

A couple of years before, the Lord had stirred my spirit to pray for my mother to breath when she had been on life support. At that moment my mother had started breathing on her own and declared, “God still has things for me to do!” The doctor who had told us to make her funeral arrangements and the rest of the hospital staff were astounded.

I thought my dream meant that God was going to raise my brother up like He had Mom. I walked over to his bed and stood over him, getting ready to declare, “In the name of Jesus breath!” When God stopped me with a firm, No. I was perplexed. “But God, You promise us the desires of our hearts, and Mark’s desire has been to see his kids grow up and to have grandchildren!”

The Lord’s answer to me was so unexpected and so comforting it stopped all other questions: I have changed his heart’s desires. All I could think of was that Mark must have already seen Jesus.

I sat back down in the chair. I could feel the glory of the Lord fill the room.

I know this sounds far-fetched, but I saw angels. They weren’t like the warring angels I had seen before. It’s as if part of the room faded away and they were in another realm. They were laughing and singing and making preparation for my brother. The vision, or whatever it was, vanished, but the glory lingered.

I can honestly say that I have never felt more peace and joy than I did that morning. My brother went to heaven shortly afterward, My Mom joined him the next night while I was preparing for my brother’s family memorial.

It has now been three years since Mark and Mama went home to be with Jesus, and I have rarely shed a tear over their passing. Maybe this is partly due to the fact that I had watched them suffer so much. But mostly, I think it is because whenever I think about them, my heart is filled with the joy I felt the morning the glory of God filled my brother’s room. The glory I now know that they experience continuously! Whenever I think about them, I don’t see them emaciated and dying, instead, I see them whole and healthy and full of joy, dancing in Heaven’s glory.

Isaiah 60:19 “The sun shall no longer be your light by day, Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you, But the Lord will be to you an everlasting light, And your God your glory.”

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

A Change in Diet

Last night after devouring some leftover chocolate cake, I told myself that I needed to eat healthier. So tonight I made sure I washed down my heaping helping of chocolate with some homemade chicken soup to counteract the effects of the sugar

I know this is messed up thinking. But I really wanted to have my cake and eat it too.

As I was slurping (oh, I meant to say sipping) the last little bit of my soup, I thought back to when this same type of mindset was prevalent in my life concerning my choices in entertainment.

Until I was in my thirties, I pretty much watched what I wanted to watch on T.V. After consuming a few hours of fear and lust based junk I would read my Bible and pray against ungodly thoughts before I went to bed. But no matter how much I prayed, the nightmares and tormenting thoughts would not go away.

I didn’t associate my bad thought life with the junk food my mind was exposed to until I heard God speak to me one night. I was sitting on the couch caught up in a sinister plot when I heard the Lord’s gentle voice: I would rather you not watch that.” I started to argue with Him, but instead, I ignored Him. The next night I heard Him once again tell me, “I’d rather you not watch that.” That time I turned off the T.V. and walked into the other room. Walking away from the junk I was putting in my mind was the beginning of my walking toward freedom.

As my diet changed from consuming mental junk food to thinking on what was pleasing to God, I lost all desire to watch the shows I used to watch.

The Word tells us in Philippians 4:8-9: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”

God loves us so much! He didn’t tell me to walk away from the shows I was watching because He wanted to withhold something from me. He had me walk away because He knew what I was watching was a stumbling block to me. I needed to have my mind renewed in order to have peace.

I can honestly say that I have never regretted turning off much of what is on the T.V. Now if I can just learn to walk away from the chocolate cake. 🙂

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

 

 

Scars into Stars

The enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy, but God gives life abundantly. Today’s post is a powerful testimony by my friend Cilinda. Thankfully, we serve a mighty God who brings beauty out of ashes and as Cilinda so beautifully says, “turns our scars into stars.”

I started out thinking I was going to write a very short rendition of my “autobiography” (which I have promised both myself and God, but have yet to do), but God has laid it on my heart to write my testimony in a much different fashion/form.

To cover my background and help it to make sense of where I am today, I will say my life has not been “the American Dream” in any manner. At the ages of seven and nine years old I was molested. My parents never knew because I was not capable of understanding what had happened to me, being so young at those times. It probably behooves anyone reading this, to think how something like that could’ve happened to a child and the parents not ever know. Fear and folly, I would dare to say, is what allowed me to keep it a secret for so many years.

My mother was forty-three years of age when she gave birth to me (my father was fifty-two years old). My precious mother had too many medical problems to mention, and needless to say, after having three daughters many years earlier in her life, was not “expecting” the birth of the fourth daughter (me)! But she and my father welcomed me into this world with love and their faith in the Lord knowing that my birth was His will and all would be right with the universe!

You may have heard the old sayings such as “ignorance is bliss,” or “what you don’t know won’t hurt you”… well, unbeknownst to me, as a child, I took those old adages and lived by them for several years. I kept the ‘secrets’ of what those two men did to me hidden as deep within me as I could possibly bury them. My life played out as I would consider “normal”, but as the years rolled by, I would find out that buried bones sometimes get dug up or uncovered.

As my high school graduation approached, I was more than excited over the life I saw before me! I was engaged to a military guy five years older than me. Our wedding was two weeks after my graduation, and I couldn’t wait to be married to the man of my dreams, have our own home and one day have children of our own! The “American Dream”, right? Well, all that soon changed and my vision of the “American Dream” was shattered into a million pieces and scattered to the uttermost parts of the earth, or so it seemed.

My fiancé and I were involved in a most tragic automobile accident May 2nd, 1978. A semi-truck ran the traffic light as we were crossing through our green light. The big rig hit our car on my fiance’s side, sending us spinning, striking another vehicle in our path, and leaving a mass of destruction in a matter of seconds! Four days later, I came out of a coma, to find out about my fiance’s tragic demise. The driver of the truck didn’t survive this horrendous accident either.

My future was ripped right out from under me; a feeling much worse, I felt, than literally having my heart torn from inside my human body! The one person I was about to vow to spend the rest of my life with… to have and to hold, from this day forward, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part, was gone. Death… such a sudden end to a lifelong future ~ one that never began!

I sank into the darkness of depression, not wanting to be in any social gathering with family or friends. I didn’t have a reason to go on, nothing to live for! I just wanted to die! Twice I tried to commit suicide – once by taking an overdose of my prescription. The second time I had to battle thoughts in my head of jumping into my mother’s car and driving off a bridge! But God had other plans, none of which I was aware of yet!

I went through counseling with a psychiatrist, and then more with a psychologist. The pastor of our church also generously counseled me through the word of God (which was, by far, the most valuable and rewarding counsel of all!)

Four months after tragically losing my fiance, a relative passed away, and my parents needed to go to the funeral. They knew I would not be attending with them, as I was not capable of holding up through a memorial service. One of my sisters and her three children lived just down the road from my parents and me, so they arranged for me to stay with her until they returned after the weekend. Little did they, or any of us, know that weekend would be cut short…

My sister was divorced and was enjoying the activities of what single life entailed – going out to the nightclubs on weekends to dance and listen to some good old-fashioned music! Well, her three children had made plans to stay with friends of theirs that weekend, and an old friend of hers happened to come for a visit and ask her to go out on the town. Not wanting to leave me alone, she said I would have to come along. Much to my negative response of not wanting to go, she continued insisting and I finally, begrudgingly gave in.

We went to a nightclub that we had often frequented in the past and stayed for awhile until she and her male counterpart decided they wanted to check out another place. I refused to go and spotted a former friend I hadn’t seen in a while and engaged in conversation with him. She spoke to him briefly and said they would just go for a little while and would be back to pick me up. I took it that she thought my friend would hang out with me until they returned!

An hour or so passed and my friend said he needed to leave, as he had to get up very early the next morning. I sat at the little round table in the corner alone, listening to the band until the bartender announced, “Last call for alcohol”. Next thing I knew, the bouncer walked up and told me I had to leave, “…time to vacate the premises & lock up shop!” I tried to explain that I was waiting for my sister to come back to pick me up, but he simply stated that I needed to “wait outside.”

I exited the building, not knowing what else to do. I looked around, hoping to see my sister and her friend pull up to pick me up. But not a sight of them anywhere! I noticed an army guy that worked with my friend I had talked to earlier and asked him if he could give me a ride to my friend’s so I could have him take me home. He said he was with other guys, but he would see if I could get a ride with them.

Without dragging this story out too long with daunting details, I’ll skip to where this “ride” lead. The car pulled up, and I got in with the “friend of my friend, the driver of the car and the passenger in the back seat. They took me to the dorms where “my friend” should have been, but after I checked his room, knocked desperately on the door (to no avail), I returned to the parking lot to see the three army guys standing by the car. I approached, telling them he didn’t answer and asked if they could take me to the police station so I could get a ride to my sister’s house. Their plans had already been decided. My night on the town soon turned into a night of terror.

During the next few hours, I was repeatedly raped and abused. Then I was taken back to the car. Instead of releasing me, one of the men then took me to another location. Fear enveloped me as questions ran through my mind. “Where was he taking me? God, why is this happening to me? Is this going to end? “How” is this going to end??? ”

Once again, I was raped. My captor then opened the car door, got out of the driver’s side, walked around to the passenger’s side, told me to slide behind the wheel, threw the keys at me as he slid into the car and said I could drive to my sister’s! My mind was not in a state of rationalization, nor did I remember the actions taken in driving myself to my sister’s house. All I can possibly accredit my safe arrival to is only the sheer grace of God!! As I pulled up in my sister’s driveway and grabbed the door handle to get out, he threatened me, “Don’t tell anyone what happened tonight, because the big guy WILL come find you!”

I broke down and told my sister and her male friend what had happened! Her male friend took me to the infirmary and the doctors called the military police. I was tended to & cleaned up, then taken to the crime scenes to verify my story. I had to return the next day for a lineup where I identified both guys.

Two years later I received a certified letter while I was living on a military base in Germany. I was married and we were expecting our first child. The letter was from the U.S. Dept of Criminal Justice, stating that the trial had taken place, and both militants had been tried and found guilty and were dishonorably discharged from the Army! But no sentence or jail time for either! I remember thinking, “Justice… is that what you call it?”

I continued to live my life, and raise two sons.  My first marriage lasted sixteen years. Thirteen years later I remarried. That one lasted four years. Although both of my marriages ended in divorce, I watched my two wonderful, blessed sons grow up and get married. One of my sons has given me two of the most treasured blessings I claim – my grandson & granddaughter!!

My family are my treasures and this life is where I am meant to be…The past? It’s dead & gone… buried! Those buried bones I spoke of earlier did get dug up… but not in the way you would imagine. Again, God’s mercy and grace prevailed!

I was approached at a random meeting by someone in the Criminal Justice Department in Texas (where I lived after I married & raised my children). I told my story and of how God brought me through everything with His protecting angels all around me. I shared how I could have died in these instances, but by God’s grace, I’m alive today and healthy and well, with bountiful blessings the Lord has bestowed upon me through His love for me – HIS child! His child… ‘that’ I am! I told him that God watched in pain as these things happened to me throughout my life, but He did NOT allow any of it to destroy me or take my life! He had guarded, guided, and protected me and brought me to a ‘safe’ place!’

After hearing my story, this official asked me if I would be willing to share my story with others and tell them about how it impacted my past AND my current life! I accepted, not knowing what I was getting into or the difference it would make in my life!

I spoke to parole officers in training, as well as “parolees” who were in prison for committing the same crimes that had been committed against me!  How powerful our God is!! This was another chapter of my life – the one I call “the forgiving chapter”! This is where I came ‘face-to-face’ with those who have hurt and caused pain and suffering to others like myself… THIS was GOD reaching out (through me and my life’s story) to these criminals (sinners) to let them know that HE is all-powerful, yet He is a forgiving God! He allowed me to witness to these men about how HE brought me through all of my past! And through this came “forgiveness”.I realized I no longer had the hate and anger ‘buried’ inside of me toward those men from my past for what they had done to me! In a sense, you could say “God brought me ‘to’ prison to free me ‘from’ my own prison!”

God had allowed me to be a part of a family who knew Him, served Him, and loved Him. My parents taught me how to believe in God. Through attending church regularly, I was taught about how we, our world, and everything in it and beyond was created. I learned about the hardships of people throughout the Bible and about how God delivered those who believed through it all! I learned about Jesus’ birth, His life, and all the torture, pain, and suffering He went through before dying on the cross for the sins of the world. And I learned about how Jesus resurrected back to life so that I/we could live beyond all the tribulations we have here on earth!

At the age of thirteen, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. I realized then that I was not alone on my journey and that He had been by my side in my “innocence of life!” Although I did encounter terrible tragedies later in my life, I now know that God was, is, and ‘always’ will be by my side no matter what my future unfolds!

Today, through my past, both good and bad, I reflect on where God was in my life. He was by my side, holding my hand, and carrying me through the parts of my life that I would not have survived – without HIM! I am blessed to attend a wonderful church who loves and serves God “wholeheartedly”. I too, serve in this church through ministries God has placed before me to show how awesome He is and how HE provides for each and every one of His children, through any and all circumstances throughout our lives!

Besides working in our church bookstore, I am a leader of a wonderful Life Group called “Challengers”. I also am a part of an amazing God-given ministry called God Behind Bars, which allows me to attend ‘our’ church’s service in the very same prison God took me to when He opened the door for my healing to begin, as well as my “purpose” to be revealed! God is so  awesome, and amazing beyond our comprehension, but totally within our acceptance!

There are precious memories I hold on to of years gone by – that I will forever reminisce and thank God for as I smile with much appreciation and gratitude…Thank You, God, for always staying by me, for preserving my life, for showing me there are greater pains than all I have ever been through, and for my life eternal – my salvation!

One day I shall see my parents who are in Heaven… along with my sister and other loved ones who have long since passed. But as long as I am on this earth, I daily thank God that I can minister through my testimony and I am grateful that He has molded me into a vessel that He so carefully and lovingly guards, guides and protects, yet employs for His services to others.

Forgiveness is the key to a faulty lock that you thought could never be opened! How did I get through all of my past, you ask? Not ‘just’ by the Grace of God, but by His genuine love, His purpose, and His plan for me…And now, today…I look forward to my future, watching my children and grandchildren as their lives change, grow, and unfold the way God plans… watching and living the rest of my life, as it, too, turns page-by-page, as my book is being written by the hand of our Almighty God, who turns our scars into STARS!

 

The Gate

Today’s post is about an inspiring encounter my dear friend Brandilynn had this Easter weekend. 

As I drove towards Tarpley, Texas on Easter weekend; an overwhelming sense of emptiness filled my heart. Like an empty cup turned upside down; I felt nothing left. I was excited for the weekend, yet felt afraid I wouldn’t fit in with the group. They all knew each other well and I was just new to this church group. They were like one big happy family that joked and bantered back and forth with inside stories I had yet to understand. The old familiar thoughts entered in. Was I good enough? Could I measure up? Would I be on the sidelines looking in? Could I make a difference? I asked God to equip me as I rounded the corner to “The Gate” that would forever change my life. I sat in front of this huge black iron gate that towered above me. As I entered the code and the gate opened; I couldn’t shake a sense of something great is about to happen.

 

I quickly unpacked my bags and got settled in. Everyone began arriving at the second of two cabins on the Lake Front Hill Country Getaway. …and so began my journey to receiving the greatest fulfillment in a group setting I can remember. This group is different I told myself. Everyone busily got situated into both cabins and later that night we sat around eating burgers and listening to Pastor Mark share a message on what it means for God to get the glory in your life. He shared that this weekend was about focusing on the Lord and leaving the worldly cares behind. We delved into discussions about God and Jesus in a way that felt different. James had been discussing feelings of LACK in the previous church meetings.He shared to take those feelings and just ask God…  “Hey, what is this Lord”?!  It amazed me that it could be simplified so easily into one action.

Problem: Feeling lack (of any kind)
Solution: Holding that up to God and asking him about it

Pretty easy concept! How I missed it all these years is beyond me.

That night, I had a lot of time to think about what God was doing in my life and in the lives of others around me. I woke up the next morning with only a few hours of sleep. I felt strangely energized as I met up with the others in the group. The day unfolded perfectly as we talked around the picnic table. Later we hiked a mountain that later became known as “Won Shoe Mountain” and at night sat around the fire in God’s presence. We laughed and cried and sang and talked. A sense of wonderment came over me when I realized that in our group of twelve. Like the disciples, Jesus sat among us! I could feel his presence like never before. I could feel LOVE, ACCEPTANCE, JOY, HONOR, HUMILITY, COMPASSION, FAITHFULNESS, COMMITMENT, ANOINTING, GENTLENESS, ENCOURAGEMENT, and DISCERNMENT, to name a few. I was amazed to hear, as we went around the campfire; the thoughts that others had formed about me. Nothing but the love of Jesus could allow them to see into my heart that way. As each person took their turn my mind ceased to function and my soul leaped forward. I realized this is a taste of heaven on earth, as I felt unending love in that moment. A sneak peak into the UNCONDITIONAL LOVE that God has in store for us all as we (in time) enter into the heavenly gates.

NO LACK existed!

The next morning I awoke feeling satisfied that I had opened my heart, mind, soul, body to God in a way that surpassed previous moments. I felt closer to God than ever before in a way that humbled; yet excited me. I drove out and back up to the gate with new purpose and an overflowing cup. I sat in front of the Gate for a moment… NOT wanting to leave.

I understand now entering the code to the gate…. symbolic for saying, God, I am here… ready to be in your presence. I leave everything behind at the gate entrance and enter into your kingdom and majesty and righteousness. I realized I had left ALL worldly things at the front of the gate. We can’t bring those things into his presence.

In closing, leaving you with one final thought. When you are sitting in front of that Gate… staring up and deciding whether to enter…  or sit back in the worldly things… will you decide to enter into God’s presence and feel his majesty and love surround you and change you in a profound way. Letting the world fall away off of you… your body, your mind, your heart, your soul. To renew and bask in the presence of God that seems to change you down to the very cells of your body… to fill your heart so full it is bursting with Love, Adoration, Kindness, and Acceptance for everyone and everything around you. …but even greater still a deepening love of the Lord your Father in heaven that cannot be contained or explained.

…as I drove out the gate… I looked on the side of the road and could see the worldly cares I had left when entering, still sitting piled up; that I had dumped right outside the gate. I paused for a split second in thought as my eyes welled up with tears of joy. I drove away… leaving the pile still sitting there. I won’t be needing those again I thought as sweet tears began flowing down my cheeks. A sense of an atmosphere shift lingered with me in the car. A heart overflowing and a feeling of pure love beyond measure.

To those that don’t know God….  the code you enter to “The Gate” is Jesus. Ask Jesus into your heart and the gate will open for anyone who will ask.

All the love in the world to you.

-Brandilynn Edgerton

Leaves

For a few hours the other day I raked leaves at my father’s house.  About 30 minutes into my task, memories began to flood my mind, and I started praising God. Years ago, when I had emphysema I constantly prayed to keep breathing. As I bent to scoop up a pile of leaves I took a deep effortless breath and once again thanked God for miraculously healing me.

When I began to rake up another pile of leaves, I thought to myself, “Wow! My shoulder isn’t hurting!” In 2012, my doctor and physical therapist had given me little hope for a full recovery. I now have full range of motion and no pain.

“God, I don’t thank you enough,” I voiced. “I take so much for granted!”

As I kept raking and bagging leaves, I remembered other situations where God had met me in hard times. I continued to thank Him: “Thank you, Lord, you have done so much for me! Thank you, Lord, for healing my body and my heart. Thank you for your provision and faithfulness. Thank you for restoring my mind. Thank you for restoring relationships. Thank for freedom from fear. You are amazing!”

Raking leaves was no longer a chore. It was a privilege. With each stroke of the rake, choruses of thanks rose from my lips. I continued to give thanks and praise the Lord for the next two hours. Sixteen bags of leaves later, I set down my rake and thought to myself, “Wow! God really has brought good out of everything the enemy intended for evil. In that moment, I was fully aware that it’s only because of His mercy and love that I have truly been able to leave my past behind!

What a mighty God we serve!

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21, NLT).

“Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3, ESV).

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV

 

 

A Written Proposal

Contributed by James Bennett

I started a letter to God in 2013 with thanksgiving and praise as I had been taught in my discipleship class. As I wrote, the Spirit of the Lord came upon me. His presence was closer and more evident than any time before, and different than any time since. The atmosphere was sweet and romantic, yet very intense. My body responded. I was weeping uncontrollably. Fallen tears soaked the pages and spotted my jeans. Struggling to breath, I resolved to write. What began as a letter of request had dramatically turned into the most honest love letter I had ever written. My heart broke open, and feelings I had never known before gushed out. Because it was a love letter, I will keep details personal between God and me. However, I will share that repeatedly, and in various ways, I expressed how I wanted God’s companionship in all areas of my life. I asked that He free me from the worry of lack of money. I longed for stability.

The original purpose of the letter was to request what I wanted in the following year. I was going to ask that God grant me more income for financial stability, a permanent home, and a wife. Yet, I was so moved by love that I forgot to include the details.

Actually I did not forget anything. I was intensely focused on what was important, and the small details were not. In fact, those types of details that you and I have all planned in life are really solutions on how to live without God. As I wrote, I was so moved by God’s love that I could only request that He meet my needs.

The following year, 2014, did not look like I thought it would, however, all of my needs were met. I took an $80,000 decrease in pay and could not plan 2 meals ahead. Instead of bringing me more income to free me from financial worries, God took income out of the equation altogether. He made it very easy for me to witness His provision, so that I could not miss where true provision comes from. He did this repeatedly over and over that year. I no longer worry about money. That does not mean I have an abundance of money. In fact, there are often times where I lack what is needed. Worry in these times has been replaced with a sense of wellbeing.

The beginning of 2014 started with me owning my own home, and ended with me having to sell it. God showed me how my home is not in what surrounds me, but what is in me. The Kingdom of Heaven is my home and home is where the heart is. No matter where I am living physically, I have access to this home that transforms the atmosphere around me.

I longed for companionship, yet I did not get married that year. I felt more alone that year than any year before. Like with income, God removed companionship with people from the equation so that I could clearly see Him. That year my relationship with Him grew deeper and deeper, as I imagine it would for newlyweds that relocate to a new city with no money.

The experience I shared with the Lord when writing that letter in 2013 changed me. I had never known Him to be so real. He later revealed to me that the letter was a proposal from my heart to His. I proposed to be married to Him and His ways forever. I also proposed to build a life together. This may not have been my intentions when starting the letter, but when we are in His presence our desires are purified. The solutions I originally sought after were displaced by the only true solution, the love of God.

 

 

Songs

When my oldest grandson was four my daughter called so he could sing me one of the songs he had just made up. But when I asked him to sing for me, there was silence.

“Rhett,” I coaxed, “are you going to sing me one of your songs?”

After a little sigh, he answered in a serious tone, “I cin’t, Mimi. My songs are all gone!”

At the time, I couldn’t keep from laughing, but later in the day, as his childish reply rolled over in my mind, I began to think about times when I felt as if my songs were all gone.

Last week I attended a Bible study where the leader had asked those in attendance to share their favorite songs and the stories behind them.

As the music played and songs were sung, often, karaoke style, my brothers and sisters in Christ shared their stories and their hearts. Many of the behind the song accounts were about how God had met them in dark and desperate times—times when their songs were all gone.

I fought back tears as hearts were exposed revealing how,in a single moment, the goodness of God had collided with the ugliness of life through music and worship. Hope invaded hopeless as tragedy, grief, despair, and desperation were shifted to peace, comfort, acceptance, and adoration.

These beautiful life-changing encounters inspired me, challenged me, and reminded me of how God had met me so powerfully during times when my songs were all gone.

I couldn’t help but think about when Paul and Silas were imprisoned. Being beaten and thrown into a dark, smelly cell with your feet shackled would definitely be a moment to quit singing. In the midst of their pain and prison the songs of their own understanding might have been silenced, but instead of shutting down they shouted up and exchanged their sorrows and suffering for new songs—God’s songs. In Acts 16: 25-26 the Bible reads About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose” (NIV).

Wow! Talk about a heavenly concert! Praises were lifted, foundations were shifted and ALL the prisoners were unshackled.

The other night, as I heard the testimonies of my sweet friends, praises were lifted, foundations were shifted, and shackles were broken. We were once again reminded of how our loving heavenly father invades our worlds and moves our hearts with His songs, especially when our songs are all gone.

I don’t know your current circumstances. But God does! No matter what you are going through, be assured that He has a new song just for you.

May you be abundantly blessed as your heart is lifted and your eyes are shifted to the one that adores you and sings over you!

Jeannie Boatright

The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17 NIV).