Just Keep Digging

 

I once saw a cartoon that made me think about perseverance. A man was standing up to his head in a hole, shovel in hand, stating that he was giving up because nothing was there. When, in reality, just a few feet below him rested three treasure chests. If he had just hung in a little bit longer and dug a little bit deeper he would have reaped a great reward.

Boy, could I relate! Many times, when I have been on the brink of my breakthrough, I have gotten discouraged and wanted to chunk my shovel. When you and I have trusted, believed, and labored with still no results in sight, it often seems easier to bale than battle.

Speaking of a battle: Have you ever noticed that the battle intensifies just before the breakthrough? I used to believe it was because I was losing my mind, but now I realize it is because the enemy is losing his hold on me. When he sees that we are getting close to the treasures of God’s promises, deliverances, and blessings, he tries to back us off by raising his ugly head and roaring, and by filling our minds with lies (God doesn’t care about you! you will never be free of ______. You are a failure! etc.)

I remember one particularly intense battle when the Lord was bringing up some past hurts in order to bring me freedom. I was literally in such physical and emotional pain I thought I would die. As I kept crying out for freedom from the traumatic memories that were tormenting me, the Lord whispered to my spirit (persevere). Just when I thought I would break, I received my breakthrough… my treasure…a revelation of truth and wave after wave after wave of incredible joy.

After viewing the cartoon I looked up the definition of perseverance. Webster’s defines perseverance as steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

I then wrote the following poem:

Persevere, my brother,
When you think you can’t go on.
Persevere, my sister,
When the night seems, Oh, so long.
When your mind is in torment, and your heart’s about to break,
Set your sights on the treasure and realize what’s at stake.
For God, in His faithfulness will bring the victory
Just keep on digging and His riches you will see.

Whatever comes your way, don’t give up, my friend. God’s got you and He has great treasures for you!

Galatians 6:9 “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (NKJV)

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!

 

Potty Training

A couple of years ago, I visited my youngest daughter when she was potty training my oldest grandson Rhett. I had been playing cars with Rhett in the living room, when I interrupted play time to take a quick bathroom break. A couple of minutes later the door flew open and two-year-old Rhett walked in and said, “Good job, Mimi! Flush it! Do you want some candy? He then pointed to the sink and suggested that I “wash hands.” Afterwards, he walked back in the living room and pooped his diaper. Well, at least he had the “training” part down.

As I changed my grandson that afternoon, James 1:22 came to mind. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (KJV)

Unfortunately, I can think of numerous times when I have deceived myself by hearing and even teaching information, without application.  A “soft answer” sometimes goes out the window when I’m combating wrath, I don’t always look for the “way out” when I am being tempted, and I can’t even remember how many times I have failed to “trust in the Lord without leaning on my own understanding”. I have even been guilty of sitting in a poopy diaper of offense and bitterness while teaching a Bible study on forgiveness.

Thankfully, there are always new beginnings. A week later my grandson decided to act on what he knew (I think the candy rewards might have had something to do with it), and after a few days of practicing the “potty” part of potty training he was diaper free. As I participated in Rhett’s potty training, I thought about how, I also, had received more freedom whenever I had invested more effort in application than instruction, which brings another scripture to mind. Hebrews 10:36 “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” (NIV)

Hmmm…maybe Rhett succeeded in potty training his Mimi after all.

Be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

You

While sitting in church one Sunday preparing to take communion, the Lord spoke to my heart. He said, “Lift up your cup.” As I raised my hand to eye-level and studied the small container of red liquid in front of me, I could clearly see the lines and swirls of my fingerprints pressed against the clear plastic. It was then I heard in my Spirit “When I was on the cross I saw your fingerprints. I knew that you would be, and I knew everything about you”

Up until that day I had acknowledged Jesus as my Savior, but I saw myself as just a speck in a crowd of millions of people. I didn’t realize that if I had been the only person who had ever lived Jesus would have died just for me. But that is exactly what He did. Jesus gave His life only for me. He also gave His life only for you.

When Jesus was dying on the cross He saw you; not just as part of a collective body of humanity, but you individually. He knew you before you were even created. As He hung on the cross in agony, He looked through time and saw you and knew that He was taking your place. As He breathed His last breath, He saw the day when you would take your first breath. He knew and loved you then, and He knows and loves you now. Do you know Him?

One of the lies that kept me from enjoying the Lord was that I thought I somehow had to earn my salvation. Realizing that it was only God’s free gift of grace and not my good works that saved me, took me off of the roller coaster of daily wondering whether I was heaven assured or hell-bound.

Have you exchanged your sins for the free gift of grace Jesus gave you when He died on Calvary? If not, then I would encourage you to pray the following prayer with me: Sweet Jesus, I need you! I am I sinner. Forgive me for all I have done. Thank you for washing away my sins and dying in my place so I can live with you for all eternity. Thank you that from this moment forward I am in

Sweet Jesus, I need you! I am I sinner. Forgive me for all I have done. Thank you for washing away my sins and dying in my place so I can live with you for all eternity. Thank you that from this moment forward I am in relationship with you. Be Lord of my life and reveal your heart to me and daily lead and guide me in all ways. In Jesus’ name Amen!

If you have given your life to the Lord but have been riding the I hope I am going to heaven roller coaster it’s time to get off. Thinking that we are responsible for our salvation is a hook of the enemy to make us feel unworthy and keep us in pride. God adores you! Take hold of His grace and walk in the joy of your salvation!

Have an amazing Easter as you reflect on Christ’s loving sacrifice and His glorious resurrection!

Be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV).

 

The Good Friday Journey

I haven’t yet had the privilege of walking where Jesus walked, but the contributor of today’s testimony has. I pray you will be blessed as you read  Mary Zatkalik’s eye-witness account of a “Good Friday” celebration in Jerusalem.

I will never forget my three-week stay in Israel and specifically, the time spent in Jerusalem.  My husband and I chose the Windmill Hotel because it offered a Seder experience at sunset on Passover.  Also, we could walk to the Old City of Jerusalem, just blocks from the hotel, and sightsee.

The Old City boasts of archaeological history and its narrow streets feature vendors selling beautiful gifts, colorful fresh produce and braids of freshly baked bread.  We learned where the various gates to the city were located to allow us entrance, and we prayed at the Western Wall.

I will forever remember the Friday afternoon which happened to also be Good Friday.  After lunch in the hotel, we meandered over to the Old City where we entered through the gate and immediately we were swept up into a whirlwind.  I felt out of control when my feet barely touched the ground because a mass of people carried me with them to their destination.  I still remember the panic on my husband’s face because he, too, was taken away by the crowd but at least it looked like we were headed in the same direction.

The event taking place, “The Way of the Cross,” sometimes refers to the “Stations of the Cross.”  A fancier name, the “Via Dolorosa,” depicts the suffering journey of Jesus as He walked down those narrow streets of Jerusalem to face his crucifixion and death on the cross for the sins of mankind.

Catholic churches offer the Stations of the Cross in their Good Friday services.  As a child, I remember the quiet reflection and prayer times with my mom where we physically moved from one station to the next within the sanctuary of the church meditating on the journey Jesus took from The Last Supper to His death and burial.

For clarity, these are the Biblical meditations:

  • Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples
  • Jesus in the garden
  • Jesus betrayed by Judas, then arrested
  • Jesus condemned by the Sanhedrin
  • Jesus denied [by Peter]
  • Jesus judged by Pilate [sent to Herod Antipas, then returned to Pilate]
  • Jesus scourged
  • Jesus took His cross
  • Jesus helped by Simon
  • Jesus crucified
  • Jesus [temporarily] prepared for burial
  • Jesus placed in the tomb

It’s one thing to sit in a quiet church and recite prayers at each station, but it’s a whole different experience to be there with passionate believers where history approximately took place about 2000 years ago.  I heard the sounds of voices crying out in worship and I stared at the cross carried vertically above the crowd.  My heart gripped with emotion that Good Friday.

I am ecstatic to have had the experience of being a part of that passionate movement that day.    I tasted the excitement of Via Dolorosa.  The roar of a crowd at each “station” gave me an appreciation of not only the scene but the original journey on that road to Calvary.  I am not only thankful to have participated, but thankful that I survived!

Mary Zatkalik

Stand to Serve

In my last blog I mentioned that in 2012, the Lord took me off the beaten path into a season of care giving for my parents and special needs sister. I would be lying to you if I told you that my heart and attitude were always right. My patience was often severely tested, reminding me that God is more concerned about our characters than our callings. Although I didn’t recognize it at the time, I now realize that it was His loving faithfulness that took me off the beaten path—and even into the wilderness for a season, not just to care for my family’s needs, but in order to bring me more revelations of His love and cultivate the fruits of the Spirit in my life. While my flesh often cried out, “I can’t do this! And sometimes even “Get me out of here!” My spirit cried out, “Jesus, make me more like you!”

I often felt as if I were in a tug-a-war. The reality was that I was. I wasn’t aware of the intensity of my battle until one Sunday while I was listening to a sermon about serving. The pastor talked about how during the Passover meal Jesus stood, stripped, stooped, and served. I took his words to heart.

When you and I are in challenging situations we often want to stand and run, instead of stand and serve. After hearing the sermon, I realized I needed to take a different kind of stand. When I returned to my parent’s house that afternoon I changed my prayer from release me to reveal more of your love through me. My prayer for revelation helped me to release the rope, receive peace, and gave me the grace to continue to serve.

Maybe you can relate. Have you been taken off the beaten path into a place that is difficult for you? Have you wanted to stand up and run away? If so, I would encourage you to join me and pray the following prayer:

Lord, humble me and help me to stand for you. Continue to strip me from what hinders me and empty me of myself. Gird me with Your strength and help me to serve with a willing heart.  Teach me to love by filling me with more of you! Thank you, Jesus, for doing in me what I am not capable of doing. In Jesus mighty name…Amen!

Be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” John 13:2-5 (NIV).

 

 

 

 

 

Living

Contributed by a friend who desires to remain anonymous

Have you ever had a bad day on the way to accomplishing a goal or reaching an objective? I have. Many times I have felt like quitting. Sometimes my drive has kept me going. Sometimes others have kept me going. Sometimes the goal has kept me going. Sometimes God has kept me going. Sometimes I have everyone’s luggage and can’t turn around, and sometimes there is no way out but to carry on.

Am I proud of this? No! Would I like to always carry on for the higher objective and for the glory of God? Yes! What would that look like? It would look like the difference between “living” and being alive and “dying.” When we quit, we are in death mode.

The Apostle Paul gives us an idea of what living to a higher objective looks like. In Philippians 1:20-22, Paul writes, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!”(NIV).

Wow! Paul lived for the benefit of others, and he was willing to die for the benefit of others. This was his definition for continuing, even when he was having a bad day.

Just so we do not miss the impact, what was a bad day like for Paul? In his second letter to the Corinthians he writes, “I have worked much harder [than any others], been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands” II Corinthians 11:23-33 (NIV).

We also know that Paul was bit a by poisonous snake, he worked long hours, and at various times was abandoned by nearly everyone that he was serving.

Paul has had almost everything and everyone against him and he did not quit. That is living. That is power. He pirouetted between service/sacrifice and glory. He chose service and sacrifice, understanding that glory would take care of itself.

What is your objective for “living”? Don’t be drawn along by life. Attack it and choose whom you will serve and why. Choose how you will “live.”

Have a great day…regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in.

 

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

 

 

The Wrong Shoes

Since I love God’s creation, anytime I get near the water or the woods I become like a little kid. My hike in Maryland a few years ago was no exception. I was walking along, chatting with a friend having a good old time when my childlike heart became like a homing beacon and spied a fallen log positioned a few feet off the ground. So I left the trail and climbed aboard. I wanted to accept the challenge and walk across, but after taking into consideration that I was wearing my rolled bottom toning shoes, I almost dismounted. As I took the first few steps I even stopped and said, “I probably shouldn’t be doing this in these shoes.” Then I took a few more steps again saying, “I probably shouldn’t be doing this in these shoes.” After almost losing my balance while taking a third set of steps I turned to my friend and exclaimed, “These shoes are not even! I shouldn’t be wearing them!” At that point, I should have turned around, but instead, I continued to move uphill putting one foot in front of the other until I victoriously made it to the other side.

Relishing in my accomplishment, I didn’t take into consideration that the log went up hill, and I was now 3 feet above the ground. I also didn’t think about the consequences of leaping while wearing shoes with curved soles. So when I raised my hands in victory and dismounted, my foot rolled and I crashed to the ground, landing hard on my side.

I’m not sure which initially felt worse, the searing shoulder pain, or my wounded pride. But the fall tore ligaments and dislocated my clavicle, humerus, and radius, keeping me in pain and preventing me from using my arm for almost a year. I could have avoided the suffering had I not been wearing the wrong shoes.

In Ephesians 6 Paul instructs us to put on the full armor of God so we can withstand the enemy’s attacks. Along with naming the helmet, the breastplate, the sword, the shield and the belt, he includes the feet…the shoes of peace. Albert Barnes’ notes on the Bible mentions that Roman soldier’s sandals often had nails or spikes to make them hold firm in the ground. I might have avoided the pain had I been wearing a pair of those babies!

I wish I could say my weekend fall was the only time I have forged ahead while wearing the wrong shoes, but the truth of the matter is that there have been many times in my life when instead of wearing the sure-footed shoes of peace, I have stepped out tackling challenges in shoes of self-sufficiency, pride, wrong understanding, fragmented identity, or fear. The result has always been the same—a season of pain.

So with a whole selection of wrong shoes, what are the characteristics of the right shoes—the shoes of peace?

Peace of knowing God-Hebrews 11:6 informs us that we have to have faith in order to please God. I believe that faith is equivalent to trust. Since we can’t trust someone we don’t know, spending time talking with God and reading His Word is paramount to getting to know, not only His character but His heart.

Peace of knowing my identity-Psalm 139 reveals that God knows us intimately. No child can relax in the presence of a disapproving father, but that is exactly how we will feel if we don’t understand our value. The more we understand how much God loves us and approves of us, the more we can rest in His care; even in the midst of trials and tribulations.

Peace of having a thankful heart-Philippians 4:6-8 tells us that along with prayer and petition if we present our requests to God with thanksgiving, our hearts and minds will be guarded in Christ Jesus.

Peace of getting right with God-James 4:4-10 reveals the struggle we have when we are choosing sin. The more we choose our sin, the more we will view God as our enemy. You and I cannot have peace when we are fighting God. When we know how much God loves us and has our best interest in mind we can easily surrender our battles to Him and trust in His plans for us.

Peace of reconciliation- Jesus speaks on the importance of reconciliation in Matthew 5:23-24 “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (NKJV). Unforgiveness robs us of our peace. Extending forgiveness, whether it be received or rejected, restores our peace.

The peace of the good news-Jesus is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). And He is the good news! You and I cannot be at peace and be equipped to fight spiritual battles if we are more concerned about pleasing others than we are about being faithful to God. How can we share the “good news” (gospel) if we are more concerned about our reputations than another’s salvation?

The peace of resting in God’s presence-“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV). Resting in God’s perfect love for ourselves and others empowers us and keeps our minds sound (focused on Jesus and His truth.)

When you and I shod our feet with the shoes of knowing God (through Jesus Christ), our identity, thankfulness, reconciliation with God and man, purpose, and resting in His presence, then we can confidently step forward or leap. Wearing the right shoes, even in precarious situations, will help us win battles and receive the blessings God has for us. Thank you, Lord, for such wonderful shoes!

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie Boatright

 

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.