Make Yourself Available to Him

***I posted this note tonight on the wall of a prayer group for a sweet friend of mine who is in the hospital fighting for her life.  When Kelley Johnagin is completely healed by the hand of God I fully intend to print this off and give it to her.  Throughout this horrible situation with her God has swept over her friends and family like a quiet wind.  I am honored to get to witness this magnificent event.***
 
Friends, I am going to try to keep this brief (those of you who know me personally are chuckling at this point!), but I just have something I want to share.

First, I hope it has been made abundantly clear from the inception of this prayer group for Kelley that every square inch of this has been done to provide information about her progress, to provide friends/family a “place” to come and share words of encouragement and lift up prayers, and most importantly to be obedient to God and His Word. I believe this sums it up best:

“The Bible tells us clearly that we are one spirit with the Lord. “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (1 Cor. 6:17). We also know from Romans 8:16 that the Holy Spirit is with our spirit. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” Paul even says that the Lord Jesus Himself is with our spirit. “The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit” (2 Tim. 4:22). Therefore, we have found in our experience that we need to have our spirit released so that the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit might also be released in our meetings. To us this is not something to be mocked, neither is it a doctrine that we hold. It is simply a practice we enjoy.

There are numerous references in the Psalms where the writer cries out, “O Lord!” One of these references is Psalm 130:1: “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.” We have found that to call on the name of the Lord is not only scriptural, but also quite effective in contacting the Lord.”

– from contendingforthefaith.com

I did not personally do anything extraordinary by starting this group. Any one of you could start a group on Facebook. Just a few clicks and you’re done. What HAS BECOME extraordinary about this group is that the Lord Himself has washed His love and His healing through it and Christians from far and wide are being drawn here to pray and to be encouraged. How could anyone doubt the unending powers of Christ after experiencing even a fraction of something like this? ALL GLORY and appreciation for this group should be directed right up to the one Who is in charge of it all. To use a quote from one of my dearest friends, I was merely a vessel.

This leads me to my last point and a wonderful testimony which I feel bears repeating.

Wednesday night my friend, Kelli Welborn, and I went to Kingsport to have dinner and to go to the hospital in the hopes of getting to see Kelley or at the very least to get an update. When we arrived friends and family were in the waiting area and filled us in on all of the up-to-date information.

As we were about to leave I asked the family/friends if it would be okay if we prayed for Kelley before we left. They were very sweet and agreed and almost as if it had been coordinated, everyone stood up in a circle and joined hands. Well, we just began to pray. It wasn’t anything flowery or well-rehearsed, it was just honest words and requests being lifted up to God the Father. (I would like to interject here that you must never be afraid of prayer. Just talk to God as if He was standing in the room with you and speak with Him as if you were speaking to your best friend. God just wants you to talk to Him, he doesn’t have a script which needs to be followed. Come to Him as a child would- humble and honest.) The prayer was a specific request of what we would like for God to do- healing specific parts of Kelley and calling them by name. Asking for peace and strength for her. Remember, we are instructed to CLAIM what it is that we want. We are to come BOLDLY before His throne. Don’t be scared to share with HIM the desires of your heart. He tells us to do this.

When the prayer was finished we all wiped our eyes and noses and Kelli and I began walking down the hall. We hadn’t gotten 20 feet from the waiting room when she turned around and said, “Wait, he wants us.” I looked at her with a confused face and turned around to see an older man following us down the corridor. I was a bit baffled since I didn’t hear him call out to us and I wasn’t sure how she was even aware of his presence. The gentleman came to us and said, “Ladies, what church are you from?” Kelli and I both smiled and told him that we were actually between churches right now (long story), but that we were Christians and firm believers in the power of prayer. This sweet old man looked right at us and said, “I attend a Holy Ghost-filled church. Your spirits have spoken to mine and I have a favor to ask.” The favor that our new friend Dwight asked of us that night was if we would come into the room of his elderly mother-in-law in ICU and pray for her. Kelli and I were both so overwhelmed with God’s grace in that moment that it almost felt like we needed to catch our balance. We, of course, immediately agreed and he walked us back into the room.

Inside that room was a precious, frail, old woman who had recently had a stroke. Dwight introduced us to the family in the room saying, “I saw these girls praying in the waiting room and I want them to pray for mom.” Well, friends, we did just that. We talked to sweet little Betty Ann and told her God loved her and then we prayed for her healing. I don’t even know the exact words which were spoken in that room that night because the Lord had taken over so completely.

Kelli and I said our goodbyes and walked out of that room changed women. For those of you who have truly been touched by the Holy Spirit, you will know exactly what I mean. For those of you who have not yet experienced this REAL LIFE manifestation of the Holy Spirit, just pray that you will. Because once you’ve had even a small taste of it you’ll realize that there’s nothing like it.

I say all of this to say- there is nothing special about who we are that makes us any more or less “worthy” of having such an experience with the Holy Spirit. It is, in fact, GOD IN US which makes us worthy to be in His presence as we were that night. Christians, make yourself available to Him. He will use you, and it’s like nothing that you’ve ever experienced- otherworldly, really. You must let the Lord know that you are willing and able. I encourage each of us to do this everyday and to see what a firestorm of spiritual revival would sweep this country- this world.

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Do Ya Think Beth Moore Ever Accidentally Says $#!+?

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a dream.  Some little girls dream of becoming a ballerina.  Some dream of becoming an actress or model.  All I’ve ever wanted to do was to become a wife, a mother…. oh, and I’ve always wanted to write a book.  I tossed the idea around in my head for most of my childhood and youth, but never really thought that it would amount to a life-long ambition as it has.

Writing poetry used to be a way for me to vent feelings and frustrations.  In college my “creative writing” class just further perpetuated my burning desire to write.  Then after several years of continuing to sit on the idea out of fear, basically, I’ve decided that it’s time to give this a serious look.

I’ve been blogging for some time and hoping to grow my library of reference material from which to draw.  Deciding that you’d like to write is one thing, but deciding WHAT to write is a whole different story (no pun intended).  Looking back on the majority of my writings it’s obvious that I most like to write about real-life happenings.  Generally, these are my personal real-life happenings.  In my 39 (almost 40) years of life Lord knows I’ve gained enough experience and trudged through enough mud to have an unending supply of stories from which I could share.

I’ve let my mind drift with the thought of authoring a book and even tossed around some subjects and book titles.  For those of you who know me, I am a big believer in CLAIMING God’s promises to us.  I believe we should tell God very specifically what the desires of our heart are and not be fearful or ashamed.  He has made us these wonderful creatures in His image and as our Father, wants us to live our lives to the fullest in His glory.  So, during one of my claiming sessions with Him, I started to imagine what my future in literature might look like.  (Dream with me for a moment, if you will) Would what I have to say that would appeal to the general public?  What makes me any more worthy to write a book than any other 40-year-old housewife and mother?  My only answer to that would be that I feel His hand pushing me in that direction and I feel lead into obedience. 

Okay, so we’ve got the desire (we’ve claimed it out loud), we have some ideas on subject and book titles, we even have a modest stock pile of stories already written.  Here is my next thought- how in the WORLD would you market someone like me?  My initial thought is that I’d have to be a “Christian” writer… right?  God is the very essence of why I’m here and why I want to write, but there’s NO WAY I’m righteous enough for that!  I’m human and I’m flawed.  Sometimes my mouth speaks before I’ve had a chance to properly filter.  This is something I’m working on inwardly, but is still nonetheless a part of who I am- at least right now. 

See, when I think of current-day, female Christian authors the first name to immediately pop into my head is (I know you’re thinkin’ it…) Beth Moore.  I LOVE that woman!  I’ve been to see Beth on several occasions at various seminars and participated in many of her simulcast and taped Bible studies.  I hold her in such high esteem.  This woman knows the Word of God.  I mean, she’s ON IT!  Scriptures and their references just flow off of her tongue like honey.  She’s relatable and approachable.  Beth has the most wonderful stories of everyday God experiences that will bring tears to your eyes.  I’ve often said that I’d just like to go and hang with Beth or have coffee with her one day.  She seems like the type of woman you’d want in your inner circle.  (If you’ve attended her Bible study classes then you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about!)

I could never even E-VER (said out loud with 2 very drawn-out syllables) think of myself having a book that would be in the same SECTION as hers in a bookstore, much less sharing the same genre.  I’m about to tell you why.  Beth, I view as a holy woman.  I, on the other hand, would  have to be promoted as the “Christian” writer who sometimes accidentally says $#!+.  Do ya’ think Beth Moore ever accidentally says $#!+?!  I just don’t know.  I have difficulty imagining that Beth Moore could ever do anything so blatantly human.  Surely, sweet little Beth with her perfectly coiffed hair and immaculately put-together wardrobe would not be capable of uttering such ugliness.  But man, I do.  It’s not anything that I’m trying to boast about, it’s actually quite embarrassing.  I’m hoping you’ll understand that in my humanness I’ve been concerned that I wouldn’t be able to live up to what a proper Christian should be (author or not).  Then a lovely thing occurred to me…

It is specifically because of my humanness that the Lord came to this earth and gave His life for me.  In turn, it is my acceptance of Him which makes me worthy to receive the blessings He has in store for my life- my life with ALL of its flaws and weaknesses.  Although my journey here is a daily quest for righteousness, He knows my heart and He knows my intentions.  He, after all, is the Maker of this unholy-yet-through-Him-now-holy being. 

This being said, I don’t know if you’ll ever walk into a bookstore and find my book on a shelf.  I may have to be content with blogging and journaling my experiences for your and my private viewing.  I can tell you, however, that as long as I feel called by Him to write I will do so and will trust that He will lead me in whatever direction it is to take.  And friends,  if I’m ever fortunate enough to get to sit down for coffee with Beth Moore in some quaint little shop in some quaint little town- don’t you think for a second that I won’t ask her if she ever accidentally says $#!+.  Boy, will I have something to write about then!

The Purse Paradox

It is said that the eyes are the window to the soul.  If this holds true, I’m going to declare then that the purse must be the gateway to the psyche. 

I was noticing today that my house is fairly in order.  I’ve been working diligently toward having everything in its place to create an efficient, relaxing environment for my family.  My purse?… well, that’s another story.  On any given day if you were to need to find something in my bag, it would involve removing pages and pages of unnecessary papers- menus which my children have drawn upon and asked me to keep, a substitute teacher’s guide from the Rogersville City School, and countless receipts from various fast food places and the almighty Wal-Mart.  Today I simply needed to find my key.  This turned into a reconnaissance mission for which I was not at all prepared.

After wading through layers upon layers of papers, I then reached the “cosmetics” level.  This level is particularly confusing to me since I have an actual cosmetics bag designated for holding all articles of makeup in my purse.  I can only imagine that this cosmetics purgatory was created during those times of attempting to apply mascara/eye liner/lipstick in the rearview mirror while driving and then needing to quickly rid myself of all evidence of irresponsible driving and irresponsible time management.  I found several mascaras which I didn’t even know that I had and an uncapped, black eyeliner.  THAT’S always fun.  Nothing like eyeliner marks, or better yet eye shadow powder, staining the bottom of your purse.

When I finally made it to the bottom of my purse, or as I like to call it “ground zero”,  I had to fumble around blindly through plastic toys (thanks, kids), gum wrappers, coins of all denominations, some personal female items, and the most shocking of all- several packets of Chik-fil-A Polynesian sauce.  Amidst all of the chaos and confusion I found my key.  Thank the Lord!  Now I can use that key to get into my van- the same van, which in all honesty, is really just a bigger version of my purse.  It contains just as much unnecessary clutter as I’ve mentioned above.

So, in closing dear friends, aside from realizing that my purse and van both need a thorough cleaning, I’m realizing that my purse really is a reflection of who I am as a woman.  I’m a bit scattered and a bit disorganized, but I have all of the things important to me represented.  I could pull out each of those items and tell you a story attached to each one.  My family, my work, my friendships… it’s all right there in papers and notes and leftover items from dinners with friends.

In closing, I’d like to say that I sincerely believe that a clean home leads to a harmonious home.  Less stress equals fewer problems- at least I like to think this way.  So, I invite any of you at any time to come to my home.  You will hopefully find it somewhat organized and restful. My purse?… well, I have a feeling that will always remain a different story.

My Really Bad Day

I woke up today thinking it would be just another typical Tuesday.  Think again.  I am a person who has funny and interesting things happen to me on occasion, but I had no idea just what this crazy day would have in store for me.  I was scheduled to substitute for a wonderful 2nd grade teacher today, but in all honesty would have loved to have stayed snuggled down deep in my bed on this frigidly cold day.  Snow was sprinkling just a bit and I was secretly praying that school would be called off.  Why not?  Just add it to the 259 days we’ve already missed for snow this year (slight exaggeration, but you get the point).

The alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. and the day began.  No announcement of school closing, so I fall into my morning routine of getting myself and my two children ready for school.  As a mother who does not work everyday it has taken me a little time to develop the most efficient routine for getting us all ready and out of the door on time.  Kudos to you moms who do this every weekday.  I’m  impressed!

I load up the kids, pick up my lovely nieces, and head into the school.  I have 8 minutes to spare.  This is wonderful!  As I’m herding my tiny masses into the school…it hits me.  Today is the day I’m on the schedule to provide snacks for my son’s preschool class.  Oh, great.  Now what does this mean exactly, I’m wondering?  Are 19 tiny cherub-faced little tornados going to have to do without snack today because I’m all discombobulated since school was out on Monday for a holiday?  Are these children going to be starving because I’m a day behind in my thinking?  I’m panic-stricken.  Problem number one.  I convince myself that there is no way the entire snack-having responsibility of the world would fall upon my forgetful shoulders that morning and I chose to move on.  I have a classroom full of 16 2nd graders waiting for me.

I make my way to the classroom and proceed to spend 7 hours with the sweetest and loudest group of kids you’ve ever met.  One little boy who brough “Mrs. Silvers” a Valentine’s Day gift (chocolates, yum!) and another little cutie who thought it would be a good idea to swipe his white sleeve across the dry-erase board to rid it of evidence from our morning math lesson.  To this child’s mother- my sincerest apologies.  I did go to the trouble of searching for and finding a Spray and Wash stick and helping the child at the sink, but there’s only so much you can do in a classroom, you know?

By the end of my fun but stressful day, I have developed a slight headache.  I’m sure this is nothing that drinking my entire body weight in Diet Coke can’t fix, but I’m certain that all Diet Coke is gone from my house.  (This would be attributed to my drinking my entire body weight in Diet Coke the night before.)  My dear friend Kelli’s two girls have asked if I would let them ride home with me.  No problem.  Kelli lives just across the street from me and we practically live at one another’s homes as it is.  She and I have the sort of relationship where we literally just walk into each other’s homes without fear of being shot dead or slapped with a restraining order.  It’s nice.  🙂

So, in my van- with my pounding headache- I have my two children (ages 5 and 6), my nieces (ages 8 and 11), and Kelli’s girls (ages  and 7).  As you can imagine this was not a quiet ride home.  I heard lots of talk of “buttocks” (my child’s new favorite word) and laughing.  When we arrived back at my house the children leapt from the car and proceeded to play the loudest game of tag that you’ve ever heard.  They should make this particular game on this particular day an Olympic event.  They were truly the best of the best and the loudest of the loud. 

I had just gotten onto my computer and tried to compose some funny status- something like the noise level in my home being a combination of an indian massacre, a rock concert, and a group of howler monkeys during mating season- when my sweet friend Kelli comes walking in.  She has been forewarned of my headache and the gaggle of children in my home and she enters the living room, coffee in hand for each of us.  Good friend.

We catch up on the day’s events and both whine a bit that today hasn’t been our best day ever.  Kids are running through the room and we are gently yet firmly “shoo-ing” them into other parts of the house.  My headache is still throbbing, the coffee is helping, and I’m freezing.  I live in an old house and the front room stays cold in winter time.  I definitely need to focus some attention to better insulating the doors and windows, but for now I just fuss when it’s too cold.  I decided to stand up to get in front of my gas logs in the fireplace.  Those logs are amazing and can warm the room in about 2 minutes.  I try not to focus on the fact that I’m sure the warm air is being sucked right out the gaping spaces in my front door.  I start feeling much more comfortable after just a few seconds in front of the fireplace and I start making my way around the leather ottoman.

It is at this precise moment that I say to Kelli, “What is that SMELL?”  It is then at THAT precise moment that her sweet daughter Grace says, “Miss Amanda, you’re on fire!”  I WAS!!!!  My lovely, flowy denim skirt I had worn to look professional and “teachery” today at school had bumped up against the flames and I was now lit.

By this time all four children have come into the room to check out the commotion and I’m trying my best to remain calm.  “Help me, Kelli” I’m repeating over and over in the calmest voice I could muster.  She and I rush to the front door, I suppose to give everyone on Main Street a clearer view of my burning rear, and proceed to attempt to unzip my zipper.  In the panic this was not such an easy task so we end up jerking my skirt to the floor and proceed to stomp it as if we’re performing a Mexican hat dance.  Little embers were lighting up all over my rug and we’re jumping from place to place putting it out- putting out the skirt, putting out the rug, putting out the embers.  I didn’t even have time to be embarrassed that I am now standing skirtless in front of Kelli and four wide-eyed children.  In an instant, once we realized no one was injured, Kelli and I began to laugh so hard that tears were streaming down our faces.  I’m sure our children thought that we had finally snapped and were ready for shock therapy.

We, of course, had to immediately fall upon one another and crack up.  I thanked her for saving my life and we joked about my Michael Jackson-esque experience.  After we collected ourselves I threw my denim skirt in the trash can and we took our kids to eat supper.  I thought my day had started badly…. I had NO idea!

So, the next time you’re thinking about what an awful day you’re having, I would encourage you to ask yourself just one thing- did you set yourself on fire today?  Cause if not, stop your belly aching !!!!  This lesson applies to me as well!  🙂

I’ll Watch the Snow With You

My mom and I had a discussion about my father today.  

For those of you who do not know, my father has a condition called “corticobasal degeneration”.  It is, in a nutshell, similar to Alzheimer’s and is every bit as cruel and heartbreaking.  It is neurological and irreversible.  Two words I have grown to hate in the last year.  

We began to notice that something was not right with my father about 3 years ago when he began walking almost as if in slow motion and would stand with his arms drawn up into his sides.  As time progressed, we noticed that he was having trouble remembering little things.  Fast forward to the present… 

Today my father doesn’t always know who we are.  He is confused much of the time and the most painful part for us as his family is the feeling of complete and utter helplessness just having to sit by and watch this happen to someone you so dearly love.  My father is not in any sort of physical pain and for that I will be eternally thankful.  He is, unfortunately, keenly aware that something is not right with him and I know it frightens him.  

Some days dad doesn’t know where he lives and some days he can’t recognize who we are.  The first day I witnessed this happen at his house was just a few months ago.  My dad couldn’t name one of Jessica’s children and in that tiny instant I felt like the whole world fell apart.  We try as hard as we can not to let him see us cry, although it isn’t always possible.  I can’t speak for Jessica or my mom, but I try to save my sadness for the privacy of my car or my home.  We want dad to know that we are all okay and that we are always going to be here for him.  We’ve told him this many, many times.  I’ve often thought about how terrifying it must be to have your memory slowly leave you.  Years and years of family trips, experiences, life- just trickle out little by little.  I can’t really let myself think about it for too long because the feelings are just too overwhelming. 

My mom told me today that she saw my dad standing in the hallway looking through the glass pane of their front door.  She said that he turned and looked up the stairs and shouted out, “Amanda, come down here!  Look, it’s snowing!”  My mom said, “I’m sure he thought you were a little girl and still lived at home with us.”  I don’t know where my dad was at that moment in his own mind, but I want to make a promise to him.  This is the best way I know to express it: 

 
 

I’ll watch the snow with you, dad 

No matter where you are. 

I know sometimes inside your mind 

It feels you’ve traveled far. 

I’ll watch the snow with you, dad 

However you see me- 

A woman grown with children now 

Or pig-tailed girl of three. 

I’ll watch the snow with you, dad 

And if you forget my name, 

Please don’t feel sad or think I’m mad 

I love you just the same. 

I’ll watch the snow with you, dad 

Wherever you may be. 

I’ll watch the snow with you, dad 

I’m just glad you’re here with me. 

  

Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing, Baby

I’ve been hearing for weeks about a must-see movie called, “The Lovely Bones”.  I remember seeing a preview for it and immediately thinking that this would be something I would have to check out for myself.  The story line is pretty dark, the murder of a child, but the entire story is told through her eyes, in her 14-year-old narrative voice.  I found that to be a very interesting concept. 

Then, as you will hear about many movies, I was told that the book is much better.  Lucky for me my dear friend Kelli, whose library always seems to consist of a section of “Top Ten MUST Reads”, just happened to have this very book on her shelf.  I saw it one afternoon and asked if she would mind if I read it.  Kelli is also my friend who introduced me to “The Shack”- an amazing book with a twist on God like you’ve never quite imagined.  Both of these books are based upon horrific events which happen to young children and strive to shine light and beauty on these unimaginable tragedies. 

After ripping through this book in a matter of days, I noticed many similarities between the two books.  Both discuss an incident that as a parent is difficult to even wrap your mind around.  Both take their readers on a journey into a Heaven-like realm and describe it in ways you may have never thought.  I’ve often times thought I hope “The Shack” is made into a movie (and I hear that it is) because I just want to see on the big screen if they can even remotely compare to the beautiful and fantastical images your mind paints as you read it.

While I may not agree 100% with the author’s interpretation of Heaven, how we get there, and what it will be like, I do appreciate that these books forced my brain to conjure up images of what will undoubtedly be the most glorious place.  Too glorious, in fact for us to even be able to comprehend an ounce of its true beauty.

So, I saw the movie tonight with my mom, “The Lovely Bones.”  I was quite impressed that they did such a good job of accurately portraying many aspects of the book.  There were, however, certain key elements (in my humble opinion) which were either altered or left out entirely for the sake of the movie.  Anytime something like this happens, I feel a mild disappointment.  I do realize that a director, editor, and production crew must do what is best for the movie and must keep the story line rolling.  All of this must happen within a certain windowed timeframe to keep our interest.  (Unless of course we’re talking about “Titanic”.  I know that was a 4-hour movie, but I would have watched it if it had lasted for 9.  I LOVED that movie.  I went on such an emotional journey with that picture that I literally had to wait until the movie theater had completely emptied before I would even dare to get up out of my seat.  I was a crying, mascara-smeared, hyperventilating, snotty mess.)

Although I liked the movie it didn’t provide the full impact that I received from the book.  I can think of about 5 other books right off the top of my head which I could say the same about in regard to their movie counterpart.  Nine times out of ten the book is probably going to be better.  I personally believe that this is because when we read, we are forced to create our own images and our own interpretation of the story.

Perfect example: I read the “Twilight” series which all of my friends were RAVING about.  My mom was not happy about this at all.  I suppose Carolynn was fearful that I would want to become a vampire or perhaps would be inclined after reading this to join a vampire cult of sorts.  Anyway, while reading the book (especially the first of the series, “Twilight”) you are continuously told about the unearthly beauty of the main character, Edward.  The author goes to great lengths to describe every tiniest detail from his piercing amber-colored eyes to his Michelangelo-esque sculptured abs.  Edward was supposed to be the most unbelievably attractive man (vampire) to have ever walked the face of the earth.  Oh, wow, the Edward I had in my head was traffic-stoppingly gorgeous.  It would literally make you swoon just read his name on a page.  Then reality hits and the movie comes out.  The first preview that I saw made me want to throw my shoe through the screen!  I don’t know who was in charge of casting, but THAT Edward was MOST DEFINITELY NOT MY EDWARD!!!!  Don’t get me wrong, he is an okay looking enough actor, but unearthly beautiful…. not so much.  After all the build up the author had given us it would have been virtually impossible for any actor to even come close to Edward’s fictional level of perfection.  I had that first image from the booked burned into my mind.  Nothing else short of that could have even come close.  Although the big-screen Edward will do, (to quote a familiar song) it ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.  I regret so much that each of you couldn’t spend even just a few brief moments inside of my mind so that you too could see Edward the way I saw him!  Okay, moving on…

After watching both of these movies and gathering my thoughts about them I began to wonder about something.  You may not agree with me and that’s just fine.  One of the reasons I most enjoy to write is to hear the response and opinions of others.  It will never hurt my feelings if you disagree with me, that’s the beauty of us all being individuals.  It makes the world a more interesting place.  My question based upon my movie-verses-book experience is this… wonder if God has a similar reaction to us when we think we have a grasp on Him, His power, or our life hereafter?  Wonder if all of the nights we’ve sat up as children or as adults and imagined what His plan is and what His Heaven will be like, do you think He’s sitting there thinking, “It ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby”?

I am confident that God’s plan, His purpose, and his hereafter are more breathtaking and awe-inspiring that we can even start to process.  When I see pictures and colors and feel emotions about heavenly places like I did tonight it makes me yearn deep in my soul to be there with Him and see the true wonderment of it all.  How awesome that all of our wildest dreams are merely a fraction of what the WHOLE of eternal life with Him will be like. 

I can’t wait to be there one day, free from the pains and sadness of this world.  Don’t get me wrong- I’m not wanting to go today.  I want to see my children grow old and have happy lives and I want to be here to serve out the entirety of my purpose in this world.  I will wait with anticipation and growing excitement about seeing the face of my God, perhaps somewhere in a beautiful meadow underneath a wide-spread, fragrant tree.  In my perfect Heaven all of those I love will be there and we will all be joyfully praising His name through eternity.  And you know what the real beauty is for me in all of that?… it’s that even as wonderful as I’ve imagined all of that to be, I know it’s going to be even better.  I know that my vision of heaven is only a fragment… it ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby!

When Church Hurts

During my 40-year layover on this planet I have realized that life is like an onslaught of waves crashing upon the beach with varying degrees of intensity.  Some of those waves are violent and crushing while others glide listlessly up to the shore and give the sands a gentle kiss.  We’ve all experienced pain which we thought to be unbearable (and yet, here we are) and we’ve all been transported to that heavenly place of sheer bliss.  In my lifetime I’ve had my heart-broken and been a heart breaker.  I’ve been lied to, cheated on, and betrayed.  My hands are not clean of dishing out pain, either.  Sad, but honest.

As you grow up you quickly learn that some people at some point will inevitably let you down.  It may be a friend.  It may be a parent or a mentor.  It may be a lover or a spouse.  We come to expect that people are fallible and the disappointment which comes with that revelation is expected and accepted.  Please do not think that I intend this to be a blanket statement.  I am not at all implying that everyone will let us down, simply that we’ve all tasted that pain of betrayal, rejection, and disappointment.  It happens, it hurts, and you move on.

What happens, though, when the entity which has hurt you is neither a friend, a parent, a mentor, a lover or a spouse?  What if the cause of your hurt is your church?  What then?  Isn’t church the place you are supposed to come to for a spiritual respite?  A place of forgiveness and love and acceptance and encouragement, right?  Isn’t that what Christ instructed? 

I Thessalonians 5:14  “And we urge you brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”

I Peter 1:22 “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.”

Unfortunately, this is not always the case.  My father was on staff of a church in AR for 11 years.  As a “staff kid” I had the misfortune of tasting my first dose of such a disappointment when my father was “released” abruptly after the resignation of our senior pastor.  I was 17 years old at the time.  This church was literally my whole life.  I had been in this church from the age of 4.  My sister and I had participated in virtually every mission trip, evangelism outreach for children and youth, Sunday School class, choir, drama team, church camp to New Life Ranch, music camp, and program which was available to children our ages.  We had lifelong friendships which were established in that church.  We lived and socialized with these people.  This was OUR church.  Ours.  We loved it.  Then as quick as a wink it was all taken away.  I didn’t fully understand then as I do now, but situations such as this make it virtually impossible for the people being “rejected” to stay on as a member.  How do you remain in a place which seems to have turned its back on you?  How can you?

The pain of this incident stuck with me for years.  Our family bounced around to several different churches, but never again found that “home” which we had cultivated and nurtured in our time at that church.  Nothing compared.  When an event such as this happens to us, we have two choices- we can either turn our backs on God and say, “How could YOU allow this to happen?” and become bitter and resentful; or we can pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and keep marching straight ahead.  It was not easy by any means, but my family chose to do the latter.

I went through it personally and I think it would be safe to say that we all know of people who have been let down in some way by their church or by their God (as they see it).  Whether it’s through church politics or even possibly the death of a loved one, these people will often times quit going to church out of some form of protest.  I guess they are trying to really “show God” by not going.  The sad truth is that people who allow themselves to build up this wall of anger toward God are really only hurting themselves.

Now please don’t think that I don’t understand.  Buddy, I do.  There were many times I’ve called out to God in anger.  I’ve TOLD Him that I’m angry.  I don’t think He minds when we do this.  If God is our Heavenly Father, then just as we might with our earthly father, we may experience a few bumps in our relationship.  I talk to God just as if He was in the room with me and I talk to Him honestly about my feelings.  My prayers to Him are never long, flowery, poetic proses.  They are conversations with my Father, expressed in much the same way I would with all of you.  I think God wants us to be honest with Him about our feelings, our hopes, our desires, our fears, and our disappointments. 

It would be easy to allow ourselves to wallow in some degree of self-pity.  Poor us, so-and-so has done us so wrong.  Or on an even tougher note, how could a loving God allow THIS to happen?  Well, friend, let me tell you- I ask God this everyday about my own father.  How could God allow THIS to happen?  Why would such a horrible illness happen to such a wonderful man?  So friend, I get it.  Painfully, firsthand, I get it.  But, here is the difference-

I have learned that when we are angry, disappointed, and hurting we immediately begin to look for somewhere to point a finger.  We have to blame someone or something for this horrible feeling in the pit of our stomach… why not let it be God?  I can only speak for myself when I answer this, but this is my answer- we can not react that way because people are fallible.  God is not.  It is not God who lets us down.  It is not God who causes our pain.  Why then would we punish Him for something He did not do?

If it is “your chuch” which has let you down you must remember that it is not your God Who has done so.  The people in your church are only human.  Sinful, imperfect humans…  fallible.  Just as we all are.  People are going to let us down.  Remember as I said earlier, it is expected and accepted.  We must not give Satan the upper hand by taking an already-painful situation and making it worse by turning away from the Lord.  This is the time we must draw even closer to Him for support.  He is mighty and He will provide.

I am probably writing this tonight for myself more so than any other reason.  Similar circumstances in my current town have brought back a barrage of memories and feelings.  Two little girls whom I love oh so dearly may be experiencing the same hurt and confusion that I felt those 22 years ago.  If they were to ask me what to do I would tell them this- I am committing to myself and to anyone who is listening that no matter how bad circumstances may get in life, I will not walk away from Him.  The Lord is the one constant I know I can always count on without fail.  He is infallible.  God will never hurt us.  Circumstances and people will.  He loves us eternally.  I will repay that love with undying loyalty.  It’s the very least I can do for Him.  That was what pulled us through all those years ago and that is what will pull you through today.

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