Rescue

As a child, I felt isolated and alone.  To me, there were no visible signs of hope – no one to rescue me from my situation and my distress.  It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized I was never alone – not really.  I was just blind to my help.  And my natural state and free will (which, as a child, I wasn’t even aware of) kept me separated from my one source of hope.  Who was there to open my eyes so I could see?  Who was sent to help me?  Who came forward with a message of hope?  Hidden away in the deep woods of Appalachia, there weren’t many who could come or would be able to find me.

“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?
And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
And how are they to preach unless they are sent?
As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!””
Romans 10:15 ESV

There were arguments between my parents that brought up the name, Jesus.  By my father’s attempt to drive Jesus out of my mother’s life, he introduced Jesus to mine.  And every year, like clock work, my great grandmother would send me a birthday card with a track.  “What is this?” I remember asking my mother.  It was another introduction, and my eyes were slowly opening to the presence of another – unseen – the one who could truly save me. The one who could save me not just from my situation but also walk me through the healing of the scars I would carry.  The one who would save me from a life of shame and give me a life of blessing and purpose.  The one who would show me grace and teach me to love as He loves. 

He was always there even in my darkest days.  And because of His great love for me, He sent messages to me through people and highlighted the work of His great hands in the world around me so that I could find Him.  What messages is He sending you?  Do you hear?  Can you see?

His great army fights all around us, in the heavenly realms, to save us.  And He uses people – those who love us and sometimes even those who don’t – to reach out to us.  

He hears our cries to Him!  Do you need rescued?  Cry out to the only One that saves.  He is waiting for you with open arms.

Precious

There have been many dark days in my life.  I understand the pain of betrayal.  I have lived where no child should have to live without some basic needs.  I know the fear of being on the wrong end of a gun.  I have been verbally, emotionally and physically beaten down.  

Yet, I now know I was never alone.  I could have been brought to an utter end but was not.  And this was before I knew Jesus.  Now that I know Him, He shows me his love for me over and over again.  And I have a new perspective looking back on those dark days.  Jesus has proven Himself faithful to me over and over again.  He has blessed my life.  Each day, He helps me to move closer to wholeness through Him.  There are no words to express my love and gratitude to Jesus for the peace and hope He has lavished on me.  

Why would He do this for me?  Because He loves me, and I am His.  I am precious in His eyes.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you”        

Isaiah 43:1-4 ESV

Say No to Fear

God does not call us to live in fear.  As a dear friend of mine said, “fear is not from God.”  God frees us.  Fear enslaves us.  I have been a slave to fear all of my life.  That fear has deprived me of relationships with family, friends, opportunities, hopes and dreams.  No more!  My chains are breaking free.

God made me a warrior.  God has proven to me over and over again that He is there for me – no matter how rough the road gets.

Is fear holding you captive?  Reach out to Jesus.  Share your fears with Him and ask Him to help you let go.  It me be a long journey, but the destination is worth taking those first steps.

“fear not, for I am with you;

be not dismayed, for I am your God; 

I will strengthen you, I will help you, 

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10 ESV

Faithful Love

“Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found…”

Have you ever runaway or hidden from someone just to see if they would follow or search for you? It reminds me of the childhood game we would play at recess. We would run and others would try to catch us. I remember screaming in fear of being caught; and yet, there was also the sense of pleasure in the fact that someone would want to catch me.

As a teenager angry with God, I didn’t want caught. I just wanted to curl up somewhere and fade out of existence – to be no more. I was convinced being nothing was the only way I would be able to stop the pain. (Thankfully, I was wrong about that.) I also thought
I could distance myself from God. But He never stopped trying to reach me. Frequently, He would use people to try to speak love and truth to me. Some of their words made a mark on me. Yet, I kept pushing them away. Additionally, He would use songs to connect with me. He still does this as with the song Reckless Love that I have been discussing in my last few articles. The thing I really want to highlight is He never gave up on me. No matter what I did, how many times I pushed away, ran away, shut myself down – He kept pursuing me, chasing me.

He did fight to get my attention, to get me to listen, and to get me to see His love for me. And He didn’t just do this so I could know Him or believe in Him. He loves me so much that He wants me to be whole and healthy. He wants me to know the joy of being in a relationship with Him. He wants me to experience joy in the life He has given me. He was desperate to pull me out of my deep despair and into his loving, healing embrace. Only, this could not happen until I accepted His help. I am so grateful that He fought so hard for me (for over thirty years). I am grateful for his unfailing, faithful love.

Unconditional Love

“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.”

We have all heard the phrase “unconditional love.” Have you ever experienced it, or does it feel more like something from a fairytale? From a personal perspective, I believe my closest experience of receiving unconditional love would have been from my childhood dog. He loved me no matter what and was always over-the-moon happy to see me. Some of my cats got close; however, cats always seem to have a personal agenda. Things have to be their way. People are more on this line – tending to be more self-centered. And people are easily hurt or offended and will hold on to grudges for a life-time. And being a person, I frequently do things that offend or hurt others. Sometimes I even do them on purpose but mostly unintentionally.

God, on the other hand, looks passed all of this. He knows we are broken and messed up, and He loves us anyway. And here is the reckless part, He even loves us when we hate Him.

“When I was your foe, still your love fought for me.”

Even though I had hatred towards God – being angry with Him for the pain in my life, He did not abandon me. He walked the painful road with me; and when the time was right, He rescued me. And even while I knew He was my rescuer, still I harbored anger against Him. And He never left my side. No one else has ever loved me like this – or could. I am forever grateful to my loving Lord and Savior.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued my faithfulness to you.” Jeremiah 31:3

Reckless Love

Reckless Love, the song by Cory Asbury, is so impactful to me. It is the spiritual equivalent, for me, of the song Killing Me Softly by Roberta Flack. What?!? If you were around in the 70s you will recognize the song (though I believe there has been a recent remake). Really it is just the phrase “Singing my life with his words” nothing else really relates other than the feeling of my deepest, inner being being exposed to the world.  But I have digressed way too far here. This is not the song I want to share with you. Let’s switch back to Reckless Love.

Reckless Love basically sums up my entire testimony – that is, how God saved me and gave me a new life. The reminders in the words renew my gratitude and give me hope for the days ahead as I rest in His promises that He has already fulfilled. “The Lord is my refuge and my fortress.” Psalm 91:2.

I hope you take a moment to read through the words and listen to the song. Maybe you will find your story there as well. Or maybe you will see hope that this could be your story someday. If you want that hope, just ask Him. After all, it is true that “those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:10.

“Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me
You have been so, so good to me
Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so kind to me

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me
You have been so, so kind to me

And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
And I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
And I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah”

There is so much here that this brief article would turn into more of a book.  So, for today, I will leave you with the song.  Later, I will post again with a deeper dive into my take on these powerful words.

 

 

The Most Important Lesson

Through all of my lessons from life, the most important is that I can always trust my Lord and Savior. People will always eventually let you down and break your heart.  But my God will always be there.  And I can trust Him to comfort me when no one else will or can.  And because He is trustworthy, I can continue to love others fully – even knowing that someday there will be tears.

Memory Lane

Headed down memory lane earlier today when my husband showed me a non-profit video of a family struggling to live in the Appalachian hills. When I first heard the video describing the setting, my mind went straight to picturing a third world country. Instead, there were the familiar hills and shortly after the heavy drawl of the young man they were interviewing. There home wasn’t much different than a suburban tool shed. It did lack the vinyl siding and framed windows that frequent sheds these days. They also had no bathroom and visited a neighboring friend when one was needed. Their home was located next to the burnt remains of their mobile home.

It seemed quite unbelievable that anyone in the United States could live in such a situation. But I know first hand that it is true. I remember the days of envying my neighbors who had a trailer with electric and running water. To me they were rich and surrounded by comforts until I spent the night and the rat crawled out from under the stove. We may have been quite literally dirt poor, but we did the best we could to keep out the vermin.

Our kitchen was an aluminum shed with a large wood burning pink cast iron stove. That stove was amazing and had a reservoir to keep water warm whenever there was wood burning. Our “bedrooms” (we basically had a corner) were in a mid-size army tent along with a table and a pot belly cool stove. The walls of the tent were boarded up and covered with insulation to keep it warm in the winter. A piece of asbestos covered by roofing tin protected the insulation from the heat of the stove. And a portion of the tent roof had been cut away and replaced with tin roofing so that the stove pipe could exit the tent without causing a fire.

There was no bathroom. We did have an outhouse which my parents had built and dug the hole under. That was a lot of work, but I was grateful to no longer need to traipse out into the woods. We had a small tin tub we use as a bathtub. When the weather was nice, we could bath outside. In the winter, we set it up in the tent next to the stove. I’m not sure how often we actually bathed. It took a long time for the big pan of water to heat on the stove, and it was difficult for my mom to lift it down and carry it to the tub. Dad always washed first, then mom, and then me. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water” was unfortunately too relatable of a phrase.

So how do people end up living in these situations? For my family, my dad was insane. For other’s it was family land and life was hard. They did the best they could but struggled to just live let alone make things better. Some were veterans hiding in solitude mentally ravaged by a foreign war. Other people were from a line of family members who learned to get by on disability. I just remember it being a hard place with little hope. The men could either work really hard for not much or make a career of alcohol. The women were lucky to find a man that didn’t beat them. For me, my hope was to escape. And my plan was to do the best I could at school so that I could support myself and get far away from there.

Last Father’s Day

Sunday was Father’s Day. My own husband was proudly wearing his “Rad Dad” t-shirt with a big cheesy grin. At church, there were many smiles and well wishes. Daughters and sons greeting their father’s with loving hugs, and little tikes running about with “I love my Daddy” shirts. At the end of the service, the last note from the worship band faded away, and a video began to say…

“Who…

Read you a good night story.
Taught you to ride your first bike.
Helped you with your scrapped knee.
Always invited your friends to your house.
Chased away the monster under your bed.
…”

To be honest, I can’t quite remember all the things the video listed that dads should do. An account of cherished memories that some people take for granted. My heart was breaking inside of me so I quietly left the room to find a solitary place to work through my tears. A lady stumbled upon me, saw my tears, and knowingly whispered with a nod, “I lost my own father 13 years ago.” I just nodded back with a smile. How do you explain to someone that your tears are not because your dad died but because your dad was the monster under the bed? And yet, she sort of understood my emotions as I truly was filled with grief. Filled with a grief not from the loss of a parent but from the loss of something that would never be. Grief of the absence of the memories so beautifully depicted in the video. Grief over what our relationship should have been.

Some may say that I should be over this by now, but grief is unpredictable. Ask anyone who has lost a spouse or a parent. After they are gone, you are never quite the same, and so many things can trigger your grief. It is the same for me. Some days the grief sweeps in unexpectedly and sometimes powerfully.

But I compose myself and remember the step-father with whom God blessed me. The first years were rocky as he knew nothing of kids and I was an angry and depressed high schooler. As I grew older, I began to appreciate all he did to provide first for me and my mom and later my own family. And he bestowed with me with wisdom to help me live wiser. I am thankful to have him in my life. And my daughter is blessed with sweet memories, similar to the video, made with her Pappy.

Even better is my Holy Father who has walked with me down some really dark roads. And He has filled me with His Holy Spirit to protect me spiritually and to continue teaching me better ways to live. Wisdom that will help keep me from walking back down those same, old roads that only lead to destruction. He is my joy and my love. And when my journey here is over, there will be no more grief, no more lost memories, and we will meet in His beautiful, heavenly realm.

The Little Things

My hope over these past months of writing is that those who read will be able to see all that God has done for me. He has been there for me in so many big ways: loving me when I didn’t love Him, rescuing me from hell on earth, comforting me in my struggle to find peace, teaching me to defend myself against an endless barrage of lies meant to tear me down, and even keeping me alive through threats from myself and others. Jesus has been with me through all of these big challenges. Yet, I don’t want to overlook all of the small things He has done as well.

It is easy for us, especially when we long to be strong and independent, to try to maneuver through the every day little things on our own. But we were never meant to navigate life alone. I believe I have mentioned before that I serve on my church’s worship team as a singer. This past week I unfortunately came down with labyrinthitis which is the inflammation of the inner ear. On Tuesday, just opening my eyes sent my entire world into a spin. I could not stand up straight or walk by myself. In fact, the effort of moving unsettled my stomach to the point of sickness. Saturday was the first day that I felt confident to walk on my own without holding onto someone else or a wall. What does all of this have to do with Jesus? Sunday I was scheduled to lead singing. About a third of the way through rehearsal, on Sunday morning, my energy was depleted. It was overwhelming to stand and sing, and I was struggling to get my breathe in order to support my notes. While I tried to rest to regain energy before the start of service, I prayed for God’s strength. The Holy Spirit resides in all of Jesus’ followers – and He is a spirit of strength! He did not let me down, as usual.

Our pastor has frequently been reminding us lately “that we do not have because we do not ask.” And there is more to “have” than just material things. Jesus pours on His people many blessings: love, peace, strength, endurance, wisdom, discernment, and so much more. And there is no shame in asking. He wants us to reach out to Him just as we would want our own children to reach out to us.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:7-11 ESV

Again, we are not meant to walk through life alone. Jesus can be your life line for traversing the big and little challenges of life. And learning to trust Him in the little things will help you to remember and to know His goodness and faithfulness when things get hard.