Saturday, March 11, 2017

Dear Anonymous

I may not know your name. I may not know where you live. I may not know the circumstances of your birth. I may not know if you live a life of privilege or want. I may not know what events have occurred in your life to bring you to where you are now. What I want you to know is that I care and I am not the only one who does.

You feel hopeless, don't you? Because of your choices. Like there is no use trying anymore? Like you will never be able to resist the demon that has you addicted? Those are lies straight from the pit of hell. You were created by a God who loves you and has plans for your life. As long as you are breathing, hope remains. So keep breathing. You were not meant to be a slave to addiction. I know that first time, and even the next and the next, was your choice and I know you regret it. Did you start with something you thought was harmless? Something you would be able to control? Marijuana maybe? Or perhaps a beer? It would just help you relax, forget, or so you thought. Did you find that you needed it more and more frequently? Did it lose its allure because it no longer had the effect you wanted or needed? Did you look for something more, something stronger? It was readily available, too, wasn't it? Now it has you trapped and you feel there is no way out. I want you to realize there is a way out.

Addiction, whether it be to drugs or alcohol, does not have to claim your soul and life. There is a power greater than that which enslaves you. It is found in Jesus Christ. That is your first step. Some will only need to take that one step to be set free. Others will struggle and battle for years to come, maybe a lifetime. Much of that will depend upon what the addiction is. But after taking that first step, they will never battle alone. Maybe your family had to choose to let you go because of the danger to those you love and who love you. That does not mean they have stopped hoping that you will be able to overcome. It does not mean they do not care.

I implore you to take the first step in turning to Christ. Then take the next step in seeking medical treatment. This is not going to be an easy journey. It will be the hardest journey of your entire life, but it is a journey you will not regret. It could save your soul, your life, your family. That is so worth the struggle.

Maybe you are asking yourself why I would care or write this letter to you. I care because you are worth it. YOU ARE WORTH IT! In the past two weeks two young adults who had taken that first step and turned to Christ, but who still struggled, succumbed to their addictions. They left behind grieving families and friends. Wives, children, parents, all questioning what more could they have done or what could they have done differently. I pray God will bring them peace for they did the best they could. I also pray that when they are strong enough, they will use the story of their husband/sons to reach out to others who battle addiction. There could be no greater honor to their loved ones than to possibly prevent another from meeting the same end.

One thing we as Christians must do is let those who are struggling know we are supporting them. Not by enabling them, but by praying and helping to hold them accountable. Our churches must do a better job of reaching out to the struggling, mentoring and discipling. We cannot accept the sin, but we can offer hope to the sinner. We may need to give up time we planned to spend elsewhere to just listen. Not all are qualified to counsel or become directly involved, but we can pray. We can care. We can be the link to the first step.

And to the dear anonymous who has not yet crossed that line, don't! Both the young men I mentioned would tell you, if they could, don't ever let there be a first time.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Fiery Darts And Battles

Do any of you ever feel that Murphy's Law has hit you in the face? I sure have.

Lately it seems that Satan's minions have been attacking me on all sides. You know that old sneaky rascal knows all about us. We always love to imagine our guardian angel hovering over us with fluttering wings. God does most certainly send us protection, but have you ever thought about it from the other side? You see, Satan is not omnipresent or omniscient like our God. Satan needs some help to figure us out. So his demons watch us. They learn our weaknesses, the weaknesses of our family members, our strengths, our habits, everything that may be useful to them. They even know what things we love to do in service to God,  preachers, teachers, vocalists, musicians, custodians, flower arrangers; you get the picture. For some it is all they are physically or financially able to do to make it to church each week. Satan knows. These are the things he will use to attack us. The things that mean the most to us are the things he wants to destroy, in hopes that it will destroy us too. He also knows that because we are adopted into God's kingdom, he can only go so far. He will use every bit of knowledge of us and time he has to do as much damage as possible. 

Don't think it is hopeless! Don't give up when you feel like the struggle isn't worth it, for there is a battle raging that we don't see. God thinks we are worth fighting for. In that realm that we are not privileged to see, God is at work, too. Some of the fiery darts may get through. They may find their marks, but the battle isn't over. We cannot, however, go about our lives haphazardly and expect God to do all the work. We must prepare for battle ourselves. We must pray up, read up, listen up, and step up. If God thinks we and our families are worth fighting for against the powers of darkness, shouldn't we? We have the armor needed. So raise your shields, Christians, because the battle still rages!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Spoken Words Shattered Examples

A few years ago I attended a funeral visitation for a family member of a friend. There were many people coming and going. I was standing near a young couple who weren't aware I was there. I listened as they made a caustic comment when a minister walked in. Apparently he had not arrived as soon as this couple thought he should have. No sooner were the words out of the mouth, when the speaker realized I was standing there. They quickly tried to cover the sarcasm that was in that remark.

My first reaction was a touch of anger, indignation, and I am sure my response made it clear I had caught the harshness of the remark. That minister was not their pastor, or the pastor of the deceased, or even of the family, but was a friend of the extended family. Yet he made time to be there. No one knew what responsibilities delayed him. I am not sure it would have mattered.

I have thought about that incident many times since. Although the reactions of these two individuals were not representative of the Christian lives they normally display, I find it is all too common among the body of Christ. I, myself, am just as guilty as they of speaking before thinking. It seems I practice "Open mouth, insert foot" far too often. The old man seems to fight to rise up in us even though Christ died to defeat him. While making every effort to be loving to the unsaved, Christians can be quite unkind to each other. We expect perfection from spiritual leaders when there will never be perfection on this earth. Sometimes jealousy of a successful work for God rears its ugly head. We expect our Christian friends to never offend, whether intentional or unintentional. It is reactions like these that cause nonbelievers to shake their heads and say, "See what I mean?" We are guilty, Sisters and Brothers, of letting our personal likes and dislike overrule the love we are commanded to have for the Brethren. Personalities will sometimes clash, but this should never hold precedence over our love for each other.

Our time on this earth is short. Do we really want to spend it harboring buried hurts or bickering with each other over the unimportant? Much time and Scripture was dedicated to addressing this very thing. If God felt it was important enough to warn us in Scripture, He will not hold us unaccountable.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

When Loyalty Is Not Enough

We all have so much going on in our lives today. We rush here and there to do the things required of us totally unaware of the forces that are working to upset it all. Satan never gives up. He is the master of upsetting our plans, our relationships, and, when we allow, our spiritual walk with Christ. I have an old VHS movie about a young Christian who finds a pair of glasses and when he puts those glasses on he is able to see the actual demons as they plot in the lives of his family and friends, as well as his own life. We say, "It is just a movie, like science fiction." That would be true as far as having a pair of glasses that lets you see that, but the plot is no joke. It plays out every second of every day. Satan can be like a hole covered by grass that you don't know is there until you step into it and lose your balance.

Have you ever felt this in your relationships? Maybe with your spouse or a friend? It is so subtle you never saw it coming. Totally clueless. You are unwavering in your loyalty so there should never be any question. Right? What about when loyalty is not enough? How do we prepare for that? When the hole that we just stepped into was not dug by us? It was caused by an erosion that we weren't aware was happening.

For certain, Satan fills our lives with these grass covered dips. We can't go around always looking down, looking for holes, metaphorically speaking. Life goes on. It is not a question of are there holes to step into or are we going to step into them today. The question is how will we recover. How will we go forward when loyalty has not been enough?

I am thankful to say that I had over 43 years of marriage before my husband's home-going. Loyalty was never a problem in our marriage. However, we have all had circumstances arise that changed the courses of our lives. People we thought would always be there who no longer are. Places we loved and yet had to leave. So we fill in as many holes as we can even if we didn't create them. God has a way of turning things, but maybe not back to where they were. He uses many incidents of wrong to lead us to something better. To a new direction. To a closer walk with Him.

Keep your integrity intact. Keep your loyalty in place. Trust God always.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Almost Home

Today I had an appointment in a town about one and a half hours drive. After the appointment I started the long drive home. That distance seems to get longer each time I have to drive it. I had my radio tuned to my favorite Christian radio station and I was singing along, but I was weary today.

With most trips there is a midway point or town where you feel you can make the rest of the journey. For me that is a town 22 miles from my home. Today when I reached the center of that little town I spoke aloud and with a sigh of relief, 'Almost home'. After speaking those words I began thinking what they meant. Of course, pertaining to this trip they meant I had reached that point I have just described. These words hold such a deeper meaning. Almost home. As a Christian these words mean that we are very close to heaven. I am not a fatalist. Only God knows when our appointed time is to leave this world. I have no plan to leave tomorrow. I believe God still has much for me to do here. Still, I think of the decline of our society in every respect and do look forward to a home without all the perversion, hate, irreverence for the One True God, disappointments, and weariness.

At church we are finishing a lengthy study on the book of Revelation. If you have read Revelation you understand the statement made so often by Christians, "We know how the Book ends.". Studying the splendor of what awaits the child of God can make you homesick. It is beyond our finite minds to even imagine the marvelous place Christ has prepared for us. That is my home, my true home.

Almost 2 weeks ago a woman jumped from a bridge in my town into the cold river waters below. A gentleman had stopped and tried to talk her down. To his horror, she chose to jump and end her life. Each day the rescue boats go out searching for her. We have had some bad weather lately which has hampered that search. I have been at the docks when these trained rescue personnel return and the heaviness is always evident. It has made me realize how precious life is and yet how frail it is. No doubt this lady had heavy burdens as well as depression. Even though she could not accept it, she was loved by her family and friends. The path we take is ours to choose. The results of our choice will affect the lives of our families, friends, coworkers, and even strangers.

Considering this recent event and also the realization that my destination is secure in the Lord, Almost Home seems quite near. I have reached that point where I know I can make the rest of the journey. Whether it be with my next breath or in many more years, Almost Home beckons. I wait for His call. I do not plan to go ahead of Him, but I wait. I continue to say and believe I am Almost Home.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Piano

This was my after Christmas present to myself. It is not a new piano. I bought it from a friend. I have wanted another piano for so long.

When I was 10 years old I took lessons from one of the sweetest ladies. Her name was Mattie Mae Sanford and she lived in a little town only 2 miles from where I lived. She taught me the basics and then because of her influence I developed a love for classical music. One day she told me to bring a church hymnal and she began teaching me strictly from that. The first hymn I learned to play was Love Divine. I took lessons at 7:30 in the morning. My mother would take me to Mrs. Mattie Mae's house and after my lesson I would walk to school with some of my classmates that lived in town. I remember my recital. It was quite an affair for a poor little country girl. Most of the girls wore long gowns and my mother made mine. It was blue taffeta with netting over the skirt. The night before the recital Mama rolled my hair up in paper. That's right. She cut strips from a paper bag and it was done much the same as rolling hair for a perm except she would twist the ends of the paper together to hold it. She covered it with a scarf for me to sleep in. I imagine sleeping on one of those walnut shell pillows would sound about the same as my paper curlers. I still have the picture of me sitting at Mrs. Mattie Mae's grand piano in my gown and my curls standing out 3 inches from my head, but I thought I was beautiful. I only took lessons for less than 2 years. Not because I was no longer interested, but because we moved 65 miles away. I was so shy I could not bear to start lessons with someone else. I have always regretted that decision.

My first piano was an old upright, but I loved that thing. I didn't mind practicing. I enjoyed it. About a year after we moved, my mother sold the old upright for $50. I hated to see it go, but I knew I would probably never take lessons again.

When my daughters were near the age I had been when I started lessons, I bought them a brand new studio piano. I remember going to Fuller Music in New Bern to chose one. He showed me some very pretty ones, but I did not want them. He asked me why and I told him I knew the longer the strings, the better the tone. He said I was right. You see, my teacher taught me more than just how to play.
Practicing for my girls was not the enjoyment it had been for me. My oldest lost interest first. She even managed to jam her finger playing volley ball and was unable to play in her recital. My youngest daughter did play in the recital and did very well, but she too soon lost interest. I held onto that piano for years. I could still remember the right hand notes and I would play around with it. My girls told me I should be the one taking lessons. It was one thing to spend the money for my girls to learn but I didn't feel I could waste it on myself. So in my oldest daughter's senior year of high school I sold it, but certainly not for $50.

Later I thought I would enjoy a keyboard. Just something to pick out choir notes on. After telling my husband what I wanted for Christmas, and taking my girls to look at it so they would be sure to take him to the right one, I got my keyboard. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't like having a piano and I had to keep it in the bedroom. There really wasn't enough room for it. M youngest grandson would always sit down and try to play it when he came over, so I eventually gave it to him.

So began my long hiatus with no musical instrument. As most of you know, my husband died in 2012. I thought often of how I would like to have another piano, but just couldn't justify the expense. A friend began advertising hers on Facebook. I honestly don't know how long she had it up for sale. I even told her that if only I had the money I would love to have it. Then I just let it go. Many months went by and finally one day I contacted her to see if she had sold it & how much she was asking for it. It had not been sold and I felt the price was fair. I wasted no time checking with my son to see if he could pick it up for me. He said he could and I asked some men from church to help. So that is the story of my new-to-me piano. It sits in the same place as my last piano. It is as if the area was never without one.

Now what to do with that piano? Did I just want to use it to pick out our choir notes? Not really. I wanted to play it, to enjoy it. God seems to make a way when we think there may never be one. We have a number of ladies at church who play beautifully and teach piano. Any of them would have been a great choice, but I held back. Then I attended our Christian school's Christmas program. One young lady played a solo on the piano and they told who her instructor is. I knew this lady could play but I didn't know she also taught. I remember saying to myself, "Hmmm" and I knew right then that I would ask her if she would teach me. She had just recently undergone surgery and was recovering. I jokingly told her to get better because I needed her to teach me how to play. She in turn asked if I was serious. Oh yes, I was serious but there was no rush. So later today will be my second lesson. I will be 67 years old in a few months. My hands don't work the way they did when I was 11. I practice faithfully. Not because I have to, but because I love to. I never would have thought after 55 years that I would again be taking piano lessons. My mother would be proud. I will never be the pianist I could have been had I continued my lessons throughout those years I missed. But I will play again for God has made a way.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Prayer Revival

Our church has been experiencing a prayer revival. Have you ever heard of one or been a part of one? I had not. Never in my 51 years as a Christ follower. It was not really planned ahead to become what it has. We were expecting something, but not this.

Twice a year we have revival services. Some may not be familiar with that. We have a guest speaker, another minister, come in for about 4-5 services and preach. It is a time of renewal for the members and usually a time of salvation for the lost. Normally the week before the services begin, we have special prayer time focusing on the guest minister and the moving of the Holy Spirit within the services. For years we had people designate a time they would come to the church to quietly pray. Last year, as well as opening the church, we had cottage prayer meetings at different homes. This time has been different. Not only where and when we prayed, but how we prayed.

Services were to begin on November 8th. The week prior, beginning on November 1st, we began praying in earnest for a moving like we had never seen before. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday through Saturday we had multiple groups meeting in homes, different areas on our campus,and at various times of the days and evenings. We cried out for something different, something that would remain past the meetings with the guest speaker. On Wednesday night, our regular Bible study time, we had prayer instead of study. On Sunday we were looking forward to the beginning of our services. That was not to be. The guest speaker had tragically lost several members of his family and needed to remain to conduct funerals and support his loved ones. So our revival services were delayed for another week.

Our pastor knew God had begun moving in the hearts of our people and he did not want this momentum to change. Neither did we. Instead of the preaching services we expected to have Sunday through Wednesday nights, we met at the church to continue praying. We poured ourselves out before God and bathed the altar in tears. We had more in attendance for these meetings than we normally have for the actual revival services. One of the most moving things has been the participation by our youth, especially our teens. Each night they have filled pews and bowed before God. The remaining days and nights, prayer groups would meet as we did the week before. We also committed to each pray an hour a day on our own. It has been an awe inspiring thing to be a part of! God has met with us each time. We will be ready to receive what God has prepared for us next week.

I normally have a hard time kneeling for more than a few minutes due to previous back surgeries, but God has allowed me to kneel for our meetings with no pain or numbness in my legs. When I arrived at church Wednesday night, there were only a couple of people already in the sanctuary. The lights were low and soft Christian music was playing. As I opened the sanctuary door, it seemed the Spirit of God rushed to greet me and my eyes filled with tears. Please do not think this is just a temporary emotional experience. It is emotional, but it is much deeper than that. This is a real moving of the Spirit within our people.

So you may be wondering what these prayers were like. Not what you would expect probably. They were not flowery words that would impress anyone. They were simple words of praise for a merciful God and pleas for Him to change our hearts, our lives, our service to Him. There are many gifted orators who can deliver prayers that impress men. All too often this type of prayer does not move us spiritually and I fear does not move God at all. This does not mean that all gifted orators pray without feeling, for I know those who pray straight from their hearts, but even for them this was different. Prayers that usually come controlled, came as cries of desperation. It is hard to explain just how different this has been. I wish you could be there. I pray that God will give each of you a prayer revival, individually and as a church body. I ask that if you are a Christ follower, that you lift up my church family, that what God has begun Satan will not be able to penetrate.