Follow The Leader

Did you ever play “follow the leader” as a child? We did but not very often and when we did play, the game often ended rather quickly. It seemed that everyone wanted to be the leader and no one wanted to follow! So we would take turns being the leader but even that didn’t work out well, because those who had already had a turn as leader were not interested in following anyone else. The memory of that game and the different way each child would react to being the leader and then to being the follower caused me to chuckle this afternoon.

I’ve discovered that most I’ve my life I’ve been watching people play ‘follow-the-leader’. And, most of my life I’ve been trying to get away from those who are power-hungry leaders who refuse to be a follower. Today I sense that my husband might just fall into that category. Why is it impossible for some people to follow? Do they really believe that their plans, purposes, and actions are so much better than anyone else’s?

I remember seeing a quip once that said “If you ain’t the lead dog, the view never changes.” Such a remark is meant to install the desire for leadership while at the same time denigrating all those who have not attained such a position, or have no desire to lead others. I’ve been blessed with both positions in my lifetime – leading and following – and each has its own merits and pitfalls. Leading carries an enormous amount of responsibility for the lives and well-being of others. Following can be fulfilling and rewarding or it can be soul-killing, depending upon who is doing the leading. Of the two positions, following is the most challenging.

A follower often has to swallow his pride and do that which he does not wish to do. Sometimes the follower may believe they know better and still have to do what is being directed. There may be punishment for not obeying or there may not be – again, depending upon the leader. On the bright side, followers usually know what the rules are and are able to function within the parameters established by the leader, whereas the leader oftentimes is blazing new trails and establishing ground rules as they go. I have never met a follower who didn’t, at one time or another, want to be the leader.

I confess that I struggle sometimes with following, particularly when my opinions are not only ignored but when I’m told to keep them to myself.

The greatest joy of my life, though, is being a follower of Jesus Christ. I love the way He leads. He always listens to my opinions, and even allows me to argue with Him. His direction is never harsh and the goal is always, ultimately, for my good. His ground rules are pretty simple and easy to remember: Love God with all your mind, heart, and soul and love others as you love yourself. Simple. Direct.

Now, I didn’t say following Jesus was the easiest thing I had ever done. In fact, sometimes it is downright HARD! It can be so hard to put aside our own desires in order to serve someone else who is attaining their heart’ desires. It can be hard to submit when we want to do something totally different. For some people, following Jesus means giving up their very lives – becoming martyrs for His name’s sake.

BUT, following Jesus is the most rewarding thing I have ever done and it gets better and better every day. It is wonderful to be loved the way Jesus loves me. It is wonderful to walk in peace, joy and love. It is wonderful to hear Him say “well done”. It is a joy to feel His pleasure.

I would not trade following Jesus for anything this life has to offer – even when following Jesus means letting go of my dreams in order to follow HIS!

Advertisements

Patience

Patience, patience, patience. The Lord has been trying to teach me patience for as long as I have known Him. I’m not a very good student in this area – I want what I want and I want it right now. When I pray for someone to be healed, I want it right now. When I pray for someone to be rescued, I want it right now. I want and expect answers to my prayers RIGHT NOW. So what happens when the answer doesn’t come as I expect it right now? I get impatient. Sometimes I get irritable. And sometimes I get downright frustrated.

This morning the Lord led me to Isaiah 38:1-5. This little story of healing is so amazing. Here was Hezekiah on his deathbed and he turned to the Lord and cried out for healing, reminding the Lord of all of the good he had done in his lifetime. And the Lord heard Hezekiah and granted him fifteen more years of life. Isn’t that awesome? Yet I can’t help but wonder about those next fifteen years and whether or not Hezekiah regretted his prayer.

I have seen many people healed or granted additional time on this earth – people who had death sentences pronounced over them and then miraculously lived another five, ten, even twenty years. My evidence is purely anecdotal and limited to the few people whose lives I have seen extended so don’t think I’m making some sort of set-in-stone pronouncement. But of those I have witnessed whose lives were extended I can honestly say they suffered great personal trauma in the years that were gifted – more, perhaps, than God originally intended for them to see in their lifetimes.

One dear Christian whose life was extended beyond what doctors could even believe suffered the loss of two children during those years. Another saw a daughter drawn into Satanism, self-mutilation, vampirism, drugs, alcohol, and jail. One lost the ability to eat and was left on a feeding tube. Another lost her voice and ability to worship, prophesy and testify so that others could understand. One man was healed of cancer after having been given only a few days to live only to have his wife succumb to cancer within six short months.

Conversely, I have seen those who were not granted additional years. Again, just anecdotal but interesting. A sweet, dear woman just seemed to not be able to get a break and finally passed. In less than two years her oldest son was dead. (I couldn’t help but view her death as merciful for she would not have been able to endure the loss of her son.) There are other similar stories of great pain and sorrow unseen because of the merciful passing prior to the horrendous events.

So what does all of this mean in the context of my impatience? If I had to guess I’d say the Lord is trying to show me that He knows best. He sees the beginning and the ending. He knows what has passed and what is coming and he knows just how much His beloved can endure. I believe His decision to grant additional time is based on His great love and mercy and not on our desires.

I somehow feel better now about those who haven’t been healed yet. Perhaps the Lord is sparing them from even greater evil. As He says in Isaiah 57:1, “The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.”

I will keep praying for those who are physically ill, trusting that God knows what is best for each one and believing that He will heal all who can handle what is coming their way in the future.

Twelve Days of Christmas Symbols

Christmas symbol: the BELL. Every good shepherd places a  🔔 on each of his flock so that if one should stray or become lost, the shepherd can quickly locate and rescue that endangered one.

Christmas symbol: Lighted village houses. When someone accepts what Jesus did on the cross and asks Him to save them, His Holy Spirit comes into them and He makes that person His home, filling them with His light. JESUS, the light of the world!

Christmas symbol: the color GREEN. As every good Irish lass knows, “green” means eternity. It is predominate at Christmas as a reminder that we are celebrating the moment that Christ stepped out of eternity into the world to make eternity available to all who willingly welcome Him into their hearts.

Christmas symbol: SNOW. Beautiful, white, pure. Just as as fresh snow blankets the earth, covering all that is ugly and dirty and making it pristine and beautiful, so when we welcome Christ into our hearts, He covers all that makes us ugly and dirty with His righteousness. (Rev. 19:8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.)

Christmas symbol: RED — Not just any old red, but the brilliant crimson red of blood that is full of oxygen, full of life! The blood that Jesus shed, that life-giving flow, which covers all of our sin, and makes us – you got it! — WHITE as SNOW!

Christmas symbol: WREATH – We see them everywhere, each one slightly different. Some covered in bows, or filled with pinecones, others lit with lights. Each one is a reminder of a different kind of wreath – one that was turned on its side and used as a crown – a crown of thorns. A reminder of the kind of love that stepped into the world and endured mockery, shame and disgrace – all for us!

Christmas symbol: TINSEL – It shimmers and hangs whimsically upon the tree, catching and reflecting light like a hundred tiny prisms, flowing down the tree like a waterfall on a brilliant, sunny day. If we let our eyes drift upward we will encounter the star perched ignominiously o the tree top – the star that is a remembrance of the one that hung over a stable. And the tinsel – it mirrors the light beams that shown down from the star on that blessed night – beams of light that drew wise men to Him.

Christmas symbol: RIBBON — brightly colored ribbon, all color shades and hues, used to make bows and to wrap presents. Ribbon that looks lovely when made into ornament hangers or gracefully adorning trees and tables, windows and doors. Ribbon — strong, cutting, biting, binding cords, unable to be broken. Ribbon — a reminder of the bonds that held Jesus while Roman soldiers ripped the flesh off of His body with a cat o’ nine tails, leaving ‘ribbons’ of flesh hanging off of His body and exposing the stripes of bone which were His rib cage. Ribbon — a reminder that He became bound so that we could be free, all because He loves us.

Christmas symbol: WRAPPING PAPER – We use it to hide the surprise inside – the gift we have so lovingly selected. The paper is bright and festive, creating decorations out of boxes. Wrapping paper, a subtle but glorious reminder of the priceless gift that lay in a manger; the gift Mary so lovingly wrapped in swaddling clothes. The gift that contained peace between God and man, and good will toward all mankind from the God who created the heavens and the earth. His peace with us….His goodwill toward us – salvation, wrapped in grayish-beige linen.

Christmas symbol: HOPE — Christmas is a season of Hope. You can see it in the faces of children looking up at Santa. It’s in holiday movies about falling in love or the ones about reuniting families. These all sound superficial in light of the birth of Christ, but in reality they mirror what is the true hope of Christmas: that we will be loved; that we will be part of a family; that our most secret dreams will come true. The Christ child came to make the substance of our hopes into possibilities. We accept him and become part of the largest family imaginable and recipient of the greatest love and passion ever to be experienced. HOPE- – because dreams still come true!

Christmas symbol: ORNAMENTS — so beautiful, in every size, shape, color and texture, placed lovingly upon our trees — each one chosen to enhance the beauty of the tree. In Biblical times, a bride was adorned with ornaments, each one chosen to enhance her beauty. And the bridegroom’s chest swelled with pride as he gazed upon his cherished bride, so artfully adorned in jewels and silver and gold. Like the brides of old, when we accept Christ He becomes our bridegroom and he adorns us with ornaments – ornaments of grace: peace, hope, joy and love. Each ornament enhances our beauty in His sight and He gazes lovingly upon His cherished ones so beautifully adorned. And the tree?

Christmas symbol: TREE – I love it when a plan comes together! The tree we have so lovingly and joyfully decorated with ornaments does, indeed, represent the Bride of Christ. “a tree planted by the waters…..”   “the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life” “..the planting of the Lord…”“.. be called trees of righteousness …”   “..and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations …..”   Just as we decorate our tree, so Christ decorates us! And our leaves, our hands, are the healing hands for all nations as we journey far to help, to minister, and to witness to others of His amazing grace. Some are cedars, some are pines, some are firs, but every tree used at Christmas is an evergreen. Why? Because an evergreen tree is always brimming with life. Unlike deciduous trees that appear dead half of the year, the evergreen tree is always displaying its beauty and grace. Merry CHRIST-mas!

First Responder

Hearts break. Souls long for peace. Tears dry on weathered faces and for some, tears never come. Broken. Abused. Neglected. Scorned. Rejected. Disparaged. These are the pictures of the lost souls waiting for someone to introduce them to Jesus. These are the people who are overlooked and unappreciated. These are the people that the church claims to be searching for and rescuing. They are lost and need someone to help them find their way.

There are others that the church ignores and in some ways, the church is responsible for their pain. These are the ‘churched’ lost – the people sitting beside you in the pew with frozen smiles and responses of “I’m fine.” People who have been hurt within the church and so have moved to a new location but carry their wounds deep within. People who have been broken, abused, neglected, scorned, rejected and disparaged. In this group may be the holier-than-thou Pharisees of the modern-day church as well as those who are abused by the church system. This group contains people who have been sold the lie that Christians should not have troubles but should be bringing the Light to others. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine ……”

How can anyone let their light shine when it has been extinguished by abuse, neglect, rejection and gossip? You’d be surprised.

I’ve seen people who place a false candle in their window and shine a fluorescent light instead of the light of Christ. (I’ve been one of those people.) Their smiles are big on Sunday morning, and their worship is robust – but it is all for show. They deflect any intrusion into their space with seemingly concerned inquiries into the lives of those who approach them. They are often seen as the ‘most compassionate’ and ‘most caring’ people in the church because they spend all of their energies covering up their problems and issues by throwing themselves into good works for others.

I’ve also seen good people ignore those who are so obviously hurting – walking right by them to get to their good friends and in the process causing even deeper wounds. I’ve watched as completely self-absorbed people are so busy broadcasting their latest successes (and failures) that they completely miss an opportunity to minister the love of Christ to one who is hanging onto life by a thread.

I’ve comforted the families of those who committed suicide, holding hands and praying, offering whatever comfort or service the Lord leads, while all the time painfully aware that the church let this one down. This believer couldn’t take it any longer and the church was too self-absorbed to even notice their pain.

Others might say that no one knows what is going on inside of another person so the church can’t be held responsible. I say hogwash! Those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and in tune with His leading and guiding are MADE AWARE that there is a problem. They might not know to what extent there is a problem, but they know through the anointing of the Holy One that there is a problem.

When we are aware of such a circumstance we must never let go. We must never fall for the “I’m okay” or “I’m fine” response. We must surround such a one with love and arms of compassion and with the help of the Holy Spirit insinuate ourselves into their lives. We must be the hands and feet and heart of Jesus and help such a one find their way back.

I was once lost. I lost my compass. I knew I was lost but I didn’t know how to get back. I searched for the Lord but could not find Him. I never missed church and I was good at deflection and consequently the church never bothered with me. God finally called me back to Himself with fasting and I have been restored. But there were many times before that moment when I would have taken my life – gladly!

I am acutely aware of my own inadequacies and I am also aware of the greatness of our God. I have to trust that when He leads me to someone there is a reason and that reason may just be a rescue operation.

Today I challenge you to become a first responder – to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit and follow Him into the trenches; to pray and ask Him to lead you to someone who needs help; and to be available to any who cross your path.

Memories

Sometimes, in the quiet stillness of early morning hours, memories from long ago surface to dance unbidden across my mind. I close my eyes and sink deeper into my favorite chair, letting the memories play out like an old-time video graph. Not so long ago I would have stifled the memory and deliberately pushed it away. Now, however, I welcome them as old friends, inviting them to expose the emotions that are associated with the memory. Perhaps with their surfacing the Lord is bringing some new insight.

The memories this morning are more like fast moving slide shows of the childhoods of my children. I watch their smiles and smile myself. Then a picture of a terror-filled face, and as I remember the event that precipitated that look I experience once again the sorrow, the pain, and that incredible Momma-bear feeling. Like all mothers, I wanted to protect my children from anything that would cause them pain. Instead, my life choices are the reason they experienced the pain.

I see before me my 9 year old son with tears streaming down his face as he clings to the telephone, speaking to the 911 operator. His father is commanding him to put down the telephone while he holds down and abuses my daughter across the room. I am clinging to his father’s back and screaming at him to stop and at my son ‘don’t hang up, don’t hang up’. What kind of parents leave these kinds of legacies to their children?

When I was a child, all I ever dreamed of was being a Mommy with lots of children. I didn’t have dreams of fancy homes or brilliant careers. I just wanted children. Lots of them. I dreamed of our happy family living on a farm with horses to ride and cows to milk and chickens for eggs, and all the loving days and just knew that was how life would be for me. It was not – and there is no way I can ever make it up to my children. I can never make this right. Even now I feel the ache within me for what they endured and I offer silent prayers to my Father to please, please heal them. Please God, make it all better for them.

I wish you knew my children. One girl, one boy. They are adults now and I am so proud of them. They are loving and kind, generous to a fault, and absolutely delightful to spend time with, and they both love Jesus. The greatest joy of my life is when we get together and just enjoy one another’s company, sometimes playing card games or just playing with the grandkids. We really don’t have to ‘do’ anything to have fun together. We just love each other and it is heaven to me.

Today the Father reminded me that He is holding them in His hand and I can let go. He has their past, He has their present, and He has their future. He is making a way for them and He is using their pasts to help others who have also suffered. He loves them more than I do and He will prevail. He reminded me, too, that He loves being with me just as much as I love being with them. I don’t have to do anything to entertain Him or make Him proud of me – He already is and His greatest joy is when we are together. What a wonderful Savior!

As I wipe away the last tears I realize that with the surfacing and processing if this memory my Wonderful Counselor has once again remade part of me. He has brought release to this area of my memories and it has now lost its power to hurt and control me. Thank you Jesus for loving me.

Hanging On By A Thread

A friend of mine called me just a few minutes ago asking for prayer. She is an elderly woman well into her eighties and has been having some health issues recently. I have known this woman for about 15 years and in all that time she has relied totally upon the Lord when she has health problems. She tore her rotator cuff about eight years ago and refused surgery, insisting that God would heal her. She then began a course of self-prescribed physical therapy along with dietary supplements. It took some time – about a year, I think, but she was totally healed. No surgery and complete restoration of the use of that arm.

Her current issues are causing her to become fearful. I could hear it in her voice as she explained that she is beginning to confuse dreams with reality and sometimes doesn’t know which is which unless someone tells her. She doesn’t recognize her own son at times and calls him “that man downstairs” who is so rude to her and won’t take her where she wants to go. She is concerned that “they” are going to put her away someplace and she won’t be able to get out. She asked for prayer as she looks for a doctor to help with her situation.

My heart cries out for her – I have been in her place during the worst stages of MS and I know what she is going through. It is awful to not be able to trust your own mind and even worse when your own family is unsympathetic and impatient with you. I remember one instance when my husband was explaining something trivial from his day at work and I did not understand what he was talking about – it made no sense whatsoever, and the more I asked questions the angrier and more frustrated he became with me. Then my daughter stepped to my side and put her hand on my shoulder and said “It’s okay, Momma. It isn’t important.” Those simple words were like oil on troubled water. I ceased being anxious and confused and became peaceful and content with not knowing what he was talking about. There were other times when I would be talking and pointing to something, trying to speak the word that identified the item and another word would come out. I would shake my head “NO” and try again, and still the wrong word would come out. In my mind I knew what I was trying to say but my mouth was under some other control and the proper words simply would not come out. If it had not been for my children and their amazing unconditional, constant love during those awful days, I don’t think I would have made it. I’m sure my husband would have had me committed someplace.

Having been set free from the demon that plagued me during those awful months I am heartbroken to see anyone suffer a similar fate. Some will never escape from the depths into which they are sinking. I asked my friend today if she could identify what her problem was – did she know what was wrong? She got very quiet and then she said, “I just want to live in peace. I want peace in my house and in my life. I cannot fight any longer.” I felt a quickening when she said those words and I wondered if perhaps what was happening to her mind was her way of escaping from the turmoil of her life where she cares for a schizophrenic brother and a son with OCD. Perhaps, finally, she will have peace.

The human brain is an amazingly powerful entity in its own right. We think we are in control when, in actuality, our brain is doing its own thing most of the time. I have observed that as long as we are going along and not causing undue stress to our bodies and emotions, our mind will function in tandem with our will. However, our brain seems to take over and do its own thing for self-preservation when we seem unable to keep all of the balls juggling in the air. I have no formal education to explain such things but I have seen the results of stress and trauma on the human mind on many occasions and also have my own experiences. The brain wants the body to survive and will go to any lengths to insure that survival – even going so far as to go into hiding to escape the onslaught that is causing the stress/trauma.

Today I am praying for freedom for my friend and all of those like her who have reached the end of their rope; for all those whose minds are going or have gone into hiding; and for all those who are still hanging on for dear life to the end of the rope: May God throw you a life line!

Broken

Dear Reader,

I wrote the following in the beginning – the beginning of my walk to wholeness. I would not publish it previously because it is so raw and I was so ashamed. Now that I have been under the care of the Wonderful Counselor for some time I am able to share it with you. I pray it will minister to you, and that you, too, will find the wonder of His love and counsel in your time of need.

There is a sign in my mind that says “DON’T GO THERE”. It stands between me and memories that have been too painful to resurrect. It serves as a reminder that the past is past and can’t do anyone any good to have it relived. I am afraid of the sign and everything it stands for. I am afraid of the past. I am afraid of the emotions that are stirred by the memories – strong emotions that I cannot control. Rage and shame and guilt and despair. I am so afraid.

Slowly, painfully, I face the sign. I know that healing is beyond the sign. I must take it down, I must face the demons of my past in order to be free and whole and complete. I must.

I realized today that I am broken. Not the good kind of broken, as in ‘broken in spirit’ but the bad kind of broken, as in dysfunctional.

The realization brought with it waves of grief and deep despair for the many, many years that have been lost. As I look back over my life (looking back – not often edifying!) I see very little joy and laughter and so many years of pain and struggle, and I am jealous of those who seem to have had loving families and spouses their entire lives.

I can see now that I have lived more than 40 years wearing a mask. I put it on in the morning and I never take it off. I don’t even allow it to come off in the privacy of my own room, because to do so will make me vulnerable to the enemy I sleep with, my hyper-critical, controlling, angry spouse. Correction: spouses, for you see, I managed to escape one only to marry another.

Sometimes my mask slips, but not often. When it does and I expose some part of my brokenness to others, I am immediately fearful, for I know they cannot be trusted. You see, everyone looking at us would never believe me. He can’t possibly be what I have said. Why, he’s so friendly and concerned about others. Surely I am mistaken.

If they only knew. The nights of torment as the man who vowed to love and protect me yelled and stormed about his rights and my responsibilities. The time my first husband raped me or when he forced me to have an abortion; and all of the other times he terrorized me and my children in order to get his way. Or when my second husband chased my car with his vehicle, almost forcing me and my son off of the road in order to force us to return home – home to where he could scream and yell and verbally assault us at his leisure – the place where he killed our souls. The scenes in restaurants and gas stations and retail establishments – literally any place we happened to be was a place for an explosion.

How does one live walking on egg-shells and dodging land mines? Not easily. Not willingly. Not successfully. Consequently, I am broken. I am unable to connect on a deep level with any person. I have had to hide for too long, and I have learned that transparency doesn’t bring wholeness, it brings more opportunity for attack. Attack not only from the enemies I lived with but from the very people with whom I become transparent.

What is it about being abused that makes the victim protect the abuser? I find myself defending and even making excuses for the ones that have caused so much pain and destruction in my life. Why? Even now I look back over this writing and realize I should change it or else the offenders will be exposed. Yet some secret part of me wants them exposed for what they are – destroyers.

I have sought ‘professional’ help on multiple occasions. They can find nothing wrong with me other than a mild depression, and are willing to prescribe drugs to help me feel better. Feel ‘better’? How about just feel? As if a drug is going to alter circumstances or change the personalities of the abusers.

There is no place I can be totally honest and be myself, except in prayer. There is no place I can expose the offenders, except in prayer.

I have decided there is no hope of me ever being whole. Here is the point where others like myself begin to consider suicide. Here, right here, they begin to think about the relief from the pain, the escape from the abuse, the only possible solution. I confess the thought crossed my mind, very briefly. I quickly discarded it because that is not what my Lord would want.

Are there any other options? Divorce? No, I am too tired to fight. I’ve been through divorce before and the lies and deceit, leaving me with nothing – escaping only with my life.   Now I have had too many years of being beaten down to the point where there is no fight left in me. That was the abuser’s goal to begin with, I suppose. I just never saw it.

Escape? To where? Where can I run that I won’t be found? I would be hunted down like a criminal and forced to return. I almost said ‘against my will’, and then quickly realized I no longer have a will.

Despondent – that’s what some might diagnose as they read these words. I am not despondent any longer. I am not depressed any longer. I am not fearful any longer. I am simply broken, tired, and dead inside, waiting for my body to catch up. Waiting to die. Wanting to die. Begging the Lord to take me home. Death would be a release from this prison, this hell. It is the only freedom I can foresee.

Today, dear reader, I am free. I have found freedom or rather freedom has been delivered to me. I was given a vision of freedom and hope from another survivor. With that hope I mustered enough energy to grab hold of the horns of the altar and beseech the Lord for release – true freedom. I refused to let go of the altar until the Lord showed up.

My Wonderful Counselor has led me through dark alleys and thorny pathways — places I simply did not want to go. He took my hand and together we dismantled the ‘DON’T GO THERE’ sign. Together we addressed memories, one by one, walking doggedly through the emotions and emerging on the other side bearing forgiveness and life. The walk was not easy and is certainly not finished as each day brings another memory or lesson to be learned. There were times when it would have been easier to give up and slide back into my former zombie-like existence, but the hope and the vision of freedom kept me plowing forward. Sometimes my legs became lead weights and my back was bent and sore from carrying the load. It was then that my Savior lifted me and became the burden bearer for me, allowing me to rest in His marvelous peace. And when I was sufficiently refreshed He would set me back down on my feet and we would begin walking again – together, hand-in-hand, heading toward wholeness.

I cannot begin to express my gratitude to Lord Jesus. He has taken a life that was hopeless and turned it into a garden. That life, which was a result of the free-will decisions I made and decisions that others around me made, has become a fruitful vine and a place of unending peace and joy.

May you find Him today.

Learning to Love

This morning I went on a journey through my memories to all of the different places we lived when I was a child and I made a sobering discovery: my parents were like so many other parents of the day, bigots and isolationists. I remember one town we lived in where the school was not up to their standards so they moved from living in town to living on a small farm in the country. No neighbor children to play with and consequently no new friends. Now I have to confess I do not know what went through my parents’ minds or what discussions they had before the move – they kept all of that to themselves. I only know the end result.

This move was followed by another transfer to a big city. We lived in one part of the community for a couple of years and then moved to another side of the community for a couple of more years before once, again, we moved. Again, I was not privy to the reasons for the move and only have anecdotal evidence and the colored memories of childhood to tell me why.

I can remember being told not to play with certain kids because they weren’t ‘our kind’. I never really knew what ‘our kind’ was because it wasn’t permitted to question my parents so I took it on faith. There were ‘our kind’ of people and ‘not our kind’ of people. I learned that money or the lack thereof was not a determining factor (“you can’t buy class”). I learned that education levels were not a determining factor (“some of the most educated people we know are idiots”). I learned that color of skin was not a determining factor (“you can’t change the color of your skin any more than a leopard can change his spots”). So I learned what were not determining factors, but I never figured out what were determining factors – until today, that is.

Today I went before the Lord to deal with what I believe is a haughty spirit within me. I do not want it and I want it to be gone and if there is pride that needs to be dealt with then I want that dealt with right now – not later when I stand before the Lord. So that’s how I ended up going through all of those memories. The Holy Spirit took me on a journey to my past to show me where some of my haughtiness originated and to help me lay it down. And the journey has led me to a point where I am questioning even the Christian church – because here is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. Even within the church I see biases.

When I was a child, our kind of people were 1) Christian; 2) Kind; 3) Quiet and unobtrusive; 4) Family-oriented; 5) Law-abiding; 6) Good citizens – that means obedient to authority; 7) Friendly but not overly so; 8) Erected good fences to keep neighbors as neighbors; 9) Employed; 10) Non-aggressive; 11) Non-threatening; 12) Did not pry into other people’s business; 13) Did not gossip; 14) Were social drinkers but not drunks; 15) Did not beat their children; 16) Did not abuse their spouses; 17) Went to church on Easter and Christmas; 18) Took care of their aging parents; 19) were at least second generation Americans; and on, and on, and on. You get the picture. Anyone or group of persons who did not meet the ‘criteria’ were not ‘our kind’ and thus we were to find other friends.

I confess that I carried these biases into adulthood. I passed some of them on to my children before I became a true child of God. Once I was filled with the love of Christ these biases became dust to me. God loves all people and when His love dwells in us, we do the same. Today, however, with the help of the Holy Spirit I uncovered some biases and very unlovely things that managed to continue in me and have enabled a haughty spirit to continue to operate in my life. I am even now repenting of those things and asking for the Lord to help me overcome them – to redeem my life from pride and haughtiness.

It can be so hard to overcome things that are ingrained in us from childhood – unless we ask the Lord’s help, that is. Having identified this particular problem I know that the Holy Spirit will lead me out of it. I want and need to be able to embrace ALL of God’s children in an open and honest embrace of love. No one is greater than another. No one is more worthy than another. We are all created in God’s image and molded by His hand and our circumstances. It is His will that we overcome our circumstances to become the people He created us to be. So I’m headed out the door to practice what He is teaching me.

Wonderful Counselor

I admit that I am not the brightest spark in the plug J but I am a quick study. It doesn’t take me long to figure out what is expected of me and how to accomplish it with minimal pain and even, sometimes, a little joy. So when I started on this journey to wholeness I quickly discovered the pattern that my Lord uses in leading me through the dark places into the light. First comes my grief as I recognize that the Lord is getting ready to reveal something from my past that is going to hurt. No anesthesia is offered. Then comes physical pain as my body tries to run and get my focus on something other than the revelation that is about to take place. When I stand up to the physical pain and declare my intention to move forward, inviting the Holy Spirit to finish what He has begun, actual mourning begins. Again, no anesthesia. The very interesting part of this process is that the grief and mourning occur even before I am fully aware of what issue we are addressing. For me, the patient, it’s kind of like exploratory surgery – I have no idea what we will find when He opens me up but I’m trusting the surgeon to do what is best. Some time after the mourning begins comes the revelation, the AHA! moment when a long ago memory surfaces and replays in my mind. Again, I get to choose. I can hit the ‘Stop’ button, the ‘Fast Forward’, the ‘Rewind’, or I can let it play out. I choose to let it play because I want to be finished forever with this event that is part of the painful, paralyzing past. Eventually my surgeon and I talk it through and we both decide that the best course of treatment is forgiveness and healing. The entire process is not quick and leaves me exhausted, but it doesn’t cost a dime! I know people who have spent years in ‘therapy’ and are no nearer to being well than they were when they started. They fill their bodies with prescription psychotropic drugs and spend at least an hour a week with their therapists.

The Holy Spirit is so gentle. Revisiting the past and reliving the pain, shame, degradation, and fear of those moments is not something I would do if there was any other way to be well. There isn’t, and the Holy Spirit is only doing exactly as I have chosen. He would never force Himself on me or force me to do something I do not want to do. I have a choice – be a zombie or be alive. I chose life and that path requires some time in the furnace of affliction. Again, something I chose. What is so interesting is that with each new revelation I get to choose again – go forward or stay where I am. I choose.

I decided long ago that I wanted the Lord to correct me right now, in this life. I don’t want to leave anything left hanging that He is going to have to deal with at His judgment seat. I also don’t want anyone held accountable at the BEMA seat for something they may have done to me so with each revelation of cruel events I have buried deep within I focus on not only forgiving the perpetrator but asking the Lord to forgive them as well. True freedom comes from asking for forgiveness not only for yourself but also for those who have hurt you. I know I am truly free when I am able to pray good things for those who have caused so much pain in my life and mean it!

I prefer to stand before the Lord right now and receive His correction, His surgery, than to pretend I don’t need it and then end up surprised at the BEMA seat. Judgment. Even the word makes me cringe a little. Yet I know it is part of God’s character and that He is the righteous judge. He does not judge harshly or have a bad day and lash out in anger. His judgment is right and true and exactly in keeping with the circumstance He is judging. How I wish I had been that kind of parent!

Today I am one step closer to wholeness. God is gracious and merciful and I am so grateful for what He is doing in my life. There is a wonderful side-effect to the process my wonderful counselor uses. As the bad memories are dealt with the good memories are able to surface. When I buried the bad I threw the good in with them. Now they are free too!

Perfect Peace

Like millions of other women, I’ve discovered that aging is a bit of trial. Body parts that used to function without any conscious thought now occupy my thoughts when they don’t respond the way I want, when I want. Arms and hands that look like my grandmother’s and knees that creak and crack without any provocation. The bottom of my feet have lost all padding so I no longer go barefoot. Hair that is thinning, curling, and suddenly has a mind all its own. A body that has changed its shape so that clothes that fit are almost impossible to find, even though I weigh the same as I did 30 years ago. Eyes that need glasses, a face that has developed peach fuzz and a nose that looks nothing like it did 20 years ago. When I look in the mirror I see my mother as she was just a few short years before she died. Yikes!

Don’t get me wrong. I think my mother was a beautiful woman her entire life, regardless of age. She aged gracefully, always taking care of herself. But sometime in the last quarter century I ceased looking like my father and started resembling my mother more and more. When I get a quick glimpse in a mirror as I pass it I am often startled. Where did all the years go? And who let my mother in the house?

In a society that is geared toward looks and money, this aging stuff can be quite stressful. There is absolutely no way to regain those years or the elasticity of my skin. I spent the greatest part of my adult life trying to stay fit and keep my looks as long as I could, all because that is what our society had sold me through television, movies, magazines and newspapers. I fought a good fight but still I lost. Oh, I could, if I had enough money, have plastic surgery to lift, tuck, liposuck and shape, but it wouldn’t change the ultimate prognosis. I’m getting old just like everyone else and nothing is going to change that.

I’ve made an interesting discovery these last couple of years. It just doesn’t matter. Isn’t that funny? After all those years of trying to keep up with every other woman so that I would be thought attractive and therefore acceptable to society, it just doesn’t matter! The day that I was set free from concern about my looks was independence day for me. I used to spend fifteen to twenty minutes a day putting on my makeup and doing my hair and another five at night taking makeup off. Then there were the weekly facials, and all the creams and potions and lotions along with the hot-oil treatments for the hair. Good grief, the money I spent! Now, if I put makeup on at all it takes less than five minutes – after all, who cares? Forget the lotions and potions and pots and creams – I’m saving all kinds of money!

These days I am focused on the inside. I spend time working on my character and trying to develop those characteristics that Christ exhibited. I confess it is harder work than physical exercise and maintaining physical beauty – much, MUCH, harder. But it is so rewarding! The changes that occur as a result of all this effort are permanent changes. They don’t deteriorate and I don’t have to daily work at keeping them in place. Once the Holy Spirit effects a change in my character I can rejoice and move on to the next area that needs work without worrying about previous changes needing further maintenance.

What a joy to serve the Master! He takes our concerns and cares and turns them into dancing in the rain! When He promised to perfect everything that concerns me (Psalm 138:8) He wasn’t saying He was going to make it perfect but rather that He was going to make ME be in perfect harmony with His will and His plans. What a mighty God we serve!