God Knows Your Heart

Surely we will not allow ourselves to become so hard-hearted that we cannot hear the voice of God?? Surely not. Yet, this is exactly what God says we become when we allow ourselves to see through the lense of worldly or even religious expectations, or when we raise up standards and expectations through the lense of our own experiences. Not withstanding wisdom learned through life’s experiences, when we settle our mind into the grooves of our own thinking, we are thinking with our own mind and not necessarily the Mind of Christ. “For, who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”

I have a special place in my heart for ministers. I always have since I was very young. It was something God supernaturally put in me from as far back as I can remember. They are those we look to for guidance, wisdom and truth, certainly in our darkest moments we seek comfort through their presence and heartfelt words. They are also some of the most viciously attacked people in the world. True enough, some may be way off the beaten path of truth. But many, however, are deep in the trenches of praying for God to save me and you. These are people who go through attacks and struggles, most of which no one ever hears about. Why? Because, as a representative of God on this earth, through their prayers and ministries, they are bearing the burdens of many. They are tearing down the kingdom of darkness that has set itself against you and me and this world we live in. It is easy for us to point the finger of expectation with the Word so tried and true. It is not always easy to receive it. I’ve experienced some of the most misguided attempts to set me straight from something I was never bound by. Go Figure. Yes, indeed. We need to figure this thing out so we can build up the walls of a mighty fortress to further the Kingdom of God on this earth.

Many years ago, right after my son was first born, the church where I was serving found themselves without a praise and worship leader. Since they knew I played the piano and sang, it was strongly suggested I seek the Lord about serving in this capacity, they surmised I was at that church “For such a time as this.” I was not seeking a position in this church, mind you. In fact, I had never served in this position before and I was more than feeling inadequate to lead anyone. I felt as if I was still recovering from all I had been through in the events leading up to the birth of my son. Look at God go with his “suddenlies.” I am a fairly reserved person, until you get to know me. I don’t try to be. It’s just the way God made me. At this point, I was more reserved. I didn’t really know anyone very well. Taking this new position would mean I had to allow God to pull more from me than I had experienced before and this was fairly difficult for me. But I knew God was standing right next to me. I might point out that when we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. Therefore, just as soon as we repent, I mean truly repent, God resets everything surrounding us and says, “Pick up your mat and walk. We have work to do.” Amen.

One morning after service, a gentleman came up to me and said, “Sister Katrina, I’m going to pray for you about your pride.” I was confounded and dismayed. My response to this gentleman was, “Good. And I’ll pray for you,” to which he agreed as he left.

My thoughts immediately went to God, “Lord. This can’t be. Of all the things you taught me about pride when facing my sin of stepping away from the straight and narrow path you set for me, surely this is not the case. Surely, you have taught me to confess my sins before you and make sure my heart is humble and true before you, especially before I ever step up on the platform to worship you. Search my heart. Show me what’s going on here.”

Of course, during this week, the Lord showed me many things. Predominantly, we are in a battle waged against our souls, against our church and against furthering the kingdom of heaven on this earth—in and through each one of us. None of us are immune to the attacks of the enemy. None of us are immune to those fiery missiles being launched against our flesh, our desires, our expectations, and our own shortcomings, setbacks and perhaps even our own unfilled hopes and dreams. Be assured, we can quickly become short-sighted about someone due to the measurement of expectations based on others’ behaviors that we quickly surmise, “Watch out! See, it’s the same thing as before. Tear down what the devil is trying to do here and get them out of here!” Sometimes this is true, mind you, but many times this is based on false evidence that appears real. I don’t think we realize what we can launch against a person, even with our best intentions. Be wise as serpents but innocent as doves.

As I was speaking with another minister regarding this, the Lord spoke to me. In 1 Samuel 26:9-11, when Saul was seeking to kill David, at one point, David got the upper hand. His sidekick in battle wanted to put Saul to death but David said, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “The Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed.”

This is the message of this blog. God knows our hearts. God knows what’s going on. Nobody is doing anything that can remotely take God by surprise. We are commanded to pray, without ceasing. We pray protection of our ministers. Without it, we are leaving them to be like sitting ducks. We need to pray for each other before we pass judgment (in this case, judgment means a preconceived mindset of who we think a person is). We are all in this together.

Now, have I ever been guilty of doing such myself. To my regret, unfortunately yes. Too, too many times, and I didn’t even realize what I was doing. In our best attempts to “do what’s right,” we can all too easily diminish the work of God and even tell him “No” to what may be his greatest gift to us or his greatest breakthrough in our lives.

There is a time to call out and tear down, but if we try to do it in our own power, strength and perhaps limited understanding, in the end, we only hurt ourselves. There is a time to separate and clean out our camps, but I suggest we clean out our closets first, lest we too be caught in temptation—to sin that is.

As for me and this gentleman at this church? The next week, we met up after services. He said, “Sister Katrina. I owe you an apology. God told me, “You don’t have a spirit of pride. God gave you a spirit of excellence.” My heart was humbled beyond my ability to describe. From that day forward, we became friends who could share experiences, learn from each other and count on to pray for one another. And that we did indeed.

Those who are given much, much is required. This is true. This, however, is a two-edged sword. It is always easier to see a bigger picture when you are on the outside looking in—or so it would seem. God knows our heart. It is always in our best interest to keep our hearts before the Lord, lest we chance having a heart that turns to stone. God has given each of us a Spirit of Excellence with which to rise and walk In His Righteousness. Love God. Love People. Love your Neighbor as Yourself.

Where Freedom Is Given, There Is Much Responsibility

Let freedom ring. We live in a free country, right? It’s our body so we have the right to choose. The Land of the
Free and the Home of the Brave. Whom the sun sets free is free indeed. I have the right to live in peace. I have the right to protect myself. One of my personal favorites is, “I have the right to come into my own home and find peace in the midst of chaos, strife and unrest in the world around us.” These statements and more I grew up hearing. I’m reminded of the song, “This land is my land, this land is your land, from California to the New York Island, From the Redwood Forrest, to the gulf stream waters, this land was made for you and me.” This land was made for you and me.

So many people. So many opinions. So many beliefs. So many backgrounds. So many interpretations. With justice and liberty for all. Yes, indeed. I remember a time not too long ago when my son became very interested in the world around him. He would listen to every news feed he could get his hands on. Unfortunately, he was basing his opinion on other’s beliefs without weighing these beliefs on any standard measurement of truth. This, I believe, is why we have so many different thinkologies today. At one point, my son’s view of this great nation we live in became so tainted, he wanted us to move to another country. (Yes, even with all the problems we may have, I still believe we live in the greatest nation in the world today.) He has since grown past this. It took him being willing to listen to all sides and weighing against the common thread of what is right versus wrong in God’s eyes. But I must say, I am so very proud of him for taking the time to see past himself to learn about the world around him.

Perhaps, there are lessons for us all to learn about the world around us. Learning and seeking understanding does not have to mean we must subscribe to each other’s beliefs or standard of living. I do believe it is a necessary step in bringing unity and peace into our nation and the nations around the world.

Our Declaration states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This one statement has been the backdrop of seemingly every human rights argument and protest around the world. Human rights are the moral principles or norms that describe certain standards of human behavior that are protected as legal rights in municipal and international law. I am not going to get into a political debate here. My ministry and message is of love. Rights…life…liberty…pursuit of happiness.

I believe we are responsible for our choices. I believe it does matter that we do not force our beliefs on someone else. At the same time, I do believe we have the right to voice our opinion without fear of retribution. I believe that is a freedom given to us in this great nation we live in. Without it, we are certain to be diminished into a nation of control by a few instead of a democratic government, a nation governed for the people, by the people. What so many people seem to be unaware of is how much of a prison we each live in, really, without God’s love that sets our souls free.

I’ve pondered many things in the last 20 or so years of my life. I come from a long heritage of men and women who were willing to work hard and fight for what they believed in and they gave to us a strong sense of never giving up and keep on keepin’ on to overcome setbacks. I remember putting a self-made picture of “Thou shalt not whine” on a wall in my house, and made it a point to refer to it anytime my children decided they didn’t like the results of appropriate action taken against inappropriate choices and behaviors. I’ve heard, “Does everything have to be about God?” My response is of course, “Yes! Me and my house will serve the Lord!” I’ve heard “I feel like I’m living in a prison. You won’t let me go anywhere!” I hope they never know what living in a prison in your home, in your mind, or in your circumstance can really be like.

Storms of oppression can take a person unawares. But of course, that’s the plan of the oppressor. It makes my head swim sometimes wondering what happens to a person to take them from seemingly a normal, ordinary thought process to one of paranoia and sense of being without the ability to have any control in a situation to the point a person takes excessive measures trying to ensure they are protected.

I grew up in a family full of military servicemen and women and avid hunters. We come from the south where it is common for people to hunt and fish for their food. So, growing up around guns never bothered me. I understood their intended purpose. At one point while in college several years ago, I myself was in ROTC with the intention of becoming an officer in the United States Army. We grew up with a sense of being safe and protected, because my family stood strong and proud on the principals that were established for us to live a life of peace in our home and our surroundings.

So, when I got married, I expected these same principals would be in place for me and my new family. I’m really not sure what happened, exactly. I can’t put my finger on a decisive moment or event that took place to trigger what caused things to go so very wrong.

It was over 20 years ago when a new law came forth that required background checks on firearms—the Brady Bill. The next thing I knew, letters were written and plans to protect what was his began to surface. Statements such as “We’re going to have a racial civil war next year and the police are only good for drinking coffee and eating donuts.” “I’m going to protect my property, and that includes the two of you.” You heard me right. In that moment, what he said only confirmed what we already felt—my daughter and I had become like property in his mind. Suddenly, a mission ensued that catapulted our personal firearm inventory to 20 weapons, three of which were assault weapons with all the accessories to make them fully automatic, including two laser sites with over 10,000 rounds of live ammunition and enough reloading equipment and supplies to make over 10,000 rounds more. He was going to hide them in the walls and dig a hole under our home and hide them so if we were invaded our weapons would not be confiscated. He wanted to put up a 10-foot fence with razor wire across the top of it around our property and put video surveillance equipment at the end of the driveway to monitor who came and who left. How do I know there were that many rounds of ammo in our supply of stock? Because I inventoried them. Every. Single. One. I had possession of the house, and when he was forced to leave, he could only take personal items. So, for the property settlement, I had to inventory everything we possessed to show him that I had not “taken” anything he thought belonged solely to him. Even so, he still accused me of withholding items of value. Good. Grief.

At one point, we even looked at property that sat high on a mountain that required a code for passage. Now, I might interject here that this in and of itself did not alarm me. He became obsessed and the more time that went on, the darker the atmosphere at our house became. It was everything else added to it that was sending signals of “You’d better get out and get out soon.” It got to the point I had to let him know my itinerary for the day. He would give me what he thought was enough time to get where I said I was going and he would call to make sure I was there. If he felt I strayed any at all, the inquisition started. Paranoia loomed and I felt I was running out of time to bring me and my daughter to a place of safety. But God…

God put the right people in the right place at the right time and we were able to get out with a protective order. After he was removed from the home, we were eventually able to come back until such a time we were able to finish the property settlement and move for good.

I took everything firearm-related we had accumulated to local law enforcement. They were stunned. He called the judge and ultimately, the judge had no choice but to return them to him because he never actually “did” anything to show cause for concern. Such as was the case for us. Without broken bones, bruises, and DNA, abuse and paranoia is very, very hard to prove and at that moment in time, I lived in such a state of fear and brokenness I could not verbalize everything we had gone through. I now know it was God and only God who carried me through that time. And God…

God knew long before we would find ourselves in this place how he would get us out of it. Two years prior to this, by God’s divine intervention, my daughter and I found our way to a local church. After a while, I was finally able to confide in our pastors “something wasn’t good” in our home. At that time, I was not able to be specific and they offered to talk to him, but I knew if they did, it would only make things worse for us. So…they prayed. They prayed for us regularly. Me and my daughter found solace and safety in this new home environment God provided for us. This became our safe place and I made sure we spent as much time there as we could.

At one point, I was given a glimmer of hope. Even though he resisted at first, he finally began to attend with us. His exact words were, “Are you sure the walls aren’t going to fall in on top of me?” This was short-lived. Something changed—quickly and it seemed the more we went to church, the worse things got at home. It would take all the faith and courage I could muster just to call an attorney and start the process of leaving this prison we called home. Fear had gripped every part of my being to the point I could not keep my body from shaking, nor could I keep a strong tone of voice. The fear was real. And it had its clutches in me deep.

It would seem my life has the makings of a Lifetime movie. I suppose it does. So, why have I even bothered to tell my story after 23 years? Simple. This is my story. My redemption story. My story of how great God is. My story of how God will move heaven and earth for his children and judge righteously in favor of his children when his children cry out to him night and day. My story of God’s power working in our lives for our salvation to fulfill his plan and purpose. My story of how miraculously God worked everything together in our favor for our good. My. God. Is. Real. And. My. God. Is. Good. And…Satan is defeated by the blood of the lamb and the word of my testimony. We no longer live in the dark. We walk in His light.

God intervened. From that point in time, it would be two years before I realized how close to irreversible disaster we were. As I was praying and interceding for him and our church one morning, the Lord spoke to me. He said, “If it wasn’t for the prayers of the people in this church, paranoia would have taken him over and you (me and my daughter) would have been killed.” Wow. I found myself without the ability to comprehend how purposefully and precisely God will reach down from heaven and rescue us out of every pit of destruction. Never. Underestimate. The. Power. Of. Prayer. Had it not been for the prayers of the people in that church, my daughter and I would have become a statistic. Humble silence.

Now for the million dollar question. Am I an advocate for gun control? No. Without a doubt, no. I believe very strongly in our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. I am, however, of the very firm belief with freedom comes great responsibility. Do I have a problem with anyone obtaining and owning many firearms and ammunition? No. Not really. Again, it is the person that makes the weapon injure and kill. I have never seen a gun fire one round while hanging on a wall, or sitting on a shelf or table. Not one. Responsibility lies with the one whose finger rests on the trigger. Is there an epidemic in our world today of control through the use of force due to the lack of self-control of an individual? Yes. However, I maintain, getting rid of our guns and right to protect ourselves is NOT answer.

I will give him this much, some of his perceptions had some validity into our future. However, it is the innocent who gets caught in the cross-fire and a person’s state of mind and heart reveals the true root of the problems we face in the world today. In our case, that was at the root of our demise. So, what’s the answer? To be bluntly honest, I believe God is the only one who really has the answer to our dilemma, and we live in a society where many people simply do not want to listen. I don’t have the answers. I have only what I know we lived through–what God brought us through. Even so, having lived through all we have lived through, I have what I know God is able to do and wants to do for everyone.

We must become a people who are willing to love one another and pray without ceasing. While doing so, keep your eyes wide open and be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Some would say, this is only euphoria and we will never see this happen for us. Perhaps, but we have a choice. We can join together and listen to the one who made all of creation or we can simply keep doing what has gotten us into such a mess to begin with. As long as evil exists in this world, evil will happen—even to good people who have done absolutely nothing to bring it to their doorstep and into their lives. Again, the innocent are caught in the cross-fire. With justice and liberty for all. Indeed. I rather believe we need to cry out for justice and mercy for all.

There are many battles to be fought and won to see unity and peace in our land. I choose to believe God is the one who is able to make grace abound and bring us into wholeness. Only God is able. And only if we allow him to do so. My prayer is that my ex will truly find cleansing and healing for his soul through a real relationship with God. In truth, only God knows our heart.

In my opinion, we do not need more gun control and more censorship of public opinion, even when we may disagree. We need more people to stand up make a positive difference in the area of influence God has given them. Do I believe we have the right to defend ourselves? Yes. Do I believe we have the right to live in peace? Yes. Your opinion may likely differ from mine. That’s okay. We don’t have to agree on everything to get along with each other. I firmly believe that. I’ll pray for you. You pray for me. With God, all things are possible.

This is my story. This is my song. Praising my Savior, all the day long. Peace.

Where Much is Given, Much is Required

The Lord speaks watch and pray. This is the year of the gate, Hebrew year 5778. This is the year of life. Where much is given much is required. Do not squander your gifts, or wait until you think everything is just right for you to proceed in them. Take that step of faith, and dig deep within those things that you know God is put within you and let his light of life and love shine through you through your gifts and talents. He’s already gone before you made a way for you. Stand up, rise up and walk, even if it means you have to do it afraid. The Lord God Almighty spoke with his own voice to me just a year and a half ago, and as he should me Jesus after being nailed to the cross and the cross being raised up with Jesus being mailed to it and a crown of thorns on his head, he spoke to me “It is finished. Satan has been defeated.” Rise up and walk like you believe and know this is true. Don’t let anything keep you from overcoming any obstacle in this life. For great will your reward be when you persevere.

Somebody needs what God has put in you. Don’t let the devil steal even one moment from you from this moment forward. Live with a purpose and that is to pursue the purpose and destiny that God has for you. God’s promises are eternal. Bring God into remembrance of those things he has promised you. He will do it. For he is faithful.

Luke 12:38-39 tells us it’s good for the servants that his master find them ready no matter what season, or Time of day or night. God tells us if you knew when thief was going to try to break in your house to steal your stuff, you would be ready for him wouldn’t you? God tells us that we need to be ready in the same way, stay on guard for devil, the one to comes to steal, kill and destroy–The one who comes to steal your hopes, your dreams, your ministry, your reputation, your future with the hope that God has for you. The devil is merciless and Will use anyone who allows him room, anyone, even with their best intentions at heart to try to protect and advance the kingdom of God. Stay diligent. Do not put God in a box. I hear him say, “I am doing a new thing. Do you not perceive it?”

We are in a season of favor and God has lined this up in the heavens and commanded his angels to bring for that which he promised us. He speaks, be strong and courageous and go and possess the land to he has given to you.

God has positioned people to help you fulfill your destiny. I pray for the fulfillment of those people in your lives. I pray Psalm 91 and Psalm 20. The Lord is raising up a remnant, even this very hour. And like the song says, “Lord I want to be in that number.” Just do it! Say “Yes, Lord, Yes!”

Peace in his richest blessings.

If I Love You More, Will You Love Me Less?

“Do you love me?” I was asked. “Yes,” I answered. “How much?” was the reply. Without hesitation, the response might be, “Okay, what do you want now??” I heard this often as my kids were growing up. A common colloquialism indeed. Can love by measured? Or, is love simply the act of being?

Paul makes the statement “If I love you more, will you love me less?” in 2 Corinthians 12:15. He was preparing to visit the church at Corinth for the third time after false apostles criticized him for not having supernatural experiences and doing miracles as they did. He did not want to have to defend his apostleship and position of authority with the church, but he did so by recalling the miracles he had performed in their presence and also noted that during each of his stays, he was not a burden to the church at Corinth because he always found a way to support himself. He goes on to say he would gladly spend all he has for them, including expending himself completely for their growth, understanding and steadfast devotion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Can love be measured? Or, is love simply the act of being? Spending time, space, money, words, deeds or perhaps even in our silence love can be shown. Love is a testament to our faith in God and in our service to him. Love is seen in how much we do, in what we spend and extend of ourselves, and this is not always shown in the amount of money we spend.

However, just as the church at Corinth was young at that time, our kids too tend to measure love in dollars and cents, especially if they are involved in extra curricular activities at school or in the community. Life can become a real juggling act, especially when you have more than one child, all going different directions. My children were at one time both involved in soccer, my daughter for three years. Then she advanced to cheerleading and my son to Taekwondo. Then there was my daughter’s first high school prom—all while being in band and choir. Oh my. All of which were expensive and time consuming. Even as much as we struggled and with the very little support I received to help raise them, we always found a way—even when it meant me working two jobs. But I never complained and I never saw it as a burden. We don’t mind going the extra mile for those we love. Sometimes, when we give more, more is expected and the great wealth of what we expended on them gets lost in their desire to have more. Sometimes, unfortunately our giving can be taken for granted and entitlement can set in.

This is what Paul was talking about. Even though there were those who tried to discredit him for not “performing” like others or as others thought he should, he proved himself to be diligent in raising up this church in Corinth in the knowledge and admonition of the Lord Jesus Christ, founded on his truth and doing so without being a financial burden to them. He gave all he had and asked only their obedience to Christ’s teachings in return.

If I love you more, will you love me less? What is in your heart? Do you measure love by how much a person spends on you? Or by how much a person spends with you, doing life and going through the ups and downs with you? May we all love one another without reproach or expecting something in return. Love isn’t love until you give it away. Peace.

Moving Past Tragedy

Our life is made up of our experiences. Some of them are somewhat inconsequential, but we are affected by all of them to some extent. Many times we are responsible for creating them, but there are those circumstances that were created for us that are completely out of our control. This would be the case when a great tragedy engulfed our family with flames that would change our lives forever—one we never saw coming and one that would change the course of time forever.

It was June 4, 1983. I was 19 years old and the world was at my feet. It was a Friday, like any other Friday. I was working at the gas station and business was booming with people excitedly getting prepared to relax for a weekend retreat of fun at the lake or just to stay around the house. You know, the normal last day of the work week scenario.

About 10:00 that night, a storm rolled in. It was a very strong storm with torrential rains and high winds. Amidst the storm were sirens, both warning of impending tornadic danger and the emergency vehicles scrambling to help those in need. I had already moved out of my parent’s home and was living in town with roommates. I went to bed thinking how thankful I was we did not lose power, as so many homes were without electricity by that time.

At 4:00 a.m. there was a knock on the door. A single, solitary police officer knocking at your door at 4:00 in the morning is not a good sign. “Is Katrina Stanley here?” He asked. My roommate got me up and I went to the door. “I’m sorry to inform you but your dad was killed in an accident and I need you to come with me.”

Time stood still. I can remember my roommate asking the officer if there wasn’t any other way to have told me. I couldn’t breathe. Every step was in slow motion. I remember going to my room and looking for socks. I couldn’t find any socks. I couldn’t move. I was in shock.

My dad worked at a local college in the maintenance department and my uncle (his brother) was his supervisor. My uncle was able to get dad hired after he finished vocational training upon retiring from 20 years of military service. There was to be a large Girl’s State event at the college the next morning. On the night of the storm, my dad, uncle and the maintenance crew were called out at about 1:00 a.m. to repair a fallen computer wire, the wire that powered all the computers on campus. I was told a call was made to the local power company to turn off the power to the main high voltage powerline so these men could repair the computer line for the next morning when the Girl’s State event took place. The power company said no, there were hundreds of homes without power and they took priority.

Only God knows what transpired next, but directives were given and these men proceeded to repair the snapped computer wire. At some point, the wind picked up the high voltage power line and it hit my dad in his right temple and electrocuted him. Paramedics were called and I was told they were actually able to resuscitate him a few times but ultimately, their attempts failed and my father was pronounced dead at the scene. He was only 45 years old.

So many unanswered questions. Why was it so important to repair that line in the middle of the night? Why wasn’t Girl’s State canceled until a later date when repairs could be made safely? Why was my dad working in these conditions without proper gloves and boots to be properly grounded? What didn’t help matters is everyone was put on a gag order for five years. The hardest blow came when my mother refused to sue for negligence and wrongful death. Through tears she simply said, “Your dad didn’t believe in suing anyone. It will not bring him back.” But, I wanted to. My brother and I both wanted to. We were grieved and vexed beyond anything that ever existed in our framework to conceive. But, we would not dishonor our mother. To make matters worse, my uncle was working that night, side by side with my dad. In time, he finally confessed he would have been severely reprimanded if he had spoken about the details of that night before the five years had passed. In later years, he spoke of nightmares that plagued him night after night which lasted for months. This man became like a dad to me. His heart broke for us. It took me a long time to realize that in the accident, not only did my dad die, this was his brother. And, they had become very close after my dad retired from the military. Only God knows how deep the grief cuts into a person’s soul when the light of a life that brings life to their soul is snuffed out, especially when it happens suddenly, without any warning or preparation. We would be forever changed.

It had only been the week before I talked on the phone with my dad and for the first time in my life that I could remember, I told him I loved him. He said, “I love you too.” That would be the last time I talked to my dad. I never got a chance to tell him how sorry I was that I moved out the way I did, so suddenly—I just wanted my independence. I wanted to pursue my dream of singing. It was difficult for him to handle, as I was through and through a daddy’s girl. But at least I was able to tell him I loved him before he left.

Memories flooded my soul, like when I had an opportunity to join the group called “Up With People,” which was a group of youth that traveled the world singing upbeat music with upbeat, positive lyrics, but my dad said no. That was a lot to ask a man whose daughter just recently graduated from high school. But I never forgot it. My dad was a dad indeed and very protective at that. He wanted me to go to college and he worked at a job that would allow me free tuition. Otherwise, there would be no hope of me going. He became very upset when I wanted to drop out after only two years. I wasn’t adjusting well there. I thought transferring to the college across the ravine would make the difference. Not. He was not happy where he was working but stayed so I could get a college education. This would be a decision I would regret for years to come. Soon thereafter, he began the process of trying to change jobs when he died. It seemed it was simply one day to late. If only….

Then there was the time I had been chosen to go to Japan to study as an exchange student. I received a scholarship that would pay for tuition but not room and board. I would have to work teaching English to pay my way. My parents didn’t like the idea of me going to Japan for a year without having the money to support me in advance, as there were simply too many variables. What ultimately caused me to stay at home was my parents were unable to get a loan to support me while I studied abroad. At their insistence, I stayed home. Yes, my dad was very cautious indeed. After the accident, of course, I was so glad my parents insisted I not go to Japan. Otherwise, I would have missed out on spending the last year of his life with him.

All I knew was I felt empty. I remember thinking, “How am I going to help my mother?” I couldn’t imagine what she was going through. Truthfully, I wasn’t old enough to understand the soul connection she had with the man she married when she was only 18. My brother was in the Navy, so he had to ship back out to his post. Our first Christmas was spent on a cruise ship in the frigid cold winter (even in Florida it was freezing cold that year) to get out of the house. My life would never be the same. Truth is, I’m not sure you ever get over it. Not completely. He was my dad. He was my encouragement. He was my rock. He was my stability. He was my daddy.

As the years have gone by, the Lord has taught me many lessons about accepting God as our Father. I had a good dad. A really good dad who worked and made sacrifices for his family so we could have a decent life. Lesson after lesson paralleled the unconditional love of my heavenly father as provider, healer and friend and as I lovingly call him, Baba.”

Why do bad things happen to good people? There is a book written with this title. My answer is, sometimes there’s just no good answer. No reasonable explanation. It is just what it is…part of the cycle of life that we all have to live through at one time or another. It is easy to blame. Sometimes that blame is truly warranted. It is much harder to live with knowing you are just left with an empty space to fill. But God…

If we will allow him, God has a way of gently loving us into wholeness again. I can’t say what it will look like for anyone else, but I know he did this for us. It was a long, hard journey, but God has never left our side. Without his strength carrying me and sustaining me, I would have never made it through. Although we never forget, we must forgive and release to find peace, otherwise a root of bitterness will take root thus defiling every choice we make and every relationship.

I still miss my dad. Sometimes, I feel as if he’s watching over me and encouraging me. My uncle (who was my dad’s younger brother) who took on a father role in my life graduated into heaven in May of 2015. My uncle who was working alongside my dad that night, who took over being my dad, died only a few weeks ago at the time of this writing. I know I am not alone, but I can honestly say I’ve never felt more alone than I do right now.

As hard as saying goodbye is, there is still life to be found. If I have nothing else within me to give, I will always say, “Never give up. As long as there is life in your body, there is always hope. There is still life to be found.” Know where you will spend eternity. And yes, you can know for sure where you will spend eternity. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord and when these days on earth are done, we will spend an eternity in heaven with the Lord.

Serve One Another As Unto The Lord

Serve one another. The very act of service that leads some to believe it is in it truest form living as an indentured servant—enslaved to the very act of giving to others without receiving in kind. In fact, we all serve to some extent. What always boggles my mind is the thinking that those who serve are beneath those who do not, or in most cases will not. Unfortunately, we often times cannot see the forest for the trees.

Teachers, for example, serve every day. They give and give and receive little in return. At least as far as monetary compensation. They have the greatest influence on our future society and world and receive the least amount of pay for this great investment in our future.

There are many who work in the area of waste management. For those who work in this field, the title has evolved today from what was once referred to as the neighborhood “trash man.” This work holds a great risk to one’s health and proves a definite challenge to those in risk management to ensure the health and well-being of those who are willing to work at all hours of the night so we can have the pleasure of a clutter-free, smell-free and waste-free home. Again, not a glamorous position to hold, yet one of a great service to our communities around the world.

When I was going through college several years ago, I worked in a school cafeteria where my daughter attended school. There in-lies some of the most caring and wisest people I’ve ever met with all the glamour of a star in the making. You know what I’m talking about—sporting the unique fashion trend of a wearing a hairnet. Talk about the “bedhead” look. Yep. We had it goin’ on! Good food, service with a smile and kind encouraging words were expected and required with very low pay, hot steam in the face, skin cracking and sore backs from leaning over the sink scrubbing pots and pans. All so our children, the bright stars of our future and their instructional caretakers and staff would be properly nourished each day. Along with our custodians, I do believe these are some of the most overlooked and under appreciated people in our schools today. But each one carries the level of servanthood perhaps we should not underestimate.

Although I continue ongoing education so I may better myself in all seasons of life and so me and my family will not live in poverty, I’ve never thought of myself as too good to do the seemingly worst job. I was born to a blue-collar family. We worked and we worked hard. From farming, to serving in the military, to working in a garden to literally provide the food we ate—and yes this was only about 30 years ago, and owning and operating our own businesses. We have a strong work ethic. We have also had more than our share of ups and downs with losses that were devastating. However, I’m so very thankful to have been born into a family who has a strong moral compass and was taught early to trust God for who we are and all we need. All in all—God gave me a servant’s heart. A heart to help others.

I remember after my divorce and God’s love broke through my broken soul and skeleton of the person I was and began to fashion me into who I’ve ultimately become today, I told God, “I want you to heal me and heal me as soon as possible, because I do not want to spend the next 30 years trying to get over this.” God is faithful. God will move, change us and grow us all in love, mercy and grace as much and as fast as we allow him to do. God has used many people in my life to help me along the way, for all of whom I am eternally grateful.

I remember many years ago I was watching TBN. I saw Jan Crouch walking on the banks of Jordan. She was talking about the darkness of depression and how debilitating it was for her but how God delivered her and healed her. I sat and listened intentionality and with stark, profound clarity, I realized she was describing what I was feeling but never knew how to put into words. She talked about the Lord telling her to go to church one day. Even though she didn’t feel up to it, she went anyway. At the end of the service, the Lord prompted her to go to the altar to pray for a young woman there. She described how she felt so displaced and inadequate to help her, but she went anyway. She then described how the Holy Spirit lifted her up and she began to experience breakthrough like she had never experienced before. She then said, she never understood it before, but you have to give what you need. Indeed, a clear presentation of the law of sowing and reaping—all from a servant’s heart.

I believe it is most commendable when someone will take time out of their busy life to mentor a child who is not their own. Far too often those who have only one parent is looked upon as somewhat of an outcast. Blame is all too readily and blindly sometimes cast on the parents for bringing a child into the world without both parents, without fully knowing the circumstances. Sometimes, this is valid and a necessary situation to address in an effort to stop the ongoing epidemic of children being brought into the world without committed parents. I was once chided with “How could you bring a child into this world without a father?” (Referring to my son.) It is easier to see the splinter in someone else’s eye rather than see the log in your own eye sometimes. I do realize there are many who expect someone, anyone to step in and take over their responsibility in caring for a child. This was certainly not the case for me. Even so, the child is not to blame. A child still needs guidance and nurturing from a mother and a father figure. I prayed and sought earnestly for mentors, role models in my community and church for my son to no avail. Even so, God is faithful. Do we serve only when it is convenient? Do we serve only when we think someone is worthy of receiving it? And yes, to answer perhaps an obvious question, I mentored a teenager for almost three years. So you could say I sowed seeds into my son’s needs by serving another with similar needs.

Blessed are those who will be God’s hands and feet and build up the wall of righteousness, helping to bear the burden and load of others in order to raise up righteous oaks for our future and furthering the kingdom of heaven on this earth.

It wasn’t too many years ago. I moved me and my son to Oklahoma with new, great expectations of the new beginning to a great adventure the Lord was taking us on. Had I known just how hard it was going to be, I likely would have told the Lord “No.” I came with great faith but only just enough money to support us for a few months. I stood on the scripture found in Jeremiah 17:7-8 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” I called in the great harvest of all the good seeds I had sown. I stood on my knowledge and understanding of my relationship with God that he would never leave me or forsake me and in fact, he spoke to me and added to it, “To the end of the age.” So, I knew I was on another challenging but great journey with the Lord. Within days, the Lord provided me with a job.

That would go on for about three years. Then, my job began to phase out. This was 2013. I had just started school of ministry. I finally took that step of fulfilling God’s promise to me of making me an ordained minister. My faith was strong as I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. At the beginning of that year, I had a terrible car wreck that totaled my car and injured my neck and right shoulder. I had to resort to transcribing with my keyboard in my lap, yet my faith continued strong. I was determined not to allow anything to be taken from me. One July 1, 2013, I was laid off. Electronic medical record keeping had taken many of the accounts and there was no longer enough work to justify my employment.

Wow. I moved me and my son to a land I did not know, people I did not know with no family I could reach out to for support of any kind. This was hard. I must have sent 50 resumes for work, but nothing. Absolutely nothing. I was to the point I had to have a break or I was going to be evicted. By this time, I had exhausted all provision I had.

Through a neighbor, I was introduced to the pastor of the local Salvation Army church. She asked me if I would be willing to teach piano for their youth. I was excited! I finally had a break—even as small as it seemed. Doors even opened for me to clean a few houses. What is always amazing about God is that in all things God works all things together for our good. It was at this very church I had my first opportunity to tell my story to the women’s group. This ultimately opened doors for me to tell my story at their headquarters homeless shelter chapel, and eventually allowed me the opportunity to stand behind their pulpit and preach. In all things, God is good. All. The. Time.

Eventually, I was offered a full-time position managing their bell ringing ministry for the holidays. Have you ever seen someone standing outside a store ringing a bell with a kettle you put money in that is hanging on a stand during the Christmas season? Yep. That’s what I did in Broken Arrow. For three years I operated this ministry for them. I absolutely loved it! It was not only full-time work, I was able to work with people from all different backgrounds. The common thread in everyone—we were all willing to work—we had a mind and a heart to work. If you’ve never done it, this job is not for the faint-hearted. It requires standing on your feet for hours at a time, and remaining cheerful and pleasant while the cold wind and even rain beats on you making you feel as if a thousand knives are cutting away at you. At the end of the day, you feel as if you had been run over by a bus—back hurting, hips aching, wrists tired—and all you did was stand and ring a bell.

My day would start at 7 am and end at 10 pm for six days a week. If I wasn’t working in the field, I was in the office answering the dozens of phone calls of the organizations who wanted to be scheduled to help ring the bells for this fine organization. We would rally together each morning for a few encouraging moments to motivate the servant’s heart in remembrance of “It’s not about us.” It was at times exhausting, but I loved it. I saw the spirit of man at its strongest. I saw the love of the season shown in the simplest expressions of Hi! Merry Christmas! Peace to you! All from people who I know had very little to give—except the heart of a servant

From The Darkness Into The Light–Life After Sexual Abuse

In the night she cried out “No. No.” She was pushing something away from her. With her hands, she tried to be freed. I listened and watched her struggle, afraid to wake her for fear of her not coming back to me.

These are just some of the things a person who has been sexually assaulted goes through, whether they are a child or an adult. Nightmares, PTSD, depression, low self-esteem, constantly wondering if you are worthy to be loved, constantly wondering what you did wrong to cause this “thing” to happen to you, knowing deep down inside what has been done to you was a true act of violence and not of your doing, but the question always remains, “Why? What if?”

In my search for significance to be a woman who was loosed from the darkness that surrounded me, I had to allow God to take me on the journey of recovery—a very long, painful and humiliating journey of recovery. I had to allow him to take me back through the memories of every act of molestation and sexual abuse. Very painful. But despite my best efforts, I found it was the only way I was going to be free. So, I allowed him to do it. What I learned was this time, I was able to control the end result.

I was raised in a good home with loving parents who always told me to “Shoot for the stars. You can do anything you set your mind to do.” That is what I was taught from a very young age. That is something that still holds true for me today. Today, I am no longer afraid. But despite my upbringing, it would take years before I really understood why I always felt “different” from other girls my age. I always felt older, set apart, just different and never understood why.

It would take going through recovery from my abusive marriage for me to understand how life travesties can take a toll on a person’s life and set them up for defeat long before they ever arrive at the chance to try. There is a truth about those who are sexually assaulted. The outcome either way is devastating. There are those who become sexually promiscuous—they take the attitude of “What does it matter anymore?” There are those who completely withdrawal. Then, there are those who remain angry and bitter. At each pass, every relationship this person has at some point becomes directly affected because of the insane injustice levied against them. Each outcome holds its own set of mountains and valleys, twists and turns and one never really knows what the outcome will be, but one always hopes for full recovery. Only time and a really great, loving support system can one overcome the devastating effects of being sexually assaulted. You have two choices, either give up or move on.

For me, I never really knew what happened. I was so young, I couldn’t have understood what took place. In my innocence, I managed to “tell.” Without a doubt, my mother understood what took place and she did everything within her power to see to it that never happened again. At any rate, it opened the door to much worse. There would be four attacks against me of this nature before I would be married. Here’s where a history of deception and confusion has come into play. If your husband wants sex and you do not, and he insists on doing it anyway, is it assault? Or, is she just refusing to submit to her wifely duty?? I am here to set the record straight. No means No. Period. Whether you are married or not. Period. You have no idea the power of the destructive nature of taking what has not been offered to you can be and how it can take a toll on a person’s mind, heart and soul. If you put a gun to someone’s head and said, “Give me all your money or I’ll kill you,” don’t you think that would shake you up? The same is true when a woman says No and her request is not respected.

How can a man who says he loves his wife roll her over and take what she does not want to give on that particular occasion? Love does not demand its own way. For the record, that’s not love. So, why does a woman stay? Peculiar question to which there is no firm answer to. She is his wife. To have and to hold, to love, honor and cherish. Maybe he wasn’t really trying to hurt her? Maybe she misinterpreted it? Maybe not. But she’s his wife. She has made a commitment to their marriage. The methodical way of an abuser slowly tears down her defenses of resistance. At the same time, she knows this is not right, but somehow she knows she just can’t leave—that would make things worse. Instead, she builds a wall of defense and protection to what is in her that is still hers—her dignity, her honor, her soul. Leaving is sometimes not an option. I tried to leave when my daughter was eight months old. He took her out of my arms and I was told I could leave, but if I did, I would never see my child again. Whether this would have truly been the outcome or not, I believed him. For many months after that, I had to ask permission to take her to see my mother who lived out of town. Perhaps unbelievable, but it was reality for us.

I was always told, “You’re my wife. You’re supposed to do what I tell you to do.” Well, well, well. Hmph. There is a scripture in Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. That’s a two-way street. It goes for men as well as women. Another in 1 Peter 3:7 In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered. All too often, the woman is expected to submit to her husband. And yes, she should, unto Christ. Unto Salvation. Unto Righteousness. Not unto selfishness that is destructive—especially from your husband. I was raised, God hates divorce. You should simply not divorce—work it out. This is not always possible. This is not always healthy. This is not always safe. Hear my heart—I am not an advocate for divorce. But, I believe God loves us and expects us to do things in order—all of us. When disorder and chaos abound, he does give you forgiveness for leaving. We need to understand God does not expect us to stay and be a whipping post for someone who does not love him or care for us.

What took me years to understand is how I could have married someone like this—especially, having been raised in a well-adjusted home with loving parents and a great extended family. As I continued in recovery, I learned that the stage for this was set long ago. It started in that first act of sexual abuse when I was three years old. It set me up for insecurities that would lie dormant until such a time the enemy would come in like the snake that he is to destroy who I was so I would become crippled in my ability to be who God says I am and to accomplish God’s plan and purpose in my life.

Getting to the root of any issue is absolutely key in getting rid of strongholds, hang-ups, incorrect thinking and behavior patterns. It was devastating to me to learn the “rest of the story” regarding our situation. My act of disobedience of marrying this man who I knew was not equally yoked to me, opened the door for my daughter to suffer at the hands of her father. Was I responsible for her demise? No. He was in fact the sole beneficiary of occupancy of the acts of injustice against her. However, I received a real education about how my lack of being whole before I married allowed open doors for evil to all too readily come against her—and me.

There is a scripture in Exodus 20:5-6 that says, “I am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” What exactly does this mean?

In short, it means whatever the sins of the parents are, whether sins of commission or omission, lay the groundwork for the children to follow in suit. Sources say, if a parent is an alcoholic, the chances of the kids becoming alcoholics are three to four times greater than their peers. The same is true for kids who have had abusive parents. Without proper intervention and healing, they are at a greater risk of becoming abusive themselves or marrying someone who is abusive towards them. They can say they will not let it happen to them, but when they are in the midst of it, they find it is really not that simple. This was indeed the case for my daughter.

Before I divorced, I asked God specifically what was wrong with my family. God is very much interested in every part of your life and most assuredly wants to be an active part of making you whole. So, he told me. He showed me how the line of dysfunction went about four generations deep, as far as I could calculate. I vowed right then and there the generation curse and cycle of abuse would end with my daughter. What I did not understand and was powerless to change for us until much later was understanding just what God means when he says he will “show love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” This is key. Love God with all your heart. Keep his commandments. One of his commandments is love they neighbor as thyself. Be kind. Love one another. Get this—love does not beat you down by someone who says they you love, whether physically, mentally, emotionally or verbally or even financially. That is not love. For those who love God, God will move heaven and earth to show you his love. But, we must be willing to let him love us. He will not force himself on us. He is the perfect gentleman.

The other key factor in recovering into wholeness is understanding how powerful our words are and how God’s spoken word is taken by God’s angels and immediately knocks down the attacks of the enemy who is the constant menace of our minds which is directly related to our behaviors and our emotions. There are so many people who struggle and some outright refuse to believe this, but just as we all have a guardian angel who is assigned to watch over and protect us, there are also demons who are assigned to our destruction. Where they can be stopped is through prayer and words of affirmation—not words of destruction.

When I was divorced, I was so broken I didn’t know who I was anymore. I stood in front of a mirror so my eyes could see my mouth say the words my ears heard so it could get into my heart so I could be made whole. I would say, “You’re not worthless. You’re not a pacifist. You’re not ugly. You’re not a waste of time. You’re not stupid. God loves you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are the apple of God’s eye. You are the center of God’s heart. You are God’s beloved and his heartbeat.” I did this for months so I could finally hear something good about myself instead of the continuous onslaught of insults that were so often hurled at me. The incredible thing is—it worked. It was after this, I was finally able to trust God just enough to allow him to start loving me. And yes, his love is like a banner that will completely cover you and saturate you into wholeness.

I’ve fought many battles deep into the night—for myself and for others. It has become a part of who I am as an intercessory prayer warrior. Here’s where we must come together and bring awareness to how powerful loving others and building each other up with our words and prayer really is. What so many people do not understand is who we are in Christ. We have been given the authority that Christ had on this earth. We have the authority to call things that are not as though they are. We have the authority with our prayers to pull down the lies told about us and others. It’s amazing to see those devils scatter when God’s word is invoked against them. At the risk of sounding ridiculous, they are indeed real. But God is greater and his power and love is so much stronger.

Is there life after divorce? Absolutely. Through Christ into wholeness. Is there life after abuse? Yes. Absolutely. Through Christ’s love making us whole. So, what about the little girl who never had a chance to be a little girl who was thrust into one destructive relationship into another? How does she become whole again? Only when she allows a loving father, ABBA father, to lavish her with pure love will she once again have her hopes and dreams restored. The truth is, most people are very well aware something is wrong. Most people are simply at a loss as to how to be relieved from it. Some recover swiftly. Others do not. There is no discernable time table. However, there will not be full recovery unless we understand, accept and receive who God says we are and allow him to love us. That’s where it must start. Then, allow God to finish the work he started in us.

About every two minutes an American is sexually assaulted. Every eight minutes, that victim is a child. On average, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States.

If you are someone who has been a victim of sexual abuse, do not allow this to identify who you are. Identitfy yourself with the beautifully adorned princess God says you are. Many years ago, my aunt told me to never leave the house without looking like a million bucks. I understood it. It works. I pass this great advice on to you.

The pain is real. The devastation is real. The devil is a liar. God is greater. This is why I say, never assume you know what someone has gone through, especially if you won’t take the time to talk to them to find out. But even so, we can all be prepared to help in a person’s recovery by being armed and ready to fight—through prayer and speaking positive words of encouragement. Love one another. Be kind. That’s my message. I hope this helps someone along the way know there are those out there who understands how precious you are to God and how sexual abuse is not your fault. And no, God didn’t allow this to happen to punish you for something you did or didn’t do. It is an act of evil. Period.

Live. Love. Laugh. Never give up. God has a plan for you, for good and not harm for a future with a hope. Remember, God uses ordinary people, just like me and you. Love Always.