Forgiveness

I had a dream not too long ago. It was during the time I was having a hard time forgiving myself for something I did that hurt many and brought shame to my family.

The dream was about my dad, who has been in heaven since 1983. In the dream, The Lord showed me a time when our family was on vacation when I was young girl. My dad was a bit of a daredevil, not too risky, but an adventurer. We were standing on the edge of a mountain side and he threw a huge rock over the side just to see how long it would take before he heard the rock hit the ground below. While doing this, he lost his footing and his balance, and almost went over the edge himself. What a devastating tragedy it would’ve been for my family to have lost my dad when I was ten years old…..we were indeed blessed to have him alive until I was 19. The dream revealed to me how much this really shook my dad up. In the dream, my dad admitted he was being careless, and his carelessness was indeed a bit selfish as it would’ve cost us having our father and my mother having her husband, and he apologized.

That event really did happen in the real world of our lives many many years ago when we lived in Alaska, and my dad was in the Air Force. We were on vacation when this happened. I know how scary it was for us, but I never knew the impact it had on my dad. It made a real impact on me how important it is to God that we understand how on this earth when we make mistakes–and sometimes we make extraordinarily huge mistakes–that they affect not only ourselves, but others, more importantly sometimes our families. It is important that we forgive ourselves. But it is just as important we forgive others for their mistakes and how it has affected us. God takes real issue with this.

We forgive others so God will forgive us. Truthfully, who are we not to forgive others, when God has forgiven us of so much. Forgive, so bitterness does not take root and defile many.

Family is everything…….

Learning to Let Go


Learning to Let Go

Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. Acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5, 6.

It was early 2015.  I was in a season of fasting with the upcoming election campaigns.  The Lord began showing me many things through dreams and visions.  All in all, God is sovereign and he does not delay in his return as some might think. His delay is so more people will be saved in the great harvest of souls that is soon coming.  He is raising up a remnant to go forth and spread the gospel of his truth and love.

One early morning, about 3 a.m., I woke up and knew the Lord was there. I began praying in the spirit. I then lifted my hand to the heavens and started singing, “He leadeth me, He leadeth me, by his own hand He leadeth me.  His faithful follower I would be, for by His hand, He leadeth me.”  God was leading me on a new beginning, a new level and I purposed in my heart I would hold on to his hand and never let it go.

The Lord knows the end from the beginning. Isaiah 46:9, 10:  “I am God, and there is no other, I am God, and there is none like me.  I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.  I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”

God is still working.  One step at a time.   He often reminds me of the time when my daughter had married her first husband. It was February 2009.  It was as if the marriage was doomed before it began. He asked me for her hand in marriage.  I said, “Not now. Not yet. I don’t believe either of you are ready.”  With the first major “mama had to put her foot down” after him asking for her hand in marriage, her with her stubbornness and him with his arrogance, they decided overnight to get married at the Justice of Peace.

Isaiah tells us God will make the crooked places straight and the rough places smooth. Well, this never quite manifested in their marriage. Their first major knock down drag out happened on their honeymoon…..and thereafter every week for roughly three months. Every week, I got a phone call.  Every week.  One time, he brought her home with her stuff and dropped her off with me and said, “I’m done.” To say it was tumultuous was putting it mildly.

Then Easter came.  I was one of the keyboard players at our church in Arkadelphia, AR. During Holy Week, we gathered at a different church during the lunch hour to worship God and celebrate new life in Christ through the power of the resurrection from the grave.  I was completely worn out. I was so stressed, I couldn’t even speak about what was going on.  I felt as if I would have a breakdown.  I must have looked completely spent, because my pastor said he was very concerned about me.

I went home that day and sat on the back deck of my mother’s house.  I cried out to the Lord, admitting I had made many mistakes with my daughter and confessed my sins.  I then admitted to God I simply couldn’t do it anymore.  I couldn’t stand seeing what was happening to her but she wouldn’t leave him.  I was so exhausted from constantly being pulled into their situation I was struggling to give my son the attention he needed. I told God I was letting her go.  She was grown.  I still loved her completely but she had to make her own decisions now and by those decisions she would have to live.  I knew I would always be there for her but I simply couldn’t handle being tossed back and forth emotionally and mentally.

At that every moment, the Lord spoke to me in an audible voice.  He said, “You will have all the desires of your heart. You will have all your hopes and dreams.”

Yes, scripture in Psalm 37:4 tells us when we delight ourselves in the Lord, he will give us the desire of our hearts.  Of course, when we delight ourselves in the Lord, our desires become more like his desires for us.  Even so, when God takes the time to audibly speak that to you—this word resonated with such power!  Psalm 5:4 says wickedness cannot stay in the presence of God.  I felt the presence of God with so much power.  I pondered how after all I had done wrong, could God still tell me I would have all the desires of my heart and all my hopes and dreams.  Because……God desires his good for every part of us.  He desires our whole heart.  He doesn’t want us to hold anything back from him.  In this case, our children is a gift from God. We are given them for a short period of time and he expects us to raise them in the way he says they should go. God trusts us with that. He also tells us he will reward our efforts—even when we make mistakes.  He desires to be the Lord of our lives—of my life, your life and even my daughter’s life.  I had to let her go for God to be able to do the complete work in her he desired to do.

Am I still “there” for my daughter?  Yes!  Absolutely!  But she is a grown woman and she had to learn how to live her life on her own without mom always being there to tell her what she should do.  God is able.  After all, God raised us, right?

During this season in early 2015, the Lord asked me what I wanted him to do.  He said, “Just ask.”  I listed the many desires he had developed in me of seeing people and nations set free from bondage and walk in the light of his salvation. He listed as I rambled on and on. Then he said, “Where much is given, much is required.”  Well, well, well.  Profound silence.  It’s that moment when you realize your desires have become God’s desires for you.  But…..he wants all of you.  He must have all of you, an undivided heart, to accomplish his purpose in your life.

Today, I remind God often saying, “Remember, you said you would give me all the desires of my heart and all my hopes and dreams.  Well…..”  Me and God are good that way.  Does that mean God will give me anything I want.  Probably not.  Actually some things I may want may well not be God’s best for me, and actually that’s what I really want–God’s best for me.  For clarification, God is not someone who sits waiting to grant us every wish, like that of the perverbial genie in a bottle.  God created us to be in a relationship with him.  With any relationship, it’s a two-way street.  My goal is to be walking with God on the same side of the street, going the same direction with him. As most of my desires are for the welfare of others, I do have many of my own desires, hopes and dreams that stay tucked away in my heart and firmly seated in God’s keeping hand. Of course, they evolve and change.  Such is the way of God. Although HE never changes, the world around us does, therefore, we need to be pliable to be usable by God.

Until then…..We continue to  “Dream a little dream, dream a little while, hmmm, hmmm”  (I really wish I knew the name of this song.  I think it’s a Steven Curtis Chapman song. It’s been stuck in my head for 15 years.  So…..if you know what that name of this song is, I would appreciate you letting me know so I can get it out of my head and sing it in its complete form.)

Learning to let go.   It’s a process that will continue until we are with him in heaven.

Blessings……..

The House That Love Built

The House That Love Built

Some things happen in our lives.  Some things happen around us.  Some things happen to us.  Some seem incidental.  Some are sombering.  Some are life-changing moments.  But in each instance, one reflects on its inherent meaning.  Well…..at least sometimes we do.

It was a year ago, on April 29, 2017 when me and my two grandsons visited with my mother in our family’s home.  I was scheduled to rehearse for an upcoming music festival I was performing in and I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to spend precious moments with two extensions of my life who lovingly calls me “Granny.”

There had been a lot of storms in the days leading up to that weekend.  Straight-line winds with torrential rains causing floods damage to towns across the region.  But for the most part, we seemed to weather the storms fairly well.

The day started slow and peaceful. Just the way I love to start a Saturday morning.  The Spring air was cool, clean and crisp.  I love the country life.  The day ended well after all the “chores” were accomplished for the day.  There’s nothing like snuggling on the sofa wrapped in comfort by little arms who lovingly, yet silently say, “I love You.  You’re my hero.”  Those are the precious moments that speak unconditional love in a way no words can adequately express.  Life that is a part of you that extends beyond you.  What a great expression of true love.

Finally, we settled for the night.  As had become custom, my grandsons wouldn’t settle in a room by themselves, so they ended up crawling into bed with me.  The storms seemed to be slowing.  It was only soft rain when we went to bed that night.  Then it happened.  It was about 11:20 p.m.  I was awakened by a loud noise that sounded more like a explosion and a sucking sound while the picture window mom had built in place of what used to be glass windows was catapulted on top of me and my grandsons at about the same time the ceiling tiles and frames fell on top of us.

Instantly, I felt rain falling on us and could see lightening against the black sky with rumbles of thunder.  My first thought was, “Oh my God.  We’ve been hit by a tornado.”  I called out for my grandsons but they did not answer.  My second thought was, “Oh my God.  The tornado has sucked them out of the house.  I was finally able to free my arms from the debris to reach over to their side of the bed.  I could feel them, but they wouldn’t move and they wouldn’t speak.  They were in shock.  I grabbed hold of their arms and dragged them to my side of the bed and we were able to crawl out from underneath the wall and ceiling that had fallen on top of us.

I went to my mother’s room and yelled, “Call 911.  The house has been hit by a tornado.”  Something was significantly strange in this moment, as she was already fully dressed and sitting up in her bed.  Months later, she finally remembered that she had not yet gone to bed that night.  She was getting ready to do so when I came into the room.

We were able to find our shoes and get the boys dressed so we could leave the house.  While we were waiting for the emergency responders, I collapsed to my knees.  I couldn’t think of anything in that moment.  My mind went blank.  I remember not being able to feel anything. I couldn’t breathe.  I suddenly thought about our neighbor, a woman who lived in a single-wide trailer next door.  She was now living by herself after her husband passed away a few years earlier.  My anxiety intensified as my thoughts for her safety consumed me.  It was about that time the emergency responders came.  They went next door to check on our neighbor.  She was fine.  I asked the one of the emergency responders if they knew if the tornado had done much damage.  He looked at me and said, “It wasn’t a tornado.”  Later, he admitted he knew it wasn’t a tornado when they got the call.  There had not been any tornadoes in the area that night.

I went outside to my mother’s carport and saw this man standing at the end of her driveway.  At that moment, I still didn’t fully comprehend what I was looking at.  He was standing next to the massive 100-year-old oak tree that stood majestically in my mother’s front yard.  Except that it was no longer standing—it was the roots of this majestic tree he was standing next to.  It was surreal.  It was pitch black outside and we were rapidly being ushered out of the house so they could turn the power off so a fire couldn’t possibly ignite.

Daylight the next day revealed the cruel reality of what we had experienced just hours before.  There had been so much rain that softened the ground in the recent weeks.  Nature is a beast all its own.  It looked as if the wind picked up this tree and laid it over on top of the house.  It cut a line across the house and through the entire attic directly over the room me and my grandsons had been sleeping in.  My mother had built a concrete retaining wall about the tree to double as a bench and also hold flowers around the base of the tree.  All of which was destroyed in a matter of minutes.

Shock does a lot of things to a person.  For me, it wasn’t until I walked back through the house that I heard the crash and rumble of the tree and could remember feeling the jolt of it shaking the house on its foundation—in fact, it was such a jolt, the beams supporting the deck out my mother’s bedroom had folded underneath the deck.  The cinderblocks that enclosed the crawl space under the house had cracks in it.  The trusses in the roof were crushed and splintered over ¾ of the house.  The sounds haunted me for months.  I can still remember it as if it were yesterday.

The real miracle was realized when we saw how the retaining wall around the base of the tree had not been completely crumbled.  It was in fact holding the tree up, keeping the tree about three feet off the ground.  I experienced in that second the realization that me, my grandsons and my mother were alive because this wall crumbled at just the right place, just the right angle and degree, and stopped crumbling at just the right time to keep this massive tree from falling completely onto the ground and cutting the house completely in half. The force of the picture window mom had built in place of the windows blasting on top of us was actually our salvation, rather than hundreds of glass shards that would could not have resisted piercing into us after exploding from their frames.  Surreal cannot explain it.  Stunned.  Speechless.  Mind blowing silence.

The next days and weeks felt like walking through a time warp.  So many decisions.  So much work ahead.  So much cost.  We discovered the end of the house closest to the carport was still in good shape.  I wanted so much to keep that part of the house.  It was just too much to lose everything so suddenly.  I urged my mother to consider it.  It was too much for her to process.  The decision was made not to keep any of it.

This was our family’s home for 41 years at that time.  So many memories.  Every time I walked through that house I was flooded with memories.  This was a house that my family built.  We did not pay a contractor to come in and build this house that we simply moved our boxes and bodies into.  This was a house my parents paid someone to put into the dry.  We…..our family…..a dad, a mom, a brother, a sister and me finished it—completely, meaning insulation, sheetrock, paint, wallpaper, linoleum, ceiling tiles, every nail driven, every door hung, every piece of trim, everything.  It took years for us to finish our home because my parents paid for it as we went along.  This was the home that love and thousands of hours of sweat equity built.  I can still see my dad standing on a stepladder in the middle of the living room stapling up the squares of ceiling tile with his manual high-powered stapler.  How do you process losing the home where 41 years of memories are stored in every wall, every corner and in every step taken through each room when it wasn’t your choice to walk away from it?  I still can’t answer that question.  It is most assuredly the process of letting go.  Indeed—it is a process.

Now, one year later, my mother has finally gotten to the place she can walk through the process of taking the house down.  We had decided to ask the fire department to burn it for a fee.  This would have been the least expensive way to do it.  We tried to salvage everything that could be salvaged.  In the process of this, my mother was introduced to a family who could see the value in keeping the kitchen and dining room—the rooms at the end of the house I so desperately wanted to keep.  To my relief, they convinced my mother to keep it.  They will help my mother dispose of the rest of the house efficiently so as to maintain the integrity of the end of the house that was spared utter destruction.  Everything else was too far gone to even attempt to salvage.  But the heart of the house—that part of the house that held the heart and soul of family meals and gatherings and all the great memories that go with it will be spared.  I am grateful beyond my ability to express.

Life is precious.  Life is a journey.  When we hold on too tightly to that which is destined to change, we will eventually face the inability to journey through the change.  Life.  Love.  Good memories.  This is what is worth holding on to forever.

Every day is a new beginning.  Another opportunity.  Another chance to do something good—to make a good difference.  Some say they do not believe in God.  Some say they’re not sure if he exists.  Some are indifferent.  As for me…..I know I would have never gotten through what I’ve faced in my life without God.  My hope is in Him in Every New Beginning.

Update:  5/19/2018

As with any good story, there is always a happy ending.  At least there should be.  Such is the case with this one.  It turns out the family whom God sent to my mother was able to save exactly half of the house.  Not only the kitchen and dining room will be spared, but also the living room and a small bedroom and bath on the back of the house.  Hopefully, my mother will be able to move back into her home of 41 years in a few short months.  My excitement has been catapulted to that of sheer jubilation.  God.  Is. So. Good.  And worthy of ALL praise.

Now, I have a new dream for a new beginning.  I have a new hope tucked away deep in my heart—that is to rebuild the rest of the house that was destroyed by that storm.   Until then……..

You Alone Are Worthy–The Story Behind The Song

(Originally Posted 3-11-2018)

It was nine years ago at the time of this writing that I experienced things that for a long time was unable to talk about, much less did I feel I could adequately put them into words to describe what God showed me—what God was preparing me for.  But out of that experience came one of the greatest revelations and deliverance of strongholds that had competed within me seeking to keep me from realizing God greatest blessings and His destiny for my life.  As scripture says, in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (NIV), “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”  And even as much as I had sought God and allowed him to work in my soul and life, there was still some work that needed to be done.  This work is, in fact, an ongoing work as long as we are on this earth.  From this experience, came this song which I sing to God every day—“You alone are worthy to be praised!”  So…here goes.

It was the beginning of the year of 2009.  As it is common with each new year, I seek the Lord for scripture and his plan for the upcoming season of my life.  In this year, he reminded me of a time I came into the New Year of 2002 with “Delight yourself with the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” and reminded me of what he called me to do.  The Lord then spoke to me and said, “It’s time. Get ready.”  The Lord led me to begin to fast and pray during a season he was preparing me for the beginning of a new phase of my life and ministry.  I counseled with my pastor’s wife and told her what God was speaking to me.  It was in this season God gave me a new, fresh anointing that came upon me that I had never walked in before.  God’s words were pouring out of me like a river—like the time I experienced being on the mountaintop with God, talking face to face with him and walking side by side with him for what seemed like lasted for months several years ago.  It was supernatural.  It was incredible.  It was life changing.  It was glorious and so vividly real.

I learned many things during this season.  One of which is of utmost importance.  Seek a prayer covering when you are fasting. You absolutely need a person(s) to keep you covered in the protective covering of prayer while you are emptying yourself and interceding on the behalf of others and/or yourself. You need this covering to stave off the unforeseen (but should be expected) attacks and devises of the enemy to thwart off the work of the Father and extinguish the fiery missiles that will be aimed at you in a mission to render you unable to see, hear and discern clearly what the Lord will show you during this season of fasting and prayer.  We war against the power and principalities of the unseen world. We succeed in pulling down these strongholds through the word of God and as Matthew 17:21 says, some of these only come by prayer and fasting (KJV).

It became an intense season.  I was drawn deeply into the spirit realm. At one point, I was awakened by a demonic presence that was swirling about me. I jumped out of bed and began quoting 2 Peter 2:1-22, realizing it God was showing me how Satan had sent forth many false prophets and in this passage of scripture, God painstakingly describes their characteristics and for us to be aware and discern their destructive nature. It was pointed out to me in verse 19 that these false prophets “promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.”  I prayed for what seemed like half the night against the powers and principalities who have send these agents of lies, confusion and deception assigned to keep people from coming to know the true love and grace of God.

I found myself praying for several different people during this time. One of which was a young woman who was hurting and convinced God was not real, did not care, so why should she.  I saw this woman in the spirit and I saw three demons rise up from within her—one came up from her right side, one from her left side and one from the middle. They had names, which I will not mention in this writing, but they were sent to literally suck the life and hope out of her.  I did not know her personally. All I could do was pray. But this I did. I prayed.

Have you ever felt like something was making fun of you? Laughing at you? Have you ever felt as if you were being taunted mentally or emotionally?  It was revealed to me the source from which it comes.  You got it!  They are little imps—little evil spirits that literally cause you to feel as if you are the biggest loser, low life or jerk that exists on the planet. They are the ones who are responsible for making you feel as if you are the laughing stock of your peers for having an as sundry of shortcomings—you name it, they are responsible for its presence in your mind and emotions.  The only way to overcome it is to combat the lies with positive truths. And you need to speak them out loud so your mind can engage in their existence and so it will get into your heart so you know your worth and that you are valued and worthy of good things and worthy of love.

At one point, I was taken deep into the spirit of darkness.  I felt as if I was being pulled down and down.  There was no light. The darkness was so dark, it was suffocating.  I could smell a stench so disgusting it made my stomach turn and took my breath, although I continued to breathe.  I could hear screams and shrieks so shrill it pierced your ears with striking pain and it made the hair on your head hurt at the roots.  There was no bottom.  There were no walls or anything to assimilate with familiarity. There was only torment and endless pain. I could hear a what I perceived as rushing presence, rushing to overtake me.

I suddenly woke up and was terrified.  I didn’t know what was coming against me. I couldn’t see anything. I could only feel the presence of evil. Even awake, I felt as if it was still coming after me. In a split second I cried out, “What is it? Jesus!” In that instant, I literally saw the shadow of Jesus rise up from my side and surround me and instantly, the fear was gone and I felt peace and comfort as I rested in the shadow of his presence.  Psalm 91:1, 2 says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”  I knew in that moment, my safety, protection and well being was provided through being covered in the presence of the Almighty.  I was safe in the arms of Jesus.  It was an incredibly real, visible display of the darkness as described in Matthew 25:30 and Matthew 22:13 “Then the king said to the servants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Separation from God renders you into utter darkness.  There are many scriptures that speak about darkness. Many believe there is no hell, and the hell that Bible speaks of is the earth we live in today.  I would have to disagree.  I’ve seen it.  I’ve heard the cries of torment of those who have refused to accept that Jesus gave his life as the atoning sacrifice for their sin.  It’s so simple.  As 1 John 1:5 says, “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” Well then. If God is light and there is no darkness, doesn’t it stand to reason that if we experience darkness, it is not from God—since God is light and in Him there is no darkness?  I believe so. Of course, there are perhaps at least a million different definitions of what darkness is.  My purpose in this writing, however, is to describe those things God showed me during this time.

It was during this time I realized God was not holding me back and keeping me from realizing His promises in my life because of the mistakes I made. It was indeed strongholds of doubt, fear, misunderstanding his word, and (as he most recently showed me again) Matthew 23, which I have referred to as a “Pharisee spirit.”  I challenge you to read it.  We’ve all been subjected to this in some form or fashion.  The Lord has been very diligent in teaching me through this that “sword of truth” cuts both ways. Be sure your house is in check before you start trying to get someone else’s house in order. There are a plethora of little evil spirits and demons at work in this arena. I’ve seen them.  I’ve heard them.  You have too.  Satan puts thoughts in our minds to either play against the truth or cast a shadow of doubt on the sender of God’s truth. Unfortunately, much of the time, we fail to recognize that sometimes subtle yet intrusive voice and wake up one day wondering why the very thing we did not want to happen has happened.  Good grief.  As Jesus said in Luke 9:41 “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you?”  One can say they do not believe there are actual demons and evil spirits at work against us, but then again, perhaps those are the same that says there is no God and no Satan.  This would be a great deception given by a great false prophet.  One of which we all should be aware and on the lookout for.

I would also caution you to remember, we all filter through a different lens. I’ve learned when God’s word is being given, there are many things at play against an effective delivery and an effective reception. We MUST be aware of all these things.  Just as God show no favoritism, neither does Satan.

Hell is real.  On the flip side.  Heaven is real.  I’ve seen shown this too.  I’ve seen the river of life that flows through heaven.  I’ve seen tall, lush green meadows and colors that breathe life that so vivid and bright it exudes peace and joy. I’ve seen Jesus standing in the presence of the 24 thrones in heaven as described in the book of Revelation. I’ve heard children laughing and singing. I’ve seen some in my family who have gone before me.  You might think this is hard to believe—in fact, rather unbelievable.  Sounds like something out of a movie or a good book. Right?  Believe me when I say, I don’t know why God chose to show me these things, but I can honestly say seeing my children in heaven who have gone before me breathed life into me and allowed me to forgive myself for what I did.  Heaven is perfect.  Heaven is perfect peace. And in that perfection, we are all made completely whole.

It has been said to me many times, “I’m not religious.” That’s great!  Neither am I!  And neither is God!  He is in fact about love, grace, forgiveness and relationship. It is in his presence we live in his grace. This grace comes only through Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the light and the life that develops us—if we choose to believe.

We are in the end times.  Jesus is coming back soon.  My message is simple.  Hell is real.  Heaven is real. God is love.  So much he sent his only son, Jesus, to give his life as an atoning sacrifice for our sins and when we accept that, we can know and be assured we will spend all eternity with him in heaven.  If a person chooses not to accept Jesus’ sacrifice for their life, then they instead choose to live an eternity separated from God in utter darkness.

The Lord revealed to me during that season of the time when I was saved at nine years old. I knew at that time God would use me in music. I started playing piano when I was nine years old.  I started playing Beethoven a few months after I started playing. I learned to play Fur Elise and Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.  My teacher called me “the next Liberace.” I wasn’t so moved with what she said, I simply loved playing the piano. Making music took me to a place no one else could invade. It was my secret place of peace, contentment and fulfillment.  I continued to study as time and my parent’s ability to pay for lessons allowed. By the time I was in college, I had developed my own style.  Without going into the many times my hands and desire to play were attacked, and I can assure you they were many, it is by God’s grace, I still play and I still love to play. I can’t say I continued to study like I did in the beginning and for a time after that, but I am thankful I never stopped playing. I’ll never really know where piano might have taken me had I not stopped studying, but I can say those strongholds that once threatened to take the fulfillment of playing my beloved instrument are gone. They were overcome during this season.

There are many reasons we struggle while we are on this earth.  Jesus came so we would have life and have it abundantly.  As long as we are living on this earth, there will always be that force that tries to take away the gifts and promises God made to you. When we realize the war we are up against and learn to use the weapons of effective warfare, we will then realize God’s power working on our behalf and will be able to shut down the attacks of Satan that comes against us.  It was during this season of my life God took me through the refiner’s fire and delivered me from mental and emotional bondage that had perpetuated me smoking cigarettes for years and empowered me to take control over my health.  It was also after this season, I made my Abrahamic journey into a foreign land far away from family and the life I had known, into the new life God prepared for me.  A journey I am still fully engaged in.

I learned many things through that season in 2009. Some things come only through fasting and prayer.  From this experience, I’ve learned to make fasting and prayer a continued part of my life.

God tells us that when we say the Name of Jesus, demons have to flee.  It is in our praise that God is exalted and lifted high. It is through our praise we receive miracles. It is through our praise that the enemy in our life is defeated.  It is through God’s gift to us we are saved and delivered from the works of evil. His name is Jesus. And it is through that season in 2009 God gave me this song.

Jesus…You alone are worthy of our praise.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day–The Heart Of The Matter

(Originally Posted February 14, 2018)

February 14 is a day set aside each year to show that “special someone” how much we care about or even love them.  So often we take for granted the ones who hold that place in our hearts or lives, so on this one day of the year, for those who many have forgotten to say it or show it on a regular basis, this is the day of reprieve and restoration of good standing in good graces…God willing.

This tradition has come a long way from its grave beginnings, of which I will not disgust this post with its grim, bloody beginnings for which both men and women eagerly participated in with the hopes of being fertile in the match-making love kinda way.  I’ll let you discover the believed source on your own.  Oh, my.  Let’s just say, today, in the western world at least, it would be grounds for execution or at best prison.  We’ve come along way, baby! And for that, millions are grateful!

Some believe, this special occasion evolved from the martyrdom of two men named Valentine who were slain at the hands of the Romans on February 14 and then their martyrdom honored by the Catholic church. Of course, after Shakespeare and Chancer romanticized it in their work, it became more widely accepted and has evolved into what we know and observe today as the official Valentine’s Day.

Hearts flutter, anticipation creates a buzzing that makes you gleam with excitement of what awaits the one claimed as “the love of your life.”  Children learn very quickly this is the one acceptable day of the year, for which they are encouraged, to let their tender hearts reach out to that “special someone” without fear of rejection.  For others, like my daughter, the love of her life presented her with chocolate covered strawberries and roses—not a bouquet of roses mind you—in the most delicate and colorful wrappings, she received a rose bush that will soon be planted to remind them year after year of the love they share.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving in the richest sense of the word…Love.  Love that is true in hearts that are true.  No.  There’s nothing like it on this earth.

Around this time of year a few years ago, the Lord gave me a vision. It was that of a human heart.  I don’t mean a picture of a heart or symbol, but an actual heart that was beating.  I could see and hear the heart beating, and I could feel the heart beating. I could see the blood vessels surrounding the heart through which the life giving source is pumped and distributed throughout our bodies.  I pondered for quite a while on this. It was intriguing to say the least.

I was led to 1 Kings chapter 8, Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the temple.  What leaped out at me was in verse 52, 53 Solomon is reminding God that the nation of Israel was set apart from every other nation as his own inheritance, and that they are God’s special possession.

We are grafted into the vine of God’s special possession through the promise given to through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  We too are God’s special possession.  Solomon’s prayer goes on to give praise to God who gives his people rest, stating that not one word has failed of all the good promises God gave us.  Think about that. We are God’s special possession.  Not that we are a possession to be owned or controlled by God. Indeed, God gives us freedom to choose whether or not we want to be loved by him, provided for by him, guided by him and protected by him.  But when we do, God gives us everything he offers to us for our protection, guidance and prosperity on this earth with his promise that he will forever walk with us each and every day.

Yes.  What God wants is a relationship with us.  A relationship is a two-way street.  Just as you must spend time with your significant other, the love of your life, to develop your relationship so you can learn each other and grow with each other, the same is true of a relationship with God. We must spend time with him in his word and through prayer so we can get to know him better.  What we fail to understand and all too often fail to accept is just how much God loves us….and no…He isn’t sitting on his throne shaking his scepter and waiting for the opportunity to put a pump knot on your head when you make a mistake.  What we sometimes take for granted is the great extent God went to for us to be in a close relationship with him.  That price was paid for by the life Jesus willingly gave on the Cross of Calvary for us.  Because of his great love for us.  Greater love has no man that he who lays down his life for someone else.  Jesus did just that for us.

Just like it is sometimes hard for us to believe that someone could care for us so much that we would be set apart and honored by that someone special on the day of the Valentine, or any other day for that matter, it can be difficult to understand how God can see us as we really are and still love us and want to talk with us and walk with us on a daily basis…But…He does.

I must admit it took me a while to accept his love for me, after all I have done. But when I did, my life was transformed.  I remember a Valentine’s Day many, many years ago. I was in my church’s women’s group and they were playing a game using the candy hearts with words on them.  You know, the ones that say things like “Love Bug,” “Be Mine,” “Kiss Me,” ”Be True,” “Love Me,” etc.  We were instructed to take five candies and spell a sentiment that would describe your relationship with “your true love.” With deep sentiment, a laugh and a smile on their face, each woman described their “true loves” as told by their five candies.  Interestingly, (and I’m not exaggerating), each woman thought well of the efforts of the candies to describe their loves, until it came to mine. In fact, through laughter and in good humor, they said they just didn’t get it.  Actually, I understood.  I can’t remember exactly what mine said by now, but it made perfect sense to me. I wasn’t describing a man.  I was describing, to the best of the candies’ ability, my relationship with Jesus, because he is “my one and only.”

Interestingly, how many of us think of our relationship with Jesus in this way? Do we put him first? Do we keep him first? Do we choose to keep him first even after we have been blessed with a person we can call “Our one true love?”  Yes, I know. Perhaps my sentiment didn’t sound so romantic. I get it. But when it comes right down to it, God looks at our heart. He can see past what we so often get blind-sided by—the outward appearance and what our mouths can say but what our hearts can’t back up. Our good intentions that sift through the hands of time like sand in an hourglass.  God knows what no one else can know about us. He knows every beat of our heart.

I was asked recently, “Do you think you’ll ever get married again?”  My answer, “Perhaps. One day.”  But rest assured, I know it is Jesus who captured my heart and in whose care I will always stay.  The ministry of His love is what I proclaim on this great Valentine’s Day and every day.

So, whether you are single, married or in a relationship with whoever you decide to call “the love of your life,” “your special someone” or “My Sweet Valentine,” as you share the tender moments this day can bring, may the source of your love be settled with the One who is love…..The Lord God Almighty who will never leave you, “til the end of the age” (and that’s forever).  Listen to His still small voice as He gently calls you today to come back to the heart of worship. Remember the time when you first loved him and you knew he loved you and let him love you back into wholeness again. Let his love bring warmth in your heart on this Valentine’s Day.

Love always remains as you go on your way.

Love always, I give to you as I look into your face.

Love always, I give you with a warm embrace.

Love Always.

Living Proof

(Originally Posted 1-23-2018)

The date was March 30, 1986. Living Proof is what we called ourselves and we worked to live up to that name. We were eagerly awaiting service to start as we watched the sanctuary fill to capacity. Me, my brother, sister, three friends, and even my mother had worked six months preparing our church’s Easter program. When I say prepare, I mean we wrote and co-wrote most of the songs, as well as secured sound equipment, stage lighting and built a lighted cross to complete the stage effects. Our pastor narrated Easter story intertwined with the songs we sang. We practiced night after night for six months until we knew each entrance, beat and could sing the songs in our sleep. It was exhausting. At the same time, we were walking with so much excitement and expectation of what God would do. Indeed, one person did give their lives to Christ. There is no feeling like knowing your efforts helped bring a lost soul into a life-changing, soul-saving relationship with Jesus Christ—like walking in the clouds.

“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do no think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh,” Romans 13:14.

Saying we are a Christian is one thing. Living like we are what we say we are is another. I realize there are as many different interpretations of what a Christian is supposed to be like, but God is fairly clear on how he expects us to behave.

One of the best examples I’ve seen of being Christ-like was shown to me in the middle of the night a few years ago about a person I was praying for. In a vision, I saw Jesus standing with his back to me. Then, I saw him slowly turn to his right so I could see his profile from his right side. Then, I saw a man walk out of the body of Jesus. This man was wearing the same clothing that Jesus was wearing—he appeared in Christ’s likeness.

This spoke volumes to me. When we become a Christian, we go through a process called sanctification. This is a process by which we become more like Christ through the cleansing and renewing of our minds through the study of God’s word, prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit working in us to change us.

God was showing me that when we allow God to work in us to bring about healing and restoration and holy change in our lives, we will become more and more like Christ. This, then, becomes living proof we are the Christians we claim to be.  As the old saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding.”

May our testimony be, “He must become greater; I must become less,” John 3:30.  Grace. Humble. Peace. Amen.

God Knows Your Heart

(Originally Posted 1-22-2018)

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 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. Love God. Love People. Love your Neighbor as Yourself.

Where Freedom Is Given

(Originally Posted 1-16-2018)

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 have 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 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 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. 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 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.”  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 time we spent at 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 seems 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.

God intervened. From that 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 weren’t for the prayers of the people in this church, paranoia would have taken him over and you both (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 handing 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 country where many people simply do not want to listen.  I don’t have the answers. I have only what I know we lived through. Even so, having lived through all we have lived through, I have what I know God is able to do.

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 that sets itself against the mainstream media.  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.

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

(Originally Posted 1-13-2018)

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, my response would 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 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.

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

(Originally Posted 1-12-2018)

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.  The day was a normal 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 power line 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. 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. 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 can honestly say I’ve never felt more alone than I do right now. But, I know I’m not.

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.