But that isn't what I'm posting about today...
Out of the blue, I get an email from a really nice person who asks me if I'd review Frank's newest book on my blog...
Somehow the word "Yes," just didn't carry enough enthusiasm with it. Did I Snoopy Dance? No. But, I was thrilled. But hold on a second...
Okay, I'm back. I just counted the number of books beside my bed that I've got stacked there to read. Eighteen. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have 18 books stacked in order of interest. This does not include the books that I have already started but have laid aside for a few days to let what I've read soak in. The Genesis Record by Dr. Henry Morris and The Christian's Secret for a Happy Life by Hanna Whitehall Smith. All these books are old, ranging from 1942 The Robe to James Harriot, Angela Hunt, Robert Ludlum, Elizabeth Peters 2000. Pure enjoyment which I bought at a book sale for Council on Aging fund raiser. So, I added House by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker to the top of the stack. For one reason I had said I'd review it and for another, I just love Frank Peretti's writing. (The spotlight is on Frank, Ted, 'cause he asked me, sorry :P)
Wait! Before you continue reading, take a look at the video trailer. It is really shuddersome.
A young couple is on their way to a marriage counseling appointment. They pass up the turn off and are stopped by a cop who gives them instructions for a shortcut.
A shortcut? I shout in my mind. Are you two crazy for going into the woods on a gravel road? Right, they must not live in rural America like I do. No, they must get to their appointment and are forced to take this shortcut to make it on time, their marriage is at stake.
This shortcut takes them to a place of darkness that only light can pierce inside this house. How they get there, I'll leave that for you to discover by reading the book. Once inside this beautiful, inviting old-timey inn, they're sucked into a game... forced to play and the stakes of the game are high, their lives. And it becomes increasingly creepy to the point that I'm screaming in my head, "Leave, for crying out loud. Just leave!" Then they get stuck in the butchering refrigerator and I can't close my eyes 'cause I can't read if my eyes are closed! They want out... they want to leave but, the house has them locked in and there is no way out, the only way out is in. How's that for a twister?
Honestly, I was keenly disappointed in this book at first. It was like these people were in each other's dreams. That must be it. They're all dreaming and I'm invited. But, it isn't a dream, it's real and the incredible thing is, it's truth.
It has more twists and turns than the Mississippi levee road. It goes from believable to plausible to outrageous. After I'm halfway through the book, I look up and it's after 12 midnight. I've got to get to bed! (You have to understand, I'm a 10:30 PM in bed girl or I'm yawning and basically worthless.)
I'm cleaning my face, getting ready to go to bed, staring at myself in the mirror wondering why they couldn't see themselves (the characters in the book, keep up!) in the mirrors, and then the lightening bolt struck and I GOT it. You know that kind of feeling. You've been studying a scripture or Bible passage trying to understand it and then you bend over making your bed, or you're turning on the bath water and this light strikes you in your head and in your heart and you finally understand.
It was like that. I got it. I understood it. From that point, I was intrigued and not frustrated. I was enlightened about my own life, and not confused. The rollercoaster never slowed up even on the ride to the top and the ride down was heart stopping... well, maybe not heart stopping, but, good.
If you like supernatural mysteries/horror, you'll like this.
The trouble with this one is, it truly isn't fantasy... it is so close to truth, it's scary.
Late one night, coming home I bounced over a pot hole and the A/C went out. One minute blowing cold air, the next warm, summer night air came pouring through the vents. I prayed about it. I hadn't sold anything for several weeks and I just didn't have the money for a new A/C. (Turned out the pot hole had nothing to do with the A/C.)
One very hot July day, my daughter was moving and asked me to help. "Of course," I said. On the way to her place to help pack, I was once again talking to God about my A/C. I reminded Him that I must arrive at my clients homes cool as a cucumber. He reminded me that I worked at night. I reminded Him that South Louisiana is not the coolest place in the world at night and that it was hot and humid especially in July. He reminded me that it had been a rather cool July. I finished with, 'But, I would just like to arrive at my destinations cool and refreshed, not smelling like a horse!'
The light turned green, then. I turned the corner towards my daughter's place and my glass full of ice and water promptly turned over in my lap. Oh yes! I arrived cool and refreshed!
I still chuckle over that and that happened 10 years ago. That day, God taught me that He will sometimes answer our prayers in a very unusual way.
He will satisfy our needs and our wants according to His good purposes. A couple of months later, my younger daughter had a wreck in that car, totally demolishing it. That $800.00 for the A/C would have been completely wasted. So now, when I don't have an answer to my prayer the way I expect it, I always look for the ice water in the lap trick. God is then saying, "Cool it, Gina. I know what's best for you."
I am enthralled!
Web of Lies, fourth and final book of the Hidden Faces series. Web
of Lies brings together Brandilyn's two suspense series into one chilling and climactic story.
I guess I've overused that word, enthralled... but, how else can you describe an author who grabs your attention from the first word and then won't let you go until you've turned the last page?
There is not another person on the net whose blog I have scoured so deeply as Brandilyn Collins' blog. Her story brings such glory to God that I was brought to His feet. That is about the highest compliment I've ever paid anyone.
God has certainly made Himself evident in her life. When God decides to use us, He takes us through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Brandilyn has certainly seen the shadow of death and has triumphed. She contracted Lyme Disease, and incredibly miraculous story. She tells her story of How I Got Here on her blog, Forensics & Faith.
But... on to the interview!
Brandilyn, you talk a lot about the “What if…” question when discussing your books. What was the “What if..” for Web of Lies?
If you're referring to the "what if" question that can begin plotting, I didn't have one. This whole book was put together backwards. First, due to Zondervan's marketing needs, I had to supply them with a title--before I had any idea what the book was about. From the title grew a story about a psychopath with spiders. With the underlying theme of Satan's web of lies. All quite mind-boggling, really. At least it boggled mine to approach it this way. God helped me write the story, that's all I can say.
For the complete story on the strange way Web of Lies came into being, you can read the posts about it on my blog, beginning Thursday, May 26, 2005. (Part 60 of "How I Got Here.")
I have read your “How I Got Here” series and it ministers in a most special way because there are such great lessons God taught you in your journey of writing. What did you learn about God while writing Web of Lies and how has that impacted how you live today?
Brandilyn: It's not so much what I learned while writing as what I learned before writing it that led to the book's spiritual theme. In praying sessions with people I'd noticed how often Christians fall under the wiles of Satan's lies. We hear them, then we listen. Then we believe. Then we end up walking in them--all without realizing what we're doing. We have to become attuned to how these lies sound--and wilfully reject them when they come.
What was the most valuable piece of advice you were ever given? How did this wisdom change you?
Brandilyn: Most valuable piece of advice I was given and now give is telling others to turn their talents over to God and allow Him to fully lead in how these talents are used. The Creator of the talent is the best one to lead the talent. If there is one theme to the 64-part NES on my blog (Never-Ending Saga--the "How I Got Here" story of my journey toward publication in fiction), it's this concept of allowing God to lead.
How have your books reflected your maturing as a Christian?
My books seem to return again and again to the concept of God's power in helping people face their darkest fears. Embedded in this truth is the power of prayer. I've seen God's power, released through prayer, much in my own life. This can't help but arise in my stories.
Thank you Brandilyn for taking the time to answer these questions. Is there anything you’d like to tell my readers that I might not have asked about?
I invite you to join me and the community of BGs (bloggees=blog readers) on Forensics and Faith. There I give inside looks at the world of publishing, teach fiction techniques, answer questions, discuss late-breaking news in the industry, etc. Many people go to the archives to read the Never-Ending Saga, which starts toward the end of February, 2005. [I gave the link to this extrordinary story above--stop, go read it! It will bless you!] Others read the archives for information on writing fiction. Readers of Forensics and Faith are always given first chance at being placed on my influencer lists, receiving free books in other ways, and becoming a part in various ways of my stories. Forensics and Faith is a great community of folks, and I am very grateful for them. If you have a topic you'd like to see discussed, you can leave it at any time in the comments area.
My next book, Violet Dawn, launches a new suspense series in August. If Web of Lies tells you to watch out for spiders, Violet Dawn says: Don't get in the hot tub ...
I want to share an excerpt from Brandilyn's blog (with her permission). Web of Lies was conceived in a much different way than her other books (she's written a LOT of books). She got a contract for the book before she had a clue what it would be about. She got a title with the help from her BGs and she
... was also thinking a lot about the spiritual thread. That’s as uncommon for me as backing into a story, because usually I don’t think about it at all. I just try to write the best rockin’ suspense I can, and as I write, the spiritual theme begins to emerge. But this time, I just couldn’t get a wrenching scene from the ACFW conference out of my head. It tugged and tugged at me. And remember, all through my plotting and writing, I pray a lot, asking God for guidance in the story. So I have no doubt that this heart-tugging thing was an answer to those prayers.
At that conference I’d had the privilege of praying for some people and seeing some wonderful healing results. (ACFW conferences have a dedicated prayer room that’s open all day.) Sunday, after the conference was over, a group of four friends asked me to pray for them. “Just whatever God tells you,” they said. I didn’t know these four people at the time.
In the prayer room, one at a time, I placed my hands on their heads, and asked God to show me how to pray. Sometimes He gives me a strong answer, sometimes not. When I receive a strong answer, I know God has plans for healing that area of a person’s life. The healing can be immediate, or it can take place over time. For all four of these dear people, God would impress me with specifics as to how to pray.
I came to one of them, a young woman. This is the scene I will never forget. She was sitting, and I stood over her, placing my hands on her head. I asked God to show me whatever He would . . . and waited.
He answered, all right. One word hit me hard in the chest. Just one word.
You'll have to go to Brandilyn's blog to find out what that word was... it will bless you, I promise!
I have been pondering that question since yesterday. I do have a talent (you may or may not agree with me). I do have a talent for writing. It is not honed to perfection, it isn't completely learned, but the talent is there because God gave it to me. God first put the desire in my heart to write, then He has given me such life experiences that have given this art an emotion and a color that only He and I can give it because only He and I have lived through those experiences. I also have a talent for painting. The pic on the right is titled Road to Yucatan which is just over the levee from my house. My daughter has been trying to get me to explore this gift for revenue. I'm wondering what God has to say about this. So many things interest me and so many thing to choose from... What is God trying to tell me?
This is also how YOUR gift/talent works. First He has given you a desire for something... a goal in your heart which is a milestone in your faith journey. Take that desire out and examine it. Turn it over under the Light and see the different colors, the sparkle, the fire that God put there. Then take a moment... No! Take at least a day or a week and pray about it. This is what I'm going to do.
You think you have no desire? Oh, you do. You have just been burdened with life so much that you can't see it. Or, as Angela Thomas says in her Bible Study Living Your Life As A Beautiful Offering, you may have conditioned your heart into numbness so that you won't be hurt anymore. Well... life ain't fair and God never promised we'd never be hurt anymore. Love is a risk and doing God's work is hard--but, oh so worthy! Especially, when it is really He that is doing all the work.
I loved Brandilyn's posts over at Charis Connection. Every day type of happenings have such a creepy twist in her mind and her words just drip with tension.
So why am I blogging about her today? Because I read this question on her blog and it just hit me full in the face... that's why.
I just finished the series about Motivational Spiritual Gifts and I never once asked that question of you... or of myself. How could I not think of that question? It's crucial to turn over our talents to God if we are to live within His will. We must turn over every aspect of our lives to Him, but how many times do we not think about turning over our talents to Him?
I painted window sills this past week (it is the most boring thing a person can do and I admire professional painters who do that for a living. I don't care how much you get paid, it isn't enough!) I can't tell you how many times I prayed, "God, I can't do this, please help me hold my arm up just a little longer... hold this screwdriver straight... hold these blinds...
Talents are God-given for us to use for His glory. We must give them totally to Him so that we can use them to their fullest potential. That is such a simple lesson, but so incredibly deep.
On Wednesday, I'll be talking about her new book Web of Lies and I wanted to ask this question before Wednesday...
Do you have a talent you haven't completely turned over to God?
Deu 32:11 As the eagle stirs up its nest; it hovers over its young; it spreads out its wings and takes it, and bears it on its wing.
I want God to bear me up on His wing!
I am wondering what God has in store for me. I was so certain that I would be hired by the Public Library and I would have a job for life around my most favorite things in the world -- BOOKS! Now, I'm back searching, rummaging, turning over rocks for a job. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of work-at-home jobs out there which amount to get rich scams in my opinion.
I found one that is not. I was hired by a company to call around the nation to find out how well people like their newspapers and yellow pages. I would make about $150 per week and they would not let me work full time at the job (can't pay me any benefits at all). On the surface, this looked like a great job... but, after self-employment tax (that includes medicare and SSI) I would make about $3 an hour. Am I wrong to turn that down? $3 an hour won't pay my college loan, much less all my other bills.
How often do we turn down things that look "bad" in the beginning but actually are blessings? I'm wondering if I did that.
I went to "town" with my HBL to buy paint on Monday. We had hardly gotten there and negotiated new tires for his car before my Mom called and said she had to go to the eye doctor in the city. Last week she had seen bright flashes of light which means that her macular degeneration is doing things to her eyes that make her lose more of her eyesight. She had just gotten an injection to help with her eyesight. (That's a whole 'nother story!) So, we had to rush to get the paint and the other things while they put tires on his car.
I was supposed to help Cleve paint his house, but instead, I was driving Mom to the doctor. It's what I do. I'm blessed to be here for Mom. She needs me and God designed things here specifically for that purpose. Therefore, I know God has something for me to do so that I can be there for my Mom, but I'm wondering what it is.
I am really enjoying my engagement, but I don't want to still be engaged this time next year--I want to be married. To be married, I must have a job so that we can maintain two households (ours and his Mom's). So I'm wondering what God has planned.
Have you ever noticed in the Bible that when God "remembers" someone, things happen? God remembered Noah and all the living things in the ark... God remember Rachel and she got pregnant with Joseph... God remembered His covenant with Abraham and He brougth Israel out from slavery... God remembered Hannah...
One of my favorite remember verses is
Numbers 10:9 And when you go into battle in your land against the foe distressing you, then you shall blow with the trumpets, and you shall be remembered before Jehovah your God. And you shall be saved from your enemies.
Father God remember me and provide me with a job I can do where I can bring You glory and honor and praise because it is truly all about You and not about me. In Jesus name and for His sake. I ask this because I know that being within Your will is the best and more desirous place to be. I'm just asking that You remember me and make things happen for Your glory.
Along in October of 2005 at my Women's Bible Study, we were studying The Patriarchs by Beth Moore. One evening she was explaining how her husband would put his hand on her head and pray for her every time she would go somewhere to speak. While he was praying for her, he would pray for all the women who would be at the study... and he prayed for all the women who would watch the DVD of each study. She looks at the camera and says, "That means he is praying for you!"
My heart stopped for a moment. A man is praying for me. I haven't had a man praying for me like that since my dad died. Tears well up in my eyes and silently streak down my cheeks. I can't hear what Beth is saying because every ounce of longing in my heart had swelled up and burst from the tight container where I'd stuffed it... tears were a river on my cheeks by that time. I didn't even wipe at them because I didn't want anyone to know I was crying. How do you explain something like that? You can't. I can't explain it even now. Longing and yearning for a man who loves me to place his hand on my head and pray for me. Not only pray for me but for the women that I love and care for. What an astounding experience to have something like that happen. Beth was so blessed.
Cleve joined the choir. Now, I was starting to really pay attention. Someone, who shall remain nameless, informed me that Cleve was not married. Interesting. If you are a member of a church choir, you know how much fun we have. We are the kernel of the nuts in church. We are the carmel center! We had loads of fun and laughter.
Then one Sunday, a woman appears beside this interesting man. She sits really close to him. She's not his sister even though I wanted to believe so. I start to go over and shake her hand and welcome her, but she gets this glare in her eyes. I steer clear. Evidently she spent all day with him because she's back that night. Hmmm. I pack up all my budding feelings and put them away. It is important to note that my thoughts and feelings had gone no farther than friendship. I was still happily content in my singleness. Besides, I'm used goods. I had forgotten he'd already called me a couple of times, so the appearence of The Woman was not devastating. That evening we had a church fellowship. I had thought to go and speak to Cleve and again try to welcome her. She's clinging to him like peanut butter to bread. Every time I head that way, I get sidetracked by someone. Time slips away and they are gone before I get the chance. I did not know if that was God designed or not.
Time passes. The Woman comes back one more time, then disappears like the last piece of chocolate cake in a family full of teenagers... not even a crumb left. No reference to her at all.
I get an email: "What would you say if I were to ask you out just for something to do one evening?"
There is absolutely nothing in that question to make a heart flutter in excitement, yet my heart leaped. I emailed right back: "That sounds like a wonderful idea! I'd say, yes."
We went to dinner and I was home by 8:30 pm. We made a date the next Thursday to watch a DVD. Something happened to my fluttering heart between that Saturday evening and the next Thursday afternoon. FNR==> Frantic Nervous Reaction has to be a medical term. I had to find something to do so I could cancel. Surely that package of info would be in so I could write that grant for Abiding Grace Ministries. Yeah, that was it. "Lord God Almighty, please make that packet of info come in, then I can call and cancel."
He called that afternoon. "We still on for tonight?"
No packet of info came in. "Oh, yes! I'm looking forward to it." Funny thing is, I truly was looking forward to it even though my FNR was to the point of causing heart palpatations, but I hadn't broken out in a rash.
The movie was good. He sat in one chair and I sat in another. Good.
Time passes in this way. He would bring things to me that he would notice I wanted or needed, like a fire log to start a fire. He took the tire that needed fixing and got it fixed. Other things that he noticed needed doing, he just did. Just like my Dad used to do.
We made a date to go see The End of the Spear one Saturday. (It was such a good movie.) A storm came in and we were basically under water it rained so hard as we traveled to Monroe 70+ miles away. I felt safe in his presence; his strong hands on the wheel. I realized FNR had dissapated and I was finally able to relax. We had fun. I looked at him across the table, Chinese food piled on our plates, and I suddenly realized that I could trust this man.
He waited to the third date to kiss me. Before then, I'd scurry away from him, terrified he'd try to kiss me like the last time I'd put my toe in the dating waters. That was the first and the last date I'd permitted with that old geezer. Cleve, on the other hand, was a perfect gentleman. It was absolutely amazing how God guided him in our budding relationship. Perfection. When he did kiss me it ignited a blaze that had nothing to do with the fire in the fireplace. It burned hot enough we had to pray about it so God would keep us pure. He is definitely my HBL==>Hunk o' Burning Love.
Valentine's Day was coming up. I was truly looking forward to it because this would be my first date on Valentine's Day in about twelve years. That is a long time without a Valentine. Back in '96, I asked God that if He was preparing another husband for me that I'd definitely prefer to have The Fourth of July kind of fireworks. God remembered that request.
In case you don't remember, there was a full moon on Valentine's Day. Big, bright and beautiful the moon was highlighing the trees. We went to dinner and on the way home, he pulled off into a barren corn field and drove around a pond. The moon was gorgeous. We sat for a long while in complete silence glorying in God's creation. Then, with a very tender touch to my cheek, Cleve asked me to marry him. That is when God put on the fireworks display. We saw a shooting star and it was glorious. God is so grand!
A month later, he gave me my engagement ring and that is when everyone else found out. We'd kept the secret for that long. It is astounding how God works. We've been sitting on the second from the front pew on the right side. (Our choir goes down to sit with the congregation for the preaching.) Last Wednesday, one of our dear church ladies leaned over the pew back and said, "I've seen many a courtship turn into beautiful marriages right here on this pew."
"Are they still together?" I asked.
"Every single one of them," she grinned and nodded her head.
"Outstanding!" Cleve and I grinned at each other.
Christian Love Story Love Story
They say that women who love their father, look for a husband that is like their father. Who is "they" anyway? They are sometimes wise and some times so very foolish. But in this, I think "they" are wise.
There once was a little boy who was born to into a country western band. The Moma and the Papa spent most nights to the wee hours singing at a bar they owned. There is much ugliness that I shant express here, but suffice it to say that alcohol exerted a truly bad influence on the family. The band broke up, the bar was lost, the farm land was sold along with the equipment and the family was torn to shreds. Eight children were tossed onto a rocky road when the Moma and the Papa divorced. The oldest daughter took the youngest children home with her to raise so they'd at least get a good dose of care and attention. Even if they didn't have indoor plumbing or a TV, they had new shoes for the winter and went to school instead of laboring in the fields.
There are some things that I do not have permission to share, so there will be plenty of blanks.
The little boy grew up into a fine and handsome young man. His heart was tender and full of mercy. He loved his Moma and tried to care for his Papa. He made some bad choices concerning wives and money and addictive things. Although, he did not have Jesus, he was one of those Good ole Boys, never meaning no harm. He took his Moma to the Pentacostal church until they found out she was divorced and so was he. They became cold and distant to them, ignoring them. The same thing happened at the Church of God of Prophecy. The Baptist church opened their arms to them and it was there he found Jesus the One and Only. His life turned around. He went from a Good ole' Boy to a truly wonderful, Holy Spirit filled man.
I wish you could hear his testamony as he has told it to me! I wish you could see how he moved back to this poverty stricken area so he could take care of his mom... how he's one of the faithful the deacons call on when things need doing around the church and for church members... how he studies the Sunday School lesson deeply with all the Bible verses and the background so he can teach those young men in his class... how he led one young man to Christ... how he put on old clothes, came and got me and we went to clean up a bloody mess when one a precious, 7 year old child was accidently shot to death so the grandmother wouldn't have to clean up her own grandchild's blood... how he witnessed to his stepson and ex-wife then joyously came and told me all about it!... how he diligently prays for his lost brothers and sisters and his 28 nieces and nephews, gently urging them toward Jesus, living for Jesus, ever ready to do as God bids him.
I noticed him the instant he walked into church. He was sitting over on the right. I wondered silently who he was. I had worked really hard to get to a point where I was very content in my singleness. I was delighting myself in the Lord and I was so happy with all that He was teaching me, and using me. I was finally healed from two devasting divorces. Life was good. I was going to graduate in December and I was looking forward to finding a job where I could work from my home. So, I just noticed him, then forgot him.
He moved from the back on the right to the side section. He sat right where I could see him when the choir sat down. Cute... no, handsome was a better word.
He joined the church. I shook his hand. "Glad to have you!" He smiled a crooked little smile and I noticed his eyes were green, no brown, no green. Hazel.
Months went by. He came to church even on Wednesday nights. He had no wedding ring on. Now, this is not unusual for a man who works with his hands. It isn't unusual for a lot of men. I dismissed thinking about him because some wives don't come to church with their husbands. In my church, some husbands and wives don't even sit together. I decided right off that I must keep pure thoughts because there just wasn't any eligible men in Tensas, much less any eligible men who loved the Lord more than life itself! That ended my "looking" or "shopping". Besides, I was divorced and who wants used goods these days?
One day, he opened the door for me and I found out his name was Cleve. People called him Rabbit, so I asked why. He said, because his grandmother took her first look at him with his little baby butt up in the air when he was asleep and called him a little Peter Rabbit. The name stuck. Folks in this area think nothing of nick names: Squirrel, Coonie, Mad Dog, Loonie, the list goes on...
Christian Love Story Love Story
This post has nothing to do with the title... I just remembered that from a long time ago and thought it funny, maybe you will too!
Background information which you need:
My Dad died four years ago. While sorting though all the junk he'd acquired his 73 year life (the man never even threw away rusting 10-penny nails!) I laid my hand on all his Craftsman Tools and not one tear dropped from my eyes. At the funeral, I didn't cry... not even when Mom cried... neither at the graveside nor after we got home. Until I looked outside my bathroom window and saw a wad of papertowels stuffed into the crook of the gas meter. I didn't burst from crying or anything; just a few tears trickled down my cheeks and then I cried a little bit from just wishing he was still there. Next day, I drag out his tools and I sort all the wood planks he had stacked in the back and set to work on a flower box. You know the kind... big enough for a seat. I envisioned an arch over the seat with lots of wildflowers waving in the breeze behind the seat. Maybe a pot of lillies on one side of the seat. Yeah! Beautiful. I set to work and built me a flower box in the front of the house.
"What cha doin'?" came an almost continuous call as folks walked and drove up and down the main drag. (We live on the busiest street in town, but you have to realize that 6 cars makes a traffic jam!)
It got to the point I wanted to put a sign up saying, "This Will Be A Beautiful Flower Box". I did not realize until just a little while ago that the box was my Grief Box. I poured all my grief into that box.
Mom hated it. She tried to make amends and bought me some dirt to go into it but it didn't fill the box up. I planted my wildflowers in it anyway. Wouldn't you know, none of the flowers bloomed and it just looked like a box of weeds. Sigh... Mom hated it. We had a huge argument about it two years ago. I did not realize why it made me so angry that she hated it and wanted me to take it down. For two years, we skipped over the box issue. We never talk about it.
Here's the scene this morning:
Sun is shinning brightly. Storms have passed. Ground is soft and moist. And I'm outside planting flowers, digging up flower beds and pulling up weeds. I take a break and drink a cup of coffee with Mom. We chat about different things, but it is really pleasant.
I go back to work. After I'm done with two beds, I get the brilliant idea to put the left over bricks stacked up around the old box to spruce it up some. Maybe that will satisfy Mom for awhile. Thank goodness it is cool today because it was back breaking work! I have muscles groaning that haven't spoken to me since I was in High School.
I get two rows stacked up. Pour fire ant killer on the other bricks; no sense in toting ants from the back yard to the front yard. They can make that trip all on their own little legs just fine thank you.
Mom comes around the corner of the house to let me know she was running an errand. She sees me bent over the flower box and says, "You're taking down the box!" She's got this really sweet, soft look on her face, like I'd just given her a diamond ring or something.
My menopausal monster rose up its ugly head and snarled, breathing fire. I swatted the beast and simply said, "No. There is going to be great compost in that box next year." I had just dumped all the cedar tree trash (the cedar tree that hurricane Katrina knocked over) into that box yesterday. That is when those muscles started barking like dogs after the moon.
"But you are going to take it down before you leave, aren't you?" she asked as I walked by.
I said an ugly word. I gathered up all my pots and potting soil; put away the rake and shovel and wheel barrow; then with horrible thoughts like, "That is the last dime I'm spending on this yard. No more flowers. No more breaking my back to make this place look nice," I stomped inside. I was so upset, I ate two Krispy Kreme donuts and I can't even remember eating them.
I have spent loads of money on this yard. My sister gave me 10 Japanaca plants and 6 Crepe Myrtle plants for my birthday 2 years ago and I planted them in this yard. I have walked over every foot of this acre sized yard with buckets of fire ant killer... and I'm leaving?!?
Oh. Yes! I'm getting married to a most wonderful fellow. So why do I get so angry when someone wants to take down that flower box?
I expressed my grief. I used his tools. I used his wood. I sweated while doing it. Perhaps it is time to let go of the Flower Box. I just planted another box full of wildflower seeds in it, though. Plus, I just put all that really good mulch in it. In about 2 months, we'll see what comes up. I do know that I must work on letting go of that box. It isn't healthy. Perhaps it is because I put so much work into it. I'll have to be honest... it doesn't look a thing like I envisioned it. Something happened in the execution of the plan...
The Bottom of the Cup
Like a lot of individuals, my background includes growing up in a small church of less than a hundred people. And as is typical with a lot of these size churches, the experience was somewhat more simple and didn’t include much in the way of extras. Metal folding chairs instead of pews, a lawn that could be mowed in under an hour, and those little disposable plastic communion cups. I am forever grateful for the life lessons that I learned in such an environment. There the foundation was laid on which I built my faith and the anchor that holds me to the truth was dropped somewhere way back there in the waters of my youth.
Today I still attend what most would describe as a small church, but it is considerably larger in attendance and the building itself keeps expanding as the church continues to grow. I admit that in this larger setting it can take a bit more effort to find those personal moments of truth we all grow on, but God is forever faithful in producing these in the lives of those who seek them. Sometimes they are subtle. Sometimes He even plants them squarely in front of us where we can’t help but see them. I can testify to His ability to teach me using my eyes to see through His, in order to better understand what forgiveness is.
Our church uses the tried and true method of celebrating communion that many churches use as a reminder of Christ’s saving work on the cross; otherwise known as the Cracker and Grape Juice sacraments; and those afore mentioned little disposable plastic cups. One of the truths I was able to take away from growing up in a Christian home was the reason why our church observes communion. It was made clear to me that it is done regularly as a reminder of what Christ has done for us, and that it is not done in order to gain salvation. This I have managed to hang onto ever since, but it is not always easy to focus on this during communion as I think most people would have to admit. Our church observes communion once every month and it is incorporated into the regular service without taking a lot of time.
I know it’s a weakness for me to admit that I don’t always have success maintaining my thoughts and focus during these times, but it’s the truth. It’s easy for thoughts to drift to the day ahead, or the surroundings, or other thoughts. I know it’s much more personally meaningful to stay on track and really be thankful and humble in spirit at this time, but it doesn’t always turn out that way.
Awhile back as we moved into communion time I knew I was distracted internally so I prayed for a little help in maintaining my focus on forgiveness, as well as hankfulness and a peaceful spirit. But I didn’t immediately feel different or find that I was more aware of what was being said or sung. But I was awake, and I guess you could say that sometimes God works with what is available.
Long ago as a child, when my parents explained to me what communion meant, they encouraged me to start participating. In addition to their words, my mother instilled in me the fear of God making it clear to me that handling those little plastic cups filled with permanently staining liquid was a major responsibility. God forbid if there ever be any kind of “incident” that was my fault, well, it was not likely that I would ever see the Kingdom of Heaven. I understood. I rarely ever misunderstood anything my mother said. Especially when it was backed up by that look my Dad would give me. Sort of an “I get what’s left of you when she’s finished” look. So I was awake with at least adequate coordination when the cups were passed, but ahead and to my left a boy of about 10 years or so must have been thinking about something else. There was no hyper activity or fooling around happening as he sat with his family, but things just happen sometimes. The cup and the juice had a parting of ways and it mostly ended up in his lap with some of it in his hand and the rest on his chair.
After a terrible pause he slowly, and I mean slowly turned his head up to look at his mom. In his face was utter dejection and dread. I could see in his eyes that this young man had been given the same lecture I had received as a child and yet here it was; Judgment Day. There was nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide. He sat motionless holding the very evidence in his hand, waiting for the blow to fall. He was guilty. He was convicted. He was dead. And he knew it. In his eyes I saw the resolve to just take the “I told you so” and the subsequent punishment he knew was coming. What else could he do?
There was another very long pause as his mother stared back at him. But instead of an outburst, his mom just gathered up a tissue or paper towel and she began to clean up as much as possible. She was gentle, caring, and spoke not a word. I couldn’t see her face, but I gathered that she was more concerned with solving the immediate problem and putting things back as best as it could be done. She was not interested in finding a weapon to deal out retribution. At least not immediately. In the face of the boy where there was fear and dread, there was now amazement and relief as well as genuine regret at what had happened. He knew he had been given a reprieve.
I was preparing to go back to just being awake when I thought I could sense a voice from somewhere inside asking, “Do you get it?” Suddenly I wasn’t looking at a 10 year old boy with a understanding mother. I was staring right into my own life and seeing me. Here was a sinner with nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Caught with the evidence in my own hand and sitting in a staining puddle of my own sin. I was guilty. I was convicted. I was dead. And I now slowly lifted my head to my Father in heaven who had given me the command to never be found in such a circumstance. I saw my own resolve to take the consequences and stubbornly face the judgment and righteous wrath that I knew was coming. I knew I couldn’t find a way around it. Instead, all I have ever found is mercy. Instead of an angry, violent reaction to my deliberate disobedience, there has always been this loving, forgiving hand more concerned with cleaning up the mess, and getting things back to the way He desires for me to be. When we most deserve to feel the whip for our actions, He is merciful and holds His hand except to give help. As His child I have known grace more than I
have not known it and here in front of me was the illustration that I needed to
better understand God’s forgiveness.
I had my perspective on communion that I was seeking. But often times I am guilty of stopping short of the mark when it comes to what God desires for me to understand, and I needed one more small illustration. I was by this time having a bit of trouble keeping my composure in light of the truth I had just seen, so I maintained a downward glance at the floor as the cups were being picked up and a hymn was being sung. There at the bottom of the cup, magnified by the plastic was my fingerprint. And it was as if God was saying to me, “That is uniquely yours. I made it just for you as your own identity. And I tailor made this forgiveness just for you too. It is as unique as your own fingerprint.”
I pretty much spent the rest of the day regaining and loosing my composure. Beyond this I have been able to take away a better understanding of how I am to deal with my forgiveness of others. Luke 6:37-38 says, “Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
I sincerely think I would prefer this measure of blessing be poured into my lap, than something that stains and brings judgment. I also like Col. 3: 13-14; “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
I think it is in the love of the Father that we find the ability to follow His lead. Even when we don’t think that we can. The light of His love drives away the shadow of our own desires towards others and leaves us with the reality of our own forgiveness which we cannot deny. How do we deny it to others? I truly appreciate the chance to forgive as I have been forgiven, and I also truly appreciate lessons learned from a little throw away plastic cup.
I heard about a fellow in my own home town (did I mention before the population is approx. 1000?) who found out his wife was cheating on him. They were both church goers (I do not know them so I don't know any of their fruit to say one way or the other about their Christianity.) This fellow found out and told his wife that he would keep her and not divorce her if she would get up in front of the whole church and confess her sin then ask for an accountability partner. WOW! That sounds like conditional forgiveness... no, wait. That doesn't sound like forgiveness at all. That sounds like spite or someone trying to hurt as much as he's been hurt.
I seriously doubt I could ever get up and confess my sins to the whole church. It isn't that I lack the courage to do so... as anyone can tell from this blog, I'm very open about my shortcomings. The problem I have is the church family holding my already forgiven sins against me.
We do it all the time. We find out about someone's shortcomings and we just flip out about it letting it hurt our relationships and allowing it to erode our trust for the "sinner". Uh Oh.
Sinner... all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. So how can I not forgive when I've been forgiven so much?
Forgiveness isn't about the person who did me wrong!
Forgiveness is all about what goes on inside my heart... your heart... God's heart.
Forgiveness has an eternity factor. We'd never get to heaven if God did not forgive our sins. Jesus stands between us and God and makes that forgiveness possible. Therefore, the eternity factor.
It took me six years to figure out that forgiveness isn't about the offense. Adultery is as bad as lying is as bad as murder is as bad as coveting is as bad as working on Sunday. Did you know that a man was stoned to death for gathering wood on the Sabbath? God told Moses to have him stoned. Those Israelites didn't take God seriously back then and we don't take Him seriously today. Jesus said not to fear the man who could break a bone but to fear the One who could throw you into Hell. That's unforgiveness... the throwing into Hell part.
In my quest to forgive the particularly horrible offenses commited against me, I realized two things about forgiveness. Jesus died to make it possible. God's plan was forgiveness from the beginning.
I just read those statements again and I cannot find a "you" or an "I" in them anywhere. I figure that an unbeliever may try to forgive an offense, but I seriously doubt he will completely forgive. That is because forgiving someone is a God thing.
As a believer, what ever is done to you is done to God because the Holy Spirit indwells, becomes one with your spirit so that there is no way your soul can be separated from Him. God hates it when someone messes with His kids. He is forebearing, but vengence is His. Which is so very interesting because His vengence is mighty compared to our puny intellect and pitiful strength. How much greater is vengence when God can search the heart of the offender? Yet... how much God has forgiven!
Another thing I learned in my quest is that God will bring to mind many sins that have been forgiven when He is bent on you forgiving an offense. I'd rather just go ahead and forgive... let the thing go... forget it happened rather than face those demons again.
So when my second husband said, "Regina, go home to Louisiana. I don't want to be married to you any more," my trip down the Forgiveness Trail was much shorter than the first time.
Things that inhibit forgiveness are rather simple but necessary to recognize.
Pride goes before destruction. Recognize it because it ruins everything it touches and it begins in the mind. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.
Anger arises when our sense of justice is tipped over. Anger has to be dealt with before forgivness can be attempted. That's a whole 'nother ball of wax but related to the candle of forgiveness.
Self-righteousness is stupidity. No one can make himself righteous so it is best described as an oxy moron.
So the moral of this post is this: Take every offense to God and ask Him to deal with it in His way and to forgive through you. This is precisely what God did. He forgave through Jesus.
Without what, you wonder. That is precisely my point. I had gotten so used to living without hope and without a husband and without a really good job with benefits that I had adjusted to hopeless living all the while putting on the "Joy Face" at church and with friends.
Joy Face is a mask of great deception to one's self. Often the person wearing the mask has no clue that it is, in fact, a mask. When it slips, all the cracked pieces fall to the floor again and there's the shattering, clanging cymbol sound which drowns out God's voice. Once the echos of the sound fade away, I found God's soothing voice of comfort in my heart. He was talking to me like a mother soothing a crying baby, all the while He was putting my heart back together. I have found out that if you do not help God put the pieces back together, then they go back together without scar tissue and the heart bears no grudge, no anger, no bitterness and no baggage. If you help God put the pieces back together, you hinder the process and scars do develop encasing some anger, some bitterness and a bit of baggage within the tough, hard fibers of healing. Those are difficult to remove once the scar tissue is formed.
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow because He loved me through that period. I was in constant state of prayer. I prayed about everything and frequently prayed myself to sleep. I studied my Bible in-depth, pouring myself into study to make up for the lack of any social life except church. And I was at church every time the doors were opened. So my pouring out of myself before God accomplished something that I had no idea I needed at the time.
Except, I kept trying to heal. I knew I had to heal in order to be a healthy, productive Christian living for Jesus and ministering, doing the works He had planned for me before the formation of the world. I could do this because I had Jesus in my heart. Hmmmm
I poured myself into a Christian forum and studied my Bible, positive this was what I was supposed to do to get myself back together. But, I had closed off a section of my heart to all people, children and God. I see that now, but didn't know I was doing it then. This was where I poured all the alcohol. God was nagging me all along about this habit, much more so than the smoking. He nagged so insistently and consistently that I finally was able to go a day without drinking. Then another day and soon (about a month after I'd moved out from my husband of twenty years) I was sober and it felt wonderful! I could actually hear God's voice.
I realized I had used that numbing tool to keep from feeling all the pain and betrayal. It was exhilarating for those chains to drop from my hand and those shackles to be taken from my feet so I could dance with my Savior and Lord!
Satan woos... The Christian is seduced... Sin creeps in... And we have a witch's brew for web entanglement. Then comes the justifying of sin, the reasoning of it, the excusing of it and the finger pointing when all along we must look to God to do the house cleaning. Without His cleansing power, we are powerless to resist Satan and his plots and ploys.
Flesh + Satan = Failure.
Submission + Spirit + Jesus = Successful Christian Living.
All too often we Christians will try to substitute worldly things to fill in the God-sized hole in our spirit. We shop till we drop, we drink socially, we complain to our friends, we vacation, we beach it, we surf it, we ship it, we dance it, we smoke it, we pretend we're fine with a Joy Face when all the time our heart is full of scar tissue which we've patched together with one hand while holding the Bible in the other hand. Hopeless living while pretending to be full of Hope, Faith and Charity. It is time to pull off the mask and let God pick up all the shattered pieces. Only He has the blueprint because He is the Creator after all.
...then everything split apart and crashed to earth. It sounded like clanging cymbols rather than tinkling glass.
I'm talking about my world as I knew it. The crack was when the Sheriff put a notice on my back door that if we didn't move by the end of the week, all our stuff would be outside by the street. Our home of over ten years had been repossessed. Then the crash was when my teenaged daughters came home from school and found their father in bed with two whores. That was really special.
It was enough to jar me awake, but not enough for me to beg God to reveal all the truth. I wasn't ready for that, yet. God commanded me to forgive and to forget. It was a monumental thing to do. I didn't do it. God did it through me, for I was too hurt, too angry and too devastated to attempt forgiveness. A couple of years passed by and I had forgiven as well as buried myself in a bottle of alcohol a day habit. Then he did it again. I didn't have it in me to deal with it. I realized then that my life would never be the same again.
I was held together with a bit of Scotch tape. All the hope had leaked out the cracks and I was passing through life as an automon rather than living.
I'd like to say, "Then one day..."
That never happened. My life didn't turn around in one day, the hope did not come back, and my friend alcohol took up permanent residence in my cabinet under the bathroom sink for four more years. I did find a church home that helped me to heal; patched me up with their prayers.
This is so difficult to write and I want to delete everything I've written so far and go plant some flowers. It is so tempting to go down a garden path instead of focusing on why I started this post... perhaps series of posts.
There is such a thing as godly divorce. So much has been said about divorce and the Christian so I won't go down that path too much.
Jesus told Peter that we should forgive our brothers 70 times 7 times if he causes offense and he comes asking forgiveness. But, God considers marriage a sanctified place.
Remorse is totally different than repentance. If the husband (as in my case) is remorseful but calls it repentance and then a year later does the same thing with two whores... that is a covenant breaker. God gave permission for my divorce because of fornication on my husband's part with no repentance and no change of heart even after 3 years of waiting for him to do so.
When Jesus talked about adultery and divorce in Matthew 5, He was clarifying divorce was for one thing only and that was infidelity, period. The Jews had devised all manner of divorcements from burning food to too much salt to dusty houses. Those were frivolous and Jesus clarified that fornication was the only reason for divorce contrary to what the going thing for divorcing was of the day or even as far back as Moses. In Moses' day, the Bill of Divorcement was a Certificate of Innocence which freed up the divorced person from any guilt and allowed them to remarry without the stigma of adultery. A guilty, dismissed spouse was not given a Certificate of Innocence and thereby had the stigma of adultery. Stoning was the penalty and the determination of guilt was through drinking some concoction in front of the Priests. That had gone by the wayside. This could have been what Jesus had written in the sand when they brought the woman caught in adultery. That's just speculation, though.
Isaiah 50:1 God asks the question, 'Where is the scroll of your mother's divorce whom I have put away?' There wasn't one because Israel was guilty of adultery. Then in Jeremiah we see the lists of things she was guilty of... there is no innocence on her part nor on the part of Judah. The Bill of Divorcement was the decree of innocence of the "put away" wife.
Joseph was going to quietly "put away" Mary because he knew he had never impregnated her, therefore she must be guilty of adultery. Quietly meant no bill of divorcement to be declared in the courts for he truly thought her guilty. Secretly putting her away, but she would still have the child which would declare her guilt... he could not give her a Certificate of innocence.
Then God stepped in by sending an angel to declare her innocence to her betrothed husband. Joseph immediately got up in the middle of the night and took her to wife as God commanded. The Declaration of Innocence was the release of obligation of legal matrimony. Jesus did not repeat the "write her a bill of divorcement" in Matthew 5:32. If anyone kicks out or sets at liberty a wife without that Certificate of Innocence then that man causes her to commit adultery. There is no "if she marry again" clause in there. It is assumed that she will marry again. It is the guilty husband who causes the sin...or the guilty wife!
However, Jesus set everything back into place when He declared that divorce was only permitted in the case of fornication. When two people are Christian and they are married, divorce is not an option. Just as we are to forgive our sisters and brothers in Christ 70 times 7 times, we are to depend upon the LORD to work in the hearts of our Christians spouses, to draw them back into His will and His relationship.
Divorce from unbelievers is different. Paul tells us not to seek divorce from our unbelieving spouses, but if they desire to split, we are not to fight it and we are not obligated under law (1 Cor 7:15) as Christian married couples are. How do we know if we are married to a believer or an unbeliever? By their fruit. That is the only way. I fear, though, some folks will get to Heaven smelling like smoke, for their fruit is sparse.
Forgiveness is commanded by Jesus. Wallowing in anger and resentment only builds a wall between us and God and serves no purpose for the object of our anger. God truly does protect His children and He really will take care of the chastisement.
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