Looking Back to the Future

Looking Back to the Future

I was looking through some old pictures the other day and came across a birthday card I received in 1986 when I was preparing to move from Las Vegas to Northern Virginia. I was working in a casino with a very good job when I met someone and decided to move East. It really was, on my part, just another whim that I had engaged in for the past 15 years or so during a time when I was a practicing alcoholic. One of the things a friend wrote in the card caught my eye. She wrote, “Best wishes to you and your new beginning.” At the time I had no idea the prophetic significance of that sentence. But looking back it would prove out in my life.

I was far from God, living a very sinful and rebellious lifestyle with a man I was not married to. He talked me into moving to Virginia. I had never lived there or even visited there. It seemed crazy to most people to walk away from a good job and security to go into the unknown with someone I barely knew. But it proved to be the best thing that could have happened to me.

After moving back, we ended up moving to Frederick, Maryland. We stayed together for about a year and during those months, God began to draw me back to Him. I had become a Christian as a teenager, but fell away after a bad marriage and divorce and ended up in Las Vegas for 10 years. During that first year in Frederick, I began to clearly hear God calling me back. I began to read my Bible again. It didn’t happen quickly, but in August of 1987, I received a letter in the mail from a Messianic Jewish Congregation inviting people to join them. I had no idea what it was, but I was intrigued, so I called the number. That would prove to be the most important call I would ever make. The pastor’s wife answered the phone and we talked. That began a weekly phone call with her where she would counsel and pray for me. I did not meet her during this time, but I felt compelled to call her.

I finally got the courage to go and visit the congregation in November of that year. I had never met anyone in person, but when I walked in the door, a woman was in the entry holding a small child. I instinctively knew it was the pastor’s wife I had been having a weekly phone conversation with. When I walked up to her, she said. “You must be Lea.” It was amazing! We chatted for a while and then I went into the meeting and sat in the back. When I sat down, her husband came back to me and said, “You must be Lea. My wife has really been praying for you.” I was overwhelmed. That was the beginning of the most wonderful, amazing, and momentous changes to my life. I would be changed forever as the Lord truly set me free from a life of sin and degradation and gave me a brand new life.

Of course, I ended the relationship I was in and went on to work with the pastor and his wife in their ministry for nearly 10 years, 2 of those in Israel, before coming back to the United States and meeting my wonderful husband online. We will be married 24 years this March 29. It’s amazing what God will do to reach His lost ones. A simple letter and a phone call changed my life forever.

Deuteronomy 7:9

Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; KJV

Friends

Friends

We were driving home from a doctor’s appointment a while back and saw the license plate in front of us that said “NUNYABIZ.” I immediately thought of a friend I have known for many, many years who used that expression all the time. It’s funny how something that seemingly insignificant can bring back a memory so precious. It made me smile at the thought of being with their family. He and his wife and family were instrumental in the early days of my recovery and coming back to Jesus, by inviting me into their home to live with their family. They helped me lay a good foundation in my life that has carried me on to the life I have now. We had so many good times together. The man I refer to was such an example of a godly man, father, Christian, and friend. He helped me see what a man should be. And he and his family continue to be my friends today.

It’s interesting how God puts people in your life at different times as he weaves your life and draws us closer to Him. Some are only there for a brief moment in time, and some remain for the rest of our lives. And even though we may not see them for long periods, when we do see them, it’s as if we were never separated. God is weaving his will in our lives, one day, one hour, on moment at a time.

I am grateful for these friends God blessed me to have in my life. They are a true gift from the one who loves us all beyond measure.

Proverbs 17:17

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

To Grow or Not?

To Grow or Not?

The weeks have worn on and I am still in therapy for my broken shoulder. I thought it would be over by now and my arm and shoulder would be back to normal. But it’s not over and it isn’t back to normal. What to do? Continue to persevere…with the pain. Oh yes, the pain that comes with therapy and the daily exercises I do, stretching those ligaments and muscles. I thought I was progressing when I told the therapist that the exercises aren’t causing that much pain anymore. Her answer, “If you don’t feel a significant amount of discomfort (i.e.pain), you are not progressing, you are maintaining.” In other words, you are staying with the status quo. So…do more, do them longer, make my arm and shoulder stretch more. And yes, experience some discomfort and pain.

It would be so easy to just stop at this point. I can pretty much do all I really need to do. But there are some things I cannot do that I would like to, because I don’t have the function I need. And there will probably be times I will need that full function. So I have to keep working at it.

Just like our muscles being tight and stiff, so it is like our spiritual life. It’s so easy to be complacent, and comfortable, and stay in the status quo spiritually. There is no challenge to grow that way. But without some discomfort, even some pain, some hard work and making time to be in the Bible and pray, we stay where we are. We don’t grow. And when the challenges come to us (and they always do), we won’t be able to withstand them.

Colossians 1:10 King James Version (KJV)

10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

Hebrews 6:1 King James Version (KJV)

1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

Blessings in Disguise

Blessings in Disguise

On a Friday evening last April, I stood up from my sofa to walk into another room. As I did, I caught my foot on a piece of furniture, and was catapulted into the air, falling and landing hard on my left shoulder. I knew as soon as it happened that it was a bad injury. At first, I could not sit up and I could not move my arm. I had to hold it close to my body with my other hand. The pain was intense. I spent the first few minutes with Ken praying, called a friend locally to ask for prayer, and then called a prayer line. But I still couldn’t get up. So I ended up with an ambulance ride to the hospital, and several hours later coming home with pain medication and a diagnosis of a shoulder broken in three places. It was an experience I will never forget, probably one of the most difficult challenges of my adult life.

So now, three and a half months later, after several doctor visits, and weeks of therapy, I am healing. I decided that even though a bad thing had happened to me, that truly something good could come of it. What have I learned from all of this? I sought God during this time for a “why,” which is what I always do. But I found out the “why” was simply the fact that our world is fallen, broken, and bad things happen to people, including me. None of us is exempt. But what we can do is learn and grow from the challenges we face. And I have done that. God has shown me things about myself personally during this time that need to change.

One of the most important things you have to do after an injury is physical therapy. Your muscles tighten around the fracture to keep the bone in place, and they harden in that position, making it almost impossible to use your limb. So you have to spend many hours in physical therapy, allowing them to pull and stretch and push on the fracture….not pleasant, but necessary. If you do not do that, you will not regain the use of the limb. it will stay useless.

You not only have to have therapy, but you have to do home exercises every day to reinforce the therapy and keep those muscles from hardening back. During this time, I have also been having my regular chiropractic treatments. Just last week, the Doctor explained to me why the home exercise is so important. He likened it to a rubber band that can be pulled out, but it always goes back to the original place. So the adhesions and scar tissue that form around a fracture want to stay that way. If you only work on stretching them out with two days a week of therapy, they will never heal. Again, it’s a daily discipline to work on stretching and exercising that is vital to the healing process.

As I pondered this, I saw a spiritual application for it. We all have those areas of our lives, personality, spiritual life, etc that need to be changed, stretched, formed into something better or even something completely different. We all have those areas of our lives that so easily capture us, and draw us away from God and His purposes. And just like those muscles and scar tissue that want to stay hardened around that fracture, we have to constantly work on those areas in our lives that draw us away, weaken our resolve, cause us to waste time, etc. It’s a daily, weekly, monthly effort, and discipline, and sometimes painful, but the rewards in this life and the life to come are many.

2 Corinthians 4:17

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

King James Version (KJV) (Public Domain)

Hebrews 12:1-2

1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

King James Version (KJV) (Public Domain)

I’m Not the CEO of My Life Anymore!

I’m Not the CEO of My Life Anymore!

I volunteer with a non-profit organization that assists men and women coming out of prison, who are trying to rebuild their life. The following was written by Dave, one of the success stories from this group, written to people who are on the same journey. It is a story of God’s rescue and restoration.

Many days I have thought the worst of things and wanted the best out of life. The two just don’t work together. Sure, we have bad thoughts, but they can’t control us. “If we have no faith in the future, then we have no power in the present.” (Halford Edward Luccock (1885 – 1960)  Satan uses the worst to bring out the worst in us. Don’t let him have that power.

Psalm 90:12 says “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” If we continue on the path of destruction that we are on, we can’t expect the best out of life. We are better than that. Sometimes the chains that prevent us from being free are more mental than physical. I’m not saying all this as someone sitting out here in the free world.  I have been where you are. I served two prison terms. The first was a 16-year sentence, of which I served 7 1/2  years.

Proverbs 26:11 says “As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” When I got out, as a dog returns to his vomit, I repeated my folly.  After just over a year of freedom I was sentenced to 23 years and served 11 1/2 years of that sentence. If you do the math, that is a total of 19 years that I was in prison. It took me that long to realize that the way I was going was not for me. Both my mother and father had passed away. And I lost all contact with my brothers and my friends (if that is what you want to call them). I did, however, remain close to some of my family members (just a handful), and I am very blessed to have them in my life. I’m not saying that they approved of my past, but they love me no matter what.

I also know that we cannot have a positive life and a negative mind. The two just don’t have room for one another. So we have to keep faith in the future, so the power is in the present. I think of everyone who is where you are right now and I know the day-to-day is just that, but Jesus loves you and has a purpose for you. It is easy to say what you want
while you are in prison, but the rubber meets the road once you are out. So apply your hearts to wisdom. The true challenge is to be what you want to be once you are out. It is great that you are trying to do your best where you are at this moment in time. Just carry that out with you and apply what you have learned once you are out and Jesus will take the wheel. You will have good and bad days, as I do, but you can’t give in to the easy way out. I lead a simple life now;  it is not boring, it is awesome!

There are so many people willing to help you down a good path. It just comes down to choices that we make. Some can make us and others can break us. I love you all, but most of all Jesus loves you. I hope that in some way this has helped you to stay positive and know that the power is in the present if we have faith in the future. – Dave

Unto the least of these…

Unto the least of these…

A few months ago the pastor of the church we are attending passed out a card to everyone attending. The card said, “God, what are you calling me into?” He suggested we put it up somewhere in our home where it would remind us to ask the question of God for us personally. I took it seriously and put it on our refrigerator. Around that same time, they showed a video testimony of a young woman who was rescued from a serious drug addiction and drug lifestyle by involving herself with a ministry that is run by three people in the church. I was so moved by her testimony that I asked if I could be involved. I, too, came out of a similar lifestyle and had a desire to help other women come to the same deliverance and freedom that I have experienced.

I began attending the classes that meet two evenings a week. One is called Jobs Partnership, where people who have been in addiction, and may also have a criminal history, can come and go through the program and, once graduated, can get help finding a job. They seek to help them rebuild and have productive lives again. They work with employers in the area to help the participants find meaningful work. There are many barriers to people with this type of history when it comes to job seeking. Many employers will not hire them if they have a criminal record. Some of the folks involved have had good jobs, and then suddenly lost them when the employer found out about their past.

The other evening is a Celebrate Recovery Group, which is a God-focused program to help people to find recovery from addictions. From the first evening, I loved being in the meetings. This ministry is run by two women, Michelle and Sue, along with their assistant, Ron. They have a food panty, and also a clothes closet, where the participants can get food and also clothing, free of charge. They truly desire for the people in the group to find wholeness, spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

So how does this all fit in with the question on my refrigerator? Last night was the Jobs Partnership meeting. It was a large group of people. I was sitting next to a man who had been in a gang for many years. This was his first time at the meeting. He was from the inner city and he shared about how he was abused as a child, and ended up in a gang, because that was a place where he thought he could find love and acceptance, the one thing he never had as a child. He shared his story. He ended up spending 23 years in prison for crimes committed while in the gang. He told the most amazing things about how he learned to trust God and how God worked on his behalf. He was there seeking help, because he had lost his job when his employer found out about his history, even though he had been a good worker. I was moved to tears.

I had to leave the meeting early, but later on after I got home, I was again pondering that question on my refrigerator. “Is this what you are calling me into, God, being in this group, helping these people?” I felt the answer was yes, but I felt it was more than that. As I was thinking, I wondered “What gifts do I have?” “How could God use me with the abilities I have?” And that question again, “God, what are you calling me into?”

And then I realized what it is. I am an intercessor. Prayer is something that I love to do and something in which God has used me in many ways in the past. God is leading me to set aside a time each week to pray and intercede on behalf of this group and the people who attend. What an amazing and exciting opportunity!

It reminds me of a of a quote from Mother Theresa,

“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

I believe Michelle and Sue and Ron are doing this. The love, time, and effort they are giving these people is truly what Jesus asked of us, because they recognize these people are all created in the image of God and deserve love and respect and dignity. I am truly grateful God has led me into this ministry to help and support, and most importantly, to pray. It is what my heart has desired for a very long time.

 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’  Matthew 25:40 New King James Version (NKJV)