Friday, October 29, 2010

The Other Side of Darkness

When I was a little kid my mother started getting together with a friend of hers to play with a Ouija Board and Tarot cards while all the kids played in the basement. It was harmless fun, they thought. After all, Ouija Boards were tucked between Twister and Monopoly at the toy store. I have no idea where they got Tarot cards. My best recollection is that they got together a few times over the course of a number of months, and then something happened and they were no longer friends. We moved across the country and my mother brought with her the game of curiosity in the spirit world.

It was never anything serious, or so it seemed. We grew up with it and it seemed normal to be surrounded by conversations about my mother seeing the spirits of dead babies sitting on the foot of her bed, or the belief that objects had been moved around the house by spirits long gone...or something. It was a regular occurrence for me to wake up in the night filled with fear in the belief that an entity from beyond the grave overshadowed the threshold of my bedroom door.

As we got older the fear and darkness overshadowed our entire home. My mother’s sense of logic became completely unsound and a lie to her was as good as the truth. Her words toward all of us became vile and emotionally and mentally abusive. She became a master deceiver and manipulator. My dad couldn’t see it because he was busy drowning in alcoholism.

One night, after I had moved out of the house at age 17, my dad’s alcoholism reached a breaking point and my mother decided he needed help. She always thought it was someone else who needed help. So she called for some type of minister or counselor to go to the house some time later. During that meeting, a type of prayer of sorts took place, and while “praying” my mother feigned the voice of Christ to coerce my dad into changing his life. He began to see the depths to which she had descended. It had happened gradually, but the dark deeds of evil had taken hold.

Sober, my dad was a quiet, sensitive, loving, although depressed, man. He had been shocked by his own behavior that was brought on by his alcoholism and he quit drinking cold turkey, at least for awhile. But the darkness in our home had taken hold of him and everything that had happened would weigh heavily on his heart for the rest of his life.

Meanwhile, my mother continued to spiral downward into her own little world of mental illness. After their divorce, she continued her tirades toward my dad and me. Even her body began to be ravaged. She became so ill that she had to be made a ward of the state and she was taken to live in a nursing home where she lives to this day. She regularly spewed vulgar rants to anyone who came near, including every one of her caretakers, whom she lost one by one because they couldn’t take her abuse. It was heartbreaking to watch and to be a part of.

The last time I saw her I barely recognized her. She lay motionless in her bed and looked at least 20 years older than her true age. I tried talking to her via email. She didn’t really remember me at first, and once she did, the attempts at abusive manipulation started all over again.

For many years before my dad’s death, I tried talking to him about the Lord and about salvation. He would always say he was trying but somehow I could never get through. He became ill in the last couple of years of his life and I prayed more than ever that God would open his eyes to faith in Christ. Many precious saints prayed for him as he lay on his death bed in the hospital. On what would be only days before his death, the hospital called one morning to tell me that he had had some sort of seizure and that I should come quickly.

As I was getting ready to go, my pastor’s wife called saying that she had been outside when the Holy Spirit put on her heart to call me. I told her what had happened with my dad and she offered to call the man who was our assistant pastor at the time to see if he could go to the hospital to see my dad.

By the time I got to the hospital, my dad seemed to be over whatever had happened to his body earlier in the day and no one knew exactly the reason for his seizure. He had never had one before or since.

A few hours later, the assistant pastor and his wife came. She talked to me in the hallway while he went in to visit with my dad. A short time later the pastor met us in the hallway and said that he had talked to my dad about his salvation and my dad had said yes, he wanted to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. They prayed together right there in his hospital room. Needless to say, I was overjoyed. After all those years of not only my prayers, but come to find out, the prayers of many saints throughout his life, my dad finally opened his heart to Christ for salvation and I knew I’d see him in heaven someday.

I will always wonder if the evil forces that were brought into our house as a game so many years before had slowly but surely permeated our home and had somehow taken hold of my dad to such an extent that it took a miracle of the Holy Spirit to unleash it from his body, and if that was really the cause of the seizure the same day he prayed to receive Christ.

I’m sure that never in their wildest imaginations did my parents ever believe that their lives would turn out as they did. One looked for a way to pass the time by satisfying her curiosity about contacting the spirit world. The other seemed to dismiss it as if it were nothing. I believe the enemy gleefully used both perspectives.

What may be a game to us is no game to the enemy; it is an open invitation into our lives. And when we overlook the seemingly innocuous ways the enemy worms his way into our lives, he grabs the chance and runs with it. He is always looking for a way to deceive and to lie and he’ll use whatever methods work, even wrapping them in pretty packages and entertainment, and he counts on us seeing the deceit as only an apple.

I don’t for one second believe that the enemy ran scurrying from me when I received Christ as my Savior. Oh, he has no hold on my soul anymore; Christ is my Savior and always will be. But I see the enemy using the same, old tricks to try to get me focused on him instead of the Lord. 

As believers, we have a choice every day about who and what to allow in our lives--the Light of Christ or the fruitless deeds of darkness. Whoever and whatever we give place to in our lives each day--that is where we’ll receive power and direction.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” (Ephesians 5:8-11)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Yes and Amen

At least three times a month I decide to quit blogging. And yet here I am again. Hope springs eternal, I suppose. And so does the Fountain of Life. If you tire of hearing about the ways an extraordinary God moves in and through an ordinary life, namely, mine, you might as well move along to a food or decorating blog, or go back to watching your favorite re-runs of I Love Lucy or your RPG’s.

Here is where we’ll participate in the ultimate Role-Playing Game--our own lives. Here is where we’ll leave the world behind and scratch and crawl our way to the hem of the Master’s robe and find healing for our souls. Here is where I hope to reveal the wisps of an all-powerful Holy Spirit breathing life, hope, meaning and even holiness into an otherwise meaningless albeit sometimes odd existence.

I couldn’t get by without the promises of God. Although He is well-acquainted with our own failings, we serve a faithful God Who loves us enough to want to calm our fears by telling us of His promises over and over in His Word.  And we can count on those promises as sure as if they have happened.  "For all the promises of God in Him (Jesus Christ) are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us."  (2 Corinthians 1:20)

Years ago, early on in my walk with the Lord, I began to struggle with how I could ever serve the Lord. I desperately wanted to be of use, but I had no discernible talents. I couldn’t sing or play an instrument, I couldn’t teach, I wasn’t even one of those out-going people who felt comfortable just jumping into a role.

The Lord heard my prayer about it one day and the Holy Spirit put some words on my heart that I knew I had heard spoken from scripture, but wasn’t familiar enough with them to even know which book to find them. So I started doing a word search from the few words I could remember. I finally found it and it turned out to be Jeremiah 29:11, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

So I held onto that promise and sure enough, the Lord blessed me with many ways to serve Him.

And now, here I am again, almost 20 years and one very worn-down body later, wondering what I can do to be useful in the hands of the Lord. How can I serve Him when even cooking dinner has become a challenge? The answer? I don’t know. I think that’s why three times a month I change my mind about blogging for the kingdom. I want to do something, if even a small thing, for my Father Who saved me from so much.

So I’ll hold onto His promise again - that He knows what He’s planned for me, and that those plans are to prosper me, not to harm me as satan would have me believe. No, my Father has planned to give me hope and a future. After all, I’m still here, right?

Are you holding onto that promise for yourself?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Keep On Keepin' On

If you look back on your life, you probably realize that you have persevered through a lot – illness, rejection, doubt, loneliness, loss, regret, death. But you’ve made it! You’re still here and you’ve learned a lot through it. I hope you’re closer to the Lord because of it. Still, the temptation can sometimes be to give up when we face yet another difficult trial. But now is not the time to give up.

Now is the time to persevere.

The Lord Jesus Christ knew perseverance and He exampled it to us all the way to the end of His life.

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” (John 13:1)

Not only did He continue in obedience to His Father all the way to the cross and the grave, but He persevered in love. He didn’t persevere begrudgingly, He didn’t become bitter, and He didn’t become weak or weary.

He persevered with love.

But how do you do that? Maybe you’re tired right now and don’t know how you’re going to make it through. You cannot do it alone.

Persevere with the One Who gives love and strength and hope.

Hold onto Him and none else. Make Him your hope, believing in Him for all things. Make Him your Lord, allowing Him to lead you through all things. He will be with you and love you to the end.

“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, ‘He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.' But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” (Hebrews 10:36-39)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Grace for the Moment

Well, the week is passing and once again I haven't posted anything yet.  Lately my days have been filled with physical therapy and pain.  Seems the former is aggravating the latter before it gets better.  There are days I'm okay with that and I humbly surrender my body and my life to my God for His purposes, whatever that may be.  And then there are other days when I feel like I just can't take it another second.  I watch the days and weeks and years of my life go by and feel like all the precious time is being wasted in all the forced inactivity. 

And so I cry out to God, "God, I just want my life back."   

And almost immediately I hear Him answer in my heart, "But it's My life, remember?" 

"Yes, Lord, I remember." 

And I try to not think about what might have been in the past or about what may or may not be in the future.  I try to live right now, holding onto God's grace just for this moment.  I try to remember that God's ways are all topsy-turvy and backwards and beautiful.  When I try to keep my life, I lose it.  But when I'm willing to lose my life for the sake of my Lord, that is when I will be filled with the only real life there is: the life of Christ.  (Luke 9:24)

So here's to losing my life.  It's all yours, Father, once again.  Fill me up with the life and power and joy of your Holy Spirit.  May Your strength be perfected in all my weaknesses and may Your glorious will be done in and through me.  And Lord, please grant me the grace I need for this moment.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Funnies - A Lego Lesson {Jonah 1:1-3}

All credit goes to Lego moviemaker extraordinaire, Riley Taylor.  Way to use your talents for the Lord, Riley!