Tonight, I've taken a stroll down memory lane to another time and another virus. About 36 years ago, I applied for a job with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The job was in an all-male facility that housed approximately 2500 men incarcerated for every type of crime imaginable. I was smart enough to realize that the environment would lend itself to a certain degree of risk of being assaulted. However, I still needed and wanted the job. My knowledge of conceivable danger was quickly reinforced. One of the questions posed by the panel that did my interview was, "How do you think you would handle being raped?" That's certainly not a question you expect to hear in an interview, but given the work setting, I shouldn't have been surprised. I remember thinking to myself, "I wonder what they want me to say?" After all, I wanted to be selected for the job. My answer was simple, and I confidently said, "I'm sure I would be devastated at first, but life would go on, and I would survive and recover." That must have been what they wanted to hear. And, for the next six years, five days a week, I took the risk of being assaulted, raped, beaten, or even killed. During those six years, two female officers (my friends) were victims of brutal assaults; both were raped and severely beaten. Fortunately, by the grace of God, both survived. Even though everyone was deeply affected, we took those horrible instances in stride, and similar to the military, we chalked them up as hazards that came with the job.
In my sixth year, the medical staff performed HIV testing on the inmate population, and it came back 17% positive. That equated to some 425 men infected by HIV/AIDS. They were not in isolation but quartered in the open population throughout the institution. They were only identified to select medical staff on a need to know basis. At that time, there was very little known about HIV/AIDS and no successful treatment regimens. If you became infected, it was an almost certain death sentence. One drop of blood passing from one person to another was all it took. The question I had answered in my initial interview now took on a whole new meaning. You see, I was confident I could live over being beaten or raped. But, it suddenly occurred to me; I might not survive being raped or assaulted by someone who was HIV positive. After that, every day became a more critical life and death situation. I felt like I was playing Russian roulette with my life, and it wasn't a good feeling. But how could I leave? The pay and benefits were great. I had financial security. But, the bottom line question I had to ask myself was, "Is it worth the risk I'm taking every day?" In that situation, I had the freedom to choose whether or not I wanted to take the risk or walk away. I walked away.
Tonight, as I am typing this note, I am self-sequestered in my home for an undetermined number of days. I'm here because once again, I am facing a possible risk that might mean life or death. Another virus, Covid-19, has invaded our country and is spreading in exponential proportions. At this point, there's no vaccine for prevention and no successful treatment except to stay away from those infected so it won't pass from one person to another. I have four conditions active in my body: an autoimmune liver disease, diabetes, hypothyroidism, and asthma. Any one of these, along with my age, identifies me as high-risk for susceptibility to Covid-19. On top of that, I take an immune-suppressant drug to keep my immune system from attacking my liver. That basically makes me a sitting duck to catch any cold, flu, or virus that comes along. Hand washing, sanitizing, and precautions are not new to me; they are a way of life. This particular virus attacks the lungs. Being asthmatic, without any medication to fight it off, the probability of survival becomes less and less. As in my experience at the prison, a considerable risk is presenting itself. But this time, I can't choose to walk away and leave it behind. My only option is to do the best I can to avoid it.
But how do you avoid something you can't see? I assume it might be there and take extra precautions. Am I afraid? No. I serve a big God that never leaves me or forsakes me. Everything that is happening now is no surprise to Him. When I first read about the virus in China, I began to pray, and the Lord gave me the knowledge that I should prepare for isolation. I listened, shared it with my family and friends, and began to take action. I've always been somewhat of a prepper, and so for several weeks each time I went to the store, I purchased a few extra items the Lord showed me would be essentials to have on hand. I'm well-stocked on water, food, and medicine. I may not always have what I want to eat, but what I have will keep me alive; oatmeal and beans go a long way. I believe if the supply gets low, God is able and will multiple whatever I have as long as I maintain a spirit of thankfulness. And, I am thankful. I even have a modest supply of toilet paper. Still, if I run out it will be ok, I have plenty of mismatched socks, old t-shirts, worn-out towels and sheets, and a good washing machine. I'm as prepared as I know how to be to remain home-bound for as long as it takes until it's safe for me to go back out in public. I've done what I know to do, and now I have put the rest in God's hands and will stand firm in my faith in Him. I will be fine. Isolation anxiety? Oh no, I may not have kids or family or friends running around in my house, but Jesus is here with me all the time. I'm never alone. And I have plenty of things to do to keep myself busy.
No, this is not just about me. Everyone is experiencing significant life changes because of this virus. Life essential supplies are limited, availability is restricted, and income streams seem to be disappearing. Fear and desperation may be trying to invade your thoughts and overcome your faith—stand firm. Instead of worrying and complaining, be thankful for what you have and believe God will provide just as He promised in His word. He wouldn't have told us "to be anxious for nothing" if He didn't mean it. He knows your need - believe in Him as your source. Turn your eyes upon Him instead of your circumstances, and you will see the salvation of the Lord. Remember, Peter didn't begin to sink until he took his eyes off of Jesus.
My prayer for each of you is that you will use wisdom, be safe, conscientious about others, and carefully consider the risks of this awful virus. Take precautions. Stay at home if you can. Yes, for a while, our comfortable routines are going to be shaken and disrupted. Look at it as an opportunity for something new and different. Enjoy the time with your spouse and children. Turn the television off and put the cell phones down. Talk to each other face to face and cherish this time together. Some are saying, "life as we've known it will never be the same." So what? Life will go on, and we will recover. What we're experiencing is a temporary situation - it's not going to last forever. Pray diligently for the doctors and scientists to have wisdom, knowledge, and insight from God. They will develop a vaccine, and just like treatment regimens have been developed for other viruses, one will also be discovered for this virus.
I'm looking toward an exciting future with high expectations. I believe the outcome will culminate in even better things than we've had before. By all of us working together, encouraging each other, we will get through this. Don't be afraid! The Spirit of God is with YOU. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. And He's certainly more powerful than any coronavirus. And don't ever forget, Jesus loves YOU!
A couple of days ago, just before I went to bed, I was perusing Facebook when a pair of photos popped up on my newsfeed. The top photo was a group of camels following one behind the other making their way across the desert. The caption read, “This Is A Caravan.” Below it was another picture of interest; revealing the thousands of people who are participating in the migration from Honduras to the United States. It too had a caption; “This Is NOT A Caravan.” With those images ineradicably imposed on my mind, I realized I had more than fulfilled my daily ration of Facebook, turned off the light, and said goodnight to the world. A few hours later, the Lord awakened me and brought to my attention a simple analogy from scripture that has a similar correlation to the pictures I had seen earlier.
In the Bible, there is a remarkable story about Elisha found in the second chapter of II Kings. This particular story takes me all the way back to my Primary Sunday School Class, a green flannel board, tiny cut-out figures, and a delightful teacher who could make those characters virtually come to life. I remember this one vividly because of the effect it had on my young impressionable mind. I also believe this story may very well be one of the most misunderstood of the entire Bible. That’s right, it’s the story of Elisha that involves children, cursing, and bears; not just any bears, but specifically she-bears. The narrative unfolds with Elisha leaving Jericho with plans to go to Bethel. On the way, he's met by a group of young lads (some translations say little children) who mock and taunt him about being bald. In response, Elisha speaks a curse over them and continues on his way. But, looking back over his shoulder, he becomes an eyewitness to two she-bears coming out of the woods, making their attack, and leaving forty-two innocent children dead on the scene. Elisha then proceeds on his way to Mount Carmel. Interesting, to say the least. Can you imagine what the media and fake news could do with that today? My nine-year-old takeaway was simple but far from being scripturally correct. I had several uncles who were as bald as cue balls. I never teased them about it for fear a bear might come and eat me. That seems pretty ridiculous now but for a nine-year-old, what can I say? But back to the point, how does that connect with the pictures of the Caravan from Honduras?
First of all, the Hebrew word for young lads, or little children, depending on what translation you are using doesn’t necessarily refer to small, elementary school children as depicted in the Sunday School literature and flannel board characters. I was told, the Hebrew word na`ar in this passage was the term most often to describe servants, soldiers, and young men. And, the same word was used to describe Isaac when he was twenty-eight (28) years old and Joseph when he was thirty-nine (39). If that is so, it seems more reasonable to believe the lads mentioned in this scripture were most likely young men in their mid to late twenties, maybe even early thirties. Try to let go of the impression of a bunch of little innocent school children outside playing ring-around-the-Rosie. That wasn’t the case at all. This was a large, organized group of accountable, young, adult men. It wasn’t by chance they were on the road that day, and they positively weren’t a welcoming party come to meet and greet with Elisha. Instead, their purpose and intent were to turn Elisha away from entering the city of Bethel, even if it meant violence. Why? I don’t think it’s known for sure, but some scholars believe the people of Bethel had been supplying water to the people of Jericho which would have been a lucrative business with a product in high demand. When Elisha purified the waters at Jericho, Bethel obviously lost a substantial source of income. All of a sudden, the accessible supply of water greatly exceeded the demand; businesses would have closed, and significant unemployment would have resulted from the miracle. It’s not hard to understand how the domino effect of a critical economic event such as this could have caused an extreme financial crisis within the city of Bethel. Everyone knows if you mess with jobs, income, and necessary means of supporting the family; people get angry, and most often someone is expected to pay. On that day, unless he turned away from Bethel, it was going to be Elisha. Hhmm. That sheds new light on this story for me. Does it for you? I think it’s interesting that what appears to be the root cause of the discord in this Bible story is very similar to the root cause of the fears and arguments relative to the financial and economic consequences of border control and immigrant assimilation faced by United States lawmakers today. I believe the Lord is speaking and showing us a comparison in this biblical event to what is happening today. The miracle blessed the people of Jericho, but the people of Bethel were hurt by it. Is that not precisely what many are saying is happening in our nation as a result of immigration? Let’s hold that thought and look a little deeper at our Bible story.
What’s the big deal about Elisha being bald? In most instances, the Jewish people considered baldness as a reproach. For some like Elisha, it happened in spite of that fact. He must have been prematurely bald because contrary to what we may have visualized by the cut-out character on the flannel board, he was not an old man when this took place. This happened at the very beginning of his ministry which lasted for more than sixty (60) years, and he was in his eighties (80’s) when he died. But, wasn’t that simple teasing that meant no harm? No way. You might say those taunts were the epitome of what we refer to today as bullying. Each shout proclaimed a derogatory, aggressive threat. Again, we see a significant difference from our childhood lessons. It wasn't gleeful giggles and laughter of innocent little children that Elisha was hearing.
No, these were insulting remarks. Even more so, they were intended as aggressive threats; as in, “if you don’t want to die, you better pray for a whirlwind to come and take you up like what happened to Elijah.” If you’ll stop and think about it, the only reason they could have been jeering Elisha to be taken up like Elijah would have been if they intended to harm him and that would be his only way of escape. I believe God is exposing the truth about what happened on the road to Bethel that day. Bottom line, they were against Elisha, and they weren’t making any bones about it. Interesting isn’t it? How can we be so blind to motives behind actions? I’m wondering, do we know and understand the real motivation behind the Caravan from Honduras? Is it indeed a group of impoverished people seeking asylum in the United States in hopes of a better life? Personally, I don’t know and am not making a judgment, but perhaps we should be inquiring of God about this situation. After all, in our story about Elisha, many have believed for a very long time that it spoke about innocent little children who we now realize were, in reality, an angry mob. However, God knows and searches the hearts, and if we go to Him in earnest prayer over this situation, I am confident He will reveal the truth as well as expose the lies. So now let us continue this chronicle with Elisha’s response to the young men of Bethel.
Did Elisha honestly curse them? In our society, we often associate this word “curse” with cussing someone out over something we don’t like or as an outward display of negative emotion. I assure you that was not what happened in this situation. Elisha didn’t lose his temper over being taunted about being bald. He didn’t spew out a bunch of angry, vulgar cuss words at those young men because they insulted him. No, Elisha spoke the Word of God to them. After all, he was God’s prophet on duty that day. What else could he have spoken, or would he have spoken, but the word of God? Elisha is typified throughout the scripture as a very personable person. He wasn't anything like his predecessor Elijah. Elisha was indeed the people’s prophet. The Scripture characterizes him as soft-spoken, kind-hearted, and of a gentle spirit. You might say he was the social butterfly of the prophets; continually involving himself with the sons of the prophets, acting as spiritual counsel to kings, and always in the middle of the affairs of the people. So what did Elisha say to those young men? What does it mean that he cursed them? At the time this story took place, Bethel was the center of pagan worship and idolatry. Jeroboam had sculpted a golden calf for the people to worship in hopes they would stay in Bethel and no longer go to Jerusalem to pay their tithes at the temple. Again, we see a conflict over economics and financial resources. Even though Bethel means “House of God” it’s obvious the people of Bethel were in total rebellion towards God and these young men who were attacking Elisha were putting God to the test. They thought they were being hostile toward Elisha, but in reality, they were showing hostility toward God. Elisha’s response would have been to preach the word of God; expose the sin, give an opportunity to choose repentance and forgiveness, and to explain the consequences of taking the alternate path. He did what any prophet of God would do, he preached the Word in the name of the Lord, and like all genuine messages from God; it was only a curse of judgment as long as there was no repentance. The text for his message could have been and probably was from Leviticus 26:21-23 which says,
"If then, you act with hostility against Me and are unwilling to obey Me, I will increase the plague on you seven times according to your sins. I will let loose among you the beasts of the field, which will bereave you of your children and destroy your cattle and reduce your number so that your roads lie deserted. And if by these things you are not turned to Me, but act with hostility against Me, then I will act with hostility against you; and I, even I, will strike you seven times for your sins." (NASB)
Do you see what that says? God told the people the beasts would kill their children because of their rebellion. Isn’t that amazing? That’s so powerful and right on point. Because look what happened next. Going back to II Kings 2:24 it says,
"...two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number.”(NASB)
Amazing! A little research revealed bears can run between 25 and 40 miles per hour. I’m in awe at how only two bears could chase down and kill or maul forty-two young men; which leaves me wondering about the actual headcount of that big angry mob. Surely more got away than were mauled. Unless of course, the young men didn’t run from the bears. Maybe they were looking for recognition, trying to prove how infallible they were; perhaps it was something like a gang initiation and whoever could take the bear would become the new leader. Who knows? A bear skin would probably have been quite valuable so there may have been some financial incentive at play. Doesn’t it seem like economics keeps popping up in this story?
As we continue this comparison, it seems to become even more closely related to the events of today? Doesn’t the open rebellion toward God, the power seekers, the lack of respect for those in authority, and the civil unrest point to the possibilities of trouble ahead? I believe so, and I think God is giving a wake-up call. However, before we get to that, we have another major point to follow. Why did the scripture specifically say she-bears? Well, the answer is found in the scripture, and God tells the people about the consequences of forgetting what He has done for them in Hosea 13:8.
“I will encounter them like a bear robbed of her cubs, and I will tear open their chests; there I will also devour them like a lioness, as a wild beast would tear them.” (NASB)
There it is again; God is reiterating the consequences of rebellion. Another thing I read about bears was that there was not a more dangerous animal than a mother bear protecting her cubs. So, our question is “Did Elisha call out the bears?” No, he didn’t. Did God send the bears? Probably. Was it in response to what Elisha had said? No, it was because of the promise God had made in His word of what would happen to those who were hostile toward Him. Do you realize God never wastes effort? He kept His word and protected Elisha all at the same time. I have a feeling those bears showed up just at the right time. After all, you might say Elisha was kind of like God’s cub, and He didn’t take to kindly to those who were intending to do him harm. When Elisha couldn’t defend himself against so many, God intervened, and help arrived.
We, as Christians, should embrace this truth. Any hostility toward God and His people will not be taken lightly by God. He will keep His word and punish hostility toward Him and at the same time guard and protect those who are obedient do what He commands. So this brings us to the last question, “Why forty-two (42)?”
Do you suppose there may be a prophetic significance about the number forty-two (42) in this story? The term "little children" is used 42 times in the Old Testament. The children of Israel had 42 specific events or wanderings in the desert until they were finally given rest (Numbers 33:1-50). Forty-two can be created by the numbers 6 and 7, which shows a relationship between humanity and God's spirit as well as a connection between Jesus Christ and the Antichrist. We know the number “42” always seems to represent blasphemy or direct attacks and hostility against the Lord. Revelation 13:5 talks about the Beast having a mouth that speaks arrogant blasphemies and how he will be given authority for 42 months. Interesting. These things are definitely food for thought.
When I consider the story of Elisha, the boys, the curse, and the bears; I believe the scripture gives a factual account of an event that literally happened. But, I also recognize allegorical references that can apply to current events of today. I pray the people of the United States do not fall into deception. After much prayer, God spoke the following prophetic encouragement to my heart.
“Wake up. Wake up. Take off the blinders. Don’t accept everything at face value but dig deep in prayer. Appeal to Me to find the motives behind the actions. Do not be deceived by what you think you see. Look carefully. Examine everything. Listen to the words I speak to your heart. My word still stands. It has not changed. I am still against those who show hostility towards Me, but I give every opportunity for repentance. Yet, there are those who mock and scorn Me on a daily basis. Show me your faithfulness. Seek after me. You are my beloved child, and I will guard you and protect you as ferociously as the she-bear protects her cubs. You are about to witness the strength of my arm outstretched. The events taking place have my attention, and I will have the last say in the matter. Have compassion where compassion is needed and wield the sword of My Word against the aggressor who is hostile toward me. Do not be afraid of the battle. Keep your eyes on me, lift up a shout of praise, and see the salvation I will bring.” Amen and amen.
I have great compassion for people of other countries who are less fortunate than those of us blessed to be United States citizens. I do not have a problem with people immigrating to this great country who do it according to our laws and are willing to embrace the American way of life. However, at the same time, my opinion is that those who come into this country with a desire to change it to align with philosophies and dogmata of the country they are attempting to leave; should stay where they are.
In reading and listening to news reports, it is evident some view the Caravan from Honduras as harmless people seeking asylum while others see it as an angry mob motivated entirely by the intent to create havoc and chaos at a critical time in our nation, and ultimately planning to bring destruction as they cross our border. Personally, I don’t know. But, if that is the case, perhaps God will once again use she-bears to protect His cubs. Maybe. Maybe not. In either case, He has a very impressive arsenal at His disposal. In the meantime, the most important thing at hand is for the Christians of the United States to rally before God with repentant hearts and come into obedience to His word. This is the only way we will remain in a safe place, and like Elisha, be protected when God begins to fight against His enemies.
Prison ministry stole my heart many years ago. Beginning in July of 2012, once a month, I made the 430-mile round-trip from my house to the Bridgeport Pre-Parole Transfer Facility (women’s unit). Why did I go so far and so often? God said. And, I am obedient to what God says to do. My assignment was to carry the message of the gospel and to speak words of hope and encouragement.
The average attendance in those 60-90 minute meetings was generally between 60 to 85 women. The order of worship was simple: about 15 minutes for lively praise, another 15-20 minutes for specific teaching, and the remainder of the time was spent giving personal ministry. Even though the facility annually recognized my services as a volunteer, the only feedback I got from the women was what I would hear them calling out as they were making their way back to their dorms. “Thank you for coming, Miss Deb. We love you. Drive safe.” These were always heartwarming words to me.
Five years, almost 27,000 miles and 60+ meetings had come and gone since I first stepped into that facility and now on May 01, 2017 this was it; the last time I would walk through the metal detector, be patted down, and then escorted across the yard to the Rec Room. I would never know how God had used the ministry for His purposes or really what He had accomplished in that place. But, I was sure of one thing; I knew I had done what He wanted me to do. I have tremendous faith that He uses what I do to bring about good changes in the hearts and lives of people who receive the ministry. This time was a little different. Most of the women had been shipped out to other facilities leaving only four occupying the faith-based dorm. So for convenience sake, we would actually meet in the dorm rather than the Rec Room. Those four were glad to see me and anxious to hear the Word of the Lord.
We did praise and worship, and I brought the lesson from the Word and ministered to each one of them. When I had finished, we had some extra time so they asked if they could share what God had done for them through the ministry I had brought to them. Finally, I would get to hear some personal feedback. It was good. The first three shared their testimonies with great thankfulness of how God had touched them through the ministry and the encouragement they’d received. Their stories moved me; but, sorry to say I don’t remember the specifics of the first three. However, not so with the fourth woman. Even now, I remember the look in her eyes and the pull on my heart as she shared her story. Her words still ring in my ears. I can remember the particulars of her narration as if I heard it yesterday. Tears welled up in her eyes, and her voice quivered for a bit, but then she gained her composure and told us her story. By the time she finished, we were all wiping tears but rejoicing over the outcome. And now, I share her story with you exactly as she told it to us on that day some six years ago.
“When I was just a little girl, up until I was nine years old, it was only my mother and me. Then she met and married a man that was very rich. I got in the way of their lifestyle, and they decided they didn’t want me around anymore. So, they carried me to the front door of an orphanage and left me on the porch. I thought they were just leaving me a few days to go on a trip or something, but they never came back for me. The person who should have loved me most abandoned me. I hated my mother and my step-father for what they had done to me. My heart was full of anger and bitterness that grew and grew. Because of what was going on inside of me, I lashed out at others and was always in trouble. All I wanted was my mother. All I wanted was to be re-connected to my family. But, that didn’t happen.
With tears flowing down her cheeks, she went on to say, “As soon as I was old enough, I got out of that place, but I had no place to go except the streets. To survive, I got caught up in drugs and prostitution and a lot of other stuff, and by the time I was 18 I was in jail. I managed to get out a couple of times but then got caught on parole violations and ended up back in jail. I’m 49 years old now and have spent most of my adult life in prison. And all those 40 years, every day, I hated my mother and my step-father and blamed them for the miserable life I’ve had.
I know you don’t remember the night you ministered to me, or what you said, because you minister to so many people. But several months ago I was sitting on the front row in your meeting and you looked right into my heart and said, “Sweetie, God loves you so very much. And, He wants you to know He’s heard you crying out to Him and He wants to help you, but He’s telling me to tell you that you must release forgiveness to the people who’ve hurt you.” You said, “The un-forgiveness in your heart is destroying you, and when you let that go, it will be like you’ve been set free, and you will be like a new person.” I knew you had no way of knowing anything about my situation. When you looked at me, it was like I saw Jesus looking at me. And, I could feel the love of God coming out of you and into me. I knew it was God and I’d never felt God like that before.
That night I lay in my bed and tried to figure out what had happened in that meeting. Finally, I got up and knelt beside my bed and prayed “God I don’t want to live like this anymore. I want to forgive my mother and my step-father. Will you help me do that, God?” As soon as I had said the prayer, it lifted. I felt like a new person. It was awesome. But, I knew I couldn’t stop there. I wrote a long letter to my mother and step-father and told them all about what had happened to me in your meeting and what I had prayed. I told them I had totally forgiven them for abandoning me. There was just one problem. I didn’t know where to send it.
It took me almost three months and a lot of research, letters, and phone calls to other family and people I hadn’t seen or heard from in years, but I finally got an address and mailed my forgiveness letter. I was surprised by a phone call a couple of weeks later. It was my mother. She wanted to know if she could come and visit me. A few weeks ago, she and my step-father came here to Bridgeport. Forty years had passed since the last time I saw my mother. They admitted what they had done was definitely wrong and they wished they hadn’t done it and would I please forgive them. I was able to tell them, I already have.
I’m up for parole in a few more weeks. They want me to come and live close to them so we can be a family. They’ve bought me a car, have an apartment waiting for me, and my step-father is going to help me get a job. The only thing I’ve wanted for my whole life is finally going to happen. I am so thankful for this. I’m grateful to God for sending you to Bridgeport. I’m thankful you heard what God had to say to me, and you were bold enough to tell me what He was saying. I’m thankful His love was so strong in you that I could feel it and receive it. I’m thankful my life is brand new. I’m getting a chance to start all over. My family is going to be restored. None of this would have happened if it weren’t for you.”
Her story so touched my heart. Even today, my heart goes out to her for the rejection she faced and the misery that rejection caused in her life. But, I rejoice that she now has a loving relationship with the Lord and is reconciled with her family. The longing of her heart has truly been satisfied in more ways than one.
So if you want to know why I love prison ministry, that’s pretty much the reason. When I think about all those hours on the road and the sleepless nights on bad beds in the hotels, I remember this woman’s story and remind myself it is only one among many and it makes it all worthwhile. I don’t need to hear about each of them to believe they exist. Because I know Jesus and I were on a mission and He doesn’t quit until the purpose of the mission gets accomplished. So, about all I can say is “Thank you, Jesus” for taking me along for the ride and I sure hope there’ll be another prison mission somewhere in my future.
It was about seven years ago when Father put it in my heart to do more prison ministry. I didn’t know where or how so like always, I just went to Google. I searched for all the women’s prison facilities in Texas. I landed on a place called Bridgeport Pre-Parole Transfer Facility. It was a long way from my house; to be exact it was about 430 miles round trip but for some reason I seemed to be especially drawn to it. Now, I don’t really think it’s wisdom to walk up to a prison and knock on the door and tell them you’ve come to share the gospel. If God hasn’t arranged it, you better stay home! So I prayed and then the waiting came. You know, that time when you’re sitting on go, ready to take off for God, but He’s not giving the go ahead. That’s a very important time and it’s very important not to get ahead of God. I believe it’s during that waiting time that Father actually prepares us for the assignment ahead. So, I waited! And for the next two years, every month or so I would pull up the website, read to see if there were any changes and ask Father, “Is it time, yet?” Then one day “a suddenly” happened. The info on the website had changed. Finally! There was a face I recognized and a familiar name. A new warden was in town. Jacquelyn Banks was her name. Ms. Banks had served as Warden at the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility located about 30 minutes from Natchez, Mississippi. While she was there, I had been a member of Marejohn Brock’s prison ministry team that ministered monthly at that facility (another long trip from my house). But now, Ms. Banks had been transferred from Wilkinson County to Bridgeport. Hey! Lights flashed and whistles blew! This was my cue. I knew in my knower it was time to make contact. I fired off an email explaining who I was, gave a little background history from Wilkinson County, and asked if there was any possibility of being able to minister at the Bridgeport Women’s Unit. I was so excited! I knew God was in this and I could hardly wait for an answer. I didn’t have to wait long. Within thirty minutes I had a return email that said she would be delighted for me to come to Bridgeport. Thank you, Jesus! The door had finally opened.
The waiting was over or so I thought. Contact with the Chaplain revealed I had to first complete orientation periodically taught by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) as well as the training required by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). How long would this take? The Chaplain said probably a couple of months. I suspected I would also have to travel to one of the units hours from my house. Oh, well. I applied on-line for the TDCJ training (this was Tuesday). On Thursday I was contacted by the Chaplain at Telford Unit. They were going to have orientation training at Telford Unit on Saturday and I could attend if I wanted. This meant I could get the orientation the same week and Telford Unit is only about six miles from my house. Wow! Does Father made great arrangement, or what! But, then, I still had to complete the CCA orientation. The next Monday, I contacted the Chaplain to let her know I had completed the TDCJ training and God moved miraculously again. The CCA orientation was planned for the upcoming weekend. She said if I could come on Friday, we could get all my paperwork done, I could attend the orientation classes, and would be able to minister on Saturday night. Could I come? Could I come? Well, of course, I could come! In less than two weeks, the door had opened and every requirement had been met for me to minister at that facility. That had to be God!
And, so, I went for the first time in July 2012 and have been going once a month ever since. Oh, I’ve had to miss a couple of times when I was sick and once because of the weather but overall I’ve made that trip fifty plus times during the past five years. God blessed the ministry and I’ve always had great attendance for the meetings. But, it wasn’t always easy. When I first started going to Bridgeport, there was a Captain who obviously didn’t care for the ministry. It’s an understatement to say she made life a little difficult and I was seriously tested; but love prevailed and for several years I’ve had tremendous favor with the administration and staff. I’ve been able to speak hope and encouragement to over 2000 women during these meetings. I planted a lot of seeds, saw many hearts touched, and know in my heart that lots of lives were changed by a simple message of love from Jesus. But, even though they were blessed, I was the one who received the greatest blessing.
Monday night was the last time I will get to enjoy the ministry at the women’s unit at Bridgeport. You see, because of budget reasons and who knows what else, it’s being closed. The ladies are being paroled or shipped out to other facilities and the staff, well- a few are transferring to the men’s unit but most are losing their jobs. Neither option is good since those transferring lose their status and have to start over as entry level correctional officers at $10.81 an hour. I am praying for God to intervene and turn this calamity into a blessing for all concerned.
When I first starting going to Bridgeport it was mostly a two-lane state highway. Then construction began. The whole five years, I have driven through and watched a variety of construction projects transform the roadway into six lane thorough fares and divided highways. With the exception of about a half-mile it is all completed now. As I drove home yesterday, I thought how ironic it was that now that the road upgrades are all finished and driving is easier my assignment at Bridgeport is finished. The Chaplain has asked me to consider coming back to Bridgeport to minister at the men’s unit. I’m praying about it but so far have not received that knowing from Father that this is what I’m supposed to do. I do know that when He closes a door that He will open another and there is definitely another assignment waiting for me. But, right now, I will wait on God just like I did five years ago. I thank Him for the opportunity He gave me and praise Him for the work He did in the hearts and lives of so many; especially mine. This may be the end of this part of my journey but I know it is also the beginning of a new journey. That’s the way God works. The ministry will continue. I just don’t know when and where. But, God is faithful and He has a plan for me, just like He has a wonderful plan for you. I encourage you to be courageous and step into the plan He has for you. Follow His leadership and always remember, “Jesus Loves YOU!”
My life is exciting! When you work for Jesus you never know what’s going to happen; where He will send you, or who you will meet. This past September the Lord put an unction in my heart to do a meeting in the Dallas area so I started looking for a meeting place. Sounds easy enough! Wrong! It took days. Long story short, I finally found a hotel I could afford in Garland and got it set up for the first Tuesday in October. So, the next issue at hand; how to invite people to come? I prayed, “Father, how am I supposed to do this? Nobody knows me.” Several years ago when I started a meeting in Marshall, Marejohn had given me permission to use her mailing list and encouraged me to include her name in the advertisement. As I prayed over the Dallas meeting, Father reminded me of what I had done at Marshall. I discussed it with Marejohn and once again she said “go for it” and encouraged me to get out in the field and get people saved, delivered, and set free. Marejohn told me, “Always include that you were with me; that way they will know what kind of ministry to expect”. So I made up some post cards with the date, time, and location. I put my picture in the corner and then included this statement “Mentored by Marejohn Brock for more than 17 years, I learned firsthand the importance of loving people, operating in the gifts of the Spirit, and boldly sharing the prophetic encouragement given by the Holy Spirit.” Some people have ministry resume’s that include all sorts of degrees from prestigious schools. Not me! But, let me tell you, I wouldn’t trade my training for all the classrooms or college degrees in the world. But, back to the story. I mailed the cards, went to the hotel, and anxiously waited to see if anyone would show up. Some people came. I was relieved. Thank you, Jesus. It wasn’t going to be a no-show night. A woman I’d never met before came in and introduced herself. She had brought her grandson; a handsome young man probably in his late twenties or early thirties. She told me, “I went to Marejohn Brock’s meetings when she had them at Deeper Life Book Store. When she stopped coming there, I never knew what happened to her. But, when I got your card and saw ‘her name’ I knew she wouldn’t be here but I knew if I could get him here, my grandson could get help from this ministry!” Wow! Marejohn stopped having meetings at Deeper Life Book Store probably 25-30 years ago. My heart swelled with joy at hearing this lady’s confidence in the ministry. It was like what Marejohn had said about the people knowing what kind of ministry to expect had actually been a fulfilled prophecy. I was encouraged. The woman explained they had driven from the northwest side of Dallas up close to US 380 during the 5 o’clock rush hour traffic to get to this meeting. It took them almost two hours to get there. That told me they really wanted to be there! I was blown away. I started the meeting. Business as usual. But, before I could finish the message, this young man was crying out. “I’ve got to have help. I need God to help me. My life is in such a mess; I can’t live this way any longer!” I believe God wants us to love and meet the needs of those in front of us so I turned the focus toward ministering to him. No surprise, the other people there joined me – and God had sent just the right people to speak to and minister to the needs in that young man’s heart and life. It was truly amazing what God did! I wish you could see the young man today. He is on-fire for Jesus; happy, and overflowing with joy. His whole countenance is changed. I believe with all my heart that meeting was a divinely ordained appointment scheduled and arranged by a loving heavenly Father especially for that young man. Wow! I know I shouldn’t but I’m one of those people that always thinks about the “what ifs”. What if I had given up on finding a meeting place? What if I had not prayed about how to invite people? What if Marejohn had not encouraged me to use her name or what if I had not included it on that postcard? But, I was persistent and did find a meeting place. Father did answer my prayer about how to invite people. Marejohn’s name was supposed to be on that card. It was important and it made a difference. It pleases my heart to know that in this particular instance, her legacy was carried on through me but that shouldn’t be the focus or center of our attention. The most important thing is that a young man and his family were touched and changed by the power of God’s love. How do I know this? Because in December, he came through the door with a great big grin on his face. Following behind him was his grandmother, his mother, his uncle, and his little boy. You see, it’s like Marejohn taught me. It wasn’t her ministry. It’s not my ministry. The ministry belongs to Jesus. It’s not about who does what. It’s about obedience to do what Father puts in your heart. But most of all, it’s about loving the one He puts in front of you! And, it is so much fun to watch Jesus in action. Because when He touches a heart a life is changed. He wants to touch your heart and make things exciting in your life, too. You ask, why? Simply because “Jesus Loves You!”
Good morning Facebook friends and family! Did you get your morning exercise done? Me? Oh, yes, I walked down the street and around the corner to the end of the football field and back. Decisions. Decisions. Whether or not to exercise, what food to eat, which clothes to wear, what television shows to watch, what kind of car we drive, how fast to drive it, and where it will take us. All of our choices make up our repertoire of daily life. But, of greatest importance is the choice we make about the reality of fellowship with a loving God as our Heavenly Father, a loving Jesus as our Redeemer and Savior, and a loving Holy Spirit as our comforter, teacher, and guide. As He created each one of us for Himself, He implanted within us an instinct for love and a desire and ability to love God above all else. The fulfillment of this is up to us and is defined by our daily choices. We can choose a path of self-centeredness of our own making or we can choose God’s path for our life. His path will take us to and through situations that enable us to give love and be loved. Don’t misunderstand. His path is in no way synonymous with the absence of difficulties, tests, conflicts, or challenges. In fact, it is quite the opposite. As disciples of Jesus we must go through a process of transformation. The tools of this process are often painful, unjust, and cruel circumstances. Sometimes it appears pointless and undeserved sufferings invade our world and we find ourselves asking God, “Why are these things happening?” (By the way, I don’t think God ever answers the “why” question. More about that on another day.) These hard places become teachers in the development of character; character that responds and reacts as Jesus would react if the same thing were to happen to Him. And, in reality, whatever you experience does happen to Him as well. Remember, He lives inside your heart so whatever you are going through, He is going through it with you. What does this mean? God the Father knows all about where you are and what you are going through. Jesus is the example to follow to be a victorious overcomer and the Holy Spirit is with you, speaking to your heart as your Comforter and Guide. Most often the greatest challenge will be nothing more than loving the people with whom we have to live and work. Sadly, this altar of sacrifice often introduces us to grief, heartbreak, and pain. Daily we must choose to continually lay down our own will and accept the tests God has permitted in our lives. Little by little, we are transformed into the precious image of Christ. You may think the tests are too hard, but know for sure they were tailored just for you and they will ultimately produce in you the desired results because, “Jesus Loves You!”
II Corinthians 3:18 “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (NASB)
Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (NASB)
Colossians 3:9-11 “ Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him – a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. (NASB)
© 2015 Deb Vick All rights reserved.
Sooo… I am the only one on my block who hasn’t mowed their yard for the first time this year! My neighbor offered to mow it for me but I declined. I am still enjoying the little white, pink, and purple flowers. I know it will only be a few more days before I have to bring them to their demise, but I will enjoy them as long as I can. It’s going to be a real job for someone because I didn’t rake up all the leaves last fall. On top of that the big trees in my yard have shed several limbs. In other words, there’s a lot of “stuff” buried under the pretty little flowers. Stuff you can’t see that would tear up a lawn mower. The Lord showed me our lives are kind of like this sometime. We look at people and all we see are the pretty things. And then we look at ourselves and we don’t’ see that same kind of picture. Well, in the first place, we’re not supposed to be comparing ourselves to anyone else! So, if you’re doing that just stop it. Secondly, the Lord showed me when we look at others, we don’t see their “hidden stuff” but when we look at ourselves we get the whole package; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes, if we let too much stuff get buried and hidden, it can harm us. It shows up in lots of different packages; rejection, depression, anger, bitterness, or un-forgiveness to name a few. None of these things do us any good at all! You know, it would have been a lot less trouble to have swept up the leaves last fall and picked up the limbs as they fell. Same way with our hearts. If we clean-up as we go it’s a lot easier to keep it filled with the right kind of things like peace and joy and love. Yes, I’m going to have quite a job on my hands with the yard, but not so much with my heart. I tend to it every day. Have you checked yours lately? Jesus wants you safe and happy! So get rid of that “hidden stuff” that doesn’t need to be there. Just as the Lord to help you clean out your heart. He will be glad to help because remember “Jesus Loves You!”
WOW! God is good! I am back at the hotel now – finished with the service for the women at the Bridgeport Pre-parole Transfer Facility. And did we have church! I wish you could have been there!
59 women wrote their names on the sign in sheets. I think there may have been 4 or 5 more that came I late that didn’t sign the sheet. Considering, I was competing with an opportunity for outdoor recreation tonight (and it was a wonderful night to be outside), and the facility only houses about 200, over a fourth of the population were in church tonight. We had wonderful praise and worship. They entered in and the glory of the Lord filled the place. The ministry flowed smoothly and I believe they were blessed and encouraged. I certainly was – but then I always receive a blessing. The air conditioning wasn’t working and it was extremely warm. I can tell I’m still a little weak but the Lord gave me the strength to last the whole two hours. (I actually went about 15 minutes over, thank you, Jesus for favor). But, especially, thank you Lord for what You did tonight. He poured out His love in a marvelous way. We laughed, we cried, we shouted, we rejoiced, and we laughed some more! Never for a minute doubt that God has a sense of humor! I had hit a rather strong point and was waiting a moment in silence for the Word to soak in when all of a sudden there was a terrific roar. I felt my eyes get big and said, “WHAT is that?” The train was coming through. Of all the times I’ve been there, I’ve never heard the train before. But, tonight it was just at the right time for God to make His point! And, everyone laughed and enjoyed His perfect timing. So, I have just finished a turkey sandwich (Dagwood style) and it’s time to unwind and try to get some sleep. But, before I go, I want to encourage you that you can do whatever God calls you to do. It doesn’t matter when you start—He hasn’t changed His mind—whatever He has placed in your heart, He will help you. His Word says the Holy Spirit will be our teacher and our guide. What more do we need? Let Him work through you. Be His hands, His mouth, and His feet, whatever He wants you to be to meet the needs around you. As you focus on helping and encouraging others, He will focus on helping and encouraging you. But, most of all, remember “Jesus Loves You!”
Monday, April 6, 2015
Good morning! Today, I would like to pay tribute to Ms. Lillian Freeman. She has finished her race in this life and is now celebrating with Jesus! Later this morning, she will be honored and her life celebrated by her family and many, many friends. She was indeed, a special lady. I don’t remember when I met Lil, it just seems I’ve always known her. The important thing is what I do remember. She was always happy, in a good mood, smiling, and laughing. Where ever she went, whatever she was doing, it was accompanied by joy and genuine love. When I first started writing these posts, Lil was one of the very first people who hit the “like” button. She would often make a comments of encouragement to me. She always cheered me on, especially when I would give a praise report about what was happening in the prison ministry. She had no idea how much she encouraged me. Her words always seemed to come just at the right time. I won’t be there today to participate in her home-going celebration because I’m heading out in a few minutes for that 5 hour drive to minister at the Women’s Pre-Parole Transfer Facility in Bridgeport, Texas tonight. And, later tomorrow when I post the praise the report, I will miss seeing her name among those who liked the post. As I continue to make the daily posts, there will be a void because of the absence of her comments that so often inspired and strengthened me. Oh, but I believe she will continue to encourage me, as well as, the many others she loved so much. It will just come through a different venue; as she is now a member of that elite group described as the “cloud of heavenly witnesses” that cheers us on. My prayers are for God’s love and peace to comfort each heart that grieves for her presence. May each of us be strengthened and continue to follow her example of loving kindness and spread the joy of the Lord wherever we go. I believe she would join me in saying, remember always, “Jesus Loves You.”
I can hardly believe it is already April. A whole fourth of 2015 has already passed. Mind boggling how fast time flies by; especially when you’re having fun. Are we having fun yet? Just saying… Maybe it’s because I’ve been really busy! I was thinking about that this afternoon. Situations, which I don’t care to discuss, created a big pile-up of stuff on my things-to-do-list. I’m talking serious things like taxes that were due two years ago. You get the picture? Now, don’t go blasting me for procrastination because I think it was a God thing I didn’t get them done until now. And, no, I didn’t get penalized because they owed me money. But, let’s get off taxes and back to what I want to talk about today. And that is, getting what God wants us to do, done! A while back, I made a little book for my friend Marejohn for her birthday. You might say it was a compilation of life anecdotes, scriptures, cartoons, and thought-provoking ideas I’ve picked up all along my journey of life. One of the cartoons pictured a bunch of hungry-looking alligators watching a little fellow sunk up to his waste in the mud. The caption read, “It’s hard to remember your original purpose was to drain the swamp when you’re surrounded by alligators!” I think this happens to the best of us from time to time. We’re on track. We’re doing our best to do what God has told us to do. Then, suddenly we find ourselves in a quagmire of issues, conflicts, or circumstances that pull our attention away from completing our assignments from God. Oh, they come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and events. Sometimes, it’s health issues. Other times, things that rob our finances show up. The next may be issues in relationships. The list can go on and on. It doesn’t really matter what the situation or event is. The important thing is that we recognize it for what it is and not allow it to send us down a road that is not aligned with the purpose God has for our lives. And, even if that happens and we take a slight detour, it’s not the end of the world. All we have to do is pick up from where we are, get re-grouped, re-focused, and go at it again. That’s what I’m doing now. You see, for the past few months I’ve been like that little guy in the swamp. It’s been like the harder I tried to get things done the more interference showed up. The proverbial take two steps forward and one step back was about to become my daily mantra. Oh, I’m not saying the things I was doing were not important; they were and they had to be done. The problem was I let them become a swamp that almost swallowed me. And, I definitely let the time-stealing alligators distract me and keep me from completing the tasks God has assigned me to do. One of which is to write and post these not-so exciting life lessons on a regular (probably almost daily) basis. You know, I just love to encourage other people. I think it’s a gift God has given me. I love writing these posts. I truly believe God uses my life lessons to show others how much He loves them and that He’s always ready to help them. And, I especially love the encouragement I receive from the likes and comments I get back. It’s that law of sowing and reaping thing. You plant encouragement; you get encouragement! Pretty simple, huh? I don’t know anyone that would turn down encouragement; certainly not me! So you’re asking, “What’s the problem?” Well, it’s like this. I haven’t been giving this task its rightful place of priority at the top of my daily things-to-do- list(s). It’s an easy thing to talk about what we should do, but doing it can be a lot more difficult. Sometimes it takes this thing called self-discipline to get back where we need to be. Sometimes it means checking our priorities. Do we have the important things in the right order on our lists? Or, have we let the time-stealers squirm their way to the top. Sometimes it means laying something else down to make time for the things that should have the greatest priority. It means we have to make a conscious decision; choices have to be made. Let’s choose Jesus! Let’s choose to place the things that are important to Him at the top of our lists. Let’s choose to complete His assignments before we do anything else. Anyway, I’m sure that’s what He wants me to do about these posts. I believe if we put Him first, He will help us and keep the time-stealers at bay. How about we put Him to the test? If He will help me, He will help you, too. I challenge you to give His tasks priority and see what happens! But, there’s one thing that is sure; that never has to be tested. That is, no matter where He is on your priority list, “Jesus Loves YOU!”
Shannon Howllett – Make Him famous!
Reply! That sounds like a great idea! I think I’ll give it a try. I truly want to reach and encourage as many people as I possibly can. Must not become so involved in the logistics and mechanics that I don’t have time for the message. Just so you’ll know, a big part of my time has gone to resting in order to recuperate from the liver failure. In what time I had left, I’ve been focused on getting the ministry legally established as a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation. I keep reminding myself this is a “one time” thing and as soon as I can get it finished all the time allocated to this can then be directed to actually doing the ministry. I love what Randy Chandler says about prophesying on his blog talk show, “It’s the place where we do it more than we talk about it.” That’s the cry of my heart. I want to “BE” ministering to people rather than just thinking and talking about it. Father has shown me that Facebook and the internet are the most efficient and effective tools and through them I can reach a vast number of people. Please pray for me that I can figure out how to best use every tool and opportunity God has given me (especially that I can improve my writing skills). God gave me the tagline “Changing Lives One Heart At A Time”. (Note to self – get the Facebook cover photo changed to match the website). He touches my heart with what He wants shared. I write it down and post it. He prompts others to read it and individually touches their hearts. Like you and many others, they make a comment, hit the like button, or the share button and then the message is forwarded to another group of people. Again, He moves in individual hearts. It goes on and on like ripples on a lake; especially if those reading will hit the share button. Talk about exponential multiplication! The possibilities are mind boggling! Love you, girl. Take care of yourself and tell all the family hello for me. We should get together for coffee someday. That thought makes my heart smile.
I don’t know who invented Windows 8…. This red-head that is all hyped up on steroids is about to snap! I’ll take Windows XP any day of the week. I have been working for more than 3 hours trying to get precious pictures off my phones onto my computer in some logical order. It shouldn’t be this hard! Frustration! à Exasperation! à Anger! Help me, Jesus! You know, life was a lot simpler when phones were hooked to cords, cameras took pictures on film that was developed, the local area TV only had channels 3, 6, and 12, all the stores closed at 6:00 PM Monday through Saturday and all day on Sunday, and you could pull your car up to the gas pump and tell the station attendant to “Fill ‘err up!” and he would wash the windshield and check the oil for free. I know, I’m telling my age but it’s what’s on my mind tonight. Is life on the fast-track really that much better? I think not. Seems like every day is filled with hurry up to do this or hurry up to get that done, or Oh no, I forgot that! Oh, I know I’m not alone in this because everyone I’ve talked with over the past few weeks is experiencing similar episodes of turmoil, chaos, and harassment. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” The key point in this statement is the peace that Jesus is describing is the kind of peace that is found in the kingdom of heaven; not the shallow, superficial peace we obtain from things found in this world. The number one tactic the enemy uses against us is to disturb our peace by planting seeds of doubt and fear in our minds. When fear and anxiousness about the future and the unknown take root; the result is chaos, turmoil, and anxiety. Throughout the Bible, over and over, God says, “Do not be afraid! Do not fear! Don’t be anxious for anything!” Let me ask you something, “Are you fully persuaded that you can believe God?” I have a feeling we’ll continue to experience periods of turmoil and chaos until we reach the place of real spiritual maturity; that place where we are so fully persuaded that God is able in every instance to provide for us, to save us, to deliver us, and to heal us that we never give a single thought to any other possibility. This should be the goal of our determination. Jesus paid the price and now all we have to do is believe! Oh my, oh my, how much Jesus Loves You!
Good morning everyone! First, thanks to all of you for your overwhelming response to yesterday’s post. I can’t even begin to explain how your responses encourage me. Last Wednesday morning before I left town to go to the hospital I made a stop at the Post Office to pick up the mail. I have this bad habit of not going every day so I had accumulated quite an array of envelopes; mostly junk mail, but never the less mail. I sorted through looking at the return addresses when suddenly one made my heart jump up in my throat. Big, bold, black letters that said, “IRS”! Why is it that we always think the worst? It was only a few weeks ago I had actually gotten my 2013 return filed and now I was getting a letter. I sat there a few minutes; trying to decide if I wanted to open it or just pretend I didn’t get it until later. You guessed right. My curiosity got the best of me and I had to see what it said. Turns out I had failed to send in a form explaining a deduction I had taken. They had declared my return incomplete and would continue processing once they received the necessary form. No problem. All I have to do is complete the form and send it in. But, for that split second there was a wondering; “Had I done something incorrect? Was I going to be audited? What is this about? Am I in trouble?” A little later, the Lord brought this back to me. His voice was very clear in my heart. You know, that’s where the Lord talks to us. He doesn’t speak to our minds. He talks to our hearts. And I heard Him say very clearly, “Deb, I want you to be as concerned over being in total obedience to everything I tell you to do as you were concerned over that letter from the IRS!” Okay, Lord, you got my attention. Have I missed something? Once again, my heart was up in my throat. No, I hadn’t missed anything but Father wanted me to realize that He wants first place. His assignments should take precedence and priority over everything else. But, this is not because He is such a demanding God or He needs to exert His great and mighty power over us little weak humans. No, quite the opposite. He wants us to walk in total obedience to Him so that we will always be correctly positioned to receive His blessing! It’s only in that place where we are seeking Him, seeking His kingdom, and searching for His righteousness to be manifested in our lives that we truly can receive the fullness of love, grace, and blessing our Heavenly Father has for us. He is a big God and He wants you to know He is still very much in control. No one can derail you from His plan and purpose unless you allow it to happen. Don’t listen to words of people who speak negatively toward you. Listen to the Words of Jesus. They will be words that build you up, edify your spirit, cleanse you from all unrighteousness, and forgive you of all sin. It is His words hidden in your heart that makes abundant life available to you each and every moment of each and every day. He wrote you a letter. Check out the return address on His envelope. You won’t see any big, bold, black letters; only those of crimson red that continually prove how much “Jesus Loves YOU!”
Good morning! It is so nice to hear the birds singing instead of the rain falling. To bring you up to date, to say the least, the past few days have been something of a challenge. Beginning about two weeks ago, I knew I didn’t feel very well but I thought the tiredness and sluggishness was probably from burning the candle at both ends. All I needed was a couple of good night’s sleep to take care of it. I was wrong, which is not surprising! I had bloodwork done on Thursday so the tests would be back for my scheduled doctor appointment on Wednesday of last week. Sunday afternoon, I did the music service at the Magnolia. Exhausted, I packed my bags for the trip to Bridgeport for women’s prison ministry Monday night. The plan was to stay in Bridgeport Monday and Tuesday nights, then catch the doctor appointment Wednesday morning on the way home. Halfway to Dallas, the phone rang. It was the doctor. My liver enzymes which should be no more than 35 were almost to a 1000 points. Instructions were to come by the office in Dallas, have another test to validate the one I had done Thursday. This took a couple of extra hours and by the time I finally made it to Bridgeport, unloaded the car, and got checked into the hotel, I was wiped out. I took a short nap but when I awoke I knew I was way too sick to go and minister. Disappointed, I called to let them know I wasn’t coming and went back to bed. At 8:30 the next morning the doctor was calling. The liver enzymes had become even more elevated and liver damage was happening. Instructions were to get back to Dallas to be hospitalized with the expectation of being there several days. The weather conditions were supposed to get a lot worse and I wasn’t prepared to be away from home but two days. I begged, and the doctor finally agreed to let me come home to make necessary preparations if I would stop in Dallas long enough to get a dose of solumedrol (intravenous steroid shot) and come back Wednesday morning. After eight hours on the road and only 3 hours sleep, I was back in Dallas at 10:30 Wednesday morning. Around 5:30 the admission process was completed. It had been a very long and exhausting day, but I was safely tucked away in room 909 of the Roberts Building in Baylor Hospital which would become home for the next four and half days.
I don’t know exactly how they do their schedules but during the next few days, all in all, between doctors, nurses, aides, and other staff, I met between 35-40 people. The bed wasn’t too desirable, if you know what I mean, so I mostly sat in the chair. The nurses would come in, see the empty bed, and ask, “Where is the patient?” I would answer, “That would be me!” Each one responded, “Well, YOU don’t look sick!” Ah, hah! There’s my open door. My answer was, “I know. I don’t look sick. I don’t really feel sick; but my blood work says I am sick. But! Jesus says, ‘I’m healed!’ and I believe Him so now we just have to get the bloodwork to agree.” Some would give instant confirmation of agreement. Others just kind of grinned and two or three got that “deer in the headlight look.” I don’t believe for one minute that Jesus would make me sick so I could be at a certain place at a certain time, but I do believe He will use every opportunity in the midst of any circumstance to share His love, hope, and encouragement. This is what He meant when He talked about taking what the devil means for harm and turning it around for good. Because of this, I knew there would be someone special that needed a word of life, love, and encouragement. Another thing, happiness is a choice and I choose to be happy. If I had to be stuck in that hospital room, I decided the best thing to do would be turn it into a place of testimony. So each time someone would enter I told a little more of my story about the miracles of healing I experienced last summer and the hope of glory that surrounds me now. The Holy Spirit would rise up in me. He is so much fun. He gets so excited. It was as if I could hear Him saying, “Oh, let Me tell them, let Me tell them, let Me tell them how much they are loved and how My power can change their lives!” As He spoke to my heart and through me to each one of them, I watched their countenances change before my eyes. I saw smiles, grins, and even a few tears but most of all I saw the love of God touching His children. And, all the while I was pouring out encouragement to others, He was building faith and hope in me. It’s kind of like the David thing. You know, when David went up against Goliath, he wasn’t afraid. He encouraged himself by remembering how the Lord had helped him overcome the lion and the bear. Likewise, God was there to help him overcome the giant. Father God does the same for us. By rehearsing the miracles of the past, I was given new assurance of miracles for the present and future. God is so good. But, with each passing hour, I kept looking for that “one”; the special “one” that God wanted to touch. Saturday afternoon an older woman of color came in to clean the room. I felt a tug on my heart but I had a visitor with me and she took care of things quickly and left the room. Sunday morning she was back; only this time she was meticulously cleaning every corner. I tried to get out of her way and planted myself in the chair. I watched as she carefully covered every inch of that room. And then, she stood right in front of me and said, “Can I ask you a question?” I said, “Sure”. She said, “Does what I do make a difference for people?” The Holy Spirit rose up in me and began to minister to her. For the next 4 or 5 minutes He covered her with encouragement and love. What had been a wrinkled brow of discouragement was now a smiling face of hope. Yes, there were a couple of tears on the cheek but they were tears of joy not sadness and despair. With a big smile, she asked, “Can I have a hug?” I stood up and gave her a great big Jesus hug. She thanked me. I thanked Jesus. Now it was time to go home. The special “one” had received the ministry from the Lord. His purpose and plan had been fulfilled. He had turned the tables on the enemy. Once again He was victorious and I got to go along for the ride. I’m safe at home now. Yes, I am struggling some with the nasty side effects of the medicine but I know He will get me through. Jesus doesn’t show any partiality. What He does for me, He will do for you! Always remember no matter where you are or what the situation is, “Jesus Loves YOU!”
Good morning everyone! I visited my favorite endocrinologist yesterday, Dr. Jonathan Leffert. Got a good report! Considering the issues I’m working against, He was super pleased with my overall blood glucose average and A1C test results. My thyroid numbers were perfect and the liver enzymes ALT and AST had both dropped a few points (which is very good news). Dr. Leffert is recognized as one of the top ten endocrinologists in the Dallas area and is very busy. I like him very much. Yesterday, when I got to his office there were several people in the waiting room. I didn’t think much about it because there are four doctors who use that same waiting area. Anyway, I’ve learned when I go see Dr. Leffert to not be in a hurry. He’s almost always running behind schedule, but I don’t complain. He doesn’t get in a hurry with his patients. He takes time to talk to you and let you ask questions. Yesterday, He only stayed in the room with me for maybe 15-20 minutes which is about normal now. But when I first started seeing him, sometimes he would talk with me for 45 minutes to an hour. He stayed with me until he had a good understanding of what I was experiencing, how the meds were working, and always made sure I understood what changes I needed to make and what to expect. This is what makes him a great doctor. In all the times I’ve seen him, he’s never made me feel like he was rushing through me to get to the next person; even though I knew the time he was taking with me was probably causing someone else to wait. When I arrived yesterday, there was an elderly lady standing at the check-in desk so I took a seat to wait for her to finish. Before she finished, a middle aged couple, obviously husband and wife, came in. The gentleman took a seat. The woman came over to the check-in window. Instead of taking her place behind the woman standing at the window, she rudely elbowed her away from the window and emphatically announced her presence to the girl behind the desk. I had an incredible urge to jump up and shout, “Wait, I was next!” But I was victorious in overcoming the temptation and just watched and listened in silence. The girl at the desk seemed to ignore her completely and I was thinking, “Way to go, sweetie – kudos to you!” The first lady finally finished and took a seat. This is when it got really interesting! The desk clerk pulled up the patient information on the computer about the woman’s husband. Turns out, his appointment was actually the day before! You should have heard this woman’s drama. It wasn’t HER fault. The office FAILED to call her and remind her. It was THEIR fault. Seriously? I was amazed. I just sat there with this “you’ve got to be kidding me” look on my face, wondering how this lady could justify blaming someone else for what was obviously HER mistake! The desk-clerk handled the situation so professionally. She told the woman, even though Dr. Leffert was running about an hour behind schedule, if she would take a seat and wait, he would work her husband in after he finished his other morning appointments (which would be me) otherwise she would have to schedule another appointment. Finally she sits down and I get to check-in and begin the anticipated hour or so wait time. You can’t begin to imagine the griping, complaining, and belly-aching this woman did for the next hour! If she was going to have to wait, she would just find another doctor! And, it would certainly be one who would be more responsible and give her a reminder call. She didn’t have time for this. She looked over at me and said, “I guess you’re waiting to see Dr. Leffert, too?” I nodded in agreement. Didn’t dare say anything or I would have said too much. Another woman was called back to the exam room. After the door closed, this couple ridiculed her for her inability to walk well, the fact she used an oxygen machine, and was overweight. I’m not even going to put in print what I was thinking or wanting to say to these people. I had to repent just for thinking it! In reality my heart hurt for this couple. There was no outward evidence of love, joy, or peace. I don’t know if this woman knows Jesus or not. Can’t be the judge, and I wasn’t prompted by the Holy Spirit to ask. But one thing is sure, He was obviously giving her a situational test to grow into His likeness. She had a choice. She could exhibit Christ-like patience or she could let the enemy rule and give her a sour spirit and a grumbling attitude that would do nothing but ruin her day. Sadly, she chose the latter which the enemy also tried to use as a blemish on the day for the rest of us. You see, this was a wonderful opportunity for her to develop and display the fruit of the Spirit of patience; one of the attributes of Christ-like behavior and a sign of spiritual maturity. But, I’m thinking she will get another chance to take this test again. There’s no doubt she blew this one! Just saying. But, you know what? We get to take these kinds of tests over and over until we get it right. All the while, Jesus is always patient with us. Remember, He works with you at the pace YOU choose. And regardless of whether you pass the tests or not, “Jesus Loves YOU!”
February 01, 2015
Hi Facebook friends and family! This afternoon was a special kind of day for me. No, it wasn’t because it was Super Bowl Sunday. Not coming against all you football fans, but football games are just not my thing. I spent the afternoon at The Magnolia. In case you don’t know, The Magnolia is an assisted-living facility which specializes in the care of dementia and Alzheimer patients. It’s where my friend Marejohn and her husband, John live. I’ve been going in and out of there on a regular basis for about a year and a half. It only takes a few visits to get to know most of the staff and the residents. I worked almost all day Friday putting together a playlist of music I hoped the residents would be able to relate to. I cut and pasted, and reworked recordings until I had put together a continual medley that would take 27 minutes to sing. I picked songs like “Standing on the Promises”, “When We All Get to Heaven”, “How Great Thou Art”, and “Because He Lives”. Even though many of them can’t remember whether or not they eat breakfast or where they are, it was my prayer the words and music of these songs would somehow be familiar to them. Over the course of the past few months, I’ve watched many of them sitting in silence; some obviously unable to communicate, while others are reluctantly accepting the solitude forced upon them by this horrible disease. I’ve read quite a bit about how dementia and Alzheimer patients often respond very positively to music. On the way, I wondered if these precious one’s I’ve become acquainted with would show any sign of interest or response today. Would the music of the old hymns stir something within their hearts and minds? Let me tell you what God did today! There is one little lady who I’ve never seen smile. Not even once in all the visits I’ve made. She stays completely to herself and is sometimes a little negative toward anyone who wanders into her space. Today, I saw her smile. She sat on the couch and sang almost every word. She clapped her little hands and then she stood up and I gave her a hug. She took hold of my hand and as the music played, hand in hand she waved my arm in time with the music; all the while with this huge grin on her face. As we sang I could by the expressions on their faces, God was touching their memories and their hearts. After we sang I read a short scripture and shared about five minutes about how much Jesus loves them and how He is always with them. Finishing up, I went around the room thanking each of them, telling them Jesus loves them, and giving out hugs. One little lady said, “Honey, this just made my day! I was really down but now my heart is happy!” Each one who had participated shared an appreciation that I knew was coming from their heart. I began to put away my things. The Charge Nurse came in and ask me to continue the singing. She said, “I saw how they responded to you and this is what they need!” So, I set it up and we sang through the 27 minute playlist again! By then, we were all tired and ready to take a break. I made another round of hugs. Packed up to leave. And, called it a day! God had proven Himself faithful one more time. Where there had been only seclusion and isolation, His love had flowed like a river; filling empty, despairing hearts with hope and faithful peace. It doesn’t matter that by tomorrow they may have completely forgotten about singing today. What does matter is that for 54+ minutes today there was a special group of people who experienced God’s love directed personally toward them in a very distinctive individual way. I believe He wants each of us to encounter such a personal intimacy with Him. As you go through your day, remember “Jesus Loves YOU!”
Monday, January 26, 2015. Good morning friends and family. It is sooo beautiful outside. The sun is shining brilliantly. From inside, behind my desk it looks warm and inviting. Oh, but don’t let the brightness deceive you. The outside thermometer is checking in at 50 degrees. That means it’s still a little on the cool side. That’s not all that’s cold at my house this morning. I went to take a shower and guess what? You guessed it! No hot water. This red-head is about to get perturbed with one certain hot water heater. If he’s not careful Mr. Whirlpool may find himself replaced. I had some problems with it a few weeks ago. The serviceman replaced a couple of things and it’s worked okay until now. Hopefully, it just needs a tweak or a little minor adjusting. The worst part is I had to change my plans for the day. Since I refuse to take a cold shower and I am not even considering leaving the house without one, I suppose I’m homebound until the repairman comes. Ah hah! It’s test time! Do I let aggravation take over and get all disturbed or can I go with the flow, be flexible, and stay in peace? I choose peace. Perhaps I wasn’t supposed to go anywhere today. It’s not like I don’t have plenty to do right here. I had a little talk with Jesus about it and He said, “It’s okay, let’s just do something else. We can do that other stuff tomorrow.” You may laugh at me or think I’m crazy, but I do talk to Jesus about these things. In fact, I talk to Him about everything. You see, He told me in his book that everything that pertains to me is important to Him. I totally believe that! The Holy Spirit lives with me and endures everything I go through – I don’t really think He wanted to take a cold shower, either. The Bible says the Holy Spirit is my teacher. What does He teach me? How to be like Jesus. He teaches me how to walk in holiness. Today’s lesson: to stay in peace instead of aggravation and turmoil. Oh, and don’t forget patience. I don’t have any idea what time the repairman will get here. I need to display patience while I’m waiting. What is your lesson for the day? Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to teach you to be like Jesus? Be careful. Don’t hang on to the negative emotions. Work on the positive side. That’s where Jesus is! And while you’re in the middle of today’s lesson, remember “Jesus Loves YOU!”
Friday, January 23, 2015. Good morning Facebook friends, family, and kin. Today is a special day. On this day, quite a few years ago, somewhere in the wee hours of the morning Margie Barkley Vick and C. T. Vick, Jr. became the proud parents of a bouncing baby girl. Making her debut, weighing in at 7 pounds and 14 ounces this baby girl began her unique journey to fulfill the purpose established by God even before her conception. Yes, that baby girl was me! Today is my birthday! For some reason I didn’t sleep very well last night. In fact, I hardly slept any at all. Oh, nothing was wrong, I probably just drank too much coffee a little too late in the afternoon. I finally turned on a tape I like to listen to and laid there and thought about my life. If I had to give it a title, I decided it would be something along the lines of Clint Eastwood’s famous movie, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”. Like everyone I know, there have been wonderfully good times, some not so good, and then those that were just down-right ugly and need to be buried forever and never remembered again. Thankfully, I don’t have but a couple of those type memories and all in all I will say I have had a very good life. Most of the “not so good times” came about because I made a bad decision or didn’t obey what God told me to do. I’ve pretty well learned my lesson in that area. Now, when He speaks to my heart I get busy doing whatever it is He wants me to do. I’ve learned I don’t have to understand and it doesn’t always have to make sense. You can’t read very much in the Bible without realizing God expects people to do things just because He says do it, not because it’s rational. Take Gideon for example. Seriously, did it make sense to attack an army of thousands with only 300 men armed with pitchers, torches, and trumpets? Not hardly. But this is not about Gideon, this is about me! As I walked down memory lane I realized this past year has probably been the most difficult of all my years but at the same time in some ways the very best. The highlight was being able to live and enjoy for almost 7 months the 24/7 companionship of my dear friend Marejohn. I am so thankful God allowed me to spend those months with her. Her short term memory was so affected by the dementia, she couldn’t remember that I lived with her and every afternoon she would ask me if I would come and spend the night with her. Even though the fact I stayed every night escaped her, each night before we went to sleep, without fail, she would say “Deb, honey, I love you so much and I appreciate what you’re doing for me.” I loved being with her. Our times of sharing about Jesus, ministry, prayers, afternoon walks, and daily talks were precious to both of us. These were without doubt the “best” times but they were too short-lived. The “worst” was to follow. The time came when I could no longer adequately care for her due to the acceleration of the dementia and a serious development in my own health. What followed was the “worst” part of the year and one of the very worst parts of my life. In silence, at home, alone I was overwhelmed by grief; a grieving much worse than I had ever experienced. God must have meant for me to totally lean on Him during this time because it seemed only a couple of people really acknowledged the intensity of the emotional pain I was experiencing. The impression I got from most was that I should have been able to just pick up and go on with life as if nothing had happened. Had it not been for God’s grace in sending new people into my life I might not have survived. The other most significant event of the year, and in my life, was the sudden acute liver failure that landed me in the hospital for 14 days. Actually, I think I if God had not had other plans for my life, I would have moved into my heavenly mansion. It took a toll on my physical body that is still requiring attention but I am stronger each day. The doctor says it will probably take a full year before I am totally recovered but I am consistently moving in that direction. All of you prayed and God worked miracles. And as Paul Harvey always said, “And, now for the rest of the story…” I can finally get to the “best” part. God has opened the doors for ministry that I have desired for many, many years. It is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. He blesses and uses me in such a unique way. It’s hard to describe – you just have to experience it for yourself to really understand. For lack of a better term to describe it, I call it personal sermonettes straight from God to you. The Lord will put an impression in my heart and based on that impression I will share whatever words come out of my spirit. He uses these to encourage, exhort, and comfort on an individual basis. It’s really amazing to experience God in this way. He uses me as His mouthpiece to help mend broken hearts and wounded spirits. He uses me to encourage the cultivation of a personal relationship with Him; that He will never leave or forsake you. He speaks words of life, health, and healing into the Body of Christ. Each week, almost daily, I am seeing miracles and hearing testimonies of hearts being touched and lives being changed. The confirmation that I have spoken encouragement into a life is a very humbling experience. As I look back over my life, I can see God’s hand at work; teaching me and preparing me for what He has me doing now. Everything I have experienced is working to help me minister to others in similar situations. I know in my knower that I am indeed fulfilling the purpose for which I was created. Thank you, Jesus for allowing me to be born into a loving and supportive family. Thank you, Jesus for putting such wonderful people in my life. Thank you, Jesus for choosing me to help You make a difference in the lives of others. Thank you, Jesus for another wonderful year that has passed and I look forward with great hope and anticipation of wonderful things in the year to come. I know that Jesus wants to fill your year with wonderful blessings, too. Open your heart and receive from Him. I invite you to check out my website and pray about joining me in one of the meetings if I am anywhere close to where you live. And, always remember, “Jesus Loves You!”
Monday, January 19, 2015. Good morning to all my Facebook family of friends and kin. I woke up this morning thinking about a post I saw on Facebook a while back. It pictured a little girl holding a teddy bear; a tiny, tattered, torn, one-ear flopping, dirty, had seen better days, well-worn specimen of an object of tremendous affection, stability, and security. Jesus was kneeling on one knee in front of her with His hand stretched toward her. It was easy to understand the artist’s message. Jesus held a new beautiful teddy bear behind His back; probably ten times the size of the one she was holding. He was trying to coax the little girl into turning loose and handing over to Him her much loved friend and companion. Was she eager to do this? Absolutely not. She was struggling to decide. Can I trust Him with my most prized possession? There’s no question that she would have immediately made the exchange if she had been able to see the newer, improved version. I wonder – why didn’t Jesus just give her the new teddy bear? Why was it important that she turn loose and freely give Him the old one BEFORE she could see what He was going to give her in exchange? Familiarity and fear. The enemy of our soul tells us to hold on to the familiar because what we are going to get in exchange might not be as good as what we have now. Be assured this is a lie. When God holds His hand out to you and asks you to give something to Him, whatever He gives you in exchange will always be an upgrade from what you have now. He is not in the business of downgrades, downsizing, or limited functionality. So why doesn’t He make it easy and just show us the exchanges He wants to make? Because He wants to change our mindset; the mindset that says our security and stability lies within a job, or influential people we know, or how much money we have in the bank, what kind of car we drive, how many high-priced clothes and shoes we own, or how famous we are. Jesus is not at all concerned about these inanimate objects or positions of preference that we so often hold in such high esteem. Instead, He wants us to turn loose of these deceptive expectations of security and place our trust totally in Him. Trust develops and grows within us as we turn our affection toward Him. Our confidence in Him rises to new heights. Suddenly, we look around and take stock of our current situation and circumstances. In comparison to the former, we realize since we turned loose of the proverbial teddy bear we have lost nothing. There is only one reason this happens and it is the most profound reality of all time. And, that is “Jesus Loves YOU!”
Tuesday, January 13, 2015. Good morning to all my Facebook friends and family! I love the Bible. It’s amazing to me how it is a “living” book; full of wisdom, insight, and revelation. Each time I read from it, no matter how many times I’ve read the same passages before, God always shows me some new lesson that can be applied to my life to make it better. This morning I was reading and meditating about Joseph but the Lord placed the crosshairs on Jacob, his father. In Genesis 45:27, the drama unfolds with Joseph’s brothers, liars that they were, trying to convince their father Jacob that Joseph was not only alive but the Prime Minister of Egypt. Jacob was stunned. As much as Jacob would have wanted to hear his son was alive, the boys simply didn’t have enough power in their words to convince him. He refused to receive and accept what they told him. But, when he saw the ten donkeys and the wagons loaded with grain, bread, and other sustenance his spirit was revived and he believed his son Joseph was indeed still alive. I believe a similar scenario happens to each of us on a regular basis. The Holy Spirit, resident in our hearts (if we have accepted the gift of salvation) is constantly speaking to us. His job is to reveal mysteries and hidden things, to teach us, comfort us, and guide us into all truth. But, like Jacob, we seem to have tremendous difficulty accepting, receiving, and believing unless there is first some magnificent physical manifestation. In other words, we refuse to believe God until we see something in the natural realm that proves He will keep His word to us. God is not a man that He should lie and He doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone. Over and over Jesus told His followers, “only believe.” I think we’ve got it all backwards. We’ve allowed the enemy of our soul to convince us to doubt God and in doing so we have created a stand-off with God. We’re saying to Him, “we’ll believe You when we see it” and He is saying to us “you will see it when you believe Me.” My prayer today is that each of us will remove the hindrances that prevent us from believing the Word of God, accepting His truths, and receiving the provision (both spiritual and natural) He has ordained for us. At the same time, if we look carefully, will we not find God has already sent the wagons; loaded, pressed down, and overflowing with blessings? The first wagon carries a broken heart, a wounded body, and an empty cross. It overflows with compassion, grace, and mercy and continually shouts to all “Jesus Loves YOU!”
Monday, January 12, 2015 – Good morning! Oh no! I can see the headlines now –“Local Preacher Found Drowned in Bed! You know, you can drown in less than an inch of water. It just has to go into your lungs and you’re gone. Well! I almost drowned a couple of nights ago. Yes, I’m serious. My bed partner, trusty CPAP almost did me in. We’ve been sleeping together for several years but I assure you if this becomes a habit we will go our separate ways. Once in a while if the temperature in the room gets too cool condensation will form in the tube that connects the machine to the mask that fits in my nose. Now get this picture. The other night I’m sound asleep, roll over, and water in the tube runs up my nose like a flood! Needless to say I came out of the bed at top speed, coughing, sputtering, and gasping for breath. It’s okay to laugh. It was pretty funny after I quit choking. Nobody should have to endure such a rude awakening. After a few minutes I finally caught my breath, shook the rest of the water out of the tube, dried off the nosepiece, and settled back under the nice warm covers to finish the night. All was calm and peaceful again; except now I was wide awake. I lay there and made pictures out of the shadows on the wall like I did when I was kid. I thought about how quickly I had gone from peaceful sleep to gasping for air; how quickly events can happen in our lives that can so dramatically change things forever and life as we have known it will never be the same. There is seldom an answer that satisfies the longing to know why. In reality, needing to know why, creates a “victim” mentality. It’s as if we believe we it will somehow be easier to accept or at least we will have someone to blame if we can justify why it happened. We tend to forget that He is in the middle of the situation with us. I choose to look around and see where He is and get as close to Him as I can. Jesus doesn’t want to hear us ask “Why?” He wants to hear us ask, “How do You want to use this situation?” He wants us to ask, “Lord, what do You want to be for me, that You couldn’t be before this happened?” Trust me, if you ask Him these questions, you will get an answer. He may want to show you that He is your provider, counselor, or comforter. He may want to be your lawyer, advocate, and mediator. Perhaps He wants to show you He is your divine healer. Does He want to reveal Himself as Lord, Savior, King, Servant, or Friend? Reality is, He wants to be whatever it is that you need most in your life at this particular time. And, He knows what you need better than you know yourself. Think about this; if we’re not getting answers to our questions, perhaps it’s because we’re not asking the right things. His silence doesn’t mean He doesn’t care, it simply means we haven’t asked the questions He wants to answer. But, there is one thing you should never question or never wonder about and that is how incredibly much “Jesus Loves YOU!”
Jan 07, 2015. Good morning! WOW – What about this cold weather? Oh, I know to all of you who live up north 37–18 degrees is not cold; but, here in Texas it is. The greatest thing about Texas weather in the area I live is that it changes almost every other day. God makes sure we never have to endure the same thing for very long. I have found that relationships with people can be kind of like the weather. You meet someone. You’re around them a few times. Everything is going well. You enjoy their company. They seem to enjoy yours. A relationship begins to grow. Phone calls are exchanged. Lunch dates and afternoon outings are filled with laughter and smiles. This may go on for weeks, months, or even years. Then suddenly, just like the weather, something seems to change. You don’t hear from them as often, if at all. Invitations for lunch or outings are declined. You feel like you’re being avoided. You don’t know of anything you did but still wonder if you offended them some way. That nasty spirit of rejection knocks on the door of your heart; harasses your thoughts and tells you they don’t love you anymore or that you’re not loved or even loveable. And, then without knowing why, things seem to reverse and the relationship is restored as it had been. This on/off sequence becomes your point of reference of what is normal for relationships. Sadly, you’re tempted by the spirit of rejection to believe your relationship with Jesus has these same on/off cycles. That is so not true! The Word of God says He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He never gets offended at you. He never tires of your company. He is always willing to listen to you; put His arms around you and love you. He never pulls away or avoids you. He sings over you. He rejoices when you call out to Him. He is continually with you, in your heart; directing, guiding, leading, teaching, comforting, longing for you to acknowledge His presence and depend on Him. You never have to wonder where you stand with Him. He is always there for you, always the same, never changing. There is no changeable like the weather or on/off cycles in your relationship with the One who sticks closer than a brother. It is always, always, “Jesus Loves YOU!”
I have a 5x7 card which pictures Akiane Kramarik’s famous painting of Jesus titled Prince of Peace that sits on the shelf just above my desk. Every time I look up from my computer screen (which is many times a day) I find myself staring into the face of Jesus. It serves to remind me of His constant presence. Along with Jesus, there are several pieces of sentimental memorabilia. An angel with a broken wing that had to be repaired with a little Elmer’s glue after it slid off another shelf a while back stares at me with a puzzled look of “what in the world are you doing?” Next to the angel is a “friendship” box from the Willow Tree Collectibles that reminds me a friend is only as far away as the phone. A little further down the shelf, two stuffed lambs with silly looking grins, sit arm in arm decked out in red and turquoise rain hats and polka dot goulashes. With legs crossed and hanging over the edge of the shelf, they make a bold fashion statement but the best thing is the wonderful message they share. “Even when the rain comes down the Shepherd is making blessings bloom just for you! We can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” I read this message and look back into the face of Jesus; thankful for the many, many blessings He has made bloom just for me. No, I’m not going to list them all – I’d still be typing this time tomorrow. When I last looked, my blessing garden was full of tiny little buds. I don’t know what they will be until they get to full bloom, but I know they will be good. What do I mean? The Shepherd gives us little buds that bloom into open doors of opportunity. They may blossom into new relationships or turn into exciting adventures. They may bloom into new careers, new ministries, or just a new and better outlook toward life and inward peace and contentment. Close your eyes and imagine yourself looking into the face of the great Shepherd. Thank Him for the blessings that have bloomed in your life and ask Him to show you the buds in your blessing garden. But, most of all remember “Jesus Loves YOU!”
Every day as I scroll through the postings on Facebook I see evidence that some person has been offended by something another person has said or done. Why is that? The word “offense” comes from the Greek word skandalon which as two meanings. The first meaning refers to stone or an obstacle that causes one to trip, stumble, or fall down. The second meaning is quite different. It is actually a small piece of wood that keeps the door propped open on an animal trap. Some kind of aromatic food is placed inside the trap to entice the animal to enter the trap. As he goes after the tasty morsel, he bumps into the skandalon; it collapses, the door slams shut, and the animal is caught with no way of escape. But what does that have to do with being offended? Okay, think about this! The enemy of your soul will set a trap for you.. He will bait the trap with something he knows will offend you. You are just going through your normal day to day stuff. You don’t see the skandalon but you walk right into it; that unexpected, unpleasant moment when you fall for the enemy’s bait and get tripped up, stumble, and fall. You’re so shocked and surprised by something you’ve seen, heard, or experienced that you completely lose your emotional footing. You’re overwhelmed by a behavior or response that is so unlike what you expected all you can do is stand there speechless. Shock overtakes you and then erupts into disappointment. The more you think about what happened or what was said; the greater the disappointment grows until it transforms into full blown episode of being offended. Everyone I know has experienced this kind of disappointment at some time or another. According to Jesus, in Luke 17:1, it is a pipedream for any of us to think we can live without encountering these kinds of traps. It’s just impossible; no matter what you do you can’t keep them from happening. You must fight diligently against this enemy and not allow offense to get a foothold in your mind or your heart. It will only result in bitterness and anguish. Sadly, each and every one of us has at some time been the source of offense to someone. It was probably not intentional but more than likely occurred because of misunderstanding and miscommunication. As followers of Jesus we must do our best to bring healing and reconciliation where misunderstanding and offense has taken place. If you know someone has taken offense toward you over something they think you said or did, why not take the road less traveled and go ask them to forgive you? Allow the love of Jesus in you, to work through you to help them overcome the hard feelings toward you. And just as important, don’t forget to let His love work in you to overcome those ugly-bugly feelings you feel toward others. Avoid the enemy’s traps that will rob you of your peace and remember, “Jesus Loves YOU!
Do you realize that God knows all about you and He has a wonderful plan for your life? He developed the plan even before you were born. He knows exactly what activities you should participate in, where you should live and worship, and who should be in your life to fulfill every spiritual, emotional, or physical need. Not only does He have a plan for your life, His Word also says that He will “perfect that which pertains to you.” In other words, He will bring into reality the good things, the blessings, and the purpose for which He created you. But, to get this accomplished it often requires significant change; change in attitude, change in activities, change in scenery, change in relationships, etc. Change and transition are hard! It means you have to leave the familiar behind and move into the unknown. The most difficult are those times when God moves you into a new place that doesn’t include particular relationships; He requires you to leave these behind and go by yourself. A situation will arise that you may not understand but it will bring about the separation and affect the change God will use to bring you to a new place in your relationship with Him. At first, you may find yourself feeling somewhat lost, without purpose, wondering what God is doing. You may experience an unprecedented degree of sadness as your spirit gives in to grief and the enemy tries to envelope you with loneliness. Depression may try to take over your spirit and rob you of your joy. Don’t allow yourself to stay in this place. Jesus understands your pain but He has a greater purpose for your life that will bring greater fulfillment and blessing than you’ve ever experienced. Get up and get moving. Involve yourself in new activities. Go places you haven’t been before. Meet new people that God puts in your path. Embrace the new things God wants to do in your life. Break the chains of oppression and isolation. Find some good praise music and be like David; shout to the Lord and dance before Him with all your might. This will bring release from the pressure of the things that are weighing you down and rekindle the fires of joy in your heart. Be encouraged! Recognize the changes as new “opportunities” in your life. Jesus says, “Come and follow me.” This is the road that leads to fulfilling your destiny. Yes, you will experience some bumps along the way; transitions that may require some activities, relationships, or comfortable places be left behind. Look back at these and enjoy the wonderful memories but don’t allow them to paralyze you from moving into your future. It may be forever or it may be the separation will only last for a season; to allow time for you to come into the fullness of what God wants for you. He knows which relationships should continue, which ones need to be transitioned to a lesser degree of dependency, and those that were only intended to be part of your life for a specific season. Either way, God knows what is best for your life and He has good things for you. Either way, what lies ahead of you is much greater than what lies behind. As you travel this new road, making new friends, enjoying new activities, and growing in Him; embrace this new season in your life wholeheartedly and remember it is all because “Jesus Loves YOU!”
I have a friend who just received a very welcome addition to their family; a new baby calf. They named this fine specimen of a heifer calf, Beulah. I saw Beulah’s picture posted on Facebook and she is just too cute. Looking at her picture brought back memories when I would sit in my living room and watch my Daddy’s baby calves romp and play in the pasture in front of my house. It made my heart smile. I wondered about the name Beulah; does it have any significance. I did a little research and found that Beulah is the name the prophet Isaiah gave to the land and nation of Israel. It signifies the perfect union with God spoken about in Isaiah 62:4-5. These are interesting verses. They are God talking about His delight in Israel (Beulah) and how He will be married to the land of Beulah. It goes on to say as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride “….so your God will rejoice over you.” Isn’t that neat? Just think about what He is saying. We know that Jesus will return someday for His bride, the Church. We ARE the church; those who have received Him as Lord and Savior. We are His bride and even though He is in heaven and we are here, He is rejoicing over us! Yes, that’s right. He rejoices over each one individually that belongs to Him, with no partiality or prejudice. We are His delight and with that, should we not also delight ourselves in Him? I think so. When He rejoices over us, Jesus sends us reminders of His love for us. They come in the form of a baby heifer calf, a just-because card in the mailbox at just the right time, a phone call with a familiar voice we haven’t heard in a long time, an angel that comes to our rescue to change a flat tire, a penny found on the ground that wasn’t there a few moments before, and sometimes just a beautiful rainbow in the sky. Rejoice over Him today and remember “Jesus Loves YOU!”
Thanks for checking out my website and coming to my blog page. I pray you will be blessed and encouraged by the things I share. Have a great day! Deb