The Land Called Beulah

Where God Turns Ashes into Beauty

Author: Nessa Leigh (page 1 of 6)

Have You Really Forgiven That Person Who Hurt You?

“Forgiveness is relinquishing your right to get even to God.”

“Put vengeance in God’s hands. He’ll take care of it.”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that growing up I’d be giving Bill Gates a run for his money (okay, maybe not, but I still heard it a lot). But asking God to get vengeance on somebody who wronged me never quite felt like forgiveness–if anything it fueled my anger and made me feel just a tad-bit self-righteous that, haha, maybe I can’t get back at you but just you wait, God can do way worse to you than I ever could!

Not exactly forgiveness, eh?

Maybe I just misunderstood what people what people were saying. I think the more legit spiritual people who said it probably meant put the situation in God’s hands and give it up. I think the other people, those who had the wrong idea about forgiveness, genuinely meant to let God get vengeance instead of seeking it oneself. I want to address those latter people.

You see, I got to reading the Bible one day about forgiveness, and I got to reading about Jesus and His trial and crucifixion. You ever notice that when the people came against Him He wouldn’t defend Himself? He didn’t argue with them or try to stand up for Himself or His reputation. When they asked a question He would speak the simple truth (check out Luke 22). Are you the Son of God? Ye say that I am.

Let’s fast forward to the cross. When Jesus was dying He looked down on His persecutors and said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).” He didn’t say “Father, I’m giving vengeance to You.” He didn’t say, “Father, I’m putting vengeance in Your hands to give them what they deserve.”

No, He said, “Father, forgive them…”

Flip a few books over to Acts 7:59-60. Stephen is being stoned for speaking the truth.

And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”

What did Stephen pray as he kneeled down? “Lord, I’m not gonna be around much longer than a few minutes so I’m asking You to get vengeance on them”? “Lord, I can’t get back at them so I’m asking You to”? “Sure, Lord, I forgive them. I know they’ll get what’s coming to them.”

No. he prayed, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” He essentially mirrored Jesus’ statement on the cross: “Father, forgive them…”

You see, both Jesus and Stephen knew that their persecutors were souls with eternities ahead of them. They understood that the pain they were suffering was temporary, but that if the people who were hurting them were to die unforgiven, they would have an eternity of pain and suffering ahead of them. Jesus and Stephen saw the bigger picture.

They understood true forgiveness. It wasn’t about letting God get vengeance; it was about pleading with God for mercy. It was praying for their enemies to be saved.

Could we take it one step further? God has been in the business of blessing people since the beginning of time. We so often hear “it rains on the just and the unjust” to mean that both good and bad people have bad things happen to them. But keep in mind that in the Bible most people were farmers. Rain was a blessing. In that light, it raining on the just and unjust means that God blesses both the good and the evil.

Could we find enough forgiveness in our hearts to ask God to bless those who hurt us?

Didn’t Jesus ask that of us? (Matthew 5:44 if you care to look it up)

Let’s look on the flip side. Because there was a point where two of the disciples wanted hellfire to come down on the people who wouldn’t accept Jesus and Jesus turned around and rebuked them:

“And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.” Luke 9:53-56

I get the feeling that God never wanted us to give vengeance to Him to dole out.

So when we go to forgive–when we decide to “put vengeance in God’s hands” let’s do it with the attitude that we’re putting it in His nail-scarred hands. The hands that bled because of His love for us. And let that blood wash away that vengeance. After all,

“Love covers a multitude of sins.” I Peter 4:8b

She was “Just” the Stamp Lady, but She Changed My Life Forever

Have you ever felt like a “Just”? “I’m just the custodian.” “I’m just the sound guy.” “I’m just a Sunday School teacher.” “I’m just a Sandwich Artist at Subway.”

It’s easy to feel that way sometimes, almost as if what we are or what we’re doing in life is of no value whatsoever. It doesn’t seem like anything you do adds to anybody’s life, and you start to question where you went wrong.

I wonder if Stamp Lady ever felt that way.

Stamp Lady was a woman who lived across the yard from me with her husband. You see, in the apartment complex I lived in, each apartment had a sliding glass door on the back that led to a fairly thin stretch of yard that ran between the two rows of apartments. Stamp Lady’s apartment was directly across from mine.

lovestampShe was an older woman, about in her 60s, who crafted as a hobby. One day, she noticed us kids at home and invited us over to join her in stamping. Oh what fun it was to make little cards, stamp an image onto the front, and put embossing power on it to make the ink rise up!

And oh what joy it was to have an adult who was friendly and felt I was important enough to spend time with me!

Stamp Lady didn’t know was that I wasn’t supposed to be outside. She didn’t know that I lived in an abusive home and that I wasn’t allowed to go outside in the daytime otherwise people would realize that I also wasn’t allowed to go to school. Or did she?

If she did, it made no difference to her. Each day that my father left and I opened the back door she would beckon me over, offer me tea and ask if I wanted to stamp. She would ask me about my favorite things, let me use her fancy crafting tools, and treated me like a granddaughter.

One day my older sister took a dare from the neighborhood kids and jumped into the creek behind the apartment complex along with a few others. When she went home to shower she discovered a leech on her leg. She panicked because she didn’t know how to get it off, but also because it would be proof that we went outside that day. I ran across the yard to ask Stamp Lady and her husband for help. Against my sister’s will (she was scared of getting in trouble) Stamp Lady and her husband took her to the hospital. It’s a good thing they did because heaven knows what would have happened if they didn’t. Unfortunately, all hell broke loose that night in our home.

That’s the night I think Stamp Lady found out for sure about our life. But once again, as each day passed she never treated us differently, with the exception of more love. I could see how much they wanted to help us, but since the police never believed us, nothing could be done. Every time they were called it just got worse, so we learned to stop trying. Stamp Lady and her husband couldn’t help us that way, but they could help us in the one way they knew how–offering love at any opportunity.

We were eventually rescued. I never got to say goodbye to Stamp Lady. Truthfully I don’t even remember her name. But she changed my life in ways she never knew. She didn’t know that she was the only person in that chapter of my life that made me feel loved. She didn’t know, each day as she let this little girl across the yard come into her home, that she was making a difference.

She was “just” the Stamp Lady, afterall.

What “just” are you?

I once had “just a Sunday School teacher” who prayed with me at the altar every service and who became a mom figure to me when my mother left and moved across the country. She was also “just” a newlywed and also “just a 20-something”. She didn’t know she was the world to this scared little girl who came to church every week.

I had another “just a Sunday School teacher” who gave me a Bible when I was little. That Bible was my prized possession, the thing that replaced my teddy bear when I went to sleep each night, and the thing that gave me hope through all my dark days.

There was “just a man taking a walk” who passed me on a sidewalk one day when I was 12 and said, “Why are you walking with your head down? Life’s not that bad, is it?” I’ve never walked with my head down since.

There were “just two men” who donated blood back in 2000, which was used to save my life during an emergency blood transfusion.

There was “just a history teacher” in my high school who told me I needed to find a church when I told him that yes, I was a Christian, but no, I didn’t go to church. I listened to his advice and my world changed forever as I gave my life fully to God.

There was “just a preacher and his wife” who took me in when I was a teenager. They gave me the family I dreamed of for so long.

There was “just an evangelist” who once told me, “I’m proud of you. I love you.” He didn’t know that I prayed just the week before that God would show me that someone in the world felt that way about me.

There was “just a pastor and his wife” who once said, “We believe in you” at a time when I wanted to give up. I kept going.

There was “just a guy” who came and sat next to me on the bleachers at a youth convention softball game, who was grumpy at the moment, who would three years later become my husband.

What “just” are you? Are you “just” a somebody who’s trying to make it in this world? Who wants to make some impact? Are you feeling discouraged because you feel like nothing you do is worthwhile? Look around you. You may be changing somebody’s life and not even know it. You are more valuable than you know, and you have more to offer than you know.

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” -Matthew 25:40



Can God Heal Me?

“It is physically impossible for her to be alive. I can’t explain it. If she hadn’t come in today there is no possible way she would have lived til tomorrow.”

I laid in my hospital bed pretending to be asleep so I could avoid having to talk to anybody. After an entire day of dealing with doctors and nurses, two bags of blood in a transfusion, and countless questions over what could be wrong with me, I was done. I heard the doctor speak these words to my mother and inside I cried out to God: “You can’t let me die. I’m backslidden right now! God please don’t let me die until I’m saved. Until I am old enough to go back to church on my own!”

beachI was 13 years old and had went in for a basic doctor’s appointment when a nurse looked down at my stats while checking my blood pressure and oxygen levels and declared that there must be a mistake. She took it several times and then told me to wait while she got a doctor. She came back with a lady who looked at the numbers and next thing I knew, I was being told I had to be taken to the emergency room immediately. I didn’t know why.

When I got to the hospital I was asked multiple questions–that were very personal for a 13 year old girl–to find out that it was not common for a woman to menstruate continuously for months on end. I thought that was normal so never said anything. Here I had bled for three and a half months straight (and continuous months prior to that with a short break between), I was pale, shaky and weak, but nobody ever believed me that I didn’t feel good. I just thought I was tired. They just thought I was being a lazy teenager. Truth was, even doing daily tasks was difficult, but I didn’t know anything was wrong so I never said anything.

I was given a blood transfusion but they couldn’t get the bleeding to stop nor could they figure out why I couldn’t stop bleeding. Conversations came up about having to get a hysterectomy at my young age. Discussions about whether or not I would ever have children came up. Potential diagnoses of endometriosis, PCOS, cancer–they were all brought up and I was subject to test after test. They finally settled on  trying to put me on birth control (which was embarrassing for a 13 year old girl practicing abstinence) with the hopes that it would stop the bleeding. If it did, great, I would just keep taking it and hope that when I eventually wanted to have kids that my body would function ok. Worse case scenario was that if it wouldn’t stop the bleeding, having kids would never be a possibility because I would have to come back for the hysterectomy.

God answered my prayer. I didn’t die in the hospital, although the doctor said I had so little blood that it was medically impossible to be alive. The pills helped and my “issue of blood” was under control.

Until three years passed, that is. Eventually my issue came back and I started bleeding profusely again. It became uncontrollable and I could sense that weakness and paleness coming back. I was determined I would not go back to the hospital, though. I had always wanted children and I didn’t want to be forced into a hysterectomy. I had just started praying seriously and coming back to God, and was preparing to start going back to church as soon as I had a way to get there.

So I acted on my faith. I grabbed my pills and said, “God, I’m putting this in Your hands. If the bleeding isn’t going to stop and I’m going to die, so be it. But if You want me healed, You’re going to have to do it without these pills.” I threw all of the pills in the trash.

The next day the bleeding stopped. My body healed up and I did not have my undiagnosable issue anymore. 11 years have since passed and I have never had another problem with it again. In fact, I ended up becoming a blood donor myself, thankful that God blessed me through the gift of blood before, and now I wanted to give back. I also loved telling my testimony every time I went to the blood bank.

~     ~     ~     ~     ~

These past couple of weeks my husband and I have spent time in the hospital with his dad who was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His health is failing at a quick pace and as we’ve watched him go from being self-sufficient just a couple months ago to being in hospice now, unable to stand alone and barely able to eat, we’ve prayed for God to heal him.

God hasn’t healed him yet. We don’t know if He will. We know that everyone is appointed once to die. But his delayed healing hasn’t caused my faith to waiver. You see, I’ve seen God heal people many times. I know He can.

My own mother was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. She was also backslidden at the time and when I got a phone call to go down to the hospital and pray for her, I considered her soul. As I waited in the hallway for the doctor to finish what he was doing, I prayed for God to have mercy on her and heal her. The doctor said it didn’t look good and that he wasn’t sure if she would make it through the night. He was about to put her into the ICU. She was not responding when I was got there and when I walked into the room the smell was so strong I felt like I was going to faint (and I’m not the squeamish type). I asked the doctor if it was ok if I prayed for her and he left the room. As I started praying she opened her eyes and looked at me, the only response I was able to get from her. She didn’t speak a word.

I went home after spending some time in prayer and the next day I found out that she was not put in ICU. Her stats got better and the next morning she was communicating. They scheduled a surgery to go in and try to get out some of the cancer. We waited at the hospital for news on how it went, and when the doctor came in to speak with us he informed us that they didn’t see cancer in there at all.

We knew God had healed her because she had a clear diagnoses before going in. The doctor couldn’t explain it but we knew.

~     ~     ~     ~     ~

Another time, a friend of mine who had a stomach disorder his whole life was healed during a church service. He had to use a bag that attached to his stomach to process food and he had removed it before going to church. After the sermon, during altar call, he was praying for God to heal him. After the service he had informed all of us that the hole in his stomach literally closed up at the altar. God had healed him of his stomach disorder. Imagine the faith that was built as he showed people where the hole in his stomach was!

~     ~    ~    ~     ~

A girl I used to go to school with was told she would never have children. God had a different plan. She gave birth to a very handsome little boy. They told her that was a miracle and that there was no way she could have another. She now has three children!

~     ~    ~     ~     ~

Another close friend was also told she would never have children on account of a severe case of endometriosis. She and her husband tried for ten years to have a baby, never giving up hope that God would fulfill His promise to bless them with a baby. They acted on their faith. They built a nursery in their house. They filled the closet with baby clothes (all girl clothes as they asked God for a girl). They refused fertility treatments, believing that it was God’s will for them to wait and trust in Him. God blessed them with their baby girl this past fall. She is a gorgeous baby girl. During the delivery, the doctors said her body was so messed up inside that it was impossible for her to have been pregnant at all. But God isn’t contained by “impossible”.

~     ~    ~     ~     ~

What about you? Are you waiting for God to heal you?

It doesn’t have to be a physical healing. Sometimes God’s healings come through emotional pain, broken marriages, or a child without a home. Sometimes healings come when we try to grapple with why God didn’t physically heal someone else. Sometimes, like in the stories above, healings come in the hospital room when the doctors say “it’s impossible”.

What we do know is that God made these promises in His Word:

“Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” – James 5:14-16

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” – Revelation 21:4

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” – I Peter 2:24

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5

“And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease…Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” – Matthew 10:1,8

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” – Hebrews 13:5

“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” – I Peter 5:7

If you are in need of healing today, whether it be physical or emotional, know that God can heal You.





The Prayer of a Dramatic 8-Year-Old

Great article on being used of God and the desire to be used of God…I relate all too well to this post and believe many others can benefit from it as well.

These Nightmarish Fire Ant Rafts Can Teach Us A Lot About Church Unity

antsI saw one of the scariest things on a news site the other day; a man in South Carolina, where a lot of flooding has occurred recently, noticed what he thought were patches of mud floating on the water only to realize they were bands of fire ants–thousands of them, holding on to each other to make a raft so the colony would survive and the queen and larvae would be protected.

Officials have warned people not to go near them and to be careful entering flooded buildings in case you come across these because, if you accidentally touch one, they will likely disband and cover you. And they bite and it hurts.

Hashtag things nightmares are made of.

This article reminded me of that verse in the Bible that talks about ants. You know the one:

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” -Proverbs 6:6-8

King Solomon teaches us a pretty important concept in these three verses. Ants have it together. They’re hard workers, they don’t procrastinate, they know what it’s going to take to survive and they get it done. They don’t have to worry about whether or not they’ll be taken care of–well, unless someone or something ruins their colony. Even then, they’ve apparently got a plan.

So what does this have to do with church?

Several years ago, back at my home church, we went through a devastating split. It wasn’t because of any immorality or wrong doing on the ministry’s part; people just started listening to others who were downing our church in an attempt to build their own in the next town over (they tried it on me, too) and people’s egos and desires for titles and positions got the best of them. They didn’t leave peacefully either; offenses came, and they let everybody know about it–not publicly, but one-on-one, trying to take as many people as possible to the church across town. (If you belong to a church that bases its growth on encouraging saints from other churches to switch to your own instead of winning unsaved people to God–do yourself a favor and find a church that is pursuing the Great Commission–but that’s another post for another day).

We went from a thriving church that needed two Sunday morning services just to fit everyone in to a smaller church that, while going through a process of healing, continued to thrive and still thrives to this day.

How did we make it? We did what those thousands of fire ants did.

When the floods hit, the thousands of ants in those colonies linked their legs and mouths together to hold on to one another to create a raft. By linking together they are able to stay connected and floating in the storm. Furthermore, they are able to protect their leader–the queen–and the larvae–their babies and future generations.

Now, our church didn’t link up the same way the ants did (wouldn’t that be an awkward picture) but we definitely had to bind together in the days leading up to the split, the days during it, and in the aftermath. Just like those ants knew that their survival depended on their unity and teamwork, so did our church’s. Those of us fighting for the church knew we had two big jobs on our hands: one, we wanted to protect and support our pastor and his wife (just like the ants protected their queen–the leader of their group that would ensure the colony would be re-established after the storm passes) and two, we wanted to protect our spiritual babies–the people who couldn’t understand what was happening and who were at higher risk of leaving in the confusion that was sowed (just like the ant larvae).

And you know what? The people who stuck together made it. The church survived and began to grow again. But it doesn’t end there.

The USA Today article said that not only do the ant colonies do this in times of flooding, but also if the colony wants to “migrate long distances”. If they want to move into new territory they once again have to bind together.

What about your church? Are you guys looking to move forward and go into places you’ve never been before to reach the lost? You’ve got to bind together.

My church does outreach every month at two different retirement homes and at a community feed. People have come to church through these outreaches, people have been baptized, some have received the Holy Ghost. But truthfully, it’s not always easy to get people to come. They’re outreaches that require you to get out of your comfort zone. You might have people swear at you, you’ll be serving people who may not smell the best because they have no place to call home or money for hygiene products, you might be asked to do something you never though you could do (I learned this the hard way when no-talent-at-singing me got requested to lead songs at the retirement home last month–boy did I ever feel awkward!).

But you know what, it’s worth it every time we see a senior citizen at one of the homes lift their hands in worship, when they share prayer requests with us that show the deepest parts of their lives, when you see tears streaming down their faces. It’s worth it when we see those homeless people walk through the doors of our church and join us for service.Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s messy. But when the people of God bind together and migrate into these areas where people are desperate for God, great things happen.

What about your church? Does it have people who are ready to play the part of a fire ant? People who will bind together in unity for the protection of the church and for its growth? What about you? Go to the ant…consider its ways…and be wise.

~     ~     ~     ~     ~

We’re on Facebook Now! Like us at The Land Called Beulah

When Church Is The Hardest Place To Go

This article was brought to my attention today. It is a short read, but the truth it contains has the potential to carry someone far.

Source: When Church Is The Hardest Place To Go

You Say, “God Doesn’t Look On The Outside; He ONLY Looks At The Heart.” Really?

I Lost My Self-Identity after Loss, Abuse, or Rejection…Now What?

Somebody shared a YouTube link with me the other day and it hit home like nothing I had ever seen before. The video, clearly designed to motivate people to get involved in the foster and adoption process, is called Removed and the sequel to it Remember My Story (click the links to be taken to the video. TRIGGER WARNING for abuse survivors/victims). Although fictitious, the story, which follows a young girl as she is removed from an abusive home and cycles through the foster system, is remarkably true to kids who have gone through the same or a similar ordeal.

The young girl, Zoe, describes her life as like being in a tornado that, despite as hard and as often as you try to escape, it keeps sucking you back in. She makes the observation that just when life is starting to get peaceful and she might be just a bit happy, something happens that stirs it up again and she faces another loss.

I know she’s a fake person. But for the first time in my life, somebody explained exactly how I felt as a survivor of child abuse. Kids who suffer through abuse, who get moved around from home to home in the foster system, and even some who have been adopted can oftentimes face a struggle in trying to figure out where they fit in the world. So where do we go when we find ourselves trying to find our identity?

Truthfully, my ten-year-old self knew better than my fifteen- or twenty-year-old self. When I was ten, late at night when everyone was finally asleep I would turn on a boombox at the end of the mattress I slept on, just loud enough for me to hear but not to wake anyone else. I would rewind the tape that I had used to record music off of the radio and listen to the same songs over and over, crying as I stared out the window up at the sky, asking God when would He help me.

I’m looking for a reason, roaming through the night to find my place in this world…not a lot to lean on, I need Your light to help me find my place in this world…If there are millions down on their knees, among the many, can you still hear me? Hear me asking, where do I belong?… 

As I stared at the stars and moon I wondered who else out there was also looking up, and if God had a family for me that would love me. I would then picture myself walking down a dirt road, free and at peace, as the next song came on:

So much pain and no good reason why…you’ve cried until the tears run dry…why, why, why, does it go this way…why, why, why, all I can say is somewhere down the road there’ll be answers to the questions…somewhere down the road, though we cannot see it now…somewhere down the road you will find mighty arms reaching for you, and they will hold the answers at the end of the road…

In my thoughts I could see myself running to Jesus, who was standing at the end of this dirt road, and He loved me and hugged me and protected me. At that point in my life, everything I knew about myself was in Jesus. He was the reason I was surviving.

And then I would fall asleep only to wake back up to my reality.

Within a year of being in this particular house God did eventually make a way for me to be rescued. Unfortunately, those in my family who took me in wanted me as far away from the church as possible, blaming them for what happened. If only they knew my pastor had tried to help…

The longer I was away from church the further I got from God. I was determined to find my purpose–my identity–a reason for being alive, a talent, something nobody could take from me. I poured myself into school, had straight As in honor classes–but nobody knew how much I struggled because the years I wasn’t allowed to go to school put me significantly back. Everyone thought I was naturally smart. Perhaps God did bless me with the ability to learn quickly, but it didn’t come without a lot of work. I had a lot of friends and was in at least half the clubs the school ran, but still I wasn’t happy. At the end of the day I would drink whatever alcohol I could get and frequently contemplated suicide.

I tried the club scene. I looked older than I was as a teen and so when possible I would go to the nightclubs and bars. I could walk in with a confidence that got people’s attention but deep down was false. By the grace of God, He kept me from illicit relationships. As much as I wanted somebody to love me, I never once assumed I would find it in a significant other or in temporary flings. The drug abuse I saw growing up kept me away from that as well. Somehow the extent of my trying to find myself in the pleasures of the world ended with alcohol and dancing.

Around that same time, God put a father-figure in my life who drove me to make it through school, get into a good college, and make something of myself. But then I was forced to move and while we still emailed on and off, I had lost the only support system I had. My friends were gone, too, as was the reputation I had built up for myself at school. Like Zoe described in the video, it was like everything was coming together and then a tornado comes and tears you away again.

About two years later I ended up making a pact with God–telling Him that if He didn’t change my life one night when I first made the attempt to go back to church that I would go home and kill myself. God was faithful that night and He did change my life. I felt peace for the first time–that peace I always imagined on that dirt road leading to Him. I said goodbye to drinking and partying and found joy in prayer, church, and helping others.

I wish I could say my life got perfect there, but it didn’t. As much as being filled with the Holy Ghost (God’s spirit) changes you in ways you never thought possible, your past life, the memories, the hurts, the hangups, etc., they don’t automatically leave you. My obsession with perfection followed me into my life for God and I struggled with the idea of grace–that God could love me even if I couldn’t perform for Him. I allowed that perfection to follow me into ministry, putting unrealistic demands on myself in the name of finding my identity and in proving that I could do great things for God. That was my life for the better part of a decade. It wasn’t all negative, though. The good in my life oftentimes covered the bad and I could forget where I came from. God blessed me with an adoptive family, friends, opportunities to be used in ministry, a great college–truthfully, I felt like I was living a dream. I got to a point where I actually said, “My life is perfect. There’s nothing else I want or need.”

And then I faced a sickness that lasted 8.5 months. I hit burnout. Some people walked out of my life. I moved and got married (this was a positive!) Life eventually got to the point where everything I was was no longer. Again, like Zoe said, I had gotten to a place where I was pretty much out of my tornado, only to be sucked back in. I had to come to the realization that I had found my identity in what I was doing rather than who I was. I was an honor student in school. Eventually the Sunday School Director. The church drummer. The administrator. Youth leader. College graduate. Successful career woman. I also realized that parts of my identity I based on how others viewed me. To some, I was a preacher’s kid. To others who refused to acknowledge that my pastor and his wife had taken me in as one of their family, I wasn’t. With the exception of those individuals, I had been so long in this Mayberry life that most people didn’t even know of my past with child abuse–they thought I was a kid who grew up in church (for the most part I was) who never had any problems (not true) and was perfect (very much not true).

As life changed around me I struggled with finding my identity again. Was I the daughter of a child abuser or the daughter of a pastor? It all depended on who you asked. I let situations and titles become who I was. I had gotten to a place where everything I had become concealed everything I grew up as, but eventually it surfaced in my private life.

I found myself alone at my church one night, sitting on the floor at the altar praying. I was pouring my heart out to God about how deep down I still struggled with abandonment, rejection,  and feeling used and unwanted. I felt Him prompting me to get my Bible, and while I rarely just flip open the Bible to a random spot and assume that God is talking, I knew it was Him. I started reading verses about being forsaken.

“I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” -Hebrews 13:5c

“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.” -Psalm 27:10

“I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” -Psalm 37:25

And then I felt God speak directly to me–giving me my identity, in the last verse:

“Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.” -Isaiah 62:4

All my life, even if I could ignore it at times, I felt forsaken. I had poured so much of my life into finding who I was–where I belonged, what I was good at, building a reputation–that I failed to realized where my true identity was. It was and is in Christ. The whole world can forsake you but He has promised that He never will. We are not forsaken and will no longer be called that, for God delights in us. His love is not based on what we do. Yes, we need to obey His word to be saved–but He has made that simple. He hasn’t put us in a rat race where we have to figure everything out and be perfect. He loves us. HE. LOVES. US.

If you are struggling with finding your identity I encourage you to get into the Bible and spend some time in prayer. What the world tells us is success leaves us empty. The media that tells us we need to find ourselves leads us astray.It is only in Jesus that we will find a constant who will never leave us, who will not reject us, and who will not send us spiraling back into those tornadoes.

We sang a song in church choir a few months ago that I will close with:

I was running and you found me, I was blinded and you gave me sight…You put a song of praise in me…I was broken and you healed me, I was dying and you gave me life…Lord you are my identity…And I know, I know who I am, I am Yours, and You are mine…

Why Kim Davis’ Marriages are the Most Important Part of Her Story

kim-davisYou would have to be living under a rock to not be familiar with the Kim Davis story these days. Headlines are all over the internet–and not just about why she made the news–for standing up for her religious beliefs and refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses–but about something completely irrelevant to the story–her personal marriage life.

In a nutshell, she got married, had two children with her husband, then got pregnant by another man and divorced her husband. The man who fathered the twins she became pregnant with was reportedly abusive so she didn’t stay with him. She then met her current husband, whom she married. This marriage also ended in divorce. She then married the father of her two youngest, which didn’t work out and led to divorce as well. Finally, she remarried her second husband who is her current husband. (Whether this is accurate I don’t know–I don’t know Kim Davis–all I know is that this is what is being said on the internet.)

What does this have to do with her being jailed for following her religious beliefs? Absolutely nothing, unless you are trying to find dirt on her to disprove her case that she should have religious rights in the workplace.

That said, I personally believe that Kim Davis’ marriage history is the single most important thing on the news in regards to her story.

Hear me out.

Whether you agree with her stance or not, there’s no arguing that all of the talk about Kim Davis is about–well, Kim Davis. “Kim Davis stood up for our rights!” “Kim Davis is a homophobe.” “Kim Davis is an example to Christians everywhere.” “Kim Davis is a bigot.” “Kim Davis stood up for our rights as Americans!” “Kim Davis is a hateful person.” “Kim Davis is what bravery really looks like!” “Kim Davis is a coward.”

And yet, in the small 1 minute or so clip that hit news stations everywhere of Kim Davis making a speech of thanks with Mike Huckabee, she comes out, lifts her hands in worship to God, and then when the crowd starts chanting “We want Kim!” she responds, “I just want to give God the glory. His people have rallied, and you are a strong people. Just keep on pressing. Don’t let down, because he is here. He’s worthy.” Her focus was not on herself, but on God.

People can argue about whether or not what Kim Davis did was glorifying to God–depending on your stance the answers will differ greatly. But nobody can argue that God took Kim Davis’ life–a life with failed marriages, with sin, with disappointment, and turned it around to make a woman who is faithful to both Him and to her faith in Him.

“She’s a hypocrite,” her opposers say. Not according to the Bible. Take a look at the Apostle Paul, who is known as possibly the greatest evangelist in the history of Christianity. Paul didn’t start out as a faithful Christian. No, he was a Pharisee, a strict Jew who hated Christians. His mission was to rid the world of Christians, killing and imprisoning as many as possible. He stood and watched as Stephen, a godly man, was stoned to death. The Bible says he breathed out “threatenings and slaughter” against the church. Ananias, called of God to lead Paul to the truth, was scared of him.

Yet God spoke to Paul (whose name was Saul at the time) and confronted him about killing the Christians who were just as much His children as the Jews. Paul came to the realization that Jesus was God come in the flesh and converted to Christianity. He then began to evangelize and tell as many people about Jesus as possible, despite being persecuted himself.

So was Paul a hypocrite? No, because his sin against the Christians happened before he became a Christian. He realized the error of his ways and worked toward getting his life right. No doubt he probably had guilt his entire life for what he did before he became a Christian, but he had to realize that God is merciful, a forgiver, and that he was free from the sin of his past. Being an evangelist–who stood strong in the face persecution–also didn’t mean that Paul never sinned. On the contrary, Paul himself said that he was the “chiefest of sinners”. That didn’t mean that he was going out and living a double life. It meant that he was trying the best he could, but that everybody fails. The Bible says that if a man says he doesn’t sin he is a liar. All Christians sin. We just realize that God is a forgiver of sins and we try our best to change.

Kim Davis’ marital history does not make her any more of a hypocrite than Paul’s murderous history. Kim Davis was not an Apostolic Christian when the marriages and divorces occurred (but even if she was, again, we have to realize that Christians are not perfect–they make mistakes just like everybody else). Saying that she is a hypocrite would mean that we all are. We all lived in sin before choosing to live for God. A hypocrite is someone who says, “Yeah, I am going to judge other people for doing the same exact thing I’m doing, and I don’t care if I say I don’t believe in it, I’m going to do it anyway.” That is hardly the attitude Ms. Davis is displaying. (I also want to say this: hypocrisy is also a sin that can be forgiven. If you feel that you have been a hypocrite it is never too late for you to ask God for forgiveness and change your ways.)

What makes this the most important part of her story on the news, I believe, is that Kim Davis’ forgiveness and restoration after her life of sin and failed marriages shows the world that God can take someone who lived such a life and heal them. He can help us overcome our past mistakes. He is a great God, merciful, and ready to forgive the moment we ask. Her marital history and her testimony of overcoming her past and living a fruitful life for God speaks volumes to people who may be looking at their own lives and thinking, “I’ve failed too much. I’ve made too many mistakes. God can never make anything out of me.” God can. Going through three divorces is hardly the worst thing someone can do. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Paul demanding the imprisonment and deaths of people for their faith is definitely worse.

Kim Davis’ stand for her faith is definitely a commendable thing (and whether you agree with her beliefs or not, if you are a United States citizen you should agree that we are entitled to our religious rights), but in the media it is all about Kim. Kim this, Kim that. The media is not printing headlines that say, “Glory belongs to God.” However, her testimony of how she overcame her life and now lives for God is all about God. It’s about God’s power. God’s saving grace. God’s ability to take a sinner and save them and help them lead a better life. It’s about how God can save me and how He can save you.

Her testimony is about God.

“And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”  -John 8:11

It Happened at a Crowns Concert

September 1st was the fifth time I had been to a Casting Crowns concert and while I had always been blessed by the music, I had yet to see God work in the way He did this time around.

I went onto Facebook to ask about purchasing tickets for the Crowns concert at the Evergreen State Fair up in Monroe, WA when a complete stranger sent me a private message and blessed my husband and I with free, 5th row tickets. I was excited over the generosity of this stranger but when we arrived at the concert area we almost forfeited our seats to go up to the “nosebleeds” for one reason: it was pouring rain and the good seats didn’t have a covering like the nosebleeds did.

Now, you have to understand that this wasn’t just your typical rain shower. No, this was hardcore, Seattle, torrential downpour. Fair employees were volunteering to dry our seats with paper towels, which, by the time the employee moved for the concert-goer to sit down, the seat was already wet again. Fortunately for my husband and I, we had our umbrella which offered some protection. Until the concert started, that is. At that point all umbrellas would be required to go down. We discussed moving but decided, “Nah, let’s just praise Him in the storm” (ha ha). We decided 5th row seats was worth getting soaked.

This was when the total God moment happened. One of the fair employees, a very sweet woman who we had chatted with several times before the concert, came over to dry off the seats of the people in front of us when a man across the aisle jokingly said, “Come on, God, what’s with the rain?” to which the employee responded, “Yeah, aren’t all of you guys supposed to be praying for Him to make this stop?” I guess it didn’t occur to me up until this point, but not all of the employees working this event were Christian. Based on this comment about us praying, I made the connection that this woman likely wasn’t.

Truthfully, in my mind I was praying for it to stop. I didn’t want to be soaked and cold even though I would’ve put up with it if necessary. All of a sudden a thought came to mind, though. God, if you made this rain stop it would be a great testimony to all of the non-Christians here. They would see what a powerful God You are! Lord, show this woman that You have the power to stop this rain. If she has any doubts, show her that You exist.

It kept raining harder and harder.

When 7:30 hit and the members of Casting Crowns started to come out on stage it was still raining and I thought we would just have to deal with it. Then Mark Hall (the lead singer of the band) stepped up to the microphone, everyone’s umbrellas came down, and just then, the rain stopped.

Not a single drop fell through that entire concert.

Okay, so big deal, it stopped raining.

It was a big deal. After the concert as we were walking away I heard that employee exclaiming to someone else, “Did you see that?! The rain! It stopped!”

It reminded me of two passages in scripture:

In I Kings 18, Elijah challenged the followers of Baal to prove who was the one true God. Was it Baal, or was it Jehovah? God proved Himself in this passage. The followers of Baal could not get their god to start fire to the sacrifice, but God–Jehovah–who would become Jesus in the flesh to die for the sins of the world, despite Elijah drenching the wood in water thus making fire “impossible”, proved Himself.

The other passage is Mark 4:37-41. Jesus and the disciples were in a boat when a massive storm hit. Jesus was sleeping while the disciples were panicking. They woke Him up and asked how in the world can He be sleeping at a time like this! Didn’t He care that they were all going to die in this storm? Jesus wasn’t concerned though. He simply got up and spoke to the storm. He said, “Peace, be still,” and the storm stopped.

The literal storm in Monroe, WA stopped in that very moment. At this precise time, God stepped in and proved Himself–He showed both the believers and non-believers that He controlled the wind and the rain. In the same way, He also spoke into my life (and countless others I’m sure) that He also calms the proverbial storms. The internal storms I was dealing with that night. The pain of rejection. The fear of loss and failure. The doubt of “God, don’t You care that I might perish?” Perhaps He spoke into whatever personal storms that employee was going through. The storms of the cancer survivors who all stood when Mark Hall gave tribute to them. The blind man and his wife who sat one row over from us. The people who sung on stage.

In that moment, at that concert on those little fairgrounds, God said, “Peace, be still.”

“I know the Peace Speaker, I know Him by name. I know the Peace Speaker, He controls the wind and the waves. And when He says “Peace, be still,” they have to obey. I know the Peace Speaker, yes, I know Him by name.”

Older posts