Friday, June 30, 2017

It's A Time to Heal

It's a Time to Heal
Karl Stephens

            Is anyone among you in trouble?  Let them pray.  Is anyone happy?  Let them sing songs of praise.  Is anyone among you sick?  Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.  If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.  (James 5: 13-15 New Testament- NIV Version)

            On a Thursday evening in late summer in 2003, I was visiting my cousin's church in Longwood, Florida.  I was invited to attend their Bible study.  I was going through a really rough time in my life, and an impending period of incarceration was just a few short months away.  I was in really bad shape emotionally and spiritually, and most of those present knew this.    
            The small Bible study quickly turned into a prayer service that evening... for me.  I had opened up about my personal struggles and fears, and the church group, being led by the Spirit, began to pray for me.  Present were the pastor and his wife, a friend of mine who at that time was an elder in the church, three or four of the senior members, and myself.  They all gathered around me and laid hands on me. They prayed like I have never heard praying before. This went on for thirty or forty minutes, and I was exhausted.  Tears were flowing from my eyes, but I didn't want to stop because at that very moment I knew that my life would never be the same.
            Most of my adult life has been spent battling drugs and alcohol.  In fact, it was my addictive behavior that had me in the predicament I was in that evening in August of 2003.  A feeling of hopelessness and despair had become the norm for me. As I sat in that church, I felt if God didn't do something for me at this very moment I knew that this night could be the very end for I cried out to Him.  As the church group was singing  the song, "What a Mighty God We Serve," I was praying, "Lord, help me."  It was then that I finally experienced the nearness of his love for me.  And as I continued to keep my eyes closed and cry out, I could feel the group laying hands on me; the elder began to anoint me with oil.  Then we all prayed another prayer that I thought would never end.  The Pastor was speaking in tongues, and my dead and sick spirit began to come alive.  I knew a change had come over me.  I knew then that God had done for me what I could not do for myself. 
            I remember everything that happened to me that night, nearly fourteen years ago.  I remember because it definitely changed me, as well as prepared me for the journey I was about to embark upon.  I could never have loved the person I had become, but God loved me up one side and down the other.
            I've been drug and alcohol free since that night - not once having the desire to go down that path again.   Instead I began thanking God for His mercy and love.  Now while being incarcerated, I have been attending A.A. meetings for the last decade.  I have not done so out of fear of a relapse, but because it is just one of the places where God meets me.  I have also been allowing God to use me, in a way that produces an effect upon my environment. 

            Sometimes it's hard for me to believe that I have come this far.  But I realize that I couldn't have done it without His guidance, and strength.  I am so thankful for those that were present at that Bible study turned prayer service.  They were living the Word as spoken through the Apostle James that I quoted at the beginning.  I am also grateful for every opportunity that God gives me to tell this story because it is not really a story about me, but about His love and mercy...  in spite of me.  Mine was a sickness not of the body, but a sickness of the mind and the spirit.  God reached down into my very being and brought a healing into my life.  So many people ask me how I am doing, and I usually respond, "Better than I deserve."  I say this because it is the truth; no one knows this better than myself. In my remembering, I will never forget the impact God's love had on me!   Without it, my whole life could have turned so very differently! 

Friday, June 23, 2017

In My Distress

In My Distress
Joy Sutton
            The intracoastal waterway runs along the east coast of Florida.  This waterway is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by barrier islands.  In-between these islands are inlets, channels of water that join the waterway to the ocean.  When the ocean tides are changing, the narrow channel ways have very strong, swift currents of water flowing through them.   Knowing this will help you understand what I am about to tell you.
       One Sunday, some 35 years ago, I was with my husband, sister and brother-in-law fishing in the Sebastian Inlet.  Our boat was anchored.  My brother-in-law Victor was fishing off the front of the boat.  I don't like to fish so I was just enjoying myself in the back of the boat.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Victor drop something in the water.  Shortly after, I saw it go floating in the water by me.  I foolishly decided to jump into the water to retrieve it which was not a smart thing to do as I am not at all the athletic type!  And I am certainly not a good swimmer!  I immediately became aware that the current was extremely strong as I began being pulled away from the boat.  Being such a weak swimmer, I could sense the trouble I was in.  At that same moment a voice within began to coach me, "Don't panic. Stay calm.  You have been taught how to tread water.  Do that and calmly ask them to throw you a life preserver."  I did just as I was instructed.  No one in the boat really thought I was in any real danger since my request was so calm.  Again the voice within said, "Remain calm.  Ask again."   I did as I was told.  Again - no response from those in the boat.  I asked a third time.  This time my brother-in-law realized the situation I was in as I was drifting further and further from the boat.  He told the others, "She is not fooling!  She needs help!"  Tying a rope around his waist and getting a life preserver, he dove in and swam to get me. 
            My husband and sister raised the boat anchor and came to get us both.

            I know it was God's still, quiet voice that kept me from panicking.  Otherwise, I could have so easily gone under.  If I had tried to swim towards the boat, I would have panicked, since as I mentioned before, I cannot swim well at all.  I am so very thankful that my brother-in-law finally sensed my need for help in spite of hearing the calmness in my voice which God had directed me to use.  Had I not heard God's instructions, I have no doubt that I would not be writing this today.  

Friday, June 16, 2017

His Divine Order

His Divine Order
Faye Hobbs

            Recently I suffered from a bad case of the flu and could not seem to recover my energy or my will. My body was depleted; my mind and spirit were depressed. I began to wonder why God was keeping me alive. I felt no value or purpose in my life at this time.  I prayed and asked others to pray for me.  Finally I turned it over to God to show me the path he would have me take.
            Then... came the call from a dear, sweet friend of 50 years asking me to please come visit her. Jean wasn't feeling well and needed my support and love. I really wondered how I would have the energy or the money to honor this request. But as the week went on, I felt more inclined to make the decision to go - even though I was still not totally well.  I found myself looking up "cheap tickets" online and found one available.  I called her daughter and asked if the time of my arrival would work. She said it would so I booked the ticket on my credit card. Another friend offered to take me to the airport at 5:30 in the morning.  God was taking care of all the details.
            I arrived in Atlanta to find that my friend had been in the emergency room all evening and was still there with an obstruction in her intestines. When Jean was finally able to get into a hospital room, we were able to have some privacy.  Knowing so well my background in Hospice, she told me about her wishes with clarity and conviction. I listened, and we prayed for God's guidance.
            With her daughter and me present, my friend also talked with her doctors and informed them that she had decided to stop all dialysis treatments and other interventions that would prolong her life. She had been struggling for 19 years with ailments and pain. She had undergone 11 years of dialysis treatments - three days a week. She was exhausted and ready to let go. That night she had the most peaceful sleep she'd had in years. She stopped struggling to hold on and being brave for everyone. She knew it would not be easy for her or her family.  However, they all agreed it was for the best, as she would only get worse as the interventions continued.
            I spoke with my friend and her family about what needed to be done, and we notified her family to come as soon as possible. I was scheduled to fly out on Friday morning, but when I got to the airport, I realized my backpack containing my wallet and ID was missing. I couldn't get on the plane! I asked the Uber driver to take me back to the hospital to see if someone had turned it in. Although I was given little hope of it being found, I felt it was God's way of letting me know - I was still needed here; it wasn't time to leave yet. So I trusted this was a part of the Divine Appointment that was to unfold. 
            Jean was so relieved to see me return and to be there with her loving family. It lightened my heart to sit there watching her great granddaughters - ages two and four - lovingly curled up with her and her grandson holding her hand.  The tears of joy and sadness flowed from all.
            That night Jean was given a shot of morphine to help with the pain.  An ambulance arrived at 10 pm to transport her to the Hospice facility where she wanted to go.  Since her family had other obligations that evening, I went with her - sitting in the front with my arms full of gorgeous lilies as she rode in the back sound asleep. All during the rest of night I sat vigilantly listening out for any special needs she might have.  At dawn she awoke fully conscious and alert. Alone, the two of us sang very quietly together, "I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses." We knew we would meet again someday. Later that morning her daughter and son-in-law arrived with pots of tulips in bloom which brought a smile to her heart and eyes! It was spring coming in February. Jean was always at peace in a garden.
            That afternoon I was to catch another plane home. Before leaving, I told my friend how much I have loved her.  Soon after my leaving she went into a coma.  Other family members flew in from different parts of the country as well as many others who came from so many places and from all walks of life! My friend remained in a coma for a week.  During this time her daughter told me that she and her siblings spent time bonding with each other.   This would have made Jean so happy!
                        [Oh, yes, my backpack was found. A lady visiting her sick husband at the hospital had kept it safely for me.  The airline put me on a flight on Saturday at no charge to fly home where another friend came and picked me up!]
            When I returned home, I saw a beautiful single rose blooming on my bush.  I cut it and brought it into the house.  It remained just as beautiful until the day Jean died.
            I am convinced that my part in all this was another Divine Assignment.  God had plans for me - I just had to listen and follow them with trust and gratitude.  I have been entrusted with such assignments many times before in my life. Though I was so very depressed before this all happened, I now felt hopeful and joyful.  My faith reaffirmed!
            Thanks be to God for his Divine Order! 

Friday, June 9, 2017


Chris Berriman
            Expectations.  I was reminded of them at church and the emotional havoc they cause when they are not met.  The pastor challenged us to identify where we have placed expectations on God and been disappointed.  He told us to write them down and examine them.  This prompted me to consider the many expectations that I have.  Usually I place them on people, places and things. And when they do not pan out, I sometimes become disappointed, hurt, and even angry.
            I certainly did not expect my life to turn out the way it has.  I did not expect to be 49 and on my second marriage with no children.   I did not plan on becoming an alcoholic.   My childhood was normal; my parents were wonderful to me.  I went to church, attended private school, and I wanted for nothing.  I had a college education and a good job.  No trauma or tragedy occurred.  So why did I become an alcoholic?  It has a lot to do with the fact I cannot drink like other people.  And it has to do with control and expectations.  I drank because I wanted to be in control; I wanted people to do as I expected.  When they did not, I drank. 
            During the time when I was an alcoholic, I hated myself and figured God probably did too.  I had long been gone from God and the church.  Then I started attending Celebrate Recovery, an international Christian-based 12-step recovery program.  After that, I started going to AA and also returned to church.  At first I did not expect God to want me back.  It took me about 2 years to really believe that God could and would forgive me.  I thought my sins were the worst.  I can look back now and see how prideful that was.  I am truly grateful that my expectation of God in that time was not met.  He did want me back.  I was 38 when I got sober. 
            However, I still face daily challenges at home.  My husband is a nonbeliever and dually addicted to alcohol and nicotine.  He is a decent man with a deadly disease.  Although he is supportive of my journey, he does not want to stop drinking or smoking. My hopes are that his seeing the changes for good in my life will make him want to change as well.  That has not happened yet.  Perhaps, some day...
                Now when I get angry with God and question why I must endure this hardship, I return to scripture to help me cope.  Jeremiah 29:11 says that God has a plan for me.  Jeremiah 32:17 says that nothing is too hard for God.  He is Sovereign.  He gives me His Word which provides instruction on how to pray (Philippians 4:6, 7) and how to trust in and lean on Him in all things (Proverbs 3:5, 6).  I believe His Word.  I trust Him.  He gave me a new life, and I know that my purpose here is to serve Him in all circumstances.  I am grateful today that I can be reminded of how expectations can affect my life.  I can examine them and know that God is in control.  Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done.