The Devil Can Open Doors Too

devil-1562786_1280As Christians,  it’s often easy to spot Satan in the world. Anytime we hear of a shooting, domestic abuse, sex trafficking, kidnapping corruption and a host of other events we know the evil in the world is Satan doing what Satan does best. Whether you call him Satan, Lucifer, or the devil, he’s a beast with even more faces than he has names.  You may have on your armor of God, but be aware that Satan can masquerade as anyone or anything just to lure you in to his trap.

A personal example of just how Satan works was years ago when I was wanting to make more money. I wanted to work for myself and be my own boss.  I prayed and prayed about it, asking the Lord to give me a sign. Shortly there after,  my husband was unable to continue operating his business for personal and health related reasons.  I saw this as a sign from God. I stepped into the position and began making changes.  I was assertive, friendly, honest, enthusiastic and ready to make a difference in my community, our household income and grow professionally.  It was an answer to a prayer, and each night I gave thanks to the Lord for assisting me in this endeavor. As time marched on, I found myself giving more and more to the business. My husband and I were spending 10-14 hours a day at the office. I was periodically traveling out of town for business meetings, trainings, and conferences. I was going places I’d always wanted to go to and making more money than I had ever made in my life. For several years, life was good. I had reached the point in my company that I could afford to hire employees to help carry the load. The business was growing and I was so proud that I was able to help my husband take his business and take it to a whole new level. This was truly God’s blessing, or so it seemed. I found myself apologizing to God regularly for not attending church any longer. But I was certain He understood just how busy I’d become with the business. After all, He was the one that made this possible. He wanted me to be successful and enjoy the fruits of my labor.  This was a God thing, right?
I never thought I could fall victim to unethical business practices, but I did. Of course, I was able to rationalize my behavior, but I knew some of the things I was doing were wrong.  In the business world, in order to stay on top, you can be lured and tricked. I was changing, and I knew it.  I was beginning to hate myself and what I was doing. How did this happen? My employees were beginning to turn on me and participate in destroying my company.  I felt like I was in a free fall and didn’t know what to do.  I cried out to God. I openly confessed to Him my wrong doings and my love of materialistic things. I was so stressed living under the pressure of having to keep the business going. I was in way over my head and I wanted out.  I begged and pleaded for the Lord to help me. I was willing to do anything if I could just get out of this mess, out of the business and start a new life. The Lord heard my pleas and asked me, “Are you sure you are willing to give up everything and follow me, making me first in your life?”  Yes, I was.  The next few months were pure hell. I was now under investigation and had a client suing me.  I was scared, but I knew this was part of God’s plan, so I stood strong and allowed the chips to fall. My husband and I knew we would be unable to stay in our town and find work.  We prayed and asked God to help deliver us. The stress was getting to the both of us so we decided it was time to just pack up and take a vacation allowing the dust to settle.  We decided to look for a new place to build our lives, but it had to meet one criteria.  It had to be a strong Christian community and preferably in a conservative Christian state.  We found ourselves traveling through Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.  We attended a church in a town in Idaho on Sunday morning and both felt the calling. We were certain this was where God wanted us. Again, we prayed and asked God for a sign. Once we got back home, we put our house on the market and began looking at property in Idaho. We closed the business down and tied up lose ends.  The investigation ended, we settled with the client and things were beginning to fall into place. We found the perfect home in Idaho, put the earnest money down and within six weeks, our house sold, leaving us with what we needed to relocate to our new home and our new life.  We are now active members of our church and have more friends in the four years we’ve been in Idaho than the entire time we lived in Oregon.  We now live on a very modest income and have just what we need. God does provide, but he isn’t the only one who can open doors.  I learned to listen for God’s voice before assuming that something is a sign from God.

 



 

Signs That You’re Distant From God

cross_sunset_silhouette_239783  It happens gradually. It may begin by sleeping in on Sunday morning and missing your regular service. You may have the option to go to the later service, but you have an array of things to complete before you go back to work in the morning.  You may find yourself taking on more responsibilities at work or at your children’s school. Before you realize it, you have missed several weeks of church services, didn’t attend your regular bible study and you’re becoming more distant from your Christian friends.  You’re more agitated with people in general. Minor irritants have become major stumbling blocks where your mood now displays anger, judgement, and negativity. You may find you’re sleeping more, or having difficulty sleeping at all. Over indulging in food or drink?  Suddenly, you hit bottom and you cry out, “God, where are you, why have you left me?”   Does it dawn on you that God isn’t the one who left?  Satan is the great disceiver and will stop at nothing to pull you away from the Lord. Temptations become increasingly difficult to deny, you find your head is full of negative thoughts and feelings toward people and situations.  Somewhere along the way, Satan was able to “slip in” and start playing in your head.

I was fortunate enough to have a close friend recognize my personality change and challenged me.  Point blank she asked me, “You don’t seem to be walking with the Lord anymore. What’s going on?” I felt anger swell up inside at her having the audacity to even say such a thing to me, but I knew deep down that she was right. I had pulled away from the Lord.  However, Satan is a crafty sort and I was quickly able to refrain from saying something not very Christian like and simply reply, “I’m sorry. I’m just tired and cranky today.”  Praise God she had planted the seed I needed.  I knew I had changed, I just didn’t know why.  I felt shame and embarrassment at the thought of asking God to forgive me. Why should He? But I know our God is a forgiving and gracious God.  It had been a long while since I had talked to Him. I don’t mean pray, I mean talk. Just talk to Him like I would with a friend.  That evening, I sat up in my bed with darkness surrounding me. Nothing but a dim light of the smoke detector was visible. As I focused on the light, I began to pour out my heart. I told Him everything and apologized for shutting Him out when I really needed Him most.  That’s when I realized I sometimes  confuse Him with my earthly parents that would grow angry,  lecture, criticize and punish me for any confession of wrong doing.  I don’t know how, but God is able to forgive much easier than we humans can. He doesn’t let us go unpunished, but sometimes wallowing in our own guilt and persecution may be punishment enough in God’s eyes.

The next morning I woke up with a new attitude. I was excited to start my day. I began reading scriptures, watching Christian programs, reading some of my favorite Christian authors, attending church services and bible studies again.  Never allow Satan a foothold into your soul. He will convince you of all kinds of falsehoods and make your life a living hell.  Remember your heavenly father is always there and always forgives. He will help rid you of your anger and guilt if you put your trust and faith in Him.

Left Behind: How the suicide of friends or family affects loved ones

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The death of a friend or family member is never easy, but when that person takes their own life, we may find ourselves asking, “Why? Could I have done something to have prevented this? Is this somehow my fault?” We’re left with the feeling of disbelief and anger. We may think of them as cowards, their actions as selfish, uncaring and hurtful. We try and look for clues to help us understand. We may seek counsel from other friends, family members or clergy. As believers, we want to know if the suicidal victim is in heaven, or to a worse fate than what they were facing here on earth.

This particular subject is a healing wound in my heart. You see, I had a friend of many years call me in January, 2015 to say good-bye. Her slurred speech made it difficult and frustrating to listen to. She had battled alcoholism since high school. Our conversation didn’t last too long. When she casually mentioned she was going to kill herself, I ashamedly  replied, “You’re drunk. You need to go to bed and sleep it off. I’ll give you a call in a few days” (hoping she’d be sober). We hung up. That was the last time I spoke to her. I’m embarrassed to admit I really didn’t want to talk to her if she was drunk, and most of the time, that was her state of being. Time passed. The following Christmas, I sent my usual Christmas card to her and heard nothing back. Terror set into my heart. I guess I just knew. She was big on Christmas cards. I had received one from her for more than thirty years. This year, something didn’t feel right. I called, but the phone only rang. No voice message. Again I was faced with the undeniable fear of the worst possible scenario. With the holiday season fast approaching, I became busy with all the festivities and celebrations. I would think of her from time to time, but continued to put those thoughts in a safe place for another time.  It wasn’t until March when I decided I had to know for sure if my suspicions were correct. She had never been a big computer person. She didn’t email or use face book, so I searched out one of her brother’s in hopes my intuition was wrong. At the end of the email I received from her brother, I felt my stomach turn inside out making my way to the bathroom floor, sobbing and vomiting with uncontrollable force. A flood of emotions erupted. I didn’t know what to do with them. I turned to God for solace. Immediately I felt a warmth around my shoulders and a calming sensation move from my head down to my toes. I knew it was the Lord’s comfort.  The last two months were difficult for me. I didn’t talk too much to anyone about what I was feeling since there was nothing anyone could do. I just held on to my faith and asked the Lord to help me through it all. Bring some closure, some peace. With the help of my Christian counselor, I was able to say good-bye to her this past week. This blog has helped me complete this grievous task.

What is Truth?

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It seems as though America has lost its way in its understanding as to what truth really is. The bible’s definition is that the truth must be consistent with God and with scripture. Truth should never change and never be up for debate or discussion. Truth is the way things are and, truth is who God is.
To deny truth, we in turn, deny God. Americans that claim to be Christians are engaging in pre-marital sex, cohabitation, having multiple children by multiple partners out of wed-lock, defending homosexual lifestyles, the right to abortions, assisted suicide and the list goes on. Most recently, we’ve been asked to accept another person’s definition of their own gender and allow them to use a bathroom of the gender in which they, “identify” rather than with the genitalia they were born with. Secular society shows denial of God by proclaiming, “I was born with the wrong body parts. I’m supposed to be a woman (or a man).” By outwardly denying God as the creator, those who struggle with their sexual identity can now claim a biological mishap, and the rest of the country must accept this as truth. This is an example of how our society’s values and morals have declined over the past six decades. By switching from a biblical to a secular view of truth, we turn to our own human knowledge that can determine truth. Unlike the biblical truth, secular truth is ever changing. What’s true for you may not be true for me. Secular societies or non-Christian people are enamored with human philosophies because philosophy is based on nothing but speculation and theory which can change with the times and those who hold political power or control the media.
From a Christian perspective, truth means nothing apart from God. God is the source. Without God, you have no foundation. Nothing else should be more important to Christians than God’s truth. If you don’t have truth, you have nothing. Churches should not be re-defining truth just to adhere to the politically correct agenda. We should love truth and want it as part of our life. How can we call ourselves disciples if we don’t hold true to the teachings of Jesus? We cannot separate God and truth. People today are repudiating God by redefining our culture. They don’t want rules and regulations to guide their lives. They want the freedom to do what they want, when they want and with whom they want.
Christians need to stand together and hold true to their faith. We have already been told what the future holds according to scripture. Stand for what you believe in. Put on your armor of God and take up the fight to protect yourself from Satan’s power.

The Prodigal Son: Who Do You Identify With?

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At my church, we have trainings for  members who want to serve in different ministries. They call it, Discipleshift (not mis-spelled) Training. Throughout the day we have small break out sessions, activities and exercises to better assist us with complicated issues that we as Christians and the church face. This training also goes deep and we learn a lot about our own personal relationship with our family, friends, co-workers, God and ourselves.  One of the exercises that brought me to tears and a deep pain I had been harboring since childhood was the parable of, “The Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:11-31). Here is my abridged version:

The youngest son tells his father to give him his share of the estate. He wanted to go out into the world and experience life. His father gives him his share. Of course the young man squandered all of his wealth on wild living. Soon, a severe famine his the country and the young man had to resort to hiring himself out to a farmer to feed the pigs and tend the land. He realizes the pigs were eating better than he was and decides that he will return home and humble himself to his father in hopes he could just be a servant.  When the father sees him in the far distance, he runs to his son, embraces and kisses him. He instructs the servants to bring his best robe, ring and sandals to put on his son and then to slaughter the fattened calf. This was to be a celebration that his youngest son has returned home.  

The older brother was still out in the field working. When he came near the house, he could hear the music and laughter. He asks one of the servants what was happening. He learns that his brother had returned home and they were celebrating. The older brother was angry and refused to go inside. His father comes out and pleads with him to come and celebrate. The eldest son then points out the obvious, that it was he who had stayed and worked while his younger brother went off and wasted all the money. The father says to him, “My son, you are always with me and everything I have is yours But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive and again; he was lost but now is found.” 

Who do you best relate to in the story, and why? I related to the oldest brother, but not for what might be the obvious reason. Those who chose the older brother related to feeling angry that he was the responsible brother that stayed home and helped his father while his younger brother left the family, took his money and went off on his own. Instead of consequences, the father welcomes him home with open arms and a celebration. As I speak as the eldest son, my resentment was that my father didn’t even consider me at the moment of recognizing my brother. He didn’t run to get me and share with me the good news. Instead, I was left in the field continuing to work.  Forgotten. It wasn’t until I asked about the commotion was I informed of the festivities. It was though I was an after thought.

Once I realized how this story upset me, I identified some of my childhood resentment. Often times, I did feel left out.  I was ten years younger than my sister, coupled with the fact I was too young to participate in the activities they enjoyed.

Our Lord never abandons us. He enjoys the fact that we want to spend time with Him. Because of the Lord, I am able to let go of the anger and resentment I held on to for so many years. I honestly don’t believe my mother nor my sister were intentionally trying to hurt me. The reality is, there were many events with my mother that didn’t include my sister.

I am so grateful that I have a God who loves me unconditionally. Through Him, I am able to forgive those who hurt me in the past. I have grown so much in Christ that all the “little” things that used to eat me alive, really don’t matter at all anymore. Grace be to God!

Who do you identify with and why?  I’d love to hear what you have to say.

 

Children With Special Needs Are Gifts From God Too

As a retired special education teacher, I have watched the up’s and down’s of a parent coming to terms with their child’s diagnosis of autism, ADHD, behavior disorders  and mental retardation just to name a few.  I have witnessed the anger and frustration toward God asking, “Why my child God? I never did drugs or alcohol while pregnant. I was careful with my diet. Why did this happen to me?”  This is not the time to tell a parent that it’s,  “God’s will” or that, “God has a reason”.  What I prefer to do in such cases is to introduce them to the poem, “Welcome To Holland” By Emily Perl Kingsley. (http://dsnetworkaz.org/holland ). Since I retired from the school district, I  spend time advocating for parents and their child reach their full potential in the public school system as well as at home and their community.  

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” ~Jeremiah 1:5

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb”           ~Psalm 139:13

  God does not make mistakes.  I have never been able to answer the parent’s question, “Why?” but I love to share with parents what wonderful gifts I see in their child. Working with these children, I have discovered that I learn as much from them as I hope they learn from me. God has blessed me with a special gift of being able to work with His  children. As a teacher, the job can be stressful at times, but patience and continuity are essential. I see the potential and celebrate their gifts that God gave them as well. While many children with autism share similar  characteristics of autism, they are still unique individuals with their own special skills. They are God’s sons and daughters. Look beyond the disability and see their distinctive ABILITIES!

As for the parents of these wonderful children, God never gives us more than we can bear (even though we all question just how strong He thinks we are) God has chosen you because you have a gift to raise this child with love, patience and understanding. There will be tough days, but the successes and milestones your child reaches, no matter how small it seems, is cause for celebration.  God bless you.