Rose-Colored Racism

In the beginning of a new year, one usually reflects on the outgoing year. If it was a bad year you are probably likely to say “good riddens” and if it was a good year you might linger on all the good moments with tinge of sadness to say goodbye.  For me 2015 was for the most part peaceful.  At least personally.  But out in the world, is another story.  The events of the year stirred me.  Stirred up feelings and emotions I hadn’t really explored before. It also stirred up memories.

And so this is the stirring.

In truth the race relation conversation (if you can call what we have seen in the media a conversation) have caused memories to well up within me and through these memories I see somewhat of a different world than the one I have seen in images and scenes splashed across our television and internet. I am at times perplexed by what I read and what I know to be true in my life.

When I look into the mirror the reflection does not always match what I feel inside. It is the same when I look at our world through the reflection of society.  It does not match up with what I know personally. My own understanding of world events, politics and culture come only through my experience and knowledge.

Any further understanding comes through the Lord.  It is almost as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13 when he says,

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

~ 1 Corinthians 13:12

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Throughout the chapter he is describing what love is and what love isn’t. He then says ‘it is time to grow up and put away childish things,’ he adds that even in the growing up we will never reach the place of full understanding until we stand before the Lord, Jesus, Himself. We see our reflection of who we were as children, who we are now, as adults, but when we stand before Him our reflection will be Him, in all His glory.

That is what we were made for, to reflect His glory!

I long for that day if only to escape the discouragement and ache I feel sometimes here on earth. But then I am undone and overwhelmed by the thought that I may not be ready to stand before Him.

And oh, I so want to be ready.

These days in which we live can be so disconcerting for people on many levels. For me, the events of the world stir my heart with so many emotions I can’t seem to sort them out. I want to talk about it but the words just sit there waiting to be organized into some sort of cohesive thought. I do not want to speak just to be speaking or add to the overabundance of voices. The internet and television are so full of the noise of opinions and social ramblings, it makes me want to scream!

However, my heart is a stirring.

The one certainty patiently holding fast within my heart and mind, is the God of the Bible, Elohim, still sits on the throne.

It is to Him I speak in prayer, “God give me wisdom and understanding in the days ahead, show me the reflection of my life. What it has been and what it is now.  Show me what it should be for You!”

Maybe that is the stirring.

This stirring goes back to what my life has been.  Back to when I was a child living in America where I was learning about people. Who they were, how they were and what they were.   I saw divisions but didn’t understand them.  What I saw and what I lived did not always match the narrative of the world around me. In my earliest memories my world was framed in a small family of four. White people living in a world trying to color itself. Psychedelic, that is. Tie dye, beads and hippies. I guess that is why I love all colors now! I remember there were important people trying to bring the colors of people together! But it is vague because I was very young.

One of the colors of people I learned about was black or “colored people” referred to by older folks in my day but today it is “African American” and sometimes I am at a loss as to which to say. We have to be PC but how do you know who to be PC with? Never in a million years would I want to hurt someone’s feelings so I guess the best way to go about it is to ask. Is it even PC to ask? It’s all so vexing because when I interact with a person of color (pick one) I often do not see the color.  I see a soul that God created. Some are sweet, some are soulful, some or joyful and then there are those that are just not nice.  I have no idea what is going on in their life or heart. And so in my heart I am praying for them, wanting them to find the joy and peace that God gives. For me it is about their soul not their skin color!

As a little girl the subject of ‘colored people’ came up in conversation among the adults but I seemed to not be interested in what they were talking about because they were not speaking ugly, they were just discussing, I suppose, about the events of those days, the news!

It is true that pictures are powerful.  Especially when it came to war, protest and riots.  It was all mixed together. The black and white thing. On a black and white television for the world to see. I think, as a child, I didn’t see the significance because I was too busy being a child doing childish things but now I think back I realize that many of the people on TV were white. It did not occur to me to consider what it meant for a black child watching TV and not seeing their color represented in the daily entertainment.

As I got older I was under the notion that America was growing up as I was growing up.   In my life I was in places where I did not see much hatred or discrimination among black and white people. Yes, I read books and saw movies about it and understood it existed but again what went on around me did not match what I saw.

Maybe I did see it firsthand but did not recognize it because of my lack of experience with such emotion as hatred. Which is a credit to my parents. I saw some in elementary school coming from both sides but not so much of it that I could draw any conclusions about superiority of one race over another. It just never crossed my mind that ‘we’ were better or ‘they’ were better.  I just know I longed for ‘unity’ in those situations and at the time I did not even fully understand that word.

I remember as a young girl, my mother worked at the General Electric Lamp Plant in St. Louis. It was a factory. She worked with several black women who became her friends. One of her friends had a little girl who was a little younger than I and a little older than my sister.  I remember playing with her at her house. She would come to our house and play in our room where our toys were.  We played with our fake stove by putting White Castle hamburgers inside pretending to cook them. 🙂

I remember laughing a lot. I remember that she liked to sing and say the abc’s all the time.  I don’t remember our conversations and I only have images that pop up now and then but they were happy memories.  I also remember her mother. She loved to laugh and had a great smile that lit up her whole face. When she and my mother got together they seemed to joke and laugh a lot.  I have no idea about what but what a great memory to have, a memory that colored my world with a precious friendship and mutual respect. *(see below for update)

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I was a part of the desegregation of the public schools in the district where I attended elementary school.  I believe God providentially prepared me for that. I went to an all white school from Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  Due to my parents divorce and my mother moving my sister and I to Virginia, I was then registered at a school that happen to be three-quarters black.  I don’t remember being afraid because of the color of the kids but being afraid because for the first time in my young life I was the ‘new student’ and I missed my home, the home I grew up in. I knew no one. I did make one friend who happen to be white and one non-friend who chased me home one day. She wanted to beat me up. Looking back I can not remember why she did not like me but I do remember her calling me, “teacher’s pet.” I didn’t feel like the teacher’s pet.  She was black. Her name was Angela.

A couple of years later I moved back to live with my father.  Back to the same elementary school.  Only now I was in the sixth grade. And that was the year they decided to desegregate. Many of the kids I knew were nervous about it.  I took it in stride.  I made a few friends that year of both colors.  I also made another non-friend.  She would give me dirty looks and threaten to kick my butt. She also chased me home after school one day.  I don’t remember all the things she said to me but she also called me something similar to “teacher’s pet.”  She was white.  Her name was Nancy.

I guess the lesson here in supposedly being “teacher’s pet” is the angst it causes others! Which knows no color!

rosecolored glasses

Before our 1st black President was elected, I felt like I lived in an America where people were for the most part getting along.  I was not completely naive to think that ‘racism’ did not exist any longer or that there were not divisions in places around our country. I just thought that many in our country had moved past the hatred and the vile disdain for others of a different color. Maybe I was wearing the so-called rose-colored glasses. But there is proof that no matter the color of your skin or where you come from you can be anything you make up your mind to be. There are people from practically every racial group in America serving in the highest offices of our land. In our military. In our education system. It is the way it should be.

Through my personal experience, I have met a few ‘angry, racist black people’ and a few ‘angry, racist white people’ but that has not changed my mind about how kind and helpful the majority of black and white Americans are toward one another.  The majority of people of all colors and nationalities, that I have met, were just people living life and getting along with one another and trying to give their children a better life.

Even so I knew there were still hurts that ran deep among some black people because of the sin of slavery.  I learned about it in school. I read books and watched movies about it. But no one talked about it out loud, especially white people. As a white person I would often feel a guilt or a shame for my color of skin when I would watch the stories or read accounts of families being ripped apart and abused by slave owners but the emotion I most often felt was and is anger.  That one human being could treat another human being so abominably is unconscionable to me.

Today, I cringe and have cried hearing stories from around the world of people of all color taken into slavery today. I often feel helpless to know what to do. So I pray. And what can be done, what can I do about something perhaps my ancestors did to another group of people years before I existed? Questions have come to my mind, “What part could I play in reconciliation of our country in the area of slavery?” Is there something white people should be or could be doing to rectify those past sins?

What is it, Lord?

As I said in the beginning, there is a stirring.

I remember the very evening in 2004, when Barak Obama was speaking at the National Democratic Convention as the keynote speaker.  As he spoke a chill ran down my spine.  I audibly said out loud to one my children, “He is going to President of the United States someday.” The chill was not because I was scared or repulsed. I believe a part of me had hope. That he might be someone to bridge the gulf between two races of people who still held grievances toward one another in some places.  At least start the conversation to move us in the direction of healing.

I am not a Democrat.  I am not so sure I am a Republican any longer.  I am a conservative and I believe in what this nation was founded on, faith and freedom.  I also believe that we have left our ‘first love,’ our faith, and because of that we are losing our freedoms.  But I digress. I did not vote for Obama because of research I had done on his background.  The reason was not the color of his skin, after all he is half white,  but the content of his character.  Even so I held out some hope.  I believed what the bible says that God can move the heart of the king. For ‘He setteth up kings,’ does He not?

“And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:

~ Daniel 2:21

Sadly, in my opinion, he has been one of the most divisive men to serve in public office in our country’s history.  There are many people, black and white, who agree with this assessment. I am sure, many who do not. I must make clear that it is not the color of his skin that makes him divisive.  It is by his actions, his fruit, if you will. While I can not judge his heart on the matter of salvation, which only God knows, I can judge his actions. And as citizens of this nation we all should be accountable for those, even a President of the United States of America.

In my world, I have friends of all colors and nationalities. Being in the military gave me the privilege of serving alongside many of whom came from different backgrounds, race and cultures.  I loved that about the military.  It was and is the same within all the churches I have been apart of.  I believed that God prepared me for those experiences from early childhood.  My mother always taught my sister and I not to be prejudice. She explained to us what being prejudice was and told us it was wrong, period.  So we believed her. And for the most part my family lived that out in their lives. We had an example of what not being prejudice looked like. Though throughout the years there were a few who came into my life who did not believe that and well, they did not stay too long.

From a young child to now I may have put on rose-colored glasses when it came to race.  I do not know what it is like to live as a black person nor do I pretend to come close to knowing.  For that matter I know nothing of living as an oriental person, a Hispanic nor a Polynesian. Just as they may not know what it is like to live in my ‘white’ skin.  I also do not want to make light of it.  For I know there has been much oppression and difficulties to overcome because of the color of one’s skin.

But the one thing I know about all people regardless of skin color is that into every persons life comes love, joy and pain.  We all have the same blood and we all come from Adam and Eve. The bible itself never speaks of race.  Only families, tribes and nations.  At one point we all spoke the same language, that is until the Tower of Babel.  Where God confounded the people by giving them different languages and then they could not understand one another. This again did not have anything to do with skin color. Only the sin that was in each of their hearts!

I believe the most wonderful thing about knowing people of different races is the variety of color and personalities.  Over the years I have made some wonderful friends ‘of color’ and I do not just mean skin color.  Some real characters.  They made me laugh and we bonded over whatever was going on in our lives at the time.  What they have added to my life is immeasurable. I have often thought if God is no respecter of persons than why should we be? Why does man care about the outward appearance? How does that matter a hill of beans when each of us is faced with living somewhere forever for eternity?

“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”

~ Acts 10:34-35

When I heard about the Charleston shooting my heart literally fell.  My stomach felt like lead.  First, for the heartbreak of my brothers and sisters in Christ, for their loss.  And for it to have happened in their place of worship, incomprehensible.  Secondly, to find out this heinous crime was perpetrated by a white racist male.  Opening up wounds in our country.

No words. Just a stirring.

I hear a story, “White people will have to answer for this.” My heart races, emotions swell up and my mind tries to wrap around this statement.

Again no words, more stirring.

I hear another story, a man stands in a pulpit on the Lord’s day and says “The doors of the church are open, no evildoer, no demon in hell or on Earth can close the doors of God’s church.” ~ Rev. Norvel Goff, interim pastor at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Still no words but the stirring gets stronger.

And another man says, “What unites us is greater than what divides us,” he said. “To hatred, we say no way, not today. To racism, we say no way, not today. To division, we say no way, not today. To reconciliation, we say yes. To loss of hope, we say no way, not today. To a racial war, we say no way, not today. To racial fear, we say no way, not today. Charleston, together we say no way, not today.” ~ Jermaine Watkins, an African-American and the teaching pastor at Journey Church.

Silence. My heart is still.

Looking at the powerful photos of grief, I see past the tears to the celebration of faithful lives that have gone home to be with the Lord. Only those who believe in the Savior can fully understand how faith in Jesus and heaven can transcend a loss so great you can’t breathe. I have stood at the graves of tragic loss and now even as then, I am reminded that God is sovereign in all things.  As promised He is taking what was meant for evil and bringing good out of it. The nation witnessed faith, hope and love win through the people of Charleston.

As the story unfolded and the politics came out. I turned it off, it was and is shameful.

I see pictures of people praying. (Thank you. Lord)

Standing in a circle, holding hands with heads bowed. (I pray too)

Black, white, people of all colors coming together. (My heart holds hope)

Singing hymns. Hugging. Crying. (I cry too for God is there)

Journalist breaking down at the sight. (He has witnessed the Power of God)

People are dumbfounded. (Just wait, He has more)

They are seeing God but do not recognize Him. (God has more)

They are sensing the presence of the Holy Spirit moving in and around His children but they do not comprehend. (Every knee will bow and every tongue confess)

And the forgiveness they have extended!  (Thank you, Father of forgiveness!)

I have said in my own life, it is one thing to say you forgive someone but you have to walk in it daily.  You choose it and then you live it out each and every day for the rest of your life.  I took a lesson from Corrie Ten Boom, a survivor of the Holocaust, she said, “Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred.  It is the power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.”   I had to do that in my own life.  Because of sinful actions against my children and myself I had to keep forgiving.

The consequences of those actions would show themselves throughout the years over and over again. And each time they showed themselves, instead of anger or bitterness, I would choose forgiveness.  Forgiving does not mean that there is no justice.  It just means that you let it go, you give it to God and there is peace.  It takes courage, faith and love to do that! I can attest to that in my life!!

The stirring has given me words and God has shown me just a little part I can play in the reconciliation of our country.  I own my sins and take responsibility for them. Confess them, repent of them and seek forgiveness from Jesus, my Savior.  I walk in His commandments and live them out daily in my life toward my neighbor.  Firstly by loving the Lord, my God, with all my heart, mind, soul and strength! And then loving my black, white, Hispanic, Chinese and all-others neighbor. Loving the hateful men, the mean women, those who do not agree with me, those who want to hurt me and finally those who hate me, my enemy. When I do that, when we all do that, there is healing.

The thing about healing is that it has to come through the love of Christ. He can heal and mend the racism in our country and around the world but He wants to do it through us.  And He can only do it if His people are surrendered to it. And there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the people of the church in Charleston and that community, are surrendered to Him. They are our example. They surrendered to His will.

And that is where His glory shines. Through our brokenness!! Through the darkness!! Through His people!!!

A great man once said…

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” 
~ Martin Luther King Jr.

You know, in reading that I believe his prayers were answered for so many he was marching for, bleeding for and praying for. I believe God gave him that vision, that task and that dream.  He never quit speaking truth or believing in the God of the bible. And we have witnessed the fruit of his faithfulness even to the end.

And that is what I choose to see. The good that has come from evil. The love that I have experienced from others of all colors. The success of many who in his time would not have had the opportunities they have today. I see the world in color! All colors! If that is what wearing rose-colored glasses mean then I will continue to wear them.

So in 2016 I want to walk in obedience to God’s direction for my life. I want to submit to His leading and stirring.  To not be afraid to speak out but to be sure to do it in love.

Grace to you,

Shell

“Holy, Father, stir our hearts together, as one people, who are called by your name to surrender our will to yours in bringing healing upon this country. Stir our hearts for repentance and reconciliation.  Stir our hearts for YOU!” – my prayer

*NOTE: My mom kept in touch with her friend over the years and she attended my first wedding in 1987 but life happens and they lost touch.  I always wondered what became of them. Just recently the daughter found me on FB. She actually messaged me back in December of 2014. But for some reason, which has happened before I did not get the message till a few weeks ago.  I immediately contacted her and we got to speak on the phone for several hours. It was a wonderful blessing to hear her voice, hear her stories about her life and that her mom had been trying to reconnect with my mom for many years. And in actuality it was an answer to an unspoken prayer I have had for over a year…..but since this post has been so long I will save it for another time!!!

Update to the update: Several weeks after writing this draft my mother suddenly had to have open heart surgery. I went home to be with her. I got to meet up with both her friend and her daughter and what a sweet reunion. We hugged necks and talked over lunch, sharing what God has done in our lives.  I can not even tell you what a blessing it was to see them after all these years. They prayed with me which was a comfort and an encouragement as my mom went through her surgery and difficulties in the hospital.

 

Craziness That Is Out There

What does it say about a person when they’ve enjoyed sunshine most of their life, only to be comforted when it rains? These days it is the rain that almost makes me feel safe from the world.  It is a barrier between me and the craziness that is out there. Everything has changed from when I was a child. Not only my views of life, people and eternity but the world around me is almost unrecognizable. What was up is now down, what was in is now out and what is evil is called good and what is good is called evil.

world 2Most people’s views change as they grow up and move into different phases of life and as they go through different experiences. What I believed as a young adult quickly changed as I began to see the world beyond myself.  What I understood was very, very little in comparison to what I understand now.  Yes, I know, hindsight is 20/20 but that is not what I am alluding to. You have heard the statement, “If I knew then what I know now,” well, what is the point of that statement, really? How would that even be possible unless you had a time machine. Back then the world revolved around me and I was the smartest person alive. Isn’t every teenager going out into the big, big world? Today the world is revolving all right but not particularly around me and I am definitely not the smartest person alive. I have been literally put in my place on several occasions, by Jesus!

In the first part of 2 Timothy 3, Paul seems to me, to be describing this day and age.  The last part of the chapter Paul is encouraging Timothy to continue in what he has learned from childhood because it is what will keep him focused on Christ and his faith in Him. The Word is what will give him wisdom, strength and endurance for the coming persecution of his faith. It speaks to me, I am sure as it did Timothy as well, for the coming persecution of Christians on a scale like never before.  We are seeing first hand what it means to follow Christ in certain countries around the world. We are reading minute by minute the atrocities committed by those who are the enemies of God.  Be-headings, torture, sex-trafficking, sexual slaves of young girls, mutilation of their genitalia, burning in cages, hangings, on and on it goes. No end to the horror.

And here in America…where do I begin? Those things are happening here. You don’t believe it because you do not see it or hear of it.  Because the media would not have you knowing truth.  Truth is a barbaric thing to them.  It is politically incorrect to speak of such things here in A-M-E-R-I-C-A. I believe they believe we are shielded from the evil that is building in those parts far, far away from us. They believe we are safe as long as we do not speak of it. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. They focus on the inane. And while they go about filling people’s eyes and ears with the most important ideas like sex, global warming and racism we are slowly losing the ability to discern the truth. Absolute truth. Absolute truth is disappearing. And when it is gone we will have lost one of the most important things our country was founded on, Freedom.

Freedom.  What a concept!  The word itself would stir up the most passionate of men and women.  It was fought for, died for and sacrificed for throughout history. Flags have flown for it. The children of Israel fled to the wilderness for it. And the greatest experiment in history, the pilgrims of the Netherlands crossed an ocean for it. The colonies of America fought the monarch of England for it. Countries have banded together to fight wars for it. Men have died for other men so they may be called “free.” But who fights for it now? What does it even mean to us today? Today freedom is about taking it away from one man and giving it to another man and calling it “rights.”

While the world seems to be losing sight of that noble word I have come to know the word very personally.  I did not fight on a battle field nor did I have to travel far for it. I experienced F-R-E-E-D-O-M when I met the savior, Jesus Christ. Freedom from the power of sin.  At first it was a peace and realization that I did not have to carry the weight of my sins any longer. Then as I began to walk with Him I discovered another kind of freedom.  Freedom from the bondage of my sins. Let me explain.

As I learned what it meant ‘to be a sinner’ I understood that I was born into sin. That from the beginning of time, when Adam and Eve fell from fellowship with God because they disobeyed Him in the perfect place on earth. They plunged every human born after into the same sinful state, a state of death. We are basically born dead.  Our spirit is dead to God. He himself placed a spirit in us but He gave us the choice to allow Him to bring it to life. It had to be our choice because He would not force us into a relationship with Himself. That is not His nature. He desires a relationship with us but we have to want it.

Once I realized that I was sinful and dead to God, I was undone. I wanted to live. I wanted God to live in me. I wanted Him to take away my sin. To wash me clean and give me a new beginning.  To set me free.  When I asked for His forgiveness of my sin and for Him to come into my life and lead me, He did!  First He showed me who He was.  By reading the bible and studying His Word I was able to learn about the one who gave me a new life. I spent time reading, praying and worshiping the one who had to power to give life.  The more time I spent with Him, the closer we became. And the closer we became the more I was able to overcome the sin in my life.

Then He did something that caused me great pain.  At first I did not understand the pain. But then I realized that He wanted me to go deeper into our relationship by going deeper into His Word.  He wanted me to trust Him completely; To walk with Him without questioning His leading. I was a babe in Christ, as they say and I did not know how to do that fully because of the consequences of the sin in my life. Those consequences bound me up and kept me from going forward with God. They were stumbling blocks to trusting Him. The were hindrances to growing the fruit of the spirit in my life.  They kept me believing lies about myself and about God.  Because of the consequences there were powerful voices of doubt which became extremely frustrating and exhausting.

So through the tribulations and desperate cries to be free from the bondage, God led me to the truth in His word, and to godly counselors and Pastors.  Those years of wrestling with my flesh and the Holy Spirit led me to the most amazing and joyous times in my faith. He opened doors for me that I would never have imagined to be opened.  He used me in others lives to show them Christ and to find freedom in their lives.  He brought me to a place of freedom the likes I had never known to that point.  All the while preparing me for the most devastating time in my life to come.

Lighthouse in Storm --- Image by © John Lund/Corbis

Lighthouse in Storm — Image by © John Lund/Corbis

When the bottom fell out God took me by the hand and led me the whole time. It was as if I was in a bubble of peace.  The storm was raging and I was losing everything that I thought made me normal. The world as I knew it had done a 180, along with my views and new-found faith and knowledge of God.  When you are confronted with truth in a way that rips the rug out from under you, you either fall or stand solid.  It all just depends on what is holding you up.  I stood at first because God was holding me up.  I wish I could say that I remained standing through it all. But I did not.  The storm grew so powerful that I allowed myself to be taken along with the wind, tossed to and fro.  God basically yanked me back to reality in a very public and painful way. With the help of godly friends and a strong support system through my church I was able to once again stand and even to move forward.

Not without scars to show for it. Hurt and pain I never knew existed. As I said in the beginning our views change over time. If you asked me if I would want to go back and have a do-over I am not so sure I would want that.  While I hate the bad things that have happened in my life due to the actions of others or of my own accord, I love how God has taken those bad things and made something beautiful out of them.  How He has given me a new outlook on life, people and eternity.  My thoughts turn to more meaningful questions such as have I lived a good life? Have I given more than I have taken? Have I made a difference in world?

I don’t even feel qualified to answer those questions.  For what I think I am is often influenced by what I hope I am and therefore to be objective I would have to separate every thought, action and reaction I have ever had.  Then I would have to relate that information to the type of relationships I have now in my life. It is all very scientific. But in the end useless. Because as I said before it comes down to the fact that the world does not revolve around me. So what questions should I be asking?

Maybe something that is more in line with what Jesus would want from me. Have I allowed Christ to live through me? Have I given to others in the name of Christ more than I have taken in the name of Christ? Has Jesus made a difference in the world through me?  In being honest I would have to say No, not always. No, definitely not and finally, only time will tell.  The world is changing so much so fast that it seems time is speeding up.  It makes me think more of heaven and my time left here.  It gives me a sense of urgency.  As if time is running out, not just for me but for everyone.

What does it say about a person when they’ve enjoyed sunshine most of their life, only to be comforted when it rains? I think it says that you can not completely enjoy the sunshine without the rain and it is the rain that brings new life. It is God who sends the rain and He gives me safety in His Word and truth. The actual barrier between me and the craziness that is out there is God’s love, mercy and grace.  Everything has changed from when I was a child or so it seems. It is God who has actually changed me.water sun

“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9 His ever constant faithfulness to me no matter where I am in my walk or in the world continues to encourage my faith.  For He has certainly changed my views of life, people and eternity through His unchanging love.

My views:

  • Life is precious
  • People need Jesus
  • Eternity is closer than ever

Grace to you,

Shell

You Do Not Stop Being A Mother When Your Children Are Grown!

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20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
He is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart shall rejoice in Him,
Because we have trusted in His holy name.
22 Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us,
Just as we hope in You.

Psalm 33:20-22 (NKJV)

Many times I have written about being a single parent of four children. I have written about the difficulties we faced as a family and the doubts I have had as a mother. My time is growing short as my last child is finishing up his high school years. We have a couple of years left and it is increasingly getting more difficult in some respects and somewhat exciting in others. The difficulty lies in letting go and letting God deal with those things in my children’s lives that I see as potential danger zones.  As a mother I see all the possibilities, good and bad. I see their potential in God and their vulnerability to the enemy.  I want to scream at them, “Watch out, you are too close to the edge!”  But then there are moments where I joyously want to say, “Yes! Way to go!!”

It never ends, being a mother. When they are grown you are still their mother. You are just more of an observer until they invite you in to speak to their circumstances and choices. It is hard to know sometimes what to say and when to say it. I don’t think I have erred with God’s Word by reminding them the bible says or God wants you to ______! (fill in the blank)  I think they hear me as long it is said with love and concern and not said with anger or bitterness to turn them away or a ‘I told you so’ attitude.  My inner heart says, “check your attitude at the door and love them.” Boy oh boy, I fail miserably.

I have to admit, on occasion, fear still wells up inside me where my children are concerned. I remember so many prayers prayed in tears over them at night for years. So many times begging God to protect their hearts spiritually, asking Him to fill in the gaps left open by actions or words. When fear welled up this morning I had to immediately go to God. I had to fight the thought with His truth otherwise it would have brought me down. They each are responsible for their relationship with God and the world. And when I see danger or neglect creeping into their life it grips my heart. This quote caught my eye this morning and I believe it is the Lord speaking through another confirming my urgency to keep my grown children in prayer.

“No matter how good a parent you have been, your adult children can still be impacted by the dark side of today’s culture. We must keep in mind that the magnetic draw of the evil forces of this world is strong and presents a constant battle for our children. We have to continually pray that they’ll be strong enough to resist this unrelenting encroachment of the enemy into their lives.” Stormie Ormartian

The verse above speaks to the trust and hope that I have kept within my heart as I was thinking back to the days when my life was about raising children and caring for my household as a stay-at-home mom and through the single parenting years. I can attest that I have seen Him answer so many of my requests in their lives. Through many trying circumstances He gave me strength to keep hoping when I thought I could not go another day. He provided for us when it looked like we had nothing left. I learned to trust Him to do what He said He would do.  I believe He is still working to bring it all together for good in His time. I may not see exactly what He is doing in their lives but I usually did not see what He was doing in my life until He did it! And it was always amazing!

The new season I am in today is that of a grandmother.  Four little ones to love on and cherish.  To pray for and beg God for His protection over them. God reminds me daily, that while our stations may change our obligations certainly do not. Trusting and hoping in God means communicating with Him our hopes and cares. Prayer is the means by which we do that.

Do you know the only weapon we can own and have complete control over in our lives is prayer. It can do much damage to the camp of the enemy if we wield it with confidence and in agreement to His will.  The only cost is our time and the return is immeasurable. We do not know when, where or who God will raise up to change the world for Him.  It could be one of my children, one of my descendants or one of yours.  When they look back at their family tree wouldn’t it be awesome for them to find a grandparent who prayed for them by name!  A grandparent who stood in the gap or interceded on their behalf to the throne of grace for them. Oh I want to be that grandmother!

My soul waits, He is my help and my shield. I rejoice in Him. Because I trust Him.  “Lord, God let your mercy be upon me and mine as we HOPE in YOU!

Ft Benning, GA - Dec 2013

Ft Benning, GA – Dec 2013

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“Open Your Eyes”

“But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” ~ John 3:21

When I post political articles and current event pieces on Facebook it is usually because something  rises up within me to shout to the world, “Open your eyes, look what’s going on!” It reminds of the song “Stop Children What’s That Sound”  The words could easily apply to today’s headlines.

Most people live their lives with their head in the sand  They think they can keep living the life they make for themselves without being effected by what is going on in the world.  They think they are immune to the crime happening in their community until it happens to them. They think the scandals and the lawlessness of our government has no bearing on their day-to-day routine until they lose their job due to a new law that has been forced upon all Americans. They pay no attention to the news of the day until they hear it is about someone they know.  They scoff at the post about conspiracy, corruption or rumors of war.  They become so busy they have no time to do their civil duty such as vote or call their local representative about an injustice or accountability. Then they get angry because someone got elected that they do not like but have no one to blame but themselves for their lack of interest.

People plan the next activity or event without stopping to look at the souls around them struggling to get through the day.  They feign their interest in the suffering of others but have no time to help out the neighbor or friend they know need words of encouragement or a hug.  They want to be comforted but have none to give, they want to be entertained and made to feel good but have no interest in serving others. They think by giving money to a group or a good cause they have done their part but do not want to leave their comfort zone. They call themselves “Christian” but have no interest in being “Christ-like” nor do they know what that even means.

The truth is many who have known Him for many years have fallen asleep.  They have gone numb from the noise of the world.  Where is the fire? Where is the revivals? Where are the men and women in the United States who would give their hearts, minds and souls to help another find His way into eternity?  The ones who live facing death daily in other countries are dying for their faith. Literally by the thousands.  Just click on this link and read the stories: Persecution  If those do not convince you that Americans are asleep then I do not know what will.

You can listen to the conservative/Christian talk shows and you will hear them go round and round about the problems our country is facing. The commentary and arguments in the media are spewing out words that have changed their meanings over the years. Facebookers post the recipes, humorous phrases and spiritual thoughts for the day all the while the powers and principalities are wreaking havoc in this world. Most folks never stop to really think about the words they put out into the infernal internet clothesline or do they?” What difference does it make?” as in the words of one who cares nothing for making a difference in anyone’s life but their own or for the lives who made a difference by laying down their life to save others.

Now before you think I am not including myself in any of the transgressions above please realize that I, myself have been wrestling with all the noise of the world as of late. The thoughts running around in my head have been very, very eclectic to say the least. Politics, religion, Jesus, children, ministry, finances, love, marriage, sickness, death, family, fear, drugs, military, salvation, war, law, citizen, teenagers, win, fail, weight, prayer, health, spring, vacation, reunion, future, recipes, bills, serve, honor, past…..it just goes on and on. I have not been able to focus on one thing other than one simple question that is causing me to wonder what God is speaking to me about. What difference am I making in the world?  My world, this world or better yet, your world?

Now that might seem to some like a question I am throwing out there for others to answer. Not at all and please don’t. Truthfully I would like to hear the answer from God. For it is not man who will judge my works or my heart when I leave this planet earth to enter into eternal life.  There are times when I believe I am asleep at the wheel, so to speak, when it comes to my walk with the Lord. I have taken inventory and discovered that the times I was gleaning an enormous amount from God’s Word and time with Him were in my loneliest and darkest of days.  Why is it then in our bright days of day-to-day living that we don’t seem to have the same intensity of relationship?  Is it the focus or the intention of the heart that is slightly off kilter? We can blame it on distractions, responsibilities or circumstances.  In truth it is ultimately our choice.  We choose to make our walk a priority, the TOP priority!

I admit there are days when going about my business I will throw up prayers to God without stopping to get quiet, bow my head or my knees.  I will say things like:  “God, stop me if this is not pleasing.” “God, am I being selfish here?” “God, are you seeing what’s in my heart right now?” “God, I can not do this on my own.” “Thank you, Jesus! You are sooo good!” But over the course of time throwing up prayers does not a relationship make and  I am not so sure that is what is meant by living with godly purpose or walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. Spending time quietly waiting for Him to speak, praying our hearts cry, reading His Word back to Him, meditating on His goodness, praising and worshiping Him in song, those are relationship builders with Christ.  And those I have done but not always consistently.

But oh, it can be disconcerting to try to examine the motives or responses to each and every moment I did not turn to God, but instead to other things such as internet, a movie, a book, busy-ness or the conversation of others.  When I do turn to those things on a regular basis I become agitated, irritated and cynical. Even angry at times with what I see others doing.  Then I become a judge instead of an edifier.  I want others to know what I love not what I hate. I want to be the peacemaker instead of divider.  I want to encourage instead of the one who  criticizes.  But most of all I want to be the salt and light.  I want to be Christ-like! 

I recently was a part of an effort to reach out to some teens that happen to go to school with my son, who is in high school.  He has been inviting his friends from school each Wednesday evening for almost 2 years.  At first it was just one friend.  And then a couple came with him. Now he may have 4 or 5 any given week.  Our very small church took them camping to connect with them by unplugging and removing most of the distractions.  I felt so inadequate to be there. I felt old and had absolutely nothing to say they could relate to. The one moment I did speak it felt flat and without power to move any of them to seek Him.

However, there were moments when I witnessed them listening to God’s Word. I do not know if they actually heard what was said or if they took it in long enough to remember it.  I do know beyond a shadow of doubt that God’s Word does not return void.  And I know from first hand experience that He fills in the gaps where we as humans fail to be what we need to be in the face of ministering or witnessing to someone for eternity. After the weekend was over I gave it all up to Him to do with it what He will. Even if the teens were not moved over the 3 days I can certainly say I was. It left me desperately wanting to see Him move in those kids and in me. 

I have made more of an effort to stop, look and listen to Him rather than to keep moving forward without heed to God’s will. Which is why writing has been so difficult for me lately.  If God does not give it to me I do not want to write it down.  For the Bible says we will be judged for every idle word. The world is a different place than when I first accepted Christ as my Savior.  Back then, some 22 years ago, we could talk face to face to someone who would look us in the eye.  Now there are so many ways to communicate without ever laying eyes on another human if we choose.  We have to turn it all off.  We have to separate ourselves from the noise of this world.  We have to surrender our hearts to silence for a bit and get back to face to face.  And knees to ground.  Because until we do we will not make much of a difference in bringing others to Christ. In bringing others with us into eternity.  

My prayer:

Oh, heavenly Father, I pray you open my eyes wider to the reality that our time on this earth is short for none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. Lord, help us to see past the distractions of our day, to hear beyond the noise of the world, to reach out to those who can not see.  Help us to be the light to them that they may find their way to you.  Give us wisdom to apply the season of salt to the conversations we have with others that they might understand the love that comes from your son, Jesus. Put a fire in our hearts, repentance on our lips and bring revival to our land! Thank you, Lord for hearing our cry! In Jesus name, Amen!

Grace to you friend for stopping by!

Shell

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“Faith, don’t fail me now!”

50th Birthday

50th Birthday

Have I mentioned that I turned 50 several months ago.  November actually.  It really isn’t a huge event when compared to the events of the world.  It was in my life.  I am sure each one of us who mark this passing of time either celebrates it or mourns it.  I made a good effort to celebrate it.  It brought with it much reflection as to what my life has culminated into.  I have written before about being defined by various things in my life.   When I was 19 I wrote that I wanted to find a purpose for my life.  I wanted to be loved and I wanted to love.  I could not see what lay ahead nor could I see that those very things I wanted drove me to make decisions that would turn my world upside down again and again.

What do I know now that I did not know then?

  • Purpose is not something that I have to seek.  It was given to me by God.  He created me for a purpose.  To follow and glorify Him.

Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.  Isaiah 43:7

  • Whether any person loves me or not I am loved by God.  Who created me, redeemed me and justifies me.  

But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. Isaiah 43:1

The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee. Jeremiah 31:3

  • To love others I must first love God.  He then fills me with His Holy Spirit which in turn spills out onto others.

35 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.  1 John 5:2

 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?  37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  38 This is the first and great commandment.  39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.   Matthew 22

Somewhere around age 32 I discovered that my thinking was wrong.  I had not met God on His terms. I knew of God and cried out to Him but did not KNOW Him.  When I came to that realization a light bulb came on. I could see the sin in my heart and I surrendered to Him.  Did all my thoughts, decisions and direction completely change?  No, not immediately. Over time He changed me from the inside out.  The most immediate and  important change was realizing that I could not continue to live life my way.  At this point I set about learning all I could about following God.  It took some 7 or 8 years after receiving Christ as my Savior to know what it meant to truly walk in liberty in Christ.  I was delivered from some generational strongholds in my life that took me to a whole new level in my relationship with God.  Shortly after that period of my life I went through what is known as the refiner’s fire.

The fire, I believe, was to test me on what I had learned. Would I apply it and walk in truth?  Would I choose to continue to follow God, whom I could not physically see over the circumstances that surrounded me?  Would I trust His path and stay focused on Him or would I look down and sink into the raging waves around me, as Peter did when he stepped out of the boat onto the water after seeing Jesus, himself, walking on the water?  Was my faith forged in steel or plastic?  Even while in the fire I had lessons to learn.  I learned what it meant to cling to God’s hand.  To trust Christ no matter what.   In past entries I have discussed some of these trials and the other lessons learned. (see archives 2006-2009)  I can not say I came out of the fire completely untouched by the flames.  I did come out of the fire with less of me and more of Him within my heart and mind.

Here and now, I am going through a different kind of trial.  A personal one. One that is not so much about the goings on around me but the struggle within me.  I believe the enemy is trying to reassert his way back into my thought life.  He has, from the beginning of my walk with Jesus, tried to take back the ground that God has gained over time.  Yes, I have on occasion given up tiny bits of  ground at times by not being on guard to my own weaknesses.  Where am I the most vulnerable to the enemy of my soul?  My children.  Always have been and perhaps always will be. Because they have been my life.  For 25 years I have been a mother, at least 16 years to four children.  And Satan knows where they are concerned I take everything personal.  Everything they do and say.  Every milestone. Every hurt or failure.  Every disappointment.  Every victory.

I have not yet learned to separate their adult lives from my own personal identification as their mama.  I see everything that happens as a reflection on me.  More bad than the good, I am afraid to admit.  I am seeking God about this but I am unsure what He is trying to show me.  I have tried to lead them by example and give them direction, always steering them toward Jesus.  And there have been moments when even I have failed in that.  My oldest son said to me, just last night something to the effect of,  “Mama, if you of all people, who have walked with God all these years, can not find peace in all of our (my children)  lives then what hope is there for me to find it?”  What does that say about my faith at this point in my life?  My husband has said I have been making everything that happens to them about me.  Again I ask what does that say about my faith?  Am I still trying to carry their burdens because that is what I did for years as a single mother.  Am I taking responsibility for their actions because I felt guilty for the life they had to live?  It was hard to be mom and dad.  It was hard watching them struggle with our broken home.  It was hard being accountable for 4 little lives + mine.  It was hard being alone and struggling with my own hurts and brokenness.  I look back and it amazes me that we survived.  God remained faithful even when I was not and it is to Him I owe much.

So this season I am currently in has perplexed me some.  I am questioning a lot of things over the years. Not God, mind you but my own beliefs.  I am having to go back and sort through some events and reviewing the timeline of my life to get at the root of  those issues that are stealing bits and pieces of my faith.  It is a well-known fact the enemy is an expert at finding old things to bring out of the dark to use against us.  I know that this is his way of warfare.  I know what he wants.  And I am desperate to stand my ground and not let him have one more inch.

Though how do you fight an enemy that goes around you and heads straight for your children?  Knowing where your children are vulnerable and not being able to protect them because now they are adults and it has become their fight.  Prayer is the only thing I know.  I know my Lord hears the prayer of a mother, a mother who seeks Him daily.   I have to pray ‘your will be done in their lives, Lord.’   Praying, knowing that God will hear and His answer may not be pretty or easy.  It still may bring more pain.  And that, my friends is where I am.  Praying for my grown children. Having to step back and keep hands off.  One of the most difficult things I have ever had to do.

Maybe I am looking at the water again. I surely hope not. I most assuredly hope that I have learned that my God is able.  He is able to do more than my mind could ever imagine and then some.  I have seen it over and over in my life.  So now I must trust Him to do the same in my children’s lives. I must be patient and hopeful. Always keeping my eyes on Him only!

Just maybe God is allowing this season of uncertainty to refine me further.  Perhaps He knows the things in this mother’s heart that still need to come out.   He knows that in order to heal completely there must be a cleaning out of old things infecting my thoughts. He has taught me without this there will never be peace and surrender.  And I know too there must be a pouring out, an emptiness that needs to occur before a filling can be completed.   A filling of joy and freedom.

And with that comes peace to a mother’s heart!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23