The Little Prayer Chair

I stood in the back of the church, begging my eyes to memorize the way the paneling looked and my nose to memorize the deep smell of chestnut wood.

It was September 2009. In less than a week, the building would be completely torn down. the building: My home church.

I called It home

When the church was first built over 125 years ago, my family was among the founders. The original church building sat about 3 miles up the road from where my family’s homeplace is. I have often heard stories that my great-grandmother helped raise money from selling fresh baked goods to start the very first Sunday School program there.

I can first remember visiting the church in July 1989. My dad tells me that he took me there on several occasions as a young child, none of which can I remember.

It was there I first experienced a church young group, and had some important milestones in my faith journey. And that it why I called it home- still do though it is not the church in which I was actually saved in 2011.

The burial of the old church

The building that I grew up knowing and loving was the second building that the church was ever housed in. Over it’s nearly 100 years of standing in the valley, it had become heavily damaged by black mold and age. It had not been structurally sound for full time services in over three years in 2009, and the last youth service had been held in it a year prior. It had well lived it’s time, and needed to be torn down.

My dad and I stepped into the church for what would be our last walk through. I ran my hands across the panels, and wept as I looked stood in the empty sanctuary.

As we stood there, the Pastor said to Daddy and I “If there is anything left that you would like to have, you are welcome to it”. Dad’s eyes went immediately to a slightly damaged copy of the church covenant.

I wondered the tiny classrooms, not expecting to find anything to take home.

The Chair

Three little child-sized chairs sat in the remains of one of the classrooms. I pointed to one with a cracked seat and asked the Pastor “May I have that?”. He said yes.

I loaded the chair up in my jeep that day, not knowing where or how I would ever use it. Perhaps for decor, I thought. It was a rough little chair, and it had well long since lost its time for being a useful chair.

The chair would travel with me just 2 years later over 30 miles, and then again another 30 miles in 2014. It had served as sort of a display chair for my Muppets collection that I once had.

In 2014, I placed it in the corner of my bedroom and just wept. The chair was a reminder of just how much I had failed the Biblical teachings that I had been raised in, lessons that I had even learned in my home church.

I spoke to my dad a few days after placing the empty chair in a corner, and mentioned in during the conversation.

“Why don’t you make that your family alter, little one? You can list your prayers on the wall beside it, and sit beside it to pray, or read your Bible.”

And that was exactly what I did.

Remembering A Different Chair

I can remember in my 20s hearing a little analogy about a man using a chair for prayer. It goes:

“All of my life I have never known how to pray. At church I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it always went right over my head..”

“I abandoned any attempt at prayer,” the old man continued, “until one day about four years ago my best friend said to me, ‘Joe, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here’s what I suggest. Sit down on a chair, place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It’s not spooky because he promised, ‘I’ll be with you always.’ Then just speak to him and listen in the same way you’re doing with me right now.”

“So, I tried it and I’ve liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I’m careful, though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she’d either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.”

The pastor was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old guy to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, and returned to the church.

Two nights later the daughter called to tell the pastor that her daddy had died that afternoon.

“Did he seem to die in peace?” he asked.

“Yes, when I left the house around two o’clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me one of his corny jokes, and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But there was something strange, in fact, beyond strange-kinda weird. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on a chair beside the bed.”

(Source: The Empty Chair)

I’ve thought about that sometimes, when I have laid my head on that chair crying out to My Heavenly Father.

What about you- do you have a special place in your home as your prayer room/alter?

 

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30 Days of Thanks: Day 3

Day Three: My Youngest Son

May I confess? I do have reason in why I list my sons as my #2 & #3. November 3rd (Today) happens to be my youngest son’s birthday. This year he turns the big 1-4.

My youngest son is entirely saucy in personality, and is always concerned about his family & friends. That tenderness continues to shine, as he transitions from childhood into adulthood.

I love many things about my youngest son, but one of his most precious attributes is that he has a boldness about his faith in Christ. I have watched over the last four years as he has served as youth ambassador through a Christian-based program at his school, often times leading prayer in front of his peers. Recently, he bought a small pocket-sized Bible for 5 of his closest friends and gifted them all a Life Book (Link: Life Book).

How is it a young child, who I know most well gets a lot of peer pressure, can be bold in sharing his faith- but so many of us lack the faith to even ask a friend to a church event or service?

I look forward to seeing what GOD will do with both of my amazing boys in the future.

And.. Happy Birthday Hotshot.

 

30 Days of Thanks: Day 2

Day 2: My Oldest Son

I hear all the time people saying that becoming a parent changed their lives forever. And I admit the same- becoming a Mom did completely change my world.

My oldest son was born in 2000. Rings of black hair and big brown eyes, he had me whipped from the very first pout.

 

There are many things that make him so unique. He has a compassion for others that is rare in a teenage boy. He’s always been that way too. One of the many things that I love about this young man is his faith.

My oldest son truly loves snow. I’m not talking about that he only likes to see in to get a snow day. No, he truly LOVES to see snow, even if it is just a dusting. My son loves snow so much that even as a small boy, he began to pray for it.

His faith in GOD being able to answer that pray is big. I know. You see, my birthday is in mid April. I rarely get to see a snow for my birthday. A few years ago, my oldest son told me that he was going to pray for a week solid that I would have a snow for my birthday. And the result: I got a heavy dusting on my birthday morning, 2013.

What if we all had his kind of faith? What if we all had the kind of faith to pray for a whole week because we wanted something so much for a family member, or our church?

 

 

Grasp

Another share from my previous blog

I love watching a young child learning how to walk. I love the way they wrap their tiny fingers around the large fingers of their parents. It would seem, at first, that the child has the tightest grip; but any parent knows that it is the parent who grips tighter, to keep their child safe.

In your grasp

What are you holding on to?

I’m not referring to the remote control or computer mouse in your hand, although they may have something to do with it.

What ideas, thoughts and memories do you carry around with you so tightly that they have begun to embed themselves into your skin?

Maybe it is the memory of a loved one. Perhaps it is the hateful last words that you spoke to a friend, on constant replay in your mind. Do worries and fears shadow your every thought?

In my grasp

I admit: I have a death-grip on my worries about money. I can barely remember a time in my life that the sickening fear of poverty has not been with me.

I have found, though, that my money fears have not made me richer. Worrying has not balanced my checkbook or wrote out a budget. Pacing floors has never put a single penny into my pocket. It does not matter how tightly I hold on to my money fears; the fears are not helping me get by.

Giving up our grasp

So, let go.

No, you won’t fall. No, the world will not discontinue its’ revolving.

Like the wee child holding onto his parent, we will not fall when we let go of our grasp. We have a wise Father that holds onto us.

“My Father, which gave [them] me, is greater than all; and no [man] is able to pluck [them] out of my Father’s hand.”
~ John 10:29

If we have surrendered our lives to The LORD JESUS CHRIST, then we are in HIS grasp.

If you have not surrendered your life to The LORD JESUS CHRIST, then what is stopping you?? What good has the things you are clinging so tightly to really doing?

When GOD surprises you

I love to surprise people with little gifts. Though my primary love languages are quality time and words of affirmation, I do tend to express my care and appreciation for people through small gifts. And I giving them to them the most when it is completely unexpected.

We’ve all been told NO

I won’t imagine that I am alone in that I have prayed so hard for GOD to move in something or to provide something and HIS answer has been a soft, loving NO. (And sometimes, a firm NO).

I can think of so many instances when the answer from GOD was ‘NO’.. but there is one that has been my biggest and hardest No. January of 2009, I learned I was pregnant. I was estatic, as I had for so long dreamed of having a little girl. Having had complications with both of my sons, I was sent to a high-risk pregnancy doctor 2 hours away. Using a special ultrasound, he smiled as he refered to the wee one on the screen as ‘she’. A daughter. Prayers answered, right? A week later, I would go back to the same doctor because I was having some health issues. A second ultrasound was done. Immediately, the doctor’s face was pale. I watch as the fluttering of a tiny heart ceased.

The next morning, I would go through surgery to remove the baby from my womb. The nurse lovingly explained to me afterwards that I would have less than a 15% chance of ever conceiving again.

I didn’t understand GOD’s no. Wasn’t I a good mom to my boys? Wasn’t I a decent wife to the boys’ dad? I remember asking lots of hard, painful questions in the months to follow. It has only been in the valley of the last three years, that I have begun to see that God’s no was to prepare me. Perhaps some day, GOD will allow me to minister to another young woman who loses a child. Already through that no, I have developed a deeper compassion and concern for those who are in mourning or are walking through grief.

We do get “yeses”

GOD blesses us. Oh, how HE richly blesses us.

GOD gave me a Christian Daddy. My Daddy and Grandmothers had heavy influence on the woman I have become.

I could list a hundred thousand things that GOD has blessed me with, and barely scratch the surface of HIS goodness. One answered prayer was in my current job. I came to work for my company on September 2, 2014. That very first week in the building, I told my dad that I had found a department in the building that I wanted to work in. I was told by supervisors in my workplace that getting into that department was very difficult, and that it usually took 4 to 5 years to even get a chance.

Just over a year ago, GOD gave me a great big yes by giving me a job in that department- after having only worked for my company just shy of 2 years. And GOD answered a bigger prayer. Because of romantic relationships that I had been a part of, I had become very very isolated. I didn’t have a single person that I could have called a friend. GOD not only gifted me my dream job within my company, but GOD also placed me among ladies that would become my friends.

And Then, GOD just might say “Not Yet”. “Wait”

It is hard sometimes in our flesh to surrender to GOD’s timing. We have read GOD’s Word and know full-well the Word of GOD says:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9, KJV)

In our flesh, we grow inpatient with GOD’s timing. We start to think that GOD has forgotten. But, no. HE hasn’t. Sometimes HE has us to wait to prepare our hearts and minds for what HE has in store.

April of 2016, I became engaged. And through that, suffered a great heart ache. A lot of emotional abuse and emotional pain. But GOD was saying NOT YET.

I would have to walk through pain. I would even walk through tremendous depression and despair.

GOD was getting me ready. I didn’t know what for. Or I should say, who for.

I met Steve just as I was beginning to start truly allowing myself to heal from my hurt. And what a surprise from GOD Steve has been. Instead of looking down on me for my past, he has lovingly found beauty in my ashes. I never ever expected to find a kind, gentle Christian man like Steve. I thought men like him were extinct. I thank GOD that my Wait has led me to the relationship I now have with him. (Visit Steve’s blog at http://www.courageouschristianfather.com/)

 

Contending with The Past

Sorry for the delay in posts. WordPress issues and work have hindered my regular posts. This post was intended to be published on Sunday, July 16th

The Opponent 

As Superman fights Lex Luger or any good guy fights the bad guy,  I have my arch enemy. She is a strong, loud dragon whose fangs could pierce concrete. Her name: The Past.

She lurks in the shadows of the night or in the loneliness of the crowd and whispers, ‘you are failure’. Mind you, she doesn’t whisper that I have failed but that in fact my failures define me.

In the last 7 years, I have been divorced twice, went through five jobs, moved three times, and went through two cars. Come on, that screams FAILURE. Yes, I hear you.

In the last 7 years, I have developed one incredibly unhealthy self-image. Worthless. Insignificant. Unwanted. And Yes, she has been winning. In seven years, I have actually grown to hate myself.

You have messed up too much. You will never be any good. You will never______ (fill in the blank). 

She is fiercely strong, and well armed with nearly four decades worth of mistake after mistake.

The Fight, so far

Flanked by anxiety and an incredibly unhealthy dating relationship, The Past has battered me dawn till dawn until I am shaking, crying, pleading for some comfort.

I’ve tried to wield a general hope and faith, finding myself instead weaponless. Again, The Past, she is a fierce enemy.

But Then, comes GRACE

I didn’t know Him when he walked onto the battle field. Small in stature, Grace walked up and placed His firm arm around me just when I thought I had lost for good.

At the beginning of 2017, GOD had gotten my attention. I found myself at the alter of the church, asking GOD to remove the relationship I was in if it wasn’t what HE wanted. And.. GOD did.

I won’t say it was painless. I cared about the guy, though the relationship was highly unhealthy and I ended up with my heart feeling burnt and reburned.

I had to be broken. I am one incredibly stubborn person (Irish-German, what a combination). And it took being financially striped bare, emotionally striped bare and finding myself at an all time high for reasons to absolutely HATE myself.. it took all of that for GOD to get me to see and feel HIS GRACE.

I finally knew GOD’s GRACE was there Mother’s Day of this year. I found myself celebrating my very first Mother’s Day without my sons. My mom, who I have a rocky relationship with, didn’t want to see me.

I found myself sitting and watching the sun come up that Sunday morning, feeling defeated by The Past. Just as tangible as the words on the screen before you, I heard and felt something spoken over me. “THIS ISN’T HOW IT ENDS”.

Speak, LORD, for Your servant listens

One of my favorite Old Testament stories is in 1 Kings Chapter 19.

“So HE said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD.”
And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 

After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire;
and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing.” (1 Kinds 19:11-12)

It’s a reminder that GOD doesn’t always use the big or showy things to get our attention. Sometimes, HE just whispers.

I can remember when I was eight, we lived in an area that was prone to tornado activity. On one particular occasion, a tornado struck incredibly close to where we were. I panicked. I began to shake and cry and froze where I was. My Daddy kept trying to give me instructions on what to do, but I was paralyzed in fear. My Daddy, in his loving nature, knelt down in front of me and cupped my face in both of his hands. He didn’t scream. He whispered. And I calmed down.

EL ROI, OUR GOD WHO SEES, could have spoken to me on Mother’s Day in many ways. But HE knows HIS daughter full well. So HE whispered.

I’ve probably heard people say that it wasn’t over for me before that Sunday morning. But What GOD spoke over my heart that morning was slightly different. “THIS is not how it ends”.

GRACE and I versus The PAST

I wish I could say that every day since Mother’s day has been easy of that I have won my battle with the guilt and shame and worthlessness that The Past flings at me. I can’t, though. There are still days, or multiple moments through out a day that those thoughts might over come me.

And then there are days, that I grab GOD’s GRACE firmly in my hand and I walk in the victory I have in CHRIST JESUS.

There will likely be more hard days, but I pray daily (and sometimes hourly) for GOD to remind me that I fight not alone.

“for the LORD your GOD is the one who goes with you,
to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.” (Deuteronomy 20:4, NASB)

 

 

 

 

Grasp

originally published January 2009, on a previous blog

I love watching a young child learning how to walk. I love the way they wrap their tiny fingers around the large fingers of their parents. It would seem, at first, that the child has the tightest grip; but any parent knows that it is the parent who grips tighter, to keep their child safe.

In your grasp

What are you holding on to?

I’m not referring to the remote control or computer mouse in your hand, although they may have something to do with it.

What ideas, thoughts and memories do you carry around with you so tightly that they have begun to embed themselves into your skin?

Maybe it is the memory of a loved one. Perhaps it is the hateful last words that you spoke to a friend, on constant replay in your mind. Do worries and fears shadow your every thought?

In my grasp

I admit: I have a death-grip on my worries about money. I can barely remember a time in my life that the sickening fear of poverty has not been with me.

I have found, though, that my money fears have not made me richer. Worrying has not balanced my checkbook or wrote out a budget. Pacing floors has never put a single penny into my pocket. It does not matter how tightly I hold on to my money fears; the fears are not helping me get by.

Giving up our grasp

So, let go.

No, you won’t fall. No, the world will not discontinue its’ revolving.

Like the wee child holding onto his parent, we will not fall when we let go of our grasp. We have a wise Father that holds onto us.

“My Father, which gave [them] me, is greater than all; and no [man] is able to pluck [them] out of my Father’s hand.”
~ John 10:29

If we have surrendered our lives to The LORD JESUS CHRIST, then we are in HIS grasp.

If you have not surrendered your life to The LORD JESUS CHRIST, then what is stopping you?? What good has the things you are clinging so tightly to really doing?

SimplySpokn Sunday: I am Out of That Grave!

I have an odd fascination with dates. I can rattle off dates in my life that things occurred simply because those days have hammered significance on my heart.

Though I could easily (and may) reflect of numerous of those days, I want to reflect of two very significant days. Let’s call them anti-grave days.

Sunday’s child is full of Grace

I was born on a Sunday morning at 10:02 a.m. I still love hearing my Daddy & my Gran tell me the story of the miracles and messes that mark that day that I came into this world. I don’t dread the fact that with each I grow older (and greyer). I often find myself taking some time on birthday to thank GOD for the purpose HE had in me being born. I thank GOD for a GOD-fearing, faithful Daddy and two precious prayer warriors as my grandmothers.

February 27, 2011

(I must say, this isn’t easy to share)

I was blessed richly to be raised in a home where my Daddy made sure we were in church nearly every time the doors were open. And being a Daddy’s girl (and I still am), I wanted nothing more in this world than to make my Daddy proud of me.

In July 1989, I attended a small revival at my home church here in eastern Kentucky. I went forward to pray when some other youth went to pray and my Daddy asked me did I think it was time that I got baptized. ‘Sure,’ I thought. Isn’t that what a good Christian girl/kid is suppose to do? So that September at one of the milestone birthdays of my home church, my Daddy submerged me in the baptismal waters.

I attended discipleship training (shout out to all the other old schoolers who grew up in that). I went to youth events. I even read the pink leather Bible that was presented to me at my baptism. One problem.. I was no more saved than the leather on that Bible.

High School came and with it came tremendous tragedy. I endured an event that left me wondering Where was this GOD that supposedly loved me so much?

Years flipped by and in 1997 I would meet a gentleman. In 1998, we would get married. I thought, okay, LORD.. If I just be a perfect Christian wife then I will be fine.

So I tried. And oh, how I tried at first. But all the effort in the Webster dictionary did not make me any thing but broken.

2002. The world, and all I thought to be good about it broken open and broke apart. I kept trying to tell myself that if I only tried harder, if I only read God’s Word more- if I only gave up more of the things that I liked to do or even my supportive friendships, then GOD would be happy with me and I would be happy.

And then, it only got worse. March 12, 2009, I would say my last goodbyes to the only daughter I will carry on this earth. I no longer felt I had any hope of ever finding any kind of happiness.

Yes, it got worse still. The week of Thanksgiving 2010, I was notified that my husband was divorcing me.

I just didn’t understand it. Hadn’t I gone to Bible studies? Hadn’t I given to the church and to the needy? I just didn’t understand.

January of 2011, I found myself living alone in a small incredibly cold apartment. My precious sons who I had prayed with and kissed goodnight every night were now shuffled between their divorced parents. And all I could do was simply cry.

I must be honest for a moment. Those first weeks of being in that subsidy apartment were bleak. I began to lose all desire to even want to live.

Through a childhood acquaintance, I began to hear about a church. And the more I heard, I just could not shake the urge to pay them a visit. So I did.

Through the service held on February 27, 2011, I realized two very hard things: I was not saved but only going through the churchy motions. And two: I had a vast need to be changed by The SAVIOR.

I knelt at that alter so long that Sunday that I thought I wouldn’t be able to walk again. And when I walked back out the doors of the church that Sunday I knew that I knew that I knew that JESUS CHRIST had saved my soul and that HE had set me free of the sin in my heart and life.

And then there is one other date. Today, the 9th Day of July 2017.

Did I wake up knowing today would be such a significant day? Absolutely not.

I had given my word to a friend of mine that I would attend Sunday School and church with her today. I arrived at this very large church, of which I was a member for 2 of the last 3 years, with just a desire to worship GOD and learn in HIS Word.

Worship service began. And two songs in, I heard this song:

Glorious Day

Words don’t suffice for what I began to feel standing near the front of that large sanctuary. It was as if GOD MOST HIGH, my JEHOVAH RAPHA, cupped HIS mighty hands on the sides of my scared face and firmly said “I set you free. Free not only from your own sins, but free from the pain and tears of your past.”

I simply could not sit in my seat when the invitation was given. I threw myself down on the alter and just thanked my HEAVENLY ABBA for the peace that I felt pouring out on my mind and heart.

So What about you? I would love to hear about the day that you were rescued from death and given LIFE everlasting in CHRIST JESUS. 

Let Us Remember

Note:  I originally posted this blog on October 26, 2008. 

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Many Churches throughout the Appalachian region and all over the Nation celebrate an “Old Fashion Sunday”. Ladies take out their bonnets and men their bibbed overhauls. Often a meal of Soup Beans or Old Fashion Drop Dumplins are a treat after the Sunday meal. Whether your church celebrates a similar day or not, we must take time to remember.

I. Remember the Change

How many years has it been since JESUS changed your life? Where were you when accepted the free gift of Salvation from JESUS? Recall the beauty of that day. Thank GOD for HIS redemptive work in your life, and perhaps share yor Faith Story with someone who has never heard it before. As you thank GOD for the change HE has made in your life, ask GOD to direct you in ways that you can help lead Sinners to a relationship with JESUS CHRIST.

II. Remember the Faithful

During my years growing up in the church, I have repeatly heard how GOD used individuals to shape the path to a relationship with JESUS CHRIST. Maybe it was a Sunday School Teacher, a deacon, pastor, song leader or the gentleman who handed out Testaments at Christmas. Think about how GOD has used one individual or many to pull you toward HIM. Thank GOD for those people who have encouraged and directed you. If the person or individuals are living, perhaps take the time to write them a quick note just to say thank you for the difference that they made in your life. Better yet, go thank them in person if you can.

III. Remember, this is just the introduction

It is good for us to pause and thank GOD for the many things that we remember. According to Blue Letter Bible, the word remember appears 148 times in the KJV translation. Psalm 77:11 states,

I will remember the works of The LORD: surely I will remember THY works of Old. (KJV)

We should remember the things that GOD has done in our lives often, not just for special services or one time a year. In remembering the past, we must also remember that this is just the introduction; The mercy and greatness of our LORD and Savior JESUS CHRIST extends on and on. Blessings of the past mere pebbles in comparison with the Blessing of being in JESUS’ presence.