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Walking in the Light #43- Sunday Church

Walking in the Light #42- The Sunday Church

The Sunday Church is Charismatic/Pentecostal. Service there is very different from the Saturday church. The first time I went was last Christmas and it was the children’s performance of the nativity scene. A lot of proud parents and grandparents and relatives enjoyed seeing their children. I did not have any children there so it was not as enjoyable for me. It was several weeks later before I attended service there again.

Worship service lasts almost an hour. That is when they play music and sing. Most of the congregation stands during this part of the service. The music is loud and consists of drums, guitars, keyboard, and violin. Gone is the music of my childhood Methodist church where there was only a choir and a single organist. Here at this church, the congregation raises their arms and some jump or twirl and some kneel in prayer, some lay on the floor and some in the back waive banners. Mostly I have found it  very distracting to me.

I find that I can barely keep from staring at all the activity. Finally, I have learned to just close my eyes and tune out the jumping, twirling, and just allow my thoughts to seek the Lord. When I tune out the distractions, I  feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. I smell a sweet fragrance, almost like honeysuckle or like warm oil or like the air after a rain storm. I feel a gentle touch like a change in the air pressure on my skin and I am filled with a sense of acceptance and love braided together. I’m sorry that it is so hard to explain in words the sensations I experience there but words are just inadequate.  I know that most of you will not believe that what I feel is real and tangible and that it is not just a trick of my mind or a flashback from my drug days.  I accept that I will not be believed and it is ok because I’m certain that what I experience is real.

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The Sunday Church preaches the gospel and it is compelling and highly spiritual.  I’ve learned so much from their sermons.  Having no bible background, I have to take good notes and research the sermon later at home.

The Sunday church believes in leadership by a group of elders rather than a single pastor. One of the elders speaks strongly about the gifts of the spirit. He is a Profit of God.  Another elder is very knowledgeable about the Bible and teaches a lot about repentance and giving all to the Lord of yourself. He speaks very loudly, and passionately. He uses a microphone but I don’t think he needs it. He usually teaches the Wednesday bible study group. The third elder is more the traditional pastor personality but I have not gotten to know him very well as he was out sick for an extended time and now has gone out into the mission field.

It has been hard to get to know people in this congregation. I’ve been so closed off for so many years, it is a challenge for me to be open and connect with others. My method has been to watch people and I noticed that most regular attendees always sit in the same area. To get to know people, I have changed my seat from time to time so that I sit with a different group after a few Sundays. In a way that has been successful. I always go alone. I have a few friends from my ladies prayer group that attend that church but I usually can’t find any of them so I sit somewhere by myself. Also the majority of the congregation is made up of young people. I don’t have anything against young people but there are differences that make it hard to establish a rapport.

Attending a large church where I don’t know more than ten people has been and continues to be a huge challenge for me. The church membership is about one hundred and fifty and there are always lots of visitors or others that attend regularly.  I keep going and trying. I’m set to join the Greeter’s team next month and maybe that will help. I try to attend some of the extra activities too. Once I brought a visually attractive desert and that got a lot of attention so the other women spoke to me and it helped to break the ice. I’m fighting years of bad habits and it is not easy to change. The Saturday church is a little easier because it is smaller.

 

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#151- High Pollen Alert by Walking out of darkness into the Light

Spring has sprung here in Florida.  The flowers are beautiful.  The weather is warm but not too hot.  The world is awakening; a rebirth.  Now is the time to enjoy the outdoors.  Pollen counts for grass and trees are high.  For allergy sufferers it is a time of itchy, watery eyes, stuffed sinuses and a need to have stock in the Kleenex company.  I have the allergy sufferer’s T-shirt and life-time pass to the springtime event.

I was born in the spring and within a few weeks developed severe ear infections that caused me to lose about 40% of my hearing.  It turned out to be a blessing in many ways as I learned to watch what people do and not evaluate based on hearing.  God was developing a type of discernment at an early age.

I’ve recently been disappointed and downright hurt by the church I joined two years ago.    I understand the lack of pastoral care they don’t exhibit.  They are more a teaching church, a school.  I feel like no one knows if I attend services or notices if I do not attend. It is a feeling that rubs old wounds.  I’ve prayed to be healed of that spirit of rejection and still the nasty thing persists.  God tells me I’m His and that He loves me despite my flaws.  I don’t want to look to people for validation.  My past has shown me that i will always be disappointed if I look there.  People are human just like me and flawed just like me.  But God is true and His promises are to be relied upon.  Still it hurts and i don’t want it to.

Today I read a devotional that explained so much about why God has placed me where I am at this time.  It said:  “Walk by faith, not by sight.  As you take steps of faith, depending on God, He will show you how much He can do for you.  If you live your life too safely, you will never know the thrill of seeing God work through you.  When God gave you His Spirit, He empowered you to live beyond your natural ability and strength.  That’s why it is so wrong to measure your energy level against the challenges ahead of you.  The issue is not your strength by God’s, which is limitless.  By walking close to God, you can accomplish His purposes in His strength.” (From Jesus Calling by Sarah Young)

I went back to work full-time when I did not want to do that because I felt like God wanted me there.  I’ve struggled to find my pace and adapt. I’ve struggled to find the energy to walk through each day.  I left my family because our life views were in such conflict.  I’ve never been on my own before but I felt like God wanted me to leave.  I’ve been through a serious illness, said good-bye to my dog of ten years, said good-bye to my grandson and now one of my Spiritual mothers  is dying of brain cancer.  Through it all, God has never left my side.  His spirit has shown me so much and is responsible for the change in me.  Every morning I wonder what will happen today.  What new thing will He show me?

I don’t have all the answers.  I’m flawed.  But I have hope and I have a promise and that is enough.

 

#150- Tribute to Eli- Tears in Heaven

I’m not a public speaker and despite having a career requiring me to often publicly speak, I confess that I’ve never gotten over stage fright.   I was encouraged when I learned that Moses from the Bible also suffered from stage fright.  God gave Moses a man named Aaron to help him speak to the people.  Well, I’m not Moses and I don’t have an Aaron so I hope you will give me grace as I try to share with you the Eli I knew. 

I’ve heard it said that it takes a village to raise a child.  Eli was such a child.  I’m honored to have been one of Eli’s four grandmothers.  As a very young child, Eli was creative, imaginative, strong and loving and these traits followed him into young adulthood. He had a charismatic personality and was often the leader amongst his peers.

One of funniest memories I have of Eli’s childhood is the story of the tooth fairy.  All of the kids had reached that age where it seemed like someone had a loose tooth and then with help it became the tooth under the pillow for the tooth fairy to come and replace with money.  As the kids were talking among themselves about the tooth fairy, Eli announced that he had seen the tooth fairy.  It amused me and I asked him, well what did she look like.  Eli began to describe a creature that resembled Disney’s Tinker Bell.  I asked him if he was describing Tinker Bell and he said, no the tooth fairy was much plumper and could do more stuff!  The picture I got was a fat Tinker Bell with Super Hero powers.

I remember when the kids were in elementary school and had to undergo state testing in order to be promoted to the next grade.  The kids were all quite anxious about passing the test.   The school held conference like workshops for the parents and students to help prepare the kids.  Eli’s teacher told me that Eli was not working to his best potential and that he needed to add more details to his writing to pass the test.  Afterwards we talked about the issue.  I told Eli that I knew that he could do it.  He had the largest and most vivid, creative imagination that I had ever seen.  Especially those times when the kids were up to shenanigans, Eli could take any story and with his imagination totally develop an entire story line worthy of a Hollywood block buster movie. Now sometimes that gifting made it difficult on his “village” to maintain truth and discipline, but it was a sign of Eli’s capacity to imagine a future and to have hope.

Eli was not perfect; none of us are.  Eli made poor choices, mistakes; we all do.  Eli and I began to write each other letters in 2017 while he was incarcerated at the Clark County jail in Indiana.  Eli was arrested for driving under the influence.  I want to share some excerpts from the letters he wrote to me.

Dear Mama,

Hey, thank you for taking the time to write me back.  Your letter is truly one of the most beautiful things I’ve read in quite some time.  Th words you wrote were both encouraging and tender-hearted, and they rejuvenated my spirit.  I’m very happy to hear that you have given your life to Christ.  It is the single most important thing we can do in this existence because not only can we connect and develop an understanding of the God that created us, but we can also live in His Will and love that he has predestined for us since the beginning.  We have everlasting life with Jesus and forgiveness of our sins.  He helps us to be better people and have inner peace.  I’ve been reading the Bible for some time now and I am starting to realize these things for myself.  You are absolutely right about me not being a finished work.  With a humble heart I venture on towards the calling that God has for my life.  I am truly sorry for my mistakes and I want to never repeat them.  I love and miss everybody dearly and hope that everyone can forgive me.  I want to be a better man and bring joy and honor to my family and not shame and pain.  

Most of my days are full of self loathing and regret but I know I have to move forward to make way for a better future.  I’ve decided that I will no longer get drunk.  That decision is a powerful move towards my goal.  God even warns against such a thing.  It seems that many of my issues and troubles have come from this over overindulgence.  

I recently took my GED test and hopefully I passed it.  I understand what you mean about all those negative feelings.  I’ve let them run my self-esteem into the ground.  This is actually one of the reasons I came to Christ.  I was broken and needed healing and cleansing.  I agree with you that life is not easy even after giving your life to Jesus.  That is why it is important to be rooted deeply in Christ’s teachings and to operate out of the fruits of the spirit:  love, patience, joy, peace, gentleness, long-suffering, humility and things like these.  It is easier said than done, I know.  We aren’t perfect after all like you said.  Your testimony is empowering and speaks to my heart.  Mama, your words have been precious to me as you have spoken many true things and you have brought me much joy.  I want to thank you.  I love you and miss you with all my heart.

With much love,

Eli

There are tears in Heaven but unlike the tears on earth, they are happy tears because Eli is home.  As we all grieve over the loss of such a beautiful young life and with so much potential and as many of us face our own regrets and mistakes; our own “what ifs” and “could of”,  “should of”.  Lets stop and consider, Eli was determined to turn his life around.  He said, “I know I have to move forward towards a better future”.  How can we do anything less?

#149- The phone call by Walking out of darkness into the Light

January 22, 2019, I got a phone call around 8 p.m.  It was one of those phone calls no one ever wants to get.  The voice on the other end was sobbing and I could not understand what was being said.  It was my husband on the phone.  Finally he was able to sob out one word, Eli; then he said Eli was found dead next to a ravine and no one knows what happened and his body showed no evidence of trauma. My mind just froze.

Eli is my grandson but really much more than a grandson.  When he was born my step-son and his girlfriend were very young and not ready for parenthood.  The maternal grandmother brought the newborn home from the hospital and kept him until the weekend and then the baby came to stay with me over the weekend.  We developed a hand-off pattern where Sherry would keep the baby during the week and I would have him on the weekend.  Eventually the baby stayed with me during the week and the weekend.  His parents were unable to accept their role so we offered to adopt the child.  At the last moment the parents got cold feet and backed out of the adoption.

At five months of age baby Eli went to stay with his parents.  Over the years, Eli would come stay with us for weekends, and holidays.  I could not have children and having Eli awakened my desire for children.  So my husband and I became foster parents and we signed up to adopt from a private agency.  When Eli was 19 months old, a foster child was placed with us who was 13 months old.  I’ll never forget the first time Eli came over to our house and saw the new addition to our family.  Even at 19 months old, Eli was jealous of the new kid and began to try to take away the toys from the interloper.

By the time Eli was ready for kindergarten it became apparent his parents were still struggling with parenthood and Eli came to stay with us during the week to go to the local school.  By this time we had adopted the “interloper” and had adopted a second child who was 19 months younger than Eli.  When the youngest turned 5 we also took custody of Eli’s two younger brothers who were 19 months and 29 months younger than our 2nd adopted son.  So we had five boys born in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999.

The three oldest boys called themselves the 3 amigos and they were very close like brothers.  It took longer before all 5 boys bonded.  We managed the boys until Eli completed middle school. Then the 3 boy went back to live with their dad and his girlfriend.  The transition was not smooth.

I have many fond memories of those years and some that are not so pleasant.  I have more  unpleasant memories as the boys reached their teen years.  Eli had trouble with drugs and anger management issues.  Eventually he got into trouble with the law.  He had worn out the family and no one wanted to take him.  His mom was living in Indiana and she agreed to help him with a fresh start so his probation was transferred to Indiana.  Then Eli got into more trouble with the law in Indiana and ended up being incarcerated.  He was old enough to be treated as an adult.  He was able to get into a rehab program rather than serve jail time.

While he was in the program for about two years which included the jail time served we began to correspond.  I poured out my life story to try to show Eli that you have to let go of the pain of the past and look forward.  We talked about God, faith and having a living relationship with God.  Eli told me he has accepted Christ into his life.  Eventually his rehab program moved him to a halfway house, helped him find a job and move out to his  own place.  He had a cyst on his back at the end of his spine and the doctors removed it but left a drain in.  He was given pain pills.  Over 2 years he had been clean and the pain pills after surgery re-awakened his addiction.

We learned that he had been kicked out of two apartments from stealing medication from roommates so then he moved in with a work buddy.  The work buddy was a heroin   addict and Eli had tried the new drug.  The police are investigation but think Eli overdosed on heroin and his body was dumped next to the ravine and that he had been dead for 24 hours before he was found.

Now the dysfunctional family interactions commence.  My heart is breaking.  Such a beautiful like.  Such a senseless death.

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148- Feeling better, at last. By Walking out of darkness into the Light

What I’m planning is not a race. It is for once choosing life.

I’m on the mend, thank you Jesus.  I still easily fatigue and I gasp and wheeze like a freight train going up hill and my blood sugar is off the charts, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I may have turned into a germaphobiac along the way.  I managed to ride the stationary bike twice at work.  The first time I only lasted eight minutes and the second time I made it ten minutes.  We all have to start somewhere.

I never knew that high blood sugar could have so many unpleasant side-effects even though I’ve been a diabetic for over twenty years.  With this round of the flue, pneumonia and lots of steroids I found out.  There were times, I was so thirsty I could have drunk the ocean dry.  What goes in must come out was also an issue.  But what bothered me the most was the loss of mental clarity and focus and the headaches.  I’m so grateful to not wake up to readings of 450.

It may sound crazy, but this season of my life; this long period of illness brought me closer to God.  There is nothing like feeling you are on your deathbed to do that.  I’ve had so much time to think and consider my life.  I doubt I would have ever taken that much quiet, meditative time if I had not gotten sick.  I’m determined to embrace a healthy lifestyle.

I’ve tried to get healthy in the past and I’ve been successful for the short-term.  I’m determined to make the change permanent.  I refuse to put stress on myself by setting time limit goals for achievements.  It may take me years but that is acceptable.  What I’m planning is not a race.  It is for once choosing life.

#147- I did it, by Walking out of the darkness into the Light

Last night I used one of those grocery pick-up services like they show on T.V.  I wanted a sub sandwich and a Kombucha drink and I was out of bread and milk.  It was more expensive but so cool to put in an order and have it delivered to my front door.  I gave myself a treat.

Today I look at my “To-Do” list of eight items and sigh because I know my list is too long.  It’s funny how things look different in the morning.  I’m giving myself permission to tear that list in half.  If I get four of the eight items done I’ll have accomplished enough.  If I get none of the items done, that is alright too.  I go back to work tomorrow and it feels like my first day again.  I need to be as rested as possible.  I know it will be alright.

Today I need to focus on getting ready for the work week.  I want to go to church.  I have not been since the beginning of my month-long illness.  I’m not sure I can handle going across town to a two-hour service.  I want to do it but common sense is yelling in my ear. Maybe it is time to go to a neighborhood church and just enjoy worshiping the Lord.  If I went closer I would eliminate an hour or so off the drive time.

I do feel so much better today.  I’m just lacking in stamina a lot.  Yes, things do look different in the morning.; much more hopeful but with a little common sense woven into the mix.  I’m on the mend and so grateful.  Small baby steps for now.  God is good all the time.

#146 Braving Life Part II, by Walking out of the darkness into the Light

My son, my grandson, my husband and a friend of my son showed up to dig Tokyo’s grave.  They fixed it up really nice so that I can plant flowers later and see it right outside my home office window.  We all had a good cry and remembered all the funny and good things about the little dog.  The “service” wore me out and I lay down on the sofa for a rest.  Later in the afternoon I felt sharp pains in my back that radiated to my chest and my arms and legs were numb  like they had fallen asleep.

I was on the verge of dialing 911 emergency certain it was a heart attack.  Then I thought to look at the paperwork the pharmacy always gives and the warnings on the antibiotics seem to fit what I was experiencing.  I called the doctor and he told me to stop the medicine immediately that I was most likely having an adverse reaction.  He ordered a substitute medication.  I have drunk a gallon of water to try to flush it out of my system.  I only took one pill.

It seems like I’m going from one issue right into another.  I have to go back to work Monday.  I’m tired of being sick and tired of being tired and sick of TV!  I felt the Lord tell me that I will be alright.  I felt the truth.  No matter what happens, I will be ok.  It is true, God is good all the time. There will not be a part 3 to this story and if there is, it will be alright.  Thanks for all the well-wishes.  It means a lot and is very encouraging.

#145-Braving Life, by Walking out of darkness into the Light

It all started December 14th.  I caught the flu.  I’ve never been sicker.  Two weeks later I developed pneumonia.  Now in the third week of the illness, one of my dogs Tokyo went critical and I took hm to the emergency vet clinic.  Tokyo was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in September.  He rallied a little in September but did not come back to me fully.

During my illness, Tokyo began refusing to take his heart medications.  I crushed them and blended them into various foods but he always knew and would refuse the offerings.  I was so sick myself that I let it go.  It was like the dog had given up.

Tonight he go so ill gasping for breath and clearly critical.  I had a friend drive us to a pet emergency clinic, me wearing a mask since I’m still contagious.  The vet was kind but it became clear I had to let Tokyo go. He would have been 10 next month.

That is with a lot of things life throws at me.  As much as it hurts and feels like something I don’t want, I have to learn to let it go.

I’m going to miss Tokyo.  He lived a lot of life with me both the good and the not so good.