For two years, my husband and I counted on a specific job he would go to once his current assignment ended in August of 2011. But in July of 2011, he learned that job was no longer open. For the first time since he entered the work force fifteen years earlier, he faced unemployment. And what could be a worse time than the current employment situation, his career being one of the worst for finding jobs, and a number of other factors. In addition, the lease on our house ended and we had to move. Yet I, the consummate worrier, wasn’t worried.
This has to be a first. He faced the possibility of losing his job once before, but it came to nothing, and all was secure. He didn’t work for a year and a half of law school, but, again, we had savings and other income, so we were fine. This time my writing alone was supporting us without a home, without job prospects, without family able to take us in. And still I wasn’t worried.
We packed up the house and put everything into storage that wouldn’t fit into the SUV, and drove back to Virginia. We didn’t know where we were going or on what we would live, and we knew God would care for us.
And He did. My royalty check was much higher than I anticipated. We found places to live. My husband got many more job interviews than we expected.
And at the end of October, he received an offer for a great job that took us back across country.
And then I worried.
Yes, we had to go so quickly we flew instead of driving. We needed to find a place to live. We didn’t know anyone in this new city hundreds of miles from anyone we did know.
And, again, despite my fretting, God came through with gentle reminders that He has it all under control. He brought people to us, friends of friends. He found us housing. He found someone who needed transportation in our direction who could drive our SUV for us.
This just skims the surface of God’s faithfulness to us through these past three months. Much of it I’m not free to share, as it’s too personal, and suffice it to say that we are not in debt despite all of these travels, moves, living in hotels, and flying to job interviews from California to Virginia. God provided.
Always, I’ve known worrying is wrong. God promises to take care of us. He has shown me how true that is. Though worrying is a habit difficult for me to break, I can say that I do it far less than I used to.
As a mom, I get tired of reassuring my children the same things over and over again. My “yes” is never just a “yes” until it’s confirmed at least three times. I often get frustrated with my children’s lack of faith in my word. But then I remember that I too do the same thing with God.
Why is it that in times of trouble I shout to God for a miracle? Why do I ask him to show me a sign, proof that he loves me, over and over again when he’s already done that through the sacrifice of his son? And just like I continue to reassure my children, God does the same thing for me in practical ways that assure me of his love, even when he shouldn’t have to.
I remember the morning I had missed breakfast running late for my teaching job at my children’s school. After my first class I thought I’d grab a granola bar in the snack machine, but I was five cents short. So I went to the teacher’s lounge praying there was something healthy to eat, knowing that in our small school there weren’t many days snacks were available and if they were, they were never healthy.
But I walk in and saw a basket of Clementines. (Insert BIG smile) How more practical could God have gotten for me that day?
Fast forward an hour later and I ran next door to the convenience store to grab lunch (since I didn’t have time to pack one.) While there I decided to surprise my big kids with a slushie since they were at lunch, and I grabbed a package of donuts for my youngest one. I knew this would be a huge treat for them because I avoid giving all my kids sugar at school, but I wanted them to be surprised and bless them unexpectedly.
My big boys were very surprised at the slushies, but my little ones were still in class. That is until my 9 year-old runs into the lounge frantic and says, “Mom, did you remember the cookies for the party in class today?” Nooo, I didn’t remember because every time my son reminded me we were in the car driving somewhere. But I had bought those donuts and there were only six kids in the class! The exact number of donuts. How cool was that? God provided even before I had a need!
I could list off a couple more instances of God’s practical love, maybe even more if I really thought about it. Like twenty years ago when I was working the late shift at a residential treatment center and was exhausted driving home. All I wanted was to find a parking spot in front of my apartment and go to bed. It was past midnight and I never found a spot near my apartment that late. But I prayed, really hoping God would show me his love, confirm that I was indeed important to him in this little way. And he did! Right in front of my apartment was an open spot.
I don’t know why we have this need for reassurance for God’s love, but we do. I don’t think God gives it to us every time we ask, but I do believe, when we need it most, if we just open our eyes and look around, we’ll see examples of God’s practical love!
How has God shown practical love to you?
I was nothing special. Or at least that’s what I thought. Nothing unique, nothing outstanding. Consistently second. So consistently second, my track coach nick-named me Consistently Second Cindy. It was the story of my life—never a winner, always a runner-up. In fact, my motto in my adult life became, “Almost.”
Raised in the Appalachian mountains and square in the middle of the Bible belt, church was nothing new to me. My mother brought me to church shortly after my birth. She taught me good values and the importance of prayer. As I entered high school, it was mom who said, “When you do what is right, regardless of your situation or pressures, you’ll find yourself alone at your locker more than you find yourself with friends.” Boy was she right.
My personality makeup was never a defiant child rather I was the peacemaker and peacemakers are not high on the popularity list in high school. Never-the-less, I held tight to the relationship my mother had led me to have with my Father in heaven.
I learned early on my strength to muddle through was found when I was on my knees. I said, I learned…I didn’t say, I believed. The older I grew the less I felt I’d found success. My friends were succeeding in college, getting high paying jobs, starting families and me…I was moving through life, going to college, marrying, having children, but never feeling like I’d been successful at anything.
So when my marriage to a preacher failed—when I became second place to his alcohol, I’d lost all hope of self-esteem. Still, I never stopped praying. Never stopped trusting God would help me and when He did rescue me from a terrible marriage and a bad situation, I wasn’t surprised. The problem was, I wasn’t looking at what God was doing for me, instead I was looking at my failures.
I wrote constantly. Poems, thoughts, stories, children’s plays and it never once occurred to me the theme behind every piece I penned was the unfailing love of Christ. Talk about dense. The day God took hold of my shoulders and shook me, was one Sunday morning as I taught a college-age class.
“Don’t wait until you’re 32 years old like me, to realize you need an intimate relationship with Christ. Win or lose, He is all you need.”
Win or lose…the words snapped back. He is all you need. That was the moment I realized I was a skin-deep Christian. I loved God, went to church, believed in Him but the relationship I had with Him was purely platonic. Through every hard moment of my life, I’d prayed and God had answered. He saved me countless times but all I saw were the things I’d failed to make a success. And when I finally took hold of the hand that reached out to my soul and pulled me out of the mire, I saw the success found in Him.
I suddenly saw, success was not in the titles I held or even how I raised my family, but it was in the faith I placed in Christ to pull me through. Those were the successes that counted.
Oh, I occasionally win. I won first place in the novel contest at a major writers conference but most of the time, I’m second. I’ve come to believe it’s my thorn in the flesh. Like Paul, it’s the reminder that keeps me turned faithfully to Christ so He can use me.
It never occurred to me I was anything special at all but the day I finally held up my hands and said okay to God, He made me special. After all, He’s all I need.
Success is not measured by the titles we hold, the money we make or the awards we win. Success falls in the values we carry and how we allow God to use those things through us. Success is not ours to have, but His to give and when I learned that, when I took hold of God’s hand and let Him take charge, then the success of my heart grew.
I never imagined I’d help start a successful ministry. I never anticipated God would use me to share stories that shake the heart. I never thought in a million years, success within Christ was so wonderful.
It’s not what we do for ourselves but what we do for others that is most important. And when we develop that intimate relationship with Christ, when we say “yes” to Him, our success is found in the success of others.
God knew what He was doing when He placed the words of the golden rule into scripture. Do for others the things you’d have them do for you. In other words, be a servant first then your success comes through the satisfaction of knowing God has used you.
Sometimes I still feel insignificant. Satan knows how to attack me. But it isn’t long before Christ taps my shoulder and reminds me…”You are my child. I love you. Cast all your cares on me and let me care for you.”
So, yeah…I’m pretty special, very unique and definitely outstanding. And in His eyes, I’m never ALMOST. I’m always first.
There were two more major hurdles in our way that we did not perceive. They both reminded me of the severity of the situation we were all in and that we had to continue to rely on God to see us through this.
The first was when my wife was wheeled into the operating theatre where we gave her many hugs, kisses and told her that we loved her. We said we looked forward to seeing her after the operation. What was extremely hard was walking away from the theatre doors after she was wheeled into the theatre. The reality of the situation hit us very hard. We cried again. We were rather silent on the way home. My eldest suggested we do some housework while we were waiting to hear how the operation went as a way to preoccupy our minds as we were getting very scared.
The second hurdle was when the phone rang 5 hours later. I knew it was the hospital. But I could not bring myself to answer it. Doing so would mean I had to confront and accept whatever outcome it was. It was my eldest daughter who forced me to answer it. She stated that God would give me the strength to accept whatever the surgeon had to say. This was what I needed. I suddenly felt warm, at peace, reassured and could feel His presence around us.
I picked up the phone and yes, it was the surgeon. With a pounding heart and body in full sweat, I could not believe my ears when he said the operation was a success and they had evacuated the entire haemorrhage!! I nearly dropped the phone in happiness and relief! My daughters thought it was the worst case scenario as I had not spoken, had gone pale and was staring out the window. Meanwhile the surgeon was asking me if I was still there and did I understand what he had said! This brought me to my senses and time stopped going in slow motion and I gasped and then replied to him. I thanked him immensely and hung up the phone. Many days later, we would be told by this same neurosurgeon that she was an hour away from death!
I related this to my daughters who were overjoyed and cried again! We then went to the hospital. My wife was in Intensive Care and we were only able to see her briefly.
To speed things up somewhat, my wife’s recovery was amazing. After having some short term memory loss where she did not recognise me, but did her daughters, and learning how to walk, talk, speak and to perform basic tasks such as making a cup of tea, make her bed, go through various neurological tests and pass, she was allowed home in a month. She then spent the next 6 months in rehab as an outpatient. She made great progress.
The only brain damage she had sustained was hearing loss in one ear and now has trouble remembering some things. But this is manageable and one learns to compensate for these deficients.
Now you would not know she is like this. It is not obvious. From talking to her then and now, this incident has not faltered her faith in God, nor has it faltered ours. It has only served to strengthen and deepen it. Apart from what He achieved for us on the Cross, I am ever indebted to Him for bringing us out of this dark valley, bigger, stronger, wiser and better in faith and in relationship with Him.
There have been many accounts from church members even to this day who have been blessed and strengthened by our situation and what God has done. This has all been for His glory. May He be forever praised and glorified!!
My “Frantic” Moment . . .
Why didn’t they pass? I drove five over the speed limit. The car behind me tailgated aggressively with their brights full blast in the
All I did was make a right hand turn against a red light. Perfectly legal, and at the time, there were no cars on the road except for quite a distance away to my left. I turned right and merged into the middle lane. My eyes checked the mirror and I began to drift over to the far left lane and swerved suddenly to avoid hitting a car that was in my blind spot. That’s what started it. I returned to the middle lane to wait for them to pass and they went behind me into my lane. That’s when the brights came on and my nightmare began. I sped up. They sped up. I slowed. They slowed.
My foot pressed on the gas and the speedometer needle crept upward until I was twenty over the speed limit, praying for a police officer to pull me over. As I approached a major intersection, the traffic lights turned yellow, then red. My eyes widened. I wanted to cry. What if they had a gun? What if they shot me? All the what-if’s ran through my mind. As a writer, it’s what we do best. There were three lanes and a generous left turn lane. I swerved to the left-hand turn lane. It had a large margin in case they tried to pull up beside me. My doors were locked. I double checked. I sat at the red light with my insides like oatmeal and my hands sweating over the steering wheel.
What was I going to do? Oh Lord! It felt as if a lot of time passed as I lifted my eyes to the rear view mirror to check on the car following me and my heart stopped. My breath came whooshing out between my lips as I saw a police car behind me instead of the people who meant me harm. To my right, the car that followed me sped off, tires squealing through the green light and I continued on my way to Kmart, shaken and thankful.
I came home and called the police to thank the officers who arrived just in time. I gave the crossroads and told the operator what had happened, but because of the brights, the dark night, and my panicked state I had no plate or description of the perpetrators and never saw them again. I thanked God, too, though at the time I didn’t have a full picture of who God was, but He’s been evident throughout my entire life saving me sometimes supernaturally and showing me His presence as I sought him out to fill the emptiness inside.
I grew up in an alcoholic home. My father drank heavily, and my sister, Carol, also started drinking when she was 16 and I was three years old. While my father has been passed on these last 11 years, Carol is 61 and still struggles with alcoholism.
Growing up, I was told everything was about willpower. I was taught that if I wanted something badly enough and worked hard enough at it, I could make it happen. My dad led me to believe that Carol, too, could stop drinking on her own, if she only wanted to. She almost died once, and landed in the hospital many times throughout her life.
Jesus took my heart on March 5, 1997 and my life has never been the same since. Even when all I can pray is “Please God” I know He hears.
It wasn’t until I joined Al-Anon this past year that I really understood Carol has a disease. I had to forgive her, and my father, for all the past and just love her through anything that might happen now or in the future. Alcoholism is indeed a “cunning, baffling, and powerful” illness – only basically controlled by never taking the first drink, which is simple but not easy.
This past week, during Christmas season, which can be difficult and stressful under the best of circumstances but can be especially tough for an alcoholic, my sister relapsed after almost two years of sobriety. She didn’t tell me, but I could hear it in her voice on the telephone. Then, I couldn’t get in touch with her at all this weekend. She wasn’t answering her cell phone or land line, and wasn’t returning messages.
Never before have I relied on the Serenity prayer so much. I prayed, over and over: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” One day at a time, one minute at a time, I went through the motions of this past weekend and put the care of my sister in the hands of a mighty God. Finally, she called back Monday and said she had been depressed the past few days and had not answered any calls. I talked to her for a while until I felt certain she was all right.
When I spoke with her this morning, she sounded much stronger, and even looked forward to our Christmas Eve gathering. This may not seem like much but these are miracles of the heart. See, before I might have been confrontational. I might have even asked directly if she had been drinking. But that’s not my business anymore. My job is to take care of myself and to love her as best I can. She has an illness kept in remission only by abstinence. I have an illness too that is kept in check by attending meetings and talking with my sponsor.
Prayer works. God always answers. Maybe not always the way we want Him to, and not in the time we would like, but He walks us through, because He loves us more than we could ever imagine.
It was December 2009 and after five years of painstakingly getting out of bed early to put words to paper, my 365-page devotion book was complete. I admired my own craftiness. The ability to rediscover so many stories during my life and place them in the form of devotion in such a unique fashion was sheer brilliance… to my pea-brain anyway!
I thought this book was going to grant the freedom from my day job. I would quit and become Jerry Jenkins, traveling the world sharing witty stories. But God’s plan is often very different from man’s.
My quick search for publishers led me to a small website called Christian Devotions Ministries. The site led me to the “Write for Us” link and I immediately began altering one of my five-star devotions. After a quick alteration to meet the word count requirement, I pressed send. I knew stardom was close at hand.
One-week later, I received a warm email from a sweet southern gal named Cindy. She said my devotion “showed promise…”
Wait, what was that again? My devotion showed promise? This was my All-Star devo! What did “showed promise” mean?
As I continued to read the note, she explained a couple errors that were contained in my writing and attached her ideas. With fingers trembling, I opened the attached file. To my horror, there were more red splotches than black. I closed the document and gazed at the file containing my book, the same file that contained hours of labor, deliberation and Bible study.
“No publisher in their right-mind would choose to publish this.”
I sat in self-pity; five years of work now needed a complete makeover.
“God, why?” I didn’t know what else to say.
A few weeks later, I felt another tapping on my shoulder.
“Go open your email.”
It was New Years Day, a time for my family to hang-out, play games and eat lots of food. I didn’t have time for this, but I was pulled to my computer. The inbox flashed with a new message from Christian Devotions Ministries. The daily devotion was written by Eddie and Cindy, the co-founders of the ministry.
“God, I don’t have time for this.”
But I couldn’t force my eyes from the screen as the joy contained in the devotions poured into my broken heart. They spoke of goals, prodigals and God’s will.
I opened a new message directed to Cindy and typed something very simple, “Thank you for your encouraging words. I will be sharing this with my friends.”
A few hours later, I received this back: Wow Scott, Thank you so much. The ministry is to spread the word of God through encouragement and hope. Occasionally, it’s nice to have someone else verify that we’re doing the right things. Thank you so much. How would you like to join us on our He Said/She Said radio show tonight at 7 EST and tell our listeners how the devotions have impacted you? It would be a great start to the New Year. It’s a real invitation to join Eddie and me on our He Said/She Said radio show. It’s just a phone call for you. Will you join us? Cindy Sproles
My mind swam. “Wow! I can’t believe what I’m reading. But I don’t have time for this, its New Years! But what if this is what you want, God? Are you showing me a way to talk about my book? Is it actually better than what I think? But what if this brings more embarrassment than good? You are going to have to tap my shoulder again, because for now, I’m going to pretend like I never received this.”
I closed my computer. For two hours I helped in the kitchen and played games with the kids, but my mind kept returning to the email. I found myself again sitting in front of my computer crafting a response to accept the invitation.
I talked for 30-minutes with Eddie and Cindy on their program and later after the show, God talked to them about me. Today my book still sits on my computer desktop. I look at it every now and then to remind me that I still have work to do. But God’s timing is perfect and for some strange reason, He didn’t want my book to be published yet. God’s plan was for me to host a radio show… me, a guy with no experience.
That was two years ago and I’ve been at the helm of Christian Devotions Speak UP ever since. Psalms 20 says:
May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God.
Remember that God is control. Submit to His will and walk through the door He opens. Keep your eyes peeled, for the door might not be the one you desire, but the one He desires for you.
I’d been a Christian since I was eight years old, but God’s power truly showed up in my life 25 years later. I was in the hospital for surgery I’d had multiple times in the past due to a chronic condition. But when I woke up this time, I was paralyzed on my left side.
After years of physical, occupational and speech therapy, I had regained a lot of abilities previously taken for granted, but still couldn’t work or live on my own. Consequently, I was angry, resentful, and bitter at the surgeon, feeling that my life had no purpose anymore. The worst part though was my anger at God. After all, He’s all-powerful, so why didn’t he prevent it?
I buried my emotions for years until, one day, I blew up at two of the people I most loved and who had taken care of me the whole time–my parents. I was still dependent on them which made it worse, as I couldn’t escape and pretend it hadn’t happened.
It took many months of therapy, working through grief over everything I’d lost, and “yelling” at God when I spoke to Him, But over time, I came to realize that God hadn’t taken away my purpose in life and he hadn’t rid me of the ability to help others, He had simply changed what that would look like. So my “job” became trying to figure out what He wanted me to do now. That, in turn, required praying more and asking for guidance as to where to look. And that he would help me recognize the opportunities he set in front of me.
When circumstances come into your life that you can’t understand, talk to God. Be honest with Him. He already knows what you think and feel. And persevere. in His time, He’ll answer and, though the answer may surprise you, it’s His plan will be the best in the end.