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An Open Letter to Satan

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Satan,

I see you’re doubling down on me today. You know I’ve stepped up my game, and you’re feeling the pressure, huh? You know I’ve called upon the name of the Lord to strengthen me through this darkness. You can feel the power of my prayer and the unity of my family and friends standing in prayer beside me, can’t you? I believe you’re afraid. You see, I know you had plans to win this battle, and now you’re starting to realize you won’t. So you do what you do when this happens…you double down your efforts, hoping that the constant barrage will be too much to handle. Today, you’re using worth.

Unworthy. Feelings and thoughts that I am unworthy to be a child of God. As I’m swimming through this ever-changing and never-ending sea of emotions, you’re telling me that if I were truly a child of God…if my faith was sincere…if my hope was alive…if my heart and soul completely and totally bought into the saving power of the cross…if I really believed what I say I believe…then I would not be filled with these feelings anger, rage, sorrow, sadness and solitude. So since I am right here in the midst of all those feelings, thoughts and emotions (and so many more), I am unworthy to be called a child of God. At least that’s what you’re trying to convince me of today.

You see, the mind tricks you’re trying are good. Logically, I know better. I know I am a child of God, filled with the Spirit and saved by the Son. I know my eternal home is in heaven with Him. Knowing that doesn’t change how powerful you can be in your efforts to convince me otherwise. So I commend you on your effort. Today, I am telling you Satan, you are right…to a point. But you should know something. I came prepared.

You see, I am unworthy. I have not earned God’s grace. I do not deserve God’s mercy. I am not worthy of the love poured out on the cross through Jesus for me. I am not qualified to accept the discernment of the Spirit. I have done nothing on my own to provide the hope that lives within me. The hope that is alive within me (albeit however deep it may currently be buried under the rubble of your attack) is alive because God is stronger and more powerful than you. So yes, I am unworthy. But I have been made worthy through Jesus. And I call upon His name again today…to strengthen me again today for whatever He has planned out in advance for me to endure. My hope is in the Lord.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us…For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits – we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience. In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” – Romans 8:18, 22-27

“Therefore, since we have been declared righteous through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” – Romans 5:1-5

You see, Satan, you can double down on me all you want. I may not know what to pray today, but that’s okay, because I have the Spirit of God in my corner, and He is interceding on my behalf. It’s on days like today, when you are constantly reminding me of my mistakes and short-comings…trying to keep me down by throwing my sin-filled past right back in my face…filling me with thoughts of worthlessness…that I look beyond my past and beyond these temporary emotions and remind you of the future. I belong to Jesus!! I can’t win any battle alone, and I certainly won’t win every battle I face if I face it without God, but I’m on God’s team, not yours!! We win!

In Christ’s love,

Me

The Storm Within

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It’s dark in here. The darkness is soul-piercing. It’s an evil kind of darkness, that has enveloped me. The cold that lives here in the dark is alive. It moves and sways around me. I cannot escape it, though my soul yearns for warmth and light. My mind cries out for it, and I cannot find the refuge I seek in it. The light, and the warmth it provides, has escaped me. I so desperately need your warmth and light Lord.

As I sit here in the dark, my emotions are painfully at the forefront of all I do. I do not like dealing with my emotions, and I am now swimming in a sea of them. They churn around me, tossing me to and fro, like a small boat in a turbulent ocean. They crash over me in waves, threatening to capsize me with every toss. They are never ending, and ever changing. In one moment, I’m sad and grief-stricken. In the next, I’m angry and filled with rage. In the next, I’m isolated and alone. The constant barrage is endless, always hitting me when I least expect it. Throwing me off balance in the least convenient of times.

It is wearing on me. I’m tired. Physically, I feel like I’ve run a marathon, knowing another marathon awaits me. And yet I feel somewhat catatonic. Disassociated. Like I’m walking in a fog. Apart from the reality of the life going on around me. Mentally, I’m done. Exhausted. Emotionally, I passed the point of exhaustion long ago, and yet I carry on because by your design, my emotions have to go where I go. I long for peace and cannot find it. I search for joy, and it hides from me. My mind and soul desire rest, and it escapes me at every turn. I don’t think I have much left to give. I do not want to be short-tempered and without compassion toward my children any longer. I do not want to be lacking in patience and gentleness. It’s not by any fault of theirs that I am here, and I struggle to not take it out on their precious, trusting and innocent little souls. Lord, I cannot continue on like this.

Father, you knit me together in the womb and knew me before time began. You held me when I was without form, and you made me who I am. I believe with all my soul that I am here for a reason. I do not know what that is, and I don’t think I could handle knowing it right now if you revealed it to me. But I know and believe that you have a plan for this. And for me. I know you are still working on and in me, molding me into the child you want me to be when I return home to you. I know that this life holds grief, loss, and struggles. I believe in the power of your name. I believe in the shelter and protection provided in your embrace. I believe in the grace and mercy you provide through your Son. I am not worthy of your love and affection, Lord. I ask only this Lord.

Help me to find peace within the chaos of my soul. Help me to ward off the devil, as he is so very much at the root of the evil stirring up within me. If I am to be here in this present darkness for a spell, Father please strengthen me for the journey. I pray my spiritual preparation before now is enough to carry me through. If my journey in this valley is to endure, please light a glimmer of hope within me so that I may walk toward You. Please help me to learn what you would want me to learn through this. My suffering is nothing in comparison to what you endured on the cross for me. Forgive me of my sin so that my prayer may be heard.

I draw upon your guidance, found in James 1:2-3 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” Lord, help me to find the joy you speak of. A joy I remember feeling once. A joy I know only comes through you.

Father, calm the storm within me and help me to seek you daily. I know that I am not alone, that you are carrying me. That I can find you when I stop and look. Help me to be still, Lord, and listen for you. To watch for you. To allow you to speak to me. To be still and know that you are God, and I am not. To seek your Light. For it’s only by your Light that I will be saved from this storm within.

Love,

Your faithful child and servant

Looking for Hope

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Although I cried again today just reading through my previous note, today I’m not feeling like I did when I wrote that. The weeks following the incident that started me in this crazy spiral of emotions had me feeling something different than what I feel today. For the past three days, I’ve felt a disconnect from reality, like I’m not part of what’s going on around me. I’ve had a rage filling up inside me. A rage I cannot explain. An anger that I’m finding it difficult to control. A frustration that is consuming me. I cannot get the images of that day out of my mind. But my anger is unexplainable. It’s as though I’m mad at the world…for what I don’t know. Mad at you…for something you didn’t do. Mad at myself…for feeling this way in the first place. I cannot explain why this incident is affecting me the way it is…and that angers me. It’s not the first time I’ve dealt with death on the job. I’ve held a lifeless child in my hands and not been affected like this. I’ve performed CPR on dozens of people who didn’t make it and not been affected by this. I’ve extricated people from cars who were mangled and without life and not been affected like this. Why this one? Why now? Why?

It’s only two days after the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and I’m angry at myself because what I am going through pales in comparison to what the responders and victims went through on 9/11. What I’m dealing with is not even on the same hemisphere as their pain and loss. How selfish of me to allow this incident to affect me like this. I had a good conversation with a pastor friend who reminded me that this is my own personal battle, that I have no right to try to compare it to what others face…because this is hitting me right here and right now in my world. Each person has to deal with their own, and comparing ours to theirs is not fair to us.

Yeah, okay…which hits home with me that I know all the typical answers. Logically, I know I’m going through a post-traumatic stress, triggered by this event. I know what stage I’m in. I knew what stage I was in when I wrote the above note immediately afterward. I know what stages lie ahead for me. I knew I was affected the moment I came out of the stupid hole. I knew when I sought guidance from my pastor the following day. I knew when I shared my burden with your mom. I know where I am in the progression of what I’m dealing with. What I don’t know is where to go from here. How do I carry this burden? How do I move on with my life? How do I walk through this? What good does God have in store for this? How do I get past this anger and rage to a place where I don’t feel like throwing my hammer through the wall of the house again?

I ain’t gonna lie here, child. I’m having a hard time with this. If I had known about days like today…months like this…when I signed up for this I can’t say with certainty I would have still done it. I can’t imagine pushing papers somewhere, or working a 9-5 desk job…or making widgets in a factory all night. I love what I do, and I’d go back in that cursed hole again tomorrow if someone down there needed me. I just don’t know how to get through this. I want to, and it angers me that I can’t…because I don’t want this to affect you. All I know to do is pray.

I pray that God would either lift this burden from me, or strengthen me to carry it. I pray that He guide me through this and help me move past this season. I pray that God’s will would be done through this and through my life. I pray that you don’t remember this season when you’re older. I pray this season is short. I pray that there are no more seasons like this on the horizon. I pray that if you do remember, you can forgive me for putting you through this with me…you’re the innocent victims in this…I had a choice, you did not. I pray that my words can be an encouragement to someone else…if the purpose of my burden is to help someone, then may He help me to carry and to share it. Just writing this has helped me some. I pray that when you face something similar in your own life that you struggle with (and you will), you would find some encouragement in knowing you’re not alone. Because it can feel like you’re alone. I feel isolated and alone in this. I know I’m not, but knowing that doesn’t change how I feel.

I’m looking for encouragement in the Word, and I’m moved to tears every time I listen to “Redeemed” by Big Daddy Weave. Tears of my own personal redemption. Tears of my scar being reformed. Tears of pain. Tears of hope. A hope that is only found in God.

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” – Hebrews 10:22-23

I will continue to place my faith and hope in the Lord, for I know He is faithful to see me through. I will press on, forging my way through this. And I’ll pray. Because it’s all I know to do.

Love,

Dad

Not Me

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I don’t have the strength for this; not me. Your eyes look up at me in wonder and awe, but I’m not deserving; not me. You follow me around, doing what I do, but I’m not deserving; not me. All you want from me is my time and attention, and I push you aside for others. I’m not deserving to be who God has called me to be. Stop looking up to me, because I’m not deserving. Look higher…to the only One who will never disappoint you. I don’t have the strength for this. Not me.

Love,

Dad

Tossing Rocks

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I’ve been putting a lot of thought into what my first post would be, and with the recent passing of my grandmother, I think it would be fitting to start here:

My grandmother, Lela Gertrude (Trudy) Stanley, 85, passed from this life to meet her Lord and Savior at 11:48 a.m. on Monday, February 7, 2011. I received the call on Sunday night that she was near the end of her life and would most likely not survive through the end of the week. I was on duty, and throughout the night and into Monday morning I felt an increasing need to be with her. She was my last surviving grandparent, and the regret I now face with not having spent more time getting to know each of my grandparents will be with me forever. On Monday morning, NE and I packed up and left home to drive down to Texas to be with her and my mother. Shortly after we left, we received the phone call that she had already passed away…I would not make it in time.

We continued our trip, and settled into a new “routine” for NE and I for what was the next two weeks in Texas. On the Friday following my grandmother’s death, I took NE and his cousin to a local park to play and burn off the combined energy of two 3-year old boys. There’s a small crick running through the park with a walking bridge over it to a field on the other side. It was nearing sunset, and as I was enjoying the view of the sunset on the water, the boys began tossing rocks off the bridge into the water. I’m always amazed at how much enjoyment a child can get out of what we adults see as the “mundane”. These two boys were giggling, screaming, laughing and running back and forth to toss little rocks off the bridge, and it soon began to remind me of the times I spent with grandmother collecting rocks. While my memories of her are few, I do remember several times walking through a park, along a river, through a field, in the yard with her and searching for rocks…just seeing what we could find. As the sunset cast sparkles on the water beneath us and the boys enjoyed themselves, I was filled with emotion and awe at how much pleasure can be found in such a simple act. I had a brief, passing thought as I watched, so I took out my phone and jotted down a quick thought. Over the course of the next several hours, God helped me turn that one thought into the following. I was privileged to have been given the opportunity to read it at my grandmother’s graveside service, and I pray that as you read it you find an application for the message within for your own lives.

NE and his cousin NW throwing rocks into a crick today reminds me of times spent searching for rocks with grandmother Stanley and that with each rock tossed in the water, no matter its size, the water’s flow is forever altered.

Some are very tiny in comparison to the river, and at first glance you don’t think they have much affect. They’re easier to find…one glance along the creek bed and you’ll see hundreds of them scattered about. When tossed in, they disappear quickly from view, sinking lazily to the bottom and skirting along the river bed before coming to rest somewhere downstream. While their impact alone is minimal, there is still an impact. Though not often seen by the human eye, and combined with many more of the same size, these small pebbles can alter a river’s course, even if only by inches.

The mid-sized pebbles are a bit bigger. While relatively easy to find, there are fewer of them. They fit perfectly into the hands of these two toddlers, and the right one can be perfect for skipping. When dropped in the water, they make a bigger splash, a little more noise, and a slightly larger wave. They sink quickly from view and may roll along the bottom of the riverbed for quite a distance before coming to a stop. Their impact on the water is a little easier to envision, and it takes fewer of them to change the river’s path. Many of them together can even dam the river if placed properly.

Larger, heavier rocks – boulders to these two toddlers – are harder to find. There are fewer of them, and you have to seek them out. Finding one that a toddler can actually carry down to the water’s edge is more difficult. However, once he drops that sucker in, you immediately know you’ve got something. It hits with a big “ka-thunk”, and the splash is huge! The waves ripple farther out and last longer. It sinks quickly and embeds itself in the muddy bottom. It stays right there, and the water immediately begins to curve around it. The flow of the river has immediately been changed. It will stay there until some act of God or man moves it, and even after it’s gone, it leaves a hole in the riverbed that may take years to fill. The water will continue to flow, but as it passes over the hole that’s left in the absence of the boulder, its course is still affected, albeit differently than when it was there.

The passing of my Grandmother this week reminds me that the people in our life are just like the rocks being tossed by these two toddlers. The tiny pebbles are like the hundreds and thousands of people we pass every day. The single mom with three kids in line at the grocery store. The inattentive driver who cuts us off in traffic. The couple walking hand-in-hand in the park. The countless people we pass every day, most of whom we never give a second glance, can often impact our attitude, our actions and our behaviors, even if for only one hour. Like tiny pebbles that disappear quickly from view, skipping along the riverbed, these are the people that skip through our day and our lives. Gone just as fast as they came, we don’t give them much thought once they’re gone.

The mid-sized pebbles are like our friends and acquaintances, the people that come into our life with a little more splash. They bring us fellowship and inspire us to be better people. They stay with us longer, and the impact they have on us is longer lasting. Like the perfect skipping rock, the good ones come by once in a lifetime.

The larger rocks – what are boulders to these toddlers – are like our family and closest friends. Like the rock that sinks in the river bottom, our parents, our children, our brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents and best friends influence us the most. They lift us up when we’re down, they inspire and encourage us to follow our dreams, and the imprint they leave on our lives is permanent. As our lives pass, we are forever changed by the “boulders” placed in our life. They’re harder to remove too. When they’re gone, there’s a hole that remains that will take years to fill, and yet we could go a lifetime without ever filling the void they leave.

Whether a tiny pebble or a large boulder, every toss of a new rock into the water forever changes the future of the river. Likewise, whether placed in our lives by God or through someone else’s actions, every person we encounter will forever change our lives. The life of every person we encounter, whether for a moment or a lifetime, adds meaning and character to our own. From our “boulders” we pick up some of their behaviors, their attitudes, beliefs, habits, likes and even dislikes along the way. Our “boulders” help to shape who we are and who we become. Taking a boulder out of the river of our life, be it by act of man or God, has an everlasting effect on who we are and who we become. Our life path is forever altered.

Grandmother Stanley was one of our family’s boulders. To each of us she represents something special. Each of us has our own special memories with her and with her and grandfather. They each taught us to love and respect family, because when it comes right down to the end, family is all we have. The family they raised spread their wings and grew bigger, forever altering our family tree. Trudy Stanley, though you’ve been taken from our river, the imprint you’ve left in each of us will carry on forever. The hole that has been left in your absence will never be completely filled, and we will carry and treasure our memories of you forever. We will miss you dearly. May your river now and forever flow strong in the presence of our Lord and may you and grandfather walk peacefully hand-in-hand through eternity.

As you read that, you’ll most likely begin to see who the “boulders” are in your own lives. That’s good. Knowing who they are helps you to appreciate them even more while you have them. Your mother, and each of you are “boulders” for me. You each represent a huge portion of who I am and who I’ve become after God placed you in my life. My challenge to you comes from Proverbs 18:24 “A man of too many friends comes to ruin,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” There are people out there in your world who are lonely, who need a friend…who need a “boulder” of their own. Instead of seeking to find a “boulder” for yourself, seek to become one for someone else. Ask God to show you the people around you in need of a “boulder” and then find a way to become their friend. It is then you will discover that in doing so, you’ve placed “boulders” in your own life.

More on how much I enjoyed my two weeks alone with NE to come…

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