"Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I fear no man

But give me a spider....and I'm on lockdown.

I'm not sure where my fear came from...but it is abundant and HUGE. In my younger days I'd just leave a room if I saw a spider.
After I was married, when my husband who was in the Navy would leave for his 3 month tour on a Boomer, when I'd find a spider, I'd call one of my neighbors or just any person off the street to come kill it.
My heart would race, blood pressure would rise so quickly that my head would start hurting, I'd start hyperventilating and nearly pass out when I saw a spider.
But my oldest son helped me get a little past that fear. It was his junior or senior year in high school. He was sitting on the couch and called for me. I should have known something was up when I saw the quirky smile on his face. He said, "You might want to kill that spider." I think I jumped as I followed his eyes to the curtains. It probably wasn't a HUGE spider, but in my memory it was gargantuan.
The fear of spiders is only overtaken by the need to protect my children. I sacrificed life and limb to kill that spider...all along in the very back recesses of my mind I'm thinking, why did Chris call me in for this...why didn't he get up and rescue me from this monster...why is he sitting on the couch laughing at me. My two other children came in (they had already gone to bed.) They are laughing too.
Unknown to me at the time, I was screaming....as I destoyed this spider that has grown in my mind to be handsized.
My children laughed at me as I put my life in danger to protect them.
I fear no man...the Bible says "The Lord is my Light and Salvation, in whom should I fear?" "What can mere men do to me?"
I've searched the Bible and NO WHERE does it say I shouldn't fear spiders. I know it says that we would have authority of all animals....but it doesn't mention spiders.
Now that I live by myself, I've had to be strong and courageous. I've had to swallow my fear and fight these creatures.
Not too long ago, I walked out of my house and walked right into a HUGE spider web. When I saw a chunk of something climbing up my arm, I ran back into the house. My daughter Melissa was spending the weekend with me and she was sitting on the couch...
laughing at me

as I screamed.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I'm not sure I want to know why

Last week, a state trooper was killed in Asheville by a man whose past is in pages of felonies, misdemeanors and jail time.

It was just a traffic stop.

It was...as all killings are...unnecessary. The trooper was a young man... with a wife.... and a son, who was born 7 weeks premature... and that baby is now on life support in the same hospital the daddy he will never know died.

I know this woman's heart. Any woman who has birthed a child, knows the pain of this mother. Any woman who has lost her spouse tragically, knows the pain of this wife. Any person who has a heart, knows the brokeness of this family....of the friends and co-workers of this family.

When I heard about this death, I cried. I know...seems I cry about everything. But I cried because it could have been my son. I cried because it could have been another someone I loved. I cried because the pain in my heart for this family whom I do not know, was real.

I'm stunned that life seems so insignificant to some people. That trooper, that father, that husband, that son, that friend, that brother, that uncle was living...and now there is no breath...and yet, there seems to be no remorse...and this man who is in jail now feels he had the right to end a life to secure his freedom.

I will probably never meet this trooper's family...but for reason's only God knows, I grieve with them.

I struggle to understand why murder is so easy....and living through grief is so hard.

Monday, June 23, 2008

After a While

After a while, you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,

And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning
And company doesn't mean security,

And you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts
And presents aren't promises,

And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open,
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,

And learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans,
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.

And after a while, you learn,
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.

So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure...
That you really are strong
And you really do have worth
And you learn and learn...
With every good-bye you learn.

By Veronica A. Shoffstall

Saturday, June 21, 2008


As I begin the striving toward becoming a woman after God, and aligning my heart with what God wants my desires to be, several things have happened.

I realize I'm in prayer 24/7. I talk with God all the time. I ask advice, and have to ask for forgiveness on the road when there are stupid drivers ahead of me. Forgive me God for calling one of your children stupid. See...I'm a total work in progress.

Thursday night is my late work night. I usually get home about 10 p.m. after being at work from 8 a.m. I do take about 2 hours during the day for a break.

Anyway, two people came up to me on Thursday night and thanked me for what I do. That hasn't happened in a long time. These random people....bringing random comments to bless my heart and help me through the long hours. I smiled and thanked God...because it's only through him that I can get the energy just to stand upright.

God is so good to bring angels my way when I get weary. Last night I was talking to a friend. She said some mighty strong beautiful words to me...and I was taken aback by what she sees in my Christian Walk.

She sees the woman I say I want to become. In my own self-inflicted prison of doubt, I see my short-comings...but she said that's not what she sees. She sees a woman who desires that God be everything in her life. It's been a while since I've been speechless....and I was. Wow...

This morning, getting ready to start scraping popcorn ceiling in my condo, a thought just scurried through my mind. God is allowing me to get the strokes of love and acceptance... because there is going to be a time of trial and tribulation...and I need to rest now, because the fighting is going to begin.

But that's okay. I need to be sure I have the full armor of God...and am wearing it. Plus I believe it's Isaiah 52:12, God says he's our rear guard.

My prayer and request is that you pray for me. I am one of God's beloved...and He will take care of me...but I need your prayers to see me through.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


As a little girl, my mother said when I’d get in trouble; I’d put up my fists and dare her to spank me. And so goes my life.

I was everybody’s victim. So God had his hands full with me! It took Him thirty years to get me to put my fists down and trust Him to protect me.

My three children and I had been terrorized by a man that I had invited into our lives. I lived in fear for our lives. Numerous occasions he had tried to break-in our home…numerous occasions I’d call the police…numerous times, the police dismissed it as not so serious. But I am telling you, I was immobilized with fear.

Because of being terrorized by this man, on that particular night of April 23, 1984, I had taken my children to a safe place and was home alone. I had not read my mail in days…trying to be on guard twenty-four seven had left me paranoid.

That night by myself, trying to stay awake and wile away the hours I picked up a letter that my sister had written. She said she was so sorry that I was having such terrible problems. She knew that I had been searching for someone to love me, and that the loves of my past had turned out so uncomfortably dangerous. Her letter was full of love and encouragement. She wrote, “Ouida, I know you’ve been searching for love…let me tell you about a man who has loved me for 15 years….and even with everything that has happened to you…He loves you, too.”

With love entwined in every word, she told me how Jesus would love me…how He would comfort me and be by my side everyday and night. He would never leave me to fight for myself…instead, He would fight for me. She wrote, you Ouida have to acknowledge that you cannot save yourself…You, Ouida have to ask God to take all the bad things you’ve done … ask God to forgive you of those things and allow Him to be your Lord… let Him come into your heart.

I didn’t know what to do…but I had seen on TV that when someone prayed, they would get down on their knees on the side of their bed, with their hands like this…and would say words. And I did….

I closed my eyes….and 23 years later I can still feel what happened to me as I raised my chin up…eyes closed to the ceiling and said “God I don’t know who you are, but I want to love you. I don’t know how you can…but I want you to love me too.” At that moment…I felt from my toes to my head….it was like a layer of dirt and filth was gently being pulled off of me…

Living such a rough life, going to places no decent person would go, hanging with the wrong people, doing things that seems like another lifetime ago….God pulled that filth…anxiety, anger off of me

And that thirty year old woman who thought she was unlovable and unloved became a new woman. That very moment, I knew something had changed…I didn’t know what…but the room was brighter and I felt lighter…and suddenly I realized for the first time in my life…

I wasn’t afraid.

That’s what being forgiven feels like. Life is brighter….your step is lighter… and fear leaves AS faith walks in.

God is a Father who loves with unlimited love…a Father whose patience is inexhaustible; a Father who is eager to have fellowship with us; A father who focuses on us and our position as His children…not on our sins. A Father who rejoices when we turn to Him from our sin…whether it be one single act or a lifetime of rebellion….

Not all of us grew up with loving earthly fathers. Sometimes it’s hard to grasp the concept of a forgiving father…when you’ve been beaten by your own father…when you’ve been ignored by your own father….when you’ve been forgotten by your own father.

I knew at that moment I asked Jesus into my heart….that I was forgiven. I had no doubt…I raised from the side of my bed a new creature…. and that I did have a loving Father who was going to be for me.

My daughter, Melissa, sings “Alabaster Box” and the following verse means more to me especially because of the lifestyle I have come from:
I can't forget the way life used to be
I was a prisoner to the sin that had me bound
And I spent my days
Poured my life without measure
Into a little treasure box
I thought I found
Until the day when Jesus came to me
And healed my soul with the wonder of His touch
So now I'm giving back to Him
All the praise He's worthy of
I've been forgiven and that's why
I love Him so much

We even see God’s forgiveness in acts of our forefathers. Abraham Lincoln was asked how he was going to treat the rebellious southerners when they had finally been defeated and returned to the Union of the United States. The questioner expected that Lincoln would take vengeance…instead Lincoln answered, “I will treat them as if they had never been away.”

That’s what forgiven feels like. When you ask forgiveness in Jesus name, acknowledging you are a sinner…acknowledging you cannot save yourself and ask Jesus to be your Salvation…immediately, God takes you into his arms and acts like you had never been away. He loves you and dotes on you and is waiting on you to admit you need Him.

That’s what forgiven feels like. It feels like you’ve always been loved.

After the first couple years of being a Christian, joining a great church in Shreveport, LA and getting involved with any and every program…even starting a program like Big Brothers/Big Sisters….something didn’t feel quite right.

My relationship with my parents was strained to say the least. I started getting angry. I was barely able to tolerate being with them. They had been a great help to me when my husband left. They supported me and my 3 children, they helped as much as they could…and yet, I had this righteous indignation that I deserved more than that.

Mom and Dad rarely entered the church. Mom was always afraid everybody would talk about her, and later in life I found out that Dad never felt worthy….but this particular night, my oldest son was in a play at church. I invited Mom and Dad to come, and to my surprise they did. After the play, the pastor got up and began to talk about asking for forgiveness and forgiving others. I became the pious holier than thou Woman of God. I sat in my seatliterally thinking…well NOW God is going to get them. Well….Lessons from God are unforgettable, you know.

As I said those words in my head…there was another voice there. Oh it was my voice…but that voice had wisdom and was so loud I thought it was audible. I literally looked around when I heard “No, Ouida, it’s you who needs to ask for forgiveness…it’s you who needs to ask them to forgive you.”

Well…I never….I was the victim here…and me? Ask my parents who treated me so horribly…me ask them to forgive me?

I never heard another word the pastor said. I was embroiled in a drama that would take three full days to get past to the other side. In my head I said “I don’t know how to forgive. And immediately the answer was “Prayer and Fasting.”

This body had never fasted…prayer I could do…fasting? Well…here I am a young Christian…never had read about fasting…didn’t know the guidelines.

By George…I was going to fast. And I did. No one…not my children, not my co-workers…no one knew I was fasting. I really didn’t know that was the way to do it…but you know what…when God’s involved and guiding you…you can’t help but get it right. When God’s involved you don’t need a self-help book on fasting. For three full days, I fasted from food and water.

Each night after the kids were in bed, I prayed and asked God to show me His truth about forgiveness. I hungered to know His solution. By the 3rd day, I was rather weak…not having water… bless my heart. After the kids went to bed, as I did in the beginning and as I do now when I really need to have an answer…

I got on my knees beside my bed and asked God to help me. Teach me. Lead me. Show me.

No answer. So, I got up, sat on my bed and went to the concordance of my Bible and started reading every verse that had Mother or Father in it. Nothing…nothing nothing. And you know how many verses have the word Father in them? Then I found a verse that said Father and Mother. Psalm 27:10 As I read….my heart melted: “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD cares for me.”

When you get a word from God… there’s no explaining to be done…you just know what He is saying to you.

And I did…no matter what my parents did or didn’t do…it didn’t matter…All that mattered was that God loved and cared for me. But then the “knowing” in my head went even further. God loved my mother and father as much as he loved me. This verse was for them too…

I fell prone to the floor and wept. My parents were God’s children, too…no matter what they had done or not done…no matter what they had said or not said…that didn’t matter. What mattered is that I treat them with respect and love… the same way I’d treat the pastor of my church…they same way I’d treat the President of the United States.. The way I’d treat another child of God.

That’s what forgiveness feels like. It’s a knowing that nothing matters except you and your relationship with your Heavenly Father.

With sharp words and shameful actions we can deeply hurt someone, but in 1 John 1:7 we read, “but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

I went to my mother and father separately and asked them to forgive me. I wanted to love them the way God loved them. My father cried…my mother just shook it off like my words were ridiculous. The command I got was to love them…past present and future….and I did and I have.

On November 7, 1996, my dad at the age of 82 had his 2nd by-pass surgery. Before he went to have surgery he told my brothers that he loved them and that they needed to take care of their mother. He told my mom to depend on my brothers and that he loved her.

My dad told me…. "Baby, I love you and I’m so proud of what you’re about to do.”

Dad died from complications of surgery early the next morning. I don’t know what God gave my dad a glimpse of…I don’t know if dad just got mixed up in his words…but I do know that I had an earthly father that without forgiveness would have been separated from me… my dad’s words gave me a future and a hope…. Just like my Father in heaven’s words that said in Jeremiah 29:11 “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

No regrets…….that’s what forgiveness feels like.

You would think after the lesson I learned about forgiveness, it would have been easy for me to learn the next lesson…but no…remember, I’m the girl with the fists up…my name “Ouida” means “warrior women” and so everything that is taught to me…has to be a struggle. I constantly ask God to sand down those corners…He begins, then I have to back up…because when you say “God, change me” He will!

Dr. Johnny Hunt was leading a revival at my church in Shreveport, and he was talking about forgiveness. You see, God is never through with us…He continues to hone and prune us until He sees His Son in our actions.

Dr. Hunt asked if there was someone in the past that we needed to forgive. Nope…not me…I’m done. And then…my ex-husband’s face flashed across my mind. I remember thinking “OH NO…NOT HIM.”

Oh Yes…him. My ex-husband had rededicated his life to Christ about 6 years after our divorce, had been through seminary and was now filling the pulpit of a church. I remember how angry I got that he was going to share the same heaven with me. You see…God STILL had a lot of work to do!

Because my ex-husband’s actions toward his children had not changed…He still didn’t call them, he still didn’t pay them any attention…to me, nothing had changed. I held this anger toward him…my children were missing out and he was too. I remember telling my pastor, I don’t even know where to begin trying to forgive him.

Well…all we have to do is ask God where to begin.

I was reading the Bible through that year and two days later, turned to Philippians. I began to read the first chapter and read these words beginning in verse
12Now I want you to know, brothers that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
15It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.[c] 18But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,

You see…again I say…when God gives you the answer, there’s just a knowing…. I realized that very moment, that if my ex-husband was preaching…and one person was led to Christ…nothing else mattered. God was in control and me letting loose of the unforgiving spirit would turn out…for my deliverance. Paul said “What does it matter???”

It doesn’t!

That’s what forgiveness feels like. It feels like letting go of the hate, discord, envy, jealousy…and giving it to God. Forgiveness feels like a real breath of fresh mountain air.

Charles Stanley, in his book “Forgiveness” says that you know you have forgiven someone when:
1. Negative Feeling disappear.
2. We find it easier to accept the people who have hurt us without feeling the need to change them
3. Our concern for the needs of the other individuals will outweigh our concerns about what they did to us

God forgives us.
We forgive others.

There’s one more step to forgiveness. As you can tell, I illustrate these points with my personal walk. My story is the only story I can tell. I can look in the Bible and read what happened to our brothers and sisters of the past…but I didn’t live then…I only read about them. My story…is the way I walk with God. My story is the way I see God. My story…is my testimony.

This next step of Forgiveness is hard for me to even vocalize. It is embarrassing, humiliating and most of all….it’s true.

After I had been walking the narrow pathway of my Christianity… practically walking on water, a man appeared. No really…he jumped on my desk at work and asked if I would go out with him. These are the things I knew about him:
I knew he wasn’t completely divorced from his wife.
I knew he wasn’t a Christian
I knew he didn’t lead a good life.

These are the things I thought I could bring to the relationship:
Purity in Christ
And maybe…just maybe my goodness would change him.

Everything I thought was erased the moment we decided to be a couple. We dated for two years. During those two years, my whole life became unstable. During those two years, I became dishonorable and impure. During that time, I gravitated down… but my friend stayed the same….

One day, he left…he told me that he thought I was different than most women…but in the end, I was just the same…and all my compromises…all my two years….everything fell on top of my head. And once again…I wept.

It takes just a moment to realize your sin…sometimes it takes a lifetime to forgive yourself.

During those two years of my relationship, I continued to go to church,. I knew my children needed it… :-)

I studied and became a literacy teacher. My first student was a street preacher named Ollie. Ollie, the biggest man I’ve ever known. He loved God’s word and he loved to teach God’s word. He could quote any verse in the Bible…and even tell you the address of the verse….but he could not read. I was given the privilege of not only teaching him to read, but the honor of getting to know him.

What a man of God. He was the greatest man I’ve ever known. He and his wife trusted God to the point of quitting his high paying state job, and him relying on God to provide. Ollie trusted and God did just what He said He would do.

About a week after my boyfriend left the relationship, I had my appointment with Ollie. I wasn’t in the mood to teach anything to anyone. I was licking my wounds. Half-heartedly I went to class with him.

He asked me what was wrong…and the typical response of ‘nothing’ came out. But then….and this really happened…. The room grew dim, but Ollie had this circle of light around him. He pointed his finger and said “Do you see that chair?” We were in a Sunday school classroom, so there were chairs everywhere. I looked around to my left….and there was one chair. He said “God told you to sit there and wait until your mate came. But you got up and moved and while you were gone, your husband passed by. "

I had never told Ollie about my relationship…but I know that somewhere, God had given him the discernment to say exactly what I didn’t want to hear.

I left that room…. Broken… and like the beginning of my story …unforgiveable….

I wish I would tell you it was a magic moment, when I finally forgave myself. But it wasn’t. I wish I could tell you that the wounds are gone…but they aren’t…. I have scars. All I know is that God is true to His Word, and when I laid on the side of my bed, sobbing and asking God to forgive me… He did.

Being forgiven has nothing to do with feeling forgiven.

If you feel shame for your past…and even today ashamed of your yesterday…or your last night…I bring you good news

God is in the forgiving business. You are being deceived if you think God cannot forgive you.

1 Timothy 1:15-16….

15Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

Even Paul thought he was the worst of sinners. But it is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…that’s me… that’s you. God forgives you the minute you ask…and saying that God can’t is first…calling God a liar, and second, putting yourself in a self-imposed prison called pride.

I have always felt like the woman at the Well. I just knew no one had sinned as badly as I had. Even after I was saved, I struggled with the fact that I had done so many bad things as a Christian, that even though God said He forgave me…He really couldn’t…

That’s pride…and it stinks. It stinks on God’s altar and it stinks in our hearts. God’s words are true and cannot and should not be mocked. If He says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” then that’s what He did.

It took me several years to work through forgiving myself. It wasn’t easy. One day…without anything else on my mind but to study to teach a Sunday School lesson. At first, I thought these verses just appeared for my sake—and in my excitement telling my friends who would said, ‘yes I love that chapter; and me thinking…no wait…it was never in the Bible until I needed it”….… We women love this chapter… but men…God wrote this for you, too.

Listen to the words of our Lord—beginning in Isaish 54:4:

"Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
5 For your Maker is your husband— the LORD Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.
6 The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit— a wife who married young, only to be rejected," says your God.
7 "For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
8 In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you," says the LORD your Redeemer.
9 "To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again.
10 Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,"says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

That’s what forgiveness feels like. Forgiving ourselves…because God forgives us. We should never forget the lessons we learn through those rough times…because we can use them to help others who get trapped in the same sin—but we need to take ourselves off the whipping post…swallow our pride, and move on.

God loves you. God loves you God loves you. Ask Him to forgive you and He will. Ask Him to show you how to forgive others and He will…Ask him to help you forgive yourself…He will. For a brief moment, it will be uncomfortable… but with everlasting kindness, He, Your Redeemer will have compassion on you.

Learning new lessons from God isn’t easy…but it’s easier than not living in the freedom that God offers. Those who are free in Christ…are free indeed.

We crawl across the barrenness of our lives and ask God to fill our empty cups…uncertain if we should even ask for any small drop of refreshment…if only we knew God better ….we’d come running with a bucket.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I was on vacation last week. My girlfriend Denise and I take a week each year to have our Jubliee week. Her son is at camp, and of course, all my children are grown. So we rest in God's lap and ask Him to show us, lead us, guide us to the next step up our mountain.

This time, He told us that if we would pray the desires of our heart, that He would answer.

Sounds simple.

It isn't.

We began to ponder, what REALLY is the desire of our hearts. Our desires must line up with God's desires for us....so we prayed, God what is YOUR desire for my heart?

To our surprise it took a while to get there. Denise realized her desires....but I struggled. What is the true desire that God wants me to have? Take care of my children and grandchildren...yes....watch over my family members...yes....keep me secure and safe....yes.....BUT WHAT IS GOD'S DESIRE FOR ME?...Which should be my desire.

I went back to the beginning. As a baby Christian at 30 years old, what did I want most in my Christian walk?

I remember.... looking back at journals, remembering the footpaths I had walked...

my desire was/is/will always be to be a woman after God's heart. To walk blamelessly and help the people who have already received salvation, but need help staying the course.

I'm such an introvert, though, I run away...time after time. People who are hurting, making wrong decisions about loves and relationships....I run away. I don't think I'm wise enough to help them...I keep forgetting that God is. I don't think listening and advising will help....but God's ears and advice will. God wants to use me and I keep running. God has given me great gifts of discernment, faith and encouragement...I need to use these gifts....He also gave me an example as I pleaded with Him to help me understand my desire as it pertains to Him.

Wasn't too long ago I dealt with this in my own family. I remember lying prone on the floor crying out to Jesus asking Him to help me to know how to pray. He did.

And now, He is telling me that it isn't just family I should be lying prone on the floor for....it is His people...His beloved... they need me to intercede when they have no words of their own.

I am ashamed of me. Wow do I still have a lot to learn. But...I'll keep following those footprints ahead...and begin to use the gifts that God has given me to achieve the desires of my heart.