How to Overcome Darkness:

I spent the day writing a blog post, that may never make it out of my document file. Instead, I thought with all the great delusions and darkness out there, we could all use some truth and light. So, here’s my post for today…            

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John1:1-5 English Standard Version

“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to his own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” 

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:9-15 ESV

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgement the light has come into the world, 

and people oved the darkness rather than light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. 

Be blessed.

Allowing Our Hurts to Inflict Hurt:

Preparing the Heart and Harvest:

We planted a garden during quarantine. Almost every day, we’d check the growth of our tiny seeds. In some of the beds, the weeds shot up before the seedling, preparing to choke it out once it emerged into the light. In some, we struggled identifying which was the seedling and which was the weed. In those planters we decided not to pull the weeds until we were sure which was which. Although, waiting had its consequences. Once the vegetation came up, the weed had already found the seeds root system and tangled itself around it. When we tugged the weed, out came our produce as well. 

            I’ll admit here…I’m a work in progress when it comes to keeping plants alive.

            In hindsight, we should have started our seeds in a smaller container at our home, where we could become familiar with what the leaves looked like, removing doubt which green thing we should pull up by the roots.

            Like our tiny plants, truth is hard to identify. These days, before truth finds its way into the light the lies are already in place. Our media tells us what to believe, and we buy into it. We’ve become followers of whatever’s current instead of followers of God. We follow a human movement rather than our spiritual Father. We are shamed if we don’t eat from the buffet of political correctness, while satan holds the fork to shovel it in. We allow our truth to grow not from the God’s Light and Living Water, but from our own limited experiences; but our truth is never absolute because it’s based on emotion and feelings.

 Feelings burn down restaurants, create violence, and shout vile things towards police officers. Emotions pull triggers, suffocate airways, and take lives. Where is truth? It’s not out there. 

 We should never allow a physical movement on the streets to conflict with the Spiritual movement within us. There are other ways to build bridges. Other ways to tear down walls.

            This is a spiritual battle that needs to be fed from God’s light.

            How do we do that? 

First we return to small containers, become familiar with God’s Word and voice, and allow the Father to tell you what to do. 

Secondly, go do it. Obey.

            The message of the gospel is the only thing that will heal hate and grow a harvest.

            God’s been speaking to me about truth lately in His word and in my life. He’s allowed me to be greatly humbled to free me of some weeds I’ve been holding onto in my heart. Sometimes this plucking process is painful. Hope you can see me cringing as I admit this. 

            Last week, I sent a text message to my best friend about my childhood friend Liz. I’m ashamed to admit the text was not nice in nature—it was downright ugly. Immediately, I received a text back.

            “Tam, I don’t think this text was meant for me, but it sounds like you’re talking about me. If it is me, we should have a talk and clear the air. Sounds like your upset with me.”

            My legs turned to jelly. I fumbled for a chair.

            I reached for the phone and called her. “Liz, my text was about you and I’m sorry.” 

            I put the text into context of what my friend and I were discussing, but it didn’t matter. There was no excuse for it. I told her it was me not her, my spirit was in a funk, and I’ll have to get it straight. 

Then, I hung up. Leaving her wondering what just happened.

Growing up, Liz and I went to the same Christian school. If you didn’t attend the church of that school you felt less than or excluded. Liz attended. I didn’t. That in itself wouldn’t be a big deal, but throughout my life Satan has built this distrust towards women assault by assault, hurt by hurt. A distrust that started in elementary school. 

 Throughout it, I’ve learned to question women’s motives and I’ve kept them from getting too close at times.  Even now, I’m more comfortable in a room talking with men than women. This is the mess I’ve become. 

Last year, Liz and I were reunited. I invited her to the farmhouse for a visit. I’d been writing a memoir and praying about publishing. God reassured me He’d provide the bridge for that to happen.

            One morning during Liz’s visit I’d just opened my eyes and heard clearly – not audibly- “She’s the bridge. I’m providing Liz to be your bridge.” 

            I shot up in bed and turned to my husband. “God just told me Liz is the bridge!”

            “That’s good.” Jay smiled. “I wonder how that’s going to happen.”

            “No, I don’t want Liz to be the bridge! Anyone but Liz!”

            I pleaded with God to be reasonable and send someone I was closer to, someone I trusted if it had to be a person—especially a woman. 

A day after I sent that biting text, God showed me I’d become the very woman I’d distrusted throughout my life. He’d allowed that embarrassment to provide me the opportunity to clear the air with Liz, and I didn’t take it. 

After a sleepless night of feeling the Father’s push for me to call her back, I did. I spilled the seeds (sort of speak). I told her everything what I felt as a child, what’s gone on in my life since, including that God told me she would be the bridge. (She probably thought I was crazy)

            When I finished Liz stated, “Maybe the bridge thing doesn’t have to do with your book, but your healing.” 

            While the enemy works hard to help us build walls of distrust, God will always provide the tools to tear it down. We need to ask ourselves who will we allow to influence our lives more. The wall builder or the freedom giver? 

It’s our choice.

            In my case, God has given me several close girlfriends that have chiseled away at my wall. For the last four years, He’s even plopped me in the position of leading a women’s Bible study. That’s just like Him isn’t it? He’s a good God and doesn’t want us to become enslaved to our own hurts and injustices we’ve had to bear. Those hurts only allow us to see through that peep hole of our point of view and can cause us to exhibit the very behavior and attitudes we resented from our inflictors. 

  

       If we don’t get rid of our walls, we will never effectively share the harvest from our own gardens. 

            I’ve been away from the farm for a bit. I imagine the garden needs tending. The weeds are growing up higher than the vegetables. Today, I’m so thankful we serve a Master Gardener who plucks the weeds in hearts and tears down the walls of minds to ensure the harvest He’d planned and planted. 

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (Jesus speaking,  John 15:1,2, and 4 English Standard Version)

The Truth About White Lives

“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her.”

Proverbs 4:7-8 English Standard Version

I wandered around my happy place Friday evening. I haven’t been to my happy place in several months due to Covid 19, so when I walked through the doors of Barnes and Nobel and that aroma of brewed coffee greeted me…

I heard music.

I wanted to open my arms and swirl around in the aisle like Maria did on the mountaintop in The Sound of Music, but I was wearing a mask and already having trouble breathing.

I meandered over to the Christian aisle to see what new books had come out. There, a boy around my son’s age looked at the Bibles. He glanced back at me. I thought it was because I had gotten too close. I took a step back to adhere to social distancing. A few minutes later…

“Ma’am, do you know anything about Bibles?” he said. “What is this type called that has the original text side by side with a normal Bible?’

“Oh, that’s a Parallel,” I said. “It’s set up so you can see the exact wording from the original text.”

“I want to find a Bible that doesn’t have man’s interpretation,” he said. “The real thing.”

“The New American Standard and the English Standard Version are considered good literal translations.”

We discussed study Bibles and those with pastor’s notes. He claimed his grandma’s Bible which he’d been reading had Jimmy Swaggort’s commentaries in it.

I laughed. “I don’t know much about Swaggort, but Tony Evans has a good commentary Bible.”

“I don’t know who he is. I’m new at this.”

Later, while checking out, I found him behind me.

“Did you decide on a Bible?” I said.

“Yeah, I decided to get the parallel one. I want to be sure. You know?”

He wanted to be sure.

I’ve been under scrutiny. I suppose you will be when you are a blog writer and put your life out there as much as I do. Several young people have criticized the phrase I posted in a blog post written in 2016 “I chose to stand on the rock of my salvation for all lives matter, no matter what the color.” To be honest, I didn’t even remember it was there, and I’ve since deleted it. I would in no way want for a person to read my post pointing them to my Heavenly Father, and be distracted by one phrase.

But I’ll be honest, it really stung that one line written in 2016 would delete my whole testimony against racism and warrant criticism as if I was a racist myself. Furthermore, the criticisms came from white people.

In 2016 the Black Lives Matter movement exploded on the scene in car fires and looting. According to God’s word we are not to participate in lawlessness. Their message seemed interlaced with hate, and I being married to a black man and raising four bi-racial children steered clear of it and instructed my kids to do the same.

Time has passed and hearts broke when George Floyd begged for air. All hearts.

We need to be seekers of truth. Find it. Hold onto it. Want some truth?

The truth is white lives have always mattered. We as whites have never had to feel as if we don’t measure up because of the color of our skin; and that’s exactly why it infuriates people of color when our response to their message is “all lives matter.” They don’t need our correction on this issue when we’ve never walked in their skin. Besides, they know all lives matter. In order to move towards healing it starts by at least acknowledging the lives that have been treated unfairly matter. We also need to acknowledge the horrific injustices that have been administered to them, and, if we’ve held any hate in our hearts towards anyone of any color, class, or creed to repent of it.

Another truth, we need to stop dissecting people–trying to find something wrong as if we are the racist police. That’s not loving–it’s pride. We could all use a bit of humbling these days.

Another thing, we need to stop allowing the terrible deeds of some bad weeds to set fire to the entire crop.

Not all cops are bad.

Not all white people are racists.

Not all black people hate white people.

And yes, all of us matter to God who created white, black, and everything in between in His image. Maybe if we see ourselves through His eyes we’d treat each other a lot kinder.

How’s that for truth?

I neglected to mention the young man I met Friday evening in my happy place was black. I knew in that moment God plopped this southern blonde right there helping a young black man in which Bible to buy. At the same hour other young people his age protested in the streets, he was on the hunt for truth. He was new at it, but he wanted to be sure he got his hands on it. He was willing to pay his hard-earned $50 for it. He stated that.

We could all learn from him.

Just to make you smile. We could all use a little humor these days too.

Killing Racism

Scenes from Suffolk, Va.

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” Ellie Wiesel

I was raised to be a racist, not the type that wore a hood and burned crosses in front yards, but a quiet one. Racism slithered across the floors of our Christian home hissing “sshhh.” It taught me to be afraid of black people, when Momma gripped my hand on the sidewalk as we passed by people of color. It taught me black people committed most of the crime in our town, when I heard comments like “Do they know who did it? Probably a colored fella.” It taught me that looking like a black person is bad, when Daddy teased Momma that her eyes were as dark as an African, and she spat back his were the color of cow manure.

I was raised in a town recognized as the Peanut Capital of the world, Suffolk, Virginia. Although the city’s other claim to fame is providing the backdrop for a New York Times bestseller titled, The Color of Water by James McBride. (Great read by the way.) I mention my hometown to make the point my parents were a product of not only their ancestry, but their environment as well. Suffolk was the type of town that split white from the black with train tracks. Plopping the black population on the wrong side.

While we’re on my hometown…I think one of the first times I recognized racism in Suffolk, I stood in line for the diving board at our private swimming pool, while black boys stood outside shooting me with a water pistol through the fence. I glanced out over the sea of white bodies and realized for the first time, not one black person swam at our pool. I approached my Momma and sat on the edge of her chair. She lowered her super-sized sunglasses.

“Why aren’t the black boys allowed to swim?” I said.

“Well, because…” she batted her lashes. “To be honest, you have to be invited, but it’s for the best because their parents probably couldn’t afford it anyway.”

I’ve thought about those words a lot through the years. Funny, how one little snippet in your memory bank becomes so important later.

When I met my husband Jay (Jahmal) it was just as Momma had prophesied when she stated I’d have to be struck by lightning to recognize the man God intended me to marry. She never imagined I’d bring the storm home when I left a letter announcing I was to marry a black man. (You can read that story co-penned by my father here...Shades of Skin)

Today, as the white wife of a black husband and the mother of four bi-racial children it’s difficult to watch the news. To be honest, I haven’t slept well lately. I don’t want my children growing up in a world where they could be gunned down by two vigilantes in a pick-up truck, because their skin is brown, like what was done to Ahmaud Arbery. When the crazed white woman lied to the police by telling them she was being attacked by an African American, I saw my own son pleading with her to be reasonable. The video of George Floyd being killed made me so sick, I couldn’t watch it in its entirety without tears. For me, I saw my husband lying there begging to breathe.

I cannot express in words my hatred for racism. It has kept people down due to the color of their skin, making people haughty because they feel they were born with the “right” color. I write from having experience within it and from outside it. A racist is a person who’s enslaved, weak, filled with a toxic blend of arrogance, ignorance, and hatred. Racists are instruments of Satan–whether they realize it or not. There are racists in the black community as well as the white.

Two years ago, Jay and I walked into a West Indian restaurant in Orlando to purchase Curry Goat and Roti. Jay forgot his wallet in the car and went to get it, while all eyes in the restaurant turned to me. If looks could kill I would’ve died that day. It was as if I wore a t-shirt stamped with “White Lives Matter!” I smiled around the room but their expressions didn’t change, so I stared at my feet.

While we’re at it, I’ve been given hate looks from white men too. You see, those of us who marry outside our race are subjected to this type of treatment at times, but it’s not something we talk about much. We just take it.

Enough Sshhh!

It’s time for transparency.

But these experiences are minuscule compared to unjustified murder. A man’s skin color does not justify false accusations…beatings….killing.

Enough is enough!

Unfortunately, these images aren’t the only ones in the news that have made me angry lately. What could have been a peaceful march of raised voices has turned into setting fires, lotting, throwing glass bottles filled with pee at officers, destroying people’s livelihoods, turning cities into parking lots. You want to destroy your cities? Raise your unemployment rates? I’ve seen a black man crying while the mob destroyed his business. Why? You want to burn down the apartments in your own communities? What is this accomplishing except making you or your citizens homeless?

Violence never cures hatred; it only grows it.

If you’ve been raised a racist as I have, you only have to look to my parent’s example to find the cure. It took one person of color and a prayer to rid my parents of the racism that slithered down my family tree for hundreds of years. You kill racism with prayer and love. Marches may bring awareness to a problem. They may reveal anger. But, the only thing that will make any lasting change is prayer and love.

Ask God to rid your heart and mind of such evil and find one person that is a different color than you are and go love them. Get to know them. Find out what their struggles in life are. and help them. You may find you have different views because you came from different places and that’s okay. Life is more interesting when you’re around people who aren’t like you. Personally, I get sick of myself.

Several years ago in Suffolk, there was a Black Lives Matter march scheduled to occur. Seeing what was happening in other areas (looting and setting fires), the police went door to door to warn the local business owners, my father being one of them. That night, Daddy stayed at the store late, just in case he needed to protect his livelihood. The march met at the City Hall. A black minister approached a white preacher and I heard it was said, “There’s no problem here.” They prayed right there for the healing of our country and dispersed. I wish I could’ve been there, but this is what I was told.

Funny thing about Suffolk, the trains don’t run down those tracks like they used to. The tracks are dilapidated now, and green grass is growing over them. The neighborhoods have more color; and that swimming pool I swam in has been filled and turned into an apartment community. I’m not saying there is no racism, but it’s not as accepted anymore.

Whole towns can change too. It starts with one person willing to shake the hand of another. It starts with a group of protestors courageous enough to take a stand against violence. It starts with parents accepting a black son-in-law and bragging about him. it takes a prayer whispered by a bedside. It takes loving one person a different color than you.

I never know who my articles reach as they shoot off into the world, but I’ve prayed and I believe it will land in the hands of those that need to read it. Change starts with you. Change starts with me. Stop the “sshhh” and start praying for healed hearts and dilapidated tracks. Start praying God sends you that one person to get to know.

One prayer.

One person.

It’s time to heal.

“…For the Lord sees not as man sees: Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” I Samuel 16:7b English Standard Version

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34 ESV

A Slowed Down Life:

Preparing the Heart:

Recently I’ve returned to my Orlando home. What we thought was a few days for spring break morphed into a two-month quarantine at our farmhouse. On the drive back to civilization and restaurant row, I realized I’d not driven anything but an ATV since March. I felt like a giddy sixteen-year old behind the wheel of my SUV. Furthermore, I’d not left the farm property in almost two months. I wanted to get home and bury myself in my office and studio. I also felt the overwhelming desire to grocery shop—but hey, I’d take any retail therapy I could get at this point. 

            But I’m a wishy-washy sort of girl and I know that after a month in Orlando, I’ll want to return to the farm.

            We’ve never stayed longer than a week or two since building the farmhouse. I’d decided while there I wasn’t going to waste my quarantine time.

 I homeschooled Bella every day. My family and I planted a vegetable garden and a flower bed. I created a sour dough starter and learned how to make homemade bread that would make you smack your sista it was that good! We created homeschool videos about farm animals for the kids at the girl’s schools to watch. We held Sunday worship with our farm families on a porch. I led a women’s Bible study on Wednesday nights via Zoom. I painted furniture and re-organized closets. We discovered wild blueberries in the woods and harvested them. We collected fresh eggs from the chickens and fed the horses overripe apples. I snuck away and spent time with the Father, reading and journaling. 

            I taught the girls how to see pictures in the clouds, and there were nights I’d sit on the front porch steps and gaze at the stars suspended over the pastures in awestruck wonder.

 There, 

The stars are more visible… 

The bugs sing louder… 

There owls whoed at night. 

 It’s funny how life can be so simple on a farm, but never dull.

            Before I left, my daughter Bella and I set out to collect different soil samples. My daughter loves any excuse to put her hands in dirt. Throughout the acres there are many colors of soil from white to reddish clay. Today, I began making pigment from them. I also collected ash and burned wood from our fireplace. I ground charred wood in a pistol and mortar and poured it through a fine mesh strainer. It created a rich, black, soft powder almost like talc. Making paint this way is a longer process…just as baking bread or planting a garden instead of running to your grocery store, but there’s something about doing it the harder way I find intriguing. Besides, I believe a painting made from earth tells its own story.

            Throughout it all I couldn’t help but think could this pandemic be a call to return to a simpler slower way of life? Why does life have to be so rushed and everything done quickly? Our culture has an addiction to immediate gratification. Instead of picking weeds, we spray our garden with poison, and where has it gotten us? 

            Sick.

            Instead of heating things up on the stove, we shove them in a microwave. It’s much faster that way, but a microwave depletes our food’s nutritional value by 70 percent. Did you know that?

            Instead of having to look up Bible verses in the Bible. We click them on our phones yet struggle to find the book of Proverbs if we ever had to use a Bible.

            We want to order things on the internet and get them tomorrow and if they’re not here we’re pacing by the front door. We no longer savor the wait, like waiting to open gifts at Christmas.

            We want to slap on the quick-fix while killing the possibility of finding joy in the process.

If anything we get out of Covid-19, it’s this should be a wake-up call and a time to reevaluate our priorities. There may be a day when we will need to know how to grow our own food and prepare our own bread. It might be sooner than later. Would we be ready? Or will we become dependent on those that are? 

            Something to think about…

            If I’ve learned anything from this pandemic it’s to savor the time of the process. Take time to plant the seeds and pick the weeds, stir the flour into a starter and watch it bubble, grind the earth into a soft powder before pouring it into jars. These are the days to gain wisdom, knowledge, and know-how. You never know when you’ll need it.

            I suppose once I complete my first earth painting I’ll have to share it. Well, if it’s any good that is. Stayed tuned to find out…

“Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.”

“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” Proverbs 5: 6-8,10 English Standard Version.

What’s in a Name?

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(How people see me.) My dog Rudy loves to boss the cows.

I’ll confess I never truly liked the name Tammy. I blame my name for all the pats I received on the head from male employers and for the punches in the arm instead of dates I received from guys I thought were cute in college. It’s my name’s fault for why I’ve worked so hard to prove myself because if I didn’t, I feared I wouldn’t get past the little white yapper image in people’s minds when they thought of me.

I read a book once about the psychology behind a name. The author stated our names shaped a portion of our personalities because it dictates how people perceive us to be and therefore how we are treated. Pretty interesting stuff! See why I blame my name for all those pats and punches?

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(But this is how I see myself…) Franklin the goat guard and my niece Addie.

After finding out I was pregnant at the age of 44, with my number four, my husband Jay stated if this child was a girl he wanted her to be named Isabella. Later that night, we had dinner at Donatello’s in Tampa, Florida. While leaving the restaurant, the owner handed me a rose, kissed both my cheeks, and said, “Goodnight Bella.” While the words rolled off his Italian tongue releasing into the night air like poetry–let’s just say…it sealed the deal.

Silly huh?

Well, maybe, but I went home and looked up the meaning of the name Isabella, and found it meant “devoted to God.”

Nine months later, Isabella was born.

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Recently, I thought about how important a name is to God. So much so, He changed several people’s names in the Bible pointing towards His plan for their lives. He changed Abram which meant “high father” to Abraham meaning “father of a multitude.” He changed Sarai meaning “my princess” to Sarah which meant “mother of nations.” God changed Jacob meaning supplanter to Israel which meant “having power with God.” Later, Israel’s sons became the twelve tribes of Israel.

Did you know Simon meant “God has heard,” but Jesus changed it to Peter meaning “rock.” Can a name shape a destiny? In my daughter’s case, I can only hope.

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Bella’s name should mean lover of mud.

I looked up the meaning of Tammy and it is derived from the Hebrew name Tamar meaning “Palm tree.” When I told my Momma she named me palm tree she stated, “I should’ve never named you Tammy because that set your destiny to move away to Florida!”

But there had to be more than a tree…

I looked up the Hebrew significance of the palm tree. That’s where it gets interesting…

The Palm Tree means “flourish.”  It is a tree that can flourish through the storms and drought. It can bend and not fall over because of its root system. It can produce fruit in its old age.

“The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green.” Psalms 92:12-14 English Standard Version.

So, I will embrace the name Tammy even if it means a pat on my head every now and again because I’m a flourisher!

You can be too…

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While we endure the Covid crisis we may feel a little discarded. We may feel we’ve lost our identities. We may feel our destinies have been altered because of that job we lost, that loved one that passed away unexpectedly, or that illness we had to endure.

But here’s the light that shines through the chaos and darkness… God’s still in control. As long as you’ve placed your life in the palm of His hand your destiny is secure. Here’s the truth…your identity isn’t found in your name as much as it’s found in His.

So, if you’re like me and been like eh over your name…if you’ve accepted Christ as your personal Savior you’ve been renamed anyway. Your name is now

Chosen

Redeemed (saved)

 Sanctified (purified)

 Loved

 His Child.

What a relief that’s so much better than Tammy and palm tree! I shall hold my head high for anyone who wants to give me a pat.

Isn’t that so much better than your own name?

Hang in there. God’s plan will unfold in due time. This too shall pass.

In the meantime, if you’re bored and tired of doing those puzzles you might want to look up the meaning of your own name. I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Till next time…

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The Sound of Silence

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The Chesapeake Bay fueled my terror of lightning. One afternoon, a dark shadow hung over my Daddy’s boat before a bright flash bounced off a crab pot, and a sharp pain sliced through my arm as it hung over the side of the boat. For years after, Momma closed all the doors to the bedrooms and sat with me in the hallway during lightning storms. We leaned against her record/stereo player that we had to turn sideways to scoot around. Simon and Garfunkel, Motown greats, James Taylor, John Denver—whichever she was in the mood for that afternoon—drowned out the thunder.

Today, I heard again a remake of Simon and Garfunkel’s song The Sound of Silence, by Disturbed. I sang along to the words and returned to that hallway watching the water droplets slip down Momma’s tea glass, praying away the storm. You can hear the song by clicking below.

 

It was in 1965 Simon and Garfunkel released the song, The Sound of Silence. Simon claimed he’d written it as a twenty-one-year old in a dark bathroom while the water ran in the sink. He said, it was just a youthful yearning for someone to listen to me. I hear much more than that. The poetic lyrics warn of worshipping the pop culture gods we create, believing mass media, engaging with things instead of people, and not communicating. Hearing it today against the backdrop of the Corona virus the song seemed to be prophetic in a weird sense. Although the song is one of my favorites, as an abiding follower of Jesus Christ I hear the despair in its message because the song closes without offering any hope or light in the end…only darkness and silence.

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My daughter Bella and my niece Aubrey

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My niece Sunaeya

But here’s truth…Light isn’t quiet. Our Heavenly Father is still speaking throughout the storms of life. Throughout this quarantine at the farm, I’ve heard Him loud and clear.

On Passover night, I heard Him in the brilliance of a super moon, He said, “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world.” Luke 21:25-26 English Standard Version.

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Passover Moon

On an early morning walk I heard Him in the mixture of fog and sun settling over the pond. He said, “I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud. And your sins like a heavy mist. Return to me for I have redeemed you.” Isaiah 44:22 (NIV)

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On a walk in the woods we discovered tons of wild blueberry bushes and I heard my God. He said, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:26 ESV

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My son Christian taking us to pick blueberries.

In the earnest prayers of my daughter as she points to a country on a map praying God will protect Australia from Corona. My Father said, “Whoever humbles himself (herself) like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:4 (ESV)

Surrounding the farmhouse wild yapping sounded from every direction, as our dog Franklin sprinted into the darkness to fight off the coyotes alone, my Father said, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” Romans 8:19-22 ESV

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Franklin

In the garden planting tomatoes my God said, “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you. Hosea 10:12 (ESV)

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And on a night when lightening flashed and thunder boomed, and the television screamed tornado, I stood in the swirling wind and heard my Father said, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (ESV)

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The day of the tornadoes. The cows and birds were restless.

Masks can quiet prayers.

Fear can squelch faith.

Distance dims lights.

Don’t let it. Remember Who your Father is, and who He made us to be…

Communicators, Faith Builders, and  Lighthouses

Till next time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mourning the Loss of Expectations

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Feeling sad today. Missing travel. Missing Main Street, USA at Magic Kingdom. Fearing that awful, monstrous…The Unknown.

I don’t shove these feelings down.

I don’t scold myself for not trusting God enough for not having enough faith.

Please.

The Bible is pretty much ALL people who aren’t enough but for whom God decides to Be everything.

He’s always filled in the gaps, where we aren’t enough.

No, what I’m doing is recognizing that my expectation for life does not match reality.

The journey of letting go of expectation and accepting reality is called grief.

It’s a crucial part of our mental health.

Grief is tricky. It messes you up to stifle it OR to languish in it.

Grief isn’t a destination. It’s a hallway between rooms.

If you don’t use the hallway, you are stuck somewhere you aren’t supposed to be.

If you live in the hallway, you are missing out on the life waiting for you.

But you can’t skip the hallway.

I’m just walking through a little hallway today.

I’ll do it with Jesus. I’ll pause. Show Him something I’m sad about or scared about. He’ll just hold my hand while I say goodbye to the thing I’ll miss or have a good cry over my lack of control. But then He’ll gently guide me to the next thing.

Eventually, like so many times before, I’ll accept that my expectations were never anything more than that. THIS was always what was going to be. This is what God planned and will use for my good.

I’m just not there yet. I’m walking down the hallway.

It’s okay to be sad.

Just living out loud in case someone else needs permission to feel sad too.

 

This article was written by Sara Edwards. Thank you Sara for visiting The Hallelujah House today.
image.pngSara Edwards lives and works in the lovely town of Windermere, Florida. When she’s not carpooling her children, Ellie and Caleb, or working as an Office Manager for a local real estate agency, she’s co-leading a small group at Family Church in Windermere with her husband, George. Her other passion is leading worship as a vocalist in Family’s Worship Arts Ministry.

Finding Peace in the Pandemic

Preparing the Heart:

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The morning mist over the pond at the farm.

My boys are restless. I feel their bottled energy as they slug around the house with that wild look in their eyes as if they hear war drums in the distance but are forced in their barracks unable to join comrades in battle. My hunter runs off to hunt the woods daily. My fisherman runs off to catch those bass in the pond. My youngest son runs between the two. They’re biding their time in quarantine as best they can.

Meanwhile, beyond the farm fences, out there in the real-world, there’s a dangerous invader whose sticky barbs have infected every aspect of our lives.

The enemy loves to break everything at once.

Have at it, as long as he can’t break our knees.

There’s a quote in The Art of War by Tzu Sun, “Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then he will be amenable to your will.”

Which brings us to the question, what do we hold dear? Money? Time? Conveniences? Church? Education? Entertainment? Sports?

Satan has tampered with all of it. But here’s the thing…

God’s allowed it.

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Unfortunately, many times we push God behind those things we hold dear. And once God is pushed out of that space inside us reserved for Him, a vacuum is created that is filled with something dirty. On a personal level, it doesn’t have to be a virus it could be a god we’ve created on our own. That thing that started out innocent enough, maybe even it was once a good thing, until we poured our everything into it. We should all ask ourselves, is there anything or anyone we think about more than God? Is there anything or anyone we hold more dear than our Heavenly Father?

So why has dirty Corona taken over the world? Every country has pushed God out. To mention a few…

In the United States, we’ve decided to abolish absolute truth. The Word of God has become debatable around the campfires, while we shoot holes through passages establishing God’s authority on mankind. We’ve even allowed some pastors to dispute the Word of God from the pulpit. We’ve made vulgarity and sinister evil into entertainment. We’ve given Hollywood and the secular music industry the power to dictate the standards of morality. The ones who are courageous enough to take a stand for absolute truth, are pushed by political correctness to the front lines to be squelched.

Throughout the European countries beautiful churches stand empty. Worshipping God has become old school. Some churches have even been sold to be turned into restaurants, pubs, or even a skate park. Can you imagine skating on a ramp while Jesus watches bleeding from the cross? (Netherlands) In Italy, while church pews remain bare, hordes willgather to hear the Pope. Are they worshipping God or man?

China…I’ll never forget an article I read in Marie Claire featuring a dead baby girl lying in the city gutter on the street. The journalist snapped pictures of people walking on by, even stepping over her, not one person appeared shocked to see a dead baby lying there. It seemed as if this was an everyday occurrence. Until an elderly man stopped. He placed his hands on his hips and looked down for a moment. Relief, someone cared. The man went into a nearby store, came out with a black trash bag, and threw the body in it before tossing her into a dumpster. It was a perfect illustration of their cultural position on the sanctity of life.

Before we Americans pat ourselves on the back for how we regard human life, we are heading in the same direction. In the United States we’ve killed 50 million babies since abortion became legal. Case in point, in January, Governor Andrew Cuomo was so proud of passing expanded abortion rights in New York, he lit up the One World Trade Center in pink. Was he celebrating the increase of infant death? Three months later, he’s battling the highest death rate for Corona in the United States.

Corona is the natural consequence of our pushing God out of His place of authority. He’s the Decider of life or death. It is unfortunate that all citizens suffer the consequences for a nation that has thumbed its nose at God.

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How do we prevent Covid 19 from destroying our peace or taking our joy?

Believe it or not, we can look to the source of the virus for that answer. While many churches have become bloated, boastful, proud entertainment hot spots, they lack any true power to fight the spiritual forces of darkness. Meanwhile, the humble underground meetings of devout Christians in China whose members risk everything to worship have become a beacon of light for the rest of the world to follow. We now have to worship in our homes. We are being humbled and just maybe God wants His church to transform in the process.

We fight Covid 19 in the humble repentance and surrender of what we’ve held dear. Surrendering those things to our Heavenly Father as an offering and placing Him back in our lives where He belongs as Lord will equip us to handle any weapon the enemy uses against us. It is in the surrender we find peace, joy, and contentment no matter what our circumstances. Healthy or sick.

“Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:2-3 English Standard Version.

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Tomorrow Passover begins, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the plague that entered Egypt. The Israelites protection from the plague came in obeying God’s command to sacrifice a lamb and paint the blood over their doorway. Then God told them to remain inside. If they remained inside protected by the blood barrier the angel of death would pass them by.

Today, there’s power in the blood of the perfect Lamb Jesus Christ. He provides our protection from the barbs that stick. Besides, He’s a God who’s familiar with the pain from barbs and can be trusted with your life.

Won’t you hide yourself in Him?

“Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by.” Isaiah 26:20 ESV

If you’ve never given your life to Jesus Christ and proclaimed Him to be your Lord and Savior. It is not too late.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:16-17 ESV

Won’t you accept Him today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Longer Doubting

Preparing the Heart:

“There’s no shadow You won’t light up

Mountain You won’t climb up

Coming after me

There’s no wall You won’t kick down

Lie You won’t tear down

Coming after me.”

Reckless Love by Cory Asbury

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Jennifer and Robert Yeager

When our family moved from Kentucky to Tennessee in 2005, Jennifer Yeager was the first person who went out of her way to befriend me. We met at the pool in the temporary housing the church provided for us.

She be-bopped up to my family and I. “Well, hello Hammonds…” she said in her Georgia accent. “I’m Jennifer Yeager and this is my husband Robert; we go to Grace and saw that you are the new pastor and family at our church. Welcome to Knoxville.”

And just like that, Jennifer and I became fast friends. Not only were we neighbors; but also, we sang together on the church worship team. I learned that a couple of months before we met, Jennifer had accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior.

“I thought I was saved when I was 12 years old,” she said. “A pastor preached a sermon on hell, and it scared me to death. I waited until I came home and, alone in my bed I asked God to save me from Hell.”

Years later, a visiting evangelist shared a Sunday message about having assurance of salvation. In tears, Jennifer approached the altar. A choir member, Beth, met her there and prayed, “Lord, I remember the night you came into my life and I’ve never been the same…” When Jennifer heard those words, it startled her. She thought, ‘I still feel the same, maybe I’m not a Christian.’ The concern plagued her. That evening, Jennifer admitted to an altar counselor, Jeanette she felt unsure she had been saved.

“Well, you’re about to get saved now,” Jeanette said.

“She led me in prayer,” Jennifer said, “and I repeated what she’d said. On April 10, 2005, Jesus saved me, and I was born again.”

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Jennifer spread her testimony of God’s grace with nearly everyone she encountered. I’d never known a person with a greater gift of evangelism; yet while leading people to Christ on a mission trip in El Salvador, she still doubted her own salvation. Desperate to conquer her uncertainty, she participated in the Bible studies I facilitated in my home and church, but no matter how much Bible she learned, she wrestled with the worst spiritual anguish. Am I truly saved?

I wanted to take her by the shoulders and shake her saying, “Jennifer I see Jesus all over you…there’s no doubt!” She suffered to the point that even reading God’s Word would make it worse. Bible verses stating, “If you don’t love your neighbor—the love of the Father is not in you,” I John 4:20 (New International Version), literally messed with her mind.

“I couldn’t say I truly loved my neighbors,” Jennifer said. “so I would question if I really had Jesus living in my heart. I probably prayed the ‘sinner’s prayer’ a hundred times. I just never felt certain. If somebody would have told me in order to stop doubting, I’d have to cut off my ring finger, or take some sort of salvation pill…I would’ve gladly done it.”

Making life more miserable, she battled a life-long eating disorder causing body-image issues, and Jennifer begged God to free her from the bondage of food addiction. After 15 agonizing years of having no true peace or joy, she began thinking, ‘This God thing is all bogus!’ Being my closest friend, Jennifer had a front row seat to my spiritual shut down, and the darkness that took me under. (You can read my story about that here…Plastered on the Front Pew  Plastered on the Front Pew (Part 2)) She thought, ‘If that happened to Liz, it could happen to me.’ Finally, Jennifer told her husband she needed professional help with her eating disorder.

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My sister, Lisa, myself, and Jennifer.

She met with both a secular therapist and a Christian therapist named Rose. Both addressed the eating disorder and identified a flaw in her belief system. The belief, “I’m not worthy of anything or anybody” was founded early in her childhood, and it manifested throughout her life.

Recently in a therapy session she told Rose, “I was told starting at a young age by a close family member, If I get fat I’ll never be loved. I’ve felt unworthy of love my whole life. I’m never going to be loved.” As Jennifer spoke those words aloud, she sensed a voice behind her interrupting, “That is not who you are.” She heard it so clear it startled her. She spun around to see if anyone was there.

“No one was there,” Jennifer said, “but I knew it was the voice of God the Father. He was telling me that I am not the things I’ve believed about myself for so long. It was in that moment I understood I’d been agreeing with the lies of the enemy, and that is why I doubted God.”

“It was as if God said, ‘That’s enough!’ Immediately, I felt free. I looked at Rose and asked her if I could pray with her, and without hesitation she nodded yes. While I prayed I saw myself differently. I was righteous covered by His Blood. I was a saint; I sin, but I’m not a sinner. I told Jesus that I wanted to give everything inside of me to Him, my organs, my blood, my skin…”

After praying, she sighed deeply and announced to Rose, “I’m not struggling. I’m not doubting anymore.”

Rose smiled. “It’s just time,” she said.

No longer doubting, God filled Jennifer with peace and joy. She couldn’t wait to share the amazing news of her deliverance with me over the phone. “Liz, I have no more tormenting thoughts. They are gone!” I joined her in praising and thanking the God Who frees us.

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It is never God’s will that we doubt Him. If you are doubting His faithfulness, His goodness, or His saving power…He is able to set you free. His Word promises in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” There are no magical words, nor a specific sinner’s prayer that saves you, rather a genuine confession that you need Jesus, and that He alone has the power to save by His grace. Even if we are overcome by a doubting spirit like Jennifer was, God’s Word remains true as it states in II Timothy 2:13, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.” (NIV)

The Bible uses the analogy of the marriage relationship when it refers to how God loves us and demonstrates his love for us. He is the groom, and we are His bride. Unlike marriages between two imperfect humans who may lie, betray, and leave one another. God reveals Himself to be lovingly faithful and committed to a covenant union (promise) with us when we accept His Son Jesus as our Savior and Lord. As His bride we are made blameless and holy in His sight, a spotless virgin, because He purifies us with His blood. He is fully devoted to us, and we can trust that one day soon, we will be reunited with Jesus Christ when He returns for His bride.

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.” Revelations 19:7 (NIV)

Are you ready? You can be. You can rest assured that because He loves you, you can trust Him. If you are tormented by doubt like Jennifer was, she shared her story so that you may know… God will tear down every demonic lie causing you doubt, set you free from the torment, and fill you with peace because He is faithful.

“God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may have eternal life.” I John 5:11-13 (NIV)

(If you’d like to correspond with Jennifer Yeager or hear her tell her own testimony you can find her video on Facebook or email her directly at Nolesfan24@aol.com.)

 

fullsizeoutput_4210This article was written by a member of our writing team, Liz Hammond. In her free time she loves to bake, read, and lounge on the beach which is in her opinion is the closest thing to heaven. Elizabeth’s passion is ministering to others out of her own God-story where He’s rescued her life and continues to restore her family. She desires to fulfill God’s purpose in her life in encouraging women by sharing her own story, through Bible study, and intimate friendships.

Elizabeth can be contacted at elizabethhammond8@gmail.com.

Note from Tammy Adams: The Corona crisis can lead to much doubt in our Heavenly Father’s protection, provisions, and promises. We at The Hallelujah House thought Jennifer’s story is a good reminder no matter the crisis God’s faithfulness will see you through it. If any of you have a prayer request,  please feel free to leave them for us in the comments or email one of us privately. We will be honored to pray for you during this difficult season. Raise a Hallelujah!