WHAT GOD HAS IMPRESSED ON ME THIS WEEK

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Being Christian

I’m sure I’m not the best Christian example. I’m happy to preach the Words of Jesus, but I still continue to sin. And if a Christian is supposed to be “Christlike”, then that must make me a poor Christian. As the world would say, I must be a hypocrite. Am I really? Or rather, doesn't it make me a poor example of perfection?

We use the word Christian in such a general way, but it really means “Little Christ” or, as most of us would say, “Christlike”. I don’t see myself anywhere near Christlike, because I am so far from perfection, but I am very near to Christ. I prefer to call myself saved, or a believer. It’s everybody else who calls me Christian. And if that were the case, then I would be a hypocrite and not very likely to lead anyone to that person I claim to be like.

As I said, I am a believer, and though I don’t remember when I first believed, God has been changing me for years into the image of His son…into something perfect…perfectly forgiven that is. But change is a long process. I haven’t seen the end of the road yet. My God is a gentleman who never pushes and for that I’m thankful. While I’m sure that there are some who seem to have no problem with making changes overnight, most of us are just not willing. 

But God continues to forgive and continues to patiently work on our issues one at a time. Of course, if we had to wait until all of our issues were perfected before we ever came to God, we would never make it. We can’t do it on our own. It has to be with the help of His Spirit. He says to come as we are. With myself, I've noticed that He might work on one while delaying on another (unfortunately, with continued consequences) until a later date when I’m ready to see it from His point of view. But what breaks my heart is when someone I care about fails to come to Jesus because they think that they have to be perfect first. And what’s worse is when I feel that I’m responsible for their unbelief simply because I’m still a sinner. 

Still a sinner…I will always still be a sinner. But I don’t advocate my sins. The difference between a Christian and non-Christian is not that one is good and the other is not. It’s that a Christian admits it and turns their eyes to the only One who is good. Unfortunately, the Christian is still judged by the world because of what he says he is and who he says he believes in. Don’t expect me to fit in a mold. God expects me to walk a path…one that He too has walked…one where he can bring me back to when I wander off...one where He can help me back up onto when I stumble and fall. 

So why be judgmental of me or anyone else who wishes to share the Good News of God’s forgiveness simply because we don’t present perfection? If you look past my imperfection, you’ll see the hope that I have in spite of it. Maybe you’d like to have that hope too.

Written by Amie Spruiell

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Play Ball

Get your stance straight….


Glance to your left….
There’s a runner on first, and he’s two and a half steps toward second….  Tall with great strides, he looks intimidating, but you know he’s not as fast as the guy on third base.
Umpire calls out, “Play ball!”
You've just finished warming up your arm with several practice pitches.  The coach wants you to finish up this game.  As the batter swivels his bat in the air, you hear taunting coming from the opponent’s dugout distracting you.  Your catcher throws out signs, but you’re more interested in how far the batter’s gloves are choked up on that bat.
“You got this,” is called out from loved ones in the stands. 
Just as you’re about to come set, you notice out of the corner of your eye the first base runner powerfully clapping his hands in the air as if he’s trying to get someone in front of him to blink.  A slight turn of the head reveals him stretching out his right leg and arm, wiggling his fingers and pointing his toe in the direction he intends to run. 
You’re tempted to fire that ball to your left instead of straight ahead.  You only have a half a second to do so before the ump calls you on a balk, and then you’re penalized.  If that happens, the runners would advance putting the game at a tie and the opposing team one run away from winning this game.
Bottom of the last inning and two outs leaves you needing one more to win this.  But first, two scenarios roll through your mind:
If you throw to first, the runner, who is a few feet off the base, will make a run for it.  Your first baseman will probably throw the ball to second giving the runner on third just enough time to use the distraction to run home…that would also tie up the game.
But if when you throw to first, your catcher quickly reacts, seeing that runner shoot off his bag and head right for him, maybe he’ll scream out, “HOME!”  If the first baseman pays attention, he’ll sacrifice his runner and throw the ball home instead.  At best, the catcher will get the guy out.  At worst, the runner will retreat, the ball will fly back and forth in a pickle, and that shifty kid will manage to steal home anyway…not to mention there’s every possibility in between.
Those few moments of thinking allows you to fully come set and ready to pitch.  It’s now too late to attempt any scenario.  Friends and family seeing your anguishing facial expressions help you get refocused with encouraging words. 
“Don’t worry about the other runners,” your coach yells out.
“Come on, Son.  Just throw to the glove,” says the voice of your father.
“Let your defense back you up.  Get this guy out,” comes from a familiar friend. 
Their words repeat in your head.
You can hear the footsteps of the guy on first taking liberty to advance to the next base.  It was a leisurely trot making you feel even worse that you had to let him go.  He knows you lost your opportunity, so he takes advantage of your vulnerability and easily makes a steal.
But you don’t let it shake you as those powerful words continue to echo deep down inside.
One more deep breath gives you the confidence to pull that leg up and reach that arm back.  A solid strike is all you’re looking for. 
Your follow through is perfect.
Your release is impeccable.
And just as the ball leaves your hand, the third base runner leaves his bag as if he’s racing the ball to the plate.  His attempt is arrogant…obviously expecting a “home run” from his teammate instead of a strike.  Never the less, his attempt is futile as one teenage boy’s legs cannot catch the speed of a ball shot from the power of another teenage boy’s right arm. 
For a split second you think to yourself, “The catcher is sure to get that guy out.”  But the contest makes no difference and your moment of hope is cut short when you hear the crack, the one that makes your heart stop and everything else go silent.
You want to watch the ball, but you can’t.  You’re frozen at the mound watching as first one runner comes in, and you know the second is right behind. 
They know the rules.  Everyone runs on two outs.  No need to stay close to the bag and tag up. 
This is it.
Two runs and they win.
“It’s all over now, isn't it?  I lost the game.”  You think to yourself.
Finally the crowd roars as you expected them to, and your eyes rise to look beyond the fence at the disappointment in your own team. 


Then it sinks in…it’s not the opposing side cheering.  It’s your side! 
Turning around, your heart not only starts beating again, but racing with adrenaline.  Your center fielder is running in with his glove in the air carrying the ball he caught.  Your teammates are all running toward you.

The game IS over!  
You win!!
Intense…isn't it?  It may be a snapshot taken out of a little league game but it sure is impacting.  It just doesn't seem fair.  The pressure a pitcher is under is unbelievable, especially toward the end of a close game.  How can he truly follow through with his job of throwing strikes when he’s constantly being distracted, taunted, and taken advantage of?
That’s the way life is.  Most of us don’t realize it, but all those things are happening to us…ALL THE TIME!
I know it happens to me.  I’m the pitcher.  My opponents are the world, my flesh, and myriads of demons.  My job is to focus on Jesus, my catcher. 
A pitcher must trust his catcher, focusing only on the mitt, and following his signs.  The catcher has the vantage point.  He sees all from his position.  He communicates to everyone else telling them how many outs, and where the play is at.  He’s protecting the most coveted plate in the game, home plate.  He is to be a rock wall that the ball cannot get past.
Like the pitcher, I need to keep my eyes on the one who sees all and knows all, my rock, my home plate protector.
"Do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, 
the champion who initiates and perfects our faith."  
Hebrews 12:2
The pitcher must block out the noise from the opponent’s dugout…the voices.  They’re the ones cheering on their own players making the pitcher feel like he hasn't got a chance.
Likewise, there’s a constant stream of voices taunting me, whispering lies to me and telling me that I haven’t got a chance.  But I know better.  I block them out and replace them with the truth that comes from my heavenly Father, my friends, and my mentors.
“You got this!”
“Just stay focused!”
“Let your outfielders back you up!”
And what about those outfielders?  I seem to recall a cute little 90’s movie, a remake of a cute little 50’s movie called…"Angels in the Outfield."
Wouldn’t that be every pitcher’s fairy tale dream to have angels as their fielders backing them up?
The average teenage little league player can be awfully talented out there catching fly balls and line drives, but they can also make a lot of mistakes.  Likewise, infielders at that age can rack up quite a few errors in the average game.  Even in the big leagues there’s no guarantee of perfect fielding.  It makes the pitcher’s job all the more difficult.  He wants to trust them, but what if…?

In this life, for those who have put their trust in Christ, we have guaranteed help at our disposal. 
“Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  
2 Kings 6:16


For He will order His angels to protect you wherever you go.  
Psalm 91:11 

There are real angels fielding balls for us, but they’re using powerful weapons of warfare to do so.  And they outnumber the opposing team.  We need not worry about a few runners sneaking around bases deceiving us.  God has set up a system like no other.  He has made sure that our back is covered, while He Himself is in our line of sight.  He is our greatest asset, our greatest advocate, and our greatest source of power.

What can we say about such wonderful things as these?
 
If God is for us, who can ever be against us?  
Romans 8:31
All we have to do is focus on Him, pull up that leg, stretch back that arm, and throw out God’s Word to our enemy.  If we pay attention to the signs He’s giving us, we’ll know exactly what to say. 
It’s kind of like…listening to the Holy Spirit.
“…for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what needs to be said.” Luke 12:12 

Now, if our enemy tries to knock it out of the park with his silly little stick, no worries.  Our defense will work for us…and they’re not teenage little league players…they are mighty warriors, and they never ever err.
This is it…the real game of life…only it’s not a game.  It’s a battle, but it’s a winnable battle!  There’s no reason to worry or be anxious, because like I said, God has us covered if we focus on Him.  Then we can finish up fighting the good fight victoriously.
Fight the good fight for true faith. 1 Timothy 6:12

And all the glory goes to Jesus…my MVP!
Go ahead…”Play Ball!”
Amie Spruiell 
6/20/2014

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Lessons from "Bad Guys"


I’m sometimes embarrassed to admit to some of the TV shows, movies, and their characters that I enjoy watching so much.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not talking about racy, violent, or vulgar genre.  And most of the time, I prefer good cop shows where I can cheer in the end because the bad guys were caught.  However, I seem to also enjoy the bad guy that everybody loves…the one who’s hated by everyone else on the show, but they seem to make me smile.  I think it’s fascinating that heist movies are so popular, and so ironic that we find ourselves hoping for the criminal to get away with the job. 

Last summer I let a couple of friends borrow my “Gone with the Wind” DVD.  I found it strange that they told me they couldn’t finish the movie because they were so disgusted with Scarlett’s character.  Apparently they couldn’t stand that she had so little virtue.  I questioned myself.  Not only do I love that movie, but I love her character.  I even considered naming my first child Scarlett, and I kind of regret that I didn’t.  Though, I still love her name, Victoria. 

So I asked myself why it is that I love Scarlett O’Hara.  Why do I love the “Ocean’s” movies?  Why do I love Raymond Reddington from the TV show, “The Blacklist”…the character who is supposed to be the most notorious “Bad Guy” around?

So I think to myself, “There must be something virtuous that draws me to these things…right?”  Aside from the part that Scarlett kept her sister’s and father alive during the aftermath of the Civil War, and the “Ocean’s” team exhibits intelligence in their dastardly deeds of emptying vaults, the only virtue that comes to mind is confidence. 

Imagine putting the confidence of these so called villains into the hearts and minds of the average “virtuous” Christian.  Ahhh…now we’re on to something.  I’m not going to all lengths to try to win the only man who never got weak in the knees over me like Scarlett did.  And I’m not interested in turning to a life of emptying out the vaults of casinos.  No doubt, I could never be as quick witted, as well-read, or as shameless as Reddington, but what if I had their confidence…not in the everyday run-of-the-mill kind of stuff, but in my spiritual life?

Imagine having so much confidence in your faith that you see mountains moved.  Doubt would simply be an insignificant word.  What about salvation?  It still amazes me how many Christians are unsure of their salvation and completely fear death.  That’s one thing that completely makes us different from other religions.  We are to have confidence in our salvation.  And speaking of fear…believers just like unbelievers have plenty of those.  Whether it’s fearing our economic future, or simply turning the lights out at night, they are real and legitimate.  But we’re told over and over again by God Himself in His Word that we are to not fear.  We should have confidence in Him as our Provider, our Protector, and the One who not only can but will meet all of our needs.

Having Christ in us is our confidence, and it’s written into the name we call ourselves, Christian.  We identify ourselves with His name, and our identity is important. 

Earlier this week, I was watching my current favorite TV show, The Blacklist.  The main character, nicknamed “Red”, a former government agent gone rogue and wanted for years by the FBI, who has recently made a deal to assist them in finding their most wanted, walks into a warehouse to hire a group of Serbian “bad guys” for a personal favor.  These “bad guys” were in the process of smuggling a Chinese scientist, whom they kidnapped for her highly sensitive germ warfare information, out of the country to deliver her to their boss.  Red didn’t know these guys personally, but he knew their organization and that they definitely had the skills he needed for his job.  What I found to be interesting is that even though Red didn’t know the names of these guys, they sure knew his.  He confidently walked into the warehouse, though with hands raised in the air indicating he was unarmed, and announced his full name. 

It was an impressive scene with several scary looking thugs brandishing automatic weapons pointed and ready to fire at our loveable bad guy himself.  With his head held high and several steps in, he simply stated, “Good afternoon, gentlemen, my name is Raymond Reddington.”  And all the weapons were lowered. 

I was reminded that we ourselves are to have that much confidence in our spiritual life.  No matter where we go or what we are doing, there are demons constantly trying to use their weapons against us.  But their weapons are useless when we combat them confidently with our own weapons of warfare, the Word of God and the authority that Christ has given us over those demons.  We should know that our name alone, carrying the name of the One with all authority, should be enough to make those dark spirits not only lower their weapons, but run away with their tails tucked between their legs. 

The problem comes when we don’t realize this power, and when those enemies of our soul know that we don’t realize it as well.  Do you call yourself Christian?  Do you realize how much power comes with your identity in Christ?  Do you walk in confidence because of it? 

No, we should not model our life after the “bad guys” that are so easily loved, but realizing why we are fascinated by them and drawn to their characters has helped me to remember some important things in my walk as a Christian. 

Thank you, Lord, for the confidence I have in You and because of You.  I know I can live confidently without fear.  I can confidently move mountains in my prayer life.  I can confidently go boldly to Your throne for all of my needs.  Amen.

Amie Spruiell 4/26/14

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Great with Childs



I opened my laundry room door to let my two dogs out this morning.  One jumped up and happily trotted through the house on over to the back door, and the other slowly lifted herself to her feet.  She finally made her way out the door to the back yard to do her business, but it took some time.  Several weeks ago, it was flipped flopped.  The slower one was the more energetic one, but that was before she was great with childs. 
 
Our older dog, Storm, is 12 ½ years old…equivalent to the age of my grandmother.  She was always dragging behind the younger girl, Rebel.  It’s strange to see Storm way out ahead of Rebel now.  It’s been interesting to witness someone else in my home other than myself pregnant.  I had no idea how similar a dog’s pregnancy is to persons.

She started out moody and clingy…that never changed.  Then she didn’t want to eat.  There have been times that we’ve seen “a bile filled puddle” on the floor of the laundry room in the morning…morning sickness.  We may have never known except the cold winter nights drove us to let them sleep inside.  If she had been pregnant during the summer, we probably wouldn’t have a clue.
 
This morning after closing the door behind my wobbly girl, I watched out the window observing them both.  Storm went over to the far corner of the back yard to empty her bladder, but Rebel couldn’t make it all the way out there.  She stopped half way across to relieve herself.  Then Storm trotted around for a bit picking up some toys to chew on, but Rebel finished her trek to the “bathroom” corner in order to do number two.  I watched Storm dart here and there, and stop off to get a drink of water all while poor Rebel strained and pushed and strained and pushed.  Aha!  She’s constipated. 
 
Eventually Storm decided she had the same urge and zig-zagged back on over to their “spot” to drop a present of her own.  She easily managed and they finished up about the same time.  I expected Rebel to stop off at the water bowl next, but she instead went into her dog house to curl up in a corner.  Yes, she appears to prefer those close quarters these days…evidence of nesting.  Storm, on the other hand, realized she had done everything she came outside to do, and ended up at the back door letting out a simple little bark meaning, “I’m done.  Can I come back in now?”  I let her in, and at the sound of the door opening, Rebel appeared from her house to follow behind.

I sat down with them both for minute on their blankets reflecting once again on my dog’s pregnancy.  I’ve heard my boys say words of, “I’m sorry we did this to you,” but even though I have compassion for her, I’m not sorry.  And I’m the only one in the house who completely has empathy for the girl.  No, I’m not sorry.  We’ve always wanted to breed our lab.  I wasn’t ready when Storm was young as I had young ones of my own, and just knew I couldn’t handle the commitment.  And that’s without truly knowing how much of a commitment there would be. 

We eventually had Storm spayed, and gave up on the notion for awhile.  Then we decided a puppy was exactly what our old dog needed to keep her going, so we got Rebel.  They are both pure bred black Labrador Retrievers.  We always thought Storm was a pretty good looking dog, but then as Rebel grew we were amazed at her long sleek beautiful build and the way she strutted herself around like she just knew she was gorgeous.  Well it worked, Storm got a little bit more energetic even though she was often annoyed. 
 
Now that we’ve picked up our dream of breeding our “pure beauty” at her second heat, Storm is jealous like you wouldn’t believe.  I don’t blame her…all the attention Rebel’s getting.  I’m still trying to figure out if either one of these dogs knows what’s going to happen sometime in the next week or so. 
 
I got up to get Storm some breakfast, and I noticed that when she got up her back hip was bothering her again.  Plus, her teeth chattering told me that they were bothering her as well.  So, I gave her medicine in her kibble and put her back outside. 
 
I tried to get Rebel to eat some kibble, but of course she wouldn’t.  She’s been sooooo picky!!!  I really never expected that to happen.  For awhile during the pregnancy, I was pulverizing her kibble and mixing it with turkey broth.  It was convenient since it was just Thanksgiving.  When we ran out, the other “Mommy/Grandma” made some broth for her. 
 
I’m not sure what else to call us other than “Grandmas” to these puppies.  After all, our pets are an extension of our families, and I’m typically referred to as “Mommy” when we’re all spending time with the dogs.  Getting to know Rebel’s “baby daddy”, Clyde, and his owners has been a very sweet experience as well.  I feel like I’ll be "Grandma" to these puppies, and Clyde’s “Mommy”, Michelle, must feel the same way as she is just as excited as I am for them to come.

I got Rebel to eat regular kibble last week and so stopped with the pulverizing, but it was only a few days of normalcy.  I started mixing the dry kibble with bacon grease.  That worked for a day.  Then it was Christmas dinner, and we saved the drippings from our prime rib roast.  I got her to eat by mixing that in with her food.  That lasted a couple days.  Yesterday, I had to mix the last of the canned food in, and found success, but then she refused to eat the scrambled eggs I’d been giving her daily for weeks in order for her to get extra protein.  I was shocked.  I found myself out of ideas until I can get to the store for more canned food.  Then it hit me…cookies!  

OK, so she’s a little spoiled.  But I’m desperate to get her to eat.  You can’t reason with a dog to “do it for the babies”.  We had some dog treats that were all natural and nutritious…full of dried fruit, oatmeal, peanuts, molasses, and chicken fat.  At least it’s not as bad as Bill Cosby giving his kids cake for breakfast.  She gobbled them up, and I let Storm back inside.

After fixing myself some tea, I watched my poor girl try to maneuver herself into positions she used to be able to easily get herself into to clean herself.  I thought about the times I needed my husband’s help to unhook a bra or tie my shoes when I was in my 8th month.  That’s equivalent to 8 weeks for a dog which she’ll be tomorrow.  I got a warm wet wash cloth and wiped down her back legs and tail that was covered in mucus.  It’s a normal discharge, and she just can’t seem to get it all clean.  Then I cleaned all the goop out of her eyes.  She seems to be congested and it makes her eyes weep.  I was never one to become congested while pregnant, but I know of many women who were.  It just never occurred to me that my dog would have that same experience.

Finally, it was time to sit with my two girls for some cuddle time.  This was the first morning that I was able to see ripples constantly moving across her belly.  It was very cool to watch while Rebel lied there like a beached whale…great with childs.

I think I’ve been most surprised by her emotions.  A couple of weeks ago, we went out for my husband’s company Christmas dinner.  Our adult daughter and her boyfriend came out to our house to stay the night with our teenage boys as we didn’t know how late we would be.  First Rebel reacted strangely to Tori, and then later reacted the same way with her boyfriend, Ravi, when he arrived.  She cried and cried as if she was crying tears of joy to see them.  It was as if she hadn’t seen them in weeks, when in actuality they come over once or twice a week.  I wish I could figure out how to spell what was coming out of her vocal chords, but if I could translate, it would sound like, “Oh I’ve missed you guys so much.  (sob, sob, sob)  You have no idea what I’ve been through.  (sob, sob, sob)  I’ve just been so miserable.  Oh it’s so good to see you.  Will you just stay with me for awhile?  (sob, sob, sob)  Please, please, pleeaasse??”  Whoda’ thought a dog would have all the experiences a person has with pregnancy?

I think about all the professional breeders who will have 2 or 3 pregnant girls at a time.  How could they possibly give them all the attention that they truly need?  All pregnancies are difficult, and I know it’s because of being under the curse of sin.  If anything, I feel bad that animals have to experience this curse even though it was man who sinned and brought the curse on.  But since creation is under the dominion of man, they were cursed right along with us.  We are to rule over the animals and all of nature…not harshly, but with love. Still, we are to dominate over them, and care for them…especially when they are suffering.  

 For we know that all creation has been groaning 
as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 
 Romans 8:22

Yesterday, my kids and I watched a DVD called, “My Life as a Turkey.”  It was very interesting, but I just couldn’t agree with the guy.  He spent a year and a half raising 16 wild turkeys from incubation till they were out on their own.  I’m sure he’s an intelligent man, but there was a level of stupidity in him that got sometimes annoying.  At one point, he said he felt these creatures were superior to him.  What?!? Superior?  Are you insane?  I turned to my boys and said, “Don’t you EVER think that an animal is superior to you!”  I mean, some animals are scary, but superior??  Never!  That’s an evolutionary mindset right there.  And I won’t have it.  

I laughed as the guy was shocked in the end when the most dominant male turned and attacked him.  I know it’s nothing to laugh at, but I guess my sick sense of humor thought he was an idiot for not expecting it as I yelled out, “Shoot it!  Eat it!”  

God commanded Adam to rule over the animals and subdue the earth…to bring them under submission.  Not to allow them to rule over us, not to lift them up as superior to us, not to harm them either, but to subdue them with wisdom.  I am superior over my dogs.  They need me to help them, especially when the curse of sin that makes all of creation groan affects them as well, making an old dog groan with arthritis and decaying teeth, and a young dog groan with emotion and exhaustion during her pregnancy.  

It’s only a few days after Christmas…the day we celebrate when our Savior who came to break that curse was born.  His mother was great with child as she entered into the place where she would give birth among the animals.  That means animals were among the first to see Him.  He cares for them.  But no one is superior to Jesus.  He deserves all honor, glory, and praise.  He overcame sin throughout His life, on the cross, and in resurrection.  We must make a conscience decision to follow Him.  But since the animals did not make a conscience decision to be under the curse, they don’t have to make the same decision we do in order to be saved.  Some have argued that animals are not eternal creatures, but I’ve read scripture that describes heaven, and guess what…animals are there.
 
It’s too complicated of an issue to say for sure one way or the other, but when I look at my girls, and see them groaning, I’m reminded that Jesus cares for them too.  They won’t always be suffering just like we won’t either.  Someday, we’ll be living in paradise where there is no more suffering, no more death, and no more tears.  But for now, I will care for my girls…the old one who is close to the end of her life, the young one who is close to the end of her pregnancy, and soon all those childs she is great with.

Amie Spruiell
12/28/13

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Treasures


It’s amazing how many shadows are cast in each room as the sun rises first thing in the morning and its rays stream into my home.  Lying in bed thinking about the fullness of all that I possess…all that I’ve collected and carefully kept over the years…I feel safe knowing they're there.

Though I enjoy visiting the homes of my friends where there’s space to walk around, places to sit and visit, and an open line of view to the other side of the house to observe what others are doing, I just can’t imagine transforming my home into such a place.  Where would I begin?  What would I do with it all?  How would I decide what to keep and what not? 

No, it’s too much to think about.  I might as well get up and get started with my daily routine.  I follow the same path I have for years weaving in and out and around my many piles, but this time I ask myself, “Why?”  Why do I go through such lengths to keep it all?  Why am I even asking why?  And why now?  I’ve done this everyday for years without question, without thinking, and now?  Suddenly I have a stirring inside of me to reevaluate my way of life…my comfortable way of life.

I’ve had twinges of guilt in the past when I’ve observed those in need, knowing that I have so much.  But I would quickly dismiss those feelings assuring myself that someone else will surely come along to help.

I just can’t imagine the work of searching through, gathering up, and carrying such weighty items to someone else.  The other option is even worse.  Inviting them inside to search through my treasures themselves would be such an invasion of my privacy.  I would be embarrassed for them to see and know how much has been piled up and why…even if there is a story behind each and every possession as well as a happy ending.  There would just be too much explaining to do, and so many questions to answer.  One would lead to another.  Would they understand the choices I’ve made?  Would they see the beauty of each keepsake?

It’s so frightening to consider.  On the other hand, I am assuming the worst.  Well, I’m just not big on taking chances, I guess.  Besides, it’s not so bad.  After all, I keep my laundry up, my dishes washed, and my toilets clean.  I function just fine.  Even as I continue with my self-talk, I go through my morning chores.  I’ll admit preparing breakfast has always been a little challenging searching for a work space.  But before I begin to eat, I always think about how thankful I am for it all.

And then I begin to feel lonely….

Who would have thought that on this particular day that has strangely been filled with thoughts of regret, and at the very moment that sadness begins to creep into my heart that there is no one to enjoy my meal with, there would be a knock at my door.

Instantly, all of my thoughts flee as fear and anger overwhelm me.  Who would have the nerve to ignore my signs?  Don’t they realize that no one is ever to knock at my door…let alone come into my home?  Do they really think I’m going to let them in?

After several seconds of silence, the knocking continues.  Well, my breakfast is already interrupted and I probably won’t be able to eat now for the rest of the day.  Maneuvering my way to the front of the house, I carefully peek out the window to catch a glimpse of the brave soul rapping on my door.

It’s that woman from the corner…the one with the cart, and she’s got her dog with her.  What does she want?  If I let her in, her dog will roam around and get into everything…maybe even pee on something, and I probably won’t even know it until my whole place reeks of ammonia.  People from the street will smell it and assume it’s me.  My thought process of excuses is interrupted by more knocking and a plea for help.

A more careful look out the window reveals a limp animal in her arms.  Eventually the annoying whine coming from my front porch pushes me to make a drastic decision.  Finally forsaking my privacy, I open my home and she falls at my feet since she was pressing so hard against my door.

In less than a moment, she frantically climbs to her feet cradling her beloved and terribly injured pet, and begging me for help.  As if I would have any means to help her.  I don’t know what she expects to find here.  I stand there not knowing what to do or say as she’s weeping before me. 

“Maybe you should find someone who can help you,” I offer as advice.  Then, through her sobs, I struggle to make out the words, “That’s why I’m here!” 

My heart begins to race as I nervously look around my home wondering what she must think of me.  After a little composure, she continues to explain.

“I know he’s only got a few breaths left in him.  He’s my best friend, and I’m losing him.  I didn't have enough strength in me to carry him to the vet.  I didn’t have a phone to use to call one.  I would not have been able to pay for any services anyway.  If only he hadn’t run out into the street like that.  What am I going to do?”

I continue to wonder why she’s telling me all of this.  Of all people, why me?  Just then the dying body whose belly was barely inflating and deflating stops moving altogether and the woman falls to the floor again screaming.  Afraid that someone might hear her and think my home is open to them as well, I quickly rush over to close the front door.  I still feel confused with my back against the door watching her wail over her loss.

Then I begin to feel as though I’m being forced to offer her something.  My rebellious will is fighting against it, but there’s a small part of me that desires to surrender.  My back slides down the door and I sink onto the floor.  My hands reach out one in front of the other crawling to her in slow motion.  Though I’m fighting against it, every movement causes the surrender inside of me to grow. 

By the time I reach her, her sobs have calmed to whimpers.  She’s sitting on her knees looking down at what was once her friend, and I feel as though something else is controlling me as my arm reaches around her shoulder and words come out of my mouth that do not sound like my own.

“Maybe we can get through this together…."

The next thing I know, we started searching through my many things and found some pieces of material, several remnants from different bolts.  She humbly asked me if she could have them to wrap her dog in.  Looking at the folded strips of cloth, fear slowly began to well up inside of me as I remembered why I had kept them.  Deep down inside, I knew I must fight this battle and allow this be the first of my treasures that I relinquish.  I nodded my head and as we carefully laid the body on one piece, covered it with another and continued with a sort of solemn ceremony.  I explained to her what the material meant to me.
 
“Shannon was my best friend.  She loved all sorts of crafts, and was very talented.  Back when we were in a Bible study together, she felt inspired by the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors.  At the time, I was trying to build a wardrobe of professional outfits since I had just finished college and was now on the hunt to begin my career.  She actually pieced together using several different coordinating colors a stunning blazer with 3 pairs of slacks each a different color that matched one of the colors in the jacket.  She said it was my coat of many colors.”

We both smiled as I talked about Shannon.

“About a year later, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that took her so quickly, I felt like she was ripped from my life.  But I felt the presence of God more than I ever did before when she died.  I leaned on Him and He helped me through it.  I insisted that she herself was buried in the coat of many colors she had made for me.” 

I looked up and smiled, “And these are the remnants from those bolts that she used.  Don’t they look stunning on your best friend?”

After that, we searched for something to use as a little coffin, and before long found a box…a beautiful box that he fit perfectly in.  So, I told her the story of the box…how it arrived at my door one day with some groceries, some clothes and a little money.  It was at a time when I was struggling quite a bit financially.  I had only enough money to pay my rent, but nothing else.  I was so hungry.  There was no note in the box, and I had no idea where it had come from.  But I thanked God for providing. 

Then we searched some more and found some dried flower petals to sprinkle around her deceased friend, and I told her the story of the petals.

“You see,” I began, “I always dreamed of a beautiful romance, but as time went on, I realized that I probably will never have one.”  She looked sad as I told her.  “Then,” I continued, “God revealed to me how much He loves me.  It was an amazing moment for me, for just as He spoke to my heart, the doorbell rang and this beautiful arrangement of flowers was delivered to me.  The card simply said, ‘With Love.’  I decided to let the petals dry out so I could keep them.”

Next we found a place in the yard to bury the box and a shovel to use to dig up the hole.  I even had a story to tell about the shovel. 

“It belonged to my grandmother who loved her beautiful garden, and when I was a girl, I took the shovel and dug a hole in the ground, ruining a portion of her flowerbed.  When I saw what I had done, I felt so bad.  But my grandmother told me that she forgives me just as Jesus forgives her.”

We took some wildflower seeds that I had, and sprinkled them over the area of the grave.  Then we covered them up with the rest of the dirt.  I told her a story from the Bible about planting seeds.  I told her many stories that day…many that went along with my many treasures.  Some of the stories were difficult to tell…but I told them anyway.  I found myself giving my things away to this woman, and it wasn’t too painful.  In fact, I felt good afterward.

Every now and then throughout that day, she reminded me how she just knew that I would be able to help her, and she encouraged me to help others as well.  But she didn’t realize just how much she had helped me.
That night I asked God to forgive me for hoarding so many testimonies and allowing them to pile up in the secret places.  I promised that if He would send people into my life who needed to hear them, I would be willing give them away. 

His light seems to shine more freely now.  There are no more dark corners or shadows cast.  I’ve removed all of my signs, and I just love inviting people into my heart now.

Amie Spruiell 10/26/13


This fictional story was inspired by my friend who was impressed with a message from our pastor about hoarding our testimonies instead of telling others about them…for it is by the blood of the Lamb AND the word of our testimony that we will overcome…and our testimony brings other to Christ.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Life’s Not A B---h, and We Will Have Life Everlasting!

Do you remember the old saying, “Life’s a b---h, and then you die.”  Yes, I know this is a Christian website and that’s not a very Christian thing to say, but let’s be real, we’ve all heard it before.  I especially remember it during the 80’s, but I know it was first said long before then.  It’s not my favorite thing to say.  It’s something I would take captive of before it ever had the chance to form in my mind.  I’ve never really cared for the saying, and not because of the expletive.  I just don’t like the attitude behind it.  But life is hard.  I know it’s hard.  And dealing with everything life throws at you is hard.  So, I suppose I understand it. 

I believe there’s a few ways to use this phrase.  One way means to just deal with it.  Don’t dwell on the things we’re supposed to let go of.  It takes hard work to just survive, so work hard without feeling sorry for yourself.  Let go of unnecessary offenses.  It’s just extra weight.  We’re not to be jealous of others or selfish in the way we think life’s supposed to turn out.  All this falls into the same category.  I still personally wouldn’t use the above phrase, but I understand that others do when life calls for the words, “Deal with it!”  Many tend to also say, “Well, life’s a b---h, and then you die!”

On the other hand, when we let ourselves fall into destructive behaviors, following bad examples, and making dangerous choices all resulting in misery following us wherever we go, we might be tempted to use this phrase.  And that’s because we don’t want to deal with it.  It’s too much work, so we stay stuck in our suffering.

Likewise, when you watch others following such patterns, and you know how much work it was for you yourself to make a change, how are you supposed to convince another to do just that…change?  I mean if you go through the work of trying to get them to change, putting yourself through anguish and they still don’t…then what?

Here we go with that bitter sweet attitude of, “Life’s a b---h, and then you die.”  It’s sweet to some because it lets them off the hook of the work of making a difference.  It gives them permission to throw their hands up and say, “Oh well.  There’s nothing I can do about it.  This is the way it will always be.”  It’s bitter because it leaves no room for hope, and it continues to callous your heart and your mind.

I spent some time this week with some family members who no doubt have had this phrase…or at least this attitude…cross their minds and callous their hearts a thousand times before.  And the truth is you can’t blame them.  Though Jesus holds them very dear to Him and has never left them alone, it’s so difficult to know Him, feel Him, and hear His powerful voice when you’re trapped in a world of anger, fear, blame, and regret. 

The effects of trauma go far, deep and wide in a family.  It’s been 7 years since my cousin’s 16 year old daughter suffered entrapment, rape, torture, and murder.  It’s been 7 years since two people lost their oldest daughter, 7 years since two girls lost their sister, 7 years since a baby lost her mother, 7 years since two people lost their first grandchild, and that doesn’t even mention the aunts, uncles and cousins who lost her as well.  It’s been 7 years of trying to heal, overcome, move on and quite often giving into that bitter sweet attitude of, “Oh well.  There’s nothing I can do about it.  This is the way it will always be.”

If I were to truly describe the experience I had this week with them…the experience that my adult daughter, my teenage son, and I had with them this week, this posting would be pushing the rating of “R” just from the intensity of the conversations alone…not to mention the language.  And I know that most were doing their best to hold back.  But I know that Jesus was with us, by our side, sitting around the table out on the porch, hanging out on the couch, hurrying around the corner of the house to chase down someone who was running away from the conversation, and walking out into the dried up pasture with the children who were trying to get away from the intensity of it…all at the house that’s been a part of this family for as long as I can remember.

And why now?  What’s spurred it all on at this time?  One of the surviving sister’s has allowed herself to get into her third abusive relationship, and just a week earlier, she almost lost her life because of it.  We witnessed how different people react in different ways.  Where one sister would never allow it to happen, the other seems trapped in her own mind believing she’s not worthy of anything more.  Now the two sisters are living together in the ranch house that they were both once infants in.  They have their own little ones.  One has a son, the other has a daughter, and the four of them are as vulnerable as little lambs when it comes to the enemy of our souls.  And that’s really what it boils down to…a battle with the enemy, a spiritual battle that’s been waged for many, many years, not just beginning 7 years ago.

I’ve spent the remaining of the week at home with my mother visiting me, and discussing patterns in our family.  It doesn’t take long to see how things repeat from generation to generation.  There’s promiscuity, illegitimate children, substance abuse, adultery, divorce, and yes even teenage death a few generations before the one that plagues my loved ones.  It’s so overwhelming it’s hard to know where to begin battling. 

With two of my four children with me, we set out to go and pray even though not one of us felt that there was anything extraordinary about us.  Of course, despite our feelings, we knew that the Word tells us that we are extraordinary simply because of Christ in us, so off we went…off we went to kill some giants like our pastor speaks about on Sunday mornings. 

I decided that the first thing that needed to be done was to convince them that they are just as extraordinary as we are.  The truth is that every single one of them believes in Jesus, but taking that step to believe in Him does not stop the enemy from lying to you and convincing you of anything and everything that’s contrary to God’s Word.  They look at us and seem to think that we are on some different level, which of course we’re not.  We’ve just learned to recognize lies and counter them with the truth.  And the last thing that we came to do is judge anyone.  Still, they kept on trying to get a reaction out of us.  We really could care less about their “shockers”.  So we went to work teaching them about lies.

Yes, child, you are better than what these men have made you believe you are.  You are the child of a King!  No, sister, you cannot give up and say, “Oh well, life’s a b---h!”  You have to keep fighting for your sister, your parents, your grandparents, and yourself!  You have to keep fighting because God entrusted to you your own child to fight for!  God created you to be a fighter for a good reason, so live out the way you were designed with joy, not anger.  No, cousin, you cannot give into fear of losing another child to the curse of death before her time because greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.  Put ALL your faith in HIS protection.  He won’t let you down!  Yes, precious family, life is better than that because you have authority in you over the b---h of the lies, and when you finish living a full life of victory because of Christ in you and your body succumbs to the curse of death, you will have eternal life with the lover of your soul and there’s nothing greater than that.

I was impressed!                                                                                                                                                                             

I was in no way impressed with myself…I was impressed with the presence of God.  He was there when we were eating pizza casually visiting, and He was there when we were powerfully praying casting out demons and breaking curses.  He was the one that was calming our spirits while one sister was doing everything she could to push every button and get on every nerve we had in us all with her outrageous outbursts.  He was the one giving my daughter wisdom as she did everything to convince her cousin that she has to break free from the lies of her abuser.  He was there as pent up emotions came pouring out of my cousin after years of trying to pretend that she’s strong enough to overcome the death of her own child.

I was especially impressed with the picture of Jesus I saw in my 13 year old son.  I’ve been criticized for sheltering my children and criticized for not sheltering them enough.  I know many would frown on my judgment call to bring him into this situation, but God intended for him to be there and God used him. 

He loved on those little ones the way Jesus does.  When the 2 year old little boy bit my son’s nose and used a four letter word just to get his attention, he calmly corrected him with love.  When the 4 year old little girl who looks to be trapped in her own fears wouldn’t have anything to do with him, he patiently worked at getting her to trust him.  When the 8 year old daughter of the one who was murdered got dropped off after school by grandma because she just couldn’t stand not seeing her cousin, he was happy to see her too.  And when I saw him with the 2 year old in one arm, the 4 year old in the other, and the 8 year old walking by his side heading off into the wilderness of the ranch, it was absolutely beautiful.  It was Jesus saying, “Come with me and be little children.  Let the adults take care of killing giants.”

I continue to pray that they will not succumb to the bitter attitude of “Life’s a b---h, and then you die!”  That in itself is a lie.  Jesus came to give us an abundant life, not a life that makes you want to die.  He came to heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free!  What I see in these women are warriors that scare the enemy to death.  His attack on them is only because he is threatened.  And he should be threatened, because they are more than conquerers!  God’s plan is for them to have an abundant, powerful, victorious and fulfilling life, and then for them to have life everlasting!  He will never leave them nor forsake them.
Amie Spruiell 8/30/13