THE STORY BEHIND “SHADOWS IN MY VALLEY” Part 3

If you haven’t read Part 1 and Part 2, click on these links and read first. Also you will find another excerpt from the first part of the book here.

Shadows in my Valley New cover

I now believe that what happened to me, in some measure, occurred because I accepted her words and allowed them to control my life. I had no desire for revenge, but I had made the offense my own. It almost destroyed me. I am aware that other issues contributed to this time in the valley, but this, I believe, was the most significant and damaging. The tragedy: I could not explain it to my pastor, and none of the leadership in the church had any prophetic insight with which to enlighten me. Their counsel did not address the real issue, through no fault of theirs. It was me and God. Most of the time, though I knew through the Word that it was not true, I felt I was alone. Feelings took precedence over faith.

As I have already stated, the Lord does not expect us to be devoid of feelings. That would be counterproductive. He created our emotions and expects us to experience them. Jesus felt sorrow and anger. He wept. He loved. He showed compassion. But God intended that our emotions be controlled by His Spirit. We must not give in to them. They must not become the determining factor for our actions. In other words, act rather than react. Uncontrolled emotion leads to reaction without reason. We need to learn to move according to the Word of God. He uses the valley to teach us obedience to Him.

Jesus came that we might have abundant life. This world is full of people whose spirits are dead but not yet buried. There is still hope to reach them if we possess divine life, a life filled with the Holy Spirit. Once we have emerged from the valley and again see life from the perspective of the mountaintop, we should be ready to minister to these lost souls. If we have been teachable through the valley and live in a spirit of humility, the Lord will enable us to minister for His glory. Other valleys will surely come, other desert places, other wildernesses. The extent of our ministry is determined by how much of our lives we are willing to yield to the Lord and how much divine instruction we are ready to receive from Him. Let the valleys of your life be the places of fertile growth they are meant to be.

Another frustration occurred during this time. Helpful people attempted to share the Word of God with me, reminding me of His promises. I knew these scriptures. They always began with “I will”. I did not want a promise for the future. I wanted something for the ‘now’. There were also times that Mary told me, “Just keep praising the Lord”. This I was making my best attempt to do without any outward effect. My response? “That’s what I’m doing, but it’s not helping.” Mary’s comeback? “Don’t be so negative.” I felt like ice water had been thrown in my face. I had enough negative feelings to deal with, without having this arrow shot at me to pierce me further. Please understand that this was how I felt, not necessarily what constituted truth.

When I attended a church service where the people felt the presence of the Lord, I felt nothing. I left in frustration and discouragement. “Why?” I wondered. “What’s wrong with me?” Unfortunately, when I received no reply from the Lord, I became even more frustrated.

During this time, I worked in the art department of a local business. Responsible for the process camera work, I spent a lot of time alone in the darkroom. I had read the book Practising the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. I wanted the kind of assurance he developed in his relationship with the Lord. In the darkroom I would start to speak words of praise to God. Not an instant success, I can assure you. My mind would wander back again and again to my problems. I would have to force my thoughts back onto the Lord. Forming positive thought patterns when so much of the negative bombarded my mind kept me in a steady struggle. I did not always win the battle.

I have often remarked about people who cannot remain quiet for longer than a couple of minutes. They walk down the street and through the stores talking on their cell phones. Car radios play at full volume. At home, the radio, TV or CD players fill their ears with continuous sound. (I am in no way criticizing these technologies. They have their place in life. Nor am I criticizing the people. It just seems to be the way of the world.) I sometimes imagine they cannot stand their own thoughts, so have to have noise to block them out. Often during my struggle I felt the same way, only I did not turn to noise to prevent my thoughts. I went to sleep. If I slept, I did not have to think. An unhealthy solution, no doubt, but this solution I often chose repeatedly through a long period of time. This was unproductive, probably counterproductive. Actually no solution at all. I always had to wake up again. My thoughts waited to pounce on me once again, like a cat on a moving target. Only I was probably more stationary than moving.

Strangely, I never stopped going to church. I attended every Bible study, Sunday service (morning and evening), prayer meeting, even prayer meetings held outside my own church. Many people would just back off and stay home with the excuse that they received no benefit from being there. I persevered. I can only say that God’s hold on me was so strong that I never contemplated quitting even though I often felt wretched being there. It certainly had nothing to do with any virtue in myself that I kept going. Obviously a good seed of faith had been planted—much stronger than I was aware of. Jesus had saved me, filled me in the past, and could fill me once again. As the old adage says, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” There must have been some vestige of hope left in my heart. I just could not see (or feel) it. The Lord was even more determined not to let me go. With Him on my side, no matter how weak I was, no matter how often I ‘blew it’, I really could not fail. It depended on the Lord, not me.

The lessons I learned as I walked the way of the valley have been invaluable to me in the years since my deliverance. I have had many ups and downs. I have failed and faltered. I have fallen. But the Lord has never again allowed me to remain for so long in the valley. I have found my way of escape much more quickly. And now I pray I may in some way help alleviate the troubled times others go through. I trust I have something concrete to offer them—and you. With the help of the Spirit of the Lord, it is my desire to minister His love and life to those in need. If my valley experience can help even one soul to find peace and a deeper relationship with Jesus, it will not have been in vain.

Thank you so much for taking time to visit my blog and read my posts. I really appreciate you taking time from your busy life to do this. I would love for you to leave a comment in the box below before you leave. Feel free to browse around the site as well. If you are not already following me, please take a moment to click on the “Follow” button at the top to receive e-mail notifications of new posts.

If you are interested in purchasing Shadows in My Valley, please check out my Author page here.

Have a wonderful day. God bless you.

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THE STORY BEHIND SHADOWS IN MY VALLEY Part 2

Shadows in my Valley New cover

This is a continuation from Part 1 of the story of my book Shadows in My Valley. 

There were occasional times after this when Mary offered to pray with me. One such night I remember brought me a great deal of pain. I should interject here that this woman’s habit at times was to tell people their faults. She deemed it a kindness. On that particular evening, after desperately trying to grasp hold of the Lord in prayer, I felt a failure. My cries landed right back in my lap—or so I felt. Had God even heard me? A young friend who also struggled in her spiritual life had joined us in the prayer time. She left the room for a few minutes. After putting her arm gently around my shoulder, Mary decided this was her chance to list all my faults. Though she spoke as though this were the first time she had said any of these things, I had heard them from her, at least in part, before. By the time she finished with me, I was devastated. I remember writing later in my prayer journal that I would rather she had taken a kitchen knife and literally stabbed me in the back. I felt it would have been less painful.

I received the baptism in the Holy Spirit several months after I accepted the Lord as my Savior. I did not have specific teaching as to why I had received this blessing. The church I attended offered wonderful teaching, but much of it better suited strong, mature Christians than new ones. Through books, I gradually learned that tongues were, among other things, a prayer language given to us by the Lord to use when, in prayer with an intense burden, our natural language failed to express our need. During this difficult time, I felt completely unable to express myself. I did not know what my true need was, so words were not forthcoming. I prayed in tongues, the only way I could communicate with the Lord and find any release in my spirit. Even so, I found none for my mind. This brought criticism from Mary. Though she herself spoke in tongues, she accused me, at the end of one public prayer meeting, that I had prayed too much and too loud in tongues. According to her, it disturbed other people. Another slap in my face. For anyone who knew me back then, an accusation of my being too loud would probably have astounded them. When I asked the pastor’s wife about it, she assured me that I had not disturbed anyone. But the damage had been done. Discouragement grew.

Please do not think I am sharing this to sully Mary’s character, to get it off my chest, or because I hold a grudge against this woman. I dealt with this issue before the Lord years ago. Perhaps you wonder at my not just forgetting these things if I have forgiven and moved on. I do not often think of them, but forgiving someone does not always include forgetting what was done. It was part of my life, changed my life, helped to make me what I am today. During the time I started writing this chapter, the situation came to my attention while reading a book about offense. What I do wish is to offer you some light on at least part of the reason adversity enters our lives.

Mary had become spiritually proud and truly believed she was doing the Lord’s work. Pride is dangerous, and spiritual pride the most dangerous type. I know that others besides me suffered because of her pride.

Often we believe we are doing what the Lord has called us to, yet we harbor pride, anger, bitterness, hurt. We may want to blame everyone but ourselves for what happens to us or for our own spiritual impoverishment. I do not think I consciously blamed her for the spiritual poverty in my life, but I am now able to see the situation much more clearly from the distance of years and greater maturity. I realize now that she, through the deceitfulness of the devil, had given me offense. I grasped on to that offense and ran with it. Instead of dropping it like a hot coal and forgiving, I latched on like a starving soul being offered a rare meal. Today we hear and read a great deal about offenses, but then I do not recall ever hearing anyone preach on this topic. Perhaps if they had, I would have been free much sooner. Yet this does not excuse me.

Jesus told us in His Word, “It must needs be that offenses will come” (Matthew 18:7 KJV). Nowhere does He say to make them personal. We are not to make it our personal vendetta to avenge ourselves. We must not take offense to heart and allow it to rule our lives else we will become like those Paul instructs Timothy about in 1 Timothy 4:11. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (KJV). These were people of faith who obviously had received offenses and refused to deal with them. We should observe where it took them, and learn from it.

To be continued…

Thank you so much for visiting my blog and reading my story. I hope you were able to glean some truth as you read. I really appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to stop  by. Please leave a comment before you leave. And if you are not  already following me, please click on the “Follow” button at the top and you will receive e-mail updates when I publish new posts.

If you would like to purchase Shadows in My Valley you will find it on my Amazon page. This link is for Amazon.com, but it is also available on Amazon.ca for Canadians. While you are there, check out my novel Look for the Rainbows A Journey of Spirit and Heart. If you want to read excerpts from this book, click on Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. If you would like to read about how Look for the Rainbows evolved, click here.

Watch in the next couple of months for an announcement about the publication date of my next book The Lives of God’s Poor and Obscure A Collection of Short Stories.

In the meantime, have a wonderful day. God bless you and keep you through the easy times and the difficult times. He is always with you.

THE STORY BEHIND SHADOWS IN MY VALLEY Part 1

Shadows in my Valley New coverHere is the first part of my story, though not the first part of the book. It happened a long time ago, but it is still impacting my life today. I wandered in this valley for several years on a roller-coaster ride of many doubts, moments of faith, many fears, much confusion, along with countless other unpredictable emotions.

MY TESTIMONY

I once had a mentor, an intercessory prayer partner, who sought to teach me and lead me into the deeper things of God. I was a novice and needed help. To my seeking heart, the offer sounded wonderful. An answer to prayer. Although the Lord did teach me much through her, I was unaware of the pitfalls this relationship would create for me. The leadership of the church considered Mary (not her real name) to be spiritually mature and trustworthy. So I trusted her.

I read a book by Ken Gire called The North Face of God. He likens our dark and difficult times in life to the dangers of mountain climbing. He makes it clear that we need to be extremely careful who we choose as climbing partners. We need a safe team. An experienced team. As it turned out, I did not choose well.

I trusted Mary with too much of myself. Probably more than she could handle. She became an anchor to me, when my only anchor should have been Jesus. During one phone call to me, before we were closely bound spiritually, I recall that she quoted a scripture to me and asked me if I felt the same as she did about it. In my immaturity, though I understood what that verse meant, I misunderstood the meaning behind her motive for quoting it. I will not go into detail, but this began what I now call an unwise prayer partnership. Actually, an ungodly soul-tie.

We prayed together every Friday evening. Mary opened my understanding in many ways that helped me greatly. I did learn to go deeper than ever before in prayer. But I believe something about her own personal life, which in some ways was abnormal, kept her from following through to the end what she began to do as my spiritual mentor. She backed off suddenly and unexpectedly, and it threw me completely off balance.

When it happened, I felt like a baby that had been thrown overboard from a boat into deep water and told, “Sink or swim. If you make it to shore, I’ll see you there. If not, tough luck, but you’re on your own from here on.”

Have you ever plunged into icy cold water? Then you can imagine the shock I felt in the spirit. I was not prepared to handle this situation. I panicked. I had come to know the Lord more deeply during the previous months, but evidently not well enough to understand how to trust Him for this. It overwhelmed me. I did not know where to turn. When I say she left me, I do not mean she never had anything more to do with me. She did cut off our prayer times. I felt I still needed these times in order to reach a level where I could stand on my own. With the Lord, of course. But she had decided this to be the time for me to stop crawling and begin walking without help. I think now that perhaps she did not want to be a support for me any longer. I determined, wrongly, that I still needed that prop.

I realize now, all these years later, that the Lord Himself had removed the prop. I believe this lady’s motive was simply to be free of something she did not wish to continue, but that her method was unacceptable. The Lord used it to bring me into a place of trusting Him completely. Unfortunately, I did not comprehend this at the time. I floundered. I lost my footing and handhold, then fell from the mountainside.

I did not have the ideal team to help me down. I hit bottom in a dark valley that, in one stroke, insinuated itself into my life. I could see nothing. I did not have the wisdom to understand what had happened. Wandering helplessly around this valley, I wondered what had hit me. Depression took hold of me for the first time in my life. I had always questioned how anyone could succumb to depression. Now, here I sat, wallowing in it myself. Though I would never want to feel this way ever again, I would not trade the lessons I have learned. Now I can understand how others may be feeling and think of them with compassion rather than criticism.

To be continued…

I want to thank those of you who faithfully read my posts, and to thank all of those who are new or occasional readers for taking the time to check out my latest articles. I really do appreciate all of you. If you haven’t already read my former excerpt from Shadows in My Valley, please click here.

I would be happy to read and respond to any comments you might care to leave in the box below. I would love to hear about your experiences and how you found your way through to victory. If you are not already following me, please take a moment or two to click on the “Follow” button at the top to receive e-mail updates when I publish new posts.

If you would like to purchase Shadows in My Valley please check out my Amazon page. This link is for Amazon.com but it is also available on Amazon.ca. While you are there, please check out my novel Look for the Rainbows A Journey of Spirit and Heart. Click on the links if you would like to read Chapter 1 and part of Chapter 2 of Look for the Rainbows.

Watch for an announcement sometime in the next couple of months for the publication date of my next book The Lives of God’s Poor and Obscure A Collection of Short Stories.

I hope you have a wonderful day. May God bless you richly and take you by the hand to lead you through any valley you may be experiencing right now.

LOOK FOR THE RAINBOWS CHAPTER 2 Part 2

Copy of Look for the Rainbows New full coverHere is the continuation of Chapter 2 that I promised. You will find the first part here.

CHAPTER 2 Part 2

“They’re here!” Beth shouted as she ran to open the back door. She had been watching out the front window for over an hour even though they did not expect her grandparents until later.

“Grandma! Grandpa! Hurry up. You’ve got to see the special tree.” She threw her arms around both of them.

“Beth. Give them time to get in the door and get their coats off. Here, let me take your bags. Come on in out of the cold.”

“That coffee sure smells good. We didn’t stop for any on the way.”

As Beth’s dad hung up the coats, Mrs. Worthington led her husband’s parents through the entrance and into the kitchen to join her own parents at the table. Mrs. Irving had already poured two more mugs of steaming coffee for the new arrivals and replenished the plate of homemade raisin biscuits.

“How was the driving?”

“Fine, Harold. The roads are bare and dry—a perfect day for a drive. We woke up early and got a head start. That’s why we’re here in such good time. They’re calling for snow tomorrow, so I’m glad we planned on coming today.” Now in his seventies, Beth’s grandfather still enjoyed the trip, but did not like to make it in bad weather.

“Now that you’re warmed up, you had better both come

and take a look at this tree before Beth bursts.” Though she had said nothing, she had been squirming for at least ten minutes.

“Come on, then,” her grandma offered as she held out her hand to Beth, “show me this special tree. And, may I ask, why is it so special?

“You’ll see.” Beth grabbed both grandparents by the hand and almost dragged them out of the kitchen.

“Slow down, girl. The tree isn’t going anywhere, and we can’t move as fast as your young legs take you.”

“Wait. Close your eyes. Daddy, turn on the lights. Please,” she added as Mr. Worthington gave her a knowing look. She carefully led her grandparents through the doorway into the living room. “OK, you can open them now.”

“Wow!” Grandma and Grandpa Worthington exclaimed in unison. “It certainly is a special tree,” added her grandfather. “Wherever did you get it, Harold? Sure beats the one you picked last year.”

“You’ll never let me live that one down, will you?” he chuckled. “We went to the small lot just off the highway as you come into Headly. You passed it on your way in. I should have gone there last year, but it was getting so close to Christmas I didn’t take the time to drive that far and there was next to nothing left to choose from in town. We were lucky to have a tree at all. Don’t worry. I’ll never let that happen again.”

Grandma Worthington bent down to hug Beth and to tell her again how much she admired the tree. As she straightened, she began to massage her neck and shoulders.

“Tired?” her daughter-in-law asked as she placed her hand gently on her mother-in-law’s arm.

“Yes, Marg, I am. I think we’d both like to rest awhile. It was rather a long drive, especially since we didn’t stop along the way for coffee and to stretch our legs.”

“That sounds like a good idea, Mom. Go ahead. I’ll call you when lunch is ready. We won’t eat until around one o’clock or a little later, so that’ll give you a good hour or so to rest.”

Mr. Irving and Harold were immersed in a discussion about Harold’s work. Marg decided to tidy the kitchen and prepare part of the lunch ahead of time. That left Beth and Mrs. Irving free to spend some time together.

“Grandma, come up to my room. I want to show you something.” Beth took her grandma’s hand and walked slowly up the stairs beside her. Mrs. Irving had to stop half way up to catch her breath.

“You OK?”

“Yes, I’m all right, honey. Just a little winded. I’m not as young as I used to be. And I’m not used to stairs at home anymore since your grandpa set up my laundry room off the kitchen. I don’t have to go down to the basement now.”

Though Beth loved each of her grandparents dearly, Grandma Irving was her favorite. They had a very close bond. Both Marg and Harold’s parents were devout Christians, but Beth sensed something special in her Grandma Irving’s relationship with the Lord. She had the ability to share spiritual truths in a way a child could easily grasp, and had instilled in Beth at a very young age a desire for a closer walk with Jesus.

“Well, what do you have to show me?” Mrs. Irving asked once the two were comfortably seated on the bed.

“I made this for you.” Beth proudly presented a picture she had colored depicting Jesus surrounded by little children. She had traced it from a picture in one of her Bible story books.

“It’s beautiful. When I get home I’m going to get a frame for it.”

“Mom said I should wrap it up and put it under the tree, but I couldn’t wait that long.”

Mrs. Irving gathered Beth into her arms. “God bless you, honey. It’s a very special gift, and I’m glad you gave it to me this way. Your Grandpa and I will enjoy looking at it every day. Now, tell me what you’ve been learning in Sunday School.”

Beth’s grandma took the opportunity to talk further to her about the Lord and to pray with her. When they heard Marg call, Lunch is ready!” they headed at once downstairs still deep in conversation.

***

Thank you for stopping by to read more of my story Look for the Rainbows. If you missed Chapter 1, click here.  If you missed the post about how this book came into being and evolved into what it is today, click here.

If you have enjoyed reading the beginning of Look for the Rainbows, please consider purchasing a copy from my Amazon Author page. For Canadians, you can go here. While you visit my author page, check out my other book Shadows in My Valley. You can read excerpts from it here.

If you like what you have read, please leave a comment in the box below. I would love to hear your thoughts. If you are already following me, I thank you. If not, please take a moment to click on the “Follow” button at the top and receive e-mail notifications of upcoming posts.

Have a wonderful day. God bless you all.

SHADOWS IN MY VALLEY Excerpt

Shadows in my Valley New cover

The following is an excerpt from my book Shadows in My Valley Published in November 2018. The theme of the book is a valley experience I went through many years ago that made an indelible impression on my life and has contributed to who and what I am today. Each chapter begins with a poem written  during that time of despair and in the process of coming out of that valley. Further details are added as well as excerpts from the prayer journal I kept at that time. Scripture verses bring it in line with the word of God.

A PRAYER FROM THE VALLEY

Lord, it’s so dark all around me;

I can’t see the light of day.

Jesus, help me to understand now

All the things that have come my way.

I just don’t feel Your presence;

I can’t hear Your guiding voice;

My world seems ready to crumble;

Still, I make Your will my choice.

Your Word says You’ll never leave me,

Nor forsake the child You love.

Give me faith, my heavenly Father,

To keep on looking above.

The darkest hour, they tell me,

Is always before the dawn.

Let the sun now rise upon me,

Fill my heart with heavenly song.

May I feel the warmth of Your sunshine

As brighter and brighter it glows;

Lift my spirit to heavenly places

Where the wind of Your Spirit blows.

Let Your love fall on me like a mantle,

Dispelling the shadows and fear,

And to Your sweet, holy presence

Let me now and forever draw near.

A Prayer from the Valley describes exactly the feelings I struggled with as I groped my way through spiritual darkness. The wonderful thing about going through these times and growing in the Lord is that we are not nearly so devastated when the next trial comes. Today I would not allow these feelings to overwhelm me. That is not to say I will never have to battle with them any more, but I will gain the victory much more quickly. I have learned to lean more on the Lord. I still experience times of dryness, of weariness, of being overwhelmed with life, of wondering, “Where do I go from here, Lord?” But I no longer feel that God has left me. I know that I know that He is with me whether I feel His presence or not.

Of course, I would much rather feel Him close to me, to feel the touch of His hand on me in blessing. But I am now able to continue on in faith and the knowledge that even when I cannot sense God’s presence, the Lord has not abandoned me to my own meager resources. I can trust Him much more fully with my life. Often I do not understand what He is doing. At times I come to a standstill because I cannot understand what He wants me to do. These are times I must learn to discipline myself to “wait patiently for the Lord” (see Psalm 40:1). In the margin of the New American Standard Bible this word ‘patiently’ is explained as ‘intently’. We must wait with purpose and concentrate on hearing God’s voice. If we are not absorbed totally in listening, we may miss His direction and then we will continue to grope our way through life.

I had not then learned to listen carefully. I did not know how to rest in the Lord. Jesus was real to me, but His ways were not always familiar. My faith existed only as a little mustard seed, unable to carry me through the valley at that time. I needed the Lord to carry me. But He did much more than carry me through. He taught me to walk in His faith. Jesus never leaves us to ourselves unless we turn our backs on Him. (Even then He waits in the background.) He was there all along. I just did not have the keen perception to see Him. My Father improved my spiritual awareness through that valley, and continues to do so every day of my life since as I yield myself to Him. No longer do I fear the dark times, for Jesus is the Eternal Light that ever shines into my life. I no longer dread the valley, for it is a beautiful place of resting, watering, learning and growth. But it has taken a great deal of time to bring me to this place. Naturally, I would rather feel the exhilaration of the mountaintop. I would choose to feel the presence of God all the time. But He allows us to pass through the desert and valley places so that we all the more appreciate the blessedness and closeness of His manifest presence in our lives.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me. Psalm 23:4

Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring.

Psalm 84:6

From my Journal:

Father, I need Your help so desperately. I feel entirely helpless. Please reveal to my spirit what I must do to be released from this prison. Peter could not get out of prison until the angel came and loosed the chains that bound him and told him step by step what to do to get out of his prison cell and be free.1 I don’t want just enough strength to endure, Father. I want enough strength to be free, to rejoice with my spirit for evermore. Grant me a speedy deliverance, Father, because of Your love and mercy. Forgive me for feeling the way I do. Lord, I’m sorry that just when I seem to be making some headway through the valley that I end up falling again. It’s like trying to climb out of a deep pit with perpendicular walls. I get so far, lose my footing and tumble back to the bottom again. Forgive me for my failure, Father. Forgive me for my weakness. Forgive me for not being able to grasp firmly the rope You are throwing me to lift me out of the pit. Change me, Father. Give me the strength to take the rope and hold on as You pull me out. And when I get to the top, to the surface, help me not to look back, lose my balance and fall back in. Help me to look straight ahead at You and to follow You. Thank You for hearing. Thank You for understanding. Thank You for caring. Thank You, Father, for answering the cry of my heart. I love You, Lord.

In reading this excerpt from my prayer journal, you may be able to feel the despair that I felt at that time. I was desperate for release, desperate for God. I just did not know how to find Him. As I prayed this way from day to day, I cried ‘buckets’ of tears. In some places it was hard to decipher the writing where the pages had been watered with and the words faded by them. I cried so much that I told friends I had shed enough tears to fill a bathtub. Rather exaggerated, no doubt, but that is what it felt like. Yet tears do cleanse and heal, as long as they are not tears of self-pity or despair. As you can see, I did believe that God cared, but I simply could not put that knowledge to profitable use to help me out of that deep hole. I was overwhelmed with the extent of emotion I had never before realized was in me. I allowed the enemy to keep on attacking because I did not know I had the tools and the power to send him packing. Actually, I am not certain that I even realized that it was the enemy attacking me.

Today, I believe that I went through this turmoil in order to understand the trials of others, and to help and encourage them—and you—to push through to victory. If my experience, devastating as it was, can benefit even one other person, it was worth it all. We have the power of God resident within us. We can fight Satan and run him off. We are not his property, and he has no rights over us unless we have given them to him by continuing in sin or simply by default because we did nothing. James tells us that if we only “submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (see James 4:7). If you can grasp this truth and run with it, you will exit the valley much more quickly than I did. If I had been given the counsel I needed, I, too, would not have spent as much time wallowing in the mire of self-pity. I might have won the victory much sooner. Though I would never want to go through another experience like it, I do not regret the things the Lord taught me in the midst of it. As the old chorus says, “It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus”.2

The following poem came in response to A Prayer from the Valley. There was comfort in it. There was hope. There was life. But still, my mood continued on a roller-coaster ride. Still I could not walk in the truth the Lord was showing me. I was encouraged, but not yet delivered. That would not come until later, after many more lessons. The mountaintop still loomed in the future, high up in the clouds, but the promise was in the present. As the valley appeared before me unexpectedly, so victory came when I did not anticipate it. Look up, and see what the Lord Jesus Christ will do for you.

1See Acts 12:1-11

2“When We See Christ” Words and music by Esther K. Rusthoi. To see all the words and chorus: http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/gospel-songs-chords/it_will_be_worth_it.htm

Thank you so much for stopping by and reading my post. I hope these words have spoken to your heart. Watch for future excerpts.  To purchase this book, go to my Amazon Author page. Click here Shadows in My Valley.  Check out my novel Look for the Rainbows A Journey of Spirit and Heart.  To read Chapter 1 of the novel, click here.

Watch for an announcement in the next couple of months concerning the publishing of my upcoming book, The Lives of God’s Poor and Obscure A Collection of Short Stories.

Please feel free to leave a comment in the  box below. I would love to hear your story. If you are not already following me, please take a moment to click on the “Follow” button at the top to receive e-mail notifications of future posts. I always appreciate it when people take time out of their busy schedules to check out what I am doing and writing. I would love it if you could share this on your social media. May the Lord richly bless you every day. Have a great week.

 

CHAPTER 2 OF “LOOK FOR THE RAINBOWS A Journey of Spirit and Heart” Part 1

Copy of Look for the Rainbows New full cover

Here is the first part of chapter 2 of Look for the Rainbows. This takes you back to Beth’s days as a child, to times she reminisced about in her deep grief (chapter 1). It seemed a little too long to post the entire chapter.

~Chapter 2~

A Very Special Tree

I can’t wait till they get here!” Beth pirouetted around the kitchen in excited anticipation.

“Well, Beth, Grandma and Grandpa Irving won’t be here until next Friday night, and Grandma and Grandpa Worthington are coming sometime the day after. So you’ll just have to contain yourself. Christmas isn’t for another two weeks yet!” Her mother smiled at Beth’s enthusiasm as she thought, She’s so much like me when I was her age.

“Christmas is my most favorite time of the year!”

“Don’t I know it,” replied her mom. “We hear it repeated over and over all year. Just the other day, didn’t you remind us of that scraggly tree we got last Christmas all because your Dad waited too late to get one?”

Beth looked downcast for a moment until she glimpsed her mother’s lopsided grin and realized she was only teasing, not scolding her. She grinned back and continued her whirling.

“Be careful, Beth. You’ll get dizzy twirling around like that. Sometimes I think we should have enrolled you in ballet classes. Whenever you’re not drawing pictures you’re dancing around in circles. Look out! You nearly knocked that glass off the table.”

“Sorry. But it’s fun, and I’m happy.”

“That’s fine, but just be careful where you’re doing it. It won’t be so much fun if you break something.”

An only child with no cousins, aunts or uncles, Beth looked forward to the annual Christmas gathering every year. She and her parents visited with her grandparents at other times of the year, and Beth spent a couple of weeks with each of them in turn during summer vacation, but at Christmas everyone was together. Even at the young age of ten, she recognized the importance of family.

“When are we going to pick out the tree?”

“After dinner. Daddy will need a few minutes to rest after working all day, and to let his meal digest. Talking about rest… don’t you think you should sit down and be quiet for a while? What about homework—don’t you have some arithmetic to do yet?”

“Yeah, but…”

“But what?”

“Can’t I do it later?” A good student, Beth usually enjoyed schoolwork, but her excitement prevented her from settling her mind to addition and multiplication problems without a little push from her mother.

“If you don’t get it done by dinner, you won’t have time before bed to help decorate the tree. Which is it going to be?”

“Decorate the tree! I’ll go do my homework now.”

“Off you go, then.” Mrs. Worthington chuckled as she watched Beth take the stairs two at a time and disappear into her bedroom.

***

“Mom, it’s perfect.” Beth was breathing hard as she dashed into the house that evening.

“What’s perfect?”

“The tree, of course. It’s huge. I’m going to look so little beside it. How am I going to put the star on top?”

“Harold, I hope this tree will fit in the living room. How big is this thing anyway?”

“It’s only about seven feet. And don’t worry, Beth, I’ll help you get the star on top. We’ll do that first. That is, after I stand the tree up in here and make sure it’s well anchored. And get the lights strung.” He winked at Beth; she grinned back.

Finally the tree stood in place in its designated corner. It truly did dwarf the petite Beth. Had the tree been much taller, they would have had to chop off some of the trunk and lower branches.

“You really did pick a beauty this time, dear. Look how thick the branches are. Remember last year? The tree had more spaces than branches.”

“Don’t remind me, Marg. That’s why I wanted to go tonight before they get picked over. It did pay off, didn’t it? And this one didn’t cost any more than last year’s, so it was a bargain as well. OK, let’s get those decorations out.”

“The boxes are all in the den. I brought them up from the basement this afternoon. Beth, honey, help me bring them in here. Beth!

“What, Mom?”

“What world were you visiting just now? I asked if you would help me bring in the decorations.”

Beth giggled. “I’m not in another world—I’m still here.” She had been envisioning last year’s tree, scraggly, not nearly as tall. The contrast with this fragrant spruce with its lush foliage astonished her, even in its untrimmed state. She breathed deeply, savoring the fresh scent before responding. “OK, let’s go get them.” She was already halfway to the door. Her mother smiled as she followed at a slower pace. She sometimes found her daughter’s enthusiasm a little overwhelming.

They opened box after box to reveal tinsel, lights and colored balls, many of them dating back to Mrs. Worthington’s childhood. Mr. Worthington strung dozens of multicolored lights on the tree first, then stood Beth above him on the ladder so she could put the star in its exalted place at the top of the tree. Her dad held her tight so she had no fear of falling.

“There. Put me down now so I can look.” Safely back on the floor, Beth stared in awe at the tree. The star had become an almost sacred part of the Christmas decorations. It had been handed down from Beth’s great-grandmother whose father had carved it from pine and painted it when she was still a child. “It looks prettier than last year.” Her dad made a face at her, and she wrinkled her nose back at him.

“Do you think it’s straight?” Her dad was just teasing her, but she did not catch on.

“What, the tree?”

“No, I meant the star. Isn’t it a little crooked?”

Beth looked up at the treetop, then deliberately placed her hands on her hips and turned a quizzical look on her father.

“Your dad is only teasing you, honey.”

Beth made a face at her dad before breaking out into a giggle, then turned again to admire the star. When she had satisfied herself that it was, indeed, perfectly straight, Beth joined her mother in untangling yards of silvery tinsel before they endeavoured to loop it evenly over the branches. This presented no small difficulty on the higher boughs. Gradually every part of the tree began to sparkle with the reflection of lights on tinsel. Mrs. Worthington carefully removed gold, red, green and silver balls from their storage containers. She and Beth lovingly placed them on the branches until the tree became a blaze of rainbow color.

“Tell me about the special ornaments, Mom.”

“Well, that one we bought the year you were born—baby’s first Christmas. And that pink one—up there,” Mrs. Worthington pointed her finger, “was given to you by your Grandma Irving when you were five. I’m sure you remember that.”

“Yeah, I remember, but I like you to tell about them.” Beth sat cross-legged on the floor scanning the different shiny balls. “That one was yours when you were little, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, there used to be half a dozen like that, but the rest have been broken over the years. That’s why it’s so special. And that Santa ornament hung on our tree as far back as I can recollect. It’s a miracle it hasn’t been broken. And those two plastic ones on the bottom branches, they belonged to Grandma and Grandpa Worthington. Your Dad could tell you more about them than I can.”

“Yes,” Harold said wistfully, “I remember the year we got those. They came in a box of twelve, each one different. There was a bell, a Santa, a gingerbread man, and, of course the star and the sleigh there on the tree. I can’t remember now what the others were, but it was always a special time when we put them on the tree. Just like now.”

“I wish I could have seen the others, Daddy. They must have been nice, too. I specially like the sleigh. Mom, don’t they remind you of the cookie cutters we always use to make the shortbread?”

“Yes, I hadn’t thought about it before, but they do look rather like them. But, don’t you think we had better stop reminiscing and get back to decorating this tree? What’s next to go on?”

“Let’s throw the icicles! That’s the most fun of all.”

Mom, Dad and child stood around the tree and tossed hundreds of shiny silver icicles all over it. Beth had them in her hair and all over her clothes. They made faces when they saw the mess on the floor. Mr. Worthington grabbed the camera and snapped some pictures.

“Mom, there’s an icicle hanging on your ear.” They laughed until the tears rolled down their cheeks.

“OK, let’s pick up as much as possible off the floor and put it where it belongs—on the tree. I don’t want to waste it when I vacuum later. And I certainly don’t want it tracked all over the house.”

So the three of them gathered the stray icicles. In the process, Beth knocked a red glass ball off one of the lower branches. As it hit the floor, it shattered. Upset, she bent to pick up the pieces. Without warning, a small fragment of fine glass pierced her finger. She let out a cry, and a tear escaped as she watched the blood ooze out around the crimson sliver and drip onto the floor.

“Ouch! It stings.” she moaned as her mother dabbed the cut with iodine before putting a small bandage over it.

Thank you so much for taking time to stop by and read. I hope you enjoyed your time. I would really appreciate it if you would leave a comment in the box below. I enjoy interacting my readers. And if you have not read chapter one, please click here. If you are interested in how this book came into being, click here to read about The Story Behind the Story. Also, please check out my Author Page on Amazon. If you are not already following, please take a moment or two to click on the “Follow” button at the top to receive e-mail notifications of new posts. And please feel free to share on your social media.

Have a wonderful week filled with God’s blessings.

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY

Copy of Look for the Rainbows New full coverI promised last time that I would tell you the story behind the writing of Look for the Rainbows A Journey of Spirit and Heart. 

It all started back in the 1990s. I cannot remember the exact year, but it was while I was spending some time out of town at my mother’s home, and most likely after New Year’s Day. After my father died in 1984, my mother would come here for Christmas then I would return with her for a couple of weeks to visit family and friends.

One night after going to bed, a whole story unfolded in my mind. Unfortunately I had no paper or pen to write with and the house being small, I did not want to disturb my mother by getting up to look for any. I had to rely on my memory.

I don’t know how long it took for me to start writing, but I worked over a period of a few years (obviously not very seriously) on developing the story. I used to read the Women’s Weekly books, and I thought I might be able to write something that they would consider publishing. Unfortunately, by the time it was even close to being able to submit it, their format had completely changed. My story had not changed.

The story began as a first person narration. Then came the day I decided that was not how I wanted to tell it. I started all over in third-person omnipotent. That meant I could get into the minds of all the characters. I was on my way again. Finally I finished the first draft only to realize this did not constitute a novel. It contained only about 26,000 words. A novel should have at least 50,000 and anywhere up to 150,000 words.

This meant a complete overhaul again. What could I do to add that many words? I had no intention of aiming at 150,000 words, but I knew I need to at least double the number to have a viable novel.

I had an idea which I passed by a friend who thought it might be possible. I had a few shorter stories and decided to incorporate them into the main story. That would mean I would have to write a lot of words in order to work those other stories in, so I was off again.

I wrote many drafts and edited it a countless number of times before I felt it was finished. But then I had other difficulties. I wanted to self-publish on what then was CreateSpace. Only a couple of problems prevented this. There were some technical things that I just couldn’t figure out, and could not find anyone to help, so it lay dormant in the computer, and, in paper form, in a folder.

Last fall I decided to take the bull by the horns again and try to figure out what I needed to know. I asked for prayer at church a few times, but the last time I asked, someone different prayed for me. A couple of days later I finally, after about seven hours straight working on the computer, figured out how to do the things I needed to finally publish.

I had some help to tweak my front cover. Lisa Frederickson, leader of a marketing group on FaceBook, was kind enough to do that for me. She also suggested a different subtitle. So I completed the formatting of the book and put the cover together to meet the standards for uploading to KDP Print. By the end of November, Look for the Rainbows A Journey of Spirit and Heart was available for sale on Amazon.

And so ends my story behind the story. Did you miss the post of the first chapter? If so, click  here. If you would like to know more about the book, please check out my Author Page on Amazon. Now you have the opportunity to read the book for yourself and see how the story ends. If you decide to purchase my book, I would love it if you would leave a review on Amazon once you finish reading it.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog and reading my post. I hope you will leave a comment in the box at the bottom and share on your social media. If you are not already following me, please take a couple of seconds to click on the “Follow” button to receive e-mail updates for new posts. I appreciate all of you, my readers, and wish you a wonderful day. May God richly bless you.

LOOK FOR THE RAINBOWS A Journey of Spirit and Heart

Here is the first chapter of my newly-published novel. I hope you will enjoy reading it and that you will leave a comment in the box  below before leaving. In another post I will tell the story of how this book evolved from a nighttime vision to a finished book 20 some-odd years later.

Copy of Look for the Rainbows New full cover

~Chapter 1~

Rainbows After the Storm

Headly Herald, October 10,1971: Davies, Jonathan Edward, in his 26th year, died October 9 at Headly General Hospital as a result of injuries received when struck by a car. Predeceased by his parents Edward and Katherine (Jones) Davies. Beloved fiancé of Elizabeth (Beth) Worthington of Headly. Visitation at Wilson Brothers Funeral Home October 11 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Funeral service will be held October 12 at 1:00 p.m. at the Headly Community Church. Pastor Jim Dale officiating. Donations to the Headly Community Church benevolent fund in lieu of flowers will be gratefully received.

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Beth clung desperately to the wedding ring quilt wrapped tightly around her shoulders, but its warmth had no power to penetrate the icy burden in her heart. She huddled in the well-worn blue armchair that had once filled a cozy corner in her childhood home. Through misted eyes she stared blindly out of the window. Although the heart-wrenching sobs had diminished, teardrops still trickled silently down her flushed cheeks. She sat motionless. Her eyes, shadowed and swollen, exposed deep anguish of soul.

The fire in the grate had almost burned itself out; a fragile warmth tenaciously clung to the few last embers, powerless to dispel the late afternoon chill. A shiver ran through her body. Terrible loneliness and the overwhelming sense of loss had brought her close to emotional collapse.

Heavy black clouds swirled in constant motion across the leaden sky, an ominous herald of the approaching storm. Except for a few leaves which stubbornly refused to fall, the trees had cast off most of their foliage, and the bare branches lashed in fury at an invisible enemy. A blanket of crisp, lifeless leaves mingled with clouds of dust as they whirled through the garden. The once lush lawn now resembled dirty straw. Flowers lay brown and shriveled in their beds, forgotten, their former beauty betrayed by autumn’s demise. The atmosphere of sadness and desolation was almost palpable.

A cold wind howled through the trees, and bowed the few saplings nearly to the ground. It whipped around the corner of the house and brought the first large splatters of rain which signaled the onset of a heavy downpour. In the distance the lake raged. A sudden flash sizzled across the sky. Thunder crashed overhead. Sheets of rain pelted the dry earth and bounced off in fountains of spray.

Still she did not stir. The scene that played within Beth’s agitated mind was as desolate as that which, outdoors, seethed as if in sympathy. At that moment, her life was rapidly spiraling into a vortex so deep she felt there was no escape. As she cast her thoughts back to that fateful day, a flood of emotion almost drowned her in despair. The weight threatened to crush her.

Why, Lord?…Why?…Why?… A single tear trickled down her cheek and spilled onto the quilt.

Why Jonathan? Why me, Jesus? Why us? Why now, when our

whole future was before us? She glanced toward the ceiling as if expecting an answer. Silence.

Where are You, Lord? Have You left me all alone? Why can’t I hear Your voice when I need You so desperately? Please…answer me, Jesus! Still no word from heaven.

Oh, Lord, I loved him so!

Her head dropped into her hands as though too heavy to hold itself up. From the depths of her spirit she sobbed and poured out her burdened heart to the Lord in unspoken prayer. Words could never express such pain. To her troubled heart it seemed that God was not listening. The moaning of the wind was the only response she heard. Deep in her spirit she knew that God had promised never to leave her. She truly believed He loved her, but sorrow deafened her to His voice of comfort; grief deadened her ability to sense His presence.

Jonathan…head bandaged, tubes everywhere…that final moment of recognition, then… Her mind refused to complete the picture.

Gradually, aware of a change in the atmosphere, Beth stirred. The rain had subsided. The thunder was now only a distant roll, the lightning a faint flickering glow. Through the gentle shower, a beautiful double rainbow filled the sky with brilliant arcs of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. A darkened band divided the two distinct bows. Splashes of iridescent color radiated above them as the sun’s rays glinted out from the clouds. Beth gazed at this awesome display of nature. Was this a sign from God? Had He taken His invisible paintbrush and slashed through the dark clouds with His divine colors to remind Beth of His promise of hope? Overwhelmed by the beauty, she was for one short moment set free from the torturous labyrinth of her reflections.

All too soon the flicker of hope waned like the now-fading colors of the rainbow. The icy fingers of sorrow once more endeavored to strangle all essence of hope from her heart. Anguished thoughts raged, stilling all memories of happiness.

When would the torment end?

Beth reached into past memories in an attempt to forget, if but for a moment, this past week’s heartbreak. Childhood memories of a happy Christmas struggled to the surface and she snatched onto them as to a lifeline.

Without warning, her mind was jolted by a long-forgotten image: blood dripping from her finger, a red glass Christmas ornament shattered at her feet, the sting of iodine. As quickly as that brief memory intruded, in a flash the scene vanished.

Check out Look for the Rainbows on my Amazon Author page along with Shadows in My Valley. 

Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to read my post. To read Chapter 2, click here. I will respond to your comments. If you are not already following me, please take a moment to click on the “Follow” button at the top of the page. And feel free to share with your social media groups. Have a wonderful day. God bless you abundantly and meet your every need.

UPDATE

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My New Computer with Old Tower on Top

I have not been able to post anything for a time as I have been having computer problems. My old one kept crashing and was gradually dying. Thanks to a friend I got another computer, but it kept crashing, too. So I didn’t want to get in the middle of something and have a crash, especially if it hadn’t saved yet. And I was afraid it might damage the hard drive if it crashed too often.

All is finally well, but now I have to explore to find out what is on this computer. Going from Windows XP to Windows 10 is a bit of a challenge. Going from Outlook Express to Outlook is another challenge. I’ll get there, but it’s taking time. I got the computer on New Year’s night, but it has only been functioning well for the past week. Now I am trying to get caught up, especially with e-mail.

I have accomplished quite a bit of editing and expanding one of my books. Just a few more changes and it will be done. It is good to know that finally I have almost finished this particular manuscript. Now I can move on to something new. A new year, new projects. Sounds good.

I hope your year is going well so far. I pray for success in all you put your hand to. I pray for health and love and joy in abundance. May the peace of God rule in your hearts and minds through every situation. God bless you.

Thank you so much for stopping by and taking time to read my post. I hope you will leave a comment to let me know how this new year has begun for you. If you are not already following me, I hope you will take a moment to click the “Follow” button at the top to receive e-mail notifications of new posts so you can keep up-to-date. Have a wonderful day.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

P1080917I can’t believe we are at the end of another year. It seems that every year longer I live that those years travel by me all the faster.

2018 has been, in some ways, a hard one. It has also been a good one in many aspects. God has blessed me in many ways. He is always faithful.

Many people make resolutions as the new year comes, but often they are all broken by the end of January. I find it a futile effort.

Our church will be starting the annual 21-day fast this coming Sunday. This is a wonderful way to begin a new year, to seek the Lord for His leading for the weeks and months ahead. Fasting can make us more aware of spiritual things, and provides us with more time to spend in prayer. That means more time to hear from God, too.

What will you do to begin the new year? Do you have any special plans for the coming year? What are your hopes and dreams for 2019?

I pray that you will all have a prosperous and healthy 2019 and that you will find great satisfaction in God and in what He has destined for your life. The happiest years we can have are those in which we are obedient to the Lord and learning to know Him better. The most satisfying years we can have will be in serving God and serving others in whatever capacity He leads. I pray for each of you the fulfillment of God’s plans for your life and a deep satisfaction in serving Him.

Thank you for stopping by. Please take a moment to leave a comment in the box below. If you are not yet following this blog, please click on the “Follow” button at the top to receive e-mail notifications of new posts. Have a wonderful New Year’s Day and may God bless you abundantly with His love, joy and peace.