Archive for the ‘Sunshine Report’ Category

84 Can do moreSome people never go to their high school reunions; my husband is one of them, but he did attend my 30 year class reunion with me. We were the class of 84, from Hammond Baptist High School in Schererville, Ind., with approx 77 graduates. There has been a five, a ten, twenty and a thirty year reunion and I have enjoyed them all. Each has been different and I must say, this one has meant the most to me. For one, it landed on my birthday and everyone wished me a happy birthday. Second, this group of people is full of love and life.

We pulled into town and Louie and I were invited to a fish fry my class-mate and friend, Steve was having at his in-law’s house. After stopping off at the hotel to freshen up and inviting a few more friends who wanted to spend time with me, we were off to the party. As we walked around to the back yard, smelling the fresh aroma of fish frying, we met up with Steve, his wife, Susan, his brother Dave, and dad. It was a joyous time because they made us feel comfortable and loved. Little did I know that Steve’s youngest daughter shares my same birthday which was a highlight for her and me.

The next afternoon I sent a text to a friend I had not seen since 6th grade to see if she wanted to get together. We lost touch when my parents decided to send me to Hammond Baptist School after being at Calumet Baptist for a few years; which is where Celeste and I became fast friends. When I told her Louie and I was coming for a visit, she asked me, “What do you want for your birthday?” I told her, “I just want to see you.”

Fun at the fish fry

The firs time we have seen each other in 36 yrs.

She came to the hotel where we were staying as I anxiously watched for her truck to pull in the parking lot. When I went out to greet her, tears came to my eyes; I couldn’t believe we were together again. I was reminded of why I miss her so much. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her because I was searching the adult for the child in her. Then she smiled and there she was, my best friend. I brought some pictures to show her and a letter she had written to me 36 years ago. After I saw her response to the letter, I wanted her keep it so I gave it to her.

Louie and I had been invited for a pre-reunion lunch at TGI Friday’s, we were late and everyone had ordered, but it worked out fine. When we walked in to meet the eight class mates, I started to cry because everyone was so happy to see us. Seeing and being with them was like a warm blanket on a cold day. I just couldn’t believe how great it was to be with them.Lisa and Marc asked about what we were doing so we talked about jail and prison ministry. I told them I had written a book and they were so proud of me. We all talked and listened and never got tired or bored. Vicki told us of how she shot a deer and how it made her feel. It was intriguing to see her so excited. I watched her husband Dale, who is also a class mate, listen to her tell her story and could visibly see the love he has for her, on his face.

84 reunion

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Lisa told us of a story of how she is able to minister to high powered women in a biblical way without using religious words. She is talking Spirit to them while teaching them who they are on the inside. As she told the story with passion and from a place way down inside her heart you could tell how much she is changing these women she talks to.

After a short nap and applying glue-on nails, it was time to go to the reunion. We weren’t the first to arrive but got there in time to unpack the memorabilia they asked us to bring. It was so much fun seeing what everyone brought and the pictures of us 30 years ago. We were there to make new memories as well, like the group photo, when John was making us all laugh so hard because the photographer was getting him to move here and there.

We had a cake; they sliced it up to hand out, but waited until they gave me a piece with a candle on it. The DJ played, “It’s your birthday” which was a surprise to me. He also played 80’s music which got us remembering all those crazy days. One girl told me that she remembers me telling her she could be a model some day, which she has never forgotten. Louie and I were blessed by everyone we talked to. I loved taking pictures and enjoying the company, I didn’t want to leave. I don’t think any of us did.

On our way home we reminisced about the experience and I heard Louie say to me about my class as a whole, that they are “successful, healthy, kind and genuine.” This is coming from a guy who didn’t grow up in church like we did, he went to a public school and didn’t have quite as strict Christian parents. His dad took him to church, but nothing like the way we were raised. So, coming from Him it really meant something.

All I know is that 30 years later, I didn’t think I would feel empowered by my class mates to know that I am not the only one. They go through the same things I go through as a 48 year old. I love my class and I miss them in between the 10 years. I wouldn’t take anything for the journey we all went through. Looking back, it was what shaped us for the adults that we are today. Our parents didn’t know what an impact it would make in our lives but God knew; He had a plan. I’m so thankful for God’s grace and mercy on our lives. He is so good and loves us so much. One of our class mates mentioned about how in his life now he is a salesman, but the reason he is so successful is because of what he learned going to teenage soul winning every Saturday while growing up. His experience of doors being slammed in his face and walking door to door telling others of Jesus and His love gave him what he needed to be brilliant at his job today.

The after glow of this time together still grows as I see relationships rekindled. I think that maybe we are getting older, wiser and appreciate the small things in life, but 30 years later, we still love like we did when we were young.

Tracey

 

Sylvia Pearce teaching at a mini-conference in the home of Brian and Tandy Coatney

Sylvia Pearce teaching at a mini-conference in the home of Brian and Tandy Coatney

When I was a young girl playing with my dolls and having pretend tea parties, I always had the thought of having children of my own. I knew I would have a boy first and then a girl so that the girl would have an older brother to protect her and play with her; just like my older brother did for me. As I grew into a teenager, my thoughts became dreams and then became plans on having my own children. When the time came for the relationship that produces children, it didn’t work out like I thought. The man whom I thought I would marry turned out to be abusive and he could not produce children. After living in sin with him I felt like I had to stay with him forever because that was what I was taught being raised so strict. After all God’s way is to get married, have children and remain with the same spouse for life, right?

I remember sitting on my porch and crying without end because I would never hear a little child call me mommy or feel their little arms around my neck pulling my hair. It was a time in my life I will never forget because I felt like I was dying to those hopes and dreams. After that relationship continued to be violent, I ran away and moved to Kentucky. A person would think the dream would revive but it didn’t. I fell in love with another man who never wanted children and since I had already resolved myself to the idea, it was okay with me.

I am older now, I look back at my life, not regretting not having kids, but wondering what they would look like and what would they be doing now and how would I be different as a person. My husband, Louie and I are in jail and prison ministry and hang out with some really awesome people. One of them being Sylvia Pearce; she told me once that I was a mom, but I didn’t believe her until recently. It was God who had to show me and make it real in my life and that is exactly what He did.

This past weekend, while at a mini-conference at Brian and Tandy Coatney’s house, with Sylvia and Brett Burrows teaching; God impregnated me with the truth about me being a spiritual mom. On Sunday I received a text from a good friend of mine who I met in jail and God changed her into a new creation. I had to read it out loud to Louie because I couldn’t believe what it said. She said “thank you for being my spiritual mother.” From that moment on, being a spiritual mom has been quickened and made alive in me. The Lord gave me a poem I want to share with you:

Childless, they call me mom
While from this body I have not conceived,
From heaven, many children I have received.
There have been sacrifices I have made,
Not a big deal, because they were for your sake.
A mothers’ spit is powerful enough to clean your face,
So is your sin removed by God’s amazing grace.
As a mom, I encourage you, discipline and hold you,
I also teach you, comfort you and feel the things you do.
I can love you with the same love that Jesus loves me,
So that you can be destined for greatness like you’re meant to be.
Life’s lessons are hard to learn,
That’s how we go through life to discern
I have seen how far you have come.
I have seen your mistakes, but remember none.
I love you now and forever and outside of time,
God gave you to me as a child of mine.

I too now know what the Apostle Paul meant when He wrote the Galatians saying, “my little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.” Galatians 4:19

Tracey

I have seen her cry before, but only for being in jail or when she found out she wasn’t going home after going to court. But this time was different; she sat across from me with tears falling from her eyes because she went to another girl in the cell, that she stole coffee from, while she wasn’t looking. She knew the girl was going home but before she left the cell, there was something inside her telling her to tell the girl she was sorry. She wiped the tears from her face as she told me that nobody would have known it was her that took the coffee, but she needed to ask her for her forgiveness. Tears started rolling down my eyes now; because I have listened to this girl a lot of times before and she has never admitted to stealing not to mention feeling bad enough about it to make it right.

Another surprise I got from this girl was that she said she was reading her Bible. Now that wasn’t the surprise, because she has read it before, but it was a self effort “the thing to do” reading of the Bible. She told me now she was pausing at the commas and stopping at the periods. She was listening to the Holy Spirit before moving on. Jesus is changing her heart from a religious spirit to a real receiver depending on the Spirit of God. She did talk about her children, but it was the way that she left it up to Jesus to show them the realness in her. They are mostly grown, and she has lied to and stolen from them their whole lives. Her marriage has been one that stems from fear and domination. She is no longer blaming her behavior on him, her childhood or her excuses about religion. These are real tears I witnessed, real remorse for her past, but awareness that only Jesus can vindicate her and time will tell the truth. She said the truth (Jesus) will set her free and she is free indeed.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the religious spirit, which means people trying in their own strength to please God by their behavior. I think there is a time we all experience this because the flesh is weak and is easily deceived. After trying and failing, we come to the place we seek a relationship with the one and only who can please God, which is Jesus Christ our Savior. We read the Bible because we want to hear from God, we pray because we seek a heart answer from Him. We do things for others because we love Jesus then it becomes something that we can’t, not do. I know for me it happened gradually. I started seeing people through the eyes of Jesus, I started to love them for no other reason, but because they are available to love. I can’t explain it, really, I just love people. Some it takes a little mustering, but hey, those are the ones God uses the most in our lives. My point is that it becomes a relationship with Jesus Christ and not a performance issue. It’s not by works that we are saved, but by grace are we saved, that is the free gift of God. He is the one who saves us and He is the one who keeps us.

I had the opportunity to talk about Romans 6:21 to the ladies tonight and how we are a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness, but we are always a slave. If you have been born again, then you are dead to sin. Sin no longer has dominion, or mastery, over you. I asked them to fill in the blank, “every time I do _____, (this) _____ happens. One girl spoke up and said, “every time I do drugs, I come to jail.” Another girl raised her hand and said, “every time I give my life to Jesus, things go easier.” In verse 21 it says “therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death.” In other words, why do we keep doing the things that bring us shame, pain and death? Verse 22 has the answer, it says, “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification and the outcome, eternal life.”

It is better to depend on Jesus and seek a relationship with Him and let Him live His life through your personality and that is exactly what I saw in this lady for the first time. She has been in and out of jail for a lot of her adult life. This time, though, I saw tears of joy because of the freedom she is experiencing by giving up and letting Jesus be who He is inside her. It’s a beautiful thing when you can cry tears of joy because of what Jesus is doing in your life and the life of others.

Tracey

Desire of heart“I’m at the lowest in my life, yet I am the happiest I have ever been,” she said with a giggle. I was talking with “Jersey Girl” in jail the other night. She is looking at 10 years in the State Penitentiary. This is a young lady who came to jail never having a desire for a relationship with Jesus Christ. She and her boyfriend lived in the flesh and believed the lies about evolution among other things. The reason I know this is because she has a million questions about the Bible and Jesus. She asked me why Adam and Eve were so smart and then mankind turned into cavemen? You can imagine the look on my face; can’t say I have been asked that one before. I am not worried about untangling the mess; I point her to Jesus and let Him work out all that stuff. She is seeking Him; so she will find Him who is the Truth.

I started out my talk with the ladies telling them of the time I recently spent with my dad and family. He came to visit from Gulf Shores, Alabama. Raising us kids, my dad was a godly man and made sure we lived Jesus not just on Sunday. I am so thankful my dad showed me who love was.

There is trouble in every family and mine was no exception. I think there is unforgiveness that needs dealt with. Parents are not given an instruction manual to raise children unless they are using the Bible. Some parents leave God and the Bible out, which leaves scars and the things that hurt. When the children grow up, they find out for themselves how hard it really is. That is the case in my family as well. I am currently praying for insight from God and the forgiveness will follow.

I also felt lead to share with the ladies in jail about a promise I received from the Lord. I have been going through some trials and what I call, opportunities for faith. So, I prayed to Jesus asking Him to change my circumstances to the desire of my heart. He showed me, through a series of events in my life, where He had done just that. Once when I was a little girl, having surgery on my kidney and bladder, a newspaper man came to do a story on children missing the holiday because of illness. He came while I was in surgery and did the story on my roommate. After hearing the news, it broke my heart. As I grew older, I worked at a newspaper and have been in the newspaper lots of times for photo illustrations and stuff like that.

Another example the Lord showed me was when I was in a bad marriage, and I cried myself to sleep most nights begging the Lord to give me a Christian husband. There was a lot of pain and 2years of waiting before the Lord gave me the desire of my heart.

Having faith in something you can’t see is whole lot harder than it seems. Once you experience Jesus for yourself and His promise to you, you can know He won’t let you down. He hasn’t let me down yet, and He won’t start now. But I had to hear it from Him. That is exactly what happened about a trial I’m going through right now.

Are you going through something that you need to see Jesus? I’m telling you, you can trust in Him, He is right here, just whisper His name and share with Him the desire of your heart. Beware though, the pain comes first, but the glory is always greater!

 

Tracey

Have you ever had one of those days when you just wanted to be somewhere else? It’s time to be there, you know you’re late, and there’s nothing you can do about it? That happened to me as I was on my way to the jail, but I had to work late. My flesh was throwing a fit, like a two-year-old. I was so mad. I knew there was nothing I could do about it so I started to focus on the fruit of the Spirit, knowing I already have the fruit of self control. Before I knew it, I was at the jail with a sigh of relief.

The Lord had prepared me to talk about Hebrews 4:12 and what it teaches us about soul and Spirit, joints and marrow, thoughts and intentions of the heart; it’s okay to have temptations and pulls. We talked about how our circumstances don’t have to rule how we behave, when Jesus lives on the inside, He exercises Spirit living inside us. I don’t understand it all, but I do know we can trust Him to do it.

Afterward I talked with a lady whom I have seen a bunch of times. Her note indicated that we haven’t talked in a while. She is leaving for rehab in a couple of weeks and wanted to let me know about it.

The next woman I chatted with had given her life to Jesus the week before. She had tears in her eyes as she poured out her heart about how it bothers her about the negativity from the other girls in her cell. I asked her if this was anything different than other times she was in jail. “It’s me that has changed this time,” she said. “That stuff never bothered me before, but now, I can’t wait to get out of here,” she continued. She proclaimed how she is never coming back to this place ever again. Her ex-husband, who is in prison has written to her and asked to be reconciled. I asked her if she was still in love with him and she said yes. He has also given his life to Jesus and wants to be the Christian husband he was intended to be.

It was getting late, so I looked for the other ministers to say good-bye. They invited me into the law box with them and an inmate who was struggling with anger and unforgiveness. Wait till you hear what happened next. She shared with us the hurts and anguish she has suffered throughout her life since she was 12 years old. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and prayer, she began to let go of some horrific things. Each of the ministers were laying hands on her as she started to confess forgiveness for each person by naming them out loud. When it came time to forgive the man who sexually molested her as a child, she began to shake and her body temperature rose. I wanted to lay my hand on her head, but when she said this man’s name, God told me, “now”. When I put my hand on her head, the shaking immediately ceased and she became visibly calm. Everyone in the room knew a miracle had taken place. You should have seen the smile on her face once we left that room!

These are the very things that make my heart long to be where Jesus is, and this is one of the places He likes to manifest Himself for His glory.

Thank you, Jesus for who you are and what you are doing in the lives of people who seek your face. Thank you for you grace and mercy and love.

Tracey

 

FOR HIS USE

Posted: February 15, 2014 in Sunshine Report
Tags: , ,

optical illusionFor some reason most people look at Christians as if they have arrived or have got it all together. As if they never had a struggle or at least struggling like they struggle. Maybe there is a superman cape   under those clothes.

Paul instructed Titus to remind them to be subject to authorities, to be obedient and to be ready for every good deed. Most people are too busy looking at their sin and worried about their sin that they miss being ready for the good deed. He says to live peaceable, gentle and considerate of all men. Why? Because we were once foolish ourselves; we were disobedient, deceived, addicted to good pleasures, spending our lives in envy and hating one another.

Right here is when I told the ladies in jail about how I was addicted to marijuana, pills and drinking alcohol. I talked about other people and thought being mean was fun. I was “THAT” girl that nobody liked. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for all of us appeared in my life, He saved me. Eventually I realized that God not only gave us His Holy Spirit, He was poured out and it was for His use. God can do whatever He wants with my life and I don’t have to like it. I am justified by His grace, and I am being made an heir according to the hope of eternal life. It took me doing it wrong first and that’s how I got it right, not that I got it right, but I am trusting in the one who is right. He is the keeper of my salvation, and He is the keeper of my life everyday. We may have a will, but He is the power.

I also told those ladies about the time my husband and I were getting ready to divorce, but I was hanging on to the marriage as if I had some kind of control. I thought if I prayed with this preacher or that preacher about my marriage, my husband would be saved and we would live happy ever after. A Christian friend of mine came over one day and we took this cloth and cut it into 12 pieces, anointed and prayed over each piece as we strategically placed them in various places my husband spends time in. That didn’t work either, by the way, because it was in my so called power.

It wasn’t until I placed my trust in Jesus Christ as my redeemer and keeper that He did what I could not do for myself. My husband and I divorced and God called Him in His timing and I listened for when it was my turn to join in what God was already doing. Years later, my husband Louie and I were reconciled after he was born again.

The hard times are for His use, the good times are for His use. When we turn to Him and trust Him for our life, He can not fail us nor does He want to.

Finally, Titus 3:8, “This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.”

The three ladies I talked to tonight after the service were different in nature from one another. One lady said she was glad she came to the service to hear from God and was encouraged. Another lady couldn’t tell me what the service was about and continued to tell me how confused she is as to why she is in jail. The last lady was sincere in her commitment to live for God when she gets out and wants her boyfriend to also live for God. She was encouraged by what she heard, and she heard from the Lord.

I didn’t bring any notes from Titus tonight, because I wanted to trust in Jesus who lives in me and because I know that whatever happens, it’s going to be richly poured out for His use.

Tracey

To a room full of ladies in orange, I asked how many of them were struggling with something in their life right now; many hands were raised. Mine went up as well. Through all the counseling that I go through each week, this is my most talked about issue. “But I’m struggling, Miss Tracey.” The other question I come across is “How do I get it right? My answer to that is “by messing it up.” I think these two things go together because we do things the wrong way first and then we learn how to get it right. This goes for a number of things in our life. But somehow we see someone else doing it right and we think they got it right the first time, which simply is not true.

1 Peter 4:12 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you , which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.” Then James 1:2 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.” Lets not forget what 2 Corinthians 4:17 says, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but the things which are not seen for things which are seen are temporal but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

So, I think what happens is that we struggle with decisions, situations, and people and can’t see God in them because we are looking for things we can see. But God is showing us faith for the things which we can’t see. If we didn’t have the struggle, we wouldn’t look for Him.

The enemy’s job is to get our focus off of Jesus and onto ourselves as if we could solve or make a situation better. The devils’ tactics have not changed; he seeks us to kill and destroy us and our witness for Jesus Christ.  The struggle is part of the victory because as we read in 2 Corinthians 1:2-7 “The God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” When we get comforted by God, we turn around and comfort somebody else who is going through something. It’s like it’s not our comfort to keep, but to give away.

When we are talking about Jesus and His love for us, He is always for the other person. Look in verse 9 of 2 Corinthians 1“Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.” This is the pathway in which we struggle. We may have a will, but Jesus is our power. He doesn’t give us power, He is the power in us, and He works it out in and through us, but it’s never us. God knows we are not giving up easily so He makes it a struggle for us so we will depend on Him. A lady asked us, “When will the struggle end?” The answer was “when they look down in the casket and say, doesn’t she look natural.” Our hope is in Jesus Christ and who He is. That’s our identity, and we trust Him to do what we can’t do for ourselves.

Tracey