Archive for the ‘Testimonies’ Category

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At the finish line!

I was asked by a co-worker if I wanted to participate in a 5k race that the work place would pay for? She would run with me and hang out. I agreed and was looking forward to the event several weeks away. Before the 5k “Trot for Troops” race, my co-worker found other employment and was no longer in the event. I was let down but texted her the night before to inquire if she would be there. She answered yes so we looked forward to seeing each other.

The morning of the race I began to feel anxiety, not sure what to expect, what to do with my thin hair, you know; the little details that daunt you before something you have never done before. So needless to say, I was not looking forward to the task. I left early, got my number and starting seeing my other co-workers who were also running. I noticed I was getting excited and looking forward to the race. I had decided to run to compete not as to run with someone. Although I run on a regular basis, I wasn’t sure how this was going to work out.

My co-workers and I started out all together, the Fort Campbell Army band was there playing live music. We all got a little teary when the Star Spangled Banner was sung so beautifully. This was it, we pledged the allegiance to the flag, the announcements were made, the sirens were blaring and the race was on. It started with the mile fun run followed by the 5K and finally the 10k which would keep running further.

It was cold, cloudy and windy but there was no rain. We started out in a huddle and as we ran on the bypass, the crowd thinned out. Next we turned down Gary Lane which is a country road. People stood on the side as we passed by cheering us on as we went. I could see the runners’ way up ahead and thought, “I have a ways to go, yet.” I was starting to warm up and kept saying to myself not to stop. Once I reached the turn around sight, there was a table with little cups of water. I took one and tried to breathe while drinking, but it only made things worse as I started back the way I came. I was passing my co-workers and slapping them the high five as we encouraged one another. I noticed at this point there were less and less people around me and could hear myself breathing heavily.

After I passed the 2.5 mile mark, I knew I was almost there, but I was hot and my legs and stomach were getting wearisome, I really felt like walking, but I didn’t want the “guy” behind me to pass me. My mind went to Paul in the Bible and how he said to run the race to the finish. I was thinking that this race is like when we stand before God and will answer to Him for our time on earth. Nobody can answer for you; it will just be you and Him on that day. I never want to give up; I never want to give up on me or on anyone who is looking through me for Jesus. I felt like this was not just a physical race but a spiritual race as well.

Now I was on the bypass again and could see the YMCA where we started. I felt like I was alone and wanted to quit, but then I saw a co-worker named Chase, he was smiling so big, clapping and telling me I was doing a good job. I could feel my stomach wanting to throw up anything that was in it, but about that time, I was passing a line of American flags and the band was playing, “You’re amazing just the way you are.” As I noticed some other people I knew, I started to cry because I was so happy that I did it. I looked at the time clock and it read 32:00. I couldn’t believe it, a little over thirty minutes. I had never done anything like this in my whole life. It felt amazing. It was so hard, but I pushed through, and I did it. I am so thankful to Heritage bank for making this happen and for my co-workers who rooted for me. This whole experience has strengthened my faith tremendously.

Tracey

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

 

Tracey and Alan Parker at the "God Unlimited weekend 2014"

Tracey and Alan Parker at the “God Unlimited weekend 2014″

Have you ever had an experience and said afterward, “I never want to lose this feeling?” Well, I am here to thank God for the experience I had and I want to tell you it is not a feeling. For the past five years we have attended the God Unlimited Enrichment weekend in Louisville, Ky., with our friends, Brian and Tandy Coatney, at the home of Scott and Sylvia Pearce. The first year we went, my husband and I didn’t think we would be back. It seemed like everyone was saying the same thing in a different way, and although that was true, it would prove an attraction for us in the future. Every year has its own precious jewels that develop into life changing lifestyles.

This year is no different. Some of the same people were there and even the same things were said over and over, but there was one particular difference. It was me. I am different, and I feel like my life has changed forever. It’s one of those pivotal moments you can put your finger on. I must interject, that there was a series of events that lead up to this life-changing experience. One of the elements included suffering, then perseverance, and it was all upheld by faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the Universe, which, by the way, lives inside me.

It would be hard to explain to you what it means to be loved with an unconditional, everlasting love if you have never experienced Him. Being loved by Jesus is the touch of love, “I can’t touch you without being touched by you,” said Alan Parker. Love is the greatest gift you can give to another, but please remember that God is love. He gives of Himself to others, He is a poured out life so others can live. It was never about how much we love Him, because we have no power within ourselves to love others unless it’s with His love.

As my husband and I wrapped up in a blanket on the cold Friday afternoon under the tent at the conference, we saw a distinguished man and his older son walking up “Mimi’s Way,” which is a cobblestone walkway which leads to the back of the Pearce’s house in memory of our dear Mimi Anderson. “Who is that, do you think?” I said to Louie. “I think that is Alan Parker,” he replied. I kept an eye on him trying to make sure that was him. I had been looking forward to meeting Alan Parker ever since I read “THE CROSS IN THE HEART OF GOD” booklet. Let me quote the introduction of this booklet and see if it does to you, what it did for me: “This is written for those people who want to receive the truth, for only they are going to posses the Kingdom of God. This is written for seekers. These writings have nothing to say to those who are wise in the wisdom of the world.”

Later on that evening Alan gave a talk that lasted almost 3 hours. I got as close as I could and listened by sitting at the edge of my seat. I wanted to absorb everything he had to say because I know he speaks the truth of God. I admire this man and wanted to know everything he knew. I am not sure what draws me to his teachings, but I hung on to every word. The next day, Alan spoke again, this time not as long. He talked about Hebrews 4:12, He said the Word is alive, conscious, and it knows and it’s energy. The word of faith is God’s faith, not ours. He said, “Do you know why the word of faith has no doubt? That’s because it’s His faith, His word, His life, the life of the Son. He continued to say, “You can never be Christ, but He can be you.”

Alan quoted the passage of James 1:5 which says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally, without doubt and it will be given.” Alan asked if anyone wanted Wisdom, to come up front and ask without doubting. I said to Louie, “Come on, let’s go.” I told him I wanted Wisdom, so I ran up there. I was third in line. After Alan prayed with the first person, he knew it would take too long to pray individually, so we all stood in a giant circle and prayed in our own voices and asked for Wisdom. Guess what, the Spirit of Wisdom penetrated my inner being and I knew it. I started getting filled up, tears ran down my face and I began to giggle from way down deep inside, my breathing started to accelerate and I felt dizzy, but Louie was close by and I grabbed him and said, “don’t let me go.” I knew something supernatural happened to me. I felt like running, but I couldn’t leave. I can’t say I understand everything that happened to me, but what I do know is Wisdom has been here all along, I just didn’t hear from her (Proverbs 8:1 tells us she is wisdom). The first part of Proverbs 2 tells us seek her, wisdom, verse 4, “if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures.” I desired her and sought after her and found her. God has opened my eyes to understanding and I have become more sensitive to the Spirit of the Lord.

Since this time, I feel humbled by His love and hear Him more than ever before. I am looking forward to my new life in Christ as He lives in me as me. Thank you, Jesus for loving me so much and for giving me opportunities to be a life poured out for you and to invest and have you change lives through me. The branch never takes credit for producing the fruit, we bear the fruit. Others see this fruit and are drawn to it, they take the fruit and it is Jesus. He is a person to experience not something simply to obtain. We have no power by ourselves, but are a vessel that He works in and through. I asked for the Spirit of Wisdom to live in me and that is why she (Wisdom) is a person and not a feeling. Wisdom and understanding now are in me always, never leaving me, but changing me from glory to glory forevermore.

Tracey

There’s an old Bruce Springsteen song called “Glory days” that tells the story of running into an old friend in a bar and all he wanted to talk about is what some call “The good ole days.” Do you think that’s a sign of getting old? While I understand the attraction of being pulled into another place and time when talking with old friends; why aren’t we living right now?

There is nothing I would take for my youth, or the friends or experiences I’ve had, but at the same time I don’t want to miss the life I’m living right now either. The past is as good as it’s going to get. What do you say we learn to live in the present full of the hope of a glorious future?

Who are you right now? You may have identified yourself as a great athlete, writer, singer, carpenter or friend but what about now? What are your hopes and dreams for the future? Who is in your life right now that you are helping along the way? When was the last time you encouraged someone else and told them what God has done in your life?

Tracey recently came across a journal, or diary, that documented our lives together from around 1992 to 2001. Wow! To hear some of what went on during my B.C. days is kind of tough, and yet I thought I was having the time of my life. Boy, was I deceived. As she read some of the entries to me I must admit it made me cringe. To hear about my outlook on life back in my addiction days is painful, and somewhat embarrassing, if I’m honest with you. Thankfully God saw fit to intervene, open our eyes, and reveal the truth to us.

Last night we went to the women’s prison to share our story and teach the Word. Tracey shared a bit about the diary and how messed up we were. There are many who never knew us back then and they seem to think we’ve always had it together. Well, thanks to Tracey they know better now! She spilled the beans and told them we all go the wrong way first but thank God he shows us how to get back on the path if we’re willing to receive his direction.

When my turn came to speak I began by reading Titus 3:3-7 to them. “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Sometimes the best thing you can do for others is to simply tell them how much you’ve messed up in the past. It is amazing how encouraging it is to others for them to hear how you screwed things up too. Then you can take the opportunity to tell them how God turned things around. Once God comes in to your life, you will begin to take glances at your past, but you will finally be free to live in the present and begin looking forward to the future.

Louie

Funny thing about getting older is how celebrations take on a brand new look. For years and years I spent New Year’s eve drinking and partying, in a bar for the most part, just like every other lost twenty-something in the world. When you are a drinker life is defined by “the bottle that you drink” as Bon Jovi so eloquently puts it in the song “Wanted dead or alive.” After sobriety takes hold you have to mark your calender in a new way. You can’t say, “Oh yeah, that was the night we drank that fifth of tequila and you…”

Tracey and I had the privilege of being with a friend of ours to celebrate his first sober New Year’s Eve. He’s 33 years old and told us “This is the first New Year I can remember…” and I stopped him there. He said, “You’re right; I was going to say, “The first I can remember spending sober but stopping at ‘remember’ is probably true.” He and his “girlfriend” went to eat with us. Granted we were only with them for a couple hours as I think about it now I see it as the beginning of a new tradition. After all, who says New Year’s Eve has to be spent drinking and stumbling around only to have no real recollections of the celebration the next day?

While we were at the restaurant there were a few getting in “the spirit” of New Year’s early, not the Holy Spirit mind you. There were several people drinking at the bar and one lady cackled in an all but too familiar drunken way which caused us all to look at each other as if remembering when that used to be us. There is a distinct difference in the sound of drunken laughter and Holy Spirit joy and it became all too obvious, at that moment, which one we preferred. It was so good to enjoy the company of another couple who are approximately ten years younger than us as they are starting their sober, Spirit led life. It’s good to be able to enjoy food and fellowship with others with pure motives and a clear conscience.

After finishing our time together Tracey and I didn’t even see the ball drop or break open any champagne, but we did wake up this morning to a cup of coffee, time in the Word and the Sun shining through our kitchen window. I love how the Spirit of God brings peace and joy through what seems to be the smallest of things. No more needing a charge in the flesh to fight off boredom because when you are living in the Spirit there is no part of any day to be seen as ordinary.

As I thought about a new year, celebrations and resolutions what came to me is there is no time in the Spirit. You see God isn’t trapped or limited by time. Time is really just for us to mark days and months and years; because one day we will move on into a realm in which time will not matter. I don’t over emphasize the beginning of a new year so much because living in the Spirit gives us the ability to live and move in such a way that we aren’t fearful of a new year or bothered by growing older. Jesus’ statement to Martha at Lazarus’ tomb comes to mind. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

With that I’ll say, “I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.”

Louie

No matter what you think about Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” one thing’s for sure. He’s a polarizing figure and why wouldn’t he be? He lives his life following the most polarizing man to ever walk the earth, Jesus.

I remember thinking early on that Phil reminded me of another Biblical figure who just so happened to be Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. When John came on the scene there was quite the stir and especially among the religious establishment of his day. John came preaching “Repent! For the Kingdom is at hand!” It seems his whole role was to prepare the way for the long awaited Messiah. He lived a simple life, clothed in camel hair, and ate a simple diet of locust and wild honey. Many of his day didn’t get him. They didn’t understand this wild man in the desert yelling for everyone to get their lives right before the coming day of the Lord. Of course then came Jesus himself.

Once John declared Jesus to be the awaited Messiah the conflict and agitation began. Jesus life was marked by conflict with the religious and political establishment, and it seems “Christ” in Phil Robertson is still stirring up things even now.

Here’s another thing to think about. John the Baptist confronted King Herod about his relationship with the wife of the kings brother telling him it wasn’t right. Of course Herod didn’t appreciate him telling him how to conduct his sexual life so he threw John in Prison only to be beheaded shortly thereafter. Now I’m not suggesting Phil Robertson is doing this exact thing but it did strike me as interesting that his comments about some people’s sexual misconduct happens to be the center of this most recent firestorm. While John was placed in a literal prison it seems Phil is being tried in the court of public opinion, although I would venture to say there is an element that would like for him to be locked up for his comments. No matter where you stand on this issue one thing’s for sure. You have to make a decision. When it comes to the truth of the Word of God there really is no middle ground and there isn’t meant to be. Jesus said, “You are either with me or against me and you are either gathering or scattering.”

“See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:25-29 NAS)

God loves us so much he makes sure we get shook up because he wants us to look to him and without a good shaking most of us are content to remain asleep. I pray the controversy over Phil Robertson’s comments will push you to make a stand for Christ and the truth of his word.

Louie

We have friends who tease Tracey and I because we live our lives in, what some might call, a regimented manner. For instance we generally go to the grocery store on Monday nights, and some will say things like “Oh, you can’t do such and such because it’s grocery night.” Of course we don’t take offense to this type of thing, but if the truth was told we would say the reason we go on Monday’s, rather than another night, is because “WE’RE OUT OF FOOD!” I know, I know it’s crazy, but we only buy enough food for a week at a time so when Monday rolls around it’s time to buy more.

I thought of this today as I listened to an elderly woman talking about growing older. She emphasized the importance of self-discipline. She said it was extremely important and besides look at the alternative. When you live your life with no self-control you only have chaos, frustration and disorder to look forward to.

Sometimes others criticize us because we are “scheduled” in how we do things. They will say this type of thing implying that we are rigid or we can’t ever change our plans.  I suppose this depends on what commitments we have made and how faithful or trustworthy we want to be. If I don’t care how my life affects others, and their schedules, then I don’t have to follow through on my commitments. For me being scheduled or regimented really means I’m dependable or faithful. It’s funny how others see things completely different isn’t it?

Now to come at this from another angle if you are one who has had a past filled with addiction and a history of being flaky the path to sobriety is probably only going to come with planning and commitment. Without a plan someone struggling with addiction is setting themselves up for failure because they are prone to wander. With the wandering will almost always come trouble and with the trouble will come the excuse to use again. Getting on some sort of schedule is one of the first steps toward getting your life back together. When I was in what I suppose could be called “recovery” the counselor I talked with always had me to write out three short term and three long term goals. Goal setting and accomplishing them is an important part of getting back into the swing of the real world especially after a long time in the land of make believe.

Do you remember how God started this whole thing we call life? The Bible tells us in the beginning God saw that the earth was formless and void, and darkness was there, so the first thing he did was say, “Let there be light.” Then he started to organize things. Once the light was turned on he saw the mess the earth was in and started straightening things out and putting them where they belonged. He divided the land from the water before he let things produce. Once they were in order he said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them.” He made lights to govern the night and lights for the day. I’m not going to write it all here you can read it for yourself, but I think you get my point. God is a God of order, and if we are filled with his Spirit it only seems logical to me that our behavior would reflect his.

In the list of the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians one of them is self-control or if you’re a King James person it’s called temperance. Either way it is an attribute of the Spirit of God in one’s life and not just something this one or that one has. There are plenty of people that act as though they can’t be disciplined, but according to the Bible it is the Spirit of God in the person rather than simply the person. It really just all boils down to how much we want to open ourselves to His control. As we do this he will work the discipline out in our lives as he sees fit. For most of us, like everything else, we have to get our belly full of the disorder, frustration and pain that results from living in the flesh before we are willing to give His Spirit a try.

P.S. Don’t misunderstand me I know when you are walking according to the Spirit changing of plans will occur, but what I’m talking about here is a lifestyle of discipline as opposed to a lifestyle of drifting and disorder. No one else can do it for you, unless of course you end up in jail or prison and then you will no longer have any choice. You see discipline is coming either way. One way or the other it’s coming so we can do this the easy way or the hard way it’s up to you.

Louie