Lessons In Losing, Part 1

I used to hate losing. Whether it be an important document, my keys or my train of thought, losing would generally send me into a state of  extreme frustration. Whenever I would lose something, my family or friends would make comments like, ” That’s not like you; you don’t lose anything.”

At first I would marvel when they’d say it. Is it that noticeable? I’d wonder. Now, it’s not like I was some sort of neat freak, because I wasn’t. But even when things were cluttered, I’d still knew where everything was.

I was proud of this fact.  I started saying, ” ‘Cause you know, I don’t lose anything,” whenever I’d find an item I thought I’d lost. Before long, the Holy Spirit showed me that the things that I boasted of never losing were never lost to begin with. They were only misplaced.

If I came into the house with the keys, they had to still be in the house.

Over time, the Lord had to take me through  seasons of losing ; time periods that were so convoluted that I wondered if the mental anguish would deplete me.

At the time, I couldn’t see the need for such experiences. I came to realize, it was more about what He needed. God needs a people in this day and time who understand what it means to truly lose.

With natural disasters and heinous crimes coming at rapid speed, He needs those who will reach out, with compassion, helping mankind to recover from loss.

I’d like to share with you some of the lessons He taught me about losing.

THE LOST SHEEP

Luke 15:4-6 says:

What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

And when he hath found it, he layeth  it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.

During biblical times, shepherds had personal relationships with their sheep.  They knew their temperament and would assign them certain names. For example, if one had a speckled ear, he might be named after that feature.

He could have replaced the sheep when one went astray but he didn’t due to how attached he’d become to him. Because he cared for the animal every day, he felt the loss. He valued him.

The bible doesn’t tell us the method a shepherd would use to recover lost sheep so I’ll use my imagination (smile).

Perhaps in his recovery efforts, the shepherd may have spent some time thinking about where he would go if he was one of them. Watching him graze and frolic everyday, he would know that that particular sheep liked to play close to the edge of an embankment near the swamp.

I can envision him, braving the elements or an inky darkness, running the risk of being attacked by some wild animal, all in an attempt to reclaim his possession. Once he got close to where he thought he’d be, he would call out to him, “SPECKLED EAR! SPECKLED EAR!” knowing that if he were anywhere in the vicinity, he would respond to his name.

Speckled Ear would recognize the shepherd’s voice; knowing this was someone whose bosom he had laid in as he had his fleece combed and his wounds mended.

Just imagine how frightened he must’ve have been; alone in the slough that would soon engulf him. He could probably hear the growl of the wolves, waiting at the top of the embankment for him to rise so they could devour him.

Think of how confident, Speckled Ear felt, hearing the voice of his loved one, remembering that his shepherd had rescued him from danger before.

Tuning his ear, the shepherd could  hear him faintly respond “BAAAH, BAAAH.”  He could tell by his cry, Speckled Ear was in trouble.

Lifting his torch high in the air, he spotted Speckled Ear, struggling in the swamp. He pulled out his rod, beating away the ferocious beast as he prepared to deliver his precious one.

Without hesitation, he would use his staff to somehow pull Speckled Ear from the slimy quagmire. Once he had his little one in his grasp, he’d place him in the safest place: high upon his shoulders. It didn’t matter to the shepherd that he was also covered in the slime from the mucid pit, all that mattered was that he had found his prized possession that was lost.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more spiritual shepherds today, had that same passion?  Sheep (people) can be missing for weeks at a time, before anyone even notices. In our day, you rarely see leaders go after the one, not even with a phone call.

I am reminded of a story my former hairdresser told me about her brother.  Her brother is a pastor who came to the United States from Sierra Leone.  His denomination assigned him a congregation in the Baltimore area.  Once here , he discovered that the church  had, at one time, a couple hundred members but the congregation had now dwindled down to a tenth of that.

I’m not sure how far back he went or how long it took, but he comprised a list of the membership and visited each home, compelling them to come back. This was highly effective! Not only did most come back, they brought others with them. The church had to start additional ministries to accommodate the growing congregation.

That’s the heart of a true shepherd!

Let’s review the parable again.

V. 4 says the shepherd went after the sheep until he found him.  He didn’t give up. Sometimes you won’t be able to recover all that have gone astray. The bible says a brother offended is hard to be won, still God will bless your efforts and will give you the fruit of your labor.

His stubborn love working through us will compel them to return to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls.

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V5 says he layeth the sheep upon his shoulders, rejoicing.  Shoulders  represent responsibility.  The shepherd took personal responsibility for why the sheep went astray. He didn’t punish or scold them or keep them locked up for fear that they would leave again, instead he rejoiced.  The Greek word for rejoice is Chairo; it means a joy that is the direct result of God’s grace.

The joy that was in him as a result of finding the sheep caused him to be gracious towards the precious one.

I believe he cleaned him up and gave him fresh food and water. He probably poured oil on his head to soften his fleece and to destroy the bugs that pestered him.

I have heard pastors talk about how hurt they were when someone or a family left their church. They would sometimes allow that hurt to become an offense, causing them to act differently towards the sheep. God forbid!

I believe the majority of those who leave or stray going back into the world could be recovered if they knew how much they are loved and valued.

Leaders, if you are gracious towards God’s precious ones, He will be gracious towards you!

The favor and influence you desire to see over your life and ministry will begin to over take you, if you focus on recovering souls and not substance.

Min. Tamara~

QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK:

What are some of the things, you think the local church could do to recover the lost?

What methods have you personally used to restore broken relationships?

Please share with us!

Resurrection to Renaissance: Whatever happened to?

Ever read a nonfiction book and wonder what happened to some of the people featured?  I have.  For the readers who’ve seen this series through to the end, I thought I would take a few minutes to update you on some of the folks we discussed.

My Daughter

She is alive and well and the mother of a 9-month-old daughter. Also, she was finally able to finish graduate school. She is now an adjunct professor in Creative Writing. My daughter and granddaughter are the reasons I felt the need to tell my story. After a long season of not having answers, I needed to leave as a legacy the treasures I discovered in the dark places.

Proverbs 13:22 says: A good man leaveth an inheritance, to his children’s children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.

Job 27:16-17 says: Though he heap up silver as the dust, and prepare raiment as the clay; He may prepare it but the just shall put it on, and  the innocent shall divide the silver.

I wholeheartedly believe that my descendants will benefit from the financial blessings that my ex husband and I were set to receive.

Not only should  the inheritance we leave consist of money; it should also consist of a history of our fight of faith, our obedience, and examples of our need for God’s grace and mercy.

The Mailman

I ran into the kind mailman a couple of times after we had moved out of the house, once at a shopping center and the other time at Billy Graham’s last crusade. “When you had no address, I kept all your mail  on the top shelf in the mail room until we received a forwarding order,” he said one of the times I saw him.  He told me he learned a lot from watching me go through my trials. He, his wife, and family are doing well and continuing to grow in their faith.

Lisa

Lisa and her family were finally able to move into a lovely home on the outskirts of town.  After her mother suffered a severe heart attack, Lisa made a vow to God.  She told Him if He raised her mother up, she would serve Him.  She kept her promise and has been a committed Christian ever since. She has also developed a friendship with her young daughter.

“You should see her, Tam,” she told me once during a visit to my hometown. “When the adult choir went up to sing one Sunday, she slipped out of the pew and went up there, too.  She stood on the end of the row. She didn’t know all the songs but sung her heart out,” she said beaming with pride.  Lisa said the pastor’s wife told her not to discourage her daughter, so now she is apart of the adult choir at five years old.

Lisa’s young daughter had a story of her own to tell that day.  “Wanna know somebody that can really talk? Her!” she said pointing her thumb to her mom.  “She can talk all the way to Ohio!” she said, shaking her head before skipping away. She was referring to a recent trip the family took to visit relatives.

Karen

Karen is still a survivor.  She has gone to the brink of death a few times, always returning stronger than ever.  During a visit home one year, I ran into her. She had just been released from the hospital that day and was attending an outdoor event.  Without saying hello, she walked towards me and said, “I called every pastor I could think of and nobody came.” “I even told one  pastor, ‘You remember, I was a member of your church.’ He didn’t come either. So I just prayed for myself,” she said in a weary voice.  Her coal black eyes locked onto mine as if she expected me to give her an explanation. My eyes welled in tears, as I realized I could not.  I did apologize to her for having gone through that.

A few years after the event, I ran into her again.  Still happily married, she had almost doubled in size and had dyed her hair honey blond. She looked healthier than I’d seen her look in a long time. “Right now, Tam, my only addiction is lollipops and (soda) pop,” she said gleefully, with a lollipop bulging in her cheek.

Chanda

Chanda is a business woman and prayer warrior. She’s someone I greatly admire. The following winter, after I found out my divorce was final, an old high school boyfriend looked me up and asked me out to dinner. Nervous and excited, I called her. “Well, I wanna get in on this,” she said referring to my upcoming date.  Chanda sent me a love gift, to cover the cost of a day of pampering.

Although I know she never understood my decision to fight my ex husband back, she never brought it up again. We don’t talk as often, as she is busy with her grandchildren, her businesses and helping in her local church.

Chanda will always be near and dear to my heart.

Mrs. Tucker

Mrs. Tucker is  in her early 80s and very active in the Republican party and various women’s auxilliaries. She is now a widow, as Dr Tucker passed away in 1999.  I have seen a recent picture of her.  She is still attractive and stylish. Mrs. Tucker looks at least 10 years younger than her age. I happened to run into her a little while after seeing her in that manager’s meeting.  She had contacted the office I was now working for and needed our help. Gathering the data she needed, I hand delivered it to her office. “Oh, thanks so much, Tam that was very kind of you,” she said in her most pleasant voice.  Others in the building looked on as they remembered our showdown.

One of my former coworkers told me that after she fired me, she continued to mark the calendar, recording my absence.  “One day she even said,’ Oh I hope I hear from Tam.’  We just looked at each other and said,’Somebody needs to tell her that girl ain’t coming back here,” she said as we laughed at Mrs Tucker’s eccentric ways.

It’s my hope that Mrs. Tucker finds her way back to the God she found in her youth.


Me

I am well and glad the Kingdom of God has come unto me. Sometimes, I sit back and think about the day my dark trials began. I wondered why a season of nothingness was necessary. Now I realize that God’s glory is released in the desolate places.

Moses discovered God’s glory on the backside of the mountain; David as he tended his father’s sheep and Paul encountered it in Arabia.

Recently someone posted “You’re in your wealthy place” as their Facebook status. When I read those words my spirit leaped within me.  That statement has been my daily confession and each day, He is prospering my soul.

Brick by brick He is building His kingdom in me. Day by day I want my life to be: fit for a King.

Victory on the Vine: The Renaissance

I stood shivering and gazing at my Co-Laborer as He prepared my new ensemble. My grave clothes had long been removed and soon I would be given a new assignment. His oil and light warmed me as I watched.

Wonder what He has in store for me? Maybe my shoes will be like Christian Louboutin pumps or my cloak like Dior, I thought as I anticipated. I could hardly contain myself.

“It won’t be much longer,” He said one day, as I paced around my bedroom.  This wait wasn’t unpleasant.  The air was clear and the atmosphere was peaceful, like a warm summer morning.

The day was uneventful when He handed me my new raiment. The vestment was practical; the shoes were sensible. I reached for them, gladly, knowing any wardrobe He selected for me was blessed.

I held out the robe, to get a better look.  It was a long purple linen robe, with a tunic collar.  It had a crocodile-skinned vest sewn onto it.

Proverbs 2:7 says, He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.

There are so many benefits to walking in His righteousness.  Proverbs 2 tells us that He layeth up sound wisdom for us.  Sound wisdom is a wisdom that lifts us up; it’s aid and support. It’s the keys to our success.  He becomes a buckler to us. The Hebrew word for buckler is magen. It means protector or in a figurative sense, it means the scaly hide of a crocodile.

As I looked over my new outfit, I thought about how I had realized, how my Co-Laborer had toughened me during the days of my adversities.  This vest would come in handy as I continued to face the strife of men and the fiery darts of the enemy.

Zechariah 3:1-4 says: And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at this right hand to resist him. And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.

Zechariah, whose name means “God remembers,” was one of three prophets (Haggai and Malachi were the other two) who ministered to the Jewish people who were exiled but were returning to Jerusalem.

He encouraged the people with visions of how their enemies would be punished, the restoration they would receive, and visions regarding the Messiah.

In Chapter 3, he is telling the people he saw a heavenly meeting, where Joshua, the high priest, was being accused by Satan as Joshua stood before the Angel of the Lord.

Joshua, who represented the priesthood and the nation, was in active ministerial duty but had on a filthy garment.

The first thing the Lord did was rebuke Satan and remind him that He had chosen Jerusalem and that Joshua was a “brand pluck out of the fire.” A brand was a branch that was being burned; before it could be totally consumed, it would be snatch from the flames.

The priesthood had suffered greatly and the Lord did not judge them according to their sin but according to His righteousness.  He took Joshua’s filthy, excrement-soaked clothing and gave him a holy robe.  The robe was symbolic of the Lord’s righteousness and holiness.

I could relate to this passage of scripture.

All the mocking and external trials could not stop me; however, there was one foe that could flatline me: my flesh. During my dark trials, there were attitudes and behaviors that came forth that were not pleasing to God.

Make no mistake about it; during desolate times, your iniquities will revisit you.

Satan took advantage of this, bombarding me and telling me I had missed my season in God.

The ridicule from the enemy felt overwhelming at times, and deep depression would follow, until the day the Lord caused me to come across this chapter.

These verses released me from Satan’s grip. Glory!

I could deal with the external tribulations and persecution I was experiencing.  I knew to run right to God with my troubles.  However, when it came to my internal struggles, I was hesitant.

Satan would always stand on my right hand (the place of favor) between me and the Lord.

Prophets are always harder on themselves than they should be. God did not condemn me as Satan accused; instead He showed me with His love and grace.

In that season, He manifested Himself to me as Father.  I always thought I knew Him as Father, but in those days, we hugged tighter.

Turning my back to Him, my Co-Laborer slipped on my new robe, fastening it tightly around my neck. I sat down beside Him as He placed my brown leather sandals on my feet. He also sat a cap upon my head.  It matched the vest.

“You need the helmet of salvation,” He said, securing the cap.  We sat side by side, discussing how the helmet would protect my thoughts and hopes.

As we had moments of silence, I thought about my iniquities. I wondered how I would handle them if when they visited again.

I felt so unworthy. I didn’t deserve to be seated in this heavenly place with Him.

He always knew my thoughts.  “I had to allow you to experience that. I had to show you who you’d become if you stepped outside of Me,” He said, stroking my chin.

We discussed my charge.  There were many things He told me I would do for the kingdom.  Things I never imagined. I smiled at Him knowing I could not accomplish any of it without  His help.

I loved the thought of my Co-Laborer and I working even closer together.

The conversation turned somber as He discussed death.  I winced as the season was still fresh in my mind.

Turning to 2 Corinthians 4:10-12, He taught me: Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us but life in you.

The End~

This concludes the series, From Resurrection to Renaissance.  Has the series been a blessing to you? What did you learn? Please leave a comment here and let me know. Be sure to view the blog this coming Monday as I give you an update on some of the people mentioned in the series!

Victory on the Vine: Resurrection Review

As we are embarking on the Easter holiday, the Lord wanted me to continue to write about the resurrection.  Below, are some additional insights. I pray that they are an added blessing to you.

It was a sunny Thursday afternoon and I was panicking.  By now I would have had the blog entry completed and could spend the rest of the day playing with my eight month old granddaughter.  Not that day.  No matter where she was placed, she would find her way back to “Ganny’s” ankles.  Once there, she’d taxi around before deciding which part of the computer cord she wanted to gum.

She is so cute and irresistible; I’ll never get this done. I thought all day.  She kept inching up the side of my leg, wanting to be held…so I thought.  I’d pick her up each time, hoping to appease her. Staying for only a few minutes, she would kick and squeal wanting to be put back down on the floor. After repeating this a few times, I decided to remove the laptop from my lap and pay closer attention. Inching up the side of my leg once more, she’d place both hands on top of my knees.  This time instead of picking her up, I grabbed both her pudgy little hands and raised them slightly above her head.  My raising her hands up somehow gave her the courage to stand to her chubby feet.

Each time we did this, she would flash a wet, two-toothed smile. She felt triumphant.  She has been pulling up for a couple of weeks now but there was something different about today. I kept thinking about the contrast between the way she looked when she first started pulling up alone and how she looked that day.

At first she would look somewhat unsure of herself.  She knew it was time to rise but each time she did she would fall back down, sometimes slightly injuring herself.

Today, she had Ganny’s help.  It was something about the strength she felt in my hands that made her smile.

With the extra strength, she was certain she would not fall again.

So it is when we are resurrected.  Knowing that we have the power of the resurrection with us, there is no fear of falling.

In the Greek, the word and definition for resurrection is anastasis which means to rise, to stand on your feet again, to rise as oppose to falling. It’s a power entrusted to Christ to lift us from death. It’s available to every believer, but like all spiritual blessings, there are conditions.

To experience resurrection power, you have to identify with his death and burial.  You must walk in obedience; you must be a partaker of His divine nature.

Roman 6:5 says: For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.

The book of Romans was written by the Apostle Paul mainly to Gentile people. He wanted them to know the basics of salvation and life in Christ. The first 12 chapters talk about the state of man and how bad men can be good. Chapters 12-16 discuss how good men can become better.

I love the book of Romans. I believe when teaching new converts, Romans is a good place to start.

In chapters 5-8, the Apostle Paul is explaining the process of holiness and sanctification.

In Romans 6:5, he talks about being planted together in the likeness of his death.  Planted together means, to grow, increase and be united with the life of another; in this case, he is referring to life in Christ.

He grafts His life into our deadness and releases resurrection power.

Phillippians 3:10-11 says:  That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, and being made comformable unto his death. If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

The apostle Paul, was a highly educated Jewish man, who was taught by Gamaliel; one of the greatest leaders in his day.  He could have stopped there and settled for just knowing the scriptures and once he had an encounter with Christ, he could have just added that to his experience.

Most people will just settle for a “head knowledge” of the Word of God and a few spiritual happenings.  Usually we will do enough to get by or to obtain the things we want.  The average Christian won’t press into the deeper experiences in Christ.

I have heard some ministers unashamedly admit how they managed to avoid certain encounters with the Lord. They did not want to experience seasons of being crucified.

It showed in the quality of their ministry and their interaction with those they were called the lead.

This was not so with Paul. He used the term, “the power of the resurrection,” and not “the power in.” He didn’t just want to experience knowledge of the one-time act of the resurrection. He wanted the continuous power that flowed from it.

He wanted to ginosko Christ. Ginosko is the Greek word for know, which means to know by experience. He desired to identify with every aspect of Him, to become one with the Lord and to press his way into that power!

I remember during my years of adversity, there were some very uncertain days. It got so dark at times, I questioned whether I would make it through.  I knew my Co-laborer was always willing to help me but I wondered if I had the ability to do my part or if I would even want to when the time came.

Even my desire to work with Him had died.

I remember the day He exhorted me.  He told me, “Births can be stopped. They can be aborted, still born, or premature. Life can be tampered with but not resurrection power. It’s unstoppable and can’t be given or thwarted by man.”

He let me know if I continued with Him, I would receive that power.

This gave me the zeal to press towards that mark.

Let’s take a look at someone who received resurrection power.

Most of us are familiar with the account of Lazarus recorded in chapter 11 of St. John’s gospel, so I will just touch on certain verses.

v. 38 says: Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave and a stone lay upon it.

A stone is symbolic of the place of remembrance. When you’re in a grave, all you can remember is the day you died and how much it hurt. I believe it grieves our Lord to see us go through a dark place, even though He knows it’s for our highest good.

The first thing He tells them is to remove the stone. In other words, do away with the painful memories. I remember when He removed the stone from my life. That’s another blog entry (smile).

In v. 40, Jesus told Martha that if she believed, she would see the glory of God. Resurrection power brings God’s splendor and majesty.  Everyone around will know that nobody brought you out of the grave but God!

I remember people offering to help me in my trials and ministry and abruptly changing their minds.  This would often times hurt and I’d be disappointed.  Then one day the Lord reminded me that what He was doing in my life would not be touched my human hands.

During a resurrection, He uses people as He sees fit.

He called Lazarus by name, showing us that He was the only one being resurrected that day. His hands (deeds), feet (walk), and face (presence) were bound in graveclothes.

Jesus told them to loose him and let him go. There are times when He will send the very ones who tied you up to let you go!

Resurrection power is released for the glory of God and so that others can see there is hope beyond the grave.

VICTORY ON THE VINE: From Resurrection to Renaissance, The Conclusion

FREEDOM PAPERS

Three days. That’s all it took. Three days for verification of my divorce to arrive in the mail. It’s amazing how once truth enters a situation, liberation swiftly follows. Within 48 hours of talking to my brother-in-law, the wheels that had been spinning in the miry clay, had found traction.

I was being emancipated.

I hardly had time to think about what all this would mean.  In addition to still settling matters with my car, I was also completing the final steps of a project I was supervising. Things had been going well with the project…until now.  The unexpected circumstances related to having my car totaled had slowed down my productivity.

I was embarrassed.  Never being one to let my personal life interfere with work, it seemed it was now unavoidable.  It appeared that, as I was being liberated in one aspect, I was sinking in another.

Like a tow truck, my Co-Laborer hitched Himself to me, pulling me forward.

A numb feeling came over me as I grabbed the large business envelope and headed towards my bedroom. I couldn’t recall ever having seen a divorce decree; I couldn’t imagine what would be inside.  How could someone divorce another person without their knowledge? I thought. If the two became one flesh, how could someone sever their flesh to be free? Separation hurts.  Did he ever hurt like I did? I continued to ponder.

I examined the outside of the envelope for a brief while before opening it, as if it would give me some clue as to what would be inside. I stared at my name and thought about how he wrote in big block letters. I read somewhere that when someone writes in big bold block letters, they really don’t want who they truly are to be seen.

Must be true, I thought as I scrutinized his penmanship.

I had recently looked at my wedding album.  The photographer had captured our first kiss. I noticed something that day: how fake the kiss looked.  It looked like it was just for the camera.

A picture really is worth a thousand words, I thought that day.

Let me get this over with, I thought as I hastily ripped open the envelope.

Scanning the document, the first thing I noticed was that he had used his middle name to file the papers.  “No wonder I couldn’t find him,” I said, through clinched teeth.

From what I could remember, he never signed any official document using his middle name.  It was always his first initial or full name but never ever his middle name alone.

The second thing I saw caused me to go from ice cold to flaming hot in matter of seconds.

Not only did he use his middle name, making it difficult for me to find him, the divorce was final the day before my birthday, two years prior!

I really can’t find the words to express how I felt at that moment! I had been robbed of two years of my life. You cannot replenish time; it’s like feather in the wind.

My mind went back to the previous years, and how many times I had to explain my marital status or what I believed was my marital status.

I felt sick inside.  I felt like my blood was boiling.

Grabbing my cell phone I feverishly dialed the number he had called from.  The phone rang a few times. It seemed as if someone picked it up and immediately hung up.  I dialed back.  The call went straight to voice mail.

Now I don’t remember exactly what I said, but needless to say, it wasn’t pleasant. Not only had this man robbed me of my day in court and two years of quality living, among other things, but he was now robbing me of the opportunity to tell him one last time what I thought of him.

Leaving a detailed message, I screamed and yelled until I either ran out of steam or until I exceeded my message time.

Mentally drained and exhausted, I fell back onto the bed. I had stood up to leave the message waving my right hand in the air as if doing so gave my words more weight. You know how we do. (smile)

Reviewing the decree again, it said that my ex and his lawyer had made several attempts to contact me by mail and I failed to respond. I refused to even allow my mind to wonder if this was the case.  I thought about the numerous individuals we knew who could contact me in seconds. That was a lie.  I was certain of it.

Some paragraphs were worded in such a way that it sounded like I had committed a crime and was in contempt of court.

One sentence stopped me cold.  It said the union was irretrievably broken and each party could now live as if they were unmarried.

That sentence played over in my mind for many days afterwards.

Also, I couldn’t help but notice how generic the documents looked.  Although photocopied, there was no image of an official seal and there were conflicting dates stamped all over it.  Questioning its authenticity, I contacted his attorney.

Leaving a message, I didn’t expect her to call back; however, she did.

“I called you regarding a client you represented in divorce proceedings,” I said, trying to sound professional but sounding irritated instead.

“Yes” she said.

“Well, it says here that you made attempts to contact me by mail, fax and email,” I continued.

“Yes, we did” she said sharply.

“AT WHAT ADDRESS?!” I said, trying not to scream.

“We posted notification in a Florida business review journal,” she said flatly. I could tell she was used to doing dirty deeds.

“I LIVE IN MARYLAND!” I said now, really screaming.

“You could have lived in Alaska.  We didn’t have to contact you there. All we had to do was post a notification and since you did not respond, my client was granted a divorce.”

After telling her of the various ways he could have contacted me, I also told her a few choice things about her client.

She told me that she could not advise me since she wasn’t my counsel; however, she did give me a slight bit of advice before hanging up.

How grimy can you be? I thought as I sat there, totally exhausted. I know this was just business to his attorney and in some cases, business is heartless. Still I couldn’t help but wonder where this woman would wind up if she continued to help sever marriages based on lies.

ONE MORE TIME

I need to call him one more time, then I won’t ever have to hear his voice again,  I thought the following day as I dialed his cell phone.

“Hello,” he said, with a heavy sigh.

“WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME?” I yelled.

“Not today, not today,” he said sounding feeble.

What? I thought. Not really caring what that meant, I continued, pressing him for answers.

“WHY DID YOU DO THIS?”

“I can’t discuss this with you right now,” he said, sounding even more lame. After a few more minutes, I realized I was not going to get any answers, I hung up the phone while he was still talking.

RECOVERY

For the next three days. I walked around like I had just had surgery.  Family members would clear the way as I approached, as if standing too close to me would inflict more pain. I couldn’t talk and I was glad those around me didn’t really know what to say.

The first night after calling my ex for the last time, Kirk Franklin’s “Imagine me” played all night long. The words of the song seemed to drip into my soul like an IV.

I could feel the pain leaving and as it pertained to these circumstances, my old (carnal) man had died.  As one who would step out of their mortal body, and head toward heaven, I knew He was taking me to another place in Him.

I knew I had to leave behind the grave clothes of revenge.

FIGHTING MAD

“Uh huh, girl…you need to fight him back; we aint havin’ this!” I heard my friend, Chanda, say when I told her of the outcome.  I don’t think I’d ever seen her that upset. She had been through something similar.  I could tell that she was reliving her own pain through my situation.

“Hmph! I’ll even help you pay for an attorney, but you need to fight him back!”

I explained the process to her, how I would have to find a lawyer who practiced law in Florida and the complexity of a modification and appeal. I just wasn’t up to all that.

Chanda didn’t agree with my decision but reluctantly accepted it.

I could tell she lost a measure of respect for me that day.

After talking to her, I realized what following Him really meant. Trusting Him with this meant I may not be avenged. Still, it was a decision I didn’t regret.

Opening the Word of God almost immediately after talking to Chanda, He assured me I would be. He gave me three portions of scripture, confirming.

Proverbs 11:8 says: The righteous is delivered out of trouble and the wicked cometh in his stead.

 Proverbs 21:18 says: The wicked shall be a ransom for the righteous and the transgressor for the upright.

Psalms 37:6-8: And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noon day. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.

Make no mistake about it, if someone has caused your life to be troublesome, there will be a satisfactory reparation released on your behalf. The wicked will eventually fall into the pit they set for the righteous.

To be wicked simply means you are twisted in your morals. You feel justified by your evil deeds. The Hebrew word for wicked is Ra, it means the inability to come up with good standards which will benefit. While doing a word study, I discovered there were other words and definitions associated with the word Ra.  Some other words were: hurt, mischief, misery, noxious, unpleasant sadness.

Are all people who have these qualities evil or evildoers? NO! I think it’s a true fact that if a person allows certain negative characteristics to remain in their life through pride and stubbornness, when our Lord is certainly willing to deliver us, we will produce the fruit of wickedness.

I believe that most false prophets and workers of iniquity didn’t start out that way. Through sin, hurt, misery, etc. these spirits entered in.  We are called to circumcise ourselves (Deuteronomy 10:16) and also must allow Him to circumcise us (Deuteronomy 30:6)

That’s why, throughout this blog, I constantly refer to our Lord as my Co-Laborer, as a continued reminder that we are laborers together with God (1 Corinthians 3:9).

Psalms 37 (Please read the entire chapter; it’s powerful.) constantly shows us the contrast between the wicked and the righteous. Verse 6 says the Lord shall bring forth our righteousness as light and our judgment as noonday.  After talking to Chanda that day, the Lord started showing me that when noonday comes, everybody knows what time it is. There is no denying that it’s noon; nobody can change that.  He said so it would be with my blessing!

We can rest in the fact that the deeds of the wicked will also be obvious as the noonday.

Our judicial system will accept any person’s lies, but not our Just God! Nothing escapes His all seeing eye. He will render to every man according to his works.

Please log on next week for our epilogue, The Renaissance.

Victory on the Vine, The Resurrection, Pt 3

FAITHFUL FELLOWSHIP

It was another lonesome Friday night. I could envision couples at the Inner Harbor strolling hand in hand or eating steamed crabs at Phillips on the veranda.  Friday nights and Sunday afternoons were the hardest for me. I had always viewed those days as family fun days. Now I spent those days staring blankly at the television.

One Friday night, the Lord gave me a vision that brought me so much comfort and  joy.

I imagined He and I together in a cave by a campfire. I had brought our favorite snacks.  It was a special night He had reserved especially for me.  I would sing Him funny songs and tell Him silly stories to make Him laugh. He would smile broadly as He listened to my long narrations of recent events, at times laughing heartily as I tried hard not to exaggerate.

Sometimes, we’d sit there silent. I would smile at Him, thankful that He’d brought fun and fellowship to my dark place. His warm brown eyes lovingly gazed back at me, causing me to cast my eyes down toward the flames.

Without dialogue, I knew there was no place else He would rather be; He knew I was grateful.

Even now, this vision brings tears to my eyes; it’s my favorite go to place.

My Comrade and I were getting closer by the day.  No longer afar off, He would reveal different things to me about me, my calling and who He was. He also avowed Himself to me as Shepherd.

Psalms 23 says: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The 23rd Psalms is a Psalm that denotes absolute trust. It was written by David, probably while he was tending his father’s sheep. Usually, mundane times are times of great revelation. I could imagine him seeing how much his life was like the sheep, prone to going astray. David became the king of Israel but still saw himself as one in need of a shepherd.

This Psalm also speaks prophetically of Jesus our Good Shepherd (John 10). Psalms 23 brings comfort and an overall sense of well being. It’s the best passage to read when you’ve lost everything but your relationship with Him.

Let’s take a closer look at the first three verses.

V.1 He says, The Lord (or Jehovah Roi) is my shepherd; I shall not want.  Jehovah Roi is the Hebrew name for Shepherd, it means, the one who sees. He is the Overseer, Manager, and Supervisor of our lives. He is the one who knows best what our soul needs because He has a very personal relationship with us. Jehovah Roi doesn’t give you the image of God on the throne. He gives you the illustration of Him in a very tangible way coming down and examining your wounds, pouring in oil where it’s needed. Not only is He the One who sees you, He is also the One who touches you.

David was saying, because He is my personal Shepherd I shall not want. The Hebrew word for want is, chacer, which means, I shall not want, decrease, be lesser than, be made lower or fail. In other words, because He is my Shepherd, I am complete. Glory!

Verse 2 talks about the green pastures and still waters our Shepherd leads us to. Sheep are animals that were easily frightened and didn’t trust rushing waters.  In times of our fears and uncertainties, we must pray and ask our Shepherd to lead us into that place of green pastures and still waters that only He can provide.

This world is full of tumultuous times. If you are experiencing discomfort, it could be because you have wandered a few steps away from your Shepherd.  You cannot be close to His heart or His hand and still be afraid.

Stop wherever you are. Meditate on your Shepherd and allow him to lead you back to the place He provided. Even in times like these, he still has a resting place for His own.

Verse 3 says he restores (or turns back) my soul. I could feel this taking place in my life during this season. As I turned my heart towards Him, He turned my mind.  If my mind had a ladder, He was repairing every rung so that my thoughts were rising. He was resurrecting me above my circumstances. Glory! Things on the outside hadn’t changed much, still I could feel His workings deep within my soul.

STAGNANT STATUS

It had now been six years and my husband made no attempt to contact me. I was certain he’d be able to find me when the time came.  He knew several of my family members. It made me angry that he kept his location hidden from me. He was attempting to control my life with this and I needed it to come to an end!

One day, I ran into a couple who we both knew very well. They said they’d received a letter from him saying all was well.

“The envelope didn’t have a return address, though” the husband said with a puzzled look.

I told them exactly what went down with us. It pained me to have to do it as they were a couple who looked up to us.  Still, I was tired of living under the blanket of the myth that my husband had created.

“Tamara, I am standing here talking to you and I don’t see one ounce of anger in your face.  You have every right to be.  I would be,” the husband continued, still searching my face.

Throughout this, I had experienced every emotion you could have, including anger. My prayer to God was that I never looked like what I was going through. I knew He had granted my petition.

“Well, if I were you I’d tell everybody I saw what he did to me!” the wife said rolling her eyes at no one in particular.  I could tell she was angry for me.

After our conversation ended, I remembered a talk the Lord had with me about my husband. “Underneath all that is a very nice person. I created him to be that way,” I heard the Lord say that day as I stood in the bathroom mirror preparing to leave the house.

Underneath what? I wondered. There was one layer I was certain of: fear. It dominated his life. He had a fear of failure and a fear of success.  He had a fear of my success.

“Well when your ministry blows up, don’t leave me,” I’d often hear him say, half-joking.

I’d wondered how many times he thought about that.

SOON TO BE SINGLE

By now I was starting to meet men who were asking me out.  “You’re still loyal to that!” one frustrated suitor said, referring to my marriage, after hearing me explain why I couldn’t date yet.

After attempting several times to get me to go out with him, he eventually gave up.

One Saturday, I thought I would do a little extra before going to the grocery store.  I put on this cute little sundress I had just purchased. By now, my hair had fully grown back and I was very pleased with it.  I decided to wear it up, leaving little tendrils around my ears and the nape of my neck. I completed my ensemble with makeup, jewelry and high heeled strappy sandals.

I thought I looked cute that day. (smile)

While getting out of my car, at the grocery store, I noticed a teenage girl and an older handsome gentleman.  They had just gotten out of a cream-colored convertible and were walking towards me.

“Must be father and daughter,” I said to myself as I headed toward the store.  They had matching oval shaped faces and sparkly brown eyes.

“Now that looks like a nice lady,” the young girl said to the gentleman as she darted her eyes in my direction, “Let’s walk a little closer so you can say hi to her,” she continued as they headed towards me.

What in the world is this? I thought as they approached. “Hi,” he said awkwardly. Pausing for a second, I smiled broadly. “HI,” I said, probably louder than I should have.

I could tell he wanted to say more but couldn’t think of anything to say so he of kind tucked his chin in his shirt and walked off, with his disappointed daughter walking behind him, fussing.

What was wrong with him? Was there something wrong with me? I thought as I stood there bewildered.

Then it hit me.  He was probably just like me, single again.

Another time, I went to a 24-hour grocery store late one evening. As I browsed through the red meat, a tall, dark-skinned, athletically built young man approached me. He flashed a toothy grin as he moved closer. Now I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it was one of those questions where he was trying to find out if I was fixing dinner that night for two or something. I found this out later, while talking to my daughter.

At the time, I replied, with a straight face: “Aw nah, I already ate, I went to Taco Bell,” while pushing my cart in the opposite direction.

“WRONG ANSWER!” my daughter yelled, laughing and shaking her head, when I told her what had happened. “He was trying to find out if you were single. You’re gonna need a view pointers before you get back out there,” she said

Although I was slightly offended that she thought I needed pointers, I had to admit she was probably right.

When did I become so socially inept? I wondered one day.

“It’s just been a long time since you’ve been out there,” my daughter assured me on another day as we continued our discussion. “I’m gonna hook you up, though. So when the time comes, you’ll be prepared. You need better jeans and some new sunglasses!” she said before walking off.

SEEKING AND SEARCHING

My closure came in the spring of the seventh year.  By now I was learning to date myself.  I would go out to movies or out to eat alone.  I was starting to enjoy my own company again.

Heading towards a local Target store one Saturday, the Lord spoke. “Don’t go to this Target,” He said, referring to the one closest to my home. “Go to the one out by where you used to live. You’re going to see someone there.”

I didn’t spend much time wondering who I would meet out there as I headed west.  I knew if the Lord took the time to speak to me concerning it, it must have been someone  significant.

Once inside, I dislodged a red shopping cart and fished through my purse for my shopping list. Looking over my right shoulder, I noticed a former church member and her husband had just walked in the store. My first reaction was to hide.  I had grown accustomed to avoiding certain people who knew my family lest they ask about my home life.

“Greet her,” the Lord said, “She’s the person you need to talk to.” We greeted each other and hugged.  After about five minutes she said, “My sister and I went on vacation and you’ll never guess who we saw. Bill (not my husband’s real name) and his new wife!”

I forced myself to look stoic, uninterested. “Oh really? I wish I could see him. I need to ask him something,” I replied weakly.

I NEED TO ASK HIM WHEN HE DIVORCED ME! I screamed in my mind.

“Girl, yeah!” she said heartily.  “I wish I knew you needed to talk to him. He came up to me first and said, ‘Don’t I know you?’ He introduced me to his wife and said they were leaving for a cruise. I asked him if he lived in Orlando and he said no, they lived somewhere else in Florida”

We chatted for a few minutes briefly and went our separate ways. This news didn’t entirely surprise me since I had heard he was contemplating marriage.

Still it was hard for me to believe that he could divorce me without any contact, when I was certain he could have found me. Since I had heard he was in another relationship, I had been searching for him online.  I had even gone to the local courthouse to see if he had come to Maryland and filed for a divorce.

“Sorry, we have no record of anybody by that name filing. Guess you’ll have to wait until he resurfaces somewhere,” I was told that day.

I had convinced myself he was a bigamist.  I had to find out.

THE SEARCH CONTINUES

One spring night I decided to go see Tyler Perry’s film, Daddy’s Little Girls. I don’t know if it was Idris Elba’s character Monty’s determination to fight for custody of his daughters or Idris’ onscreen appeal (smile) that motivated me that evening, but I was determined not to leave that movie parking lot without answers.

Pulling out a tiny spiral note pad from my purse, I started dialing phone numbers I had obtained from a paid internet site.  I had phone numbers from possible former employers, businesses Bill had started, a church he’d joined, and potential relatives.

Sighing heavily, I started dialing, only to receive a few of the same disheartening responses: the number was disconnected; the number was changed; the number was wrong altogether.  One person I called I was certain was lying. After probing for a few minutes, I realized the guy wasn’t going to give up any information. This is going to be harder than I thought, I said to myself, determined not to give up.

Almost nearing the end of the list, I still hadn’t called the church. It was a Saturday evening and all I was expecting to get was a recording giving the times of office hours and services.  To my surprise, a young woman answered.  I asked if my ex-husband was a member there.

“Yes, he is, but he’s not here right now.” she replied. I then asked her for the name of the pastor, trying to sound as polite as possible.

“We don’t have pastors! We have Elders,” she said curtly, sounding offended. “Well…what’s the Elder’s name then?”  I pressed.

“I don’t have to give out that information.” she said flatly.

“You mean to tell me you can’t give me the name of your leader?”

“No,” she said smugly.

“Okay”, I said, determined to call back on Sunday morning. All I wanted was the Elder’s name. I could draft him a letter later.

I sat there for a minute, thinking about the conversation. The young woman was being a gatekeeper and that was to be expected. I just wanted my rightful answers, that’s all.

She had no way of knowing that, I thought, shrugging. My thoughts were interrupted by my cell phone ringing.  It was a Florida caller and not one of the numbers I had called.

I picked up the phone but before I could answer, the caller hung up.  I immediately dialed back.

“Did someone from this number just call?”

“Yes…you called our church!” the woman replied clearly upset. I apologized to her and told her I who I was looking for.  “That’s my husband!” she said, now really sounding upset. She had the sweetest sounding voice and sounded older than I would have imagined.

I chose my words carefully.  “Here’s the thing, ma’am. I may have been married to your husband; that’s why I was calling.”

“No!” she said laughing.

“Yes, ma’am, it may be true. I’m just trying to find out,” I said.  I could feel my heart sinking.

“Bill…honey, this lady says she was married to you. Come tell her it’s not true,” she said, still laughing. By now my heart was racing.

What was I going to say when he came to the phone? I wondered.

“Hello?”

My heart sunk again, it wasn’t him. Before further explaining my situation, I profusely apologized. “I heard there was a man who moved to the area with my exact name, but I’ve never met him,” he said.  I mentioned the name of some of his family members, hoping he may know at least one.  He said he didn’t.

I apologized some more before hanging up.  They wished me well. I could tell they felt bad for me.

I sat there numb.  It had turned dark.  Cars were already starting to fill the parking lot for the next featured film.

“You didn’t call the last number,” the Lord said. It was the number of someone I thought may have been one of my ex-husband’s siblings. It was.

“Oh, Tamara! Bill’s ex-wife. What can I do for you, dear?” my ex-brother in law said.  “This isn’t really a social call,” I said before explaining my reason for calling.  I told him that I had recently heard that Bill had gotten married and I could not find any record that he had divorced me. I kept talking for awhile before I noticed the silence on the other end.

“Are you still there?” I said, hoping he hadn’t hung up.

“Yes, dear…I’m still here. I’m so sorry…I just don’t know what to say,” he said somberly. I know he could hear the exasperation in my voice. I wondered what version my ex had told his family.

“I will definitely have him call you. Don’t worry he’s gonna call you.” Thanking him before hanging up,  I was almost on the brink of tears.

Driving home, I felt slight relief.  I thought of the many times that I’d had to fight for the simplest things. I thought of the many times I’d been left with no closure.

The parking lot of the apartment complex where I lived was packed.  They must be having another party at the clubhouse, I thought. There was no place to park but in the fire lane; that was okay with me since I had several bags to bring in. I could go out after midnight and move the car.

I wound up going out about 1:30 or 2 am to move the car.  By now there were several available parking spots. I decided to park in the spot closest to the door under a huge tree.

Around 8:30 that morning, I woke to the sound of a neighbor knocking. She’d come to notify me that my car had been involved in an accident and the police were outside.

Throwing on whatever I could, I ran downstairs. “Not my car!” I said to myself in disbelief.

I was not prepared for what I saw.  My car was resting at a 45 degree angle on the side of the tree!  It had been hit twice; on the passengers side and in the rear. The other cars on the right and left side were slightly damaged but only by debris from my car.  It was a direct hit, one officer speculated.  There were two police cars out front. Neighbors were starting to gather around the scene.  All eyes were on me.

“What time did you come in last night?” one policeman asked.  I could tell by their line of  questioning, they thought I had done the damage after a night of drinking.

Then all of a sudden I heard someone yelling on my right.”GOD LOOKS OUT FOR HIS OWN!! I AM THE LORD’S CHILD AND HE DIDN’T ALLOW ANYTHING TO HAPPEN TO MY CAR!” one neighbor yelled as she continued to praise Him.  Everyone turned around and looked at her as if she had lost her mind. I didn’t even know her and her car wasn’t parked that close to mine.  I stared at her for a long time, before rolling my eyes at her. I turned around to continue to search for clues as to who may have done this to my car.  I was befuddled. I could still hear my neighbor in the background who had settled down a little but was still signifying and testifying about how, of all the cars out there, her car was spared.

Later I would continue to see that same neighbor.  She would stare at me strangely every time. Until the day I saw her being evicted, she wouldn’t look me in the eye.

She was just grateful her car wasn’t damaged. Still you have to use wisdom as much as possible, I thought shrugging to myself.

In the end, the only thing the officer could tell me about my car was that: it was hit by an SUV, possibly a drunk driver, whose vehicle would have been just as damaged.

Thanks for nothing, I thought, sighing.

“Can you think of anyone who is really angry at you?” one officer asked me. I told him I had an ex-husband but I was certain he didn’t have anything to do with it.

To this day, I never found out who totaled my car.

All day that Sunday, I had to make calls, arrange for a rental car, a tow truck, etc. My phone was so tied up that day, I apparently missed one caller: my ex-husband. He left a detailed message saying he had spoken to his brother who told him I called.  He had the nerve to sound like he had an attitude that I had found him and called one of his family members, telling them the truth.

I know what he sounds like when someone tampers with his good guy image. Towards the end of the message, he said, “I mailed you a copy of the decree.  You should receive it in a few days.”  He sounded slightly remorseful.

Nothing was more final to me than hearing those words come out of his mouth.

Although it was what I expected to hear, I didn’t expect it to hurt.

Victory on the Vine, The Resurrection, Pt 2

FAITH TREES

This is a teaching portion of our series, Victory on the Vine, The Resurrection, Pt 2. It consists of some spiritual truths, the Lord revealed before, my next level. I pray that this segment is a blessing to you.

Over the course of time, I started to enjoy the garden of my faith. My Co-laborer and I could stroll through, remembering how tiny the seeds we’d planted used to be.  Now we could enjoy shaded rest as we gathered the fruit to share with others. Each tree represented the countless miracles and victories we shared since we had been working together.

We planted a shrub of belief when I first became a Christian.  My young daughter and I needed a place to live. I visited a local townhouse community and was told there was no way I could possibly afford to live there. “Due to the  fact that you don’t have established credit, we won’t be able to rent to you… not without a cosigner,” the rental agent said, smugly closing up the folder that held my application.

I left the rental agency knowing finding a cosigner would be next to impossible. I needed one in a week’s time.  My Co-laborer and I met everyday to discuss my dilemma. Things needed to happen for us by April 1st. On the 28th of March I started to panic.  I had only been a Christian for a little over a year and my faith was still fledgling.

“It’s the 28th!” I complained to the Lord. “It’s not the first,” He replied calmly.

When April 1 arrived, I woke up with war songs in my spirit.  Songs I’d learned as a baby Christian that convinced me that I could take on an entire city. I sung them over and over until He spoke.

“Get dressed and go the the rental office. I’m your cosigner!” I scurried around my bedroom, preparing to go conquer in Jesus’ name! Holding my head up high and stepping boldly into the rental office, I smiled broadly as I sat in front of the agent.

“Ah, I see you’ve come back, ready to rent!” she said, reaching in the file cabinet for my folder and application. I’ll never forget the peace and confidence I felt at that moment.  I knew my faith was firmly planted. We sat there making small talk as she reached for my keys and her receipt book for my deposit.

“Congratulations! You’re all set to move in.  I’ll think you’ll love living in our town home community,” she said, with no mention of a cosigner.

Years later, in the mid 80s, my faith had grown into a mighty, powerful shade tree.  I was working at University in the professional building, in an office that was managed by the chief of staff’s wife, Mrs. Tucker.  She was an older woman who had many emotional outbursts and narcissistic tendencies. She would always wear red on the days she was in a bad mood.  She would bully and threaten one day and buy expensive gifts for the employees the next.

“You’d better do it my way, ladies! This is your bread and butter!” she’d threaten us, referring to the job.  I would never flinch or look up, knowing my bread was the Bread of Life.

I fasted every Thursday.  Finding an out of the way cubicle in the law library, I would sit at Jesus’ feet during my lunch hour. One Thursday as I returned from lunch, it was my day to cover for the receptionist during  lunch .  As I  sat down to log into the computer, Mrs. Tucker marched round the corner. “Pull up this account!” she hissed, shoving a form in my face. No matter how mean she could be, I was never afraid of her. Ever.  God’s wall of protection was around me and whenever I was in that office, I could feel it.

“I used to be like you,” Mrs. Tucker said one day in a sarcastic way, peering at me as if she could see His presence.  I asked her what she meant.  She said, “You know, in church and all,” as she walked away.

I put the account number in the computer and immediately recognized it wasn’t an account that I handled. What is this all about? I wondered.  She proceeded to question me about the account and kept asking me why I didn’t do more to help the patient.  I stared back at her in disbelief.  I wondered if she realized she had told me never to handle those accounts.  I wondered if she was finally having a complete nervous breakdown.

Every question she asked, I answered calmly; due to the fast, I was prayed up. The calmer I was, the angrier she got.  By now a crowd was gathering in the lobby waiting to be checked in. Gazing over the desk top computer, I noticed some patients were laughing, while others were looking on at her in disgust.

After lambasting me for about 20 minutes, she became even more irate.”Alright, I want you in my office at 2pm!” she seethed through clinched teeth. Turning on her heels, she stormed off.  I was right behind her. It took her a minute before she realized I had followed her to the doorway of her office.  “I DID NOT APPRECIATE YOU HUMILIATING ME IN FRONT OF THOSE PATIENTS!” I screamed at her, hot tears were streaming down my face.

“YOU GET IN MY OFFICE RIGHT NOW!” she yelled back, her bluish gray eyes were wild and bulging. “I’M NOT GOING ANYWHERE WITH YOU!” I shouted back, looking her up and down. “THEN YOU GET OUT! YOU’RE FIRED!” she screamed. By now, she was shaking all over.

I turned around to leave the office. I could feel all eyes on me as I walked to my desk gather my things. I looked up at one set of eyes: Dr. Tucker. He dropped his eyes, refusing to look at me. He had witnessed his wife do this to many people, never ever intervening.  “What just happened?” the receptionist asked as she was returning from lunch.   I told her I had just gotten fired.  Just as I was talking to her, Mrs. Tucker walked up and said calmly.  “Tamara, you can let me know what your plans are,” she said with sadness in her voice. “What?” I said in disbelief. She repeated herself.  I knew Mrs. Tucker really liked me deep down and couldn’t help the darkness that came over her mind.  Still, that day, I had had enough.

I walked out to the main lobby with the box of my belongings, repeatedly playing the scene in my head. Did I sin, Lord? I wondered, thinking about the fast.  “You were angry but you didn’t sin,” He assured me.

I was scheduled to go to a singles retreat that weekend.  Having second thoughts, my Co-laborer encouraged me to attend.

To make a long story short (smile), while on the retreat, the Lord said, “On Monday, call Bob Zirkle.” I didn’t know this man but I knew he worked in Human Resources. Once, I contacted Bob, he told me Mrs. Tucker’s version of the story, my heart sunk. She told him that I cursed her out, told her I quit, and stormed out of the office. I wondered why the Lord wanted me to call him, until Bob said, “But I don’t believe her in so much that I am going to help you find another job here at the University,” he assured me.

By the following Wednesday, I had another job in the main hospital, with more pay and never lost my benefits!  My new coworker was leaving on maternity leave and asked if I could attend a manager’s meeting, to be held in the professional building.

Already underway, the meeting was full of department heads and office managers. “Oh, there’s a seat right over here,” the Dr conducting the meeting said as I walked in. I walked swiftly to the seat, placing my things on the conference table.

You’ll never guess who was sitting on the other side of the conference table, facing me: Mrs Tucker. With her jaws tightly clinched, she gathered her files and abruptly left the meeting as the other attendees looked on, confused.

The Word of God tells us we are to call to remembrance the former days, after we were illuminated when we endured a great fight of afflictions. While gazing at each tree, I drew strength for the greater work which lay ahead.

UNKNOWN SEEDS

Recently, I read an interesting message board post. Somebody said  they had been given some seeds to plant by their teacher.  The teacher would not identify the seeds.  He wanted the student to find out what kind of seeds they were and how to plant them. The person who posted on the board also included pictures of the seeds.  They resembled speckled jelly beans.

He was asking for help in identifying the seeds. Others posted comments speculating on what type of seeds they thought they were.  The writer of the message later posted, while eating a salad, he discovered they were actually olive seeds.

After reading the message board post, my spirit started leaping! This totally describes my experience during this season! I thought excitedly.

During an especially long span of time, where there was no dialogue between my Co-laborer and I, He had handed me some seeds. They were peculiar looking and I wasn’t sure what He wanted me to do with them. Usually when He and I planted faith seeds,  the process was the same. We would till the ground of my heart, deciding where I needed more faith, then place tiny mustard like grains in the soil and wait for the outcome.

During the time period, after the burial, the wait was especially long. I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be. This season didn’t resemble anything I’d ever experienced before.

Now I realize, He had handed me olive seeds.  Olives are symbolic of peace, wisdom, glory, fertility, power and purity.  Olive oil also represents the anointing.

Olive trees are hardy but grow very slowly.  They are resistant to disease, drought and fire. It’s good to know that, in long periods of time, these destructive forces can’t annihilate what God has planted.

The roots are very powerful and are capable of regenerating another tree should that one be destroyed.

Older olive trees will have broader, more gnarled trunks. When you have had a long wait in God, there will be visible signs showing others that your growth has not been easy. When people partake of the fruit of your life, they will know you have withstood the test of time.

There are certain things that will try to attack olive trees: fungus, bugs, other pest, and rabbits. Let’s examine each one.

Fungus represents the sin that will grow on you during long waits. Divine delays are seasons of inactivity. They will make you restless and edgy.  You may sin or be tempted to commit sins, to comfort yourself or expedite the process.  You might be tempted to lie on an application, or covet what someone else has.  You may be tempted to envy or be jealous. What is the solution for the fungus of sin? The Word of God.

James 1: 21 says: Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

Superfluity of naughtiness are excessive evil habits of the mind. It doesn’t take much for our minds to revisit evil which will eventually lead us down another road away from God.

We are to be receiving with meekness the engrafted word. Meekness is the Greek word prautes, which is an inwrought grace of the soul. It’s gentleness in character. Maturity. It means that you have learned to become moderate in your anger, getting angry at the right times, for the right reasons. If you are meek, your spirit has now become teachable, your heart and mind no longer harbor bitterness or resentment. When you’re meek, you learn to stop wrestling with God. You will allow the truth of God’s word to be grafted into you, no matter how you look before others.

There are people who appear to be docile and humble on the surface but in their hearts they are seething with resentment and anger.  These are the ultimate signs of immaturity.

In addition to fungus, there are bugs, pests and rabbits.  Bugs and pests greatly reduce the quality of the fruit. They are sinful habits also, but another thing the Holy Spirit showed me while doing this study is that bugs and pests also represent people. Friendships that are counterproductive. Sometimes we hang around people out of habit, never realizing some of these friendships are zapping our fruit.

1 Corinthians 15:33-34 says: Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.

We are called to protect our fruit and anointing at all cost.

Rabbits are foes that are very bold.  They think that they can take you down, causing you to miss your destiny. Their gnawing at the bark of your life can only leave tiny scars, proving that you had enemies that could not bring their wicked devices to pass.

Please join us next week as our teaching and testimony continues.

Min. Tamara~