What I Learned About God’s Goodness This Month

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

     This month (August 2019, as of this writing) has been a busy and stressful month, but I am grateful for all God has done in my life during this time.  Right now, we are in the process of remodeling our countertops, since ours was outdated. We had waited for a month to get it done. During that time, my family and I were tempted to question if it would ever get done. We had to take out the kitchen sink, so we had to walk to the laundry room sink to cook or even wash our hands.  Everything in the drawers and cabinets also had to be taken out.

Right now, I hear the workers coming in and out of our house to set the VERY heavy countertops in our kitchen.  Thankfully, the weather is nice, and not excessively hot or cool, so opening the door outside is not a problem. Also, the workers would not get too exhausted, since it is not excessively humid or hot. 

Not only in the matter of the countertops, but also in other areas of my life, God has been working to show me that He is always good, even when we, or our circumstances, are not.  I learned that:

  1. God puts trials in our lives to grow us.
  2. God always provides for our needs.
  3. God always works things out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28)

First of all, God puts trials in our lives to grow us.  I will be one of the first to admit; I have an aversion to trials, mostly because of anxiety and fear that things may turn out disastrous once I’m in the trial.  However, thinking about some of the trials that I have been in throughout my life, even this month, I have seen that most of them have helped me grow in my character and trust of God.  For instance, this week I worked at another location than the place I normally work.  Because I have a tendency to get lost in place where I’m not familiar, I had someone drive me. However, their car overheated on the way there.  Immediately in our minds, we were understandably (my co-worker more than me) stressed out and I even was thinking that I may not be able to get to the location at all! However, I tried to stay calm, while my co-worker asked for help.  Eventually, we were able to get to the location we were supposed to be working at after that.  Moreover, God provided someone else to drive me back to my regular workplace safely, and a friend to take my coworker to get his car towed and repaired.  Through this little trial, God taught me to trust Him to provide for me, and that I didn’t have to panic or get anxious during a trial.  Sometimes, I have even found that God allows trials in our lives to prepare us for the future. For instance, the experience with not having a kitchen sink for a month, and even working in another location, may be preparing me for something in my future or even to grow more versatile career-wise.

Second of all, I learned that God always provides for our needs. Even when we didn’t have a kitchen sink, God provided the laundry room sink so that we could wash our dishes, our hands, and cook (to get the water).  When I worked in the other location, I learned to be grateful that I am working where I am at now, and not to gripe about it, even if others around me may be.  I learned that where I’m working at now is really a decent place to work and is the right place for my personality, my giftedness, and the season of life I’m in right now, despite people around me quitting or encouraging me to quit.  When God provided a job for me at my current workplace location (On how I got my current job, click here.), He knew what He was doing, and His plan was good and perfect for me! 

Finally, God always works things out for the good of those who love Him.  Last week, I was a little bit concerned about having to work the whole department by myself this past Monday and Tuesday.  God knew I would be overwhelmed if I had to work those days in my normal location. So, an hour after I was clocked in on Monday and started doing freight, one of my managers asked, “Patricia, would you like to work at [name of other location]?

I said, “ I can’t drive far distances in locations I am not familiar with.  First of all, I don’t have GPS. I also get lost really easily when I have to drive to places where I’m not familiar with, but if there is someone that could drive me there and back, I could.”

My manager replied, “if [name of a co-worker] is willing to drive you, would you come?”

I replied, “Sure.”

So, I ended up working at the other location on Monday.  After I came back to my normal workplace location, one of my higher up managers wanted me to work at that same location I was in Monday, and I agreed.  My anxiety over having to work the entire area by myself on Monday, and especially Tuesday, melted away, because I didn’t really have to work the department at all!  Moreover, there were not too many customers those days, so the area wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be when I came back to work in my regular location on Wednesday with my co-worker Todd*.

This sure has been a busy and hectic week, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything, because God has taught me so much.  Though I knew intellectually that God is good, now I can see God’s hand and His goodness more clearly in my life.  May you see the goodness of God in your life as well!

*=name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual mentioned.

More Than I Could Ever Dream

-written 3/5/19

When I was growing up, I was a naughty and very active child.  Despite my energy, I did not really have any close friends.  Back then, I dreamed of one day going to a prestigious university, like my parents, and getting the best grades possible. I probably thought, unconsciously, that if I made it to a prestigious and a good university, I would then be able to get a job that would pay me a lot of money, and thus I would win friends and influence.

Indeed, I worked very hard in school and got decent grades.  However, I really didn’t have passion for the content of what I studied; I just wanted to do well to please my parents and also to be “the –girl-who-worked-hard-and-got-the-best-grades.”   I wanted to be respected and valued. In retrospect, getting good grades at school became a sort of idol for me.  I worshipped the god of achievement, and without it, I reasoned that I was worthless.  

Shattered Dreams

(courtesy of photobias)

Then, when I was sixteen years old, I struggled through several classes. I no longer got the grades I wanted or needed. I was even in danger of failing a class. One of my teachers even said in so many words that he didn’t believe I would ever amount to much in this life, probably partly due to the fact I wasn’t doing so well in his class. I also lacked peer support. In fact, no one in my class dared to counter what that teacher said to me. I also I felt my family could not relate to the turmoil inside me, as they seemed to be living a different life.  In fact, in a journal entry from April 1999, I had written, “I wish I could be more […] effervescent (lively). I feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. If I could only find that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?” I was so depressed that I wanted an escape, maybe to even end my life.

However, several months later, God saved me from that.  Fast forward a few years later, I went to college, but not at a prestigious university which I had dreamed.  After I graduated, I tried to look for work in my field of study, but to no avail.

After that, I finally found a part-time job in retail. There, I learned many customer service skills and other people skills I needed to succeed.  I did well there, but after a while, I felt God calling me to somewhere else—a place where I never thought I’d end up.  It was during that time, that God was preparing me for a new life, where He would give me more than I could have ever dreamed.

I was so excited when I got an interview at one of the local bookstores near where I lived! I had always dreamed of working in a bookstore!  I loved books, and the workers there seemed nice.  However, the day of the interview, I quickly found out that I wasn’t the right fit.  At this point, I didn’t think I would get another job opportunity any time soon. The search went on.

Metamorphosis

Then, one, cold wintry day on February 25, 2016, I went with my mom to the store I now work to buy a few things.  What I did not know was that trip would change my life forever.   

I asked the HR representative the status of my resume, and after that she offered me to interview at 1 pm.  Since I didn’t have adequate time to prepare or change into more formal attire, my mom and I ate lunch at the mall nearby, and then I went back to the store to get interviewed.  When I got interviewed, I was so nervous and stuttering over my words, that I thought surely they wouldn’t accept me. To my surprise, I got a job offer! I waited until the next day to accept, after I sought counsel from my family.  On March 10, I officially started at my current job.

Meanwhile, many people were leaving my now-former church. I loved that church, but inside there were so many changes that it rocked the congregation. About half of the congregation left or were in the process of leaving.  At about the same period of time, my brother told my parents and me that he was going to go to school in Texas to get his Master’s degree.  What I didn’t know then was my brother was going to live there permanently.

I felt, except for my new job, that my dreams were going to be shattered all over again.  I would either have to accept the changes at my now-former church or find somewhere different to worship. Not going to church wasn’t even an option for me.  I would also have to adjust to life without  some of the support of my brother.

My brother left for Texas in August 2016. The day he left, the house felt hollow and quiet. The basement that used to be full of my brother’s stuff was now almost bare, but habitable again.  My dad went with my brother to help him move.  My mom and I remained at home.  I felt numb and solemn that day. My heart felt like there was something missing—the void where my brother’s physical presence radiated my life.

Then, in mid-October, I said goodbye to the church that I had been attending for about ten years.  It was very hard, as I had established so many friendships there, and these people were like a second family to me.  Before I left to visit a church nearby, I was in tears, as I said goodbye to some of the congregants.

However, there was a very bright spot, in the midst of all the goodbyes, a month before I left my now-former church.

In September, I was working the swing shift, and one of my managers, Hope* was closing with me.  She was complimenting me about my performance that day. Since I was still part-time, I told her, “I am thinking of becoming full-time. However, Chris*, my manager, said I should wait a while. I was wondering how long I should wait.” Then, Hope replied, “You shouldn’t have to wait. You deserve full-time.”  Later on, or the next day, she put me in for full-time. Later, Chris also approved my full- time status. I was ecstatic!  Because of all the challenges that I had to face, I never dreamed I would ever get a full time job in my life! 

A month later, after I had left my former church, I visited another church.  It had many more people than the one I had previously visited.  A friendly couple greeted me and I sat by them.  Even the pastors were friendly. The sermon that day was very thought-provoking and relatable to what I was going through in my life. I didn’t know yet if this was going to be my new home church, but I liked their genuineness and their devotion to the Word of God, so I kept going. In August of the next year, I officially became a member of my current church.  Through my church, I have learned how to have an engaging quiet time with God, how to view life more positively and differently than most of the rest of the world, and how to forgive people who have hurt you deeply.


God’s Perfect Plan

No, I never got the six figure salary I had dreamed of, nor did I get into a prestigious college. However, I have been blessed with more than I could have ever dreamed. Through my church family and people at work, I have gained a strong support system. Also, I am still in touch with several people from my old church, who I still consider good friends, even though they live very far away from where I am now.  Through the tough situations I find myself in at work, God has used those to strengthen and shape my character into His.  Through church, I continue to train to be able to share the love and hope that I found in life through God and His gracious plans for me.  Yes, I still have bad days, but overall, I have found more joy and satisfaction during these past two years, than at any other time in my life. God has certainly blessed me with more than I could ever dream!

*=names have been changed for privacy reasons

Because You Believed

to everyone who believed in the potential of a woman with ordinary dreams

One day, at work with two other of her colleagues, chatting over their childhoods during break, a woman– the one with ordinary dreams, said, “When I was growing up, I was naughty, and I didn’t have many friends. One of my peers even said, ‘You are a very difficult person to get along with’.”

Neither of her colleagues believed her.

But it was all too true.

About 25 years earlier, because of her disability and other differences, the woman with ordinary dreams was never taken seriously, regularly taken advantage of by peers, and was often chosen last for team sports in gym class and class projects. No one really wanted to look into her soul and get to know her. She was too selfish, rigid, and difficult; they reasoned.

Ten years later, she became a bit easier to deal with, but had a paranoia and bitter pain in her soul. She really felt she couldn’t trust, much less open up to, anyone. Never had this girl thought she’d ever really be valued in anyone’s eyes. Confirming this despair, one of her teachers had said in so many condemning, angry words that she would probably not amount to much in life, and she believed this for fifteen long years. The week this teacher told her this, this girl with ordinary dreams– one of which was to be accepted and loved for who she was– , saw that dream shatter before her eyes. She reasoned if she would never really be loved for who she was, even to her hurting soul, life was no longer worth it.

Thus, she contemplated suicide, but then God rescued her from self- destruction and despair.

11 years later..

The woman with ordinary dreams meets her mentor who would change her life forever because her mentor believed in her potential and the value of her soul. The mentor keeps prodding and helping the woman until she lands a job in which she can actually succeed. The mentor also helps her gain confidence in herself and believe in her dreams again. Even to her dream of  one day becoming a writer and getting a full- time job somewhere, the mentor never ridiculed or dismissed, but actively helps the woman fulfill them.

6 years later…

The woman with ordinary dreams senses God leading her to a new job, since a previous one no longer fit into her expansive dreams. The woman, with dreams of being a writer and being loved, is stoked about getting an interview at a bookstore, which she considers her “dream” job that would lead her to be able to write someday . However, during the actual interview, it was made clear to her that this was not the job God had for her. Her dreams are shattered once again.

However, she does not give up. Going into a store, which she applied for, to buy a few things, she suddenly hears  a voice in her soul that told her to ask about the application. She does and, subsequently gets an interview. The interviewer, she finds out later, was going to be her manager!

That manager is the hardest worker she has ever seen in her life! While preparing the logistics for the interview and afterwards, she sees the manager also stocking items in the area he manages, or doing returns.

The woman is shocked to find out that she has been accepted for the job–and happy as well.  However, she doesn’t know then, that God would use that job to fulfill her ordinary dreams of being loved and also becoming full-time.

That woman was me.

Epilogue:

This month marks three years with my current job. It may not seem like much, but considering I’ve not had many jobs where I was in one company that long, it is only by God’s grace, my mentor J, Chris*, Elizabeth *, and countless others who believed I could be of value to them, that I was able to make it this far.  My wonderful co- workers and managers in #1401 have taught me so much. I aspire to be like my mentor J, who never gave up on me and who valued me. I aspire to be like Chris, whose work ethic and dedication to his associates is a model for me to follow. I aspire to be like Elizabeth, who always believed in her associates’ potentials and encouraged them to reach for the stars. She encouraged me to learn to cashier when others seemed more reluctant to take me on, and satisfied my curiosity to learn new skills and to try my best always. I aspire to be like Hope*, who first offered me full- time and encouraged me to strive for excellence.

Thank you everyone at #1401 who helped me get to where I am today. Today, I am able to realize my ordinary dreams, all because you believed in me.

some of the wonderful people that helped me realize my ordinary dreams.

*= names changed for privacy of the individuals mentioned.

What I’m Learning From Recent Changes in My Life

As you may recall in my previous posts, in 2016, I went through some of the toughest and most drastic changes in my life. 2016 was when I got my current job. It was also the year my brother moved away, and I started to attend my current church, after having been at my previous one for ten years!  Here I am, three years later, and am about to undergo, and have undergone even more changes in my life!  First of all, at church, we are in a period of transition, where we will soon be getting a new pastor, as my current senior pastor will be stepping down after 40 plus years of service to our church.  Second of all, there have been so many changes that have been occurring at my job that I couldn’t keep track of them all unless I really thought about it! Finally, there are some other personal changes that I have been going through or will be going through that will have a great impact on my life. Even in these various changes going on in my life, God is still teaching me so much, that can be not only applied to me in the situations I find myself in, but also to everyone else, in their life situations.

The first thing I am learning is to not waste time because time is fleeting. In the past, when I thought I had a lot of time, I had more of a temptation to waste time, because I thought that I still had a lot left.  I thought that if I saved certain tasks for later (i.e procrastinate on some things), that I would have something to occupy me later so that I wouldn’t get bored.  For instance, if I wanted to enjoy watching a certain movie, I would save it for a time “when I really got bored” so I would have something to do later.  While it is good to be able to delay gratification sometimes, I am learning more and more that I shouldn’t wait to enjoy life while there is still time, because there may not be a later.  Also, something that I have been learning and that I really, really regret, is that I never really said everything that I needed to that was on my heart to those people I loved, and now some of them are leaving. For instance, my current pastor is leaving after 40 plus years of service in our church, and I have only been attending for less than three years. I regret that I did not really get to know how amazing my pastor is as a person and as a pastor, because I never really spent much time with him or his wife. From now on, I will strive to make time for the people that matter the most to me. Instead of spending hours stressing about work or surfing mindlessly online, I will strive to spend more time with those I love and like.  I also strive to not be afraid to say the things that I need to say to those I love and/or admire the most. I had been afraid to say some of the “nice” things too, because I didn’t want to sound “fake” or too “mushy.” However, now I realize that since it is from my heart, I am not being fake or mushy.  So, is there something on you hear that you would like to tell your loved ones or friends? Don’t wait until it is too late to tell them how much they mean to you. You may never get another opportunity to say what you need to say!

The second thing I am learning is to stop worrying about the future and trust God. When I first underwent some of these changes, I admit I had a worrisome “What-if” mentality in my head. Since I didn’t know exactly how these changes would impact my life, I assumed the worst, and that made me miserable and cranky.  However, through the message that my next pastor was preaching yesterday, I learned that I need to let go of the worry and the possible “What-if” scenarios that may or may not play out, and just trust the process.  For instance, one of the changes at my work is to my schedule. I was content with working mornings, but now they want most people to work second shift, including me.  I was initially worried that this change would stress me out to breakdown point, and I even tried to fight it a little bit. However, God showed me, in the sovereignty He had over the events of my life, that this change was from Him.  I learned from God through that message yesterday that when I entrusted the situation to Him, that He would give me the strength and the resources I needed to get through the change in my life, and indeed He has! When we worry about the future, we don’t allow God to work to change us so we can successfully adjust later on.  We get stuck in the past and “What-if” scenarios, and we waste time worrying, instead of asking God to help us get through today.

Finally, I am learning that God’s presence and guidance will help me through the transitions in my life.  This year, I am striving to let God have control of my life and not to “help” Him through the situations in my life.  In fact, the more I try to control certain things in my life, the more chaotic and destructive my life often becomes!  However, when I relax and not let my anxiety and my desire for control take over me, as I let go and allow God to work through me, I find that I am much more calm and able to do His will. Often when I try to fight the changes in my life, the more apparent the changes become! This also happens when I am trying to escape a situation or a person. For instance, if God wanted a person to be in my life, but I didn’t want the person in my life for whatever reason, God would make it so that I would see the person more often! However, when I just tried to deal with that person in a godly manner, the situation either became better or that person that was bothering me in my life would finally leave.

Even in the changes of my life, I am comforted by the fact that God never changes, and that He will continue to teach me valuable life lessons as I am being shaped into His image.  I am learning to use my time more wisely and more intentionally for the people that I have been called by God to minister.  I am learning to be less anxious about change, and to trust that God will bring me through all these transitions.  God is still working in our lives, even through change. The question is, will we continue to let Him?

Glorious Joy

 written:  12/23/2018

I was in so much despair

Thinking I was beyond repair

Joy was not a part of my life

I was suffering from much strife

 

Everything seemed to go wrong

Life seemed to just drag me along

But then God rescued me

And His love I began to see

 

Like a growing tree, my joy grew

I learned contentment that was true

As I was led into the light

My life became a glorious sight

R. Christian Bohlen’s Conversion Story–Guest Post

Along my blogging journey, I have met some amazing people that have encouraged and inspired my own as well. One of these people is R. Christian Bohlen, who has quite an extraordinary testimony of how he came to know God, through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Author/Blogger Bio:

R. Christian Bohlen has been involved in ministry and church leadership for over thirty years, including oversight of a prison ministry program in central PA. He holds an M.S. degree in communications and has received multiple personal and team awards as a human performance improvement consultant, instructional designer, and program manager to Fortune 500 companies throughout the United States and Canada.

His prior work with juvenile offenders and his own family’s trauma due to mental health issues instilled a commitment to somehow help those who need it most to find comfort in Christ. For over twenty years, he has labored to simplify and clarify the beauties of the life of Jesus Christ for everyone, regardless of background or knowledge of the scriptures. In 2018, he launched Christ on the Inside prison and addiction recovery ministry with the goal of making easy-to-read books about the life of Jesus available at no cost (and no profit to anyone).

(courtesy of R. Christian Bohlen)

My Conversion Story

I’ve devoted over 20 years to writing a book about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, mostly because of the remarkable and unforgettable way Christ kept pursuing me and not giving up on me.

In my 20’s, the confusion of trying to find my way to God was torturous—in spite of my sincerest efforts.

Finally “finding Christ” brought the peace and clarity I was looking for, but it certainly wasn’t like walking into a door labeled Nirvana and then thinking, “Ahh! It’s all good now.”

There was a process that gradually filled me with light—triggered by one key insight and the most difficult decision of my entire life.

Growing Up in Light and Truth

I was raised by faith-filled parents in a gospel-centered home. It was an idyllic setting. A family with father, mother, three children and a large community with kids everywhere, bordered by the dense forests of northwest Pennsylvania where we played and fantasized.

Attending church every Sunday was a given. Family prayer was routine and sincere and our home had a spirit of meekness, love, and obedience to God.

As a child and teenager, the other members of our small church family were important influences on me. The older members of our congregation had the Spirit of God with them when they spoke. Their kind and patient ways were noticeably different than the world around me, showing a “peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2).

I was taught many stories from the scriptures. These often touched me and, looking back, I sensed that they were true. I felt good when I read the scriptures myself, although I typically had better things to do and simply didn’t bother.

I didn’t pray on my own. I didn’t disbelieve that there was a God but I didn’t really believe it. And I certainly didn’t feel his love, nor did I ever feel what I would call love for God either. Sayings like “God loves you” just bounced off. “Everybody knows that,” I would think to myself.

But I didn’t know it.

A Gift to the Undeserving

(courtesy of pexels.com)

Maybe you can relate to what I’m about to share. Maybe in some way, God touched you whether you deserved it or whether you were seeking him or not. Maybe, at the time, you didn’t recognize it as such.

God reached down to me powerfully twice when I was a teenager.

One day in church, after watching an inspiring video about some story in the scriptures, I recall walking into the hallway feeling touched and uplifted. I paused in front of a bulletin board and looked at a picture of Christ surrounded by people in old-fashioned clothes like the ancients might wear.

A pure spiritual light of understanding entered my whole being as I stared at Christ in the center of this picture. I wasn’t consciously trying to think of anything. It just hit me.

I comprehended that Christ was God, the unchangeable God of the universe. I mean, I knew it and I understood it. I comprehended that the trends and fashions and ideas of men will come and go, but the wisdom and supremacy of God are unchanging. It was obvious why some people were bent down in an attitude of worship. This insight was a gift of spiritual light that filled me mercifully, with no effort of my own.

This gift entered my soul at a time that I was behaviorally in rebellion against God and was giving him no thought whatsoever. It was pure grace.

The next day I was supposed to meet someone new—a large scale drug dealer—to buy a sheet of acid (meaning, a large volume of LSD doses intended for distribution and sale). This was only one of several drugs I was involved with. Getting caught selling hard drugs would have changed the course of my life with a minimum of many months in a juvenile jail and all that comes with entering the “system,” the stigma, and dashing my parents’ hearts.

I stood there nearly in shock. “What am I doing to my life? How can I do this tomorrow?” But I had been panged by remorse before and it had only lasted a day or two and I went right back into my double life.

Nevertheless, I never met with that person. I don’t recall why. And I never pursued it again.

An Unforgettable Witness of Christ

A few months after that incident, I was getting ready to head out for college. I had been taught many times that there are a few important crossroads in life that we’d better pay attention to and make the right move: going to college, getting married, those kinds of things.

I recognized this as a chance to reprioritize my life. So, I sought out one of our pastors for counsel and began making small steps to get ready for a big change. Like the Parable of the Lost Son, I was trying to leave the “wild living” behind and trying to head back to the house of my Father (Luke 15:11-32, NIV).

This pastor asked my friend and me to sing a duet during our last Sunday in church before leaving for college. “Sure, no problem,” I answered. I didn’t think much about it.

The song was, “Abide with Me.”

There we stood in front of the small congregation that we knew so well. My friend and I had decent voices and had practiced a time or two and I wasn’t too worried about it.

But the strangest thing happened. The sounds of the hymn became hauntingly beautiful, moving me to a different place. I was filled with the sound of the notes as the words became crystal clear on the page and full of significance:

“When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.”

Suddenly, I couldn’t see well. The words blurred as water filled my eyes. To my teenage horror, I was crying, on stage in front of everyone.

But I couldn’t stop. Just like before, the light that filled me was sweet and clear and so satisfying. It was worth more than anything. I just kept reading and listening to the surreal sounds.

At that moment, I understood the character of Jesus: the help of the helpless. The compassionate one who cares when nobody else does.

The revelation continued, flowing pure and sweet into my mind and heart. Again, I understood that God was the supreme, unchangeable being—more important than any earthly thing. I tried to sing but could only read the words and listen as my friend sung his part. He kept looking at me like, “Whoa, what is goin’ on here?”

“Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.”

It all made perfect sense. I was comprehending the character of Christ, “who changest not,” and for some reason he chose to “abide with me,” on that stage, in front of the entire congregation.

Fast Forward to Near Madness

Within one week of this precious gift I was back to “wild living.”

I didn’t realize it but I was an addict.

I’m not going to recount my entire life story here, but suffice it to say that my life went back and forth between long periods of no drug abuse with sincere strivings to live a godly life and occasional relapses.

My feelings regarding the goodness of the gospel were real but I lacked the faith and understanding to truly live the gospel of Jesus Christ. I had no real foundation.

At one point in 1983, I reached a crisis of sorts. My efforts to live the gospel and keep the commandments of God were not working. I was intensely miserable and confused. I decided the only way to get past it was to start over again: forget everything I knew about God, religion, and just follow my heart, make the best decisions I could, and see where that would lead me. I didn’t know what else to do!

I stopped going to church and stopped “keeping the commandments of God,” as such, although that doesn’t mean my life turned into a hedonist free-for-all either. I treated people decently, didn’t party, and did a lot of thinking.

“How could this happen?” I often thought. “I had really tried to change my life. I tried to follow God and ‘follow the rules.'”

After a year or so of this, I suddenly became despondent. I was scared, in fact, at how gloomy and hopeless I felt. I feared that I was losing my sanity and thought about taking my life to escape.

An Inspired Friend

(downloaded from pexels.com)

I can still remember where I was sitting and staring at the floor in this unstable, panicked state with no idea of what to do.

A thought came to me: “Go see Bob Johnson.”

Bob was a good friend, a former spiritual advisor, and a man that I simply trusted. I felt a tiny bit of hope and decided to do it.

Our conversation was intense and his love for me was palpable and comforting. He said I was “hanging by a thread,” which I felt was a truthful statement and didn’t take it as an insult at all.

“You are in Satan’s power,” he said, “and you need to cast him out.”

Hmm… Okay, so this was kind of dramatic and not what I expected. A little crazy, to be honest. “Me? I’m a pretty nice guy,” I thought. “I’m not like a Satanic dude or anything.” I started to pull back from Bob.

“I want you to tell Satan to leave you,” Bob said.

“Huh? How?” I asked.

“Say, ‘Satan. In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave me,'” Bob instructed.

I probably just sat and looked at him. I don’t remember. But I do remember being frightened and feeling very unstable. Not evil, but very confused and unhappy.

“Oh, great,” I thought. “Me. Possessed.”

Could it be true? As crazy as it sounded, I opened my mind that it might be true. I had a tiny, new hope.

As we parted that day, he hugged me and just wept and wept and wept. I sensed that it was the love of God reaching through him in hope and celebration for my willingness to try.

The Reality of Satan

Writing this now, in 2018, I’m sure that most people have not and will not ever experience what I’m about to describe. But it was a reality for me and what I felt and experienced was undeniably real.

I learned what constitutes light as I truly witnessed darkness.

I went home and awkwardly explained to my mother what was happening to me and what Bob counseled me to do. I have no idea how I broached the topic with her but somehow my mother and I sat side by side on a couch and I decided to do what Bob advised.

I opened my mouth and verbally commanded Satan to leave me in the name of Jesus Christ using the words above.

Within seconds, I felt a terrifying, dark force pull away from me. The best I can explain it is that I knew it had been enmeshed with me and now it was just a “few inches” outside of me. It was menacing and extremely angry at what was happening and by no means intending to stay outside of me. It was waiting for me to lose focus and come back.

But now I knew there was “me” and there was “it” and I could distinguish the two.

I commanded Satan again. And again. Always in the name of Jesus Christ. Over time, the line between us because firmer and the distance greater. My peace and sense of self were forming again.

Truthfully, I had forgotten some of these details until just a year ago when my mother said, “I sure know that Satan is real, like when you cast him out as we were sitting together. What a horrible feeling that was.”

From her vantage point, she had experienced it as vividly as I had: an awful, frightening, threatening presence in that room. I did not know (or recall) that she felt it that way until she shared her memory of it with me last year.

Good Overcomes Evil

In the weeks and months that followed, I continued to tell Satan to leave me in the name of Christ, as necessary.

Two things were certain and beyond dispute:

  • The evil force I felt was real. Satan was an actual entity and not just a concept.
  • The name of Jesus Christ has real power. Satan was enmeshed with me but he could not disobey the command to leave, in Christ’s name. I had been given a tool that worked 100% of the time and that was enormously reassuring.

How Christ Found Me and Cared for Me

I’ve listed just a few episodes in my life where Christ reached out to me to teach me, inspire me, help me understand the truth, and save me—even when I was doing little or nothing to seek him out.

I can’t say that I found Christ. I prefer to say he has been watching over me all my life and finding and touching me, according to his own wisdom and ways.

  • He gave me sweet and loving parents who shared their testimonies of truth lived godly lives to the best of their understanding.
  • He gave me the examples of other church members whose sincerity and willingness to love God first was real to me, even as a boy.
  • He gave me light and understanding as I read scriptures, participated in church activities, and that one eventful day in front of the bulletin board.
  • He gave me the freedom to make decisions and figure things out on my own but he was always watching for my return. At the first sign of turning, he ran to me like the father of the lost (prodigal) son and whispered the idea to call Bob Johnson to help me.
  • He kicked Satan out of my life like the mighty God of the universe that he is. All I had to do was invoke his name, which always has power.

How Christ Finds and Cares for You

I know that our Christ reaches out to every living soul on this earth in ways that are suitable to that person.

Take just a moment to reflect back on your life. Who were the people that were good examples in your life? It might not have been your family. What were the experiences where heavenly light and understanding called you to something higher and helped you understand the things of God? Maybe you appreciated it. Maybe you didn’t.

All of us have been touched and called to something higher. Through somebody. Through a life experience. Through the Spirit of God directly to our souls. But every living soul feels the fingers of God reaching down. But will we take that hand?

When did you hear something or read something that touched you? Maybe you felt an impression like, “I can do more with my life; I can turn away from these destructive things in my life,” or “God really is there and he wants me to listen and trust him.”

Those inspired impressions are from God. When we say, “I want to please God and keep feeling those good things more than my destructive, sinful past,” we are moving toward Christ.

How I Came to Christ: Believe in the Name of Jesus

My troubles weren’t over yet, however. Confusion returned frequently because other than knowing how to get Satan’s power to release me, I didn’t really understand what to do next.

I recall telling people, “I feel like I have no foundation. I’m walking in quicksand. I don’t know where to start.”

For someone who had attended church for most of his life and had read the scriptures many times over this seems ludicrous, looking back, but so it was. I found that there’s a difference between knowing from the head and internalizing from the heart. But I did find my way to Christ.

I recall a certain day when I was staring at green, patterned carpet in a different bedroom, trying to figure out what to do next.

Because I knew the Bible well (meaning, I had made some good decisions in the past to invest effort and try to learn the ways of God), a key phrase popped into my head:

“This is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1 John 3:23, NIV)

“Just believe in the name of Jesus Christ,” I repeated to myself. I didn’t know Jesus as a man. I had never seen him. But I could just believe in his name. I mean really put my whole heart into it. I could decide to trust this Jesus Christ.

“Just do it,” I recall thinking.

But oh, it was hard to do.

I had many atheist friends who poo-pooed the idea of believing the unseen. Their faces and voices in my mind made this a spiritually terrifying decision.

But one thing I knew for sure. I had factual, first-hand, experiential knowledge of this: the name of Jesus Christ has power. “So why not believe in that name,” I reasoned. “Perhaps more good will follow?”

I then received another merciful, beautiful insight: Into my mind’s eye came the John the Apostle and John the Baptist. I pictured Peter and Paul. I felt them saying, “We gave our everything to give you this knowledge. Believe it. We love you. Believe in the name of Jesus. Do it.

I felt in my heart that these dear scriptural friends were just and holy men. Real people. Worthy of my trust.

The Pivotal Decision: Jumping in with Both Feet

Sometime in 1983, I made that great decision. I opened the faucet of belief in Jesus Christ and the water of life began to trickle into my life. I could feel the difference. What the scriptures call “salvation” was happening for the first time in my life. (See Acts 16:30-33

I often said in my mind—and still do to this day—”I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe He was sent from the Father. I believe He is the Messiah. I believe Jesus Christ is the very Son of God.” These thoughts and intentions fill my heart with light and happiness and power.

There is power in believing. We should never underestimate the power of believing on the Light of the World.

Today, I am grateful and thrilled to tell you that—praise and thanks be to God—I am truly happy. Genuinely, deeply happy and at peace. 

Learn More

After reading this experience, I hope it’s clearer why I have invested so many years writing a book, preparing a website and launching a prison ministry to support others in coming to know Christ and discover how to believe in him.

See reviews of the new release, 5-star book, Jesus Christ, His Life and Mine on Amazon. including these:

“. . . a breath of fresh air. . . very modern and easy to understand for my generation. (Ethan – Facebook review)

“If there were six stars, I would give this book a six” (vtreviewer – Amazon review)

“. . . transformative, faith-promoting, and educational. . . [The author] succeeds masterfully on all fronts. (Joshua – Amazon review).

How God Has Blessed Me This Year

I don’t want to list my blessings in order to parade them before other people in pride and pomp, but to highlight how good God is and continues to be, not only to me, but to all of us.  Sometimes, we fall on difficult times and we forget about the good times because we are so focused on the stressful situation at hand. I get that, and unfortunately, I do that, too.  However, I hope, with this list of blessings (not all inclusive, that would take literally days and weeks), that each one of you will think about how you have been blessed this year and how God has helped you through some tough times, as He has to me:

  1. I got to see my relatives this summer, some of who I hadn’t seen in 8 years! They live very far away (as in I couldn’t even drive there to go see them!), and I had such a great time getting to know them and their families, as most of my cousins are married with children now.  I also got to see many sites and eat delicious food.  I even travelled with some of them to other cities within the area.  Even though some of us got sick, God really protected my family and me from any strife and anger.
  2. When I was faced with the prospect of spending Christmas alone, God put in my heart to try to request off from work so that my parents, my brother, and I could all spend Christmas together. I did, thinking there was no harm to try even if I didn’t get the days off. I had talked with my manager Elizabeth* about this and she said she’d let me know the next week. Well, the next day (It was a Saturday that same week), I checked to see what the status of my request for days off were, and they were already approved! Immediately, I texted my brother, who bought plane tickets for us to go to Texas.  I am so happy that, as of this writing, I will get to not only spend Christmas with my family, but also get to see the area where my brother now lives! God is good!
  3. I really got to know my friend Allison* this year, and we have become close.  I realized that she and I have a lot in common, and we are able to encourage each other and give each other hope on the tough days.  I am blessed to be able to know her and I look forward to seeing her each day at work, when we are both working.
  4. My manager Elizabeth*, not only gave me the days off that I wanted, but also has helped and mentored me to become a better associate and person.  She also has encouraged me not to be so self-deprecating (as I am quite the perfectionist,:\ )  by telling me how much she appreciated my character and my work. She always tells me that I’m amazing, but I really think she’s amazing, as both a manager and a person. Unfortunately, a few weeks ago (as of this writing) was her last day at the company, but I have been so blessed to have known her.
  5. God sent one of my other managers, Chris,* to save my physical life by discouraging me from working for him when there was a snowstorm ensuing outside. I wanted to work a double shift for him because I felt bad when there were hardly any associates to help him, since most had called off due to the storm. However, he said that he cared about his associates, and did not want me to have an accident due to fatigue + a snowstorm, especially since I lived more than a few minutes from work.  I ended up listening to him, and going home at a decent time. I even had to call off the next day because the storm was so bad.  Had I worked for him and had he not said anything to me, I don’t know if I would be alive today.
  6. God has provided us with a new pastor when our current one had announced that he was leaving. Though I love our current pastor, it is clear from God that he is going to be on a different journey. However, even through all that, our upcoming new pastor is not only familiar with the congregants (He grew up at my current church), but it seems that he will continue the legacy that the pastor that is leaving has worked so hard to build.
  7. God has continued to use my blog and my writing to be able to bless and encourage others. He has even provided an opportunity for me to join a writing group in order to improve my writing skills and to reach and minister to even more people through the lessons (or, whisperings) that God has taught me.  

These are just a few of the blessing that God has bestowed on me, in His goodness and love, this year. How has God blessed you this year? What has He done to help you see His love and grace in your life? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

*=Names changed, in order to protect the privacy of the individuals mentioned