Friday, March 24, 2017

The Inner Views of Will Graham

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
Romans 1:16

"Have you ever heard Will preach?" the sweet lady from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association asked as she handed us a brochure.

"No, actually, I don't think I have", I replied.

"His preaching reminds me of Billy's", she said.

Naturally, we looked forward to the evening service with great anticipation.
We were there as members of the Concerned Women for America prayer team.
Will Graham was scheduled to preach that night, and CWA had a prayer room set up for people who wanted someone to pray with them after hearing Will's message.
If there was a dry eye in the crowd, towards the end of his sermon,
 when he spoke of a conversation with his friend in the woods, I didn't know about it.
I asked him to repeat that story here in the interview below.
It is with much gratitude that I share Will Graham's inner views with you today.
May God bless and minister to your heart, as you read.

Will Graham.

Cheryl:  First of all, I just wanted to take this moment to thank you for blessing us with your time and thoughts. We so appreciate you and are thankful for your ministry and dedication to our Lord. Could you tell us a bit about your childhood and what it was like growing up as Franklin Graham's son and Billy Graham's grandson?

Will:  Thank you for the opportunity! My brothers, sister and I had an incredible upbringing on a farm in the mountains of North Carolina. My parents were strict but loving, and my father went out of his way to make sure that we were protected from public attention or unfair expectations. That helped to make me the man I am today. I never rebelled or got into much serious trouble, and I’m thankful that I was spared that.

I’m often asked about what it was like growing up as Billy Graham’s grandson, and I have to admit that it’s a bit of a difficult question to answer because I’ve never known anything different. I will say that it has been an incredible blessing. There’s a bit of a “fishbowl” aspect to it. People are always trying to look in, and may view you differently or hold you to a different standard. But I will say this – The benefits far outweigh any negatives. For instance, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to travel the world, sharing the hope of Jesus Christ, if not for my grandfather’s ministry over the decades.

One thing that people should know about my grandfather – whom the grandkids call “Daddy Bill” – he’s always been the same person at home as you would see in public (in interviews, during Crusades, etc.), with one major difference; at home he’s quiet. He doesn’t want to talk. He’d rather hear about your life, your ministry, and your family. He’s a very humble man.

Cheryl:  What are some of your favorite memories of your grandmother, Ruth?

Will:  My grandmother was a quick-witted practical joker who could make a princess and a beggar feel equally comfortable in the same room. My grandfather would refer to her as the greatest Christian he had ever known and comment that she knew the Bible far better than he did. She helped to prepare and equip him to go out and accomplish what he was called to do.

In my grandparent’s home, my grandmother—who had suffered years of declining health—had a room where she spent much of her time. It was where she slept and where she studied the Bible. Several translations were spread across a large desk, all featuring big margins for taking notes. This room was also where she ultimately slipped into eternity.

In that room, on a wall filled with family photos, still hangs a simple woven wreath of Jerusalem thorns. Directly across from it is the bed where my grandmother courageously faced the debilitating pain that followed her for years.

She would never complain about the pain, though you would occasionally see her bright eyes wince and her teeth grit. Rather than lamenting, she would point up to those thorns, similar to the sharp, long blades that were formed into the crown that Jesus wore at His crucifixion. “If He endured so much for me,” she would say, “I have nothing to complain about.”

That was my grandmother – spry, funny, mischievous, but also brave, strong and full of faith.

Cheryl:  We would love to hear about your own, personal Christian testimony. How old were you when you surrendered your life to the Lord? What life events led you to make this decision?

Will:  I was six- or seven-years-old. It was just after I had grown out of “kid’s church” and was now old enough to be with the adults for the service. That Sunday, as I sat nestled in beside my parents at our church, I saw plates carrying small bites of bread and little cups of grape juice being passed around the sanctuary. I was excited! I was hungry, I’d behaved, and I was ready for this grown-up snack that was being handed out.

As the plate came by me, I reached out for a little piece of bread, but my parents wouldn’t let me have any. I couldn’t figure out what I had done that would disqualify me from the treat. The best I could come up with was that they were worried that I would spill the grape juice on the nice church carpet.

After church, my dad took me up to my room and started to explain to me what this thing they called communion meant, and how Jesus, to whom I had prayed often, loved me so much that He died on the cross for my sins and had risen from the grave. My dad invited me to make a decision to ask Jesus into my heart.

The fact that I was a good kid and that my last name was Graham didn’t mean anything. Rather, that decision I made in my bedroom with childlike faith is what secured my eternity in Heaven and is how I began a relationship with my Savior. It’s been more than 30 years since that afternoon, and I’ve lived a life full of joy, hope and purpose thanks to that decision I made with my dad after the communion service at church.

Franklin, Will, and Billy Graham

Cheryl:  When did you realize that God was calling you to follow in the footsteps of your father and grandfather to preach the Gospel? After witnessing, first-hand, the sacrifices their ministries required, was it difficult for you to come to a place of consecration in order to answer God's call?

Will:  From a very early age I knew that God had a calling on my life. I didn’t necessarily know what that meant, but I knew that I wanted to serve Him. One day in elementary school, our teacher asked us to draw a picture of what we wanted to do when we grew up. I remember all of the other boys in class drawing pictures of Joe Montana and Dan Marino. They wanted to be football players. I drew an open Bible and an aviation headset. I wanted to fly around and tell people about Jesus, just like my dad did.

Years later, as a teenager, I attended a Bible camp. It was there that I dedicated my life to serving the Lord however He would use me. I didn’t know if that meant bi-vocational ministry, being a missionary, or some other sort of service. I just knew that my life was in His hands, and I was along for the ride. And it’s been a fun, challenging, and blessed journey.

By the way, the two things I drew in elementary school – I accomplished both of those goals while a student at Liberty University: I earned my Bible degree and my pilot’s license!

Cheryl:  What is the most beneficial advice you have ever been given concerning your ministry? Who gave you this advice?

Will:  After God called me to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, I visited with my grandfather to get his thoughts and advice. I’m not sure what I was expecting; maybe practical strategies to move from Point A to B to C.

But I soon realized there would be no lengthy list of do’s and don’ts. I wouldn’t need my pen and paper to chronicle every bit of advice. “Will,” he said softly. “Pray, pray, pray, and study, study, study. Looking back, I wish I had done so much more of both.”

I must admit that I was taken aback by his guidance. After all, as long ago as I could remember, whenever I entered his house my grandfather was almost always praying or reading the Bible. How could my grandfather, who spent more time in prayer and study than anyone I had ever met, feel inadequate in those areas?

His response: “I wish I knew the Bible as well as your grandmother does. She knows it better than anyone I have ever met,” he whispered quietly. “And we could have done so much more if we had taken fewer speaking engagements and spent more time on our knees in earnest prayer.”

I’m now several years into my ministry and have preached on six continents, sharing the same message that my grandfather carried those many years. Not a day has gone by when I haven’t heard those whispered words in my head and sought to follow his humble guidance.

Cheryl:  I will never forget the message you preached at the Truth for a New Generation Conference. One part that was especially moving to us was when you related the story about the time your best friend and you were walking in the woods, and he asked you a very serious question. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house as you spoke. Will you kindly share about that experience with us here?

Will:  It was a cold, icy morning. I was out hunting with my friend Marty, but we decided to call it off because of the bad weather. It took a while to work our way through the thicket, back out to the road.

As we walked, Marty, my old seminary classmate who is still one of my closest friends, broke the silence. “Will,” he said, “Would you give your life for me?”

While I was unsure where this question was coming from, in that moment – as I quickly played the proposed scenario through my head – I knew I’d indeed be willing to lay down my life for my friend. If Marty were condemned to die, and I could save his life by giving up my own, I truly believe that I could and would do that.

“Yes, I guess I would,” I responded.

“I would give up my life for you too,” said Marty. And then after a moment’s pause, he added, “But I don’t think I’d ever be able to trade my child’s life for yours.”

Suddenly his seemingly random question took on a much deeper and resounding significance. Could I die for Marty? Sure. Would I ever – under any circumstances – send my daughters or son to die for Marty or anybody else? Not now, not ever!

Obviously, as we had sat quietly in the woods, Marty had been contemplating the amazing sacrifice of God sending His only Son to die for the sins of the world. As Christians, we hear this so much that I’m afraid we tend to forget or gloss over the pain behind it.

However, when you consider this from the perspective of a parent who – above all else – longs to protect, love and provide for your child, you see in a new, fresh and emotional way the pain that was not only felt by Jesus on the cross, but by God the Father as well. Christ was God’s own Son, a part of Him, whom He sent to die for the sins of mankind.

Just by asking me a simple question, Marty had described God’s perfect love for each of us, a love so strong that He would make the ultimate sacrifice. Marty couldn’t do it. I couldn’t either. But God did, and you and I can have eternal hope and life through Him because of it!

Cheryl:  Can you tell us about your work as the executive director at the Billy Graham Training Center? What are your duties there, and what type of training does the Center provide?

Will:  Many years ago, my grandparents had the vision to build a place where Christians could go to get away from the stress of life and focus on Christ. This vision ultimately resulted in the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, a 1,200-acre conference center nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We bring in some of the best Bible teachers in the country to offer seminars which help to renew the spirit and refresh Christians to reach their world for Jesus.

We also hold special events throughout the year including concerts, Bible studies, personal retreats, and gatherings for senior citizens. Many church groups and Christian ministries also hold their meetings on our grounds.

As the executive director, I give guidance over this ministry, helping to ensure that everything runs smoothly and is on budget. I have an incredible staff that is fully and passionately committed to ministry and hospitality. They pray for each person that comes onto the Cove property – before, during and after their stay.

One of the things that I love the most about working at The Cove is that my grandparents’ fingerprints can be found in every aspect. From the stone work to the steeple top, they built it from the ground up and – if you know what to look for – their personalities shine through.

Cheryl:  To date, what is your most memorable moment while preaching the Gospel as an evangelist?

Will:  Some time ago I was preaching in Orange, Australia. It’s usually pretty hard to see the audience when you’re preaching, because there’s a light on you and the rest of the room is darker. However, I noticed a toddler running around in front of the stage, and the child’s mother sitting on the front row.

After the program that evening, I went to McDonalds with a couple of my colleagues as well as the Aussie pastor who was helping to oversee our efforts. As we ate, the same lady who had been in the front row came into the restaurant. She stopped by our table and thanked us for coming to Orange, and then left to order food.

Our group hung around, laughing and fellowshipping. As the lady got up to leave, she again stopped by our table and – this time around – she began to share her story.

We learned that her name was Catherine, and that she had been enduring the darkest days of her life. In fact, she admitted to us that she was contemplating a way to end it all and remove the pain. Just more than a year into a separation from her husband, and four weeks into a relocation to Orange, it had become too much.

“I’d gotten so bad, I was so lost, that I was contemplating taking myself out. But I couldn’t figure out how because it’s not something that you just know how to do,” she told us.

A woman she’d just met had invited her to come along to our event, and her whole world changed that day. As the Gospel was proclaimed, Catherine recognized that God loved her despite the struggles she had encountered and the pain she felt.

Just as she had been sitting on the edge of the darkness in that auditorium, with the light so nearby, so Catherine moved from suicidal thoughts to redemption, from darkness to light. She reconciled with her husband and they steadily worked to get their lives back on track by embracing the hope, purpose and love presented to them through Christ!

Cheryl:  How does it feel to know that you have been instrumental in personally leading a lost soul to the cross of Jesus Christ?

Will:  Let me first say that I never – never – want to take credit for the work of the Holy Spirit. This journey isn’t about me. When people come forward at the invitation, they don’t come to me. They come to Jesus. Will Graham can’t save anybody. My prayer is that I would just get out of the way and allow Him to speak through me.

With that said, I’ve been incredibly blessed to have a front row seat, witnessing what God is doing around the world. People ask me if I’ve ever seen a miracle, and I say that I see them all the time. Every time somebody comes forward with tears in their eyes to surrender their lives to Christ, I see that which was once dead, raised to life. I’m blessed beyond measure.

Cheryl:  We are surely living in the perilous times prophesied about in God's Word, and the tide of evil seems so strong and impossible to combat in this culture that is growing more and more hostile towards God and His cause. As a minister working on the front lines during such an evil time, what do you feel is the most effective thing we, as individual Christians, can do to make a difference?

Will:  I think there are a couple of things. First of all, we need to get back to our First Love. I feel like faith has become a thing we do, rather than who we are. Even Christians are easily swayed by the ways of the world and the influences of culture. We’re too busy fighting with each other, and not spending enough time in the Word and in prayer. We, as believers, need to be so sold out for God that we allow Him to perform that radical change in our lives. The world needs to see that there’s something different about us.

Second, when people do see that there’s something different and ask about it, we need to be prepared to share the hope that we have in Him (1 Peter 3:15). Every day we’re surrounded by people who are struggling and in need of hope, or people who are going through the motions thinking everything is okay, but they’re dying spiritually. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (ESV). We can never be good enough, righteous enough, to save our friends. However, we can lead them to salvation by verbally sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to bring conviction and repentance.

Until we become fully in love and on fire for Jesus, and then use that passion to reach others with His hope, we are on the wrong path.

Cheryl:  As a Christian father of three, what do you consider to be the most important thing(s) we should be teaching our children? What values should we most diligently strive to instill in them while they are young?

Will:  One of the biggest things to me – apart from the main thing, which is ensuring that they are exposed to the Gospel and put their faith in Jesus – is just to give them a firm foundation and base in the Bible. As a child, my parents had a little plastic loaf of bread on the table that contained a stack of Bible verses written on little cards. It was called the “Bread of Life,” I believe. You know what? It worked! I still remember the first verse I memorized from that little plastic loaf.

In the day in which we’re living, there are so many competing voices trying to tell us what’s right and wrong. Entertainers, politicians, friends, other family members – I want my children to know that in a wavering world, Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and the Bible is the last word on morality and sin… No matter what anybody else may say.

Cheryl:  On a personal level, what is one of the hardest seasons you have yet had to face? How did your faith in God sustain and uphold you during the darkness?

Will:  I’m not sure that I would call this one of the hardest seasons of my life, but it certainly was one of the most impactful. I will always remember the day that God called me to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

In 2006, I was the pastor of a growing church plant in Raleigh, North Carolina, and in the middle of a church building campaign. Things were going great. The church treated me and my family very well emotionally, spiritually and financially. I was happy and content there.

I’d never set out to be a pastor, and honestly it was one of the last things I wanted to do. But – through a series of events – God brought me to this point and this place, and I loved it, and had no desire to go anywhere else.

That particular day I was out mowing the lawn, and God spoke to me and said “It’s time.” I felt it so strongly that it was almost like I was jerked away from the lawn mower. I went into my home, sat at my couch, and wept.

Moments later, with my mind in turmoil as I wrestled with this calling, my phone rang. At the other end of the line was an evangelist from Texas whom my father met while they were ministering to contras in Central America. He and I hadn’t visited in years.

“Will,” he said, “God laid it on my heart to call you. I know you’re in the middle of making a big decision right now, and I want to pray with you …”

It was clear to me that it was God’s will and God’s timing to go help my dad at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Now, just because it was God’s will and God’s timing didn’t necessarily make it any easier to leave. I loved that church, and I still love it. I still have my membership there. Telling the senior pastor of the church which had planted my church – a man who had become a mentor to me – that I had been called away was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And the long hours and weeks away from home that I’ve been called to as part of my new ministry have not been easy.

But when God shows you His will for your life, you better listen and be ready to obey. Because I followed His leading into evangelism, I’ve had the opportunity to be on the frontline of His work around the world. I’ve had the incredible blessing of watching people across a multitude of countries on six continents as they’ve come forward to accept a new eternity with Christ.

Cheryl:  I was so encouraged to hear that God's people rose to the occasion and voted in bigger numbers during this Presidential Election than they have in decades. With all my heart I believe that one of the main reasons for this is due to the extensive efforts of your father, Franklin Graham, and his Decision America 2016 Tour that encompassed all 50 states. Before the election, my family and I thought much about this and prayed earnestly that his efforts would not be in vain, and how we rejoice that God dealt with his people and they felt compelled to participate in the voting process. Now that the election is behind us, and in light of all that faces our new president, including the daunting, weighty responsibility of the nomination of Supreme Court justices, what are some of the most important things we, as God's people, can do to support President Donald Trump?  

Will:  First, thank you for your prayers and support of the Decision America Tour. My dad felt that it was vitally important to call the nation to prayer, and more than 230,000 joined hand-in-hand across our nation to cry out to God through this movement. He also shared the Gospel at each stop, resulting in thousands of people accepting Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord!

I would encourage everybody reading this to not only pray for President Trump, but for all branches of government – from your local city council and school board, all the way to Washington D.C. Do so earnestly and sincerely.

My grandfather once said, “We have so many battles going on in America today that we should be a people of prayer. Our government needs prayer. Our leaders need prayer. Our schools need prayer. Our youth need our prayers. Our families need our prayers.” And he said that in 1991. Think of how much our country and our world have changed in the last quarter-century!

I would also caution people to remember that our struggle is not a political one, but a spiritual one. Kings and rulers … or presidents … will never be perfect. They will let us down. They will take stances that are opposite of ours. We can’t become complacent. We need to first and foremost be people of prayer, who walk closely with Christ and open our hearts to the Holy Spirit. We need to live lives that are set apart from the world. And then we need to be prepared to offer the hope that we have to those who so desperately need it.

Politics and presidents aren’t going to fix the “heart problem” that we have. Only Christ has the answer.

Cheryl:  What are your favorite Bible verses and go-to resources in times of discouragement?

Will:  I have a few. The first, like it is for many, is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This is the beauty and simplicity of the Gospel – the message I’ve been called to preach is summed up perfectly in this one verse. God loved you and me so much that He gave His Son as the ultimate sacrifice to pay our debt. Because of that, we can have hope not just for this world, but for eternity.

Another of my favorites is Luke 12:12: “for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” This was the first verse I ever memorized. It was one of many written on slips of paper, stuck into a plastic “Bread of Life” loaf that sat on our kitchen table, which I mentioned earlier. I love the message here. So often people are afraid to share their faith because they're not sure what to say. Don’t worry about it! Make yourself available, and the Holy Spirit will use you.

Finally, 1 Samuel 3:19: “And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.” First, I love the books of 1 and 2 Samuel. I’ve spent years working in and through those books. This particular verse catches me because of the imagery in “the Lord … let none of his words fall to the ground.” Everything that Samuel said on behalf of God was received and came to pass. It’s my prayer as I get up to preach the Gospel message as well: “Lord, move me out of the way and speak through me. Not my words, but yours. Let none of these words fall to the ground, but let them be received by willing and ready ears.”

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you?

Will:  Thank you for asking! Please pray for my family – My wife, Kendra, and my children: CJ (Christine Jane), Rae Rae (Rachel Austin), and Quinn (William Franklin Graham V). My calling takes me away from home for significant stretches of time, and God has blessed me with an amazing wife who holds everything together. Thank you for praying for us!

Also, just pray for my evangelistic ministry. I’m incredibly blessed to have a front-row seat to watch as God works around the world, but it’s not without significant challenges. Pray that I would remain humble and seek Christ first (John 3:30: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”) Pray for safety for me and our team as we travel into a variety of situations and locations. And pray especially for those who will hear the Gospel (many for the first time ever), that their hearts will be softened and prepared to hear the Good News of the Gospel.

We will surely be praying for Will, his family, and his ministry,
and we ask that you do the same, dear readers.
A big thank you to Will for being willing to take the time to share his inner views with us here.
We have all been abundantly blessed!

(Click here to read about our experience volunteering for the BGEA Decision America 2016 Tour.)

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To read previous
click the links below.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Sweet Introduction, & Other Exciting News!

"I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: 
marvellous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well."
Psalm 139:14

I have the sweetest of introductions to make, dear friends!

I'll give you ONE, and only one, guess whose picture this is!!!!

Please allow me to introduce you to....
Kristen's baby boy!!
I'll tell you, each time I look at this picture, I can't keep from crying.
This sweet little guy...a pure miracle in the process being formed and created by the hands of an Almighty content and oblivious to the constant struggles of his dear Mama.
I just couldn't wait to share, (with my dear niece's permission, of course), his ultrasound picture
with all of you prayer warriors!!
This is living proof that God is hearing and answering our many prayers!

(For those who may be reading for the first time, my dear niece, Kristen, is expecting a baby boy.
She has a blood clot in her lung and is suffering from tachycardia and other complications.)

Kristen is now 22 weeks along in her pregnancy!
So, dear friends, she is over halfway there!!
All glory be to God.
He is SO faithful.

"Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are He who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of You."
Psalm 71:6

"Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The LORD hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath He made mention of my name."
Isaiah 49:1

"Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations."
Jeremiah 1;4,5

"For Thou hast possessed my reins: Thou hast covered me in my mother's womb."
Psalm 139:13

"Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, and hast fenced me with bones and sinews."
Job 10:11

Praise our dear Lord, Baby Boy is extremely active and appears to be very healthy.
Kristen is to see a fetal specialist soon to find out more details and information regarding
the game plan for her labor and delivery.
And, this is where we surely need your continued prayers, as timing is one of the greatest concerns.
Kristen's blood thinning medication has to be changed at a precise time in order to not hurt the baby and, at the same time, to allow her to give birth while on the proper medication so her own life will not be in jeopardy.
PLEASE do continue to pray that God will see her and the baby through this,
that both Kristen and the baby will live and be in good health,
and God will send relief to the terrible symptoms she continues to struggle with.
My heart goes out to her so much.
It is never easy to know someone you love so dearly is suffering.
My family and I are most grateful to each one of you who are praying!
Your faithfulness to pray, share this request, and offer such kindness and support means more to us than we could ever hope to put into words.
Thank you!!!
We are believing God for a complete Divine-intervention miracle in this situation,
and I will continue to keep you posted, as I can.
I also wanted to share some other exciting news!
My sweet friend who blogs at Just A Country Girl and her family are now giving away
Yes, you read that correctly!
She asked that I make an announcement here to let you know, and I was absolutely thrilled to do so!
Do you or anyone you know need a Bible?
Would you like to bless someone in your life who doesn't have a Bible of their own?
The Bibles are completely free, you do not pay anything, not even shipping!
If you would like a FREE BIBLE, click HERE to be re-directed to her site.
Then just fill out the contact form in the top right sidebar, and let her know you would like a Bible
(they even have several styles to choose from), and that's it!
I am so happy for the way God is leading my friend and her sweet family,
and I applaud them for their obedience to God's plan of sharing the Gospel with every, living creature.
Never before has there been more of a need for the precious Word of God to be read and lived out in everyday life.
I hope you or someone you know will visit her and take advantage of this amazing offer!!
Most things have been taken, but we still have a few things left on our FREE STUFF page,
if you would like to check it out!
Our minimizing journey continues in full swing, and, by God's grace, we are making slow, but good progress.
Thank you to all who have given some of our things new homes.
You have blessed us greatly!
There may be more things added soon, so feel free to check back anytime you'd like!
God bless you all.

Friday, March 3, 2017

When You Feel Abandoned by God, 10th Update on Kristen, & LOTS of FREE STUFF!!

"And they that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee: 
for Thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek Thee."
Psalm 9:10

Have you ever felt abandoned by God?
Have you ever cried out to Him from the pits of despair,
only to feel that your prayers didn't go past the ceiling?
Has His ensuing silence perplexed you and left you feeling completely alone?
Have you ever felt like He is a million miles away...
just when you need Him most?

Yesterday, dear Zach and I were in the car coming home from an appointment,
and we passed a church sign with these familiar words,
"If God no longer feels close to you, who moved?"

I pondered it a moment, then I spoke.
"Did you see that sign?

I knew exactly what was going through Zach's mind.

"I don't wholeheartedly go along with that",
I replied.

Zach agreed.

He had just told me the night before that even though he has been seeking the Lord very earnestly and diligently, he hasn't "felt" God near to him lately.

I understand.
I've been there.
Many times over.

I feel like I must be the strange one as I listen to other Christians testify and talk of how, in their darkest moments,
God feels so incredibly near to them.
How He draws closer to them when they are walking through their deepest times of grief and despair. 
How they experience His presence in the most astounding ways while they stand in the midst of fiery furnaces heated seven times hotter than usual.  (Daniel 3:19)
I listen, and I feel no affinity, because I cannot, from personal experience, agree with the "feeling" part.
As I listen, I'll admit, what I feel is, less than.
Like God must deal with everyone else a whole lot differently and more intimately than He deals with me.
Coming from someone who has been a Christian for right around 40 years, 
this may surprise you and please don't judge me too harshly, but, the truth is,
I don't feel God in the hard places.
I desperately struggle to hear His voice.
There are no sensations of warmth or a noticeable being pulled in closer to Him or blatant, visible signs that He is with me.

To tell you the truth, when I am in the throes of deep trial,
I usually can't sense God at all.
I reach for Him, and it feels like He is nowhere to be found.
It feels like He has taken a few steps back, away from me, and that He has said,
"Go ahead.  You're on your own."

Now, I know, based on His Holy Word, this is definitely not what happens, in reality.

After all, right before His ascension, Jesus said, 
"...lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
Matthew 28:20

But, if I am completely transparent with you,
complete abandonment is what it feels like to me.

I wonder if Job felt like this when he wrote,
"Oh that I knew where I might find Him! that I might come even to His seat!
Behold, I go forward, but He is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive Him:
On the left hand, where He doth work, but I cannot behold Him: He hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him..."
Job 23:3,8-9

I think of Jesus and how He cried from the cross,
"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, 
My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
Mark 15:34

Have you ever felt like crying those words?
I'll be completely transparent and tell you the truth...from the bottom of my heart.
there have been moments that I have.
More than once Several times.
There isn't time nor space to tell of them all, but two of those times were the moments, days, weeks, months, even years, following the death of both of my parents.

The circumstances surrounding their individual deaths were very different,
but my feelings of being God-forsaken were very much the same.

When Dad died in June of 2000, I was 11 1/2 weeks along in my pregnancy with Zach.
After many years of infertility struggles,
I was finally expecting the miracle baby for whom Kevin and I had longed and prayed.
Though Dad had several step-grandchildren, he had no biological grandchildren of his own.
I will never forget the tears of joy Dad cried when Kevin and I told him and Mom that we were going to have a baby.
He was SO happy.
Then, just a few weeks later, tragedy struck.
Dad had a massive heart attack, was hospitalized, and never returned back home.

To say I was shocked doesn't come close to expressing what it felt like.
I was devastated beyond words.
I could not believe Dad was really gone.
How could God justify taking him?
Especially then?
It felt so unfair to Dad.
He would never live to see his one and only biological grandson.
I just couldn't find any sense in it at all,
other than to know that my dear Dad's many-years-long battle with physical suffering was finally over.

The months that followed contained some of the most bittersweet days of my life.
My feelings would soar, as I dreamed of holding the precious baby God was finally sending to us, and, just as quickly, they would plummet to the pits of despair as I felt I could not bear to go on without Dad.
I prayed so hard.
I sought after God.
Begged Him to help me through.
Granted, He did.
I am still here.
Still standing.
Still trusting Him with all my heart.
But, I'll tell you the truth, while it was happening, I did not feel His presence.
It felt like a deep, aching vacuum...completely devoid of the comfort of God.
It's odd how a lot of that span of time is erased from my memory now,
but Kevin speaks of how I cried myself to sleep every, single night.
It was the most hopeless-hopeful rollercoaster I've ever experienced.
Such conflicting emotions, and, through it all, a struggle to sense the presence of God.

Fast forward to April of 2012, immediately after the death of my dear mother.
Zach was 11 years old then and very attached to his Nana.
We had all prayed and begged God to heal bring her through.
One.  More.  Time.
God's will was to end her suffering and take her home to be with Him...and Dad.
We finally accepted it as being His will, but did I feel God?
I was too consumed with grief to feel anything else.
To be honest, I think I was numb to anything other than sorrow.
I was in a very dark place for a very long time.
I felt void of hope.
Void of the blessing of God's presence.
Just void.

So, if I feel like God forsakes me every time I am hit with the hard trials,
you may ask, why do I keep serving Him?
What keeps me pressing on, if it feels like He abandons me when it matters most?

It is because I have learned that fact and feelings are worlds apart.
I have found that I cannot base anything that has to do with my relationship with God
upon feelings.
Not one thing.

Feelings are the most fickle things in the world.
Feelings are not reliable.
Feelings are not indicative of what is true.
They fluctuate with the ebb and flow of life's ups and downs.

This Christian walk is not a walk that is built upon feelings, but 100% upon faith.
"For we walk by faith, not by sight..."
2 Corinthians 5:7

Not one of us has ever seen God.
None of us were there to see Jesus being born into this world as God in the flesh.
Who among us can say that we were eyewitnesses to His horrifying crucifixion,
or that we were one in the number who saw Him after He resurrected from the dead?

I keep serving God, even though I feel abandoned in the hard places, because He has proven my feelings wrong time after time after time.
He has shown me repeatedly that I cannot afford to place my faith in my feelings.
That He IS there with me...always.
That He has been the 4th Man in the fire every, single time my little family of 3 has walked through the raging fiery furnace.
 That He has stayed there as long as we did.
That He didn't walk out one moment before us.

I keep serving Him because He has let me stand on the mountain time after time and look back over the valley He just brought me through and shown me how, in my darkest moments,
even though I couldn't feel Him...couldn't find Him...anywhere...
He was there.
All along.
Often carrying me.

If video doesn't load, click here.

I keep serving Him because He has brought me through so many times, dear friends, and in the aftermath, He has allowed me to experience the "nevertheless afterward" that follows each and every trial.

"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
Hebrews 12:11 (emphasis added)

There is always, always a "nevertheless afterward".
There is a beginning and an end to every, single trial we face in this life.
It is in the "nevertheless afterward" that we see visible evidence of what God was doing all along.
It manifests in our lives by way of peaceable fruit of righteousness.
Even though we haven't felt His presence during the trial,
the indelible footprint of His having been there is left behind.
During the times we feel abandoned, there are changes being made, to and in us, that will not be made evident, 
until afterwards.
And, that, my friend, is the living proof that we were never alone.
We never walk out of a trial the same way we walked into it.
God is there, in the shadows,
working on our character, proving whether or not we will keep our faith,
even when we cannot feel.
He is there.
All along.
Even when we cannot see Him.
Even when we can't feel Him.

It is in those moments of feeling totally abandoned that He is standing close by,
testing our faith.

What good is faith if it is never tested?
How do you know it works, if it is never tried?

If you keep reading the story of Job, his very next words, after uttering the ones about not being able to find God in his trials, were these,
"But He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."
Job 23:10

Job knew God well enough to know that there would come a "nevertheless afterward" to his trial.
He knew that something was going on inside of him that would be manifest and become evident later on.

When you are in the depths of trial, and you cannot feel or sense God,
it is then that you must trust.
That He does all things well.
That He is near you, even though it feels like He has turned His back on you and walked away.
That you cannot go by feelings, you must walk forward by faith.
That you have to rely upon what you know to be truth, otherwise you will fall for satan's lies.
That you are not alone, regardless how forsaken you feel.

If video doesn't load, click here.

There is a reason for the trials He permits in our lives, though we cannot see those reasons during the worst of times.

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."
I Peter 4:12,13

The dear Lord is trying to perfect us.
To fit us for Heaven, where all is holy and righteous and good.
To make us better vessels for future use.
To prove that He is faithful even when it doesn't feel like it.

Something occurred to me the other day that I have never thought of before.

When the three Hebrew children, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the raging, fiery furnace because they refused to bow to any god other than the one, true God Jehovah,
something amazing happened.
As the king who doled out their punishment watched them from outside the furnace,
he saw, not three men walking around, but four.
He said the fourth man looked like the Son of God.
I personally believe the fourth man WAS the Son of God.
The king saw Him in the furnace with the three Hebrew children,
but, this is the thing that hit me the other day for the first time,
did the three Hebrew children know the Lord was with them in that furnace?
Did they see Him?
Did they sense His presence?
Did they feel Him near?
Or, did they feel abandoned and God-forsaken?

The Bible does not tell us that the three Hebrew children were conversing with Him,
and we are given no indication that they even realized He was there.
But, the king, and you and I, we all know He was there.
The king's words are living proof recorded in the Word of God.

Sometimes, when we are in the midst of a heated, fiery trial, 
even though we can't see, feel, or hear God, those who are looking on see a different view.
It is easier to make sense of a perplexing situation if you are not the one living it.

Whether or not they knew He was with them during their awful ordeal,
as the three Hebrew children walked out of that furnace,
there was visible proof that a 4th Man had been present in the fire, right along with them.
They walked out different than they walked in.
You see, when they were thrown into the fire, they were firmly tied. (Daniel 3:23)
Then something amazing happened!
"Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellers, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.  He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God."
Daniel 3:24,25

No longer were they bound; they were loose!
The purpose the fire had served was to burn off their binding ropes.

Even though we may feel abandoned by God while walking through the hardest parts of our lives,
the 4th Man is always in the fire with us, and He is working for our good,
oftentimes setting us free from the things that bind us.

"Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Emphasis added)
Hebrews 13:20,21

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."
Romans 8:28

I do not know what you are going through, my friend,
but wherever you find yourself today, know this.
God is with you.
He has not abandoned you.
You will survive this, because He is walking close by your side.
All of this...every, single thing you are going through...
the good, the bad, the joy, the pain....
is working together for your good.

Be encouraged and know that He is with you always!


I wish I had better news to report concerning my dear niece, Kristen.
There are no improvements.
She continues to struggle and desperately needs your continued prayers.
Thankfully, she was able to get into a cardiologist who suspects a specific heart condition.
We will know more about that after she is equipped with a heart monitor next week.
The fight has been very long-lasting and hard to understand.
Surely, God has a plan, and I must keep reminding myself of my own words above.
This is one of those times that the dear Lord seems so far away.
We continue to trust Him and His perfect timing,
praising Him for all He has already done,
and we are expecting healing and long life for both Kristen and her dear baby boy.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the many prayers you are lifting on their behalf.
It truly means more to us than we could ever say!

Last, but not least,
we have added a bunch of new items to our FREE THRIFT STORE PAGE!!
Do you like to do crafts?
There is lots of ribbon, lace, flowers, stencils, etc., there waiting to find a new home!
Ribbon, stencils, and several other things are gone, but we still have some things left!)
Hurry on over, and take a look!
Do you like baseball?
There is an autographed 8x10 Ryan Klesko picture in a frame!!
We also added some more books, and we will be adding other small items, Lord willing, as we continue to work through our minimizing process.
Please click HERE and take a look.
If you see anything you like, let us know.
By the way, there is NO LIMIT on the number of things you take.
We just want to bless you and to give this stuff to a loving home.
If you will use it, or if you want or need it, please ask for it, and it will be yours, free of charge!
Take a little, or take it all!
Allow us to bless you!
Whoever asks for it first will be its new owner. ☺
God bless you all!