Hearts Set Free Monthly Marriage Miracle: Waiting for A Husband to Be Saved

At the end of this difficult year for all of us, I’m thinking of those I desire to be saved. I’ve prayed and prayed for these souls, and I’m hoping that 2021 is the year that they open their hearts to the Lord. As I bring my requests for salvation for loved ones to the Lord, I think of wives I know who are waiting for their husbands to be saved.

One of those wives is Leslie. Some would say of this miracle story, “Where’s the miracle? He’s not saved yet. The miracle is Leslie’s ability to wait. I know many wives who leave their unsaved husbands to find a man who knows the Lord. They ignore what the Scripture says about the subject, “And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him” (1 Corinthians 7:13 NIV).

Maybe you’re not waiting for your husband to be saved, but you’re waiting for God to deliver him from a sin habit or stronghold that is having a destructive effect on your marriage. I know what that’s like. But God has been faithful to give me grace in the time of waiting. He even gives me strength to do what I heard in song “Worship in the waiting.”

This year we’ve been doing lots of waiting with Covid 19. We’re still waiting to stop wearing our masks, stop social distancing, and to move freely about the country and our communities.

I pray the following story will help you as you wait for God to answer your prayers concerning your husband. It can be hard to understand why He seems to take so long. One day someone told me, “God has a different clock than we do.” Be encouraged by Leslie’s story, and pray along with me that 2021 will be the year that her husband, Brad, will be saved. Here’s her story:

Waiting for A Husband To Be Saved

Note: this story is true, but the names have been changed.

One area where Christian wives are challenged to wait is when their husband’s aren’t saved. My friend, Leslie, and her husband, Brad, have been married for 43 years, and he is still an atheist. Leslie got saved 19 years into their marriage. She said it was difficult that she and her now grown children went to church without Brad, although he would go to the children’s church programs.

Leslie states, “I do my own thing with the church,” and she admits, “It’s lonely, because I can’t share this with him.” She also states, “I do go to sad places, but the Lord helps me, and it also helps to pray with friends.” 

She is encouraged that her husband is friends with Christians from the church. What she has done to deal with the waiting is: “I keep it low key, I don’t nag, I pray, and I avoid ministries with men.” She also admits, “I apologize to my husband when I’m not a good witness; I am so aware of my testimony.” 

Leslie said that one day, “The Lord allowed me to experience again what it was like not knowing him—to let me remember that.”

This helped her to have empathy for her husband and see things from his perspective.

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Monthly Marriage Miracle: Betty’s Battle to Show Respect

Betty, who came from an abusive background and battled depression, discovered she had great difficulty showing respect to her husband.

“Everyone in my neighborhood has loved and respected my husband, but I felt I couldn’t,” she said.

The insight the Lord gave her one day helped to set her free from this.

“Resentment blocks respect,” Betty said, “God talked to me about how I needed to forgive. I couldn’t do it on my own, but I could only do it through Him, so I asked for His help. I didn’t want it to be just words; I wanted something to happen in my heart, because I had said the words before.”

As I talked to Betty, I realized how all of the attributes of a loving wife go together. They are all interconnected.

Betty went on to tell me, “I had resented my husband for twenty years.”

She expressed that the root of her resentment was that her husband wanted her to do something sexually that she felt uncomfortable doing. It wasn’t his request that hurt her so much but that he said, “If you won’t do it, I’ll find someone else who will.” What he wanted wasn’t necessarily a wrong thing, but Betty had been sexually abused.

This act “seemed dirty to me,” she said, and “his attitude triggered deep hurt.”

“I cried,” she said. “And for a while I slept on a chair. I felt dirty.”

She related that she knew she had to let it go. She said they talked about it a year after he made his hurtful statement and came to a compromise.

“Before that,” Betty said, “I laid in bed with tears coming down my face, and when he asked ‘What’s wrong?’ I said, ‘nothing.’”

When Betty realized she still had resentment over this whole issue which blocked her from showing respect, she discovered at the core of her hurt was this: “I wanted to be his lover, his sweetheart and not just his wife and someone to have sex with when he felt like it. He was not meeting my sexual needs—my need for tenderness. He just didn’t get it.” Betty realized, “He loves me in other ways. I don’t dwell on it like I used to. God gave me peace.”

As Betty let go of feeling hurt over her needs not being met, her husband became more affectionate. She said, “He kisses me every day.” 

What helped Betty to forgive and grow in respecting her husband was to touch him tenderly even when he found it hard to do that for her.

“Touching him helped,” she said, “things like rubbing his back. Now he rubs my back and feet.”

Another thing that helped Betty to learn to respect her husband was this: “I took my eyes off him and put them on me and my need to change. The Lord helped me change.”

Now Betty reports that her marriage of over 40 years is better than it’s ever been.

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Hearts Set Free Monthly Marriage Miracle: Maintaining Hope In Hard Times

Tara is an example of a wife who didn’t lose hope. Four years into her seventeen year marriage to Thomas, he lost his job which plunged him into deep depression. They both came from well-to-do families, so dealing with financial hardship proved to be foreign to them.         

Her husband, Thomas, a college graduate and computer scientist collected unemployment for over two years.

Through this trial, Tara let go of her focus on materialism and dependence on things to feel happy. She learned, “God knows what will satisfy our souls.”

 She admits, “I used to get $75 hairdos,” which she gave up. She also said, “No more expensive make-up. I started to use the fireplace to keep our home warm and hung my clothes on the clothes line to dry.”

“Although at the time it was hard,” she said, “the difficult times made us shift our stance—shift our focus onto the solid Rock.” Before that Tara admits she wanted her husband to be her rock. She learned, “We are not to see our spouse as an idol. My spouse is not my rock; God is my Rock. I kept hoping in our wonderful God.”

 Here is more of what Tara also learned during that difficult time: “If we reach out to God, he’s faithful and powerful. I learned to give him our requests and our concerns. God showed me so much in the hard times.”

Although it would have been easy for Tara to go out and get a full time job, God didn’t let her do that. She learned when a husband loses his job, there can be an increase percentage of divorce. God showed her that in the work setting there would be negative influences. One woman she knew who was going through hard times went out into the work force and found a new husband.

 “I kept thinking I should just get a job,” Tara said, “but God didn’t lead that way.” One issue was, “I didn’t want to make more money than my husband…God did not call me to get a full-time job, but I continued my writing and took odd jobs. My husband also took odd jobs like detailing cars.”

Tara continued to attend her Bible study where she was surrounded by godly women. She said, “I needed someone to pray with me and fight for my marriage with me. We prayed together and realized there was a spiritual war going on.” She discovered that the key to winning that war was to “push through, look to God, and draw close to Him.” At times “I felt I was pushing against an immovable stone. He wants us to push to develop godly character.” The outcome was that “My faith was being refined and coming forth as pure gold.” 

A quote that lifted Tara up was, “A friend is one who sings back your song to you when you have forgotten the words.” She found women like that in her Bible study.

One thing that helped Tara so she didn’t lose hope was “getting away time—taking a drive and going into a meadow to meditate.”

Tara took seriously “marriage vows we said at the altar.”  In fact, she kept the words of her marriage vows close by

During this time when her husband was jobless and depressed, they had no insurance. Her husband took no medications. “We plowed through it.”

“When my husband was in this deep depression, he doubted the existence of God,” said Tara. She added, “I battled my own doubts. It seemed there were no results to my faith. I felt disillusioned. My husband was not meeting my emotional needs, but God was my enough.” One thing that kept her going was “five generations of Christian heritage.”

Another thing that kept Tara from losing hope in her marriage and in her husband was this: “I learned to praise the Lord—no matter what was happening. The power of praise helped me to focus on who God is. If we can lock into who God is and who He wants to be to us, it’s life-changing.”

Tara had many ups and downs during those years. She learned, “At low points, draw close to God.” Tara wrote in her journal to draw close, being transparent with God. She expressed that it’s important to “tell Him exactly how you feel—even anger.” 

Tara knew this fact: “In my marriage, there’s a story. If we continue to embrace the cross, we’ll come to resurrection morning. We’ll have a story to tell.” Tara learned to “hope in God, not circumstances” and “the key is to refocus on God and have a heart that says, I believe; Lord, help my unbelief.” 

Tara’s troubles did not go away completely in the years since her husband got a new job. They still live in a modest house and have financial issues at times, but she continues to hope in and put her trust in the Lord.   

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Monthly Marriage Miracle Story–Remaining In His Love

Once again I am posting a marriage miracle story. The story is true, but the names have been changed. I pray that Dianna’s story will encourage you to love your husband, even if he has difficulty receiving God’s healing. This is only possible as we love with the love of the Lord and as we “remain in His love.”

A friend of mine who has encouraged me often to love my husband and allow God to heal my soul when he hurts me has troubles in her own marriage of 35 years. Here is what Dianna writes:

 “God has sustained me for this very long journey of walking alone emotionally. I believe Dave came to salvation about two years ago, and that has made a difference!  He is alive in Christ now, but he has so much emotional wounding he never dealt with because he didn’t want to see it and feel that horrible pain of trauma all over again. I have been able to often enter into God’s sufferings as I felt the distance of Dave’s heart and his not caring and not even trying to connect. Isn’t that just what agony the Father feels as we ignore His heart reaching to us?

 “It takes a person who is willing to allow God to show them what’s under the memory cloud—to lift the ‘lid.’ For me it’s to be a wife who can help him feel safe to lift the lid of his own pain. It feels often like I am playing a mother role with the broken-hearted little boy who got stuck at age five emotionally where he was first abandoned.

“What that looks like in a conversation might be like this:.

 “‘Dave, you said you have felt judged by me for the last 20 years or more…’

 “Even though his belief systems about me is a projection of his own mother’s volatile temper, yelling, screaming, never ever affirming his worth, not even touching him. Dave grew up with no tenderness and I am through his lenses, a copy of her. (This friend is one of the most tender, loving people I know.)

 “‘Wow, Dave that must have been a very sad and lonely experience for you. It would be very hard to love someone that you believe is judging you.’

“‘(Dave’s reply) ‘Yes, it’s been 20 years of rejection from you. And I have not loved you either. You are impossible to love.’

 “Hearing that I could launch into all the pain I’ve experienced, but of course Dave cannot see or feel my sadness—only his own. Narcissism is so normal for wounded people who don’t trust or praise or respect anyone. Pain internally causes such a personal disassociation from others around himself. This is challenging. I could not love this little boy apart from Jesus!

“Now I am supposed to ask forgiveness from him for my part in not being able to see his fragile heart (of course I can’t say fragile.)

“‘Dave, I am so sorry that I made you feel alone…( taking the blame even though I know I’ve been doing back flips to try and reach him and that his anger and extremely disconnected behaviors have been traumatic for me. (the trauma of neglect)

I feel like a barren desert except I do have water from Jesus, and His love sustains me.

“And I have come alive to my emotionally charged being, aware of my sadness and loss, so I must apologize to him and respond to his pain as though I didn’t have any of my own. (Help Lord!)…I need Jesus continually to empty out the bitterness for all the disappointments in my soul. I married 35 years ago not to be alone. But I have been so alone…

“This last weekend Dave and I went to a marriage communication intensive… I believe it will be next to impossible for Dave to ‘cross over’ to me when he is so captive to his own pain. He is yet in prison over his own non-dealt-with childhood pain…As Dave can face, embrace and release his own pain first, then his spirit can be filled with a different message.

I’m compelled to put my hope in God’s rescue–that He will turn it all around,

that God will bring everything in our marriage into alignment with Him!”

Dianna also wrote these practical things she has done: “God has showed me that my husband has an impaired judgment of me—that God has to show him who I really am.” She added, “God has revealed I need to have an attitude of ‘I don’t receive that’ when he belittles me. And I try to see where he does good and speak to him about that.”

Not too long after my friend wrote the above, she sent me this little note: “I have such a big praise report about our marriage! The Lord gave Dave a new understanding and revelation about our marriage as he prayed with a prayer warrior (who specializes in helping to release people from the effects of trauma—my words here). It has been a God turn around all the way! Hallelujah! I have a kind friend/husband, and I’m amazed at the miracles happening in our prayer life.”

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Monthly Marriage Miracle Story: Loving An Angry Husband

Once again I’m posting my Monthly Marriage Miracle Story. This story is true, but the names have been changed.

A gentleanswer (2)

Wives who are married to angry husbands have a big challenge. When a husband lashes out angrily, it can lead to deep hurts, resentment, and angry or passive/aggressive retaliation from the wife. Many times a wife can feel justified in lashing back because of the cruel words of her husband.

But God has a different way. Linda learned to continue to love her husband–even though he was such an angry man–when at times she felt like walking away. Over time God has rewarded her for remaining loving and for repenting when she reacts in an ungodly way. If we run to God in the midst of a husband’s angry tirade, God draws us closer to Him, and we can sense His love–even when we don’t feel loved by our husband because of his anger.

*****

Linda, like me, felt angry because of her husband’s angry attitude toward her. She described him this way: “a Marine for twenty years and very controlling; he criticizes me a lot and rarely says a kind word.” Although her husband, Frank, proclaims to be a Christian, she said, “He was saved when I met him, but he has stayed a baby Christian.” She told me he often says to her, “you and your morality.”

When I first spent time with Linda, she erupted with negative comments about her husband because the anger over his unkindness had built up. Linda said, “This is what my mind tells me: you’re not loved; you’re not appreciated.”

When I talked to Linda about what God taught her in regard to her husband’s anger and how He helped her to be a gentle wife, she quickly came up with these insights from the Lord:

–“Be strong. Do what you know to do. Don’t give up. I am with you. Don’t fear.

–“You are not responsible for the choices Frank or anyone makes. You are to walk your walk. Do you trust Me, child? It’s easy to see another’s fault and not your own. You are not to judge. Jesus taught love, grace, and mercy. Lay down your rights to be offended, to judge, to condemn, to make your own decisions.”

–“The Word says, ‘Take up your cross and follow me.’ The cross = Jesus = lay down your life.

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–“The hardest part is unconditional love.”

Linda shared with me that when Frank starts ranting angrily, instead of reacting negatively, she sometimes sings, “Jesus loves me; this I know…” which reminds her how much Jesus loves her when at the moment her husband is not acting in a loving way.

Linda said her negative attitude often became the problem. She realized “self-righteousness is still ‘self.’” This came about when she compared herself to her husband. “The Lord says, ‘Don’t do it.’”

One day Linda came home late from an outing and Frank expressed his anger—loudly. As she lay on her bed and felt her own anger, the Lord whispered to her that, although her husband’s delivery proved not the best, she failed to call and communicate she would be late. She apologized to her husband for that.

Not long ago Linda came to me and said joyfully, “Frank complimented me. He said, ‘We have a beautiful home here, and I have a pretty wife, and she still wants to keep me.’”

Linda also said that Frank quit drinking—something he had done for a long time, which helped with the anger and other issues.

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God continues to set Linda free from bitterness about her husband’s anger. Soon I’ll be launching my Hearts Set Free podcast, where I will tell you more about how to be set free from anything that is keeping you bound, so You can love like the Lord and become all He created you to be. I will speak about issues connected to marriage and every relationship in our lives, including our relationship with God.

My first podcasts will center on grief since dealing with grief and loss often gets us stuck in various aspects of bondage. If you send me your email address, I will send you a free list titled, “Ten Keys To Being Set Free.” My email is emcreasman@aol.com. I look forward to helping you even more on your journey of being set free.

 

 

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Monthly Marriage Miracle: The Power of Appreciation

Once again I’m posting a story of a marriage miracle. This was written by a friend whom I will call “Marcie.” (I change the names in the monthly miracle stories, but they are all true.)

This story means a lot to me because I have tended to be critical of my husband. Marcie reminds us that miraculous things can happen when we turn our negativity into gratitude.

I pray you will apply this story to your marriage, and/or pass along to other wives who are struggling to love their husbands in hard times.

The Power of Appreciation

My husband was not working and money was getting tight.  The thinner my billfold became, the more stressed I became… and the more critical.  In the early weeks I was encouraging… “You will find something soon, you are so talented.”  As weeks stretched to months my words got sharper, “How hard are you trying?”  “What are you doing with all your time?” “I can’t stand lazy people!”  Then I started hitting him with scripture: “He who doesn’t provide for his family is worse than an infidel.” (See 1 Timothy 5:8)

Needless to say, my husband did not find any of this motivating! Worse, I began to think of my husband as a loser.  As my respect eroded, so did his self-esteem.  I was unknowingly making him less employable by putting him down.  When he began to see himself as a loser, the poison of my words was becoming fatal.  All my accusing fingers pointed to him as the problem.   I was clueless that my negative thinking, and subsequent criticism, was the real problem.  Out of the abundance of my judging heart, my mouth was spewing.

About this time I read an article about living in the appreciation room.  I can’t recall the author to credit them, but I can recall their point: we can live as critics and bring condemnation on our spouse, or we can live as supporters, focusing on attributes we appreciate.  When we choose to dwell in appreciation of our spouse, we de-emphasize their negatives and…their positives grow.  When we choose to live in the appreciation room—our focus transforms our thinking, our words, who we are, and to whom we are married!

Convicted, I stopped the flow of mouth poison and asked God to show me how He sees my husband.  I put down my judge’s gavel and began to pray for him, and became impressed by a man who loves his children, who is devoted to me, who cares for others and who seeks God.  As my new attitudes reflected my gratitude, I watched Mr. Loser become Mr. Incredible.   We wives really do have the power to make or break our men.

My super-hero husband is now fully employed, but I had already learned to appreciate him while the bills were stacking up.  My new perception created a healthier reality in which he could flourish and maximize his potential.  And I am getting to live with that happier result in Appreciation Mansion, a great place to stay.

 

 

 

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Monthly Marriage Miracle: Contentment

Here is another marriage miracle story.  This miracle may not seem like a big one, but if a person does not learn contentment, it can hurt a marriage and even end it. Judy could have remained unhappy because of what her marriage lacked, or she could have even gone looking elsewhere for that something she longed for. Instead, she did what Philippians 4:11 speaks of: “for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” NIV

Even if you are in the midst of battling a sense of feeling a lack of contentment in your marriage, the good news is that you can learn contentment. Go to the Lord, and let the contentment lessons begin.

How One Wife Learned Contentment

Judy learned contentment in her marriage, in spite of one major issue: her husband’s lack of romance. Very romantic with his previous girlfriend, her husband, Dan, tried to explain the reason, “I had more money then.”

Judy’s former fiancé exhibited romantic ways.

“It was hard not to compare them,” she said.

Judy tried to communicate her need for romance to her husband: “I explained how I felt and hoped it would be different. I told him a romantic husband would make a special dinner. Also, he knew I loved the beach. He could pack a special lunch and take me there. I wanted surprises. Instead I had to tell him, ‘I want to go to the beach.’”

She came to this conclusion: Would I really want the romance of my old boyfriend who was not the solid Christian my husband is? Dan is a steady rock I can depend on. He’s never changed in that. He’s a man who has loved the Lord and loved his family.

“On our first Christmas together, he gave me a splatter screen for cooking. He knew I wanted one, but he could have given me something romantic. He didn’t.”

The good news Judy proclaimed is this: “He did give me daisies—my favorites—this past Valentine’s Day” (their 43rd Valentine together.)  Other years he just gave a card.”

Another truth which helped Judy be content in her marriage despite the lack of romance: She realized her husband loved her with how he served her.

“My husband has always been willing to mop a floor or change the beds,” she said, something other wives often envy.

Although Judy wanted Dan to express his feelings of love in more romantic ways, she learned, “These are his expressions of love; I need to watch for these.”

Judy states, “One of the most loving things he did was take me to see my ‘other mother.'”(Judy came from an abusive home, and this was her mother substitute.) He drove me 2800 miles, so I could see her after she had her leg amputated.”

“The key to contentment,” says Judy “is acceptance; this is who he is.”

Judy adds, “It’s important to learn to live with who you have rather than chasing the dream of who you’ve wanted.”

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Thinking About George Floyd: What’s Your Black History?

Lately, like many Americans, my heart breaks over what happened to George Floyd. It brings back to my memory an injustice against blacks I witnessed years ago. There was no death or physical violence involved, but there was still damage done.

I’m posting here a story I wrote about the traumatic event, which comes to my mind again and again, especially when racism is in the news. This story was first published in 2007.

After the story I’ve added “The Rest of the Story.” This contains some thoughts that have come to me over the years, which I haven’t yet shared. The Lord has told me that for me healing comes as I write about difficult issues. Often healing comes for others as well, as I write what the Lord lays on my heart, and they read it and are encouraged. I do pray for complete healing in me, in the three young men in the story and for all those who have been mistreated because of the color of their skin and even for those who have done the mistreating of these precious souls that God loves. We all have sinned, and I praise God that He is a God who delights to show mercy. (See Micah 7:18)

This verse also comes to mind in regard to the racial issues in our country: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV).

I pray that you will take the time to read all I have written here. Then I pray you will ask the Lord, “What’s my part? What should I do?”

*****

What’s Your Black History?

Black history month has come and gone. But I’m still asking a question of my family and friends:  “What’s your black history?” What I mean is, “What were you taught about African-Americans?”

Then I tell them some of my black history.

Looking Back 

I grew up in a “lily-white” area southwest of Chicago. I didn’t see black people every day. As a child, I heard talk of people leaving their neighborhoods in the city because “colored people moved in.”

I remember warnings about driving through black neighborhoods— especially at night. I’d ridden on the elevated trains with my parents, but some of my relatives warned against doing so because of “all those colored people.”

One memory stands out from my youth. I was maybe 10 years old and was swimming in a public pool in the next county on a hot summer day sometime in the 60s.

“Why are there hardly any people here?” I asked my father.

“Because colored people swim here,” was his shocking answer.

Some days, as I see the terrible effects of racism continue in our country, I feel ashamed of having been born white.

On one particular day at my large, mostly-white church a number of years ago, my then-teenage daughter invited three black male friends from her high school to Sunday school. She left them for a little while to go to the bathroom and when she returned, her friends were surrounded by security guards. One of the guards shouted at them, “You don’t belong here!”

Why? Because certain people saw three black youth dressed differently than their own teenagers and concluded they were part of a gang.

When these young people walked around in the book store, as one lady told me indignantly and “took more than one piece of sample candy,” people concluded they were thieves. When these teens who were poor, and therefore hungry, looked in different classrooms for cake they’d seen someone eating, it was assumed, “they’re casing the joint.”

Instead of doing what the Bible says “Love one another as I have loved you,” (John 13:34), frantic calls were made to security to deal with criminals on the premises.

These young men were gracious, despite their treatment. What broke my heart even more as they saw me crying was when one of them said, “Don’t feel so bad, Mrs. C. We get treated this way all the time. We’re used to it.”

I had to face a fact, though. If I’d fully embraced the lies I’d been taught, I might have reacted the same way others in my church acted. I thought back to times in my recent past when I crossed the street if I saw a black man coming and how I avoided entering a checkout line if the clerk at the register was black.

The ladies from my church, whom I knew as loving, caring Christian women, denied acting out of prejudice. No apologies were ever offered.

If I’d asked those involved in that incident, I suspect that the answer to these questions would have been “never.”  “When was the last time you hugged a black person, entered a black person’s home, or invited a black family into your home?”

 Changing Course

When I asked these questions of a friend recently, she said, “I don’t have the opportunity.”

I used to think the same thing until I prayed about the issue. Then God opened doors. He opened my heart too.

My daughter brought scores of black friends home from school. Sadly, they told me other white parents wouldn’t let them in their houses.

Then I was invited to teach Sunday school to teens at a black church, and I accepted. After befriending some ladies who were members of another black church, I was invited to speak at a women’s retreat there. I joined integrated clubs and groups and attended integrated church services. As a Hospice volunteer, I started to choose black patients to care for. Not long ago I spoke in a black church at a black friend’s funeral about how she had impacted my life. At that moment, I thought how racism could have robbed me of that.

I discovered if you truly seek racial reconciliation, you will find it. And once you integrate your life, you’ll have to confront racism – in those around you and in your own soul.

One Sunday, a member of our church came to the pulpit after attending a Promise Keepers event. He talked about being raised to use the ‘n’ word, and in his profession as a policeman it was common practice. He went along with other officers even though as a Christian he knew it was wrong. That evening, choked with tears, he confessed before the congregation his racist attitudes and actions. The beauty of the moment reached a poignant peak when a black man, a fellow Promise Keeper who was visiting our church–walked forward and put his arm around him while he confessed his racist sins.

I plan to keep asking, “What’s your black history?” even as I continue to deal with my own—not just in February–but every month of the year.

*****

The rest of the story: The above article was published in The Lookout in 2007, at least five years after this incident happened. I also had this piece posted on CBN.com sometime after that. Several years ago, as articles about racial issues were in the newspaper, I had a shortened version of this piece in the Tampa Bay Times in the letters to the editor section.

Although this trauma happened to me and these young men approximately 18 years ago, whenever stories about injustices against blacks come on TV, I think back to that day. I find myself feeling regrets. One is that I didn’t tell the senior pastor what happened. (He retired from the church and moved away not too long after this incident.) He said he cared about racial issues, but back then I felt distrustful of people and their view of blacks, so I felt certain he would take the side of those who ordered these young men to leave, especially since one of them I believe was a close friend of his.

I did talk to a black pastor at the church the same day about what happened. He told me how he had to be careful of how he dressed, and that not long before he had faced racist attitudes while visiting a white patient in the hospital. He didn’t act surprised by what I told him. I also talked to an associate pastor who was apologetic and said, “You should invite the youth back to the church. Dinner will be on us.” They weren’t interested in going back.

I did take them back in the early afternoon on the day they were told to leave. As I approached the church building, one of the ladies (she was quite elderly) who called the security guards earlier shouted to someone, “They’re back. Call security again.”

It was as if I was invisible. I told her they were my guests. She didn’t care. So I talked to the security guard who arrived, with the three teens present. This particular security guard was Hispanic, and stated, “Their kind don’t belong here.”

“What do you mean by that?” I asked. “Do you mean poor people? People who aren’t upper, middle class whites?”

She didn’t answer my question, but stated, “They were in parts of the church where young people don’t belong.”

Our family of four had been attending the church for many years, my children had attended the school attached to the church, where I also worked as a substitute teacher. My daughters had never been told there were parts of the church where youth don’t belong.

I could not convince this person that these youth were not evil. I wanted her to see how funny, kind, and gifted they were. Two of them (brothers) had a kind, loving mom and dad as well as a stepmom. The other had a loving mom. All of these parents worked hard to support their children, even though they had financial issues and lived in a rough neighborhood.

This security guard never addressed these young people or looked at them. She acted like they weren’t standing there as if by doing so, she could cause me to take them away quicker.

I did talk to another security guard later—a middle age white male. He said that he had worked in the inner city and loved black youth and had no problem with them being on the property. Apparently, he had reacted to the hysteria (racism) of those who had called security and went along when the youth were asked to leave. The youth group leader said he enjoyed having them in the Sunday School class.

One reason people got worked up is that not long before the book store had been robbed—not by black youth—but by well-dressed, upper middle class youth who attended the Christian school. I heard that they had walked out of the store with a large jewelry display case. What I surmised is that workers in the book store were so distraught about this previous thievery that they thought getting rid of these black youth (perhaps believing all black youth are thieves) would prevent further losses in the church bookstore. On that day, when I talked to a worker from the bookstore on the phone she said when she saw them in the store she had asked them if they had any money, and they said they didn’t, so they didn’t belong in there.

“And how many times have you asked my daughters that question?” I asked. “Or anyone else?”

“Besides, I didn’t react negatively to them because of the color of their skin but because of how they dressed,” she said.

“That’s wrong too,” I answered.

One of the young men wore a doo rag. She possibly thought it was something he would suddenly use to cover his mouth and then would pull out a gun and say, “Give me everything in the store.”

Another wore one of those sleeveless undershirts some call a “wife beater.” They were not going into the church service—just the Sunday School—and our church had a casual dress code for youth. Another had his pants sagging. Not long after, many of the white youth in the church wore the same style. I don’t think any of them were kicked out of the church.

Ironically, not long after this traumatic incident, I attended the women’s Bible study at the church, and the subject was racism. Beth Moore talked on video about how racist her grandmother was. During discussion time, I went to the front and told how badly I and the black youth I worked with (at the black church where I taught Sunday School) as well as my daughter’s friends were treated out in public and even in our church. I didn’t give details, but one of the people who called security sat near me. She said nothing to me after I spoke.

The Lord has not given me permission to leave, so I’m still a member at this church. So is one of the people who initiated the call to security that day years ago. I confess I tend to avoid her, but some days I’m filled regret that I didn’t go to her and talk more about the issue. I guess I wasn’t up to hearing more excuses and having shame dumped on me for bringing such inferior youth (because they were black) to our pristine, mostly white church. I did realize along the way that some blacks are allowed on Sundays—those who dress and act white. Also, females who wear their African garb, and missionaries.

I do know that I need to completely let go of bitterness toward this person, which sometimes suddenly wells up in me again. What comes to mind is “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” I do keep her in my prayers, and God has brought me lately, now that I’m retired from day job, back into the women’s ministry where I see her and interact with her.

A couple of years ago as I was reliving the trauma of what happened that day because of more stories in the newspaper about injustices toward African Americans by the police, I asked in a small prayer group meeting at the church, “Can we pray against racism in our church and in our country?”

I was shocked when my prayer was censored.

“There is no racism in this church,” one of the people in the group insisted.

Ironically, one of her closest friends was among those who had my daughter’s guests kicked out of church.

“There is no racism in society either,” insisted another member of the prayer group. “There are just evil people.”

She was Hispanic, and apparently thought I was only talking about blacks and saw them all as evil. On the way out of the room, a man in the group who also had worked with black youth and brought them to church, said he often saw racist attitudes from white church members.

I regret that I didn’t go back and try to pray my prayer again. I didn’t tell my trauma to this group. I figured most would probably be on the side of kicking out my guests. When I mentioned in the group that I had suffered various traumas while attending our church, one of the people said, “You just need to let go of all that.”

One thing that the Lord reminds me of is that what happened was years ago, and even though that prayer group wouldn’t pray with me, I have prayed and others have prayed with me. And I have a prayer request that says, “Please end racism in this church and in our society,” on the prayer board in the church prayer room. I also have a prayer request there that says, “Lord, please integrate this church.”

On Sunday, I put these two prayers on the new “prayer wall” on our church’s website:

“Please join me in praying that all of us in this church and in the body of Christ will examine our hearts and ask God to remove any racist attitudes or mindsets. Also, pray that racism will not exist in any form at our church and that all will be truly welcomed, and that we will become an integrated church with people from all races and colors worshiping together. Pray that we as Christians will live integrated lives.”

Prayer #2: “Please join me in praying that God will intervene in the unrest in various cities in our country—that the violence, looting, and fire-starting will stop. Pray also for the family of George Floyd for comfort and peace from the Lord. Also, pray that many will come to know Christ through this crisis.”

The church website is set up that each time someone prays the prayer which was submitted, an email comes that says, “Someone prayed for you.” Receiving those emails has been such an encouragement.

I believe by faith God is answering these prayers I and others have prayed. I see some new black attenders on a regular basis at our church, and at certain events, the church is integrated.

Not long ago, the Christian rapper, LaCrae sang at our church.  I felt encouraged when I saw so many black youth and their parents present on our church campus.

Not long ago, these words were on a sign outside our church: “All are welcome here.”

Every time I saw that sign, I felt a little sad and wondered, Is that really true?  It wasn’t true back on the day my daughter and I came to the church with three black youth. Maybe things are different now. I’m praying by faith that it’s so.

As far as the three youth from years ago, our paths have crossed again. One of them suffered a fall and has an injury that keeps him in a wheelchair. Unfortunately, he is unable to work. He is always happy to see me, and he does have a relationship with the Lord. Another of the youth struggles with mental health issues, but is overcoming them and has worked steadily for two years. The Lord has given him beautiful hymns. The last time I saw him he had a real hunger for the Lord.

The other young man whom I only hear about from their sister and who is a brother of youth number two, works full time and would say that Jesus is his Savior. None of them attends a church, as far as I know.

I have regular contact with their sister, who wasn’t there on that sad day and came for the first time on a different day. She was not kicked out of the church, and she attended a number of times.

“It was your church that got me started on the Christian path,” she has told me more than once. These days she is a leader at her church.

When I talked to her yesterday, she said, “First, it was your unconditional love that got to me. You invited us into your home, and you fed us. We never were treated like that before.” Then she said, “Going to your church meant so much to me. I really felt the love of God there.”

I pray that everyone who walks through those doors and the doors of my home—no matter who they are—will say those same words.

“Glory” by John Legend and Common

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEFRPLM0nEA

 

 

 

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Hearts Set Free Monthly Marriage Miracle: Julie’s Story

Here is another marriage miracle story to remind you that God is able to intervene–even in seemingly hopeless situations as we turn to Him in the midst of hard times. The story is true, but the names are changed.

My friend, Julie, sent me this story of how she maintained the heart of a servant instead of withdrawing love and staying angry when her husband made a bad financial decision. The key statement in this story is: “I chose to go to the Lord.” Sadly, many wives don’t, and hard times become worse and sometimes destroy a marriage.

Julie’s husband died a number of years ago, but I ponder the results if she had taken a different path and refused to submit to the Lord during the hard time in her marriage and/or chose never to submit to her husband again. “She could have said, “I won’t submit or consider any further leadership from my husband because of the horrible decision he made,” or she could have chosen divorce. I rejoice that she chose God’s way.

 

My husband, Leonard, had gone into a venture with another man unbeknownst to me– until things fell apart. The partner had made a bad investment without checking with my husband. We lost our savings, our property, and almost our home—which we were able to sell at a loss and get out from under that. This failure devastated my husband, which affected his health. He had to go to the hospital, and then he lost his job.

Needless to say, I was upset. But I chose to go to the Lord. He gave me two Scriptures to hold to: the one that says He would restore what the canker worm had eaten—(See Joel 2:25) and “I was young and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25 NIV)

In the middle of this, our precious daughter was getting married. She is such a lovely Christian inside and out, and I wanted a nice wedding for her. I remember driving and crying and feeling despair. I learned when you are really in need, our Father is always there. I couldn’t find a dress to wear, and then I remembered I had bought a fancy dress for my sister the year before, and it turned out to be in the color my daughter had chosen. What was more miraculous was my sister is 5’2” and I’m 5’5-1/2.” It looked perfect on me. My daughter bought her own dress, and all the women of the church helped make food for the reception for 200, and then wouldn’t let me pay them. Another friend had access to silk flowers and he brought them and I used them to make the room look like a garden.

Through the years I have held onto God’s promise, and I now have a lovely, modest home with no mortgage.

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Monthly Marriage Miracle-Joan’s Story

Here is another monthly marriage miracle story. The names have been changed, but the story is true. I know God works miracles in marriage because he has worked so many in ours. Often our relationship seemed hopeless, but calling out to the Lord changed so much–especially my perspective on our marriage as I embraced God’s view of my husband and of our life together. Sometimes miracles take a while, but as I and Joan were willing to wait, God came through.

After I talked to Joan on the phone to get her story, I saw how the faith she developed for her marriage involved waiting. She did not see a change in her husband until after 30 years of marriage.

Joan’s Story of Perseverance

Joan was someone who persevered. The primary difficulty in her marriage was that her husband, Mark, “was working, working, working.” She said, “He felt guilty—that he wasn’t doing enough—because of his background.”

She expressed she felt disconnected from him. He remained involved with their four children, but had nothing left for her—no intimacy—all because he stayed bound by fear and anxiety. Even when at home Mark worried about work. He said, “Don’t talk; I’m planning for tomorrow.” Day after day Joan had to deal with the fact that her husband was emotionally unavailable because of his high stress job.

“I was lonely and frustrated” she said, “I didn’t believe in divorce; I believed in covenant.” But what I said was, “I don’t think I love you anymore, and I don’t think I can stay in the marriage.” Joan said she felt like she was pushing a loaded wagon uphill. It felt too hard.

“He sobbed when I said I didn’t love him. We went to counseling where he ended up talking about his job. He had insecurity. He thought he was going to get fired but they were actually pleased with him. He was bound by perfectionism and insecurity. He was obsessed with his performance. I didn’t try to change him. I focused on the children, and we drifted apart.

“Things really began to change in recent years when Mark was invited to a seminar where he learned about rest. He’s changing. He’s resting finally—at the age of 65–even though he’s still working. Things changed in both of us. God showed me that I had too many activities and that I needed to find the proper timing for communication. Now I make a point to spend time with him instead of just with the children and my friends. After 40 years of marriage we’re learning how to communicate and enjoy each other. We walk together for a long time. We talk about practical things and about life.

“The Lord used other men to speak to my husband. They would say, “What does the Lord say?” Now he has embraced “take no thought for tomorrow…” (See Matthew 6:34) And he’s into rest and trusting the Lord. I made a decision along the way to stay—no matter what—even if he never changed, although I believed he could.”

 

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