Saturday, March 22, 2008

Does It Matter Who Our Friends Are?

As a Christian I have been taught by many godly people to take inventory of my life from time to time. It was suggested to me thirty years ago that I do so every month on the same day of the month (which helps me not to forget to do so). It has been a valuable practice to keep my spiritual life, priorities and my home in order.

A few months ago God added a segment of my life that I have not seen the need to take inventory of…my friends. By not doing so I had made my life more difficult/stressful because I had let people negatively affect me in various ways. It was a tough truth to come to grips with. Actually, I’m still working on implementing it.

How important is it to choose good friends who would lift us up and make us better persons? The Bible tells us that we get to decide whether we'll walk with the wise or stumble with fools. The question for us is which will we choose?

Proverbs 13:20: " He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools [stupid or silly] shall be destroyed [to mar, especially by breaking]." [Words defined from the Strong’s Concordance.]

I have had to spend some considerable time with the Lord to understand my responsibility for the stress I have allowed people to add to my life by not setting boundaries. It has, and continues to be a tough lesson…to realize the wrong people in my life can actually mar me and even break me.

When I talked to my husband about this he pointed out that I am frazzled and a tad grumpy after I’m around, or have had a phone conversation with, ___________. I knew he was right. This is partly true because I kick myself for not being better able to stop people from griping and complaining. I often try to justify this by feeling I am helping them ‘download’…by being a sounding board…which I felt helped them. I cannot begin to convey how God has talked to me about this…me who tells women all of the time they must do all they can to guard their spirit.

“What impact have your friends had on you lately? This might sound like a strange question, but your friends have influenced you—for better or for worse—more than you think. Does it really matter which friends you select? After all, shouldn't a Christian be willing to have anyone around as a friend?

Some argue that Christians should invite everyone into their circle of friends since Jesus Christ was inclusive during His earthly ministry. This belief seems appealing on its surface, but there is more to the issue than meets the eye.” Jason Ranew

The book of Proverbs is full of instructions concerning how we can do well and become Biblically successful, including instructions on how we should choose our friends. Again, Proverbs 13:20 instructs us that to befriend foolish people will bring harm to our lives. On the other hand, seeking out wise friends who live right will bring about blessings.

Proverbs 1:10-16 and Psalms 1:1-3 provides a strong warning against befriending those who engage in sinful lifestyles and are not right with God…including scornful/negative people. We are not even to walk on their paths but rather turn away from them and walk the other way. And for doing so God says He will bless us.

Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
:2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
:3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

The apostle Paul affirms: " Be not deceived: evil [worthless, depraved, noisome, evil] communications [companionship] corrupt [shrivel or wither, destroy] good manners [moral habits].” I Coriinthians 15:33 In paraphrase: Don’t fool yourself, bad or negative and worldly-minded Christian friends will destroy you.

These scriptures and others indicate that in order to do well, be happy and obey God, we must choose good, principled friends and avoid negative, scornful/negative or immoral people.
Jesus' example: One should note that even among His disciples, not everyone was included in Jesus' inner circle, which was inclusive of Peter, James and John. Jesus is unique in that His potential was not determined by His friends. Even so, He set a clear example for us to follow in that He had an inner circle of trusted friends and He was careful about whom He included.

Do our friends sharpen us as iron sharpeneth iron…or do they dull our ‘blade’ and cause us to be less effective instruments for God’s will?

Children See and Hear…and Some Times Walk Away
Psalm 127:3 “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.”

Again today I heard of a teenager who left their Christian home. They were raised in a home where God was proclaimed and served by all members of the family. The family was in the pew every time there was a service or activity, tithes were paid, offerings given and missionaries supported and prayed for. And yet…the teen-ager had enough and walked away.

I’m sure some people question this teen-ager’s salvation. I’m sure others assign the teen a rebellious spirit. Some may say the teen hated his parents and hated his God. But are those things the only things that should be in question? Are there other reasons that may shed light on this all-too-common situation?

Some of our readers may not like what I am about to say. However, a very godly aged Christian woman who worked with young adults for years and years in a college setting woke me up to some very common reasons young people just walk away from home and the life-style of their Christian parents. Remember: From the time children are very young, they see and hear everything…and store it in their minds. When they get old enough they evaluate what they have stored, using it to make life-choices for themselves. Please consider the following all-too-common types of input which may be used for this evaluation process:

•When mom and/or dad are talking to other people children do not turn off their hearing. On an almost daily basis, this is one of the most common problems I am made aware of. I am often horrified over what children are hearing their parents speak. I grew up in a godless home and I absolutely hated to hear my mother talk over the kitchen table or on the telephone and degrade people she knew. The worst time to me was when she talked horribly about my father to her friends. I always felt a tearing inside while trying to evaluate who was right and who was wrong.

•Bickering and fighting using painful words. You will notice I said “using painful words.” The Bible says life and death are in the power of the tongue and, yet inside of their homes, too many Christians don’t live this Truth. By the time too many children raised in Christian homes are teens they are mortally wounded by words…wounded and bleeding. And yet, adults almost never consider guarding what children hear from infancy; words forever etched on the hard drives of their minds. The wrong or hurtful things children do hear, Satan can bring back to their remembrance as negative words or feelings…using them as fiery arrows of destruction.

•Parents doing church work with a wrong attitude is not a healthy memory for a child to possess. Hurrying, scurrying, complaining, controlling and showing anger while doing projects to ‘serve the Lord’ leaves a detrimental and indelible word picture that causes many teens to quit living like a Christian. Several years ago I had a young teen tell me she was done living like a Christian because when she got married she wanted a sweeter and kinder home for her children. Immature thinking…but teens are immature Christians, not adults.

•Serving God and the church at the expense of spending quality time with the family and training the children is not God’s will. I drove a school van for many years when my own children were in school. In so many ways I have heard young children and teens say that God took their mom and dad away from them. I have heard the anger for God in their voices and seen it on their faces as I looked at them in the rear view mirror. Children hear and see when family priorities are out of order--and they often feel rejected and angry. God’s priority list is: God, spouse, family, church, others and other interests.

•Children take notice when parents give to special church projects when there is literally not enough food in the house or clothes to wear. I have known too many children from Christian homes who have lived in houses without adequate food, heat and and/or lights during mid-west winters because their fathers were sacrificially giving to an extra church project. Before you start justifying this, try and filter the situation through a child’s mind. And remember, not meeting a child’s basic living needs is considered neglect, which is one form of child abuse.
I could continue but I think I have left us all with enough to think about.

I am 59 years old and I have known many teens who, after they sat and evaluated the years of ‘doings’ inside of their Christian homes, decided they didn’t want to live the way of mom and dad for the rest of their lives. They reached an ‘if that’s Christianity I don’t want it’ conclusion. Most of the teens who have come to me did not have a rebellious nature and really loved their moms and dads. Most of them were very sensitive children who could just not process the teachings of God in the Bible with the atmosphere and happenings in their homes.

Always remember God created the family before the church. And the calling of a parent is to “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) This training is to take place from the time the child gets up in the morning until he goes to sleep at night. Daily the question should be, am I training them in ways that will cause them to desire and to plan to serve the God of my home?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Greetings, My name is Mrs. Sharon Merhalski and I am 57 years old, a wife, mother, grandmother and foremost a Christian who loves the Lord very much. In this season of my life God has ordered my steps to serve Him in several other ways…as an author, women’s Bible teacher and conference speaker and as co-founder of a not for profit organization, Titus 2. I am also Executive Director of New HOPE Women’s Outreach—an outreach ministry of Titus 2. We work with women in diverse situation of life and facilitate workshops for the awareness and prevention of child abuse. We have offices in northwest Indiana and south Chicago.

The over-whelming burden on my heart is first to encourage all Christian women to open their hearts and hands and obey the call of God for all women to be Titus 2 Women: to " in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. (Titus 2:3-5)" Second, I want to be a Titus 2 woman/mentor/counselor for women who cannot be the kind of Christian, wife, mother or friend that God wills for them to be because they do not have the victory in Christ over their strong holds. For over twenty-five years God has entrusted me to mentor women in diverse situations of life. In particular, God has used my surrendered yesterdays of abuse to assist many women who are survivors of abuse and domestic violence. (I have many articles on our web magazine: )

From personal experience I know that emotional damage cannot be overcome until it is healed by God. Jehovah-Rapha wants to heal broken and damaged hearts....He wants to give them “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness...that He might be glorified.”I have authored a book which humbly I say has helped many women find hope for their healing.

Overview of Book
"Just beyond The Shadow of God's Wings" was conceived in a woman's mended heart eighteen years ago. On its pages she tells how she spent fourteen years searching for the root cause of her inner turmoil...turmoil that remained hidden from everyone but herself. The author tells about finding herself at a crossroad in her life where she, a faithful servant of the God she loved, almost decided to quit her God and His church.This book is a book of hope for those once abused.The authortells a story of God's tough love and His perfect healing of her very damaged emotions. She conveys some very tough lessons learned from a God who worked overtime in her life to give to her "Beauty for ashes."
This 120 page book may be ordered for $14.00 including S+H from Sharon at:

My testimony and articles of hope and God's grace

”LORD, let me seek Thee in longing, Let me long for Thee in seeking, Let me find Thee in love And love Thee in finding.” ---Anselm

”Lord, please fill me, humble me in all things, and enable me to be the kind of Titus 2 woman that You need me to be. Please Lord, help me always be mindful of my responsibility to “...comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (IICorinthians :1:4b) “And of some have compassion, making a difference:: (Jude 22)

My testimony of the first twenty-one years of my life is not full of good things because I was raised in a very dysfunctional home. Therefore I want to begin by telling you that God has worked overtime in my life to make me a very optimistic, joyful, thankful, trusting , and serving woman. About twenty years ago my pastor asked me if there was anything I would change about my life if I could. I stunned him with the word, “no”. In the deep, deep valleys of my life God has been so very precious to me. As I have taken the time to listen to and for His still small voice and as I have searched the scriptures and worshiped him in silence, My LORD has, in spite of myself and my circumstances, taught me, shown me, loved me, kept me, and ever-burdened my heart for others who hurt.

I was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 57 years ago. The family that God chose to place me in I would never have chosen for myself. My mother and father were not Christians. My mother was a very bitter woman who delighted in doing evil deeds to her husband and children. Her life taught me the reality that bitterness is truly worse than cancer.

I grew up in the bay area of California and I was there in 1954 when the end of the Polio epidemic claimed me for a victim. While growing up I attended a couple of Baptist churches as a bus kid and accepted Jesus as my Saviour when I was fourteen years old. When I was twenty-one I met my very handsome, very polish, and very Catholic husband soon after he returned from Viet Nam. For the first time in my life I felt unconditionally loved and accepted. We were married in the Catholic church in 1969. The following year my husband accepted the Lord as His Saviour, we both dedicated our lives to God, and our son was born. Five and a half years later God entrusted us with our daughter by adoption.

My husband moved our family to his home-state of Wisconsin in 1971. Peter loved California but sensed that I desperately needed to get away from my family. I now understand that God needed me to be where He could begin to give to me, “Beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; ...that He might be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3)


These are tough words to describe the first twenty-one years of anyone’s life. As you read on please know that Romans 8:28 “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.”” is always true. Our Sovereign God always knows what is best for each of us. The word “good” in this verse means first the good of others who need our testimonies...comfort and lessons learned (or ones we wish we had learned). After others the word “good” in this verse can also mean good for us.

I was twenty-two years old when we settled in Wisconsin. I was a mess and didn’t realize it. So much had transpired in my life that left such scars---both emotional and physical. I had Bulbar Polio when I was six years old and spent a year on an isolation ward of a county hospital. An iron lung had been my home for most of that year. Nine major surgeries later, the loss of my senior year of high school to an auto accident caused by a drunk driver, and my mother’s three attempts to murder me, had all left me with an abundance of “ashes, mourning, and heaviness” as well as anger and some bitterness.

I fell in love with Wisconsin. I had never experienced the changing of the seasons or the love and warmth of a close and loving family. My husband has four brothers and being the first girl in his family I was accepted as a daughter and spoiled accordingly. When I married my husband God blessed me with a mother who would love me unconditionally. I was also blessed with a pastor’s wife who became my “mom” and together with my husbands’ mother—as I yielded my heart to God and their teaching—they taught me by their examples and the Words of God how to be a wife, mother, and servant of Christ.

I was thirty-four years old when my deteriorated physical condition and unexplainable spiritual and emotional condition dumped me at a crossroad in my life. Everyone who knew me---even my husband---saw me as a person who had all things “together”. Only I knew how miserable I was and stood one autumn night ready to never go back to church unless the Lord showed me why my heart ached so much. That night God held my heart in His hands as He opened a tightly locked room of my heart and helped me to see what I had buried there as a hurting child. That night God sat my spirit free and enabled me to fully surrender my life to Him. That night God enabled me to understand that He had not abused me too...rather, He had worked overtime to keep me alive and continually make the “all things” of my life able to glorify Him and help others.

It took a few years to deal with all of the hurt in my life and allow God’s Word to change some wrong thinking about the LORD and me. I had to let God give me Christ-esteem as I learned to love myself in Him and see myself as a Princess in the court of the King of Kings. Berating myself had to become a thing of my past and a lot of false guilt and false shame had to be dealt with and released. At this time I began journal-writing which helped me to heal my heart. This daily exercise has been a continual blessing to my life. When God gave to me my life’s verse all of the pieces of the puzzle of my life seemed to lock in to place: “Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” (Isaiah 48:10).

The Lord began entrusting me to speak to women about their abusive pasts. He also allowed me to teach a women’s Sunday School class and be a conference speaker. Me…a woman who had accepted an ‘F’ grade each time anything oral had to be done for school then worked many hours to do extra-credit work to maintain a B+ average in High School and College. I am still in awe of His grace, mercy, and love for me!

Years have passed but His teaching has not waned. To get from mountaintop to mountaintop one must pass through a valley...precious valleys of fellowship with God OR miserable valleys of anger and despair...the choice is ours. Almost nine years ago I became extremely thankful for each and every valley of my life---thankful that I had learned to trust God and wait on Him because He is always faithful and always good.

I have had many opportunities entrusted to me from God to learn well what grief is…and what it is not for a Christian.

In 1981 our daughter, then five years old was molested by our pastor. She and eight other little girls were molested over several months…inside of our church building during school hours. This was a devastating time for our family and one we have seen God work much good through.
In 2001, our then 24 year old son, was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. At that time he was preparing to graduate from Bible College and teach in a Christian school. He was a gifted pianist who wrote songs and did hymn arrangements that glorified His God. Our family was again plunged in to grief, as we were when our son was born with no prognosis for life. Almost nine years have passed with radiation twice and six surgeries before God healed him in Heaven. Is God still good? Oh yes, God is always very, very, good and we trust in His Sovereignty and His love.

I now live in Indiana with my husband of almost 37 years. Our nest is empty and we just experienced the blessing of our first grandchild…a beautiful little girl! In my spare time--for enjoyment, exercise and a special quiet time with God—I am an avid gardener. As the beautiful hymn says, “I (love to) come to the garden alone.....(where)....He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own....and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.” I have shared many gardening tips and have many articles on the web magazine I co-founded:

I love the Lord with all of my heart and I owe Him everything. I want to serve Him and use all that He has entrusted me with to bring glory to His name. My prayer for the last several years has been the prayer of Jabez: (I Chronicles 4:10) “...Oh, that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!” And I know that I can say now, “And God granted him that which he requested.” I have very little health, I am not supposed to have a speaking voice because I have a tracheotomy, and every doctor says that I should be little more than bedridden. “BUT GOD” is my answer and I make sure that my words I’m not supposed to be able to speak glorify my precious LORD.


My Vow...My Voice

"Lord thank You for tightly squeezing my heart today as my Pastor told us about the man who believes that You took away His voice because he stopped preaching. I needed to hear the illustration and remember again what You alone have done for me.

I remember so clearly the days in 1980 that turned into five weeks of silence. I remember so many physicians who took care of me. I especially remember my family doctor when he labored to tell me---a 32 year-old wife and mother of two young children---that Bulbar Polio and time spent in an iron lung had taken a toll on my entire breathing system. He cried as he told me that the problems were for the most part unable to be fixed. I remember well his face as he told me that the doctors had all agreed that I was not even going to be able to speak with the very raspy whisper afforded to people who wear a tracheotomy tube (a tube inserted into the windpipe to enable a person to breathe).

My joy and rejoicing over being alive and the expectation of soon having a voice had kept my discouragement about my silence in check for over four weeks. The series of events that God had allowed since the day that I entered the hospital with bronchitis (mis-diagnosis, drug reactions, and finally respiratory arrest and heart-failure) had given me many opportunities to share my Lord and my salvation with pen and paper...and I was rejoicing in this while waiting for my voice to return.. However, the assurance that I was not ever going to be able to speak again came two days before I was to go home and I allowed the reality of going back to my very busy life silent overwhelm me.

I remember the cold February night when the ceaseless thoughts about my husband, my children, my Sunday School class and my love of telling others about Christ---thoughts that had often turned to prayer---turned to desperate cries to a God who seemed so far away. I sat alone seeking God, thinking, praying, asking questions, and flipping through my Bible. I remember trying to grab words and verses at random until the following seemingly filled an entire page: "And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore, and she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the afflicitons of thine handmaid, and remember me..." (I Samuel 1:10-11b) The Lord also brought several other verses to my attention before I did a very serious thing---before I made a vow.

With some fear and absolute faith that God could I promised my Heavenly Father that I would endeavor to honor, obey and glorify Him with my words every day that He gave me breath to do so if He would will to allow me to have a voice. Several minutes passed before a very sweet rest and peace filled my heart... I trembled as I heard myself speak the precious name of Jesus with the same voice I had before the surgery! (I did not know at that time that God was going to use this promise to bring me to the place where He could completely break me to make me useable.)

The hospital "buzzed" for the next two days and many people came to hear the "impossible". As every medical person has done since then, they eagerly listened to my voice as I told them about the God Who is able to heal and about His Son Who is able and waiting to save every lost man!

At the 1992 Pastor’s School I met a man who also wears a tracheotomy tube but speaks with a very raspy whisper. As we shared what, when and why, I heard him tell me how god miraculously uses him as a Sunday School superintendent, bus captain and soul winner. He told me that his raspy whisper is what the Lord so often uses to draw the attention of people who need to hear the Gospel. I also remember his encouragement for me to continue to use the miracle God gave to me---my normal voice---for the Lord.

I know that God used our meeting to encourage us both and to help us better understand why He chooses to heal some problems and not others. As we parted company I left with another illustration of the perfect "beauty for ashes" that God wants to give in every circumstance of our lives "that He alone may be glorified."

"Father, thank You for being the God of miracles---yesterday, today, and forever. Thank You for my voice and please forgive me for failing to seize every opportunity to use my voice to share Your Gospel, to love, comfort, encourage, praise, admonish glorify You!"

"Be Still And Know That I am God." Ps. 46:10

I am very thankful that I grew up without a radio, tape player, or television set in my room. I am also glad that I did not enjoy reading for entertainment or for an escape from reality. My home life made it essential that I spend a lot of time in my room and I learned to enjoy and gather strength from being still when I was very young.

My parents were not Christians but my mother, who had grown up in a Baptist orphanage, made sure that I was on the church bus so she and dad could recover from their Saturday nights or drinking and bar hopping. I am thankful that from an early age I was able to learn a lot of truths about God and His Son Jesus Christ. As I sat in my room---alone and still---these truths, stories, and songs afforded me sweet peace, wonderful rest, needed strength, and a precious understanding that I was unconditionally loved and somehow safe from all harm. (" quietness and confidence shall be your strength...."Isaiah 30:15)

My quiet times had become an important part of my life by the time I accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour and they have grown increasingly precious with each passing year. For me it is a time when I seemingly crawl up on my Abba Father’s lap and let Him cover me with His feathers as I sigh, "Daddy." My quiet time is my special time to tell God how very much I love Him, and/or a time to remember who He is: His word, His character, His names, His unqualified love, mercy, and grace for me...for me! Or, and sometimes and, it is a time to let my Abba Father dry my tears, relieve my fear, quench my anxiety, strengthen my faith, heal my aching heart...or just "HUG" me.

Lord, thank You for ministering to me as an unsaved child (Hebrews 1:14) and for teaching me the blessing of being quiet and still in Your presence. And thank You for Your Words that compel all of Your children to learn to enjoy the quiet. ("But we beseech you brethren, that ye increase more and more; And that ye study to be quiet..." I Thessalonians 4:10b-11a)
"Blessed quietness, holy quietness,What assurance in my soul!On the stormy sea, He speaks peace to me,How the billows cease to roll!"

God ALWAYS Heals His Children? Several years ago I had the privilege of teaching a ladies Sunday School class each summer. That particular group of ladies was an exceptional treat to teach. Some were teachers, and some were faculty staff wives of a Baptist Bible College. The interaction was always enlightening and the fellowship sweet.
I know that God burdened my heart this week to pull this article from my file and I was not sure why. As I began to type this on to my computer I knew that God wanted to remind me of a truth learned well.

There are often times many days between a person’s getting ill and that person’s entering Heaven’s gates. One particular week as I began to prepare a Sunday School lesson on one of the precious names of God, I prayed, read, wrote down verse after verse, and spent blocks of time considering what I had read and what I had experienced in my life. I finally came to the conclusion that I had to omit the lesson from the series. I felt that I just could not stand in front of a group of ladies and teach this name of God..........Jehovah-rapha.
I had spent several days seeking the mind of the Lord. Many times I asked God how I could teach this name...His name. I reminded Him often that physicians consider me disabled and that I am constantly aware that He is my only strength and my only health. I remember being in tears when I asked God, "Lord, how can I teach these ladies that Your name Jehovah-rapha, means that You ALWAYS HEAL Your children?

As I read and re-read the verses I had written down, one verse of Scripture troubled me more than all of the others, Psalms 103:2,3 "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth ALL thy diseases." It didn’t take long for a part of me to begin questioning the amount of truth in a statement made to me...of all a pastor, "A Chrisian who is right with God is not sick."

I thought, and sometimes I paced, for I knew without a doubt that God’s Word was true. I also knew that God does heal His children for He had healed me of some specific medical problems and from the effects of a dysfunctional childhood. But I also knew that I am not healthy. When I was six years old, Bulbar Polio removed the word healthy from my first-person vocabulary and several illnesses and surgeries after that kept it omitted. In recent years I have often given God some specific...very specific requests concerning my future new body---the one that He has promised me in His Word when I get to Heaven.

Over and over for about three days I considered the phrase, "...who healeth all thy diseases" "...who healeth all thy diseases," ...who healeth ALL thy diseases" until the Holy Spirit, who absolutely promises to lead us and to guide us into ALL truth, put a thought and a verse in my heart. The thought---God has promised to give each one of us a disease free body in Heaven! The verse---Revelation 14:13, "And I heard a new voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." Yes, God does heal ALL, ALL our diseases!!!

I always realized that God had chosen to heal, and continues to heal, many of His children completely and sometimes instantly. I finally understood that there is, not death, but an ultimate healing---the healing that God gave Paul. God sustains His children in illness IF He and His Son Jesus Christ can be glorified. (John 11:4, "...he (Jesus) said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.") God sustains in illness until it is His time to ultimately heal His children by promoting them to heaven---a perfect healing in a perfect place where pain, sickness, tears, and suffering do not exist!

As I finished preparing the lesson that had become such a precious blessing, I thought of several people who have gotten angry with the Lord for not answering their prayers for healing of their loved one or angry that God allowed their loved one to die. But as I stood before the ladies and taught God’s name Jehovah-rapha, I seemingly saw only one face among the many. I saw a face whose green eyes were wet with tears and sweetly nodded her head "yes," to the faithfulness of the Lord. Pat knew, for God had chosen to promote her husband to Heaven for an ultimate healing in a perfect place!

This is a difficult time in our family as we enter the eighth year of my son's battle with an inoperable brain tumor. Only God knows the number of his days left on earth. Typing this article was a special time of remembering Jehovah-rapha. It has also been a time when God reminded me of the truth of II Timothy 2:15, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." I remembered this week what a ‘workman’ I had to be to seek long enough to find the answer to my question from, chapter, and verse.

Our Joe Graduated To Heaven

Our son Joe graduated to heaven and my husband, my daughter, and myself choose NOT to say that we 'lost' a loved one…we know perfectly well where Joe is. We choose to tell others that God graduated our son/brother on October 8, 2001…for a perfect healing in a perfect place-Heaven. Joe is perfectly well and very happy now.

I waited almost five months to write this text so that I could tell others what I knew to be true five months ago…so that I could tell you from even a seemingly short five months experience, that God's amazing grace is absolutely sufficient for hearts severely broken. These past months have been both a time of grief…and a time of tremendous blessing as we have experienced our God in every hard place and teardrop. We have wept, we have questioned and we have experienced a peace that truly passes all understanding.

"It seems that God often faces us with the prospect of losing the oneperson or thing we love the most. He does this to teach us to love Him supremely. Do you remember Abraham and Isaac and that longClimb up Mount Moriah? We are to love the Master of the work More than we love the work of the Master. We can get along withoutThe gift. We could never get along without the Giver."--David M. Atkinson

Our long climb up Mount Moriah began when our son was born expected to die within hours.
But God……………..Life was exciting and full of blessings until Joe was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of twenty-four. In the last eight and a half years of Joe's life, the climb became almost impossible. All of us, Joe's closest family members, at different times almost slipped and fell to the canyon floor below. But God………………..In the tough days of sadness and grief of lost dreams for our son and brother, gave us strength and mercy and enveloped us with His unqualified love and grace. We all reached the top of that mountain: For Joe the top was Heaven with his blessed and loved Saviour. For us, his family, the top of the mountain was the bottom of the canyon floor where all we could do was lie on our backs. All we could see was up to God and all we could do was trust only in God and in His name Jehovah-which means all that we need, exactly when we need it. Was God-His Name enough? Abundantly so.

Eph 3:20 “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,””Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39

Sometimes verses are just text on a page to us-an attitude of--"they come from the Bible…so they must be true"--we guess. However, from the day that our son Joe was born, God placed us in His school of grace. As we began that long steep climb up Mount Moriah, God gave us valleys as classrooms to learn that He really loves us. He taught us that His Word and every verse in it are alive and powerful and can be absolutely trusted in every circumstance of our lives…even in death.

There were moments…when from our broken hearts we were tempted to question our Sovereign God. When those moments came we chose to remember our landmarks. We remembered that precept upon precept, line upon line; we had learned that depression never has to engulf us, sadness never has to control us, anxiety never has to confuse us, and hopelessness never has to cause us to despair. God has enabled and entrusted all of us to learn that it is our choice whether or not life's negatives overwhelm us. In Psalms 42, God tells us it is our choice which way we choose to put our "cast"-our focus. We can look down and inside of ourselves causing a pity party that ultimately leads to depression, or look up to God and out of ourselves, which gives us vision…the hope we need to live and be a testimony to the Glory of God in the land of the living. Giving up our son and brother to Heaven was a time when we realized that all of the lessons in our lives were learned well. All Glory to our God.

"Hurts put a song in the human spirit that can be learned no other way."--David M. Atkinson

There is a rhyme which goes, "Love wasn't put in our hearts to stay, love isn't love 'till it's given away." Hurt puts a song in our spirits and that song is a love for others…and it is not heard until we give it away. Joe gave away the song of his hurt. He had a passion to help other people bear their burdens while never complaining about his own. His dad called Joe, "a sweet and gentle man", and he was. Joe learned the rest of the verse so many Christians only half quote, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. Joe suffered with dignity and strength that caused all who knew him to call him a hero of the faith.

Just before his graduation to Heaven, Joe had a burden to start a ministry to hurting men because he cared and so wanted to comfort them with the comfort God had comforted him with through many, many, brain surgeries, radiation twice, and chemotherapy. Joe's living epistle gave Glory only to his Saviour and Lord.

In an article "Till The Storm Passes By" I tried to relate to others in a definitive word picture where God puts His children, and why, when He chooses to teach us and grow us by allowing a deep trial of our faith: He takes away our control and puts us on auto pilot using His instruments to safely guide us in the storm-- that we may learn the truth of 2Co 1:8 For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: 2Co 1:9 But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: That we might learn to trust only in God. Joe trusted his God and I beg you to learn to trust Him with your whole heart, soul, and mind…for He is absolutely trustworthy to guide you and to provide for you in the "all things" of life.

Some days are extremely difficult, for our family is still grieving-but that grieving is carried out with hearts full of joy in the Lord and hope that gives us vision. We miss our strong, sweet and gentle Joe. But we have all purposed to use the song that God put in our spirits through this hurt of life to reach out to others…. "of some have compassion, making a difference.", Jude 22. I pray that God may cause my words today to make a difference-- to help someone understand that in spite of anything that life may hold for us God is Good-Always.Deuteronomy 31:8 “And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.”

Lord, many years I begged You for a son to love and one day give to You. A physician's hand made tearful pleas a possibility so remote.
But God……………….Birthing cries! Then both our lives in peril of death…husband and father but two months Your child, faced alone the truth--both his loves were going to die.
But God………………An infant son… faced dark and grim tomorrows…You raised a brilliant man and pianist extraordinaire…a man who turned lost men to You and loved his wife like most men…never would.
But God………temptation often whispers, "rather say….. but why?"An infant son we at an altar gave back to You …trusting Sovereign care. You grew a loving man.
But God…………….With hearts laid bare our son was given back to You for glory for your grace. Glory was provided when for His God Joe played piano concertos in lengthy suffering…and face to face You stood with open arms at Heavens gate.
But God…………….There can be no giving to temptation to ask….but why? In awe we stand before our God Who every plea has heard…and answered sweet. Our son is well! And with the Lovely One we gave to take his charge.
~~Joe's mother

Our Child Was Violated
“Awake thou that sleepest,…. Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

Can you think of any event in your life more devastating than the death of your child? As parents we have gotten our share of painful news during our marriage of now 37 years.

The only child born from my womb was born expected to die. When God allowed him to live we were told he would not be much more than a vegetable.

But God….Joe grew up highly intelligent and became a gifted pianist. Then came the day when we heard the doctors say that he had an inoperable brain tumor…and the day the phone call came telling us our son had gone to Heaven.

As emotionally trying and sad as all of that news was at the times we heard it, there is one other revelation that seemed somehow worse than all of the aforementioned put together.

Worse? Yes, because coupled with overwhelming grief were the intense suffocating affect of guilt and anger that surfaced in our hearts when we heard the words, "Mommy, he touches me and hurts me! " This news that our trusted friend and pastor had repeatedly molested our precious five year old daughter inside of our church and school building was—to the core of our beings--devastating!

Over twenty-five years have passed and as I write this I still feel the rage of that moment deep in my heart. I remember my husband's agony and his humanity of a father wanting retribution. In my mind's eye I see our very precious little girl hurting and stunned at the pain on her mom and dad's face and in our words. I remember how tightly my husband and I held each other as we wept….asking, “Why? We are Christians, God…..he is our pastor…..why?” As parents, guilt and shame engulfed us for we had been violated also.
When the truth was uncovered there were eleven little girls that had fallen prey to that sexual predator. Eleven church families crushed and raped…Christian, God fearing and God honoring families. The pastor, himself a victim of childhood sexual abuse, went to prison for many, many years.

How did this happen in our family? It happened because, like so many other families around the world, we never considered this devastating event could happen to us: Somehow we felt immune from evil because we were Christians.

In so many ways we had learned how to avoid disasters in our children's lives before they even had a chance to happen. We put safety tabs in the electrical outlets, we locked up or stored up high, dangerous chemicals, we put the side rails up on the cribs, we took precautions with our food to avoid food poisoning, we positioned our children in bed to avoid S.I.D.S. , we made sure the car seat was the right kind and size , we made sure the toys didn't have small parts that may be swallowed, etc. We realized that disasters from these things could happen at any time. Then one day my husband and I sadly realized that there is a far greater disaster that should also be prepared for….sexual predators.

We were in a small church where everyone knew, loved, and trusted each other. We thought we were protecting our children securely…never letting them spend the night in another home without us, watching them in crowds and around strangers, protecting what they saw, heard, and where they went. I was careful to take these precautions because I was abused as a child by my mother and my brother in my home.
So we lived cautiously and our lives revolved around our local church family where we felt secure and safe from evil.

While ours is a story about a fallen pastor in a church building a predator can be anyone. Unfortunately, more often than not, the people who molest children are family members or close friends of the family, “in 90% of child sexual abuse cases, the child knows and
trusts the person who commits the abuse. -- Finklehor 1994” The threat is real and there is no way to tell who these perverted people may be.

Our daughter was molested over several months. After we learned what had taken place I looked back and saw problems that I did not recognize as possible signs of child abuse. She had nightmares, her personality changed, she developed phantom pelvic pain that came and left suddenly (and can do so for a lifetime), she became fearful-- something we noted as shyness. In looking back guilt overwhelmed us…guilt from not protecting our daughter and not knowing what was happening to our own child. We berated ourselves for years for not recognizing that abuse happens—even in Christian communities!

We never fathomed that a heart could hurt as badly as ours. The question that ate at us was "why didn't she tell us?" From counseling other women, both mothers of abused children and women who were abused children, the answer to our question, “why didn’t she tell?” has many answers: shame, ignorance about what is happening, fear from being threatened, insufficient vocabulary to explain what has happened, etc.

Twenty years ago there was no campaign to wipe out child abuse…there were no "touch and tell" programs in schools. There was no push for parents to warn their children or to prepare parents for what may happen by someone—often someone they know and trust. My husband and I were ignorant of the facts and we felt we had done all that we could do to protect our children from harm. We paid a horrific price for failing to train our children for the possibility that they may come in contact with a predator….anywhere, even in the church. I ask you to check the National Pedophile registry or the pedophile registry at your local police station. The U.S. Department of Justice recently released this statistic: there is one pedophile per square mile.

Please visit the child abuse section of my web-magazine to learn how you can educate yourself for the awareness and prevention of child abuse.

I also have very good material for parents to use to help educate their children that is not yet on this section of our web site but I will send it upon your request: