Finder of All Lost Things

lost and found The best part about working at a university food court stems from the fact that the students tend to lose things. Car keys, apartment keys, student IDs, wallets, cell phones, books, laptops, even entire backpacks. You’d be surprised at what tired and hungry students leave behind, once they’ve inhaled a Chick-fil-A sandwich and hurried on to their next class.

Their loss of these important items isn’t, of course, what makes me happy. And certainly the very worst part about my job is when I go to our lost-and-found in the back office and discover that what has been lost isn’t there. Then, I dread going back out to the dining area and telling the student that their lost item is, sadly, still lost.

I hate the look of disappointment, even fear, in their eyes. There’s the unspoken question: “Well, if I didn’t leave it here, where is it?” And of course the all important: “Will I ever find it?” What does one do, after all, without one’s credit cards, car keys, driver’s license…or the laptop on which is an entire semester’s worth of work.

When even one thing is lost, everything is wrong.

(At those times, I understand why some throughout history have been tempted to kill the messenger.)

But it’s completely different when I do find their item in lost-and-found. Then, when I return bearing what was lost…ah, the joy! The relief. The thankfulness. Even the laughter. One young man practically did the happy dance the whole time I was carrying his backpack toward him across the dining room. Had I not been an old lady, I think he might even have kissed me for the joy of regaining that lost bag.

How I love to see that joy. And so one day not long ago I thought to myself, “If I could have any job, I’d like to be the finder of all lost things.” Kind of like Holden Caulfield who wanted to spend his life simply being the catcher in the rye—the one who protects the children playing in the rye field by catching them if they get too close to the cliff. I’d like to be the one to find all the lost items and present them to the owners, simply so I can see them rejoice and break into the happy dance.

But then, if I were the finder of all lost things, wouldn’t I simply be taking after my Father? Isn’t that what He does, what He has always done for the sake of love? In fact, that’s the whole story, the whole point of history—God redeeming what was lost and bringing it safely home.

My cousin became a Christian when she was 50-something. When she wrote to tell me about her baptism, I was struck by the simple and yet profound way in which she summed up the change in her life: “Everything feels right now.”

Of course it does! When we are found—claimed by and held steadfast in the love of God—all that was once wrong in our lives comes around right, and we are able for the first time to truly know joy. Thanks be to God, the finder of all lost things, who pursues us so that both His joy and ours may be complete.

Is Al Capone in Heaven?

Al Capone headstone Those gangsters of yesteryear were a vicious lot. I was reminded of this recently when I read a book about the Mob in New York City during the 1960s and 70s.

I kept trying to imagine growing up and living in that kind of milieu, in which the business of everyday life consisted of robbing banks, hijacking trucks, laundering money, promoting prostitution and gambling, taking people hostage, beating people up, breaking people’s legs, cutting off people’s hands, and killing people with machine guns, revolvers, baseball bats, or simply one’s own fists.

Mobsters were ruthless. Violence and death were status quo. And for the most part, they enjoyed it. Torturing and “whacking” people was all just part of a satisfying day’s work. That’s what I find particularly hard to understand.

~~~

In high school, I was part of a gang myself—all college-bound, honor students who nevertheless weren’t above a little mischief. Our idea of wreaking vengeance on the enemy was leaving a banana in the history teacher’s desk drawer right before Christmas break, so that when he came back in January it was overripe and plenty pungent. We also tormented that same teacher by hanging a pair of boys’ underwear on the license plate of his VW Bug while it was parked in the teachers’ lot. Just like the gangsters, we felt pretty smug about doing something wrong and getting away with it.

And then there was the time I ventured solo into the underworld of crime when I wrote a Spanish paper for a kid named Wes who paid me five dollars to do it. It was easy money and a pretty good take in 1974 dollars, but I later felt so guilty about helping him cheat that I donated my illicit earnings to a school fundraiser.

~~~

So who would be more likely to merit heaven—the gangsters like Gambino and Gotti or the goodie-goodies like me? Of course, that’s a trick question because if you know anything at all about grace you know none of us is taking the up elevator by reason of pushing any buttons on our own.

But I know I’m going to heaven and I believe I may see at least one gangster there: Al Capone. I’ll tell you why.

~~~

When I was researching my book Sweet Mercy, I read a number of books about the life of Al Capone. One of the books told of Capone’s conversion to Christianity while in Alcatraz. It seems he was among the group of prisoners who went to hear a visiting pastor preach one Sunday morning. When the pastor asked if anyone was in need of prayer, Al Capone raised his hand. When the pastor asked if anyone felt in need of a savior, Al Capone stood.

This particular event isn’t exactly an enduring part of the gangster’s famous persona. When you think of Al “Scarface” Capone, you don’t think of him as the mobster who came to Jesus behind bars. After he was released and living in Florida, he himself told visitors that he had met Jesus in Alcatraz, but few people believed him.

For one thing, old Scarface was suffering from a physical illness that affected his mind, so that one of his friends described him as “nutty as a fruitcake.” For that reason, it was easy to blow off his talk of conversion. Although, when you think about, most people who claim conversion—especially jailhouse conversion—are considered nutty as fruitcakes. Even I’ve been called nutty myself for believing in God, so it’s a pretty convenient label to pin on folks of faith.

~~~

For another jailhouse conversion, look at King Manasseh, ruler of Judah for 55 years. His evil deeds undoubtedly rivaled those of any mobster. He worshiped idols and was deep into the occult, consulting mediums, practicing sorcery, and involving himself in other “abominable practices” that the chronicler didn’t care to go into. The chronicler did mention, however, what to me is the very worst of his acts: Manasseh “made his son pass through the fire.” That is, he sacrificed his son to a non-existent pagan god. He killed his own child, maybe even more than one of them.

Even the Mafia, according to their own code of conduct, didn’t kill children.

Eventually, Manasseh was carried off by the Assyrians to Babylon and imprisoned. It was then that he humbled himself and cried out to God. His repentance must have been genuine, because God heard him and restored him to the kingdom of Judah. Once home, the former evil king cleaned up the place, tore down the pagan altars, and “commanded Judah to serve the Lord the God of Israel.” From that time forward, Manasseh belonged to the Lord.*

~~~

If God turned Manasseh around, he could do the same for Al Capone. Because the bottom line is this: It’s not how bad the person is, it’s how good God is. God’s goodness, grace and mercy are what transforms sinners into saints and opens the door to heaven, whether the sinner is a machine gun-wielding mobster or a banana-wielding adolescent. Neither deserves mercy, yet to each it is given freely.

Al Capone, being Catholic, received the sacraments of the Catholic Church before he died and, after death, was buried in consecrated ground. Marking his burial place is a stone on which is carved his name, his birth and death dates, and the words: “My Jesus Mercy.”

Is Al Capone in heaven? I don’t know for sure, but if he is, I intend to sit down and share a fruitcake with him. Won’t that be something? Me and old Scarface—just a couple of undeserving nuts enjoying the presence of God for all eternity.

 

* King Manasseh’s story is found in 2 Chronicles 33.

Sandy’s Story: When There are No Words

There are times when overwhelming loss leaves us without words. Sandra Merville Hart has known such a time. But she has also known the love of God that carries us through those days. Here is Sandy’s story …

Sometimes … God just cries with us.

That year, between the two of us, my husband and I lost three parents. Though I prayed fervently for a different outcome—one where they’d all be healed—for the third time in six months a hospice nurse told me, “We’re seeing the kind of things we see in the last twelve, twenty-four, to forty-eight hours of life.”

This time it was for my dad. The strong man who had been a rock, a safe haven for me and my siblings, lay dying. Mom had died five months earlier and my father-in-law a month before that. Could this really be happening again?

~~~

My dad had been the caregiver for my mom for several years. Her Alzheimer’s grew worse, requiring more time from me and my sister to cook, clean, and help care for Mom. Before my dad’s stroke, one of us had visited daily for many long months. His stroke started an avalanche of sorrow and grief.

For it seemed that God had opened a box, letting out all the bad things at once, and didn’t close the lid until the box was empty. Strokes, two cancer diagnoses, Alzheimer’s, a broken hip—it all tumbled down on our precious parents. Each day—sometimes each hour—brought new struggles as I watched the health of people I loved so dearly seep away.

My sister and I shouldered the brunt of these trials so that my parents never knew all that happened with social agencies, social workers, nursing homes, insurance agents, attorneys, nurses, financial institutions, and hospice staff. I felt like I was drowning, with no one to save me.

~~~

Yet it was my parents, my father-in-law, and my mother-in-law who suffered the most. Alzheimer’s didn’t prevent my mother-in-law from grieving her husband.

The worst part was that my parents were in different nursing homes for about a month. My mom was too ill to go see him and the insurance threatened to cancel his benefits if he left the nursing home. It was a nightmare.

Anytime someone asked how to pray for us, I said, “Pray that my dad’s nursing home finds room for my mom.” Four days after she was accepted for hospice care, she and my dad were reunited in the same nursing home. Unfortunately, hospital staff had called my husband’s family to be at his dad’s side to say final goodbyes, so I missed that joyful reunion.

It was that kind of year.

~~~

For all that we endured, I’m sure we were saved from events that would have made it worse. I’m grateful for the mercies extended to my parents during those dark days.

My dad’s cancer diagnosis came five months after my mother’s death. My siblings and I were left reeling from the blow. He lived two more weeks.

Our broken hearts grieved his passing yet rejoiced that he now walked hand-in-hand with his bride on streets of gold. No Alzheimer’s. No cancer. No stroke.

I looked up at puffy white clouds during his funeral and knew somewhere up there my parents had been reunited. They were happy again.

~~~

I never felt God abandoned me, though I wondered why everything had to be so painfully hard. I leaned heavily on God and my faith. There were many days when there were no words to express my feelings in prayer. I’m grateful that the Holy Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans words cannot express. Romans 8:26 (NIV)

No one can emerge from such experiences without being changed.

I’ve learned that caring actions like a hug, a genuine smile, a card, and a meal can give you the strength to make it through the day. I’ve learned how to care for someone who is suffering through difficult days.

And I’ll never forget how God loved my parents and provided for them when everything seemed hopeless. I prayed that He’d take the illnesses away and heal them again. It wasn’t to be. But I felt that God suffered with me and my siblings. Just as Jesus was moved with compassion for hurting folks, God shared our pain.

Knowing God shared our sorrow was one of the greatest blessings I received from that experience.

From all this sorrow, I finally understand. Sometimes God just cries with us.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4 (NIV)

SandraMervilleHart_Headshot2 Please visit Sandy on her blog: https://sandramervillehart.wordpress.com/. And be sure to check out her newest book, Trail’s End, in “Smitten Novella Collection: The Cowboys,” releasing August 15, 2019!

Carol M.’s Story: Where an Angel Cared to Tread

The prophet Elijah was literally running for his life when he finally dropped to the ground in exhaustion and despair. In the middle of the wilderness, he sat down under a broom tree and asked God to let him die. Instead, God allowed Elijah to sleep for a time before sending an angel to feed him. Twice, Elijah slept and twice, an angel woke him and offered him bread and water. Refreshed, the prophet got up and journeyed to the next place of ministry (I Kings 19). Carol McLeod believes ministering angels are still heaven-sent today…and so do I. Here is Carol’s story…

I couldn’t wait to deliver our second baby! I loved everything about being a mom and had relatively easy pregnancies. I had experienced a “perfect” labor and delivery with our first son complete with 6 hours of labor and a wonderful epidural! Certainly my second experience would be easier and quicker, right?

The doctor finally induced labor at 3 weeks and 2 days past my due date.  Yes – you read that correctly! Christopher was nearly a month late according to medical calculations. This was at a time before sonograms were normal procedures and when doctors would rarely induce an over-due mother.

Christopher’s birth weight was 9 pounds and 11 ounces of pure boy! As you can imagine, his delivery was difficult and traumatic for me.  In addition to nearly 24 hours of labor with no medical help, I then pushed for nearly 4 hours before the doctor decided that help would be required to deliver this very large, post-due baby.  The doctor used what was known as “high forceps” and it was an agonizing physical experience after a long and arduous labor.

When Christopher Burton McLeod was finally delivered on January 27, 1983, he was whisked away to the intensive care nursery and I was wheeled down the hallway to the sterile recovery room.

~~~

I remember lying on the cold, hard table in the darkness shaking from head to toe, trying not to whimper from the trauma.  My body had been brutally injured by the difficult birth experience and I had not even been given the opportunity to hold my baby. I wondered if he would be all right and if there was something wrong with him.  No one seemed to be able to give me any information and so the pain was not only physical but also emotional. I laid in the dark and sobbed all alone. I just sobbed.

A small, Norwegian nurse came to my bedside; she had golden braids wrapped around her head with a light blue sweater covering her white nurse’s uniform.  She took my cold hand in her warm one and whispered, “I’ve heard you’ve had a difficult time, dear one.”

The tears were rolling down my cheeks as I weakly whispered in response, “I just want to know that my baby is o.k.”

“Oh, he will be just fine.  They are taking excellent care of him in the nursery and I am going to take care of you here,” she comforted with a thick, Scandinavian accent.  With that, she encouraged me to close my eyes and to rest while she lovingly and tenderly book care of my bruised and bleeding body.  She administered warm clothes to my trembling body and truly ministered in a physical way as I dealt with the aftermath of an indescribable labor.  She then rubbed my arms and legs with soothing and warm oil as she sang gently over me in a language that I had never before heard.

When this Norwegian healer had thoroughly cleaned and restored my body, she then fed me warm broth as she cooed what a beautiful baby I had just delivered and how he would accomplish great things with his life.  After praying a sweet, gentle prayer over me and my sweet boy, she smiled, patted my hand and walked away.

~~~

It was only a minute or two more before my husband Craig was allowed to come in the recovery room and be with me.  I told him all about her and could not control my sobs because of her precious care and concern toward me.

The next day, when I had been sent to the obstetrics floor, I asked the young nurse who was caring for me if I could send a thank you note to the woman who had so ministered to me in the recovery room the day before.  This perky little professional said that she would be glad to take it down on her break.  I wrote a note of deep gratitude that came from my heart and thanked the kind nurse deeply for her love and ministrations.

When my nurse returned to the floor after her break, she said, “Mrs. McLeod, I am sorry but no one works in the recovery room by that description. I even asked the head nurse who was assigned to the afternoon shift yesterday afternoon and she said that no one has ever worked here by that description.” With that, she regretfully handed my priceless note back to me.

~~~

Now, I will never be sure if the nurse in the recovery room was truly an angel or an employee of a very large hospital but what I do know for sure is that the Lord was close to me at a moment in life when I desperately needed His love and comfort.

When the Psalmist declared that “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,” His words of promise are spoken with tender care and great compassion.  He is reminding all of Christendom in the epochs yet to come that the Lord is lovingly attentive to those who are enduring unimaginable pain.  Whatever is the source of your pain today, you can be sure that the Lord is standing attentively beside you paying diligent attention to your shattered and bleeding heart.

If you have ever suffered a broken heart, a broken body or a broken life, I can comfort you with the certainty that you were never out of His care.  If, today, you are emotionally torn apart and wonder how you will make it through one more today, I want to comfort you with the surety that He is with you now.  God is close to you and has wrapped His arms of love around your life; He is hovering beside you just as my sweet little Norwegian nurse stayed with me.

Carol McLeod You can learn more about Carol at http://www.carolmcleodministries.com

 

Carol’s Story: A Sacred Conspiracy

Does God still speak to us today as he did in biblical times? Carol Stratton knows that he does. After the death of her infant granddaughter, God spoke a promise to her heart. Here’s Carol’s story…

On a blustery April day in 2015, my daughter Caitlin went to check on her sleeping baby and found little Juniper dead in her crib. She had been fine when Caitlin laid her down for a nap, but only a short time later she succumbed to SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Juniper was five months old.

The loss was devastating to Caitlin, her husband Matt and their four-year-old daughter Magnolia. But the grief of course didn’t stop there. Only if you’ve lost a child or grandchild can you know the emptiness it creates for an entire family. An empty car seat sitting in the garage and boxes of infant clothes ready for the Goodwill were sad reminders of Juniper’s short life. And spotting a five-month-old baby at the grocery brought renewed tears at a moment’s notice for any of us.

The months that followed were a time in which each of us worked through our grief. My grief encompassed not just the loss of my granddaughter, but the pain that my daughter was going through. I ached deeply for Caitlin, and wished I could somehow lift the burden of sorrow from her shoulders.

I turned to God for answers. I needed him to speak to me in the midst of this heartache. Maybe he couldn’t tell me why Juniper was taken from us, but I needed him to tell me something so I could go on trusting him.

~~~

In previous generations people used to talk about how God spoke to them. The Old Testament regularly has the Almighty speaking to Adam, Moses, Abraham and many others. And the New Testament has Jesus speaking to regular folks like you and me. But nowadays stories about our Heavenly Father weighing in on our daily lives are rare.

I’ve often wondered why.

Could it be that we don’t pay attention to that quiet voice? Possibly. I lean towards that theory. We lead noisy, busy lives. With our frantic bustling around to accomplish everything on our chore chart, vision board and bucket list, reflection rarely fits in with our schedule.

But God operates best in silence. In that quiet place of grief, God had my attention.

~~~

A few days before Christmas that same year, I awoke one morning with the strong impression that God had spoken to me in the night. Jumping out of bed and running around to my husband’s side, I announced to my half-awake spouse that we were going to have three grandchildren to add to the four we already had, and all within a year’s span. And as the words leaped out of my mouth I thought, “Where did that come from?”

It was a bold confession. Since the loss of Juniper, I didn’t imagine there would be any more grandchildren for a while. Nor did we bring up the subject with our three married children during family gatherings. It was simply too sensitive a topic. Surely, we’d keep this secret to ourselves.

Christmas Day, our oldest daughter Erica marched her three boys into our family room. They were all wearing orange shirts that read, “Party of six.” Busy cooking the dinner, I glanced over at the group. It took a few minutes to register that they were announcing their family of five would soon become six!

Ah ha, Baby number 1 is on its way!

We all jumped up and down and applauded. Then my husband John decided to let everyone in on what I’d shared with him a few days earlier. “Yep, kids, your mother predicts three grandkids in a year.”

I gulped. Please, no. Now I was really on the spot.

Little did I know that my daughter-in-law, Betsy, standing by me, had her own secret. Christmas Eve she’d shown positive on a pregnancy test. Two weeks later she and our son Seth told us they were having their first child.

Baby number 2. Hey, Lord, we’re on a roll!

But what about baby number three? Even though Caitlin wanted another child, she had to watch from the sidelines as her sister and sister-in-law donned maternity clothes for their new baby bumps. I wished my husband hadn’t made the pronouncement at Christmas. What if I hadn’t heard from the Lord correctly? I felt guilty knowing my youngest wondered if God had forgotten her.

Later that year on Father’s Day I dropped in on Caitlin to help her prepare for a cookout. Walking into the house, I discovered it looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in a month. Poking around the kitchen I found nothing but dirty dishes, no sumptuous dessert in the fridge, nothing brewing on the stove. Did she not remember they were hosting a barbecue that day?

My daughter Caitlin was stretched out on the living room couch looking unwell. I figured she was fighting allergies. Then I spied a basin sitting on the coffee table waiting for her stomach to erupt once again. With a woozy expression, she blurted out, “I’m pregnant,” and rushed to the nearest toilet.

There ya go, Baby number 3!

Time for rejoicing. Rejoicing three times. Three babies in nine months. Happy chaos now reigns when the three toddlers get together.

Today, I look at these three miracles and marvel at God’s loving-kindness in letting me in on his plans. In the midst of my grief, when I needed him to speak to me, he didn’t tell me the why of our loss, but he gave me a hope for our future.  He invited me into a sacred conspiracy, giving me a peek at what was to come, and he did what he promised to do.

headshopt turtleneck closeup Carol Stratton

A Red Diaper Baby Meets an Angel

Sometimes, people really are touched by an angel. Here’s my husband Bob’s story…

For the first forty years of my life I was an atheist, influenced by my childhood. My two sisters and I were what’s sometimes called “red diaper babies”—that is, our parents were Communist-leaning leftists. Even when the Cold War was at its height and  American patriotism ran high, my parents believed the Soviet Union could do no wrong. To Mom and Dad, capitalism was what was wrong with our country.

Although we lived a middle class lifestyle, our “church” was devoted to the coming of the Revolution, which would make all people equal in service to the State, which in turn would provide benevolently for all.  An elemental tenet of this church was that those who believed in God were superstitious and ignorant, and those God-believers, in essence, were enemies of the people.  Phrases like bourgeoisie, reactionary, and crypto-fascist were common in our household.

~~~

So how did I, a red diaper baby, come to be a Christian?  It was certainly not because of my own efforts.  It took an encounter with evil.

Over a matter of years, I watched as my former wife succumbed to a toxic mix of alcoholism and bi-polar disorder. Affected in bizarre and harmful ways, she changed from a caring and affectionate woman to a stranger possessed by forces beyond her control. Even her voice at times would change from her normal tone to a deep, almost baritone note. Eventually, as her personality collapsed, so did our marriage.

From this experience I came to realize that evil is a presence.  With that realization came the logical conclusion that if there is an “evil,” by what measure do we define it?  What makes evil, evil?

Evil is evil only if we have something “good” to compare it to. What then, I began to wonder, was the good? I resolved to find out. Though I’d been raised atheist, my upbringing had been within a Jewish cultural context since my father’s family was Jewish.  So I was far more familiar with synagogues (but only from attending Bar Mitvahs!) than I was with churches.  After considerable reflection, I decided to look up a rabbi.

~~~

I went to bed that night determined to start my rabbi quest the next day.  And then a funny thing happened—I met an angel. Not one of the cute little winged cherubs that flutter around the edges of greeting cards. This one meant business.

In a dream—though it’s probably best called a vision—I was visiting a friend in a kind of hospital.  I hadn’t seen him but once or twice since high school, and that was decades ago.  Although the building seemed like some sort of institution, there were no signs in my friend of sickness. He seemed perfectly well and happy. Too, there was a quietness to the place that I found disturbing. Today I recognize it as serenity. And yet I was frightened, afraid that “they” would hold me there against my will. I ran down corridors, down stairs, as “they” came after me—the usual nightmare scenario.  Finally, I reached the doorway to the great, grassy lawn.

And it was there that I was caught by a strong creature, whose features I could not make out.  He held me down.  In his right hand he held a large hypodermic.  His words were these: “You don’t understand.  You need this!”  And then the needle entered my arm.

I don’t recall waking immediately from the dream/nightmare/vision, but when morning arrived, I woke up with a singular thought that I could not shake: “Jesus Christ is Lord.”

~~~

What? Jesus Christ is Lord? How could that be?  Jesus was just one of those superstitious myths, someone who never really existed, a figment of the religious establishment. And yet, the thought not only failed to disappear as I awoke more clearly, but it began to seep into my consciousness as a reality.

Because of my recent divorce, I had purchased a small home that had been a parsonage of a church in the neighborhood.  Some days later, with the message of Christ’s reality now fixed in my heart, I sought out the pastor of that church for conversations. Many conversations.

I bought a Bible and began to read. Not a whole lot made sense to me until I opened the book one day to Jeremiah 31, and began reading at verse 31: “The day is coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.”

And I read further: “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” That, I knew, was exactly what God had done for me. He had quite literally injected me with his truth, and with his own hand he had written his words on my mind and heart. I knew I was a Christian.

Not everything about my life and actions changed immediately, but over time, the intellectual acceptance of God’s truths became a transforming reality. As I began to read the Bible from cover to cover, I slowly became a different person, one who began to see life’s purposes and other people in a whole new way—a far better way. I joined a church, and in a Bible study group I met Ann. We have now been married for 26 years.

So after having been an atheist, a cynic and a red diaper baby, here I am—a child of God, thanks to his grace and mercy. And an angel armed with a really big hypodermic needle.

Ann BD 2011 1  Ann Tatlock and Bob Blank

Karen’s Story: Trading Fathers

In this excerpt from her memoir, Trading Fathers, Karen Rabbitt describes how God first revealed his love to her. She was dealing with a lot—as a child, she was sexually abused by her father, and as an adult, she had two serious emotional breakdowns, one postpartum, in 1975, when she was 23, and the second two years later.

By 1979, she was both terrified of another breakdown and was praying for a revelation of the love of the Father. Because her trust in her earthly father’s goodness had been betrayed, she was struggling to trust God’s goodness. Weighed down by shame and guilt, she didn’t understand that rather than sending punishment, God wanted to fill her life with good things.

But all that changed one special night. Here is Karen’s story…

~~~

Because the psychiatrist had no answers for me, I asked God. I wrote my request in my journal, with a date: October 30, 1979. It had been two years since the second crisis. “Help me understand so maybe it won’t happen again.”

God began to answer the next day. Jerry and I, as was our habit, were lying in bed together, reading before sleep. In the new issue of Logos Journal magazine, I saw words that changed my life. A chaplain quoted a schizophrenic woman: “I’ve always been taught you should be so good before taking the Lord’s Supper.”

Then he wrote: “Here was her guilt—a core problem in the lives of persons with mental- emotional problems.”

In my journal, I wrote:

That hits home. I think that God is going to just throw me away if I don’t do tremendous things for him—intercession, drama ministry, some other enormous, demanding activity. God has helped me a lot with free-floating guilt, and I feel pretty close to being healed of such high requirements for acceptance. A growing awareness that God will accept me—that he may not have a demanding work for me to do . . . that he will welcome me with open arms if I’m only able to be faithful to my family—Jerry and Jenny.

As I wrote those words, a warmth I’d never felt before began at the top of my head and flowed through every inch of my body. In one swoop through my being, God’s love filled my heart. He was smiling at me. His arms were open as I walked into his embrace. It was the revelation of the Father’s love I’d been asking for.

Jerry noticed my deep breathing. “You okay?”

“Never better.” I leaned over and kissed him. I could have kissed the whole world.

Though excited, I also felt a deep calm. That was new. Excitement, for me, usually led to racing thoughts that made it hard to get to sleep. That night, though, I drifted off easily, with a sense of Jesus’ arms around me.

The next morning, I picked up my Bible and opened to Jeremiah, where I’d been reading the last few weeks. I’d been making an effort to read the Bible more consistently. The women at Prayer and Share all seemed to set aside a daily quiet time for prayer and Bible study.

Jeremiah rang with God’s thundering judgments against his people for their disobedience and rebellion. I knew I was disobedient, too. I didn’t know exactly in what way, but there was always more I could be doing. That morning, though, as I began to read in chapter 26, something clicked.

Verse 3 says, “Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from his evil way. Then I will relent and not bring on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done.”

God wants to change his mind and stop the punishment. I looked around my cozy house. I thought about my good husband. God has given me so much. I wrote in my journal:

It’s taken a long time to have a real sense of God’s desire for me—that he has good things for me—that he grieves at my sin; not sadistically rubs his hands together as he looks forward to seeing me in pain as I live out the consequences of sin.

I had not yet realized how my father’s seeking pleasure at the expense of my pain had impacted my image of God.

What I knew at the moment God revealed his love to me was a joy I’d never felt before. That surface feeling of joy didn’t last more than a few weeks, but it settled in my heart.

Previous to this revelation, I had only hoped in his love. After this revelation, my roots grabbed hold of the soil of his tender care.

~~~

Postscript:  After this revelation, Karen has never seriously doubted God’s love. And she has not had another breakdown, in spite of taking no medication for the last 40 years. The revelation of the love of the Father changed her life as much as becoming a Christian seven years prior to this experience.

You can read the rest of the story in a free pdf of Trading Fathers at:

https://karenrabbitt.typepad.com/files/2013-trading-fathers.pdf

More resources, including videos, from Karen are available at: www.tradingfathers.com

Karen Rabbit Karen Rabbitt