Tuesday, March 9, 2010
As 2008 ends, I have many hopes for 2009.
Lord God, please hear my heart.
I want to see our economy pick back up; I'm tired of being broke! I want to be able to buy a home soon and afford whatever my child needs.
That said, I hope 2009 brings the birth of a healthy, happy baby boy or girl (we still don't know for sure yet). And I hope to lose weight quickly after the baby is born.
I hope in 2009 I can always find a reason to smile and have hope. I pray God opens my eyes to the blessings in my life, and helps me to become the "happy-go-lucky-at-all-times" person I know I can be.
I hope people begin to love each other, truly love each other. It saddens me to see so much hate in this world, or to see people fall out of love with each other. It saddens, scares and disappoints me. May love be restored this year.
I want my Daddy to be healthy and strong, and I want to see my Mama finally receive the recompense she is due from her employer after 30 years of insult and ridicule on the job. She was laid off this year, and my prayer is that God will use this situation to bless her financially.
I wish happiness to my brother and his wife and child. I pray they become a strong family unit. I love them all so much.
So many of my friends and family have endured loss this year; I pray that this is their year to re-gain and to take back what the enemy has stolen.
I know that our Lord will soon come. The signs are all around. And as much as I love him and want to be with him, part of me hopes that the Lord will tarry this year and give me one more year to be in love with my husband and to see the face of my child as it laughs, smiles, sleeps and dreams. I hope I am rapture generation, to see the Lord coming in all the glory of Heaven, but Lord forgive me if I'd rather put it off one more year or two. James says that this life is but a vapor. It's here one day then gone the next. I believe a long life on this earth is a true blessing and gift from God, and I want to enjoy it for as long as he will allow me.
This earth is the only chance we will have to store up heavenly treasures. I pray none of us forgets that this year.
My biggest hope for this year is that the Lord God himself will make me new again. I pray for a stronger relationship with Him, stronger than I have ever known before. I want to be spewing over with joy, the anointing of the Holy Spirit and the love of God.
I want to see the so many I know that are lost finally come home, and I want to be a part of their reason for making that decision.
I pray for my dear friend Heather. I love her and miss her so much. I pray she is one of the lost who returns home this year.
I pray for drug addicts — that they would come to their right mind. I pray for the sexually enslaved — that they would no longer feel shame. For all who are bound to the repetitions of sin, I pray that this year will bring broken bonds and broken spirits and hearts reborn to the glory of God!
I pray that the Body of Christ will be set aflame once again. Holy Spirit, please fan the flames of the Church and make us strong among the nations of this world, among the realms of the spiritual world and in the world to come.
God grant us dominion in our homes, on our jobs, in our hearts and in our minds. Strengthen us for the year ahead and the tasks that it brings. Empower us by your might. Renew us daily, Lord, so that in this new year we might truly fulfill the purpose you have placed on our lives.
Hear my cry Lord Jesus, and by your Holy Spirit, I ask that you interpret to the Father on my behalf all the yearning and groans in my spirit that I cannot find words for. Lord Jesus, please make my requests known to God our Father, and please seal my prayer with your holy name! Amen!
Current mood: happy
Yes, I'm pregnant. I didn't mention it in the last blog b/c we were trying to wait til we were out of the woods - or at least at the edge of them! I am 10 weeks and 5 days as of today. We got pregnant within the first month of marriage. Of course we were not planning that, but now that this new life is growing inside of me I wouldn't have it any other way. I would've never imagined getting pregnant would be so easy for me, but ... I guess we know now just how fertile we are. (Hopefully we won't end up with as many kids as my Davis cousins. Hee hee. LOL! I'm just kidding. I love you guys!). Yesterday was so amazing. That was my first ultra sound. In these first few weeks, I have been in kind of a state of shock. I have found being pregnant hard to believe, but yesterday made it all so real to me - and to Robert. He's not the pregnant one so it's hard for him to get as excited as I have been. Yesterday finally put us on the same level. And I am so in love with this little person who I don't even know yet! I can't wait to see who this baby looks more like - me or Robert. I definitely can't wait to know what sex it is. I think it's a girl but we'll see. I could be wrong. So ... anyway ... every body just keep us in your prayers. We still have a long way to go. We'll update more soon.
Current mood: happy
Category: Romance and Relationships
Ok ... everyone's askin' 'bout Robert so I thought I would take the time to write a general blog instead of answering every e-mail. So .. here we go:
His name is Robert Hailey. He's from West Nashville, 30 years old, about 6', brown hair, blue eyes and absolutely wonderful! There is a beautiful story to how we met, and I'll try and sum it up as fast as I can (although ... those who know me well know that it will still be long).
HOW WE MET
One of my first job's out of high school was with the TDOT/Bridge Inspection Unit. During that time I worked with a man named Charlie. He was the same age as my dad and I the same age as his children, so we grew very fond of each other. We had lunch together almost everyday and just really enjoyed each others company. He reminded me of my own dad. Like my daddy, Charlie was sick. He had liver disease. He also had several reptile pets like bearded dragons, an eguana, a few camelions at one point, etc., that made hanging out with him neato! I just loved Charlie! He was the coolest. He couldn't really stand my bofriend at the time though, and felt that I could do much better. He even mentioned a time or two that his son was about my age. Well, after a lil' more that a year I moved onto another job, and soon parted ways with the bridge inspection unit — not out of choice, but just because life has a way of moving you along ilke that. In 2001, I gave my life to Jesus, and attended church a few blocks away from Charlie's house. Every time I would pass by I would think to myself that I needed to go see him ... but never did.
Fast forward to the beginning of this year. My friend Melanie sent me an e-mail telling me to check out the page of her friend Robert — said that she thought we'd make a good couple and that she didn't know why she had never thought of it before. At the time she wrote, I was on an 8-day fast, from food, but also from men. I like to fast at the beginning of each year, and one of the things I had been seeking God on was my (future) husband. I had decided that I was going to cut guys out for a time so that I could focus all my attention on God. I wanted no distractions. My prayer (among other things) was that God move all the wrong men out of my life and the one right one in. I explained that to Melanie. She said she understood, but to just check him out anyway, because she believed that there was a reason why – that in my time of fasting — she had been moved to bring up Robert (since we rarely talk). Long story longer ... I did check out his page and instantly decided I was not going to persue it. There was hardly anything about himself written on his page, and in my experience, those are usually the creeps (no offense baby :). So another week goes by and he finally e-mailed me. My first instinct was to get rid of him. I e-mailed back and told him that if he really wanted to know anything about me that he could read my blogs because I — unlike some people — had much to say about myself. I told him that if he had any questions after that to ask away. I knew he would read the infamous "Warning To All Men" blog and be scared away like everyone else. Before sending the e-mail I attached a "P.S." asking if he was related to a Charles Hailey from West Nashville (Melanie had clued me in on Robert's last name). He then wrote back explaining that Charlie was his dad and that he had passed away in 2003. He explained that he's not much on writing but that he would love to talk and included his number. After discovering this new development I was unexplainably compelled to call him. We talked for 5 hours that night and have talked every day since.
WHAT HE MEANS TO ME
I'll try to explain it. He not only read the "Warning To All Men" blog, but every blog I've ever posted — and has committed most of it to memory. We've been dating 2 weeks and he has driven to Columbia nearly everyday to see me — and he brings me something each time just to let me know he's been thinking about me. He holds all my doors, constantly tells me how beautiful I am and is quickly sweeping me off my feet. He's just like me in so many ways, but just different enough to keep it interesting. I used to pray and ask God for a "born again bad boy" — someone that came from the same things I came from so that understanding each other wouldn't be an issue. Well, God heard and delivered. Robert is literally & spiritually from the same place I am. We both grew up in West Nashville, are the same age, hung out with alot of the same people (both in Davidson and Cheatham Counties), but somehow all this time have just barely missed each other. He has made some mistakes that have haunted him just as I have. He has used and abused alcohol and drugs, but no longer lives that way. We've both been hurt and wounded by people in ways we never saw coming. He makes me want to be a Godly woman for him — for the sake of his soul, and I know that I make Him want to be a better man. I know that in the time we've been seeing each other God himself is drawing us closer to him and each other. We can talk for hours and never run out of things to say, or we can say nothing at all and just breathe inside the most comfortable silences I've ever known. From the moment he answered his phone that night, I feel like I have found the best friend I was always missing. He's already met my brother and sister-in-law and Peyton and they really like him. I have a feeling everyone else is going to love him just as much as I do. I can't believe I almost blew this man — this wonderful, amazing man — off! One day I was sad and lonely just praying to God that He would either put me out of my misery or give me the man I am meant to be with, and the next there was Robert. And what's odd is that it's like he was always there; I just somehow missed him. We have met before — at least once 10 years ago, Charlie introduced us at a Christmas party — but I guess it just wasn't meant to be then. I believe that now is finally our time, though.
WHAT EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW
Yes, we are moving a lil' fast, but at the same time we are moving at our own pace — and it feels wonderful! But not to worry. My head is still attached to my body. I have prayed to the Lord for so long that it only makes since that God would just suddely move. We both believe that God is in this, and we are doing everything we know to do to let him lead us in the way that we should go. We are marriage-minded; we both have forever in mind. He'll be in church with me this Sunday and hopefully every Sunday thereafter. I believe he's the one. Everybody please just pray for us. I mean, if we get so far into this thing and discover that we're not meant to be then so be it, but I really can't see it happening any other way.
So that's it for now. I'll update all ya'll again later.
Peace, love and Lollipops, Y'all!
Current mood: grateful
Because of the tragedy that took place in New York on this day in 2001, I am now born again. I will never forget what happened that day, or how it effected me and the people around me. It is unfortunate that it took over 3,000 people losing their lives for me to come to my senses. But I will be forever grateful that it happened. I hope all who read this can understand what I mean by that.
When I look back now, I can't help but see the sovreignty of God. People ask, "Where was God on Sept. 11th?" I can't help but answer with another question; "How can you not see him?"
There are countless stories that came out of the rubble about how people sensed his presence, his direction, his leading that day. Thousands of people "found" him because of that day (not that he was ever the one who was lost). He has revealed himself in the recorded prayers of the hostages of the inevitably fatal Flight 93, and also in the love they showed by sacrificing their own lives to save us from what they knew would be a fourth attack. And who is to say how many people who worked in the Twin Towers were "running late," had "overslept," or were "on vacation" ... we just don't know. God has proved himself sovereign, not just in the amount of lives lost, but in also in the amount of lives gained.
My very first blog is that of my testimony. The following is a portion of that blog, and what I remember about that day. I hope that all who read will be blessed. Please feel free to share with me your stories of that day. I especially would love to hear from anyone who was also born again in the wake of 9/11.
It was beautiful weather. Calm winds, blue skies, not a cloud in sight. As I entered the office that morning I was met with the news of what had just taken place in New York. My first assumption wasnt that of terrorism; that was furthest from my mind. Someone had once told me that government mandate wouldnt allow two born again believers to operate a commercial jet. It was said that one had to be a non-believer of Jesus Christ. I guess our government wanted to cover all their bases in the event that this whole rapture thing held any truth. And to this day I dont know if that statement is true or not, but I do know that God used it to convict me. Cause you see, thats exactly what I thought had happened: that The Rapture had taken place. (I know ya'll have seen or read Left Behind. LOL). When I paged my mother (because that was the only way to get in touch with her during the day) and got no response, it only confirmed my suspicions. I sat there at my desk contemplating martyrdom. You see, when those planes hit those two towers it was a wake up call for me. I could've just as easily been one of those 3,000 plus people who lost their lives that day. I said to myself, "Ok - thats it - I dont want to live a life of sin anymore." For the first time in my life I had a revelation of who Jesus Christ was.
All the news broadcasts were confirming the terrorist attacks. Eventually my mother did call me back. She had accidentally left her pager at home that day. Once I realized that The Rapture hadn't occurred, that I wouldn't die the death of a tribulation martyr, I began to question myself and God. When I got home that day, I shared my convictions with my boyfriend but he didn't feel the same way. Matter of fact, his words were, you're just trippin. He wasn't feeling compelled by the call to "take up your cross," but I was and everyday it became louder in my spirit. Over the next four days I was in a war of my own. All around me, an unseen, bloodless battle was being fought for my soul. I was waging God's will against my own. It had become painfully clear that I was standing at the crossroads once again. This wasn't the first time I had heard the call of God. For me, the call seemed to always create a crossroads of the lonely straight and narrow verses the fully populated wide and broad. My answer to the Holy Spirit was always, "Not now. You know I love you, Jesus, but not enough to go it alone. Im scared Lord, and unwilling to enter into that gate without a man, without that special someone. Im sorry, Lord, but call me when I have found him." You see, I wasn't getting the big picture. I was never looking at the end of the road. I could only see the path as it appeared for the now. I thought I knew what I wanted. It had always been my desire to get married and raise a family. And that's a fine goal! I'm a woman and that's how God designed me. That's a trait that he instilled in us long ago in eternity past. But I had fixed my goals on seeing that desire come to life. So much so, that I was willing to exchange the path to life for the road to perdition. I willingly settled for less than what God wanted to abundantly give.
And so there I was, standing at the crossroads once again. Only this time I could see my present path for the highway to Hell that it really was. It had finally sunk in that no plan of my own, no desire I had, no husband, no child, no life-long dream was worth hell. It was evident that I had to make a decision for me. I couldn't people please anymore. I took one long hard look at my life and decided I didn't want to live through Hell and then die and go to Hell! All I knew was: its now or never!
On September 15, 2001, I finally said yes to Jesus! I could no longer concern myself with what my boyfriend wanted from me. After all, I had come into this world without him and I would leave this world the same way! The same God that used a national crisis to bring me to my knees is the same God who restores broken lives to abundance. That same father who gave his son a ransom for many is the same father who took his son from death to life so that we might have life. He's my God and He's your God, and He's the same yesterday, today and forever! His word says that whosoever would forsake houses, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, wives, children, or lands for hs namesake will receive it 100-fold and would inherit everlasting life (Matt 19:29). And today, Im walking in the 100-fold promises of God. No, my life isnt perfect. In fact, I still struggle with serving the Lord as a single person. But I'm learning everyday that when we leave the choice up to God, hes obligated to choose the very best. ... ALL THINGS are in his hands.
Category: Religion and Philosophy
Say this with me: "Jesus became my sin.He didn't just die in my stead. He BECAME my sin."
This is the revelation that I received tonight. Not that I didn't already know it with my head, but tonight my heart finally got it.
It all started with Hebrews 4 & 5; specifically chapter 5 verses 8-10 which says, " ... Although He was a son, He learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him and was designated by God to be High Priest in the order of Melchizedek."
What caught my attention was the phrase " ... once made perfect ..."
What!? You mean there was a time when Jesus wasn't perfect? I have always been taught that he was the perfect sacrifice for my sins. How can this be? ... And so the word-chase begins.
First, let's look at the word "perfect." In the Greek it is "teleioo" (tel-i-o-o). It does not mean without fault, but rather to complete, accomplish or to be of consummate character. If you are of conssumate character, then you are an extremist. I can think of no other term to better describe the mindset of our Father when he sent Jesus as our ransom. And no other word better describes the heart of Christ as he answered the Father with, "Count me in!" What risk God the Father took! Since we are free-will creations, we could not be forced to accept or serve him. Jesus took the greatest gamble of all time when he laid his life down. What kind of love is this? It's mad love! It's the love of the ultimate extremist!
But ... getting back to "perfect" ...
Hebrews 4:14-5:10 refer to Jesus as our High Priest. In the OT days, there was a priestly lineage established by God through Aaron and his sons. But being born into a family of priest did not a high priest make. We know this because God did not hesitate whe he smote Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu. They were called to the office of priest, but were not operating in obedience. See, there were certain requirements of priests. For example: you had to be called by God, you had to wear certain garments, you had to make certain offerings and sacrifices in accordance with God's instructions, you could not come into contact with death or disease, you could not mourn publicly, etc. What the phrase "once made perfect" is describing is not the condition of Jesus, but the process of Christ. See, Jesus, though he was was 100% God he was also 100% man. He was born into sin like you and me. He was Jesus of Nazareth for 33 years, but not until the cross did he become Jesus the Christ. "Once made perfect" is describing the process it took to prepare him for calvary. I mean, haven't you ever wondered why the baby Jesus, or why the 12-year-old Jesus, or even the 30-year-old Jesus was not crucified? It's because he was not yet made perfect; not yet accomplished in God's plan for him. The process was not complete. Yes, Jesus was without sin (Heb.4:15), but until he was tempted and tried he was not a perfect sacrifice; meaning he would not have met the requirements to stand before God as our High Priest. The instant that Jesus litterally became my sin and your sin and cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" was the exact moment he was separated from God the Father. It was in that moment that God said, "Now! Now it is perfect!" then the Spirit of Christ held witness with the Father and he replied, "It is Finished!" Now Jesus is fulfiled in his purpose which from the foundation of the world has always been to stand before God our judge on our behalf. Now he is fully consummated to represent God to the people and the people back to God. He was transformed into every vile thing that separated me from God so that I could be restored to him.
So how was Jesus made perfect? By becoming my sin. How did he become my sin? By living this life in the temptations of the flesh and yet never surrendering to it. You can not repay sin with sin. In the OT, the guilt of the people was laid on a spotless animal. In the NT, Jesus fulfills God's law by having our guilt laid on him. He endured temptation to prepare him for the cross. He endured the cross to establish his worthiness as High Priest. And now, we can praise him for all he's done and intends to do as he intercededs for us. Now, because of his sacrifice we can be perfected as he was perfected. Now, though I may not be sinless, I'm blameless. And that inspires me to become sinless. Amen! Praise be to God our ever loving Father and to Jesus, our great High Priest!
Romans 8:1 " ... Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus ..."
Ok so ... it's been way too long since I sat down to blog about anything. I figure some of you may want a detailed update on how things are going here in Columbia.
So far ... it sucks. I say that as optimistically as I can. I believe in my heart that for whatever reason I am meant to be here. I believe that it was in God's plan and that he was the luring force that brought me to this place. It's the "why" that has yet to make itself clear.
Columbia stinks - literally. This city is dirty. I mean trash and litter are everywhere. There is construction on the main square that takes away from Columbia's "Old South" charm. No one seems to have any pride about what this place looks like. All together (at least until this construction is finished) most of Columbia is a tacky eyesoar. Matter of fact, in ways, Columbia is worse than Nashville. The local people have no respect for the city/county government, and considering the decisions made by these certain officials, the citizens concerns are understandable. The local politcians remind me of John Grisham characters. In certain parts of the city there are drive-bys, questionable house fires and randon acts of violence. If any of you have watched the news, there have been crimes in this city that have made state and national headlines such as: the recent and senseless killing of a local state trooper (Calvin Jenks); a 35-year-old woman died of supposed "natural causes" and 3 fetus' were found her freezer; a 15-year-old boy stabbed his twin brother to death over a piece of chewing gum; in a heated family fued a man killed his son-in-law by hitting him in the head with an ax - and these are just the headliners. I can't even mention every little thing that happens daily.
It seems the sun never shines here. I thought before moving that since it was so far from Nashville, Maury County would be a "country county." Ya know: farms, horses, cows, old country roads; people waving whether they know ya or not; the smell of cow patties and skunk filling the air as you drive home. But no. There's hardly any of that. I moved here in the summer and don't recall hearing the first cricket, tree frog or whiperwheel. I can't see the stars from my back yard. There seems to be a constant cloud over this place. At night, all I hear are loud car stereos or sirenes. The neighbors house is so close I can hear them whisper in their backyard. I miss my little place in Ashland City. It was only 30 minutes from Nashville and it sat off the main road, but somehow it still seemed miles away from people or public places. I rarely heard or saw traffic. I could always see the stars, hear the stream running through my yard or cows in a far off pasture.
Yes, it would seem that I am far from home here in Columbia. I do not yet feel settled, nor do I know for certain that this city will be a permanent place for me. But it is, for now, where the Lord has me. Family and friends, please pray with me that the Lord will begin to show me why I am here.
After 6 months I finally found a new church and there are many people there that I know will become great friends. The church itself is in Lewisburg, which is actually about 20-30 minutes from Columbia. They have a congregation of about 300+ and many people my age. Only problem is, everyone in the young adult group is married. There is only one other girl who isn't, so we have each other for support. But, in a very small way, I still feel like the odd man out. I know this church is where God would have me, though. They are in need of a strong female vocal on their P&W team and I intend to allow the Lord to put me in that position. I feel that he is telling me that right now is not the time though, but that it will come soon. I don't feel it's proper or fair to others on the P&W team for me to jump on board after barely attending the church 6 weeks, so I intend to complete a discipleship coarse that the church offers first. Everyone else has had to pay their dues, so to speak, and so must I. I believe I am the voice they are looking for, but I know God wants me to wait for the right time. The people of the congregation are precious and welcoming. The pastor is warm, friendly and loving. I feel I have known him all my life. I find in him a kindred spirit. He has such passion for preaching the word of God. The church is growing rapidly and the alters are full every service. Matter of fact, I am at the alter myself every service and that is how I know beyond all doubt that this is the place that God has led me to. This is the only place so far that feels close to home, but it's not in Columbia. Again, it's in Lewisburg.
Work is good. I love my job! I know it is my destiny job. I doesn't pay crap, but it is a job that I feel will open many doors for me and I am finally happy and content in what I do for a living. This is my Ecclesiastes job. I know God has blessed me and given me favor. I am the editorial assistant/staff writer for the local daily newspaper, The Daily Herald (www.c-dh.net). I have always had a passion for writing. I have kept a journal for years and believe that this is a gift God gave me at birth. I am destined to be a writer of sorts. God has given me this job, I believe, to determine what kind of writer that is. My boss is cool and real laid back. Though I hope to never take advantage of that quality. My co-workers are nice and seem to really enjoy having me around. For the most part, I work with an office full of men and I love it! I've always been "just one of the guys." I don't work well with other females. It's like you make friends with them and then they stab you in the back. Women are talkative and gossipy. Men are just men and if that's all you expect from them then you're never disappointed (sorry guys - I actually mean this as a compliment). The only thing is, these men are not Christian. A few of the older guys go to church, but I can tell that working in an office full of unchurched men has influenced them. This is why I have my worries about how working here for very long will affect my spirit. I don't want to be changed or influenced by them, but rather them by me. Family and friends, please pray with me about this.
The job is good though. It is the vehicle for my personality that I have prayed for. It is suited just for me and I feel I do it well. My boss says "thank you" all the time and he and the reporters are always telling me what a good job I am doing. It does keep me busy, very busy, but I love that about it. Doors have already begun to open. My editor has asked me to consider writing a column and the company will pay for a certain percentage of school/college as long as I am taking coarses that pertain to media. I have also found media corporations that offer grants or scholarships in the field of religious media. I just have to get my writings published in order to qualify. Family and friends, please pray that God will continue to open these doors for me.
All in all, I miss life as it used to be before Columbia. I miss having my own place, I miss the country life, I miss my friends and (church) family that I left behind. I have my immediate family here. After all they are the reason I moved here to begin with. I am thankful that we are close together. I would miss out on watching my neice grow up if I were in any other place. But at times I am lonely even when I am with my family. Somedays the loneliness is unbearable and even depressing. Maybe that's because I still hope to find someone special to share my family with. I feel like until I do find him a certain part of my life will remain incomplete. Who knows, maybe he's here in Columbia (or Lewisburg). Only God knows. Family and friends, I ask that again you would pray for God to allow us to come together soon. No doubt whoever he is he feels the very same void in his heart when he wonders about me. So please pray for this man, whoever he is.
Well .. there ya go. I think I have covered most everything. If any of you wonder about anything else in particular just ask. You know I won't hesitate to share. Til my next blog, I love you, I miss you and God bless you.
Current mood: desired!!!
Category: Religion and Philosophy
Here's a deep thought:
God loves us so much that He would rather die than live without us!
I know that has probably occured to most of you and it has to me, too...over and over again. But every now and then, his love just reveals itself to me by reminding me of that.
See I'm sure we all have felt some sort of emotion towards another person that would leave us questioning how far we would go for them. I'm sure we have experienced 'love'. I'm sure at some point in our lives we have felt heartache we were certain would kill us. But I don't think anyone experiences TRUE LOVE until they meet Jesus Christ. Why? Because he is the way the TRUTH and the life. And none of us are really living until we experience him. To think I was dead before him and because he died I can live. What kind of love is this? Its irony and it awes me! I can not express how this kind of love penetrates the heart of who I am.
I'm a single woman with needs and desires. So often I feel incomplete because I have not yet found 'the one'. I mean, how many times have I longed to love someone? To be with someone? To have someone love me like I have never been loved? How often do I think to myself, "Is today the day I meet the love of my life?"
And then all at once it occurs to me again, "Oh yeah...I already have. His name is Jesus. He is the manifestation of God's adoration towards me."
God was so heartbroken at the idea of spending eternity without me that he literally died and went to Hell to defeat the sin that held me captive. Its the greatest love story of all time. I was the damsel in distress and he came to my rescue. He IS the love of my life. He IS 'the one' for me. His PASSION was his love for me. His PASSION compeled him to calvery's cross! And praise Jesus, his PASSION didn't die there, but because of it he got up! And now we will spend eternity together expressing our passion for each other! And one day very, very soon I am gonna see my savior, my redeemer, my hero, my shining knight coming for me. He'll be riding a white horse and he'll be coming for his bride. Forget horizons or riding off into the sunset - he's gonna split the eastern sky just so he can take me home with him where we can be together forever.
Current mood: grateful
Category: Religion and Philosophy
Just wanted to take a minute to share w/ ya'll how wonderful my God - our God is! He's truly awesome!
You ever noticed that when a miracle of provision happens in the Bible that it is always just enough. It never comes in abundance. No...that would be a blessing. God is teaching me the distinct difference between miracle and blessing. Some examples of miracles of provision are the Widow Woman who had only enough flour and oil to make one last dinner for herself and her son. Through Elijah, God commanded that she use her remnants to feed the profit. Upon her obedience, God continued to replenish the basin w/ flour and the jar w/ oil, but only with just enough each time she returned. I Kings 17:16 goes on to say that He (Elijah) and she and her entire household ate for many days. He didn't bless the widow w/ abundance - at least not in this particular situation. For her, He became Jehovah-Jireh (Jireh - shall be seen). Jehovah Our Provider. And think of the Israelites wondering the dessert for 40 years. He instructed them to never eat more than the necessary amount of manna. See our God is not a wasteful God. Rather, He is our Daily Bread! Another example would be that of Jesus...when he fed the multitudes. In Matthew 14, Jesus feed a multitude of 5,000 plus and when he is finished there are 12 baskets remaining. I used to only see the one miracle here. That Jesus fed so many with just 5 loaves and 2 fish, but recently verse 20 suddenly illuminated and I saw the second miracle of provision. It was simply an extension of the first. After ALL had eaten, there were 12 baskets remaining. Again we do not serve a wasteful God. As soon as the multitude was fed The disciples boarded ship and set sail for the other side. Who knows how long that journey would have been. I like to think that he was once again making himself known as Jehovah-Jireh. He not only provided for the multitude but also for the 12 on their impending journey. Wow! I say all this to set the scene for what our God, my own Jehovah-Jireh has recently done in my life.
Category: Religion and Philosophy
Gods Letter To Woman
When I created the heavens and the earth, I spoke them into being. When I created man, I formed him and breathed life into his nostrils. But you, woman, I fashioned after I breathed the breath of life into man because your nostrils are too delicate. I allowed a deep sleep to come over him so I could patiently and perfectly fashion you. Man was put to sleep so that he could not interfere with the creativity.
From one bone I shaped youI molded you. I created you perfectly and beautifully. Your characteristics are as the rib. Strong yet delicate and fragile. You provide protection for the most delicate organ in manhis heart. His heart is the center of his being. His lungs hold the breath of life. The ribcage will allow itself to be broken before it will allow damage to the heart. Support man as the ribcage supports the body.
You were not taken from his feet to be under him. Nor were you taken from his head to be above him. You were taken from his side to stand beside him and be held close to his side.
You are my perfect angel. You are my beautiful little girl. You have grown to be a splendid woman of excellence, and my eyes fill when I see the virtues in your heart. Your eyesdont change them. Your lipshow lovely they part in prayer. Your noseso perfect in form. Your handsso gentle to touch. Ive caressed your face in your deepest sleep. Ive held your heart close to mine. Of all that lives and breathes, you are most like me.
Adam walked with me in the cool of the day, yet he was lonely. He could not see me or touch me. He could only feel me. So everything I wanted Adam to share and experience with me, I fashioned in you. My holiness, my strength, my purity, my love, my protection and support. You are special because you are an extension of me. Man represents my image, woman my emotions. Together, you represent the totality of God.
So man, treat woman well. Love her, respect her, for she is fragile. In hurting her, you hurt me. What you do to her, you do to me. In crushing her, you only damage your own heart. And the heart of the Father - the heart of her Father.
Woman, support man. In humility, show him the power of emotion I have given you. In gentle quietness, show your strength. In love, show him that you are the rib that protects his inner self.
You are special in my eyes.
Your Heavenly Father,
Current mood: peaceful
Category: Religion and Philosophy
Though We Were Prodigal
Read Luke 15:11-24
There is a phrase used to describe the instant addiction associated with the drug heroine. It's called "Chasing the Dragon". It paints a vivid picture of the quest for something that doesn't exist. You see, heroine addicts will never get as high as that first high. "Chasing the Dragon" illustrates that first-time rush that lures one into an empty endeavor for that which can not be attained. These addicts are plagued by an empty hope. They are slaves to an unquenchable thirst. And just like these addicts, I have tried to find satisfaction in most everything: alcohol, marijuana, Xanax, Klonapin, Morphene (among other pills), Shrooms, Acid, Cocaine: Ive smoked it, snorted it, free-based it. Ive tried crack, "G", "X", I mean I've done my share. When drugs didn't hit the spot I found pleasure in sexual relationships. But all I was doing was chasing a fairy tale. I was searching for my "happily ever after" - for peace. Ultimately, I became a slave to the fantasy. I was not living in reality. All I wanted out of life was happiness, but instead I was miserable. Drugs offered a temporary escape. I wanted to feel beautiful. I wanted someone to love me, and every time I had sex I felt beautiful and wanted - even if only for a while. The sad thing is that after I had come down off of my high, or after I had allowed myself to be used, I felt just as dirty, just as miserable, and just as empty.
Nathaniel Hawthorne once wrote: "Happiness is a butterfly which when pursued is just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you." Hawthorne compared happiness to the butterfly, and maybe his comparison is the better illustration. After all, butterflies still exist. Butterflies or dragons, the point is the God-shaped hole in all of us. He is the only truth that can fulfill our happiness - our blessedness. See I was living in slavery and I never even knew it. A slave unaware, to my own endeavor. A slave to addiction, a slave to myself, my own will, and ultimately a slave to sin.
Now, in Luke 15: 11-24, the prodigal son is a perfect example of a dragon chaser. We can conclude from the scriptures that he was young. Young enough that he didn't appreciate hard work. He was impatient. He wanted life his way and he wasn't willing to wait on his father. He just wanted to have his fun. His priorities were women and wild parties - oh yeah! Read your bible. Verse 13 says that he spent all of his money on wild living. To me, that implies prostitutes, wine, and no doubt they had other mind altering chemicals in that day. I mean, Opium has been around for centuries and mandrakes are a natural aphrodisiac - an age-old ecstasy! If you don't believe me read Genesis 30. It's an herb thought to aid in sensual desire and conception. Rachel used it on Jacob prior to conceiving Joseph. But anyway
The prodigal just wanted to have his fun. Here's this younger son, who if we put a modern day twist on his character, he still lives at home with his father - who obviously served the Lord with all diligence. I'm sure he felt like his father was just constantly shoving "religion" down his throat. And how could he ever be expected to live up to the same standards that his older brother did - his oh sooo spiritual older brother! Deep down inside, I'm sure he simply wanted acceptance. Im sure the devil told him all the same lies he tells you and me like: your family doesnt understand you, "they'll never accept you", "they're not supposed to judge you, but they are", or how about the infamous "you've got all the time in the world. Go ahead have your fun now, repent later." No doubt he's already had that first taste of fun the world has to offer, and it was just enough to make him desire more. The Bible does say that sin is pleasurable for a season after all. Let's face it, he already knew where he would spend his money before he went to his father. He has taken the bait and so he sets off on his quest for self-satisfaction. He has given chase to the dragon.
And we're all just like him aren't we? We all want more out of life. We all want to have our fun. At some point, we all have set out on seemingly innocent adventures to "find ourselves", to discover what's out there. And there is nothing wrong or condemning in wanting to be happy. The problem lies in where the drive to be happy leads us.
The more I study the word of God, the more I learn to read the white, not just the black. We have to understand the bible not just for what it says but also for what it doesn't say. We are not told how much money this wasteful son inherited. We are not told how long it took him to spend the money. We don't even know how much time he spent with those filthy pigs until he finally came to his senses.
Ive done some digging around, and did you knowa Jew wouldve been unbearably degraded by feeding swine. Also, the owner wouldve had to have been a Gentile since both keeping and feeding pigs were forbidden to Jews. This was considered one of the lowliest forms of employment not only by Jews, but also by other nations. Among the Egyptians for example, the swine herdsmen were completely cut off from society. They were not allowed to worship the same gods or marry even the lowest of the people. This wouldve been common knowledge at the time Jesus spoke his parable. Perhaps Jesus was making use of this fact to show the depth of hopelessness which wild living had brought the prodigal son. It illustrates the misery of sinners in their own wonder lusts ands sins.
Verse 16 says, the boy became so hungry, that even the slop he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. This more than implies that he was inclined, desirous, and even eager to eat the trash that was meant for the pigs. He went into the fields hungry. Which suggests that he was sent without food. Which indicates he was a slave. I mean, this kid was hungry in the natural, but metaphorically, spiritually, he was also hungry for a change. The only problem was that he was lost and away from home. He was without direction. And because of this he joins himself to the lowest person on the social scene - as their slave (which wouldve made him lower than other slaves). Who hasnt been there?
Verse 16 goes onto say, no one gave him anything. Much like sugar cane slaves were beaten if they ate the sugar canes, so this boy wouldve been beaten if he had eaten the slop. It wouldve been considered stealinganother implication of slavery.
Since I began this study, I have pondered why the scriptures even mention that he was given nothing. Does that mean that he eventually found himself begging? Or maybe it suggests that he ate what wasnt his anyway, therefore, taking the punishment? So you see, theres more to this story than meets the eye. So many things are left unsaid.
See, this isnt just about breaking customs or severing family ties. It wasnt just about a boy so hungry he ate some dirty seeds. Its about finding yourself in a place where you never shouldve been. So many things we arent told in this story. We dont really know what event or hardship finally led to his enlightenment. But what we do know is that he had an emptiness - a void - that no matter how hard he tried, it couldn't be filled with anything other than the assurance that being in the presence of his father brought him. Heres this wealthy Jewish kid who never really had to work for anything. He had it all. I mean, his father gave him whatever he asked for. Never in his wildest dreams did he imagine he would one day be in this place; in slavery. He started out chasing a dream only to find a cold reality. Lifes harshness made him realize the hopelessness of the situation and that his previous happiness was gone.
Of all the parables Jesus told, this one is my favorite. I can see myself in these scriptures. I too was once a prodigal child. No, I didnt have money to blow. Instead I wasted all my time on the temporal. All those drugs I mentioned earlier, I managed to do between the ages of 13 to 23. Thats 10 years I couldve been serving the Lord, but instead was serving myself. I was 19 years old when I left home, and I thought I knew everything. My mama knew better though. She didnt agree with me living with a man who was not my husband. She had raised me to know the Lord all my life, but because she loved me with wisdom she did not stand in my way. No doubt her heart broke as she stood by and watched me make one of the biggest mistakes of my life. Much like the father in our parable, she loved me, she prayed for me, and kept an expectant faith that I would return home. Praise God for praying mamas and daddies! And praise God that the story doesnt end in some muddy pit!
Everything went smooth at first. My boyfriend and I worked the same hours so it didnt take us long to develop a routine. We even discussed getting married. I enjoyed cooking and cleaning. It satisfied me to know that just by doing these simple things I could make him feel like a man. I need to be needed, and for a while I felt as though I was.
Until one dayan ex-boyfriend, Chris, called me. Apparently he had gotten the number from someone at my moms house when he called there. And to this day I can only assume that he was never informed that I now lived with my boyfriend. We talked for a brief few minutes. Long enough for me to tell him that yes it was good to hear from him and I would love to catch up but I was seriously involved and I didnt want my boyfriend feeling insecure because of frequent calls between us. He understood and the phone call ended. My boyfriend began ranting and raving about my why Chris had even called. He started accusing me of messing around on him. He wanted to know how long it had been going on. It was a side of him I had never seen before, one that I never wanted to see again. Only what I didnt know then was that I would see this side again - too many times to count. When his shouting session finally ended, he called me a whore and backhanded me.
Ive heard it said if he hits you once shame on him, but if he hits you twice shame on you. Today I say, shame on us both for never putting God first! If we had we wouldve never found ourselves in what would prove to be a loveless relationship. That was the first time he hit me. I believed him when he said he loved me and that it would never happen again. But eventuallyit did, and as the story goesI stayed. Somehow I convinced myself that his deep love for me was the driving force behind each balled fist - behind his anger. Somehow I had convinced myself that I truly loved him. Maybe I did deserve this. Any respect he had for me was utterly lost as well as my own. The mental abuse would far outweigh the physical. There were several times he would stay out all night getting drunk with his friends. When he finally came dragging in he would complain that I hadnt kept dinner warm. In a display of his disapproval he would throw his food on the walls and the ceiling. And I wouldve rather him hit me than make me clean it up. It was so degrading. I couldnt tell you how many times I had to listen to how stupid or pathetic I was, how no one else would ever want me. He threw wild parties on weekends I wouldve rather had no company. He would push me around and put me down in front of his friends. And I say his friends because none of them ever said or did a thing to protest his behavior. He was the first person I ever smoked weed with. That was a few years before we moved in together. (We have known each other all our lives and had dated off and on when I was in high school.). Well, he was now introducing me to drugs like acid, shrooms, cocaine, and crack. You name it, we wouldve tried it at least once. It was never my idea to do these drugs. At least not at first. Most of the time he would talk me into doing them with him. But eventually my misery led to my willingness to experiment. No, he never put a gun to my head (at least not over drugs. Though there was that whole shotgun incident that night everyone was tripping on acid - another blog, another time). I just felt pressured somehow to do what he wanted me to do. I think the only thing worse than an acid trip is an acid trip you never really wanted to take.
Looking back, Im sure it was pride that kept me from getting help or going home. Things only escalated, and eventually I did suggest that we spend some time apart. Maybe I would go to my moms and let him cool off. He wouldnt have it though. He said that he would destroy everything I owned in my absence. And as women do, I had taken great pride in the home I had built and so I would stay when he made his threats. NOW I know that material possessions hold no value when compared against the human soul. But then I had made my life my god, and as you can see it was serving me to no avail.
The abuse would continue for about another 10 months. One morning I just woke up and decided Id had enough and left. I waited until he left for work then I called in sick. I also called my brother and told him everything. He was there within the hour and began helping me pack. By the end of the day everything that belonged to me was gone. Words cant describe his anger. He made all kinds of threats. Most of which consisted of finding me, killing me, and then killing himself. All the same threats he had made when I lived with him. I knew he didnt really want to die. I think he was more enraged because he had lost control of me rather than actually losing me.
Over the next few months, time would prove to be the test. I was back at home in Kingston Springs, but my life had revolved around Nashville. My job was there, my friends were there. Really, I only came home to eat, sleep and do laundry. I often felt the need to escape heartache or to just get away from the religious atmosphere that surrounded my mothers home. So when out with friends, I resorted to the familiarity that getting high brought me.
Its funnyin the past I was always the designated drivernow I was the one leaving the bars to party with strangers. I was always a good girl. I never got into any serious troublenow I was serving an 11/29 probation sentence for the possession of an illegal substance. I didnt like what was happening to me, but at the same time felt helpless to control it. I was at the clubs every weekend. And because of this I was being introduced to new drugs like X (ecstasy). One night I was even given some G - also known as the date-rape drug. Praise God that nothing happened to me. Because there were other drugs in my system that night - X being one of them - I lay past out and convulsing for hours. No doubt the guy who gave it to me would have had his way with me if he hadnt been laying there convulsing all night, too. I know angels were dispatched that night. I cant help but believe they were there in that room with us. I couldve been raped - or worse - dead! I know that God was watching over that young man, too.
Things got to the point that drugs no longer made me happy. Numb maybe, but never happy. People and parties werent fulfilling my needs. I knew there had to be more to life than this, but instead of running to The Rock, instead of running to the God of my mother - the one she had always taught me about, the one who had always seen her through, I ran once again to the familiar foothold of abuse.
Yesmy boyfriend and I had gotten back together. He never left me alone during our separation anyway. I believed the enemy when he said I could never get better. Every time he said I wasnt pretty enough, wasnt smart enough, or good enough I believed the lie. This was the Fall of 99 and we would spend two more years together.
He played it cool at first, but just like before his true colors came shining through. The only difference this go-round was that I had decided I wasnt going to take his crap lying down anymore. I decided that if this was to be my lot in life, if I truly couldnt find better, then I would just have to fight back. I became just as mean and cold-hearted as he was - maybe worse. I can remember one nightI couldnt sleep because of his snoring, so I sat up in bed and punched him in the face (it was about 3am). Of coarse that led to another knock-down-drag-out, which ended in him smashing my windshield and early my nose. Not very wise I knowI just didnt care. My theory wasnt treat others as you want to be treated but rather, treat others as they have treated you. See, when you dance with the devil he dont change. Instead, the devil changes you.
Just like the prodigal son I was searching for peace, but in all my wild living had found none. All I wanted out of life was contentment, but instead I was miserable. Like the prodigal I had a God-shaped hole and I was in desperate need of a wake-up call. Well, the call finally came on September 11, 2001. Heres what I remember about that day:
It was beautiful weather. Calm winds, blue skies, not a cloud in sight. As I entered the office that morning I was met with the news of what had just taken place in New York. My first assumption wasnt that of terrorism; that was furthest from my mind. Someone had once told me that government mandate wouldnt allow two born again believers to operate a commercial jet. It was said that one had to be a non-believer of Jesus Christ. I guess our government wanted to cover all their bases in the event that this whole rapture thing held any truth. And to this day I dont know if that statement is true or not, but I do know that God used it to convict me. Cause you seem, thats exactly what I thought had happenedthat The Rapture had taken place. (I know yall have seen or read Left Behind. LOL). When I paged my mother (because that was the only way to get in touch with her during the day) and got no response, it only confirmed my suspicions. I sat there at my desk contemplating martyrdom. You seewhen those planes hit those two towers it was a wake up call for me. I couldve just as easily been one of those 3,000 plus people who lost their lives that day. I said to myself, ok - thats it - I dont want to live a life of sin anymore. for the first time in my life I had a revelation of who Jesus Christ was.
All the news broadcasts were confirming the terrorist attacks. Eventually my mother did call me back. She had accidentally left her pager at home that day. Once I realized that The Rapture hadnt occurred, that I wouldnt die the death of a tribulation martyr, I began to question myself and God. When I got home that day, I shared my convictions with my boyfriend but he didnt feel the same way. Matter of fact, his words were, youre just trippin. He wasnt feeling compelled by the call to take up your crossbut I wasand everyday it became louder in my spirit. Over the next four days I was in a war of my own. All around me, an unseen, bloodless battle was being fought for my soul. I was waging Gods will against my own. It had become painfully clear that I was standing at the crossroads once again. This wasnt the first time I had heard the call of God. For me, the call seemed to always create a crossroads of the lonely straight and narrow verses the fully populated wide and broad. My answer to the Holy Spirit was always, Not now. You know I love you, Jesus, but not enough to go it alone. Im scared Lord, and unwilling to enter into that gate without a man, without that special someone. Im sorry, Lord, but call me when I have found him. You see, I wasnt getting the big picture. I was never looking at the end of the road. I could only see the path as it appeared for the now. I thought I knew what I wanted. It had always been my desire to get married and raise a family. And thats a fine goal! Im a woman and thats how God designed me. Thats a trait that he instilled in us long ago in eternity past. But I had fixed my goals on seeing that desire come to life. So much so, that I was willing to exchange the path to life for the road to perdition. I willingly settled for less than what God wanted to abundantly give.
And so there I wasstanding at the crossroads once again. Only this time I could see my present path for the highway to hell that it really was. It had finally sunk in that no plan of my own, no desire I had, no husband, no child, no life-long dream was worth hell. It was evident that I had to make a decision for me. I couldnt people please anymore. I took one long hard look at my life and decided I didnt want to live through hell and then die and go to hell! All I knew was: its now or never!
On September 15, 2001 I finally said yes to Jesus! I could no longer concern myself with what my boyfriend wanted from me. After all, I had come into this world without him and I would leave this world the same way!
We tried for about two weeks to make things work. But he finally admitted that he didnt want to be with someone who just wanted to praise God all the time. My response to him was, Well, praise God you dont have to, and our relationship ended at that.
If I had known four years prior that Jesus was the answer, if I had known how valuable I was to him, I wouldve never allowed myself to be mistreated. And I wouldve started serving him a lot sooner, thats for sure!
Praise God I finally came to my senses! And do you know what the first thing I did was? I called my mama. I told her, Mama, Im tired and I want to come home. And just like that she welcomed me back home; she restored me just as the father in the parable of the prodigal. And just as the father in this story told his servants to get the robe, get the ring, get some shoes for his feet, kill the calf, because were going to celebrate. Just like he restored his child to a place of honor, God wants to restore us.
The same God that used a national crisis to bring me to my knees is the same God who restores broken lives to abundance. That same father who gave his son a ransom for many is the same father who took his son from death to life so that we might have life. Hes my God and hes your God, and hes the same yesterday, today and forever! His word says that whosoever would forsake houses, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, wives, children, or lands for my namesake would receive it 100 fold and would inherit everlasting life (Matt 19:29). And today, Im walking in the 100 fold promises of God. No, my life isnt perfect. In fact, I still struggle with serving the Lord as a single person. But Im learning everyday that when we leave the choice up to God, hes obligated to choose the very best. I have new desires that I know he has put in me. Desires to sing, to teach, to give, to learn. I havent lost hold of any life long dreams. No friends, instead the Lord has taught me how to expand them. Hes broadened my horizons if you will. He may not operate on my time, but hes always on time! Seldom early and never late! ALL THINGS are in his hands.
Today I know that love isnt supposed to hurt. In fact, its patient, kind, and long-suffering. Love is not rude or arrogant, and most certainly - its never provoked. Love is dignified and cant be forced. Love would never have me to compromise my convictions or my self-worth. Love is fruitful. And just as the Holy Spirit is a gentleman, so is love. Love is perfect; God is love. And love - true love - has set me free from the bondages of my own will. Today, there are no more dragons I feel the need to give chase to. In fact, I have discovered that along the journey I have become the butterfly. Metamorphosised from something ugly into something beautiful and free.
Because God has taught me to see myself through his eyes, I finally know just who I am. And I am who I am by the grace of God! And most importantly, I like me! Im funny, not bitter. Happy, not sad. Ive got the joy of the Lord in my heart and its spewing over into my life! People can see it! I am a gift to the body of Christand even to the world if theyll receive me! Because of Jesus, I now have self-worth. I know that no matter the mistakes I make, no matter how others may see me, Ill never be worth less to my Father.
So where are you in life? Where are you on this journey? Where are you going? Are you being deceived by the world? Are you settling for less than what God can give? God is very generous with his love. In fact all the love we need is in God alone. He never turns his back on us - never! He patiently waits for us to return to him. And even after we return home we wont be perfect. We will still have hard times. We will make mistakes. But God will always love us and will always want us. Like the father of the prodigal he over looks the mess we make of our lives and he restores us to wholeness. If youre somewhere you know you shouldnt be, please come home. If you dont know Our Heavenly Father as your own, please take the time to get to know him today. Hes just a prayer away. Its as easy as telling him that you are lost and dont know what to do, that youre tired and want to come home. All you need to do is admit that you are a sinner, confess your belief in him as the son of God and as well your acceptance of him as your savior. Be honest with him. Its ok to do that. Actuallyhe prefers it. He already knows what youre thinking anyway. He knows your heart. Tell him how you feel. Tell him about your struggles, then admit that you need his help. I promise that you will find instant comfort and peace that only his Holy Spirit can bring.
Psalm 139:17-18 How precious are your thoughts towards me. O God! They are innumerable! I cant even count them! They outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up in the morning, you are still with me!
Rom 8:38-39 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death cant and life cant. The angels cant and the demons cant. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, even the powers of Hell cant keep Gods love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ our Lord.
Rom 5:6 & 8 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for usGod showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
That means that there is no place too far that his arm cant reach us. There is nothing weve done that is so shameful that he wont forgive it!
...Though we were prodigal.