I’m not a perfect Christian and I won’t pretend to be. In fact, there is nothing more anti-Christ in spirit than an exclusive, pretentious Christianity that upholds a false holiness. I sin less often than when I first believed but I still struggle with sin and I will continue in this battle with my sin until I pass from this world. The good news is that after I die, my war with sin will be over and I will enter eternity free from sin. None of this is due to my self efforts but to Jesus who bought forgiveness for my sins by giving His life for mine. Any victory I’ve won in self-control has come by surrender and obedience to God and not by my own strength. Before I knew Jesus, I lived to sin but when Jesus became the center of my life, I died to sin and began to live for Him. Jesus put a new desire in my heart, that of wanting to please God and I am no longer driven only, to satisfy myself. The inner conflict this created isn’t pleasant and each victory over my sin requires a death to self. Jesus died to set me free of the penalty of sin (the second death) and I in return, die to my selfish desire daily, in order to live for Him. When I falter and give in to my old ways, He forgives me, heals me, and sends me back into battle. Nothing about this process is appealing to a world driven toward achieving temporal perfection. I’m not a good Jesus sales-person for those seeking to package a more modern Jesus who promises to give people all that their hearts desire in the here and now. Serving the Jesus I know and love, the Jesus of the Bible, comes at a cost and delayed gratification in the world to come is the prize for which I contend.
I regret no sin habit I’ve left behind for Jesus. I’m more than grateful to be free of the drugs I used as a young person. I don’t miss cigarettes or alcohol. I am eternally thankful for all the dysfunctional behaviors God has helped me correct and the inner healing that only the Bible can give. I’m happy that I learned to live within my means, remain faithful to my husband, and live a quiet life. Trading my sin for values that work is the greatest blessing of my life but I know all these blessings will pale in comparison to living in a world free from sin. The thought of my complete transformation into the likeness of Christ is more than my mind can fully comprehend but I do love to try to envision it. The amazing thing is that the more I die to myself the closer I come to being the woman God originally, designed me to be. With each wrong-headed desire I give up, I find greater happiness and increased joy.
I know these words I write seem a bit crazy to those from a Darwinist, secular viewpoint but I’m old enough now that I don’t care about speaking anything but that which I’ve come to know as true. There is no hope in this secular culture, not even for those who are among the fittest. Our world seems to be becoming crueler each day and the most repugnant cruelties are hidden beneath a veneer of politically correct words and outright fear. Children suffer the most in this world because they are the weakest among us. They are murdered in the womb as a means of birth control much more often than to save a mother’s life but abortion is the sanitizing term applied no matter the reason. The more powerful mother has all legal protection and the weaker child has none. Children are abused by parents and bought and sold for sexual pleasure at alarming rates but little of it is even reported. Old people are next in line for abuse in this culture, where equality must be earned. The ageing must remain young for as long as possible to retain viability. Women must become more like men, men have to be more in touch with their feminine side, and children must be more adult-like in a world where equality is gauged in equal outcomes. The more the world tries to make everyone the same the more heartless and dysfunctional it becomes. Everyone is trying to earn status as one of the elite fittest but the reality is all are victims of inequality and abuse. I see insanity in the world and find sanity in Jesus. God loves all of His children despite their sin and all have equal value in Jesus no matter how diverse or lacking in power. Human life matters in God’s economy but in the world, human life is valued less every day.
Accepting Christ into my heart and making Him the Lord of my life was the most important decision I ever made. My faith isn’t magic. Faith is better than magic because it is based upon divine truth and not any sleight of hand. When I opened my mind in belief and Jesus entered, I became a spiritual person, a new creature in Christ. I received new life and a new beginning. My attitude changed and I found the guidance I needed in the Bible to transform my lifestyle from unhealthy to healthy. I received the strength needed to correct my dysfunctional behaviors and world view. Jesus turned my upside down world right side up. Without Him, I would die in my sin and carry that sin with me into eternity. I would never know anything but cruelty. Because of Jesus I know the unconditional love of my Heavenly Father even though I presently, remain in a cruel world. I will not die in my sin. I will die once and be free from sin to live eternally in Christ. What I have received from Jesus is available to all. My hope and prayer for anyone, who reads this testimony and is tired of their sin, will open their hearts in faith to receive Jesus and His gift of eternal life. He doesn’t promise to make you rich, famous, or powerful but He will give you a new desire for God that leads to a future free from your sin.
John 12: 23-26
Estelle’s eyes open as the sun peeks over the horizon sending a beam of light to warm her face. As she stirs, Caravana also, rises from his nesting place in the crook of her knees and stretches arching his back. Estelle lifts herself on one elbow and reaches to stroke her faithful companion as she has for so many years. Her old Tom is getting up in cat-years and she wonders how much longer he will remain with her. Then she remembers what day it is and feels an unfamiliar surge of happiness as she realizes that Alisha will be coming for their art-time together. She looks at the clock and then jumps out of bed to get ready. As she dresses, her thoughts are focused on the lesson she’s planned for today and hopes Alisha will enjoy learning about texture. It is one of Estelle’s favorite aspects of creating drawings and paintings, as she is a deep thinker who loves to lose herself in intricate details. She is excited about sharing this love with little Alisha, who has become so dear to her.
Estelle is sitting on her back patio enjoying a breakfast of yogurt and nuts when the doorbell rings. She doesn’t stop to consider that the usual feelings of dread that generally accompany that chime have been replaced with joyful anticipation. Instead, she simply reacts to it by setting her bowl down and walking briskly to the front door. She pauses for a moment to smooth her hair and straighten her mint-green summer dress before opening the door. Before she is able to say anything, an exuberant Alisha rushes in chattering like a brook in early spring. “Good morning, Ms. Williams! I’m here! Did you miss me? Look…Momma and I made Biscochitos again and I brought some for desert!” Alisha hands Estelle a plate covered with a clean dish towel. The cookies were still warm and smelled wonderful. It was tempting to have them for breakfast but Estelle thought about Alisha and didn’t want to teach her such decadence. “Thank you, sweetheart! I’ll put them in the kitchen and we will enjoy them after our lunch. Follow me. It’s such a lovely morning that I thought I’d have you help me weed my flower beds today.” A month ago, such a suggestion would have caused Alisha’s nose to curl but she loved spending time with Ms. Williams and her attitude toward chores was changing. “I’ve never pulled weeds before. How do I tell which are the weeds and which are the flowers?” Estelle puts on her favorite gardening hat while handing another, with a pair of gloves to Alisha. “Well actually, a weed is only a plant growing where a human being doesn’t want it to grow…so, a gardener must learn to identify the wanted plants and remove the unwanted plants. In my garden, I sometimes allow plants to grow that others call weeds.” Estelle and Alisha laugh together at this very eccentric remark, as Estelle leads the way to the back fence where the older woman and little girl lose themselves in identifying plants by their leaves and blossoms. Each nurtures the other while accomplishing the task of nurturing Estelle’s flower garden.
Lunch passes in a pleasant blur and as Alisha clears the dishes, Estelle gathers the art supplies for the project she’s planned. Their new relationship has established a flowing rhythm and Alisha seldom has to be reminded to help. She’s also, found a new source of accomplishment in completing tasks on her own rather than manipulating someone else into doing them for her.
“What are we going to do today, Ms. Williams?” Estelle finishes laying out large sheets of paper, oil pastels, charcoal, colored pencils, and markers. “We’re going to learn about texture. The most important thing about being an artist is learning how to see. We’ve learned a lot about the outer or contour lines that form shapes. Now, we’re going to learn about the inner lines that bring those shapes to life.” Alisha is amazed by Estelle and listens eagerly. “Here are crayons and charcoal. First, I want you to take a piece of paper and one of either, and then we will go around the garden and take rubbings.” Soon Alisha is caught up in examining the patterns of bark, leaves, rocks, bricks and seeing all of them in a way she’s never noticed before. After forty minutes or so, Estelle calls her back to the patio. “Now Alisha, we’re going to draw the rubbings we’ve found on another piece of paper and use these textures to create a finished work. Let’s divide our papers into measured squares and then fill them with colorful textures to create a quilt effect. I think your mother will love it.” A dream-like warmth envelopes teacher and student as both lose themselves in creativity. Alisha has learned and is learning so many new things in these happy hours and delights in the wonder of nature as it translates itself through her onto her paper. She watches Estelle’s expert hands closely and strives to imitate every move. Her teacher in turn feels an almost, overwhelming relief as knowledge and experience kept too long to herself flows outward into the mind and heart of another. Sharing her art in this way gives her a new passion for her art.
“Do you like church Alisha?” Estelle suddenly asks. “Well…you know, it’s just something we always do. Mom and Dad care a lot about me going. I like the other children and my Sunday School teacher. I don’t like listening to the preaching very much but Momma says that’s because I haven’t made my choice yet.” Estelle’s curiosity was peaked. She’d never heard anything about a choice and thought people were taught certain traditions in church and their choices about belief were made for them. “What choice, Alisha?” “Oh…you know about Jesus. Whether I want to follow Him. Who I really think He is. Right now, I just listen to what the grown-ups say. Sometimes, I think I believe in Him and sometimes, I think I don’t. Do you believe in Jesus Ms. Williams?” Estelle was caught off guard by this question. She didn’t want to answer in a way that would undermine Alisha’s training but believing in Jesus wasn’t something she’d ever given much thought to. “I’ve never gone to church, Alisha. I don’t know if I really know who Jesus was or is or….” “That’s okay, Ms. Williams. If you’d like you can come with us and see what it’s like. Momma says everyone has to make their choice. I don’t know how you can do that if you don’t know about Jesus.” Go to church? Now, that was an unexpected proposition. “Well…I can’t invite myself, Alisha. I don’t want to impose on your parents.” Alisha quickly reassures her mentor, “Oh Ms. Williams, I’d love to have you come! The children’s choir will be singing next Sunday and you can watch me. Please come? Momma would love it!” Now, Estelle felt she had no escape and there was something irresistible pushing her toward acceptance but out of a habit of erecting barriers she replies, “Well, if your mother invites me, I’ll go.” Alisha’s smile brightened, “She’ll call you tomorrow!”
Neither Estelle nor Alisha notice the storm clouds building until large, cold, drops of rain begin beating down. They rush to gather their art work and move inside. Estelle also, feels a bit rushed as if her life is moving rapidly in an unknown direction but she mostly, just feels happy. The two of them put the unfinished artwork away to be completed when they meet again. Estelle gives Alisha her umbrella and watches until she enters her front door. She sighs contentedly, as this saffron day comes to a close. Caravana weaves in an out of her ankles, enjoying his mistress’s new state of mind. Estelle picks him up for a cuddle then carries him to her office where she immerses herself in work.
To be continued.
For previous posts in this series go to https://joyindestructible.com/the-recluse-series/ . Posts are listed in ascending order.
I am a sinner saved by grace and in this present world, I will never be anything else. That doesn’t mean that the grace I’ve received is a cloak for evil. My profession of faith isn’t a ticket to sin without punishment. What I do avoid by my acceptance of Christ is what the Bible describes as the “second death”. I believe in Judgment Day and on that Day the pardon I’ve received through faith in Jesus will keep me safe from the final death of spirit and soul that I and all human beings deserve. Jesus didn’t die to make me a moral person. Jesus died to give me and anyone else who will accept it, eternal life. Jesus died in order to reunite God and man. Faith in Jesus isn’t a matter of morality. It is a matter of life or death. However, I am changed by having Jesus at the center of my life and my desire to sin is diminished by my greater desire to please God. The gift of eternal life is a morally transforming gift.
As a sinner saved by grace, I still suffer the consequences when I sin. Those consequences are natural and inescapable. No one is able to break God’s Law and avoid what those wrong actions create even if they escape human punishment. I have been sick for the better part of forty years now, due to a serious sin I committed against myself as a teenager. I have changed my life since then and there are those who love me and think that God is being very unfair toward me in allowing me to suffer for a mistake I made as a child. I know that if God hadn’t intervened in my life, I never would have been able to change my life, and I would most likely be dead, forever separated from God. My illness is simply the natural consequence attached to my sin and part of my cross to bear. Others doubt my faith or think I suffer needlessly because my faith is weak but my faith doesn’t come from me. It too is a gift from God and the consequences I endure prove the durability of my precious gift. Without Christ, I would be a physically broken bitter old woman. With Christ, I am a physically broken joyful old woman. All that should have embittered me has taught me empathy and opened many doors into the lives of others that enable me to share God’s love and comfort with my fellow, suffering sinners. The consequence of my foolish actions keeps me humble and in a position that allows God to work through me more effectively. I endure because I know ultimately, my healing is coming. Because Jesus died for me, I will physically die only once, and I will rise again to live with Him in a better world.
As a sinner saved by grace, I also suffer as a result of the sins of others. In fact, some of those sins are what drove me, as a child, to use drugs. However, I am still accountable for my actions as those who hurt me are accountable for theirs. The sin I committed against myself hurt me, hurt the people who loved me, hurt the people who love me now, and most of all hurt my Heavenly Father. My sin put Jesus on the cross and His physical sacrifice made it possible for me to be granted forgiveness from God. In the same way, I a sinner must forgive those who sinned against me. That doesn’t mean they will accept my forgiveness by taking responsibility for their actions. I can’t do their part of restoring our relationship. I can’t force what even God doesn’t force upon others. It does mean that I pardon them just as in Christ I am pardoned. I am unable to do this on my own but because Jesus lives in me by faith, the Holy Spirit enables me to do what is humanly impossible.
This is what the cross means personally, to me. I know it sounds very foolish to most but that is the power and the ultimate wisdom of the cross of Christ. True foolishness is to reject the free gift of eternal life by denying the price Jesus paid to obtain it and then offer it freely to all who will believe. True foolishness is to deny the fallen state of mankind and our need for God. We can never be Him and will only die trying. My prayer during this time of year when the world considers the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is that eyes and hearts will be opened to realize the need for salvation found only, at the foot of the cross of Christ. Please, accept your pardon today.
I wonder if I will ever be too old to notice the first day of spring…
The first glint of butterfly wing or the special song new birds sing.
Carpets of purple verbena woven with soft grass for hungry deer,
Wonder of long gently warm days; far removed from winter fear.
This season that comes as promised by the power of resurrection!
Experience of nature bending all thoughts to a spiritual reflection…
It’s no coincidence that Jesus died to rise again giving me new life!
This sermon nature preaches each spring cuts my heart like a knife!
By His wounds I am healed, daily revived by His resurrection power!
He bled for me, died for me, lives for me and reminds with a flower…
That I belong to Him and even though I be dead by His call I will rise!
I am merely a form moved by His Spirit eternal without any demise…
Though I crumble my soul is kept in Memory until new eternal spring!
On that special day when the earth first turns warm,
And the sap rises in old grey branches, pushing death aside,
Birds sing the songs that call the young and old out of their houses…
As all greet a new season of life!
I went outside today, to enjoy a taste of Heavenly delight!
My skin caressed by life awakening sun soothed my winter aches,
Worries of the world lifted; and for a few happy hours melted all away…
How grateful I am for another spring!
Tomorrow, the rain is coming they say, to green winter’s grey,
Rain drops sink deep in warmer ground, nourish my future flowers,
Give new birds a shower and a drink; add sparkle to brighten their song…
I will hug today when tomorrow comes.
I know I am loved and I am greatly blessed with longest days of sun!
Rays lengthen empowering life to rise again; new life spring from ground!
Truth made known across millennia, a miracle witnessed on time every year…
God is faithful verified by spring witness.
Silence in isolation is morbidly obese and Estelle feeling overwhelmed and breathless under the pressure grabs Caravana and heads straight to bed. Institutionalized thinking she developed during the long sentence endured in her personal prison drives her to seek out the only escape she can easily access, sleep. Her dreams are usually much livelier, interesting, and socially attached than her real life but just like conscious reality, her dreams also have a course and purpose of their own. Not long after drifting off, Estelle finds herself walking through her familiar house dream, once again. She steps from the room she now sleeps in, through her bedroom window and negotiates the familiar broken-down passage way into that secret, other-house-addition attached by her streaming subconscious. She wanders its halls aimlessly, inspecting each room. She wonders why she leaves these lavish furnishings here in these forgotten rooms and never moves them into the other house. She notices a door so very, familiar from the house of her conscious world but is confused as to why this door and this room are here in her private dream-house. Feeling the rising terror of a nightmare, Estelle walks into Emma’s room, and hears the door slam shut behind her. In vain, she tries to open the door and get out but the door won’t budge. She runs to each of two windows in the room but finds they are false windows and this room is an inner room with no access to the outside. Estelle feels the world begin to spin with the sensation of falling and just before she hits the ground, she wakes up to a concerned Caravana staring into her face.
Depression settles over Emma but because she is a true survivor, she valiantly lifts the invisible, leaden slab-weight off herself and slips out from under it, thereby enabling her to get up to do what she must do to continue living. She walks from her bed to her familiar bedroom window (the only one she’s ever known) and pulls back the curtain to make sure there is a world out there and not just a landscape painted on a brick wall. She hears laughter and looks over toward the Hernandez’ residence and sees the small family hugging, hurrying, talking, carrying Bibles, and piling into their car. “Church again?” Estelle thinks first critically and then curiously, “What does it mean…God?…church? Why do people believe such things and what do they get out of it?” God was never a part of Estelle’s upbringing and none of it made sense to her. The Hernandez family was her first real contact with a sort of people that always seemed otherworldly, distant, and rather threatening to Estelle. Now, a new face of Christianity is emerging and that face belongs to the small somewhat, dysfunctional Hernandez family. As they drive off down the street, Estelle considers what she just saw and compares it to her own experience of family. The William’s family consisted of only three persons, with one daughter but that’s where all resemblance came to an end. It was obvious that Tony loved Maria and Maria loved Tony. Their focus (though too subservient) was on their daughter. Her wellbeing was their upmost concern, even if they didn’t always express it in a way best for Alisha. This little, imperfect family enjoyed a lot of love. Did that love come from their religion? Was there something to this God stuff?
Estelle’s thoughts wash backward into feelings she’d rather not explore but has no power to stop, now. That bond of love was not what held the William’s family together. It was Emma’s need that formed the adhesive of her family. She and her father’s drive to fulfill a self-imposed duty to serve that gaping lack had kept the William’s family together. As to a damaged false idol, Estelle and her dad paid all homage to Emma and found their sad, life’s purpose in trying to satisfy the poverty they called wife and mother, with themselves. Their worship and service were futile because what Emma needed was the personal development of growing to become a complete person. Joe’s love for Emma was a kind of sad penance that Estelle would never understand. He worked himself hard to give her what she demanded, while not even sharing her bed but instead, sleeping in a separate room that resembled a monk’s cell. He tried to give his daughter the things she needed but was emotionally, unavailable. He was too overwhelmed with trying to complete his wife to have anything left for anyone else. He emptied himself out for her and died with nothing. Emma was a non-persona and had nothing to offer anyone, let alone her daughter. Estelle, with no deliberate thought, simply tried to relate to her mother by mirroring Joe’s relationship with Emma. In this moment, the past and the present congeal in Estelle’s mind and heart and she realizes she grew up as an invisible child. Her parents were so lost in themselves that they seldom saw her and never knew their daughter. Even worse, she knows she remains unknown, unattached to others, and is an obscure woman.
Finding it hard to breathe, Estelle opens the window. The day’s last golden rays of sun-light stream in with sparkling, intensity and a sudden gust of strong wind pushes a weakened Estelle down on her knees. With head and hands on the window sill and tears streaming, Estelle without thinking finds herself praying, “God? Oh… God…? God. I need you! I don’t know what to say…or even if you hear me…but I can’t be like this anymore! Please, help me find my way out! Please! Send someone to love me so, I can know what love is before I die!”
The powerful gust of wind now settled into a gentle, caressing breeze is comforting and Estelle lifts her eyes to witness a brilliant gold and peach sunset that she understands as a visual reply to her prayer. Peace settles over her and the painful ache of an unnamed longing she’s always born ebbs away. None of it makes reasonable sense but her heart accepts it all gladly, without question. Caravana rubs against her thigh purring and she knows he understands too.
“Oh, Caravana! I don’t know what’s coming tomorrow but I think everything has changed!”
To be continued.
For previous posts in this series visit my Page entitled “The Recluse Series” at https://joyindestructible.com/the-recluse-series/
1st Corinthians 4 This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. 2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
6 Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. 7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
The Bible is a sure guide to right living for every believer. There is no substitute for God’s personal guidance available to each of us in scripture. A Christian who skips over personal study is a weak, undernourished Christian and finding even a strong, human leader to follow in place of the Bible is only, a form of spiritual fast food that can’t deliver the kind of healthy nutrition every believer needs. Every born-again believer in Christ needs to look to Jesus for themselves and look to God’s Word for themselves in order to become strong in faith and immune to being led astray by the sinful weaknesses that exist in all men and women. Without personal Bible study, there is no way to be able to only, follow others as they follow Christ.
My prayer for the church is that each of us would look to the head, which is Christ, and spend more time reading and studying the Bible. A healthy community is made up of healthy individuals. Each of us must take responsibility for our own spiritual health if we desire a more effective church. No new programs, or changes in worship services, or a revamping of methods can revitalize an ailing church. The church today, has gone far beyond “what is written” and is very diluted as a result. The power to change that lies in each believer’s personal choice to first look to Jesus and then seek His guidance by spending time studying the very Words that Jesus lived. There is no other Way and no other map to follow but the Bible.
I am an old fashioned girl, I guess.
Still a bit new to being an old lady;
I’ve lived long enough to see a few things.
I’ve learned a lot and I know what works,
And what doesn’t.
I remember many things that are now, forgotten.
I’m still quite taken with chivalry.
A man who offers me his coat when I’m cold,
Opens the car door for me.
He respected me enough to marry me,
Before I gave him a baby.
I still like that now discarded word, wholesome.
Values that stand the test of time;
Boundaries, manners, appropriate, even etiquette.
Masculine, feminine, equal but different.
Family formed to raise children,
“In the nurture and the admonition of the Lord”
“The hand that rocks the cradle rules the nation.”
A mother’s job is the most important.
Nurturing a stronger nation, shaping its leaders,
Reward more valuable than money:
Respect and families that stay together,
Bound by mother’s unconditional love.
“Wait in your room until your father comes home!”
The man who puts a roof over your head!
Food in your belly, clothes on your back; honor him!
Accept his strong discipline in healthy fear.
When you grow up be like him!
Work hard, take care of your family.
“Fashions come and go but the classics never go out of style.”
Yes, I’m old now and time softens the edges.
It wasn’t perfect back then, it wasn’t like Ozy and Harriet!
But everyone knew what was right and wrong.
In our high ideals there was consensus,
Truth was upheld, good wasn’t evil.
“When evil is exalted the innocent become prey.”
In this new century there is little desire for Truth.
Free morality held in by tight government regulations on everything else.
More government requires more taxes!
Working mothers can no longer rock the cradle.
Corrupt leaders rise; sociopaths, megalomaniacs!
God, they say is like me, old fashioned. They’ve removed the old landmarks.
Confusion is rampant and people are angry that America’s promise is gone.
While old ladies like me pray that America will turn back and bless God.
Play for me! Strum on silvery strings!
Old golden hymns of ancient Truth…
Soul calming song, fly on Dove wings!
Remind me of all eternity’s worth!
Tell me of the miracle only Love brings!
Spirit’s joy, lifted by Heaven’s mirth!
Saintly song across the ages still rings…
Encircling all of history’s wide girth!
Jesus the Name a saint eternally sings…
Calling the lost home to a new birth!
Soft and low Jesus is calling; faith swings,
Life Door opens! Church of one Faith…
Ancient cloud of witness with us sings!
Healing words approving His Truth;
Faith transcends, Jesus in all age’s rings!
So strum and sing of Messiah’s birth!
Rock of Ages to you believer still clings…
Glory come down! A Pearl of worth!
Revive us again! Hope in praise springs!
Light the dark! Simple songs of Truth!