Shine

“I stopped doing it because I was told it was witchcraft.”

This was the first time I had heard this.

“What possible connection would there be between what you were doing and practicing the dark arts?”

“I don’t know, but it made me feel so guilty that I didn’t do it again.”

I knew she had spiritual powers, but she had hidden them, and now I knew why. This was why she had me stifle my own because she didn’t want me to be subjected to the same comments.

“I thought this person was closer to God than I was. I didn’t want to do anything wrong.”

“You sent healing to a sick person, and this isn’t from God? That makes no sense.”

“I did it all the time. Once when your dad was really sick and in the hospital, I did it then because he was having kidney problems.”

I remembered that because it was so frightening. When I was eight years old, I woke up to him yelling things that didn’t make sense. My bedroom was right off the kitchen, so any slight noise there would immediately wake me up.

“We have to get the boats in! There’s a storm coming! Hurry up!”

He started saying the names of my brothers and family members as if he could see them. What was happening? I was lying in bed wondering if I was dreaming.

“Jack, come with me. It will be okay,” I heard her say.

“No! We have to get the boats in. There’s a storm! It’s going to get worse in a few minutes.”

“I will help you get safe. Just come with me.” She sounded calm, as if this happened every day. I guess her training as a nurse in a crisis was kicking in.

“Hurry up! You are moving too slow! Get the fishing rods! Run!”

This craziness went on for a while. She was trying to get him to the car, and he was off somewhere on a lake. She opened my door and said,

“Chris, I have to get your dad to the doctor. I will be back in a little while.”

There were older siblings to make sure I was not left alone, but it was so scary when she said it. I thought he was dying.

Eventually, she was able to get him out of the house and to the Emergency Room. Later, I found out that he had a fever so high he was hallucinating.

They discovered he had kidney stones that would require surgery. The doctor was convinced there was no other way but to have the procedure. When she left the hospital, he was still very ill and not responding to the treatment they were administering.

“No one was around when I got home. So I sat at the kitchen table. I shut my eyes, and I could see him lying in bed at the hospital. It was so real like I had been transported there. I asked the Holy Spirit to help me. I was in two places at once. I knew I was in the kitchen, but I also was in his room. I felt this warm light start in my chest and flow out of my hands, and I directed it to him. I just sat like that for a while, not saying anything but letting this energy go through me to him.”

“When you explained this story, did you use the word “energy?”

“Yes.”

“Well, that’s what made you into a witch. Dogmatic Christians can be hypersensitive to what words are used. But what you are saying is an accurate description of what it is. Energy, light, divine healing…I guess you didn’t use the right buzzword and got yourself in trouble.”

“I guess so. But right after I did that, he got better. His fever lifted, and the stones dissolved. The doctor couldn’t believe it. He had a total turnaround, and it worked every time I used it.”

“And that’s a bad thing?”

“I was made to feel that way. I have had the Holy Spirit with me for a long time. When I was twelve, I went to a tent revival, and since then, I have had a lot of spiritual help.”

She grew up in a small town where gossip and secrets ran rampant. I always had this view of her hometown as honest and pure until she told me some of the incidents that had been hidden from public view. There were extramarital affairs, children born from those affairs, and a bunch of other shady behavior. The priest would make house calls while the husbands were away at work, and he left his Bible and rosary at home. My grandma refused to let him in.

My mom’s story was the most buried, and I had uncovered it a few years prior. She had confessed to me that her father had sexually abused her. This had left her feeling ashamed and guilt ridden. He would target her when her mom would leave her in his care. She was afraid to speak up because in one instant, when she tried to say something, her mom told her she would kill him if he ever did that. My mom kept quiet because she didn’t want her mother to go to jail for murder.

These ugly encounters with her dad were going on consistently, and she didn’t know how to escape. When she heard that a preacher was coming to town, she snuck into the meetings, against her Catholic upbringing. When a man from this group was walking around and had asked her dad if he had found Jesus, he had sarcastically responded,

“I didn’t know he was lost.” His sense of humor was always cutting and at the expense of others.

She was taking a huge risk by attending the traveling preacher’s meeting, but something was pulling her in. When they asked people to come forward for the altar call, she went up, and her life changed from that moment.

At home that night in her bedroom, she was looking out her window. She felt a strong presence all around her and a strength that was not there before. She heard the familiar sound of his feet coming up the stairs, just like all the other times.

When he opened her door, she looked him in the eye and said,

“You will never touch me again.”

He backed up and walked away.

He still verbally abused her and made her life miserable in other ways. But she said he no longer made her afraid.

“I have had this power with me since then, and I have used it when I have needed it.”

“But, you keep some of it hidden to fit in, right?”

“Yes. I don’t want to do anything wrong, and I don’t want to argue with people.”

When she told me all this, I didn’t fully grasp it, but I do now. I continually have things happen that I cannot explain, and I don’t go looking for them. They show up, and while I used to be frightened by some of it, I am not anymore.

I find it so interesting how Jesus said this,

“The person who trusts in me will not only do what I am doing but even greater things..”

He walked on water, changed water into wine, healed the sick…and we are supposed to do even better than what was done? If you have a gift that doesn’t make sense, don’t let anyone convince you that it isn’t God just because they don’t understand it and are missing it.

I have been subjected to the same treatment, even being told demons possessed me by a church leader who had the worst behavior I have ever seen in life. Why? He was scared and felt threatened when I told him the truth. To counter that, he had to make me look bad.

If you allow heaven to invade your life, you will reap this reward in Mark 4:11:

He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God.”

If you ask for more, it will come, and it won’t always make sense, but God will work through you so that you can let your light shine.

Time After Time

I heard the familiar click and wondered what the selection would be. There was no song playing. I looked up and saw that the bottom piece was spinning, and it was the right time, but it wasn’t doing what it should. Wondering if someone switched off the sound, I got up and took it off the wall.

On the side, there was a reset button, so I tried that, and nothing happened. I pushed the other option, and I got the same result. The next solution was to check the batteries, and after that didn’t help, I was at a loss.

My daughter had purchased the clock while my mom was in hospice. The day after she went on to heaven, it was delivered to our house. Because of the many supernatural experiences I kept having during that time, I found it no coincidence that this became a part of it.

One of my mom’s favorite songs was Ave Maria. Every time the hour struck, that melody would play even though there was a selection of at least thirty other tunes. Many times, when I was in the height of frustration trying to clean their house of sixty-one years and wondering why this wasn’t something my parents had done before, I would come home late to that playing the minute I opened the door.

“You’re welcome, mother!” I would say to the ceiling as I walked into my room and threw myself across my bed, exhausted.

Other times, when I was engaged in a conversation about her, whether good or bad, that song would suddenly come on to interrupt me mid-sentence as if to say,

“Chris, I can hear you!”

Their lack of planning was a burden, but I realized that to get out from under it, we had to get the house on the market. I spent days moving heavy items to the curb and had college kids who had no money come and take furniture for their housing. They were elated to have such good choices free of charge. I just wanted it gone, and that was payment enough.

It wasn’t just big items that were a nuisance but a lot of paper. They kept every single scrap. Whether it was an old bill or a magazine, they had it. I could have had a bonfire twice a day for the rest of my life with all of it—hours of shredding what was once important and throwing what wasn’t. Not to mention the canned food that could have fed an entire country. I hated every single minute of it. So much so that I went through my entire household and tossed things left and right, never to put that on my children.

This was not a sentimental journey where I looked at items and had my heartstrings pulled, but all I saw was a mess left for someone else to deal with. The self-centeredness of this would grate on me, but I knew I would only prolong the escape process if I got too wrapped up in it. I wanted out, so I put my mind to what was in front of me and shook off the resentment.

I could shut my eyes and see the interior of the house as if it were indelibly stamped in my mind. It had consumed my life from morning until night. There had been so many treks to the front yard with free signs hoping that someone would take mercy on me. One of the items was the ugliest chairs on the planet. It had sat there for a few days, and one night as I was leaving, I rolled down my window, pointed at it, and told its owner to get it immediately. The next day it was gone. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

Near the end of this, my daughter and I made the trip back over to wrap up a few things that would finally set me free.

“I will not miss driving down this road,” I said.

That day, when we walked into the nearly empty living room, there was a cassette tape on the floor that my daughter picked up.

“Where did this come from?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “What is it?”

“It’s her favorite song. The one that has been playing all the time on the clock.”

I laughed. She was the most undead woman I had ever met.

So for the clock to quit working all of a sudden seemed like a loss of something that had been used to pull me through a stressful time.

“What is wrong with this?” I asked my daughter.

“I don’t know.”

This is unusual for her to give me that answer because she can usually figure out anything. She went through the same motions I had to try and fix it, but we were both left without answers.

I tried going online to see if I could contact the company where it was made. The purchase had been on Amazon, but I found the original manufacturer, so I sent out an email and got nothing in return.

The next step was to locate a repair place near us to take it apart and see what was wrong. She found one about thirty minutes away that claimed to be able to help even the worst case.

I made a call and talked to a man who seemed very accommodating.

“We don’t know why it stopped working, and we have done everything we can to fix it.”

“I work in the department that can do this for you. Bring it in, and I will take a look at it.”

It was our first glimmer of hope in solving the mystery.

I had no idea where this was, so I had to listen to the directions closely, and she made sure I didn’t miss a turn or go off in the wrong direction.

She seemed sad as if all the dead ends were starting to get to her. The clock just wasn’t a timepiece because of the significance it had taken. I tried to stay positive.

“The guy was so nice, and he seemed like he could help us. I think it will all work out just fine, and if we have to leave it with them, I think we will have it back quickly. I keep thinking it’s not as bad as we think it is.”

I felt like my cheerleader’s advice wasn’t going over.

The shop was small, but it wasn’t short of clocks. Just walking in was overwhelming with all the clicking and clacking going on. How did people work in this environment day after day? Talk about time staring you in the face. I started to think about how old I was standing there.

A lady came to the register.

“How can I help you?”

I put the clock on the counter and started to explain what had been going on.

“I called, and whoever I spoke to said to bring it in so it could be repaired.”

That’s when the attitude started. Like a light switch was flipped, I felt my upbeat mood challenged.

She picked up the clock, looked at us, and said,

“Did you drop this?”

“No. It’s been hanging on the wall in the same spot for the entire time.”

She popped open the back and removed the batteries.

“These look cheap.”

“No. They are the ones that came with the clock, and I got the same ones when we replaced them.”

Her icy expression continued.

“The company that makes these are very picky about returns. Do you still have the warranty papers?”

We said we did.

“Well, I highly doubt they will want to replace or repair this for you because they will claim you broke it by dropping it.”

Where was she coming up with this story? None one had dropped or mishandled the clock.

“That never happened,” I said.

She sighed and shook her head condescendingly.

Was I in the right clock shop? Was this the place where I had called and gotten such excellent assistance and was now up against the crypt keeper? Did they change owners in the thirty minutes it took me to drive?

“All of the parts in this are plastic. Let me see what I can find out,” she snapped.

She walked into a back room. I looked at my daughter, who seemed highly distressed. While she was sinking into a bit more of a down mood, this lady was pushing me to the brink with her accusations, and the slow burn inside of me was starting. There is one thing I cannot stand: being told I did something wrong when I haven’t.

I was hoping she would come back with a changed outlook on life but to no avail.

“They won’t take this. I already told them that this was probably not worth our time at all. It seems to have been damaged somehow.”

There it was again. The subtle blame the customer speech. I took back the clock before my hair caught on fire from the anger coursing through me.

“Okay,” I said quietly, suppressing the rage. I looked at the cuckoo clock on the wall behind her. Very fitting.

Back in the car, my daughter slumped down from the chastising while I was not at all feeling shame.

“We have done nothing wrong,” I said.

“She made me feel that way, though. Like I did something to cause this problem.”

“But, we know we didn’t, and she can say whatever she wants. She is a poor representative for working with the public. She didn’t want to help us. I am going to find a way to resolve this.”

Just then, I had a memory flash through my mind of a speech I heard where it was said that if you have closed doors and keep getting the answer no, that means you haven’t found your yes.

“I am going to get your yes.”

When we got home, I went back online to search for any help. I kept finding nothing, so finally, I said,

“God, help!”

That was it. I didn’t throw ashes on my head, light candles, or get down on my knees and beg.

I clicked on a link, and suddenly I found an obscure email address that I hadn’t seen before. I explained the entire situation, crossed all my fingers, and hit send.

In a few days, I got a response.

“Who is Eugene?”

I opened it, and he explained that he would be sending a shipping label for us to print. All he needed was the original papers from the purchase, including the warranty, and he would try to repair it.

We sent it on its way, and about three weeks later, I got another email.

“There was something defective with that clock, and I am sending you a brand new one. Be on the lookout for it.” So much for the company being challenging to deal with. It was back on the wall in no time and happily playing the same song again, over and over.

When you are supposed to have something, God will make sure you get it. It has been proven to me time after time.

Unexpected

My daughter and I wandered into the air freshener aisle at the store. Cans of seasonal sprays, plug-in devices, and candles pervaded an entire section. It was one massive scent parade. An equally large clearance display housed the already forgotten summer fare of cotton laundry, ocean breezes, sunflower burst, and Malibu sunshine. It was, after all, barely the first week of September. Room needed to be made immediately for everything that suggested colder weather, crackling fireplaces, and sweaters. There was no more running wild in flip-flops and short sleeve shirts. It was time to buckle down and bundle up! Yet, it was still 85 degrees outside. 

She sensed my dissatisfaction with looking at pumpkin anything this early. I pulled out my phone to distract myself as she surveyed her options. 

“You don’t want me to get this,” she said, picking up my thought. 

It felt too early. My tan lines hadn’t faded, and I knew how this always ended. By the stroke of midnight one second past Thanksgiving, everything she was considering buying would be in the trash. All of this seemed so thrilling now but day after day of it got to be monotonous. Half of the product would go unused. Then it would be onto evergreen or sugar cookie, which I already saw on the shelf creeping their way in. 

“No, I don’t. Are you sure you will even use it? You know how you get tired of it quickly.”

She has a slight weakness for anything marked Limited Edition, so I didn’t put a lot of energy into dissuading her as I knew my efforts were futile. 

She went on to smell another offering, and I went back to not paying attention. Locking down her choice and sliding it into the cart, I still had a visual of me throwing it away in two months. 

Once at home, I took out a new box of baking soda. I had scoured the extra refrigerator in the garage, and it needed a replacement. My daughter was emptying the contents of her shopping bags on the kitchen table as I headed out the door. 

I was just about to open the fridge when I realized I forgot to mark the date to remind myself when another box would be necessary. 

I spun around quickly in the pursuit of a black sharpie located in the kitchen. From that moment, I don’t clearly recall everything. Right as I pushed open the door to go back in, I collided with my daughter, who had one arm upraised. This caused me to look upward at her hand. In a swift, sweeping motion, she dispensed pumpkin air freshener into my eyes, onto my lips, and straight up my nose. I gasped, which only caused me to inhale more, and my tongue fell victim. I had luckily slammed my eyes shut out of an initial response. 

“Mom! Oh, no! Are you ok? Mom! Mom!” 

I was saturated in an artificial mist cloud, leaving me without the ability to communicate or breathe properly. 

The more I was frozen in place with my eyes closed, the more she panicked. 

“Mom! Please say you are ok! Mom!”

Finally, able to speak, I said one word, 

“Why?” 

“I wanted you to be able to smell it when you came back in. I was going to spray it around the whole door, so you could see what it was like. You were supposed to walk through it and be surrounded by it.

She had maced me. 

I ventured to open my eyes a crack. There was no burning, just the overpowering aroma of factory produced pumpkin, mainly because I had a wet upper lip dripping with the scent. 

I looked at her through the haze. Her eyes were wide with her finger still on the nozzle. 

I have lived long enough to have tasted pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin bars. This was not that at all. Not even close. It was a disguised can of hair spray marketed for autumn. 

I noticed I had somehow held onto the box of soda as I started to return to a state of consciousness. 

“Mom? Are you ok?”

“No! I am not! I’m not okay! No! None of this is okay! Nothing about this is ok at all!”

And that’s when I started laughing so hard I could not stand up. I ended up lying on my back in the middle of the kitchen. The air closer to the floor wasn’t as perfume ladened, but I was a walking fragrance from which there was no escape. I tried rubbing it off my face, but it soaked in more and transferred itself onto my hands. As I took in oxygen, I got to experience the simulation of fall over and over. 

Assuming I was fine, she laughed with me. 

“I wanted you to see that it wasn’t a waste to buy it, and I would use it.” 

I rolled to my side, trying to stop the waves of laughter that gripped me. 

I caught my breath for a moment to say, 

“It is not even fall yet!”

Being in the wrong place at the wrong time isn’t a pleasant experience. I was going about my life, not anticipating a seasonal assault at the door. 

My daughter intended to “cozy” up the house, but it didn’t turn out that way. Her timing and mine were off. What if your timing and God’s don’t coincide? Do you keep trying to make something happen, or do you wait until the way opens up? 

I think we all know when something is easy, and all the pieces fall simply into place. There’s no force needed or coercion, and it just comes along naturally. Often with God, we are left with mouths hanging open in awe. All of your plans could never be as detailed and take into account all that is involved. 

Lagging is never a good idea either because opportunities get missed, and regrets happen later. So how do you walk in line with the Creator of all? 

Proverbs 3:5-12

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;

    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.

Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;

    he’s the one who will keep you on track. (Message)

So as we move into another season, where things change beyond our control, remember the One who is in control of it all. You never know when that great thing you have been waiting for will suddenly manifest. 

Often God’s timing is just like that pumpkin spray…unexpected.

Loved From Head to Tail

I flopped into my bed at sunrise after a night of Black Friday shopping. I shivered under the covers as a slight hypothermia had started to set in. In a drowsy state waiting for sleep to fully descend, a picture began to form in my thoughts of my youngest daughter carrying a puppy in her arms. In my mind, I saw her go into her bedroom and shut the door. Then, another scene took its place of my other daughter carrying a puppy into her room and closing a door.

I opened my eyes. Had I been dreaming? I glanced at the clock. Not even a minute had gone by. I was pretty sure I had been awake with my eyes shut. A strange longing to give each girl a dog for Christmas began to grow as I stared up at the ceiling. Like a little nudge by someone saying,

“You want this. You know you do.”

After a few moments of consideration, I began to come up with every reason why I would NOT want this at all!

I just had gone through a horrible divorce.
I just had given away our black lab less than a year prior to a family who loved her. (A fallout from the divorce and lack of being able to take the time to keep her.)
I had never raised two dogs at one time.
Neither girl was asking for a dog for Christmas.

And, then I added this out loud:

“I need them to be free.  I cannot afford to buy dogs right now.”   I knew if I threw that on it, it would not come about.

I turned over satisfied that I had dismissed the entire emotional episode and fell into the most peaceful sleep during the daytime with the sun fully shining.

A week later, I received a phone call.

“I am at an appointment, and there is this lady who has puppies she wants to find good homes for before Christmas.  I was thinking you could take two. One for each of your girls.”

I had not spoken of my experience, and I had forgotten about it.

“How much does she want for them?” I asked.

“She is giving them away for free.”

“How much?”

My ability to hear correctly shut down because the event from the week before was hitting me full on.

“They are free.”

“How much?”

“Chris, they are free! She wants them to go to good homes.”

“Well, maybe I can take one.”

After I made that statement, I felt a heaviness and slight sadness in my heart. So much so that I had to blurt out the whole story about each girl getting a puppy for Christmas.

Once the entire encounter was out in the open, he said,

“You need to take two.  One for each girl.”

“I guess I will,” I said.

I told him to give my phone number to the puppy owner so she could call me later in the day.  She did so, and I made the mistake of putting the call on speaker phone.  I had each girl hanging on my every word as we spoke.  My oldest daughter wanted a boy, and the other wanted a female.  Taking only one was no longer an option.  I made arrangements to go see the entire litter later that day.

While driving over for our visit, I began to feel myself panic.  I silently went over all my reasons why I should not have been engaging in this.  Once I saw the puppies, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to say no.  As I fretted along, I felt a strong peace settle in my chest.  It was like my mind was whirling a hundred miles an hour, but I had a calm that kept my foot on the gas and the car moving toward the destination.

When we arrived and I knocked on the door, I heard a chorus of barking.  The three of us were greeted by puppies running around us in circles.  We decided to sit down in the middle of it all to see what would happen.  A small little male came and settled in quite nicely on my oldest daughter’s lap.  A smaller female came to occupy the other daughter’s lap.

“Ever since we got off the phone, these two have been sitting by the door like they were waiting for you to come,” Ellie, the owner, said.

The decision had made itself.  Lily and Stinky were now ours to keep.

We left them in her care for another week and on December 12 they came to take up permanent residence in my home.  Both girls had been given free dogs for Christmas.

I still don’t fully understand how they came to be mine because having two dogs was the farthest thing from any of my wishes.  However, they completely changed the entire atmosphere of my home.  We all laughed more often, and I worried less.  Many times, we would entertain ourselves watching the two of them tussle over toys.  I can still see Lily, all of two pounds at the time, dragging her brother Stinky across the living room floor by the toy in his mouth. He had clamped onto her favorite stuffed animal and wouldn’t let it go.  They became a good distraction from all that had gone wrong.

Oddly, after we had gotten them, my youngest daughter told me something even more strange.  After our black lab was adopted, she created a virtual dog on one of her gaming systems. It helped her to get over the fact that our real dog was no longer with us.  She named her virtual pet ‘Lily’ and gave her a black coat just exactly like the real Lily.  The dogs were already named when we went to go visit them, and we kept their names once we got them home. All of it seemed to be so arranged.  In a very good way.

The following year, as Christmas was approaching, I made up cookie trays and wondered if Ellie would like one.  On the night before Christmas Eve, I had a strong inclination to put together a tray and get it to her house.  Snow was falling hard that night, but I knew I was to deliver this to her.  When I knocked on the door, I heard the familiar sound of barks.

“Merry Christmas,” I said when she opened the door.  “I brought you a cookie tray that I made.”

I saw the tears come into her eyes, and then she hugged me while I tried not to drop the entire tray.

“I just got back from the store.  My oven broke so I can’t bake anything, and I was trying to find packages of cookies or something.  This comes at just the right time.”

That is how I felt about her gift of the dogs to me.  They came at just the right moment in my life, and I didn’t even realize then how much I needed them.  Someone who loves me deeply knew and sent them my way.  Just more proof that we are loved completely from head to tail.

stinky

Stinky and Lily