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I was watching this show the other night and a woman probably in her early sixties was giving an account of heaven and hell. I know, I know you’re probably already suspicious but just hear me out because I was too. Years ago this woman battled with depression and hopelessness. During her testimony, she said,” I just wanted to die. I had planned my death many times in my mind, no one knew, so she assumed. Then one day out of the blue, she received a postcard in the mail. The postcard was for a christian women’s event. At first she brushed it off like we all do when we have something much more pressing to focus on. In her case, it was her plotting death. Let that sink in. What is death and where will we go? Some think just into the ground, others think we begin another life. But what if there is more? What if this life with all it’s slaps in the face is just a pin prick, a night in a really bad motel, a day with your mother in law, a bully at school?  What if there is more, so much more that our human minds can’t fathom?

Each passing day, the postcard lies there on the dining table. She said that she can’t bring herself to throw it away, she doesn’t know why but something is beckoning her to go. She doesn’t want to but the pull is so strong. Have you ever had something pulling you in a direction you didn’t want to go? Apprehensively, she attends the conference. People are worshiping and praising God as she sits there uncomfortably quiet. Silently, she asks,” are you real God?” And out of the blue she hears a voice, a voice in her spirit that says, “what can I do for you?” “Is tongues real?” It was the first question that came to her mind. In an instant she was given the gift of tongues. Tongues is really a prayer language and yes crazy people have tainted this precious gift but it is a true gift. That day, Jesus delivered her from depression.

Her new beginnings led her to have a relationship with Jesus, things were going better than ever.

Eight years later she was at another conference given by the same ministry when all of a sudden she saw a giant hand pull her through a iron clad gate right into hell. Her body was still at the conference so this was similar to an out of body experience. As far as she knew, she was in hell. Immediately she heard the gnashing of teeth, blood curdling screams she had never heard before. Her skin was melting, her body twisted and deformed, the temperatures unbearable, everyone was a demon, including her. Demons were real and their appearance depicted the worst horror movie one could imagine. She was in eternal torment and there was no escaping. Then a light opened up and another hand pulled her to and it was Jesus. “He said tell my people hell is real. Tell my people to forgive. Tell my people about me.” She said she will never forget that day, it still haunts her but now all she wants to do is to tell others about Jesus. There is a place for us. A place with no sorrow, no tears. Don’t give up, there is someone who longs to help you with whatever it is that is hurting you, tying and tearing you down.

 

I don’t know what you may be going through on this April day but my prayer is this gives you hope. God is real and God loves you. He will take you just the way you are. Nothing that has happened to you or that you have done is too complicated and messy for Jesus. He is the life changer and the life giver. I hope you think about this article and what this week represents. Jesus endured the worst beating and crucifixion so He could have a relationship with you. The sweet, beautiful, one of a kind that you are. Do you have dreams? Do you want more from you life? Are there areas you want to change? Has someone lied to you? Has someone hurt you? I understand. You are not alone and I don’t want anyone to risk your eternal paradise because you have been lied to about heaven, about God and yes even hell.  Ask him a question, any question and see how he shows up for you like he did that lady, like he has for me too.

 

He is RISEN, Happy Easter!

XO

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Im fine image

Rachel Hollis posted this this morning…”Are you humble enough to suck for as long as it takes to get better?” I had this total deluded view of myself and my dreams? No joke! I honestly thought yeah, I’m going to write my book, get an agent and hit the New York Times Best Sellers list within a year. It took me two years to even write my first draft which sucked. At the time, I didn’t know it because my mind was living in a Candyland climbing the pretend ladder. “I’ll just sprinkle some magic dust over this busted manuscript and voila my book will be in stores. People will rave about it. Oh and they will want to turn it into a motion picture where Reese Witherspoon will play the lead and then win the Oscar for best actor.” BTW, I didn’t even know how to spell voila, I assumed it started with a W. Life is funny like that. It plays along in the beginning and then chews you up and spits you out many times over. I, like many others think people just give up too soon. It makes perfect sense why they do. The money runs out. The no’s stack up to the ceiling. The phone doesn’t ever ring. If you given up on something, I understand. I couldn’t even get the majority of my friends to read my first, second or third book. I would tell them, “I’m going to be a successful writer!” The looks on their faces were all the same. “Oh, we just don’t have the heart to tell her she’s not a writer. Not a real one anyways.”

But here’s the thing. There is an opportunity that will lead to another opportunity and then to another with your name on it. Only it’s floating around, invisibly. You can’t see it but it’s there. Sometimes it’s far off in the distance and other times it whizzes by your head but you weren’t quick enough to catch it. The truth is, it wasn’t your time but that doesn’t mean it won’t be your time. Keep striking the iron. Keep shooting the arrow until it hits some, any target. There is a set time for you. A reporter once asked Thomas Edison how did it feel to fail 1000 times. He said, “I didn’t fail 1000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1000 steps.”

It’s only crazy to others until you do it!

Humble yourself and keep trying. Your character and dreams are built in the dark.

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I only looked down for a second and there she was, stopped, her break lights lit up. I hit the break as hard as I could but my car plowed into the back of hers. Just a minute or so earlier, I had been praying. My hands were shaking, I was in shock. Was I now about to get cussed out for being so reckless? Why God? Why did you allow this to happen? I mean, I was just praying to you. It had been one of those weeks where everything around me seemed to be getting smaller but the problems loomed larger over me, following me to each destination like a dark, ominous cloud ready to reign down a terrible storm right into my fragile existence. I was fragile that week. I had received another rejection letter on my book, 20 Century Fox passed on it too.  My dad was in the hospital and it was serious. My mother was going off the deep end over it and I was trying to keep my head above water as I followed what appeared at times to be a crazy pipe dream. I questioned everything. Now this? Really?

We don’t understand why we have to go through difficult things but we do, we will.  Have you ever been around someone who just doesn’t want to get well? Life has knocked them down so much so that they just can’t get back up, so they live in that place of suffering. They linger there, refusing to do the work. Jesus said you will have trouble but our beings fight it, don’t want to recover from it and eventually give up on it.

Someone wise said to me, “Ask God what am I to learn from this?

I slowly got out of my car, terrified to look at the damage and made my way to her window. Suddenly she opened the driver door. “I’m so sorry.  Are you alright?” I said. “Yes, yes. Are you alright?” She takes me by the arms and has a look over. In the same manner a mother would look over her child that has just fallen from the monkey bars. I thought she may even dust me off. Dust off the debris from my hellish week. We walked to the back of her SUV and to the front of my car. The whole right side of my car is crushed. Her SUV has minimal damage. “We should call the police,” I say. “Are you hurt?” “No, are you?” “No. I don’t think we need to call the police.” “What?” ” I think you are shaken up enough as it is. I’m about to get a new car anyways. You don’t worry about me. I’m fine.” “I don’t understand? We need to file a report. There is damage to your car.” She takes me by the arms again, “It’s okay.” “But at least give me your number.” I say.  “Sure, I can do that.” She hands me her business card. “Can you drive your car,” she asks? “Yes. I think so.” She hugs me goodbye, gets back in her SUV and drives off like nothing ever happened.

Later that day I call my insurance company and file a claim. I give them her contact information. She never files a claim or piggybacks on mine. I didn’t understand it, couldn’t believe it but was beyond thankful for this kind stranger. The next day I drove my crushed car to the body shop for an estimate. The owner of the shop said, “Ugh, Audi’s are the worst to work on.” I stood there not knowing what to say. I felt guilty, even, like I just ruined his lovely day. “I’m going to have your car for at least three weeks.” In my mind, I started doing the math on a rental car and the deductible. My insurance paid a portion of the rental car but not all of it. “Okay.” Then, he looks at me and smiles for the first time since I brought my horrible car to him. “Do you have a rental car,” he asks? “Not yet but I will get one.” “Don’t bother getting a rental. You can drive one of ours for the time it takes me to put your car back together.” “How much,” I say? “Free of charge. ” And that small dent on the left side, I will repair that too.””How much,” I say? “Free of charge.”

What was happening?” This isn’t normal… or is it?

Remember how Jesus said you will have trouble? People will hurt you, you will suffer loss, things will fall apart for a time but then He says, “take heart for I have overcome the world.” There is a leaning in that we must do when troubles comes. Don’t run from it, run to God. His promise to us is, I will turn it for your good. Often we miss that part. I could have refused to look at what God was doing and solely focused on the accident but I leaned in. I asked God for his help and he delivered.

A couple of weeks later, trouble came knocking again. My dad died. On the way to the hospital the day before he passed, I asked God for strength. That sunny afternoon I sat in his room by myself while he was hooked up to all sorts of machines and tubes. He no longer looked like my father. He look like a shell of a man. It appeared he was already gone. I went to God for help, again. “What do I do? How is this going to happen? What about my mom?” Are we going to be okay?”  Mustering up the courage, I walked to my dad’s bedside. His eyes were rolled back, his breathing was shallow and his hands were like balloons. I gently placed my hand on top of his head and started quietly praying. Suddenly, he opened his eyes, wide and looked at me. Honestly, it freaked me out but something prevented me from fleeing his room.  I leaned in. ” I love you dad.” He nodded and then in a blink of an eye he was gone again. The next morning I picked my mother up and began preparing her for what was ahead. She was in denial. So I asked for help. She spent the day reminiscing by his bedside, holding his hand and telling their love stories. She met my dad on the same day he passed 53 years earlier. Early that evening we set up a vigil in his room and had the ventilator and all the machines keeping him alive, removed. It was the first time in a very long time where peace filled the atmosphere like never before. Something beautiful was taking place in a realm we could not visually see. It was as if angels were present, ready to usher my dad right into his eternal paradise.

Two months before my dad died, he had a dream he was standing on a roof. He said he looked down in the dream and thought my legs are working. My legs are working!

They sure are, dad. They sure are.

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The day my father died, I was at the grocery store buying bananas.

I remember thinking to myself, “This is insane. Your dad just died. Why the hell are you buying bananas?”

But we needed bananas. We’d be waking up for breakfast tomorrow morning, and there wouldn’t be any bananas—so there I was.

And lots of other stuff still needed doing too, so over the coming days I would navigate parking lots, wait in restaurant lines, and sit on park benches; pushing back tears, fighting to stay upright, and in general always being seconds from a total, blubbering, room-clearing freak out.

I wanted to wear a sign that said: I JUST LOST MY DAD. PLEASE GO EASY.

Unless anyone passing by looked deeply into my bloodshot eyes or noticed the occasional break in my voice and thought enough to ask, it’s not like they’d have known what’s happening inside me or around me. They wouldn’t have had any idea of the gaping sinkhole that had just opened up and swallowed the normal life of the girl next to them in the produce section.

And while I didn’t want to physically wear my actual circumstances on my chest, it probably would have caused people around me to give me space or speak softer or move more carefully,—and it might have made the impossible, almost bearable. 

Everyone around you; the people you share the grocery store line with, pass in traffic, sit next to at work, encounter on social media, and see across the kitchen table—are all experiencing the collateral damage of living. They are all grieving someone, missing someone, worried about someone. Their marriages are crumbling or their mortgage payment is late or they’re waiting on their child’s test results, or they’re getting bananas five years after a death and still pushing back tears because the loss feels as real as it did that first day.

Every single human being you pass by today is fighting to find peace and to push back fear; to get through their daily tasks without breaking down in front of the bananas or in the carpool line or at the post office.

Maybe they aren’t mourning the sudden, tragic passing of a parent, but wounded, exhausted, pain-ravaged people are everywhere, everyday stumbling all around us—and yet most of the time we’re fairly oblivious to them:

Parents whose children are terminally ill.
Couples in the middle of divorce.
People grieving loss of loved ones and relationships. 

Kids being bullied at school.
Teenagers who want to end their lives.
People marking the anniversary of a death.
Parents worried about their depressed teenager.

Spouses whose partners are deployed in combat.
Families with no idea how to keep the lights on.
Single parents with little help and little sleep.

Everyone is grieving and worried and fearful, and yet none of them wear the signs, none of them have labels, and none of them come with written warnings reading, I’M STRUGGLING. GO EASY.

And since they don’t, it’s up to you and me to look more closely and more deeply at everyone around us: at work or at the gas station or in the produce section, and to never assume they aren’t all just hanging by a thread. Because most people are hanging by a thread—and our simple kindness can be that thread.

We need to remind ourselves  just how hard the hidden stories around us might be, and to approach each person as a delicate, breakable, invaluable treasure—and to handle them with care. 

As you make your way through the world today, people won’t be wearing signs to announce their mourning or to alert you to the attrition or to broadcast how terrified they are—but if you look with the right eyes, you’ll see the signs.

There are grieving people all around you.

Go easy.

By John Pavlovitz, author of Hope And Other Superpowers

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