Who knows how long he had lived this way? Can you even begin to imagine what it must have been like for him? Have you ever been in that position?
His life was completely out of control. He had no hope. Filled with pain, fear, anger and bitterness, life was totally meaningless. His thoughts were a jumbled mess, and most of the time, he was unable to put a sentence together in his mind, much less speak coherently. And throughout it all, there was the constant barrage of noise coming from the voices in his head.
No one else could hear the voices, but it didn’t make them any less real, because he heard them. Night and day, they whispered and shouted at him, constantly accusing him, telling him what a failure he was. There was no peace. There was no quiet. He couldn’t escape the voices that taunted him constantly.
They were vile and evil, yet he was powerless to fight them, so he tried to escape them by cutting himself, hoping to die, but always, to no avail. Day and night, he howled in pain and outrage, and breaking all restraints that were placed on him, he would run into the wilderness, screaming at his tormentors, which no one else could see.
Family and friends had long since given up on him. He had no one to care about him. He was all alone with his demons, living in a graveyard outside of town. He was what we might call a zombie today. Indeed, he was a dead man walking.
Do you know any walking dead men or women, boys or girls? Do you know any like this man, filled with violence, rage, fear and animosity? Do you know any who suffer as this man did – hearing those tormenting voices constantly attacking him? Do you suffer as this man did? Is there any hope?
Today, doctors use medications to quiet the voices, but those medications often leave you in a fog, with many side-effects, and though the voices are quieted, they are still there… So, what can be done to help people? What can be done to help you or your loved one?
From a distance away, the man saw Someone step out of a boat, and he ran toward Him. Did he somehow recognize that this One could help him? I’ve thought about this, and I can’t imagine why the demons who tormented the man would want to run up to Jesus, because they recognized Him immediately, and they knew what would happen to them if they entered His presence. Therefore, I can only conclude that this poor, desperate man must have felt the fear in his demonic tormentors, or perhaps he somehow knew that this was his one chance, and he made a beeline for Jesus, bowing low before Him…
Fearfully, the demons screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Please, I beg You, don’t torture me!” (Luke 8:28)
Jesus spoke to this demon, called Legion, for there were many in the man, and commanded the demons to go, casting them into a herd of pigs, who then ran off the side of a cliff, drowning in the lake below. The keepers of the herd, upon seeing this, fled to the nearby village, fearfully telling the villagers what had happened. When they and the villagers returned, they saw the once naked and wretched man fully clothed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, conversing with Him, and they were terribly frightened. In their fear, they begged Jesus to leave them. (Matthew 8:28-34 NLT)(Luke 8:26-39 NLT)(Mark 5:1-20 NLT)
I’ve never understood that. Wouldn’t you think they would have rejoiced to see that poor man restored to sanity? Wouldn’t you think they would be relieved that they no longer had to worry about him attacking them or their loved ones? I would have thought they would have thrown a great celebration, and sought to know the One who had set this captive free…
And yet, that’s not what happened. Just as the people of Israel didn’t want to hear the voice of God or know His ways, so these people rejected His Son. Is it possible that they were afraid He would change their lives? Were they afraid of the sin and the demons He might expose within them?
18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s Light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the Light, for their actions were evil.20 All who do evil hate the Light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.21 But those who do what is right come to the Light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”(John 3:18-21 NLT)
What about you, beloved reader? Will you run to Him and let Him set you free? Or will you beg Him to leave, as the villagers in Gadarenes did?
There’s an old gospel song that never fails to move me. The words were written by Gloria Gaither, and her husband, Bill Gaither composed the music in 1971. If my life was a television show, I would make this my theme song. For though the tune is old and outdated, and despite the fact that I’m not a fan of Southern Gospel music, this song strikes a chord, deep within me. Listen to the words of this song, and as you listen, know that my prayer is that these words will minister to you, and that God will make something beautiful of your life…
Beloved reader, I don’t know about you, but there’s been a whole lot of ugliness in my life. I’ve had many ugly things said and done to me, that left me feeling ugly and broken in their wake… And sadly, I’ve also said and done ugly things, and those things left me feeling even dirtier and uglier.
The fact is that my earliest childhood memories are filled with ugliness. My mother and my birth father were divorced when I was just a toddler, and my father quickly married the woman he had committed adultery, with while still married to my mother. Before long, he went on to father another daughter, and played a very active part in her childhood, while I could count the number of times I saw him, as a child, on one hand. This left me feeling unwanted, unloved and abandoned. Have you ever been there?
Meanwhile, my mother fell in love with the man who became my stepfather as soon as she got her divorce papers. I often felt ugly and unlovable, while growing up with my mother and my stepfather. I was always in trouble for one thing or another. In fact, one of my earliest memories is of my stepfather angrily lifting me from the table by my left arm, while he beat me with his free hand, as I dangled midair, like a pinata. My crime? Failure to eat my peas. (To this day, I HATE peas!)
I share these stories because I want you to form an image in your mind of a little girl, who felt ugly, unwanted and rejected. Children like this are not pleasant to be around, and I certainly wasn’t. Indeed, I had a huge chip on my shoulder, and because I felt so ugly and rejected, I also felt very sorry for myself. I was whiny and clingy, and the harder I worked to hold on to people, and tried to make them love me, the more I pushed them away from me. I didn’t understand that at the time.
Looking back through the eyes of time, I now see that my desperate longing for love only turned all of my relationships into high maintenance jobs. For I required constant reassurance that I was loved. I constantly needed someone to demonstrate their love for me and make a declaration of their undying love, thereby proving my worth. It was a vicious cycle.
Because I was so desperate to win the approval of my parents, teachers and peers, I lied. I lied alot. I lied because I was afraid of what would happen if the truth about me was known. I lied because I felt justified in doing so. I lied so much that sometimes, I even convinced myself. I lied because I was ugly, inside and out, and because I hated myself, I was convinced that no one could ever love the “real” me. Therefore, I lied as I tried to be someone, anyoneother than me. Beloved reader, do you know what it’s like to hate yourself and to feel ugly and unworthy? My prayer for those who do, is that God will heal your broken heart.
When Jesus saved me, He delivered me from many things… lying… bitterness… smoking… But some areas in my life took longer for me to overcome, and there was one area in particular, that took much longer for me to overcome. You see, years of rejection, combined with physical, sexual and emotional abuse left me feeling different, unworthy and alone. I felt uglier than anyone else and unworthy of God’s love…
3 To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory. ~ Isaiah 61:3 NLT ~
And so, in His great love and mercy, God began to minister to the ugly little girl who still lived inside of me. You see, I grew up being told how stupid and worthless I was, and how ugly too, and I believed it was so. Therefore, God had to change the way I thought…
2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. ~ Romans 12:2 NLT ~
As I began to read and study the word of God, my way of thinking began to change, as promised, in the scripture above. I discovered that much of what I had been told and taught wasn’t really true. In fact, I realized that many things I believed about myself were nothing more than lies…
The more I studied God’s word, the more I learned about myself. My whole life, I was told I would never amount to anything. I was told how stupid I was, and how ugly too, and I believed every word spoken against me… But when I studied the bible, I started to learn the truth about me… I learned that I was created in God’s image!
So God created human beings in His own image. In the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. ~ Genesis 1:27 NLT ~
Not only did God create me (and everyone else!) in His own image, but just look at the care He took when forming us…
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank You for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous — how well I know it. 15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. 16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in Your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
How precious are Your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! 18 I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, You are still with me! ~ Psalm 139:13-18 NLT ~
Now, please allow me to ask you a question, beloved reader. As you look all around you and see all that God has created, the birds in the air, the fish in the sea, the sun, the moon and the stars, as well as the oceans, the continents, the mountains, the valleys, the forests and the deserts, not to mention every other living creature, as well as mankind, would you say it was all the workmanship of a Master? Or would you say this was the feeble attempt of a mere child? Of course, it’s obvious to see that only the Master Creator, the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords could have created all of this, and His workmanship is marvelous!
Therefore, having come to that conclusion, we must acknowledge that this God, who changes not, did not make a mistake when He created me (you too!). He did not create everything, except me (or you), and call it good.Further, God did not love the whole world, excluding me (or you)…
“For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16 NLT ~
Do you see, beloved reader? Despite what anyone says to the contrary, God created you in His image, therefore, you cannot be and you are notUGLY. Indeed, the God who knit you together in your mother’s womb with excellent workmanship, made us (you and me)BEAUTIFUL…
And although you may feel that you are UNWORTHY of His love, understand that the love He lavishes on you, makes you worthy…
“Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are?” ~ Matthew 6:26 NLT ~
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. ~ Romans 5:1 NLT ~
Do you feel ugly and unworthy of love? Beloved reader, read and study the word of God. As you study His word, you will learn the truth about who He says you are, as He begins to make “Something Beautiful” of your life.
8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sistersall over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.(1 Peter 5:8-9 ~ NLT)
This past weekend, those of us who live in the United States of America, celebrated Memorial Day, a time for us to honor those who fought and died, as well as those who continue to fight, so that we can live in freedom. Because of the sacrifice of our forefathers, we are granted certain inalienable rights, and among those are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is because of the first amendment to the constitution, that I am free to worship my God in spirit and in truth. Because I live in a country that recognizes this fundamental freedom, I can openly declare to everyone who reads this post that I believe that I am a child of God Almighty, and I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, who was crucified for the sins of mankind, was dead for three days, and arose from the dead on the third day. I can also tell you without fear of reprisal, that Jesus Christ will come again on the clouds.
Freedoms we take for granted, are what makes Meriam Ibrahim’s situation so untenable. If you haven’t heard, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, a Sudanese Christian woman, married to U.S. citizen, Daniel Wani, was sentenced to death by hanging, for apostasy two weeks ago, and imprisoned in a Sudanese prison with her twenty month old son, a U.S. citizen. When she and her child were imprisoned, she was eight months pregnant.
Since then, Merriam gave birth to a daughter, who was born a month prematurely. Neither her husband, or her attorney have been permitted to see Merriam or her newborn. Hence, no-one is sure of their health. However, when Daniel saw her last week, before she gave birth, she was shackled in her cell. Since giving birth, Meriam’s sentence will now be delayed for two years, to allow her to nurse her baby, in accordance with Sudanese law.
So, what’s the point of this post? This is not just a sad story for everyone to sigh and say, “What a shame!” As citizens of the WORLD, each and every one of us have been given certain unalienable rights. Though some nations guarantee these rights, that’s not what I’m talking about. I am talking about the rights given to ALL MANKIND by our CREATOR, who gives everyone a free will to choose who and what to believe…
Because we are all men and women, I’m asking you to take a stand and cry out on Meriam Yehya Ibrahim’s behalf. This is not a cry for any one race, religious group or culture, but a cry for humanity. Whatever your faith, surely you can see the wickedness that is being perpetrated against this woman, her husband and her children, simply because of her faith. I am a strong Spirit-filled Christian, however, if I heard about someone from another faith being imprisoned and executed for his/her faith, I would cry out on that person’s behalf as well.
Therefore, I urge everyone who reads this post, to go to http://beheardproject.com/Meriam and sign the petition demanding the government of Sudan to free Meriam Yehya Ibrahim and her children from prison. Christians, please, also pray for this sister in Christ…
28When Jesus arrived on the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gadarenes, two men who were possessed by demons met Him. They lived in a cemetery and were so violent that no one could go through that area.
29They began screaming at Him, “Why are You interfering with us, Son of God? Have You come here to torture us before God’s appointed time?” 30There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding in the distance. 31So the demons begged, “If you cast us out, send us into that herd of pigs.”
32“All right, go!”Jesus commanded them. So the demons came out of the men and entered t he pigs, and the whole herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water.
33The herdsmen fled to the nearby town, telling everyone what happened to the demon-possessed men. 34Then the entire town came out to meet Jesus, but they begged Him to go away and leave them alone.
This is one of the most mind-blowing, confusing portions of scripture there is for me. Just think about this… Two violent, demon-possessed men were the first ones to move forward and greet Jesus. These two men lived in a cemetery, where the townspeople avoided them, because they were so violent and dangerous.
Now imagine how terrible life must have been for these two men… Although they were demon-possessed, surely, they experienced moments of sanity, where they longed to be delivered and set free from the demons that tormented and tortured them. Was it during one of these brief moments of sanity that the two men learned of Jesus’ arrival and sought Him out? Only the Lord knows. When they approached Him, did they plan to ask Him to set them free? After reading this story in the book of Mark, I think it’s very possible that at least one of the men wanted to be set free…
1 Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. 2 And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, 3 who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, 4 because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in places; neither could anyone tame him. 5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.
6 When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. 7 And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.”
The demon-possessed man ran up to Jesus and worshiped Him! Now think about this — Jesus healed many demon-possessed men and women, but none of the others ran towards Him to worship Him, except for this man. Therefore, it is entirely possible that at least one of the two demon-possessed men, who lived in that cemetery, tried to escape the demons that tormented him and his friend day and night, so that he might be set free. And hallelujah, Jesus not only set him free, but the other man as well!
30 There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding in the distance. 31 So the demons begged, “If you cast us out, send us into that herd of pigs.”
32“All right, go!”Jesus commanded them. So the demons came out of the men and entered the pigs, and the whole herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water.
Matthew wrote about two demon-possessed men, while both Mark and Luke only mentioned one, in their versions of the story. Although Mark and Luke only refer to one of the demon-possessed men, it does not mean that there weren’t two men. It only means that Mark and Luke only referred to one of the men for some reason not known to us.
Nonetheless, at Jesus’ command, the demons left the men and entered a herd of pigs, and sent them plunging down the steep hillside, where they drowned in the water.
Now, there were some herdsmen nearby, who witnessed the whole thing. I wonder what they were thinking when they saw Jesus cast the demons out of the two men. Did they rejoice at the marvelous miracle that had just taken place before them, as the lives of two men were restored? Or were they frightened and angry over the death of the pigs?
When the townspeople came and saw the two men, who had formerly been so vile and dangerous, now clothed and in their right minds, talking with Jesus, did they delight in the fact that these former pariahs were now model citizens? Were they overjoyed that their people would no longer live in fear of the two demon-possessed men escaping their chains and possibly harming someone? Their response blows my mind.
Sadly, the citizens of the town seemed more upset about the death of the pigs than the deliverance of the demonized men. Friends, think of this — what if the King of Glory came to your town and set the homeless, schizophrenic free, sending the demons that tormented him into the town’s stray cats, who end up plunging themselves to their death? Would you delight in the homeless schizophrenic’s new found freedom? Or would you be outraged that the Lord sent the demons into the town’s stray cats, who then plunged to their death? Would you welcome this King of Glory into your town, inviting Him to stay, or would you respond as the townspeople responded when the two demonized men were set free, and beg Jesus to please leave and go away?
I have to be honest with you — I find it shocking that the people asked Jesus to leave their town, after He delivered the two dangerous men, changing them from violent criminals to gentle men. Were the people really more concerned for the swine than for the two men, not to mention their citizens and tourists? Now, examine your hearts, my friends, how would you respond? Would you ask Jesus to stay forever? Or would you ask Him to go away and leave you alone???
“Ring around the roses, a pocket full of posies. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!”
“London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down, my fair lady.”
“See, see, my playmate, Won’t you come play with me?
And bring your dollies, three? Climb up my apple tree?
Slide down my rainbow,
Into my cellar door,
And we’ll be jolly friends,
Forevermore, 1, 2, 3, 4!”
Tears slid down her cheeks as she walked into the yard of her childhood, hearing and seeing the children playing again in her mind’s eye. Was it possible that she had once been so innocent and carefree or was it all only a dream, a wish for what could have — no, for what should have been? Nostalgically, she walked over to the swing that was still tied to the old oak tree, fingering its chains and testing the wooden seat before easing her weight onto it. Someone had obviously taken great pains to care for this swing, to ensure that the ravages of time wouldn’t render it a danger to other children who might use this swing, or in this case, so this now middle-aged woman could sit here, close her eyes, and remember…
She remembered playing with her neighborhood friends and her cousins until well past dark on those steamy summer days and nights, and then rising early the next morning, to do it all again. The year was 1971, and things were different back then. This was an era where you’d better be on your best behavior, because the neighborhood mothers kept watch on all of the children as if they were their own, and if you acted up, Suzy’s mommy would spank you for misbehaving, and then she would call your mommy, and she would spank you too! She smiled, remembering that Suzy’s mommy had indeed spanked her on more than one occasion, for her mischievousness.
She smiled as she gazed at the steps leading to the upper level of the yard, envisioning the little girl with her little purple hotpants under the cute little mini dress, wielding her brush as though it was a microphone, as she put a record on her record player and prepared her one-woman stage show, imagining the audience below, which sometimes included neighborhood children, and other times was completely imaginary. A lone tear slid down her cheek as she remembered that little girl standing right there, with her imaginary audience applauding as she softly sang Donny Osmond’s, “Go Away Little Girl.”
She remembered staying up late on hot summer nights, catching lightening bugs with her cousins and her friends. Life up until then was so carefree, as it should be for a little girl of ten, but that all changed one dreadful night when she was playing a game with her cousins. It was a dark, moonless night, and they were playing one of their favorite games, “Midnight in the Graveyard.” She was “It”, the “Ghost in the Graveyard,” and she had to find a hiding place, where her cousins wouldn’t be able to find her, but if they did find her, she still had a chance of winning, if she could escape without them tagging her and run to the empty swing, which was “home base.”
She remembered finding the perfect hiding place. She shuddered now, as she remembered that night, hearing the voices of her cousins, as they counted the hours until they could go and look for her… “It’s One O’Clock in the graveyard, and I see no ghosts,” they counted. “It’s Two O’Clock in the graveyard, and I see no ghosts,” they continued, as she softly giggled, crawling towards the big bushes on the left side of the house. The other kids were scared of bugs and spiders, so they would never try to find her in the middle of these bushes, she thought, when suddenly, from behind, someone grabbed her foot and clamped a hand over her mouth.
“That’s not fair!” she thought angrily, as she squirmed to get away and tell whichever cousin had cheated, but as hard as she wiggled and tried to escape, he wouldn’t let her go. And then she realized that whoever it was that held her was much too big to be one of her cousins. This person had strong, hairy arms, like a man, and he smelled too — like he needed a bath and some deodorant. She kept trying to wiggle away and get his hand off her face, because she couldn’t breathe. What was wrong with him? Didn’t he know he was too big to play this game? “He doesn’t even know the rules!” she thought angrily. “Just wait till I tell my daddy about this,” she thought. “I bet he’ll straighten him out.”
She wasn’t frightened until he opened the door of a dark van, and threw her down in the back, while ripping a piece of duct tape from a roll, and placing it on her mouth. Her daddy and mommy liked to watch “The F.B.I.”, and her heart started pounding rapidly, as it suddenly dawned on her that she was being kidnapped by a stranger. “Oh God,” she prayed silently, as tears began to fall rapidly, and her struggling ceased as fear paralyzed her. “Please help me. Please don’t let him kill me, Lord.”
The back door of the windowless van slammed shut, as her kidnapper opened the front door and climbed in, starting the van and turning the radio up loudly, as The Doors sang, “Riders in the Storm.” As she lay weeping on the hard, dirty floor in the back of the van, Shelley suddenly realized that her life had just changed drastically, and there was nothing she could do about it, but pray and try to survive. Her mommy and daddy had always said she was headstrong, and that trait would prove to be necessary for her survival.
Her husband quietly walked up to her, as she sat on the swing, reminiscing, softly speaking, “Are you ready to meet them, Shelley?” before he touched her. In their more than thirty years of marriage, he had learned to never walk up behind her and touch her or grab her, without first announcing his presence, lest he trigger a traumatic episode. He looked at his wife of many years with deep love and admiration for her courage. Over the years, she had fought her way past many obstacles that might have stopped anyone else, but she was determined to be whole, for her own sake, as well as for his sake, their children’s sake, and now for their grandchildren as well.
It had taken her many years of prayer and counseling to work past the painful memories that she had locked deep within her mind, as she allowed each one to surface. Sometimes, only one memory would surface periodically, and other times, she would be brutalized by an onslaught of many memories. Sometimes, they came in broken, hazy fragments, while other times, vivid, sharp memories bombarded her soul.
Still, with the help of her loving Savior, she had continued to press through those memories, which had led her here, to this place, her childhood home, that she hadn’t seen since that dreadful night in 1971, when her idyllic life had been ripped away from her. And God, in His infinite mercy and kindness, had kept her parents alive. She hadn’t seen them since that horrible night either, and she nervously stood up from the swing, and lifted her hand to her hair, to smooth it, glancing up at her husband uncertainly. “Do I look okay?” she asked him worriedly, and he smiled warmly, cupping her chin in his hand as he replied, “You look beautiful.”
Hand in hand, as the two of them climbed the steps to the upper yard, she glanced to the left at the bushes that were supposed to have been her hiding place on that dreadful night, so long ago, and shuddered, as the door opened and she saw the aged faces of her mother and father. Though time had left its toll on their faces, in the forty-two years since she had last seen them, she recognized them immediately, as they fell into one another’s arms, weeping for joy. “I thought we’d never see you again,” her mother cried, as she held her tightly, as though afraid to let go, for fear that she’d vanish again.
“My little princess,” her daddy choked out as she was engulfed in his arms. “I’m so sorry I didn’t protect you better,” he groaned helplessly.
“Don’t say that, Daddy,” Shelley gently replied, as they made their way into the living room. “You were wonderful parents, and you had no way of knowing that such horrible predators lurked about.” It was a joyful reunion, as Shelley introduced her parents to her husband of more than thirty years and showed them pictures of their grandchildren as well as their great-grandchildren.
Their conversation soon took a more serious tone when her mother asked, “Can you tell us what happened, Shelley? Why did it take you so long to come back to us? There hasn’t been one day that we haven’t cried out to God to bring you back home to us,” she said, as she sat on the faded green sofa, leaning against her husband, who periodically swiped at his nose and his eyes with a wrinkled white handkerchief.
“It was awful, Mommy,” she said softly, as she shared the story of her abduction while playing with her cousins on that fateful night. She told her parents how he raped her repeatedly, and then forced her to prostitute herself in the city, against her will. She told her parents that she had tried to escape numerous times, and how he would find her and beat her each time, until she finally stopped trying to run away from her captor.
She told them of her arrest at the age of fifteen, and how it had changed her life. When the police had picked her up, she told them of her abduction and her forced prostitution, and how they arrested her kidnapper, charging him as a rapist and a pedophile and locking him away for a very long time. The one thing she didn’t share with the police was her real name.
The truth of her identity was locked somewhere deep within the recesses of her mind, but the years of repeated abuse and rape had wreaked havoc on the child’s fragile mind, and it would take years to unlock some of the secrets within. Because times were different then, there was no computer database for kidnapped children, and no DNA testing, which made it nearly impossible for the police to locate her family. By God’s grace, the courts were very kind to the broken teen, placing her into the home of a Christian couple who lavished her with love. They loved her when she acted out in anger and rebellion, and they loved her when she cried herself to sleep each night.
It was this loving couple who introduced her to Jesus, and demonstrated His unconditional love to her in so many ways. They took her to Christian counseling, several times a week at first, then, as she began to heal, less and less. Throughout the years, she and her foster parents had prayed for Shelley to be reunited with her parents, especially when she married Gabe, and again, when each of their three children were born, but though she saw their faces in her dreams, she couldn’t remember their names. She wasn’t even sure if Shelley was her true name, until two weeks ago, when after more than forty years, there had been a breakthrough, and she suddenly remembered her name, her parents’ names, and even her former address. “I was surprised to discover that you still live here,” she finished amid the tears.
“Shelley,” her father said gently, “we thought of moving many times over the years, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to leave, in case you escaped and came looking for us. We had to stay here so you could find us, and I’m so glad we did,” he cried, getting up and throwing his arms around her and her husband.
“Shelley,” her mother said softly, “Would you like to see your old bedroom or would it be too traumatic?”
“Mommy, I have longed to see you and Daddy, and my old room for so many years,” she responded, standing up, and grabbing her husband’s hand, as the four of them headed up the wooden staircase with the gold shag carpet. She laughed delightedly, as she saw pictures of herself as a child hanging on the wall to the left, as they ascended the stairs, running her hand along the oak banister. Sadly, the wall seemed incomplete, as the pictures went from infancy until the age of ten, and then they just stopped. There were no prom pictures, no sweet sixteen pictures, no graduation pictures.
It suddenly dawned on Shelley just how ghastly this must have been for her parents, who never got to experience the joys so many other parents enjoyed. Her mother never got to share with her about the changes that happen when a little girl becomes a woman. Certainly, she had been deprived of these joys, but so too, had her parents.
Waves of compassion swept over Shelley as she, her husband and her parents stood in the hallway outside of her bedroom, and impulsively, before they opened the door to her bedroom, Shelley turned to her mother and whispered, “Mommy, I’m so sorry for all of the joy that you and Daddy missed out on. I’m so sorry for the pain this has caused you, and both of you need to know this was not your fault. You did all that you could do, and what that horrible man intended for evil, God has turned into something good. You see, if none of these horrible things had happened to me, I might not be working with teenage prostitutes and rape victims. This has all worked out for good, because I love God, and He has called me for this purpose.”
After comforting her parents, Shelley turned and opened the door to her bedroom, which had remained unchanged for forty-two years. The bright purple bedspread on the white for poster bed, and lavender walls covered with posters of Donny Osmond brought a smile to her face. There were her old record albums and her record player. She smiled as she saw her collection of stuffed animals neatly arranged on her bed, just as she liked them. She picked up Mr. Bean, a fat fluffy golden stuffed cat, cradling him in her arms as she had done as a child, and walked to the window overlooking the trees and her swing.
“I’m home now, Mr. Bean,” she whispered quietly, as she turned around to look at her family, and with tears brimming from her eyes, she fell to her knees, as her husband joined her, and reaching for her parents hands, they all joined hands and prayed, giving thanks to the Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth, who in His infinite love and mercy, had reunited this broken family, and restored the years that the enemy had stolen from them.
The following story is for the__picture it & write blogging challenge. When I saw this image a few days ago, I knew I had to respond…
As soon as Jesus got out of the boat, He was met by a man who came out of the burial caves there. This man had an evil spirit in him and lived among the tombs. Nobody could keep him tied with chains any more; many times his feet and his hands had been tied, but every time he broke the chains and smashed the irons on his feet. He was too strong for anyone to control him. Day and night he wandered among the tombs and through the hills, screaming and cutting himself with stones. ~ Mark 5:2-5 GNT
He had lived a lifetime in pain and loneliness. Most people called him crazy and stayed far away from him, afraid of what he might do to them. Doctors said he was a paranoid schizophrenic and tried to control the voices within him with medication, but not even their strongest medication could completely silence those terrible, dreadful voicesthat made himcrazy… and wild… and violent…
Because they couldn’t hear them, they tried to tell him the voices weren’t real. But he knew better. Those demonic voices were just as real as the doctors and everyone else. Because they couldn’t see them, they tried to convince him that the demons he saw didn’t really exist — that they were merely figments of his imagination, but again, he knew better. He had imagined things in his lifetime, and he knew the difference between what was imagined and what was real. The demons were around him and within him, tormenting him night and day, day and night.
They thought they were helping him by placing him on medications to “quiet the voices and stop the hallucinations,” but they weren’t helping. Instead, the medications caused him to feel sick and nauseated, rendering him unable to function and fight against the demons. He still heard their dreadful, tormenting voices and saw them, though they were hazier with the medication…
He had begun seeing and hearing the demons as a child, but no one took him seriously. They thought his “imaginary friends” were harmless and cute, and they didn’t believe him when he told them that it was his “friends” who broke his toys… and started the fights with other children… and cut him… and caused his “meltdowns”…
As he grew older, his behavior grew more and more violent. Other children avoided him. He began to play games… drawn to dark games with witches and wizards and dragons… The make-believe worlds in these games became his reality, and he began to read demonic books and study things of the occult world, and his harmless and cute “imaginary friends” began to openly revolt against him, as the many clamorous voices within him refused to be silent, allowing him no rest.
They were the ones who forced him to cut himself. It was they, who caused him to hurt the animals. He didn’t want to, but the demons tortured him until harried and exhausted, he no longer had the strength to fight them, and so he surrendered to their will. His surrender only made the demons stronger, and each time he submitted to their cruelties, first hurting himself and then animals, they demanded more and more from him.
It had now escalated to the point that even with the medicine, he was unable to rest… He would be unable to resist their demands much longer, and they were commanding him to take a human life… He didn’t want to do this horrible thing, but he was powerless. The demons and the medicine had rendered him helpless, and he had lost all control of his body.
While he lay naked and spent in the cemetary just outside of town limits, shackled by demonic chains unseen by mortal man, but there nonetheless, he began to weep, crying, “Set me free of these chains! Does anybody out there hear me?” One of the demons kicked him while he was down, causing him to curl up in a fetal position on his side, as he continued to cry desperately for help.
“God please!” he cried, “I know I’ve done many terrible things, but please, Lord, set me free! I don’t want to live like this for the rest of my life,” he sniffled. “I want to love and be loved.”
Another demon kicked him harder this time, knocking the air out of him and hissing, “Silence! Don’t you dare speak that name,” another one backhanded him, striking his mouth and breaking several teeth, which lodged in his throat, causing him to choke on them. Helplessly gagging and spitting up blood and bile, he was finally able to dislodge the teeth from his throat and vomit them out. Things were much worse than ever before, and yet, for the first time, in all of the years the demons had reigned and ruled in his life, the man sensed fear emanating from them!
They were so scared of that name that they didn’t dare even utter it. He had once heard a preacher say that if you call on the name of Jesus you would be saved, and there was no other name that could save you. “Could this be true?” he wondered silently, so that they wouldn’t hear. One thing he had discovered years ago… no matter how powerful the demons seemed, and though he could hear them talking and see them, they did not have the power to read his thoughts.
“For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them.” ~ Acts 4:11-12 NLT
Another thing he knew about the demons is that they hate the name of Jesus. “Maybe,” he continued to think silently, “if I call on Jesus, He will hear me, and set me free! One thing is certain,” he thought grimly, feeling lucid for the first time in years, “I cannot kill a human being or another animal, even if it means that they must kill me. At least, then, I would be out of my misery… Or is it true that I would be condemned to spend all of eternity with them?”
He winced and closed his eyes, as another demon placed a sharp rock in his hand, commanding him to gash himself with it yet again. “Enough,” he rasped, and gasping for air, he weakly cried, “Jesus! Please, forgive me!” He gulped, as tears of repentance began to roll down his gaunt cheeks, “Jesus, help me, please. I know I have sinned against You, and I am not worthy to tie your shoes.”
Though the demons around and within him continued clamoring for his attention, he set his face like flint, as he continued to pray. “I know that I am guilty of many atrocities, and that I don’t deserve Your forgiveness, but please, Lord! I don’t want to be bound by these demons anymore. I don’t want to hurt anyone or anything else. Jesus please save me!”
Suddenly, the air all around him became fresh, as a gust of wind blew into the cemetery, causing the demons to screech louder than ever before, but not at him. This time, they shrieked in fear, as the Almighty Son of the Living God appeared before them, holding a set of keys in His hand, walking toward the demonized man, as the demons all around him, against their will, bowed low to the ground. “Silence!” Jesus commanded sharply, as He unlocked the chains that had bound the man for so many years, and lifted him to his feet.
The man’s knees buckled beneath him, as he willingly bowed low before the King of Glory, and kissed His feet. “Forgive me, Lord,” he whispered, as Jesus again pulled him to his feet and looked deeply into his eyes.
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus spoke to him compassionately, “your sins, though they are many, are forgiven.”
The demons, still bowed low, began to whine, “Don’t torture us,” they begged. “Please don’t send us to the abyss. Instead, please send us into that herd of pigs,” they pleaded, and Jesus did as they asked, casting them into the herd of two thousand swine that was nearby. And when they entered the herd of swine, the maddened pigs – every one of them – charged off the side of the mountain, into the the raging river below.
The man became aware of his nakedness, and Jesus, filled with compassion covered him with His cloak. As Jesus prepared to return to His heavenly throne, the man, now in his right mind, begged Jesus to take him with Him, but Jesus told him to stay, and share the good news about His love for all mankind with the people of his community…
The man did as Jesus commanded, walking the streets and talking to the addicts, the prostitutes and the pimps. He spoke to the poor and the lost, sharing the good news about Christ. And he spoke to the other “crazy and insane ones” who saw demons, telling them the name of the One who would save them and set them free, Jesus, the One who had set him free… He shared what Jesus had said to him before He returned to His throne…
” And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you lock on earth will be locked in heaven, and whatever you open on earth will be opened in heaven.” ~ Matthew 16:19 NLT
I visited the Fox News website, and as soon as I saw the following headline, I knew that I must participate in this prompt. The link below will take you to the fox news website, where that article can be read.
American Pastor Imprisoned In Iran To Go On Trial Next Week
What follows is my telling of this story, but before I continue, I want to cry out to all of my brothers and sisters in Christ to please join me in praying for this young Pastor, Saeed Abedini, as well as for other Christian men, women and children throughout the world who are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.
And when the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their witness. They called loudly to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before You judge the people who belong to this world for what they have done to us? When will You avenge our blood against these people?” Then a white robe was given to each of them. And they were told to rest a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters — their fellow servants of Jesus — had been martyred. (Revelation 6:9-11 NLT)
In July 2012, Saeed Abedini, a 32-year old Pastor and United States citizen, was arrested in Iran while working on an orphanage project that was not affiliated with any religion. However, because Mr. Abedini, a former Iranian citizen, had been deterred and interrogated in Iran once before, in 2009, for converting from Islam to Christianity in 2000, and for helping to create a network of underground churches in Iran, he is now being held for trial, which is to begin on January 21, 2013, for trying to convert Muslims to the Christian faith, which is punishable by the death penalty.
My friends, this is a gross injustice and a violation of Mr. Abedini’s human rights. Let us not forget that while Saeed was once an Iranian citizen, he abdicated his citizenry to that country, and is now a citizen of the United States of America. It saddens me greatly that the United States government has remained silent regarding this matter. There has been no action from any of the U.S. government agencies on Saeed Abedini’s behalf. It’s as if he doesn’t exist.
This man is not only a Christian, but a husband and the father of two children. Surely he deserves our prayers at the very least. It has also been reported by Mr. Abedini, in a letter (please click link to read)that was written to his wife, that he has been abused by his captors.
When I first determined to write this Daily Prompt, it was just another opportunity for me to share the gospel in my writing, but as I’ve been researching this story, it has become more than that to me. This is a very personal issue. Men and women of the United States, do you realize how very blessed we are to live in a country where we are free to worship as we choose? Whether you are Christian, Buddhist, Islam, Atheist or whatever religion you are, if you live in the United States of America, you have been granted your God-given right to practice your faith in this country. I don’t care what your faith is or is not, every U.S. citizen who reads about Mr. Abedini’s imprisonment should be outraged by it.
And if you are not a U.S. citizen, but you have been granted the freedom to worship as you choose, you too, should be outraged by his incarceration as well. For those who are living in a country that does not afford you the right to freedom of religion, please know that my heart goes out to you, as well. No one should be imprisoned, beat, tortured or put to death for practicing your faith in God.
I’ve never before written a post where I asked people to take action, but I strongly feel in my spirit that I must do so now. Saeed Abedini’s case has been turned over to Judge Pir-Abassi, and his court date is next Monday, January 21, 2013. His trial date and the charges against him were withheld from his attorneys until less than a week before his trial. He desperately needs our prayers and action now.
Therefore, I am doing something I’ve never done before. I am asking every person who reads this article to sign the petition, and you have my permission to either reblog what I’ve written, or copy from it. I don’t care or worry about any copyright infringements on this article. What matters most is that we unite together as human beings to free this man of God, who was simply trying to start an orphanage for Iranian children when he was arrested.
Many thanks for reading this, and many more thanks and blessings to all who take action. May God bless you all!