Monday, May 30, 2016

The Inner Views of Gail Purath

"For Thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy."
Psalm 61:3
(KJV)

If you are even remotely familiar with the world of Christian bloggers, 
you have almost definitely read at least one post or seen at least one Pinterest pin
of a devotional written by the dear lady I am interviewing today.
I can't remember when or how I first came across her blog,
but I will be forever grateful to the dear Lord that He allowed our paths to cross.
She has been a precious blessing to me, not only through her blog,
but even more so through our personal email conversations.
I know you are going to enjoy getting to know the woman behind 1-Minute Bible Love Notes.



The
of
Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Author of 1-Minute Bible Love Notes,
Former Homeschooler, Former Army Wife, Former Missionary to Budapest, Hungary,
Gail Purath.

Cheryl:  Please tell us about yourself.

Gail:  I think the most unique aspect of my life is how nomadic it's been. I'll be 65 in July and I've lived in over 40 homes all over the U.S. plus 8 years in Europe (Germany and Hungary). I might understand better than most folks what it means to be an "alien and stranger" here on earth. (To read Gail's post called "Aliens", click here.)

I've been married to Michael since 1970. We have a married son and married daughter and 7 grandchildren. We homeschooled our children from 6th grade through high school in the 80's when homeschooling was pretty rare for older children.  (To read Gail's post about being a homeschool pioneer, click here.)

After my husband's 22 years in the Army, we both got seminary degrees in discipleship and we did Christian work in Budapest, Hungary for 5 years. When we returned to the U.S. in 2009, we thought we were settling for the last time near our children and grandchildren in NC. But in 2015, God gave us "marching orders" and we moved again, this time to volunteer with ITEC in FL. (To read, "We Serve a God of Adventure", click here.)

Cheryl:  What life events led up to your decision to follow Jesus?

Gail:  My parents taught me Christian values, we attended church regularly, and my paternal grandmother was a particularly loving witness. When I was in high school, my mother's faith became vibrant and she strongly influenced me. She recommended several Christian biographies that had great impact on my life: the Hiding Place and God's Smuggler were two that especially touched me. (To read, "Our Cheerleaders", click here.)

When I was pregnant with our youngest, I began to feel there must be something more to life, and I decided to attend a Bible study. Why a Bible study? My only explanation is that the Holy Spirit was leading me. For months, I sat silently in this non-denominational group of military wives, listening to them speak about knowing Jesus in a way I didn't know Him. I don't know the hour or even the day that I chose Christ because it was a progressive giving of myself to Him, but it happened within 4-6 months of starting that study.

Even though I wasn't coming out of an especially broken life, the change in me was still dramatic. I couldn't get enough of God and His Word. For the first 6 months after Christ got hold of me, I somehow managed to keep up with my household duties, mother two little ones in diapers, be a wife to a busy soldier, attend 2 Bible studies, a prayer group, and church each week. I couldn't wait until nap time so I could steal away and read my Bible. It had something relevant for me on every page and I couldn't get enough.

Cheryl:  When did you start blogging? What is unique about your blog? How has your blog enriched your life and ministry?

Gail:  My blog has been an integral part of my personal growth and healing.

In 2011 I experienced a broken relationship with someone I love very deeply. I tried on my own to restore the relationship, but the other party wasn't interested. I was deeply wounded and I spiraled down into a depression, woke up sad, went to bed sad, and cried on and off throughout the day.

My husband hated to see me suffering, and he was very supportive, yet nothing seemed to change my perspective. But God knew exactly what I needed.

My sister, who wasn't regularly reading her Bible, suggested I write a very short email devotion for her to read each day. Via word of mouth, 50 ladies signed up and I launched 1-Minute Bible Love Notes in July 2011.

I knew immediately it was my route to recovery. Each devotion became a step out of my pit. I was back in God's Word, "telling myself the truth" instead of feeding on my sorrows. God was showing me that the only Person I could not live without was Him.

In the last 5 years, God has taught me so much about myself and others through writing devotions. I believe my brokenness has actually equipped me for writing Bible Love Notes.

You might think that coming out of depression my blog would be designed to affirm people and encourage their self-esteem. But I don't think anyone would describe it that way. Recently one of my readers wrote and thanked me for "boldly discomforting" her. I've learned that appropriate feelings about myself come from affirming and esteeming my Jesus, not affirming and esteeming myself.

Instead, I want to challenge my readers and spur them on to love and good deeds because I need to be challenged and spurred on. The situation that threw me into depression has continued, but I am learning day by day to forget what's behind and press on toward the goal. I think there are many others like me out there because I now have 10,000 subscribers - more than I would have asked or imagined!

Cheryl:  What are the causes closest to your heart? What are you most passionate about?

Gail:  Having lived in the South for over 10 years, my heart aches over bigotry, and I hate seeing the Confederate flag honored when I know what it symbolizes for our African-American brothers and sisters.  (To read, "Flags or People", click here.)

I am also saddened by my country's acceptance of abortion, pre-marital sex, co-habitation, homosexuality, and other forms of immorality.  (To read Gail's articles, "Hard Teaching, click here, "No Laughing Matter", click here, and "We're Havin' Fun", click here.)

But perhaps my greatest passion, the reason I write, is my feeling that Christians are perishing from lack of knowledge. I get so many comments and emails from people who share beliefs not found in Scripture. They depend on others to tell them what the Bible says and they have no discernment.  (To read, "Let's Get To Work, click here, and "Multiply", click here.)

Cheryl:  We would love to hear about your work with ITEC. What is it, and who is affiliated with it? How did this organization come to be, and how did God orchestrate the details for you to become a part of it? How has being involved with this ministry impacted your life?

Gail:  Nate Saint was a missionary pilot who was martyred along with 4 other young men in Ecuador in 1956 attempting to take the Gospel to the Waodani, an extremely violent stone age tribe. Nate's son Steve Saint was five at the time, and after an interesting life in business and missions, he founded ITEC. The purpose of ITEC is to develop equipment and training to help indigenous people share the Gospel with their own people. They've developed a solar powered dental chair that can be taken into the jungle in a back pack. And that's just one example of things they are working on.  (To read, "A Saint's Life", click here, "All the Way to Timbuktu", click here, and "Endured or Cured", click here.)

Early last year, we felt the Lord telling us we were going to move, but we didn't know where. We prayed about it for several months and felt the Lord leading us to contact ITEC. After going through their volunteer interview process, we felt confirmed that God was calling us to this move. My husband does administrative work with ITEC.

Three years ago, Steve Saint suffered a serious spinal cord injury while testing some equipment, and he's an incomplete quadriplegic. I am presently helping him get a blog up and running. Steve has a blog about his mission philosophies, and ITEC has a website, but we are working on a blog where he can share more aspects of Christian living as a husband, father, and grandfather.

It's a blessing to know that at any age God has meaningful work for us to do.

Cheryl:  If you could go back in time and change one thing about your past choices, what would you change? Why?

Gail:  There are many things I would change. I've made lots of mistakes and I'm still in process of putting off my old self with its evil desires and putting on my new self in Christ.

But a few specific things I'd change:

There were times I put too much focus on my children. I know that sounds like heresy from a former homeschool mom. A mother should serve and sacrifice for her children, but I think our country has moved from loving and nurturing children to honoring them and giving them a sense of entitlement. This isn't just my view. There is a growing body of evidence that younger Americans expect to receive honor instead of give it and it is causing problems in the marketplace and the family.  (To read, "Needs and Desires", click here, and "Takers and Givers", click here.

I have always loved to study my Bible, but if I had my life to live over, I would study it more deliberately. We do meal plans and lesson plans and exercise plans, but most of us just let our discipleship happen.  (To read, "Lives Are At Stake", click here, and "Hide God's Word, click here.)

If I had life to live over, I would also be more deliberate about focusing on my blessings instead of my problems. I've wasted some of my life by focusing on the things going wrong and ignoring all the things going right. This life will always have troubles, a good reminder that we are only aliens and strangers here....we are not home yet. (To read, "I Can't Be Happy Unless", click here.)

Cheryl:  We are living in such difficult days, as Christians, and surely we are seeing God’s Word fulfilled on so many levels, and the battle can see too overwhelming to fight. How do you stay encouraged and enthused in your Christian walk? Do you have particular “go-to” Scriptures that are favorites? What words of encouragement would you like to share with the soul who is struggling and ready to give up?

Gail:  I desperately need time with God, time in His Word, and fellowship with other Believers who will challenge me and hold me accountable. I think these are keys to Christian growth.  (To read, "Spiritual Atrophy", click here.)

From my perspective, the key to overcoming discouragement of any kind is to quit focusing on ourselves and our problems and start focusing on the love of God and our blessings. (To read, "The Power of Negative Self-Talk", click here.)

We also need the prayers of others, but we should be careful to share our problems with the right people - people who are quick to pray for us but cautious about giving advice. (To read, "Pray for Them", click here, and "3 Ways to Comfort", click here.)

When making a big decision or dealing with a particular difficulty, I'll set my alarm to go off every hour throughout the day as a reminder to pray. This helps me stay focused.  (To read, "Set Your Mind, or Set Your Alarm", click here.)

Cheryl:  How do you want to be remembered?

Gail:  Years ago, I wrote this poem, and I think I would like to be remembered as a woman of the Word whose desire is to grow closer to the Lord day by day, minute by minute : ) (Philippians 3:8-9)

A Woman of the Word

The Bible wore her imprint,
Its cover soft from use;
The pages rubbed and wrinkled,
The binding coming loose.

And even if this Christian,
And her Bible were apart;
She still would have it with her,
Hidden in her heart.

Oh, make me such a woman, Lord,
Who hungers to be fed;
Who cherishes a line from You,
More than her daily bread.

And when my days are over,
May it be my epitaph;
“She longed to spend more time with Him.
And now is doing that.”


Cheryl:  How can we pray for you, at this time? Are there particular burdens you are carrying that we can help you lift to the Father?

Gail:  I would like to "finish well." I would like to go out of this world exalting my Savior and living in such a way that others will know I fought the good fight and finished the race. At our ages, my husband and I are "slowing down" physically, but we never want to retire from God's work.  (To read, "Fruitful Palms", click here.)


Gail, with the love of her life, Michael

Thank you ever so much, dear Gail, for sharing your heart and inner views with us here!
Your testimony is a shining light of Jesus' love, and you consistently bless us all by your presence.
I trust the Lord to keep you and Michael bearing much spiritual fruit together for many years to come!

Thank you, dear friends, for taking the time to read this special interview.
I deeply appreciate all of your love, support, and encouragement.
May God bless each one of you in a special way!

To read previous

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Inner Views of Chris West

"While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being."
Psalm 146:2
(KJV)

You might remember that in this post I mentioned a song called "Revival" that Kevin had heard on the radio one day, then came home and found on youtube and asked me to listen to.

I instantly fell in love with it and have listened to it I don't know how many times since then.

As I listened, the Lord nudged me to contact the writer of such a song to ask for an interview.
It turns out that the man who co-wrote the song is also the one who sings it.
I know you are going to love reading the inner views of this multi-talented and humble man,
 and you will be abundantly blessed by getting to know him better.


The
of
Father of Two, Songwriter, Born-again Believer in Jesus Christ, 
Lead Singer and Co-Founder of Blue Moon Rising,
Chris West.

Cheryl:  Please tell us about yourself. 

Chris:  My name is Chris West. I'm 44, a single dad, and live in East Tennessee with my two sons. I am a founding member of Blue Moon Rising that has been going now for 15 years, but I still work a full time day job.

Cheryl:  We would love to hear about your Christian testimony. How long have you been a Christian? 

Chris:  I was saved a couple days after turning 18 and had been under conviction for some time. I have a personal relationship with God and my savior Jesus Christ that I am very satisfied and find great peace in.

Cheryl:  Who, would you say, has been your biggest spiritual influence? Is there a particular person who prayed for you and whose life's example caused you to want to emulate them and draw closer to God? 

Chris:  My biggest spiritual influence through the years has been my mom and one of my friends, pastor David Seiber.

Cheryl:  How long have you been singing, playing music, and writing songs? What instruments do you play, and what first drew you to the bluegrass genre? 

Chris:  I've been singing and playing for 30 years now and was taught to play by my uncle Tony Thomas. I play guitar and mandolin and was drawn to bluegrass through my uncle Tony.

Cheryl:  Who are your musical heroes? Which singers, songwriters, and musicians persuaded you to take the musical path you have chosen? 

Chris:  Musical heroes would be Flatt and Scruggs, Bill Monroe, The Stanley Brothers, Tony Rice, Ricky Skaggs, JD Crowe, Larry Sparks, and The Country Gentlemen. Right now I'm loving the writing of Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, and Darrell Scott. Bill Monroe has always been one of my favorite writers as has been Hank Williams Sr.

Cheryl:  Can you share the history of "Blue Moon Rising"? When did you first found the group? What inspired the name of the band? How can we buy your music and products and find out where you will be performing, etc.? 

Chris:  You can find out our schedule and buy merchandise from www.bluemoonrisingband.com. We founded the band in the winter of 2000 and have recorded 6 projects and are putting the finishing touches on our 7th. The name was inspired by an article in a local paper about Bill Monroe.

Cheryl:  Are there any plans in the works to do a recording with all gospel songs? 

Chris:  Eventually. We have always talked about it and would love to do one.

Cheryl:  Tell us about your songwriting. How many songs have you written? Which songs mean the most to you? Why? How do you usually find inspiration to write? Is there a particular place or setting in which you prefer to write, or is your writing usually spontaneous? 

Chris:  I don't really have a favorite place to write and really have no process. The songs just come to me as I'm inspired lyrically or melodically, which is why I'd probably starve to death if I depended on it for a living, LOL! I e probably written a couple hundred songs, but not all of those are keepers! The story songs, songs that really say something, mean the most to me and if I can invoke a feeling in someone, then the song has done its job.

Cheryl:  The way we were introduced to your band was through your song, "Revival". It is SO relevant to the burden God has placed upon my heart concerning the current condition of our nation and the direction in which we are headed. My family and I have come to really love this song, and we would love to hear the story behind it. What inspired you to write it, and what were the events surrounding its composition? 

Chris:  The song was inspired after hearing a preacher on Easter Sunday morning preach Ezekiel 37 and I wrote it with Steve Gulley.

Cheryl:  The culture in which we now live can be very oppressive and discouraging to those who want to follow Jesus with all their hearts. What words of encouragement can you offer to us? What are some of your favorite, go-to Scriptures that have sustained you in your walk with Christ? 

Chris:  I'm a simple man and have more than my fair share of faults, trust me in that. However, I have learned to lean on the the words Christ spoke when He said "Not my will, but thy will be done."

Cheryl:  How would like to be remembered? 

Chris:  I would like to be remembered as a fun and caring person who always tried his very best to help others and was the best dad he could possibly be.

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you? Are there specific needs you would like us to lift to the Father on your behalf? 

Chris:  Absolutely! My dad, Paul West, needs prayer because he has an as yet undetermined mass in his lungs. My girlfriend's brother, Mark Self, a Tennessee State Trooper, is 41 and has stage IV lung cancer and has never smoked.  And I could use prayer to be the best dad I can possibly be.


A BIG thank you to you, Chris, for taking the time to visit with us and share your testimony.
It has been an absolute honor to get to know you better and learn more about your music.
I so appreciate your humility and kindness, and I know your story will bless many.
Bluegrass music is enriched and made even better by the fact that you and your band are a part of it.

Thank you, dear readers, for reading and for your faithful support.
Will you please kindly add Paul West and Mark Self to your personal and church prayer lists?
Please pray for Paul to receive good news and for God to send healing to both Paul and Mark.

I hope you can take the time to listen to Chris and Blue Moon Rising singing another song
he wrote called, "The Old Time Preacher Man".


If video doesn't load, click here.

And, of course, one of our favorites, "Revival"...


Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Inner Views of Wayne Mobley

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: 
for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth..."
Romans 1:16
(KJV)

It is amazing how the dear Lord always works simultaneously on both ends of a situation,
and it is equally amazing to watch the way He orchestrates the events of our lives.

Recently, during a sweet time of fellowship with dear friends during a Concerned Women for America meeting, in which Tonya Shellnutt was introducing and talking about the core values of CWA,
Zach and I had the blessed privilege of sitting across the table from the humble man of God being interviewed today. 
As we sat enjoying a delicious meal together while visiting and enjoying the fellowship of him and his precious wife, Terry, the Holy Spirit's still, small voice whispered,
"This man's story needs to be told."
Right away, I asked if he would be willing to share his testimony by doing an interview for us here.
I was so grateful when he kindly and graciously agreed.
You are going to be abundantly blessed, encouraged, and inspired, 
as you read his story of redemption and how God's amazing grace has transformed his life.


The
of
Friend, Husband, Father, Pastor and Believer, Follower and Servant of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Wayne Mobley.

Cheryl:  When did you first feel the Holy Spirit dealing with you and calling you to come to Him?

Wayne:  The Holy Spirit spoke to me at different points in my life. I first felt him speaking to me when I was 16 years old. The second time was when I was 18. The last time was when I was 44.

Cheryl:  Were you raised in a Christian home?

Wayne:  I was raised in a mixed home concerning religion. My mother believed in God and prayed. My father spoke of God but I never knew him to pray and never saw him go to church before or after the funeral service of my little sister in 1968. He talked about his view of God and how he perceived Him. He accepted Jesus as his Savior before he passed in 1996. I thank God for his salvation.

Cheryl:  What events surrounded your first and subsequent encounters with Christ?

Wayne:  I went to a youth meeting at the 1st Baptist church in Harleyville, S.C. They showed us a very graphic movie about people in Hell. It showed how they lived the results of their choices. I knew that was not where I wanted to be when I died. My second encounter was much different. I was attending an assembly of God church in Nashville, Tenn. I was staying with my uncle there. He committed suicide while I was staying with him. One of my co-workers got me involved with his church. During one of the services, the Holy Spirit seemed to fill the whole building. I felt being pulled to the altar to give God all that I had. The church prayed over me. I called on God to change me. At that time, I felt something within, but not sure what was happening.

Cheryl:  What has happened in the years following your conversion?

Wayne:  It has been unbelievable to me. It has been over 13 years since I made a decision to turn my whole life over to God. He has blessed me more than I deserve. All that I thought was destroyed, God has built new and better than I could have ever imagined.

Cheryl:  Was there a time that you strayed since you started following Jesus?

Wayne:  I have not strayed or walked away from the Lord since I left the overcomers program. I could not imagine living a day without God in my life.

Cheryl:  How has surrendering your life to God affected your marriage?  Your job?  Your life in general?

Wayne:  My wife and I can laugh with and at each other. There was a time when there was no laughter in our home. We still have disagreements, but we now work through them, instead of me running from them. I now realize it was not all her fault. LOL

I spent many years at work trying to gain respect from my co-workers and when I thought I deserved it the least, I got the most. I have a job now in middle management. There is a great story about my job. After being away from work for 7 months, my relationship with the plant was not exactly on good terms. I had failed one program before completing the Overcomers program. The Plant manager told me that he had never had an employee leave for 7 months and come back and keep their job, much less the position they held before leaving under the terms I left. But, I was given not just a job, but the same position I held before leaving. He said he could not tell me why he was doing it, because that was not his normal action of discipline in those types of circumstances. God had prepared him for me. I enjoy what I do today and am blessed God has me there.

Every day is a great day in the Lord. There are days that I am tired, days that satan just wails away at me, but my worst day today is a 1000 times better than my old way of living. No comparison.

Cheryl:  When did you hit rock bottom and realize that a change had to be made?

Wayne:  When my job told me to complete a program or be fired. My wife told me that she did not love me, but was not going to leave me, because God told her He had a plan for me.

Cheryl:  Was there one defining moment that convinced you that things could not get any worse?

Wayne:  I had failed an alcohol test at the program I was going through. The counselor asked me to be honest about what was going on. What was the truth. I remember telling her that I did not know the truth. I had lied to so many people for so long, I could not remember what was true and what was a lie. At that moment in my life I started to realize I did not know who I really was. I did not like who I had become, but I did not know how I could ever be any different.

Cheryl:  What advice can you offer to the couple or person who is reading this whose marriage is in trouble and who is grasping for hope of restoration? 

Wayne:  God has to be first in everything. If He is not first in all that we are, then what ever we put ahead of Him becomes ours. We claim possession of it. What belongs to us no longer belongs to God. Give everything to God, He will give it back abundantly.

Cheryl:  Can you share the steps that God has personally taught you and brought you and your wife through?

Wayne:  My wife gave me to God years before I was saved. Afterwards, I gave her to God. We live in a time when we believe that the value of who we are is based on what we have or own. Neither my wife nor my children belong to me. They are a gift from God and I am to be the best Christian husband and father that I can be. Make sure that God’s Word is spoken in the home, not just in the church. Pray together as a family. Listen to your children. They will tell you who you are, if you are willing to listen.

Cheryl:  The life of a minister of the Gospel is one of great personal sacrifice. Many are called, but few make the choice to follow Christ so intimately. For many, the personal cost is beyond what they are willing to pay. Will you share with us about your personal call into the ministry? 

Wayne:  I was at men’s group meeting one night in 2007. The speaker that evening was preaching on serving the Lord. The more he spoke about serving, the more I made a list in my head of all that I was not doing and the more convicted I became. After his sermon, I went to the altar to answer God’s call to my life.

Cheryl:  What was your first reaction? 

Wayne:  I was scared. I knew what God wanted, but did not think I could follow through.

Cheryl:  How did God prepare you ahead of time? 

Wayne:  By going to the overcomers. I spent what I believe was 7 months in seminary. I studied the Bible every day. I had men with great knowledge of God’s word and they knew how to teach it.

Cheryl:  When did you know for certain that He was specifically calling you to preach, and how has your decision to follow Him to this level of consecration affected the other areas of your life?

Wayne:  1 month after I told God I would do whatever He wanted, a minister came to our church. He was the chairman for ministerial candidate mentors. He trained mentors to work with new candidates for ministry. Just a coincidence right!!! No, not for me. God was preparing me again for my next journey. I began to realize that God has prepared my path all through my life. I had to choose which path I was going to take. He has continued to open all kind of doors for me. I began teaching at Hebron Grace Home, a recovery program for women. My time past and going through a program made it easy for me to relate to what they were going through. I pray that my story may help them in some way.

Cheryl:  Filling the role of a minister’s spouse also requires a deep level of dedication to God and personal sacrifice. There is much that goes on behind the scenes that only those who have walked a similar path can understand or even comprehend. How do the two of you find balance? What is some of the best advice you have been given by others who have mentored you, and how would you advise others who are feeling a similar call? 

Wayne:  Keep balance in your life. Do not give up your family for the call. It is easy to get caught up in helping others that you forget about helping your family. Take time each week to separate yourself from church work. Make a special time for family. Do not push your family to follow you where you go. Remember it is your call not theirs, but invite them to be a part of it. Let them join in when they are comfortable.

Cheryl:  As a Christian who walks closely with Christ, will you share what he is revealing to you now, in this season? What is the current theme of thoughts He is laying upon your heart, both in your personal faith walk and the messages He is leading you to share with your congregation?

Wayne:  BELIEF. As Methodists, we have a creed that we say every Sunday. In it is a list of what we believe. I wonder how many people really listen to what they are saying. I believe in one God, I believe in Jesus Christ, I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe Jesus was crucified, died, was buried and arose on the third day. I BELIEVE that He is at the right hand of the Father. I believe He died for me. There are so many lies being told to people today to make them feel good about where they are in life, instead of challenging them to change.

Cheryl:  We are living in a society that is becoming more and more hostile towards God and Christianity and Biblical principles. As a pastor, what do you feel are the most prominent threats we, as Christians, are facing in our culture, and how can we make an individual difference? How do you motivate your congregants to take courage and not lose heart in these dark days?

Wayne:  I am most worried that people want to use the morals of the society they live in to determine if they are living right. Morals change, as we have seen in this country, but God does not. What was sin 10,000 years ago is the same sin today. I challenge myself first, and my congregants not to live morally but to live righteously.

Cheryl:  What are some of your favorite personal go-to Scriptures…when you are discouraged, when satan reminds you of your past, when the cultural battleground seems too hard to overcome, and to strengthen your relationship with your wife? What parting words of encouragement can you offer us?

Wayne:  I just recently did a sermon on this one. Psalm 23 :1 The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. I was given a cute little story of a boy who could not memorize the 23rd Psalm. When it was time for him to recite the psalms, here was what he said, "The Lord is my shepherd and that is all that I need." You see, when He is your shepherd, your wants change. What I wanted before I knew Him, I no longer want.

My second choice is actually a passage ; Romans 7:15-31. It is the struggle with the spirit and the flesh.  Paul shares the struggle of everyday life and how we have hope to overcome the sinful nature we are born in.


Cheryl:  How can we pray for you and your wife? Are there specific requests you would like us to lift to the Father upon your behalf? 

Wayne:  Our children. That God keeps them safe and guides their way.
*******************************************************************************
A BIG thank you to Wayne for sharing with us here!
The power of our Lord is awesome and beyond anything you and I will ever be able to comprehend.

God is absolutely able to save to the uttermost, and His transforming power, so evident in Wayne's life, his marriage, and his ministry, is such an encouragement and inspiration to us all.

There is no level of brokenness that God cannot repair.
No matter how far we drift or run from Him, He stands with arms open wide,
waiting to welcome us into the fold and to use our lives and our past for His glory and the good of others.

I love to read stories of redemption, such as Wayne's.
May God bless Wayne, his dear wife, Terry, his children, and his ministry in ways beyond what any of them can even imagine.

"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us..."
Ephesians 3:20

I am abundantly blessed by knowing this precious couple and look forward to seeing what God accomplishes in their lives, as they continue to follow Him!

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Death Of A Killer

"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
Galatians 6:7
(KJV)

So many of you have prayed and reached out and been so incredibly kind
in the aftermath of the horrific murder of my precious niece, Victoria.
(Read previous posts here and here.)
You have shone the light of Jesus' love into the darkness of our grief.


The man who killed Victoria was immediately identified, 
but has been missing since the time of her murder on May 1st.
To say this fact has made a lot of people uneasy would be an understatement.
I know many of you have been praying earnestly that he would be found.

Yesterday, we found out your prayers were answered, my friends.

Today, I hardly know what or how to feel.

On one hand, 
I am very grateful to God for allowing some semblance of closure to come to us.
I am so thankful he is off the streets and incapable of harming anyone else.
I am glad we can all stop looking over our shoulder, wondering what he will do next.
But, the questions we would love to ask, will forever remain unanswered.

Questions like...
why did you kill her?
How could you do what you did?
Have you no heart?
Do you feel any remorse?
Has it even crossed your mind what you have taken from us?
From her little girl?

As intimidating and horrifying as it would have felt to sit across from him to ask such questions,
a part of me wanted to have the opportunity to find the answers we so desperately seek.

The door of that opportunity is now infinitely closed.

Yesterday, the body that was found floating in a river by some fishermen last week
was identified as my niece's killer.
His body had been decomposing for several days, from all outward appearances,
which indicates he must have died shortly after my niece.

The whole thing is surrounded in mystery.
An autopsy was performed, and results as to the cause of his death will be forthcoming. 
Until then, we can only speculate the many possibilities and scenarios going through our minds.

And, I can't help but feel incredibly sad.
I feel so sad for her...
for the way he made her suffer,
for the beyond-awful last moments of her life on earth,
for the terror and horrors she endured.

And, though I have struggled much against the raging tide of temptation to hate the man who
inflicted such unspeakable evil upon my niece, there is a part of me that is sad...even for him.
I can't really explain it.

I didn't want it to end this way.
I had hoped that, in time, someone, somewhere, would introduce him to Jesus Christ...
that he could have found redemption and forgiveness for the heinous crime he committed.

I am surprised at my own feelings right now.
Because even though, through human eyes, he may have deserved whatever happened to him,
it pains me to know that he may have faced eternity...and Almighty God...guilty of the murder of my niece.

While I am not the judge, nor do I have the right to presume where any soul will go or has gone
after departing this life, these thoughts still run rampant through my mind.

I can only hope that he had time to pray, and that if he did, he took advantage of that opportunity
and made his peace with God before facing Him on the other side.

Oh, dear Lord!  
Eternity!
Never-ending.
Forever.
Perpetual.

I think the worst possible part of being in Hell would be the absence of God.
It would be the knowledge that there is no chance of forgiveness....
that one's fate has been permanently sealed...
that there are no more u-turns, do-overs, or second chances.

These are the thoughts racing through my mind today.

I find that I feel a sense of guilt for even caring about the fate of this man,
when I contemplate the way they said he walked out of her apartment right after stabbing her to death, 
as if nothing ever happened.

 But, my guilt is overpowered by the image of his soul being lost forever.

He was some mother's boy...some father's son.
Someone mourns his loss....just as we mourn the loss of my precious niece.

The other day, I was asked to do a very hard thing.
Honestly, I think it had to be one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do.

"Aunt Cheryl, will you do me a favor?"
It was my niece, Dorinda, Victoria's sister, on the other end of the phone.

"Sure, I will", I replied, without needing to hear what she was asking me to do.
I would do anything I possibly could for every, single person I care about.

Though I would never have dreamed of telling her "no",
nothing could have prepared me for the favor she requested next.

"Will you call the woman who found Victoria and pray with her over the phone?"

Huh???
I paused.

My hesitation was completely unintentional.
It was automatic and genuine.

As the full impact of what she was asking of me settled in,
I wanted to be sure I could do this before I uttered another word.

I gathered together my rattled emotions.
"S-s-s-sure.  I can do that."

We talked for a while,
and I shakily scribbled the woman's phone number on a piece of scrap paper.

We hung up the phone.
I knew if I didn't do this quick-like, I would be tempted to back out,
so I hurriedly dialed the sloppily-written number in front of me.

After only a few rings, I heard "Hello?".
I gently explained who I am...and why I was calling.
What followed was hard to describe.
The closest description I can muster is an inconsolable wailing.
Bless her dear heart.
She wailed with such anguish, I could barely decipher what she was saying.
She laid it all out, and I heard it all.
Every.  Last.  Detail.
Of the day before and how happy Victoria had seemed to be...
how they had spent part of the day together,
spent the evening playing a card game,
and how, later, after Victoria had returned downstairs to her own apartment, she had called her and asked her if she had anything for a headache.
She talked of how Victoria, in her usual good-hearted way, 
had walked back upstairs to her apartment and brought the requested medicine.

"She was everything to me", she gushed, through broken-hearted sobs.
"I must have 500-600 text messages from her and 100 pictures on my phone...."
her voice trailed off into more uncontrollable weeping.

All of that was hard to hear.

But, I declare, it didn't hold a candle to what she felt compelled to tell me next.
Through a heart-wrenching, anguished, tormented torrent of tears, she thoroughly described the graphic, horrific scene she and another friend had found when, after not hearing from Victoria all day, they had finally tried the doorknob of her apartment and found it unlocked.

No one should have to see such.
Ever.
Hearing it all literally made me sick.

She told me how she couldn't go home...
that she was terrified he would come back and try to do the same thing to her.

This woman's life is forever changed by the images that haunt her each time she closes her eyes.

"I just want to ask him why?
Why did you do this to her?"
she wailed.

All of our whys will remain just that.
Whys.
We will never know.

Both souls now rest in the hands of a just God, the only One who witnessed that dreadful, 
gruesome scene.

I have found myself directing my "whys" to Him.
Why, when He has all power in Heaven and earth,
did He not stop this from happening?

How could He watch and not prevent it?

He reminds me, once again, that He has instilled in every human being a thing called free will...
that He is a gentleman and will not override that.

For whatever reason, this man took it upon himself to do what he did of his own free will,
and now he has left this world to answer to his Creator for what he has done.

I would ask that you continue to pray for my dear brother and our family,
as there are unpleasant tasks ahead concerning Victoria's belongings.
It will be extremely difficult for my brother to enter that place and retrieve what belonged to her.

Pray especially for this.
There is a Bible that little Makaleigh is asking for...
it is the Bible her mama used to read to her.

With her living out of state,
the specifics of the crime investigation, and legal ramifications,
there is much uncertainty.

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
Psalm 46:1

How thankful I am that God is in control.
That He loves each one of us and cares about what we feel.
That His great heart is moved when we weep.
That He places such precious people, like you, dear readers,
in our lives to see us through times like these.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your love, concern, support, encouragement, friendship,
and, most of all, your faithful prayers.

Having each one of you in our lives is a precious gift.

Going through fiery trials, such as these, causes us to do one of two things.
We either turn away from God, in our questioning and disbelief,
or we turn our hearts toward Him, like never before.

From the depths of my soul, my heart cries out the words of this song.


If video doesn't load, click here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Inner Views of Gayle Cox

"The LORD God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds' feet, 
and He will make me to walk upon mine high places."
Habakkuk 3:19
(KJV)

In this wonderful world of blogging, I find it hard to remember how I met certain bloggers.
I just know God is faithful to orchestrate every, single acquaintance, relationship, and friendship
in the lives of His children.

He absolutely knows who we need and who needs us.
"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."
Proverbs 27:17

The precious friend I am interviewing today is one such blogger.
You will absolutely love getting to know her, 
becoming acquainted with her sweet spirit,
and reading the amazing testimony of how God's providential hand has guided her life.


The
of believer in Jesus Christ, mother, grandmother, sister, daughter, aunt, friend,
 and lover of writing and words,
Gayle Cox.

Cheryl:  You often mention your parents in your blog writings. Can you tell us about your childhood? Were you raised in a Christian home? To what do you credit the special bond you have with your Mom and Dad?

Gayle:  I was born into a Christian home. My father was a pastor, and has been in the ministry for almost 70 years now. In a nutshell, my parents taught me how to live and how to love.

Growing up, I awoke to the sound of Daddy praying almost every morning. As a young child, I often wondered if God had hearing problems, because Daddy prayed loud enough to wake the dead, namely me. Some mornings, I wanted to throw him into a lion’s den for disturbing my sleep before sunrise. Didn’t he care that he was waking everybody up! And why did he have to call my name in prayer? What if I wanted to grow up and be the biggest sinner the South had ever seen? Couldn’t he just leave me out of it? No, dear Daddy never left me out of his prayers, and for that, I’m truly grateful.

Daddy will be 89 in May, and his prayers and Mom’s prayers continue going up on my behalf. Their physical bodies are aging and growing weak, but they remain immovable towers of strength in my life and are the epitome of unconditional love. Of course, being a preacher’s kid wasn’t always easy. But I consider my childhood a beautiful one, filled with good things, generous people and riches that aren’t found on Wall Street.


Cheryl:  Will you share with us about your siblings? What is it like to go through life with an identical twin?

I have two beloved sisters—one four years older and an identical twin. My older sister is very gifted musically. She has been a role model to me in many ways. She’s had her share of personal loss and pain, but she has never lost faith in God. My identical twin is also very gifted. Along with her musical abilities, she has authored three books, and has had impressive achievements in that field. She’s also suffered loss and pain, but she’s one of the strongest women I know, and she inspires me to be a better me.

Gayle's twin sister, Dayle, Gayle, and her older sister, Elaine

Going through life with an identical twin is something you really have to experience in order to fully understand the bond that begins inside the womb. In our case, the doctor heard only one heartbeat throughout Mom’s pregnancy, so I was a total surprise to Mom and Dad (and big sister). Mom says it was one of the happiest days of her life, and she says Daddy almost fainted when she told him the news. There are hilarious stories about us growing up, but that would require reams of paper.  If you’re truly interested, I share a few of our twin tales in my contribution to Chicken Soup for the Soul—Twins and More. My story can be found here.

Cheryl:  What would you say have been the biggest challenges to being identical to another person? What are the greatest joys it has brought into your life?

Gayle:  Twins are generally referred to by others as “the twins,” so I think the most challenging part of having identical DNA is finding your own identity and developing a stand-alone personality. For me, that challenge was most evident during the teen years. Although I could win any “fight” with Dayle, she had the more prominent personality, and I often felt invisible when we were together in a social setting or hanging out with friends. It was frustrating and often tiresome, trying to feel relevant, but struggles can make you stronger, and I came out of those turbulent years confident and tough.

Always having someone to play with growing up was beyond wonderful, and as we got older, we never had to cry or laugh alone. Scary situations were made easier with Dayle by my side, and funny situations were even funnier with her laughing, too. I wish every child could be so blessed, and I wouldn’t want to face a single day without my twin.


Cheryl:  How old were you when you became a Christian? We would love to hear about your Christian testimony. What drew you to Christ? Were there certain life events that led up to that decision?

Gayle:  As a preacher’s kid, I grew up going to church. I could quote the books of the Bible at a young age, and I knew countless scriptures by heart. However, going to church or quoting scriptures can’t save anyone, and I knew I needed a personal experience with God. Daddy’s prayers for my salvation took on an urgent tone as I grew older, and at times I could almost feel the burden he bore.

His prayers paid off on a cold New Year’s Eve night, when I was miraculously born-again and spirit-filled at the age of 13. It was a hallowed evening, one I revisit often in my mind, and it marked the real beginning of my life. I wish I could say that I’ve been a perfect person since then, but I haven’t, of course. Thankfully, God grants new mercies every morning, and he’s faithful even when we fail.



Gayle, with her parents, identical twin, Dayle, and her older sister

Cheryl:  What would you identify as being your life’s calling? How did you come to realize that this is what God intended for you to do?

Gayle:  I don’t know if I had a “life’s” calling, since seasons come and go, but when I was 17, I felt a strong calling of God on my life. I wasn’t sure what the call was, but one night, while kneeling in prayer at church, I surrendered to his will, and I knew I would be used in a special way. I had no idea just how special at the time, but a few years later, the puzzle would all come together.

Cheryl:  Can you remember the first song you ever wrote? How old were you when you wrote it? What events inspired you to write it?

Gayle:  I remember like yesterday writing my first song. I was 15. My sisters and I sang together in church, but I had never even thought of writing a song.

It was summertime. We had been living in Texas for a couple years, and we were in the car, traveling to a church camp. As a family, we never chatted a lot on trips, and as I stared out the window in the silence, I suddenly started singing a little ditty in my head. In a few minutes, it became a full-fledged song, and I sang it over, and over, and OVER, until I could sing the words without faltering. At that point, I exuberantly announced: “I just wrote a song, ya’ll!”

Well, that woke everybody up, and someone asked if I’d like to sing it, and I exuberantly did.

This is where I always get chills and teary eyes, because I truly believe God was testing me that day, with the glorious gift of songwriting in his hands, and I’m so grateful (so very grateful!) he found a willing vessel in me. Give Gayle the song. She’ll sing the song. No hesitation. The song was entitled, “Oh, What A Great Day,” and my sisters and I added it to our repertoire right away. Sadly, I have forgotten most of the words, but I feel certain I have them tucked away somewhere in my plastic bins of treasures.

I wrote another song that year, and then another one when I was 18. However, the word “songwriter” still hadn’t entered my head or vocabulary. But that was about to change.

At the age of 21, I was asked to officially join my older sister and her husband who were ministering on the road, full-time. We had sung together at special events in the past and toured the West Coast for a few months, but they were looking for a committed, full-time partner.

Saying yes might seem like an easy thing to some, but it wasn’t easy for me at all. I was at the prime of my life, and there were many things to consider. However, after a time of prayer, I surrendered to the traveling life, and within a few days, songs began flowing out of me like water. It was then that my calling became clear: God had given me the gift of songwriting, and now I was positioned to use it for his glory and watch it grow. We would spend the next four years together in full-time ministry, during which we recorded three albums and encouraged thousands along the way.


Cheryl:  How many songs have you written?

Gayle:  It’s hard to put a number on them, but well over 200.

Cheryl:  Can you share with us about the ones that have been professionally recorded? How did it feel to hear your original songs being sung by someone else?

Gayle:  Having my music recorded by someone else was never a goal of mine while traveling. I knew God had given the songs to me for a specific purpose, and I didn’t want to get caught up in anything else.

However, in 1982, after I married and moved away, life changed for everyone. We still did some singing on a part-time basis, but the logistics were harder to pull off. During that time, I pitched a few tunes and continued writing. I eventually formed a mixed chorale called “Redeemed.” A young man offered to fund a recording project for us, so we hopped a plane to Nashville and recorded 10 of my songs.

Later, I traveled to the National Quartet Convention with my publisher and pitched some of my music to various artists. I never considered myself a Southern Gospel songwriter, so I was surprised (and thrilled) to hear that the Kingsmen had put a tune on hold and would be recording it soon. They were the first quartet to record my music. It was entitled “A New Life” 

and they did a great job. My songs are like my children, and I love it when others love them, too. 


The Kingdom Heirs also recorded my songs: “Invincible Faith,” and “Makin' A New Start” which they took to #26 on Southern Gospel’s Top 40. Being able to watch and hear them sing the song live at NQC was a moment I’ll never forget. I loved their arrangement, and the performance was electrifying.  Other groups you might recognize who have recorded my music are: Greater Vision (I Don't Want To Go Back), The Wilburns (Tell It Again), and The Mike Speck Trio (Looking for Him Any Day). Louisiana’s Governor Jimmie Davis was the first one to record songs of mine, and I blogged about it here. Meeting him and visiting with him in his Baton Rouge home remains one of the highlights of my songwriting career.

Cheryl:  In what ways has songwriting enriched your life?

Gayle:  Songwriting has enriched my life in countless ways. The most obvious way is that it put me in direct communication with God—he gave the inspiration, and I wrote the song. Also, seeing others worshiping as you sing songs you’ve written is so uplifting for the writer.

But, hands down, the most rewarding thing for me has been hearing from people—most of them strangers—decades later, telling me how my music touched them and changed their lives for the good. Knowing I had a tiny part in something of eternal value is truly the most humbling and rewarding experience one can have.

I recently heard from a stranger on Facebook. She related how our paths had crossed over 30 years ago. She was a 15-year-old new convert, fresh out of witchcraft. I was a young woman, offering what gifts I'd been given back to the Giver, in hopes of changing a life. Lori told me she purchased our music that day, and it had deeply impacted her in her spiritual journey.

As tears dripped off my chin, I wrote her back and told her how much it meant, knowing that my small seed had produced good things in her life. I felt humbled, and grateful, and blessed. Little Me in the hands of Big Him—overwhelming.

I was so sad to learn that Lori was dying, and within a few days of us having a personal conversation on the phone, she passed away. Isn’t it amazing how God uses people to bless people? The first time our paths crossed, I was a gift to Lori. The second time, Lori was a gift to me.

I’d like to deviate here and say, if anyone has ever inspired you or encouraged you in any way, please let that person know. You have no idea how much they might need to hear your words.


Cheryl:  Do you still write songs? If so, is there a particular place that you prefer to go to write?

Gayle:  I don’t purposefully write songs anymore, but I still burst out in a new song on occasion. Many instances, I’ve had God speak a song to my heart, and within a few weeks, it was exactly what I needed to keep going another day. I have considered writing music again with intention, but, admittedly, the desire is lacking without a given outlet in place.

Cheryl:  Who would you say has been your strongest spiritual mentor and why?

Gayle:  Without hesitation, my mother has been my strongest spiritual mentor. She is one of the godliest women I know, and she exemplifies the body of Christ. Growing up, I recall countless times when hurting souls knocked on our door, needing someone to listen. With love oozing out of her, Mother talked with them, encouraged them, prayed with them, cooked for them. She was always kind but honest in her counsel. She just turned 85, and she still has friends around the globe who call and seek her advice. I don’t think I’ve ever heard my mother speak an ugly word about anyone. What a testimony that is.

Cheryl:  Who is the person in your life today who encourages you the most spiritually?

Gayle:  I have a strong circle of encouragers around me, and that’s such a blessing when you are divorced, living alone. But without a doubt, the person who encourages me the most is my twin sister. She has been a rock to me during times of storm, when my whole world was sinking. She is a selfless, wise person—much like our mother—and even while fighting her own battles, she jumps in the ring with me to help me fight mine. She always speaks words I need to hear, and she’s even played hymns on my piano while I sobbed uncontrollably in a chair nearby. Money can’t buy an encourager like that, and I’m so blessed to have had Dayle since birth.

Cheryl:  To date, what would you say has been the darkest time of your life, and how did your walk with Jesus help you get through that time? Has there ever been a moment that you have felt God-forsaken?

Gayle:  First of all, no, I have never felt God-forsaken. Even when the heavens are brass, and my prayers don’t get off the floor, I don’t feel abandoned by God. I know he is with me.

Regarding dark times, my 20-year marriage ended in 2002, and that was a dark time. A few years later, I was diagnosed with a rare voice disorder that would ultimately require surgery, and rob me of the ability to sing professionally again, and that was a dark time.

However, I am currently walking the darkest valley of my life, involving my only child and my only grandchild—the two people I love most in the whole wide world. I am choosing to keep the details private, but what has kept me sane and afloat over the past 12 months is my unshakable faith in God and his promises. 

Grand-daughter, Audrey, and Gayle

Every day is hard, and I have cried an ocean of tears, but Romans 8:28 says “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” Either I believe that promise, or I don’t. It’s really that simple. Even when my heart is breaking. Even when my tears are falling. Even when I don’t think I can keep breathing because my grief is so great, God’s word says that all things work together…for good.

Sometimes it’s impossible to see the good in a sad situation, but when you face things you can’t fix, and you do all you know to do, you just have to let it go, be still and trust. And sometimes, trusting can be a minute-by-minute thing. Thankfully, God understands. He knows we are but flesh, and he doesn’t judge us. He just waits for us to let it go again so he can pick it up.

Cheryl:  How do you remain motivated, encouraged, and enthused to press on for God in these trying, perilous times? Are there particular Scriptures, books, hymns, or other resources that you turn to in times of discouragement?

Gayle:  The Bible says that perilous times will come, and, without a doubt, those times are here. Good is now considered evil, and evil is now considered good. And while Christians are being slaughtered around the globe, it would be easy to let fear grip our hearts and render us hopeless. But we can’t give in to fear. Regardless of how bad things are, we have to remind ourselves that God is in control, and good wins in the end.

My daily devotional is one of the best-selling devotionals of all time called Streams in the Desert. I’ve drawn from it for a number of years now, and it ministers to me in insightful and refreshing new ways every day. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for daily encouragement.

Of course, no book is as inspiring as the anointed Word of God, and a go-to Scripture for me during times of discouragement has always been Philippians 4:4-8: “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are TRUE, whatsoever things are HONEST, whatsoever things are JUST, whatsoever things are PURE, whatsoever things are LOVELY, whatsoever things are of GOOD REPORT; if there be any VIRTUE, and if there be any PRAISE, think on THESE things.”
For me, the key to pressing on in the midst of trouble, storms or heartache is keeping my mind on good things and my eyes on Jesus.

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you? 

Gayle:  Thank you so much for wanting to pray for me, Cheryl. You are a real blessing to those who read your blog, and I’m glad we found each other. I firmly believe that the darkness I am walking in right now will lift one day, the mountain will move, the clouds will part. Until then, however, I would greatly appreciate prayers that I can continue letting go and trusting.

I believe it was Adrian Rogers who said: “Worry looks at God through circumstances, but peace looks at circumstances through God.” While thinking on those rich words the other day at lunch, God reminded me of my song Invincible Faith. One part of a verse says, “My faith is looking upward when my head’s hanging down. When sorry looks behind me, and when worry looks around, faith is moving forward, never shaken by doubt. God’s going to see me through; his every word is true.”

Trusting the One who loved us to the cross and back should be the easiest thing in the world to do, but when your heart is involved, it can be hard.

Thank you ever so much, dear Gayle,
for granting us this interview and for sharing your heart with us here.  
I can't begin to tell you how much you have encouraged me and so many others.
May God bless you and keep you and your dear family in His tender, loving care. 

Dear friends, I hope you will take a moment to stop by and visit Gayle's blog,
She consistently blesses me with her posts, and I know she will bless you, too.
I am so thankful to know her and to have her alongside on this blogging journey!

And, I hope you can find some time to listen to her sweet voice singing two of her original songs that were mentioned above.


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Here is a live version of the Kingsmen singing Gayle's song, "A New Life".


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