Joy no matter what. A blog by Deanne Nelson.

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Love Wins July 3, 2015

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Love Wins.

That is a very powerful mantra that we have all heard a great deal of in the past few days. There is deep meaning behind those words, and yet, there is stark contrast and disagreement throughout our nation as to what those words mean. It is not my purpose in writing this to offend, belittle, attack, or malign anyone, but I have accepted the fact that words spoken on controversial and ‘difficult’ issues will do those very things for some. I have found myself reminding the Lord God of this, as my flesh is more than ok with staying silent, but He reminds me that His gospel has the power to save and to never be ashamed of it. Silence is not an option.

From the beginning of creation, God has had good and honorable intentions for mankind. We utter phrases like ‘God loves you’ and ‘God is love’ repeatedly, but have we really taken those truths deeply and to heart? What does it mean to be loved by God? Does it mean that God loves us if we are on our best behavior? Or when we are experiencing what seems to be good blessings in this life? Has he rescinded that love when it appears that we are going through times of intense pain and hardship? What if a lifestyle choice does not align with His word or commands? Does he love us then? Will He love us more if we start making our best efforts to walk in His ways, and for that matter, will He love us a bit less if we start screwing things up left and right? How in the world does love really win???

The incredible news I have to share is that the Lord God has a heart for sinners. Yes, He is in love with sinners. It is critical that we not confuse His love for sinners with a love for sin. The Bible is absolutely clear that He hates sin, but He always has and always will love sinners. That is good news for me, and it is good news for you. Do not take those words flippantly, as it is an essential truth that needs to be grasped. And His love is pure and complete in totality. You cannot add to it by doing everything just right, and you cannot detract from it due to sins in your life that you cannot seem to get a handle on. Would you believe that God loves you just as much as He loves Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, or any other ‘religious’ figure you can think of? Let me be clear, God does not love deceit, pride, slander, adultery, homosexuality, materialism, drunkenness, idolatry,…to name a few. Idolatry is loving anything more than God. What do we spend our most time and energy on? That might be a hint as to what might be an idol in our lives. It is true that the greatest number of internet downloads are first to social network sites and second to pornographic ones. We seem to be mesmerized with ourselves and to sexual immorality. Jesus himself said that to even look at someone with lust in your heart is to commit adultery. Our entertainment industry has made certain that we are all guilty of that one. If sinners are not welcome in churches, then the seats and pews would have to be completely empty.  But  praise be to God that He loves sinners.

How do I know God loves you? The proof has been recorded for over a thousand years.. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this; while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”… Romans 5:8. This was no ordinary death. This was the very Son of God come to earth to cleanse us from our ugly sin problem. He was perfect, without stain or blemish from sin. He chose to die for us. There is no greater love than that. Do you accept that love? Do you acknowledge that you are a sinner, and that you are in desperate need of a savior? From the dawn of time, blood was shed as an atoning sacrifice for sins. That simply means that something had to die to pay the price for our choice to sin. In old testament times nations were wiped out and countless animals were slaughtered, all due to our fleshly desire to sin against God. But when Jesus Christ shed His blood on the cross, the sin problem was forever dealt with. His one sacrifice would cover all sin from that moment forward. It was a colossal price to pay, and we are all blessed beyond any words I could express in what He did for us. No one can out-sin the cross. But each person must accept that sacrifice. Each person must come humbly before God and receive what Christ did for them on the cross. Each person must  repent of their sins, and trust that the Lord and His Holy Spirit will fill them with the grace and strength to walk away from the sins that entangle them. Only through the blood of the cross can such victory be obtained.

We can never walk in God’s freedom and blessing though if our choice is to embrace our sin. We as a society are crumbling before our very eyes. We have enemies all around that seek to destroy us, while we are decaying from within our own borders. As society becomes more and more comfortable and accommodating to sin, we see the curse of sin passed on from generation to generation. Sin will always leave dreadful consequences in its wake, and we are living that out in real time. There comes a time when God pulls away and allows us to wallow in the ugliness that we have chosen, and lifts His hedge of protection off of us. Never before was a country birthed from the very principles of the Bible as the United States of America was. We have turned our backs on those very virtues in an effort to be politically correct and pleasing to the flesh.  God’s ways will always overrule our opinions. “Let God be true, and every man a liar.’…Romans 3:4. Those who speak God’s truth are now viewed as bigots. We are guilty of calling evil good, and good evil. We do not want God or His commands in our work places, schools, court houses, medical facilities, and we don’t even want Him in many of our churches. We have watered down his perfect Word to make it more palatable for those who don’t want to live by its standards. Sexual sin is most rampant of all, and the one that we cling to with fierce veracity. Nope, no one is going to tell us what to do or how to live. My heart bleeds over it, and yet, God’s love is still there.

We need to seek the Lord God with all of our hearts about how to turn our society around. We need to come before him in prayer and seeking, humbly confessing our sins in deep repentance. We need to clear our own agenda and listen for His beautiful voice of correction and guidance. It is always there if we are willing to listen and obey. We are to LOVE one another deeply. Instead of being all stirred up about the sins of others, we should be focused on the state of the church and God’s witness to our world. We all share a great responsibility for the bitter decline of our nation. Judgment is a certainty..“For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” 1 Peter 4:17.  This promise of God confirms that the downfall of nations begins first in the church. The church is the guardian of the gospel and so the greatest responsibility rests with it. The major social and moral issues are no longer filtered through sound Biblical doctrine. God’s true church has faded into the background, while corrupt governments have taken the reigns. It is a travesty that any US court is given authority to  legislate when and how life is said to begin, or what the definition of marriage is. We trample on dangerous ground when we refuse to concede that the master creator cannot be overruled. Marriage is the oldest of all God created institutions. Marriage came before the fall of mankind into sin. We should shudder in reverent fear that mere human beings have had the audacity to try and redefine it, and that countless supporters would chime in that ‘love wins’ in response. We raise our rebellious fists to a loving God who has brought so many comforts, protections, and blessings to our lives. We use our voices to remind Him that we believe we are in charge, and that we will not submit to His authority. Even so, His love remains and His forgiveness is right there if we humbly pray and repent. He holds no grudges and keeps a short account of sin if we are willing to turn from it. The price for true freedom was paid long ago by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. There is no other covering for sin than that.

God is very clear that there is only one way in which a nation can be cleansed and healed. “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. …2 Chronicles 7:14.

There it is. Our marching orders are very clear. The only hope for America and our world lies in prayer and repentance before God. There is no hope in our government, our military, our technology, or any other thing we bring to the table. A nation insistent on rebellion against God will always see its demise. The devil has so many of us duped. He loves when we are at odds with each other over flags, rainbows, wedding cakes, on and on. We argue passionately over such things, while demonic and evil forces are closing in all the more. Are we awake? Innocent men, women, and children are being beheaded, burned alive, thrown off buildings, crucified, and other atrocities. Yes, this is the world we now live in. Are we praying? Do we have repentant hearts before the Lord?

If we as Christians truly believe that the gospel has the power to set people free from all sin and curses, then we are to walk with zero condemnation or judgment.  Jesus showed mercy to those who struggled with sin; He did not condemn them. The light of Jesus needs to overpower the stench of darkness that is so pervasive right now.

No matter how ugly and dark it all may seem, God can heal and cleanse our land. I do absolutely agree that love wins, but that fact was proven over a thousand years ago on a hill known as Calvary. That is the place where the savior of the world, Jesus Christ, paid the price for our sins. We can have hope for tomorrow and for all eternity because of His sacrifice. That is what love winning really looks like. index

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He is Risen April 5, 2015

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Those words have been spoken many times today in celebration of Easter, and there is truly no greater event in all of human history to celebrate than the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He is risen indeed.

There are many in our world who do not embrace Christ for the savior that He is, but that lack of faith or belief in his mission and message does not in any way detract from the colossal truth of his bodily resurrection from the dead. The simple fact is that if Christ truly did resurrect from the dead, then every ounce of his life and message are undeniably true. On the other hand, if the resurrection never happened, then it was the greatest hoax on all of mankind and we are all forever lost and hopeless. Without the resurrection, then every word from Genesis to Revelation is null and void.  God’s redemptive plan for mankind all hinges on that empty tomb.

I have made a firm choice in my life to trust in Jesus Christ. This did not come out of blind faith or wishful thinking. I am a grown woman who has sought truth and have come to one solid and firm foundation in my life. That foundation is Jesus Christ. I have endured trials and heartache on both sides of faith, and I know beyond any doubt that Jesus Christ is real and very much alive today. I do not serve a dead man, but a risen and holy savior.

I would challenge any who question the true identity and deity of Jesus Christ to come before him with a true seeking heart. To seek is to simply open your heart and mind to the possibilities that lie beyond your human capability. Ask him if he is truly real, and be ready for his answer. It might not look or sound like what you have in mind, but be ready to be changed and transformed. A seeking heart will always find truth. It is not hidden under a rock. Truth is out in the open, lit up brightly, for those who are truly seeking. Truth comes in the ‘coincidences’ in life that are not coincidences at all. Truth comes from the mouths and actions of those placed in your life for a given time, the exact and right time. Truth comes in that still small voice in your heart that speaks volumes above the chaos and clamor of the rest. I dare you to open a Bible and get to reading. One chapter a day will be enough, but before long, you will be tearing through it and hungry for more. Truth cannot be silenced by lies. We choose to accept or reject it.

Did Jesus Christ raise from the dead? I answer that question with a resounding YES. And because he lives, I can face tomorrow.

Thank you Lord that you have risen and are not anywhere close to being done. The best is yet to come.

12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord…Jeremiah 29:12-14.

Get to looking.

Here are my family and I celebrating the resurrection. Oh happy day!

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The One Voice January 21, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — gdnelson5 @ 9:29 am

There is one distinct court in our world that is unyielding, unforgiving, and relentless….the court of public opinion. It is here where swift and harsh judgments are handed out in knee-jerk fashion, as nameless and faceless people spew a barrage of personal indictments against those who are vulnerable and in a place of personal weakness and loss. There is something cruel that can happen to people as they let their fingers do the talking in our modern world of online communication. The entitlement that is apparently gained to speak one’s accusative mind in anonymity on every possible matter can be downright ugly. The online comment sections are breeding grounds. Mercy and restraint seem to be severely lacking, which is sad, as there are people with breaking hearts and real pain on the other side of every hurtful word.

God’s word is as true now as it has always been….Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…’ James 1:19.

Last week on January 15th, a beautiful and tender friend named Deedee had to say good-bye to her precious 17 month old granddaughter Amelia. Amelia’s life was cut short by the hands of her mother’s then boyfriend. The full details of the obvious abuse Amelia endured is only known by her abuser and the Lord God. To say that Deedee and all of her family are in agonizing pain does not do justice to the extent of their heartache. There are no fitting words to portray what the death of an infant child and grandchild does to the human heart and soul. I have spoken to Deedee and her tears come from a place that I do not know or comprehend. It is a wailing so deep that if not for the prevailing presence of the Lord God, such a loss would swallow up every hint of hope and light in her. Her daughter too is suffering horribly. They would give their very lives if they could somehow go back and change what happened, but they cannot. They must find the strength to go on living, to go on breathing…one moment at a time, one tear at a time. God will see them through.

I have prayed for this family’s protection and shelter in the Lord; specifically that He would shield them from the ugly accusations and words of hurtful rebuke that might come their way during this painful time. It was not long after this tragic incident that such words started to appear on venues like facebook, so I write this to encourage Deedee, her family, and any others who might have been verbally or emotionally attacked at their weakest and lowest point in life. There are indeed always those who feel obliged to kick a person when they are down.

Thankfully, God’s life changing word is the ultimate authority on all things and provides desperately needed refuge in such times. For example, in the book of John chapter 8 verses 1-11, an adulteress woman is brought before a large gathering in the midst of Jesus Christ himself. Her most blatant accusers were the scribes and Pharisees of the day. These were self righteous ‘leaders’ who deemed it fitting to have her tried and convicted for her weaknesses before a barrage of peers. They did not see the need for further evidence, or for any type of legal proceedings. The court of public humiliation and condemnation was their venue of choice. Yes, she was a broken woman who was far from perfect. The Bible says she was placed directly in the center of the ‘court’ where her flaws could be openly scrutinized. The leaders and crowd called for her public stoning to death, reminding Jesus that upholding their laws was paramount in such a situation. Their words were like piercing daggers.

But then came the most beautiful voice that has ever spoken on our earth. It was the one and only voice that mattered both then, and now.  Jesus Christ spoke, the author of life, Emmanuel…God with us, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It was the voice of pure majesty and complete humility in one.  He spoke then and He still speaks today… “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  And with that, their taunts and clamor faded to silence as they each walked away, one by one. It is interesting to note that the Bible mentions that the oldest in the crowd were the first to withdraw. Wisdom indeed is gained through years.

We have a broken world full of stone throwers, and the weapon most readily utilized is the tongue. Our words can be as sharp as jagged rocks, and they can hit their target with cunning and sharp precision. Many shattered lives have been laid victim to the aftermath of verbal execution. And yet who of us can judge? Who of us is without fault or sin in our lives? We as human beings all have the same disease known as sin, and we all desperately need a savior to restore us to God. That savior is Jesus Christ. Jesus was not condoning or pardoning that woman’s sin; he was reminding the hardened crowd that they too were far from perfect and had no place standing in judgment of her. May that same mirror of reflection be cast on us all.

Jesus hit the nail on the head again in Matthew 7:3…Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

For my precious friend Deedee, her family, and all that have been hurt by harsh words of criticism; may you have ears to hear the voice of a loving and merciful Lord above all others. May His voice be the first one you turn to and may it guide you in all that you do. May His voice drown out the haters, the mockers, and the accusers who seek to destroy your journey to find the light of hope. In the darkest tempest of pain and suffering, there is always hope and it can be found when you listen for His voice. Shut out the rest. Turn off the computer if you have to, the smart phone, the device. Turn it off and open your Bible. Start listening to the voice of life. It will literally drown out the voices of hate and darkness. Choose what to listen to and embrace into your heart.

The world was ready to stone a broken woman to death for her poor choices, while Jesus Christ was ready to change her life for the better and restore her future. He is still in that business today!

Deedee and Starlene, may your hearts be humble and soft to all God wants to show you right now. He will convict and give wisdom in all that has happened with your angel Amelia. May you take that wisdom and be a profound light in Amelia’s honor. May you pour out counsel, wisdom, and understanding to others who will face the painful curse that is child abuse. He has a good and powerful purpose even in this tragic circumstance, and He will use your lives as a living testimony to the power of light over darkness. May His voice become your voice….the only voice.

 

Here is the stunning Amelia Danielle Gutierrez. Her life is now in paradise with her Lord, while her influence and legacy continue on in the lives of those who loved her. Look at that Grandma Deedee….pure and perfect love. It cannot and never will be tainted. Yes, love wins.Deedee2Deedee3DeedeeLove you Deedee!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Real Gifts December 22, 2014

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It is a chilly winter’s night here in Indian Trail, NC. There is a feeling in the air of Christmas, as it is December 22. My three children squabble daily over who is going to update the ‘days until Christmas’ bear we have in our kitchen. That bear holds two wooden blocks that display the countdown to the big day. We are down to three days, and the excitement in their eyes is magical. What can be better than the awe and wonder in a child’s eyes at Christmas?

Somehow the adult in me had gotten too wrapped up in the whole ‘gift’ part of this celebration…no pun intended! I began to feel heavyhearted that we were unable to give our children as many gifts as they were used to getting, or as ‘good’ of gifts as previous years. As I type that I am humbled and saddened to have fallen prey to the good ole’ American standard of what Christmas has become. After all, we have pretty much lost Thanksgiving, as the mad rush to get to the stores to knock off those Christmas wish lists has taken a higher priority.

But these two beautiful celebrations do go hand in hand. What more is there to be thankful for than the living God coming to our Earth in the form of His precious Son? In fact, a spirit of thanksgiving should never leave our hearts. We should cling tightly to gratitude at all times, no matter what. In the face of darkness and hardship is when we need it most. And every day is a celebration of Jesus’ birth, for without His life, there would be no hope at all in this mess of a world. To look at Jesus is to see the light of life eternal.

It would be this very night that God would gently remind me to consider the most precious and critical gift that the Nelson family had recently received….

It was two weeks ago when my husband Grant would be heading home on a two-lane highway in his patrol car, in the ‘middle of nowhere’ as he called it. He had taken a class for work and had just completed the final test. He called to tell us that he was on his way home and that we would see him in about two hours. Even now I cannot recall the name of the town, despite the fact that he told me more than once. My selective hearing kicks in from time to time and I distinctly recall that day just wanting him home. The class took almost three weeks and it had been an exhausting process for him.

I was surprised when he called back about ten minutes later. His voice was clearly different, as if he was shaking and I could feel it through the phone. He went on to share that he had been traveling along with his cruise control set to 65-70mph. There was no one on the road as far as he could tell. He suddenly noticed a house off in the huge open field to his left. There was nothing else out there, besides trees and land. Something inside of him felt a sudden urge to check out that house. He said it reminded him of a house he knew as a young boy. Before he knew it, he was slowing down to see where there might be a road or path to lead to it.

Now Grant is an on time and scheduled kind of guy, so even as he was telling this unlikely story, I knew that God had directed his thoughts and actions. My heart was racing with every word he spoke.

He distinctly recalled looking at his speedometer and being at about 30mph when he saw a windy road, but as he approached it, he could see that it very strangely veered off in another direction and did not actually lead to the house. He decided not to turn off the highway after all. With that, he began to speed up again to continue on home when he found himself looking ahead at an eighteen wheel semi-truck barreling over a blind hill directly in his oncoming lane of traffic. This truck was passing another truck coming the opposite direction as Grant, and chose to make this unsafe maneuver coming over a blind hill at a high rate of speed. Grant had to swerve out of the way even at his slower speed to avoid getting hit head-on by this semi. It was in the same instant that Grant said that he realized that if he had been traveling that road as he had been at 65-70mps, then he would have met that truck right at the top of that blind hill and his police car would have been demolished in an instant. There is no way he would have survived that accident. He saw God’s hand of providence save him that day when he was led to slow down in curiosity over that house. There is no other answer for it. What a gift.

What could have been the most devastating and horrible day for our family, turned into one of the greatest and most valuable gifts we could have ever received. Grant was saved and lived to share more days with us. We held on to him tighter than ever when he got home. Sometimes the greatest blessing is to be reminded of the blessings that you already have.

And so as my children and I sat tonight watching a Christmas movie on TV, I had finally surrendered that feeling of ‘not enough’ in regards to Christmas gifts for our children to the Lord. My mother had blessed us financially so that we were able to get each child a nice gift, and that was more than enough. There are so many children who have little to nothing. After all, my children had their dad and I had my husband. Perspective is a powerful thing.

So when our doorbell rang close to 8pm tonight, I wondered who it could be. As I opened the door there was a man standing there whom I had never met. He came bearing gifts wrapped in beautiful Christmas paper and bows. He asked if ours was the Nelson home, and went on to deliver gifts to each and every one of us. I tried to ask his name, or from whom the gifts were given. He would have none of that. He wished our family a Merry Christmas and got in his car and drove away, leaving me speechless and full of tears in his wake. My children were full of awe and wonder at the whole mystery of it all. They danced around our Christmas tree and marveled at the unexpected boxes which now sparkled brightly with their names. It was an event that we will always remember, and it touched us deeply. Nathan exclaimed, “This is the best Christmas ever!”…and Caleb followed with, “God chose us Mom.” Yep…God chose us.

Real gifts come in all sorts of forms. Some cannot be placed under a tree, and some can. In the end, the best gifts of all come from the heart of God. I want to thank the person or persons responsible for the hope and love you poured on me and my family tonight. Thank you for your selfless and giving actions, and thank you for being willing to be used by God to bless another. May the blessings be returned to you in greater measure. We will always be grateful.

And thank you Lord God for the gift of family. Hold the ones you love close tonight, and always.

Merry Christmas to all, and Happy Birthday Jesus.

 

YES, I love a Police Officer. November 25, 2014

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My husband Grant is a police officer to the core. By this I mean that he is never off duty, never on break, and never with his guard down. When he took the oath to protect and serve his community, he meant it with every ounce of his being. To him, wearing the badge is an astounding honor and privilege. It goes without question then that he holds the law, and the keeping of it, in the highest regard. While there are indeed some officers that bring shame to the badge, I believe the far greater majority wear it with the diligence and duty it deserves.

Officers put their lives on the line repeatedly so that the citizens of this nation can live in a reasonable amount of safety and harmony. For the outstanding officers in our midst, it is a critical time for us to lift them up in prayer and speak of them in high regard. The tide in our nation is taking a dangerous turn against law and order, and now is not the time to be silent. Our officers need to know that what they do matters, and they need to feel confident that they can fulfill their sworn duties without hesitation or fear of backlash from the communities they serve, as well as this nation.

The events that have taken place in Ferguson, MO have left many lives shattered, and a once typical American city in dismay. The ripple effect has impacted us all on some level. There are many heartbreaking pieces: a young man’s life ended, a police officer’s life and career forever changed, a city and neighboring communities fractured and torn, anger and hatred toward law enforcement escalated to dangerous levels, a rising tension amongst Americans of varying race and color, and the list truly goes on. This all came to be as a result of one fateful night, when law and order was put to the test.

I have observed firsthand the demands and challenges of police work. My husband has been put through hundreds of hours of training in his many years of duty. He has re-enacted scenario after scenario in a controlled setting to prepare him for the very type of confrontation that Officer Wilson encountered with Michael Brown. There are countless variables to consider, and this must be done in split seconds. An officer does not have the gift of hindsight and reflection as we all have now. For example, how easy for one to be appalled at the notion that Brown’s life was taken over a stolen pack of cigars, and yet so much more was at stake in those mere seconds.  An officer has no way of knowing if a suspect is armed. If someone has the boldness to throw punches at and challenge an officer physically and verbally, then that officer’s life is in grave danger. There is no such scenario as an ‘unarmed’ suspect, as an officer is carrying a loaded weapon in the very holster lying around his or her waist. In seconds that gun can be confiscated by a suspect and used to kill that officer. We have seen this happen all too many times. Those officers do not have heads of state show up to their funerals, and the streets they once served remain silent with lack of protests. It is business as usual the next day.

I pray for my husband every time he hits the streets to guard our town. I can say that if he had been put in the very same situation as Officer Wilson was, he too would have pursued Brown in an effort to uphold the law. I have heard commentary that Wilson should have just let Brown run away and be done with it. It is a terrifying message we are sending if we buy into such logic. A store is robbed and an officer is assaulted, and yet the ‘right’ thing to do would be to excuse this and let the assailant go free?? We have become afraid of consequences, and aloof to the fact that innocent people are being violated. Are our officers truly free to perform their critical civic duties, or do they need to shrink back to avoid confrontation or trouble? I ache as I consider my own husband now hesitating to act in ways to protect himself if needed.

What I know is this….Grant will approach anyone who breaks the law, totally irregardless of race, color, age, gender, religion, social status, monetary status, etc. You break the law, Grant will be calling you out on it. If anyone came at him with physical aggression, then I would expect and demand of him to protect himself at all costs. There is no room for second guessing. I would hope that those under his sphere of influence would support this as well. All law abiding police officers need this support.

I once went on a ride-a-long with Grant. I kept questioning why he would pull a certain car over, or why he would remind someone not to park in a certain spot. It all seemed ‘innocent’ enough to me. Finally he looked me right in the eyes and declared, “What good is the law if it is not going to be upheld?” Indeed he was right. We do this with God’s laws as well, if anyone is willing to grasp the bigger picture with that. We pick and choose what laws we are comfortable with, and become angry and sometimes enraged if we are hit with the consequences of breaking them. Truth be told, it is a lawbreaker who has a problem with the law.

What happened in Ferguson is heartbreaking. I cannot fathom what Michael Brown’s family is going through, as I have never lost a child. It is a pain that can never be fully comforted. May they grow in love for each other to help them cope, and may they turn to the Lord for refreshing. Only He can give them hope.

The horrifying events now taking place with the looting and rioting in Ferguson are agonizing to watch and consider. More innocent citizens are being victimized and suffering great losses. It is a picture of what humans are capable of without law and order, and it is frightening.

My prayer is that something positive and good will be on the other side of all of this pain and despair. We as a nation are better than this, but only with God’s help. May we pray for real repentance, the kind that turns our hearts back to God’s laws. May every heart be humbled in this regard, and then we could experience true and lasting peace.

2 Chronicles 7:14…..If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

GE DIGITAL CAMERAThis is one of the good guys!

 

A Week Can Change A Life October 6, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — gdnelson5 @ 9:15 am
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It was not long after our move to NC in the summer of 2007 when I was introduced to the beauty of a mountain retreat known as Camp Lurecrest. This unique camp has been going strong since the 1940’s, with a clear and simple agenda- to touch the lives of each and every camper with the life changing love and message of Jesus Christ. Their motto further exemplifies this mission…’A week can change a life.’…

My family and I have come to know full well that his motto is true to the core. I first attended Lurecrest for a women’s retreat put on by Garr Memorial Church in 2008, and the seeds planted in my heart for this special place of the Lord have continued to thrive. I would even be blessed with the colossal and profound privilege to be the speaker for two women’s retreats in succeeding years…a gift that I shall always cherish.

In the summer of 2011, my then ten year old daughter Grace would be blessed with an awesome miracle of having her camp tuition completely paid for, in which she could attend her first week at Lurecrest. We did not have the financial means to do it, but God’s provision flowed. We found out moments before the buses were leaving, so we frantically packed amidst giggles of awe and delight, and her journey with Camp Lurecrest began. In the following three summers God would put Grace on the heart of a selfless and generous couple who would extend their love and financial support to her, and she would thus continue her annual week at one of the best places on earth. She indeed was changed with each session, with a growing love and longing for her Lord. She now vows to be a counselor at this camp one day, Lord willing. It fills this mom’s heart with pure joy.

But truth be told, from the first time I felt the presence of the Lord on this majestic mountain venue, I longed for my autistic son Nathan to somehow experience it as well. It certainly seemed impossible on many levels, as there are so many quirks, twists, and turns that can prevent a child with special needs from attending such a camp.

Camp Lurecrest, while being a place of love and acceptance, is also a great place of outdoor fun and adventure. Cabins consist of two college age counselors leading a group of ten or so kiddos for five nights and six days. There are about 180 campers per session. Now there are loads of super cool lake and mountain activities mixed in, with talented speakers to give a life changing message at chapel time, and plenty of worship songs with hand motions and catchy jingles too. Did I mention that every camper starts to be a bit odoriferous by day two! Those campers are having some serious fun and who has time to shower??!!

Each time the longing for Nathan to be a part arose in my heart, I would dismiss it. There was no way he could ever handle this ‘typical’ camp.  I convinced myself of this, as Nathan has some social and practical struggles that would make it very difficult for him to succeed in such a setting. But, my heart continued to hope for the chance, but that hope was fleeting, as I would immediately dismiss the thought again. This cycle went on for about three years. There were special needs camps that would fit the bill for him, but Camp Lurecrest was the dream. Was it an impossible dream?

This past summer of 2014, the senior staff at Camp Lurecrest prayed over the possibility of having Nathan attend, and agreed to give it a try. I myself would be there that week, serving as the camp RN, but the greatest concern was that Nathan would find himself at the infirmary doorstep repeatedly needing my help and reassurances. My role and first duty that week was to serve as RN to all campers and staff. I could not be preoccupied with a struggling boy who was miserable to be there. I have to admit that I was not myself convinced that Nathan was going to be able to tolerate camp, but I was ecstatic at the chance to try. The agreement was that my husband would be ‘on call’ to come get him if need be. Nathan was eleven years old now, and he had matured in so many ways. And yet, the challenges of autism remained, and the social struggles can be debilitating in such a setting. My loner of a boy can easily feel overwhelmed and lost at a place like camp, and I did not want him to suffer with endless anxiety. The prayers were being lifted up months before camp would begin.

What I never doubted was that God could speak to Nathan on this mountain. I believed that the same peace and presence of the Lord that Grace and I experienced at Camp Lurecrest, could also be Nathan’s to grasp.  His younger brother Caleb, his only friend, would be coming to camp as well as God once again provided a way.

Our time for camp seemed to come quickly. I had prepared him as best I could, and he indeed asked many of the same questions over, and over, and over. “Will I take a shower next to other boys?”…”Who is going to cook the food?”…”When will I eat?”…”Will there be a night light?”…”What if I get sick?”…”What if I get stung by a bee?”….on and on. We would go through a list of questions just about every day for many weeks. I do recall telling him that I only wanted to see him in the nurses’ station if there was a serious injury with blood involved! I had to take that one back as it caused much concern.

Campers arrived on a Sunday evening, and night one seemed to go without incident, although I was so busy getting medications checked in and such that I did not truly know how he was doing. All I knew was that he did not end up on the infirmary porch in tears, so that was a good thing. But over the next day I sensed trouble brewing. The glimpses I caught of him left my heart aching. He was pacing, a lot, and moved about in an aimless and nervous fashion. I know this ‘walk’ well. He was not participating with the camp activities and was starting to isolate himself from others. His brother Caleb had settled in beautifully and was off and running being a camper. I pulled Caleb aside and asked him to please be sure to grab hold of his brother and include him, but he told me that Nathan would not participate with him or his new friends, despite many invitations to do so. I needed to let Caleb have his time as well. By the following day, Nathan’s pacing had intensified and he was covering his ears continuously to block out the sounds of what should be fun and adventure for a boy his age. He was starting to look miserable, and it was agonizing to watch. He never did end up coming to me, but I tried to speak to him that Tuesday afternoon and he would not even stop pacing to talk with me. He was holding it together as best he could, and if he had tried to relate to me with words how he was feeling, he would have burst. I was so proud of him for doing all he could to not have an outburst, but I knew that the anxiety and fear were taking center stage. He was not experiencing the beauty or joy that the Lord had for him at Lurecrest. He was there in the flesh, but his sweet spirit was in bondage.

I knew that it was not good for Nathan to be under such pressure, and through broken tears I prayed to God for an answer. As I was considering calling my husband to come get him that Tuesday afternoon, I suddenly felt a sure and certain calling from the Lord. The message revealed to my spirit was to pray for one friend. Yes, that was the message. He would only need one friend to make his way through this darkness. He did not need a cabin full of friends, or 180 campers on his side. What he needed was one friend so that he could feel included in the ‘tribe’ of Jesus. TRIBE was the camp theme for the week, with the message being that we all can belong to the tribe of Jesus. Now even one friend for Nathan is quite a challenge, and he had already alienated himself from his brother, who I had assumed would be his lifeline to success for the week. Who in the world would Nathan open up to amidst such anxiety? And who would be patient enough to appreciate and accept Nathan’s quirks? It would take one special kid to be sure, but the excitement and hope for it welled up inside of me. I called on my fellow RN for the week Becky to pray too, as well as some volunteers from the kitchen staff. A dear friend Elizabeth was serving that week as well, and became a prayer warrior over this. We locked arms and prayed that God would reveal this friend for Nathan and that his week would take a complete turn around. I called Grant to pray. I called family in Arizona to pray. One friend was all it would take, and the prayers for it were in full force.

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning.’…Psalm 30:5.

I knew that Wednesday would be the day of decision. Would Nathan make it through, or would he be headed home? It was painful to consider that he might not embrace Camp Lurecrest. There had been so much hope and anticipation for our family over this week. What would this day bring?

I was in my usual RN station when Nurse Becky came bursting through the doors that Wednesday mid-morning. She was out keeping an eye on the campers when she came upon a sight to behold. She was breathless and her eyes were tearing up as her exuberant words came spilling out…”God sent Nathan a friend!!!!!!!.” She pulled out her phone to show me some pictures and a short video she had captured. My knees became weak as the images poured out. It was indeed my Nathan, with a beautiful young boy, and their faces were painted in tribal garb. The video revealed the two of them chanting and dancing in true tribal spirit. Tears of fabulous joy filled our eyes. My heart was full to overflowing. Becky and I danced around our little RN room like giddy school girls. God had heard and answered, which is never a shock, but it is always a source or pure and total joy.

I recognized the boy from the picture as one of Nathan’s cabin mates, but up until then, he had not made a connection with any of the boys in his cabin. That all changed that very day. The prayers of many were heard and answered, and God chose a precious young boy by the name of Tristan to answer the call. I ran out to find Tristan myself. I just wanted to hug that young man who God chose to be a light. Every camper there of course was special, but this was the one who God hand picked to touch Nathan’s life. What a gift of a child Tristan is! When I found him, he was indeed hanging out with my Nathan. He was a bit shocked to see the puffy, red-eyed camp nurse barreling straight for him, but he accepted my hug and tears with a sweet smile and a giggle. Nathan as well had the most tender smile, as he would simply follow Tristan’s gentle lead. I excused myself so not to embarrass Nathan any further. When I got back to my sleeping quarters, I hit my knees. The words would not even come, but the tears of elation to such a good and mighty God showered the floor beneath me. He sees it all, and cares so deeply.

Over the next few days Nathan became a full fledged Camp Lurecrest camper! With Tristan by his side, he was able to conquer the anxiety and fear. No more pacing, no more hand wringing and fidgeting, no more hands covering the ears, no more isolation. He even got on the boat and rode a tube on Lake Lure! At chapel time, I started seeing his hands following along with the motions during worship. Caleb too had a blast with Tristan, and before long, the three had actually become like musketeers. The victory had been won.

I had come to utterly adore Tristan. I longed to reach out to his family, but did not want to overstep any confidentiality issues. I asked him where he lived, and he told me Charlotte. Charlotte is pretty huge indeed. I prayed fervently for him and his family. I prayed the blessings of God over them, and was continuously thankful for them. Campers come from all over NC to attend, and some from out of state too. Camp Lurecrest is truly a legend! It was more than enough to have crossed paths with such an awesome boy, and I knew we would all never forget him. The prayers for Tristan and his family would certainly continue on.

But God was not done…Not even close.

It would be about a month later when the boys would come racing up to me after church… We attend Joy Christian Fellowship in Matthews. It is a fabulous church with approximately 300 or so attendees on any given Sunday. We love it there. But it is one of many hundreds of churches in the Charlotte and surrounding area. I used to joke that in AZ there was a gas station on every corner, but in NC there is a church…It was clear that the boys had some serious excitement over something. “Guess who was at church mom??!! Guess!! Guess!! Guess!!” Before I could even muster a response, they bellowed out in unison….“TRISTAN from Camp Lurecrest!!!!” I was speechless. It did not even seem like it could be possible. My heart felt like it would explode. We went racing back to the children’s area, but he had already gone. Was it really him??? Could it really be him?? In all the countless churches in NC, could he really be here??

Indeed it was him. Tristan and his family had started to attend our church! In the weeks to come, the boys would get to spend more time with their summer-time miracle of a friend. What an absolute thrill it has been. Each time I see Tristan, I am reminded of the utter goodness of the Lord. God always knew that Tristan would continue to be in our lives. He is the master planner and architect of it all. I finally had the chance to meet his beautiful mother two weeks ago. May she read this and take it all into her heart, as well as all of his family. God certainly has a wonderful plan and calling on Tristan’s life, and we will be forever grateful for him.

Just yesterday sweet Tristan was baptized at our church. The week before he exuberantly raised his hand to accept the Lord Jesus into his heart. Our Pastor, McLean Faw, mentioned that he had never seen a more excited and joyful smile for the Lord on such a young face. Tristan wore his Tribe church from camp yesterday as he stood before our congregation before his baptism. As I sat in my chair taking it all in, it was all like an astonishing dream. I marveled inside as I pictured him with my boys just a few weeks earlier in that very same shirt up on God’s majestic mountain. Once again, the tears of gratitude and joy washed over me. To be present at his baptism was a pure gift.

Only the one true God who created all things could create such a course of events. To God alone be the glory, great things He has done!!!!

And YES, a week can indeed change a life.

 

Here are some fabulous pics of the boys’ time at camp. Tristan is in the red shirt with Nathan. And one includes the boys in cabin 1A. Precious memories. We love you Tristan!!!

 

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At Just the Right Moment September 16, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — gdnelson5 @ 10:23 pm
Tags: , ,

Have you ever felt completely blown away by the unexpected? Every now and again I too get the thrill of an unforeseen marvel that seems to drop from the heavens above. Now some might not see the extraordinary nature of this recent testimony, but I beg to differ…..this one has left me grinning at some of the oddest times lately. I will bring it to memory and feel the joy of the moment all over again.  The awesome moments remind us of how far we have come, and to press forward and continue to believe for more.

This past summer both of my sons attended a vacation bible school that my church put on. I as well volunteered to help out and be one of the group leaders. The sessions met once a week for about five weeks, and the theme was ‘weird animals.’ That kind of theme is right up our alley. One of the rewards given to help motivate the kids and reinforce the Bible lessons was cool character ‘dog tags’ that included the weird animal of the week on one side with a scripture verse laminated on the back. There were not enough tags for each child, so each week, one child was picked from each group to receive the coveted tag. There were about twelve or so groups averaging 6-8 kids in a group. Clearly, not everyone would be receiving a tag, let alone more than one.

I quickly learned that Nathan really wanted those dog tags. He would talk about them at length,….what they looked like, which animal would be on it for that given week, and he would ask me over and over what he needed to do to get the tags. Yes, I heard a lot about those dog tags in those summer weeks. The major hurdle was that a child somewhat needed to be an active participant in his or her group to be picked for this prize. For Nathan, participation in such a setting is almost painful. My sweet boy with autism shuts down in social settings and is too overwhelmed to engage in conversation or dialogue. This makes it tough for him to have the courage and resolve to actively participate with the other kids.  Many times he knows the answer or could give input, but he just does not respond or open his mouth. Anxiety will get the best of him, but we continue to pray for breakthroughs with that. Now I also knew that the leaders were trying to be sure that as many kids got to have a tag as possible, so the possibility of getting more than one was slim to none as well. As he asked over and over every week how he could get the newest tag, my heart stammered to find the right words to  both encourage him, but also make him realize that other kids too would receive a tag, even when he tried his best and was brave enough to answer a question or two. My explanations seemed to only confuse him, and each Wednesday night I would watch as his eyes eagerly anticipated that his name might be called at the end of the night. I was so proud when he kept his cool when it wasn’t, and I clapped for joy when I saw a tag finally handed to him by his group leader. His grin stayed with him that whole night, even as he was sleeping. Yes, I checked!

I had hoped that having that one tag would satisfy him, but he indeed kept inquiring about more in the weeks ahead. Each week had a different animal tag, and he of course wanted them all. I even considered going to the website and buying the set of tags myself, but something about that did not seem right at the time. He was learning some valuable lessons about patience, and the art of being a good sport and an honorable ‘loser’. I was proud of how he repeatedly handled the upset of not getting what he expected. There was a time when he would have fallen apart at such a thing. My boy is certainly growing up and maturing.

When the final and closing night of VBS came, Nathan was once again discussing the particular animal of the week. Now these were not common or domestic animals that we all know, but truly ‘weird’ and unique ones. The animated characters to portray these animals on- screen each had a name as well, and Nathan had those perfected in his mind. He even knew which animal went with which week, and what each of their names were. I cannot get him to recall some simple math rules, but these animals were stored well in his brain! And yet no one at church would even know it. He would clam up about it as soon as the crowds were in sight.

As the night ended it was time for the final tags to be given out.  The last week was an animal that looked like a bearded dragon and his name was Iggy. I only know this through Nathan. He had it in his mind that Iggy would be his. I had informed him on the way that he needed to be happy with the one tag he had already been given, but he had his sights set on Iggy. As I watched his reaction when Iggy went to another in his group, I could see the disappointment in his eyes. I was all ready to give the momma pep talk about rejoicing with others when they receive a good thing and having a good attitude, when suddenly there was an unforeseen twist…..

The children’s leader Dawn announced that if anyone could recall the names of all five of the animals that they could have ALL FIVE! Yes, she dangled all five dog tags for the crowd of eager kiddos to see. There were ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’, and many kids frantically asking each other what the names were again, as the previous five weeks left much time to forget one or two. I immediately looked over at Nathan, as I was certain that he knew each one, and in order. But would he have the courage to raise his hand and offer what he knew?? He looked nervous and I could see him wringing his hands repetitively. I began to pray in that moment…’please God, give him courage to do this. This is his moment.’  And in the midst of the noise and commotion, my boy not only raised his hand, but he stood up. He approached Dawn at the front of the room and the words came toppling out of his mouth…

“AXL, FERN, MILTON, SHRED, and IGGY.”

And with that, the room exploded into an eruption of applause. Way to go Nathan!!! It was his moment, one that was so rare and precious to see. His smile took up his entire face. As she handed him those tags, he could not keep his feet still. He kept walking in a fast pace around that room as he could hardly contain his excitement. He finally found his brother Caleb and held up his prize for him to see. When his eyes met mine, he must have wondered why his silly mom was crying a river. Many kids gave him a high five, which sent him soaring.

I never dreamed the night would turn out like that, but none of us know when some of the most beautiful moments just might happen. We must keep our eyes and hearts open to the possibilities.

Caleb too was a winner, as Nathan told him in the car afterwards that he would share all of them with him. What a fine young man that Nathan Nelson has become. Hard to believe that I once had such little hope for his future. That was before the Lord got a good hold of me. Now, nothing is impossible!

Here are Nathan and Caleb celebrating this victory with those tags. It may seem small, but God does mighty things amidst the small things, at just the right moment.

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