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Dusty Ole King James

There were few children’s books in my childhood home in California in the fifties.  Don’t know why, but reading wasn’t stressed by our parents; other than for school homework.  I remember we had a couple of Judy Bolton Mystery books. I liked those. Also, a well-worn Mother Goose book, and a hardbound collection of Grimm’s fairy tales. I see now, the value of taking children to a local library.

The books that otherwise lined our mahogany-paneled room dividers back then included a long-out-of-date set of encyclopedias, and other unappealing literature.

However, one book stood out to me, even as a young girl.

Mom told us the book was “too sacred” to touch, or “couldn’t be understood.”  A few times she even described it as, “the dirtiest book in the world.”  She must have been having a bad day!  But, that sparked my childish curiosity! One day, when it got the best of me, I dusted off the cover and began to read.

The first part, about how God made the world, was riveting. However, coming to the “begats,” I lost interest.  Why all those “funny” names anyway, I wondered?

It would be decades before I attempted to read such a book again.  I just left that dusty ole King James Bible on the shelf.  Whatever happened to that mysterious old volume, I don’t know; but for many years, it seemed to beckon me.

Creativity sparked by guilt

I can’t remember what I did wrong one day that caused terrible guilt feelings, but at twelve years old, I wasn’t about to confess whatever it was to another person on earth.  So, I thought of God and that dusty old King James Bible, and decided to write my first song.  Remember now, I was only 12…

       [Verse] Maybe I’m a sinner and maybe I ain’t… I hear you calling but your voice is faint

       Yes, maybe I’m a sinner, but when I go… Don’t let me go down below.

       [Verse] I hear you calling in an anxious way… I was wrong, I owe a price, and now I must pay

       Yes, maybe I’m a sinner, but when I go… Don’t let me go down below.

       [Bridge] O Lord, hear my plea, and have mercy on me… I’d rather be in he-eh-ehven with thee

       [Verse] His voice is getting louder, and I am getting hotter, And to Him I must go

       I’m going very slowly, but when I go… Don’t let me go down below.

Well, you might know, the song wasn’t a hit (go figure!), but somehow just writing it made me feel better.  Years later, I would recognize that what I wrote in those desperate, albeit juvenile lyrics, might be called a “sinner’s prayer”—a prayer for salvation.

It would be nearly thirty years before I would say an even more desperate prayer—February 27, 1984—seeking God’s forgiveness for a whole lot of foolishness in my life. I believe now, He was listening the first time. But, this time it would change my life for good.

Another road, Another song

Prior to that 1984 prayer, I had toured as a background and duet singer with Grand Ole Opry star “Whispering” Bill Anderson’s show, all over America, Canada and parts of Europe and the Caribbean. We even appeared on a daytime drama, “One Life To Live,” for a season.  Before joining “Whisper,” I had been on the road nearly thirteen years with my own show.

I’m thankful for that experience, but I became weary of the endless trips that took me away from my three children back home in Nashville. I admit, I hadn’t thought much about God in years… nor that dusty ole King James Bible. You know, the one I had poured my heart out to in song at age 12. Now, past 30, life had become too great a challenge.  I was tired of the road, cynical about the future for me and my children, and discouraged about my prospects for music, or any other kind of real success.  Running On Empty, as the old hit song goes!

It was 1981 and I was applying my makeup in the bathroom on Bill Anderson’s Silver Eagle bus one early morning. The other members of the show slept in their bunks as our bus driver, James, drove on down the still-darkened highway toward our next gig. Looking in that bathroom mirror, lipstick in hand, I decided to write another song.  Too cynical for my own good, but thinking I was pretty clever, the song made me laugh. I think now the Lord was not laughing… He was going to have to rescue me.

As I remember, the song went like this…

       I remember the day that my daddy took me there… To the John Jacob New Revival Church

       No, there wasn’t a day that we didn’t say a prayer… In the John Jacob New Revival Church

       Dum dum de dum [can’t remember this line]… Don’t be shy, and you will find the words to say

       Put your two hands together and raise your voice up high, ‘Cause He’s listening, no matter where you pray

       Oh, the very best prayer that this girl has ever said

       Was in the John (in the John), in the John (in the John)… In the John Jacob New Revival Church.

Now, if that doesn’t tell you I needed saving, or at the very least slapped, I don’t know what else to say!

Even so, a few years after that I found God’s grace and mercy in a large Nashville church, when the Lord had to speak right out-loud, to get my attention.  He DID!

You see, I went to that church at the lowest time of my life, feeling angry and defeated; thinking to shake my fist in God’s face. I challenged Him, in my mixed-up mind, to “show Yourself or I’ll never believe You, ever.”  He DID!

Seek and you will find

I learned that day that all I had rejected about God and Jesus Christ was real after all.  And that everything I had thought was true was a lie!  The most important TRUTH I, or anyone else, could ever know!  It was what Corrie ten Boom spent her life sharing with others, even in Nazi prison camps.

In 2009, with God’s help, my sister Donna Griggs and I were blessed to co-write some really wonderful songs for our stage play, “Ten Boom the Musical.”

Faith in Jesus Christ blows the dust off any of our hopeless philosophies and habits!

Once you get that Good News in your heart, you just have to tell others. It really is a matter of life and death, hope or despair, making sense of this world, or being ever-confused by it.  It’s a choice God allows each of us to make.

Praying you will choose wisely—His way.  He loves you!

Deliver Us From Evil | Refuse the Mark

The Lord’s prayer says, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  Many translations say, “…from the evil one.”

When the Nazis forced their way into Corrie ten Boom’s family home on February 28, 1944, the family’s work with the Dutch Resistance ceased abruptly. But, not before they had hidden and rescued well over 800 Jews from certain death.

Nazi soldiers terrorized members of Corrie’s family that day, searching everywhere for evidence of hidden Jews. Thankfully, they could not find their hiding place; a secret room built into the wall off Corrie’s bedroom. Sadly, the ten Boom’s were arrested along with visiting friends, thirty-five in all, and many never came back.

No doubt, those perilous times had many convinced that what the Bible describes as “the last days” had arrived. Daniel wrote of them in his book of the Revelation. The apostle Paul detailed them in I Thessalonians. And Jesus told of what would come, in Matthew chapter 24. The book of Revelation’s chilling prophecies surely seemed to have found their fulfillment as Hitler’s third Reich stormed across Europe. However, according to scripture, certain things would have to be in place before the Biblical “Antichrist” would come. Certain signs would be evident.

The World War II years (1937-1945) gave rise to powerful dictators in Russia, China, Italy and Japan. Yet, none seemed equal in malevolence to a freakishly unstoppable leader named Adolf Hitler. If ever there was a being who fit the description of that “man of sin,” surely the German Chancellor showed all the marks.

A Type of Antichrist

Corrie and her Christian family had lived peaceful lives in Haarlem, Holland, until those years; later to become unwittingly embroiled in intrigue and danger. With Germany so close by, radio stations bellowed with talk of the new Austrian-born dictator. The pounding voice of Hitler himself, with his persuasive speeches, stole peace from many hearts. Yet, many hungry people listened to Hitler’s impassioned rhetoric, hopeful he might lift Germany out of its economic doldrums. Blindly, they tuned in, even to his talk of eliminating Jews and others Hitler deemed “unnecessary to the new order.”

As madness became reality, it might have seemed to more discerning people that this was surely the end of the world.

Not taken in by Hitler’s ear-tickling promises, the ten Boom family trusted God and His word to sustain them. But, soon the harsh treatment and disappearances of so many Jewish neighbors prompted the ten Boom’s to join The Resistance. If Hitler was not the Antichrist, he was certainly a type of antichrist—a twisted soul bent on the destruction of others.  In the end, Adolf Hitler could claim responsibility for the deaths of more than six million Jews. Not to mention, millions who fought necessarily, including countless Americans, to defeat him and his cancerous regime.

Power and violence drove Adolf Hitler, but his regime came to a terrible end. Speculation moved on then, seeking to identify the Bible’s true “man of sin” in other world figures.

Who then is the infamous Antichrist, and what are his Marks?

For centuries, Bible scholars and historians have pondered that mystery. Numerous books and films have conjectured about “The Mark Of The Beast” and the meaning of the mysterious number 666. Even nighttime talk show hosts, comedians and others have speculated about the possible identity of the “666” man. Calculating the numerical value of various names, they jokingly ascribed the number to various opposing political figures, e.g. Ronald Wilson Reagan (six letters, three times). However, they seemed to care little about the possibility that the prophecy was true.

The Book of Revelation describes the vision God gave to John the Apostle (c. 100 AD), while exiled on the island of Patmos. The book reveals that Antichrist will be a popular, charismatic figure who will apparently rise out of Europe; a restored Roman Empire.  He will win over many, if not most people with his seemingly benevolent, sincere façade. He’ll fool “even the elect, if it were possible.” However, scripture assures us his true intent is to ensnare; ultimately to steal, kill and destroy.

In Revelation 13:18, any “person of understanding” is challenged to “calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man,” it says. But, what man?

I John 2:18 tells us that “many antichrists have already come into the world.” However, this ultimate “man of sin” will be revealed during the “last days.” This will be the most horrendous time ever in human and world history—the Great Tribulation.

His name? The Bible tells us that those who see him standing in the Jewish temple proclaiming himself to be God will know he is the one.

The Antichrist | Refuse His Lie

A clever liar and deceiver who will be indwelt by Satan himself—the “father of lies”—this singular world leader will demand that all people take his MARK, or be destroyed.

Revelation 13:16-17 says,  “He [Antichrist] causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a MARK on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has that “mark,” or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.  Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.”

Until recently, it had not occurred to me as to WHY, exactly, Antichrist would want people to wear his mark “on the forehead or right hand.”  I believe scripture gives us the best clues.

GOD’s Mark on Believers

Think of the “MARK” GOD places on those who believe Him through faith in Jesus Christ.  The LORD’S mark or seal for believers in Him also regards the right hand and the forehead:

The mark of God’s right hand of righteousness is on the believer, the Bible tells us. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” …Isaiah 41:10

The words “right hand” occurs 166 times in the Bible so it is no accident that the words “right hand” have significant meaning.

God inspired Isaiah to write “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand. It is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you” (Isaiah 41:13).

The right hand signifies strength. The term “God’s right hand” in prophecy refers to the Messiah (the Christ) to whom is given the power and authority to subdue His enemies, and now sits at the right hand of God the Father. The right hand of God is exalted! (Psalm 110:1; Psalm 118:16, Mark 16:19, Matthew 22:44).

The Mind of Christ

The Bible says, the “mark” of God gives believers the very MIND of Christ—His indwelling Holy Spirit confirms God’s truth, and the knowledge of Him in their hearts.

Read I Corinthians 2:7-16 below:

“We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  As it is written: Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.

 For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.  These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But, the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they can only be spiritually discerned. But, he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.  For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”

These are God’s promises to believers—Jesus said we “MUST BE BORN AGAIN.” A spiritual rebirth, whereby we are marked, SEALED by His Holy Spirit, that we may know whom we believe and be saved from the power of sin and death. God wants that ALL should be saved!  But, each one must humbly choose Him!

John’s vision revealed HOPE for true believers: “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast [Antichrist] or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” [Revelation. 20:4]

The Beast’s Counterfeit Mark

Can you see why Satan would want to steal that from believers? It’s our very salvation that Antichrist (indwelt by Satan) wants to steal!

Satan has always been a counterfeiter, holding out to human beings what seems to be gold, when it’s really “fools gold.” His plan is to place his own permanent seal or MARK on those who choose not to believe God through His Son, Jesus (Y’shua) the Christ.

Just as God’s MARK is permanent (believers sealed forever in Christ), Satan’s MARK is also permanent for those who believe him.  Revelation 14:11 tells us, “And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the MARK of his name.”

Corrie ten Boom and her family knew that whenever Antichrist would come, whoever he turns out to be, they must NOT take “The Mark Of The Beast.”  They chose to follow Christ, and to share the Good News (the Gospel of Christ) with others, even while imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps, that others might be saved for eternity with Him.

Corrie’s dear friend, the late Reverend Billy Graham, wrote 5 critical answers to questions about the End Times.

~ ~ ~ ~

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  (John 3:16-17)

There are many signs in these times that scripture has warned of for millennia. Consider your eternity in light of God’s word, and whatever you do, or must suffer, trust God who is faithful and… REFUSE THE MARK OF THE BEAST!

Above Reality: Where Miracles Still Happen

ABOVE “REALITY” is a partial autobiography… my personal story of growing up lost, always wondering about God, and hearing His voice in a pained plea for Him to prove Himself.

God was not a subject for discussion at home, growing up.  I often escaped reality in dreams of becoming a musical star.  But, marrying too young, I went from battered wife to struggling single-mother of three, and later to Nashville music performer still hungry to know God.

In 1984, having lost everything, God became real, and everything changed!

The following is the introduction to my book, Above “Reality”: Where Miracles Happen and Healing Begins.  If you’ve longed to know God; if you’ve heard Corrie ten Boom’s and others’ testimonies of faith, and wondered how they could be so sure of Him, I hope you will also read my story. Yes, God is real!

“You’re going home, Susan!” The voice spoke to me as clearly as anyone ever had in my life. It was the second time I heard those same words as I sat frozen, unable to move from my place in the sprawling sanctuary of Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville. Fear gripped me at the sound of the bodiless male voice that spoke so calmly, but with such unnerving authority.  It was not at all how the movies had ever portrayed the voice of God.  No thunder, no heavy reverb, but with an unmistakable finality that caused my heart to pound wildly and my resolve to begin to crumble like a snowy peak breaking up before an avalanche.

Near panic, I thought to bolt for the door, but even the slightest movement made me fear I would shatter into uncontrollable tears and humiliate myself before so many strangers. My life had been out of control for so long, and I felt certain these “do-gooders” (I called them) would not understand or care that I had lost all but the last bit of heart to live. I could not have guessed what God was about to do that would change my life forever!

The One I was always told was “unknowable” showed me that Sunday morning in 1984, He will move heaven and earth in our lives. And sometimes speak right out loud, if we earnestly seek Him. He wants us to know Him! He CAN be known!

The most brilliant among us in this world lives out our years with little more than a philosophy about why we exist at all, and calls it “reality.” Our perception of truth is limited by our waning physical strength, fickle emotions, self-motivated opinions, and a short supply of any faith that counts.

Most tragically for many, reality is a prison of seemingly impossible circumstances forged by our own or others failings apart from the One who loves us most of all. It doesn’t have to be that way!

In my book I share some of my own experiences, believing God. Were they miracles? I’ll leave that to your own faith to consider. I offer them in my book, just as they happened.

We were created to live connected to the One who created us… without that connection, understanding this life is impossible! But, with God ALL things are possible!

God loved me at my worst, and I can’t help but love Him back. He loves you, too! I pray you will seek after Him and not stop looking until you find Him, then hang on for dear life. You won t be disappointed!

The Lord knows my weaknesses and my fears. He hears my complaints and my prayers. He admonishes me regularly, that I might grow up to be more faithful. And, most amazingly, He extends His all-sufficient grace to me when I least deserve it.

If I accomplish nothing else with this book, I pray that every reader will be impacted by a deep understanding of God’s amazing GRACE. He invites even the worst of sinners to surrender that “worst” to Him; to look beyond what we call reality here, and share a personal relationship with Him, even now, above “reality,” where miracles still happen, and healing begins!

I pray now you will seek to know Him. It’s a life or death matter!

He is the reason Corrie ten Boom was able to survive three concentration camps in 1944; the reason she shared God’s love there during the Holocaust and all over the world, in person and in her many books, including “The Hiding Place.”

In these times, when the world seems as shadowy as in those World War 2 days, there is peace to be found, and assurance of God’s love in Jesus Christ.  [Matthew 7:7-8]

Summer of Pain, Renewed Hope

I’ve learned that blessings can come on the mountain tops, but also in the valleys of our lives. For me, summer 2019 would bring one of those valleys, and more than a little pain. But it would also bring renewed hope!

My husband Philip and I had worked out vigorously for months at a local gym, also around our small farm property near Nashville.  We mow eleven of sixteen acres, where countless trees regularly shed wagon loads of branches to toss on our ever-rising burn pile.

I had forgotten I wasn’t twenty years old anymore, and I was beginning to feel the pain of over-doing a thing!

As weeks passed, the pain worsened, and three MRI’s revealed rotator cuff tears in both shoulders, plus pinched nerves in my neck that caused further pain in my arms and hands. “The perfect storm,” it seemed.  Later, in October, cervical (neck) fusion surgery would be necessary to relieve the pinched nerves, and the first weeks of recovery would be excruciating.  The thought of possibly two more surgeries, one shoulder at a time, was unbearable.  I spent the summer hoping none of those surgeries would be needed.

What I needed was a miracle!

The Coming Storm

Philip and I work together in our small software business a few miles from home, where I enjoy doing promotions and editing Philip’s national blogs. I’m also a writer and blogger, but with painful arms, writing became a challenge.  If only God would just heal me, instantly!  After all, when He walked the earth, He made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and the lame to walk. Still, I prayed…

“Lord, if it’s your will that I go through all this, please be right here with me.”

August came with an unusual thunderstorm for our area, turning the skies black and threatening, and Philip urged me to hurry home from the office. At once, lightning and thunder began pounding our little town. Windshield wipers were all but useless against the downpour, as I drove through the gate, onto our long gravel driveway.

Suddenly, the driver’s side of my car was engulfed in tree limbs.  Part of that rotting old tree, Philip and I had talked about removing one day, had finally succumbed to the storm. Shaken, I hit the brakes, and then tried to drive forward toward the house, but a large limb had pinned my front wheels in place.  I couldn’t move.

Looking up then, I watched helplessly, as the larger part of that same old tree crashed down right in front of my car.

Running for Cover

Heart pounding, I thought to wait a bit for the lightning to let up before getting out of my car. But what if another tree fell?  As it was, with limbs blocking the driver’s door, I’d have to climb over the console and go out the passenger door. Having two bad arms made the whole experience more traumatic, as I grabbed my purse and keys and jumped out into deepening mud puddles. Still about 400 feet to the house, I realized the skimpy sandals I’d worn were no substitute for track shoes I could have used to outrun the storm.  I ran and prayed frantically, past the long row of swaying southern pine trees.

“Lord, HELP ME make it to the house!” After all, I remembered, He had once calmed a terrible storm on the Sea of Galilee.

Finally, safe inside, heart still pounding and soaked to the skin, I was just thankful to be alive.  But truly, if I was hoping for a miracle, I felt sure only the Lord kept me from being crushed under tons of enormous tree limbs, now strewn across the driveway.  I would find out later, the only real damage to my car was that caused by the limb under my wheels, that had kept me from a more tragic outcome.

Surely, God proved He was with me, saving me from that falling tree. And I was reassured He would also be with me through this health crisis; my own “perfect storm!”  Through all of it, my sweet husband has been more than supportive and encouraging.

As I write this…

It’s been nearly seven months since that first (neck) surgery, and five months since the second surgery to repair my right shoulder. Recovery was harder than expected, and I had prayed I would not need a third operation. I’m thankful, that prayer was answered!

In March, however, my husband suffered unexpected “sinking spells” that sent us to the emergency room at Centennial Medical Center in Nashville where doctors operated twice on him to insert a permanent heart pacemaker. Six weeks later, Philip is feeling well and too strong for his own good. Hard to keep a busy entrepreneur down! God is good!!

For all of it, I’m clinging to the promise in Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord; not to harm you, but to give you a future and a hope.”

One thing I understand, God doesn’t promise us a pain-free, tear-free life, but He does promise never to leave us, nor forsake us.  I know there’s a purpose for this season in my life, and I’m thankful for the reminder that came with that summer storm… even a fallen tree.

Thankful for the months since, that have brought me closer to Him. And thankful for the blessing of renewed hope for the future.

As Corrie ten Boom would say, “Jesus is victor!”

 

Remembering Corrie | Love, Don’t Hate!

Love, not hate
remembering Corrie

“Don’t HATE, Corrie!”  Betsie said.

It was November, 1944, and Corrie was stunned by the look in Betsie’s eyes, full of love and compassion, even for the Nazi guard who was beating Betsie unmercifully.

Corrie ten Boom, younger than her beloved sister Betsie by nine years, could not stand by and watch any longer.  She would never forget the hate on that Nazi woman’s face as she whipped Betsie violently, again and again.  Where did such hate come from?

Suddenly, Corrie knew the answer too well, seeing this latest injustice toward someone she loved.  Hate, even rage, rose up like gall in her own heart, until she was close to choking on it.

Corrie and Betsie had grown up in a household of love and compassion, kindness, and faith in God.  Hate was an enemy they had never met until now. How would these two amazing women deal with a world that seemed bent on hate?

April 15th marks TWO anniversaries for a remarkable and beloved, Dutch watchmaker and Nazi holocaust survivor, Corrie ten Boom.  Born that spring date in Haarlem, Holland (The Netherlands), she would step into eternity on her 91st birthday.

Remembering Corrie ten Boom [April 15, 1892 — April 15, 1983]

Years ago, writer Linda Ellis’ profound poem, “The Dash,” shared the message, that the dates of a person’s birth and death are not as important as how that person spends the DASH in between.  It’s hard to think of many who spent their “dash” as well as Corrie ten Boom, whose life touched and continues to bring hope and encouragement to many, all around the world!

Corrie’s autobiographical book, “The Hiding Place,” written with Elizabeth and John Sherrill, was the basis for this stage play, “Ten Boom the Musical.” Her book became a major motion picture in 1978, sharing the powerful true story of Corrie and her family during the Nazi occupation of Holland.  Her “dash” included life in a loving Christian family that would later risk their lives to hide Jewish people from Nazi persecution and death. The family’s work with the Dutch Resistance finally led to imprisonment, where many of them died.  Their story tells of a great love, courage, and unflinching faith in God.  From a quiet life to unexpected intrigue, great pain and ultimate victory, Corrie’s experience has encouraged millions all over the world through her speaking and her many books.

“Don’t Hate!”

If Corrie was alive today, and could see what’s happening in our nation and our world, what would she say to us now?  She had survived three concentration camps during a devastating World War that took the lives of an estimated 50 to 80 million people, military and civilian. Six million of those were Jewish people—killed simply for being Jews! HATE did that, and Corrie had seen the enemy up close and personal.  And yet, I believe her message for us would include a loving warning, like the one given to Corrie herself by her sister Betsie, even about the Nazis…“Don’t Hate!”

It was a harsh winter in Germany, in 1944.  Corrie, Betsie and hundreds of others were forced into hard labor at Ravensbruck prison, a Nazi death camp for women.  The sixteen-hour days of back-breaking work, with little to eat, were literally killing many of the women.  Betsie, born with pernicious anemia, grew weaker by the day. Seeing her collapse to the ground, Corrie ran to Betsie’s aide, only to be pushed violently aside by a cruel matron others called “the Snake.”

To Corrie’s mind, the beating was the last straw. A devoted Christian woman, but how could she continue to turn the other cheek1, while another person she loved was so cruelly mistreated?  The brutality and deaths she had witnessed caused a deep bitterness to grow toward those who purposed to cause pain.  Finally, Corrie just wanted to get her hands on that Nazi guard and pull her away from Betsie, but other prisoners held her back, fearing more retribution.  Restrained now, by the arms of women who had as much reason to hate as she, Corrie’s tears boiled over.

Pray For Your Enemies

The beating had finally stopped. The Snake threatened and ordered all the women back to work. But, Corrie was still reeling from the scene, and rushed to comfort her now bleeding sister.

“I HATE THAT WOMAN…” Corrie stopped, puzzled by the look on Betsie’s face.

“Don’t hate, Corrie. Pray for that woman!” Betsie whispered. “THEY know how to hate and look what it’s done to THEM!  You can’t protect me here, Corrie—you mustn’t try!”

“How do you pray for such monsters?” Corrie wept. She had trusted the Lord since she was five years old, and had never seen the face of evil, as here in this place.  Jesus warned believers, “Be sober and vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”2

Here, behind the ominous, barbed-wire fences of Ravensbruck prison, the smell of death was all around her, choking her with a hatred she had never experienced.  JOY had always defined her life. How was she to deal with such evil?

The True Hiding Place

Corrie remembered the words of the apostle Paul to believers… “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might… take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day; and, having done all, to stand.”3

Corrie was the strong one, feisty even; now she definitely wanted to make a stand. But is that what Paul was saying? She loved the Lord, and was often steadied  by Betsie’s wise counsel, as they grew up. Betsie was right! They were here in this place of death to bring hope to others—not to hate—not even the Nazis.

What Would Corrie Do Today?

The Bible tells us that in the last days, people will be offended and there will be much division. Hearts will turn cold toward others, and hate will abound.4  That people will be as we see many becoming in our world today.5

In Luke 6, Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

On her knees, Corrie asked the Lord to forgive her and to give her the right heart toward these enemies. She prayed the infection of hatred in their hearts would heal also; that they would learn to love again.  If our adversary, even the devil, can cause hate to eat at our souls, then we have already lost the battle. Hate steals any compassion we might have for another soul, while it steals our own peace.

God allowed Corrie and Betsie ten Boom to be imprisoned at Ravensbruck to bring light and hope, the love of God, to others suffering that horror. Even if it meant they themselves should die there! Betsie did die, but that miraculous event would encourage Corrie’s heart for the rest of her life as she traveled to more than 60 countries to tell others, “No pit is so deep that God’s love is not deeper still!

Putting Out Fires of Hatred

It seemed the whole world was on fire during World War 2.  And it seems that fire of hatred and division is spreading across the globe in these times, when LOVE and compassion are desperately needed!

On this anniversary of Corrie ten Boom’s birth, and her going home to the Lord she loved, we pray the world will stop and consider LOVE, not hate!

I Peter 4:8 (AMP) “Above all, have fervent and unfailing love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. It overlooks unkindness, and seeks the best for others.

The Song I Came to Sing

I woke early this morning thinking about lyrics to a song I’ve written, titled, “The Song I Came to Sing,” inspired by a gravestone epitaph I saw years ago.  I was just a young girl then, wandering curiously through an otherwise sunny graveyard, but the words on the stone left a lasting impact on my life… it read:

“I spent my life stringing and un-stringing my instrument, but the song I came to sing remains unsung.”

I’m a singer, from a family of singers and musicians, and those words still chill me.  The person’s last message on earth told of a life that had somehow missed the mark. Whatever his dreams had been were never to be.  My own father, once a fine violinist, had let his life go by, mourning his silent instrument, and living out that same, sad conclusion.

God has a purpose and a plan for every life!  I remember thinking, back then, “I don’t want to end my life someday, not having fulfilled my purpose.”

While it’s early, my husband still sleeps, and I began reading my Bible.  Turning a page in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, I found a note I’d hand-written beside the text at some point…

“Live, as if from heaven to Earth—not from the battle, but from the victory!” 

Realizing Things Unseen

2 Corinthians 4:18 reads, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Unfortunately, when I read the words on that gravestone, years ago, it would be many years before I discovered my own true “song.” Altogether, forty years of wandering in my own wilderness.  I was so caught up in the things of this broken world back then, I felt trapped by life.  I couldn’t see that all the “truth” I had ever believed about God, and almost everything else, was a big fat lie!

Thankfully, the Lord gave my soul a song to sing—March 4, 1984.  Now, in the years since my heart and life was changed so dramatically, I can understand what I wrote in my Bible that day.

“Live, as if from heaven to Earth—not from the battle, but from the victory!”  Victory in this life is found when we come to know God’s heart and mind, through His word and the leading of His Spirit—and begin to live from His perspective. Or, as a my great-aunt Stella said, “You don’t know what real life is about, until you come to the foot of the Cross.”

Finding the Path

For me, it took God literally speaking right out loud, responding to my anguished and impudent cry, “Show yourself or get out of my face forever!”  I don’t recommend that approach to Him now, you might understand. But, I’d come to a pained point in my life that needed some real answers, or I was done with all of it. Maybe you can relate to that?

Amazingly, the Lord answered my bold challenge that day, with love and grace I didn’t deserve. And with four words I will never forget—“You’re going home, Susan!”  Twice, He said it, and I could no longer deny Him.

These days, I see so many people believing all the same lies I’d bought into, and it’s sad to watch. I want to shake them into truth, “STOP, you’re going the wrong way!”  It’s like watching someone about to walk off a cliff or under a falling building, and unable to get their attention and avert a catastrophe.

People pay too little attention to God these days, when eternity hangs in the balance!

It still amazes me that, taking Him at His word, believing Him for Who He really is, one can actually glimpse this whole thing we call life, as if through God’s eyes.  But, there it is—it’s true!

Earth’s Perspective Only Leads to More Questions

The battles we endure here on Earth are like swimming in rough waters; always some resistance.  However, by faith, the battle is able to strengthen us, as we continue to swim—believing there is victory on the far shore.  Because, there is!

Seeing life from God’s perspective, with faith and courage to press on, we overcome the obstacles and counterfeit paths of this world, day by day.  The Father, like a good Dad, says to His child, “You can do this,” and the child takes baby steps. “Come on,” He says, “Come to me, don’t give up.” He does that with each of us through this life, if only we let Him.

Learning to see yourself, your surroundings, other people; every challenge, every issue and effort—as much as God allows from Heaven’s perspective—is the very answer to life.  At once, hard, even death-defying situations take on new meaning. Trusting Him for every step is an adventure I might have missed.  I pray you won’t miss it either!

“You’re going home, Susan!”

I still hear Him say, “You’re going HOME, Susan.” He said my name, and it keeps me swimming, through even the most troubling waters. “Come to Me,” He says in my heart, “The victory is here waiting. Stay on the path. The world and its offerings will entice and try to defeat all your efforts to endure in love and peace. But, trust and keep your eyes on Me, and I will get you Home.”

Sounds crazy, right?  It did to me for forty years, until I had lost everything and bothered to seek Him. Amazingly, I found He’d been there all the time, waiting! My favorite Bible verse (Isaiah 43:1b) says… “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine.”

Taste and See!

When we taste only the things of this life, and fail to look up, we miss real life—the real “song” He planned for us to sing.  The “peace” I had sought here on Earth was in whatever made me happy at any given moment—an object, a place, a palatable philosophy; another person I thought could make all my dreams come true.  I was hung up on whatever I could accomplish with my talents, looks, money, and so-called smarts.

Oh, if anyone had asked if I was going to heaven when I died, I would have said, “Yes, I’m a good person!” But I didn’t know the Lord then, nor His Way to that eternal Home.  With no anchor for my soul—only the counsel or persuasions of others who had yet to believe Him—I found I only had more questions than answers.

When I understood those four words the Lord spoke aloud to me in 1984, and the amazing GRACE they imparted to my heart, I knew I would spend the rest of my life telling about Him and His truth.

The Song I Came to Sing

I’ve sung thousands of songs in my time, but THIS is “the song” I came to sing:  about a perfect heavenly Father who loved us so much He became one of us on Earth; then laid down His life to pay for the sins of all who would believe.

I co-wrote the stage play, “Ten Boom the Musical,” with my sister Donna Griggs, about the life of Corrie ten Boom, whose faith brought hope to many women in Ravensbruck concentration camp, during WW2. Corrie found God’s call on her life—HER “song”—in that place.

I pray you will find your own life’s “song” in Him.  That you will live in victory, as if from Heaven to Earth, with the hope of the eternal Home He promises to all who come to Him by faith in Christ alone.

Adamah | The Mysterious Kingdom

Can you imagine, you’re locked in isolation, in a notorious Nazi death camp, no less?  Corrie ten Boom spent many days alone, praying; trying to recall the happiest moments of her life, as she faced the inevitable. Yet, one thought filled Corrie’s heart above all—she must share the good news with others there. Good news? Had she been in isolation so long, she had lost her mind?

At night, in the eerie stillness, when the cries and screams of others ceased for too few hours, Corrie found courage in the words of a little book that hung from her neck.

Corrie and her sister Betsie would read the little book—an underground Bible, secreted into the prison—to other prisoners, to encourage them also. Though still a great mystery to many of them, the words in the little book brought comfort and hope; taking all their minds far from the dark images of Ravensbrück prison.

I offer this as a simple parable, praying the actual truths found in the Bible will dawn clearly in some seeking heart.

The Great King

Long ago, a great and powerful king ruled over an indescribably beautiful kingdom. The countless souls there worshiped the king and delighted in all his many wonders. They relished the joyous celebrations and seeing the king in all his splendor.

Love, above all, shone like the sun in that wondrous place; permeating each heart with joy beyond anything one could ask or think.  Somehow, the king provided for every need, and his subjects lacked nothing, for all his unending kindness. How he did it, no one knew; neither did any think to question!

How does one describe such a place?  The perfect melding of color and light, masterful music and gaiety, afforded a great sense of freedom and belonging. Millions upon millions of souls, with as many gifts and roles to play; each one complementing every other, like a grand symphony. 

One day, as the king paced the bright corridors of his kingdom, he began to ponder…  Would his subjects grow weary of so much goodness?  And what would they choose, if they could go elsewhere and serve another?  After all, they had never been given a choice, but to remain with him.  So, how would he ever know if they truly loved him, and would not choose otherwise—unless he gave them a choice?

Finally, the great king knew what he must do. 

The Mysterious Kingdom

The king would prepare another place; a unique new kingdom, where every soul would be free to make an all-important choice. He would give each one a unique, mortal body to move freely there. Oh, the king would watch over them; with signs to help them remember him. And he would answer, should they call out to him. But the decision must be theirs, each one—to love and return to him; or be lost to him forever.

He named their new home “Adamah,” where they would have everything needed to sustain life beyond his kingdom.  First, there must be pure air to breathe, for their new bodies; and livable temperatures. Adamah would be filled with grand music to inspire; ideas to explore and challenge every soul. And above them, the heavens to cause wonder. There would be light and water; green valleys and majestic mountains; plants and trees for food and shade. He would provide a wondrous variety of creatures; livestock to till the ground and supply food and leather and wool for clothing. And there would be elements in abundance, for making tools and building shelters. Everything, except his reigning presence!

The great king would make the mortals much like himself; able to reason and invent—if not to create. They would need strength and wit, and the will to survive where weather and terrain, seasons and vast ideologies would prove a constant challenge. Moreover, they must be mindful of others, beyond their own well-being. “Each life is precious, infinitely valuable to me,” he would assure them.

Of course, there must be certain limits to maintain, so there could be peace and order among all. The rest would be up to them. They must choose; each one.

Journey to Adamah

The king’s heart longed for each beloved soul to choose wisely; although he knew the end of all things. Still, each heart must decide—before time would run out.  Yes, each soul would have just so much time on Adamah to solve the mystery of true life as the great king planned it. 

First, the king created two mortals who would become the bearers and caretakers of new ones who would come after. Each soul would enter the mysterious, new kingdom as an infant being; male or female, the king decided. 

Importantly, once a soul left the great king’s realm, they would have no recollection of the place they had always called home with him. But loving them, he placed in each mortal heart, a deep longing for that goodness he hoped would prove their character and turn them back to him one day.

They would have dominion and stewardship over Adamah and all the other life there. But, the hardest thing to manage, would be their relationships with one another. Unbridled emotions that over-indulged that which was dearest to them, would prove a constant heartache and distraction. And PRIDE would be the mortal enemy of their capacity to love unselfishly and forgive generously.

Beware the Adversary!

Above all, they must overcome the craftiness of a divisive and relentless adversary—a bewitching, ever-lurking and lying spirit, who would covet the place of king over all, if they allowed. Many would be blinded by his deceptions.

Sadly, the great king knew many would be so entranced by the mysterious kingdom, they might choose never to seek him. Many would rebel against any thought of the great king, and work against those who believed. The worst could commit the vilest acts and give rise to wars, as some greedily claimed all power for themselves. Carelessly, some would destroy millions of infant lives struggling to enter the new kingdom.

Still, every soul must have the freedom to choose; even through great tribulation!

Divisions in the New Kingdom

So, it began. And just as the great king had foreseen, many rejected any thought of him. Finally, because of his great heart for them, he decided to become one of them; flesh and blood, living among them. Maybe now they would choose his perfect, unconditional love, over any enticements on Adamah.

But the king foreknew that some would rise up violently to end his life there; not understanding the king had purposed to die, even the most cruel death, to pay for the sins of all. It was those who accepted His sacrifice in their place, those who chose to believe Him after all, that would find eternal life with him.

Sadly, for those who ignored the great king’s invitation, life on Adamah would remain a blur of unanswered questions; a great unsolved mystery. False teachings and strange philosophies; deviant activities and un-kingly pursuits would tempt, where truth and conscience were absent. Many would understand too late, how like a vapor the kingdom called “Adamah” was meant to be! 

Yet, while there was still time to believe, the merciful heart of the great king could still be known. And all who chose him found hope and joy; trusting that he would keep his promise, and rescue them one day from the mysterious kingdom of Adamah.

The Valley of Decision

The Bible says, “God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places IN CHRIST, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. In Him we have redemption through His shed blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His Grace.”

In the fearsome grip of the godless Nazi regime, Corrie and Betsie ten Boom shared the good news (the gospel) with many facing death in Ravensbrück Concentration Camp. Many found peace and hope, knowing that by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, there is forgiveness and victory over the darkest situations of our lives; even death.

He has given every person on Earth, freedom to choose. We can place our trust in this life only—this temporal and “mysterious kingdom,” with all its allure and deception—to our eternal regret.  Or, through faith in Jesus the Christ—Yahshuah, the Messiah—as Lord and Savior; to choose true life with the Great King forever!

The day of the Lord will come, regardless of what one chooses. The important thing is to be right with God before that valley of decision. The choice is ours!

[The Nazis exterminated more than 95,000 women in Ravensbrück prison, and more than six million Jews, during WW2]

The Grand Pixel | Our Earthly Home

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known,” wrote Dr. Carl Sagan, American astronomer, scientist, author, and self-proclaimed atheist, regarding our universe.  He was closer to the truth than he could know then!

In 1977, when the Voyager 1 space probe made its journey toward the outer reaches of our solar system, Dr. Carl Sagan and other scientists prompted NASA to turn the probe’s camera around, so it could photograph what it was leaving behind.

Witnessing our vast star system and planet Earth fading into the distance, Dr. Sagan would write a book titled Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, believing Earth to be only a mere “pixel” in the universe.

The following is an excerpt from his book:

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there, on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.  In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. To me,” wrote Sagan, “it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

Corrie ten Boom | Her thoughts about God’s “pale blue dot”

It would have saddened Corrie ten Boom to hear Dr. Sagan say, “There is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”  For Corrie, having met her Savior at only five years of age, Help had already come.  I believe Corrie would have kindly assured Dr. Sagan that, “God loves you, and wants to share with you His knowledge of the universe He made. Wonders beyond anything you have yet imagined!”

Having survived the WW2 Holocaust and three concentration camps, Corrie ten Boom—a Dutch watchmaker who, along with her family, was arrested for hiding hundreds of Jews from the Nazis—spent the next four decades of her life telling thousands about her experiences. Mainly, she shared about her faith in God, and the miracles that helped her and others during that dark time. “Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible,” she said. “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”  Hers was a message of hope and assurance.

Even amid the dark horrors of the prison camps, Corrie was able to tell others, “In darkness God’s truth shines most clear.” Surely, that would also be true in the darkest reaches of space!

Without God, Hearts grow cold

It was obviously important to Dr. Sagan that people “deal more kindly with one another,” a sentiment most people would agree with; especially Jesus, who entreated his followers to “Love one another.”  [1]

Sadly, the wisdom of scripture is more and more ignored in our world. Yet, it forewarned about these times we live in, “Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” Corrie experienced those places where the coldest of hearts had learned more to hate, than to be kind.

God knows the human hearts he made with such care; and what happens when we choose not to believe Him. God IS love, and without His guidance, our world has only become more divided; more dangerous.

Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie spoke of God’s love with their fellow prisoners, that they might find strength and courage facing death at the hands of the Nazis. In the dim light of the barracks, they read that Jesus Christ was God in human form on Earth [2]; that they could know and trust Him with their very lives, even there. “For by Him, all things were created that are in heaven and on Earth, visible and invisible,” they read, “whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” [3]

Scientific Research | Honest to God?

Corrie might have wondered, how an honest study of the precision of our world could overlook that possibility?

Is there anything on this “pale blue dot” that was not conceived, designed and constructed by some intellect?  Shouldn’t scientific research sift all possibilities before coming to conclusions?

How could such research dismiss the wisdom in that ancient Book that has endured for eons, outlasted civilizations, and been attested to by so many millions of changed lives? Is our planet Earth really just “a lonely speck of dust” in the universe?

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth,” [5] the Bible tells us.  And “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork.” [6]  Are we not awed by all of it, even as Dr. Sagan was?

I know from my own encounter with the Lord in 1984, that God does indeed “come to rescue us from ourselves.” I, and so many others have found victory over our broken lives, here on this grand and privileged planet!

What is Man that You are Mindful of Him

For all of Dr. Carl Sagan’s research into extraterrestrial matters, I’d like to think that, after all, he didn’t miss the main truth about this pixel we call home… Earth was purposely designed by a gracious God, to sustain life; specifically, human life, male and female, who were created in His image.

Night after night in Ravensbrück concentration camp, Barracks 28, Corrie and Betsie ten Boom shared about God’s gifts and promises to us, from one precious small Bible.

King David had once inquired of the Lord, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained—What is man that You are mindful of him?[9]

In so immense a universe, some believe we mere mortals are alone, insignificant.  But, GOD LOVES US! Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”  Is that not amazing! [10]  Jesus Christ, God on Earth in the flesh, [11] told us, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father but through Me.” [12]

Only a sovereign, creator God could say that. Only God, through Jesus Christ—Y’shuah, the Messiah—did!

Voyager 1 | A Message for the Cosmos

The Voyager 1 space probe was launched from Earth, September 5, 1977, forty years ago. NASA will continue for another ten years to monitor its journey through space, traveling at 38,610 mph. So incredibly immeasurable is God’s universe that scientists calculate it would take another 70,000 years for V-1 to reach Alpha Centauri, the nearest star other than our sun. That’s a distance of approximately 4.3 light years, or about 25 trillion miles from Earth.

Wondrously, it only takes a moment, right here on Earth, to eternally connect with our Creator God, by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Voyager 1 and 2 spacecrafts were sent with a greeting from Earth, to any form of life that might be encountered. The message is carried by a golden phonograph record; a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. The contents of the disk were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Dr. Carl Sagan while at Cornell University. He and his associates assembled 115 images and a variety of natural sounds. To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, and spoken greetings from Earth-people in fifty-five languages.  “The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played, only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space.” – Carl Sagan

Sadly, Voyager’s recorded message did not include any hope-inspiring passages from the Bible, or any other faith-based writings and majestic hymns of faith.

A Lonely Message to Something waiting to be known

Will Voyager 1 just continue moving through the darkness of space, where only God is likely to hear its lonely message? Perhaps the Lord would receive the message as a desperate call for Help, a prayer even, to that “something incredible that is waiting to be known.” God answers prayer!

By now, Dr. Carl Sagan knows that the Answer to all his research was right there, all around him. He knows that only an almighty God could create so unfathomably vast a universe with such precision and beauty. That only man’s poor choices made any of it ugly. By now, he knows that God so loved him personally, and us, that he placed us on one perfect “pale blue dot” in the immense space of His love and grace, that we might find Him and believe. He’s waiting to be known by every soul on planet Earth.

As Dr. Sagan often said, “This is the only world known to harbor life… the only home we’ve ever known.”

Much more than that, Earth is where God’s Love took the punishment for all our sins, our human failings, on a rugged cross—past, present and future—that believing His sacrifice for us, we might share in His eternal home forever.

For each of us, it begins with faith, here on this perfect, privileged, grand pixel in space—our Earthly home.

~~

Beyond the Veil | Love After All

It had been seven years since Anna discovered the truth; yet it seemed a lifetime ago.  What lay beyond the veil before her? 

A man named Paul had written, as if to Anna personally… “The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes… to free and slave, prisoners, and those who suffer.” 

Anna had been a long time in grasping that message in her own heart, although she’d suffered much in her young life; a prisoner of her own pain and distrust.

 

Thankfully, that truth had sustained her as she struggled to survive those horrifying seven years, while she feared that most of those she cared about were lost forever.

Unable to move now, Anna found herself standing between fading memories and the door to eternity.   Everything had changed, and only what she had finally come to believe kept her from crumbling, as had so many, into total madness.

“Am I breathing… dying?  Am I dead?” she wondered.

The Great Veil

Rising before her was a great, shimmering wall of indescribable dimensions, like an immense veil or theater curtain in the grandest proscenium archway.  Suddenly, the veil ripped from top to bottom before her eyes.  Anna remembered reading a story about something like this in a Bible, during the past seven years when being found with a copy of that forbidden book threatened imprisonment or worse.

The story told of a devastating incident, long ago.  How another mammoth veil in a Hebrew temple had torn violently, right down the middle, as if by unseen hands—as an innocent Man died on a Roman cross.  Anna had finally come to know that Man as her life. Now she understood. He was the only way to God—for her, for anyone.  God Himself, appearing in human flesh; born to die, to pay for the sins of every person on earth, of all time, in one sacrificial act of grace and forgiveness.

Anna hadn’t let herself believe it before that day—when so many people just disappeared!   

Everyone had heard the voice roaring from the heavens then.  Like the blast of a great horn, it had shaken them all to their knees.  Some recognized the voice instantly, yet they had been too late in taking the prophecy seriously, because unbelief or mere “religion” had masked the truth.  Anna had only covered her ears at the sound; still unwilling to listen.  It had all been too incredible for her to believe.

But, people were suddenly gone, and Anna realized she and millions of others were now left behind to face what Jesus Himself had warned of, “For then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred, since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall be.”

The Man of Lawlessness Comes

The mysterious book of Revelation told of a “man of lawlessness” called Antichrist, who would rise during the final seven years.  Ultimately, it said, he would show himself for who and what he was—Satan incarnate.  At first, Anna had listened to that charismatic world leader; captivated by his smooth, persuasive words.  But, just as the Book had foretold, three and a half years later, the man changed; morphed into something hideous in nature. A killing force; vicious and cruel.

“Science is king,” he chanted. “Evolution is truth, and creation is a lie. Your GOD is a lie!”

Then came that day in the new temple when he did the most abominable thing!  

“I alone am god!” he declared, as millions watched via satellite around the world.  So many had cheered, while others like Anna were terrified, knowing who he really was.  The builders of the new temple had finally realized also, and remembered the One they had rejected.  Those who could run fled into the desert.  After that day, those who wouldn’t bow down to Antichrist’s image were destroyed.

The Mark

“Do NOT take The Mark, no matter what!” Anna’s best friend Grace had warned her.  Grace was one of those who did read that Book, and knew the consequences of taking the Mark—that symbol of allegiance to Antichrist.  NOT taking the Antichrist’s “Mark” would mean not being able to buy food or anything else; all privileges taken away.  However, taking that Mark had dire, eternal consequences!

One day, Anna’s friend Grace had desperately insisted on reading a Bible passage to Anna… “It says, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his Mark on their forehead or on their hand, they shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God… Here is the patience of the saints (believers) who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus the Christ.’ PLEASE, don’t take the mark, Anna!” 

Still, Anna had not listened.  It had taken the disappearance of her friend and many others to convince her of what had been inconceivable before that day.

Seven Terrifying Years Later

Endless lines of rescued souls stood silently to her left and right.  Waiting.  Unable to move, or to see clearly beyond the veil, they were captive to a seemingly infinite moment in time, before there would be no more. 

Standing beneath the great veil, Anna’s mind raced at light speed through what had been her life.  Faces of those she had known and loved.  But, even as her heart assured her she would soon be with God forever, deep grief swept over her for those who would never go beyond the great veil.

The evidence of the disappearances and a world gone mad around them had not convinced most of those on earth, who had been too willing to take the Mark.  Sadly, those would never realize their dreams or find the love they had sought, in anything and anyone, but Christ.

For Anna, it was unbearable to think what waited for them now.   “If only they had believed!”

She wept, one last time—her only comfort, remembering what the Book said lay beyond the veil. “For God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither any more pain; for the former things are passed away.”

A Prisoner and Yet..

Anna woke with a start at the sound of the prison bullhorn; her heart still racing.  The veil was gone now.  The images she had dreamed about in such detail had been prompted by Corrie and Betsie ten Boom’s nightly readings in Barracks 28, from a small, smuggled Bible.  Thankfully, the Tribulation had not yet happened; but now she understood, it would certainly come.

Too early for daylight to show through the dirt-encrusted windows, Anna and hundreds of other women were crammed into a space meant to house much fewer people.  Yet only their closeness kept most from freezing to death in the icy winter of Northern Germany.  Women, Jews and Gentiles of many countries and languages, were forced to lie in filthy, flea-infested bunks, hoping a Nazi guard would not call their name, one final time.

Now fully awake, Anna was relieved to be alive, even in Ravensbruck prison.  There was still time, however short, to comfort others with the hope of heaven beyond this place.  She and the other women would likely never leave Ravensbruck alive.

Night after night, Corrie and Betsie had read scripture to give that hope to all the women.  The images Anna had dreamed about had once frightened and confused her, not having understood the Apostle John’s vision in the Book of Revelation. But, it was the important warning Christ had given His beloved friend John—to be delivered to any of us who might believe and be spared what was going to come.

Love, After All

However, it wasn’t the fear of the Revelation’s horrible images of the end times that caused Anna or others to trust Christ as Savior.  It was those other passages they read each night—about God’s mercy and forgiveness.  It was Christ’s willing sacrifice on that cross, for Anna and all mankind, if they would only believe and be saved.  His resurrection promised victory even over death, and new life forever with Him.

God’s amazing and sacrificial LOVE was what won Anna’s heart!  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,”  Romans 5:8 proclaimed.  And “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends,” says John 15:13.  Now she knew, God Himself, through His Son, was Anna’s Friend!

In 1944, Corrie and Betsie ten Boom risked their own lives reading from that smuggled Bible, to the women in Barracks 28.  It was ones like Anna (although a supposed character here) who listened and believed the readings from God’s word each night, who found hope, strength and true freedom, even in prison.

On those dark nights, with death so close, some might have wondered if that man in Germany, Adolf Hitler, was the long-prophesied Antichrist himself.  After all, Hitler’s twisted ideology had caused them and so many others to be captive there.  Time would prove, the final and notorious “Antichrist” was yet to come. 

Heeding the Ancient Prophecy

However, the ancient prophecy, found in the books of Daniel, The Revelation and other passages, remains a serious, yet merciful warning to any who would find ultimate victory over this world, beyond the veil,  through faith in Jesus Christ—Yahshua, the Messiah!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but that the world, through Him, might be saved” … John 3:16-17

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[Ravensbruck was a Nazi Concentration Camp where more than 100,000 women, Jews and others, were exterminated during World War 2]

Scripture references include: Rom. 1:16, Matthew 24:21, Rev. 14:9-12, Rev. 21:4.

Uncle Tom | An Unfortunate Myth

A big lie has been perpetuated for more than a century, about the character of a character known as “Uncle Tom!” I hope to set the record straight here, and that many will choose to learn the truth, by reading one of the greatest and most controversial books in American history.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a book by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852), meant to expose the hideous practice of SLAVERY, for what it was. However, although an instant best-seller, the book soon met with enormous opposition, that caused many to believe and spread an unfortunate myth, and to ignore truths that might have helped heal a divided nation, short of a deadly Civil War.

“He’s just an Uncle Tom!”

Many African Americans still use that misnomer to shame other black people they think of as “weak, go-along” sorts—“sell-outs to white masters.” But, why defame “Uncle Tom?”  Where did that comparison come from, about a character I’ve come to admire as one of the greatest men ever written about—fictional or real?

Black slaves, likely unable to read Stowe’s stunning book back then, or barely even to speak English, no doubt believed the propaganda of the book’s CRITICS, who portrayed Uncle Tom as a traitor to the black race. Yes, an unfortunate myth!

Who Was “Uncle Tom”?

Uncle Tom’s Cabin  describes its main character as a gentle, amiable black slave named Tom—a man of deep faith, loyalty and integrity. A victim of a cruel injustice in those times, Tom worked hard to keep his family together; not sold off separately, like chattel to the highest bidder. A man of his word, Tom obeyed his “owner” so long as the requirements did not compromise his faith and moral convictions. Closer examination shows the character as, I would say, a powerful role model for black people and others alike, even today. But, those who profited by the slave trade then wouldn’t have wanted THAT to get around. Stowe’s book posed a threat!

Ultimately, Tom chooses to die at the hands of a vicious slave master named Simon Legree, rather than betray two slave women who had escaped. In that, “Uncle Tom” proved one of the most Christ-like characters ever to grace the printed page. Uncle Tom exhibited colossal courage and character, as he laid down his life, rather than betray others!

The Bible says, Scarcely for a righteous man will one die… but God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still slaves to sin, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:7-8]

Moving South

In 1977, I moved with my three children to Nashville, Tennessee, and have since learned much about the south and its history. My Louisiana-born husband Philip and I love to read historical and other thought-provoking books together. A few years ago, we decided to tackle a rather large volume, titled Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  As a southerner, and “baby boomer,” Philip remembers some of the harsh realities of bigotry that lingered long into the 20th century. For my part, originally from California, much of my life was relatively untouched by the true story of slavery in America.  However, my husband and I agree, slavery was an ugly blight on our nation—one never to be repeated!

Sadly, I realize now, many black people believe they are still victims of “white supremacy.” Yet, I believe the greater majority of our society has come to recognize the equality and worth of all humans; all races. Many black Americans have risen to high and influential positions in our nation over the past decades; in the military, as high-ranking statesmen and women, as mayors of major cities; even as president of the United States. Many excel in business, medicine, science, media and journalism; in the arts, sports, and in academia, etc.

Are all of THOSE “Uncle Toms”… somehow “sold out,” as some black people were taught to believe?

I like to believe, rather, those have courageously overcome any victim-mentality passed on to them by more cynical blacks, or purposeful or political race baiters?  Thankfully, many seem to have been able to look past the ignorance of any lingering prejudices in our society, and to make their way.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin | The Controversy

With Uncle Tom’s Cabin published in 1852, abolitionists and Northerners generally praised Harriet Beecher Stowe’s fictionalized, albeit candid depiction of the inhumane and often gruesome nature of the slave trade, and they were quick to confirm the truths Stowe had written about.  

On the other side, PRO-SLAVERY advocates claimed that Stowe was “misrepresenting slavery and exaggerating the cruelty of the institution.” They said her book was “a distortion of the facts and a mutilation of the records, for the sake of giving substance to a scandalous fancy.” Interestingly, they didn’t accuse her of using false documentation. Rather, they claimed that, “The examples Stowe provided are the most extreme instances, meant to give the worst possible impression of the institution of slavery, and of the south.”

Nicer Slave Owners?

Were there those wealthy landowners who took in slaves to keep them from the auction blocks that demoralized many blacks for profit then?  I suspect there were. I’ve found southerners to be, generally, kind, God-fearing and hospitable. I would hate to think that back then they were overcome by some collective evil spirit void of compassion for those black immigrants. But, how many, otherwise good, people in Germany looked the other way when the Nazis victimized the Jews during WW2?

Slavery is a monstrous thing, and Harriet Beecher Stowe was courageous and right to expose it as she did!

Other pro-slavery reaction to Stowe’s writing was more a critique of her character, than a critique of the work itself. One review, by George Holmes, questioned Stowe’s writing of the truth as a “lack of decency,” portraying “scenes of license and impurity, and ideas of loathsome depravity.” Holmes appealed to women, especially southern women, NOT to read Stowe’s writings.  History proves that the so-called “decency” of many of those women and men of the time turned its back on other human beings who truly suffered, often the cruelest enslavement.

A Legitimate, Yet Unrecognized Hero

It seems there has always been, and may always be, those who would demean, oppress, enslave, even destroy others to further their own ambitions. Corrie ten Boom met head-on with that in her time!

On the other hand, I believe the power mongers of our world, and any of us, could learn much from the character of an “Uncle Tom.” Compassion for other human beings, as Jesus showed us during his time on earth, is what brings greatness to a person or a people. Tragically, those such as Adolph Hitler, the fictional Simon Legree character, and other Judases, are remembered only with disdain, if at all.

I highly recommend that everyone read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”—especially black Americans. The truth is a great healer—our nation longs for it!

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