Friday, June 26, 2009

God Loves Even The Weakest Sinner - Me

I have been very busy with making a living and scheduling and over-scheduling my time to make ends meet. It’s the seeds that I must plant to gather the fruit thereof and be able to breathe and pay the bills. But my mind…it has constantly gone back to what I know is most important. Planting the seeds of faith…of righteousness…of heavenly love…and looking forward to reaping those rewards. It is not an easy task when life crowds you and pushes you into tiny corners but I find myself praying over and over again…”Not my will but Thine be done, I surrender all to Thee…” it is a fervent prayer that I feel from the bottom of my heart and yet I know I fail each and every day and the garden of my life needs a lot more pruning and weeding…but I know that God is still taking an interest in my life and for that I am eternally grateful.

Once again I am looking forward to convention, and that hymn pops into my head “As pants the hart for water brooks, so pants my soul oh Lord for Thee…Thou art my life, my hope my all, draw near I pray, draw near to me”. I feel Him near when I make myself quiet and open up my heart to Him. But there is something about the “heavenly places” here on earth…a place where so many people gather together just to feed from the bread that God gives each one and share in the fellowship that seems to multiply His Spirit somehow or make it that much more present…I don’t know…it is also the fact that one year ago, Aug 6 I had my last cigarette ON Convention grounds…and it is there last year that I felt God in a way I never have before.

I was not one of those teenagers that rebelled and went wild, I moved out at 18, worked hard and paid the rent. Even then I did not fall hard into the world…not yet…but slowly it sucked me in…and deeper and deeper I sunk into the mire and it almost drowned me to spiritual death. And yet, for some reason, God did not give up on me. There were times when I was on the train coming home from partying at 4am, drunk and all of a sudden I’d have a hymn come into my head and I’d cry like a baby and pray…”Please dear God, don’t give up on me.” And yet the next week I’d be out again on a given night…but always something would happen…many times on the train in the morning I’d hear a person preach about God and say “God loves you, and yet you turn your back on Him”…and I felt like they were talking just to me.

3 years ago I had my first cigarette and yet it did not stick as a habit right away at all. Slowly I became the “social smoker”…the one that did not need cigarettes and only smoked when I was out with "friends" and drank. *Stupid yes, I know! It was one day that a pack was left over in my jacket belonging to one of those “friends” that I figured let me have one this morning… then hey since I still have them let me have one this afternoon…and after I finished that pack I bought another one and another and another and the chain of addiction had begun. I could not stop.

I got really sick one winter and my lungs hurt me like they were on fire and raw and bleeding…and yet there I was decked out in my warm clothes and smoking another one. It was dastardly and horrible…I hated the taste (remember, when I smoked “socially” I usually had a good dose of alcohol in me so the taste was really not too noticeable), and yet I could not quit them. Strangely enough…even this time…I was being noticed and sent the message through random people on the street….an older gentleman stopped in front of me and said...”You must quit…this killed my friend if you continue it will kill you”…another time an older lady stopped in her tracks and looked at me and said “Why do you do this to yourself?...meanwhile others were smoking near me but no one said anything to them…if I were to ignore that I’d be rather foolish I thought.

Still I could not quit for the life of me…every new day I’d wake up and say today I’ll have my last one but still it would not be the day I finished with the nasty habit. I tried to hide it from my little one and when she found out I tried to quit for her sake, but even though I love her more than my life I could not do it past 2 weeks! It got to the point where I started praying desperately every time I’d have a smoke…just point my cigarette up to heaven and cry out inside my head…”PLEASE, only YOU can help me quit…PLEASE HELP ME, Please Dear Father!!!” For 6 months I prayed every time I had a cigarette…not just to help me quit but help me all around…to change…to hate the things that God hated and to love the things He loved…to save me from myself…

As June came around I turned 31 years old. I had been smoking for about 2 years or so by this time…and now I felt like convention was my life saving event…like something would happen there that would change me…that would miraculously “cure” me if you will…I did not know what and honestly if I had known I’d probably be a bit afraid…but I only knew something was going to happen there and I counted the days until Quakertown convention much like a prisoner counts the days toward her release.

A few days before convention I called up my sister and said I’d come over to hang out a day or two before convention and then we’d go together from her house. The day I got on the train to go to PA my stomach was not behaving very well but I figured it’d get better…I don’t quite recall if this was 2 days or 1 day in the making but I do know that at her house I got to the point where I felt like my insides were melting in a painful, fiery kind of torture…I could not sit or stand I wanted to throw up but could not…I could not lay down…I did not know what to do…but in the end I propped myself up on pillows and tried to sleep…instead I was up trying to throw up but it was not happening…

By morning…they were wondering if they should bring me to the ER….but I said…NO, we are going to convention…they did not know what to think but said ok. Meanwhile even THAT morning I had a cigarette or 2 I believe…don’t ask me HOW on earth I did that with what I was feeling!

I had bought 6 packs at the gas station since cigs are cheaper in PA than in NY so I was stocked up. That first night at convention I walked outside the sleeping quarters and stepped a little off the convention grounds and had what were to become my last 2 cigarettes ever.

Then I tried to go to bed.

I found that again I could not lay down and I was feeling ill…everyone was sleeping but I could not…finally in a few hours I was really ill and this time ran to the bathroom and sure enough I did throw up…then came back to the bed and threw up again then collapsed on the bed. This is when my ordeal truly began…physically.

But something strange mental state kicked into a totally different gear. Now, mayhap I could have felt “You know, I am making every effort here…trying to come to convention sick and all and I don’t even get better…what’s the point…” or something to that effect…instead I recall thinking…”I did not come all the way here to miss the meetings…I have to get just well enough to sit through the meetings”…but needless to say I did not eat anything that morning nor could I get out of bed never mind make it to the meeting. But I threw up and I prayed and threw up again and I prayed…”Dear God, I know you did not bring me all the way here so that I can sit here sick and miss the message that You have prepared for me…please, please help me be just well enough to be able to listen…if I have to get VERY sick after convention I don’t care…I just want to be able to share in the bounty of Thy goodness…please help me through this!”

And then the thought came to me…there was a microphone in one of the rooms downstairs…so I went down stairs and found a place to sit and lean over in pain but listen to hymns and the testimonies and the workers and I cried like a baby…cried with joy and a happiness that I cannot even try to explain. All the hymns that had come to me when I was drunk those times, they sang them that first meeting. A lot of the thoughts that had come to me out of the blue when I least expected it throughout the past years...they were repeated from the platform. And I KNEW without a SHADOW of a DOUBT…GOD is with me and had been with me through it all just like I had felt Him. I had turned my back on Him many a time but He knew my heart and saw my pitiful state and never turned His back on me! How can I even begin to thank Him!?!

God had brought me here to strengthen me, not bring me down…To reinforce that the thoughts and voice I had heard the past year WAS indeed HIM! I forgot I was in pain, I forgot I was sick…I forgot I had not slept or eaten in 24 hours…I did not care…so I did not miss my first meeting! Then I crawled my way back up the stairs and went back to bed.

The day came and went and I fell into a merciful sleep for a couple of hours and woke up in severe pain again…and now I was throwing up bile..there was nothing substantial in my body anymore. I retched and retched and almost keeled over but somehow one day went into the next.

Finally I was taken to the ER and though they did tests on me could not find what was wrong with me and why I had a fever and was so sick. But even in the hospital I was anxious I did not want to stay there too long I wanted to get back in time for the last meeting of the day. They had pumped me with an IV and I was more hydrated by this point and weak as a kitten got back in the car 4 hours later and back to the convention grounds, we had missed the last meeting.

Here I was told that I’d have to go to a cabin somewhere off by myself because they were afraid I’d get others sick . I cannot say I blame them at all…but I did not want to be somewhere on my own far away from people so I said I’d sleep in the car. They tried to convince me, told me maybe it would be better if I went home if someone drove me but I was adamant, no way was I leaving the convention grounds! I did not come here just to be sick and leave!

I took my pillows and blanket and retching bowl and got into the back seat. I tried to settle in and of course threw up a few more times…went to the bathroom and emptied out the bowl and back to the car…but even though I did not feel like I was getting better I knew somehow I’d be better by the next day…I sat there in the car and felt the wonderful cool breeze coming in to the car and looked up at the moon and stars and felt so close to God…I felt a warm presence like a cocoon of light surrounding me. I felt the presence of His angels all around me...felt like if I looked hard enough maybe I'd even see them...I did not see them but truly felt them there, watching over me…protecting me…guarding my thoughts, my body and my sleep…as I slowly drifted off to sleep with a smile on my face.

I woke up at 4am wretchedly sick again…but by now just matter of factly walked out of the car and threw the contents away in the bathroom, washed the bowl again and back in the car again…it occurred to me that here too I could have been thinking…"here I was praying and feeling God so close and feeling so sure that somehow I’d be better tomorrow and meanwhile here I am back to square one…” or something to that effect…instead….the thought that came to me was “I had to clean the final evil poison from my body whatever it was, and this was the last of it…” somehow I knew that…I don’t know how…and I felt a peaceful calm as I slowly drifted off to sleep again.

When I woke up it was the first day I knew I was on the road to stomach was still tender of course...and I was still afraid to eat but in 4 hours I was able to hold down a bit of water and half an apple. I fell into a healing sleep and missed the first meeting…but when I woke up I felt remarkably better and I knew I would do my best to be there on that hard wooden bench (back pain and all) for the next meeting.

My mother and others were surprised but glad to see me up and at ‘em and I’m sure glad that I could finally sit in the meeting with the rest of them. People came up to me that I did not even know and told me they were glad I was better that they had heard what happened to me…and it was nice…but nothing compared to the rest of the meetings…where every single thing I heard resonated with such a pure truth…and reinforced the thoughts that had come to me over the past year before convention…

Interestingly enough I had never heard anyone from the pulpit really speaking too much of angels before but this convention in the first meeting I was able to attend in person, they spoke about angels are real and God does use them here on Earth whether we see them or not...and I knew then...I HAD truly been right in feeling them there that night...

It was at the end of convention when my brother came with his pack of cigarettes that I realized I had NOT smoked in more than 3 days! What’s more…I did not want ANY part of it. He himself had quit previously when he had a severe bronchitis but had started again a few months later. When I told him what happened he said “Yeah, I was sick and quit too, you’ll be back on them you’ll see!”… “No” I tried to explain to him…”You don’t get it…it’s not just about the sickness it’s more than that…it’s God…He helped me do it…this is how He answered my prayers, I will never smoke again…not because of my own will power but because what God has done and what God wills no one can undo…and I don’t want to.” He shrugged and did not take me seriously…even 6 months down the road I don’t think people really believed me…really believed that I had not touched a cigarette since…but Thank God…to this day…I can honestly say my last cigarette was on Aug 6 2008.

More importantly…though it is a long road and I cannot claim to have reached even close to where God wants me to be in this life I am happy to be here and happy to be alive and want to shout out to all the world… “GOD LIVES! He is Almighty! Powerful! And He LOVES US!”. Each day I find, I want nothing more than to learn what it TRULY means for my own self and will to decrease so that God Himself can increase in me…whatever time God has given me here on Earth if I can be of help, or an example to any one soul then I will count my own soul as blessed!
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