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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Beauty from Ashes

It is never too late, and there is no one beyond hope. Have you ever had a friend or family member who you thought would be “the last one” to ever receive Christ as their Savior? My sister is one of those people. She is 11 years my senior, and has lived quite a life. As a rebellious youth, she brought much grief and strife into our household. She lived a promiscuous life, and developed a devastating drug and alcohol addiction. She had a baby at 16, later became a biker (taking off on her Harley even with three young kids at home), spent several months in a woman’s prison, and at one point ended up in a mental institution, where she was finally diagnosed as bipolar in her mid-40s. The doctors believe she has been self-medicating for years through the drugs and alcohol.

In the midst of her tumultuous life, my sister decided at some point there was no God…and even if there was a possibility He existed, He certainly did not care about her. Much of that stemmed from an abusive relative and a pastor who recommended an abortion when she ended up pregnant at 14. Sadly, that advice was followed, and my sister lived with the guilt, shame and grief over that decision for many, many years.
I prayed for my sister, sent her cards, bought her a Bible a time or two, and then, when she was almost 50 years old, had the glorious honor of leading her to Christ one night over the phone a couple of years ago. Tonight, I just got off the phone with her, and had to weep over the radical transformation in her life. Oh, she has had her ups and downs and her slips and falls in the last couple of years. Decades of substance abuse have taken a severe toll on her body, and she is in very poor health. At times, she has slipped back into old patterns, particularly when she runs out of her medication or neglects to take it. But today was a good day. To hear the peace in her voice and her love for the Lord is overwhelming. Tonight she talked about her passion for gardening and how it brings her closer to the Lord. To hear her say, “Jesus is my best friend…He spends time with me in my garden and is all I need” brought me to tears. It is remarkable how God can take such a broken life, one filled with heartache, disappointment, cynicism and despair, and make it beautiful, full of hope, and brimming with joy. I praise God for His faithfulness to my sister. He never gave up on her, in spite of her giving up on Him so many years ago. He continued to seek after her, and she has now found in Him new life. Her body remains broken, but her heart is whole.

As I think about my sister’s life, and I compare that with those whose bodies are whole but whose hearts have a hole only God can fill, I realize that she is truly the one who is blessed. While I wish she wouldn’t have gone through such pain to come to where she is today, it really does show just how great God is. He gives up on no one, and He will leave the 99 to rescue the one who has strayed (Luke 15:3-7). I do not have the words to express how in awe I am of the grace of the Lord. And it gives me great hope for those in my family who have yet to experience the saving, and freeing, love of Jesus Christ. I regularly pray for them, and write their names in my prayer journal with the expectation that on a future page I will be listing them under “answers to prayer”.

I urge you to never stop praying for your family and friends. The Lord who can be born of a virgin, walk on water, and raise the dead (including Himself), can most certainly find the most lost of sheep. As the apostle Paul exhorted the Thessalonians, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:17 NKJV).

Please let me know if I can join you in prayer for one of your family members.

2 comments:

Penless Thoughts said...

Wonderful post!!! I have heard our Lord referred to as "The hound dog of heaven". No, He never gives up on us!!!

Christal said...

What a truly wonderful post! So glad to hear about your sister and the love you share for her and leading her to the Lord.
Thank you also for stopping by my blog. Thanks you for you very kind thoughts and prayers. I had never thought of the men and women being God's hands and feet! Whaty a GREAT prospecitve! I feel another post in regards to that comment in the works! That has really hit me and has me "chewing"! Stay tuned... I may refer to your comment.. If that is ok!