Oh My! We haven’t seen each other in so long! I hope you’re well!
It’s all my fault, of course. I know you’ve been waiting patiently while I’ve been fiddling around with the book so let me bring you up to speed. It’s written. It went to beta readers and then it went to editing. Unfortunately, my editor was not the best I could have had and when he returned my manuscript, I was dismayed at the lack of editing he performed. I thought I’d get a good job done cheap. Ah well, live and learn.
The good news is that I’ve contracted with the editor I’ve always wanted to edit my work – Susan Hughes at MyIndependentEditor.com. I found Susan years ago while researching editors and was impressed by the number of books she’d edited that had won awards. Obviously, the author has a great deal to do with that – but the editor does too. I can’t tell you how disappointing it is to read a poorly edited book and I want my first book to hit the streets shining in its Sunday best.
Susan also edited a friend of mine’s book, Ben Nelson’s Encounters with Jesus and he was delighted with her work. So I sent off a few pages to receive a sample edit and I was bowled over with what she returned to me. I’ll even go so far as to say thrilled! Not only did she “get” me right away, she made thoughtful comments and even corrected what the other editor had changed.
So, I’m happy now. Susan is so busy she can’t start on my book until September but I’m content with the delay. Now I know I will release to the world the very best manuscript I can.
This fall I’ll introduce my new website FeleciaClarke.com where you’ll be able to sign up for my newsletter and receive a sample of the book for free. It’s a Christian memoir about how, even though I ran away from Him, God pursued me throughout my life and turned all my blunders into good. I think (hope!) you’ll like it. At the very least, it’ll be edited beautifully!
Now, I won’t leave you alone for long. In Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) this past year we studied Romans which got me thinking a lot about sin … and you know how I love thinking about sin! So get ready for the Sin Chronicles. I hope you’ll be able to take a look at your own sins as you read about me challenging mine.
This is a post from my friend Ben Nelson, author and blogger, who writes almost daily on his blog Another Red Letter Day. Ben has this beautiful way of taking stories from the Bible and writing them in first person – becoming a character in the story – and this is one of my favorite stories. In fact, he has a book out the walks you through 40 days with Jesus. It’s remarkable. Please enjoy.
There is no way to get rid of this kind of
demon except by prayer.
Help My Doubts
Father of a Demon-Possessed Boy
I remember the doctor saying to us, years ago, “Keep a record of his bad days.” My son—my eight-year-old boy—Enoch and I visited the doctor often in those first days. It’s been another eight years since we stopped going to doctors. For seven of them, we’ve found it easier to record the good days than count the bad.
The first sign the demonic attack has begun—we now know it’s a demon—is Enoch’s eerie silence. His eyes glaze over and it seems like he has gone away. He can’t hear—or at least he doesn’t respond to sound—and never speaks.
In the beginning, we thought he was sick. My wife, Havah, and I took him to our family doctor in the village. At first, this demon did not awaken while we were with the doctor, so he didn’t know how to help. Enoch, couldn’t tell the doctor much. He couldn’t remember what happened during his episodes. He just fell—no—not fell—it was like being thrown to the floor. Then he rolled around the ground as stiff as a board, foaming at the mouth. If there was anything dangerous nearby, like fire, or water, or a steep drop, he’d head right for it.
Our third visit to the doctor was after a furious episode where Enoch found his way right into an open fire. It scorched more than half the skin on his left side. The doctor said he could treat the burn, but he told us we should see a priest or rabbi. He didn’t think Enoch had any disease.
“This boy is possessed by a devil, and I can’t help you,” he told us as he gave us some salve for his burns.
After that, we went from rabbi to rabbi, each one shrugged his shoulders and wished he could do more.
It’s been seven years of rabbis and priests. We’ve given special offerings at the temple and paid for professional intercessors. We’ve gone to every house of prayer in Judea. Once we even traveled up to the temple at Shechem in Samaria to see if they could help us.
About a year ago, I started hearing stories of a rabbi from Galilee who was casting out demons and healing the sick. At first, I didn’t want Enoch and Havah to get their expectations aroused, but as the stories multiplied my heart began to hope.
One of my neighbors returned from a visit with some family up north near Tiberius. He told me of a pair of Jesus’ disciples going through the town. They were healing the sick and casting out demons in the streets. I’ve know Ari for many years, and he wouldn’t repeat these stories if there were any doubt in his mind. He was there. He saw men and women healed before his eyes, even some possessed by demons like my boy.
That’s when I started planning. I didn’t tell my wife, or even my son, what I was really up to. I didn’t want to lie to either of them. I just told Havah I wanted some time alone with my boy. I started planning for a trip with Enoch to find this Healer. I would tell Him my boy’s story. If He refused or couldn’t help, the disappointment would only fall on me.
I learned that He had been seen teaching and healing near Cana up in Galilee, so I packed our things and Enoch and I headed north.
Traveling with Enoch is no holiday. Everywhere we go, we have to be prepared to deal with his oppressor. This trip was no exception. In fact, the spirit’s brutality the first night made me think we were might be headed in the right direction. The vile captor in Enoch’s young body protested more than ever. We didn’t sleep at all the first night we were on the road. Before I even had the fire burning hot enough to cook some dinner, he was flailing around and smothered it, at great cost to his own flesh. It was a grueling three days and two nights.
When we got close, someone told us the Teacher was on Mount Tabor. So we followed the road down from Cana to the east. As we approached the mountain, we found crowds at the base. I expected this. The accounts I’ve heard always have large crowds around this Healer.
It was nearly sundown when we came upon a few of the Healer’s disciples surrounded by dozens of on-lookers. They had just healed a couple of blind men. Next, they were laying hands on a lame woman lying on a sort of mat in the middle of the group. As we pressed our way into the center of the gathering, we saw this woman on the bed getting to her feet. Then she started jumping and running around the circle of spectators.
The disciples looked almost as stunned as the no-longer-bedridden woman. One of these men called out, “It’s the name of Jesus that heals the sick and delivers anyone in bondage.”
We had found Him.
I started waving frantically, crying out “My son, help my son!” I must have looked a little mad myself. I began to tell my son’s story to the one they were calling Andrew. There were three other groups like the one I was in, each surrounding what looked like a few disciples.
“I’m Andrew,” said the man who was speaking, “and this is Simon the Zealot.”
As soon as I began to describe Enoch’s condition, my son flew to the ground. I had my back to him, so I didn’t see the warning signs. I would have steered him away from the crowd before he went it to the full display of fury that is my son’s daily reality.
He was rocking back and forth, jerking up and down, six inches into the air and then slammed down again, rolling over so the foam covering his mouth was full of the Galilean dirt. Andrew and Simon hurried over to him and began to command the demon to come out.
“In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, come out,” they called.
Nothing changed. They said it a little louder. “In the name of Jesus, come out.”
They asked others in the crowd to hold him still while they prayed for him, laying their hands on his head and chest.
He thrashed and freed his arms. Then began slashing at them with his fists and scratching with his fingernails.
Andrew and Simon called two of the other disciples over to them and they started out the same way.
“In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, come out.”
I have to say, they didn’t give up. The sky grew fully dark and the air chilled as this failed exorcism went on into the night.
Finally, sometime after midnight, I took Enoch away from the crowd and we found a quiet place to get some rest. He had been in full manifestation for hours, and when he finally calmed, he was ready to sleep.
The sun was already well above the horizon when we awoke. The commotion that woke us was the arrival of Jesus and three more of his followers. They had apparently spent the night on the mountain. I’d never seen anything like Jesus. He was glowing—glowing! It wasn’t just the sun shimmering off his robes. The light emanated from Him.
As we approached Andrew called to Jesus, “Here they are Mater. We did everything you taught us and nothing changed.”
Once I realized that Jesus was right there, I said, “Teacher, I brought my mute son, made speechless by a demon, to you. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and goes stiff as a board. I told your disciples, hoping they could deliver him, but they couldn’t.”
Jesus said “What a generation! No sense of God! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this? Bring the boy here.”
Andrew took Enoch by the hand and led him to the Master.
The demon in my boy did his worst. He slammed him to the ground with no warning whatsoever. He pushed him right into a nearby fire. He convulsed and foamed and moaned, teeth grinding and eyes wild.
Jesus asked, “How long has this been going on?”
“Ever since he was a little boy,” I replied. “Many times it pitches him into fire or the river to do away with him. If you can do anything, do it. Have a heart and help us!”
Jesus’s eyes looked eager. “If?” He responded. “There are no ‘ifs’ among believers. Anything can happen.”
That brought me up short. “I do believe;” I blurted, but then I wondered if I did, so I added, “Help me with my doubts!”
I think the crowd knew something big was about to happen because they started to press in. Some just realizing that Jesus was back, others hearing the conversation. Everyone wanting to see what He would do.
“Dumb and deaf spirit, I command you—Out of him, and stay out!” Jesus spoke directly to the spirit who had tormented my son—my whole family—for the last eight years.
Enoch cried out, lifted off the ground and then fell back down with a thud. This time not rigid, as in times past, but more like a rag doll, begin tossed away. He lay there for what seemed an eternity. The crowd started murmuring.
“He killed the boy.”
Jesus walked over to Enoch, leaned down and grabbed his hand and pulled. At that moment, Enoch’s eyes opened, the color came back into his face. He nearly bounced up off the ground. With his hand in the hand of the Healer, he looked more alive than he had since the evil first took him. The joy was back in his eyes, the joy of a child with a future.
The two days traveling home seemed like a dream to both of us. In every village, at every meal, we shared our story with everyone we met. We were not just witnesses to a miracle. We were changed by our short visit with Jesus. His Words changed my boy and turned my hope into an unshakable faith.
My Havah could hardly believe her eyes. One look at Enoch’s countenance told the whole story. My son was bound, but now his chains are gone. His captivity is over. He’s free!
Messiah truly has come in our day.
To read the original story, see Mark 9:15-30. Quotes come from the Message Bible.
I like birds. God sometimes uses them to slow me down … but that’s a whole other post.
I think you’ll love this Guest Post by Brandon Andress which was originally published on September 14, 2016 on his site www.brandonandress.com. Please pay him a visit, he’s rather gifted with the written word.
I have begun the process of changing my mind about birds.
Sure, you may not find a stranger first sentence than that, but those closest to me know that I have this unreasonable phobia of the feathered friend. It has something to do with a mother bird dive-bombing my head to protect her nest when I was five. And no, to answer your question, I was not bothering her nest. I was simply going next door to a friend’s house. But, there is no reasoning with a mother bird. Anyway, my neurosis aside, I am slowly taking steps to rediscovering the beauty (or some redeeming quality) in birds.
An Indiana winter can be brutal and bone-chilling. And it is not made any more bearable by the local meteorologists who giddily, and a bit too affectionately, begin referring to it as a Polar Vortex. The tragedy is they don’t realize that by calling it a “Polar Vortex,” it psychologically becomes twenty degrees colder in our heads. Let’s just be honest here, we do not need “Polar” anything in Indiana, especially when it is already pitch black at 4pm in the middle of December.
But there was a moment a few years ago in late winter, when darkness still owned the morning and the cold refused to let go of everything in its grip, that I heard the sweetest song.
Through the shroud of night, before the sun’s first rays, amid the polar chill, a melody of hopeful anticipation pierced the dark veil of winter and announced that spring would soon be arriving.
It was glorious and profound.
The processional of spring, a time of life, new beginnings, and spectacular beauty was coming! And it was being ushered in through song by feathered vocalists announcing its arrival.
I, a crusty-eyed morning zombie of multi-layered, nighttime attire (pre-coffee), could not miss this staggering metaphor. When a season of darkness surrounds us and seems as if it will last forever, we may very well begin to believe that this is the way life will always be. But even in the darkness that may surround us, if we are still enough to hear it and patient enough to trust it, there is always the sweet song of the Spirit, leading us in hopeful anticipation, surprising us with beauty in the present, and giving us a glimpse of the life that’s yet to come.
I know it is terribly difficult to discuss how we can learn to see beauty amidst the wreckage when we are in the throes of a painful life situation, whether it be temporary or permanent. But, it is in this place where we must always begin- in the place of our pain, in the place of our suffering. For it is in that place where we can, mostly easily, lose heart, feel lost and defeated, grow wildly cynical, and begin to blame God for our condition or circumstance.
Even more, our pain can become the place from where we begin to live our lives.
The crushing weight of our suffering will always try to convince us that the pain we are experiencing is our only reality and that there is nothing redeemable there, ever. And as a result, the pain we are experiencing can begin to manifest outwardly in our lives into our words and actions, ultimately affecting how we see the world and how we relate to others.
That is what suffering can do. It can cause us to reside in our pain, no matter how great or small that pain is, and then become the lens through which we begin to see people, situations, and the world as a whole. And over time, our pain through suffering can very easily spiral downward and lead to questions and then the destruction of our identity, our worth, and our purpose in life.
Living constantly in the burden and pain of our suffering can either become an end destination or a passageway for each of us.
As an end destination, the pain of our suffering can become a place where we stay in bitterness, sadness, anger, hatred, and unforgiveness.
As a passageway, our pain through suffering can become the pathway to profound life transformation and new ways of seeing the world.
Suffering breaks us down into insufferable little parts where we can either self-destruct or cry out helplessly to God, because we are in a place where we have seemingly lost control. Our pride has been shattered. Our egos have been obliterated. And it is in our place of pain through suffering where we can choose whether we make it our final destination or a transformative passageway.
That is the profound mystery of suffering. Suffering strips away any and all control we believed we had over people and situations. And it is in this place, our place of suffering, the place where we have lost all control, where our hearts and minds can either be closed off or open to the healing and transformative love of God.
And no matter who you are or what you have been through, or are currently going through, you can choose what you want to do with your pain, and how you receive suffering. You can let it dominate and control how you see the world and relate to others, or you can use it as a means to be taught and guided into a new and more beautiful way of living.
About Brandon: Brandon Andress is the author of AND THEN THE END WILL COME! (April 2013) and Unearthed: How Discovering the Kingdom of God Will Transform the Church and Change the World (2010). He lives in Columbus, Indiana and writes for his popular blogs Brandon Andress and A Joyful Procession. Brandon earned his MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University and his BA in Psychology from Hanover College. He loves the outdoors, hiking, camping, and traveling.
Do you ever feel like you’re in a season of hurry up and wait? We came off New Year’s Day all full of piss and vinegar and then … wait. It must feel as Joshua felt when he’d spent 40 years in the wilderness with Moses – got thrust into a position of leadership when Moses died, the Lord told him about how he was to defeat Jericho, led him to the banks of the Jordan with two million of his nearest and dearest, and then said … wait. Can you just imagine Joshua’s spirit?
Did he so trust the Lord that he said immediately, “Yes, Lord,” and hunkered down and waited? Did he kick the sand and say, “Awww gee whiz Lord,” whining like a petulant child? Did he ever think his advance team met with foul play as he waited on the other side of the river for their return? Or was he so focused on God that he just kept preparing … kept readying … kept waiting … knowing that when the time was right God would order him to move and he’d move?
We know the story. We know, in hindsight, that God had to bring Rahab out of Jericho and to Himself to continue to construct Jesus’ family lineage. Certainly there is comfort in knowing that sometimes God has us wait because He’s working His plans with someone else. But does that really make it any easier? Don’t we all wish we had the faith of Joshua?
A couple years ago God gave me the following verse to hang onto:
No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. ~ Joshua 1:5 (NIV)
What a powerful verse … three promises in one. I can absolutely understand why God spoke these words to Joshua that day; and while I’m not going to physically lead anyone into the Promised Land or walk around a city and tear down its walls … ummmm … wait a minute. I kinda am.
It turns out that by speaking this verse of Scripture to me, God insured that I had all I needed to keep waiting, keep my eyes focused on Him, and keep preparing. Preparing for what? To lead people to the Promised Land of HIM. To tear down the walls we construct within our hearts and let His love flow through, let His light of glory shine.
Do you think I’m self-aggrandizing? Making myself to be more important than I am? In God’s eyes we all are. God knows who we are, it is we who often don’t see our calling. We are all called by Him to do His work on earth. We were born for such a time as this. We are all Joshua.
At times we must wait, at times we must move forward, at times we must fight, and at times we must claim for God for is already His. His children. But all along we must keep our eyes steadfastly on Him who is our Savior.
I love the song “Everlasting God” by Chris Tomlin and this important lyric within:
Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord,
as we wait upon the Lord,
as we wait upon the Lord.
We must learn to see our time of waiting as not a punishment, or that God perhaps has somehow forgotten us, we must use our time of waiting as a time to prepare for what is to come. To gather our strength. Because one day God is going to tell us to move and we need to be ready to do just that.
Use your wait time wisely, my friends, so that you are ready.
In His love,
PS: The winner of the desk calendar is … Benjamin Nelson! Congratulations!