In the Hard Places

adult ancient arena armor
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This past week has been hard. Our Women’s Ministry at church has been gearing up for a retreat and we are coming up on it at the end of this month. We are expecting some breakthroughs and some breakouts to happen in a HUGE way. We all feel it. However, with expectancy, we still have an enemy who is fighting in such hard ways and it’s stretching us to our limits. BUT God….

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.  John 10:10

So the enemy has tried to use division – stealing our unity,  killing our spirit, and destroying friendships. Thank GOD for obedient pastors and preachers who when feeling this spirit of division preached the truth in love and brought conviction and healing. THANK GOD!

I can assure you that anytime you or a ministry you are involved in decides to get closer to the Lord, there will be a fight. Just expect it and have your armor on and be ready (Ephesians 6:10-18). But remember this…

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.1 John 4:4

Share your testimony of those times you came through a battle. WE are over-comers when we share!

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.  Revelation 12:11

My prayer is when you find yourself in a battle, you won’t run but you will stand firm in knowing that the One (Jesus) who died for you is constantly fighting for you too! Remember where your strength comes from!

Love y’all!

 

If you are wondering who this Jesus is, click here – He can change your life! If you need prayer click here and leave us a prayer request and myself along with some pretty awesome, Godly women will pray for your situation.

I Was Here…Saying a long goodbye to a dear friend

Rick Elias

BY CRAIG DALIESSIO

This is a hard week. It’s been a hard few months, bookended within a hard year. Just hard. I turn fifty-five this week. It’s been hard for me. It’s not the number…it’s the regrets.

I hate my birthday. I think I always have. There are reasons why and I won’t go into them here. But by the time I was thirty, I stopped celebrating my birthday at all. I just chose to go to work or school and act like it was just another day, until it finally became just another day.

But this week is hard. Harder than usual. In the midst of my usual self-assessment and subsequent sadness over all that should have been, might have been, and probably never will be, I’m also now forced to begin the grieving process for one of the dearest friends I have ever had.

My friend Rick has terminal cancer. I can’t even look at the words as I type them. I can’t accept this and I can’t believe it. Rick has been my friend for almost thirty years now. He was a Christian musician and I began as just a fan, met him almost by accident, and we became friends. I am the oldest in my family, so I never had a big brother. But I had Rick.

I am watching him fight bravely. Fight the disease and fight the prognosis, and fight the sadness and the unrelenting assault of the illness. Cancer doesn’t have a game plan. It has no time limits. It can move slowly or invade like a lightning strike. It doesn’t care. It’s just a bunch of unfeeling cells with only one thing programmed into its code.

My friend is doing his best to refuse surrender. He will find ways to make me laugh when I call. He’ll joke about his plight. He’s good at this…good enough that I can’t tell if he’s just being brave for everyone else, or if he’s really this hopeful. Like maybe he knows something we don’t. Like they found a cure and it’s being rolled out thirteen days from now and he is number three on the list and everything is secretly going to be just fine. Like he’s just holding this card close to his chest until a day or so beforehand and then he’ll tell us all, and we’ll go have dinner together and celebrate.

I know none of this is true but Rick’s humor and ease makes me wish, and believe just a little. I’m in denial. I know it. But I can’t bring myself to accepting this. I can’t grasp a world without Rick Elias and the music, and the conversations, and the Christmas Party, and the Superbowl commentary. (Rick’s father-in-law was an NFL coach and his wife can take over a football viewing party like no other woman)

There is a certain self-satisfaction with being a fan of someone who exists slightly on the outside of a genre. It’s like a badge of honor that tells the world that your tastes are a little more discriminating. My musical tastes were always this way. My record collection was, for the most part, made up of names you know, but you don’t know any of their stuff. I reveled in converting my friends to the sounds of Southside Johnny, Little Steven, Willy Deville…and Rick Elias.

Usually, the first response was “That’s Christian music? That’s way too good to be Christian music.” And it was. It was because, for the last twenty years or so, especially since the plague of “praise and worship” took over everything on the airwaves, Christian music has been horrible. Horrible like “I’d rather hear the “Brady Kids” singing” horrible. The last record I cared about was Rick’s “Job” album and before that, “The Jesus Record” which was Rich Mullins’ posthumous masterpiece. I stopped listening to the genre…then I stopped caring about it. That’s sad. And that’s why we needed Rick in the first place.

This is weighing on me as I have dealt with this terrible illness that my friend has and with the inevitable goodbye, and with the gaping hole in my heart, and with the snapshots of all the moments we’ve shared. I can’t stop the movie that plays in my soul, and I don’t want to. But sometimes watching it hurts even more.

Three weeks ago I wrote him a letter. I debated sending it because I was afraid it was sounding like I was eulogizing my friend before he was gone. Like I was giving up. But I wanted…I desperately needed, to know that he heard my words sooner, not later. I wanted to be certain that he knew I loved him. That I was honored by his friendship. That I bore witness to this life of his. That someone stood up and said “I see you.” That he knew that others knew he was here.

That’s really the point of this piece today. Because Rick is facing something that ultimately we all face, and for me it has only served to emphasize the internal wrestling I’ve been experiencing for over a year now. I’m getting older. Certainly not old, but I’m older. And I wonder, as fifty-five approaches in a few days, did anyone know I was here?My daughter knows, of course. A few of my friends I suppose. But otherwise I wonder about the value of the life I’ve led so far. If I was somehow undone from history, what would the world look like?

I’ve walked most of this walk of mine alone. That’s simply a fact. I didn’t grow up in a home where I was valued very much and I learned early on to just make my own way. That’s great for survival, but in the long term, it doesn’t lend itself to the feeling that somehow, someone in the crowd of six billion humans saw you. I’m questioning this now as I turn fifty-five, and as my friend faces eternity. Who saw me? Who saw Rick?

I wrote him that long letter and sent it last week, after a few days of debating it in my heart. I hoped he would understand what I was saying, and what I was not. I wanted him to know that I saw him. That I see the footprints of his life and his work and some of those prints are on the sacred ground of my own heart. I saw the man he is and the dad he is and the husband he is and the Christian he is. I’ve seen the good and the bad and the in-between. And I stand as a witness to a life well lived. A job well done. A body of work that is superior to many who have achieved more fame, on far less talent.

He’s been my friend. My friend when I was flying high and when I crashed on his couch. My friend when we disagreed, sometimes vehemently, and my friend when we were in complete unity. He read my writing and laughed at my jokes. He’d send me an email with a new song inside. “Don’t share this yet, but what do you think?” or he’d call me and ask me to come over and just hang out, because he knew I was a new divorcee, and I was his friend, and his friend was hurting.

I am angry with myself that I have not learned this lesson already by now. This lesson of telling people you love them while there is plenty of time for them to accept it, and process it, and live in the truth of it, and let it inspire them. Rick and I –thankfully—kept short accounts. Twice I remember us disagreeing so passionately that we stopped speaking. In both cases the silence ended fairly soon and we were sorry it happened at all.

My friend’s life and death battle has taught me, reminded me really, that nothing is forever and nothing should be taken for granted. If you love someone…tell them. Whether you love them as a friend or romantically or whatever, tell them. Tell them what they’ve meant to you, and why. Tell them how bland and boring life would be without them. Tell them what they’ve added to your life. Give examples. Remember moments. Thank them for making your life better. Hold on tightly. Laugh at yourselves. Tell them you love them. Make sure they know. Make sure they know how invaluable their life was to yours. How flavorless your banquet would have been without the dish they brought. Go ahead and cry. It’s in those tears, and in that brokenness that the love you hold for them can escape the bonds of safety and propriety, and you can feel it in all its depth.

Say it. Go ahead and SAY IT! I love you, my dear friend. You have meant more to me than all these words of mine can ever express. You have brought me laughter, tears, joy, depth, anger, connection, hope, despair, a glimpse of the Holy, the faint scent of the profane, and the soft flutter of the occasional angel wing. The steps we took together covered more ground than all my steps alone ever could.

Hold nothing back. Because ultimately, in this crowded world of six billion people, it’s hard to be seen. Hard to be recognized. Hard to feel that someone, anyone, can pick your face out of the maddening crowd.

Friends are that for each other. The witness to the life each other has led and the chronicler of the victories and defeats and the ground gain and lost. I am determined, more than ever now, to not let even one of my friends go through this life without them hearing me tell them I love them. And why. And what that love has done in this hard heart of mine.

Maybe in that way, this long goodbye I am saying to my dear friend Rick, will have meaning and purpose that extends beyond his life, and into the concentric circles where his life and mine have overlapped.

That, and the wonderful music he has bestowed on us all, will keep him fresh in my heart, painful as it will be, until I see him again.
Tell them you love them…

* If you would like to help my friend Rick and his family please consider giving here:
Go Fund Me for Rick Elias

Reblogged from craigdaliessio.blogspot.com

Connection Connection Connection!

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Photo by Rosie Fraser

When God called me into the Women’s ministry in my church it started like this:

(Prayer)

Lord I really would love it if I had some really good Christian friends. I long for more connection with women of like mind. I wish we had a Women’s ministry.

(The answer immediately)

Then get involved in a Women’s Ministry.

ME??!! I have always been the type of church goer who got involved when it was convenient and avoided those things that required a lot of commitment. I wasn’t a “joiner.” I just wasn’t that kind of woman who wanted to be a part of leadership. To be honest, I never felt worthy of the calling and most days I still don’t feel worthy.

HOWEVER – God doesn’t call the qualified or the ones who seem the most likely to do ministry, He qualifies the called (in my case He’s still working on that.).

I say all that to get to this – God wants us to be connected. I know I’ve said this in other posts but I can’t stress this enough! He created THE CHURCH for this very reason. In James it says:

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.  James 5:16

In order to feel comfortable confessing our faults we need to connect to people. We need to feel loved by God and by His people. God made us this way!

It’s interesting that when I bring up the subject of connection and what James 5:16 and the first couple chapters in Acts says, Christians will defend the reason why they don’t do this with the following verse:

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.  Proverbs 4:23

….and they stop there. Read the passages before this verse:

The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.
My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.
Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart.
For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.
Proverbs 4:19-24

The reason why we keep our hearts with all diligence is so that the only voice we hear is God’s voice and not the wicked. This verse isn’t there so we don’t make connection, it is there to encourage us to use discernment and to listen to God’s words because they are “life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.”

I am SO THANKFUL for a young man in our church, who was just recently called to preach, who stood up in front of our congregation and spoke the truth about connection and how much we need one another. It was as if he breathed on the fire in my soul and it rose higher and higher. I needed that word!

There is a lot of the time in ministry where you don’t feel like what you are doing is making much of a difference, and then God brings a word to a young man who is almost young enough to be my son and it makes all the difference in the world to me. I am so grateful for his obedience to our Savior! Thank you David W.!

So ladies (and Gents), connect, connect, connect. We are made for it, and we need it!

Love y’all!

 

If you are wondering what being a Christian is all about or why having Jesus in your life will make a difference, click here. If you have a prayer request, click here.