Pray for Manasseh

Photo shows excerpt from Awaken, by Priscilla Shirer, published by B&H Publishing

You can always tell God is trying to get your attention about something when He keeps bringing it up. This very thing happened to me recently: I was reading Psalm 103 late one evening, and then Day 34 in Priscilla Shirer’s Awaken the next morning, really just a few hours later.

She was talking about Manasseh, who ranks right up there among the most despicable kings Judah ever had. He was, to put it mildly, a hopeless case, and it is safe to say he had a lot to do with Judah earning time in exile. He was exiled too, of course, and 2 Chronicles 33:11 shares that, “They put a ring through his nose, bound him in bronze chains, and led him away to Babylon.”

But then something amazing happened. Remember, this was a truly evil king: “Manasseh also murdered many innocent people until Jerusalem was filled from one end to the other with innocent blood. This was in addition to the sin that he caused the people of Judah to commit, leading them to do evil in the LORD’s sight.” (2 Kings 21:16) Even so, something happened and, while in exile, he woke up to his sin.

“But while in deep distress, Manasseh sought the LORD his God and sincerely humbled himself before the God of his ancestors.” (2 Chron. 33:12)

It took exile and being “in deep distress” for the change to occur, but it turns out Manasseh wasn’t a hopeless case after all. He humbly repented, turned his life around completely (which is what repentance is all about), and not only did God forgive him but He also returned this formerly evil king to his kingdom. Why? The answer is found in Psalm 103:8-11.

The LORD is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.

So, on Day 34 of Awaken, Priscilla references Psalm 103:8-11. In this devotion, she covers how limitless God’s mercy is, that it’s never too late and you’re never too far gone for God to restore you – just like He did Manasseh (2 Chron. 33). 

No matter what you have done, no matter how evil you have been, you are never too far gone for God to restore you if you will only humble yourself, fall on His mercy, and repent – turning your life around and your back on sin. Jesus came specifically to die for our sins: Yours won’t stand between you and Him unless you let them.

Most of my readers are Christians and hopefully already understand the magnitude of God’s grace and mercy, how willingly He gave His Son Jesus as a sacrifice for even the worst of sinners. So, it’s time to take this knowledge and carry it even further.

How many times, especially if you live in the south, have you heard it said of a horrible person, “He needs Jesus!” Usually, this is more of a culturally-based sentiment than a spiritually-based declaration, but it is true. We all need Jesus, including the most evil person you know. Further, if that evil person doesn’t receive Jesus, he or she will spend eternity in Hell.

So, I’m here to offer us a challenge. Let’s choose to genuinely walk in the love of the Lord, following Jesus’ example. I propose that we each select one person, just one, who seems unredeemable, and commit to pray for them until God tells us to stop. More to the point, ask God who He would have that one person be. You may not like His choice, but if He asks anything of you, He has a purpose.

Because prayer is unimaginably powerful. It is, truly, one of the most mind blowing weapons in our arsenal, and it can accomplish amazing things. Honestly, usually those things, those changes, are revealed first in us. For instance, as we pray for another person, often we find ourselves letting go of unforgiveness (even unforgiveness we didn’t know we were holding onto) and growing in compassion, mercy, and the love of God. This is a massive step forward for us even if we never personally see a change in the other.

But what if there is a change? What if your Manasseh repents and becomes a whole new man? What if he starts living his life differently? What if he ends up in Heaven instead of Hell? I trust that you wouldn’t really wish an eternity in Hell on even the most evil person you know. The positive changes in him could be as far reaching as Manasseh’s changes, affecting untold numbers of people for years down the road.

You would have had a part in it, and that part’s only cost is humbling yourself and praying for someone who doesn’t deserve it – any more than you deserved it when Jesus accepted you.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Scriptures used are in the New Living Translation (NLT)

At Last It All Makes Sense

What follows is adapted from my journal, specifically from my journal on January 14th, 2023.

I’ve never doubted that God had me marry Jack. The night I said, “Yes” to Jack’s proposal, God and I had a conversation as I was walking back into my house; it is still clear in my mind. But I did ask Him, just now, “Why did you have me marry him? Was it so You could get Thomas and Terry?” I thought about it a microsecond and went on, “Because if so, it’s a price well paid.” Before I could think another thought, He said, “And so I could get you.”

I literally jumped. I’m not sure I would have been more startled if I’d heard God’s audible voice. I knew instantly what He meant. He meant that I am who I am today because of all that Jack put me through. God knew going in what would happen, what fruit would be produced in me – and He wanted that person.

I had to put the pen down for a few minutes. The revelation was truly overwhelming, tear inducing. God wants the me of today AND has specifically been working to get me here all along.

Everything I went through, every decision I made – even the decisions not to leave when offered escape, and to let him force himself back into my life after I had left the one time – have all worked together to make me who I am today.

From 2010 to last October, living with and serving a man who was growing increasingly ill and would have died without me served to further mold me into the person I am right now.

Who is she? (Here God started talking, fast, and I began taking dictation.)

  • Someone who has learned compassion
  • Someone who has learned forgiveness
  • Someone who has learned faithfulness
  • Someone who has learned faith
  • Someone who has learned how to stand under attack
  • Someone who has learned who the real enemy is and that men are only the enemy’s tools
  • Someone who has learned how to fight
  • Someone who has learned how to love
  • Someone who has learned how to bear with the weak
  • Someone who has learned patience
  • Someone who has learned generosity
  • Someone who has learned to live with nothing
  • Someone who has learned to be content no matter her state
  • Someone who has learned that stuff is only stuff
  • Someone who has learned how not to be afraid
  • Someone who has learned to let God lead
  • Someone who has learned to give up the right to self
  • Someone who has learned to trust herself
  • Someone who has learned to speak up
  • Someone who has learned she can
  • Someone who has learned she has much to offer
  • Someone who has learned “forever”
  • Someone who has learned she still has a future here
  • Someone who has learned it’s never too late
  • Someone who has learned that nothing is impossible with God
  • Someone who has learned true freedom
  • Someone who has learned how to live
  • Someone who has learned not to fear death
  • Someone who has learned not to fear man
  • Someone who has learned not to fear the future
  • Someone who has learned not to run away
  • Someone who has learned how to stand strong
  • Someone who has learned to own up to her mistakes
  • Someone who has learned to let God lead (Interesting that He had me write this twice. LOL!)
  • Someone who has learned to step out
  • Someone who has learned to move into the unknown
  • Someone who has learned that dreams can become reality
  • Someone who has learned to truly care about others
  • Someone who has learned how to care for others
  • Someone who has learned to stand up for what she believes in
  • Someone who has learned courage
  • Someone who has learned when not to fight
  • Someone who has learned that confrontation can be profitable
  • Someone who has learned that comfort isn’t necessary
  • Someone who has learned that she doesn’t have to have all she wants – and wants can change
  • Someone who has learned her Father wants to give her desires and fulfill those desires
  • Someone who has learned to dream big
  • Someone who has learned to plan for Eternity
  • Someone who has learned to learn
  • Someone who has learned to take correction – to be discipled
  • Someone who has learned to press through
  • Someone who has learned how to draw lines
  • Someone who has learned how to set boundaries
  • Someone who has learned to be open to new experiences
  • Someone who has learned how to take praise
  • Someone who has learned how to take criticism
  • Someone who has learned to “blow off the blowhards”
  • Someone who has learned to expect the unexpected – and not fear it
  • Someone who has learned how to share her heart
  • Someone who has learned how to let others get credit for her work
  • Someone who has learned to turn the other cheek
  • Someone who has learned to walk the extra mile
  • Someone who has learned to give her shirt
  • Someone who has learned to meet her obligations
  • Someone who has learned how to say, “No”
  • Someone who has learned when to say, “No”
  • Someone who has learned to trust
  • Someone who has learned to teach
  • Someone who has learned what to teach
  • Someone who has learned share the word of the Lord (Sharing a word from God in specific situations)
  • Someone who has learned when not to share the word of the Lord
  • Someone who has learned when to keep her mouth shut
  • Someone who has learned to worship
  • Someone who has learned to prepare for visions from God
  • Someone who has learned how to get into His presence
  • Someone who has learned how to walk in His presense
  • Someone who has learned she never walks alone
  • Someone who has learned to lean into His Word
  • Someone who has learned that if she were physically able to keep recording (taking dictation) God would keep telling her all the things she’s learned that are important to Him – that He can use

It used to be common to hear someone say that they got their Masters from The School of Hard Knocks. I did, and God knew I would. He knew I would graduate with flying colors, coming out uniquely prepared for what He has in mind for me. That’s why He led me to that school, told me to marry Jack.

Sitting here, thinking about it, it’s definitely a fair trade. Other people come out of universities every day with advanced degrees that won’t do them any good in Eternity, and debt that may potentially follow them for the rest of their lives. I’ve come out of the School of Hard Knocks (Jack Cardwell University LOL!) owing no man, prepared for Eternity, and uniquely able to help so many others.

Yes, at long last, after the decades of questions and spending much of October fighting the urge to beat myself up for not leaving him long ago, for letting him treat me and the kids as he did, I finally understand. At long last, the past 40 years make sense and I can see that they have served a purpose.

I feel like someone who’s just been handed that final diploma, whose been told she’s earned the right to put those treasured letters after her name. I’ve been a new person since Jack died. Like that recent graduate, I’m ready for the next adventure, to do the next thing, to take on the world. I’m free to be the me God’s had in mind all along.

And I’m celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

The Seed in Your Hands

This sculpture is one of my prized possessions, both because of the ones who gave it to me and the truth it speaks.

The seed in these hands represents the seed in my hands; it represents all I have to offer. The truth is, I don’t even know the limits of what I have to give to others. As a Christian, of course when people talk about planting seeds, one of the first things you think about is financial seeds, but that is only part of what we are to be sowing. And the fact is, know it or not, we’re sowing seeds on a pretty constant basis.

This blog is a seed. My book is a seed. My Facebook group is a seed. But so are those times I spend watching a friend’s toddlers so she can have a minute in the bathroom alone. So is the trash I pick up so someone doesn’t have to, and the cart I return to its place for the same reason…and to potentially protect other cars. So is the grace I give the person who realizes at the last minute that they meant to go right instead of left. So is the smile I give the tired fast food worker. They’re all seeds.

And then there are those other seeds. There is that flash anger at the person who cuts me off, and impatience when the checkout line is too slow. There is the sharp word spoken in a burst of momentary frustration, and the intentional avoiding of someone I’m not in the mood to deal with. There is the seed of being slow to respond when someone asks for help, and saying, “No” when I could easily say, “Yes.” Not that I’m admitting to any of these, of course; they’re just examples…right?

Seeds are seeds, and it is in the nature of the seed to reproduce itself. Were I to plant one of the corn seeds that this statue holds, all things being equal it would grow into a corn stalk and produce a lot more corn seeds that I would then harvest. If I wanted corn, that would be an awesome thing.

But what if corn was something I specifically didn’t want? What then? Well, I’d make sure I didn’t plant that seed!

Galatians 6:7 (NLT) says, “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.”

Which returns me to the point of the seed-holding statue. My hands are full of seeds that, if I plant them, will definitely come back to me in far greater measure than what I planted. Remember the 30, 60, 100-fold return? Yeah, if I’m mean and ugly, I will get mean and ugly back – probably at the 100-fold level. (Note to Self: Not the seeds I want to sow!) If I’m patient and loving, I will definitely get patient and loving back – hopefully at the 100-fold level.

The seed is already there, in your hands. Sort through it, determine what you do and do not want to harvest, and make sure you only plant the good stuff.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

My Salvation Story

It was a warm summer afternoon at Camp Tomahawk (somewhere in Texas) and our bunch of teen girls was gathered in the open-air chapel for service. I’d been in my share of church services and Acteens meetings, so plenty of seeds had been planted, but on this day a man of God presented the Gospel and plan of salvation in a way that made everything come together for me.

Before that day, I’d known about Jesus and all He’d done for me, but on that day, in that moment, I came to the realization that HE did it all for ME, and something was required of me – a simple something. I had to choose to accept what He’d done, to accept Him, so I went to the altar where I prayed a prayer. Walking back to my seat, I could tell something incomprehensibly huge had happened, because my counselor was ugly crying. It was beautiful.

This flashback came to me today as I was reading Mark 10. Jesus says in verse 15 that we have to receive the Kingdom of God like a child, and that’s exactly what I did. The offer was made. I could see it was a good offer. I accepted the offer. (God said it. I did it. That settled it.)

I’ve heard many beautiful salvation stories, and I love them, but I love ones like mine too. There are many types of “children” in the world. Some are boisterous and excitable, some break into tears, some can’t stop talking about this amazing thing that has happened, and some of us walk calmly back to our seats simply knowing in our inmost being that everything has changed whether we feel it or not.

God had a plan from the beginning – from before the Beginning. He knew ahead of time that man would blow it, sin would take over, and a blood sacrifice would be required to redeem the very man He was preparing to create. So, before Day 1, He and Jesus planned for Jesus to sacrifice Himself. (Rev. 13:8)

To this day, I cannot comprehend God asking His only Son to do it. I can’t even grasp His Son loving the coming world of sinners enough that He would agree. Yet He did.

They waited ages until the timing was just right. Jesus came as a child, grew, entered the ministry, taught thousands of people who wanted to listen without having to hear (among others who definitely heard, of course, but still…), and then intentionally let Himself be crucified even though He dreaded it so much that He begged God, in those last moments, to find another way. His emotional turmoil was so great that He shed blood in the garden before ever being taken prisoner. (Luke 22:44)

But when all was said and done, death and the devil lost as Jesus entered into Hell, set those captives free, then rose again to lead us all into freedom as well.

I say us. I hope it’s us. If you’re not one of us, please come! It’s so simple a child can do it. Just accept Him and what He did for you! Tell Him you get it. You know He came to earth so that He could live the perfect, sinless life and, as that sinless sacrifice, pay for the sins you could never pay for on your own. With His own blood, He paid the price to buy you back from the devil. Acknowledge that, and willingly give yourself to Him.

I guarantee that, if you truly give your life to Him, life will never be the same. Will it be easy? Not a chance. Not only do bad things happen to everyone, but there is also the reality that once you leave the devil’s camp and enter God’s camp you’ll have a target on your back. Fact, the devil already hates you because you are made in God’s image; this will make him hate you more than ever. The key, though, is that from the day you accept Jesus and start walking with God, you will never walk alone.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Forgiveness Isn’t an Option

Yes, you can forgive, and you must!

You’ve heard it preached over and over. I’ll even list a couple of scriptures at the end of this post.

You’ve probably even seen articles online that show the benefits of forgiveness. I’ll include some of those at the bottom of this post as well.

But…

Are you one of those who sit there convinced that it’s not possible? Your situation is too hard. The wounds go too deep. The betrayal affected too many people. That person has never asked for forgiveness, so you feel no need to give it.

Still…not optional. Yes, I said it. Forgiveness is not an option. For the Christian, it is a command. For everyone, it is a physical and psychological necessity. If you read the Bible, you can’t avoid it.

Remember what Jesus said on the cross? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” There is a part of me that wants to correct Jesus. “Oh yes, they did! They knew exactly what they were doing!” Doesn’t matter. Even before His death, burial, and resurrection, He was asking forgiveness for the collective “us.” Jesus forgave. We received. (Well, I hope you’ve received!)

Consider the Apostle Paul when he was still Saul. He was hell-bent on destroying the new movement that became Christianity. Those followers of Christ, starting with Ananias, could have refused to forgive him after he met Jesus. If they had, if they had denied his right to minister on the Lord’s behalf, he may never have written what we know today as about 2/3 of the New Testament. But they did forgive, and he did write, and we received.

I could keep on with accounts from the Bible, but let’s bring it forward to today. Bear with me, if you will, as I share two examples from my own life.

I have a friend. I love her dearly, and I hurt for her often. She is a loving and generous person who used to serve God openly, freely, joyously, but something has changed her, caused her to withdraw in many ways.

There is one person, another Christian, against whom she holds implacable unforgiveness. Did the person genuinely do her wrong back in the day? Quite possibly; I don’t know their story. But that really doesn’t matter.

What matters is that the roots of unforgiveness and bitterness have grown so deep and strong that now pretty much every aspect of her life seems to have become choked by those weeds. Yes, she has a hard life, but so do a lot of others who haven’t chosen her path.

Others like me.

Let me pause here and say that I’m well aware I am far from perfect. I know this. What I am, however, is living proof that you can walk through hell and come out the other side victorious.

My story starts over forty years ago when I unknowingly married a narcissist. During those years, he abused me in pretty much every way but physically. I lived under his thumb without even realizing it for a very long time – without understanding that my life wasn’t normal. He had multiple affairs. He ignored everything that was important to me unless paying attention to it played into his plan and made him look good to others. He squandered his really good income so that I ended up having to earn money for the “unimportant” things like homeschool curriculum for the boys and clothes for myself.

Then, when it became hard for him to find a “position,” he stopped working; a regular job was beneath him. This left me doing all I could to pay the bills he easily ignored.

Eventually, we ended up living in a house that was literally falling down over our heads because he couldn’t be bothered to maintain much of anything, ever. Lest you think I exaggerate, first we lost gas because the line started leaking and he “couldn’t afford” to fix it. Then the water pipes started bursting and when his quick patches didn’t hold he gave up. We were left with only electricity for years, and I paid that bill. The walls had so many holes in them that I couldn’t stuff them all well enough to keep anything out. I once ended up in the ER with a bug in my ear as a result of that. And the roof? One room was off limits because half the roof was completely gone, and when it rained it rained inside our only bathroom. Years… Today, looking back, that blows my mind; I felt so trapped in that…place. (NOT just talking the house here.)

And then there were the women. The first affair I know about happened in the early 90s and either he thought I was a complete idiot or he was flaunting it in my face. (Him having the affair was my fault of course. He was an expert at gaslighting.) The last affair he tried to have was in 2014. Strange as it seems, it wasn’t until then that I actually stopped loving him. It was the point at which that tiny flame was at last doused completely.

My primary focus through most of the past forty years has been on staying right with God and growing closer to Him. As a result, I learned to forgive. See, if you’re actively watching your spiritual walk, when things stop feeling right, when you can tell that you’re “off,” you stop. You pause, take a good look at yourself, and ask God, “Where have I gone wrong?” In those early years, it was almost always unforgiveness towards Jack or someone else that nailed me. God had to school me over and over, but I eventually learned how to genuinely forgive and do it quickly. (Note to Self: As soon as you hit “publish” on this post the devil is going to see to it that you’re tested.)

So, my regular readers know that Jack passed away in October. I can honestly say that, regardless of all he had done, all he did until just a few weeks before his death, I forgave him. I chose not to walk in unforgiveness, but in forgiveness, which meant that when unforgiveness popped up I actively stomped it out.

I prayed for him often. I very much wanted to know he was right with God even if he were never right with me. He asked me to pray the sinners prayer with him days before he went into the hospital for the last time, and I rejoice that he did, that now, in Heaven, he is finally the man God always meant him to be.

Decades of abuse could have destroyed me. It did not. I did more than survive those years. In spite of dealing with anxiety and occasional bouts of depression, I thrived. I had to battle each and every day, but just as daily workouts strengthen muscles, those daily battles strengthened me. I came out stronger, and one of the reasons is my determination to deny the devil the option of using one of his greatest weapons – unforgiveness – to bring me down.

Forgiveness isn’t an option. It’s a necessity.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Forgiveness Verses (There are many more.)
Matthew 18:21
Mark 11:25
Luke 6:37
Ephesians 4:32

Benefits of Forgiveness (There are many more.)
Forgiveness: Letting Go of Grudges and Bitterness
The Many Benefits of Forgiveness
The Power of Forgiveness
The Physical Benefits of Forgiveness

She Lived Love

This is Granny’s hens and chickens plant.

I mean that literally. Because of the way it propagates, it really is the very same plant my grandmother tended from the time I was little. I cannot express how happy I was the day those first starts came into my hands. No, she didn’t physically touch this specific part of the plant, but that doesn’t matter; her touch was there in the beginning. She’s part of it, and it represents the fact that, though I won’t see her again until Heaven, she’s still with me.

This isn’t the only way she’s still with me, of course. Much more importantly, her touch was there in the beginning for me too. Granny touched my life by living Jesus in the most everyday, practical ways. Did she preach? No. Was she constantly reading her Bible? Not that I recall. Did she make a point of sharing Jesus with me every time we were together? Uh uh. So what did she do?

She loved.

Yes, I knew that she belonged to God and had a relationship with Him, but rather than preach to me about Him, she dealt with me as gently as she did with this plant. She tended to my needs. She cared for me. She lived love for me. She never preached a sermon, but she lived a sermon every day of her life. The very fact that I’m where I am today is due in part to her prayers and her faithfulness to live love.

We need more of that.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Watch Your Mouth

In James 3, God repeats the classic parental command and makes it very clear that He’s serious. Yes, He says here that no one can tame the tongue, but the context of the chapter makes it clear that He expects us to try.

Luke 6:45 tells us that what comes out of our mouths reveals what is really in our hearts. We can say it isn’t so, but where else would the words come from?

If I’m truly walking in the 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love that God desires from me, if that’s what fills my heart, then the words that come out of my mouth will be words of love. I won’t be calling another driver an idiot (or worse). I won’t be bad mouthing the mother who isn’t controlling her screaming child.

I won’t be, as James puts it, cursing a person who was made in God’s very image. And, whether we want to admit it or not, EVERY man was made in God’s very image, even the one whose views don’t correspond with our own.

If I do catch my mouth saying things it shouldn’t (or my fingers typing things they ought not) it’s time for a heart check.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

One Day to Live

Quote: @Bezner

I don’t know who Steve Bezner is, but after seeing this I know we’re family.

Seriously, this graphic is on my computer desktop right now, and every time I look at it I’m reminded that my priorities need to be lining up with His priorities.

In other words, if I knew I only had one day to live, would I be washing feet?
That question has come to affect the way I live my days.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

The Power of a Seed

A seed has an innate command to grow and, all things being equal, when it is planted it will obey that command. I’ve been thanking God for that fact this morning.

I’ve always thought I was raised serving God, but in reality I wasn’t, or not like one might think. When I was very young, we were in church, and seeds were planted. Then, for maybe a year or so while I was in junior high, we were in church again and more seeds were planted. And where regular church attendance is concerned that was it.

But seeds were still being planted. They may have been few, during conversations with my parents and grandparents, during that one week spent in Vacation Bible School, during Sunday morning Christian cartoons…. But they were being planted, and they grew, and they bore fruit, and I am where I am today.

So today I’ve been thanking God for each and every one of those seeds that were planted in my life. I’ve also been thanking Him for those seeds I’ve had the honor of planting in others’ lives.

Maybe I only managed to get one seed in the ground, one word about the love of God settled into someone’s heart during a brief conversation. I’ve been reminded today that even that one word can be enough.

Never discount the power of the words you get to plant as you speak into others’ lives, the power of your actions as you show God’s love. Even one seed can produce much fruit.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Bad Made Beautiful

I have a beautiful cross that I never take off. It is my constant reminder of everything Jesus has done in my life. 

It is also a slap in the devil’s face. 

Think about it. The cross was the most ghastly, abhorrent, abominable thing imaginable. If you were hung on a cross, you were a despicable human being worthy of the greatest contempt. 

Cross = BAD

But Jesus. 

Now we see the cross as a beautiful thing. Even many who don’t believe in the saving work of Jesus Christ often wear it as decoration because it is beautiful. Imagine what a headache that constant reminder must give the devil. 

But this is exactly what Jesus does. While He lived, He specialized in making bad things beautiful. Whether He was healing lepers, delivering a woman from being stoned, returning dead children to their parents… 

And He does the same today. It makes no difference to Him that you’ve been bad. He doesn’t care what you’ve done. He cares about you letting Him do what only He can do – turning your life from bad to beautiful. 

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C