From the Desk of Dave McLean
Who is God? It seems like a simple question, but it’s not. Everyone seems to have an answer, and they vary depending on who you talk to. The question is, from what source are you drawing your information or inspiration? Is it your experience, good or bad, your desires, what others write about God or what God has written in the Bible? As you can imagine, those who grace our doors are coming from a tough start in life. Sometimes we make bad decisions, sometimes the bad decisions of others make us. But either way, our fate or our history can shape our view of God.
As we study and talk together it doesn’t take long for a person’s view of God to surface. I can tell you, it’s hard to respond rightly to a wrong view of God. If you see your Heavenly Father like you see your earthly father, you might have hesitation trusting God. If you’ve spent most or all of your early years experiencing trauma, trials and hardship, you might be asking yourself if there is a God and if there is, how could He let this happen. You might be living in fear of when the next crisis will erupt. You can see how easy it is for us to develop a false view of who God is. Sometimes we embrace a false view of God intentionally to justify our desires or bitterness, sometimes unintentionally through the sum of our experiences. Rest assured the evil one is working overtime to malign our glorious Father.
Years ago I had my name maligned and it was a painful experience. I do a good job of making a mess of things on my own, let alone someone else working to compound it. Our culture teaches us to have a good image; that’s who we want people to think we are regardless of who we are. God tells us to establish a good name; that’s who we are regardless of who people think we are. People will always misunderstand us for a variety of reasons, I just hate to see them bypass God for lack of understanding. I can tell you that God is pure love in every way; that’s who He says He is and that’s who He proves Himself to be.
We talk these things through at our Bible studies.
We want free will, we just don’t want the fruit of our free will. Our society likes to think it can sin and others won’t be hurt, but this is simply not possible. So the Lord takes the rap for our sin and consequences, but even in the midst of our sin and earthly messes, God is working faithfully and compassionately to draw us back into fellowship with Himself. We deserve the fruit of our sin, and yet He is merciful to forgive and restore us to Himself.
So, how do we get past these false images of God? I believe the answer is in personally experiencing God Himself. Seek Him in His Word- for what comes out of the mouth is in the heart, and it is His heart that we seek. Seek Him in Prayer- more in listening than speaking. I have found that it is at the “end of my self” that I hear from the Lord. We must get past our will, our desires and our clutter to hear from the Father, but when we do hear from Him, it surpasses anything we hear from the world. Seek Him in Obedience- our Lord is first obeyed, then understood through our faith and faithfulness. Seek His Love- this is the love that we long for, but cannot find in this world. Once you truly find it, you wouldn’t trade it for anything.
So this is my goal; to show our guests who God really is. The irresistible and glorious God, the compassionate and merciful God, the forgiving and restorative God, the powerful and sovereign God, and yes, the judge and ruler of the earth God. My goal is to not teach them what to believe, but to teach them How to Believe and Who to Believe! To introduce them to who God really is, and teach them how to enter His sanctuary and meet Him face to face. If they learn How to Believe and Who to Believe, then they will be equipped for success in life and eternity! I tell our guests that the longer they stay the better off they’ll be. Stay until your stance on the Rock is solid enough to succeed when you leave.
It is so much easier to push away the god that satan portrays, and it is so much harder to resist the Lord when you see Him as He is. He is the love, truth and compassion that we have always longed for, but never thought we’d find. Many are finding that landing at A Ray of Hope is not as bad as the dread they thought it would be. It’s pretty special to see skeptics warm up to the Lord when they find the God Who dwells here. It’s hard to resist the God who created me in His own image, who blessed me with life and who suffered, died and paid for my transgressions to welcome me into His family.
TESTIMONY FROM LACEY
I heard about A Ray of Hope, Peggy’s House, from my parents house when they first opened. They sent me the newspaper article about it and then would mention it more and more. As they saw me continue to go downhill, they became more insistent that I call and try to get a bed. I needed to try something different to get clean. At that point I had been through four different inpatient rehabs and the longest amount of clean time I had strung together was three and a half years. I just would continue to relapse. I have been using since I was thirteen. I just always felt like there was a void inside me. Drugs and alcohol numbed that for me, until they didn’t.
I had been staying clean when I lived in Missoula. I was attending 12 step meetings regularly and working the steps. I got myself out of a very destructive marriage, but that meant I had to leave my daughter with my ex-husband. I lived with a friend until I saved enough money to get my own apartment, which felt amazing. I started dating a fantastic guy, who was also clean and sober. I also eventually got two weeks every month with my daughter. Things seemed to be going as planned, however, I have a tendency to burn my life down when things get too good.
Once I hit that three and half years clean, my boyfriend and I began drinking together again. A little at first, and that quickly snowballed into a lot. That very swiftly took us to using pills, then cocaine, then to methamphetamine. He kept his use in check, due to the fact that he was on probation. I on the other hand could never have enough. I stopped talking to my sponsor, stopped showing up to meetings, and dropped my sponsees I just strayed completely away from the program that helped me get me the life I had. My friends grew concerned and watched as I turned into a completely different person. They watched me waste away and lose so much weight that I looked like a walking skeleton.
After nine months of that madness, I moved to Kalispell. My daughter was about to start kindergarten. But I had to make the move alone. My boyfriend ended up getting into trouble with his P.O. for drinking and wasn’t allowed to leave Missoula. The move should have been a high point in life for me; I had more time with my daughter. I also had a place to live, a job that I enjoyed, and I was back where I grew up. But that void inside started nagging at me. I began drinking every night, then began abusing pills. I ended up falling from a ten-foot ladder on concrete with my head breaking my fall. So, now I had pills back in my life.
After five years together my boyfriend and I broke up. I had a meltdown of epic proportions. I drank so much and took so many different pills that I was blacked out for a solid two weeks. I shaved my head, got fired from my job, and ended up losing any and all time with my daughter. I moved back to Missoula thinking that since I was so successful there before that maybe I could be again. I was high within a month. After being constantly high there for about a year and having only phone contact with my daughter, I opted to move to eastern Montana. This is where my ex’s parents lived. They wanted me to come there and wanted to help get me clean. This just led to drinking a lot but not using any drugs. I was still so in love with my ex that I just wanted to be numb.
My ex moved to his parents about seven months after I had moved to the area. Within three months, he overdosed and died. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I can still see him there on the concrete. I was hugging his dad as they put the love of my life in a bag and took him away. I felt like I died that day with him. I eventually found heroin to numb the overwhelming pain that I felt every single day. I had zero hope, and had no connection to God anymore. There was no light in my life. I had no contact with my daughter and just wanted to die. I finally got to a point where after another abusive relationship, a night in jail and facing homelessness, I was willing and ready to do anything to change. I finally reached out to A Ray of Hope. They called me back within a day of submitting my application and told me they had a bed for me. At that moment hope returned to my life. I hit my knees and started praying and crying. I was so grateful and knew that this was part of a plan. I didn’t have power over this and that is how it was supposed to be.
I have been here for two weeks and have found even more hope. There is so much love and light. Reconnecting with God is such a comforting feeling. I have been truly blessed to be under this roof and be among the amazing people at A Ray of Hope. I know with their support and knowledge, I can start to heal from the grief I have been running from. I want to hold my head up high again. Between God and the people here, the void inside me doesn’t feel like it’s going to consume me. I am actually starting to feel like a whole person finally.
DEATH & REBIRTH
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me”. Psalm 23:4
Death does not always represent the end of something, but also can be symbolic for the beginning of life. It can represent the death of an old body, or an old life and being re-born through Christ Jesus. Just like in John 11:25, 26 it is written: “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this.” So in turn, if I sin, and ask the LORD for forgiveness; that would be like shedding an old skin and gaining a new one. Or a better example yet would be, if I was to pray and ask for forgiveness but to forgive all others first. To be baptized and truly seek the LORD’s embrace would then represent the death of the old life. A life full of sin and regret and the re-birth of the new life GOD has laid out before us. Jesus took all matter of sin upon himself so we could be forgiven of our sins. He died a most horrible death so that each of us could live.
It has been years since I was baptized…and yet I can feel the weight of life’s trials and tribulations pushing down on me…like drowning in a sense. I have prayed over and over again asking for GOD to forgive me of the countless sins of my past that still to this day haunt me. It’s not that I haven’t been forgiven for them, because Jesus says “ask it in His name and you shall receive”. Matthew 7:7, 8 states; “7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 8 For every one that asketh, recieveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened”.
I went through so many different trials and tribulations this whole year to get to where I am now. I was asking and seeking answers as to where my calling was leading me. Well, no matter how many different ways I tried to go, I was always lead back to AROH shelter. At first, I never understood why or what was calling me back here until just a few days ago. I am placed here at this wonderful place to help me grow. Not just with Jesus, but in my faith as well. To teach me life lessons that needed to be learned in order to grow into the stronger woman I am today. To forgive others opens the doors to be forgiven yourself. Forgiven of all your sins, hurts and pains as long as it is what you truly seek. To have a new life. No matter how many times I tell myself that I will get baptized again, I find myself being drawn towards it like the hand of Jesus is guiding me in that direction. Like he is calling me home, and back into his loving embrace, so my new life and, my new journey can begin. Here are two of my favorite poems that have stuck with me and I just wanted to share them with all of you who are reading this.
Footprints in the Sand
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonged to him; and the other to the LORD.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he questioned the LORD about it. “LORD, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints, I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me”. The LORD replied, “My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you”.
So even when I go through a new baptism to seek a new life and to begin a new journey, or go through more trials in life, I won’t EVER be alone…because I have Jesus who walks with me and a select few that are close to me that have been helping me every step of the way. I am forever grateful for each and every one of them. This second poem has also helped me to think differently about myself and my self-worth.
By: Russell Kelfer
You are who you are for a reason,
You’re part of an intricate plan.
You’re a precious and perfect unique design,
Called God’s special woman or man.
You look like you look for a reason,
Our God mad no mistake.
He knit you together within the womb,
You’re just what he wanted to make.
The parents you had were the ones he chose,
And no matter how you may feel,
They were custom-designed with God’s plan in mind,
And they bear the master’s seal.
No, that trauma you faced was not easy.
And God wept that it hurt you so;
But it was allowed to shape your heart
So that into his likeness you’d grow.
You are who you are for a reason,
You’ve been formed by the Master’s rod.
You are who you are, beloved,
Because there is a God!
Wow! What an amazing father we have that would forgive us for our past present and future. A father that gives the chance to be re-born to start a new life.