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Book Excerpt

"Thirty-one Years and a Stumble"

Chapter 1:

"It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness." - Lamentations 3:22, 23

I turned the key in the lock and pushed open the heavy church door. Cool silence greeted me. The other members of the early morning prayer group had already come and gone. Outside, the morning sun and crisp autumn air were invigorating. Inside, the damp chill sent goose pimples racing down my arms.

I walked down the center aisle of the sanctuary and stopped at my usual favorite row. I knelt down in front of a blue-padded pew, thinking this was just another Wednesday morning time of prayer before heading off for work. I did not realize that this moment would be a keystone in my life. God, in His mercy, had chosen this time of prayer to prepare me for the harshest trial of my life.

I began interceding for my family, for my church, for specific needs of friends. As I petitioned God, He interrupted me with a question spoken directly to my heart. "Karen, am I really first in your life? If you had to give up everything for Me, would you do it?"

I heard a whisper of breath and then realized it was my own sharp intake of oxygen that had made the sound. My heart raced to a new beat, and, suddenly, I no longer felt the cold. The Lord had completely captured my attention.

What do you say in answer to a question like that? A quick "Sure, Lord!" would definitely not suffice. God Himself was asking the question. Answering Him carelessly was unthinkable. Besides He would know the truth of my heart no matter what my lips said. Would I be willing to give up everything for God?

I hestitated for a moment as I pictured my life empty of everything familiar and dear to me. Muscles in my chest contracted painfully - or was it my heart? I dropped my head into my hands as a hot lump formed at the back of my throat signaling the tears that would soon flow. Once again, I shivered from the chill in the air.

As I earnestly searched my soul, tears dripped down my cheeks on to the upholstered pew, leaving dark wet spots of blue. Finally, I knew the answer to His question. I took a deep breath and answered Him.

"Yes, Lord, You are first. I don't want to lose Bill or my boys. I don't want to lose my home or job or friends. But if I lose everything - as long as I still have You - I know I can make it."

I recalled a question my pastor had asked the congregation recently. "Do you love God the most? Do you put Him first?"

Now, I could answer that question. I opened my eyes and looked up, not really seeing the arched ceiling of polished wood, but picturing God the Father on His throne. "Lord, I put You first. I love You most!" Warm peace enfolded me.

As I walked out of the church that morning and drove to work, I had no idea that less than a year later my answer would be put to the test. I would embark on the "roller coaster ride from hell," losing my husband, home, job, friends, and church in the process. All that would remain from that period in my life would be my children, and, of course, the Lord.

Thank God that He prepared me that Wednesday morning when I stopped by the church to pray. He settled it in my mind, months before my life fell apart, that I would be O.K. as long as I had Him!

And it was true! He was my strength in time of debilitating emotional weakness - my shelter in the raging storm - my peace in the midst of enemy attack - my hope for the future when my present life was destroyed - my acceptance when my husband rejected me - my assurance when nothing in life was certain - my closest friend when other friends let me down - my foundation when my feet were knocked out from under me. I would be able to say with the Psalmist, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).

I could have been consumed as this fiery trial raged through my life, but God in His mercy showed me compassion. He offered me grace for each new day.

"...great is Thy faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:23).

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