April 16 – Don’t Be Scared

Today is April 16.  Every year I write something in memory of my Mama Sarah and in honor of my mom, Maxine Stoddard.  On this day 37 years ago, my Mama Sarah was murdered by my biological father and at that point, many lives were forever changed.  She was murdered on my mom’s birthday (April 16) and buried on mine (April 18).  You can read all the details of this day and some of the effects it’s had on me and my family through the years in any of the above posts, but the thing I always cling to in this, and any tragedy, is the truth found in Genesis 50:20:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

And Romans 8:28:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

10341467_10154103134970043_8087444231830981622_nGod is at work in all things. And the power of God is not that He always stops bad things from happening.  The power of God is that He can (and will) bring good out of everything.

So, today, this is where my mind is going.  I think about the fear that must have been in my Mama Sarah’s heart as she walked out of the house with me in her arms before she was shot.  I think about the fear that must have been in hearts of Maxine and Connie Stoddard with the loss of their daughter and now the unknown future of adopting their 2-year-old grandson.

That fear that they faced could have paralyzed them.  It could have kept them from moving or doing anything.  It could have caused their world to crumble.

But you know what?  They looked the fear that they faced in that moment, they looked it in the face and did the right thing anyway.  They chose to not give into fear.  They chose to do the right thing in spite of the fear in their heart.  They trusted even in the darkness.

This is not to say that everyone in my story is perfect.  That’s far from true.  I’m not, Mama Sarah was not, my parents are not.  But I do know this.  In the midst of uncertainty and danger and fear, they chose not to give into the fear.  They chose to do the right thing, even when they were afraid.  They chose to trust that God had a plan, even in the midst of human brokenness.

They chose trust and obedience over fear.

So must we today.  I have no idea what you are facing today.  You may be very, very afraid.  The future may be unknown.  There may be great pain in your life.  There may be things in your life that you have no control over.  Things that make you very, very afraid.

It’s ok.  We all are afraid at times.  We are.  But don’t give into it.  Don’t.  Faith is bigger than fear.  Trust in the fact that there is a God bigger and smarter and wiser than you.  That has a plan.  Trust.  God will bring something good out of it, even if you don’t understand what.

He will.  That’s what He does.

Don’t be scared.  No matter what you face.  One of my favorite quotes from my favorite the shows, Doctor Who is this.  The main character, The Doctor says, “Courage isn’t just a matter of not being frightened, you know. It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway.” 

Yes, you may be afraid today.  Believe me, I understand.  I learned at very young age everything I hold precious could be taken from me.  Relationships can be ended.  Harm can come.  I always have that fear in my belly.  Always.

But I can’t give into it.  I have to (by God’s grace) be strong and lean on God’s grace.  I have to, and we have to, have faith, not fear.  Because fear never wins.  And faith does.  It always does.

So, today, don’t be scared.  Have faith.  God has a plan.  Trust.  Obey.  Move.  And don’t give into the fear. All things will work for our God and His glory.  I believe and know that.

Don’t be scared.  It’s going to be ok.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

Life Ain’t Always Fair. And That’s Ok

One of things that happened as Asbury has grown, and as I have made new friends across the state, and strangely, across the nation, some of you know about my story, some don’t.  I usually write about it, every April 16.  I guess it’s become my way of paying honor to my mother.

993817_10153623109145043_1781008694_nAs you my know, my mother “Mama Sarah” was murdered on this day in 1978 by my biological father.  He struggled with addiction and in a rage, shot and killed her, as she was leaving the house with me in her arms. She was killed on April 16 and buried on April 18.

At that point, I was adopted and raised by my grandparents, Maxine and Connie Stoddard, who I call mama and daddy. So, my mama is actually my maternal grandmother, and my daddy is actually my maternal step-grandfather.  See you need a flow chart to understand my family!

The reason I share those dates with you is this.  April 16 is my Mama’s birthday.  April 18 is my birthday.

So, my Mama Sarah was murdered on her mother’s birthday and was buried on my birthday.

Needless to say, there’s a reason why we aren’t really big birthday people in our house.

On this day, I always take time to think about and reflect upon the sacrifice of my Mama Sarah, but in that, I think I have missed something very important.  I want to honor my mom and my dad.

Mama is from Pike County, MS, close to McComb, and when she was younger, as young ladies of the day were wont to do, she went to New Orleans to look for work. There she met a man, fell in love, married him, and moved to his home.

In Ecuador.

Yep, Ecuador.  There she had her two children, Sarah Louisa Leon, and Robert Edgar Leon.  But, the marriage fell on very rocky times, with adultery and addiction, and so there was a divorce, and she returned home to Pike County.  She still needed to work, though, so she left Sarah and Robert with her mother and father, returned to New Orleans, where she worked during the week, and then returned home during the weekend.

There, she met a handsome street car driver, Connie Stoddard, and they eventually married.

As her kids grew, Sarah become a Special Education teacher in McComb, and Robert entered the military.

Eventually Sarah married, had a child (me) and at first, things seemed just fine.

But, as addictions tend to, the addiction of my biological father pushed him over the edge, to the point where he shot and killed my mother.  At that point, mama and daddy moved back home from New Orleans, built a house, raised me, and remain there to this day.

Today is her birthday.  She is 84.  On this day she was born, and on this day she saw her first-born die.  She and daddy adopted me when she was in her late 40s, he in his late 30s.  They had raised their kids, and were in the time of their life when they could enjoy life.

And here I fall into their life.

Life ain’t always fair. That’s ok.  Life is good.  Think about all that my mama has been through.  Moved to a foreign country.  Divorced. 1461074_10153517375085043_1298232873_n With two kids that were half white/half hispanic.  In the 1950s.  Worked to support them.  Separated from them because of the need to support them.  Saw one of them killed.  Raised her son.

I think sometimes we have a false impression of what life should be.  That things should come easy, and disappointment should never occur.

And if something has gone wrong, then we should just pack up on go home.  It’s not worth it.

No.  That is not the case.  This is Holy Week.  This week was hard for our savior.  He sweat, He suffered, He died. For our sake. And for the sake of the world.  He did what was right.  The bible said He set his face like a flint towards Jerusalem.  He choose to do the right, hard thing.

And so must we.  Life is going to be hard.  I know it.  It is.  Bad stuff is going to happen for no good reason. I know.  It is.

But if my life should tell you anything, anything at all, it’s this.  God has a plan.

Though Him, you can do it.  You can.  Keep going.  Keep fighting, don’t give up.  God has more power available to you, then you’ll ever know. And God is at work in ways you’d never even see.

And my mama, though she lost a daughter named Sarah, has gained a granddaughter (great-granddaughter, technically) named Sarah.

God restored.  God redeems.  God is at work.  He is, trust me.  He is.

You can do it.  You can.  No matter how hard the task may be, you can do it.  You can. It says in Genesis 50:20:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.

God is at work in your life, even when you don’t feel it, or believe it.  He is.  Trust.  Do the right thing. Remember.  Pray.  Trust. God is at work.

I asked Mama one day if she hated my biological father, the man who killed her daughter.  She paused and said, “No.  If I hate him, he wins.”

That’s not easy, that’s not fair.  But it is ok.  Through God’s strength, you can do what is right.  You can, and you must.

For the sake of the Gospel.

Life ain’t always fair.  And that’s ok.  Because God is always good, no matter what.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.