COPY AND PASTE

COPY AND PASTE

So let me get this straight here … 

In the past few months on social media I have scrolled through:

* 987,675,432 political posts, many of which had zero point, & quite a few which could possibly be classified as hate-filled diatribes against the other parties,

* 321,456,877 pictures of puppies in various cute poses,

* 123,432,567 posts of people whining over the common cold, or getting caught at a traffic light,

* 2,908 rude or vulgar crass comments,

* 3,400 pictures of drooling babies with half chewed food strewn down their bibs,

* 986,655 posts disparaging others for their religious beliefs,

* 352 pictures of romantic Valentine’s dates,

* 221 posts about the Grammy awards,

* 899,543,211 pitches to buy mascara or creams that will keep me from ever aging,

And 

Countless posts about what is for dinner, vacation, wardrobe, etc.

Now, admittedly, I have pretty much posted something in almost every category above, including my never ending stream of sunset pictures. (With the exception of being hate-filled or disparaging towards others with differing religious or political beliefs. I do not believe in that.)

But some of you are upset that I, along with others, have copied & pasted a post to raise awareness for the ravages of cancer? Seriously, not much on social media ticks me off, but this one does. Cancer is a dreadful disaster that pretty much affects every single family in the United States. I once had a family member tell me that they would rather die than go through the ravages of chemotherapy again. (Although they did choose to do that very thing when their cancer returned.)

The post that I copied & pasted was not threatening a curse if you chose not to participate. It was not promising money or blessings if you chose to do so. It was originally written by a cancer survivor to raise awareness. And note that I posted it on my own wall, without peppering people’s private inboxes. 

By raising awareness, many things are accomplished in the battle, such as the propensity for the opening of pocketbooks to help fund research to eradicate the disease & save lives increases, as well as the opening of hearts to have more compassion & sympathy towards its victims, which should hopefully entail more personal support services to help them win their victories.

I am proud to call each of you on my Friend’s list my friend, whether I know you in person or only via social media. If you unfriend me over this post or the one that prompted it, I will be disappointed, but it will not hurt my feelings. I will not apologize for the post I copied & pasted. Flooding the newsfeed with it in order to raise awareness is much better than 99% of the posts I see floating by, including my own feeble attempts at inspiration. 

If you are a cancer survivor, know that I stand beside you, praising God for your victory. If you are currently battling any form of cancer now, I pray for peace, healing, strength, courage, & ultimately victory. 

If you have never had to face this beast called Cancer in your own life, I ask you this, have you ever done any of the following?

Watched an acquaintances posts showing her child, sick, month after month, until finally she loses the battle? 

Held the hands of one of the bravest women you know & prayed with her as her eyes filled with tears because she was facing a second cancer surgery?

Listened to a childhood friend tell how she elected to have a preventative mastectomy on her second breast at the same time she had the necessary mastectomy of the other one, because of her genetic predisposition to recurrence?

Sat beside a friend at BUNCO who told you, in the midst of a female conversation about cup sizes, that, “I have no breasts. Mine were cut off (due to cancer)”?

Attended the funeral of a family member who lost their lives to cancer?

Had a total stranger break down into tears of joy & hug you for raising money at a Relay for Life booth at a festival?

Visited sick children in the hospital who were bald from radiation & chemo therapy?

Tried to comfort a young mother whose child had been diagnosed with leukemia?

Had a woman who was dying with liver cancer look you straight in the eyes & tell you that she was not ready to die yet, a few weeks before she succumbed to that disease?

Reunited with a high school friend on Facebook, only to learn of his passing a couple of weeks after he posted a prayer request for his upcoming liver scans?

Walked into the Clearview Cancer Institute & had them take your photograph so they can make sure that they give the right treatments to you when you come back?      

Watched a TV documentary showing a young 9 year old boy’s battle & loss of his life to leukemia?

I have done all of these things, and much more! I have had precancerous cells, but never had cancer. I have had five legit cancer scares. I have seen family members suffer with cancer, & the effects of treatment. I have seen business colleagues lives totally redefined from it all. 

Yes, the fact that people have complained about a copy & paste social media post written by a cancer survivor to raise awareness for cancer makes me mad. Fighting mad!! I will stand beside you, pray for you, raise money with you, run errands for you, walk in the Relay for a life with you, or whatever it takes to help you through, should you fall victim. 

As for the rest of you, I hope & pray you will find something else to complain about, because this is one complaint that my logical & reasonable mind will not tolerate. If you need to unfollow or unfriend me as a result, so be it. But I pray that you nor your family members never have to face this disease. Unfortunately, the odds do not support that, as one in four people gets cancer. May God bless you, whether you are a victim, a survivor, a family member, or just a complainer. Whatever the case, save your complaints for your own page, I ain’t interested. 

And setting aside the cancer for just one brief moment, think about what good you might could accomplish in the time that you are wasting in complaining about someone else’s posts? Whether they are writing about puppies, politics, or posting pics of their personal stuff, they are entitled to write whatever they please on their own pages, as long as they are not breaking the law. In case you don’t know, there are nifty little features called scrolling, deleting, & unfollowing these days.

I wish I could say that I feel much better now that I have written this. But I don’t. I am just hoping that the time I took to write this post will somehow make it to the hands of one of those whose calloused hearts need revelation. Thank you.

– Lou Lehman Sams





Waiting in the Presence of Saints

Back in the day when I was a Dental Hygienist & managed a dental office, people would sometimes schedule appointments for cosmetic dentistry. Perhaps they needed a crown or veneers on one or more teeth. They wanted these things in order to protect their teeth or to improve their appearance, & self-esteem. The dentist I worked for did a good job with cosmetic issues such as this, & the end results were usually very esthetically pleasing, with the patients being happier & more content. They were able to chew their food better, or smile more easily, or express themselves in a more confident manner, or sometimes, all of these. However, there was a PROCESS involved in getting to this place of satisfaction. That entailed getting a shot – ouch – did I say that word out loud?!? To re-phrase, they had an injection of anesthesia to numb the affected area, so that they could not feel the pain that was about to ensue as a result of drilling out tooth decay, removing bits of tooth, or filing & smoothing rough surfaces. They had to lie prone in an uncomfortable position, & be totally still for a time that was undetermined by them. They could not even get up to go to the restroom unless the dentist was at an appropriate stopping place, for fear of messing up the procedure. They had a bright light shining down onto their faces, so that, while the dental professionals could see everything going on with them very clearly, they could not see very well themselves. And since they could not turn their heads without being instructed to do so, they could not even see everything that was going on in the room around them. Sometimes they had to make 2 or 3 visits in order to get everything done. At those times, they were given temporary crowns, ones which were only a facsimile of what the real crown would look like. The patients would get tired of holding their mouths open in such an awkward, uncomfortable & unusual manner for such an extended time. Some of them were so very fearful of the entire process that they were given nitrous oxide, a.k.a. laughing gas to help ease their anxieties.

But the choice to have the procedures done was always theirs – they were not forced into the chairs, tied down, or held down by chains. They could have, if they really wanted to do so, gotten up & walked out at any time. But they made a choice, these adult patients, to be still, & let the doctor do his work. They trusted him to do a good job, in as short a time possible & that they would be pleased with the end result. And sometimes they had to wait for extended periods of time in the outer waiting room, just to get in & have the procedure begin in the first place. But they did wait. For they wanted what the doctor had to offer them. They wanted to look & feel better. Once in a great while, there would be a patient with an abscessed tooth or something who did not follow the doctor’s prescribed treatment. What right did that patient, who refused the antibiotics, who refused to have the decay removed, who refused to allow the doctor’s hand to work on him, what right did that patient have to complain when they eventually lost that tooth? In my eyes, they had no right to complain at all.

No patient in their right mind would have squirmed, wiggled, or otherwise wrestle while the doctor had his drill actively engaged inside their mouth, for they knew that to do so might cause him to slip & cause them further harm. And I had occasion to act as the doctor’s assistant on procedures ranging from cosmetic improvements to oral surgery. No one ever enjoyed any of these uncomfortable experiences. And I hated that for them, but I tried to be as reassuring as possible to them while they were being worked on. No one ever begged to get onto the calendar, wished for a cavity, or volunteered for surgery unnecessarily. Going to the dentist was, for most people, considered to be an unpleasant experience that they would just as soon avoid at all costs. Yet still they came.

They sat as still as possible & allowed the dentist to do his work. Most of them did not speak unless spoken to, for that meant further delay in getting through the procedure. They were never left unattended, as either the dentist or his assistant or both were in the room with them at all times. One of the jobs of the assistant was to reassure the patients, & for those who were really anxious, sometimes this meant literally holding their hand while they were being worked on. The patients could not see everything going on around them – the times the assistant turned her back on them to mix a bonding compound, or when the drill bits were being changed out, or when an x-ray was being developed. But they could hear sounds, were cognizant of activity, & knew things were being worked out on their behalf. They simply trusted that the doctor knew exactly what he was doing. They listen for his directions about what to do next – which way to turn, when to rinse, how wide to open, etc. And they followed his directives without question.

So why then is it that we have such a difficult time sitting still & letting the Great Physician perform His work in our lives? Perhaps there are times when He must make us lie still, be uncomfortable, or be temporarily blinded by something external in order that He can remove decay, transform something ugly into something beautiful, or smooth off rough spots within us? Perhaps we are made to feel numb about something that has transpired in our lives because otherwise the pain would be far too great for us to bear? Perhaps we are not supposed to see every little movement that is occurring around us on our behalf? Perhaps …

I have always been a very good patient – in the physical realm. I guess that is because not only was I a dental health professional, but so was my aunt & my mother, so I was trained at a very early age that things will go a lot more smoothly & quickly & comfortably if you will lie still when needed & just relax & trust the doctor. Why then, do I have such a problem with this in my spiritual life? Why do I have such a difficult time when I feel God working on me? I KNOW that the end result will be a new, improved, & better me. Yet I squirm. I wiggle. I protest. I get impatient with waiting. At times I even get up out of that chair & start to head out the door before the procedure is completed.

I hate that bright light shining down on me, exposing all of my flaws! I abhor being confined. I detest being still for extended periods. I dislike not knowing what is going on around me. I deny that I have decay that needs to be removed.

But I know that I will not be happy with the end results if I do not allow him to finish. I know that, if the decay is not removed, excessive pain will result that will eventually cause a part of me to die. So I endure that discomfort. I listen for directions.

Yes, sometimes I misunderstand those directions. Sometimes the anesthetic wears off enough that the pain brings tears. Sometimes I get really, really frustrated with having to lie there for so long, thinking about all of the other things that I want to be doing. At those times, a soothing voice calms my spirit, or a warm hand clasps mine, or I feel a gentle squeeze on my shoulder. Sometimes those things are from the Master Himself. But when He is busy preparing things on my behalf, sometimes it is His “assistants” that help me through.

I am so very thankful for all of the Godly men & women that God has sent to me to help me be still, keep calm, & be quiet when I was having a hard time doing so by myself. For the ones that dried my tears & reassured me that everything was going to be all right. For the ones who sat in that Waiting Room with me, until it was my time to be seen, & for the ones who were assigned the task of helping me through the procedure.

Yes, waiting is very hard, especially for someone as active & hyper as me! My best advice for waiting? Surround yourself with the presence of Godly people who will wait with you as you trust in God to make the restorations you need in your life. But wait on the Lord – He knows what He is doing. Trust Him. The end result is worth the wait.

And if you know someone that is being told to lie still while God is working? Perhaps you can be the one that waits with them. Pray with them. Talk to them. Listen to them. Pray for them. Reassure them. Soothe them. Distract them. Most of all, just be there to wait with them! Be present for them!!

“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God;
I trust in the mercy of God forever & ever.
I will praise You forever,
because You have done it:
And in the presence of Your saints
I will wait on Your name, for it is good.”
-Psalm 52:8-9

~ Lou Lehman Sams

DEMON IN THE PARKING LOT

DEMON IN THE PARKING LOT

 It happened on an exceptionally warm & sunny day in May over 20 years ago. Two decades is a pretty long time, so one might expect that some details have been auto erased from my memory bank; however, this was a day like no other, & one that I have replayed & relived so many times that there is no way it can ever be deleted. It is etched into my memory alongside other events of significant proportion, such as the day I got baptized, the day I got married, & the days my children were born. The underlying difference is that each of those days were a cause for celebration & this day most definitely did not fall into that category – at least not at first.

I was on sabbatical from my real estate job, & working part-time retail, so I did not have to work that day. My son was only 11 months old, & my daughter was not yet 4 years old at the time, so I had my hands full during the day; therefore, I tried to be as productive & run as many errands as possible whenever my daughter was attending pre-school. That is exactly what I was doing on this beautiful, yet very warm, Spring day. My son was safely strapped in the back seat of my new teal colored Plymouth Voyager mini-van when I pulled into the parking space that was as close as possible (without being in a handicapped space) to the entrance of the Service Merchandise store, where I wanted to purchase a double stroller because we had a family trip planned in a few weeks. As I placed the van into Parking gear, I noticed a tall, unkept looking man approaching my driver’s door. It immediately struck me that something was amiss, because he had on a long-sleeved flannel shirt, & it was scorching hot outside, even though it was May. Additionally, his appearance was noteworthy because he had on those new baggy shorts that fell down below the waistline, exposing the upper portion of the men’s underwear, & at that time I had not seen many guys dressed in them. I think they were called “Jams” back then?  Instinctively, I waited to see why he was approaching my door prior to opening it, thinking that he was probably panhandling for money to go to the liquor store, as we were not too far in distance from both the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen & the Downtown Rescue Mission. I have always had a special heart for homeless people, & have been known to give them money, but I had no spare cash on me, & besides, I did not want to jeopardize my baby’s safety in any way. I was going to politely tell him through the window that I was unable to assist him, but what I saw next paralyzed me with fear, & filled me with a very sick sense of dread. This man, who had long, dark, stringy hair, got right up to my van window, & the expression on his face, & most importantly his eyes were something that I will never, ever forget.

I have told this story many times, but I have never written about it until now, because it always makes me very uneasy to recall specific moments in it, & this is one of those. Additionally, I have been concerned that some people will not “understand” what happened there that day. When I looked into that man’s eyes, & rather than the vacant look of a mentally challenged street person, or the desperate, pleading look of a hungry man, or the somewhat glazed look of an alcoholic needing a drink, I saw pure, unadulterated EVIL. I do not know HOW I knew this, except it was unlike anything I have ever seen in my entire life, & I though I have known some less than nice individuals both before & since that time, I have never encountered such a cold & menacing stare again. Our eyes met, locked, & for a few moments, I saw a man who wanted to extract from me everything that I could possibly give to him.

 I gasped aloud as a shiver ran both up & back down my spine, & the hairs on my neck, arms & legs stood at attention in a well –deserved warning to keep my distance. I did not even have to think about it, but my hand went immediately back to the gear shift, & I placed the vehicle into Reverse as I uttered aloud: “Dear Lord, PLEASE KEEP US SAFE from harm!!” The man’s gaze did not falter. It was a hard look, totally devoid of any personality, yet at the same time, full of malice. I was 100% certain that, though I knew this was a man comprised of human flesh & bones, I was looking straight into the eyes of the Devil himself. It is hard to describe the physical feelings that ran through my body simultaneously: nausea, light-headedness, paralysis, & chills all come to memory. Yet an adrenaline surge caused me to start backing out of the space, & so the man continued on his way.

I breathed an audible sigh of relief as I watched him walk out to the 18 wheeler truck that was parked out close to the Parkway on an undeveloped outparcel of this strip center. When you experience a stab of fear followed by intense relief, your brain does not necessarily think clearly. I remember thinking that he must be going out to the truck to check it in before it unloaded merchandise at the store. (Obviously, this makes no sense, & I, with my background in commercial real estate, should have realized that any truck wanting to unload merchandise would be behind the store at their loading dock, not sitting way out by the highway; however, this is what I thought at that time.) So, thinking that perhaps I had misunderstood what had just transpired, I eased back the rest of the way into the parking space, turned off the engine, & opened the door to get out of the van. I glanced toward the truck, to see that man walking very quickly back toward me, & his eyes & facial expression made me think of a Demon. I slammed the door, locked it, & quickly placed my keys back into the ignition & re-started the van. Seeing this, the man veered away from my van, & walked to the sidewalk in front of the store before disappearing into what was then a gap between Service Merchandise & the Army Surplus Store next door. “Thank you, God, for keeping us safe,” I prayed aloud again. While I was a Christian, at that point in time it was never my custom to pray aloud when I was alone but I felt prompted to do so. I sat there for nearly 10 minutes, to make sure that he was not going to re-appear. Finally, I decided that he must have gone back there to drink or do drugs, & it was obvious that he had now forgotten me. So I got out of the van, & went around to the middle passenger door to unstrap my baby son from his car seat. I had him in my arms, & was reaching for my diaper bag, which had my check book in it, when I looked up & saw this same man, with a crazed, unearthly expression contorting his face, headed back towards me, & this time, he was RUNNING!!! “Dear God, please keep us from harm!” I prayed aloud again as I literally threw my son into the floor of the van (no time to strap him into his seat) & jumped in behind him. I was in such a hurry that the diaper bag got caught, & as I slammed the door again a sharp metal prong made rough contact with my thigh, leaving a grapefruit sized bruise that lasted for a couple of months. I locked the door, got upright on my knees to see where he was, then grabbed my keys & my son & climbed into the driver’s seat. I was preparing to drive away, without placing my son back into his car seat. However, what I saw next froze me in my tracks.

My son was crying loudly, not from being hurt, but because of the abrupt way that I had tossed him into the van had scared him. I was trembling like I had never trembled before. Shaking uncontrollably, I finally jammed the keys once again into the ignition, only to look ahead & see him attacking a lady that was older than me. He was wrestling with her, trying to shove her back inside her shiny new silver Buick Regal sedan that was parked facing me, but across the main aisle into the parking lot, & one space over to my right. The woman was resisting him, & putting up quite a fight, but I had a very sick feeling in the pit of my stomach: there was no way that she could win that fight without some sort of assistance. Unfortunately, I had my baby in my arms, so there was no way that I could help her fight, & besides, this guy was not only very large, but he had the added adrenaline that only a mindless, crazy lunatic possesses when they are on a rampage. At one point, he had her nearly shoved back into the car, but she somehow broke her way out of it, & she was pushing, clawing, shoving & hitting him as he was trying to manhandle her back in there. All I knew to do was PRAY: “Dear God, please SAVE HER!! Please send help! Dear God, please SAVE HER! Please do not let her get hurt!” Over & over & over again until I saw him tear the shirt off of her shoulder. “Think, Lou! THINK!! What can you do??” My baby was still crying, & as I was still praying aloud, I turned on my headlights & sat on my horn. I mean I pushed down on that horn & did not let off of it, so it would not sound like a car alarm. And I kept praying out loud, over & over & over as I watched the drama continue to unfold in what seemed to be almost slow motion.

No other new vehicles had arrived in the parking lot since I had been there, trust me, I know because I had sat there listening to the radio & observing everything while waiting to make sure it was all right to get out of the van & go into the store. So I have no earthly idea where this man came from, only that he appeared suddenly, seemingly from out of the blue. He was a very small man, short in stature, with sandy brown hair, & was not very muscular. I thought that he was no match for the monster he was trying to fight. The demonic man was still attacking the lady, & the man who had come to her rescue was somehow able to keep him from shoving one or both of them back into that Buick. I just kept honking my horn & praying – back then Moms did not carry cell phones in their purses, & since I was only working part time, I did not own one of those devices, which were still relatively expensive for the general public to own.

I then saw another man running from the store to assist the lady & the gentleman who had stepped in to help her. An amazing struggle ensued, & the man was angrier than ever, so it took both of the men to pull him away from the woman. After they did that, the maniacal man jumped into her car, & the other 2 men tried their best to drag him back out of the car, but to no avail. He started driving that car straight towards my van. Not only was I witnessing one of my city’s first, if not THE first carjacking of that nature, but I was about to be run into by the man who was not driving straight in his attempt to flee. So I did the only thing I could do in that situation: I prayed yet again. As the car barely missed my van, I jumped out, crying babe still in my arms, & I was able to get the ladies’ car tag number. I still remember the first 4 letters & numbers: 47 SR … I started repeating that tag number aloud over & over, & my baby began to calm down. Astoundingly, woman talking on a cell phone pulled into the lot a couple of spaces from where I was standing. Her window was cracked so I ran over to her & just kept repeating that tag number. “WHAT?” She asked? “Call the POLICE now! Give them this tag number – 47 SR …”. Maybe it was because I was a female, or perhaps it was because she saw my flustered little boy, but she called the police without further question. There must have been one or more units at the gas station about a block away, because they gave immediate pursuit.

Within a couple more minutes, a patrol car came to the parking lot where we were all standing, checking on the lady who had been attacked. By Divine intervention, she was unharmed save for a few bruises & her torn shirt. The police officers took all of our statements, & the man who had come running out of the store revealed himself to be the Assistant Store Manager. He said at first he looked out & saw what was going on, & thought it was “just a domestic dispute”, but when he heard my persistent horn, he knew it must be something else, which prompted him to run out & help. (Sadly, back in those days, & even today, many people will not get involved in domestic disputes.)

The police officers said that they had apprehended the suspect, but asked us to all remain there for a few more minutes. I knew I needed to go & pick up my daughter soon from pre-school, so I used the phone in the store to call & let them know that I might be a little late, & then I went ahead & purchased the double stroller that I had come to buy. When I came back out of the store, the officer told me, “We got him, so it is safe for you to go home now.” I started questioning the officer, because I was afraid that the man might come after me if I had to testify against him in court. “Ma’am that is not going to happen.” I wondered how he could be so certain, but went to claim my daughter, then headed straight home, with a couple of my errands unfinished, because I was too shaken to go elsewhere.

I was dumbfounded & numb. After I got home I called my husband at that time, then I called a neighbor to tell her what had happened so she could be on the lookout for this man, in case he got out on bail. “Lou,” she said, “They just showed that on TV as Breaking News. He’s dead.” Apparently the man had crashed the lady’s brand new Buick Regal down an embankment during the high speed police chase, & he was killed immediately upon impact because he was not wearing a seatbelt. I called the police to confirm, & they said that they could not release that information to us while we were at the store, due to the fact that they had to await confirmation from the coroner. I broke down sobbing. A man was dead. And I had played a part in his death. I started playing the “WHAT IF” game in my mind: “What if I had left the store the 1st or 2nd times he approached me?” “What if I had not been so set on getting that stroller that day?” “What if I had not gotten that license plate number?” “What if I had not asked that woman to call the police on her cell phone?” “WHAT IF???”

When I read his obituary a couple of days later, I thought I was going to lose it, because I realized that he was survived by people, meaning that, though all I saw was a Demon, he had a mother, a father, & a sister. He was in his late 20’s. He was 6’2” tall, & weighed 225 pounds. He lived in Athens. All of these details I gleaned from newspaper accounts & his obituary. I still have those clippings somewhere, & if I could easily lay my hands on them, I would upload them, but it is probably best to let whatever Demon that possessed him stay dead & buried.

I followed up with the police department, & the detective told me that he had no public history of violence, & the only record he had was for a robbery that was not armed. (I did not recall seeing any weapon on him that day.) And I felt even worse that I had somehow been involved in his death. I broke down crying that Sunday in class, & my class mates assured me that the man was “Evil, & got what he deserved.” I was struggling to make sense of it all. I was the intended victim of, & the witness to a violent crime. I spoke to the lady that he attacked, & she recounted the vile profanity that he used to threaten her, & said that he wanted it ALL: her car, her money, & to rape her. Then it hit me: “WHAT IF he had attacked me, & not her – he would have carjacked my van with MY BABY inside it!!” I did not feel as sorry for him anymore, although I did feel sorry for his bereaved family. I had developed a post-traumatic stress issue: I was afraid to go out alone anymore. But my husband, who I seldom saw eye to eye with, insisted that I go alone, as scheduled, to J,C. Penney’s that Friday to look at baby picture proofs. I did not want to go, & knew I could get a friend to tag along, but I knew that he was right. I needed to face this fear. What were the odds of it happening again? Besides, the worst was over. But I was terrified to go out, so when Friday arrived my first stop was to buy some pepper guard spray. After I went to buy the photos, I went by Service Merchandise to thank the Assistant Manager for his bravery & help. I asked if he knew the name of the other man that had helped him fight off the attacker. “What other man?” he asked me quizzically.

When I got home I called the detective assigned to the case back & asked if he could please get me in touch with the 2nd man. He informed me that he had no record of a 2nd man who helped fight off the attacker. Thinking he did not want to breach privacy, I asked him if he would please call the man off of his statement, & see if that man would call me back instead. “Ma’am, I have no record of any man fighting off the suspect other than the store manager.”

I let this sink in for a bit, I KNOW what I SAW, & it was NOT my imagination!! Did the man flee the scene before the police arrived for some reason? I remembered how he had appeared instantaneously, & seemingly out of nowhere. He had no car. How could he have disappeared without anyone noticing? He was not in the newspaper account, either. (However I only appeared as the “woman he had been watching,” so the article was not a complete & detailed accounting.) Who that man was, how he came to be there, & why he does not appear in any records is a mystery to this day. You are free to draw your own conclusions. I know what I believe happened that day.

I was witness to a battle that was both real & spiritual. I started out praying for the welfare of me & my baby, but ended up interceding on behalf of a total stranger. I battled a demon in that parking lot. Whether he was insane, addicted to drugs, alcohol, or whatever, that man was definitely demon possessed. Though he was human, he was battling demons of his own. And because he was also human, he lost his life in the process. Because I am also only human, I was unable to battle that man or his demon(s) alone, so I called on the only One that I know who can do that. Thankfully, when battling God, the Devil never wins.

I still go to that parking lot on a regular basis: I shop for office supplies at the Office Depot next door. Though I knew that man was dead, for several years after this transpired, though I was armed with my pepper spray, I would always sit & wait until I saw another customer heading into that store before I would exit my vehicle, just in case there was another demon lurking there. For some reason I thought that maybe the Devil has certain areas, people, or places that he targets. And sure enough, the past few months I have found myself fighting yet another spiritual battle on that same spot, although this time it is inside the building, which is now a Church, rather than a store. Long before that Church ever came to be there, or was even in existence, I would pray, whenever I passed that spot, that God would make something GOOD happen on that spot which would eradicate the EVIL that I had witnessed there. I was not thinking about anything specific, let alone a Church, just that I hoped & prayed somehow that God would further claim that spot of ground where lives were forever changed by evil into something good. Never did I imagine that a Church, which has changed immeasurable lives for the better, would spring forth on that same spot.

Last year, I began attending that Church with a tall, large, confident & brave man that I knew would protect me should a demon or man possessed appear on the scene, so I was not concerned about what I might meet in that parking lot. Yet when circumstances changed & I began going there by myself, I felt a familiar twinge of fear tug on my heart. The space between the buildings where the man went to hide, watch & wait for his opportunity to strike? It is now inside the building. I have sat inside that sanctuary, paralyzed by fear, wondering exactly where inside that building is the same spot where Evil was lurking that day. The sanctuary is pretty dark during the service, which can be disconcerting for someone like myself that grew up in a more traditional Church, & at times it made me uncomfortable when I first started attending there, primarily because of the crime I once witnessed there. Not knowing not what to do, except to pray to God to please keep me safe, that is what I would do. Eventually I realized that God is still stronger than any demon, & that “wherever two or more are gathered in His name, He is there.”


I have also gone to task with the Devil there in that sanctuary, on behalf of others that I have witnessed battling demons of their own. Doing battles with demons is very scary business, let me tell you, because they have nothing to lose, & do not care who gets hurt in the process. But God has convinced me that I do not need to be afraid. The leaders of this Church actually have the guts to talk about how Jesus & His disciples cast out demons, healed the sick, & other things that are found in the New Testament. And they are not fearful, for they know that God has the power & authority to cast out demons. I continue to go to that place & pray for people I know who are plagued by the demons of Disease, Depression, Alcoholism, Infidelity, Drug-Addiction, the Past, etc., knowing that demons CAN BE defeated. I have witnessed it first hand. Now, whenever I find myself in that parking lot alone, on the few occasions when that incident crosses my mind, I smile to myself, & think, “Get behind me where you belong, Satan! God has my back!! We’ve beaten you before, & we can beat you again, so you might as well give up & go away.” I have even volunteered at the Food Distribution Center there for the homeless, knowing that some of them are battling some of these same demons. But it is like most anything else, once you have faced the fear, it no longer owns you, & I know that God still has my back! And something else I want to share from that incident – you can intercede in prayer for people when they cannot hear you, & do not even know that you are doing it, & those prayers can still be answered!! I saw it happen on that May Day on 1994, & I have seen it happen many times since then, as well. 

Please know that one day, you, too, may find yourself face to face with a demon in a parking lot, inside a building, or perhaps even inside yourself. I hope that what I experienced never happens to you, but there are all sorts of demons in this world. But guess what? I know Someone that will fight for you. He may even send you a mysterious helper to battle alongside you. And guess what else? If you have the right back up, the Devil NEVER wins!!!

“We are more than conquerors through Him who loves us; For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, not any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all of Creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” ~ Romans 8:37-39

~ L.L.S.

Note: This is a TRUE story, & the events are all factual.

TWELVE HUGS

TWELVE HUGS

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I am a hugger. I love to give, as well as receive, hugs. I have always been an affectionate person, and I think that giving a person a hug is a great way to express one’s fondness for them. I have always hugged my kids, and one of my favorite things to do when they were babies and toddlers was to rock them until they fell asleep, then sit in the recliner with them snuggled up against me, listening to the sound of their breathing as they slept. Those moments were some of the most tranquil of my life.

I love to give hugs to my friends, both male and female, even if I have seen them just the day before. Granted, some of the hugs are closer than others; some are “side hugs”, while others are straight on hugs, depending upon how well I know the individual. I even extend my hugs into my professional life. I have gone to many luncheons where I go around “collecting hugs” as I call it, from all that I know. Once, I went to the place of business of a personal friend of mine whom I had not known that long. As she greeted me at the door to her building & was preparing to escort me to the person with whom she had arranged a meeting for me, I reached out to give her a hug, just as I would had we met for coffee. She recoiled as if I were a snake or something. “PLEASE,” she exclaimed, “My bosses’ office is right there!” Now to me, that would have made no difference whatsoever, as I have even given my boss a rare side hug when I have not seen him in awhile. However, my friend apparently thought that hugging in public was less than professional. I was not offended in the slightest, but did feel a twinge of pity for her, thinking about how much she was missing out on. Yet I do realize that not everyone is “touchy-feely” like me.

I have even hugged the odd occasional stranger. Yes, I have indeed hugged total strangers – people that I had just met that were in pain, sad, or lonely. While these are among the most awkward hugs, they can be the most rewarding. Not too long ago I had to book an appointment with a new hairdresser at my salon, because my own hairdresser was unavailable. This young lady was pretty much an emotional mess on that day. She still holds the title of being the only hairdresser in all of these years that I have ever asked to re-do my hair. I simply could not go out in public with my hair looking the way it did after she half-heartedly & haphazardly styled it. At first I was a bit irritated by her distractedness, but as I sat there observing her in the mirror as she worked on my hair, I noticed the deep, deep sadness reflected from her eyes, and I began to talk to her. It turned out that she was in the middle of a messy divorce which involved a custody battle with her child. Having just endured a rather messy divorce myself, I could of course empathize with her, and used my remaining time in her chair to minister to her. After she had re-done my hair for the third time, I decided it was not going to look any better, and rose from the chair to go to my business appointment. Something made me hesitate and offer a hug to this girl I barely knew. The way she clung to me and sobbed is still etched into my mind, & it was definitely worth the delay I had to experience while she fumbled with her attempts to style my hair.

 

I have, upon occasion, even hugged people who have come into my home to perform service & repairs. One that stands out in my mind is the slight little man that came to extract the sock that was clogging one of the inlets of my central vacuum system. (Lest one of my kids think I am trying to blame that misadventure on them, let me clarify that I am the one that sucked the sock up into the vacuum! Who knew that there would be a sock behind the headboard of the bed?) Anyway, this gentleman had both installed the vacuum system & repaired it previously. I noticed that he did not appear to be his usual cheerful self, so I asked him about this. I found out that he was about to close down his central vac repair business due to the country’s economic crisis having an adverse effect on his business. Since this was his part time job on his off-duty hours from being a fireman, he said that he could no longer afford the insurance & licensing. He told me, with sorrow in his eyes, that I had been his very first customer when he had started the business eight years earlier, and that now I was his very last customer. I took this man’s hands, right there in my kitchen, & prayed for him. Afterwards, I reached out and gave him a hug. I shall always recall the look of surprised gratitude that an upper middle class white woman would stop and pray with an African-American male who was there to service her vacuum system. To me, he was just another hurting human being in need of the human touch.

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to remain upset or angry with someone when they are hugging you? I have some times found that, when I really want to apologize or make amends with someone, that a hug is a good place to start. If they are not receptive to that, then a hug is a good way to end the conversation! Come up and hug me, and I will most assuredly be much more open to what you have to say.

Recently, I have learned to give virtual ((HUGS)) via social media and texts to people who need them. It is a ministry of mine to pray for my Facebook friends. I take the privilege of lifting them up in prayer seriously. I know I always feel my spirits lift a little whenever I am the recipient of one of these virtual ((HUGS)). However, they are just not the same as the real thing.

Last week I met a business associate for lunch. She got to the restaurant before me, and was already seated at a table as I entered the establishment. As I started toward the table where she was seated, I spied a lady who is the mother of one of my former in-laws. While we had shared many a Thanksgiving dinner together when I was married to my ex-husband, I had not laid eyes on her in over two years, which is when I first filed for a divorce. I thought that speaking to her might be a bit awkward. Still, I had loved this woman, and I also knew that she had been fighting cancer. I sat my purse down beside my chair, and offering an apology to my dining companion, whom I had know only via phone and email up until that moment, went over to this woman’s table. After the exchange of token pleasantries, I said to her, “I hate to rush off, but I am here on business. I just really wanted to say hello, and come give you a hug.” She unsteadily rose from her seat and gave me a hug, and with tears in her eyes, she thanked me for it, telling me, “Thank you so much! My doctor tells me I need twelve hugs every single day.” I looked at her, fully aware that she was retired and lived alone, and wondered how on earth she can collect all of those hugs each day? “In that case,” I said, “Let me give you another one!” She smiled broadly as I did so. After my meeting was over, I thought about the twelve hugs she said that she needed daily as I drove to my next appointment. That is an awful lot of hugs!

I am not a doctor, and I do not have my own prescription for a minimum number of daily hugs, but I do know that most people are starving for the human touch. Truthfully, that was always one of the things I liked best about going to Church – in a Church in the South you can easily collect ten or more hugs from the moment your feet hit the parking lot until the minute your rear end settles into the pew. If you do not get them, then there is always the greeting time or after the service for making up your deficit. If you go to Sunday School, you may be able to get your entire weeks’ quota of hugs right there on Sunday morning!

But in this day and age of high technology when many people work from home and never even go to an office, people are often very isolated as they go about their days. Rushing to and fro, there is not time to hug even their spouses or kids. I believe that the lack of enough affection in our daily lives increases the effects of stress. Which leads me to one of my favorite stress relievers: my bi-weekly pedicures!

Vincent is a tiny, middle-aged Vietnamese man who must most certainly buy his cotton polo style shirts in the boys’ department. He speaks very little English, but he is my favorite technician at my nail salon. This may seem odd for an extrovert like myself, but since I spend so much of my day talking to others and doing presentations, when I go to get my nails done, I just want to relax. I’ve gone to Vincent for a couple of years now, and his strong hands know just how to pull the stresses of the week from the knots in my legs and feet. Though he does not have a good grasp of my language, he has a great sense of humor, and likes to tease me when I ask him to make the water warmer by acting like he is not going to do so. But though he does not speak much English, he knows the non-verbal cues I send out, such as when I am feeling especially stressed. I went to see him a day after I saw the lady who needs twelve hugs per day to help her fight her cancer. I was very busy with work, and feeling guilty about taking time to have my toe nails done, so I was busy on my smart phone answering and sending emails when Vincent suddenly tilted my chair back. “You not gonna ‘RE-LAH’?” he asked. At that, I smiled, and handed him my phone to tuck down inside my purse. As he began to massage my legs, I closed my eyes and contemplated how that is my favorite part of the pedicure, and is the part that keeps me going back for more. I can paint my own nails. But I cannot massage my own feet. How sad that our society has come to a place where we are too busy for each other, and how that causes us to go outside our family units to places where we pay for the human touch!

Yes, I have hugged Vincent before. I did so when I slipped him a twenty dollar bill for a Christmas gift once. I did so the second time when I saw him distressed one day. Though I tried to understand his broken English, I could not quite make out what was bothering him. Therefore, I had no words of comfort to offer. But I did have a hug!

Today I think I received about five hugs, all in a business capacity. How I wish that my babies were still little, so I could get my hug quota from them! How I long for the days when my little two year old son would come stand at my feet, and looking up at me, implore, “Momma, I want to hold you!” Of course, that meant that he wanted me to pick him up, and I always did so. I think I liked the ensuing hug more than he did!!

I wonder how many hugs I am supposed to get each day? I’ve read the articles which explain that they release oxytocin, and that is why we like them so much. Some say that healthy individuals need four hugs each day; others say five; and some say ten! Regardless of whom you believe, I think it is impossible to have too many!!

So here, reader, is the challenge: see just how many hugs you can dispense today, knowing that each hug will not only make the recipient feel better, but will go toward your daily requirement as well. You just never know – you may be hugging someone whose doctor has ordered them to get twelve per day, and if so, that means you will be part of the medicine that they need to help them win their battle. Or, perhaps you may be giving someone their ONLY hug for the day, or even the week. ONE, TWO, THREE …TWELVE HUGS. READY, SET, GO …!

~ L.L.S.