Many of you who have seen me sing "Not Guilty" live have asked me for a copy of the following story. Matthew West, Sam Mizell, and I wrote "Not Guilty" after I shared this email I had received with them. I was so moved by the grace and forgiveness of God that I wanted to put this very moving story to music. That writing session was so powerful it left one of us in tears (hint: it wasn't me)! Hope you enjoy!
After living what I felt was a 'decent' life, my time on earth came to the end. The first thing I remember is sitting on a bench in the waiting room of what I thought to be a court house. The doors opened and I was instructed to come in and have a seat by the defense table. As I looked around I saw the 'prosecutor.' He was a villainous looking gent who snarled as he stared at me. He definitely was the most evil person I have ever seen. I sat down and looked to my left and there sat My Attorney, a kind and gentle looking man whose appearance seemed so familiar to me, I felt I knew Him. The corner door flew open and there appeared the Judge in full flowing robes. He commanded an awesome presence and as He moved across the room I couldn't take my eyes off of Him. As He took His seat behind the bench, He said, 'Let us begin.' The prosecutor rose and said, 'My name is Satan and I am here to show you why this woman belongs in hell.' He proceeded to tell of lies that I told, things that I stole, and in the past when I cheated others. Satan told of other horrible perversions that were once in my life and the more he spoke, the further down in my seat I sank. I was so embarrassed that I couldn't look at anyone, even my own Attorney, as the Devil told of sins that even I had completely forgotten about. As upset as I was at Satan for telling all these things about me, I was equally upset at My Attorney who sat there silently not offering any form of defense at all. I know I had been guilty of those things, but I had done some good in my life - couldn't that at least equal out part of the harm I'd done? Satan finished with a fury and said, 'This woman belongs in hell, she is guilty of all that I have charged and there is not a person who can prove otherwise. When it was His turn, My Attorney first asked if He might approach the bench. The Judge allowed this over the strong objection of Satan, and beckoned Him to come forward. As He got up and started walking, I was able to see Him in His full splendor and majesty. I realized why He seemed so familiar; this was Jesus representing me, my Lord and my Savior. He stopped at the bench and softly said to the Judge, 'Hi, Dad,' and then He turned to address the court. 'Satan was correct in saying that this woman had sinned, I won't deny any of these allegations. And, yes, the wage of sin is death, and this woman deserves to be punished.' Jesus took a deep breath and turned to His Father with outstretched arms and proclaimed, 'However, I died on the cross so that this person might have eternal life and she has accepted Me as her Savior, so she is Mine. Her name is written in the book of life and no one can snatch her from Me. Satan still does not understand yet. This woman is not to be given justice, but rather mercy.' As Jesus sat down, He quietly paused, looked at His Father and said, 'There is nothing else that needs to be done. I've done it all.' The Judge lifted His mighty hand and slammed the gavel down. The following words bellowed from His lips... “The penalty for this woman has already been paid in full. Case dismissed. This woman is free.”
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Ok, ok...it wasn't exactly fat camp, but that is how I jokingly referred to it among my friends. I'll explain, but first, let me back up and give you a little history.
I love the holidays. Family, friends, and FOOD!!! Well needless to say, the food did me in. I gained so much weight during November and December it was ridiculous! I didn't weigh myself but knew that I packed on at least 15lbs. With the Grammy's coming up January 31 I was desperate to shed them. But there was something else. I felt out of balance. Distant from the Lord. No desire to spend time in His word or to pray. I needed to refocus my priorities and get away.
I called The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge...booked til June! I figured surely there were other places like this elsewhere so I took to my trusty friend google. When I googled "Fat camp" I quickly discovered that that expression was a bit outdated and mainly catered to children (I always did want to go to fat camp as a kid). I searched instead for "Fitness retreat" and several websites appeared. Utah, Texas, Florida...hmmmm Florida..in January...SIGN ME UP!
Vita Vie Retreat appeared to be just what I was looking for. Beach environment, tasty menu, vigorous exercise, and ZUMBA!!! I was sold. I made my reservation online, booked my flight, and was headed to Florida.
I landed in Palm Beach sluggish from my extra pounds but excited about the step I was taking to shed them. I was also looking forward to shutting out the world for 6 days and spending concentrated time with Jesus. No twitter, no email, no television.
After checking in to the Marriott Monday I made my way down to the workout room for our first session. There I met Margot and Mark (the retreat directors), and my fellow sojourners Shannon and Kimberly. (The next day we met Noreen who had been there a week already.) Our first session was right up my alley. I know I'm a big girl but I know my way around an elliptical and a treadmill. Still what Mark brought was out of my box so I knew it would be a challenging week. I had no idea....
For the next 5 days I heaved, grunted, and sweat my way through line drills, Pilate's (yuck), looooong walks on the beach sand (which is no easy task for a girl my size) for a total of 5 hours per day. These were Biggest Loser style workouts. The only thing missing was a cussing Jillian yelling in my face!
After the first day I called a couple of my friends and asked "What have I gotten myself into?" I didn't think I was gonna make it. I even proclaimed a few times during my beach workouts that Mark was trying to kill me. I told him that all of the people out on the beach were gonna get him because there would soon be a pile of Black Woman lying in the sand. He didn't seem to believe me...and I survived...barely!
With all of my sore muscles, defeated attitude, and raging hormones, I was desperate for the Lord. That certainly made reconnecting with him in the evenings a little easier. I begged Him to help me get through this week. Pleaded to help me return to the first love we shared when we first met. And eventually, I started to recognize His voice again. He even blessed me during my last full day of workouts. On Friday night I didn't know how I was going to get through a 2-hour beach hike the next morning. And I certainly could not imagine repeating the 1-hour Sports Conditioning on the beach again. The thought of that made me want to call the airline and change my flight to leave early. But as I shared my concerns with my Father Friday I felt a sense of peace that whatever happened the next and final day of my retreat, I would be able to endure it. I woke up the next morning, open my curtains, I beheld the loveliest sight these brown eyes have ever seen.....RAIN!!! He is faithful!!!
Margot and Mark knew I would be so happy to learn that the schedule had been changed. Don't get me wrong. It wasn't easy. But I could handle it. And I did!
As I type this blog, I am in the Palm Beach airport on my way back home. I have joy, peace, a healthy relationship with my Lord, and am 12.5lbs healthier than I was Monday!
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength! Philippians 4:13
P.S. If your are looking for a similar get away, I HIGHLY recommend Vita Vie. For more information click here. Tell them I sent ya!