VL - Issue 34 - January 2020

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The Power of Prayer

El Poder de la Oración


Gift of





Issue 01 / 2020




We provide testimonies of God’s

faithfulness and an opportunity for

inmates to receive further support

from our correspondence team.

Will you help us

carry out God’s

command to remember

those in prison?

Every inmate who writes to

our ministry receives personal

correspondence, quarterly

Bible teachings, and a personal

subscription to our magazine.

Since 2013, the lives of over

one million inmates have been

impacted because of the generous

support of partners like you.



to make a tax-deductible

gift today.

Or call 352-478-2098

or text VLM to 77977 and

follow the prompts.

Are you an inmate who

needs encouragement?

Write to:

VL Correspondence

PO Box 328

Starke, FL 32091


I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you

not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create

rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

Publisher & Executive Director

Kristi Overton Johnson

Director of Partner Care & Development

Pat Avery

Chief Photographer

Jomarys Leon–Lorenzo


Rachel Overton

Spanish Editors

Karissa Anderson

Debby Ramirez

Creative Designer

Lauren Jones

Executive Project Manager

Amber Katynski

Social Media Manager

Jomarys Leon–Lorenzo

Digital Content Manager

Roman Randall

Contributing Writers

Sharon Aspinall

Shawn Aspinall

Tina M. Brown

Linda Cubbedge-Smith

BJ Emerson

Dori Greeson

Gene Greeson

Lindsay A. Haugen

Kristi Overton Johnson

Robert Lowery III

Stanley McGraw

Kenny Munds

Mary Ann

Russell John Nestor

Rachel Overton


Cover Photography

Dear Dee Photography


Dear Dee Photography

Geri Simpkins Photography

Jomarys Leon-Lorenzo

Director of Prison Correspondence

Linda Cubbedge-Smith

Accounting Manager

Gizella Guba

Victorious Living magazine is a publication

of Kristi Overton Johnson Ministries, a 501c3 organization.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible,

New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation.

Scripture marked NIV is taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®,

NIV®, copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Scripture marked NKJV

is taken from the New King James Version®, copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Scripture marked NVI is taken from la Santa Biblia, Nueva Versión Internacional®

NVI®, copyright © 1999, 2015 por Biblica, Inc.®, Inc.® Usado con permiso de Biblica,

Inc.® All Scripture used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


General and Subscription Inquiries

• Victorious Living

PO Box 120951, Clermont, FL 34712-0951

• 352-478-2098 • admin@vlmag.org

All Inmate Correspondence

Victorious Living Correspondence Outreach

PO Box 328, Starke, FL 32091


Issue 01 / 2020


“When I found VL, I was

in a place of absolute

despair. God used your

magazine to bring me

hope for my future.”


“Your stories always

remind me that God

still loves me; He will

never abandon me.”


“Reading VL is like reading

my own story. I have faith

that if God can help your

authors, He can do the

same for me.”














Trusting God as Your

World Crumbles



Overcome Loneliness



Trusting God: Your First

Step to Wholeness


The inability to change her son’s

heart condition brought Sharon to

a new level of trust in God.




Try a Little Kindness


What Do I Know To Be True

about God?


God Will Help You




Mary Ann had tried many things

to make herself feel complete, but

nothing worked until she turned her

mind and heart over to God.

Deal with Deadly Emotions


Verbally and sexually abused by

those who should have loved her,

Tiffany turned to self-harm to relieve

the pain she felt inside.




The Gift of Forgiveness




Amazing things happen when we

forgive those who have committed

grievous crimes against us.

Change the Equation

of Your Life




Hold Out Your Hand


Change Your Course


Finding Your Eternal Value




Resisting Temptation


Counting on your own resources

to overcome temptation often

leads to failure. With God’s help,

however, success can be yours.


Robby taught his

parents, Dori and

Gene Greeson,

much about the

power of God’s

gift of love and

forgiveness, but

they didn’t fully

comprehend the

magnitude of that

gift until they

encountered a





Your life will reflect the choices

you make. For lasting change,

surround yourself with godly

people and wholesome activities.

The Power of Prayer


God has given BJ Emerson and his

father, Allen, an incredible story

of restoration and hope. Together,

they share it with all who will hear.

30 El Poder de la Oracion



Dios les a dado a BJ Emerson y

su padre una historia increíble de

restauración y esperanza. Juntos

la comparten con todos los que



Publisher’s Note

You Are Not Out!



From the Father

I Am for You

Going Deeper

Resisting Temptation


Issue 01 / 2020



You Are Not Out!

VL Publisher, Kristi

Overton Johnson,

visits prisons across

America, encouraging

the hearts of inmates

and connecting them

with the ministries of

Victorious Living.

If you are interested in having Kristi

visit your organization or facility,

call Pat Avery at 352-478-2098.

elcome to Issue 1 of 2020. I

trust you will be encouraged

by the stories contained in

these pages. These are stories

from ordinary people—people just like you

and me—who have overcome extraordinary

trials. Their stories remind us that

God is real and very much at work in the

lives of His children today.

God never promised that His children

would experience easy, pain-free lives. To

the contrary, in John 16:33, Jesus said that

all God’s children would have trials and

sorrows. Nevertheless, we are not without

hope, because we know Jesus has overcome

every trial and sorrow we will ever


Sure, we get knocked around by life’s

turbulent waters; we might even find ourselves

temporarily knocked down from

time to time. But as children of God, we

are never knocked out!

Isaiah 43 says that when we go through

deep water, God is with us. When we go

through rivers of difficulty, we will not

drown. Why? Because we are precious to

God; we are His children, and He loves us

(Isaiah 43:1–4).

Our situations are not indications of

God’s love or lack of it. So many people

assume that trials mean God doesn’t care.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

God settled His love for us long ago when

Jesus died and rose again (John 3:16).

What trials do mean, however, is that we

have a real enemy who hates us, who seeks

to kill, steal, and destroy everything good

God ever intended us to have (John 10:10).

The good news is that nothing and no

one in this world can destroy a child of

God. Romans 8:37 promises that despite

hardships, we have an overwhelming victory

through Christ, who loves us.

Are you ready to start experiencing victory?

You can. Despite what you’ve been

through, you can move forward stronger,

wiser, and closer to your heavenly Father

than ever. If you put your life in God’s

hands, if you choose to trust Him and

surrender your future to Him, He will do

incredible things. God is powerful and,

according to Ephesians 3:20, He is “able,

through his mighty power at work within

us, to accomplish infinitely more than we

might ask or think.”

Friend, no matter where you are, your

life is not over. It’s just beginning!

This might sound crazy, but I think that

after you read these amazing stories, you’ll

see it’s true. God cares deeply about you

and your situation—even if you caused it.

He is ready right now to help you move

forward out of your pain so you can experience

something incredible this year.

Before I close, I want to thank you for

supporting this magazine, Victorious Living.

Your financial partnership enables us to

deliver hope to some of the most hopeless

places in the world—like prison. Currently,

this magazine is distributed in over 160

prison facilities across the United States.

Further, your support enables us to mentor

inmates through correspondence and

to connect them with our partners who

can help them transition into free society.

If you aren’t a current supporter, will you

consider helping us invade the darkness

of prison with the light of Christ through

the stories in this magazine? In 2020, we

aim to add another 50 prison facilities for

distribution of this quarterly publication.

Thank you for helping us deliver the living

hope that has the power to change both

lives and communities.

Kristi Overton Johnson

Publisher & Executive Director






Issue 01 / 2020



originally. Likewise, we can fill our lives with busyness

and superficial relationships and find some temporary

relief, but once we stop being busy or that relationship

no longer exists, we snap right back to those feelings.

Loneliness will never be solved with substitution; we must

address the emptiness.

Simply said, nothing on earth—not money, sex, drugs,

careers, athletics, people, or anything else—can give you

peace and fill the void in you that leads to loneliness.

Only God can cure our

feelings of loneliness, and

when He does, we realize

that we were never alone.





world I once knew, it’s easy to fall into feelings of loneliness.

I can be surrounded by hundreds of people all day long,

even interact with many of them, but still feel alone. Have

you ever felt that way?

So how can we change or deal with these feelings? I believe

the best way to approach this subject is to start with

looking at what will not help. Once we understand that, it’s

easier to see what will help.

Often when we’re lonely, we turn to activities and relationships

to fill the void. Those things may temporarily

alleviate loneliness, but when we use them to combat a

greater problem, it’s like putting a Band-Aid on a deep

wound. It might cover the wound, but it won’t help it heal.

Lonely feelings are spiritual and are deeply rooted.

Loneliness is like a rubber band. You can stretch one, but

as soon as you let it go, it snaps right back to what it was

The world says humanistic psychology or therapy

will do it, but it won’t. Someone once said, “There’s a

hole in our soul so big that only God can fill it.” Only

God can cure our feelings of loneliness, and when He

does, we realize that we were never alone.

So how do we overcome our loneliness through God?

We draw near to Him. When we do, He draws near to

us (James 4:8). We start believing what He says in His

Word, that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews

13:5). That means, wherever we are, He is!

If Jesus loved us enough to leave the glory and splendor

of heaven to come to earth to die in our place, isn’t

that proof of how far He is willing to go in His love for

us? Proverbs 18:24 NIV says, “there is a friend who

sticks closer than a brother,” and that friend is Jesus.

Whether you are in an actual prison or a virtual one

brought about through feelings of loneliness and depression,

let the “God of hope fill you with all joy and

peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow

with hope” (Romans 15:13 NIV). If there’s one thing

I’ve learned along this journey of many years in prison,

it’s that we are never alone; Jesus longs to comfort and

strengthen us.

Draw close to Him today through prayer—through

simple conversation with the God who loves you. Let

Him fill that void as He draws you close to Himself.

There is no loneliness in His presence.

RUSSELL JOHN NESTOR serves the Lord in federal prison and

mentors other inmates. He is passionate about helping people

know the God who has given him hope in the midst of trying




Trusting God:

Your First Step to Wholeness



a whole 21 days, when he robbed the First

Tennessee Bank. A good Samaritan followed

him back to where we were staying

and called the authorities. That led to

a three-hour standoff while Jessie had a

shootout with police. I had known Jessie

was a criminal, but I hadn’t expected that

to cost me my freedom. Nevertheless, there

I was, on December 4, 1989, in the Knox

County Jail in Knoxville, Tennessee, facing

charges as an accessory to bank robbery.

Jessie’s actions had knocked all the

soap operas off the air that day, as the

shootout was televised live locally. It was

later shown on other programs like Rescue

911, Trial Watch, and Code 3. A full-spread

photo of Jessie’s surrender was featured

in Time magazine and was listed among

the best photos of 1989.

I was found not guilty in federal court

and pled to a class D felony in state court.

I spent just over 13 months in jail, but I

thank God for that time, because that’s

where He revealed Himself to me. I entered

into a relationship with Him through

His Son, Jesus. I learned how valuable I

am, and how great is the mercy of God.

It’s greater than all my sin.

I discovered that God hears my prayers

and that He is able to change even the most

dire situation. Through the Bible, I came

to know God as my heavenly Father, and

He changed my life. His Word has given

me a foundation of truth and love that no

man or circumstance can ever take away.

I had read many self-help books, held

various jobs, been in and out of relationships

with multiple men, and enjoyed cars,

jewelry, drugs, and sex—but none of it had

ever made me feel whole or complete.

None of it could heal my heart or fill the

emptiness inside me. But Jesus Christ did.

God didn’t waste any time resurrecting

my life once I was released. Would you believe

that He gave me a job training banks?

You tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor!

Only He can take someone accused of

accessory to bank robbery and enable her

to be a client trainer for an international

company that provides services for over

15,000 different banks worldwide.

I’ve had a wonderful career since then,

and have had amazing opportunities to

serve my community. Today, I go into

jails and prisons to share my story with

inmates. I want them to know that God can

fill every void in their life. He can fill yours,

too—you just need to trust Him.

Maybe trusting is hard for you. I understand

that. I had a terrible childhood

filled with much abuse, so I know it can be

difficult to make yourself vulnerable. But

taking that difficult step to trust God with

your life is your first step to wholeness.

God will not fail you. He will not abandon

you. He’ll meet you where you are, and He

will help you. His goodness and mercy will

resurrect your life, just like they did mine.

God has restored everything the enemy

ever took from me and everything I gave

away. He has given me a life far above what

I could have ever dreamed possible. All I

had to do was take that first step.

Take the plunge. Put your trust in God.

What He did for me, He will be faithful to

do for you as well.

MARY ANN has worked for multiple international

organizations in education and training. She is in

the Who’s Who of International Professionals. She

enjoys politics and community activities and has a

passion for prison ministry.


Issue 01 / 2020




any years ago, our son began

making bad choices.

He was still living at home,

so my husband and I made

sure he knew his actions

were unacceptable. But instead

of changing his ways,

he moved out. He wanted to

show us he was old enough to make his

own decisions.

We were crushed. We had tried to be

faithful in serving God and providing well

for our three sons and daughter. We had

never experienced such outright rebellion

before. My husband and I tried many

things to get him back on track. We took

his car from him. We tried to guilt him into

coming back home and doing what was

right. Nothing worked.

I have always prayed for my children,

but this time, I knew I needed to seek the

Lord more diligently. I needed His wisdom;

we obviously weren’t making any headway

with ours.

I prayed. I cried. I poured out my broken

heart to Jesus. He graciously answered,

but not with the words I expected. I heard,

“Just try a little kindness.”

Be kind to our son who was acting so rebelliously

and selfishly? That just seemed

wrong. And I told the Lord that! But God’s

ways are always higher than ours.

In the end, I obeyed the Lord. I knew

that only He knew how to return our son to

the respectful, well mannered, and godly

young man we knew him to be.

Returning his car was the first act of

kindness the Lord led us to do. Then, He

told me to take him shopping. What?! Yes,

I was to be kind and treat him as if he were

the best son ever.

Several months went by without much

change in him—but I was changing. I was

more at peace, and I had more compassion

for my son. I learned to trust God more as

He showed me that our son needed kindness

as he charted his own path through

this world’s stormy waters.



So I continued to be kind. I tried to be

more compassionate and considerate,

generous and thoughtful, as well as patient

and gentle. And then it happened. Our son

asked to come home, and he promised to

do things the right way.

That night, with deep, godly sorrow,

he apologized for mistreating us. It was

a wonderful night, to say the least—a true

answer to our prayers. And it never would

have happened if we hadn’t obeyed the

Lord and been kind to our rebellious son.

Only the Lord knew what was needed to

change our son’s heart and to bring him

back home.

The kindness we extended to our son

brought him to repentance, changed his

ways, and brought him home. Today, he is

serving the Lord in amazing ways.

According to Romans 2:4, God’s kindness

is meant to lead us to repentance.

Repentance is birthed from the presence

of God in the heart of an individual. People

come to realize they need to repent

(change their ways) as they meet the kindness

of God on a daily basis.

Second Corinthians 7:10 (NIV) says,

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that

leads to salvation and leaves no regret,

but worldly sorrow brings death.”

Unless we understand how kind God is toward

us, it will be difficult to extend undeserved

kindness to others.

As the director of the Victorious Living

Prison Correspondence Outreach, I have

found that many of the inmates who write

to us have never experienced the kindness

of God through the actions of their parents.

In fact, some have never experienced it

all, from anyone. This breaks my heart.

The Bible talks a lot about kindness.

Psalm 117:2 says that God’s loving kindness

is great toward us. Psalm 36:7 tells

us it is precious; that it provides us a place

of refuge. So many see God as an angry

Being, full of wrath, eager to punish us for

the least little thing. But that is not our

heavenly Father. God longs to pour out His

kindness on both the just and the unjust.

The Bible also tells us that we, as believers,

should show God’s loving-kindness to

others—yes, even when they don’t deserve

it. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one

another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,

even as God in Christ forgave you.”

Unless we understand how kind God

is toward us, it will be difficult to extend

undeserved kindness to others. But once

we do, amazing things happen.

I prayed for godly sorrow to invade my

son’s heart and bring him to repentance.

God used our kindness to change our son’s

heart, to lead him to express sorrow before

God, and to take responsibility for his actions.

Our goodness toward him showed

him the goodness of God.

Every one of us has opportunity to show

God’s loving-kindness to undeserving

people, just like God does for us. Trust

in His loving-kindness. Let it change you

and help you forgive those who have been

unkind to you.

Kindness is what this world needs. This

world would be a different place if we just

tried a little kindness instead of always

demanding our own way, seeking revenge,

forcing people to do things our way, and

punishing them when they don’t.

Next time you face a difficult person or

situation, try pouring on the kindness. You

might be surprised at how your situation

changes over time. You can make a difference

in the lives of others as you treat

them the way God intends—the same way

He has treated you.



is Victorious Living’s

Prison Correspondence

Outreach Director. She

is passionate about the

Lord and leading others

to Him.


Issue 01 / 2020












As I got older, I chose a lifestyle

that was far from godly. I smoked

cigarettes and marijuana, drank

alcohol, watched pornography,

and slept around.

I remember many nights,

hearing my mom say, “Robby,

you need to turn your life over

to the Lord!” Even intoxicated,

I knew she was right; but I just

didn’t want to do it. To keep my

parents happy though, I kept going

through the motions—I went

to church and even played drums

during the service. But during the

week, I did whatever I wanted.

Yet, God was tugging at my

heart to surrender my life to Him.

I remember smoking weed with a

friend while watching pastors on

television—even then, the Holy

Spirit was drawing me to Himself.

One Sunday, when I was 23

years old, I finally gave way to

Him. I was playing drums for a

special service. Missionary Essie

Jones, a longtime member, was

sharing the importance of turning

one’s life over to Christ, when



she suddenly stopped, turned around, and

pointed her finger right at me.

“Robby,” she said, “you need to turn your

life over to Christ.”

I felt like we were the only two people

in that sanctuary. The Holy Spirit in her

was speaking straight to my spirit, and I

couldn’t turn away from her gaze. I knew it

was time to give my life to God. It was time

to move forward, to go from knowing about

God to knowing Him. I had gone through the

motions long enough.

I got up from the drum set and walked

toward the altar. As I did, the Lord showed

me through a vision how Satan had sought

to destroy my life through my relationships.

I saw the trap houses where I had hung out,

those places where drugs are sold. I saw

strip clubs and heard the music. I saw the

women I had chased after for sex. And then,

God revealed that by immersing myself in

a culture that said I could do whatever I felt

like doing, I had fallen prey to the enemy,

and I was being held captive by him.

I realized that I didn’t want to be Satan’s

captive any longer, and I accepted Jesus

as my Savior and Lord that day. I wasn’t

suddenly gifted with a deep knowledge of

God’s Word; I simply had a revelation that

I needed to change what I did and who I did

it with. I understood that was the only way I

could gain true intimacy with God and stay

clear of the enemy’s traps.

I went to my friend’s house, the one I’d

hung out with since elementary school. I

told him I’d given my life to Christ and that I

couldn’t do the things we used to do together

anymore. Thankfully, he understood, but

that was the last time we hung out.

Not long after, the Lord put on my heart

to move to Orlando. I thought God was giving

me a fresh start by removing me from

the people and places that tempted me.

He opened a door for me to attend a prestigious

automotive school. I’d always loved

cars but never thought I could do anything

with them. I certainly didn’t expect to attend

there because of the cost of tuition. But

then, I received a loan that I never should

have qualified for, based on our family’s financial

position. Who was I to say no?

I moved to Orlando in faith and found

an apartment that provided the first three

months rent free! I could see God’s hand at

work in my life.

I went to school, joined a local church,

and continued to study God’s Word. I

bought a Bible and was doing my best to

understand it. God led me to an evangelist

named Ravi Zacharias. His radio and video

teachings helped me have a deeper understanding

of God’s Word. God used him to

answer deep questions like who created

God and why would a good God allow evil in

the world? Dr. Zacharias was the only person

I had ever heard say, “It’s okay to have

questions.” God used him to move me past

the milk of salvation to the meat of the Word

(1 Corinthians 3:2).

I continued to grow in my faith and tried

my best to live according to God’s Word. My

actions couldn’t save my soul—only Jesus

could do that—but I knew they would keep

me in close fellowship with the Lord.

Three months after I accepted the Lord,

however, I jumped into a relationship with

a girl who I thought for sure was “the one.”

We made the mistake of getting intimate,

and after that experience, I fell into a deep

depression. I believe I opened myself up to

this darkness by choosing to walk in disobedience

to God’s will.

The experience made me realize the

seriousness of following the Lord, and it

gave me more of a dedication to God. I never

wanted to feel that darkness in my life

again. I committed to God that I would remain

pure until He blessed me with a wife.

It would be a long three years of celibacy.

Before this commitment to God to live in

sexual purity, I hadn’t thought much about

the devil, but now it seemed I met him

around every corner. Everything and everyone

that had ever been a source of temptation

in my life was right in front of my face.

I lived in a constant test.

I am still amazed. Before I gave my life to

Christ, I had aggressively sought relationships

with women. I’d viewed pornography

since I was ten years old. I had an appetite

for fast and easy women, but those relationships

didn’t always come easy.

Well, they didn’t, until the day I told God

I would avoid them. After that, women were

coming after me and blatantly asking me to

have sex!

I worked the late shift at a convenience

store near a popular nightclub strip. Women

would come to the station to gas up their

cars before they went clubbing and give

me their numbers. Over and over again, I’d

have to say no to their advances and throw

their numbers away.

One night, I decided I’d had enough. I

took the trash out behind the store and

vented to God by the dumpster.





“Lord, why does this have to be so hard?

Why do I have to keep resisting the same

temptation every single day?” Surely I’d

passed this test by now.

I can’t tell you how many times I knelt

down on the pee-covered bathroom floor at

that store. How many times I cried out amid

the stench—“Oh God, keep me strong! Help

me to keep saying no!” I knew I didn’t want

to go back to who I had been before, but I

couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t just

keep these women away from me. Why did I

have to keep resisting?

I didn’t get an answer from God that

night, but He did give me the strength I

needed to continue to say no. He reminded

me that these women were traps from the

enemy, and recognizing the enemy’s tactics

helped me stay strong.

During this time, I learned the importance

of respecting my flesh.

Just because I was a Christian, that didn’t

mean I could put myself in any situation

and say, “I trust You, God, to get me out of


Issue 01 / 2020







Robert and his wife,

Shantrelle, are

passionate about

embracing their

God-given identity

and purpose while

encouraging others,

including their children,

to do the same.

this mess and keep me strong.” No—I had

to be wise.

Being wise required me to actively set up

boundaries that would keep me from further

tempting myself. The devil tempts me

enough with his devices—why would I want

to add more temptation through disobedience?

I had to restrict myself from watching

certain television shows and movies

and from going places where women were

presented promiscuously. I knew I wasn’t

strong enough to see a woman’s thighs and

resist temptation. I knew I’d want more. So I

protected myself by refusing to allow sexual

images into my mind. This required dedi-

cation and a strong desire to be pure.

To resist any temptation, you must start

with a desire to be whole. Desire matures to

faith. Faith matures to belief that you can

and will be whole. Beliefs, acted on daily,

become reality. I set out to starve the evil

desires within me. I would not feed them

anymore, because I knew whatever I fed

would grow; whatever I starved would die.

God walked with me during this time, but

it was still hard. Every day, my flesh wrestled

with an enemy who taunted me with

the things I wanted most. And every day, I

had to resist them, over and over again.

Resisting temptation is never easy. The

Bible tells us that if we resist the devil, he

will flee from us (James 4:7). Resist, in its

original Greek form, means to put up a

fight, to strongly oppose one’s adversary

and refuse to give ground. Resisting isn’t

for sissies! It’s an act of war, and that war

may last awhile. You must be prepared to

fight no matter what the enemy throws

against you. But as you fight, you can rest in

this truth: in Christ you will have the victory

(John 16:33).

Some people are delivered from strongholds

immediately; I was not. My deliverance

from sexual immorality was a process;

it was something I had to walk through.

For so long, I had defined my worth

through the relationships I had with women,

even if they were only one-night stands.

Those encounters made me feel important

and complete. Now I understand the danger

of allowing a person or thing to define your

value or make you complete. Only God can

do those things. Only when you are complete

in Him and know your value in Him

can you have a healthy relationship with

another person.

In God’s time, I met a beautiful woman at

church. She was on the praise and worship

team, and I could tell that she was a humble,

God-fearing woman. My pastor encouraged

me to call her, but I wanted to make

sure that was God’s will first. I didn’t trust

myself to make this decision on my own. I

had made those mistakes early in my walk

with God, and I knew I didn’t want to make

them again.

God affirmed our relationship, and she

became my wife. God used my time of celibacy

to make me into the husband and

father I am today. I’m glad we didn’t take

any shortcuts.

Are you tired of resisting the enemy? Are

you begging God to remove the temptations

that try your soul? I’ve been where you are.

Let me encourage you today.

Keep resisting in the strength God gives

you. Keep fighting. Do whatever you have to

do to protect yourself from the traps of the

enemy. With God, you can defeat whatever

taunts you. Do your part to stay pure, and

God will help you do what you can’t. He will

honor your commitment and help you stay

strong, and He will give you huge blessings

in the end.

ROBERT LOWERY III is an aspiring author who is

in the process of completing his first book. To learn

more, visit RobertLLowery.com.



What Do I Know To Be

True about God?



return to often. In fact, I keep a reminder of it on my workspace, and as it catches my eye

throughout the day, I ask myself: What do I know to be true about God today? Some days, I

struggle to find adequate words, but other days the answer is immediate, reassuring,

even convicting. It’s an answer that’s different every time I ask the question, because

I’m looking to somehow quantify the ever-changing relevance of a never-changing God.

So—what do I know to be true about God today? On its face, it’s a simple question. I

know all kinds of truths about God—I find them in His Word; I find them in His dealings

with me. But when I look deeper at this question, it can touch my heart. It can draw

me closer to Him, because the well of truths that I know about Him is deep. It contains

living water. It changes to fit my needs.

When I’m struggling to feel worthy, I know that He loves me, no matter what.

When I’m worried about the future, I know that He holds my life, the world, time, the

very essence of existence, in His infinitely capable hands.

When I’m happy, I know He rejoices with me. When I’m sad, I know He cares.

When I’ve strayed from His path, I know He pursues me even as I walk away.

When I stubbornly insist on doing things my way, I know He’ll gently correct me.

He is love. He is strength. He is patience. He is truth. He is wisdom. He is my provision.

He is my source of life. He is my refuge, my hiding place. He is my redeemer. He is my

Savior. He is my God.

What more do I need?

RACHEL OVERTON is a freelance editor who counts

herself blessed to be part of the team that brings you

Victorious Living magazine. Check out the Wordscapes/

Rachel Overton page on Facebook to learn more about

the editorial services she provides.


Issue 01 / 2020



God as

Your World



My husband and I learned that our infant

son, Shawn, had a heart murmur when he

was one day old. His primary care physician

detected it and sent us to a children’s

hospital for an echocardiogram. The situation

wasn’t dire. The doctor just needed

a benchmark for the future.

Almost two years later, however, the

physician noticed Shawn’s heart murmur

had increased, and he ordered another

echo. My husband wasn’t able to go to the

appointment with me, so I was alone when

the pediatric cardiologist told me that

Shawn now needed open-heart surgery.

His heart was 80 percent blocked.

When my husband picked me up and

asked how the appointment had gone, I

replied, “What would be your worst-case

scenario?” He knew immediately what the

doctor had said.

We went out to eat and attempted to act

normal. When the hostess asked how my

day was going, I smiled and defaulted to,

“I’m fine.” How do you tell a stranger you

just got the worst news of your life?

The surgery was set for six weeks out.

Shawn romped about, blissfully unaware

of what lay ahead—but I was completely on

edge. The doctors’ warnings about potential

complications made me hypervigilant,

and I grew more exhausted by the day.

Back then, whenever I faced a problem,

my solution was to fight my way through

it. I’m an athlete, so I’m used to persevering.

“Buck up and toughen up,” I’d say.

The motto had always served me well, but

in this situation, it didn’t. My toughness

wasn’t helping one bit.

Those six weeks seemed like eternity,

and I was coming undone. I prayed like I

knew I was supposed to, but I remained

unsettled, overwhelmed with what ifs.

What if he dies in his sleep tonight? What if

the surgery doesn’t work? What if the surgery

goes fine, but on the car ride home,

we get in an accident? Every imagined

scenario increased my dread and fear.

My spirit was ragged. I prayed and read

my Bible, but I had no peace. I was so used

to being in control, to fixing every situation

that came my way. There was no fixing this,

and being tough wasn’t solving anything.

I kept gritting it out, nonetheless.

I began experiencing abdominal pains.

At first the doctor thought it was sympathy

pains or a byproduct of stress. Suddenly, I

was hospitalized and undergoing surgery

myself for three different issues.

Life moved forward at a tediously slow

pace. Mentally, I was in a haze as I recuperated,

but I continued planning for Shawn’s

upcoming surgery. I had to find someone

to watch our daughter while we were at

the hospital. Our family would be apart at

Christmas. I was worried. I was sad.

Then I’d think about my son’s situation,

and I’d go from sad to downright terrified.

They were going to saw his sternum in

half, stop his tiny heart, and put him on

a heart-lung bypass machine during the

operation. Every fiber of my being was

full of dread. All these emotions made me

weaker by the day.

I knew I was supposed to trust God to

protect my children. And in past situations,

I had placed them on the figurative

altar without a lot of difficulty. But this

time, the situation seemed too big to surrender.

I just couldn’t find the courage to

give Shawn fully over to God. Worry kept

taking over.

But then I thought of Abraham and how

God had asked him to place his son, Isaac,

on the altar and offer him as a sacrifice

(Genesis 9). The only way Abraham could

have faced that incredible situation was by

completely trusting God. I finally realized

the only way I would get through this was

by releasing my control and resting in His

loving arms. I needed to stop looking at all

my crazy what-if scenarios and focus on


stead of the negative circumstances in my

life. I learned that helping others during

difficult times brings joy.

The day finally came for Shawn’s surgery.

God was so near to our family during

this time. We clearly saw the evidence of

His heart toward us. When our brakes

failed on the way to the hospital, God protected

us from an accident and provided a

replacement vehicle. He sent family and

friends to the waiting room to comfort

us. He even provided opportunities for

us to encourage others. We were able to

pray with the nurse assigned to bring us

operation updates when she sheepishly

admitted she was nervous because her

daughter was having her tonsils removed.

My husband and I spent four nights in

that hospital with our son, and we learned

some great lessons on being thankful.

One mother in the cardiology wing had

been living there with her daughter for

six months. After several surgeries, there

were still no signs of improvement. Another

family’s daughter couldn’t be jostled in

the ambulance during her transport to the

hospital. The parents had followed that

ambulance for an hour at the agonizing

pace of 10 mph. Hearing heart-wrenching

LEFT PAGE: Twoyear-old

Shawn is

all smiles after a

successful heart


LEFT: Seeing God’s

faithfulness in

the trials of their

lives has given the

Aspinalls a desire

to help others know

Jesus Christ as their

Savior and Lord.

God—the only One who could see our family

through this situation. And when I finally

did let go and trusted Him, I found peace.

Through all of this, I continued pouring

out my heart to the Lord. I wrote raw

and honest journal entries about all that

was bottled within me. I read Scripture

verses and focused on God’s promises. I

kept in touch with friends via email and

read their encouraging responses. And

God strengthened me as I relied on Him.

Finally, it was time for Shawn’s pre-op

blood draw. In the waiting room, my husband

and I noticed a stash of books on a

cart. A sign offered them as free for the

taking. We loved the idea of books being

available to children at such an uncertain

point in their lives, and on our way home,

we discussed ideas for a book drive.

We began telling people about our idea,

hoping to take a good collection with us

on the day of surgery. To our amazement,

our community of friends rallied for the

cause. With their help, we donated over

1,000 books to the hospital!

I knew collecting those books would

bless others, but I didn’t foresee how

they would impact my life. The book drive

caused me to focus on a worthy cause instories

like these certainly caused us to

count our blessings.

That Christmas, we treasured the gift of

the health we had in a new way. Shawn’s

surgery was a success, and we came home

grateful to God for the many lessons He

had taught us. We emerged from that experience

knowing God much more personally

than we had before. Two years later,

when Shawn faced another open-heart

surgery, we approached that one with

confidence because we knew from past

experience that God was with us.

Because of Shawn’s surgeries, doors

have opened for us to minister to international

children who come to the United

States for open-heart surgeries through

the Children’s Heart Project, a Franklin

Graham outreach program. God has allowed

us through this particular “mess”

to proclaim a message for His glory.

If you met Shawn today, you’d never

know what this young man went through.

He has received a clean bill of health for

many years now. He’s not on regular medications

anymore. He plays sports like other

kids and, a just couple summers ago, he

learned to water ski. What brings the most

joy is watching our son use his story to tell

others about the faithfulness of God. You

can read his story on page 18.

Maybe you’ve received news lately that

has rocked your world, and you’re trying

to face it with a “buck up and toughen up”

mentality. Let the Lord be your refuge and

strength, your ever-present help in trouble

(Psalm 46:1). It’s the only way.

Ask God to help you turn your thoughts

heavenward instead of focusing on the

pain around you. Read His life-giving

Word, surround yourself with encouraging

friends, look for ways to serve others

during your own painful trials, and remember

to give God thanks for what you

have. As you trust Him, you will find the

strength and peace you need to face whatever

lies ahead.

God is faithful. He is near. And He will

see you through.

SHARON ASPINALL is a schoolteacher and

martial arts instructor. She enjoys outdoor sports

and reading as hobbies.


Issue 01 / 2020



and bumpy water. But I trusted

Mrs. Kristi to help me. I’d

watched her teach the other

“My scars have

great purpose,

and I want to

use them to

glorify God and

to help others.”


but I know that God loves and

cares for me. When I was little,

He kept me alive through some

scary surgeries on my stomach

and my heart. He helped

my mom and dad care for me.

Today, He helps me in school.

Sometimes school is hard, and

I want to quit. But God always

helps me face hard things.

I had my first heart surgery

when I was two and another

when I was four. I don’t remember

much about them—just my

mom telling me everything was

going to be okay.

The surgeries left some big

scars on my body, but I kind

of like them. They’re my life

tattoos! They have a great story,

and people ask me about

them a lot. When they do, I get



to tell them about how God

has helped me and my family

through some hard stuff.

Plus, they show other kids

who are facing heart surgeries

that I understand what they’re

going through. I get to help

them prepare for their surgeries

by showing them my scars

and telling them it’s going to

be okay, that they’ll get better,

and that God will help them.

They believe me because I’ve

been through what they’re going


My scars have great purpose,

and I want to use them to glorify

God and to help others.

I like Matthew 20:28. It reminds

me that Jesus didn’t

come into the world to be

served but to serve. Every day,

I have opportunities to help

other people. I can do that anywhere—at

school, in the classroom,

on the playground, or

even in the hospital.

One of my favorite ways to

help others is through a watersports

ministry called In His

Wakes. Years ago, Mrs. Kristi

Overton Johnson, the founder

of this ministry, taught me to

water ski. I was so excited! Now

I get to travel with my family

as part of the In His Wakes

team. I’ve helped hundreds of

kids experience victory on the

water and meet Jesus! It’s so

much fun. And seeing me out

there on my skis, even with my

scars, helps them let go of their

fear and get out on the water


The first time I skied, I was

pretty scared of all the waves

kids, so I knew if I listened and

stayed close, she’d keep me

safe and wouldn’t let me fall.

That makes me think about

life. Everybody has bumpy water

sometime, but just like Mrs.

Kristi was beside me, encouraging

me and helping me know

what to do, God is with us. If

we listen to Him, He’ll help us

through bumps—the big ones

and the little ones—and we

won’t fall.

When I face bumpy water

in life, I do it with God and my

parents, so I don’t have to be

afraid. You don’t have to be

afraid either. Isaiah 43:2 promises

that God is with us when

we go through difficult stuff. He

won’t let the bumpy water win.

Life is scary; I know. I’ve

been scared too. But you don’t

have to let fear stop you. God’s

got you. And you know what?

Even if you come out of the

water with some nasty scars,

if you’re willing, God will use

them in amazing ways.

Besides, if you ask me, scars

are cool!

SHAWN ASPINALL is a middle

school student who likes to run track

and do water sports. He loves to help




Hold Out Your Hand




I was on my way back to my apartment after spending the

weekend with my family. The trip had started off like every

other drive home, but a few minutes into my journey, something

within me drastically changed.

I didn’t understand it then, but I was under spiritual attack. It

came without warning or reason.

Satan, the father of lies, began pouring powerful thoughts of

inadequacy and loneliness into my mind. I had experienced

these thoughts before, but as I drove, I mulled over the emotions.

I allowed the negative thoughts to find root in my heart, and they

spread through me like wildfire.

Before I knew it, all I could think about was how easy it would

be to end my own life. Me! A God-girl who’d been baptized at the

age of nine, who serves in the church and loves the Lord, who’s

blessed with amazing friends and family.

But that day, I remember thinking how quickly my life could

be over if I drove off the road or what would happen if I placed a

handgun to my chest and pulled the trigger. I was overwhelmed.

The darkness that was engulfing me was too much for me to handle

on my own. I couldn’t speak; I didn’t have any words to say.

The last stoplight before my apartment caught me,

and I sat there, completely brokenhearted. I had nothing

left in me with which to fight. And then, my Friend

took hold of my hand. He smiled at me. It was Jesus.

As the image of Christ filled my heart and my mind’s

eyes, I burst into tears. A flood of His compassionate

grace and love poured over me like a mighty waterfall.

I’m thankful for long red lights, because in those

few minutes, Jesus saved my life again. The fear left

me, and the loneliness dissipated as I remembered

that Jesus is always beside me. He’d promised never

to leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5), and there

He was, beside me. I am exceedingly thankful that He

did not leave me that day.

This brief moment of darkness is not unique to me.

So many people, believers and nonbelievers alike, have had moments

like this. Inexplicable. Unexpected. Overwhelming. Those

who know me personally would never suspect that such mental

and emotional darkness would be part of my life. But no one

is exempt from hardship or temptation, not even you who are

reading this. If you’re experiencing feelings like these, please get

the assistance you need. There is no shame in asking for help.

In a matter of seconds, Satan can trap any one of us in a lie that

grips, suffocates, and destroys. But God’s grace is greater than

all the sin and darkness in this world. He is the God who saves

me every day of my life. He holds my hand when I feel broken

beyond repair. And He will hold your hand and your heart too,

whether you’re stopped at a red light, huddled on your couch, in

a hospital, or in a prison. God is always faithful. Turn your life

over to Him each day; He will shower you with love and mercy.

Hold out your hand to Him and receive all that He has for you.

G O D ’ S









TINA M. BROWN is a child of God living in Eastern North Carolina. She most

enjoys the intimate gifts of life including family, friends, and fellowship. Her life

changed forever when she fell in love with Jesus, and she wants you to know

how much Jesus loves you too.


Issue 01 / 2020


The Gift

of Forgiveness




DORI: It was the

call no mother ever

wants to receive. I had

just left a business

luncheon and was

sitting in a Starbucks

drive-thru. My mind

was on my son,

Robby, and I asked

God to bless him and

let him know that He

was there for him. My

phone rang; Robby’s

number showed up.

“Hi, Robby!” I said. Silence met

me. Then Robby’s friend, Kate,

began to speak.

“Oh! Hi, Kate,” I responded.

“How are you?” More silence.

“Kate, are you okay? Is Robby


“No,” she replied. “Robby...

Robby’s dead.”

It’s hard to put into words the

depth of my pain in that moment.

All I could do was scream out,

“No! Robby! No! Please, come

back! Oh God, help me!” I got

out of the drive-thru and headed

back to the office. It’s the only

place I could think of to go.

Alone in my office, I screamed

and wailed; I pounded my feet

on the floor and my fists on the

desk. My office neighbor ran in,

thinking I was being attacked.

I told her what had happened,

and she held my hand and sat

with me while we waited for my

husband, Gene, to arrive.

GENE: When I got there, Dori

was shaking violently. We held

each other tightly and sobbed.

Together, we cried out to God,

begging Him for answers. We

asked for strength and for Him

to help our other son, Ben.

We found solace in the truth

that Robby was safe and whole

in God’s presence. Robby had

indicated numerous times over

the years that he believed in

Jesus Christ and had trusted in

Him for eternal salvation. Robby

had learned at an early age

that Jesus had died on the cross

to pay for his sins, was buried,

and rose again to prove that His

payment was a satisfactory one.

Robby had accepted God’s free

gift of salvation, and according to

the Bible, that meant he was now

in heaven. His struggle with pain

and depression was behind him.

We also found solace in the

truth that God cares for us. No

matter how painful this situation

was, Dori and I knew God

was with us and was hearing our

cries for help.

DORI: While Gene and I were

still at the office, Kate called

again. She said Robby had been

murdered and that we could go

online and read about it. The

article I found only added to my


Issue 01 / 2020


pain. It left me with so many

questions. Why would anyone

kill Robby? And who?

We learned that Robby had

died by strangulation two days

earlier. To think that he had

been dead for two days was incredible!

The article reported

that a woman named Lindsay

was involved, and that she had

a 14-year-old child.

Gene and I were surprised to

feel concern for this woman—

our son’s murderer. We found

ourselves praying for her, her

son, and her mother. Only God

could have placed this compassion

in our hearts for her.

I was numb and had no idea

what to do. I didn’t know what I

wanted, much less what I needed.

Dear friends surrounded

us. We were so grateful for their

prayers and support. The pain

in my heart, the longing for

my son—it was all more than

I could have borne on my own.

Three days later, Gene and

I held a private ceremony for

Robby. We listed the names

of everyone we could think of

that we might need to forgive

regarding Robby’s death. The

list included those we believed

were partly responsible for his

path of destruction. Our own

names were on this list, as we

were blaming ourselves and

asking what we could have

done differently. And Lindsay’s

name was there too.

I forgave Lindsay and others,

but my pain remained.

My sadness ran so deep; I cried

for months. Sometimes I wondered

if I would ever be okay

again, but then I’d remember

that with God’s help, I had overcome

every trial I had faced so

far. That gave me hope that,

while I wasn’t okay right now,

one day I would be.

Months later, I shared with

my church family the depth

of my sadness and asked for

prayer. As our pastor prayed,

my friends surrounded me

with their loving arms. A few

days later, I realized my daily

crying had stopped. My sadness

had lifted, and I felt lighter.

I praised God for answered

prayer and thanked Him for

the love and care of my family

in Christ.


God used Lindsay’s going

to prison to free her from

the power of sin and to

bring her into a life she

never expected.


I tried many times to write

Lindsay a letter, but the words

wouldn’t come. Gene, however,

had found the strength to write

to her. He mailed his letter 10

months after Robby’s death.


GENE: I had forgiven Lindsay,

but it wasn’t until her case was

complete and she had settled

into a more permanent place in

prison that I felt I should write

to her. She had accepted a plea

bargain and agreed to a 60-year

sentence. She would be eligible

to appear before a parole

board after serving 25 percent

(15 years) of her sentence.

Until my letter, we were not

sure if she knew we existed.

Dori and I had had no contact

with her; we had not wished

to influence her sentencing

either way.

In my letter, I told Lindsay

that Dori and I had forgiven her.

As believers in Jesus Christ,

we knew we were supposed to

forgive anyone who has hurt

us. Ephesians 4:32 (NIV) says,

“Be kind and compassionate

to one another, forgiving each

other, just as in Christ God forgave

you.” Furthermore, we’d

been forgiven by our Savior

countless times for countless

sins. How could we not forgive

her? So many people want to

celebrate God’s forgiveness,

yet refuse to forgive others.

We didn’t want to be so selfish.

It wasn’t easy, but it was

the best decision we could

have made. Harboring unforgiveness

would have been

like pouring our enemy a

cup of poison and drinking it

ourselves. Forgiving Lindsay

would free us to live again. In

my letter, I also shared the gospel

of Jesus Christ with her. The

only way Lindsay’s life could be

transformed would be through

the love and power of God.

Interestingly, Dori and I

had been involved with prison

ministry for years. Seems

God had already been preparing

our hearts to love Lindsay

by allowing us a perspective

of prison most people never

see. Lindsay responded to my

letter with great remorse and

humble gratefulness. Her letter

touched Dori and me as only

God could cause.

DORI: After I read Lindsay’s

response to Gene’s letter, I

decided it was time I wrote to

her, too.

Here is part of what I said:


Dear Lindsay,

I have wanted to write you for a while, but I just

haven’t known what to say. I’ve wanted to ask you

all kinds of questions, starting with, “Why would

you kill my son?”

After reading your statement in Gene’s letter that

you loved Robby, I wanted to yell, “If you loved him,

why did you kill him?!” But I knew there are no good

answers that would satisfy me. I am glad you are

now getting the help you need.

When I learned you were being sentenced to 60

years in prison, my heart sank for you, your son,

and your mom. While I have the feelings I stated

above, I do not wish for you to live in prison the

rest of your life. I do not wish for you to be locked

away and removed from society. I care about you,

Lindsay, and I ask God to bless you and help you to

know Him and have a relationship with Him. I pray

you will grow to be a light on the prison compound

that will lead others to the Lord.

I forgive you, Lindsay. I forgive you! And Jesus will

forgive you, too. He loves you and paid for your sin

of murdering Robby. He has paid for all of your sins,

just as He has paid for all of mine. I need Jesus just

as badly as you do. I would be lost without Him. But

since my trust is in Him and Him only, I am forever

saved and free.

Gene and Dori with Lindsay (center) in the prison where she

is serving her sentence. Today, Lindsay is serving the Lord

behind bars and helping others find freedom in Christ.

I wanted Lindsay to know

that she could be forever saved

and free too.

Lindsay quickly responded

to my letter, expressing sorrow

over taking Robby’s life. Nothing

she said, of course, would

bring Robby back or satisfy my

longing for him. That has only

lessened because I know he is

with Jesus. I have faith that I

will see Robby again. Because

of Jesus, my son is okay, and I

am grateful for that.

LINDSAY: When I received

that first letter from Gene, I

had no idea who he was. But

as I began to read, I quickly

realized it was from Robby’s

stepfather. I didn’t know what

to expect! The guilt that had

been my constant companion

since that fateful day welled up

again in my soul. I kept reading,

however, and came across the

most incredible words I’ve ever

read. Gene said, “I want you to

know that I have forgiven you.”

This was almost too good

to be true. The letter even

said that Robby’s mom, Dori,

wanted to write me! I wanted

to believe it, but I was afraid to.

How could it be true after what

I’d done to this family?

I wrote back and sincerely

offered my apology and gratitude,

hoping that the forgiveness

being offered was real.

Gene had also included some

gospel tracts in the envelope,

telling me about Jesus. I read

them but was not ready to receive

them as truth at the time.

In September 2016, I received

my first letter from

Dori. It blew me away. I couldn’t

mistake the ache of this mother’s

loss and the question of

why, but above all, I heard the

wonderful faith and hope she

had that she would see her son

again in heaven. She knew this

because Robby had told her that

his faith was in Jesus Christ

alone to be his Savior. Dori also

expressed forgiveness toward

me and told me about the forgiveness

Jesus offers me.

I didn’t deserve this. Even

now, I find myself speechless. I

had hurt this woman so deeply,

yet she cared enough to share

eternal life with me and to

close her letter with the words,

“God bless you.” She helped me

see and experience God’s unconditional

love. It caused me

to realize the realness of God.

There was no way human beings

could forgive such a great

offense in their own strength.

It had to be from God.

Their gift of love and forgiveness

came at the lowest point

of my life. I was lost and alone,

filled with regret and hopelessness.

I was 32, facing a 60-year

prison sentence. The guilt of

my actions, the harsh realities

of prison life, and the consequences

of my choices were all

around me. I was a murderer—

nothing could justify what I

had done. It didn’t matter that

Robby and I had been on the

same road of destruction or

that alcohol had clouded both

our minds. There was no one

to blame but myself.

I couldn’t imagine anything

but hopelessness as my destiny.

But then God reached down

from heaven and, through the

love of the Greesons, revealed

hope for my dead-end life. Jesus

Christ had redeemed my

mistakes through the shedding

of His blood. And through Jesus’s

blood, God was offering

me forgiveness of sins, according

to the riches of His grace

(Ephesians 1:7). I received


Issue 01 / 2020


God’s gift of forgiveness for myself,

and in Jesus I found hope.

Jesus said, “whoever hears

my word and believes in him

who sent me has eternal life,

and will not be judged but has

crossed over from death to life”

(John 5:24 NIV). My acceptance

of Jesus’s love and sacrifice

caused me to pass from death

into life. I have hope for my

eternal future—and for my life,

even now, while behind bars.

DORI: For four years now, God

has been working out for good

so much, had we held onto

our hurt. Not only that, my

own life would have been destroyed.

Without forgiveness,

I would be bitter, angry, and

resentful, living in constant

pain and emotional turmoil.

And that ugliness in me would

have overtaken and destroyed

everyone around me (Hebrews

12:15). God’s gift of forgiveness

has freed us all to live fruitful,

joy-filled lives, even in this

most difficult season.

GENE: It’s amazing to see how




the horribly wrong and tragic

murder of my son, just as He

promised in Romans 8:28. As

Psalm 34:18 says, “the Lord is

close to the brokenhearted,”

and He has been here for us.

It’s hard for some to comprehend

our forgiving Lindsay.

What they don’t realize is that

doing so set Gene and me free

from despair and enabled us to

be healed. Forgiving Lindsay

was a gift for us too. It allowed

us to experience God’s great joy

and peace, and the good things

He has in store for us.

When Gene and I reached

out to Lindsay, we didn’t know

how God would work in our

lives. How could we have imagined

that she’d become like a

daughter to us or that we’d

travel 2,300 miles to visit her

in prison? And how could we

have imagined that God would

use her to bring so many other

people into His kingdom?

We would’ve missed out on

God has transformed our lives.

For example, Lindsay, who,

at the time she killed Robby,

would’ve claimed to be an atheist,

has been transformed into

a most dedicated Christian.

She’s becoming a giant in the

faith. We are proud to know her

and are grateful for the privilege

of being part of her faith

journey. God surely answered

Dori’s prayer for Lindsay’s life!

LINDSAY: When I think back

on life prior to receiving that

first letter from Gene, I’m

blown away by how my outlook,

my plans, my hopes, and even

my memories have changed;

all for the better. I have a real

purpose in life now, to share

my story—our story—so that

the good news of God’s forgiveness

in Christ can reach

as many people as possible.

So they, too, can be free.

Being forgiven doesn’t make

what I did acceptable, nor

does it take away the pain I

caused, but it does allow God to

use me for His great purpose.

In His grace, I am now leading

those around me to Jesus. He’s

using the evil I’ve done for His

good. Robby’s life lives on, all

for God’s glory. I’m so thankful

for the grace of God and for the

Greesons’ love.

DORI: Gene, Lindsay, and I

want everyone who reads our

story to experience God’s gift

of forgiveness. We all need it,

because we’ve all sinned; we

all fall short of God’s perfect

standard (Romans 3:23). Some

sin is obvious to the world, like

Lindsay’s. Other sins are often

overlooked—like pride, greed,

DORI AND GENE GREESON have been married for 23 years and have

been involved in prison ministry in Florida for 15 years. They have also

ministered internationally on many short-term mission trips. Learn more at


LINDSAY HAUGEN gave God the worst mistake of her life, and He is using

it for good, as many are coming to know the Lord through her ministry in the

prison facility where she is housed.

Dori and Gene miss their son but praise God for

the unexpected gift of a daughter in Lindsay.

envy, unbelief, and yes, even

not forgiving someone.

The good news is that God’s

gift of forgiveness and eternal

salvation is available to everyone,

no matter what we’ve

done (John 3:16). And it’s free.

There’s nothing any of us can do

to deserve it (Ephesians 2:8–9).

Jesus lived a perfect life and

then died a horrible death to

provide forgiveness to us. And

all we have to do to receive that

forgiveness is believe.

Once we receive God’s gift of

forgiveness, we can extend it

to others, even those who have

deeply hurt us. And that, my

friend, is the greatest gift we

can give, both to ourselves and

to those around us.

God’s grace and forgiveness

enable us to move forward, no

matter what.




Change Your Course



the same things we’ve always done than it

is to make the changes we know we need

to make. Maybe we consider the money

and time we’ve invested, or maybe we’re

overwhelmed with fear, guilt, worry, or

even pride as we imagine the potential repercussions

of making that change. “What

if” scenarios cloud our vision and keep us

pressing forward on that old path, even

though we know we shouldn’t take another

step in that direction.

There’s a story in 2 Chronicles 25:6–10

that teaches us about God’s faithfulness

during change. King Amaziah was setting

out to war against the Edomites. He

had strengthened his own army by hiring

100,000 mercenaries from Israel and

paying them 100 talents of silver for their

military expertise.

But as he readied his troops, a man of

God warned Amaziah that if he moved forward

with the men from Israel, he would

be defeated, because the Lord was not with

Israel. Even if Amaziah’s army went and

fought with all the courage they could muster,

they would still be defeated.

Amaziah asked the man of God, “But

what about all the money I paid for these

Israelite troops?”

The man of God replied, “The Lord can

give you much more than that.” And so, relying

on that promise, Amaziah dismissed

the mercenaries and sent them home.

For me, this would have been difficult. I

mean, these were trained men of war who,

humanly speaking, should have bettered

Amaziah’s chances of winning. And then

there’s that money! In today’s economy,

100 talents of silver would have been millions

of dollars. He’d already invested the

money; it couldn’t be recouped.

But the biggest hang-up for me would’ve

been the reaction of the people. I’d have

worried that the people I was sending

home—men fired up and ready for battle—

would be a bit perturbed with my decision.

Not to mention that my advisors would

think I’d lost my mind!

So how did Amaziah walk away from his

commitment and investment and obey

God without looking back? Easy. He trusted

the promise, “The Lord can give you

much more than that.”

That statement pretty much settled it for

the king. Would it have settled it for you?

I’ve already admitted it would have been

a hard pill for me to swallow.

This passage, and really the entire Bible,

teaches us that if we want victory, we must

obey God, even when it’s hard. We have

to be willing to let go, to cut loose, and to

move forward in a different direction when

the Lord instructs us to do so.

Over the past six years, God has directed

me to change my course. He’s asked me

to let go of things and people and plans.

Things I had invested large amounts of

time and money into. At times I resisted as

I counted the cost and worried about the

reactions and judgments of those around

me. Surely, I thought, if I just keep pressing forward

in faith with courageous perseverance, I’ll

be victorious. But I’ve learned, sometimes

the hard way, that true victory—like God’s

blessing—comes only through obedience.

(See Deuteronomy 28.)

I don’t know what God is leading you

to do or what changes He’s asking you to

make, but whatever it is, you can trust

Him. Lay aside your concerns about all

you’ve invested. God can give you more

than that. Don’t worry about other people’s

reactions or judgments. You can’t control

that. The Bible says those mercenaries

were furious and acted out their anger,

but that didn’t affect Amaziah’s victory!

It only affected theirs.

No matter the cost, remember: God’s got

your back. Your only responsibility is obedience;

God will take care of the rest. And

He will more than redeem all that is lost.


equips people for victory through her writings,

speaking engagements, and prison ministry. To

learn more, go to kojministries.org.


Issue 01 / 2020


Change the

Equation of

Your Life



spent 20 years in prison on what I

call the installment plan. I’d be incarcerated

for a while, get out and

try to do right, then mess up and

head right back. Breaking this cycle

seemed impossible.

Life started out pretty good for me, but

then my parents split up. Mom took me and

my siblings and moved to New York. She did

the best she could, but a single mom raising

three kids alone in Queens, New York, isn’t

a good situation. I was 11 and thought I was

tough. It wasn’t long before she lost me to

the streets.

As I grew up, sin gained a strong hold on

my life. I followed the impulses of my heart

and flesh with no regard of what it might

cost to me or anyone else. Sometimes I realized

my need to make better choices, but I

never set myself up to actually make them.

I stayed in the same circle of friends and

hung out in the same places on the street…

and without fail, I did stupid again.

In 2014, I found myself back in Florida

and in the Duvall county jail, facing serious

time because of my past record. While I

was there in the jail pod, an inmate told me

about his plans to participate in a program

at the Trinity Rescue Mission in Jacksonville,

Florida, when he completed his time.

Soon after that, we were each transferred

to separate facilities within the Florida Department

of Corrections. I didn’t see him

again until 2018, when I got out of prison.

Once released, I set out to start my life

over. Again.

I was going to be a truck driver. I had

earned my certificate of completion for a

Florida commercial driver’s license while

in prison. I had an excellent driving record,

so I thought this career path would be a perfect

fit for me—I could make good money,

and I’d get to travel.

I soon found out, however, that my certificate

and excellent driving record couldn’t

compete with my rap sheet. Every time a

company discovered my past criminal record,

I was turned away as a liability. I can

understand their position, but the constant

rejection was hard to take.

For 90 days, I tried to get a job, with no

success. I was frustrated. I wanted to do the

right thing—and I was trying to do it—but it


wasn’t working out. I was just about to give

up, when the Lord intervened in my life.

I borrowed a friend’s car for a week and

drove aimlessly around Jacksonville. One

day, I found myself parked in a field across

from a building. A lot of people were waiting

for the building to open so they could

get food. I had no idea at the time that it

was the Trinity Rescue Mission that fellow

inmate had told me about.

I walked across the street to get a bite

to eat, and much to my surprise, there on

the porch was the guy I had met in jail in

2014. He didn’t recognize me, but the next

day when he saw me, he called out, “Stan


Stan was my first name. Pinochle was

the card game I had taught him in jail. Man,

was he ever terrible at that game! We shook

hands and marveled at seeing each other

the equation of my life. Every time, I had

attempted to change in my own strength.

Even though I believed in God and had even

accepted Jesus as my Savior 18 years before

in New River prison, I’d never thought

to bring Him into my life. I had kept Him at

a distance, never realizing He could help

me change. And I had kept godly people at

a distance too.

I hadn’t realized the importance of surrounding

myself with people who would

help redirect my sinful thoughts, attitudes,

and behaviors or who would teach me about

God. Trying to change without God and the

godly example of others doesn’t work. I’m

proof of that.

I entered the program and met a Jewish

believer named Barry Luxenberg, the director

of the Freedom Farm. Usually you

have to be at the mission for 90 days before

Stanley and his mom, Catherine, celebrating

his newfound freedom in Christ.







again. I sat down on the porch and started you can go to the farm, but after 25 days,

telling him how I was struggling. I had been Barry invited me to move up. I wanted to go,

out of prison for 90 days and still couldn’t but I knew I needed to finish the full 90 days

get it together. I was about to give up like at the mission first. He thought I was crazy,

I’d done so many other times before. It just but I had never finished anything in my life.

seemed easier to go back to prison than to My completing what I’d started was crucial

keep trying to make it on the outside. But to my future success.

deep inside, I didn’t want to go back. I wanted

a different life.

farm. Barry recognized leadership quali-

I completed the program and went to the

My friend told me to go inside and ask ties in me and put me where I could develop

them. It felt good to have someone who

to be part of the program. I remembered

that’s what he had done when he got out. As believed in me. Barry spoke into my life in

I turned to go inside, he said, “Stan, whatever

you do, don’t leave the program.” Then mom and sister. For years, they had tried

ways no one else had ever done, except my

he told me it wouldn’t be easy, but if I stuck to tell me the importance of having God

with it, I could make a lasting change. in my life and making better choices, but I

I started the program and soon realized wouldn’t listen to them.

why I hadn’t been able to change all those Thankfully, God sent other people like

other times—I’d never brought God into Barry to open my ears and show me how to

live a life of godliness. Barry and others at

the farm are answers to my momma’s lifelong


I’ve spent so much time with Barry now

that I’ve picked up many of his characteristics.

The guys at the farm have given me the

nickname, Black Barry. We’ve all had a good

laugh over this, but it serves as a great reminder

that we become like those we hang

out with. When I surrounded myself with

people drawn to sin, I became like them.

But when I chose to draw close to God, and

when I surrounded myself with godly influences,

my behavior finally changed. Sin no

longer had a hold on me.

Perhaps you’re ready for a different life.

You’re ready to break the cycle of what e ver

has been holding you back. If that’s you,

bring God into the equation of your life and

surround yourself with people who will

help you walk in freedom.

With His help and theirs—and honest

commitment on your part—you can finally

do it the right way.

STANLEY MCGRAW serves on staff at the Trinity

Rescue Mission. He eagerly awaits the day he can

volunteer in prison to help others break free of the

cycle of sin and incarceration. To learn more, go to

trinityrescue.org or call 904-355-1205.


Issue 01 / 2020








The local headline read, “Emerson Faces

76 Years.” The national headlines weren’t

any better: “Jail Term Set in Extortion”

and “Man Suspected in Hoax Charged in

Pennsylvania.” It looked like my dad would

be going away for good.

In 1983, the FBI arrested my father for

a string of crimes including 26 counts of

extortion across three states. His addiction

to drugs, alcohol, and gambling had

driven him to find creative and bold ways

to get the money needed to support his

lifestyle—a lifestyle that I observed from

a distance as a young teen.

Our relationship could have been described

as shallow and lacking substance.

He was not what you’d call a role model. My

mother and father were divorced before I

can remember, and he was largely absent

while I was growing up.

His father before him had departed

also, but differently. Abandoning his family

when my father was just a child, my

grandfather had left no trace. We didn’t

even know if he was alive.

Things just did not look good on that

side of my family tree. As a young man,

you’re supposed be able to look up into

that tree and find inspiration, not incarceration.

Legacy, not felony. With no good

father figure in my life, my own trajectory

and destiny were questionable at best. I

searched for different things to fill the void

in my heart. I am certain the prayers of

godly people from the other side of my

family tree are all that kept me from following

my father’s path early on.

My father’s incarceration caused him

to miss a number of critical events in my

life. Fathers are supposed to be there when

you get your license, your first car, graduate

from high school, and all those other

milestones. You’re supposed to see him in

the audience, hear his encouragement and

support from the stands. But if there were

cheers, I couldn’t hear them coming from

my father’s prison cell. And each missed

event added another layer of bitterness

to my growing pile of disillusionment and


But God was already moving in our lives.

My father was sent to a federal prison

hospital in Springfield, Missouri, to start

serving his time. Shortly after his arrival,

fellow inmates invited him to some church

services held by volunteers from a local

church. Hurting and broken, he agreed

to attend, but he was not the kind of guy

who wanted a hug from a volunteer, and

he told them so.

It wasn’t long before he found himself

responding to the gospel of Jesus Christ,

and a transformation began to take place.

He didn’t go to that prison hospital for a

heart transplant, but he got one when he

accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior.

He didn’t know it yet, but that decision

and another he made there—based on

Joshua 24:15: “As for me and my house,

we will serve the Lord”—would impact our

family for generations to come.

As my father began trusting God with his

life, he began praying for the other people

he cared about. With good reason, two of

his biggest concerns were my brother and

me. During their phone calls, my mother

would tell him about the trouble we were

getting into, and he was all too familiar

with the direction we were heading.

Another concern was his estranged father,

whom he had not heard from in over

30 years. Regardless, he started praying

and, in his Bible reading, he ran across

Psalm 138:8: “The Lord will perfect that



which concerns me” (NKJV). His prayer

for all of us was simple: “God, please send

someone to share the gospel with them.”

My father wanted us to experience the

same love and forgiveness that he had

come to know through Jesus Christ.

His bold prayers began a slow-moving

chain reaction in my family tree, although

the answers were not exactly the ones

my father expected. The fruit of the Holy

Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,

goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and

self-control—began showing up in his life.

They were evident in his writings, phone

calls, and our visits. I saw the change in

my father, but I didn’t yet understand it.

After serving his federal time, my father

had yet to face his state time, but favorable

sentencing released him in less than five

years. It was clear that God had plans for

him. Upon leaving prison, opportunities

to go back inside and minister to others

began presenting themselves.

Meanwhile, my own trouble had begun,

and my solutions for dealing with it were

not working. I was in the Navy and recently

separated from my wife. Heartbreak was a

common occurrence, and the things I had

put my hope in were letting me down. At

a desperate place in my life, I went looking

for something to relieve my pain, to

fill the hole in my heart. One day, I found

myself so desperate that I grabbed a Bible

and a phone, crawled into my bunk, and

called my father for help. Simply put, he

had access to a power that I did not have,

and I needed relief.

I told him what was happening and,

through tears, I asked “Where do I go to

find the help I need? I have a Bible—what

page number do I turn to?” Our unresolved

issues no longer mattered. I didn’t even

care that my bunkmate was hanging out

in the rack above me. All I knew was that,

if this God were real, I needed His help.

The pain was too great, and my efforts to

fix things were not working.

I read the verses my dad recommended,

but I kept trying to fix things in my own

strength. I didn’t understand the concept

of surrendering entirely to God. Things

got worse.

I returned from the Gulf War with a broken

relationship, a broken car, no money,

and uncertainty all around. I was lost. But

in the middle of that very dark time, my

father showed up. He was waiting on the

pier when we arrived; he was there when

I really needed him. God had been preparing

both him and me for this moment.

He came to live with me, and for the first

time, I realized my need for Christ. God

used my father to share the gospel with

me so my life could be forever changed.

I laid all my heartache, brokenness, and

sin at the foot of the cross, where I found

forgiveness and wholeness.

When you finally understand the context

and depth of your own depravity and

experience God’s forgiveness, you will

run to forgive others. Colossians 3:13 encourages

us to “forgive as the Lord forgave

you.” That’s what I did, and my relationship

with my dad was restored.

But the restoration story doesn’t end

there. In 1993, my father traveled to Florida

for a ministry conference. As he prepared

to return home on the last night,

he felt led to open the phone book on the

nightstand in his hotel room. Right there,

in black and white, was his father’s name,

Allen M. Emerson, Sr.

The next morning my father called the

When you finally understand the context and

depth of your own depravity and experience

God’s forgiveness, you will run to forgive others.

Allen Jr. and Allen

Sr., miraculously

reunited after 30

years when Allen Jr.

found his father’s

name in a Florida

phone book.

number he’d found. He asked the man

who answered if he had a son born on a

certain date, and the man said he did. They

agreed to meet. That day, my father and

grandfather were miraculously reunited

after 30 years. Their relationship was restored

and, for the next nine years, they

called and visited each other often. But

my grandfather did not yet know Christ,

so my father’s prayers continued.

When my grandfather was on his deathbed

in the hospital, my father read Jesus’s

words in John 14:1 to him. “Do not let your

heart be troubled,” he said. “You believe in

God; believe also in Me.” As he breathed his


Issue 01 / 2020



last, my grandfather

came to know Jesus.

And again, God had

answered my father’s

prayer to send someone

to share the gospel—

but instead of someone

else, He used my father

to reach those he was

concerned about.

God has used my

father to bring hope

to thousands behind

bars during a 30-year

career in prison ministry.

If you’re reading

In their book, BJ and Allen

unfold their incredible story

of restoration and hope

that has touched lives both

inside and outside of prison.

If you’re reading this from

prison, I haven’t been where

you are. But I’ve been where

your children are. You may

not be able to reach out to

them physically, but your

loving heavenly Father hears

your prayers.





this from prison, I haven’t been where you are. But I’ve

been where your children are. You may not be able to

reach out to them physically, but your loving heavenly

Father hears your prayers. He knows your concerns,

and when you put your trust in Him, He will use you to

impact your family as well as those around you.

Prayer is a powerful thing, and God can do miracles

when we have faith that He will do what we cannot.

My father’s prayers from prison changed the course of

history for our family. Your prayers can do the same.

Reach out in faith to Him today.

BJ EMERSON and his father, Allen, live in the Carolinas and have

had the opportunity to share their amazing restoration story with

many who are incarcerated and need hope. Their book, The Hearts

of the Fathers, is available through amazon.com. Proceeds from the

book go toward its distribution to incarcerated persons and their

families. Connect with the Emersons through their Hearts of the

Fathers Book page on Facebook.

El encabezado local decía, “Emerson Se Enfrenta a 76

Años.” Los encabezados nacionales no eran mejores:

“Condena Fijada por Extorsión” y “Sospechoso por Cargos

de Engaño en Pennsylvania.” Parecía que encerrarían

a mi papá por siempre.

En 1983, el FBI arrestó a mi padre por una serie de

crímenes que incluían 26 cargos de extorsión a través

de tres estados. Su adicción a las drogas, el alcohol,

y las apuestas lo llevaron a buscar formas creativas y

audaces de conseguir dinero para mantener su estilo de

vida—un estilo de vida que observé a la distancia desde

mi adolescencia.

Nuestra relación se podría describir como superficial

y vacía. No era lo que llamaríamos un modelo a seguir.

Apenas si lo conocía—mis padres se divorciaron antes

que yo tuviera uso de razón, y él estaba mayormente

ausente durante mi crianza.



El padre de él también había partido,

pero de forma distinta. Abandonó a su familia

cuando mi padre era sólo un niño. Mi

abuelo se fue sin dejar rastro. Ni siquiera

sabíamos si estaba vivo.

Las cosas no lucían bien de ese lado

del árbol genealógico de mi familia. Se

supone que como joven debes mirar hacia

tus ma yores y hallar inspiración, no encarcelamiento.

Dejar un legado, no un delito.

Sin una buena figura paternal en mi vida,

mi propia trayectoria y destino quedaban

en juego. Busqué cosas que llenaran el

vacío en mi corazón. Estoy seguro de que

las oraciones de personas piadosas del otro

lado de mi árbol genealógico fueron las

que me alejaron de seguir en los pasos de

mi padre a temprana edad.

Por estar en la cárcel mi padre se perdió

una serie de eventos críticos en mi vida. Un

padre debe estar presente cuando obtienes

tu primera licencia, consigues tu primer

carro, te gradúas del bachillerato, y todos

los demás logros de un hijo. Debería haber

estado entre el público, debería haber escuchado

su ánimo y sentir su apoyo desde

las gradas. Pero si existían aplausos, no los

escuchaba salir de la celda de prisión donde

se encontraba mi padre. Cada evento que

se perdía agregaba una capa de amargura

al monto de mi desilusión y decepción que

iban en aumento.

Pero Dios ya estaba actuando en

nuestras vidas.

Enviaron a mi padre a un hospital de

prisión federal en Springfield, Missouri,

para comenzar a servir su condena.

Al poco tiempo de su llegada, sus compañeros

de celda lo invitaron a unos servicios

que realizaban voluntarios de una

iglesia local. Herido y quebrantado, aceptó

asistir, pero no era el tipo de persona que

quería abrazos de parte de los voluntarios,

y se los hizo saber.

Al poco tiempo empezó a responder al

evangelio de Cristo y comenzó a realizarse

una transformación en él. No había ido a

ese hospital de prisión para un trasplante

de corazón; sin embargo, recibió uno cuando

aceptó a Cristo Jesús como su salvador.

No lo sabía aún, pero esa decisión, y

otra que tomó allí—basada en Josué 24:15:

“Por mi parte, mi familia y yo serviremos

al Señor”—impactarían a nuestra familia

por generaciones.

Conforme mi padre comenzó a poner su

vida en manos de Dios, empezó a orar por

aquellas personas a quienes amaba. Con

justa razón, dos de sus mayores preocupaciones

éramos mi hermano y yo. Durante

sus llamadas, mi madre le contaba de los

problemas en los que nos estábamos metiendo.

Conocía demasiado bien la dirección

que llevábamos.

Otra de sus preocupaciones era su padre

desaparecido del cual no sabía nada

desde hacía más de 30 años. Independientemente,

comenzó a orar y, en su

lectura bíblica, se encontró con Salmos

138:8: “El Señor cumplirá en mí su propósito”

(NVI). Su oración por todos nosotros era

sencilla: “Dios, por favor manda a alguien

Allen Jr. y Allen Sr.,


reunidos después

de 30 años cuando

Allen Jr. encontró

el nombre de su

padre en una guía

telefónica de


que comparta el evangelio con ellos.” Mi

padre quería que nosotros experimentáramos

el mismo amor y perdón que él había

llegado a conocer por medio de Jesucristo.

Sus fervorosas oraciones comenzaron

una reacción en cadena en cámara lenta

Cuando al fin comprendes el contexto y

la profundidad de tu propia depravación y

experimentas el perdón de Dios, entonces

buscas perdonar también a otros.

en mi árbol genealógico, aunque las respuestas

no fueron exactamente las que mi

padre esperaba. El fruto del Espíritu Santo—

amor, gozo, paz, paciencia, benignidad,

bondad, fe, mansedumbre, y templanza—

empezaron a manifestarse en su vida. Eran

evidentes en lo que escribía, sus llamadas,

y nuestras visitas. Vi el cambio en mi padre,

pero aún no lo comprendía.

Después de servir su condena federal,

aún le faltaba a mi padre cumplir su

condena estatal, pero una sentencia favo

rable lo liberó en menos de cinco años.

Era evidente que Dios tenía planes para

él. En cuanto salió de prisión, empezó a


Issue 01 / 2020



Si estás leyendo esto en

prisión, no he estado donde

tú estás. Pero he estado

donde están tus hijos.

Posiblemente no puedas

alcanzarlos físicamente, pero

tu Padre amoroso en el cielo

escucha tus oraciones.

buscar oportunidades de ministerio otra

vez dentro de la cárcel.

Mientras tanto, mi propio problema

había comenzado, y mis métodos para

solucionarlo no estaban funcionando. Yo

estaba en la Marina y recién separado de

mi esposa. El desamor se había vuelto algo

común para mí, y las cosas en las que ponía

mi esperanza me estaban decepcionando.

En un momento de desesperación en

mi propia vida, salí a buscar algo que

aliviara mi dolor, para llenar el vacío en

mi corazón. Un día me encontraba tan

desesperado que tomé una Biblia y un

teléfono, me metí en mi litera, y llamé a

mi padre pidiendo auxilio. Yo sabía que él

tenía acceso a un poder que yo no tenía,

y yo necesitaba alivio.

Le conté lo que estaba sucediendo y, a

través de lágrimas, le pregunté “¿Dónde

encuentro la ayuda que necesito? Tengo

una Biblia—¿qué página busco?” Nuestros

asuntos personales sin resolver ya no tenían

importancia. Ni siquiera me importaba

que mi compañero de litera estuviera en

la cama de arriba. Lo único que sabía era

que, si este Dios era real, yo necesitaba

su ayuda. El dolor era demasiado intenso,

y mis esfuerzos para solucionar todo no

estaban funcionando.

Leí los versículos que mi papá me

recomendó, pero seguí tratando de solucionar

las cosas con mis propias fuerzas.

No comprendía el concepto de rendirme

por completo a Dios, y las cosas empeoraron.

Regresé de la Guerra del Golfo con una

relación rota, un auto descompuesto, sin

dinero, y rodeado de incertidumbre. Estaba

perdido. Pero en medio de toda esa

obscuridad, mi padre llegó. Me estaba esperando

en el muelle cuando arribamos;

estaba presente cuando más lo necesité.

Dios nos había estado preparando a los

dos para este momento.

Llegó a vivir conmigo, y por primera vez,

reconocí mi necesidad de Cristo. Dios utilizó

a mi padre para compartir el evangelio

conmigo y cambiar mi vida por siempre.

Dejé todo mi desamor, fragilidad, y pecado

al pie de la cruz, donde encontré perdón

e integridad.

Cuando al fin comprendes el contexto y

la profundidad de tu propia depravación y

experimentas el perdón de Dios, entonces

buscas perdonar también a otros. Colosenses

3:13 nos anima: “Así como el Señor

los perdonó, perdonen también ustedes.”

Eso es lo que yo hice, y mi relación con mi

papá fue restaurada.

En su libro, BJ y Allen relatan su

increíble historia de restsuración y

esperanza que ha tocado vidas tanto

dentro como fuera de la prisión.

Pero la historia de restauración no termina

allí. En 1993, mi padre viajó a la Florida

para una conferencia del ministerio.

Cuando se preparaba para regresar a casa

la última noche, sintió el impulso a buscar

en el directorio telefónico que estaba sobre

una pequeña mesa en su cuarto de hotel.

Ahí mismo encontró, en blanco y negro, el

nombre de su padre, Allen M. Emerson, Sr.

Al día siguiente mi padre llamó el número

que había encontrado. Le preguntó al

hombre que contestó el teléfono si tenía un

hijo que había nacido en cierta fecha, y el

hombre le dijo que sí. Entonces se pusieron

de acuerdo para encontrarse. Ese día, mi

padre y mi abuelo fueron milagrosamente

reunidos después de 30 años. Su relación

fue restaurada y, por los próximos nueve

años, se llamaron y se visitaron frecuentemente.

Pero mi abuelo aún no conocía

de Cristo, así que mi padre siguió orando.

Cuando mi abuelo estaba en su lecho

de muerte en el hospital, mi padre le leyó

las palabras de Jesús en Juan 14:1. Él dijo,

“No se turbe vuestro corazón. Creéis en

Dios; creed también en mí.” Cuando estaba

tomando sus últimos suspiros, mi abuelo

llegó a conocer a Cristo. Y una vez más,

Dios contestó las oraciones de mi padre

de mandar a alguien a compartir el evangelio—pero

en vez de alguien más, otra vez

usó a mi padre para alcanzar a aquellos a

quienes amaba.

Dios ha utilizado a mi padre para llevar

esperanza a miles tras las rejas durante

30 años de ministerio en prisiones. Si estás

leyendo esto en prisión, no he estado donde

tú estás. Pero he estado donde están tus

hijos. Posiblemente no puedas alcanzarlos

físicamente, pero tu Padre amoroso en el

cielo escucha tus oraciones. Él conoce tus

preocupaciones, y cuando pones tu confianza

en él, te utilizará para crear un impacto

en tu familia y en los que te rodean.

La oración es poderosa, y Dios puede

hacer milagros cuando tenemos fe que él

hará lo que nosotros no podemos hacer. Las

oraciones de mi padre en prisión cambiaron

el destino de nuestra familia. Tus oraciones

pueden lograr lo mismo. Clámale con fe

hoy mismo.

BJ EMERSON y su padre, Allen, viven en las

Carolinas y han tenido la oportunidad de compartir

su increíble historia de restauración juntos a

muchos que están encarcelados y necesitados

de esperanza. Su libro, The Heart of the Fathers,

está disponible en amazon.com. Conéctate con los

Emersons a través de su libro Hearts of the Fathers

Book en Facebook.








When Kenny found his 1973

Academy of Country Music

Award in his backyard shed,

he realized how much God

has changed his priorities.


hoarding some material things in my shed that

are no longer useful to me. In light of that revelation,

I decided it was time to clean it out.

One of the most interesting objects I stumbled

upon was my 1973 Academy of Country Music

Award. Our band, Brush Arbor, won Best Vocal

Group that year, along with another award for

Touring Band of the Year. The two trophies went

to our manager at the time, while the six members

of the band went home empty handed. A

year or so later, he presented each of us with a

copy of the award.

For years, I’d kept that trophy in a protective

case. I’d displayed it proudly in my living room.

It had meant a lot to me. Yet now, it was lying unprotected

in a box, with smudges and scratches

on what used to be a shiny, polished surface. It’s

funny how our values change over time.

For much of my life, I thrived on presenting

myself with impressive credentials like, “Academy

of Country Music Award Winner!” “Toured

with Johnny Cash!” “Appeared on the Grand Ole

Opry!” “Worked onstage in Las Vegas!” Hearing

those things made me feel important. And for

some reason, they seemed to make other people

think I was important too.

Today, however, I live in a one-room studio

apartment right down the street from the Family

Dollar in a small town with four stoplights, far

from the attention and bright lights I’d craved.

I used to thrive on performance and recognition.

My only goal was to be a country music

star. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but anyone

aspiring world fame for their own glory will find

themselves headed to a dead-end life. I know. I

lost everything I valued, all for the “glory” of my

addiction to booze and low self-esteem.

But in that loss, I found something else that

will never lose its value: I found Jesus.

These days, I understand how unimportant all

those things are apart from knowing Christ. Like

Paul says in Philippians 3:8: “Everything else is

worthless when compared with the infinite value

of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I

have discarded everything else, counting it all

as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.”

When I turned my focus to Him, listened for

His voice, and gave my musical talents to Him, I

found living hope. I found a life of purpose. I found

salvation and love that can never be taken away.

I no longer stand on large stages or travel the

world. I live alone now; I even lost my little dog

last year and my phone seldom rings. My stage

is usually a prison yard or chapel.

The fast life with all that stuff I thought was

important is far behind me, and I’m glad because

now my life has eternal purpose. When I surrendered

my musical talents to God and sought to

use them for His glory, He gave me a front-row

seat to seeing lives change from despair to hope…

from death to life. There’s nothing greater.

Today, my desire is that I’ll live a life of faith

that only seeks God’s approval, so that when the

time comes and I enter heaven’s gates, He will

greet me with these words: “Well done, my good

and faithful servant. You have been faithful in

handling this small amount, so now I will give

you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate

together!” (Matthew 25:23).

Maybe you’re like me and you’ve valued the

things of this world over eternal things like

knowing God. Maybe you’ve even got a shed full

of stuff to prove it. Let’s empty our sheds and let

go of our past. Let’s get to know Jesus. He is the

only thing worth holding on to.

KENNY MUNDS takes the good news of God’s love and

forgiveness into prisons across America. To learn more

about his ministry, go to kennymundsministry.org.


Issue 01 / 2020





feeling angry, sad, hurt, or any other emotion

that didn’t make me feel good. I thought I was

supposed to be happy all the time, and even when

I went through hard times, I thought I was supposed

to look like I had it all together. Because of

those unrealistic expectations, self-harm became

a quick fix for me. I could pretend to be happy all

day at family gatherings, school, and even church,

but when I was alone, I would face the true emotions

I was really dealing with. Cutting gave me a

release from the pressure to be perfect.

A huge contributing factor to my self-harm was

that two family members were sexually abusing

me, and I believed I had done something

to deserve this. I even remember thinking that

maybe if my abusers saw the scars, they would

be grossed out and leave me alone. I thought if

I made myself unappealing to them, they would

stop. That didn’t work—but the cutting seemed

to help me. It felt good because it provided a

temporary distraction from the inner pain and

all the fear and insecurity inside of me. It was a

way of escape.



My perception of God was that He was a distant

lawmaker. I thought I had to follow the rules. I’d

never experienced a personal relationship with

Him. The church I grew up in was all about what

you could and could not do—I don’t remember

ever seeing a display of love or grace.

So even though I believed there was a God, He

wasn’t a personal God to me. I knew I wasn’t perfect,

so I didn’t believe He cared about me or the

things I did. I certainly didn’t feel I deserved His

love. I was looking for someone to blame for all

the bad in my life, so if I thought about God, it was

only to blame Him for my pain. In reality, He was

the only one who could truly free me from pain.

My dad was physically abusive, and my mom

was verbally abusive. I struggled daily, wondering

if they even loved me. They told me I was fat and

that I would never amount to anything. They told

me I was a mistake. I figured, if my own parents

didn’t want me around, why would anyone else?

It was all too much, and one night I planned

to commit suicide. I didn’t really want to die, but

I didn’t want to live this way either. Desperate

for help, I called a lady I knew as a last cry for

someone to care. She picked me up from my

house and took me to hers so we could talk. She

listened as I expressed all my frustrations and

the tangled mess of emotions that I could not sort

out on my own.

When I was done, she told me that God had a

plan for my life and that He was going to take all

that the enemy meant for my destruction and

turn it around for my good. She also told me that,

someday, I would encourage other girls who were

struggling with the same things because I would

understand them. But, she told me, I had to let

God work in my life first.

I was looking for someone to blame

for all the bad in my life, so if I

thought about God, it was only to

blame Him for my pain.

At that moment, I knew things had to change. I

wanted to stop hurting myself, but I didn’t know

how to do that. Even if I could go to church every

Sunday and Wednesday and read my Bible

faithfully, I didn’t know how to apply what I was

hearing or reading. No one had ever taught me

what to do when I was struggling or how to handle

difficult situations. At that point, I was still living

with my family, so I couldn’t escape my circumstances.

I had a hard time trusting people and

was very guarded. How could I make anything

change? Nevertheless, I was determined to fix

the problem myself.

My addiction to self-harm had affected every

relationship in my life. When I was with my

friends or family and needed to cut, I would get

agitated, impatient, and angry, looking for an

opportunity to be alone. I had to isolate myself

from everyone so I could focus on cutting. The

process took time, preparation, anticipation, the

act of doing so, then cleaning up, bandaging myself,

and making sure I had it all together before

I went back out with the people.

My life was one big, terrible cycle, and I wanted

out! I heard about Mercy Ministries, a place that

offered help for girls like me. God opened the

door for me to enter the program.

While I was at Mercy, I realized that making

a change wasn’t only about choosing new

behaviors—I had to get to the root issues that

were causing me to want to cut myself. Facing

my problems head on and not trying to escape

took a lot of work. I did not want to face all those

painful emotions and memories from my past

that I had spent years trying to avoid, but I had

to deal with them so I could heal.

I had to make up my mind that no matter how

hard it got, I was going to do whatever it took to

be free. That took a lot of humility because it was

something I could not do on my own. I had to

reach out to God and the people He had placed

around me. I also had to be vulnerable and honest.

Learning how to have a real relationship with

Christ has opened my eyes to who I really am. I

know that my identity does not come from past

experience or who others want me to be—it’s

found in who God says I am. Knowing that I am

loved, cherished, wanted, valuable, and fearfully

and wonderfully made gives me the courage,

boldness, and tenacity to fight on.

Speaking God’s Word out loud also became an

important part of my daily life as the truth began

to expose the lies I believed. As I heard myself

speak the truth out loud, faith rose up within

me to believe it. My emotions were based on so


Issue 01 / 2020



Beyond Cut is one of six

volumes in the Mercy for

series. It includes Tiffany’s

story, along with many

others. Learn more at


many lies that it was important for me to renew

my mind with God’s Word so that I could believe

it and my emotions would line up with the truth. I

set aside time to do this every day because having

structure doesn’t leave much room for feelings.

A huge revelation for me was that I am to live my

life based on truth, not controlled by my feelings.

Healing and freedom came as I experienced

the love and kindness of God. I graduated from

God does not hold our past mistakes

against us once we have asked for

forgiveness, so we shouldn’t hold

them against ourselves either.

Mercy and then got connected in a church. There,

God began to use other people to demonstrate His

love for me. People would come up and tell me

that I was important to them and encourage me.

I was afraid others would hold my past against

me, but instead, I have been surrounded with

people who are willing to look beyond my past

and see me as a new creation in Christ. God has

brought people into my life that I have learned to

trust. Through them, I have learned that if they

can show me love and forgiveness like this, then

how much greater is the love and forgiveness of

God toward me?

My strength comes from the Lord, and through

that strength, I continue to walk in freedom, forgetting

what is behind, because I know God has

forgiven me. He is a forgiving God—it was forgiving

myself that was hard.

God does not hold our past mistakes against

us once we have asked for forgiveness, so we

shouldn’t hold them against ourselves either. In

order to receive God’s forgiveness, I had to forgive

myself. This is something I have to do daily—I

must live with an attitude of forgiveness, being

quick to forgive others as well as myself.

I thought that, when I graduated from Mercy,

I would have my life together. I thought that if I

struggled even one bit, it would mean that the

last year of my life had been a waste. Obviously,

this was a lie.

I have to be real and honest with other people

and with myself. I have to surround myself with

godly people, and I can’t let myself become isolated.

I have to avoid setting myself up to struggle.

God does not want me to walk in perfectionism.

Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us come boldly to the

throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and

find grace to help in time of need” (NKJV). God

understands our humanity. He does not expect

us to be perfect! Knowing this brings me peace

and an ability to enjoy life.

There is hope. Dealing with feelings and emotions

can be scary, but they are there for a reason.

God gave them to us to signal that something

happening inside of us needs to be addressed. I

want you to experience the freedom and victory

I have found. It begins by opening your heart to

God and to others who want to love you. I did, and

I am forever changed.

I’m going back to school to finish my degree in

psychology to become a counselor. I want people

to experience the true love, joy, and peace that

are found in Christ. I want to share with others

what God has done in my life. In Mark 16:15, Jesus

tells us to “go into all the world and preach the

gospel to every creature” (NKJV). That’s what

I’m going to do!

TIFFANY’s story can be found in a book entitled Beyond Cut:

Real Stories of Real Freedom. This book presents personal

stories from young women who have found freedom from

self-harm. It guides readers through practical steps to

break free from their self-destructive behavior.

The book is not designed to be a replacement for

professional help. If you are struggling with self-harm,

we ask you to use this book in conjunction with Christian

counseling or mentoring.



Do you need rest today?

Peace? Freedom? Forgiveness?

Restoration? Call out to Jesus,

accept Him as your Savior, and

you will be made whole.

Pray: “Jesus, I invite You into my life. I

confess that I am a sinner in need of a

Savior. Thank You for saving me from my

sins and making me whole. Thank You for

laying down Your life for me so that I can

have a new life in You. I receive, by faith,

this forgiveness of sin. Take my life, my past

and my future. Guide my steps and speak

to my heart, Lord. Use me, God. Amen.”

¿Necesitas descanso hoy?

¿Paz? ¿Libertad? ¿Perdón?

¿Restauración? Clama al Señor

Jesús, acéptalo como tu Salvador,

y serás hecho completo.

Ora: “Jesús, te invito a mi vida. Confieso

que soy un pecador y necesito un Salvador.

Gracias por perdonar mis pecados y por

hacerme de nuevo. Gracias por sacrificar

tu vida por mí para que yo pueda tener una

nueva vida en ti. Recibo, por fe, el perdón

de mis pecados. Toma mi vida, mi pasado

y mi futuro. Guía mis pasos y habla a mi

corazón, Señor. Úsame, Dios. Amén.”

I Am for You


has not always been easy. Even now, you

are facing difficult circumstances. Do not

listen to the voices in your head that tell

you there’s no hope for you. Those voices

lie. Instead, listen to Me—only to Me and

to My truth.

The truth is, I love you with an everlasting

love. The truth is, you are forgiven. The

truth is, I have great plans for you. The

truth is, nothing is impossible when I am

on your side! And I am on your side.

I am for you, not against you. Through

Me, you have the very power of God living

inside you. Because I am fighting your

battles, you can’t help but be victorious!

No power of hell, no scheme of man,

no past mistake can stop the plans I have

for you.

It does not matter what you’ve done,

where you’ve come from, or where you’ve

been. It does not matter what possessions

you hold in your hand. It does not matter

what people have said about you or to you.

If I am for you, nothing can overcome you,

for I have overcome the world.

So rise up, My child. In Me, you have all

you need. I know your fears, your doubts,

and your pain. Give them to Me and rest.

Be anxious over nothing; you are not alone.


Issue 01 / 2020



Victorious Living aims not only to

encourage your heart with stories

of God’s faithfulness, but also to

equip your mind and empower your

life with the truth of His Word.

We hope you enjoy this interactive

section of the magazine. As you

answer the following questions and

apply the scriptures to your life,

you will find yourself experiencing

a deeper relationship with God

and a greater level of freedom and

victory in your life. (All scripture

referenced is from the NIV.)


What temptations do you regularly battle? What

trips you up and causes you to lose intimacy with

God? If you’re not sure, ask God. He’ll tell you.

Pray Psalm 139:23–24: “Search

,O God, and

know my ; me

and know my anxious

. See if there is

any way in me, and me

in the way .”

Answers: me, heart, test, thoughts, offensive, lead, everlasting.

What temptations has God

revealed to you?





In Resisting Temptation (pg. 12), Robert

Lowery candidly shares his battle of resisting

sexual temptation. His first step to victory

was realizing that certain life choices, people,

places, and mindsets were tripping him up

and keeping him from God’s best for his life.

He then had to choose to separate himself

from those things and determine to stay pure,

no matter the cost. Finally, he had to fight

daily in the strength God gave him. Now it’s

your turn to fight for freedom.

Where do temptations come from? We often

assume God sends them, but in reality, temptations

come from our own evil desires and from Satan.

James 1:13–15: “When tempted, no one should say

‘ is tempting me.’ For God cannot be

tempted by evil, nor does he


but each person is tempted when they are

away by their own


. Then, after desire has conceived,

it gives birth to sin; and

, when it is fullgrown,

gives birth to .”

Answers: God, tempt, dragged, evil desire, enticed, sin, death.

Ephesians 6:12: “Our

is not against

and blood, but against the rulers,

against the authorities, against the

of this world and against the spiritual

forces of

in the heavenly realms.”

Answers: struggle, flesh, powers, dark, evil.



Matthew 4:1: “Then

was led by the Spirit

into the desert to be by the .”

Answers: Jesus, tempted, devil.

Go deeper in Matthew 4 and read how Jesus fought

the tempter with the Word of God.

Can you identify three specific

sources of temptation in your

own life?


Your freedom, like Robert’s, will not come without

a fight. Even Jesus was tempted! But temptations

don’t have to overcome you. Here are some verses

that will keep you from falling into temptation:

James 4:7: “ yourselves, then, to .


, and he will

from you.”

Answers: Submit, God, Resist, devil, flee.

1 Peter 5:8–9: “Be and of mind.

Your the prowls around like a

roaring lion looking for


. him, standing firm in the

, because you know that the family of

believers throughout the world is undergoing the

same kind of .”


Now it’s time to deal with the things that keep

tripping you up.

Hebrews 12:1 tells you how: “Let us


that hinders and the that

so easily entangles. And let us run with


marked out for us.”

Answers: alert, sober, enemy, devil, someone, devour, resist, faith, sufferings.

Choose one verse above and

explain how you will apply it to

your situation today.

Answers: throw, everything, sin, endurance, race.

You have a part to play in gaining your freedom, by

removing everything and everyone that hinders your

walk with God.

What are some ways you can

separate yourself from the

things that trip you up?


You might have been fighting evil desires for a long

time. So long that you think you’ll never have victory

over them. Don’t lose hope.

Always remember Philippians 4:13: “ can do all

this through who gives me .”

Answers: I, him, strength.

Speak this promise every day. Do what you can to

strengthen your defenses—put on God’s armor of

faith. God will give you the strength to overcome.


Issue 01 / 2020


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Clermont, FL 34712-0951


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