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Tuesday, March 24

I'm Married to a Broken Vessel...

The Story Behind the Story...

When God brought Keith and I together, and we knew that our relationship was moving in the direction of marriage and ministry together, Keith shared with me something that I can remember so clearly.  He said, "Before we go any further in our pursuit of marriage, I need to share with you that I am really, really beat up!  Playing football and doing other sports that brought collision injuries in my life from the time I was young, I'm paying dearly for it and I need to put this all out on the table.  I need to let you know that I suffer terribly from those injuries."  At that moment, I just had to smile and tell him that, no matter what, God's grace will get us through it!  By this time, and even a year before this, I knew God had answered the fervent prayer I prayed for over 10 years by bringing Keith into my life.  I had been praying and waiting for a godly man who would be my spiritual covering, who would be the spiritual leader of our family, and who loved God with his whole heart, all the time.
When Keith came along and I saw that he loves God even more than he loved me (as it should be), that's exactly what I had been waiting for!  He IS God's answer to my prayer!  The thing is, without Keith experiencing the pain and suffering he had endured for 33 years before we met, he wouldn't have experienced the purity of God, that comes by the pain, positioning him to receive it.  Interestingly, in that fact, PAIN is a GOOD thing... for b-o-t-h of us!  And my having the ability to help him in his areas of difficulty with the pain, and in days when it's hard for him to even get out of bed, is a good thing.  To be his encouragement, helping care well for his nutritional, physical, emotional, and spiritual needs every day, helps encourage me and my spirit too.  We are a great team!
This is a race were running and we must finish!  In order to finish, we must pursue God, Rewarder of those who diligently seeking Him.  There is no coincidence that we've named this ministry from the Philippians 3:13-14 passage that says, "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."  See, this is a battlefield where we fight; it's not a wedding dress room.  We want to emphasize, and it is of the utmost importance, that you keep going!  There is nothing worth you giving up, and people all around you, counting on you, are worth your pressing on and pressing in.  We "must" be strong!
Because of certain decisions and circumstances from living a certain lifestyle, folks who we have met are out there right now struggling, trying to find the strength just to move forward another day.  If you've done some things in life that have left you effected mentally or spiritually or physically, and you're finding it hard to press on another day, you may be someone we are writing this for, specifically.  You may feel as if you've pressed in as far as you possibly can, and you have literally collapsed, feeling mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted.  We're sharing this testimony in hopes that something we're going through, and have gone through over a number of difficult years, will fan the flame in your heart to k-e-e-p going.  The Scripture tells us we must persevere to the end.  "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."  (Hebrews 12:1-2)
It was one evening about 20 years ago when a very wise pastor friend told Keith to do something that would help him in times of chronic pain and hopelessness.  He said, "You need to turn your office in to a 'Keith Room'."  Keith said that he chuckled and said how he thought it was already a room for him because it's where he spends his time praying and studying.  His pastor friend corrected him saying, "Not a 'Keith's room', but a 'Keith Room.  You need to cover the walls in your office with your 'trophies', everything representing what you have accomplished over the years.  Hang them everywhere around you!  Fill your walls up!  I tell you to do this because I have found that my own 'trophy room' has been one of my greatest weapons against the wicked spirits of hopelessness, depression, oppression, and every other kind of unclean spirit that comes to deceive you into giving up!"  Keith told me that, since then, he tells anyone who has a definite passion to work with God to fulfill God's passion, they m-u-s-t have a "trophy room" in their house, because satan works very hard to convince us that we never have done, and never will do, anything great!
In the heat of battle, when everything in you is screaming, you have that place where you and God, together, can enjoy all you have come through, together!  "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."  (Jude 1:20-21)
One afternoon when I was waiting for Keith to join me for a podcast recording, I started to read what was written on various things hanging on his office walls.  As I really focused on what I was seeing and reading, I realized something I never stopped long enough to really think about before.  I could clearly see that, without question, Keith has many remarkable accomplishments he has been able to pursue and achieve.  Those accomplishments documented on his walls, speak to some of the most important milestones and life-changing events that have shaped him into the man he has become today.  To help give you a visual and an idea of some of the more important details, there are framed covers of the books that he has written and published, two CD projects representing collections of original songs that he authored, recorded and published, issues of early ministry newsletters, photos of his concert performances with fellow-musicians from popular Christian groups, photos from marinas and other companies he's managed, his certificate of licensing into ministry, and more.  Everything I can physically see is the proof Keith accomplished what was required by investing his dedicated time, patience, focus, steps of faith, hard work, personal sacrifices and follow-through, and the rest of the hard "stuff" that is the deeper story you can't see behind what we do see on the wall.
I've heard people who have known Keith describe him as a likeable guy, an achiever who is down-to-earth and outgoing, and a guy who knows and loves God and The Scripture.  He is known to be a great friend, encouraging in the things of God, and, of course, is a wonderful husband and leader of our family.  On the other hand, he doesn't have an English degree and also didn't have straight A's in school as you might expect, for him to get to where he is now as President and Founder of Toward The Mark, Inc.  Some have asked how he came to be a writer of five of his own books, and to be a published author of, not only his books, but of two CDs of his original music.  When someone wants to know where Keith found the knowledge and expertise to produce all of those wonderful things, he humbly tells them, "I have friends who helped me who are a whole lot smarter than I am!"
When people come to visit our office, they walk in and see the walls covered with many of the reminders of where Keith's life and ministry has come from.  Those reminders are reflections of Keith's background, and certain ones reflect a very defining moment in Keith's life that, until now, not many people have known about.  I say it was "defining" because his life changed dramatically and unexpectedly, and, as a result, there was a big price that he had to pay, and is actually still paying for today.  What I am referring to is most often the first thing to draws people's eyes, especially for the guys visiting - it's Keith's college football helmet displayed on a shelf mounted high in the center of one of his walls.  To the right of the helmet, is the framed picture of Keith suited up in his college football uniform.  To the left of the helmet, is a plaque honoring Keith for his contributions to his college team, for winning the national championship in their college football division.  Just as with each one of the things on the walls, what is not visible with the helmet is the price that was paid for it to get there.  Though a prize, it serves more-so as a reminder to always count the cost that comes with the great sacrifice and hard work of accomplishments.
Keith's love for football began when he was just five years old, when he watched Johnny Unitas play on television.  He'll tell you how, the first time he saw Johnny with the Baltimore Colts, a light went on in his heart.  He knew from that moment that football was what he wanted to do the most.  His love for football and his passion to play the game continued to grow from that point on.  With each passing Sunday, watching more games and learning about the different teams, Keith found himself being influenced by even more players, like quarterback Bart Star of the Green Bay Packers, and quarterback Roman Gabriel of the Los Angeles Rams.  When Keith was eight years old, his dream to be able to play organized football became a reality.  He signed up for the team late, but the coach offered him a part in the program if he could come up with his own helmet, pads, jersey, pants, and cleats, since they had already handed out all the gear they had on hand.  And, coming up with his own gear is exactly what he did when his mom took him to the sporting goods section of a big department store not far from their home.  He used his lawn-mowing money to buy everything he needed from a huge sporting store he and his mom went to.
That was the very occasion when the hopes and dreams, and ability and passion that Keith had to play football, became bigger than life!  For 15 consecutive years, he lived out his dreams of playing, getting better each season, at each level.  In his final years of high school, playing and having as much fun with his football friends as he could was his real interest, not seriously considering his grades and education for the future.  He knew his possibilities for college would be limited, which made him enjoy his high school football seasons all the more, in case that was where they would end. 
The summer before Keith left to play football in college, there was a very special mentor who taught him some very important techniques that would help him reach the pinnacle of his football career.  That special mentor was Chris Hanburger, linebacker in the NFL who played his entire 14-year-career with the Washington Redskins, and was a 2011 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  God brought Chris into his life, being the big brother Keith never had, at a critical time when his family was breaking up and his parents were divorcing.  Keith has great stories of him and Chris practicing blocking in the parking lot at the marina where he worked throughout his high school years, learning so much from Chris during that time.
One day, Keith got a letter in the mail from Coach Hank Norton who, little did he know at the time, was a nationally renowned head coach, from Ferrum College in the hills of Virginia.  Keith tells about how excited he was to learn about Coach Norton from the guy who owned the marina he worked for, Ed Thornley.  Ed had played football at Virginia Tech, but said that, if Hank Norton had been coaching at Ferrum at the time when he was playing, he would've reconsidered his decision to play at VA Tech, to play under Coach Norton.  Being a father-figure for Keith, as well as his boss at the marina, Ed volunteered himself to make Keith's car and insurance payments, and to send money while Keith was away at college, to provide for his books, class expenses, food, and other necessities.  He told Keith not to worry about anything but his classes and playing football.  At that, Keith thanked him profusely for his help in this way that lifted a big burden on his mind about financial support he didn't have otherwise.
When Chris heard that Keith had been invited to Ferrum, he said he just loved it because he knew how good the program was there, because of Coach Norton's tenure.  Keith remembers the next thing Chris said to him, knowing it would motivate Keith to give his best, not only playing with aggression, but "playing with total abandon."  Knowing that Keith was consumed with kickoff and punting teams, Chris said, "You go and do a good job for Hank Norton and, when you come back, you and I will walk into the head coach's office for the Redskins, and we'll see if we can't get you a shot at those special teams that you like so much!"  With the level of excitement Chris brought into Keith's life with that mention, casual yet timely as it was, Keith became so driven that, no matter if he was too small, not smart enough, or had any other odds against him, his heart was totally engaged!  There would be no doubt that he would give all he had in him to make it all the way to where he would be able to redeem Chris's offer.  There would be no stopping him now!
So, when Keith arrived at college, he described the first obstacles he had to overcome being what he saw, and faced, the first time he walked into the gym for the first day of team tryouts.  First, he saw that he was just one of several hundred guys who was there to fight for a position on the team.  Even more intimidating was, based on the size and strength of the guys that were there standing around him, his competition, it seemed as though he was the only guy who did NOT have the Arnold Schwarzenegger-like appearance.  I love how Keith says it in light of his size deficit, "They all looked like Arnold; then, there was me."  He also shares how, if he didn't love football as much as he did, he "would've turned around and bolted that very day, because all those guys in that place looked like they could snap (him) like a twig!"
Trying out for the team was a life-changing experience for sure.  According to basic statistics for the football players from high school that actually get selected to play on college teams, only 6.4% make it.  For Keith, though, his sacrifices and hard work in the training would be extraordinary, because he would be required to do drills where he would be pitted against guys who were bigger than his 6'2", 205 pound size, stronger and more hard-hitting by comparison, and naturally built to easily out-muscle him.  What he calls his "saving grace", to make up for the strength and size he didn't have by comparison to the other guys, was knowing and using what he had learned early on in football.  He knew how to use technique and maneuverability to knock the "bigger guys" off balance and off their game.
Besides his size, there were unique odds that Keith was unaware of, working against him.  He was an average, healthy teenager, as far as he knew, but he had always wondered why he seemed to have to work so much harder than other guys, to get into as good of physical shape as they were.  Each year, starting with pre-season football practice, nose-bleeds and coughing up blood became a regular thing for Keith, when nobody else seemed to have that happen to them.  He struggled hard to do physical conditioning that others made look effortless.  Keith told me that, the whole time he fought to stay on his feet and in the game, physically, he kept thinking that he was, apparently, just behind in getting in shape.
It was only about two years ago that Keith's dad shared something that had never come up in conversation before, and it finally explained all of those curious symptoms.  Sitting around the Shealy family table at Thanksgiving, all of a sudden, Keith's dad blurted out (holding a turkey leg in his hands), "Did you all know that, in the first year of Keith's life, he was pronounced dead three times?"  I was shocked because I have one of those father-in-law's who's pretty quiet about stuff that changes a person's life, like that.  He loves his family with all of his heart, but it's very seldom any of us get to hear about the hard battles he's fought in his life - those fought for the US Navy that he kept secret ever since his missions in the Korean War; those his dad (Keith's grandfather) fought in the skies in WW II; and those we all tried to talk about when he would just change the subject instead of share with us what we asked to know.  Dad Shealy continued, saying, "Yeah, for the first three months after his birth, Keith was kept in the hospital under close surveillance for a chronic lung disease.  The doctor said his lungs were severely under-developed and he had chronic emphysema.  It drove his mom crazy that he had to stay at the hospital, closed inside an oxygen chamber, and they wouldn't let us bring him home.  On three different occasions, the hospital staff called, and had us come and make funeral arrangements for him, telling us to say our goodbyes as he might not live but a few more hours."  Wow!  Neither Keith nor I had ever heard about all of that before.  I'm thinking at that time, what a miracle to have Keith here, now, with his life story to tell!
Now, things started all coming together at the table there, why Keith would regularly cough up blood at football practices and why he was always more short of breath than all of the other guys playing who seemed to be making it through effortlessly.  Now we realize that he lived his life and played 15 consecutive years of football by God's grace alone.  If Keith had learned all of this before now, he may not have been able to make it into the college ranks with as severe of asthmatic conditions as he didn't realize he had!
Working in Keith's favor, especially when he played in college, was having good football coaches who recognized his strengths and abilities, then "reached in and pulled stuff out of you that you didn't even know you had", as Keith puts it.  Keith likens the purpose of the head football coach and his assistants, to that of the senior pastor and his associate pastors in the local church.  Pastors are given by God as a gift to the body of Christ, for the purpose of leading individuals in his congregation into oneness with God, where they can then realize and perform what God has put them here on the earth to fulfill.  Now, once these individuals have realized what they have received from God to perform what they've been wired to do, it is the pastor's job to look into those individuals' lives, and help draw out and develop what God wired in them.  Much the same, good football coaches, like Coach Norton, are there to help players discover and achieve their full God-given potential on the field and in the game of football.
When it comes to the national championship season of Keith's freshman year of college, I asked him to tell me about that monumental time in his life.  So you can hear his heart, I'll quote for you just what Keith answered. ...
"Throughout the final game and, at the end, winning with a score of 83 to 3, it was total elation!  Undefeated and having had a fabulous season, we knew we were not going to get thumped in the back of the head if we messed up or had a little too much fun.  We were big dogs and it was just a fun day that I'll never forget!  I still dream about it often.  Near the end of the year, shortly before the final game, I had what I thought was a pulled muscle in my lower back.  I can remember it was just excruciating.  It got really bad, having to constantly sit in the ice.  My back would get swollen, so the trainer would send me to this ice barrel where I would sit in there and he would shovel ice over it.  The swelling would go down, then, the next day, by the end of practice, it would be swollen again.  So, I had done this several times up to and through the final game, but we all were having a blast!  When I realized I better go get my back looked at, they took x-rays and did an MRI, and found out that I had been playing with a back that was actually broken in three places.  When I saw the x-rays, and when the doc came in and said, 'Keith, I hate to be the one to tell you, but your football career is over,' I was crushed!  Ever since I was eight, my greatest dream was of playing in the NFL.  Chris Hanburger's dream offer, to introduce me to the coach of the Redskins, was waiting to help me have a go at playing on the special teams!  Now, that dream is just shattered in a moment!  What I loved doing more than anything else was o-v-e-r in an instant!  I left the hospital as quickly as I could, and drove back to the football field.  I limped my way into the empty stadium and toward the 50-yard line, feeling more sick with each step.  As the reality that it's over hit me, waves of emotion overwhelmed me until I just collapsed!  I was smelling the grass, the chalk, and all of the things that I'd loved to smell ever since I was a little boy.  That was home to me.  Now, all of it is ripped away from me!  I remember how numb I felt.  All I could do was sit in the middle of the field, and cry.  The next thing I did was meet with Coach Henley, one of the assistant coaches, who listened to me dump my guts about my pain, heartbreak, and frustrating confusion about what just happened.  The x-rays and doctors made it very clear saying, 'All it would take is one more hit, and there's a very good chance that you would never walk again.'  Coach Henley tried to convince me to stay at school and participate in the football program in some other capacity.  I thanked him, but told him I didn't feel that I could do that, and I needed to leave college if I couldn't play anymore.  Staying would be torture for me.  I said goodbye and left to go to my dorm room and pack up my car to leave school."
With the excruciating pain in his back, and emotionally depressed and broken, Keith had to have one of his teammates help him pack up all of his things and load up his car.  Not really knowing what he was going to do next, or even what the next day held in store for him, he got into his car and headed back to the town he lived in during high school.  Keith's family had broken up and neither of his parents lived in town any longer.  So, he knew that going back there meant he was going out on a limb in hoping to find a place to stay and a way to support himself as he fought to pull his life back together.  The good thing was having a bunch of buddies who were still in town.  One of his closest buddies from the football team in high school, named John, was the first person Keith went to see when he got to town.  During his visit with John and his family, like finding an oasis in the desert, John's mom and dad told Keith not to worry about finding a place to stay because he was welcome to stay with them for as long as it takes for him to get back on his feet.
Keith had been away at college for about six weeks when, after not having received any of the money his boss promised, he decided he'd better call and find out what was happening.  He left messages for Ed everywhere he knew that people knew him, but nobody could find him.  When Keith caught up with the service manager at the marina where Keith had been working for Ed every summer throughout his high school years, that's when he was told that Ed had filed for bankruptcy just weeks after Keith left for college.  About a month later, Keith started receiving letters from the bank about his car soon to be repossessed.  It wasn't long after that when the insurance company began sending letters to Keith about lapsed payments for his coverage.  An already bad income situation was rapidly getting worse for Keith with book and class fees gradually trickling in as "delinquent" as well.
Keith's ambitions and dreams became very complicated, but redirected him in a completely new direction in pursuit of different ambitions than he ever thought he'd pursue.  However, that's not where the past events and experiences of football ended for Keith, and this is what leads me to the reason we're writing this particular message for the blog, and why we consider this testimony to be one of our most important messages, a top priority for a time such as this.  Until now, there were only a few people who have known about just what it takes for Keith to manage each day, living with a broken back, brain damage from multiple documented concussions, and other injuries he carries with him, and always will, from the 15 years of playing the sport he loved.
From the time Keith was very young, until age 19, there were multiple high-impact injuries and some serious collisions that Keith was part of, as he raced motor cross and hydroplanes (race boats) and performed in various types of waterskiing and, of course, football seasons - all of which beat his body up pretty bad.  So, by the time his career in football ended in college, along with the 18 broken bones and five recorded concussions he had endured, he would now live the rest of his life with arthritis and calcium build-up in his back, neck, and everywhere his body sustained collision injuries.  Along with all of that, he needs medicine to control altered glandular secretions in his brain, where there's scar tissue at each point where there had been massive bleeding from the concussions.
Keith has to take certain daily medication so he can function.  I'm here to tell you that only God knows what his life would be like now, if he had not had wonderful neurologists and neurosurgeons who have been able to work on his bones and the trauma around his bones.  On the other hand, it's tough knowing that Keith suffers, in part, from numerous things that happened that were all his fault.  He couldn't resist taking part in high-action, high-impact activities that he was hopelessly drawn to all his life, although his dad would constantly warn him against taking chances they imposed.
Soon after the concussions and the broken back, Keith came to find out that he had been walking around with fractured vertebrae in his neck as well.  It would be 26 years of never-ending pain and suffering, and countless meetings with neurosurgeons, that he would be told over and over that the procedure that he needed had not been developed to the point of it being worth taking the gamble that it might not work for him or that it might cause even greater suffering or further damage.  Over 10 times, things had gotten so bad for Keith that he submitted to clinical studies, praying he would be selected for the study, prepared to be treated as a guinea pig.  Each time he was told, yet again, that the real solution for him was a surgery that uses new technology and intricate hardware that was still not available though it was currently in the research stages.
As his only resort, just about 14 years ago, Keith finally had a different surgery that was hoped to give him a possible 20% improvement in his condition.  Specialists put rods and screws in his lower back to provide him significant relief and to give some of his life back.  However, with getting bone grafts and hardware implanted for that type of surgery, there would come a whole myriad of problems.  His arthritis pain would increase, calcium deposits build up around the swelling in his neck and become bone spurs that pinch nerves around them, sending shooting pain down into the arms and hands, and legs and feet.  This is just a small part of what I watch Keith deal with every day.  Sometimes, with his excruciating pain, he struggles with depression and a total lack of wanting to push forward another day that comes.  We come together and get in the Scripture, and God shows us how to cross the line into renewed light.
For anyone who needs medication to keep you in the race, don't you dare let Satan condemn you and riddle you with guilt, or with his own big mouth for your having to take medications like that!  Hear us when we say this!  People can interpret many different Scripture passages many ways, but, to paraphrase part of the verse (Revelation 22:2), think about how God put healing in the leaves of the trees for the nations.  Take advantage of modern technology.  It's not of the devil, but it is God's gift to His people.
God brilliantly and mathematically formulates things that can help with the depression and the anxiety that often comes with everyday life for pain sufferers.  So we encourage you, as Keith also has to take medications to achieve regular every-day tasks, don't let Satan condemn you even one more day!  Use what you need to, under the care of a qualified physician, get up, and keep going!
Being someone who had pretty much packed all of his passion and plans into one bucket, investing most everything he had into football, Keith makes it a point to tell others who do that same thing to really think it through.  Because of what happened to him, he encourages others to think wisely and focus on working at something aside from their first passion.  If your life's dream is shattered, you'll have done yourself a favor by having another interest that you've developed along the way; one that you know you can enjoy and do well as your primary focus.
What would become the new primary focus for Keith was what he had passion for doing as a secondary interest, a distant second to his life passion for football.  He loved music in high school and had developed a natural talent as a drummer.  He had experience playing in a few local rock bands, entertaining audiences at high school dances, parties, and such.  Once he got himself refocused after college, he began to build on his musical abilities.  From that point on, the music he had always played as a pass-time before, was taking off to ultimately turn into a music career for Keith.  Little did he know, God would come to use his music as the platform for the growing ministry of Toward The Mark, Inc. established for over 33 years now.
We want to encourage you today that, no matter what it is you're struggling with, call out on the Holy Spirit, get into the Scriptures, and study.  Watch what the Holy Spirit begins to minister to you, and trust in the oil and the wine of healing He brings.  Press forward with Him when you have difficulties and difficult things happen, and watch Him change the direction of your life.
There's one last thing we would like to leave with you, to encourage you.  My groom struggles every day, suffers every day, and I believe many of you who read this do also.  Whenever you get an attack and in whatever it is you may be struggling with, we encourage you go to God first and always.  Don't be so quick to pick up the phone, but be quick to get into the Scripture.  Ask the Person of the Holy Spirit to come in and start to reveal to you the truth of your situation, and to lead you through it.  As you read the Scriptures, every time you'll come out better off than when you went in.  I had to learn that lesson the hard way because, so often, when I would be hurt and suffering trauma of broken family relationships, especially those affecting my children so badly, I would get on the phone and talk to people, just hoping that they would have something they would say that would give me hope to make it to the next day.  It took me quite a while to realize that, what I was needing in encouragement through those situations was prophetic change.  That prophetic change was never going to be found over the phone.  It was going to be found in the Scriptures, sitting at the feet of the Person of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father."  (John 14:12) The Spirit brings life!  Without the wonderful, joyful, fun-loving, peaceful, ... Person of the Holy Spirit, we have no chance in life!  But, because God has given us His Holy Spirit, we have a chance and, even greater, an advantage over people who do not know, love, and call on the Person of the Holy Spirit.
God is the Redeemer.  When we have the rug pulled out from under us, and our dreams are shattered, if we have our identity wrapped up in something apart from God, He's there waiting for us to offer up ourselves and all that we have.  The key ingredient He uses to bring us around, and bless us at the end, is the pain.  Please don't be too quick to run from the pain.  Let it do its perfect work.  Stand in the fire and let the flames burn away your old flesh nature, and be transformed into pure gold, refined by the fire.  "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."  (2 Corinthians 12:9)  Remember, it's the old flesh nature that is keeping us from working with God to fulfill His dream in the earth.
So, what do you have hanging on your walls?  What memories do they spark?  What do they mean to you, and to those who see them?  If it's your life accomplishments you see, how much do you remember about how you came by them?  Did they come easy?  Do you remember the hard work and determination, and the dreams you had that came before them?  These are the questions that we leave with you to write about for yourself.  With regard to what God had planned and purposed for all of us... "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." (Matthew 24:13)
All of us who are God's Children need to remember that satan has no authority over our lives.  We must be ready at all times for battle.  We may not win every battle, but in the end we win the war!
We pray that this message encourages you to share your Revelation 12:11 testimony of faith with others, as we have stepped out in faith to share this one of ours, with you.  THANK YOU for connecting with us today!  Also, we would always appreciate you downloading copies of this blog to share with others, and keeping a copy of it handy for your own reading and encouragement, time and time again!

Find many more messages based on real-life matters, like this one, in our published book called, "LETTERS From The FRONT."  For more information or to place large-quantity orders, visit us online at the TowardThe Mark website today.


We pray God bless you greatly as you have greatly blessed us and the entire Toward The Mark Family!

In Christ Jesus,

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To Show GOD BIG in a World that Sees Him small…  sums up the reason Keith stepped out in faith to focus on reaching the lost and strengthening believers everywhere, through Toward The Mark, Inc.  Keith and Brenda's prayer is that you will be encouraged and edified by the Secrets from God's Word that Keith recounts in our written and recorded products.  The complete collection of original podcasts, music, blogs, books, CDs, and other resources of Toward The Mark, Inc. are made possible by the prayer and financial contributions of the TTM Support Family.  We'd like to welcome you onboard TODAY!

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, Inc., 
P.O. Box 1152, Yorktown, VA 23692-1152.

Thank you in advance for contributing to this God-given vision and mission!  We pray God bless you and yours, and return to you a 100-fold harvest for your generosity!