Grace:UnFiltered “Brenda Caley”
There are no words to describe the very first edition of Grace:UnFiltered other than “wow”.
Brenda Caley, the 1st guest host of Grace:UnFiltered gives a daring, vulnerable and powerful message of patience, love, commitment, and grace in one of the most unforgettable messages we have ever heard.
We are grateful for you being a part of this broadcast and we pray this message blesses you like it did us!
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“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. — Jeremiah 29:11–13
This has always been one of my favorite Scriptures. A couple of years ago I got a beautiful ceramic plate with the first line oh, and I had it displayed on a plate stand on the counter. It was very inspiring to me. Then one day it fell and broke in half when I touched it. At first I was devastated, but then it struck me as a spiritual lesson. I thought that I was following God’s plans for me. But His plans didn’t match up to what I had envisioned.
I have been a Christian pretty much all my life. I asked Jesus to come into my heart when I was 4 years old as I prayed with my parents at bedtime. I have gone to church all my life, typically two to three times a week. I made some mistakes, but I pretty much thought I had it all worked out by 1989, when I was 25 years old. This Scripture, Jeremiah 29:11–13 was central in guiding me.
More than anything else, I always wanted to be a wife and a mother. Romance was what I was all about. I had worked hard for three years to lose 90 pounds so I would be attractive to men. I was involved in rescuing unborn children who were scheduled to die by abortion. I was arrested over 40 times, typically charged with trespass or disorderly conduct, and I was locked up nine times for periods of two weeks or less. I developed a heart for prison ministry, and I prayed that God would lead me to an inmate to correspond with. I wanted to bring some light into a dark place.
I was living around Morgantown, Pennsylvania and going to rescues several times a month in Pennsylvania in Paoli, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, York, and beyond. I even helped rescue babies in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, New York City, New York, Binghamton New York, and even twice in Atlanta, Georgia.
When I spent three days in jail in Binghamton, New York, a man heard the pro-life women singing in the prison and he sent a note over through a guard asking for someone to correspond with him. His notes struck me with such sincerity and desperation, and I felt the Holy Spirit’s nudge that this was the person I should correspond with, even though I had been looking for a woman to correspond with. Aaron later told me he was suicidal when he wrote that note. He was just starting what was to be a minimum mandatory ten-year sentence.
I started corresponding with him, and I made it clear from the start that I was only interested in a platonic friendship. He agreed, and as time went by, I visited him occasionally first in Binghamton, then in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he was moved. I corresponded with him several times a week.
My feelings for him were growing, and it made no sense at all. He was a skinhead, and he was a fan of Hitler. What was wrong with me? I asked. Why was I falling for a man like this? One day on my way home from visiting him, I was thinking about the beautiful mountains around me when the sudden, unrelated, strong thought came into my mind, “You know, you would have a very devoted husband if you could just wait another 10 years.”
“What??” I thought, “Noway! I didn’t lose down to a size 12 just to put myself on hold! I tried to put it out of my mind, but the thought was so not my own, and it was very prominent in my mind. I had to wonder if it was the voice of the Holy Spirit. Over the next two weeks, the thought came to me again and again, slicing through my normal thoughts, “You know, you’d have a very devoted husband if you could just wait another 10 years.”
God, OK, OK, you have revealed it to me by way of Smashing me over the head. But the Bible says, there is safety in a multitude of counsel. So I’m going to talk to Brother Mahlon, and he will tell me how ridiculous it is for a Christian woman to be yoked with an unbeliever, skinhead, antisemitic, Hitler fan!
I made an appointment with my new pastor, and I waited for over a week. I broke down to him everything I just shared with you. I said do you really think this could possibly be God’s will to commit myself to him? His eyes were deep, sparkling, and full of the love of Jesus as he said softly, “This might not end in marriage you know.”
I said, “Yes, I am aware of that.” I thought God was probably just testing me. Although my feelings of attraction were strong.
With Brother Mahlon’s surprising counsel, affirming my understanding of the will of God, the next day, I dropped a brief letter in the mail to Aaron. I followed up on our previous discussion, saying that I would like to be more than friends.
The next morning, I woke up feeling more wonderful than I had ever felt. I felt light-headed but in a powerful clear-minded kind of way. I had sudden understanding of the Bible and of human nature. All at once I had insight into people and could see what was in their hearts. I felt an amazing level of joy that I had never felt before! This feeling stayed with me for the next 10 days. I would go between laughing out of uncontainable joy to crying as God healed deep places in my spirit! I saw through His eyes! I saw a field of corn bright green and vibrating with life! I felt a sudden graciousness and over power and love for every driver on the road. Instead of feeling angry when someone cut me off in a lane, I found myself holding out my hand to usher them in front of me hahaha! 😂
My Mom lived with me, and she didn’t know what was happening. She just saw her daughter go between laughing for no apparent reason to crying uncontrollably, and she was upset. I was crying and laughing at the same time when I shouted, Mom, it’s so beautiful! God is so wonderful! Can’t you see it?
“Brenda, do you need to see a psychologist?? There’s something wrong with you!”
“Hahaha, no Mom, God is my psychologist! And He’s teaching me things faster than I can contain them!”
I had a wonderful vision of standing by God’s side up away from the earth and looking down at it with Him. He let me feel His own love combined with grief for the world. That feeling has always stayed with me.
Brother Mahlon had already set up a follow up appointment the next week. I came in his office bubbling and tearing as I told him everything that was happening. I said,” The power of God is so strong! I can’t contain it! It’s all so beautiful! What’s happening to me?!?!”
He gazed at me with gentle, sweet, fatherly joy and said softly, “This is a work of the Holy Spirit!”
I yugly cried uncontrollably, “I feel like I’m supersaturated with the Spirit of God!”
It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life! I have come to seek the feeling of His sweet Presence more than anything else on earth.
I didn’t ever want this amazing feeling and experience to end. It was a glorious confirmation and reward for my actions of demonstrating my willingness to give up my dearest earthly desire for a family. I gave Him my intense desire, and He gave me the true riches of heaven: His powerful love, deep insight, understanding, and wisdom! And best of all, He gave me an even more intimate relationship with Him. I felt like I was sitting on Daddy’s lap hugging Him eternally!
After my glorious ten day connection with God, it was like waking up to the intense pain of surgery after the doctor removes the morphine! I laid in bed as I gradually came to consciousness. Oh my God! What have I done?!?! It was May 1990, and I was committed to be single, in effect, until 2000! It might as well be a lifetime!
In that moment, my will to live gushed out of me like a popped helium balloon! I felt as strong as a limp rag doll laying in a puddle. Why should I get out of bed? Who cares about jogging three miles and lifting dumbbells when I was going to be waking up alone for the next decade?
Sarcasm and hopelessness screamed through my talk with God. Good job, God! You let men ignore me the last few decades but that’s not enough for You to torment me! I hate life on earth. I don’t want to live if I’m single. I just want to be with You in heaven! Please let me die!
As my lonely years continued, my prolife rescues and corresponding with Aaron plus others in prison led me to choose to return to Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma and major in New Testament Literature. I planned to earn a Master of Divinity and Master of Christian Counseling Degrees.
I returned to Oral Roberts University in January 1992. My friends in Pennsylvania nicknamed me, “Slenda Brenda the Child Defenda!” 😂 In the midst of my continual heart ache of loneliness and depression, crying an hour or two each day, I believed strongly that I was in the middle of God’s will. I looked good, and I felt good, spiritually and physically. I was in the prime of my life and at the peak of fitness. I ran the Tulsa Run two years in a row, a 15K run. I was jogging 5 miles a day to train for it. Aside from my pervasive loneliness and depression, I had the world by the tail, and I had my future planned out.
I was going to be in full time ministry, and I was going to be a wife and a mother after my ten year sentence of singleness.
My money was tight, and my mom convinced me to move home to Pennsylvania when I had only one semester left. She said she was not doing well physically and she needed me. The truth is, she missed me and could have done without me. But I left college and never finished that Bachelor of Arts in New Testament literature, much less the master of divinity and master of Christian Counseling. I had good intentions, but I guess I was stopping the verse too early. In my mind, I knew the plans that I had. Not the plans that God had for me necessarily. It took a long time for him to break me fully of my selfish, visible, temporal, Earthly desires. I realized that not only marriage and family, but even Ministry could be an idol.
I went home and all my plans crashed! As all my “Godly” plans fell apart one by one, I realized with a bit of cynicism that God had in mind a Doctorate of Divine Dirt in the Face instead!
To be continued…
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