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Renae Brame has spent her entire life trying to make people’s lives better, beginning with five years in the Burke County Schools administrative offices and following that with 28 years with the N.C. Department of Corrections. She wound up her 33-year state career with 12 years as superintendent of the Black Mountain Correctional Center for Women. Retiring from the DOC in 2001, she found another way to serve - in 2002 she joined the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry as executive director.

A native of Valdese, Brame built her life around service to others, a commitment that has at its core her unswerving dedication to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Her work inspired a journal of conversations with God that she has published as a softcover book entitled “Daily Devotions with our Beloved.” It is 440 pages of love for God and God’s family in prose and poetry, a thought for every day of the year.

“Many of the writings in the book were inspired by my work with incarcerated women as well as with volunteers at both the prison and the ministry, and clients of the ministry,” Brame said. “Not everyone has the opportunity to receive two different callings — different, yet similar — where our God-given gifts can be used to help others.”

Consider this Feb. 21 reading from her book: “Yesterday at the Crisis Ministry, I met with a young woman who has two young daughters. The youngest child was with her mom. It was clear the mom’s spirit was broken. She curled up in her seat when she talked to me. She was being abused by her boyfriend … . She said, ‘I want to know God like you know him, but I was not brought up in that kind of environment.’ … I shared my love of God with her and told her He loves her, that she and her children are His beloved children.”

Brame tells us that she scheduled a visit for the woman with the ministry’s pastoral counselor and counseled her about finding a safe place for herself and her children.

“I’d like to think that through my work at both the prison and the ministry I have offered hope where there was despair, and encouragement and upbuilding in helping others to recognize the potential within them, as well as God’s love,” she said.

Most of her writing seems to have been inspired by her own life experiences, as well as some personal conversations with God. These she shares openly. And this is what defines her — her genuine desire to help others in any way she can, unselfishly, simply because she is able to.

In the June 24 entry she writes, “I was drawn to the intimacy of referring to God as Papa, after reading ‘The Shack’ by author William P. Young. Over the last few years, I find the closer I draw to God, the more I refer to him as Papa. Is your relationship with God so intimate that you have given Him a special name by which you affectionately refer to him?”

And then, “I have not used the name Mama to refer to God. However, perhaps for those who have been abused, who have suffered abuse by the hand of a man, it would seem that Mama could be a very appropriate name for God.”

Each day’s devotional begins with either a verse or two from scripture or a thought from Brame’s journal, and concludes with a poem. Brame often sets her poems to music, which she performs with her husband Jamie — or “Bramie,” as she explains in that devotional about special names for loved ones. The couple has released two CDs of original songs.

The Black Mountain Center for the Arts, 225 W. State St., will host Brame for a reading and signing at noon Friday, Aug. 21. Guests may bring their lunch.

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