My Testimony – 40 Years Later

Desiring to celebrate my 40th anniversary of walking with Jesus, I revisited the place where I had first met Him.  I had planned to sit on the steps outside the church and talk to Him, but serendipity awaited! The door to the building was OPEN and the muted resonance of friendly voices drew me inside.  Consequently (and Providentially), I was able to visit the exact spots where the Lord convicted me about my sin, and where I responded to His offer of forgiveness (all pictured below)! My friend Dala, who had witnessed my new birth 40 years prior, just so “happened” to be there at a women’s Bible study the night of my impromptu visit, so she was able to celebrate with me (along with all the other women who were there).

Isn’t God GOOD!!!

Getting inside the church that birthday night (at precisely the same time I had been there 40 years earlier) was a gift from His hand!

But, as good as that was, it wasn’t as good as that FIRST Gift He gave over 2000 years ago — His only Son who died and bled on the Cross to buy my pardon! Glory to His Name!!!

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This marquee was not there 40 years ago, but this is the church where it happened.

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This was the view from my vantage point the night I responded to God’s invitation to trust in His Son.  My first pastor, Floyd McElveen, had been standing at the front presenting the Good News of Jesus (the Gospel), and the Holy Spirit had convicted my heart.  I remember sitting in that pew and raising my hand, acknowledging that I was a sinner in need of forgiveness.

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This was the exact pew in which I had been sitting when I acknowledged my need for a Savior, and this is my friend Dala who was there “that” night — the night of my salvation and the night I revisited the church 40 years later.  We had been a couple of young women with babes at our knees and our whole lives before us.  We have been friends ever since, walking this earthly journey together … and we will spend eternity together, dancing around God’s Throne, rejoicing in Him!

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This was the very spot where the most important conversation I’ve ever had took place (except I’d had a chair back then).

Fortunately, the pastor didn’t just have me raise my hand and then send me out the door.  If he had said, “Talk to somebody before you leave and tell them what you did,” I would have walked out the door, would have talked to no one, and would have never realized the significance of my decision that evening!  (I know this because I had taken this step multiple times in my past and still had no clue!)  But this dear pastor was a shepherd!  He had pressed and required me to step up and identify myself.  With heart pounding and palms sweating, I found myself standing.  From there, I was invited to a room — the very spot where I am sitting in this photo — where he talked to me one-on-one.  He didn’t preach to me or talk “at” me.  He asked me questions.  He let me express myself to discern where I was coming from — and then he made sure I understood what had taken place.  A week later, I was baptized, and then found myself sitting at a microphone in a radio studio, telling the world about my conversion!  Wow!  (It makes me chuckle to think of that!  Wish I could hear recording of that conversation today!)

Immediately after that night, I was taken through several weeks of discipleship classes where I received a thorough grounding in the basic tenets of the Christian faith. (I am thankful that it was done that way!)  God had also placed some wonderful believers in my life who helped me through those first wobbly steps.  Dried up old sponge that I was, I bombarded them with a myriad of questions about this new life and what the Bible said about it!  (Thank you Pastor Mac and Virginia, DeWayne and Georgie Wageman, Mickie and Bob Amen, Tom and Dala Walton, Bruce and Flo Walters, John and Bonnie Meyer, and Pat Barnes!)

Sometimes I wonder if we as followers of Jesus have become “careless” in presenting this Wonderful Gift that is available to our friends.  I fear that we’re not making salvation clear to people and that we are leading them into a state of “easy and lackadaisical believism” and away from experiencing the power of God in their lives.  Salvation in Jesus is far more than reciting a simple prayer and then walking out the door!  May God help us to present His Words of Life accurately and thoroughly … to identify the need … to expect a response … and to take our responsibility to disciple new believers seriously.

Thank you, Lord, for John 3:16, John 1:12, Romans 5:8, Romans 8:9-10, Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 3:5-6, and so many others!  It’s hard to fathom that kind of love!

Matthew 28:18-20 ~Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

It doesn’t say to have them repeat the words to a prayer, send them out the door, and hope for the best.  It starts there, yes (if that is the way the Holy Spirit chooses to work, as He did in my case).  But that is not the end of that person’s journey.  It is the beginning!

Thank you to all of you (named above) who followed the Matthew 28 mandate with me!  I am forever grateful!

And thank you, Lord Jesus, for dying for me on the Cross of Calvary.

You changed my life forever! ❤

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Marked by His Grace

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Here is Bekah’s reaction to the incident I wrote about last week.

We got home yesterday to the mess that we were in the middle of on Wednesday. Charlie had cleaned up the blood and had the refrigerator back in place (and anchored), but aside from that, everything was just as messy as things get when you’re in the middle of life and have to leave abruptly. I swept Wednesday’s dirt off the floor, loaded Wednesday’s dishes into the dishwasher. I did everything else possible to avoid doing what I was in the middle of when the accident happened. I had been in the middle of changing over the kombucha when Hadi asked me if she could put the juice away. I said yes and kept going with my process. She said there wasn’t room, so I told her to go ahead and put it in the new fridge. Immediately, I saw a picture of the fridge falling over. So I put the kombucha down, and went and opened the door myself, all the way, making sure that it wouldn’t actually fall. When I saw that it was stable, I returned to my process, my back to my babies, and heard the crash.

So as I picked up where I left off in the process yesterday, I had to really question myself–“okay, was there any thought or picture that just came into my mind that I need to heed before continuing on in this busy-ness?” The night we had in the hospital, I was so tormented. Any time I was about to drift off to sleep, an image of the fridge falling and crushing both Hadi and Jonny came in my mind.

I prayed every time, Phil 4:8, asking God to show me what was true, honorable, etc… and fix my mind on that. And He was so fast to answer that with a picture of two angels–one catching the fridge on his back, absorbing most of the weight and blow that would’ve landed on Hadi, and another one that scooted Jonny out of the way. Her new left hand is going to be the most beautiful thing about her now–she is forever marked with the graciousness of God, His mighty, powerful, loving and saving hand.

Just two weeks ago, I was sideswiped on the interstate, and I came away from with with only a few dents and scratches to my car. No doubt God had angels there, too–but I’m able to forget about that, or even dismiss it, because I didn’t have to see just how close I actually came to real harm.

So, to answer my question– I probably will have more warnings in my heart that I’ll be willing to risk in the name of getting stuff done. I pray I let that voice get louder and my drive for “powering through” chills out, but even if it doesn’t, we are so cared for and protected by a loving God, who, in spite of our absolute ignorance, will keep us safe until our actual time has come. ❤️

Thank you so much to everyone who has prayed and called upon other people to pray for us. We are so well taken care of.

~Rebekah (Hadi’s mama)

Back to me now (the grandma):  Hadi saw her hand for the first time since the accident, as her fingers were being re-dressed today.  She looked at her fingers and mused aloud, “They aren’t that short.”  What a beautiful little spirit!  She is already magnifying the Lord and impacting lives through her experience.  Hadi is indeed “Marked by His Grace.”

Broken Places

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It started out as an ordinary day, running around, doing my ordinary errands in my ordinary way … but I knew there was “trouble” when I slipped into the car after one of my stops.  I had left my phone in the car and had picked it up to see if there were any missed calls.  To my chagrin, there were not just one or two missed calls, , but there were seven!  And they were all from the same person — our daughter Alicia!

This did not look good.

With trembling hands and palpitating heart, I reluctantly hit the “call back” button.

My suspicions were correct.  There had been an accident.

A mother never EVER wants to receive one of those calls!

Alicia told me that Rebekah, our youngest daughter, was, at that moment, on her way to the hospital in an ambulance with her three-year-old daughter, Hadassah.  A refrigerator had fallen on her, completely severing two of her fingers from the first knuckle up.

As bad as that was, it was a small miracle.  Hadi’s baby brother had been crawling on the floor close to where the fridge had fallen.  It could have fallen on him which, most assuredly, would have killed him.

But it didn’t fall on him.

Like I said … a small miracle.

The full weight of that beastly appliance did, however, fall on little Hadi’s hand.

What does a woman do when, on an ordinary day, doing ordinary things, she receives extraordinarily devastating news like this?

First, she groans with every fiber of her being.  She resists the pain …

… then come the tears.

And then she realizes that the only thing to do, being 2000 miles away, is to fall at the Throne of Mercy and cry out.

But what does she cry?  I don’t remember.  She just cries out, from the depths of her soul, groanings that cannot be uttered — not only for her grandchild, but for her child.

Being a grandma doubles the joys, but it also doubles the sorrows.

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It seems so senseless.  What possible “good” purpose could God have for allowing two digits to be severed from the hand of a sweet little girlshe wonders?

Her precocious little granddaughter had awakened that morning with a perfectly intact body, and it was now broken, never to be the same again.  How does a grandma wrap her head around that one?  It’s not easy.

It’s not easy at all.

Numb with shock, and (naturally) worried about my baby girl, Rebekah, who was dealing with her own pain, I knew I had two ways to respond.

1) Curse God because of this, or 2) Praise God in the midst of this (Job 2:9-10).

I opted for Choice #2, for shall we receive good at the hand of God and not receive evil?

I decided there is no tidy pattern for who gets pain and who gets peace.

I decided that God allows pain into our lives because we are most near the broken heart of Christ when we slip into the “broken places” of life.

So what am I going to do about this?

It’s all about perspective.  It’s all about choosing to think on what is lovely.

Choosing to trust.

Choosing to believe that good will come of Hadi’s loss.

Choosing to believe that God will use her story for His glory and for her good.

Choosing to believe that all the days of Hadi’s life were written before there was yet one of them (Psalm 139:16).  (This event came as no surprise to our omnicient God.)

When we don’t know why sorrows come our way, all we can do is go with what we do know.  And we do know that God is good and that He loves us …

We do know that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 35).

Hadi has a strong little spirit, and I have no doubt she will rise above this.  She will one day step upon this platform of pain to proclaim and praise the wonderful Name of her God and Savior Jesus Christ.

She has incredible parents whose faith is set in stone, and in the words of Hadi’s mama, I will close:

“Will you rejoice with us in praising God for preventing what could have been?  As much as we’re grieving over it all, I’m thankful that I still have all four of these sweet babies living and breathing tonight.  Thank you Jesus!!!”

Gratefulness like that from a grief stricken mother can only come from a fully surrendered heart.  That’s my girl.

And that’s my God — the One I serve — and His praise will continually be on my lips no matter what … by His grace.

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For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. ~ Psalm 34:1

 

Lost ‘n’ Found

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Have you ever lost a valuable item?  What a sinking feeling!  Especially when it’s MIA for a long period of time!   I had been in search of a “treasure” for nearly three weeks, having prayed DOZENS of times that it would surface — to no avail!

I didn’t relish the thought of the small fortune it would cost me to replace it.

I don’t happen to have a small fortune lying around waiting to be spent!

Desperate to find it, I had stooped to the ultimate low by digging through stinky, smelly, slimy garbage cans! I had looked in every possible crack and crevice of the house.

Nada! GONE!!!

I don’t know why God doesn’t always answer the fervent prayers of an absent-minded, gray-haired woman!

Because it was “time sensitive,” I knew I would have to replace it if I hadn’t found it by “x” date.  The day arrived.  It was now necessary to take steps to replace it.

With much chagrin, I readied myself to head to town. I had prayed a few days prior, asking the Lord to, in His mercy, help me find it before I spent the money.

Because don’t we ALWAYS find things after we have spent the money on a new one???

No response. Nothing.  Chilling silence!

Disgruntled and cringing over the anticipated expense, and chiding myself for being so careless, I sat down in the living room to put on my shoes before heading out the door to make the dreaded purchase, setting my glass of water on the doily-covered coffee table in front of me.

But, LO!

It ROCKED unsteadily!

Something was beneath it!

I moved the glass to investigate.

You guessed it! My valued item had been there the whole time, camouflaged by the intricate designs of the doily! I must have passed that spot a hundred times in my frantic search over the previous few weeks!

Sometimes God waits until the midnight hour before He chooses to act, and I believe that’s what He wanted to teach me.

His ways are surely not our ways, are they!

Don’t you just love the way God speaks to our hearts through real-life situations — everyday circumstances that are analogous to deeper spiritual truths???

… and so I wait in glad expectation for other “unanswered” prayers that sit on my plate of petitions.

Be still, my heart, and rest … for He is never late!

 

Valentine’s Day Surprise

Two days ago, my husband came home early from work — serendipitous for me because my love language is “quality time.”

It didn’t surprise me, though, because, after all, it WAS Valentine’s Day!

However, I thought it was odd that he didn’t bring the usual card or box of chocolates, but then I thought, “He knows how I feel about cards.” (They are a waste of money in my opinion.) And also, “He knows I’m cutting sugar out of my diet,” so I was glad he didn’t bring home tempting goodies!

We had an unhurried dinner and a nice conversation! I was on Cloud 9! Then he said, “Why don’t we watch a movie? I’ll make some popcorn!” So we did.

I thought to myself as I snuggled next to him during the movie, “This is the BEST Valentine’s Day ever!!!”

After the movie and before going to bed, we did our usual “look-through-Facebook-posts routine.” We scrolled through status after status of photos with flowers and frills and beautifully decorated table settings … and friends talking about love.

The color drained from his face and he gasped in horror, “Is THIS Valentine’s Day???”

I looked at him in disbelief!

“Doing life” with my guy is a hoot — most of the time anyway!

For in his mind, EVERY day is Valentine’s Day!

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More of Him; Less of Me

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My heart dropped to the floor.  It began to palpitate.  Sweat dripped from my brow.  I could feel the prickly paws of gloom, despair and agony scratching at my pathetically pitiful and prideful soul!

Is this what a panic attack feels like? I wondered, as I labored for air.

Rewind to several months prior to this day.

I was in my prayer closet, asking the Lord to show me the theme for an upcoming retreat where I had been invited to speak. 

Yes!  I was in PRAYER!!!  That should pretty well guarantee everything would be okay … right?  

After all, I was speaking to my Father — the One who knows everything about me and loves me anyway.  The One who always has my best interest in mind.  

What could possibly go wrong … right?

Hmmmmmmmm.

In the depths of my being, as I sought Him, I kept hearing the words of John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease,” and then I thought of Kathleen Carnali’s song, “More of Him; Less of Me.” 

Yes!  I knew that was to be the theme!

Earlier in the planning stages, one of the event planners had asked for my bio.  She had also asked if I wanted her to use the picture on my website, or if I wanted to send a “different” photo for the promotional materials.

I remembered the picture that was on the link I had previously sent to her (photo B), so I said with confidence, “Please just use the picture on the link I sent you,” and that was the end of our conversation.

Months passed.  Everything was fine.  The Spirit of God had been graciously dispensing tidbits of verses and biblical principles for me to use for the weekend retreat.  I was looking forward to sharing my wonderful Lord and His Word with the new friends I was going to meet — more of Him; less of us!

Then it happened.  I received a copy of the registration form from the retreat team.

I couldn’t believe my eyes!  I blinked.  I blinked again.  And blinked once more.  I shook my head in denial and disbelief, attempting to clear my head — my eyes — whatever it was that needed to be cleared!  

It didn’t work.  It was still there — a picture of me from a mission trip I had taken to the Philippines two years earlier (photo A)!  A hideous, sweaty image of myself was staring back at me, as big as life, on that registration form!  

There I was, clad in a cotton summer top with narrow straps, dripping wet from the humidity.  Unruly waves had overtaken my entire head of hair, and (save for a little lipstick) had nary a stitch of makeup on, accentuating the dark circles beneath my eyes and swollen face from the “heat stroke” or whatever it was with which I had been suffering since landing on the island of Mindanao.

In spite of my adverse physical reaction to the climate, which was foreign to this high desert girl, I had been pushing myself to minister Christ on this Pacific island.  After all, my son-in-law had graciously arranged outreach opportunities for me throughout my 21-day stay, i.e., ministering at a women’s birthing center where my daughter was serving, at a children’s feeding program, at children’s outreaches in poor villages, and at Tim Tebow Cure Hospital with post-surgery children.

I had been determined not to let the nausea and headaches prevent me from doing what I went there to do!

But somewhere along the way, someone had taken a picture of me in my distressed state … and somehow, THAT picture (photo A) had apparently ended up on the webpage I had sent to the retreat planners (unbeknownst to me)!  

Is there a hacker on the loose???

“Noooooooooooooooooo!!!”  my voice echoed in the silent room where I sat alone, looking with mortification on that sick and sweaty woman staring back at me.  

That CAN’T be the picture on the promotional materials!  Please God!  Let it NOT be!!!

(This takes us back to where this story began.)

That’s when I heard (again) the still, small voice whispering deep in my spirit — except this time it was in question form: 

“More of Him; less of me, you say???”

“Yes … but … but … but LORD,” I stuttered.  “Do you SEE this picture???”

Silence …

… except for the repeated phrase, “More of Me; less of you,” followed by,

“This isn’t about YOU.  It’s about ME.”

I slumped in resignation, knowing He was right … again.  He’s always right, you know.

“Yes, Lord.  It is about You, not me.  Forgive me and take away this ugly pride that stands between You and me.  Please, Lord!  Less of me and more of You!

As hard as I thought it through, I never did arrive at a satisfactory explanation as to how on EARTH “Photo A” had come to be the profile picture on the webpage that I had sent to the ladies!

I could only “try not to think about it” (as my husband has been known to say to me on a number of occasions throughout our marriage).

I turned to God’s Word for comfort, as is my custom when feeling distraught.  And by His divine grace, I was able to give it over to Him — but I have to confess that it wasn’t without a fight.

Then this is the clincher:

Later in the day, while checking Facebook, a friend’s status jumped off the screen at me.  This is what it said:

“… A person with godly humility looks to the Master.  He or she neither exalts nor denigrates self, because to do either is to make self the center of our universe.  When we’re really serving Christ, our reputations and abilities [and photographs?] simply cease to be so important.  We must decrease that He may increase “

That’s what the post said!!!  “We must decrease that He may increase … “

Did I not NEED to see those words right then and there???  How grateful I am to that friend who obeyed His nudge to make that her status that morning!

God had taken me full circle — back to my earlier prayer in my little closet of a room — more of You; less of me, Lord.

The Spirit of God had moved on my dear friend’s heart to type those words — a friend who lives nearly 700 miles away and who knew NOTHING of my present dilemma!  And, since my friend was quoting a famous author, our loving Father would have had to have placed those words into the author’s heart at some point … to be read and posted by my friend at another point — for such a time as this!  

Oh the intricacies of His divine plan to mold us, each one, into His image!  How can we not but speak of Him to everyone who will listen!

Give me a pure heart, O God!  One that seeks after You!  I confess my sinful pride and lay it at the foot of Calvary’s Cross.  Change me, Lord, from the inside out.  I want to cooperate with You — not fight against You.  I surrender all.  Please transform me into Your image — the Image of Loveliness — that the only beauty in me would be the reflection of You.  

This is my heart’s cry, dear Lord:  More of You; Less of Me.

Amen.

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Superman Goes to the Supermarket

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You know you’re in a good place when you’re aimlessly wandering around the Walmart parking lot (in a nearby town) –bordering panic mode because your car is NOT! Where. You. LEFT! It!

… when suddenly a faceless voice speaks forth from the array of vehicles.

You whirl around to identify the source, and there stands your neighbor (from the other town) like a knight on a white steed, or like the masked Lone Ranger, or maybe even like Superman in his cape, speaking these words of comfort:

“It’s over there—>!” pointing south.

Your eager eye follows his finger and you indeed catch a glimpse of your car, subtly tucked away … “over there” … a ways south!

You regain your composure, profusely express your gratitude, scurry southward toward your carriage, slip in, and drive away … heartily thanking God for good people in a fine community in a grand state in the greatest country in the whole wide world!

I wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else!

(For other parking lot escapades, see “A Beautiful World” and “Turkey Trot.”)