Hunger Part 3: Arrival

She managed to control her nerves by not thinking about it. At least she tried to. But as the weekend drew nearer, she found herself thinking more and more about the coming Sunday night. Driving through an area she’s never been to was not a problem for her. But meeting a group of strangers by herself was usually scary, and meeting this group of strangers was, for some reason. downright terrifying.

“They are going to be so different than you that you won’t fit in. You’re going to be soooooo uncomfortable.”

She considered that thought. What if they were totally different than her, than what she was used to? And she sticks out like a sore thumb?

“You don’t have to go.”

Maybe she shouldn’t go. Just not show up. No one would care. They probably already forgot that she had called. No. God led her to this group. If God wanted her there, then it’s got to be OK. She pictured herself there, strangers all around her – but also God there with her making it OK. No, she wouldn’t back out.

“They’re going to turn out to be a bunch of crazy fanatics. Jumping up and down, running all over the place, making weird noises. And when they pray for you, they’ll put their hands on you and yell prayers at you until you fall down. They’ll even try to make you do all those crazy things with them.”

What if they were weird? Really weird? She had read about some cults. What if they tried to make her do something she didn’t want to do? What if they got really crazy? Would she be able to get up and leave or would she be forced to stay to the end? Fear rose up in her. She began to think she couldn’t go through with this.

“Forget about going. That’s the smart thing to do. You don’t need to take this risk.”

She thought maybe she should just wait until she found another group. A safer group. But she couldn’t deny how God had led her to this group. God knew her, and He wouldn’t lead to a place that wasn’t good for her. She decided to trust in His guidance.

“By the time the meeting is over, it’ll be late and you’ll be tired. Maybe too tired to drive the hour it will take to get home.”

She pictured how Sunday night would go. She’d drive the hour from her parents’ home, arrive at the meeting at 7 PM, the meeting would last for 2 hours, then about half an hour of fellowship, so she’d probably be back in her car by 9:30. Another hour to drive home would get her there around 10:30. Add the time change, and she’d get home… wait…  it would be almost midnight before she got home! Not only would it be a long drive home, but she had to get up early the next morning for work!

“It wouldn’t be fair to make your work suffer because you’re tired from going to bed so late. This meeting is just held at the wrong time for you.”

She thought how her work always suffered when she was tired. She couldn’t attend these meetings. It wouldn’t be right. Relief in having a good excuse not to go this Sunday night began to wash through her but was stopped when she remembered again how she had prayed for a group and this is the one God led her to. He knew what was best for her. She would go this Sunday and trust Him to handle the tiredness issue.

“They aren’t going to like you. In fact, they aren’t even going to be friendly.”

What if she went in there and they ignored her? What if they didn’t want her there? She should just forget it. Why take the risk of being somewhere she wasn’t wanted? But then she remembered how friendly Pat had sounded, how excited Pat had seemed. If the group was as nice as Pat, it will be fine. She could do this. She would do this.

Sunday night finally arrived. She drove slowly towards the church. Her heart was pounding, her hands sweating, and she began to shake as the neared the church.This was too hard. She couldn’t do it after all. She drove past the church and headed for home. But after a few minutes, she turned around and headed back to the church. She had to do this. There was no other way to meet her need to worship.

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She slowed down and pulled into a parking space. Her hands touched the key but stopped before turning the car off. She sat for several minutes, watching people enter the church, before she could make herself shut off the engine. It was several more minutes before she managed to open the door and get out. She felt sick, her stomach all twisted into a knot. She could still turn around and go home. It wasn’t too late. No one had seen her. But even as those thoughts came, she knew she was going inside. Her desire for God outweighed her fears. She walked up to the door, opened it, and taking a deep breath, she went inside.

As she entered the hall, she immediately noticed two things. The cheerfulness of the light and the joy on the people’s faces. Some stood in small groups talking with each other, others were leaving by a back door. A few walked by her, talking about Jesus as if He was right there. She stood there uncertain of what to do. Where was Pat? She said she’d meet her at the door. But no one came.

“They don’t care about you. Pat changed her mind and won’t come meet you. They’re all ignoring you because they don’t want you here.  You should leave now before it gets worse.”

As the hall slowly emptied, she become increasingly uncomfortable and considered her options. Follow the people out the back door to wherever they were heading and risk being rejected when they see her? Or go back to her car and go home where everything was familiar and safe? She had just turned to leave when a voice called out to her. A lady hurried over to her and introduced herself as Pat, apologized for not getting there sooner, and explained the meeting was about to start in the church.

She followed Pat through the back door, down a sidewalk, and into the church. Music was playing and everyone was clapping as they sang along to the lively music. She found a seat in the back and sat down to watch. During the next few songs, some people left their seats to dance in the aisles, one man coming to sit by her momentarily before dancing off. Feeling welcomed by the smile the man had given her, she began to sing. After a few more songs, the music slowed down and the people raised their arms and began to worship Jesus. As she joined them, a sense of God’s love and of being home washed over her. And she knew that all she had gone through to get there was worth it. She raised her heart in thankfulness to the amazing God who had answered a simple girl’s prayer in such an amazing way!

Hunger Part 2: The Call

“I can’t do it.”

“Do you want this?”

“Yes, I do.”

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So call.”

She stared at the phone hanging on the wall. Call a number she had never dialed, to talk to someone she had never met? She shook her head.

What if they can’t understand me?  Her mind drifted back to her childhood, to a time when she had been ridiculed after trying to talk to a neighbor on the phone.  She had had trouble finding the right words to say and the neighbor had not been able to understand what she did say. Her mother had to complete the call and she felt ridiculed by her family.  After a few more experiences like that, she had pretty much avoided using the phone as much as possible. And now, years later, that insecurity had grown such deep roots in her heart that it had become a controlling force in her life. True, she managed to do OK talking to friends and family. But a complete stranger? That obstacle was almost too big for her to overcome.

I can’t. She walked away from the phone. She felt flawed and worthless. Why was something so easy for everyone else to do so hard for her? Why can’t she get past this?

She tried to straighten up the living room, but her thoughts kept turning back to the phone call. What if she never made it? Would God provide a different group for her to join, one that was easier to contact? Probably not. He had led her to this group. She would just have to trust Him.

She headed back to the phone. She looked at it for a long time, then took a deep breath and reached out for the receiver, but froze as her hand touched it. Sweat poured out every pore in her body.

“I can’t do it.”

“Yes you can.”

“What if my mind blanks and I can’t think of what to say? I should wait until I write down it down first.”

“It’ll be OK.”

“What if they can’t understand me?”

“They will.”

“They’re probably not home. I’ll call later.”

For the next several days, she repeatedly tried to summon the courage to call, but always chickened out with an excuse to procrastinate. What if they’re busy cleaning? What if they’re watching a TV show? What if they are in the bathroom? What if they just got their baby down for a nap and the phone wakes him up? What if they’re talking to someone else? What if they just got home from shopping and are busy putting the groceries away? What if they’re taking a bath? What if they went to bed early?  And she repeatedly ended with “I don’t want to bother them. I’ll call later.”

Maybe she really didn’t need to do this. Maybe just going to her local church would be enough. But she knew it wouldn’t . Her hunger to praise and worship God with others of like mind was too strong.

I’ve got to do this. God gave me this information. He’ll help me know what to say. “Right, God?”

“Right.”

She headed to the phone, and this time she managed to get the receiver in her hand. She started to dial but her trembling fingers hit the wrong number and she quickly hung up. After several long breaths, she picked up the receiver again, this time dialing slower, making sure to hit the right numbers. And waited for someone to pick up.

“God, You still there? You’re still going to help me?”

“Yes. Trust Me.”

“I am. That’s why I’m doing this. But what if…”

“Hello?”

Panic  seized her. What should she say?

“Say hello.”

“Hello.”

“Yes?”

“I, um, was, um. I found a directory with your number, um, I’m calling about the Earthen Vessels, um”

“Oh yes! We meet Sunday nights at 7. Do you want to come? We’d love to have you!”

“Yes. Um, thanks. Um…”

“You probably need directions.” The lady proceeded to give her directions to the hall.

“I’ll be looking for you Sunday night! I’m so glad you’re coming!”

“Me too. See you Sunday.”

She set the receiver back in its cradle. And all but collapsed on the floor as the adrenaline drained out of her. She had done it! She had made the call. And it hadn’t killed her.

“See?”

Her spirit lifted and she began to rejoice in her victory. The victory that wouldn’t have been possible without God.

“Thank You, God! I couldn’t have done this without You! She understood me even though I had trouble with my words!”

“You’re welcome.”

That’s over, she thought. Now comes the hardest part – meeting a group of people she knew nothing about. She decided to think about that later. Right now she wanted to relish in her accomplishment and praise the amazing God who cared enough about her to help her climb that mountain! It may seem tiny in some eyes, but to her, it was huge!

to be continued one more time

Hunger Part 1: Empty Yourself

“If you don’t give me a place to go by the time the weather cools off,” she threatened God like a three year old, “I’m going to that church!”

Ever since she had encountered Jesus months before,she had been seeking people who understood what she had experienced. People who knew Jesus personally – not just about Him. People who were excited about Him and where He was an integral part of their everyday lives. She knew these people existed because she had read about them. And the more she read about them the hungrier she got for that kind of fellowship. She also knew that the church she passed each Sunday night around 7 PM was probably filled with such people. But she had been raised in a denomination that frowned upon visiting other denominations and so, not finding what she needed in her local church, she had begun praying that God would fill that need in another church.

As she frequently did, she grew impatient waiting for God to act so she decided that as soon as the weather was cool enough to wear long pants instead of shorts in her non-air conditioned car (in her experience people didn’t wear shorts to church), she would check out that church. Even if it was a bit like running away from home.

A month later, just before the weather would begin to cool, while at a church, she again prayed for a place to praise and worship and celebrate Jesus like she craved. As she prayed, she heard in her spirit, “Empty yourself like an earthen vessel, and I will fill you.”

“Um, OK. I don’t know what that means, but I accept it,” she told God.

When the service ended, she made her way to the bathroom before leaving for the long drive home. The bathroom was crowded but she found one unoccupied stall. On the tank lid, she saw a green book. Some kind of directory she thought, and took it with her when she left the bathroom. Sure enough, it was a directory of all the charismatic prayer groups in her denomination in the state. She checked the city where she lived and worked during the week – nothing. She checked the city she traveled to every weekend to visit her parents – again nothing. Disappointed she closed the book and was about to set it down for someone else to find when, on a whim, she decided to check the city she drove through every Sunday night on her way back to her home city.

 

She didn’t have much hope because she had noticed most groups met mid-week. What were the chances of finding a group in that specific city, on that specific day, at that specific time? But she went ahead and looked. Then stared in amazement! There WAS such a group. And they were called Earthen Vessels! No kidding!

She drove all the way home filled with amazement at God’s faithfulness – and His sense of humor. The bathroom, Lord? Empty myself… in the bathroom?  And now He would fill her need with this prayer group!

She would soon discover that finding the directory was the easy part. What she had to do next would take all the strength and courage she had.

To be continue.

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Little Things

As she was walking her students out to the bus parking lot after school one day, she was thinking about how tight her finances were because of the new house she and her husband were in the process of buying.  Every penny they had was wrapped up in the sale. Both she and her husband enjoyed the jobs they had with the local school system, but their paychecks didn’t seem to stretch very far. With two young children, she frequently went without  extras for herself in order to provide for her family.  Extras like new clothes, hair salons, and fast food. She even packed her lunch each day to save the few dollars the school cafeteria food cost.

On this particular day, a long and difficult day, she was tired and thirsty. She had forgotten to bring a drink with her that morning for after school. Should she splurge and buy a soda from the vending machine in the teacher’s workroom? No, she couldn’t justify that to herself. Not when every penny counted so much. She sighed. It was going to be another hour before she could leave, plus a thirty minute drive home. True, she could take a sip of tepid water from the students’ fountain… but she wasn’t THAT thirsty.

“I sure would love a cold Pepsi,” she found herself thinking as her students followed her across the parking lot.

She happened to look down and couldn’t believe it – a quarter! Then a few inches away, another quarter with a dime! Sixty cents – the exact amount it cost for a soda!

IMG_20180307_212932645She gratefully thanked God for the treat. Then got to thinking about her young daughter who would be in her classroom waiting for her. She would be thirsty too.  Did she dare ask? She looked up and silently prayed, “Lord, it would be great if I could get Rachel a drink too.”  And before she returned to her classroom, she had found sixty more cents! On a gravel parking lot where hundreds of students and their teachers were walking! She  was overflowing with joy and thankfulness as she excitedly went to buy her and her daughter cold drinks!

How amazing is our God who cares for us even in the little things!  Has He shown you His care in something small? Something that filled you with joy but you felt foolish telling others because it seemed to be such a small thing? Please share your story in the comments below. I would love to hear it!

Superman

She had two choices:  become a nun or become a housewife and mother. There weren’t any other choices for girls growing up in her time and place. Oh, she could become an old maid. But that really wasn’t a choice. That’s what happened to girls who chose not to become a nun and failed to attract a husband. Men were everything. And a woman was nothing without a man. So she spent her teen years doing what she needed without success. By the time she was in her twenties, she was convinced no man wanted her and she was doomed to become the dreaded old maid, to be alone for the rest of her life.  But then she met Jesus! He began showing her that her value was in Him – not in whether she attracted a husband or not.  That was usually enough for her as she prayed and practiced being in His presence. But from time to time her thoughts would drift back to what she had learned as a child, what had been programmed into her heart as she grew up.

On this particular day, God was about to do something awesome! It started with a movie invitation from her brother – to see a brand new movie that had just come out.

“It’s supposed to be a great movie,” he said to her. “Let’s go see it!”

“What’s it called?” she asked.

“Superman.”

She shrugged. She loved science fiction.  “Sure. Sounds good to me.”

After getting comfortable in her seat, she immersed herself in the movie. It was great. Good actors, good action. She especially enjoyed the relationship between Superman and Lois Lane, and was pulled into the scene where he invited her to fly with him.

As she watched them fly hand in hand on the big screen, she thought wistfully, “I would love to fly, or even walk, hand in hand with a guy who loved me and I loved him.”

“But you already have someone. Me.”   His response came quickly and clearly. He could have been sitting right next to her and whispering in her ear!  She was filled anew with His presence and love – and left the movie that day knowing she was not alone and would never be alone. Whether she got married or not, Jesus was with her. And she got to walk hand in hand with God – this awesome and powerful God of all creation – every day and forever! And sometimes, if she was willing, she would even get to fly with Him!

How amazing is a God who whispers during movies!  What has He whispered to you?

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Let’s Inspire Each Other

I’ve finally decided what I’m going to do with this blog. And I’m moving forward. Starting  later today, I will be creating stories of the amazing things God has done in my life – and I would love it if you would comment with stories of your own, especially stories that relate to what I write.

My vision for this blog remains the same – to be a source of inspiration that deepens our love and appreciation for God and all His amazing ways. I would only add the word interactive to that vision. The more interaction we have, the more powerful this blog will become. So hit that like button! Follow me! Comment with your thoughts and stories! Share my posts! And come back frequently! Without pexels-photo-317154.jpegyou, this blog is just a bunch of purposeless words, and a bit one sided. God is so much bigger and is doing so much more than what He’s doing with me! Inspire me with the amazing things God is doing with you!

Roadblock

I haven’t posted lately because I don’t know what to post. Evidently I can’t do what I wanted to do – writing about the amazing ways God is working in people’s lives by having people send me their stories. No matter how I tweak or rewrite them, the stories still belong to them and I have to have their written permission to share them on this site. That would require signed documents kept in a file. I could still do that, but I really don’t want to have to get into all that legal stuff.

Another reason is the lack of convenience for my readers. I’ve been told they are being required to create an account just to comment. I understand that an account it necessary to follow a blog, but commenting shouldn’t require one. And liking shouldn’t be the hassle it evidently is – both on their end and mine. I’ve been told that posts have been liked but it never showed up on the blog. The only like that ever worked was the one I did to test the button.

I tried to set up a web site that may make it easier for readers to comment and like but it looks just like my blog page. I don’t want two of the same thing.

So I’m stuck. I don’t know what to do next. I could focus all the God stories on the things He’s done and is doing in my life, but there are so many more amazing stories out there.

What do you think?

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Photo credit: Pascal Volk via Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

 

Old Time Religion

Ashley was almost ready to leave town. Only one more thing to do, the hardest thing to do, and she’d be free to go. She wanted to, no she needed to say goodbye to her grandfather.

She loved her grandfather. And he loved her, or rather, he used to. But age had robbed him of his memories and, although he recognized her as someone who came to visit, he rarely know her as his granddaughter anymore. They usually spent their time on imaginary trips as his mind took him back to the time of his farming and fishing days.

Ashley got in her car and drove towards the VA nursing home where he lived. She missed the talks they used to have as she grew up and wondered how his mind would be when she go there today. Would he be able to understand that she wouldn’t be visiting him as often anymore? Would he know who she was?

He looked up as she walked into his room.

“How are you today? she asked.

“Fine, thank you. How are you… Ashley, right? You’ve been here before,” he said in his thick southern accent.

“Yes, I’m Ashley. I’m your granddaughter.”

“You are? I don’t remember having a granddaughter.”

She sighed. It was not going to be one of his better days. She spent the rest of the visit answering his questions, the same questions, fifty times or more.

When it was about time to go, she told him, “I won’t be able to come visit you as often anymore. I’m moving away. But I’ll come back whenever I can.”

“You’re moving away?”

“Yes. And I wanted to let you know so you’ll understand when I don’t come visit you for awhile.”

“I like your visits. You’re a nice lady.”

“Granddaddy, try to understand. I love you.”

“I’m your Granddaddy?”

She tried not to show her disappointment. She had hoped to be able to reach him for just a moment so she could say a proper goodbye. It was evident that wasn’t gong to happen. As she turned to go, there was an announcement over the PA system about a small service that was being set up in the common area for the residents. She looked down the hallway and saw a man and a woman setting up a guitar and a karaoke machine. Her grandfather had always love singing.

“Hey, Granddaddy, would you like to go sing a few songs?” she called back into his room.

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“Why not? Singing is OK.” He smiled at her.

She pushed his wheelchair down the hall and joined the gathering residents.

Then the music started. From the first chord of “How Great Thou Art” Ashley’s grandfather began singing like he was back in his old Alabama church – loud and off key. Ashley joined in on the songs she knew. When they sang “Old Time Religion” they looked at each other, connecting in way they hadn’t experienced in a long time, and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company.

It seemed like too soon the service was over. As she pushed her grandfather back to his room, she thanked God for giving her grandfather back to her for those few moments. Maybe she didn’t know why God allowed her grandfather to have Alzheimer’s disease, but she did know one thing. God was more powerful than the disease. And she was grateful for the loving way He used a song to bring her and her grandfather together for a proper goodbye.

Shingles

I noticed under my arm was getting very tender, like my skin was hyper sensitive. I thought maybe it was a pinched nerve in my neck or shoulders but stretching it out didn’t help. In fact, I now also had an intense pain between my shoulder blades. Going to the chiropractor didn’t help either.

I decided to try a lidocaine patch, a local anesthetic, to see if it would help with the pain. Without reading the directions, i put one on my back and left it there for 24 hours. When I pulled it off, I noticed that a few bumps had developed under it so i decided to read the directions to see if the bumps might be a side effect. Oops, I was only supposed to leave the patch on for 12 hours. The bumps must be a reaction to the patch. The painful bumps, though, began to spread. Maybe I had gotten some of the lidocaine on my clothes and caused the bumps to spread across my back. Then the bumps spread down my arm. OK, so maybe the patch had touched my arm too. But when the bumps began to spread all the way around my body to the middle of my chest, I figured I might have an issue.

I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with shingles. At one time I counted a hundred blisters on my chest alone. I never actually counted them all, but I figured I had probably a total of 300 extremely painful bumps that made me cry at night in between times I could take medication or put cream on them.

One day at work, when the pain of the now big, angry bumps was at its worst, two of my coworkers noticed I was less than my bubbly self and asked what was wrong. After telling them my story, they asked what they could do to help. I told them “just keep me in your prayers, please.”

Now these two work friends are very vivacious and animated people in general and especially when talking about our Lord. When I mentioned prayers, they said, “Girl, come on!” and taking my arm, led me into the lady’s restroom. We stood together, holding hands, and they said the most powerful prayers over me. I’ve never experienced anything like it. It brought tears to my eyes then, and continues to bring tears to my eyes every time I think about it.

That night, I woke up to use the bathroom and noticed I felt better. I raised my arm and looked in the mirror – and all those big, angry, red bumps were now small, dried up, and scabbed over! All of them!

I broke down in tears, thanking Jesus, and feeling so amazed, shocked, grateful, and blessed that I kept pacing the bathroom, hands in the air, and praising God.

I still had some nerve pain, but the blisters were better and I knew I was well on the road of recovery. Nobody will ever be able to convince me that God does not hear our prayers!

Deb

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Saturday, after Friday’s prayer
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Thursday, not yet at its worst

I Think We Need to Tithe

“I think God is telling us to tithe,” I told my husband. “OK,” he replied. And we did. Except we started with 5% instead of the 10%. Finances were extremely tight and we weren’t brave enough to give more.

Three things you should know before I continue.

First, we were living at the time in a cramped two bedroom trailer with two small
children and a dog. Our nine year old daughter had one bedroom, and my five year old son shared the master bedroom with my husband and me. When we bought the trailer, the plan was to live in it for five years then buy a house. Now it was ten years later and we were no closer to buying a house than when we bought the trailer.

Second, I was the one who managed our family finances. I paid the bills and watched our bank account dip into the red each month. Credit cards became our best friend. So I KNEW we couldn’t afford a house. No way!

Third, at that time we were as spiritually challenged as we were financially challenged. We had been strong not many years before this – attending church and prayer meetings, reading the Bible, listening to teaching tapes, and reading books – but one by one these things fell away until we were doing none of it.

A month or so before I approached my husband with the idea of tithing, I had felt God’s call to come back. I began reading the Bible daily again and eventually came across God’s challenge in Malachi. This is how I read chapter 3, verses 8-10:

IMG_20171008_100959956“Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How are we robbing You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse… because you are robbing me… test Me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

I felt convicted and knew I had to do something about this. That’s when I went to my husband, who simply said OK and continued playing his computer game. Simple for him, I thought. He’s not the one who has to juggle the finances.

The next month I made the first contribution. Not to a church since we were not attending one, but to a couple of ministries that I had heard about on TV. Four months later, January of 1996, my husband, out of the blue, announced it was time to buy a house. Yeah, right. But we went looking anyway. I told him we needed to stick to under 100K. After weeks of not finding anything we liked, the realtor told him about two houses, each around 150K. To humor them, I agreed to look at them.

We named the first house the White House because, although it wasn’t white on the outside, everything inside was white – the walls, the cabinets, even the carpeting. As we drove away from it, I pushed the button to lower the side window of our minivan so I could take a picture of the house as I had done with all the previous houses. Only this time the window wouldn’t go back up. I froze all the way home, worried about how to pay to have the window fixed. But the next day the window worked find. In fact, the only other time it ever got stuck was when we looked at the other 150K house.

Praying about it with some friends, we interpreted the open window as God’s way of saying we had an open door to either of those houses. Our pick. We chose the White House because I had always wanted a two story house. Lots of space!

It took a few more signs from God (dream, prophetic word, and a scripture) to convince me to trust Him but a month later we were signing the papers! The realtor commented that he had never seen a sale go through as smoothly and quickly as this one had. We used all our savings (money we had put aside each month for the summer months as, being educators, we didn’t get paid in the summer) for the down payment. My dad agreed to loan us money to make it through that first summer.

I LOVED the house, but still continued to worry about finances. Each month I thought making the mortgage payment was going to put us under – but it didn’t. Not only did we have enough to pay the bills and to treat the kids to kid meals from time to time, we even had enough to put some in savings for the summer. By June, we had enough in savings that we didn’t have to borrow any money from my dad! To this day I can’t figure it out because we really didn’t change our lifestyle and we weren’t making any extra money. Somehow God had stretched what we had to make it enough!

I learned two things from this.. God is my provider, and God is faithful. He made a promise and kept it.

Linda