Walking

Laura and I worked together. I liked her from the moment I met her. She was dedicated, determined, and cared deeply for the residents living in the facility where we were employed. She was also punctual, which says a lot because she didn’t have a car.

During one of our brief opportunities to chat, I invited Laura to a Bible study I was teaching in my home. Since she worked many double shifts, she didn’t think she would be able to come. But God made a way for her to attend.

During discussion time, Laura let loose. I don’t remember what the topic was, but once she started “sharing” our night took a turn. (Some leaders might have seen it as a turn for the worse, but God knew it was a turn for the best.)

As Laura exploded in expletives, my sweet friends just listened with their hearts. Interlaced in a sea of (f) words was a story of abuse, loss, and pain. No one chastised Laura for being inappropriate, they just loved her, listened, asked questions, and prayed.

After the other women went home, Laura sat down at the table while I cleaned up. I could tell she was thinking. After a bit, she said, “I know you care about me.”

“Yes, Laura, we all love you,” I responded.

“Nobody judged me,” she stated, as she looked me straight in the eye. “Nobody said anything about my cussing.”

That night, Laura and I visited for a while. We talked about God’s unconditional love. We talked about healing, forgiveness, and freedom. We talked about a lot of things. Then I drove her home.

After that night, Laura began to regularly attend our weekly meetings. Since she worked most Sundays, she rarely attended church, but it was obvious that she loved Jesus. In the midst of her daily challenges, Laura would silently pray for people, trust God (even in the hard times), and continually give God credit for anything good in her life.

Laura’s death was a shock to everyone. The last day of Laura’s life seemed like every other day. She had set out walking to work, but this time instead of arriving at the retirement apartments, she entered Heaven’s glory. While she was on her way to work, she suffered a severe asthma attack, passed out, and hit her head. She died instantly from brain trauma. Sweet Laura with a heart of gold is now walking on streets of gold.

Whenever I think about Laura, I think about God’s grace and the brevity and uncertainty of life. We never know while on our way to our daily destinations when we will be rerouted to our final destination.

The night Laura opened up her heart and shared her pain, all of us present had a deeper glimpse into God’s heart and His unconditional love for all mankind—reminding us that there is nothing that we could ever do or say to earn or negate His love for us.

Father God is not shocked, nor repulsed by “colorful” language—or “colorful” stories. He is always there with a listening ear and an open heart—just loving us.

Jesus was always walking beside Laura, but Laura didn’t recognize Him until seven years ago when she took hold of His hand and accepted Him as her Savior. The day Laura took her last walk on this earth she went from seeing Him in part, and just holding His hand, to seeing Him face to face in all His glory!

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

Corinthians 13:12 “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely” (NLT).

 

Forbidden Fruit

Obey is one of those words that we don’t like hearing. From the time we are toddlers, whenever we hear “Obey me”—or it’s shorter version “NO!”—we immediately think of what is being withheld from us. I can’t touch, taste, smell, or do what I want to. But the reality is obedience protects.

This reality of protection in obedience hit home for me one day when I was babysitting a toddler who was determined to destroy both herself and my house. After rescuing her from everything from toilets to outlets, I put her in the playpen for a nap. To little Taylor “No!” obviously meant “Go for it!” How was I to teach her otherwise?

How could I get her to understand that toilets and outlets are dangerous when she couldn’t  comprehend the words drown or electrocute, or even death?

It wouldn’t have done any good to have sat her down and shown her electrical diagrams and explained currents and wiring.  Instead, I had to confine her within the boundaries of the playpen to keep her safe, until I finished a few tasks and could watch her like a hawk.

That evening, I was talking to a friend who was suffering a lot of consequences from making wrong choices. I shared with Him about little Taylor. When he was defying God’s “No’s” all he could think about was what God was withholding from him. Now He was learning the hard way that God’s “No’s” were for his protection.

Sound familiar? In Genesis, God places Adam and Eve in a Paradise of “Yes’s”. He only gives them one “no”. They are not to eat fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

If the serpent (devil) had told Eve to eat the fruit from the forbidden tree because it tasted better than the fruit from the other trees, she might not have fallen. But the enemy didn’t deceive her with the fruit, he deceived her through a lie—a lie about the goodness of God. If he could get her to doubt God’s heart for her, he could get her mistrust God and convince her to sin, bringing death, disease, fear, destruction and every other wicked thing that could harm her into her life. The more she believed the lie, the more appetizing the forbidden fruit looked.

The devil still uses the same tactics today. That is why we struggle with obeying God’s “No’s”.  When we choose to sin, we might not always be aware that we are doubting God’s goodness, but we are. Whenever we deliberately make a wrong choice, we are inwardly telling God that we doubt His heart for us. We see Him as withholding, instead of holding out His hands to bless us.

God wants to withhold evil from us; not to withhold what is good for us. But, unfortunately, you and I sometimes  have to get shocked a few times or nearly drown in tears from our decisions until we realize that God really knew what He was talking about when He told us “No!”.

God is a good father and He knows what will truly bless us (his children). The devil wants to steal from us and rob us of our peace. God wants to give us peace, and part of that peace comes through obeying Him and resting in His care for us. Trusting leads to obedience—and obedience leads to rest. May you and I purpose to trust Him, obey Him, and rest in His care!

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

Genesis 3:1-7

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17 NKJV).

Freely Given

 

Jonam

Today my heart is full of gratitude!

I am thankful for God’s blessings in my life, and I am thankful for the brave men and women who serve and for their families who sacrifice, sometimes at tremendous costs. I personally know many men and women who have served or are still serving in the military. Whether stateside or on foreign soil, they all have given of themselves, as each has done his/her part to defend others and to keep America free.

When I was growing up, my parents taught us to have respect for the military. We were taught to appreciate and honor our soldiers who are currently serving and our veterans. Dad’s father had fought in World War I, and Mom’s Dad had fought in World War II. Maybe that is why my parents made it a point to have all six of us kids wave to soldiers and thank them whenever the opportunity arose. One time, I remember Dad pulling over as a Convoy of about 50 trucks carrying Vietnam soldiers passed us on the highway. We spent the next 15 minutes, waving and yelling out, “Hurray for the men in green!” Now, I wonder how many of them returned to their families.

A few weeks ago as I was sorting through items at my father’s house I found letters that Mom had written to some Vietnam soldiers. One that brought back memories was a letter to a certain Lance Corporal, letting him know that Jesus loved him and that there were people back home who truly cared about our soldiers. Through their correspondence, Mom introduced us to the Lance Corporal and before long she had all of kids writing him letters and sending him pictures. You would have thought we had won the lottery when Lance (as we nicknamed him) sent us pictures of himself, his buddies, and even their dog. When Lance visited our home after returning to the states, I felt like I was in the presence of a celebrity. I was!

When a loved one deploys there is always a chance that they might not return. Almost four years ago this reality hit home.

When my daughter called and told me that Jonam had been killed in a suicide bombing, it felt as if I had been punched in the chest. Not Jonam!”  Having three children in the military at the time, and having known someone personally who had lost a son in the war, I was aware that there was a cost for serving one’s country. But all I could think of was: “Dear God! Not Jonam!”

Jonam grew up around our family. He was a great kid who immediately lit up every room he walked into with his contagious smile and cheery disposition. I loved that kid! Just days before he had skyped my youngest son. Now he was gone!

As I stood in the kitchen, my phone still in my hand, I grieved for the amazing young man who had touched the lives of so many people. I also grieved for his amazing family. I couldn’t even imagine their loss! But as the tears rolled down my face, thankfulness swelled in my heart. I realized that Jonam’s life wasn’t taken. It was given. He gave it the day he signed the papers to enter the armed services. He gave it every time he put on his uniform. And He ultimately gave it the day he left this earth and entered Heaven’s glory.

Thank you, Jonam! Thank you all who have given the ultimate sacrifice and laid down your lives for our freedom!

Jonams Grave

John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Have a blessed Memorial Day,

Jeannie

A Life Well Lived-Karen’s Story

I was reading through some of my mother’s writings the other day, and I found this beautiful testimony about a woman named Karen. May we all live for Jesus as Karen did!

December 1998

Karen and I became friends over a prayer line at our church about three months ago. Those who pray together can not long stay strangers. Karen never spoke of her physical condition, and she never complained. I didn’t even find out that she was in a wheelchair until I invited her to go with us on an outreach. I had asked her whether she would rather go with us to nursing homes, children’s homes, women’s shelters, or juvenile detention homes and prisons. To which she had enthusiastically replied, “ALL OF THE ABOVE! But someone will have to drive my van. I can no longer drive it by myself.” That day I learned that she was wheelchair bound. I wouldn’t learn that she had Muscular Dystrophy until later.

Although we tried and tried, things always came up and Karen was never able to join us in ministry. But Karen and I continued to pray for others over the phone, and we saw God do wondrous things. Once, when we were talking about healing, Karen confided in me that she would be healed before a great crowd of people as a witness as to what God could do.

Two Sundays ago I finally got to meet Karen when I went to the later service at church. She had an electric wheelchair but almost didn’t have the physical strength to use it. We were instant friends. She had a bright smile and God’s love flowed through her to all who crowded around her to tell her “Hello!” It was evident that she was a much loved and valuable member of the congregation, and that she had many instant friends. The next week on the prayer line Karen shared that she was rarely home because of her volunteering. I was impressed.

I never got to know just how and where Karen spent her love-filled days because the call came. “Karen is in the hospital with breathing problems.” We prayed for her. That evening I spoke to her on the phone. She was weak so I made the conversation short and encouraging. I didn’t allow her to speak much. The next morning another member of the prayer chain spoke briefly with her. She reported that Karen was her happy self but a little “breathy”. Thirty minutes later Karen went to be with Jesus.

I really didn’t expect to see many people at the funeral, but the chapel was full to overflowing. There were people of every description, color, size, and physical ability. These were the ones with whom Karen had spent her days. A Man in a wheelchair pulled his chair up beside me. Many unsaved people were there, drawn by Karen’s life of love, caring, and sharing.

When our pastor spoke he knew that many in attendance did not know Jesus. After a short tribute to Karen’s life about how she had been a sharer of love and an encourager, he said something like this:

“How do you handle pain like this? Well, there are three ways. You can get drunk or take drugs and mask the pain for awhile. You can commit suicide and try to hide in the grave. Or then there is JESUS…. I don’t remember the exact words that followed, but I do remember that as he looked out over the group of silently weeping mourners he said, “How many of you had Karen share her Jesus with you?” Many of the ones ahead of me nodded their heads. The only gift that you can give Karen now is to accept the gift that she was offering you. Nothing would please her more than for you to accept God’s Love Gift through Jesus-John 3:16.”

What followed was so beautiful and so touching. The pastor asked with very special words and in a very special way for those who would like to have Jesus forgive them of their sins and come into their lives and take charge of their lives to silently repeat the words (the sinner’s prayer) after him. Many did. I know that the man next to me did.

As for Karen…She did get healed before a mighty crowd of Eternal witnesses, forever and ever!!!

In these days of national turmoil, shaking, anguish, and selfishness, even to the pint of challenging long accepted meaning of words, it is good to know that there are Karens in the world—Those who without fanfare, just go about sharing God’s Love and His Light wherever they go.

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11King James Version KJV).

Heaven’s Glory

There have been times in my life where heaven has seemed so close that I felt as if I could touch it. Once was when I was a child. I was suffering from a terrible reaction to the stings from a swarm of yellow jackets. I was dreaming that I was dying. I literally felt like my spirit was leaving my body. But it jumped back in when I was jerked awake by my mother. She had been praying and was calling my name. “Jeannie, I thought I had lost you!” She almost shouted, “You are burning up!” I don’t remember responding before I fell back to sleep. When I awoke the next morning, I had ice wrapped rags on my head and on my horribly swollen hand. Mom was still next to me. She told me I that I had been delirious, but that the fever was now gone and I would be OK. I don’t ever remember talking about it, but in my heart, I knew that I had been a moment away from Heaven’s glory.

My next almost in Heaven experience was when I was in my mid-twenties. I had been praying for hours and worshipping. As I stood with my hands raised, once again surrendering all to God, I felt as if Heaven was filling the room. I sank to the floor, overwhelmed by the weight of God’s glory. I remember saying, “Lord, are you taking me home?” I didn’t go home that day but I felt so empowered by His glory that I ran to my neighbor’s apartment. As usual, she answered the door shaking because she had once again mixed alcohol with Xanax. I stepped into the room almost shouting, “Do you feel that!” God immediately touched her and she quit shaking. She responded, “Yes, I have goose bumps!” We ended up worshiping the Lord and basking in His glory. A short while later, God empowered her to walk away from her addictions.

Since that day, I have had many experiences (sometimes alone and sometimes with others) where the presence of the Lord has filled the room with the glory of God. My pastors call this experiencing Heaven on earth. But the experience that was unlike all of the others was the night my baby brother died.

For a year and a half, I had watched as cancer destroyed my brother’s body. At the end, his 180 lb muscular frame had been reduced to a mere 60 lbs. The doctors had tried everything, and friends and loved ones had prayed everything they knew how to pray. My brother was so convinced that he would live, he didn’t even make a will. My family had experienced so many miracles we all held on to the hope that God would raise him up.

The morning I got the call that he was non-responsive and en-route to the hospital, my heart sank. With tears streaming down my face I hurried to the bathroom to get dressed. Many people say that when people get close to death their spirits can visit loved ones. I can’t definitely say that is what happened, but as I was brushing my hair I heard Mark’s voice, “It’s Okay, Sis. It’s Okay.” My tears instantly dried up and peace filled my soul.

Mark was suffering so much when we arrived at the hospital, it was hard to stay in the room. As I and other family members stood next to his bed, I placed my hand on his head and prayed and sang to him.

Mark was one of those rare guys who had never met a stranger. He was also a wonderful father and had raised his two now late teen children pretty much alone. Even though Mark spent his life serving others, I was deeply concerned about whether he had had a relationship with the Lord.

My family decided to move Mark to the hospice unit where we had moved my mother a week before. As we waited for the ambulance, a dear friend of Mark’s pulled me aside. She told me that Mark had somehow managed to drive to her work the night before. In spite of his frail condition and attached oxygen tank, they had gone to see the movie God’s Not Dead. Since cancer had destroyed Mark’s ability to speak, when the movie ended, he had texted her I’m ready to go be with Jesus. My heart swelled with joy, and I hugged her.

That night, I stayed at the hospice unit with Mom and Mark, going back and forth across the hall praying and singing over them. Up until 2 a.m., a friend stayed with me. Somewhere between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. I fell asleep in a chair in Mark’s room. I dreamed that Mark was in his hospital bed on a stage in a church. In my dream, the tumors on his body disappeared and he regained his weight and became muscular and strong. He then jumped out of bed and began running around the room. As I sat in the church watching the whole thing I said over and over again, “He is healed but he is not healed. He is healed but he is not healed.” Then I suddenly woke up.

A couple of years before, the Lord had stirred my spirit to pray for my mother to breath when she had been on life support. At that moment my mother had started breathing on her own and declared, “God still has things for me to do!” The doctor who had told us to make her funeral arrangements and the rest of the hospital staff were astounded.

I thought my dream meant that God was going to raise my brother up like He had Mom. I walked over to his bed and stood over him, getting ready to declare, “In the name of Jesus breath!” When God stopped me with a firm, No. I was perplexed. “But God, You promise us the desires of our hearts, and Mark’s desire has been to see his kids grow up and to have grandchildren!”

The Lord’s answer to me was so unexpected and so comforting it stopped all other questions: I have changed his heart’s desires. All I could think of was that Mark must have already seen Jesus.

I sat back down in the chair. I could feel the glory of the Lord fill the room.

I know this sounds far-fetched, but I saw angels. They weren’t like the warring angels I had seen before. It’s as if part of the room faded away and they were in another realm. They were laughing and singing and making preparation for my brother. The vision, or whatever it was, vanished, but the glory lingered.

I can honestly say that I have never felt more peace and joy than I did that morning. My brother went to heaven shortly afterward, My Mom joined him the next night while I was preparing for my brother’s family memorial.

It has now been three years since Mark and Mama went home to be with Jesus, and I have rarely shed a tear over their passing. Maybe this is partly due to the fact that I had watched them suffer so much. But mostly, I think it is because whenever I think about them, my heart is filled with the joy I felt the morning the glory of God filled my brother’s room. The glory I now know that they experience continuously! Whenever I think about them, I don’t see them emaciated and dying, instead, I see them whole and healthy and full of joy, dancing in Heaven’s glory.

Isaiah 60:19 “The sun shall no longer be your light by day, Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you, But the Lord will be to you an everlasting light, And your God your glory.”

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie