Grief never dies.

Daddy died May 14, 1960. He was 46; I was 16. He had been scheduled for open heart surgery the following week, to replace a heart valve damaged by the rheumatic fever that daddy contracted during WWII. He’d had several heart attacks and was looking forward to regaining his health. But he had another heart attack in the middle of the night and this time, he died.

It was the night of my 11th grade Junior Prom, which I had reluctantly attended with some boy I didn’t really know, and whose name I can’t recall to this day. I had spent that evening sad, not knowing why, just sad. I’m sure my date had a miserable time.

I never recovered. I began dating guys mother didn’t approve of, marrying Paul when I was 18, basically to get away from my unhappy mother. He was loving, he was kind, he would give anyone a helping hand or give them the shirt off his back – when he was sober. Unfortunately he was an alcoholic.

Mother died June 22, 1970. She had never recovered from Daddy’s death. She had become a full-fledged alcoholic, in and out of rehab, wrecking her car, hurting herself, attempting suicide several times over the next nine years. She shot herself in the head on June 28, 1969. It was my daughter’s 4th birthday. Her concerned pastor and other church friends sat in her living room, unaware of her plans as she walked out into the back yard and fired the shot.

She lived in a nursing home for nearly a year, eventually dying of pneumonia. Her beautiful hazel eyes were open but she was non-responsive, non-moving, although a friend told me years later that she went often to visit and was sure mother heard her as she read the Bible to her and prayed. She was sure mother responded to her questions with eye blinks. I seldom went to see her, never talked to her, thinking that she herself simply wasn’t there, lying so still on that hospital bed.

For many years after mother’s death, I had nightmares every few months. Really it was the same nightmare: Mother was missing. In the dreams I was looking for her everywhere, going from house to house, friend to friend, relative to relative, business to business. Mother’s car was still in her front yard, her purse was still there in the house, but she wasn’t there. Sometimes other people were helping me look for her, sometimes she had just vanished that day; other times I was the only one still looking, she had been gone for a long time. The content was always the same: Mother was missing.

(It wasn’t until shortly after Tim died that those nightmares stopped happening. One night Father God graciously gave me a vision of heaven where I saw Tim, Mother, and Daddy living and working, full of joy and eternal life. I never had another of those nightmares after that.)

I never recovered. My marriage fell apart when my husband and I couldn’t just make things work. Several years later I met and married Tim, a wonderful man. With the Lord’s help we faced many challenges, especially Tim’s health problems.

Tim died December 15, 2006. He fell at home, broke his leg near the hip, had surgery to repair it, had a heart attack in the recovery room and lived one day. No-one had thought Tim wouldn’t recover; he always recovered! He’d had so many health problems in his life, but he always recovered! Until that day.

I never recovered. For days, even weeks, I couldn’t sleep in a dark house. I turned on every overhead light, every lamp throughout the house and slept – although I didn’t sleep much – with the lights on. I couldn’t drive down certain streets in town, I would take various detours to avoid familiar streets. I couldn’t shop on certain aisles in the grocery store; that’s where I used to buy Tim’s favorite foods.

I couldn’t do medical transcription for a certain doctor’s practice any more. He had been Tim’s doctor; that was the waiting room where Tim would wait, listen to a little pocket radio, sometimes chat with other patients. I tried to continue but didn’t last more than a few days. I just couldn’t go into that waiting room, not even into that building. They said they understood.

Gradually I could turn off the lights at night, drive down those streets again, shop in those grocery aisles again. But there are still some things I don’t do. While a year later I donated most of Tim’s clothes to shelters, I have never thrown away some of Tim’s belongings. I kept a collection of his favorite neckties, ties I had bought for him. I kept his South Carolina ID card, his wallet, his cologne, his watch. I sleep in one of his undershirts.

People die. But grief? Grief never dies.

Some people will get this. Some won’t, the ones who think you’ll just “get over it.” Who say “Time heals all wounds.” No it doesn’t. Time may make the pain less, like a fading bruise. But underneath the invisible damage is still there, not throbbing as much but still there. Until…

          I never recovered – but I did heal.

There is a solution to grief. Even if grief doesn’t die, God can heal all wounds. Father God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit know exactly how grief feels. Accepting their understanding, comfort and healing is how I have survived intact, one more day, one more week, one more year.

I began writing a blog about heaven some months after Tim died. Maybe reading through those posts will help somebody else. Here’s my favorite one:  https://speakingofheaven.wordpress.com/2010/02/13/touching-base/

Advertisements

Did you know I write other stuff?

Did you know that I write other stuff, in addition to Esther’s Petition articles?

And did you know that I now follow a whole foods, plant-based (WFPB) diet?

Here’s a post about this lifestyle change, found on one of my other blogs: https://talkwithbette.wordpress.com/2015/10/16/new-way-of-living/

The blogroll on Esther’s Petition includes other stuff I write, in case you’re ever interested in checking them out.

However, there is one blog not included there: Bette’s Journal. Those posts recount my medical adventures, most recently my winning battle against pulmonary hypertension by way of the above-mentioned WFPB lifestyle. Here’s a link to that site. It’s over a year old now and I really should update it, but things are good.  https:/bettesjournal.wordpress.com/

 

 

2018

2018 will be a year of contrasts, I think. I have been sensing some things about 2018. On the one hand, there will be more and worse disasters, chaos, tragedies, deadly weather, weird unique and odd evil happenings. So-called natural disasters will clearly be supernatural in origin. The magnitude and acceleration of these events will be impossible to miss.

There will be more political and religious deception, misdirection, sleight-of-hand and fake news. “Out and oust” has been my prayer in 2017 and we certainly have seen quite a lot of that! There will be more, occurring in many spheres of influence. Business, entertainment, media, and government will all experience their share of unpleasant revelations.

On the other hand, in this coming year millions more new Christians will come into the kingdom of God. There will be more appearances of angels and of Jesus. Breakthroughs will arrive – answers to long-time intercessions – as well as instant answers to current prayers, miracles and miracle healings; unusual supernatural events will become usual. Excitement, joy, exuberant praise and thanksgiving will fill the gatherings of excited new believers and mature disciples alike.

Sadly, while this is going on many people just won’t notice. The status quo will be the status quo. Many church members who like things the way they are, who like doing things “the way we’ve always done it” will be oblivious to marvelous miracles right outside their doors. Some of those churches will have the little spiritual life they still possess flicker and finally extinguish this year. As their numbers dwindle they may ask each other, What happened? By then it will be too late.

Teaching is one of my ministry gifts; some people know that prophecy is another. Prophetic prayer is one of the manifestations of that gift and prophetic teaching is a combination of both.

I pray for people around the world as well as here in Florence. Sometimes that does include prophetic prayer, but over these last few years prophecy and prophetic teaching have been reserved mainly for articles posted on Esther’s Petition. It’s true that quite a few of them have sounded pretty grim, but they have come to pass, nevertheless.

Many folks in our area don’t know about those articles. Many don’t even know I write Esther’s Petition, for that matter. I do post new articles on Twitter and Facebook, but of course not everyone uses those forms of social media.

2018 may be a year where those gifts are used more openly, more publicly, or more widely. I don’t know. But this one thing I do know: God is up to something, and he’s not going to be quiet about it.

The contrasts in 2018 are going to be vivid and obvious.

Are you called to be an Intercessor?

Several weeks ago I asked our Intercessory Prayer Sunday School class, How many of you feel called to be an Intercessor? Some raised their hands, some didn’t.

One member said, I don’t have that gift, and I said, It’s not a gift, it’s a calling. I didn’t expand on that statement then but I’d like to do it now, with another question:

How do you know if you’re called to be an Intercessor?

In the beginning of my adventures with Jesus (1972) and the Holy Spirit (1974) I didn’t start out to be an Intercessor, or even much of a pray-er. I started out to be just a student of the Bible. And then to be a teacher of the Bible. And then to be a better student, and a better teacher.

Along the way I began to make prayer lists. After all, I figured that was what every good Christian did. Occasionally I wrote those prayers down in notebooks, which I still have today.

Reading back through those lists it’s easy to see that some prayers were answered, some weren’t. Some answers were almost instant and some were gradual, but some never came. Why?

Discouragement began to plague my prayer time as I tried to understand – What had I done wrong? What had I prayed wrong? So I went back to being a student of the Bible, seeking answers to those questions.

After a while I realized that my interests were changing. I wasn’t interested in reading the same sort of books (murder mysteries and spy novels), or watching the same sort of television programs (cop shows) as I had been. Now, that wasn’t intentional, but gradually the use of my time shifted.

More and more of my time was being spent in seeking the Lord, studying the Bible, asking the Holy Spirit for wisdom, understanding, and information – answers to those “What” questions.

And then I discovered I John 5:14-15… “This is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”

Over a span of some years I discovered more and more of my time was being spent in praying for other people. Family, friends, and strangers. Believers yes, but many non-believers. Prayers for Mercy! My focus was shifting.

More time was being spent online reading reports of the Lord’s work around the globe. News from missionaries, revivalists, ordinary Christian people in Turkey, Libya, Egypt, Israel, Australia, Philippines, Russia, China, Japan – and many others.

Also news reports from mainline media, some Christian, some secular, in the United States and overseas. Reports of events, happenings, situations, chaos, conflicts, disasters, often accompanied by prayer requests from Christians and non-Christians. Many requests for prayer kept showing up in my emails and news feeds.

Pretty much automatically, I found myself praying and praying and praying as I read. Asking the Lord to inspire my prayers, to pray His will through my prayers!

Eventually it became evident that He had answered that particular prayer. He had implanted his desires right in the middle of my desires. Like, other drivers being annoying? Unsafe? “Pray mercy for them,” says the Holy Spirit. “You may be the only person on earth who will pray for them.”

Hitchhikers, bike riders, pedestrians along the road? “Pray they will encounter my presence, my compassion, my mercy,” says the Holy Spirit. Snarky people on Facebook? “Pray mercy for them,” says the Holy Spirit again. “They need Me, not a holier-than-thou attitude.”

A name suddenly pops into your mind? “Pray for them,” says the Holy Spirit. “They need a prayer right now.”

I began researching intercession and the authority of the believer in prayer, and what the scriptures have to say about all that. Wow. Prophetic intercession, prophetic worship, intercessory worship, there’s still a lot to learn! I’m still learning.

Well, being an Intercessor wasn’t what I started out to be. But it’s what the Lord started: an additional assignment. A calling.

Could I tell him No, I don’t want to do this? Certainly. I could refuse to spend my time this way, he wouldn’t send me to hell because of it. He might make me miserable… because my joy is to do what the Lord wants! To go where he wants, do what he wants, say what he wants, and pray what he wants.

See, some years ago I did say No to the Lord. In an unhappy state, I decided that if I just quit teaching the Bible things would get better. I would be happier. So I quit teaching and I quit reading my Bible and I quit praying.

Guess what happened? “Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.” (Jer. 20:9) I was miserable!

Thankfully that phase didn’t last long and soon I returned to what I knew He wanted for me. Now this is what he wants for me.

How about you? Are you called to be an Intercessor? If you are, the Lord will show you. It may or may not be an instant revelation, but your focus will shift, your interests will change, and your use of time will be different.

Say goodbye

Go say goodbye to your yard, He said. My yard? Okay.

cannaeisen002I stopped what I was doing and walked out into my back yard. I looked at the grass, the mixture of Centipede and Charleston grass that had taken so long to grow. I looked around at the peach trees and the pear trees, the azalea bushes, the Eisenhower cannas, the pine trees and the dogwoods.

As I turned my head this way and that, I said goodbye to them all in my mind, noticing the bark, the color of the leaves, the needles, even the rows of weed and dirt in the side garden. The willow tree – telling that goodbye was especially hard.

I walked back and forth around the back yard and the front yard, all the way to the edge of the far driveway where a solitary quince bush grew. I walked and talked in my mind to the yard, saying goodbye to each thing I saw.

I told the remnants of flowers and shrubs in the flower beds near the house goodbye. I told the place where the baby magnolia tree had once been, mowed down “by accident,” goodbye.

Even the storage shed where the garden tools were kept, even the carport utility room with the deep freeze full of frozen meats and vegetables, even the paved driveway from carport to the street, I told them all goodbye.

For so long I had yearned for things to be calm and peaceful in my household. I had quit trying to be right all the time, even when I was right. I had tried to quit worrying about money, how to make ends meet on my salary alone when my husband’s paycheck was spent on pinball, poker games and beer before he ever got home after payday.

I had done everything I knew to do to cook country-style meals, cooked long and seasoned like my mother-in-law’s. I had gotten up early and stayed up late, working in the garden picking vegetables, then shelling, freezing and canning, plus kept up with the laundry, ironing, vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing and dusting.

All those things that have to be done in a house, I did, since that was a “woman’s job,” even though I worked in an office all day. After all, my husband kept up the seven acres of yards and garden, planted, weeded, fertilized, plowed, fed the hogs, broke the corn, did all those things after working on a city truck all day. When he came home after work, that is.

But nothing I did was ever enough, nothing was ever right enough, or fast enough, or something else enough to suit him. Actually, ever since I’d given my life to the Lord, nothing about me suited him any more.

That winter I had fasted and prayed for my marriage, my unsaved husband and my young teenage children. Weekends my husband seldom came home at all any more. I took the children to Sunday School and church on Sundays, came home and fixed dinner, then rested and read until time to eat a sandwich, then went back to church on Sunday nights.

As a church musician I needed to be there. As a Christian at the end of my rope, I needed to be there.

Then I heard that voice deep in my heart, Go say goodbye to your yard, and I did. As I completed my circle of the yard and garden, He spoke again. Say goodbye to your house.

The house and land had been purchased with my mother’s life insurance money as down payment. A lot of the furniture, dishes and other stuff had been my mother’s or grandmother’s. Was I supposed to tell it all goodbye? Yes, tell it goodbye.

So I walked from room to room saying goodbye, to the piano, cuckoo clock and linen chest that had been my mother’s. To the beds and dressers and chests of drawers, even the sheets and pillows, blankets and bedspreads on the beds.

I said goodbye to all the stored boxes in the attic, all the books on the shelves, the living room drapes, the bedroom and dining room curtains, the dishes, pots and pans, refrigerator and stove. I said goodbye to the electric mixer, the mops and brooms, the detergents and bleach, the roach spray, the mouse traps, even the floor wax.

I said goodbye to all the jars of tomatoes I had canned, all the home-made pickles, the groceries in the pantry and in the refrigerator. I said goodbye to my washer and dryer.

I told the lamps, the ottoman, the platform rocker that had been my grandfather’s, the french provincial armchair and sofa that had been my mother’s, the china cabinet that had been my grandmother’s, I told them all goodbye.

I even said goodbye to the dirty clothes in the closet, the wet washcloths, the soap and shampoo, and all of my children’s belongings. I said goodbye to the pictures on the walls, the carpet and linoleum, the pink bedroom reading lamp that had been my grandmother’s, even the ceiling light fixtures.

I walked from room to room, looking from floor to ceiling, wall to wall, leaving nothing out. I opened every bedroom closet door and said goodbye to the hanging clothes, the dresses, shirts, skirts, winter coats and jackets, folded sweaters and assorted stored stuff on the top shelves.

I opened the hall linen closet and said goodbye to the folded sheets and towels, the extra quilts and blankets, my knitting supplies, yarn and needles.

I said goodbye to the gold and tan sheet-size afghan on the back of the sofa, the one I’d spent countless hours knitting, and to the heavy orange and tan lap afghan I had spent countless more hours knitting.

I said goodbye to the sewing machine and the box of patterns I’d used to make my Easter dresses and my children’s school clothes, even the smoked-up sewing box full of needles and thread that had gone through a house fire at my mother’s home.

When I was finally finished, I thought I would be leaving that place immediately, but there were no more instructions that day, just a through-and-through peace in my soul that I had done what was necessary.

Further instructions would come several months later that year (1978), when it was the right time. I didn’t realize until then that He had not told me to say goodbye to my station wagon… I didn’t have to relinquish that; I was going to need it.

 

Led by the Spirit, how does that work?

Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons – mature children – of God. (Romans 8:14)

What does that look like, really? someone asked me recently. How does it work?

Here’s an example... Last Wednesday evening I left a class at church to drive home. Nearing West Palmetto Street, I began “knowing that I knew what I knew” – I wasn’t supposed to go home yet.

But if not home, then where? I wondered. I didn’t know anyone I could just drop in on, without prior notice. I had eaten supper before going to class, but perhaps the McDonald’s at I-95? Or the Huddle House near there?

No, not there, I felt in my gut. So I turned left on Palmetto, waiting for some sort of direction from the Holy Spirit. I live just three minutes from church so it didn’t take long to reach the driveway to my condo, but I knew I was supposed to keep going on towards town.

When I recognized Celebration Boulevard just ahead, I sensed in my spirit that I should turn right, and so I did. And suddenly I knew my destination – another McDonald’s, the one at South Cashua.

I was familiar with that place. During the week after Hurricane Matthew I had spent quite a bit of time there praying with people: folks whose electricity was out, exhausted hospital workers, linemen coming to and from repairing downed power lines, not to mention the weary McDonald’s staff themselves. Although my own power was also out for some days, I had plenty of food and water at home, I wasn’t there for that.

No, the Lord had sent me to that McDonald’s, one of the few places still with electricity and water, to encourage and pray for tired, worried, needy people. The lines were always long, the faces usually long too – there were plenty of opportunities to pray.

And Wednesday evening I had a gut feeling that I would find a needy person to pray for at McDonald’s. While the drive-through was busy, there were no other customers inside. Wondering if the cashiers and cooks were the reason for my visit, I took an order of french fries to a table and sat down.

I prayed as I nibbled, asking the Lord to bless everyone in the building and drive-through, to draw them to himself and meet every need, body, soul and spirit. Several other customers came in as I sat there but none seemed to be a specific prayer target.

I was down to my last few fries when a young man came from behind the counter out into the restaurant, talking on a cell phone. Going by the uniform he was wearing I thought he was probably the assistant manager. Around and around he walked, all the while talking on his phone. Then the voice of the Holy Spirit spoke plainly, “He’s the one.”

The next time he came near enough, I motioned for him to come sit with me. Putting his phone call on hold, he slipped into the booth with a polite, questioning expression on his face. He probably expected a complaint of some kind. I explained that I would like to pray for him, and asked if he believed in Jesus. He said yes, and told me his name.

I asked if there was anything specific he needed prayer for, and he became quiet and thoughtful for a moment or two. Then in a few sentences he shared a worrisome situation that had arisen about his job and his concern for his future with the company. I extended my hand, he took it and we prayed together about all that.

I ate supper at home before I came, I told him, but the Lord loves you very much, he wants the best for you, and he sent me here just to pray for you. He thanked me, I said you’re very welcome, and came home.

That’s how it works, being led by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it’s words, sometimes it’s knowing that you know what you know, sometimes it’s a gut feeling. The Lord can get his directions across to you in a variety of ways – if you’re listening, and if you’re willing to obey him. It may take some practice.

Also see https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2015/05/07/encounters/

When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail…

hammeringnailThe first time I heard God speak to me, I was 6 years old. I was sitting in my first grade class, admiring the teacher. I thought she was really pretty, really smart, and I liked her a lot. Suddenly that voice said to me, One day you will be a teacher.

I didn’t know that other people didn’t hear God speak to them like that, I didn’t think it was unusual or strange at all. It wasn’t a common occurrence for me, though. Just that one statement was all he said for a long, long time.

As the years went by God occasionally said other things to me, like Don’t go there, or You should read this. Stuff like that. Just once in a while, nothing spectacular, no big deal. But I tried to pay attention, because I figured God knew what was going on a lot better than I did.

See, all during those years my family attended church, one that stressed the importance of studying the Bible. I admired my Sunday School teacher the same way I had admired my grammar school teacher. I liked her, and because she said knowing the scripture was important, I read and I studied. It was interesting, some of it actually fascinating, and because I enjoyed history of all kinds I enjoyed the Bible too. I just didn’t consider that it might be more than a history book and a rule book.

I wasn’t even born again in those days, at least as I understood that to mean. I had never asked Jesus to come save me, to be my Lord. I just knew that I knew that I knew — Jesus was God. Didn’t everybody know that? I suspect someone was praying for me, because God knew me. He was with me long before I ever knew him.

Then, as the teenage years rolled around, things I knew I should do, I didn’t do. And vice versa. I DID go there, where I shouldn’t go. I started doing things because I wanted to, whether my parents or my Sunday School teacher or the preacher thought they were okay or not. And believe me, I instinctively knew what they would think about some of it. NO-NO’s.

I had actually told God one day that yes, I understood how to be saved, and yes, I wanted to be saved some day, and okay, I’ll accept Jesus as my “saver.” Not really serious about it, I just said it and promptly forgot it. Gradually his voice stopped speaking to me, but by then I didn’t even notice.

Thinking I could run my life just fine all by myself, I dropped out of college and married a man my family didn’t approve of. A man who turned out to be exactly the kind of person they had warned me he was. We had two children, and bit by bit our marriage fell apart.

At age 29 when I finally acknowledged that doing my own thing my own way wasn’t working out too well, I seriously asked Jesus to save me and to manage my life. In other words, to be my Lord.

What happened next was spectacularly sudden, and supernatural.* Everything changed in a flash, and I knew that the Bible was actually, literally true. Not just a history book, but a living Word, filled with the words of God addressed to me personally. Wow! His voice returned, full of laughter and life! I was so glad, so very glad.

Well, before you know it, I was a teacher. I was teaching Sunday School, and a few years later teaching Bible college classes. One day it dawned on me – God’s statement to that 6 year old girl was the literal truth. One day I would be a teacher, and that day is today.

And I have recognized and come to accept that “When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Even when you’re just 6 years old. Some folks know what that means…

Looking back I have realized that throughout my life, everything I’ve ever learned, I have thought of it as a teacher would, in terms of how to tell it to somebody else. How to explain it in ways they could understand, whether it was to my own children, friends, coworkers, stranger, whoever.

Whether meditating, speaking, writing, even emailing, my point of view has always been as a teacher. My focus has always been, How can I help somebody else understand this? Math? English? History? Science? Current events? Politics? Those certainly, but most importantly, Jesus. Father God. Holy Spirit.

It’s been a while since I was 29. I’m still reading, still studying, still finding the Bible interesting and fascinating, but one thing is for sure — it’s way better with the author right there with you. The extraordinary Teacher, Holy Spirit, Explainer-in-Chief, who always puts how best to share this with other people uppermost in our study sessions.

* Also see https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/all-things-became-new/