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/

Healing Testimony, 26 July, 2014

blood-lambWednesday evening July 23, 2014, Keith called to say several musicians would be away on Sunday, they would be shorthanded, and to ask if I could play the piano for Sunday’s worship service.

Sure, I agreed, and promised to be there for practice Sunday morning. No problem.

Saturday morning I awoke as usual to the playful antics of Friday and Baby (cats), insisting not too patiently that I arise and feed them. As usual I sat up a moment before sliding on bedroom slippers, and immediately was struck with back pain.

A deep throbbing ache in my right hip extended down my right leg. I could lie flat or stand okay, but sitting was a definite problem.

Since I had done nothing out of the ordinary physically the days preceding that – no heavy lifting, no twisting –  I suspected this was a “fit of pique,” designed by the enemy to keep me from playing the piano at church the next day. Naturally, playing the piano requires sitting on the piano bench.

Not that the church couldn’t worship perfectly fine without me. They could and would. But I had looked forward to joining the praise team in praise and worship. Hmmm. (I did wonder if the fact that I’d recently prayed for some other people with back pain had anything to do with it.)

Making my way to the kitchen to tend to kitty food and coffee I began praying about the situation, thanking God and praising Jesus the Healer. John 10:10, I reminded myself. I Peter 2:24, by the stripes of Jesus I am healed.

While standing at the kitchen counter I laid hands on every achy spot I could reach, taking authority in the name of Jesus over my own body and commanding spine and hips to be normal. I specifically mentioned spinal vertebrae, foramina, discs, muscles, tendons, nerves and blood vessels, demanding them to be completely healed, healthy, whole, strong and pain-free.

After breakfast, my Saturday housework plans underwent an amendment. No vacuuming, no dusting, no mopping. Instead, I put on an old DVD, lay flat on the living room sofa, and began a day of prayer and praise amid the antics of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, A&E’s 2001 television series.

Why the old familiar TV shows? Unlike watching the news, they required no mental attention, but they did distract my thoughts from the physical attention achy bones and muscles and nerves seemed to require.

They drowned out all the “you’re sick,” “you can’t do anything,” “you need a doctor,” “playing piano for church is out,” messages coming against my mind. I could more easily focus on praying in the spirit, praising and thanking the Lord for his word. For “sozo.” For healing.

Laying flat on the sofa with feet propped up and head on a cushion, all morning I prayed in the spirit, praised the Lord and recited healing scriptures while videos played in the background. I rebuked any enemy spirits that were “crunching, twisting or pounding” back muscles and nerves in my body. Occasionally I got up to refill my coffee cup. The kitties kept me company, probably puzzled at this change in routine.

Lunch came and went. More prayer in the spirit, more praise, more commands to places that hurt.

Then, mid-afternoon I switched gears. I began talking about the blood of Jesus to myself and to the enemy. About the cross, the nails, and the blood that flowed from Jesus’ back for my healing. I didn’t just mention “His stripes,” I discussed the result of those stripes.

Blood. Lots of blood, covering His head, arms, hands and feet — especially his back, hips, and legs. I began to describe the blood of Jesus.

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (Rev. 12:11)

In an instant all the pain disappeared. Not gradually, not an improvement, there was suddenly no pain in my back, right hip and leg. The enemy simply couldn’t stand the blood of Jesus.

This was an important lesson to me. Prayer, praise, quoting scriptures, taking authority, laying hands on our own bodies, commanding and demanding health — they’re all important. I’m confident that eventually my body would respond.

But the most essential weapon in spiritual warfare is the blood of Jesus. Without His blood, there isn’t anything else.

 

What I believe and why

(Reprinted from March 6, 2011.)

John 10:10. Jesus said it.

I made a decision many years ago to believe the Bible, accept it as God’s truth, and base my existence on its veracity and dependability. I accepted Jesus as savior and manager (Lord) of my life, studied what he did here on earth and how he did it. What he said, to whom, and on what occasions. Instructions he gave.

These days I am re-studying the Gospel of John. It’s a fascinating book. Recently I read a statement made by someone that Jesus never claimed to be God so why did Christians think he was? That person obviously never read John’s gospel where Jesus repeatedly claimed to be God, declaring it to followers and detractors alike.

I take Jesus at his word, and these days especially John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Who is they? Verse 9 tells us. “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.” Saved is from the Greek word “sozo,” meaning healed, rescued, kept safe, made whole… a very positive word.

Jesus said he was the gate for the sheep. The sheep are “they.” I’m one of his sheep so I’m included in “they.”

I know full well that human beings have a vicious enemy. He hates all humans but especially believers. After all, if he can wipe out one Christian, he can potentially wipe out many others who might have come to Christ through their testimony.

His specific goals are listed by Jesus in this verse:

(1) Steal — your belongings. Home, car, money or peace of mind. Marriage, children. Health. Reputation. Job, savings or retirement plan. He will use economic depression, natural disaster, fire, flood, earthquake, whatever he can.

(2) Kill — you, your family and friends. With whatever weapon he can use. Cancer. Heart disease. Accidents. War. Famine. Murder. Suicide.

(3) Destroy — anything he couldn’t steal or kill. Especially your faith. Listening to his doubt and fear, gossip, rumors and uncertainty, erodes your self-confidence. He’ll try to nullify your testimony. It’s hard to witness when your mind is full of fear.

The rest of verse 10 tells us that Jesus is proactive. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Not just life, but full life. God-life. Not depressed, not defeated. Overflowing! Abundant!

John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jesus didn’t warn us about the enemy so we could worry when he attacks or blame God for the attacks, but so we could stomp the enemy in Jesus’ name. Defeat him. Destroy his works as Jesus did. (See Acts 10:38). Believe Jesus. Worship Jesus. Obey Jesus. Quote Jesus!

John 14: 12, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things that these, because I am going to the father.” Well, what had Jesus been doing?

“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” (John 14:11) Miracles, is what he had been doing. Healing the sick.

Some well-meaning Christians think those particular verses don’t apply today or at least don’t apply to everyone today. If that was true, salvation – from the same Greek word, sozo – isn’t available today, either. But it does, and they do.

 

Sozo – salvation, faith and healing

Testimony, part two

Sozo – salvation, faith and healing

Getting the job as the very first secretary of the Nursing Department of Florence-Darlington Technical College was the easiest thing I ever did. My current job was ending and I needed a new one, and one of the other parents at my children’s daycare told me about this new position being created. I called, went by and filled out an application form and was set up with an interview with Billie Boette, R.N., the new department head.

The day of the appointment I found her surrounded by box after box of loose papers, files, print-outs, student records, instructional materials, office supplies, and other assorted odds and ends.

There was a large outer room, a glass-walled inner room, two desks, two chairs and an empty file cabinet, all nice and new, and all stacked with overflowing boxes. Adjoining this yet-to-become office space was a completely furnished ward room featuring two rows of neatly made-up hospital beds, bedpans and rolling sphygmometers (blood pressure machines). One bed was occupied by Resusci-Annie, a full-sized dummy used to teach CPR.

Classes were set to begin in just a week or so. We had little time to make sense of all the confusion in those boxes, set up for-real offices for Billie and me, plus have all the student records organized before they descended on us en masse. I must have looked capable for the task because I was hired on the spot. Billie just pointed to the mass of boxes and said, “That’s your first job.”

I don’t know how we did it but by the first day of class we looked like we had it all together. Both desks were organized, mine with pens, scotch tape, paper clips, white-out, and a nice new typewriter, Billie’s stacked with student and staff files. Trash cans were half-full, pot plants were dropping a few wilted leaves, and hand-outs were being typed.

I answered the department phone, typed instructional material and generally did whatever anybody wanted or needed to make the nursing department’s first quarter run smoothly. I stayed very busy those first months on the job. I met a lot of people, learned my way around campus and thoroughly enjoyed my work.

But then came a day when I had nothing to do, literally nothing. There were no papers to type or file, the phone didn’t ring, no-one stopped by, and after I dusted, polished, emptied trash and did everything else I could think of, I opened my Schofield Reference Bible. I usually brought it with me to read during lunch.

I had promised myself to read the Bible all the way through in a year but my tendency to get distracted was interfering — I’d read a couple of verses, see something interesting and run all the references. Some days I only got through three or four verses that way.

This particular day, with no-one coming, going or telephoning, I picked up the Bible and turned to the index. I was curious about something.

Mr. Charlie Smith had given me several audiocassettes to listen to a few days earlier. On one tape Jerry Savelle was giving his testimony at a conference, vividly describing an accident that had happened to his baby daughter. Jerry and his wife were at a Kenneth Copeland meeting, the baby in the nursery. Suddenly someone came running up the aisle shouting, “Brother Jerry, Brother Jerry, come quick!”

Crawling around the floor while the nursery attendant was tending to another infant, Jerry’s daughter had her little finger underneath the rocker when the attendant rocked back. The end of her little finger was mashed completely off behind the fingernail. Blood was pouring, the baby was screaming and the nursery worker was hysterical.

Jerry wrapped the baby’s finger up, held her tight against his chest and ran back into the auditorium, straight up to the platform. He said, “Kenneth had been preaching that God still heals today, and I was going to find out if that was true or not, right now.”

Kenneth prayed for the baby and Jerry and his wife headed to the hospital. They had the end of the finger wrapped in a cloth but the ER doctor said it was too mangled to reattach. He sutured up the wound and said it should heal up okay, but that finger would never have a fingernail again. Jerry replied, “It’ll grow back.” The doctor patiently explained that since the entire nailbed was gone, there was no way for the fingernail to grow back.

Jerry just insisted, “It’ll grow back.” They took the baby home, and sure enough, within a few months she had a healed-up finger, complete with brand new fingernail!

I was astonished. I’d never heard a story of healing like that before, or a story of faith like that before either. I played that tape again, then listened to several others like it. Jerry Savelle, Kenneth Copeland, Oral Roberts and others, all gave healing testimonies. They accompanied these accounts with scripture about God’s unchanging word, how salvation contains everything necessary for life and godliness, how healing is still for us today if we will just believe it.

Now I’d heard multiple sermons before about the scriptures containing all we need for godly living. But I had never heard any about this kind of healing being for today. Everybody I knew got sick now and then, and every sick person I knew went to the doctor and got a prescription for antibiotics or something. Nobody I knew just believed God and got healed.

No church I’d ever attended really prayed and believed the sick person would get healed, just that the doctor would give them the right medicine or treatment and eventually they’d get better. Of course a lot of them didn’t get better, they got worse. Some died from heart disease, cancer, or stroke.

And the way they were prayed for got everybody off the hook. “Lord, if it be thy will, heal this poor sick brother.” So if they weren’t healed, why then it must not have been God’s will. Makes sense, right?

But these people were saying it is God’s will to heal, you can know it’s God’s will to heal, and you yourself can experience God’s willingness to heal.

Okay, here I was with a completely work-free day. Here was my chance to examine the Bible and see for myself. I turned to the index and made a list of every verse that had the word heal, healing, healed or health in it. It was a long list. Then I started in, carefully writing out all those verses from Genesis to Revelation in a notebook, getting more and more persuaded as I went that the tapes had it right.

By the time I gathered up my Bible, notebook and purse at the end of the day, I was convinced. I was also sad, disappointed, and a little angry — angry at all those preachers and Sunday School teachers who had not told me that healing is for today. Angry at myself for waiting so many years to study for myself what the Bible said about healing.

I drove home that day without really seeing the road. Disappointment and anger soon turned into joy, thanksgiving, praise and worship. And determination to apply the scriptures to myself, prove God’s faithfulness to myself, and demonstrate in my own life the truth of his Word.

I had a new study goal. Now that I knew God provided sozo-salvation-faith-healing in Jesus, I needed to know how to transmit that to 20th century sickness, disease, injury, pain, in my own life and my family’s. How did Jesus do it? How did the disciples do it? How did Jesus tell us to do it?

If you read the other articles on this site, you’ll learn what I found out.

The day all things became new

Testimony, Part One

Summer, 1972: It was a sunny summer day, the day I finally gave up to the nagging voice in my soul. A little voice kept calling my name. “Bette.” Whispering to me, reminding me, persuading me, cajoling me. Tch-tching me.  Umm umm-ing me. Uhh uhh-ing me, too. Soothing me, urging me, pricking me, always nagging me.

For years the voice had waxed and waned, but it had never really gone away, ever since the day as a teenager in church I had told God I understood how to be saved, and yes, I wanted to be saved, and okay, okay, I’ll accept Jesus as my “saver.”  Not really enthusiastic about it, I just said it and promptly forgot it.

I went to church weekly in those days, a Bible-teaching church, but one that taught that the miracle life of the apostles and New Testament Christians had died out and would only come back to reality in heaven.  Dispensational theology, they called it.  I wasn’t attracted by it, and soon after my father died in 1960, I dropped out of church.

I also dropped out of college in my first semester, to get married.  Really, to get away from home, where my widowed mother seldom was present, and when she was, seldom was pleasant.  So I got married, got a job, had two children, bought a home, had lots of responsibilities and no extra time to spend in church.

Weekends were full of housework and yard work and garden work.  I had plenty to do and not nearly enough hours to do it in.  Some years went by, responsibilities grew, the children grew, and I grew too.  More and more miserable, that is.

So, as I washed dishes one sunny afternoon, looking out of the kitchen window and crying into the dish water, I finally gave up.  The little voice of the Holy Spirit called my name again, as he had dozens of times before, and this time I said, “Lord, I’ve tried to manage my life my way for so long, and I’ve made a mess out of it.  If you can help me, please come and manage my life for me.  Jesus, be my Lord.”

The earth didn’t shake, but the strangest things happened in an instant.  As I continued looking out of the window, I saw the grass get greener.  The tall Eisenhower cannas, in full bloom beside my kitchen window, were brighter orange.  The brown trunk of the pine tree in the middle of the back yard got browner.  Nothing outside looked the same as it had a minute ago.

I dropped my dishrag into the sink and walked out into the back yard.  I couldn’t get over it!  The garden dirt was “dirt-ier,” the house bricks were “brick-ier,” the fruit trees were “tree-ier,” everything was new!  The grass, the bushes, the flowers, the leaves, the weeds, the sky, the clouds, everything!

I had trouble walking, I felt so weird.  I wanted to run, and jump, and twirl, and kneel, and fall flat on my face.  I knew in that moment what the verse meant that said if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature — I knew that the trees and bushes weren’t new, I was new.

Was I saved before that?  I don’t know.  I had not been changed in any fundamental way earlier.  I had mentally agreed that the Bible was true, Jesus was real, and that he could save me from my sins.  But I hadn’t given him any real place in my existence otherwise.

Now I was changed from the inside out, and he had a decided place in my life.  Jesus was now taking up a management position — Lordship — in my soul.  I had just made Jesus both Savior AND Lord.  Whew!