Friday, July 31, 2015

Gone to the Dogs

Gone to the Dogs

Dave Morrison
I grew up in a strong Christian family in Miami, Florida. As a cradle Episcopalian, I was nurtured in my faith through the ministry of Father Newt Wilbur and the closely knit congregation of the Church of St. Faith. My mom ensured that my siblings and I regularly attended worship services and participated in parish functions. As a result of my parents' prayers and the guidance of my church family, I came to know Jesus Christ as my personal savior at a young age and served as an acolyte through high school.

Throughout my college years, prayer and church attendance remained important to me. However, after college I gradually drifted away from God, as I discovered exciting challenges and opportunities in the business world. I thought I could manage my life on my own.

Through determination and hard work, I became a successful landscaper with a large clientele. However, the great recession dealt a deathblow to my business. I was financially stressed and spiritually dry. During these hard times, Robin, a close Christian friend, prayed for me. Yet I still relied upon my own strength to find my way both spiritually and professionally. About this time Robin, knowing my life-long love of dogs, suggested that I begin a new career that would involve them. She thought having a new career that tapped into my passion for dogs would be good for me. Robin was right. Although I have always loved dogs, I never thought of them being a part of my work life.

Despite Robin's suggestion, I did not immediately follow her advice. I pursued another business venture outside of Florida, but it also went nowhere. I returned to Florida even more discouraged. In the midst of my depression I asked Kathy, another Christian friend, to pray for me. Unbeknownst to me, Kathy had already been praying for me. She, too, had also come to the same conclusion as Robin - I should be working with dogs. She prayed with me; then suggested I go to God alone in prayer for direction in my life. I found a small nearby chapel where I knelt in prayer and poured out my heart to God. During my prayer I felt God's unconditional love wash over me as I turned my life completely over to him.

After further thought and prayer, and with Kathy and Robin's support, I opened Must Love Dogs, a doggy daycare and boarding facility, in 2014. Initially, the business was slow; we only had a few dogs on most days. We were barely keeping our doors open. I questioned whether I had really heard God about opening this business. Many times I awoke in the middle of the night, worried about the finances. However, as I prayed and turned my fears over to God, I would feel peace come over me, and I would fall asleep again. Nevertheless, I soon reached the point that I could not continue to pay my mortgage and keep Must Love Dogs open. My choice was to sell my house or sell my business. Since I was so sure that God led me to Must Love Dogs, I was prepared to sell my house and sleep with the dogs. It was at this time that I shared my circumstances with another Christian friend, Karen.

As God's timing would have it, this was the very time that the pastor of Karen's church preached on the importance of sharing our abundance with fellow Christians who are part of our extended family. Karen told her husband about the sermon and mentioned my circumstances. Karen's husband was so moved by the message that he decided to gift me an amount of money that not only permitted me to keep my home, but also allowed me to improve my business facility.

I was stunned and humbled by God's grace and provision for me through Christian friends. Their faith and obedience has blessed me beyond anything I ever had hoped for. Must Love Dogs is now growing rapidly; God has also brought me a dedicated staff that loves the dogs as I do. I have found joy in my relationship with the Lord, and with the work He has given me to do. I am grateful to God and to those He has chosen to bless me.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Get Off the Road

“Get Off the Road”

Rev. John Rice

In the spring of 1993, while living in northern Vermont, I received a call to pastor a church in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Since their schools started in mid-August, I had to move my wife and son to our new home before I completed my time at the church I was serving in Vermont. The move to Black Mountain went well. After settling them in our temporary housing, I headed back to Vermont.

In the remaining weeks as I finished packing, I said my farewells to church members and other friends. After worship services on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, I headed for North Carolina. I was pulling my boat which was filled with all sorts of items. Kanga, our family dog, was my traveling companion. Our first day of travel went smoothly.

The next morning, Labor Day, I rose early wanting to get a head start on the holiday traffic. After a long day of fast and heavy interstate travel, I began to get weary. However, I told myself that I could get just a little further. That's when I heard a whisper that came as a thought, “Get off the road.” I didn’t pay it much attention, but it came again. This time the words were louder and much more intense, “Get off the road. Get off the road NOW!”

In my experience of being a healing minister I have been taught to be a very attentive listener ….both to the story of the one seeking prayer and for the direction from the Holy Spirit. Due to this being so, I got off at the next exit and went to a nearby motel.

After checking into my room, I went to inspect the boat and trailer. I observed one trailer wheel was at a slight angle, rather than being straight up and down. This was not a good sign. When I jacked up the trailer, the wheel listed even more to the side. I literally could move the wheel a good three inches back and forth. Fortunately while in the parking lot, I noticed a garage located right next door. The next morning I went there.

After looking at the wheel, the garage mechanic told me that if I had not gotten off the road when I did, the wheel would have fallen off in just a matter of miles. I was shocked! What a horrific thought of my possibly causing a multiple car accident during the peak of the Labor Day traffic!

My immediate response was to give thanks and rejoice in the Lord, who guides us through the promptings of the Holy Spirit. His message for me to “Get off the road,” was just one experience that has helped me to be convinced of this. I have now come to trust and follow those Holy Spirit promptings that are coming more and more often - not just during times of prayer.

Remember that Jesus is the one who describes the Holy Spirit as being our helper and advocate. He is accessible to all of us. Our role is to listen, trust, and obey those Spirit-led promptings and messages. They are invariably important to our well-being, and sometimes, life-saving - just as the message I received was for me and others on the highway that day!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Christmas Miracle

Christmas Miracle

Sue Van Bernum  
My mom had been very ill with a lung disease called Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. This disease was causing her lungs to close and her breathing to be almost impossible. My mom suffered with these conditions for about a year. She needed to be on oxygen 100% of the time and at the highest level of 10! Many people were praying on her behalf.

In July of 2014 my dad called to tell my brother and me that my mom was gravely ill, and he didn’t know how much time she had to live. We drove from Florida to South Carolina as soon as we could - the Fourth of July weekend. That Fourth of July is one that I will never forget.

Normal oxygen levels should be at 80-93%. However, my mom’s oxygen levels were continuously dropping - 70%...60%...50%. Her fingers were blue; she was struggling to breathe. It was terrible!

On Friday, the Fourth of July, my dad, a family friend Ann, my brother and I just sat around wondering how much longer my mom would suffer. Since it was the Fourth of July, we decided it would be good for all of us, including my mom, to watch the Macy’s fireworks from New York on the television. Then my dad and I went outside to see the fireworks display being put on by his community. As beautiful as it was, we really couldn’t enjoy the moment.

Suddenly, from the house across the street ...a man appeared. He approached my dad and asked, “Hi, Ed, how is Lottie doing?” To my dad's surprise this man was my mom’s cardiologist who just happened to be visiting family across the street. My dad answered, “Not well. However, she would love to see you." When he walked into her room, my mom's eyes lit up; she even tried to sit up. She was amazed to see her cardiologist “making a house call" - and especially on this holiday evening. They talked about the disease and how uncomfortable it was for her. He explained what was occurring to my mom. I truly believe it somehow made her feel better. I call him “an angel” and truly believe their meeting at this particular time was meant to be. God's timing!

My brother and I returned to Florida. From that month on, my mom’s condition steadily improved. Her oxygen level went up... 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and then into the 90’s. In November my dad called and said, “Mom’s oxygen level is 93!” It was a miracle!

A couple of weeks later, Dad sent a picture of mom in their pool. He was able to engineer a long oxygen hose that would allow my mom to get into the pool and still be attached to the portable oxygen machine. She wanted to get into the pool so badly, and my dad made it happen. She was so happy and feeling so much better!

My mom's very strong desire was to be with us for Christmas. She shopped, cooked, wrapped gifts and even decorated the house like she always did. She even made her Polish Pierogies. It was a Christmas we will all never forget! She didn’t feel well, but somehow we had another Christmas together. It was special!

My mom passed away January 12, 2015. She made it through Christmas which made all of us so VERY grateful! My mom and dad were together for over 60 years, and my dad was there for her all of this time. He is so wonderful! I thank God for Dad's patience, dedication and love for my mom. I know this Christmas miracle happened due to prayer, to an angel in the form of a doctor, and to my dad's devotion to Mom. Although I miss her, I know that she is not suffering, and she's in a better place - resting peacefully in God's hands.

Friday, July 10, 2015

By God's Grace

By God's Grace

Joy Sutton

          I am a "cradle Episcopalian" having been baptized in an Episcopal church as an infant. During my youth I attended Sunday school regularly. In fact, I received several bars to add to my church pin - each representing a year of perfect attendance. Therefore, when I was confirmed at the age of twelve, I felt I was a strong believer in Christ.

During my later adolescent years, however, I made some choices that did not align with the principles of Christianity. In fact, I got myself into situations that could have easily resulted in harmful effects on the rest of my life. I now know that as a youth I had not internalized what being a believer really meant. I thank God for his grace for getting me through those challenging years.

When I entered college, I took a course in Western Civilization. Our textbook and lectures about Jesus made it seem as though He was just a really good teacher who had a powerful effect on the world. I bought into it for a while. After all, I was in college - the place of higher learning. In retrospect, I see this as the beginning of my questioning MY beliefs. Although the Lord started answering, it actually took many years for me to become fully aware that this was happening.

One day, during the end of my college years, I was walking back to my dorm when I suddenly heard a quiet, still voice speaking within me. The inner voice said, "You are short, and I have made a man who is also short to be part of your life." I know this sounds strange. It also did to me! For sure, I did not start looking at every short guy on campus wondering if he was the one. Actually, I totally dismissed this message at the time - not giving it any further thought until much later in my life.

The next year I began my teaching career in Orlando, FL. A few months later a college roommate came to stay with me for a couple months while interning at a high school there. One day Carol came home and said there was a teacher at her school that I HAD to meet. She introduced Jim to me. In three weeks Jim and I were engaged and in three months married. That was 46 years ago. It was only after many years went by that I recalled what I had been told on campus that day. It seemed as though I was meant to wait before it was revealed to me that, in fact, Jim was that short person meant for me. I believe that Carol was instrumental in completing God's plan for me. Carol's brief stay was just long enough for her to help make this connection. Since then, we have only seen Carol once and that was for dinner in the early years of our marriage. We then lost contact with her.

During the early years of our marriage and teaching years, Jim and I did not go to church. We were working just about 24/7 and consumed by our work. After 10 years I had a longing to go to church again. Jim agreed and we started attending. However, after several months we became disillusioned and stopped.

In the following years I developed a close friendship with another teacher who was a strong Christian. She loaned me a fiction book called "Joshua," written by a retired Episcopal priest. Joshua, the main character, represents Jesus in contemporary times. I loved reading this because I could imagine a loving Jesus in today's world. I longed to go to that same church once again so we returned. However, this time we found the new priest's sermons were not warming for our souls. And after attending for weeks, he never even bothered to learn our names. We stopped going to church once more.

When Jim and I retired, we were blessed to be able to live in North Carolina part of the year. It was there that we finally found a church where we were spiritually nourished. However, we still wanted to belong to a church family in Florida. After trying several congregations, we visited the Church of the Good Shepherd in Maitland, Florida; we knew right away this is where we belonged. Now we feel the Lord's presence in both of our church homes.

I was becoming increasingly aware of The Lord's guidance and presence everywhere in my life. Once He came to me in a very powerful dream telling me to "always have a childlike faith in God." Boy, did that simplify things for me - knowing it came directly from Him. It is a message I love passing along to others.

In spite of my spiritual growth it wasn't until I was 55 years old that I began reading the Bible for myself. My excuse - the Bibles (King James Versions) I had tried to read previously weren't "reader friendly" -too many words were crammed on the page, and there were many words and ideas I could not comprehend. Then one day while attending the closing minutes of an estate sale, the owner gave me a copy of the Women of Faith Bible. It was an NIV (New International Version) Bible which I had never read before. This particular edition had lots of empty space on each page and sidebars that provided explanation and inspirational thoughts. How wonderful that God provided this Bible for me in this unexpected way so that I would now start reading His Word! I had already become a reader of "Forward Day by Day," a daily devotional publication. Now I started going to MY Bible to read the passages that accompanied each reading. That led me into reading more... and daily. What an "eye opener" and comfort this is! Many passages seem to be written with me personally in mind. For instance, in Psalm 25:7 the writer asked the Lord, "Remember not the sins of my youth, and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me." As an adult, I knew full well what the writer many centuries ago was asking, since it was something I, too, had been asking the Lord. It is also very fascinating to find that passages I have read many times can take on new meaning as my life changes.

By the way...I have heard that same still, quiet voice I first heard in college many times since then and I now, without a doubt, recognize its source. Each time, I take a step closer in my walk with God.

As I face life's challenges and temptations, God - the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is the lamp unto my feet and the light for my path! For this, I am so very thankful!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Aunt Lottie

Aunt Lottie

Charlotte Everbach

When I was seven years old, my father died. I had no siblings so that left just my mother and me. However, my mother's strong Christian faith gave me confidence to face this tragedy.

When I was 16, my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. At this time I was told that she would probably not live to see me graduate from high school. Thankfully, she was able to attend; it was just a week later that she passed away. Now I was alone - no other family member lived in our small town in Georgia. However, everybody in this town knew everybody else, and my mother had wonderful friends. This "village" of people came together to help me until arrangements for my permanent care could be made.

I did have an aunt who was a widow and worked as a secretary to a lawyer in Clearwater, Florida. My Aunt Lottie willingly opened her door and her heart to me. I went to live with her. Aunt Lottie was a remarkable woman! Not only was she a strong, independent businesswoman, but she was also a committed Christian who shared her beliefs with me. She would let everybody know just how much her faith meant to her. For the rest of her life she served as my mentor. With her guidance I was able to formulate rules and principles which guided my life.

Since my becoming an adult, people have asked me how it felt to be alone at 16. I can only tell them that God put people in my life to take care of me. Consequently, I never really felt alone. Chief among my caregivers was Aunt Lottie. She was truly a Godsend! I am so grateful that He put her into my life, and I have no doubt that she was meant to be a role model for me.

Now when I think back over my life, I know that God had a plan for Aunt Lottie and for me. We were blessed by our relationship which brought love and happiness into each of our lives.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

"And I pray..."

 "And I pray..."

Jan-Marie Waters


The phone rings. It’s Saturday morning early, and I note that it’s our son in California calling – really early for him out there. That’s never good…“Hi, Son, what’s up?” “I’m in the hospital, Mom. It’s pancreatitis, and they’re running some tests. I’m being admitted now.”

I’m uneasy, but he’s been complaining of abdominal pain for a few weeks now. I thought he’d told me it was a bleeding ulcer and that he’d seen a doctor. Oh, well, what do I know? I won’t bother him with lots of questions right now. I say a prayer.

I call my son that evening, and he tells me he needs to make some “lifestyle changes and he’ll be okay.” I still have that nagging, worrying thing in the back of my mind, but I’m sure he knows best. I won’t crowd him – he hates that! I say a prayer.

The next several days consist of me trying to reach my son or his fiancĂ©. Finally, Maria, lets me know that he’s sleeping, and he’ll get back in touch with me soon. My heart knows there is something very wrong and I pray.

A week goes by, and I receive a call from Maria on Wednesday night. “Mom, Justin is still really sick. His doctor says his body is not responding to the treatment the way it should be by now. They’re going to take him to surgery tomorrow. I’m sure it will be okay.”

"Do I need to come?" I ask.

“No, Mom, I’m sure everything will be fine.”

I pray.

Later, I receive a text from Maria. "He made it through the surgery."

Praise God! Thank you, Lord.

Thursday evening after attending the healing service at Good Shepherd, I receive a call from Maria. “Mom, Justin has a blood clot in his lung. He is receiving medication to dissolve the clot, but if that doesn’t work, he will need more surgery… Mom, he might not make it. I’m afraid. I can’t make decisions for him because we’re not married. Can you come?”

My heart seizes. "Of course. I’m on my way."

I’m packing and praying, praying and packing - trying to keep my wits about me. Out of nowhere, a primal scream bursts from me; I fall to my knees. I scream and scream. I can’t form words, but my very soul is crying out to my Lord. Save him, Lord! Mercy, Lord! I don’t know how long I stay on that floor, utterly bereft. My heart is doing the only thing it knows how to do right now. Save him, Lord! Mercy, Lord! Abba, Father …

Friday morning I'm on a flight to LA. I get lost in the airport – even though it's the same route I’ve been taking for years. A nice man walks me to my gate. When I explain to him my apparent idiocy, he says he will pray for us.

All the way to California, I plan my son’s funeral. Would he want to be with my grandparents in our hometown, or would he want to be in Pasadena where he’s lived since he got out of school? Who to call first? I’ll call a priest as soon as I get there for last rites, if necessary… and I pray. All the way, I pray.

When I arrive at the hospital and see my son, I almost collapse. My strength fails me. He is so bloated, I don't recognize my own child without seeing his profile - the “family nose.” There is blood on the floor from where his IV had failed, and they had to put in a PIC line. He is fluorescent yellow and on oxygen. He is in kidney failure. He is septic. He is very restless and pulls away his oxygen every few minutes. He is hallucinating. Now I realize that some of what my child is going through is withdrawal. I understand everything now.

I can’t think. I want to say something to let my child know that I am here, that he is not alone. Instead, I open my mouth and say, “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against Thee in thought, word and deed …” When I get to the end, I start again. For hours, I confess to the Lord for Justin and for me. I stay by his bedside in case he can hear me, and I can hear him if he calls. “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against Thee in thought, word and deed …”

My son survived that night, and every night since. The next day his body took up the challenge to heal. His heart took up the challenge to try again. His head is still working on it all (smile)!

I share this to tell you that when we are without strength. He hears us. Almighty God stretched out His hand and answered my prayers for my child again: Save him, Lord! Have mercy, Lord!

Today, my son is completely healthy and off all medications. He did not need the surgery. Thanks be to God!

A Warm Feeling

A Warm Feeling

Thomas W. Hubbell


In July of 2003, I entered the University of Florida's College of Medicine to have a cardiovascular study. After the work up was completed, the doctors informed me that I had plaque disease and would need to have surgery. They told me the risk of it being unsuccessful was about 9%. Though not a high risk, I was still very anxious about having the procedure. Once the doctor and my wife left my hospital room, I was alone and had time to think. "If I take my meds, eat well, and work out, perhaps I can fix this problem on my own." At that time a VERY warm feeling came over me, and I felt as though God was holding me. I felt reassured that I should go ahead with the surgery - and that I would be protected by Him.

Right after surgery while I was in recovery, they told me it had gone well, and I had to have four heart bypasses. I was then moved to the Intensive Care Unit. While there, an unqualified attendant dropped me as he was putting me into a chair. After he left the room, I noticed the two drains in my chest had partially pulled out, and I was bleeding. I panicked, because there was no one around to help me. I thought, "Boy! Oh Boy! What to do now?" Suddenly these words came to me, "PUT THEM BACK IN!!" Another incredibly WARM FEELING came over me! I followed the instructions. The bleeding stopped, and I went back to sleep.

Later when the nurse came in, she told me I had done just the right thing.

I have no doubt that the Lord was protecting and guiding me through His Holy Spirit. I have never forgotten the special warmth I felt during these two experiences, and the remembrance of them will always reassure me of His presence!

A Special Gift

                                                                   A Special Gift

                                                                Elizabeth Gardner

In the year 2000, I was diagnosed with a spinal cord tumor. My neurosurgeon said it had to be removed as soon as possible. This tumor affected my left leg causing my foot to turn inward which would almost make me fall. In addition, I was told that the surgery could paralyze me from the waist down.

I went to my priest, Father Jim Shortess, and told him about the tumor and the pending surgery. Looking for comfort and peace I attended all the Holy Eucharist services offered at Good Shepherd. Many people were praying for me, and I was most grateful.

Nearer to the time of my surgery, I once again attended a Holy Eucharist service. As I entered my pew in our beloved chapel, I suddenly began to feel our Lord's presence. I also began to smell His precious, sweet fragrance which permeated the air. I could not get enough of this wonderful scent!

Later in that service I went to the altar rail to receive the sacrament of communion. I thanked God before receiving the bread and wine. When Father Jim got to me, I whispered what I was experiencing. He smiled and said to me, "Elizabeth, you have received it all!" This was indeed Christ's special gift to me for the assurance of His presence and His healing grace. I was in His beloved hands. What joy, love, and peace!

Although they were not able to remove the entire tumor, my surgery went smoothly. Thankfully I was not paralyzed. That was 14 years ago, and I have not had any further problems with this tumor.

May the precious name of Jesus be praised!