Friday, July 28, 2017

Summoned to Prayer

Summoned to Prayer
Gordon Sims

            My day normally starts at 4 a.m., but on this special Friday I awoke abruptly at 3:30 a.m.! After making coffee I opened the window to let the cool air inside.  When I did so, I noticed the exceptional brightness of the moon lighting up the darkness. I went outside. Suddenly I started to think about 91 year old Ethel, a longtime and very active parishioner in my church.  After many months of illness and numerous hospital stays, it was felt that she was nearing her end on earth. Yet, it was at this exact time I felt a special urgency to pray for her.  I then came back inside.
            As I rode into work on my motorcycle, Ethel remained foremost in my thoughts and prayers.  As I continued on my way, I passed by our church and the old home where she used to live.  My thoughts were still only about her. Not focusing on my driving while riding on my motorcycle was an extremely dangerous thing to be doing.  It was as though I was on “Auto Pilot” getting to work  - as I continued praying for her. 
            When I got to work Terri, my wife, texted me this message, “Ethel entered peacefully into the nearer presence of our Lord this morning at 3:45 a.m.
            How amazing that I awoke earlier than usual this morning when her very death would have been about to occur!  Was it a coincidence that I had felt compelled to pray for her and felt close to her spirit?  Could it have been the Holy Spirit alerting me to pray for Ethel? I did listen and am happy that I may have played a part in praying my friend into heaven.
            Praying is something I do frequently.  I rely on communicating with God.  But never have I felt as summoned to prayer at a special time as I did on this particular morning.

            Through this experience, I realize more clearly the meaning behind the scripture, "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints."  (Ps 116:15).

Friday, July 21, 2017

Making it Through

Making It Through
Evelyn Falco

            The Lord has been with me through three losses which greatly impacted my life.  Faith in the Lord has helped me to overcome hurt, disappointment, and the feeling of failure.
            One such ordeal was when my three grandchildren were taken away from me.
They had been living with me because their father was in prison and their mother had died after battling breast cancer.  I had a notarized power of attorney legalizing my care for them.
            One morning after I sent them off to school, their mother's sister (their aunt) and her fiancĂ© went to court and obtained an ex-parte court order that stated I was an unfit grandmother which was very untrue.  The judge granted them custody and gave them a court order allowing them to take them out of school with a sheriff's escort.  The school had to release them.  This aunt had only known the older of the three children - a girl 14 years old who refused to go with them so she was returned to me. I was unable to even say good-bye to the other two before they were taken to live in Louisiana.  I cried and prayed day in and day out seeking the Lord's help.
            I travelled back and forth between Florida and Baton Rouge, Louisiana to be able to see the children.  I spent lots of money on traveling, lawyers, courts, and counseling.  I felt so helpless, so useless, like I was a failure. I thought I would lose my mind and, perhaps, not be able to endure it.  I would give all my problems to God, but then I would take them back.  I did this many times.  Finally I asked God, "Why me?"  and I heard his answer, "Why not you?"  I had forgotten He was still present.  I started to realize God was in the midst of what was going on and knew what was going to happen before I did.  I began to realize the truth that this was the way because He had allowed it.  I was able to stop the tears when I recognized that God had me in His hands.  I have not seen or heard from my grandchildren in almost 9 years, but I know that God keeps them safe and sound.  And they will find me when God says it's time.
            My second trial came when my longtime and dear friend was snatched away from me.  After my husband had died and Otis had divorced his wife, we began to communicate often with one another.   He lived in Charleston, South Carolina and I lived in Winter Park, Florida.  I would visit him there from time to time.  Although neither one of us had any desire to get married, we were friends for many years.  In time he began to show signs of dementia. I was able to help him keep track of his business affairs.  He actually even mentioned the possibility of marriage at that time.  His daughter became fearful that her father would be giving me too much control over his life.  For this reason, she formulated a plan to keep us from being in contact with one another.  She took his cellphone away - telling him he had lost it.  She then sent him to live with people in New York who were strangers to him.  He was, however, able to sneak out and call me.  We both missed the companionship we had shared for so long.  Once he even ran away for days, but, Praise God, he was found!  He loved the Lord with all his heart, and he had remained in His care.  After all this, I came to realize that God was still in charge no matter how hurt or disappointed I was.  I began to feel the Lord's presence - knowing he was still with me.  I went through and conquered this storm with the help of God once again.
            The third and last episode was very different.  I now trusted right away in God providing needed strength and His knowing the plans for me.  I no longer asked why.  Due to financial problems, I had to leave my home of 25 years.  However, having to relocate was hard since I had felt very secure and comfortable with my life the way it was.  Even so, I passed through this happening without falling apart - believing it was all for good even if I did not understand.  I have since come to recognize that God did not say yes to this, but did let it happen - because it was a different life I was to live.  I had to give up some independence in order to become more humble as we are supposed to be.  Since my relocation, I am now aware that there was a good purpose in all of this. 
            These occurrences in my life have helped me to learn these lessons.
            Put God first in your life and do not lean unto your own understanding.

            Trust in the Lord always.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Love They Neighbor

Love Thy Neighbor
Ann Cooper

            About 10 years ago I moved from Florida to Tennessee.  My home is now located on Christmasville Road, next door to my daughter. I did not get to know the neighbor on the other side of me right away. 
            We finally met one day when we both went to our mailboxes located along the roadside next to each other. Evelyn was a tall, slender lady - immaculately groomed who appeared to be in her 70s.  She told me she would have visited me sooner but was afraid of my two, big dogs.  I assured her they were very friendly.  She then became a frequent and welcomed visitor in my home.
            As we got to know each other, I learned that she had grown up in a coal mining town in West Virginia and that she didn't have much of an opportunity for getting a formal education.   In fact she had only learned to read simple things - just enough to get by.  Evelyn also explained she suffered a partial hearing loss as a child which had made learning difficult for her.  In addition, hearing words indistinctly had caused her to pronounce them incorrectly.  However, over time, she learned to read lips a bit. Evelyn told me that she had never lost the great desire to read on a higher level.
            As for myself, I had been fortunate enough to receive a college education.  The ability to read and write has given me so much joy in life.  However, in my early 80s, I was declared legally blind.  This makes reading and writing very difficult for me, and I even have to use special magnifiers.
            The more that I began to know Evelyn, I wondered, "Is there some way - even with my limitations - that I can help my neighbor read on a higher level?"  Evelyn and I talked about it and decided we'd find some way to read together.  I accessed Evelyn's skill by listening to her read. I discovered that she had difficulty reading multi-syllable words and Biblical names.
            Together we made a plan.  We decided to pick out some reading materials.  She would read as far as she could.  Then she would stop and spell out the word she didn't know.  I would divide the word into syllables, pronounce it, and then define it for her.  And away we would go.  Each day we'd read from daily devotionals and the Bible.  Evelyn likes Amish novels, and I enjoy history books and mysteries, so sometimes we'd read from them as well.  In addition to these, we would read our mail.
            We have helped each other in this way for over three years. Evelyn is now at the point where she can read almost everything on her own; I am no longer able to read because of my failing eyesight.  She now reads to me, and we continue to share this daily bond with one another.

            Evelyn and I both thank God each day for the gift we have been able to give to each other.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Life on the Edge

Life on the Edge
Tom Hubbell

            About 57 years ago, I joined the Navy and was assigned to an oiler, which is a huge ship that replenishes other ships with fuel while at sea.  It was during this time in my life that something truly amazing occurred.
            My ship had left the African coast and was heading back to the United States.  One morning I opened the hatch and went out to sit on a deck bench.  I was all alone.  As I sat there, I saw a storm approaching.  I continued to watch - fascinated by the sight - until gale winds began to blow creating waves at least 40 feet high.  I knew then it was time for me to go below.
            When I stood up, one of the huge waves rocked the ship causing me to loose my footing.  I began to slide to the opposite side of the deck.   Just as I was beginning to go overboard, I heard a voice say, "Throw up your hands!"  I did - just in time to catch hold of the railing that surrounded the edge of the deck.  Although my body from the waist down was over the side of the ship, I was able to save myself by holding onto the railing and pulling myself up.

            There was no one around when this happened - not one other person.  No one could have heard me scream and given this command.   I have no doubt but that it was the voice of the Lord speaking to me.  This event remains indelibly etched in my memory affirming His care for me.