Letters From Gladys

I’ve dreamed many dreams that never came true …

I’ve seen them vanish at dawn.

But enough of my dreams have come true,

thank God,

to make me want to dream on.

I’ve prayed many prayers when no answer came …

Though I waited patiently and long.

But answers have come to enough of  my prayers,

thank God,

to make me want to pray on.

I’ve trusted many a friend who failed me,

And left me to weep all alone,

But enough of my friends have been true blue,

thank God,

to make me want to trust on.

I’ve sown many seeds that fell by the way for the birds of the air to feed on.

But I’ve held enough golden sheaves in my hands,

thank God,

to make me want to sow on.

I’ve drunk the cup of disappointment and pain.

I’ve gone many days without song.

But I’ve sipped enough nectar from the roses of life,

thank God,

to make me want to live on.

(Author Unknown)

old letters in the vintage arrangement

In my mind, retirement always belonged to “those older people” who had passed their most useful days of ministry. We lovingly watched as others entered this stage of their lives, never really anticipating that one day, we too would belong to that group. This past fall, however, my husband and I retired from our pastorate, having completed 46 years of ministry in the Body of Christ, and the Foursquare Church in particular.

As retirees, the amount of concessions afforded us is amazing! Restaurants, parks and hotels give us discounts; magazines are published specifically for us, and the health field directs its attention to us in a constant barrage of new medical plans to supplement Medicare. We are forced to make new decisions concerning our lives and future. Change seems to be a constant for us, and it fills many of the prayers we pray.

Recently, in the apartment building where we live, the need to remain open to change even in the small details of life, was illustrated for me. It was a Monday morning and I had filled the washing machines in our community laundry, when a retired lady came in, looked at me with anger and said, “I have lived in this apartment building for twenty years, and I have always washed first thing on Monday mornings. You have ruined my day!” I returned to my apartment praying, “Oh Lord, keep me flexible. Don’t let me become rigid and unable to flow with life’s changes, small or large.”

In relating to the Church, we are happy to submit to the leadership of the younger generation, for this is right. But at the same time, we are still Salt and Light; Jesus made us that, and that we will be until He calls us “Home.” We thrill when a soul is born again. We rejoice in the victories of the Church, and we encourage the younger pastors who have taken our place to preach the Word, pressing toward the mark for the prize of the High Calling of God in Christ Jesus.

We also request your understanding. In your ministry to us, please don’t expect us to totally change, for there are some things that we do cherish. We are still moved by some of the old songs that have sustained us down through the years. We love to hear a preacher proclaim those proven truths of God’s Word and stir our hearts with eloquence and anointing. Most of all, we need your care and support as we face what might be the most challenging time of our lives.

The poem which I have included above must have been written by someone who has walked along the pathway of life some distance and learned from that walk the things that are truly important. I know they express my sentiments at this time in my life.

A Retired Shepherd,

           Gladys

(This article first appeared in the “Letters From Gladys” column in Foursquare Advance Magazine, 1989, and again on the LifewordsToday blog in February, 2016 – we are reposting it today because the message is timeless. We are happy to report she was vibrant in other forms of ministry for another 20 years until God called her Home in 2009.)

 

THE GROANING EARTH

Romans 8:19-22 “The creation waits in eager expectation  for the sons of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

You’re probably thinking “what a strange subject to talk about on a LifeWords blog.” Hang with me….I’ll get to it.

There have been numerous natural disasters in the last two months.  In fact the Atlantic hurricane season is the worst on record…and it’s not over yet!

Hurricane Harvey, a cat 4 hurricane hit S.E. Texas on August 25 and caused $180 billion dollars in damage, which is more than any other disaster in US history (Katrina was 2nd). It affected 13 million people from Texas to Louisiana.  As of this date it took 78 lives, but long term infections and bacterial intestinal problems because of drinking water systems being damaged, and PTS will take its toll on the health of the inhabitants there.  The flooding was a result of a record rainfall from a single storm in the US of 51.88″.

Since I now live in North Florida I experienced the effects of hurricane Irma.  However, our church prayed and asked God for mercy, and He answered YES!  In other parts of Florida, especially the west coast city of Naples, took a direct hits of 142mph.  The damage of Irma is still being calculated between $100 and $300 billion dollars.  Irma was the most powerful hurricane in recorded history.  This cat #5 made landfall on Barbuda Island on September 6 with winds of 185mph for 37 hours.

The Caribbean Islands have taken a strong hit from three hurricanes in a row, which has never happened before, and Maria is still active at this time.  Barbuda is no longer inhabited, Dominican Republic is devastated, all of Puerto Rico is without power.

Mexico was hit with a 7.1 earthquake.  At this point there are at least 273 lives lost, some were children that were in school.

Dozens of wildfires have enveloped the western U.S. – Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and California.  The smoke was so thick it caused respiratory problems, and the smoke was carried by the jet stream across the U.S.

There were massive landslides in the Alps of Switzerland covering a village, floods in India, Peru, Columbia, and Raleigh NC.  Severe drought in Spain and tornadoes in Wisconsin, Texas and Missouri.

These are all examples of our planet groaning for redemption….and I’m not even bringing up the man-made disasters of terrorism and wars.

Now, I know these things have gone on for thousands of years, and we are much more aware of them now because of social media.  However, my point is…as believers in the risen Christ who promises to come back and take us with Him….we have HOPE.

You hear or read about the predictions of some who say the world is coming to an end…….and sometimes it sure seems that way.   Some even give an actual date because of blood moons, stars aligning, the eclipse of the sun, weather change, natural disasters, terror attacks, etc.

The best book to get the actual facts from is THE HOLY BIBLE…. GOD’S WORDS TO US.   And the good news is…..the back of the book promises WE WIN!!!

Three of the Gospels, Mathew, Mark and Luke, record Jesus’ words…“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming ‘I am the Christ’, and will deceive many.  You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains.”  Matthew 24:4-8

I don’t know much about prophecy, all I know is…..HE’S COMING, AND I’M READY !!!

How about you???

Who Is Praying You Through the Storm?

One by one, I heard from friends and family after Hurricane Irma passed by them.

“We’re ok. Thanks for praying.”

“It looks like we might have a couple windows broken, but we are safe. Thanks for praying.”

“We don’t know the extent of the damage, but we are all safe. We sure do appreciate the prayers.”

“We won’t have power for several days, but that’s such a small thing compared to what others are facing. Thanks for praying.”

“Our home is intact. We knew you were praying. Please continue praying for our neighbors who have lost both of their cars.”

Our home is gone, but we are safe. Thank you for praying through the storm with us.”

Each and every one of those I heard from had an overwhelming message to send: Thank you for praying us through this storm.

This one was a no-brainer. We saw the storm approaching. We saw the danger. We were helpless to do anything but pray.

Courtesy NOAA National Weather Service National Hurricane Center

So we prayed.

As my friends, one by one, shared their relief that they knew they were not alone when the storm was at its worst because people were praying, God reminded me that this is how life is supposed to be done. Life is filled with storms, and the aftermath of those storms – and yet we are so slow in asking others to pray for us during those times.

Then I turned inward and thought, when life rages against me, why do I not rally the prayer warriors to storm the gates of heaven on my behalf? Are you guilty of this, too? If you are, I’m here to tell you that you are doing yourself a great disservice. Harm, even. The body of Christ is here to hold us up when we can’t hold up ourselves.

In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

Ephesians 6:18 (MSG)

So I challenge you – the next time you have the smallest inkling that a storm is brewing, reach out to those warriors who stand ready to do battle for you. Have a trusted group of friends, blast it on social media, or if it’s intensely personal, call your local church and ask for prayer.

Ask.

For.

Prayer.

It’s what will get us through the storm and the aftermath.

 

Entertaining Angels

My grandma would say, “Treat everyone with love and respect because you never know when you are entertaining angels.” And it wasn’t until years later (ok I’ll admit this year!) did I realize this exact phrase is in the Bible! My grandma knew the Bible like the back of her hand and I did not appreciate her knowledge until I grew older.

“Do not forget to entertain strangers for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2

When I was younger I did not understand this statement. I had heard about angels but didn’t fully believe they were actually real and around us. This was a concept my head could not wrap around. I was too much in my head. I was trying to think logically. I couldn’t see them, how could they be real? This is where faith comes in.

I have heard stories of people being visited by what they thought were angels. The more I learn about God and the Holy Spirit, the more I become curious and want to know for myself.

Grandma would tell us a story she claimed taught her faith and the provision of the Lord. One day, during the Great Depression, there was no bread for lunches when she and her siblings left for school. Their mother instructed them to come home for lunch, which she recalls was not a short walk. When they arrived at home, their mother still did not have anything for them to eat. At that moment there was a knock on the door and a man stood before them with a loaf of bread to advertise a new bakery in the area. Their mother came in the the house with her eyes full of hope, lifted up the loaf of bread and exclaimed, “The Lord will provide.”

Grandma would tell me this story when I was a little girl, but when she told it she would say the man at the door was an angel. She would say the Lord sent him to provide food for her family. You never know when you are entertaining angels! 

SUFFERING

suffering/synonyms: Acute bodily or mental pain. Distress may be physical, but it is more often mental, referring to any deep anxiety, or the external circumstances that may produce it.  Misery is extreme suffering or abject hopelessness, as from sorrow, great loss, poverty, or the like.

Why is suffering allowed by God?

That question has been asked by believers and non-believers alike…….the difference is, those who know God know that He is a balance of justice and mercy.  Sin came into His perfectly created world because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve.  So because of that first sin, all of creation (including you and me) is waiting for the healing that will happen when Christ returns.

Last Sunday I sang at a church in the Tampa, Florida area.  At the fellowship meal afterwards I met a 43-year old mother of 3 who was still having therapy after a triple by-pass heart surgery 3-months ago.  She had no warning, only tightness in her chest.  She has MS, her husband travels for his job during the week, her father had just been diagnosed with cancer, and she has 3 boys ages 5-12 years old.  She thought the tightness in her chest was stress from life’s challenges.  The weekend her husband was home he encouraged her to go to the ER, but she refused….he insisted.  They sent her home.  The pain started then and she went back.  This time she was in surgery within the day with 100% blockage in one artery and 90% blockage in two others.  Post-surgically in the hospital one of her lungs collapsed.  Of course many prayer warriors were lifting her up in prayer…..and she is recovering wonderfully.  But, why would this godly young woman already dealing with MS have to suffer like that?

She is radiant with the love of Christ, and is a strong witness to her doctors, nurses and therapists.  She gives God all the glory for His healing touch.

I have experienced pain physically and emotionally in my lifetime, but I’ve never really suffered.  How about you?  If you have, according to the definition at the top of this blog, how have you handled it?

Right now there is an abundance of suffering in Texas due to the devastation of hurricane Harvey and the ensuing rainfall that is still causing flooding.  I can’t even imagine what that must be like.  There will be human suffering, distress and misery there for a long time.  Our prayers, finances and when possible, physical help, are with them.

There really is no way to end this blog on this subject because human suffering will always be with us.  But I must encourage you that God is a loving and compassionate God, and His heart is broken as He sees the ongoing suffering of human kind.

The Apostle Paul suffered much as he shared the Gospel of Christ.  He wrote in Romans 8:18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…”

God sent His Only Son, Jesus, to this world; part human due to His birth from a virgin, so that He could feel and understand what we go through as humans.  In the book of Isaiah, chapter 53, we read what was written about the suffering of Christ 700-years before His death on the cross.  Verse 3:  “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.”

Dear God, help us to “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.  Romans 5:3-5

Photo: Gisela Giardino, Flickr Creative Commons

Ray of Life

I’ve had difficulty writing my post this week. Monday was the great North American eclipse, and the following day, August 22, would have been my friend Amy’s 41st birthday. 7 months after her passing, the physical and emotional anguish I was feeling as her birthday approached was debilitating. I just felt frozen. Add to that all the hatred presently spewing about in our country. I wasn’t feeling “Life Words.”

I decided not to drive south to a place where I could witness the total eclipse. I figured that 98% of the eclipse at my house in Charlotte would still darken the sky enough to see a star or two. I was shocked at how light it actually stayed with just 2% of the sun shining down! I was a bit disappointed, but amazed at the same time. I’m sure the anticipation of Amy’s birthday pushed me toward the disappointed side.

Then, yesterday, I noticed a Facebook friend’s post. Sally had just celebrated a birthday during the eclipse. Her post lifted me in a way that nothing else had for days as I had been locked in a bit of depression.

Please take a look at her Life Words:

“It only takes a little light!!!….it only takes a little love, kindness and gratitude to light up even the darkest situations.”

And here is how God lifted me from my dark place. A person I have never even met face to face posted these words of life.

Immediately I began to thank God for the time I had with Amy. I began to remember her love, kindness and gratitude, which she displayed even in her darkest of times. That little bit of light shined bright enough to illuminate my heart and my mind and pull me back up.

Thank you Sally Goodwin for your words. I hope to shake your hand one day!

Remember, a positive and encouraging word can reach into the darkest of places. You never know when what you say or do will touch someone who needs it. Let this remind us all of the power of our words. Be mindful of what you say AND what you post on social media! Let darkness and death words be eclipsed by light and life words!

“The power of the tongue is life and death— those who love to talk will eat what it produces.” Proverbs 18:21 (ISV)

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

A Heavenly Language

Speaking in tongues was something that once terrified me, I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. I experienced people speaking in tongues in a disordered way, and I know this happens a lot in the church. People will speak out loud in different tongues when it should be a precious moment between you and God speaking to him in a heavenly language. Only and only if there is someone to interpret should you speak louder. This is clearly stated in the Bible and we need to obey and not scare people away. I know I am not the only one who was turned away from the ways of the Spirit because of people making a scene. It’s not about you. It’s about God. Don’t put yourself on this platform because you can make strange sounds with your mouth. These gifts should not be used to edify yourself, but used to glorify God. Too many people abuse the gifts and do not use them properly to build up the church. Here is what Paul says about speaking in tongues:

For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God…He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophecies edifies the church…Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me…For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says.” 1 Cor 14:2,4

I experienced an orderly way of someone speaking in tongues. I was sitting on a bed in between two of my friends. The friend on my left was praying in tongues and the friend on my right was praying in English. In that moment I felt as though one was interpreting what the other was praying. And I felt the presence of Holy Spirit in that moment. I was not afraid of the unfamiliar language I was hearing because one, it was coming from a trusted source, and two I was also hearing someone in a similar breathe praying in my native language.

A friend of mine and her mom both speak in tongues and at one point they were telling me to just start saying random words, and make up sounds and it would happen. Deep in my spirit I knew it wouldn’t. I felt God telling me it would happen but not in that moment. We can ask God for things and he will give it to us, but our hearts need to be in the right place and ready to receive and in that moment I was not ready. 

6 months later I was lying on the floor in Thailand in the presence of the Holy Spirit, God had used me to pour out his spirit and baptize others in the Holy Spirit and then he flattened me on my back. As I was laying there I was praying and it happened. Unfamiliar words were coming out of my mouth and I started laughing and crying! It was happening. This occurred after I had obeyed him by praying over his children and showing them a God they had never met, introducing them to Holy Spirit and then God gave me a gift, the gift of tongues. And I wasn’t speaking loudly, no one else could hear me. I was having a conversation with God in a different tongue. It was a precious moment between me and my heavenly Father.

(This is an excerpt from my book “A God You’ve Never Met” which is still in the process of being written.)

(In Thailand worshiping with the Thai and Burmese Refugees.)

3 Considerations to Conquering FEAR

Tomorrow is the fourth of July. It is the day we celebrate the independence of the United States of America. When I think of the freedom I think of the men and women fighting for this country. I think of Jesus dying on the cross for our freedom in him.

I feel like freedom is something we say we have and yet a lot of us are held captive in our fears…

Last week at church we discussed fear, and this is something we all deal with. We are responsible for making the choice between using fear to our advantage or letting it over take us.

Here are some things we should consider.

1.Fear is Satan’s way of taking over your life.

He will do whatever it takes to get you to disobey God. He doesn’t want you to be successful. He doesn’t want you to have a joyful and happy life. Just think, if Satan is coming at you hard that must mean God has something HUGE in store for you.

“The thief (Satan) comes only to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life and live it to the fullest.” John 10:10

2. The greater the fear/risk, the greater reward.

Think for a moment of a time when you were so fearful, or had to take a big risk for something. How was the outcome? Was it better than you would have expected? I can think of many times I was fearful and even a bit frustrated and wanted to give up, but when I decided to press in and conquer without a doubt I was so glad I did and felt a huge sense of accomplishment.

“For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

3. God is on your side. You have nothing to fear.

God is bigger than any of our problems, fears, or concerns. If there is a fear you have give it over to him and he will take care of it for you. I am releasing a fear of rejection. I am in the coaching field and I “sell” my services to others. I have a fear that people will not want what I have to offer. There are times I hear no, but the times I hear a yes I am over the moon and so glad I asked one more person, because the reward was much bigger than the risk!

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

These are the words God gave me during worship of lifegroup last week:

I have a plan. I know the next steps. I know what is out in front of you but you have to trust me. Let go of your fear of rejection and step into the risk of the unknown. There will be greater reward when you do the things that are hard and that take risk. What is ahead will not be easy but you are always up for adventure. Look at the next days of your life as adventure. The time you spend with me will radiate out and be a part of your daily life and be in every aspect.

Do the thing that scares you the most!

OUR Hope

Mary is a former pastor’s wife who served the Lord and people for decades. She is in her 80’s now and is a resident in the Good Samaritan Center nursing home in the memory care unit. Because this nursing home is part of the retirement village where I now live, I have the opportunity to visit the dear ones who have been placed there.

When I enter the memory care unit behind locked doors, I notice Mary among others whom I greet. She has a beautiful, soft countenance (unless she is in pain~then a frown shows). Our greeting of one another usually begins with a song! Mary has a strong alto voice and an extensive repertoire of hymns. When I begin to sing the following hymn she joins in with perfect harmony:

“Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life.
Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words
of life! Words so freely given, wooing us to heaven,
beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.”
(Philip Bliss 1874)

Although Mary’s brain is being ravaged by a terrible, debilitating disease, she still knows her God, her Savior, and the Holy Spirit’s comfort.  I don’t mean to single Mary out because most of the dear ones who are spending their evening years in this nursing home have a relationship with Christ.  As we sing together she is ministering to me, to the other residents, to the nurses, CNA’s and housekeeping workers; that there is HOPE for our future if we are secure in Christ our Savior.

One evening as I was leaving, most of the residents were already in bed for the night; I heard a strong voice coming from a darkened room down the hall.  I peeked in and saw Mary on her bed with both arms raised high and singing, Blessed Assurance………”This is my story, this is my song…..Praising my savior all the day long.   This is my story, this is my song….Praising my Savior……all the day long!” (Fanny Crosby 1873)

Oh God, help me to never forget the HOPE I have in You.  No matter what comes my way, I know, that I know….that You are  real, You are alive; You care.  You sent your Only Son to die and shed His blood for me for the covering of my sins.  One day You will come again to this earth and take me home to be with you forever.

hope

This is the HOPE that changes everything that I think, feel, say and do. I pray you have this HOPE as well, because it surely makes life fulfilling.

Titus 3:4-7  “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His Mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the HOPE of eternal life.”

Re-post from July 2014

Face TO Face

It’s been 6 months since my friend Amy passed on to her reward. Not a day goes by that I don’t want to call her up and laugh, cry, pray or whatever with her. I have photos galore, journal entries, memory upon memory to keep her alive in my mind and my heart. But, I miss that face to face, voice to voice time.

This summer I have a part in helping to care for Amy’s little girl who has just recently turned 9. She was just 8 when her Mommy died. Do you remember how long days seemed to be when you were a kid? Time seems to drag. You want to grow up. You want tomorrow to come because you have great plans. You feel like it takes forever to wait, wait, wait, wait.

Just the other day she said something to me that really dug into me. I’ve been pondering it since. It made me think about our relationship with God, our Father.

She said, “I am starting to forget what it was like to be with Mommy.”

OH….goodness. I thought, “how could this be?” But, upon further reflection, for a 9 year old girl, 6 months is an eternity! Of course she has pictures of her Mom that she sees every day. But, since she was just 6 years old her Mommy had been sick a lot. Especially the last 6 months before she died, Amy couldn’t do what most Mommies were doing with their little girls.

I realized that it is partially up to me to keep memories of Amy alive. It is up to me as Katy gets older to tell stories about her Mom so that she knows just what an amazing person and friend she was. I knew her Mom very well for 20 years, so I must pass that knowledge on.

You see, Katy remembers generally how her Mommy was. She knows what she looks like. She remembers that she was hilarious and kind and that she loved her dearly. But, she is starting to forget the details, the specifics. She also didn’t have enough years with her to build a huge bank of personal memories and knowledge of her Mom.

This is kind of what it’s like with our relationship to God. When we step back and don’t spend time in the Word or in prayer talking to Him on a daily basis, we start to forget what it was like “being with Daddy.” We remember the gist – that He is good and kind – but we start to get dim on the details. The promises He gives us that we can claim. Reminders of His loving and generous nature and the way He wants us to be with others.

Memories of special times with God are great. Gaining knowledge by listening to others who are very close to God is great.

BUT, nothing compares to the daily FACE TO FACE personal time that He desires to have with us. That is where our relationship gets deep. That is where we gain the most intimate knowledge of our Savior and Creator.