Lessons in Understanding

Written by Gladys Johnson

The voice of the questioner seemed to come from over my shoulder as I was kneeling in prayer asking for the will of the Lord at a troubling time in our pastoral ministry. In fact, I was kneeling behind the pulpit. 

I answered the voice, “My vision.” 

The voice said in a sticky, sweet way, “Give it up, and you can go free.”

I stood to my feet. “Of course,” I said, “that’s all I have to do.”

I was a lady minister, called to the ministry at the age of 14 years. Looking back, I don’t think anyone, including my parents, pastors, or youth leaders, took my calling too seriously.

My husband, Lloyd, and I began to date at 17 years of age. Awfully young, but these were pre-war depression days. He was a young man who had to work because of family problems, and his mother had died when he was 9 years of age, leaving him and his sister to be cared for by the father who was not equal to the task.

I came from a large, loving family, but poor. I knew I had a call from God on my life, but had no idea how to fulfill that calling. Lloyd and I were in love. But God was not through dealing with me. One Sunday morning, as we sat together in our church in Portland, Oregon, the pastor began a Missionary sermon, and told the story of a young lady who had given her life to ministry in China. Before he told the entire story, my heart told me the lady’s name would be Gladys (Gladys Aylyard). I began to cry. Lloyd and I left the service early, got into his car, and drove a few blocks away. Lloyd stopped the car and asked me why I was so upset. I told him about my calling to the ministry.

“I know all about that,” he said, “and I will never stand in the way of you fulfilling your calling.”

On the strength of that statement, we married when we were both 19. We were happy. But God did exact that promise from Lloyd in years ahead. 

When I stood to my feet after hearing the suggestion that I give up my vision, I felt a certain finality. When I began preaching, I felt no opposition to a woman in ministry, for this was the way I grew up. My pastor and his wife both preached. This was now the late 70’s. We were in the strong Jesus movement, which allowed for no women in the pulpit. I felt that opposition many times. It seemed to me now that all I had to do was give up my vision, and I could be free. It sounded so good to me, even though I knew that voice came from Satan himself. For a full week, I wrestled with the suggestion. Then, one day in my home, I began to repent for entertaining a suggestion from Satan. I thought about Jesus in the wilderness, and how He met Satan’s suggestion with the power of scripture. As I prayed, the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “And how did Jesus come out of the wilderness?”

“Full of the Holy Spirit,” I replied. And received a fresh overflow of His Spirit and determination to go on.

I had heard the voice of Satan before. Again, I was kneeling behind the pulpit in prayer, a favorite spot of mine. A voice said to me, “I’m going to empty this church just like I did the Baptists.”

We had purchased the church from a Baptist group a few years before, and they had sold because the body of the church had gotten down to 9 members, due to unfortunate circumstances. They had dealt very fairly and kindly with us.

My first thought was, “Oh, those poor people. They never knew what hit them.” And I said out loud, “You’re a liar, Satan…get out.”

We had experienced a wonderful move of the Holy Spirit in the church, with many healings; body, soul, and spirit, and the Lord had knit together a body of believers who loved each other greatly.

Satan was over-confident, and bragged too much. He openly displayed his tactics. I stood on Luke 10:19

“Behold, I give you power to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”

(At the end of this writing from my Grandma she wrote this,

“In this book I would like to share with you some of the lessons the Lord taught me in our pastoral ministry.”

She wanted to write a book, but never finished. Now I am living out her legacy by writing a book myself with some of her stories and some of my own.)

(Baby Nikki with Sweet Grandma)


This Keeps Me Going

One morning I woke up thinking about Grandma. She had written me a note months prior to her passing and it’s something I hold close to my heart. I recently placed it on my desk so it’s something I see all the time now. It reads,

Dearest Nikki:

It was good to be with you yesterday – I enjoyed it! Just want you to know how very dear you are to me. I pray for you. I know God has a wonderful plan for your life. You are precious in His sight. God bless you always.



I began thinking about the times I would drive up from college in San Diego to visit the family and I would head straight to my grandparent’s house. Sometimes I would even surprise them and what a joyous surprise that was each time! I loved sitting with them talking. I would ask them to tell me stories from their childhood and earlier years. I loved it!

Those are times I wish I could get back. After they both passed away, I would drive up from San Diego and become sad because I could no longer drive over to their house to surprise them. They were both very special to me and I enjoyed our precious, numbered time on earth together. I look forward to the day we are joyously reunited in the presence of God. What a spectacular day that will be. I looked forward to hugging both of them.

I was also thinking about what God has asked me to do. He is calling me to write a book. This is something Grandma talked about doing, started, but never finished. I am writing this book for her, with her in mind. I am doing this for both her and God. And when I think about that, it keeps me going in this process. Writing a book is no easy task and it scares me. But knowing I am doing this for Grandma makes it more manageable.

I recently went through boxes with my mom of my grandparent’s things. Most of it are lessons and sermon notes my grandma wrote. I have since made copies of those and are using them to be included in my book. Now I really feel I am writing this WITH Grandma!

Grandma and Grandpa, I love you and miss you everyday. I look forward to the day we are reunited in the presence of God. I cannot wait to hug you again and dance with you and sit and chat with you. Until that day comes, I am living my life for Jesus.

With great love from your granddaughter,



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,


(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.)



By Grace You Have Been Saved

In reading the book of Exodus, I was ministered to by the Holy Spirit as I read Exodus 20:24-26, about the making of the altar on which to offer the sacrifices for sin. God told Moses how to make it, and explained that if they made an altar out of stones, they were not to be hewn stones ,for if they used a chisel on the stones, it profaned the altar.


It was a type of our meeting with God under the New Covenant made through the blood of God’s Son, Jesus.

We have to come solely on the merits of His offering…no works of ours can be added.

“For by Grace you have been saved, through faith, and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8

But, you say, “What about ‘faith without works is dead’?” That’s true too, and Biblical, for if the Spirit of Christ lives in you, He will shine through you, and the works will follow because of Him and not because of you.

How freeing that is!


Sermon from a Junk Yard

Today, my boy and his buddies went meticulously through a junk yard and came home with bits of broken things – toys, wheels, pieces of wood, sticks, and the like. My first thought was, “Oh, no, more clutter for the yard!”

Once in a while it is good for a mother to be an eavesdropper – she can learn a lot that way!

The boys were in a state of ecstasy. They were exchanging pieces of junk back and forth – taking “dibbies” on this piece and “dibbies” on that.  And I heard them say, “Now, are you sure you are not going to change your mind? Are you sure I can keep this?”

“But what are you going to use it for?” I asked.

And they began to tell me of the wonderful things this junk could make. Why, this piece of bent wood would make a wonderful lance; and this one could be made into a gun; and the wheels and broken toys – there was just no end to the amazing ways they could be used! I shrugged my shoulders and went into the house, for, not having the eyes of a child, I could not see the end results.

Photo Credit: Orin Zebest via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Orin Zebest via Flickr Creative Commons

But, I thought, is not this just the way God looks at our poor shattered lives when they are ruined and disgraced by sin? To Him they are not a piece of junk. The world may laugh and point the fingers of scorn at the derelict, but to God, this is a precious soul for whom Christ died.

I may look at the poor drunk of skid row – the bum who has become a derelict -and I cannot see the possibilities lying dormant in that soul – but God can! I cannot see the soul winner, the missionary, the preacher – but God can!

He that winneth souls is wise,” says the scripture. A small boy won may become a leader of men for Christ. A teen-age girl, allowing Christ to straighten out a tangled life, may turn a multitude to the Master. There are so many needy souls around us. But I must not limit the amazing Grace of God choosing to testify only to those who seem to me to be likely subjects for the kingdom of heaven. For I do not have the eyes to see the end result of a transformed life.

This post is a reprint from Foursquare Magazine – November, 1959.
Reposted from LWT 6/16/14


Are You Too Near the Getting In Place?

The story is told of a little boy who had a habit of falling out of bed in the night. Finally, his mother asked him why he fell out of bed so much. He replied, “I guess I stay too near the getting in place.”

The small boy with alarm clock in the bedIt’s a picture of too many Christians who don’t seem to grow, or know the Lord Jesus better this year than last. They’re faithful in their church attendance and they even tithe. But the Christian walk is a walk with Jesus that causes us to change. As Paul wrote, we are changed “from Glory to Glory, transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Peter also cautioned us to grow in 2 Peter 3:18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Knowledge comes through the Word, illuminated by the Holy Spirit.

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18


“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18

(These thoughts were first shared with Kristin in an email on August 11, 2005. Gladys was 86 years old. And yes, she loved connecting via email!)


The Sifting Days


Photo: Heather Durnin, Flickr Creative Commons

I watched a farmer in the field as he threshed the stalks so heavy with wheat. The huge machinery was working; grinding, sifting; and as the stalk went through the machinery, I noticed that there was a great separating process that took place, until from one side there came a beautiful, golden flow of wheat, but the chaff was cast aside as useless and it flew away with the four winds until I could scarcely see where it had been. But the wheat, so yellow and ripe, came forth, a delight to the farmer who had planted it.

As I watched, I could almost hear the words of Jesus to Peter before He faced His persecutors: “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not…” (Luke 22:31-32)

These are sifting days… these are days when the strongest among us are being tried, and sometimes questioned … when the weak often are blown about by the winds of trial and persecution.

The refining fire of God is like a thresher’s machinery; purging, tearing us away from the mold that once held us so tightly in its grasp; separating us from the world unto holiness. And after the threshing, the wheat flows forth, golden and useful, and beautiful to the eye of Him who planted it!

But the chaff? On every hand I see those who once walked near their Lord, now looking for a flimsy excuse to loiter on the way – dabbling here and there. And Satan uses, I think, the very element of time to erase the memory of the closeness they knew with God, and they do not feel their need of walking as before. And it isn’t long until they, like the chaff, are gone with the four winds – no longer of service to the Lord; scarcely leaving an imprint of the place where they have been. And, like Demas, they forsake God’s work, having loved this present evil world.

You and I can be counted as wheat if we want to be!

In my heart there is a determination not to be sifted as wheat – not to become the chaff that is no longer counted as useful.

Is that your determination, too?

(Repost from Oct. 2014)


Are You Going to Vote?

Vote buttons stack with red and blue colors

Here we are in another election year, with the National Elections just around the corner. So, of course, we ought to talk about the “right to vote,” because it’s a big issue today.

Not everything in life can be voted on. Recently, I lost my 95 year-old mother. She went home to be with Jesus on her birthday. If I had been given the privilege of casting my vote upon whether or not she should go, I think I would have agreed, in light of her age and health, with the decision God made! But actually, I didn’t have anything to say about it at all.

But I do live in a nation that gives its citizens the right to vote in elections, without fear or intimidation. And I consider it serious business. I must regretfully add, however, that not everyone exercises such a privilege.

Those who conduct polls regarding voter turn-out are prone to divide the populace according to age, sex, marital status, education, economic conditions and geographical areas. They believe more voters are 30-50 years of age than those in older groups; that the public employees have a higher voter turn-out than among the disadvantaged, the poor, the uneducated, or racial minorities. And they state that our nation is experiencing a time of change in voting habits.

There has been a decline in partisanship. Through the 1960’s, one tended to vote the way their parents voted. Their party loyalty tended to be an inherited one. Today, that is no longer the norm.

The knowledge concerning a candidate’s vote on state or national levels is public property. Many groups freely provide this information. One can learn how a candidate feels about abortion or school prayer; whether or not they are radical on the issue of separation of Church and State, or reads into the constitution the lack of freedom for believers in God.

One can discover a candidate’s feeling on the celebration of the birth of Jesus, our Savior. Do they vote against a manger scene in the town square, or for the omission of Christmas carols in public gatherings and school programs? Would they remove the symbol of a cross from the hill overlooking a town? How does the candidate feel about school-based clinics, or the dispensing of contraceptives as a means of birth control among our youth, or do they think parents hold the responsibility to educate and inform their own children about such things?

If the issues are important, one will make it a point to know the platform of a candidate in this forthcoming election.

Political writer Anthony Downs has said, “Every rational man decides to vote just as he makes all other decisions; if the returns outweigh the costs, he votes; if not, he abstains.” Today, when our freedoms are in jeopardy, there is a great need for everyone who is on the Lord’s side to stand up and be counted. We can do this by exercising the right to vote. Moreover, you must discover how your candidate feels about vital issues and how, in a moment of pressure, he or she would vote.

In our society, there are those who seek to remove any sign of Biblical truth from public life and who are taking steps to secularize our society. The type of society we live in, AND WILL LEAVE TO OUR CHILDREN is at stake. By our lack of interest, or by electing lawmakers who do not value the sanctity of human life and the home, or the biblical mandates for law and order, will we leave them with a society that has no moral standards?

The 1988 local and national elections are critical in the fight for moral integrity in our great land May God help each of us to do what we can. If we fulfill our responsibility, it will be enough. God has raised up many Christian groups who are faithful in keeping us informed, but they cannot win the battle for righteousness without the ballot of every Christian voter.

I’m going to vote! Are you?

~ Gladys

(This article originally appeared in the “Letters from Gladys” column in Foursquare Advance magazine, Summer 1988.)


Blessed Are The Flexible

In honor of Mother’s Day, coming up this Sunday, I thought I’d share this post.

My Mom says this to me often (and she tells me that her Mom said it to her),
“Blessed are the flexible, for they will bend and not break.”

I have wasted too much effort in my lifetime being fixated on things I could not control. As in all other areas, being flexible and unbreakable is for me a work in progress.

There are several things that happen in life that we have no control over. Two examples are: weather and getting sick – at the most inopportune times!

Have you ever planned an outdoor party, or even a wedding, and then it rained and stormed so badly that you couldn’t have it? You had to have a plan B somewhere inside? We can plan all we want to, and we are supposed to make a plan, but we can only work with the factors given us when the moment comes. We have to choose to see the good in it and believe it’s for the best.

I actually had a trip planned to Florida at the end of January to see my Mom and my Aunt Tami who was going to visit from California. I don’t get to see either of them as often as I’d like. I had been planning this trip for months!

Then, a trifecta of uncontrollable circumstances occurred at the same time that prevented me from taking this trip. My car broke down a few days prior requiring me to make rental car reservations. Then, I caught a bad cold the week leading up to the trip. I can’t remember when I was that sick! And finally, wouldn’t you know that we got an ice and snow storm in Charlotte the day before I was to drive! Ice is very treacherous when driving, and Charlotte basically shut down. Not only was I ill, but I could not get anyone to pick me up to take me to the rental car place, and even crazier, the rental car place closed due to inclement weather. When does that even happen? And all at the same time? I was so frustrated.

I actually got forced to decide not to go on the trip and forfeited my time with my Mom and Aunt all together. It took all I had to buck up and be flexible, believing that there must be a reason for this change of plan.

All these were things that were out of my control. There are many things in life that happen that way, and there is absolutely nothing we can do but resolve to learn a lesson and be flexible with our plans. God’s plan does not conform to ours! Try as we may, we are only human and cannot control all the factors in our lives. The example I gave was mild – we all face major circumstances in this human life that require us to be flexible. We must be so that we can be strong. The strength comes in the ability to bend, not in being so rigid that we can snap.

I am not known for being a very flexible person, but I continue to grow in this area the older I get. Fortunately for me, I have role models in this skill! My Grandmother was a very calm and flexible woman – she always believed that God knew what was best and rather than being irritated or rigid, she would “roll with life” and be open to where God was taking her moment by moment. My Mom has exhibited this skill, and continues to remind me to be flexible and teachable with her words and with her actions.

Grandma, Tami and Mom on Mother's Day 2007

Grandma, Tami and Mom on Mother’s Day 2007

So, on this Mother’s Day – I thank you Mom and Grandma for the wisdom you have bestowed upon me. It may be taking me a long time to grasp it, but you instilled it inside me! And here’s a shout-out to a great Mom, my Aunt Tami, and my very flexible and unbreakable cousin Nikki! Oh how I wish I could have mastered this skill as early as you have! You all inspire me daily! XOXO


Train Up a Child…

In California, we are often rocked by an earthquake. Sometimes it is no more than the shuddering of the ground under us, other times it is more forceful. In places around the world, people are continually reminded of Jesus’ words that one of the signs of the last days would be earthquakes in various places. (Matthew 24:7)

However, there is another shaking that affects us, no matter where we live. It is the crumbling of our value systems, an age of violence. That too, is prophetic. One columnist has called it “an ever-expanding junk culture.”

Parents of young children, especially Christian families, have only to look about them to discover that it will take extreme vigilance to train up their children in the way they should go. Prayers of faith must be followed by the training of our children in absolutes and disciplines. The potential for good or evil is present in every child, whether it be a Ted Bundy who was introduced to pornography at the age of 12, or godly training in the home that will produce a Billy Graham. What one learns as a child will set life-consuming direction.

One area of vigilance must be regarding television. Mine is not the only voice raised in protest to a constant barrage of filth aimed at the minds of our children, even on prime-time programming. Seemingly innocent Saturday morning cartoons are not so innocent anymore.

Recently, a mother wrote Ann Landers, telling of a toddler in Boston, MA who has been stabbed 17 times by a five-year-old. Ann blamed it on what the child had seen on television. Another wrote regarding the influence of Garbage Pail Kids, which are not only promoted on TV, but can be purchased in a pack of chewing gum. The cards often depict children in violent actions, in vivid detail.

A fourth grade school teacher asked her students to write an essay on how they would like to celebrate Halloween. Eighty percent of them expressed the wish to “kill somebody.”
Just think of how many youth spend hours before the TV on Saturday mornings and are impacted by such media while mom and dad sleep in, or occupy themselves in other activities.

This is also the age of the security system. We have them in our homes, our businesses, our cars, and yes, even our churches are installing them. We are guarding against the thief. Security systems is big business today!

May I remind us that Satan, the thief, is alive and well. His job is to steal, kill and destroy, as Jesus warned in John 10:10. His target is our children and our homes. But do we not have the outline for security in God’s Word? God left the finest training to the home. He prescribed vigilance and diligence in the training of our children when he commanded Israel to teach the commandments to the children; to talk about them day and night. And I say, “God bless the godly men and women who devote themselves to the training of the children in the home and in the Church.”

bedtime bible stories

The President of the United States has asked that we created a kinder, gentler nation. The place to start in creating this is with the young.

We must value the child. God does!


“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.”  Matthew 24:7 ESV


“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 ESV


This article by Rev. Gladys I. Johnson first appeared in the Foursquare Advance magazine in 1989, in her Letters From Gladys column.