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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Faith Not My Own, Conclusion

As the startlingly cold mountain breeze hit my face, I snuggled deeper into my sleeping bag. I was seconds away from returning to that deep REM sleep when I remembered why I was sleeping in the open air. You are the leader of this little group, Sojourner, get yourself up and stoke that fire back to life before your kids wake up from the cold. Groan, the sun was only beginning to rise. If I could get the fire flaming up a bit, I might get in a few more winks before the teenage girls sparked back into that energetic flurry of chatter. Lifting my head, I saw that my second-in-command still slept soundly in the bag just ahead of mine.

Okay, well, I’d just get up and try to get the job done, without waking myself up too much. I left my sleeping bag, my only focus on the pile of wood. I didn’t need the kindling; a few smaller branches should be enough. Perhaps, I could make it in one trip if I only took a couple of the smaller logs.

I reached the wood pile, retrieved the aforementioned pieces, and headed back towards the campfire. Once there, I squatted down and began to stoke up the embers with the longest of the branches. Soon, the flames were rising nicely. Cathy’s voice, sounding like the first attempts of a new day, startled me.

“Your crutches. Sojourner, you forgot your crutches.”

I glanced over to my sleeping spot. There lay the lifeless metal crutches aligned and waiting next to the sleeping bag. “Oh, I forgot.” My voice was a croaking whisper.

 “God healed you! God healed you! You forgot because you didn’t need the crutches! God healed you!”

Cathy’s words took awhile to register with me, but she was right. Leaving my stooping squat position, I sat down on the cold ground. I stretched out my injured leg and moved the ankle all around, easily and painlessly. It was completely normal again.

“I do believe you’re right, Cath. Look at this motion, will you? I have full range of motion in my ankle. Yesterday, the doctor tried with all his might to make that ankle move and never could. Huh, well, guess the surgeon will be disappointed Monday, eh? No cash in his pocket from me.”

“Let’s wake the girls and tell them the good news!”

“Hmm, better not. It’s still too early for them to be up and long before they’ll have breakfast ready at the lodge. Let’s just go lie down for a bit, until the girls begin to stir. It shouldn’t be long.”

Cath agreed but both of us knew the excitement and anticipation of the girls’ reaction over the miracle would make returning to sleep impossible for either of us. Since it was the girls’ faith and not mine, we decided to let the girls share the testimony with the group at the morning meeting. We had no idea, at that time, we would learn of another miracle before they had a chance to share.

I love the sounds of a campground waking up in the early morning hours. The rustling of branches as folks make their way around those still sleeping on the ground, whispers of fellow campers nearby, the barking of a dog in the distance; and, at last, groans and stretches from our own little gang of pillow-headed adolescents. So far, the campground was quiet.

I had just rolled up my sleeping bag and was carrying it over to the designated storage area, when one of the girls let out a shriek. “You’re walking; you’re walking! Your crutches are over there on the ground and you’re walking like anyone else!”

Needless to say, her remark caused the circle of adolescents to spring to attention inside their sleeping bags. Every eye in the rag-tag little assembly turned to look…first at me, then at the dormant crutches, and back at me. A second of stunned silence dissolved into shouts, riotous clapping, and proclamations of the obvious, “God healed you!”

“God answered our prayers!”

“You didn’t think He’d heal you, but we did, and we prayed, and He did!”

“Praise the Lord; He heard us!”

Soon every teen was out of their bag, and Cathy led us all in a prayer of thanksgiving, followed by the girls’ discussion of just who would share what at the meeting. In the midst of it all the “first call” bell rang out. Time to get the camp area cleaned up and the equipment stowed.

The second time the bell rang, we headed for the lodge. It seemed to me that the ground had a thicker layer of dew on it than usual for the hour. I’d never camped here, though, so maybe this was normal for July. Our group of campers had found their other friends, scattered amongst the crowd in the meeting room. Breakfast was a bit delayed, but I’d not heard the reason given. Instead, a time of sharing and singing began the day.

“Okay, folks, sorry for the breakfast time change, but I’m confident we can raise our voices above those growling stomachs, can’t we?” There followed some giggles but also some stern faces from men waiting for that first cup of coffee. “We are thankful that the cooks had the foresight to bring some wood in, away from the downpour, because the gas stove doesn’t seem to be working this morning.

“What downpour?” I whispered to Cathy, who also looked surprised.

“Is everyone here now?” The MC for this extemporaneous session glanced around at the small group leaders and waited for our nods. “Okay, take your seats. Let’s pray; then I’ll throw it open for anyone who might want to share a testimony.” It needed to be related to the conference and what God had done or shown the person already.

The man whose camp had been next to ours, stood and was recognized by the MC. “C’mon up here and share with us what’s on your heart.”

“Well, uh, I’m not one to talk in front of a group; you all know that.” Nods and murmurs of agreement rippled through the assembled conference-goers. “But, well, I told the Lord I just had to say something; ‘cuz I’ve never in my life seen anything like this before.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Faith Not My Own, Scene 2

I was so thankful that my husband’s car had automatic transmission. Regretting even more that he was at the military camp for his summer assignment and not right there to help me, I told myself to buck up and start that engine. My right leg was useless. I had to move my left leg to press on the accelerator, and when I needed to slow down or stop, I had to remember to ease off the accelerator and not just move my foot from the pedal to the brake. It was mighty slow going down that winding, mountain road.

Once parked at the curb of our married student housing apartment, I groaned as I glimpsed another mountain. We lived on the second level, and before me a tower of weathered, wooden steps stretched from the sidewalk straight up to my front door. How would I ever climb those steps with a frozen ankle and pain-wracked right leg?

“Please, Lord, help me get up there?” If the Lord tried to insert some sense into my resolve…like suggesting I go directly to the student infirmary, for example…I didn’t hear Him.

I took a deep breath, set my jaws now clenching teeth, and took hold of the splintery siderail. Truly, the first painful step was the hardest. After that, I just looked straight up and pretty much hopped up those steps on my left leg, using my stiff right leg only when needed to regain my balance. At last, Step Twenty-Four and I slid over to unlock the front door. I’d made it!

Crossing the threshold and re-locking the door, I slipped to my knees. How grateful I was for that teensy, weensy living room I’d always found so squeezed with even our sparse furnishings. Just a few crawls to the matchbox kitchen. I pulled myself up, stood with weight on my left leg, and retrieve the ice cube trays from the freezer.

Having quickly fashioned my makeshift icepack, I slid back down to the floor, icepack held high in my right hand. What a sight I was, had there been anyone there to behold my three-legged dog locomotion.

After the initial pain of the icepack’s weight, the home remedy made the ankle relax; the rest of the leg soon followed suit. How I longed for Curt to come ambling through that door to bring me something to drink. I was so thirsty, but no way was I going to make my way back to the kitchen on my knees now. When I had to get up to use the restroom, I’d get the drink and, maybe, even something to eat.

This essential bodily event, which we campers refer to as the “call of nature,” arrived half an hour later. After responding to the call, I grabbed a couple of aspirin to go with the food and drink. I saw that it needed to be consumed in the kitchen, unless I made several trips in the three-point crawl. Not going to happen; I ate and drank standing at the tiny counter.

Time for bed and a good night’s sleep. I’d be fine in the morning, or so I thought. Sleep didn’t happen, unless you call fits of exhausted napping between moans and groans “sleeping.” I spent the night in agony; no amount of calling out to the Lord relieved the pain.

When the early rays of dawn began to show through the little, center gap in our curtains, I made a decision. I had no choice but to go to the infirmary for some kind of treatment. Fortunately, it was open twenty-four/seven.

I bounced down the roughly-hewn steps on my backside; I’d need my hopping maneuver to get out to the car. The trip to the infirmary was not long, but the distance from the curb and into the infirmary was another matter. This short sidewalk led to the front doors just fine, but inside was a short flight of steps to reception. Who in the world ever thought of such a thing for an infirmary for university students? Didn’t they realize how many kids would find climbing those steps with their injured lower limbs difficult? Relief flooded my grimacing countenance when the on-duty nurse spotted me hopping up the steps. She rushed to lend a hand.

Well, to spare you the details of a long, early-dawn, argumentative session with my doctor and the nurse, as well as saving you from my ridiculous explanations, it will suffice to say that I did not let them admit me to the inpatient section of the infirmary. The kids were counting on me to be there for the weekend; I would not let them down.

Crutch-walking over to the steps, I felt the pain of the shots in each posterior hip more than the injured leg. One of the shots took that awful pain nearly completely out and I rejoiced big time. Stopping at the top of the short flight of stairs, I turned to speak to the dynamic infirmary duo, still frowning at me. “Really, I’ll be fine. I’ll come back Monday morning, just as I promised I would.” My radiant smile should have touched them a little, or so it seemed to me. Nope, they knew I’d made a mistake and that was that. I’d be back before the day had finished no doubt in their minds.

“Well, little-miss-independent-who-knows-better-than-the-doctor, you’d better be here. The surgeon will expect to see you first thing. It isn’t easy to get surgery time on a Tuesday.” Yup, the nurse was not happy.

“Tell you what? I’m a counselor at a church camp. Even if God heals me at the camp, I will still keep my appointment Monday morning. I promise…healed or hurting, I’ll be here.”

Monday, November 26, 2012

Faith Not My Own

The Fourth of July Weekend Conference included teaching and activities for the whole family, held in a fantastic mountain campground. The adults not as interested in roughing it had been given the option to sleep in the lodge, but one of my college friends and I planned to throw our sleeping bags on the ground around a campfire with our conference charges…the high school girls.

 Joining the others on the church prep team, I collected what tools I could find, and headed up the mountain to prepare for the next day’s conference. I wanted to be sure we had enough firewood to last for the two nights we’d camp, as well as to clear the ground for everyone’s bedroll. If we finished our preparations in time, we could lend a hand to the other counselors.

 All was going according to plan; even the morning sun was warm enough to shed that outer layer sweatshirt or jacket. Laughing, teasing shouts and lots of singing echoed through the campground. It was impossible to know just how far the breezes carried the racket down the mountain, but the joyful noise was no doubt brightening up the areas where the sound did travel.

Elaine and I cleared our assigned camping spot, pulling all weeds and smoothing out the ground with hoes and rakes. We allowed enough room for all of her high school buddies as well as my university friend and I to drop our rolled out bags around the encircled depression, where a campfire would be made to warm us part of the night, at least. We set apart a place for our ever-growing stack of firewood, including kindling and sticks, branches and logs of increasing size. It needed to be far enough away from the flames to ensure embers wouldn’t catch anything on fire, but close enough to get hold of when needed. I kept the matches and scraps of newspaper we would use to start the fire with my gear. Okay, I trusted the girls, but, well, kids can be kids and things can happen when they get to messing around, right? Not likely any of them would rub two sticks together to start a fire that was not authorized.

 By mid-afternoon, we were all getting pretty tuckered out. Elaine looked at me for direction. “Just one more load of the large logs, and I think we can call it quits.”

 "Okay, but how ‘bout we put them on this piece of plywood over here and drag them back to our camping space? That way we could carry a lot at one time.”

 “Great idea; help me pile on the logs over there that John cut for us.”

 The load was a lot heavier than either of us had expected it to be. In fact, I couldn’t really pull it alone. Elaine was a good sport about it…after all, it had been her idea, right? I grasped the corner on the left side of the flat sheet of plywood and Elaine took the right. We lifted it up slightly and began to tug with all our might. Inch by inch we made our way to the assigned spot. Several feet before reaching the clearing, my hand slipped just as my right foot lifted off the ground.  Down went the plywood, and searing pain shot up my right leg. I stifled my cry because I didn’t want to alarm Elaine.

 “Elaine, help me lift this thing off my leg, would you? I can’t believe I dropped it so close to the end of the path.”

 Elaine slowly set down her corner and stepped over to grab on to the board near my hand. “Yikes, that’s heavy and must hurt, doesn’t it?”

 “Yes, a little bit. Let’s just get it off and finish up. It’s time to head down the mountain before it gets too chilly and we’re late for supper.”

But, it wasn’t that easy to move the board, even with both of us tugging. “I’ll just run these logs on over to the pile so it’s easier to lift. Or should I go get John?”

 “No, we can do this ourselves. I’ll wait for you to take a few of the logs off and we’ll try again.”

 Elaine was quick about freeing the board but still we couldn’t move the board off my leg. This was totally puzzling since there weren’t any more logs on it. Each try sent fiery pain throughout my leg. Of course, Elaine stopped pulling every time she saw me wince; we were getting nowhere.

 "Okay, look, let’s just give one mighty pull straight up. Pull on three, as hard as you possibly can, Elaine.” Since it was behind me, I had only one useable arm with which to power my efforts. “On three. One…two…three!” Ripping of flesh was the sensation I felt as I tried hard not to let my howls escape my clenched lips.

 “Wow, look at that, Sojourner! That nail must be, at least, three inches long! Are you all right?” The entire nail had sunk into my Achilles tendon. The swelling began immediately upon removal of the mini-stake. The small flow of blood was not a good sign, infection could set in.

 “Yeah, I’ll be fine. Once I get home, I’ll put ice on it and it’ll be right in the morning. Don’t worry; I’ll be here tomorrow!” Good grief! Where had that nail come from and why hadn’t I checked the backside of the plywood before stacking wood on to it? Too much in a hurry, no doubt. It had taken a bit of talking to get the church leadership to let the high school girls camp outside for the conference and not join the kids in the lodge for the night. I just couldn’t let them down. Without me, they’d be in the lodge.

 I clowned around to hide the real trouble as I hobbled back to the car. The truth was that I was totally unable to bend my ankle. The tendon might well be severed.

 ****Faith Not My Own, Scene 2, Next Post




Thursday, November 22, 2012

The First Thanksgiving Day

So what’s the holiday all about? I thought that, perhaps, our readers from the fifty-four countries not celebrating Thanksgiving Day today might like to know a bit about it so I checked online to find some tidbits, other than the traditional foods which were already mentioned in yesterday’s post. Ha! There are as many stories as there are websites! You can even see some video clips of the food, if you are interested! So, for a more complete listing, just Google first thanksgiving and you will have your entertainment for today!

 It should be noted that the early pilgrims were coming to America because of religious persecution in England. Their usual days of Thanksgiving were fasting and not feasting, but the day we celebrate “Thanksgiving Day” (the fourth Thursday of every November) is definitely a day of feasting and giving thanks with loved ones. The first Thanksgiving meal was more likely roasted deer, not turkey, though they did eat cranberries.

The pilgrims from the ship, the Mayflower, celebrated the first Thanksgiving Day in 1621 so it has been a long time. The official American declaration of it as a National Holiday did not really happen until 1941, which meant everyone could have the day off work with pay. President Abraham Lincoln did say it should be a celebrated holiday in something like 1863. A dear lady, Sarah Josepha Hale, worked tirelessly for forty years in her crusade to get Thanksgiving to be a recognized national holiday. (Sarah was a very influential person in the media of her day, as well as being the author of the children’s poem, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”.) Finally, Congress agreed and, since 1941, the fourth Thursday in November has been the recognized national holiday, Thanksgiving.

 One story that came from the San Antonio Express news is a new one for me so I thought I would pass it along to you on this day we are giving thanks for all that God has done for us. The story serves to remind us that not all of the European travelers, who journeyed to the new land that would be called America, came for religious reasons; some were there for the hope of financial gain only.

From the San Antonio Express news:

 On Sept. 6, 1620, the Pilgrims left England, setting sail for America. They eventually arrived in Plymouth. They lived on the Mayflower all through the winter, going back and forth to build houses and barns in the area.

The Pilgrims finally moved ashore in March and, on March 16, a miracle happened. An Indian named Samoset walked into their colony without threat or fear and welcomed them. In their journal, the Pilgrims wrote: “He told us the place where we now live is called Patuxet, and that about four years ago, all the inhabitants died of an extraordinary plague.”

Samoset also told them about another Indian named Tisquantam who spoke better English and could help establish relations with the Indians. Tisquantum and Chief Massosoit met them a week later and the two groups negotiated a peace and trading treaty. Tisquantum soon became an essential member of Plymouth colony. He helped them negotiate peace with other Indian leaders. Tisquantum was their guide, teaching them to grow corn by using local fish as fertilizer.

All of what you just read is amazing. Why? Because Tisquantum (Squanto), the last surviving member of the Patuxet tribe, had been kidnapped by a greedy Englishman and taken back to Europe. He eventually learned English and escaped to England.

Tisquantum's people were outraged at the kidnapping of Squanto and other Indians. And so they had been attacking other English settlers. Tisquantum returned in order to negotiate peace only to find out that his tribe had been wiped out by a plague. And then, when more Englishmen returned to settle the now-empty land of his people, his response was to help them!

What an answer to prayer for the Pilgrims, who wondered how they would survive: God sent them an English-speaking Indian who worshipped the Christian God.

These Pilgrims eventually celebrated with the Indians Squanto helped make peace with, what we now call “The First Thanksgiving.”

 You never know when God may use your hardship to answer the prayer of someone else.

 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

 I love this example of both God’s provision for those settlers who were innocent of this dear Indian man’s tragic situation, and of the true forgiveness the Indian man demonstrated towards the English settlers!

 Lastly, to all of you fellow Americans living in or outside the USA:

Happy Thanksgiving!

 ***Have a blessed day giving thanks, even if you’re not American!




Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An Old-Fashion Thanksgiving Day

Offering a short holiday interruption from my early twenties recollections, here’s a story from my first decade of Thanksgiving Day holidays! This old-fashioned Thanksgiving was repeated throughout my childhood, only the height of the stack of mail-order catalogues on which I sat changed as the years passed. Feel free to share your memories with me!

Bouncing up and down on the back seat of the two-door, white, Ford Fairlane, my sisters and I talked all at the same time about what goodies Grandma would be putting on the kitchen table. Talk was directed toward the meal only since reaching the gate to their farmhouse, however. Before making this turn, the inside of the vehicle was filled with the sounds of “Over the River and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go,” and other such tunes of the season. “Finally, my father moved to retrieve mother’s contributions to the holiday meal while she opened her door, tipped her seat forward and we piled out, hitting the frozen ground at a dead run.

“Grandma! Grandpa! We’re here! Grandpa! Grandma!” their three little darlings called to them as the small girls all tried to reach the handle of the side door. Of course their farm house had a front door, but that was only used when going out to fetch water at the pump; otherwise, it was the side door that welcomed hungry little visitors inside out of the November chill.

Once open the smells from that narrow section of their two-part kitchen enveloped us. Is there anything so inviting as the smell of fresh bread just out of the oven? Well, unless it might be the luscious aroma of those apple, pumpkin and mince meat pies atop that back counter that were cooling; or, perhaps, the absolutely heart-stopping savory scent of that roasting turkey. Soon Grandpa would come along to pull the giant, golden bird out of the belly of that wood stove and he and Daddy would head over to the table to carve it up for Thanksgiving Dinner.

Shooting through that outside door, we knew better than to throw our arms around Grandma if she was bending over the hot stove to baste the turkey or standing up by the shiny, black behemoth, lifting the heavy round, metal flat lid to add more wood; but, as we ran inside, she stopped what she was doing and came over to us. Wrapping our little arms around the familiar aproned body, we wished her a hearty, “Happy Thanksgiving,” squeezing with all our might. As we grew older and taller the placement of those arms around the apron ascended but on this occasion, my lifted arms were still well below the waistband tie. I was on one side and my younger sister claimed a leg on the other side. My older sister always, patiently, waited her turn. If I happened to be positioned more to the back than the front, my upward glance would focus on that wonderful looping white braid Grandma always wrapped around the top of her head, best seen from the back if one was as short as I was. In later years, I would spend the night and see that mysterious coil unwound, freeing it to cascade loosely over her shoulders and down nearly to her waist. But, at this point in my young life, it was still a mystery to me as to what it might look like should it ever be unbound from the tightly braided loops. Should I have moved myself slightly forward as I hugged my Grandma, looking up would let me see a huge smile of brightly whitened teeth. All were completely uniform and perfect because they were not really Grandma’s first set of teeth. Sometimes she only used half of her teeth, usually the top half, but it was a holiday so she had both halves smiling today.

“Grandpa,” she called into the other room where he and Daddy had just started talking about farm stuff. “Look who is here now, will you? And, please get some wash water before we sit down.” Instantly loosening our grip on Grandma, we turned to see Grandpa standing in the doorway with his comfortably familiar red flannel shirt, his faded long-johns peeking out of the end of his sleeves and open collar.  His arms were ready for us. His smile said, “Here I am,” without moving his lips or making a sound. How wonderful it felt hugging my Grandpa. Like my father, he smelled something of Old Spice aftershave and another special scent I never could identify. It was just “grandpa” and I loved the smell! Standing back up he stepped down into the recessed section of the kitchen where one could find the woodstove, cream separator, and other evidences that this was a very busy room on any day in the life of an old-fashion farm. Grandpa patted our heads as he crossed in front of each of us and over to the storeroom to fetch his water bucket, lying next to the big metal wash basins in the corner.

“I will go with you, “I let Grandpa know as I grabbed the hand which did not have the bucket. I did not need my mitten on that hand because Grandpa’s large hand swallowed up mine. It was so warm in his grip.

“Not this time, Punkin, “came my father’s reply, “You need to get washed up for dinner, yourself.” At this point, my mother finished taking off my jacket and pulled me into the little storeroom where she had just washed my sister’s hands. I stood by the smaller basins, already filled with water and let her rub on the soap, while I watched both of my sisters drying their hands on one large towel stretched out  between them. There was no running water in Grandma and Grandpa’s little house. We used basins of water to wash everything… hands, dishes, laundry and later when I stayed overnight here I even took a bath in the basin!

It was not long before the food was on the table and everyone began finding their chairs at the familiar old table in the other half of the farm kitchen. Grandpa and I were last to find our places at the table, though Daddy had not yet taken his seat. It was easy to find my chair; it was the one with the two thick Sears and Roebucks catalogues on it. I stood by the chair, arms out away from my sides, and let Daddy lift me over and down. Finally, the chair was pushed closer to the table and I squirmed only a little until I felt settled on my mealtime perch. All eyes turned to look at me, as I was asked to thank the Lord for His bountiful provision and the Lord’s blessing over the meal.

Though I was only a small child, I took this charge very seriously as I surveyed the contents of this food-laden Thanksgiving dinner table. The colors, the variety of different dishes that we all loved so much, as well as those scrumptious smells mingled with an awareness that the table had been set with Grandma’s finest plates and silverware. How could we feel anything but blessed and very special to be sitting here?

The table was loaded with sweet potatoes with marshmallows melted atop the orange vegetable that also held a sweet glaze under that marshmallow, a mountain of homemade mashed potatoes next to a large gravy bowl of rich brown turkey gravy, and next to them was a second serving dish with a mountain of bread dressing (lightly smelling of sage). There was also green beans in a mushroom sauce with crunchy onion rings from the can on top (my favorite) and, probably, green peas and carrots somewhere, too. Grandma’s dinner rolls were always freshly baked, soft and chewy treats with melting butter lathered on top of the open roll. (Nope, nobody even talked about fat grams and cholesterol in those days.)  I was not a cranberry fan as far as taste buds go, but I did love the bright red color in the dish on the table. Next I would notice the glass bowls of black olives and another of green olives with little red stuff in it, which I usually took out before eating the green olive. Celery sticks were filled with cream cheese or an orange Cheez-Whiz I liked a lot, though sometimes there was also celery filled with peanut butter—now that was fun for a kid! Grandma made her own pickles, too, so there were plates or dishes with dill pickles, sweet pickles and bread and butter pickles. Of course, the large platter filled with slices of turkey meat held center stage; both dark and white meat filled the plate. The drumsticks did not adorn the platter for long, once lifted for serving the family.

It was an added blessing that the Lord had given me only one sister who also liked the turkey drumstick, since the turkey only had two to give! The large instrument of much joy took up a sizeable place on my plate, thereby decreasing the area left for more adult things such as vegetables. I loved the drumstick because I could hold it in my hands, as much as for the taste of the meat. Of course, I was never able to finish it at that meal so it always went home with us.

If one of us kids needed to use the restroom, all of us were asked to “try to go” because Grandma and Grandpa did not have any restroom inside the house. It was out back, across the little wooden bridge over the creek behind the house. It was a two-seater, which was good if the weather was especially cold. I guess the adult who took us figured one trip out there in the cold air was enough.

At last the adults finished their long discourses at the table and declared that they now had room in their tummies for some dessert. Out came the smaller plates, clean forks and all the pies! I loved pumpkin pie just as it was, no whipping cream on it. The adults all had dark black coffee with their meal. The kids, like always, drank milk. In those days it was never thought that we would drink anything other than milk with our meals. Grandpa’s milk was different, though; it had come from his very own cows, not Safeway. The same could be said for much of what Grandma had prepared because they raised pigs, beef, and chickens and she always cultivated an enormously gigantic vegetable garden from where her yearlong vegetables would come.

When the leftovers had been packed up and the little girls back on the bench behind their parents, the car backed out. Swinging around in front of the house, we waited until Daddy finished his three-point turn and our grandparents were, once again in view. We had turned around so we could see them out the back window. Kneeling on the seat, there was a bit less vigor to those waves; we were three tired little girls. 

Now, you might think the Thanksgiving Day is all over at this point and the family is heading home, right? Well, almost over; just one more thing left for young Sojourner and her little sister. Back at home, baths were given and pajamas now covered those little holiday celebrants. However, before the “Goodnights” were spoken, out came that leftover turkey drumstick for just a few more tiny bites. It was as good cold as hot. Better to take a few bites now than to just dream of doing it, right? Oh, what a wonderful, wonderful day!

****The First Thanksgiving Day… Next Post

Monday, November 19, 2012

Multiplication Lesson: Part B

Having run out of gas on an isolated road in Patty Canyon, I was not ready to try the “multiplication” experiment any time soon. In fact, with all the other things we were learning in the conferences that took place in our little church each weekend, I hadn’t given it another thought.

It was a marvelous time in the life of the church, as well as the lives of the constantly growing numbers of new Believers. It would have been “standing room only”, except that the newcomers were university students, well suited to sitting, cross-legged on floors. The aisles and periphery of the sanctuary were replete with tee shirts, ragged cut-off jeans and flip-flops. Each weekend our church was host to a key speaker in the new wave known as the “Jesus Movement.” I have no idea why these giants in the faith came, or how they found our little wooden-floor sanctuary in the mountain community, but we were all learning so much from them.

My one regret was that Curt could not sit in on the meetings. He was far away, continuing his officer training over much of the summer school break. His first letter home brought the exciting news that his bunkmate was a Navigator; they were memorizing Scriptures together. The Navigator’s is a marvelous program for university students and I couldn’t have picked a better bunkmate for my husband, even if the Army would have asked me! We would both have much to share when reunited!

The speaker for the long weekend conference was a man known as “Mr. Pentecost.” David du Plessis had even spoken with the Pope, discussing the Scriptures concerning the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The two men had a very amiable visit, the Pope sharing that his own nephew had first presented this to him a short time prior to the meeting with David. Now, this dear giant in the faith was coming to our own little church! The teaching was slated from morning through evening as this dear elderly man poured out to us what the Holy Spirit thought we should know right then.

Committed to practicing everything we were taught at the earliest opportunity, every Martha in the group decided to work on becoming a Mary. Yes, the assembled hoard of eager young people, and some not-so-young, needed to eat lunch, but why make it tons of work? We’d just serve hot dogs so we could stay for the entire session, rather than leave half-way through to prepare a meal. Attendees could mingle outside for the few moments it would take to get the tables and food ready. We had no idea just what our Lord had planned for us in that kitchen.

While those not scheduled for lunch service scrambled to get outside, the rest of us circled for prayer near the small kitchen. The unified Amen was like the breaking of a huddle on a football field, each member darting to her assigned task.

”Sojourner, could you come in here just a moment?” Mrs. P. looked at me with furrowed brow, the corners of her mouth turned down. Whatever could be distressing this normally ebullient lady? “Uh, where are the other bags of chips? I can only find this one sack?” Seeing the single bag of potato chips she held in one hand, an empty serving bowl in the other, I realized I’d made a slight error in my assignment.

“Oh no, I forgot to tell the other students to bring a sack of chips, too.” Now, we had seventy-nine cents worth of chips for greater than two hundred people, many of whom were hungry university men. Our church was located far from any grocery store. To keep the schedule on track, we didn’t have time to go in search of a dozen monster-sized bags of chips. “Well, only one thing left to do, right? We pray for multiplication like the loaves and fishes?” My uncertainty was mirrored on the puzzled faces of the few ladies Mrs. P grabbed to come inside the kitchen to pray.

“No time to explain; just listen and agree with the prayer, ladies.” She nodded for me to begin.

“Lord, uh, I messed up here so no one else brought any chips.” A noticeable gasp escaped the lips of each lady in the circle. “I’m sorry I didn’t pay better attention to my job but, Lord, could you help us out here, please?” The hands holding mine squeezed a little encouragement for me to continue. “We need a multiplication of the chips. We’d counted on those chips to fill up the guys. There’s enough hotdogs for a bit more than 200 but, you know the guys; they can eat a lot. We really need those chips, please. Thanks, God. Amen.”

“Okay, ladies, back to your job. We’ve got a lunch to serve out there.” Each lady responded to Mrs. P’s clapping hands, rushing back to their tasks. The leader touched my shoulder. “It’ll be okay. If we don’t get more chips, we didn’t need them. Put this bowl out on the speaker’s table first.” Mrs. P. was already pouring the chips in the bowl she had taken up again.

When I returned to the kitchen, Mrs. P was still pouring chips. “This might be it; the bag is nearly empty. I took a peek and, sure enough, there was about an inch of chips in the bottom.

Each time I returned to the kitchen, the grin on Mrs. P.’s face widened, growing with the anticipation. Full bowls of chips waited for pick-up nearby, an inch still left in the bottom of the bag. The solitary bag was empty, completely, after all had eaten.

 What a thrill to have God’s multiplication miracle in our own church kitchen!

Voila! The Part B of the Multiplication Lesson…genuine need. In the case of the empty gas tank, I’d decided to make a trip I had no reason to make. A drive through Patty Canyon was not necessary. If it had been, though, I had money in my pocket to pay for enough gasoline to make the trip without any problem. In short, I was not trying to practice a principle in my life in conjunction with the teaching from the pulpit; but, rather, I was testing God, which is really not a good idea. Fortunately, in His mercy, God the Father understood and got us out of the mess I’d driven us into that day.

On the other hand, the potato chips were a real need in order to keep things running along smoothly. Even if I could get all the kids to cough up their seventy-nine cents for the chips, there simply was no time to go find them for that meal. The need for the miracle was genuine and the God of all mercy responded. God not only smoothed over the turbulence my mistake had made in providing the chips Himself, but gave us all a miracle of multiplication to remind us of His mercy and understanding of the situation. How grateful I am that God understands and doesn’t condemn me when I mess up! It is good to remember that we are always His children, regardless of the number of years we have sojourned on this earth. God wants to help us and knows just how best to do that! God wants us to learn the lessons of the Bible and understands how best to help us learn to practice the principles. God is a tremendously resourceful, creative Teacher Who delights in seeing us succeed.

If you missed Multiplication Lesson: Part A, just click on this link to begin:

To learn more about David du Plessis or to listen to some of his recorded teaching, check out this link:

***Faith Not My Own…Next Post

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Multiplication Lesson: part A, Scene 2

Making our way through Patty Canyon, belting out every praise song we knew at the top of our lungs, a most agonizing sensation struck us both at the same time. The “chug” couldn’t be denied or shouted over at this point. The large jolt of the car was followed by several smaller chugs before the vehicle came to rest on the road, silently. Pam and I faced one another—eyes bugging out of their sockets, mouths open wide enough to slip a Dunkin Donut through without touching the lips. We were frozen in utter shock. It just couldn’t be that we were out of gas! We had a lot of faith to believe that God would multiply what we had put into the car. Okay, well, God had more than one way to produce a miracle, more than one way to multiply something, didn’t He? I mean, He’s God, after all. Finally, I shook myself out of the stupor.

“Pam, let’s pray for the Lord to multiply what gas is in the tank right now.”

“Okay, you pray and I’ll agree with you.”

And pray I did! Softly at first, and then the volume increased. The Pronounced “Amen” was like the final note of a major symphony where the tympani roll and then a crash of cymbals join the last boom of the instruments. I felt spent, so earnest was my petitioning.

“Okay, Sojourner, try the ignition again. Let’s hear that engine hum.” How I longed to hear that engine hum!

With as much faith as a second-year Christian could muster, I twisted the key in the ignition. No turning over of the engine, followed by that lovely hum.

“Okay, Pam, let’s get out of the car and lay our hands on the engine. We can pray over the engine since we can’t really get to the gas tank on this rugged gravel road. Maybe God will make the engine work without gas; that’d be a miracle, wouldn’t it?” Pam responded and both of us left the car.

“Maybe we could just lay our hands on the hood, Sojourner. I mean, the engine is all greasy and everything. Our hands’d be a mess if we actually touched the engine. Can’t we just touch the hood?”

“I suppose we could. The engine is right under the hood. How about you pray this time. Just go ahead and say whatever comes to your mind.” I can’t say with any certainty, but her prayer went something along these lines.

“Oh, Lord, help us, please! We want to go to the meeting this evening and we need gas to get there. We don’t have any way to get gas out here unless You give it to us. The conference speaker said You would multiply something if we had need and we do have need of some gasoline, Lord. But, if you want to make the engine work without it, that’s good, too. Please, help us!” It was a bit longer and, probably, a bit more flowery since Pam had known God longer than I had, but that was the gist of it.

Back in the car we got and I tried the key again. The result was the same. No nice hum of a working engine.

Okay, well, we were not ready to give up in despair yet. Back outside the vehicle, we began a victory march, praising God and rebuking the devil… loudly. All around the car we marched—first one way and then the other. It was a disserted canyon road so no real chance of being taken for nut cases out there. After making seven trips around the car, we slid back into our seats and tried the key again. We had called what was not (a victory) as though it were… in faith and we really, really meant it. Why oh why was that engine staying so quiet and stubbornly still? Had we forgotten some step? It wasn’t the vigor or earnestness of the two petitioning Him for the miracle that was the problem; we couldn’t have been any more vigorous or sincere. It didn’t matter, though. We were out of gas and that was that.

“Well, Pam. There must be a part B to that lesson. We’ve done all we have been taught and it isn’t working as it should. One thing I do know is that God knows how very much we want to be at the meeting this evening. He’ll help us get there somehow.”

“It’s too far to walk.” Pam was slumped down in her seat and I didn’t blame her. I was feeling pretty low myself.

Then, I glimpsed a mixed blessing ahead on the road and coming towards us. Behind that cloud of dust was a friend’s boyfriend’s car, motoring right along. Shelley was in the passenger’s seat. I was humiliated and only hoped Pam would not tell them how we happened to run out of gas right there on the canyon road. Everyone knows better than to come out there without enough gasoline in the tank. I had been trying to witness to Shelley about God so I didn’t want her to use this as an example of how God doesn’t work the way I had been telling her. When they were alongside us, both stepped out of the vehicle.

“Hey, guys! Out of gas or engine trouble?” Shelley’s boyfriend sounded like he was willing to help two damsels in distress.

“Out of gas.” I simply defined the trouble, giving no details.

“That’s good because I can help. If you had engine trouble, well, you’d be on your own. In fact, I always carry an extra gallon in the trunk when I plan to drive out here. You just never know when someone might need a hand.” Shelley was beaming and I would have, too, had my boyfriend come to her rescue like that.

Pam just couldn’t wait to explain the details as Shelley waited for her beau to put the gasoline in the tank. Unfortunately, I had flooded the engine in my repeated attempts to start it. Fortunately, Shelley’s boyfriend knew how to handle that and the engine was soon humming that lovely sound that means we can drive the rest of the way out of the canyon. Pam had spilled out every detail, causing Shelley to shake her head as she got back in the car next to our hero for the day.

“Okay, Pam, let’s not tell anyone about this little mistake in trying out the multiplication lesson. We’ll just go to the meeting like we’d been in town all day, okay?” I’d have to be under the ground to get any lower.

“Okay, I’ll keep quiet about this experiment. After the meeting, we can try again. We’ll use the pastor’s garden hose and fill the tank with water. That way the Lord can turn the water into gasoline. What do you think about that? I have enough faith to believe for that miracle, do you?” I thought it must be a joke but the eager look on Pam’s face let me know she was really seriously willing to try that water-into-gas thing.

“In my husband’s car? You’ve got to be kidding! If this car is not in mint condition when he returns from his summer military duty, it won’t be a pretty picture. No way am I going to chance God not being willing to turn water into gasoline. We are going to set this whole thing on the shelf. I’m gonna wait to hear what we missed in our understanding of the multiplication lesson before I go off half-cocked trying some other kind of miracle provision.” Pam was disappointed, but since she didn’t have a car, the proposed experiment was forgotten.

I had been so focused on God multiplying the little bit of gas we’d put in the car that I completely missed His prepared miracle. So little traffic used that canyon road… mostly university kids taking a date for a drive in the evenings…that having a car come along in the afternoon was unusual. Then, to have a driver whose passenger was well-known to us? Plus, having a driver who actually carried gasoline in his own car with the intention of helping someone out? Well, put all that together with the perfect timing of having our paths cross when we were out of gas, not when we were motoring along nicely, and one can see how God knew exactly what was going to happen to us. He had made provision for us to learn the lesson and to make the evening meeting without a problem. We may have missed something in the Multiplication Lesson, but one thing was certain…God loved us and cared for our every need in His own way. How terrific is that?

****Multiplication Lesson: Part B… Next post

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Multiplication Lesson: Part A

“Pam, do you really think God' ll multiply something if we need it?” The weekend’s special speaker had so many terrific points to his teaching and tons of Bible verses to back things up.

“That’s what the speaker said. He really had a lot of great stories as evidence of God’s willingness to multiply stuff when needed. What are you thinking of doing?” Pam’s arched eyebrows, tilted head and skeptical facial expression signaled her concern.

“Well, didn’t he say we should put what he was saying to the test to be sure he was telling us things applicable to our own lives?”

“Yes, of course, but he also said not to put God to the test, didn’t he?”

“Right, I get that, but what I’m thinking about is to see if God really will multiply something when we have need. Wouldn’t God multiply what we needed to meet our need then?” Smiling my most earnest grin, I waited for Pam’s response. How I longed for her to get excited about trying this out for ourselves.

“It makes me nervous when you talk like that, Sojourner. Uh, what exactly did you have in mind? Remember, there is an evening meeting and I don’t want to miss it.” Ah-ha, Pam was beginning to soften to the idea; I had hope.

“Well, I was thinking that needing to get back in time for the evening meeting would be part of the reason God would help us.”

“Okay, Sojourner, now you’ve peaked my interest. Tell me your plan, since you’ve obviously been hatching it since the speaker started that line of teaching. What is it that you will ask God to multiply for you?”

“For us, Pam. I want you to be a part of the miracle provisions experiment. We could tell everyone about it during the testimony time of the meeting, both of us. That way the testimony would bear more weight. How about it? Are you in?”

“Wait just a minute. I want to know just what I am agreeing to before I say I’m in. Let’s hear your plan.” Great! Now, to reel her in….

“It’s perfect. I’m about out of gas.  How about we take a drive through Patty Canyon this afternoon? I’m sure we’ll run out of gas unless God multiplies it for us. We’ll pray before we start and ask for God to bring us back in time for the meeting. C’mon, Pam. Let’s go take a drive!” I was so excited; I could hardly wait to get started. I just knew God had something good planned for us, if we would step out in faith.

“Well, maybe we should go to the gas station and ask for a nickel’s worth of gas as our seed of faith from which God would multiply to meet our need? How about that, Sojourner? Then, we could come back to that same attendant and let him know how God had multiplied that five cents worth of gasoline to get us back to town.” Okay, Pam was jumping in with both feet now. Super!

Off we went to the nearest gas station and did just that. His furrowed brow and thin line of doubtful lips didn’t discourage us at all. He’d see what would happen. We’d be back to give testimony that very evening, unless we cut it too close to meeting time, in which case we would come tell him tomorrow.

The day was gorgeous. Beautiful sunshine and a cool breeze blowing through our open windows as we made our way over to patty Canyon. Chattering like girls on a Girl Scout adventure, the two of us had all kinds of ideas of how this miracle might play out.

We had all the elements needed for a miracle and planned our words of testimony as we cruised along the canyon’s dirt road. We had demonstrated our faith by coming out there when we had to be back in town that evening. We put in a bit of gas as the seed from which to grow what we needed. We earnestly prayed after a time of praising and giving thanks for all God had already done for us. Then, we took that step of faith and drove out of town on five cents worth of gasoline in the tank. Yup, God had a wonderful miracle just waiting for the two of us, putting in to practice all that we were learning on the Christian walk. We were anxious to share our miracle with others.

About fifteen minutes into the journey, I began to worry just a bit. It felt like the car did a little chug. No, that wasn’t possible; we’d not be out of gas. Pam had not felt the chugging and kept talking.

“Pam, let’s sing. How about we sing some of those praise songs from the conference?” I knew that the devil flees anywhere praise is being offered so we would just sing him away, in case it was the devil working on that gas tank and trying to ruin our multiplication miracle.

****Multiplication Lesson: part A, Scene 2… Next post

Friday, November 9, 2012

Cornelius, Peter, and the Holy Spirit, Q and A

This series of posts has been looking at the story recorded in Acts Chapters Ten and Eleven of Cornelius (a Righteous Gentile), Peter (a devout Jewish Believer in Jesus), and the Holy Spirit Who brought the two together. In the first post I shared some questions I found answered in this account. Below find a bit of what I discovered for each question. If you had other questions to which you found answers in this story, I’d love to know both the question and your finding! Here’s mine:

1.    Legalism versus Obedience to God: When God sets up guidelines are they set in stone, or does He sometimes make exception to His own rules?

When it comes to religious diversity or denominational differences, there is not likely a gap greater than that between the Jewish people and the Gentiles. God had told His Chosen People, the Jews, to maintain the separation in order that they not go off worshipping false gods and not the One True Almighty God. This story with the Gentile Cornelius and the Jew Peter brings the one thread that connects the two men to light… the worship of the very same God and him alone, in the midst of a hedonistic world of worshipping many different gods.

The Jewish people had received a lot of commands from the Lord and added even more rules. One thing they were never to do is associate, in any way, with someone who was not Jewish. No eating together and no entering the home of someone who was not Jewish. To do so would defile them. Don’t bother to accept any food from them, because there were rules about how to prepare the food and what foods the people could eat. No, the best thing was to stay clear of people who were not Jewish. These folks were called Gentiles.

While that may seem impolite and separatist to you, sadly, we see the same thing within the Body of Christ today, don’t we? If we aren’t a part of a certain denomination or if we are a Catholic Christian and not a Protestant Christian… our opinions and experiences are not taken seriously since we are not on the inside. This story of Peter and Cornelius shows us what is important to God and it’s not a label.

God saw the heart of Cornelius. Cornelius wanted to have God in his life and faithfully worshipped God as best he knew how… in fact; Cornelius and his whole family were worshipping God. God didn’t look at them and say, “Oh, too bad you were born Gentiles; you would have made such good Jews.” No, God looked at their hearts and sent His Holy Spirit to respond to their heart’s cry to know God more!

God instructed Peter to go to Cornelius’ house, not to stay away from it. Such a great example of God not being a legalist. The rule of exclusion was given so that the Chosen People would fellowship with those who worshipped Yahweh. If anyone not Jewish was already doing that but didn’t’ know anything about the God they were worshipping, God was eager to send one of His servants… Peter in this case… to help them learn about the God they had been worshipping. God didn’t care about their label; He cared about their heart.

2.    Exact order of events: does one have to accept the Lord as his personal Savior, undergo baptism with water before being baptized with the Holy Spirit?

Normally, this is the order of events; but Cornelius’ story very clearly shows us how God sees things and what God uses as an indicator of when to do what.

I wonder if God didn’t do it this way to prove to Peter and his delegation of Believers that God, Himself, had already accepted Cornelius and his family as Believers so that Peter would also? It worked if that was His plan. I love that God isn’t so hard and fast about things like this and that He made the effort to include this account for all of us to read many years later. Helps us put things in perspective, I think.

3.    Conflict and Confrontation: what must a Believer do when confronted with conflict in the rules?

Peter gives us a great example of obedience and flexibility…obedience to God and flexibility to what he had been taught, as well as to what his Jewish friends and leaders say. He’s willing to stand for what he believes, even in the face of confrontation with the other leaders.

Peter’s example can be a standard for many such issues where conflict arises amongst Believers and newbies to the Fold. We need to be willing to let God be the One in control.

4.    Righteous Non-religious People: Is it possible that people can worship God who have never been told about Him?

While God certainly does want His children to share their faith with those who have not heard, Cornelius’ story puts the point clearly… God is in control and will respond to prayer from someone whose heart is truly seeking God and not just His provisions. Many times in the New Testament we read of folks who have been worshipping God and then one of the Believers comes to teach them about the God they had been worshipping. God has put a “God-sized hole” in our hearts and only He can fill it. Sometimes folks sense that and go in search of the One to fill it. No matter what god is worshipped, only the One Who made us can fill that hole. It will remain empty until He is asked to fill it!

5.    Timing: Does obedience mean responding right away?

One thing I love about Cornelius’ story is the timing. God’s timing was perfect and the response of both Peter and Cornelius made the whole event move like clockwork. Once God had spoken to them, they responded immediately. No checking with a committee to take it under advisement. No asking for a few days to think about it. Both men responded right away… Cornelius in sending for Peter and Peter in accepting he would go with the men. The departure time being the next morning reflects more the distance they had to travel than resistance. Peter was ready to go and treated the men from Cornelius with respect. Hospitality was offered to them immediately.  One of my teachers used to say, “To obey slowly, is not to obey at all.”

6.    Can the God of the entire Universe really know where I am, and with whom, at any given moment?

Unequivocally, the answer is “Yes!” His watchful eyes are always upon His kids. God knew that Cornelius was praying in Caesarea that afternoon. God knew that Peter was not at home but had traveled to the seashore and was staying in the home of a tanner who lived by the shore. God knew that tanner was named Simon. God knew that Peter was also named Simon, and used both of these names when instructing Cornelius to go see Peter. He told Cornelius where he could find Peter. God knew Peter wouldn’t readily go with Gentile men to the home of a Gentile, so God gave Peter what he needed to know it was God’s will. God knew Peter was on the roof, praying, while his tummy waited for the meal being prepared. God brought the three men from Cornelius to the gate at exactly the right time as He had just told Peter to go with the men who were there knocking on the gate, looking for him.

God has the whole picture and knows all there is to know about us… AND, the most wonderful truth, knowing all of this, God still loves us with His God-sized loving arms and heart!

****If you meet a veteran this weekend, shake his or her hand and give a big “Thank you!” They’re all heroes to America!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cornelius, Peter, and the Holy Spirit, Conclusion

So, thus far in our story from Acts Chapter Ten, the new Gentile believers have been baptized in water, having first been baptized with the Holy Spirit when Peter was telling them about Jesus. What wonderful confusion that caused the Jewish Believers who had come with Peter to the home of Cornelius, a Gentile military leader. How can it be that the Gentiles have received what the Jewish God had given to them, His Chosen People? It was simply undeniable that God had not considered these folks who faithfully worshipped Him and generously gave to the poor, unclean gentiles. It was the most natural thing for Peter to baptize them with water and welcome them into the new Body of Believers, the Church.

In fact, everywhere the disciples went, following the dispersion caused by the persecution in Jerusalem, the Jewish Believers in Jesus found not only Jewish folks, but also Gentiles, interested in hearing the Gospel message. Word was spreading fast and the Church was growing daily.

Great rejoicing was going on in all of the fellowships, as the news of the Holy Spirit being given to the Gentiles reached them. This was true of the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem too, but there was one not-so-small glitch in their celebration. We read about it at the beginning of Acts Chapter Eleven:

Verses 1-3: The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”

So that’s what the problem was! The issue over circumcision and uncircumcision. God had commanded the Jewish people to have all of their male family members and servants circumcised and it as forbidden for them to associate with, or eat at the tables of, any men who were not circumcised. Okay, so Peter’s preaching had power and God used him mightily, but what about the law? He should never have been in that house in the first place. Couldn’t Peter have taken the men to a synagogue or something outside of the home of Cornelius? And, Peter actually ate with those Gentiles while he was there for those days! How could Peter do such a thing?

Well, Peter certainly understood their position; he had held such a position for his entire life. But, as he was eager to tell them, this was different. Not to do it would have been against God, though that made no sense at all to Peter any more than it would to his friends. Still, Peter wanted them to understand under what circumstances he had, indeed, done such things that caused them concern.

Verses 4-16: Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’

“I replied, ‘surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’

“The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.

 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’
“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’

No doubt those listening to Peter had been stunned by this first-hand account of such an extraordinary happening in a Gentile home. Peter’s conclusion really hit the bull’s eye of each man’s heart. It’s the bottom line of everything Peter said, as well as the rumors the others had heard.

Verse 17: “So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”

At last, the others got it!

Verse 18: When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Bottom line… God makes the rules! If God sees that a Gentile has his heart committed to Almighty God, God will respond and draw near to Him… Jewish or not, such a one will receive from God just as the Jewish, Chosen People, do.

Later on in Acts, we see the issue over circumcision is not finished. As other Gentile men have been welcomed into the Body of Believers in Jesus, some of those of the Jewish faith are calling for the new believers to be circumcised. You might have guessed just which group was the most outspoken, the Pharisees who had made a decision to believe in Jesus! Just as they had been the strict enforcers of the law and resisted the Gospel message the hardest, now they resisted the truth of being saved by grace and not works. They insisted that the new Believers must be circumcised before they can be saved, though God never said that. Circumcision had to do with a specific Covenant God had with the Jewish People, not the salvation Jesus brought by His life and death on a cross. The Pharisees just couldn’t get that and demanded the Believers undergo circumcision.

Acts Chapter Fifteen, Verses 5-11: Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the Law of Moses.”

The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

Then Paul and Barnabas stood up to give testimony to what they had seen on their journey as they shared the Gospel message with the Gentiles.

Verse 12: The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.

Next James took the floor, finishing off the discussion with a possible solution. The Lord had given Ten Commandments and the law of the Jewish People had added another six hundred to that. So, which of those many laws should they expect the new Gentile Believers to follow? James had an idea. Circumcision was not necessary as God had planned for the Gentiles to be grafted in all along but wanted the brothers to consider his suggestion.

Verses 13-19: When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. Simon
(Peter) has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:

“‘After this I will return
    and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild,
    and I will restore it,
that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
    even all the Gentiles who bear my name,
says the Lord, who does these things’— things known from long ago.

It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.

James was having mercy and showing his compassion on the new Believers. He did have a few things he believed that God would have them conform to from the Jewish laws. Probably one of the greatest miracles was that all of the Jewish men agreed!

The Church sent out a delegation with a letter from the leaders. The letter would be read in every fellowship and there would be no longer an issue of circumcision or any other law from the Jewish faith, except those listed in the letter.
Here is the letter that the men delivered to the Churches outside of Jerusalem:

Verses 23-29: The apostles and elders, your brothers,
To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:

We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said.  So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.

Okay, issue settled! Gentile Believers were accepted among the Jewish fellowships all over the area. Of course, other conflicts would arise, as we are so like that as humans, aren’t we? But, the main thing is this: God did not exclude anyone who wanted to surrender their lives to Him from being able to do so, regardless of national or religious birthright. People from every nation, from every walk of life, from every generation for all time may receive the wonderful salvation that comes only through Jesus and the powerful Gift of the Holy Spirit to strengthen and direct
as the Holy Spirit teaches us to follow God’s Word.

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