The Lord Jesus Christ has blessed me abundantly with his spirit, guidance, and insight. I present this as a fervent plea to take stalk and to consider your relationship with God. May all the glory be given to the Heavenly Father, Holy One of Israel, and the Holy Ghost.
I am now approaching sixty years of age and it has not always been a smooth journey. My idealism has long since faded, but a depth of understanding that only experience can give has replaced it. Please lend an ear that I might share what little wisdom I have gleaned. I offer my testimony with love and a hope that you might seek your own witness or might share your testimony of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
There is a Heavenly Father, but most of my experiences have been with Jesus Christ, His Only Begotten Son. Biblically in 1 Corinthians 8:6 it says, “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, as we by him.” These are truths whether we believe them or not does not change the fact. However, whether we believe them and what we do about them does have an impact on our eternal salvation.
I was raised in a Christian home where we attended church on Sunday and prayer service on Wednesday evening. I thought everybody knew that there was a God and that everybody believed in the Bible. Before I was even six years old I had experienced the power and presence of God. I first became aware of him during prayer services. People would take turns sharing prayers or testimonies and they would make it known that they wished to share by standing up. Around the age of five years old I experienced a power that literally lifted me out of my chair urging me to share in a prayer service. I thought that everybody felt that same power and that was why he or she stood up. I observed that people sometimes cried, but they were sharing sad or very happy things. I understood this as their emotional response to God. To me as a child the presence of God was simply a power, a force that I knew was stronger than was made known to me, just as I knew that my father could spank me harder than he did.
I was taught to pray to God especially over the food and evening prayers. I am sorry to say that these became rather perfunctory. But I knew that God existed and when I was really in need, I turned to him with all the hope and faith that a child could muster. For example, my grandmother told me that if anybody lost something and was very concerned about finding it, I immediately said let’s ask Jesus and it was usually found. I don’t remember God telling me, but I do remember knowing where it was located all of a sudden. I didn’t think that this was unusual because my Sunday school teacher and parents said that God answers prayer. It wasn’t always me who would find the lost object either; it was sometimes another family member. The point is, God was part of my every day life and I thought that this was normal.
At this time I could hardly wait until I turned eight years old so that I could be baptized. Our faith required this age before one could choose to be baptized. Jesus was so important to me that I wanted very much to enter into a covenant relationship with Him, to serve Him all my life, and to have His spirit to be with me. I had grown used to His loving, secure presence. He was always there when I was scared, hurt, or angry. He comforted me whenever I turned to Him. I had talked about being baptized since I was four years old and when my baptism was scheduled for a week after I turned eight instead of on the very day, I was not very happy.
On the morning of my baptism, a chilly Sunday in November, I was so excited that I went outside and rode my bicycle round and round. I thanked God and my heart sang praises to Him, although I wasn’t mature enough to express my praise in words, my joy was full. The event itself was not of particular note. I remember that my mom had curled the top of my hair and it felt like a pillow when the ministers laid their hands on my head. However, I continued to feel elated for many days, because I was finally a member of God’s church.
During these early years, my awareness of the spirit of God strengthened. When the people were humble, following the Lord’s commandments, and seeking Him, He would bless the group with His spirit and, sometimes, with a message through one of his servants. Everybody present knew that these messages were of God, because the Holy Ghost bore record of it in power. My father was one of these men. It made a tremendous impression on me, to see my father speaking under the influence of the spirit. Once one has been a part of this kind of fellowship and worship, one doesn’t forget it, and it sets a standard to which one seeks.
My childhood was not always idyllic and without problems. My mother died of cancer when I was ten years old, leaving my father with five children, all younger than me, except one. I didn’t ask God to heal my mother, because I accepted that it was God’s will that she die. I have never been angry with God, because he took her, but there were many times that I wished that she had not died.
A man from our church came to our home, sitting the three older children down, and told us that our mother was very sick, and would have to have an operation. When he said this, we cried. I knew that she was going to die. You might say that this was a child’s extreme reaction to an unknown event, but I felt the love of God come over me, in such an intimate way, as if God himself was telling me, with great compassion, that my mother was going to die. I accepted this as His will.
I had never felt God in that way before, an all-encompassing awareness of Him. There was no doubt in my mind that it was God, because it was a power, a presence, and it was a kind of love that I had never experienced before. In my mind, He could have healed her, He didn’t; therefore, it was His will to take her to Him. We don’t understand God’s ways and purposes, but we must learn to trust Him, for He loves us and knows what is best from an eternal perspective. I believe her death had a purpose.
Years later, as a young adult, my grandmother shared something that further testifies of God’s involvement in this. It was a letter written, by my mother in June 1960, when she was over eight months pregnant with my brother. She had given the letter to her mother, to give to her children when they grew up. First, I am going to share some background information, before I tell you about the letter.
My parents were married several years before they had children, although for two of those years my father was gone serving in the Korean War. During that time they were very active with their church. My father was the pastor and my mother shared musically singing, and playing the piano and violin. My mother desperately wanted a baby, but could not conceive. She had seen medical specialists for help to become pregnant and my parents prayed earnestly for a child. At the age of eighteen, my mother was given the chance to train vocally in Switzerland. It was to be financed by some people from New York, who flew to hear her and thought she could be one of the best singers in the world. Instead, she married and sang in a small community in Iowa. I share this to give a better understanding of how important family was to my mother.
Here is a relevant exert from my father’s testimony, that he wrote shortly before he died. “One Sunday morning, a very unusual thing happened. I was getting breakfast and there was a knock at the back door. A man was there and he asked me if he could have something to eat. I said certainly and invited him to come in. I asked him if eggs, bacon, and toast were okay, and he said yes, and then sat down at the table. Now Chariton was a town of only five thousand, I worked in the town grocery store, and I had never seen this man before. He appeared to be no more than early forties, but could have been younger. He had sandy colored hair and a beard. We didn’t talk much while we ate. He thanked me and left. I ran to the front door and out on the porch to see what direction he was going, but he was nowhere in sight. I could see a long ways in all directions, and he had disappeared.
Many years I wondered who this man was, and why he visited me. I sensed that he was no ordinary man. My daughter, Yvonne, who has been given many spiritual gifts—even the gifts of faith, prophecy, discernment and knowledge—had an experience recently that finally answered this question. Let me say first, that just because Yvonne has these gifts, she can only use them because of her many years of dedicated preparation, and this is true for all who desire to serve the Lord in spiritual things. Furthermore, the prophet Joel said, as recorded in Acts 2:17-18, ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.’ So it is time for us to prepare to use these gifts, and to learn to receive them from our brothers and sisters.
During Yvonne’s experience, she was also getting breakfast, as was I many years ago, and suddenly a spiritual man entered the room. She instantly knew that it was the same man who had visited me. He then spoke to her mind and confirmed that he was the same man, and that he was John the Beloved. Yvonne turned to face him and thought, ‘Why did you visit my father and why are you here?’ He said, again in her mind, that he had come to open her mother’s womb so that children could be born, that the adversary sought to keep it closed.
Yvonne then came downstairs to me, and, after we finished eating breakfast, she shared this encounter with me. The Spirit bore witness to me of the truth of what she shared. During the next day I reflected on this, I am overwhelmed to think that one of Christ’s twelve Apostles came to our home. What a wonderful experience, what a wonderful blessing. As I considered it further, I realized that John the Beloved came to our home in Chariton, Iowa during the late summer of 1956. Beverly and I had been married six years and she was unable to get pregnant. We had prayed often about having children, both of us wanted them, and, soon after this visit, Beverly conceived our first child, which was born almost seven years to the day after we married.”
Great was my parent’s joy with my mother’s pregnancy, but their new daughter was a blue baby. She had a hole in her heart. When the doctors said that the baby would be dead by morning, my parents turned to God. They prayed fervently, even calling many in their small community to stay up and pray with them. By morning, the situation had changed, the hole was gone and my sister is still alive today. My family believes that God answers prayer, and He answered that one in a very miraculous way. Medical science could not explain what had happened.
Now back to the letter, in it my mother shared a sequence of experiences that she had with God, over a week period. She was at a church camp and was pregnant with her third child. The morning adult class was about the sacrifice that the Father made in giving His Only Begotten Son to save the world. Every night she had a vivid dream about a soldier grabbing a baby from her arms and stabbing it with his bayonet. She awoke very upset, sensing that there was more to this dream than others. She thought something may be wrong with the child she carried, but was unsure. This was her third pregnancy and never before had she had such a dream.
On the last night of the camp, after she again awoke from the dream, which had occurred twice already that night, she decided to take a walk. As she walked, fearing that something was wrong with the baby, she prayed to God. An angel appeared and said that the Father wants to know if she could give up her child, as He had done. She didn’t answer. The angel came back two more times, and asked the same question. After the third time, sobbing, my mother said that she could, if this was God’s will. Upon returning from the camp, she typed out this letter to her children, explaining these events. She ended the letter by saying, that she thought that one of the children would die. But, in case she was mistaken and she died instead, she wanted us to know that she had a choice.
Ten years after this my mother, who was still in her thirties, died from brain cancer. It was discovered when she was pregnant with her last child. They wanted to abort the baby to try and save her life, but she would not have it. I vividly remember her laying in bed, steadily kicking the wall to help deal with the pain from the extreme pressure in her head. She would not take any medicine, in case it might harm the baby. After the child was born, normal and healthy, they removed a tumor the size of two fists. My mother died nine months, to the day, after the baby was born, leaving five children. Clearly, the type of the early church comes to mind, where many, many, many died horrific deaths so that Jesus’ offspring might live on.
My family was blessed, because our mother followed the urging of God’s spirit to write the letter. This has been a strong testimony in my life of God’s love, His desire to provide comfort, and how He allows us choice, even though we don’t always understand what we are choosing. Ten years after my mother’s death, at the age of twenty, the letter was given to me by my grandmother. Until I opened the letter, nobody in the family knew about her experiences. My grandmother had forgotten about the letter, but came upon it at the right time, and we were amazed, given what had transpired the past twenty years.
God works in mysterious ways. Yet, I now understand that to become part of Christ’s bride, we must learn to sacrifice. My mother sacrificed, that which she desired the most, her children; and, by so doing, she showed that her love for God was greater than anything else. Her actions set the bar high and she is a constant inspiration to me.