Simon

 

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“God is still speaking. Today I will be quiet and listen. Whether through the Bible, others with whom I share my faith journey, or the world around me, God is still speaking to me. I want to be sure to listen.”

A recent posting from one of my Facebook friends.

 

The last time I saw him would have been about 5 or 6 years ago. A good man—a gentle giant. He was our personal handyman, so to speak. He grew up in the home of a skilled woodworker who had his own carpentry/cabinetry business. Simon learned his father’s trade at an early age—and he became a gifted, meticulous craftsman.

We hired Simon to rebuild our kitchen, to remove tiles and refinish our floors with hardwood, to add custom crown molding throughout our house. He became like family and even brought his young son Sebastian with him to our home. Sebastian would sit quietly and play with his toy cars and planes as his father worked. He was just 3 years old then, smart, articulate, precious.

But then we lost contact with Simon. We sold our home and moved to another city.

About 3 years ago, Ron and I decided to make some cosmetic changes to the inside of the new home we were building. And we tried to get in touch with Simon. We called his cell phone but his number had been disconnected.

We called the only other person we knew who also knew Simon and asked how we could reach him. The response we got was “Simon is not reachable.” It was a mystery. And we worried that Simon might be ill—or something worse.

Then a remarkable thing happened about a month ago. We had dinner at the home of one of our former neighbors who lived next door to us. We stepped outside into their yard and met the couple who now lives in our previous home. They invited us to come and look inside.

As we walked from room to room, they stopped in the kitchen and showed us a problem with their cabinets. A guest had accidentally damaged the wood on several of the doors and the new owners asked if we could help them find the cabinetmaker to do the repairs.

So I tried once more to locate Simon. This time I googled his name—and discovered that he was incarcerated.

I was shocked and deeply troubled. This shy, gentle man was now in prison. I couldn’t stop thinking about him, his wife and his son Sebastian who would now be about eight years old. How does an eight-year-old boy deal with having a father who is in prison? How can his wife be coping? What must Simon be going through?

Call it a prompting, a nudge, a whisper, like my Facebook friend who posted the message at the beginning of this blog, I believe that God does speak to us, to me—sometimes in the form of nudging or prompting, and yes, sometimes in the events and circumstances that are placed before us.

This past week, I was tidying up the church sanctuary—going through the pews, replenishing offering envelopes and prayer request cards. About half way through the rows, I felt a nudging to fill out a prayer request card for Simon.

I stopped what I was doing, pulled out a card and pen and wrote, “Prayers for Simon who is in prison.” I carried the card with me until I finished my work in the sanctuary, then left the card in the hands of our pastor as he greeted me in the office.

Last night, in an email to the Prayer Warriors team in our church, I saw my prayer request for Simon, modified to read “Pray for Simon, a prison inmate who needs to stay strong.” God’s touch, I am absolutely certain!

Today, I was nudged once more to write this blog and ask for my readers’ prayers as well.

“Remember those in prison as if you were together (in prison) with them…”  Hebrews 13:3

Please pray for Simon today as though you were there in prison with him.  Pray for him to stay strong.

There is power in the prayers of the Faithful.

 

 

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The Lady Across the Hall

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I just got home a couple of days ago from a 4-day stay in the hospital—a surprise attack of diverticulitis. I didn’t see it coming—and I had no idea, until now, how serious diverticulitis disease can be. I’m grateful we caught it early and that serious dosages of antibiotics are resolving the issue.

I must admit there were times during the 4 days in the hospital that I was worried—anxious even. And I failed to do the one thing I do routinely several times each day—turn to the Lord in prayer. I’d start a prayer, but just couldn’t finish or follow through.

One night, the lady across the hall from me was having a very difficult time. She had come into the hospital that day from a nursing home—alone, afraid, confused, and needing a lot of attention.

The nursing staff did their best to address her issues, but honestly, with all the running to and from her room throughout the night, they began to grow weary.

It was difficult for me to sleep with all the ruckus and it would have been easy to become frustrated or annoyed by the disruptions, but I felt for the woman. I thought about my own 91-year-old mother. What if she were in trouble, alone, confused, and frightened—and in a hospital.

And I began to pray in a way I wasn’t able to for the past two days. I prayed for this woman who needed comfort and help.

Routinely, in the morning, when the staff’s shift is over, the evening nurse comes by to introduce the next nurse who will be taking his or her place for the day.

Well, the next morning, there were two nurses instead of one assigned to our unit—with one nurse dedicated to the woman across the hall. I could hear this kind, experienced nurse talking to the elderly woman. She had obviously been trained to work with the elderly and/or difficult patients. Her presence, concern, kindness and patience had a calming effect on the distraught older woman.

I wept. Because I was touched by what the hospital and the Lord had done for her.

I quickly turned in prayer to the Lord and thanked Him for sending someone to comfort this dear lady. And I was reminded once again of His Great Love and Boundless Compassion. Do I believe in the power of prayer?  Absolutely!  And it was my blessing to see His Hand at work.

Jackie Evans, AOG

 

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Our paths have crossed several times over the past 12 months—first on a trip to Israel where we were tablemates at breakfast. Six months later, we were both in a women’s bible study group—and in the last four weeks, part of a study group between church services.

Her insights are inspirational and her amazing Faith shows in her demeanor, presence, and deep commitment to the Lord.

A couple of days ago, we had a conversation. I caught up with Jackie after one of our classes just to tell her how touched I was by something she had shared. One thing led to another, and then she told this story.

“I’m sure you’ve noticed the tendency for some professions to add initials to their names—initials that identify their credentials. Susan Fields, MSN, for example. Or, William Brown, CFP. Well, I’ve made the decision to identify myself from now on as Jackie Evans, AOG.”

I smiled, but must have looked confused. “AOG, you know—Agent of God,” Jackie explained.

I liked the concept and thought about it for the next several days. And the more I thought about it, the more I savored the idea. Agent of God—on a mission; available at a moment’s notice to become God’s instrument.

Then on Sunday, I met up with Jackie and asked her to elaborate.

“I first learned about the Agent of God concept in a Lenten study at church,” she said. “I liked the idea right away. So much so that I found myself repeating the phrase over and over. I playfully applied the title to the end of my name. But as I continued to think about it, the idea became more serious. In fact, it was a defining moment.

“I realized Jesus was an Agent—on assignment; faithful in His mission. As His follower, I’m called to be an Agent, too—available at any time to be mobilized in mission.

“We never know what God will set before us,” Jackie continued, “but one thing is for sure. If you’re a follower, He will use you for His purpose.

“It may be something big—like a mission trip to a foreign country; or it may be something local, like volunteering to work with a group that serves young wives of men in prison. Some days it may even be something as simple as holding the door for an elderly woman struggling with her walker.

“God works through the lives of ordinary people like me,” Jackie clarified. “He uses His Agents to demonstrate His love and forgiveness through the sharing of love and forgiveness with others.”

Jackie boldly admits this is her new role in life—her purpose. She believes it’s why she’s here.

Her final words to me that Sunday, “I often feel like I’m more of an AIT, Agent-In-Training, than a seasoned Agent of God. At life’s end, I just hope to be worthy of either title.“

 

 

Mark 12:30-31 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second (commandment) is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Galatians 6:10  “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people.”

John 15:12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

Crossroads

The IntersectionA terrible tragedy occurred on Saturday morning in Stillwater, Oklahoma.   A car plunged into the Oklahoma State University Homecoming Parade crowd killing four people—including a 2-year-old boy—a child the age of my little granddaughter. Another 47 people were injured, several in critical condition.

It’s understandable that we are angry with the 25-year-old woman who has been identified as the one responsible. Many consider her to be a monster. I myself was angry at her, asking how she could do such a horrible thing, hurting so many innocent people.

But then God reached out and touched my heart—and I remembered. How could I, of all people, not feel compassion for this woman.

Most of my friends will be surprised to read what I’m about to tell you. Only my family and a handful of others are aware of this difficult chapter in my life story.

~~~

Six years ago this past September, I made a left turn at a green light at a busy intersection. I turned—and never saw the motorcycle that was heading toward me from the opposite direction. It all happened very quickly. I remember seeing him only at the very last minute.

That’s all that I remember. The next thing I know, I woke up inside a smoke-filled car with airbags deployed and shattered.

As a result of a split-second decision, my life has never been nor will it ever be the same again. The motorcyclist didn’t make it. I wasn’t drinking; I wasn’t texting; I wasn’t on drugs; I wasn’t speeding; I wasn’t on my cell phone. I simply made a left turn and didn’t see the motorcycle.

I’d like to say I can’t imagine what the driver in Oklahoma is thinking or going through at this moment—but unfortunately, I can. No matter what the rest of us might think of her, she is numb, in shock, feeling desperate, hopeless, full of fear and unbearable anxiety. And she’s just beginning her terrible journey—and I can tell you it gets worse before it ever might get better.

Please understand. I am in no way condoning or excusing this woman’s behavior—whether she was under the influence of alcohol or drugs or mentally unstable. We are after
all, all accountable for our actions. I’m just saying that we’ve been told not to judge or condemn, to love our neighbor, and to forgive others. God offers redemption to even those who seem most unlovable.

So I would ask each of you: Pray for the families of those who lost their loved ones. Pray for the families and the victims who are critically injured and recovering. Pray for all who were touched by this horrific incident.

But also pray for this woman who has to be, inside herself, hurting, too. I know I feel compelled to do so. I hope that you do, too.

 ~~~

In the end, my traumatic journey turned out to be a blessing. The Lord called me, said he loved me, forgave me for this and all my past and future sins, and asked me to follow him. And I said “yes.”

I wish this for everyone who has their own unique walk as they journey through their time on this planet. My family, my friends, all of those affected by these terrible events in Stillwater, Oklahoma—and yes, also for the woman who is responsible.

Be Strong and Courageous

My mother.

My mother at home in Florida.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid . . . for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”    Deuteronomy 31:6   New International Version (NIV)

 

It’s been four months since I’ve written anything on my WordPress blog. I last wrote as I was getting ready to head for Israel. I was consumed with all my plans and responsibilities—things I needed to get done before I traveled.

Of all the “things” I needed to do, the one that concerned me most was making sure my mother was not alone while her 92-year-old husband, Bob, traveled to New Zealand on vacation with his son—his trip scheduled at the same time I would be in Israel.

I “knew” in my heart it was critical that she be with family in Bob’s absence—and things weren’t working out.  My brother couldn’t get away and Ron graciously offered to bring my mother to Florida.  Still I “knew” that either Dan or I needed to be there also.

Well at the last minute things did all come together—Dan’s business suddenly had a lull and he could be in Florida after all.  And I could head to Israel.

Weeks later, my mother, my brother and I all agreed—it was God at work making sure my mother was not alone, but in Florida with my brother, when the news reached her that her husband, Bob, had passed away while in New Zealand.

When I returned from Israel, we flew back to Minneapolis to begin the work of going through belongings, cleaning out the house, searching through papers, preparing the home for sale, meeting with accountants and lawyers, working with social security—while at the same time always grieving. My mother and Bob had been married nearly 30 years.

The challenges were overwhelming—mold remediation and house foundation issues—all invisible to the eye until we began the process of moving built-in bookcases. At times the challenges were more than a normal 90-year-old could possibly bear.

Now, four months later, things are coming together. The house has been sold, all repairs completed, and my mother has moved to Florida into a wonderful caring community. Almost all of the issues surrounding her husband’s death have been resolved.

Yesterday was a big day for my mother, and last night I Facebook private-messaged her:

“Sleep extraordinarily well tonight! You have had a very good day. God continues to bless you! If you feel up to it, tell him thanks tonight before you go to bed. Love you very very much.”

This was her answer:

“I have thanked him for the positive things and asked for strength to take the knocks. See you in the morning. I love you very much, too.”

Thank you, Father, for this and all your blessings.

On This Valentine’s Day, Remember Your First Love

Several of my friends and I are getting ready for our trip to Israel in a couple of weeks—and we’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the things we need to do. Make sure all of our bills are paid in advance, shop and pack, make arrangements for our pets, make sure our parents (most of us are in our sixties) are well-cared for in our absence. In the midst of all this angst, I found comfort this morning in a message from Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Today:

         “This world you inhabit is increasingly complex and confusing. You have more    information at your fingertips than you can process in a lifetime. There are so many demands on you—from the world, the church, other people, yourself. As a result, it’s easy to feel lost and perplexed. To find Peace in this chaotic clutter, you need to set priorities….

      It is crucial to make your relationship with Me the top priority….Other priorities fall into their proper place when I am first and foremost in your life.”

Thank you, Sarah, for reminding me that my first priority and my first love is my Savior and my God. When I know this, all of my other priorities fall into their proper place. Happy Valentine’s Day to all my friends and family, whom I love and cherish. May your day be clutter-free and filled with peace.

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”

 Matthew 22:37-38

Out of the Mouths of Babes—A Christmas Message

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My 3-year-old grandson and I had a conversation a couple of days ago.

He’s learning his family history. His mommy’s mommy and his mommy’s daddy, and his daddy’s mommy and his daddy’s daddy. We live in a complicated world—and his world is complicated with multiple blended families.

My grandson has Papa Ron and Nana (that’s me), Cuckoo (his other grandmother), Papop (his grandfather on his mommy’s side), his Grandpa Gavin (his grandfather on his daddy’s side) and Grandma Penny (Gavin’s wife).

Our conversation went like this:

My grandson said, “Cuckoo is Mommy’s mommy. Papop is my mommy’s daddy. Grandpa Gavin is my daddy’s daddy. And Grandma Penny is my daddy’s mommy.”

I said, “You did a really good job. But—who am I?”

“You’re my Nana,” he said.

“Yes, I’m Nana, but I’m also your daddy’s mommy.”

“No,” he said, “Grandma Penny is daddy’s mommy.” I asked, “Why do you think Grandma Penny is daddy’s mommy?”

“Because she loves daddy,” he said.

To which I replied, “But I love daddy, too.”

He looked at me with the saddest eyes and mournful voice and said, “But you said you love ME.”

“I DO love you,” I said, “but I love your daddy, too.”

“Oh,” he said with a smile, “then Daddy can have two mommies.” Then he gave me a big hug and the conversation was over.

This morning, as I was recalling our sweet discourse, I thought about the following:

We are all loved deeply and equally by Our Heavenly Father.   And as we celebrate Christmas, may we remember and rejoice in this:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

–John 3:16

He loves not just me, not just you…but all the world. And He sent His only son into this world to save us. This is why we celebrate Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all—and may God bless you this holiday season and throughout the new year!

Lillian

I lost one of the hospice patients I regularly visit this morning, and I am deeply saddened.

DSC02120Saddened because I will miss her, even though we never had a real conversation. There were no long, or even brief, talks between the two of us. Our visits were always one-sided. I talked; she listened. And that’s the way it has been every Saturday since August.

I had come to the nursing home this morning armed with a freshly downloaded reading of the book of John on my iphone to share with Lillian. I eagerly stepped into her room and found her physically present—but, sadly, gone.

As I turned to go for help, a nurse and coroner with his gurney quietly entered the room. They told me Lillian had passed about an hour before I arrived.

Over the past three months, I read numerous Bible passages to her, prayed over her, and listened to some of my favorite hymns with her.

Like I said, we never had a chance to engage in a formal conversation. But I could tell when she enjoyed a particular song. And I could see by her physical movements or her facial expressions that she was listening to my words.

I heard something beautiful in a hospice meeting earlier this week. One woman in training said, “I like to tell the family at the passing of their loved one, that their last breath on earth, is their first breath in Heaven.” Then she said, “Death is nothing to be afraid of.”

I pray my loved ones at death will pass over into eternity to be with our Heavenly Father. I want that for Lillian. I want that for my friends. And I want that basically for everyone!

So while today is a sad day, it’s also a day for rejoicing.

For “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”

John 5:24

Rest now in peace, dear Lillian.

Nothing on My Tongue But Hallelujah

From the Hallelujah song by the Canadian Tenors

 
Several weeks ago, I had an 11th Hour with a hospice patient. For those of you not familiar with this term, it means the patient is, in the opinion of medical staff, in their final hours.

I spent several hours with the patient, Lillian (a fictitious name), over a 2-day period. On the morning of the 3rd day when I arrived at the nursing home, I expected to find that Lillian was gone, but by the Grace of God she was alive.

The nurses told me Lillian had miraculously recovered. I stopped by her room briefly to check in on her, then said I’d be back later in the week.

When I arrived at the nursing home the following Saturday, I found Lillian in her usual state—sleeping and nonresponsive. I sat down and started to talk to her. I talked about my mother (both Lillian and my mother are close to the same age), what it must have been like growing up in the Great Depression, being a teenager during WWII. I even played a couple of songs from the 1930s-1940s.

As I was getting ready to leave, I remembered a beautiful, contemporary song that I had just downloaded on my cell phone—the Hallelujah song by the Canadian Tenors.

They tell us in hospice that patients, even when they are nonresponsive, can hear you. Family, friends, and volunteers are encouraged to talk to hospice patients. I love playing music to those I visit.

So I decided to play this song for Lillian before departing. And here’s the amazing thing that happened. Sitting by her bedside, I witnessed a miracle. About 4 and 1/2 minutes into the 5-minute song, Lillian, who never moves or speaks, sat straight up, eyes closed, and began to silently mouth the words “Hallelujah” along with the Tenors as they sang their final chorus.

Startled, surprised, awed, amazed—I can’t really find the right word that precisely describes my thoughts, my feelings, my reaction at that moment. But I can find the words to describe what I think happened that afternoon to Lillian: I believe she was touched by the Holy Spirit. And for that, I say, “Hallelujah!”

 

If you’d like to hear the Hallelujah song, here’s a link to the Canadian Tenors. I chose this version because you can see the lyrics.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8UELF3IATw

A Tiny Seed

I listened to a sermon the other day in which a minister said we should share our personal experiences of mighty acts (things that happen to us that we believe are the work or Hand of God). A few days ago, I ran across this photo and it reminded me of an experience I had on a business trip to India. One that I think was a Hand-of-God experience. But first let me take you back a few years into my past.

Like so many others, from the time I left high school throughout my working career, I put the Faith I was taught as a child pretty much on hold. A kind way of saying my life was busy with things I thought were more important.  But God, ever patient, never abandoned or gave up on me.

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Missionary Home in New Delhi, India

I was blessed with the opportunity to travel overseas with my work–to Europe, India, and multiple trips to China.  Whenever I traveled to third world countries, I always took gifts for the children. This was true of the trip to India with two of my working colleagues. We arrived in India with stuffed animals, coloring books, watches, toy cars, books, etc.

When we had finished all of our business, we hired a driver to take us to an orphanage where we could leave our gifts.  We arrived at a compound inside the walls of a New Delhi inner city location.  Unbeknownst to us, there had been a communication glitch, or maybe the driver just got lost, but we never made it to the orphanage like we expected.

Instead, we stopped at a Missionary Home full of people terminally ill with tuberculosis and other diseases.  We walked through the open-air buildings with men, women, and children all sick in their beds and volunteers hard at work watching over them.

Not quite sure of where we were or what we had just experienced, we thanked the sister who walked us through the facility, left the toys for the children, and donated the small amount of money we could find on the three of us.  We had also brought along little bars of soap, shampoo, plastic combs, toothpaste and toothbrushes that we had collected from the hotels we stayed in along our journey.  And we left those, too. We never saw the sign posted at the gate (pictured) until our departure.

The next day we left the country.

For years, I felt the trip to India had been a mistake and a disaster. But then five years ago something happened in my life that returned me to my Faith. I’m a new and totally different person. Now I look back and view this trip to India and the stop at the Home for Dying Destitutes as a blessing–a Hand-of-God experience.  Of course, at the time of our journey, I didn’t see it.

Even though I was, at that time, out of fellowship, somewhere in the middle of New Delhi, God planted a tiny seed in my heart that began to slowly germinate and grow. For years, I’ve felt the nudge to help children and the elderly–those who are most vulnerable.  Well, three weeks ago, I finally listened to the voice of the Holy Spirit and began volunteering inside a nursing home for hospice.

Yesterday was my first 11th Hour experience sitting with an elderly woman alone in this world as she passes on to the next one. What a privilege and blessing it was to spend that hallowed time with her.

A tiny seed starting to grow? I truly believe so.