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.”

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Arise!

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Ron and I were recently in Orlando where he had a doctor’s appointment (follow-up to a previous surgery), several fun meals out—and of course, at least one day trekking around Disney.

It may seem an unusual time to do some serious reading, but I brought along the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan—a book highly recommended by my college roommate.

I must say I was powerfully affected by its message. I was particularly touched by the chapter on the profile of a lukewarm believer. Followed by the chapter describing what it means to be in love—that is, in love with God.

Basically Chan is saying, loving God, following Jesus, is not a lukewarm, halfway proposition. You’re either in it all the way—or you’re not. Jesus asks for everything—but too often we try to get by with giving Him less.

I know my life is very different since I decided to follow Jesus. I’m still a work in progress, but I’m on this journey for the long run. I want to give Him my all—and my very best.

Well, the afternoon I finished the book, I closed my eyes and thought about Chan’s message. Later when I opened my eyes, the first thing I saw was the butterfly picture posted with this blog—and the word “arise” immediately came to mind.

While I had a pretty good idea what the word “arise” meant, I googled it’s meaning just the same. And here’s what I found: to awaken, to move, to come into being. Exactly the words I would use to describe the feeling I had just experienced.

Now I had “seen” this same picture for 3 days above our hotel living-room sofa. But at this moment, I saw the image in a completely different manner. I felt my strength and resolve renewed; eager to move forward. I prayed that God would strengthen and use me to serve His purpose, however and whatever that might be, another theme of Chan’s insightful book.

I would highly recommend the book Crazy Love to anyone interested. As Francis Chan wrote in his foreword, “I hope reading this book will convince you of something: that by surrendering yourself totally to God’s purposes, He will bring you the most pleasure in this life and the next. I hope it affirms your desire for “more God” (in your life).”

God’s love and amazing grace is for everyone! No one who seeks Him will ever be turned away.

 

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.

 

 

 

The Power of Prayer

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Mark 11:24 (NIV)

For months I’ve been searching for an answer to a consistent nagging question. What is it that God is calling me to do? Not that I’m lost or searching for something that seems to be missing. On the contrary, I’m quite happy and very busy enjoying my retirement. My Faith is strong and I’m a work in progress. However, I must admit I sometimes angst over how He wants me to serve.  I wonder, does it have to be large, a difficult choice, or a life-changing event?

Well, on a recent 2-week vacation to Aruba, I discovered something important.

Let me begin with a story. About midway through our trip, I experienced something that dramatically changed my thinking. One evening as I was sitting in the lobby waiting for Ron and his sons to come down for dinner, I noticed the 30 or so people who had just arrived at the hotel standing in line to finish check-in.

At the same time, I was watching a little 2-year-old boy (who reminded me of my soon-to-be 3-year-old grandson). One moment the boy was laughing and playing, the next he was screaming in pain. His father who had just finished checking in and was in line to secure his luggage came running. I could see the panic in his face and that of the boy’s mother, too, as they struggled to comfort their terrified child.

I watched, my eyes tearing over, as I considered how my own son and daughter-in-law would have felt if my grandson were the one experiencing this awful moment. My heart was breaking for this young couple and their injured toddler. Within minutes, the father called for help and an emergency worker arrived to examine the boy. He quickly sent the parents off with their child to the hospital. I felt a deep sadness and helplessness–until something inside me said, “Pray for them.” And I did. I prayed for the little boy, the doctor and staff at the hospital who would soon help them, and for the upset parents.

About 3 hours later that evening I went down to the lobby once again to pick up some milk in the marketplace gift shop. There I saw the parents and the toddler who had just returned from the hospital. The little boy was happily playing and showing no signs of having had any earlier issue. I approached the parents and said, “I am so glad to see that your little boy is okay. I saw what happened in the lobby earlier and my heart went out to both of you. I have a grandson about the same age and I know how terrified my own son and daughter-in-law would have been under the same circumstances.”

I then mentioned to the mother and father that I had said a prayer for them and for their son.

They thanked me and said their son had had a dislocated ligament and the doctor just pulled the arm and the ligament snapped right back into place where it belonged. And everything was fine–just like that.

I left the gift shop feeling wonderful. Then I realized why. We don’t always have to be involved in big, life-changing events to do God’s work. A simple prayer of compassion for someone in need can make a difference.

Please understand, I’m not implying that my prayer made this young boy better–although I do believe the prayers of a believer can contribute to a miracle. What I’m saying is that I now know that prayer for others can be a way of serving, too. And I’m at peace with that!

The Man in the Middle

Ron and I were headed to his 48th Vietnam Veterans Reunion a couple of weeks ago. We had boarded the flight early and were seated across from each other watching as the other flyers headed down the cabin searching for their seats. I noticed a woman coming down the aisle, disheveled, confused, and kind of obnoxious. It wasn’t very Christian of me, but I found myself saying beneath my breath, “Please don’t let her sit next to me!”

Well God has a way of reminding us what it is He expects of us.  She stopped at my row and said, “I’m supposed to be in here.” I took a deep breath, stepped into the aisle, and let her in. She had a really hard time getting to her seat and then getting settled, and I realized 1) this was probably her first flight, 2) she should have had somebody flying with her to help her, and 3) she was struggling emotionally or mentally, I’m not sure which. I thought about my judgmental behavior—knowing this was exactly the kind of person Jesus would have embraced with loving arms and tender patience, and I was ashamed of myself.

A couple of minutes later a burly-type 50+ year old man stopped at our row, looked rather sadly at the open middle seat and said, “I guess that’s where I go.” He sat down, looked at the distressed woman in the window seat next to him, turned to me and said, “This is going to be a LONG  flight.”

Indeed, the woman next to the window had a hard time staying seated and throughout the flight she would suddenly jump up, climb over us, and wander about the plane.  The flight attendants (who were extraordinarily patient with her) had to calm her and tell her to sit down several times. The man in the middle was becoming more and more impatient and so were the people seated in the row in front of us—and the row behind us. I realized the woman was doing the best she could, and I felt a surge of compassion. I closed my eyes and prayed, “Dear God let someone help this poor woman today. Help them show her kindness and consideration.”

There was continuous commotion coming from the woman seated next to the window. Finally, the exasperated man next to me excused himself and walked back to the flight attendant in the rear of the plane and asked for another seat. Unfortunately for him, the plane was completely full. Frustrated, he returned to his assigned seat, resigned to the fact that he would be next to this woman for the remaining 2+ hours of our flight. I told him he was a good man and a good sport. He smiled slightly and shook his head.

Well, long story short, about 30 minutes later, he warmed up a bit and turned to the woman and asked her name. Then he asked where she was headed. As he engaged her in conversation, his level of compassion started to grow. She barely answered his questions and never asked any of her own, but responded warmly to his kindness. And from that point on, each time she jumped up to leave her seat, he kindly sat her down. And when she needed to go to the bathroom, he called a flight attendant to help.

I leaned over to him and said, “I think today you’ve earned your wings.” Throughout the next 2 hours, he encouraged her, calmed her, and treated her with the respect and tenderness Jesus modeled.

As we stood up to exit the plane once it landed, men and women from several rows around turned to the man and shook his hand. Good job, they told him. God bless you, sir!  What a kind thing you did today for this woman.

I wish you could have seen the look on this man’s face as so many strangers turned to him to thank him for his efforts. As he left the plane, he told me he was an ex-cop and I could tell that he felt good about what happened.

As Ron and I walked toward baggage claim to retrieve our luggage, I thought about this experience on the plane and realized something important.

God had used this man this day as His agent—to show the patience, love, and compassion that this troubled woman needed. Would the man in the middle say he was an unlikely candidate for the job? Question the likelihood that he could be God’s agent?  I don’t know. But I do know that he, the woman, and all of us who witnessed his kindness that day were touched and changed by his extraordinary show of compassion.  And I felt blessed to see God’s amazing hand at work inside this 3-hour flight to New Orleans!