A Ministry of Prayer

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Yesterday, in our Sunday morning message, Pastor Tom Lindberg promised four things from First Assembly Memphis. He said:

  • We will help you focus on God.
  • We will help you fortify your faith.
  • We will help you face life’s problems.
  • We will help you fulfill your purpose for living.

I would add yet another benefit. First Assembly will pray for you, over you, and teach you more about prayer than perhaps you’ve ever known. At least that has been the case for me and I have 70 plus years of experience.

I joined First Assembly Memphis in 2008. pic-of-first-assemblyDuring these eight years, I have been prayed over more than all my time in other churches combined. That is not in any way meant to be a criticism of other churches. I have learned, grown, and received from every church on my life’s journey. I have needed each church at particular times in my life. But at First Assembly, there is attention to prayer like none I’ve known before.

It began for me in 2004. In deep heartache over my daughter’s declining health, I needed a pastor to pray with me. I needed someone that believed God still wants to heal today like He did when Jesus walked this earth, for that is my belief. I knew no one at First Assembly, but I felt that was the church I should call and ask for a meeting with any available pastor. I was immediately granted time with the senior pastor, Dr. Lindberg. He, in fact, got on the phone and encouraged me to “come right on.” Of all the times people have prayed for me, perhaps this time stands out most. My daughter has not yet received the healing we prayed for that day, but I knew the presence of the Holy Spirit in an extraordinary way that afternoon. As Pastor Lindberg prayed, the Holy Spirit came strong into the room, surrounding and embracing me.

I began visiting First Assembly and made many trips down the church aisle for prayer and I met God at that altar every time. One Sunday morning at the altar, I asked a man I recognized as sitting near me to pray and he quickly did. I thought he was one of the church leaders Pastor Lindberg had called to the front to pray with those who needed prayer, but he had gone there for prayer himself. Such was the makeup of the church. Everyone seemed to know how to pray fervently and without hesitation.

I joined First Assembly in 2008. Immediately, I found my way to the Hour of Power, a Tuesday morning prayer group for ladies. The very first time I attended, the leader asked if she could pray over me. She came and knelt before me and prayed for me and my leadership in the church. I was nothing short of amazed since she didn’t know me, just said she felt led to pray as she did. Over the past eight years, these faith-filled ladies have prayed me through illness and heartache; I can’t imagine my life without them.

I’ve known many different hands on my shoulders as prayers have been spoken on my behalf–and it would be no different for you. If you mention to anyone at First Assembly that you need prayer, in all likelihood you will receive prayer right then and it will be a prayer that blesses you.

Churches can have different strengths. A church near us has an outreach to the Memphis community and communities beyond that is extensive at the time of disaster. I have known them to house and care for people in their church building when they have lost their homes. They shelter, clothe and feed them.

God has anointed First Assembly Memphis to be a praying body of people who believes God is still in the miracle-working business. If you want a church that is mighty in prayer, then we may be your church. Learn more about First Assembly and how to find us at http://www.famemphis.net. pastor-and-quote-on-prayer

 

A Day of Giving Thanks

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Last week, I wrote on the benefits I reaped when I took a day to pray with no petitions, just thanksgiving.  At the close of my blog, I encouraged readers to give it a try. Sally Chambers took that challenge and sent me this message:

 Pat, I just wanted you to know I read your blog post today and accepted your invitation to choose this day to turn my usual asking prayers into thanksgiving prayers. This afternoon I am amazed at how alert I was, through God’s grace, to have stopped my “Lord, please” prayers and say “No, not that way,” and change my words into prayers that were prayers of thanks. At first, I really did have to concentrate and be deliberate and think, “Now how can I change ‘please’ into ‘thank you.’ ” And I sit here typing this, amazed at how much closer I sense His presence, how at peace I feel, and at how much more successful I’ve been today in everything I set out to do. It has been a sweet experiment that I’m going to do my best to continue.

I love that Sally took the challenge and reaped its benefits. I hope others of you will set aside a day to pray like this (and if you do, please let me hear from you). Throughout the day, thank God for the things He has done for you. If you begin to think about a need, rather than asking God for it, tell Him that you are thanking Him in advance for how He will handle your need. Believe in all the things you expect of Him and thank Him that you can count on Him with all your concerns. Let your words of thanksgiving embrace the Lord in love.

Gratitude journals are popular ways to focus on our blessings. I don’t have a gratitude journal, but I do journal when I see God intervening in my life in ways that can only be Him. When I re-read my notes on these times, I am always surprised at how much God did that I had forgotten. Having those specifics of God’s personal grace will lead me into prayers of praise every time and I recommend this practice to you. You must write it down while you are fresh on all the details; it will be those specifics that you will cherish and will build your faith.

A.J. Gossip, a Scottish professor and preacher, called thanksgiving the language of heaven and recommended we become accustomed now to speaking that language. Great advice! If you need a little help beginning, click on this link https://youtu.be/f1E_4ooa8bo  and listen to Andre Crouch sing “My Tribute.”

Studies are being done on the positive things that happen physically to people when they keep themselves in a gratitude mode. That is good information to have—and important. But, as a Christian, the biggest reason I know to be lavish with your thanks to God is to give Him the honor and recognition He is due. There is no way on earth we could ever get close to thanking Him enough. “With His blood He has saved me” sings Andre Crouch. That alone is reason to thank our God all day, every day.

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Find Sally Chambers’ blog, Everyone Has a Story to Share,” at sallychambers.com

No Petitions, Just Thanksgiving

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Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.

Psalm 100:4 (NKJV)

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I belong to a ladies intercessory prayer group that meets each Tuesday. One morning as we readied ourselves to pray, Ann said the Lord had impressed upon her heart that we don’t spend enough time thanking Him before we begin our petitions. We corrected our order of prayer that morning. This was years ago, yet I remember often what Ann said and how guilty I stand all the time.

Most of us probably fail with the time we allot to prayers of thanksgiving. We have no trouble remembering what we want from God for ourselves, those we love, or those who have asked us to pray. We compile lists and tuck them into our Bibles. We note our needs and desires in prayer journals and faithfully go over each one when we pray. We wake in the middle of the night with some concern and begin petitioning God about the thing that has us anxious. But as our standard with prayer, how good are we at giving thanks? Coming to our Father and spelling out the ways He blesses us every day?

The miracle of feeding a crowd of 5,000 with only five loaves of bread and two fish began with Jesus giving thanks (see Matthew 15:32-39). Let us not miss that first part of the miracle–giving thanks. God was extravagant in His provision that day and He still is today if we provide the atmosphere for such blessing.

What happens when we give thanks? I believe we see our own increase; we see the many ways God pours out the abundance of his love on us.

  • The increase could be in simple awareness; we may see what we’ve missed before.
  • It could be that God will trust us with more because we are faithful to recognize His grace.
  • It could be in seeing that, we know how to progress to another level of receiving.
  • It could be in recognizing what we’ve been given and then giving it back to the Lord, He multiplies.
  • It could be God blessing us with more because we honor His giving to us.

While developing this blog, I decided to set aside a full day of asking God for nothing; rather,making it a day of remembrance with thanksgiving. It is my custom to pray throughout the day on things that come to mind and when I would catch myself about to ask God for something, I changed the prayer into one of thanksgiving for His faithfulness in the many ways He has taken care of me through the years. I thought on His sure hand of protection, His guidance, and certainly His deliverance. When a friend called asking that I pray for her, I told her of my commitment for the day and we turned her prayer request into one of remembering how God had provided for her in the past and thanked Him for how we knew He would take care of her present need. She was as happy as I to approach God this way.

As my day came to a close, I felt such peace. Through hour after hour of thanksgiving, I had experienced the joy of just loving on God without asking for a single thing. I plan to make this a new design for my prayer life–setting aside a day to do nothing but give thanks–and I enthusiastically invite you to give it a try. I challenge you to do it for one day and see if it doesn’t draw  you closer to God. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (NAS). May we hasten to be about His will.

Sundays of My Childhood

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In the sweltering heat of southern summers, there was somewhat of a Sunday afternoon tradition at my grandparents’ house of putting small children down to nap on a pallet. A pallet was a homemade quilt folded over once or twice, depending on the number of grandchildren needing rest. Nearby, would be an oscillating fan, giving off a cool breeze as it turned your way. And while children napped, grownups would spend the afternoon in conversation until time for supper.

The Sunday noontime meal usually included both fried chicken and country ham. Mama and Papa had chickens and a smoke house where Papa cured hams. The table was heavy with bowls of vegetables from their garden. Desserts came in threes and you didn’t have to choose. Mama brought you a plate with some of each one; maybe two kinds of pie and a slice of cake. Once when Mama proudly brought a plate of desserts to a guest eating with us, he shook his head and said he couldn’t possibly eat all that and to please just give him one of the desserts. I can still see Mama’s face as she looked from him to the dessert plate in puzzlement. Foolish man to turn away the wares of a champion baker!

Before nap time and conversation, the table was cleared and the food carried from the dining room back to the stove. There it would be covered and put in the oven or left on top of the stove with the pot’s lids covering the “vittles,” as my grandfather called them.That wonderful repast would wait there for us to enjoy again for supper. And we didn’t always warm it up; rather, it might be spooned onto plates and eaten at room temperature. There was Sunday night church to attend, you see, so tasks were kept to a minimum. Mama’s cooking had gone on the day before or very early Sunday morning.

The memory of my grandparents’ table groaning with food and a fan cooling children on pallets are treasured memories. If I close my eyes and listen intently, I can almost hear the hum of that fan as it traveled from left to right and feel the cool breezes it provided on a hot Sunday afternoon.

As children of the 40s and 50s, we enjoyed simple pleasures and much security. We felt with our parents and grandparents in charge, no harm could come to us. We were protected from things we did and did not know. We played uncomplicated games of jack rocks and marbles, hop scotch and jump rope. We might search for four-leaf clovers or make necklaces and bracelets by typing clovetogether the long stems of the white clovers. My grandparents had an elephant ear plant that was profuse with huge leaves and long stems. Mama would break one off for each of us and we would pretend the leaves were umbrellas to fend off the sun or rain. Imagination in that day was a part of every game we played.

I think we need these memories as we age and that accounts for why we reminisce so much in our senior years. Rituals like Sunday family dinners and naps on pallets gave us uncomplicated days. Their recall brings smiles and appreciation for what we then took for granted.

Whoever thought things would change like they have? Ours was a world that made sense and gave hope for our futures. Maybe it is sheer foolishness, but somehow I believe that if we could take our children and grandchildren back to the way things were when we grew up, they would actually enjoy and want it. What do you think?

Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.

                                                       — H. Jackson Brown, Jr. 

 

Recognizing God’s Purpose for Your Life

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For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD (Isaiah 55:8 ESV).

It feels good when we know we are using the gifts God has given. There is a sense of completion in our work. But what about the times we see our service as something here, something there, but no true focus?

I have a friend who has the very strong gift of service. She is the first to respond to any need presented. She does menial things most others would not do. The majority is time-consuming and usually not the least bit convenient. But if she didn’t do them, there would be no one to clear a house of hoarder-like clutter, no one to sit with anxious patients through hours of cancer treatment, no one to carry numerous individuals to doctors’ appointments and pick up groceries and medicine for them.  My friend doesn’t feel like what she does counts for anything. She worries that she isn’t fulfilling God’s purpose for her life. I see her as a chief example of Matthew 25:37-40; that one Jesus says is being His hands and feet.

After retirement, I had some days of wondering what I was to do. I felt without direction and I prayed about what God wanted from me, how He might use me. In time, this is what I heard: Do for every person in your life what you can and with joy. Live in each day’s opportunities. Stop projecting out to new things and stop looking back at what you’ve done in the past. BE. DO. LOVE. Serve in this way.

That wasn’t the answer I had hoped to get. I had wanted some fresh and exciting project. Yet I knew I had heard from God so I set out to do what I could for family, friends, and others I felt God had placed in my pathway. I did eventually receive a new work that I would have never seen on my own; that of tutoring second grade children.

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Megan and Jia, George and Martha Washington Day 2012, my first reading friends. They are now seventh graders.

Having never considered myself very good with children, this would never have made it to my personal list of possibilities, yet I can tell you that this is one of the three things I’ve done in life that I’ve enjoyed most. It is so important for us to release all struggling to God so that His perfect plans can appear.

God knows what He has put in each of us to be used and if we submit and wait on Him—and follow His nudging—that thing will become clear. And we need always to remember it isn’t about what we do, but how we do it.  Jonah knew exactly what he was to do, but he didn’t want to do it. And when he did do it, it was begrudgingly and with anger. God saved many people through Jonah, yet he was blind to the eternal value. He was seeing the appointment with his eyes and not God’s. Let us not be guilty of that.

Give your questions of purpose completely over to God, then wait and watch. Don’t be afraid of the unfamiliar if your heart says it is of God. The One who created us knows exactly where we are best suited to serve. He has plans for us and those plans will be better than anything we could imagine on our own.

God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them (Hebrew 6:10 NIV).

 

Kitchen Memories

Sometimes I think about Mother at the oddest times–like when I’m in the kitchen and reach for a box of raisins. Just for a moment, I can remember the taste of raisins from Mother’s kitchen. She added them to the Christmas fruit salad, sprinkled them into her homemade cinnamon rolls, and baked them in pies.003 - Copy Her brother’s favorite pie was raisin cream and Mother made a great one. Raisins were folded into vanilla cream custard under a golden-peaked meringue.

When I was growing up, Mother did a lot of preserving. There was always a garden and she canned and froze the harvest.  It was a hot and hard work outside and inside. I learned how to can from Mother and once did quite a bit of it myself. I still do a little. It’s a way of visiting with my mother and grandmother in my kitchen, and I like the reward of seeing hours of labor packed away in jarssquash chow chow or boxes for the freezer to be enjoyed later and maybe even shared with a friend or two. There are some things you just can’t buy in a store that taste like a home product. I suppose I take pleasure in preserving for the same reason I like baking: I enjoy the process as much as the end result.

I had six years of home economics, grades seven through twelve. I still have some of the recipes from the later years, one a recipe for stuffed pork chops. The recipe came from a Meta Given cookbook that our teacher particularly liked. If I remember correctly, we used that recipe when the senior class of home economics (more commonly known today as family and consumer sciences or home science) prepared a complete meal for the senior agriculture class. The dinner was somewhat like a final exam for us. We were required to make a notebook about the meal beginning with the menu and ending with a self-evaluation of our work. I kept that pictorial notebook until just a few years ago when I had a major cleaning out of the attic. The pork chop recipe, however, remains in my active recipe file as an established family favorite for holidays.

I suppose it is an age thing (I’m in my seventies now), but I do quite a bit of reminiscing and it’s not all about cooking. I like thinking of times when our country was safer and childhoods less complicated. I like thinking about a day when our roles in life were clearly defined and we came and went feeling safe and not at risk. I like remembering simple pleasures, respect for authority, and expectation and reward for hard work. I’m sure I didn’t know it then, but those gentler, more practical days were the very best of days and somehow they passed by without our realizing we were losing them.

Memories of family and yesterday’s values seem most vivid when I am stirring around in my kitchen. As I create or recreate through cooking, baking, and preserving, I give thanks for those days that gave my life its underpinning. I give thanks for my home and my heritage. And with a satisfied smile, I give thanks for the memories.

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Family Treasures: Mother’s pitcher for whipping cream for strawberry shortcake and her crock for saving bacon grease on either side of my grandmother’s buttermilk pitcher.

Remembering Our Veterans

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A life-long friend, Larry Darby, sent an email more than a year ago encouraging me to write about the sacrifices made by our dads and others like them in WWII. “Tell the story of how they had nothing but a hard life and a good family around them and came back from war that same way. Tell about the moral fiber and work ethic that was like something we have never seen again or likely ever will see again.”

Larry continued, “They were willing to give all for family and community—some gave all, others had to live with what they saw to preserve our freedom. Some of what they endured for others was so deep and scarred they shared very little with their family while they lived with thoughts and scenes every day we cannot imagine.”

The picture Daddy carried with him to war.

The picture Daddy carried with him to war.

I was 6 months old when Daddy enlisted and then told Mother what he had done. I can’t imagine the shock, tears, and heartbreak when he told her. Who would take care of us? How would she face each day wondering if he would come back or die overseas? I’m sure Daddy had those same concerns but on July 6, 1943 he enlisted in the U.S. Army/Air Corp and there was nothing to do but move forward.

While Mother felt he was needed at home to take care of his family, Daddy saw going overseas as the greater way to do that. I have something he wrote prior to enlisting. He wrote: “Have you ever thought of what would happen if we should lose this war we are fighting? Well I have and it isn’t a pleasant thing to think of. When I go home tired and maybe a little disgusted from a hard day’s work, my wife and baby meet me at the door with a kiss and happy smiling faces. Then I know I have everything to work and fight for. I thank God for my right to live in this great country where the rich and the poor, male and female, share alike with freedom for all.” I suppose with that, Daddy’s decision was made.

Signed "To my darling wife." Probably the first pic sent home.

Signed “To my darling wife.” Probably the first pic sent home.

In our home the war was never talked about, a common behavior with WWII vets. Mother said Daddy returned home with scars all around his waist and only after much prodding did he tell her it was where he had been bitten by rats while in a foxhole. I remember Daddy waking us while sleepwalking and trying to climb the wall in the hallway. He was dreaming and thought he was in the midst of battle.

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The day Daddy returned from war

Daddy returned from war with shrapnel wounds in five places. One wound was near his spine and never operable because of the potential risk of crippling him. His injuries caused swelling and temporary paralysis on one side of his body and we returned to Tennessee from Oklahoma for him get care at the Memphis VA hospital. On the back of some pictures of a house in Oklahoma, Mother wrote: “The house we bought and never got to live in.” Oklahoma was where Daddy’s four brothers lived and was intended to be our home, too.

Larry said: “In spite of the hardships created by going off to war, those who returned fit back into society and made major contributions to local communities, business, church, and government. We owe them every freedom we possess. They were a generation of workers and not takers.” It was so of my dad in that he would take no compensation for his war injuries. He would say to the VA reps who visited, “Give it to a soldier who can’t work; I can.” It was another common behavior of WWII vets to not take the disability they were due.

After Daddy died, Mother told me he had promised God that if He would let him return home to us he would spend the rest of his life taking care of others. I saw many ways he did that, but he never talked about any of them. We had an elderly neighbor that Daddy bathed, dressed, and walked on a daily basis when he became too feeble to care for himself. He also had wiring strung from their house to ours so the couple could push a buzzer if they needed help. He gave money to those in need when it meant a sacrifice to do so. At Daddy’s funeral, several told Mother how he for years had helped them in basic ways like taking their deposits to the bank and picking up stamps or groceries for them.

I can only tell you about my dad, knowing Larry’s dad and others of WWII have similar stories. That generation lived to serve others.

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Larry and fiance, Linda

In closing, Larry talked about how our nation is suffering today, how we dishonor our country and scoff at God. We are concerned about a sense of entitlement with gratitude to no one and agree we have giddily positioned ourselves on the brink of disaster and are glad that our dads are not here to see it.

I close with this quote by José Narosky: “In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.” The horrors of war are too great to forget. We owe a debt of gratitude to every man and woman who has fought to keep us free and their lives impacted in ways only war can do. I know each one would have a story worthy of being told, a story written in their minds and hearts forever. May God bless our military of yesterday and today. They are one and all heroes.

Larry and I believe this to be a photo of a WWII vets support group since we each have the picture but were never told about it. My dad and his dad, Floyd Darby, are front row, 1st & 2nd from left.

Larry and I believe this to be a photo of a WWII vets support group; they didn’t or couldn’t talk to their families so they talked to one another. My dad, Walter Luffman, and his dad, Floyd Darby, are front row, 1st & 2nd from left.

Thinking on the Rain

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“Drip down, O heavens, from above, And let the clouds pour down righteousness; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, And righteousness spring up with it. I, the LORD, have created it” Isaiah 45:6 (NKJV).

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A grey cloud hovers overhead. It is the promise of drink for dry ground and the uplifted faces of blooming things; the promise of water enough for birds to bathe in a forsaken fount. The grey cloud covers the sun and provides shade and a cooler day for man and animal alike.

Thunder grumbles and the rain comes, spreading its kindness over the day’s needs.file0001836239952 The earth smells fresh and colors deepen as flowers and grass are clad with glistening drops of rain. The world seems to slow a bit and I can’t hold back a smile, for I love a rainy day!

It occurs to me that the simplest things color my life with happiness. Watching showers march upon the ground and sidewalks, seeing a bird wash insects from his wings in a DSCF4397new pool of water. Pondering the buds of roses about to break forth into full bloom and how their deep drink of rain will lend a hand to the process.

I think of how rain promenades on ponds, lakes, rivers, and even the sea. The larger the body of water, the more mystical a rain appears in its stroll. What sight is grander than the downpour of heaven joining waters of the yawning deep? What vision sweeter than blooming things with lifted faces catching a morning shower? DSCN4082What image more right than birds making use of a shallow basin with its fill of afternoon rains?

Lord, I long to linger in the splendor of how you’ve made things, to think on the beauty of nature without man’s interference. Where could I go and pay a price for something as wondrous as this? You give so generously of all you have fashioned; let me not miss it. It is a demonstration and continuing promise of Your love. I bow to you with grateful heart.

“For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God”(Hebrews 6:7 NKJV).

Photo credits to morgueFile, with appreciation.

Mama’s Bible

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. . . take root downward and bear fruit upward. (Isaiah 37:31 ESV)

My grandmother’s Bible was a treasure beyond any price. I had hoped as her oldest grandchild that I might inherit it, however I never discussed that with my grandmother or my mother and so in the end it didn’t come to be.

What made Mama’s Bible so revered? She poured and prayed over its words daily. Her gentle, but sure hands caressed the pages. She wept and rejoiced, she trusted and she practiced. She did what Isaiah said: took root downward and bore fruit upward.

I’ve never known anyone that Jesus was as real to as He was to Dulcie Spencer. She sang songs to Him throughout the day and talked to Him as if He were right at her elbow. I’ve walked into her home and overheard her talking and thought she had company, only to find out it was no visitor but her best friend and permanent resident: Jesus. Mama relied on Him completely for every matter and that reliance gave her a radiance that cannot be duplicated by anything of this world. Mama had a heavenly glow. THE_SPENCER_FAMILY_001 - Copy

My grandmother had no earthly riches. She lived a simple life, but a life marked with beauty because of how she lived it. Mama’s standard was to do exactly as God’s Word said for her to do: she loved God with all her heart, soul, strength and mind; she loved her neighbors as herself; and she believed God’s word that when we trust Him completely, He will never forsake us. Mama’s family saw and respected that trust. I believe we were all, in fact, hugely affected by her rock-solid trust in God. My earliest memory of Mama is of her kneeling by her bed for prayer at end-of-day, long dark braids falling down her back and over her homemade gown. Mama always prayed aloud and just as I have visual remembrances of Mama, I have auditory ones, too.

wedding pic - CopyWhen I married in 1989, Mama wasn’t physically able to be with us so she sent her Bible to me for the ceremony. I can’t think of better representation of this woman that I loved more than ever I could express.

Though I didn’t get to keep the book she loved above all others, she did give me her faith and for that I am eternally grateful. Mine isn’t as beautiful as hers, but it is as confident. And what she passed on to me, I passed on to my daughter Kristi. I know because I have witnessed it.

I truly cannot imagine my life without this great woman’s influence. I have often said if I could choose to be like anyone in the world, it would be my grandmother. I wish I could say I had lived a life like hers, but I can’t. My journey has been one of much stumbling, failing, and starting over, however no one’s persuasion of faith has had a greater hold on me than that of Dulcie Spencer. I thank her for showing me a Jesus she never doubted and pointing the way to heaven’s door. You are my crown jewel, Mama.Copy of spencer family about 1951

Here are a few lines from a letter Mama wrote to her children not long before she died in 1991 at 91 years of age: The dear Lord has been so good to our family. I can’t thank him enough and that he lives in me all the time.  I’ve prayed to him all my life and He answers my prayers day and night. Please don’t grieve after me when I’m gone for I’ll be safe with our dear Lord and all my loved ones in heaven. 

 

Remembering Papa’s Faith

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Sometimes I think about the day my grandfather was told he had a terminal illness. Daddy had called to let me know Papa was being admitted directly from his doctor’s office to the hospital. I told Daddy I would meet them there.

When I got to Papa’s room, he was sitting on the side of the bed, still wearing his hat. He looked so tired and I encouraged him to lie down. He did without a word of protest, but with his shoes still on. I slipped them off his feet. My grandmother stood quietly by, grave concern etched on her face. Mama and Papa had been married 65 years—since they were 16 and 18.

We didn’t have to wait long for Papa’s physician. He came into the room, sat down in a chair near Papa’s bed and gave us a diagnosis we didn’t want to hear: acute leukemia. Papa’s physician said that without treatment he would live maybe two months. With treatment, he might live two years, but there would be no quality of life and he personally could not advise that route. If Papa wanted treatment, he would refer him to a specialist.

Without hesitation or questions, Papa said “I’ve lived a good long life and if it’s my time to go, I’m all right with that, I’m ready.” It was a clear statement of his faith; he had no fear in dying.

A picture made Papa was so sick. One of the few times he was out of bed.

A picture made when Papa was so sick. One of the rare times he was out of bed. Mama stands between their two oldest children, J. B. and Louise.

Papa left that hospital bed for one at home where his children and their spouses took care of him, never leaving Mama to do it alone. He lived shy of a year—nine months I believe it was, but longer than the two months predicted. His doctor said it was his strong body that gave him added time. Papa had been so healthy all his life; he had never seen a doctor for anything but the annual renewal of his barber’s license.

To remember Papa is to remember how tender his heart was toward God. I never heard him pray without crying. He just couldn’t get to the “amen” without emotion spilling over. Both my grandparents deeply loved the Lord. Jesus was as much a resident of their home as Papa and Mama. They trusted God implicitly and gave God all the thanks.

When Papa died, Mama wrote in her journal “Jim went home to be with Jesus today.”  Simply and accurately put. They never doubted where they would spend eternity. And to their credit and as best I know, none of us, children or grandchildren, has doubted either. Jim and Dulcie Spencer made sure of that.

Mama and Papa 001

Jim and Dulcie Spencer, my cherished grandparents.

So, when I remember Papa, I remember first his love for the Lord and a faith that let him say, when it’s my time, I’m ready. I give thanks for this man’s life and the rich heritage he gave to me.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.  –Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)