GOD IS GOOD

Two 1/2 weeks ago my husband had a heart attack. His heart had to be shocked 6 times before they got him into the operating room to put a stent in his artery. We found out that only 8% of men who have this kind of heart attack survive. God was good to us in that He put my husband was in that 8%.  Many people reacted to our numerous posts about his recovery with the phrase “God is good”.  In fact, I have seen this phrase used repeatedly when someone reacts to an answer to prayer that is in their favor.

What if I had been planning a funeral last week instead of bringing my husband home from the hospital?  Would God still be good?  Absolutely!  We sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that God is only good when he gives us what we want.  Yes, it’s wonderful when we see God work a miracle and can clearly point it out to others.  But our Creator is not Santa Claus!  Because he made us and knows all about the plan for our life He also knows what is best for us even when it hurts and seems totally wrong to our limited way of thinking.

God is our Heavenly Father and just like an earthly father sometimes disappoints us or allows us to be hurt by reaping the consequences of our poor choices.  A child does not understand why Daddy won’t give them everything that they want; but, a good father knows that fulfilling every desire that a child has will only result in a weak, spoiled, lazy adult that no one wants to be around.  The same is true for the children of the King of Kings.  God sees the overall plan and he knows that we must suffer in order to grow stronger.  He understands that it is good to wait for what we desire so that we will learn patience and appreciate it more when the answer comes.  God also allows hurts and disappointments in our lives so that we can better sympathize with and pray for others that go through similar problems.

Our Heavenly father truly is good because He desires the best for us not a weak imitation that will not produce beautiful fruit in the end. I praise the Lord that I still have my husband here on the earth; but, I pray that I would still be able to praise Him if it had been in God’s plan to take Larry home to Heaven on July 6.  God is always good even when we cannot see the ultimate plan that He has for us.

LIVING BY FAITH

I have been married 43 years. A majority of that time my husband and I have lived by faith. What do I mean by that statement? Simply, that we have never had the income that would provide for us to live the way we do. I hear many Christians talk about how they trust God to take care of them. Yet, it seems to me that they are truly trusting in themselves and their ability to make a living. If, God forbid, they would suddenly lose their job; panic would set in. Please understand that I am not saying that other Christians have less faith then I do. I have often sat at my desk with bills in front of me whining to God that we just couldn’t pay these bills and wanting to know what He was going to do about it.

Living by faith is so much more than trusting God to pay the bills it also includes our circumstances.  I have been guilty of thinking that as long as I trusted God to take care of the bills and provide for our physical needs that I was living by faith.  But how do I react when the plans I have are completely blown apart?  When God brings something or someone into my life unexpectedly do I trust that He has a plan that is far better than mine?  As Christians we often brag that we have faith in God.  We sing about our faith in hymns like “Only Trust Him” and “My Faith has found a Resting place”.  We quote scripture about trusting the Lord and His plans for our lives. Yet when life throws us a curve how do we react?

What kind of curves am I talking about?  Losing a job, death of a loved one–especially someone that is “too young to die”, breakdown of our vehicle which we need to go to work, an unplanned pregnancy, betrayal of a good friend, daily roadblocks that mess up our schedule.  There are many more but these came to mind.  God often brings things like this into our lives to remind us that we are NOT in control.  Little things like a simple cold or virus that makes us feel awful and frustrates our ability to accomplish our daily tasks can drive us crazy and send us running to our Heavenly Father demanding that He make us better or “fix” the situation because we have things to do!  True, most of us have some kind of schedule in our head and being sick wasn’t on the list.  Yet, shouldn’t we be asking God what was your plan for me today?  The Bible tells us that we are to give thanks in everything.  Doesn’t that include things that we do not like or understand? Of course it does!  God doesn’t give us an exception clause.  He just simply tells us to do it all the time in good times and bad whether we understand it or not.

So my question is: Are we willing to say “Heavenly Father, I know you and trust you.  I know you love me and have a perfect plan for my life therefore I will thank you for every circumstance, change of schedule, lack of funds or abundance of funds, obvious blessings and trials that could be a blessing.”?  My challenge for myself and you, my reader, is to learn to be thankful in every circumstance trusting that our loving Heavenly Father has a perfect plan for every minute of every day.

 

LIFE’S LESSONS Chapter 3

 

 

Larry started the process of calling pastors to make a appointments to visit them and share our vision for a good Christian camp in the Midwest.  He soon learned that most pastors weren’t receptive to a stranger with no “connections”  who just wanted to stop by to talk to them.  Many times we would drive to the city where we knew there were several good churches and call the pastor and ask him if we could drop by in 30 minutes since we just happened to be in town.  It reminded me of a door to door salesman who had to get his foot in the door before people would listen to him.  Now, being a pastor’s wife, I understand that these men only have so much time and most of these small, Midwestern churches have limited resources.  Therefore, a pastor has to pick and choose who he invites to present their ministry to the people of his church.  But it still made it hard for us nobodies with no finances to get our foot in the door.  However, we were led to some good men who had a vision for what God could do.

During this time we still had not found any land so there was not an existing camp that we could show pictures of.  All Larry could do was tell people what God had laid on his heart.  He would explain about our philosophy of camping and what we wanted to accomplish in people’s lives.  He would tell them that a good Biblical philosophy, and quality Christian staff were more important then the physical place.  Then someone would inevitably raise their hand and say, “This sounds great!  Where is it?”  To which my husband would answer. “We don’t know.  The Lord hasn’t shown us yet.”  You could almost see those careful Midwesterners lean back on their wallet while they thought, ” these two people are crazy!”  After 6 months of travelling all over Iowa, Missouri, & Western Illinois, presenting our ministry we were about ready to agree with some of these church members. 🙂

During this time, we had calls from people who had “camps” they wanted to sell us.  We hiked over many acres and checked out dozens of buildings to no avail.  One of the camp properties was so bad that we both agreed that a bomb would be the best solution. 🙂  Then God led Dave Phelps to call us.  He was a deacon at a small Baptist Church where Larry had presented the camp ministry.  Dave was wondering if we had found any land.  He had some acreage that he needed to sell.  It was the farm crisis of 1983 when many farmers were having to sell land and equipment to help them with their astronomical debt. 

We had been praying for 5 things: 1.  150 acres of land.  You can’t build a camp with lots of activities without space.  2.  Rolling hills and trees.  In Iowa most land is flat which is great for farming but not very picturesque.  3. Private but accessible.  We had looked at some camps that the drive to the facility would be a hindrance for some people.  We also had been offered some land that a railroad track ran right through the middle!  4. A pond for water activities or a place that one could be built.  5. Affordable.  Remember, we had no money and no steady income. 

The Phelps’ land had it all plus extra!  It was 160 acres of rolling hills and trees with a small farm pond on it plus two other low areas that eventually became bigger ponds/lakes.  It was only a mile from a paved highway and at the end of the road.  Dave only asked for the amount that he had invested in the property and he would give us from May to October to raise what money we could for the first payment.  We didn’t even have to go to a bank to secure a loan!  The best thing about this land was that Dave and his wife, Lonna, told us that they had bought the land years ago thinking that it would make a great place for a camp for young people.  They had seen the need from working with the youth in their church.  God had a plan years before He called us to move to Iowa. 

We signed the papers to buy the land and went to work.  God had given us everything we asked for.  Unfortunately, we had not put on that list minor things like electricity, running water & buildings.  There was one other minor detail that we needed–a place for us and our children to live.  We were still living in the upstairs of Mom & Dad’s house which was 45 miles north of the camp property.  Our Heavenly Savior had more surprises for us which I will tell you about later. 🙂

LIFE’S LESSONS Chapter 2

In the last chapter I mentioned that we were leaving NC in January to go to Iowa.  We did not have a hefty savings account to finance our trip.  There were no churches that had agreed to support us.  We were simply moving on faith that God had called us to do this and He would supply the need.  Since both of us are your typical type A personalities we knew how this was all going to work out.  God would sell our house and we could use the profit to finance our trip and live on for a little while until we had raised support.  The Sunday before we loaded the moving van arrived and the house was still unsold.  The church had a going away party for us that evening.  There were many nice things said mixed with an abundance of tears.  At the end of the testimonies, the chairman of the deacon board stood up and told us that the church had taken up a love offering to help finance our trip.  They had also voted to pay Larry’s salary in full for 3 months and 1/2 salary for another 3 months plus 6 months of insurance.  We were stunned!  The offering was enough to pay for the moving van, gas, and all but one meal.  God certainly provided!  What God orders he pays for.

Remember, I mentioned that it was nuts to move to Iowa in January?  The week before we moved there had been a huge snowstorm in the mountains of North Carolina.  It was so bad that semis were stuck on the interstate overnight while road crews cleared the mess.  This was the same interstate that we would be taking the next week.  By the time we left, the roads were clear but the snow was piled up on the shoulders.  As we were driving down one of those mountains, the brakes on the moving van that Larry was driving started to overheat.  My husband realized it and all of us pulled over while he grabbed handfuls of snow to throw on those brake lines that were cherry red.  If there had been no snow, we probably would have been dealing with a fire that burned up all of our worldly goods and possibly my parents things which was packed in the trailer hooked on to the moving van.  God was already providing for our care with a snowstorm that we didn’t think was a good thing at the time. 🙂  Even though there was snow the week before we left, we had no bad weather during the trip and it didn’t snow again until we had the moving van completely unloaded.  We serve an amazing God who controls the weather in His perfect timing.

The day before we got to Iowa my husband called his mother to see if she had found a place to store our furniture.  She told him that she was working on it.  Working on it!  Are you kidding?!  In 24 hours we would be arriving and needed a place to store 2000 square feet of furniture.  We were going to be living in their upstairs while we looked for a place to build a camp and live.  Well, there was nothing we could do but pray and hope.  Surely God had a plan.  After all, he had taken care of everything so far.  By the time we arrived, Mom had secured an empty apartment over a storefront in downtown Wayland, Iowa.  We unloaded my parents furniture into the mobile home that they had bought a few months earlier then proceeded to Wayland.  The next day a crew from Mom’s church came and helped us unload all of our worldly possessions into that apartment.  Those were the steepest stairs I had ever seen and it seemed like we were climbing halfway to heaven with our arms loaded. 

I also got a preview of small town living that day.  There was a grocery store across the street.  As I would go back to the moving van for another load, I would glance across the street and notice a line of onlookers in the windows.  I guess we were the entertainment and topic of discussion for the day.  It was sad to me that not one of those people walked across the street to welcome Larry home after being gone for more than a decade or to introduce themselves to me and welcome me to their town.  Note to those of you that live in a small community.  When new people come to town, don’t ask others who they are and why they are there.  Walk across the street or the aisle, introduce yourself and offer to help them find their way around.  Do what you can to make them feel a part of the village that you live in.

We rearranged the furniture in Mom’s upstairs to make a sitting room/office at the top of the stairs and started the process of contacting churches.  Several months before we moved my husband had sent out a letter to fundamental churches that he knew in Iowa asking if they thought there was a need for A good Christian camp.  There were 14 pastors that responded that this was a wonderful idea.  They thought there was a great need.  Unfortunately, out of those eleven men there were only 2 that supported us when we actually moved to Iowa.  It seems that they wanted a good camp for their people as long as God didn’t ask them to use their money or time to make it happen.  Is that what we do?  Do we pray for something and when God shows us how we can make it happen we tell God that we didn’t expect to have to pay for it or use our precious time to accomplish the task?

One thing I have learned is that God DOES listen to our prayers.  When we ask God to bring something to pass we better be prepared to get involved either with time or money.  If we are not willing to get involved in the Lord’s work, God will still make it happen in spite of us; but, we will miss the blessings.  At this point we were involved with both feet and no idea how God was going to work out the impossible task of building a camp somewhere with nothing.

LIFE’S LESSONS

 

40th Anniversary cruise 002On June 1, 2014 my husband was asked to preach the 75th Anniversary sermon at Marshall Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, NC.  He was their first youth pastor from 1979 to 1983.  I had an opportunity to share my testimony of all that God had done for us and taught me in the last 31 years.  The next few posts will be what I shared that day in an expanded version.

Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has “an expected end”  for us.  Nothing surprises God!  When we left Marshall Baptist Church there were many tears.  I couldn’t even begin to imagine why God was calling us to the Midwest to build a Christian Camp on faith.  That is what Larry told me we were called to do. In the late summer of 1982 my husband sat at our kitchen table and shared with me the burden that he was struggling with.  He felt God was calling him to go to the Midwest and build a Christian Camp.  He had already been struggling with it and arguing with God that this would not work.  After all, we were not trained in camp ministries.  He paused in his narrative, looked at me and said, “You are white as a sheet.  You look scared to death.”

Oh I definitely was!  I told him that there were many reasons this scared me.  First he was talking about moving to Iowa.  He may not have noticed but that is above the Mason Dixon line and it snows more up there in winter then I wanted to see in a lifetime.  THIS FLORIDA GIRL DOES  NOT LIKE TO BE COLD. 🙂  My next objection was moving to a small Midwestern town where everyone watched you and knew your business or at least made something up.  I grew up in Longwood, FL a suburb of Orlando.  We had lived in Greenville, SC and Winston-Salem, NC.  I liked cities with all the shopping, museums, concerts, people.  I had been to his hometown which is like a Norman Rockwell painting.  It’s a lovely place to visit but I didn’t want to live there. 🙂  Then I pointed out that I did NOT  like camping.  My idea of roughing it was Holiday Inn with the windows open.  Yes, I went to camp with our teens because I loved them and was willing to put up with some inconvenience for a couple of weeks to see their lives changed.  But, for the rest of our lives to be a camp directors wife?  Not my idea of fun!  Because I am a woman, and have the right to change my mind, I even pointed out that I did NOT want to be a camp director’s wife.  I wanted to be a pastor’s wife.  The ironic point here is that before I met my husband I had emphatically told my mother that I had never dated a preacher boy and I was not going to marry a pastor!  Last, but not least, was the fact that Larry was talking about moving on faith that God would provide.  That was NO guaranteed income.  Now, I could trust the Lord to provide all kinds of appliances, furniture and luxuries and unheard of prices because I prayed.  The problem here was that he was suggesting we trust him to provide housing, utilities and food.  We’ll starve and freeze to death!

Do you see the problem with all my objections?  It was all about me, my comfort zone, and being willing to step out on faith.  We had been teaching our teens that you must be willing to do the Lord’s will and trust Him to provide even if it wasn’t what we wanted to do.  We were serving God in Winston-Salem.  Why couldn’t we stay there?  Because you can’t serve God in the wrong place and be blessed.

When Larry and I were married, I promised to go wherever the Lord called him to assist him in the ministry.  I was not going to break my vow to God and him; but, I told my husband that he would have to pray for me to get used to this idea.  This was not even close to my plan A for our lives.  In fact, it was dangerously close to plan Z. 🙂  So we told the church we would be leaving in January and started making arrangements to move to Iowa.  Yes, I said January.  What person in their right mind moves to Iowa in January?!  We did.  In the next installment I will tell you how God’s timing was perfect and His provision was just enough