|Dear Family & friends, Christmas 2010 |
"WHAT DO YOU WANT"
Its been an interesting year, having experienced the words which the Lord spoke to me during a time of prayer in the second week of November of '09. I heard the Lord say to me, "I'm going to bring some of my children home," and "it is going to get harder." The HOLY SPIRIT also said, "Write the book."
As usual, I had no idea what HE meant regarding the last two statements, but I had no doubt as to what the first "word" meant. It was a week or so later when I learned that Billy Joe Dougherty, pastor and teacher of Victory Bible Institute (the name of the church escapes me) in Tulsa, OK, went home to be with the Lord around the end of Oct. or the first part of Nov. of '09. I thought, "Oh, that must have been who the Lord was talking about," having received the "word" after the fact. Nope. About two weeks later, in late Nov. or early Dec. of '09, Oral Roberts passed away. This year, 2010, a long time member and deacon at the church I attend also passed away. After I first heard the "word" to which I speak, I asked the Lord who was going to be leaving us to be with HIM, and HE replied, "It is not for you to know." Well, I thought I'd ask.
Having given up the mowing business in '09, I asked the Lord what I was going to do now. Except for the day I gave to the Lord each week, the other two days off were always full of doing some type of yard work for others. After asking, HE said, "Cut wood; help people." Praise the Lord, HE still wants me to cut wood.
I had no problem with my finances in '09 whatsoever even after having given 100 percent of all the work done from mowing to the Lord. Of course, when HE prompted me to start giving more out of my employment income, I didn't balk, but I wasn't exactly sure either how that was going to work out. So I started giving an extra fifty dollars to an organization which feeds hungry children in the Name of Jesus every two weeks. I didn't have any problems until after April fifteenth. I'll explain later.
In December of '09, I was able to go to the company Christmas party. Employees aren't eligible to go until having been with the company for five years. The owner and president of the company wants employees who have been with the company to attend so he can present them with a certificate of appreciation and a $250 savings bond. SJ and I set out to go to the party on the night it was going to be held, but almost turned around and came home. Choosing to go to Springfield by way of Shell Knob, the quickest and most direct route, proved to be one of the scariest road trips I can ever remember. The road becomes exceedingly hilly and curvy north of Shell Knob causing one to stay alert during the best of conditions. Unfortunately, we were traveling at night and ran into dense fog. We had to be at the party by seven p.m. But the scariest part was when it sounded like howling surrounded the car for a few miles south of Aurora. It was absolutely unnerving. I was doing some serious praying that night. Once we turned to go to Springfield, we had to endure that type of precipitation which is to little for the intermittent wipers on low, but still needs to be cleared from the windshield.
Once we got to Springfield, I turned north on the street where Bass Pro Shop is. The only thing we knew was look for the tallest building. We truly had no idea where it was other than it was north of 160 near same street as Bass Pro. We find the building, but where do we park and how do we get in. The whole trip was truly an adventure. We made it to the party, checked in, greeted our hosts, were given some material and a number, and found a seat where my store manager was sitting. The entire floor is full of managers, office personnel, long time employees and their guests.
On one side of the seating area is a Christmas tree with envelopes stuck in the branches and an array of all types of gifts. One of the pieces of material I was handed was a list of all the gifts to be given away to those who were eligible. Once the dinner was over and a short speech by the president, numbers were called drawn out of a hat to come to retrieve a gift. Take a wild guess who's number got called first? I couldn't believe it. I called out from my seat for them to repeat the number. I walked up to the area where the tree was which was also where the president and his wife are seated and said with a smile, "Can I take more than one?" They laughed and said, "You'll have to come back next year." I took one of the envelopes from the tree, walked back to my seat, handed the envelope to SJ and said, "Merry Christmas, sweetie."
GOD is so amazing. I had no idea how I was going to be able to afford a Christmas gift for SJ last year, let alone pay for the cheese cakes I give to those who sell bundled firewood, or the oranges I love to give out with a copy of the Christmas letter every year. I knew I was going to get the bond, but what I didn't know was it has be held at least six months before it can be cashed. So I cashed out some bonds in trade which I had purchased in the early nineties. Do you know that after almost fifteen years after purchase a couple I cashed hadn't reached maturity? And savings bonds are a good investment?! The Lord has a better investment plan than that. Give and it is given.
During the winter, I cut wood. Most of it I stacked on pallets to season for this year and some of it I cut and gave away. SJ's employer really blessed me last year. He owns some property on which many good oak trees were knocked down during a strong storm in '08. He told me to have at 'em and I did. I'm still cutting them. I got all I could get to when one first enters the property and needed a way to get to the rest. For some reason, I couldn't get my truck up a small hill to access the rest of the property. I prayed and asked the Lord to influence the property owner next to his which would allow me to bypass the hill (you'd have to see it). A few weeks after I had prayed, the owner offered to let me use their driveway to access the trees which had fallen on the adjacent property. GOD answers prayer. I used the driveway for four or five months.
One day, after driving over to cut wood, the property owner and I began to chat. Now we had talked before because they also have a heart for GOD which I knew for sometime, but we had never really "talked" if you know what I mean. During the course of the conversation, they related something to me which made we wonder about the person. None of us is perfect, and I suspect we're all guilty of holding some people in higher esteem than they deserve, or we forget that even as believers we're still vulnerable and choose the wrong course of action, or the action is misinterpreted. The person also felt impressed to make a criticism about the nature of my personality which offended me, but I didn't let it be known at the time.
But the comment cut me, and though I told them it was true, I knew it wasn't true. It used to be true, but the Lord delivered me of that particular demonic influence which is what convinced me of GOD's love for and toward me. And the more I thought about the conversation, the more I wanted to say something. Now I have known this particular individual has an anointing when it comes to teaching, and as I said, loves the Lord. But somewhere along the way they had let health issues as well as other things distract them from the call I know they have on their life. So I prayed about it, and felt the Lord told me to set the record straight with them.
So I wrote them a letter because doing so allows me to choose my words carefully while also bringing forth what I feel I should say. I used the driveway to gain access to the adjacent property, but left the property via the entrance point. I wrote the letter, but was fearful about leaving it with them. I could feel the HOLY SPIRIT prompting me to leave the letter with them, so one Tuesday evening before leaving the property, I stopped the truck and walked over to the house and left the letter. Three days later, after having accessed the driveway two more times, the person told me to stop using their driveway to gain access to the wood. I said, "Okay." I wondered about the falling out for sometime, and prayed about it when I would find myself thinking about it. The Lord said, "Did I tell you to give them the letter?" I would reply back, "Yes, Lord." And HE would respond, "Then don't worry about it. You did what I told you to do." I said, "Lord, what am I going to do now?" The Lord replied, "Work at your house."
I had trees on my own property which needed to be cut, not to mention a whole lot of other stuff. Strangely, it seemed like I needed to take a break from going over to the property to cut, carry, and haul. I had all I could do for a couple of months on my days off, never missing making the trip to continue bringing more wood home. One day at work, while talking about one of my favorite things to do with another person who burns wood for heat, it was suggested to me to start using a higher octane of fuel. So I tried it. The next time I went over to the property, I cleared all the debris from the track of the hill, and then drove right up it. "Lord?" HE didn't say a word. I still think well of the person who allowed me to use their driveway, and I pray the Lord will bless them for HIS Glory. I haven't spoken to the person since in any meaningful way.
Sometimes, we just don't get along well with our brothers and sisters in the faith, and that is alright because Jesus is still Lord. I'm going to give a copy of this letter to them, too, along with some oranges because in spite of what transpired, I still think well of them, and they blessed me for a time when it was relevant for them to do so. Like I've told just about everybody, I gave the wood business to the Lord years ago, and it belongs to HIM. HE gives me something to do which I really enjoy, and I give HIM all the money which comes from doing it.
The second "word" the Lord spoke to me didn't really sink in until it came time to pay my '09 taxes. About a month before they were due, I figured out what I was going to have to pay for the year. Lo and behold, my tax bill is $1500, or $1200 if I don't file on what I made on the side all of which, incidentally, I gave to the Lord. My employer, in anticipation of the $400 work for pay tax credit underpaid my withholding by $600. I was not happy to put it kindly, but I believed the Lord would bring me the money somehow to cover it.
A lot of the time I spend with the Lord is during prayer. One Wednesday afternoon in late March of last year while spending time in prayer at church, I distinctly heard the Lord say, "What do you want?" I said, "Well, $5000 wouldn't hurt my feelings." When I returned home, and checked the mail, I had received a mailer from a tobacco company offering weekly drawings during a sweepstakes and a grand prize drawing of a trip and $5000. I thought, "No, I'm not going to do that," and eventually threw it away. I may smoke, but I'm not going to support it by helping exploit it.
Long story shorter, a week before my taxes are due, I'm at church again praying. Over come by the SPIRIT of the Lord, I start to cry (happens every time). In a brief moment, I see the Lord standing on a large black rock like one would see next to the sea shore and the water surrounding the rock is agitated. Even though the water around the rock is foaming and rolling, none of it is coming upon the rock where the Lord is standing. As I look upon HIM, HE appears to be at peace in spite of what is going on around HIM. I sensed in my heart the Lord was not going to bring the money into my life to pay the taxes, but I did hear the Lord say, "I've made a way." I had to use a credit card convenience check to pay my taxes this year.
I never mentioned to anyone the trouble I was having regarding the tax debt I knew I had to pay. When it says in Matthew chapter seven, ask, seek, and so on, or the verse which says ye have not because ye ask not, I believe both verses apply to asking the Lord. In other words, I don't believe it means to ask the Lord and then go out and "hint drop" hoping someone will feel impressed to give you what you have need of. I try to refrain from asking anyone for anything. I bring the need before the Lord and try my best to trust HIM to take care of whatever it is I'm asking for.
That was a turning point for me because I hate debt, and I wondered if the Lord had taken away HIS favor from my life. I don't give to get. I give to the Lord out of obedience and a desire to see HIS love shown those who are hungry or poor. But I also know by experience GOD blesses HIS people, and I had heard HIM tell me many times I am one of HIS. I really didn't know what to think when the money never came to me. I was tempted to throw in the towel because the frustrations in my own walk with the Lord seemed to be accumulating instead of decreasing.
It was at that very low point the HOLY SPIRIT reminded me of a scripture which burned into my memory at the moment it was given. Jesus is telling the apostles and those who had been following HIM what to expect in their journey on HIS behalf. After the Lord tells them what kind of hardships they could expect, many of those who followed HIM turned away and left. And Jesus says to the twelve, "Will you leave ME, too?" Peter replies, "Lord where shall we go? We have given up everything for YOU."
I found myself asking, "Lord, where will I go?" I remember all too well how Jesus delivered me from murderous anger and hatred, and how HE poured out HIS love upon me so strongly that every doubt about HIS power and Being was wiped out. "Lord, why have you forsaken me?" In the midst of my tax dilemma, the Lord impressed upon me to give an offering to a Christian broadcasting network. I said, "Lord, I don't have any money." HE said, "You have money." Then I remembered the 50 state quarter collection I had sitting away in a box. I said, "Okay Lord." I cashed them in and sent the broadcaster a hundred dollars.
Shortly after I had given the offering to the broadcaster, I heard the Lord say, "I will bless you ten times." Now in my mind I was thinking ten times a hundred equals a thousand. I was expecting a thousand dollars to come into my life. But as I began to think more about what the Lord had said, a thought came to mind. What if it was ten things? So one afternoon I got out a sheet of paper and wrote down ten things I'd like to have from the Lord. Number one thing: a desire to love the Lord with all my heart. Other things: to be faithful in giving no matter what, to see all those for whom I pray saved, an in person visitation with Jesus, and a HOLY SPIRIT revival outpouring upon our city. At the bottom of the list I wrote down to be debt free, and a newer truck.
Responding to the question of being forsaken, the Lord said, "(calling me by name), I haven't forsaken you. Trust ME, it is going to work out." I had hoped I could use the "opt out" vacation money at the end of my hiring date at work for some stuff I had put off for a long time to buy. Instead, I used all of it to pay down what I had to borrow. I also had to continue to pay the debt down from my own income. It is finally where it was before I had to borrow to begin with. And GOD has blessed me. HE reminded me when I really needed something, I had the money to pay for it. HE reminded me I didn't get sick this year to speak of. Others got the flu and suffered for weeks even after taking the shot. I didn't get the shot, and only suffered a few days, missing a half a day of work. Unfortunately, I felt I had to stop giving at the level HE instructed me to give regarding the additional $50. But I still give, and I still send it every two weeks. I also instructed my employer to hold out an additional thirty dollars because I don't want to have to repeat that mistake next April.
It was around August when I realized this particular season has been really hard. Every weekend from the middle of April to the first weekend of November was busy. It has finally slowed significantly. Somewhere along the way, I have just gotten tired. My energy level just isn't where it was prior to 2010. I told customers at my workplace that if there was a recession, you couldn't prove it from my side of the counter. I also started telling people in September I was looking forward to winter, and it wasn't because it was going to get cold. Being constantly tired causes one to become easily agitated, frequently frustrated, and periodically wondering.
I've noticed in my own walk a heightened sense of fearing GOD, although HE frequently reminds me I will be with HIM. It has truly been a tough year spiritually. There have been so many times when I have told the Lord I just want to be with HIM. I know to many, this doesn't make sense. But having experienced so many things in this life, both good because of Jesus, and not so good because of the lusts of my own flesh, being in the presense of the Lord is far and away better than anything on this earth. SJ has also had a rough year. Her mother continues to make their relationship unbearable through the use of emotional blackmail which is heartbreaking for SJ because she truly loves a woman who doesn't really appreciate the love of a faithfull daughter. I realized the other day I married Cinderella. Unfortunately, she didn't get prince charming.
"Write the book." I started to hear these words spoken to me in my spirit in the latter part of '09. And I thought to myself, "What book?!" I love to write, but a book is beyond my own desire, not to mention knowing what I'm supposed to say. I've prayed about it, asked that it be done by another, and been told repeatedly by the Lord, "No, I want you to do it." So, on Christmas Eve of last year, I sat down at my computer and began typing out the first words of the book I've been told to write. This also was constantly on my mind this past year as I tried to make time to write, but found myself easily distracted, frequently laying the project aside. I've been doing better lately in spite of the problems which arise to try to be obediant to the Lord's instruction. Long story short, I type it out on my computer and then write it out by hand with the intention of one day typing it all back out on SJ's computer. The other options just haven't proven to work, or I'm not going to try to make them work, take your pick.
I'm writing the book using the same name I use when sending offerings in the Name of Jesus. I've never revealed the name to anyone which means even if anyone of you should happen to read it after it is finished (probably years from now), I hope it will never be known that I was the one who penned it. And this leads me to the last part of my letter this year.
For quite sometime, I've wondered what my "calling" is. A few years ago, I was laying in bed unable to go to sleep. Finally, I said, "Lord, why can't I go to sleep tonight?" And the Lord prompted me to get out of bed at four in the morning and read Ephesians chapter four. So I get up, grab my bible, and begin reading the fourth chapter. In the middle of the chapter I remember quietly saying aloud, "What is my vocation?" And immediately I heard, "To preach." There may be some people out there who hope the Lord will call them to preach the gospel, but I am NOT ONE OF THEM! And I said, "No, I'm not going to do that." I'm not going to go to bible college and all the other stuff required to have the credentials to stand behind a pulpit and tell people how they should live for GOD after, hopefully, the Lord draws them to HIMSELF. Finally it occured to me, that is not what HE meant. "To preach" simply means, tell other people about Jesus. After that, let the HOLY SPIRIT do the work which is one of HIS jobs in the first place. I used to try to figure out ways in which I could kindly suggest to people what I felt they were doing wrong in their lives and how they could live better, but I've learned (and am still learning) it usually goes in one ear and out the other. Nine times out of ten, I'm wrong anyway. There is only one answer, Jesus.
It isn't my intention by writing these letters every year to talk about what I've done, or where I've gone, or even suggest how good I am because in truth, my journey with the Lord is a constant struggle. What I hope you'll walk away with is knowing that in spite of all your own victories, struggles, or defeats, you have the same opportunity every day to have an everlasting relationship with GOD through HIS only Begotten Son, Jesus. When others are unemployed, I'm employed. When they're sick, I'm well. When they're finacially strapped, I'm provided for. Because I'm doing it right? No. Because I'm blessed even during those times when my own world appears to be falling apart around me. I go back to the source everyday by humbling myself before the Lord and saying, "Jesus, without YOU in my life it isn't worth living. I need YOU, Lord, and I want YOU, Lord, and with all my heart, I want to be with you, Lord."
I'd like to tell you I know the best way to pray, but I don't except to say, "Just do it." There have been many times while praying that I've heard the Lord say to me, "What do you want?" Almost every time I reply with the same answer, "To be with YOU, and see those for whom I pray for daily receive from YOU the same love you poured out on me on a wonderful day in May of 2004." And the Lord has replied, "You will be, but there is still work to done," and, "they have a choice." In the Name of Jesus, just say, "Yes." Not that I desire you'll live the life I've lived since the Lord came into my life, but that you'll know in your heart, no matter what, you're going to be with HIM.
I admit there have been many times I've wanted to use money the Lord has blessed me with for personal use beyond what I have need of, and sometimes I do. But whether by design or desire, I constantly see those young children who are homeless, or hungry, or sick and dying. I can't bring myself to ask the Lord for things very often. I've had more HOLY SPIRIT enconters this year when I see the homeless and the hungry. If you knew my past, you'd know like I do, it is the Lord. Because I lived so much of my life for myself, and now......its different. This year, the Lord confirmed my calling. Yes, I said it was told me to preach. But preaching is a lot more than bringing the Word of GOD to others. It is not only telling others about Jesus, it is also showing others the same love GOD showed us when HE confirms HIS love toward us and for us. The Lord told me one day, "You are my hands. What you receive, you'll give in MY Name."
Like I said, it has been an interesting year, and not one I hope to relive any time soon. Jesus isn't a part of my life, HE is my life, and my life is in HIM. A couple of weeks ago, the Lord said regarding what lies ahead, "It is going to be a tough winter, but you'll be busy." I'll let you know next year, but if I don't, you'll know where I am.
There have been so many other things this year wherein the Lord has shown HIMSELF to me by HIS leading, or prompting, or word, but this year's letter is long enough. I could write another five or six pages just to tell you about a few of them.
I'll sign off by saying what I so often tell others and perhaps have told you. If you don't know whether to believe what I've told you is true or not, with a sincere heart, ask GOD to reveal HIMSELF to you in a way you'll have no doubt it is HIM. I know by experience HE will because HE wants you to know HIM, and HE wants you to know how much HE truly loves you.
I pray everyday before going to work. One day in the middle of the prayer I said, "Lord, thank you for coming into my life." And immediately I heard the words, "I was just waiting for you to ask."
In the Name of Jesus,
may you know, that you know you know HIM.