Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Obnoxious and Offensive

by Betty Baker Bailey

I have been urging everyone to recognize the guilt we have before the Lord for failing to deal with the sins our nation now considers completely acceptable. Many see me as harsh, sometimes even too harsh to deal with. But here's the thing: God is the One we have to deal with. Where is the kindness in ignoring the sin that brings His wrath upon us? There is none. We can not escape Him. We can not over-power Him and He will not suffer our disrespect forever. There will come an accounting. Truly even now we are seeing that in our nation.

Do not foolishly believe, as some do, that this is the work of man for the battle is spiritual. We had to be given over by the One who protected us for these things to come to be. Nor should you be comforted by the idea that it is the end times. For the "end times" began with the coming of Christ and may yet continue for another thousand years. Or do you not realize that the early church prepared for Christ’s immediate return? Yet, 2000 years have passed. No, dear brothers and sisters, I tell you the truth, we are in judgment. IF the Lord returns now, He will not be nearly so happy with us as many choose to believe.

For the sin of ignoring the slaughter innocents, we will see bloodshed and death. For the sin of treating Him as though He had no authority over us, we will find ourselves abandoned to those powers that wish evil upon us. For the sin of disrespecting the cross, we will suffer persecution for our faith.

Some like to place the blame for all these rebukes on our governmental leaders, but in truth it belongs with those who call Him Lord; because:

It was our job to stand against the slaughter. It was our job to insist His authority be maintained, and our job to uphold His laws as law.

Our founding fathers set the system up according to Biblical principles. Instead of holding to them, we have incrementally allowed them to be replaced by humanism, secularism, and socialism -- from a nation founded for freedom to worship the God of the Bible as one pleases, to one where the worship of any god except Him is acceptable. So concerned were we with offending others, that we offended Him. So comfortable were we with our wealth that we alienated Him.

So, do not rant, dear brothers and sisters, against the earthly powers that oppress us. They are in place for cause. Look around you. Do we not now see: fornication, adultery, the shedding of innocent blood, lying, stealing, homosexuality, etc. as accepted practices? Even those who call themselves “His” consider these things "inevitable" or "normal". Yet, for such sins Christ suffered and died.

The consequences of these sins are death to a society and its people. We do not show love to the homosexual by embracing his sin. No, we give him over to physical death and judgment -- the very real wrath of God. We do not elevate women by allowing them to kill their children. No, we sentence them to decades of remorse and regret, followed by judgment -- the very real wrath of God.

We act like we've either forgotten or never understood that God did not make laws because He could; but rather, for our own good. We should obey and teach them, because He is God. Failing to do so for that reason, we should then teach them because they are life, itself, to us and our children. As errant children, we have ignored and/or spurned them as though they mattered not.

Yes, people find me obnoxious, and offensive -- and some walk completely away from me, but some listen and turn. To those turning, I am seen as loving to the point of sacrifice, because I risk myself to reach them (far beyond what many know). To those who plug their ears, I am unacceptable and inexcusable. From the later come accusations of self-promotion. Yet, since I do not charge nor am I paid, their argument falls flat. No, my benefit lies purely in knowing that I am obedient, in believing that obedience to Him is imperative, and the hope that by my faithfulness some will be saved from the wrath to come.

Yes, I prefer to be considered offensive to being guilty before Him. If I did not love those caught in sin, I would be silent. They would still be punished, and I would avoid the aggravation of trying to save them. It is to great extent a thankless task. However, I would still find myself trying to explain to God, who knows all – including all He has shown me, how I could be so heartless as to not speak the warning I have been given. Man’s wrath versus God’s? I’ll take man every time. Although I love my brothers and sisters and would be at peace with them, I am nothing without Him. He is my everything. How can I not obey?

Through it all, brothers and sisters, I do know that what I am saying must be said. Truly, I do not sit around thinking of things to say nor do I do scan the Scriptures looking for things to pad my texts. No, I ask God. The things I take a hard stance on are the things He has shown me His offense at. Not only is He still speaking, He has plenty to say about His disappointment in those who have treated His generosity with such disdain.

We have embraced evil by indifference, by silence, and by allowing other gods to be given equal -- or higher positions -- than Him. If the reality of that does not give you pause, perhaps you don't know Him as well as you think you do. These are things the God of the Bible will not long tolerate. We think He will, because He has been patient with us, but His graciousness will come to an end.

Old Testament prophets were usually rejected by those they tried to reach. Both John the Baptist and the Lord were rejected by the religious leaders of the day. The Lord’s earthly mother and brothers came to put Him away, thinking He had lost His senses. The gospel is by its very nature foolishness to those who do not understand it, because it is spiritually discerned. The spiritual leaders of Christ’s day thought themselves so far above Him that they considered it insignificant to kill Him – though they knew who He was!

Therefore, do not put your hope in the leaders of this day. Far too many are more concerned with their own lives than His will. They promote themselves. They speak for themselves. They do not hear Him, because they do not honestly seek Him nor are they interested in His direction for they prefer their own. They are applauded and loved by the world, but they do not serve Him. No, like the priest of Yeshua’s day, they love their position more than Him.

Instead, brothers and sisters, look to God. He -- who took the time to create you, provide for you, and sent His only Son that you might be saved – is still very intimately concerned for you. He is not silent. He did not leave us to the men and women of this world. No, He still seeks a personal relationship with you. He still wants to commune personally with you. If you ask Him . . . if you seek Him, as if looking for pure gold . . . as it is promised in the Scriptures, He will be found. Then you will know that these things I have said to you are from His heart. True to His nature, He does not want anyone to be lost. Therefore, He sends someone to tell those who will listen and those who will not, that it is He coming against them. He does this in order that those who will listen may repent; and that who will not, will have no excuse.

I lament losing some I love to the love of the lie. My heart breaks for them, but they had a choice. I did not make it for them. I have done all I know how to encourage them to choose wisely. If they can hate me for that effort, then I have to let them go – for the only other choice is to choose hell with them. (There are only two sides. We will choose God or we will choose to be without God, refusing to choose results in not choosing God. Behaving as though God does not effect change in one’s life is to not be changed by God; and so, not belong to God. Those are the rules. I didn’t make them; but rather, just report that they are true.)

To those brothers and sisters who know I am speaking according to God’s will, I encourage you to spread the word. We do not know that He will not have mercy on us if we truly repent; only that He will not, if we do not. Even David, though his sin was great, continued to plead for mercy until the child died. For while the child lived, there was still a chance. Let us, too, be faithful to seek repentance instead of acceptance. There is yet time for God to have mercy. It is His nature to give mercy where it is undeserved; but only where there is sincere repentance. Therefore I plead with you to urge repentance to all who will listen.

To those who have separated from me, but long to reconnect – I bear no ill will to anyone. Time is short. If you seek me desiring reconciliation without needing to control, we can be reconciled. Understand, if I let you control me, I will not be led of God. I am hard at work for the Lord, the Spirit urges me onward with conviction. So, I will not be muzzled by those who do not understand. It is enough that I understand and am convinced that it is God who speaks to me. Be assured I have not stopped caring for you; but rather, I have just given you over to the choices you’ve made. You, alone, can unmake them. You know who you are. You know where I am. Do not let a fear of being rejected keep you from seeking resolution.

I am encouraged evermore to stand fast on what I have been shown. I believe the time for repentance is very short. Please, dear brothers and sisters, repent before it is too late. Churchology does not save us. It can’t, because it is manmade. We suffered a supernatural death in Adam. We must be imparted a supernatural life through Christ. It is the only way.

God’s peace.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A State of Disrespect, as adapted for "The Air of Heaven", including the follow-up prayer

For some time I have been seeking the Lord regarding revival and the deliverance of this nation. Our decline and imminent destruction is broadly apparent to me and weighs heavily on my soul. I have pleaded for wisdom and instruction; and wept over my sins and inadequacies. I share with you now what the Spirit has revealed to me regarding our desperate need for revival.

When I heard about this matter, I tore my garment and robe, pulled some of the
hair from my head and my beard, and sat down appalled. Then everyone who
trembled at the words of the God of Israel on account of the unfaithfulness of the
exiles gathered to me, and I sat appalled until the evening offering. Ezr 9:3-4

Ezra is the priest mentioned in Nehemiah Chapter 8 who read the word of God that sparked the revival of His time. He placed great emphasis on God’s word. That was his area of expertise. He was a scribe who studied the Scripture and taught the Israelites. He, also, wrote a short little book in the Old Testament that is amazingly appropriate for our situation today.

Here he is speaking in regard to the ancient Israelites who had recently returned from captivity in Babylon; a captivity arranged by God for their rejection of Him. By God’s provision they had just rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem; and yet, here we see that they had sinned so grievously that Ezra was just absolutely speechless.

We have a tendency these days to lessen the importance of the Old Testament. Certainly there are many things that are not necessary now that were profound requirements of that day. We don’t offer animal sacrifices. We don’t have a priesthood decided by physical birth. We don’t have to be an Israelite to be part of God’s family. The differences are indeed considerable, but an appreciation of the Old Testament is absolutely essential for us to be able to grasp the reality of a pre-cross relationship with God. In it we see how God dealt with sin before there was an Advocate to turn to (1 Joh 2:1).

On one occasion priests offered unsanctified fire. This sin caused them to be immediately consumed by fire. Their father, Aaron, kept his mouth shut regarding the incident. He knew what they had done and Who they had offended. Wisdom does indeed begin with the fear of God. (Lev 10:1-3)

Achan took what was God’s. That offense caused Israel’s army to lose battles and cost the lives of many men. When Achan’s disobedience was discovered as the cause of God’s wrath; he, his entire family, and all his animals were stoned to death and then burned. Israel knew it was either Achan or them. (Jos Chapter 7)

Uzzah touched the Ark of the Covenant. The oxen had stumbled and Uzzah reacted. He reached up to stop it from tumbling over and incited the wrath of God. God struck him dead on the spot, because He had told the Israelites not to touch the Ark. Uzzah’s intentions may have been good, but his actions reflected a lack of faith in God’s ability to protect His own and a disrespect for God’s authority. (2 Sam 6:67)

God’s opposition to sin was very clear to ancient Israel. Having so recently returned from captivity, Ezra’s Israelites were even more acutely aware of just how forceful and effective the wrath of God is. They hadn’t seen a handful of their country-men punished. They had seen their entire nation punished. They weren’t left wondering whether or not God would punish their unrepentant sin, they knew for absolute certain He would. Ezra’s reaction reflected that certainty.

He tore his clothes. Which doesn’t sound like much in a civilization where clothes are so readily available, but in Ezra’s day they weren’t. He wasn’t able to just go to the mall and buy a new tunic. His clothes, which were priestly garments, were difficult to come by. They had to be specially made. There were strict requirements to be adhered to. But when he heard of the sin, he grabbed them and ripped them apart forcibly – most likely completely destroying them.

Then he pulls the hair from his head and his beard. Again, it doesn’t sound like much to us, but there were requirements regarding a priest’s hair. It wasn’t to be cut. It was to be worn a certain way. Further, Scripture assures us that each hair on our head is accounted for and here he is yanking them out.

His frustration and fear is real. He shows it in his self-abasement. I suspect Ezra saw himself as somewhat to blame. He was a priest, a teacher of God’s law. If he was anything like us, he had to be thinking, “Where did I go wrong? What did I miss that caused these people to turn, yet again, away from God?” And he sets there for hours, totally appalled, totally distraught and, you have know he’s thinking about how the holiness of God is going to react to their sin. It’s just that big a deal for Ezra. 

What was the sin that had Ezra so deeply concerned? The Israelites had taken foreign wives. After being ordered not to intermingle with other nations, they had done just that. Further, these women had born them children and there they were living in God’s land; under God’s provision and protection; and yet, still breaking God’s law.

One of the primary reasons the Israelites were destroyed and carried into captivity in the first place was that inter-marriage had led them to forsake the One true God for the false gods of the other nations. And here they were at it again. It was a little like playing chicken with an 18 wheeler and you’re advancing on a skateboard. (Thump, thump!)

So, Ezra was understandably distraught and he prayed before the Lord this way:

But at the evening offering, I arose from my humiliation, even with my garment
and my robe torn, and I fell on my knees and stretched out my hands to the Lord
my God; and I said, “O my God, I am too ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my
face to Thee, my God, for our iniquities have risen above our heads and our guilt
has grown even to the heavens.”  -- Ezr 9:5-6

Ezra was mortified. He was embarrassed and deeply, deeply ashamed. He had enough sense to realize God already knew all about these sins. So, even though he had not committed this sin himself, he took responsibility for their actions and humbled himself before God.

My stepfather used to hunt deer. He studied the quickest, most efficient way to harvest them while damaging as little meat as possible. He was proficient at breaking their necks with a single bullet. Respect for the animal was shown by a swift death and reduction in the loss of meat. The animal did not die in vain, either. We used every bit. By these things we showed our appreciation for the animal’s sacrifice. We showed them respect.

In ancient Israel the sacrifices had real value as well. It wasn’t about dead animals. It wasn’t just meat. It was an offering before a Holy God; whether for sin or healing or a son, etc.; they had a purpose. It was all about obedience. There were many occasions for sacrifice and many rules regarding it; and all had to be strictly abided by. Death, again, would have been swift and efficient. They weren’t interested in torturing the animals. They were interested in keeping a right relationship with God.

Today we tell ourselves there is nothing to fear because God is love. We stand on the promises of Christ, but we do not seriously consider even the idea, as a rule, that He might carry out His wrath upon us. This has led to a disrespect of the cost of the cross and a lack of regard for His laws. We, literally, live as though His sacrifice freed us from the obligation of obedience.

“Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and
against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the
orphan, and those who turn aside the alien, and do not fear Me,” says the Lord
of hosts.

For I, the Lord, do not change . . .” Malachi 3:5-6

Ezra’s Israel was forced to send away the wives and children of their disobedience. I suspect, given the nature of ancient cultures, for many it was a journey to their deaths. Do not think either that they did not love these wives or their children. I’m quite certain they did. Fortunately, they realized that disobedience would result in even more disastrous repercussions.

So they chose the holiness of God over the depravity of life without God. They knew in no uncertain terms what kind of future lay in store for them. It was simple really. With God they had won wars and been prosperous. Without God, they had been given over to be killed and enslaved.

We have a lot to learn from Ezra’s Israel. They took sin seriously. In reality, we do not. They lived in fearful reverence. We live expecting, sometimes even demanding, to be blessed. Their forgiveness cost them. Ours is considered free to us, in that we were not sacrificed for it, but it was far from free for Him.

Unlike the sacrifices of Ezra’s day, the Lord spent much of His life knowing exactly what lay before Him. He carried the weight of that knowledge with Him as He ministered to the lost. He knew that He’d be betrayed by those who claimed to serve His Father and He knew His Father would look away. He was without sin; holy and perfect – completely God and completely man – worthy beyond compare, the perfect sacrifice. He knew He would be beaten mercilessly. He knew they would shred His skin. He knew they would mock Him and spit on Him, but He went anyway. He didn’t get a bullet to the neck. He didn’t get a knife in the throat. No, He took nails pounded into His hands and feet instead.

As a society we seem to have lost the ability to appreciate just how great His sacrifice really was. We don’t seem to identify with it at all. There aren’t altars covered in animal blood scattered around the countryside to remind us. There aren’t people hanging from crosses. We don’t see people flogged until their bones are laid bare. Yes, there is a lot of brutality in the world today, but much of it is so white-washed as to be unrecognizable.

We have covered it with psychology and human reasoning. We fault the way we were raised; rather than, the sin we’ve embraced. We blame God and alter His Word to suit us. We have fallen into a despicable state of disrespect. We don’t understand the cost of our salvation so we don’t consider its worth. We’re not trembling like Ezra. We’re not pleading for forgiveness. We generally don’t even acknowledge that we have any sin to repent of.

We say, for instance, that killing children by abortion is acceptable because it is a woman’s right. Yet, God says, “Do not shed innocent blood.” We say that there are many gods and all are equally important. Yet, God says, “I am.” Many professing Christianity abort their children, divorce and remarry, lie, cheat, blaspheme, steal . . . we don’t act like our forgiveness came at a high price. We act like we are owed it. We are far more concerned about offending the feelings of those opposed to God than of inciting His wrath. We have no real fear of Him, and that lack of regard is borne out by our actions.

Yet, God absolutely demands our respect. We see that clearly in pre-cross, ancient Israel. We see it in the way they lived. We see it in the way they worshipped and we see it in the way He dealt with them. What we need to get a grip on today is that He is exactly the same God today that He was then.

We need to understand that there are rules. Ezra’s Israel understood that concept. That was what enabled them to send their wives and children away. We absolutely would not do that today. We wouldn’t. No, we would say, “God wouldn’t ask that of me.” We have the attitude that what we want is all that matters. We’ve completely lost sight of the fact that it is what He says that actually matters.

If we were priests with forbidden fire, we’d be rendered to a pile of ashes. If thieves, we’d be stoned -- if faithless, stuck down in our tracks. But we harbor an even more sinister and appalling sin. We deny the authority of God over us and, in doing so disrespect the precious sacrifice of His only Son.

We believe that He wants to bless us and we welcome that. We accept that He wants to forgive us and expect Him to do just that. But we deny that we are also His to govern and, in doing so, spurn the cross.

We need to be more like Ezra. He searched the Scriptures and found the truth of God’s will and carried it out. We need to search the Scriptures as well. We need to remind ourselves of God’s law. We can’t appreciate the sacrifice if we’ve no understanding of that sacrifice. We can’t turn from our sin until we accept that it is sin.

The solution for Ezra’s Israel was that they put away all foreign wives and children and reconse-crate themselves wholly to God. Our solution is much the same. We must abandon our sins. We must search the Scriptures until we recognize them as sin and turn away from them whole-heartedly. If we approach humbly before the throne of grace – like Ezra; acknowledge and turn from our sin – like ancient Israel; and re-commit ourselves to His will – then can we expect revival – not before.

God is still holy. He did not allow His Son to suffer the torment of the cross that we might live as though that sacrifice was of no value. That is why we cannot just speak our submission, we must act on it. Sin in ancient Israel had real life consequences. Sin today still does. Thousands of dead children testify quite loudly to that fact. Every single time we act like sin it isn’t an issue we disrespect the One Who loved us enough to endure the cross that He might reconcile us to Himself for eternity. Put yourself in God’s shoes. This is His Son we’re talking about. I don’t know about you, but I’d be more than just a little angry.

Patiently merciful heavenly Father, thank You for the
great kindness You have shown us by giving us time to
recognize and repent from our crippling sins.
Help us, Lord, open our eyes to just how serious
our current state of disrespect really is. Remove
the blinders, Lord. Cause us to truly see.

Deliver us from the wolves that desire to lead us astray.
Close up their mouths and let them reap what they have sown.
Convict us, Lord, as only You can of the need to change
our ways to be inline with Your will and Your word.
Let the difference be clear between the wolves and
Your truth – which is the only real truth.

You, Father, are the One to whom we must surrender
our ideas of self-supremacy. Help us to recognize them
and cast them aside as we turn back to You.
Earthly wealth is nothing beside You.

Keep us, Lord, from quenching Your Spirit
that we might have even more of You in our lives.
Forgive us for taking Your mercy lightly. We have
been foolish, indeed. Break our hearts, Lord, but have
mercy and do not destroy us completely.

Shake us awake, O Lord, and draw us back to You
to Your glory. Do not leave us in the pit where we have
fallen to be burned up as useless, fruitless branches;
but rather, deliver us because of Who You are.

Do not punish us as our sins deserve; but rather,
lead us to an obedient appreciation for You.
We cannot praise You from the grave, O Lord.
We cannot share Your magnificent love from the pit.

You, Father, are the great I AM. Help us to remember
what that means, but do not forget that we are dust
in Your hand. Have mercy, Father, have mercy.
We are grateful, Father, for Your merciful, patient love.
We ask that You open our eyes, convict our hearts,
and turn us back to You to Your glory in Yeshua’s name, amen and amen.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

My Beloved Granny

by Betty Baker Bailey

Long ago when I was young,
When nursery rhymes rolled off my tongue,
I remember Granny come to call
With goodies packed away for all.

Her silver hair was her disguise
For Granny was both young and wise.
She told us truths to make us think
And set us laughing with her hi-jinks!

And when she cooked, we all drooled.
Her cakes and pies rarely cooled.
Eggs blossomed into royal feasts;
Luscious treats from a little yeast.

Fun as such few ever knew
Was mine as Granny and I grew.
She taught me how to tell a tale
So it could never quite grow stale.

She helped me see the truth of God;
To trace the steps that Jesus trod;
And gave me purpose just to know
That in His way I was to grow.

Yes, Granny, I do miss you, dear.
Forgive as I must shed a tear.
Not because I begrudge your date
With the keeper outside Heaven’s gate.

It’s just that I still love you so
Sometimes I almost want to go;
To join you somewhere in the skies
Where angels sing you lullabies.

A forgotten scene flashes out of time,
A graceful Granny in her prime.
Her gray hair flowing in the wind
She races past me to the end.

Perhaps it’s Granny with a wink
Reminding me to stop and think;
Where others may be meek and mild
My Beloved Granny may just be . . . running wild!

One Last Gift

by Betty Baker Bailey

It would be absolutely impossible to accurately describe my Grandmother to anyone who had never had physical contact with her.  The word “unconventional” comes to mind, but even it fails to describe the extent of her extraordinary outlook on life.  Equally as difficult is explaining her ability to give gifts that benefit a lifetime.

I vividly remember my Granny coming to visit as a child.  Besides the obvious delight of having someone whose love could not be questioned, she never came empty-handed.  From much needed and loved hand-me-downs (which once included a real fur stole) to fresh fruit, she always managed to capture our hearts with her generosity.  Once she even passed out delicious honey bears for each of us.  We sat on the front porch smacking and slurping enthusiastically while she and mother visited about “adult” stuff.  To this day I value gifts of the heart far more than “trinkets”.

One of the earliest gifts I remember was an old, tattered hymnal.  She brought it with her once and I commented, like children will, about how we did not have anything like it.  She graciously gave it to me.  Hymns were and are still my favorite of all songs.  To this day I can hear her patiently guiding me as we sang one after another with great gusto, if not in key.

Though she never really had much that society would call of “value”, Granny somehow always seemed to be happy.  She had a hysterical sense of humor, laughing as much at herself as others.  She would often do very embarrassing things and then tell us about it, snickering all the while.  Part of our enjoyment revolved around the fact that she actually repeated the tale.  She embraced life unashamedly, leaving me with a rather unconventional sense of humor.  (And yes, I tell on myself regularly even when it’s embarrassing.  Better to laugh at the spectacle than pretend you’re not one!)

Early in grade school she taught me a wonderful skit to do for my class.  It revolved around searching desperately for a pair of “lost” glasses that nestled safely on top of her head.  I can still see her crawling around on hands and knees while I laughed ‘till my sides ached.  I can still hear the class roaring as I “popped” the glasses down on the bridge of my nose.  The whole experience gave my self-esteem a much needed boost that’s been carried into my very public efforts today.

Hot summer days with Granny were made for wild cactus berry juice which she dutifully gathered on her morning hike.  No one but Granny would have even given them a second glance.  Neither would anyone else have considered the wild mushrooms that grew nearby, but to Granny they were a potential delicacy not to be missed.  Always the consummate teacher, she constantly strove to teach creative thinking.  I can not tell you how many times being able to do so has literally saved my bacon.

A master of nonconformity, her gifts were not just lavished on family.  To her money was something you used not something you held onto.  She once purchased a piano for a blind girl while living largely off things she had grown in her own garden.  The girl became quite the pianist, even going so far as to make at least one album.  To Granny, the girl’s happiness made it money very well spent.  She loved everyone and gave generously to all.  I know that part of my heart for the children taken by abortion comes directly from her.

Living alone most of her life, Granny was an expert in making things work.  She could grow a garden on rock, feed a family from a “bare cupboard” and make good use of every bit of “trash” she encountered.  She was self-sufficient without being distant.  She was frugal without being stingy.  She was industrious without being demanding.  She was an independent woman in a time when such a thing was very much frowned upon, but she never let the approval of men keep her from completing her duties.  My refusal to sit down, shut up and stay out of the fight for life is directly related to the example she set.  (Interestingly, if she had of “followed the rules of the day” she would never have survived even her first week of life.  She weighed in at around 2 pounds in 1912!)

Even in her sixties, Granny would get up before us each morning and begin the tasks she considered her responsibility.  She rarely quit before we did.  She had learned early the secrets of working wisely.  She could always manage to lift things too heavy for her or fix something that was “beyond repair”.  Part of this came from living through the depression, but part of it was her desire to see the job through.  These days my mother comments on my refusal to give up in areas where many would.  My tenacity is straight from her.

As far back as I can remember, Granny read her Bible regularly.  She taught all her children, and everyone else’s too, about Biblical truths.  When I first began to have “encounters” with God, she was the one who helped me realize that it really was God speaking to me.  Her commitment to Him gave me a strong appreciation for Who He is.  Her Biblical knowledge gave me an appreciation of the importance of Scripture.  She worked harder at being faithfully obedient to share the love He had given her than in any other area of her life.  How well ingrained in me is the realization that the key to living successfully lies in the obedience to His will.

The last time I saw Granny she was old and frail.  Unable to get around easily, she walked slowly, carefully and very quietly.  My youngest was only a few months old and still very fragile.  My mother, my sister and I had traveled to visit and were staying in her home.  I turned away from my daughter for a moment and when I turned back there stood my Grandmother swaying slightly.  Arms out-stretched, she was reaching towards my tiny offspring.  A look of total love covered her face.  This epitomized Granny.  She needed me to know she loved my children as much as she had always loved me, but she also in no way wanted me to fear for my child’s safety.  She knew her physical strength was gone.  She also knew it was her love that we all cherished the most. That moment is etched on my heart forever. When my daughter is old enough, it will be pure joy to share it with her.

For the last several years Granny struggled with poor health, falling victim to strokes and infection.  She went from being the mountain climber who harvested wild berries to being bed-ridden and unable to recall who people were.  She suffered long and hard, becoming childlike and dependent.  My blessed aunt went to great trouble to take care of her; seeing to her every need and treating her with the love she had so richly earned.  All of her children, grand-children, great-grand-children and great-great-grandchildren knew she was dying.  Still, we hung on to each day; praying the inevitable would not come.

About a month ago, my Granny gave me one last gift.  Something extra special . . . like all her gifts . . . that’s better shared . . . also like all her gifts.  She came to me in my sleep looking much like she had in years previous and laughing as joyously as I had often heard her as a child.  She patted my cheek and drew me close, all the while laughing cheerfully.  I pulled back a little knowing she was gone and wanting to cry over my loss.  She laughed sweetly all the more.

“Don’t cry . . .” she urged.  “Don’t cry, Baby.  Granny is all right. Granny is all right!”

I tried.  I really did.  I had said for years that it would kill me to lose her.  I wanted to cry my eyes out; to wallow in a deep pool of self-pity, but she simply would have none of it.  She laughed and laughed and laughed . . . so joyously that before I knew it, I was laughing with her.  I awoke that morning laughing out loud; grinning from ear to ear and shaking my head in wonder.  Only Granny would have seen that need so clearly, put her own aches behind and comforted her soon to be hurting grandchild.

On May 29, 2002 after making considerable effort to physically recognize and remind her older children who were by her side that she loved them, my Granny went on to be with the Lord.  Her suffering ended, she left behind children beyond those she bore who loved her dearly.  No child was ever unwelcome in her home.  She always attempted to feed, teach and give gifts to all she could reach.  Her blood descendants included 3 children, 17 grandchildren, 34 great-grandchildren, 11 great-great-grandchildren and 4 pre-born great-great-grandchildren.  Always a staunch supporter of life, abortion was simply never considered.

Granny’s funeral was as exceptional as she had been in life.  Her son officiated.  Her oldest daughter dressed her in a glorious light blue gown and robe.  One of the oldest granddaughters soloed beautifully, “I am the Bread of Life” and “Amazing Grace”.  Her teenage great-granddaughters picked and placed a bouquet of wildflowers in her hands, her flower of choice.  Grandchildren offered prayers and read Scripture.  Instead of “Jesus Loves the Little Children”, children appropriately sang “Granny loved . . .”  All who wanted were given opportunity to partake; to share a part of her influence in their lives.  I stood to tell of the dream in hopes of imparting some small portion of her joy to the rest of the family.

Many others sang, read poetry or gave testimony.  Everyone acknowledged her love had had profound effect on all of us.  Though I could not always hold back my tears, it was impossible not to hear her joyous laughter in my heart; the kind of joy that could have only come from being in the very presence of God.  Besides comforting me, I know this is exactly what my beloved Granny wanted shared with all she loved . . . that the joy of being at home with Him far exceeds all suffering.

(Realize I don’t claim to understand how any of this could have been possible.  At the point of the dream Granny was in a semi-vegetative state, lapsing in and out of consciousness.  I do know that strange things like this have happened to me for as long as I can remember.  Perhaps it’s just another part of Granny.  I really do not know.  I do know that she had always known when we were going to lose another member of the family and would warn us in advance.  I also know from extensive experience that a significant number of my dreams come true.)