This blog is where I can pour out my heart with my longing for God.

Posts tagged ‘God’

The Old Paths: The Right Thing to Do

**This was originally published on Thursday, August 8, 2013, in my newspaper column, “The Old Paths,” in The Stokes News. Due to a website change a few years ago, the publishing company broke all links to our old articles which were archived online. This was a tragic mistake and resulted in the loss of thousands of newspaper articles. Little by little, I am putting my old columns on this blog so that they can be preserved. Each column may be updated to reflect present times when transferred to this blog.**

do the right thing
“It may not be the RIGHT thing to do, but it’s the THING to do,” said my hubster after a particularly tense baseball game.

“But if it isn’t the right thing to do, then isn’t it the wrong thing to do?” I asked, trying to understand the logic of situational ethics.

The situation in question had occurred when an opposing pitcher in our men’s baseball league had purposely hit one of our players. Since the hit batsman happened to be our ace pitcher, our team’s strategy was that HE would hit THEIR pitcher next time he was up to bat.

I disagreed with the strategy, arguing that it was antiChristian. The hubster informed me that baseball was different—that such “eye for an eye” behavior was expected in a fiercely competitive atmosphere.

So good ethics for daily living are discarded on the field of play? Really?

This ethics morass in baseball troubles me. Yes, this game which I so love is indeed a competition where the best man/team wins, but must we incorporate dirty play? Must we bean them with a pitch after they bean us? Must we take performance-enhancing drugs to make us more successful? Have we lost some of the beauty and joy of America’s grand old game?

no right way to do wrong thing

Then I was reminded of something that happened in that tension-filled ballgame when even I—mild-mannered Leslie—stood up from the bleachers and cried, “Let’s just all go home. We don’t have to play under these conditions!” (The ump had just unfairly removed one of our players after accusing him of doing something he truly didn’t do.)

Shortly after the explosive situation on the field, a Hispanic boy—maybe 14—wandered up to the bleachers with his mother in tow. She did not speak English. They sat right beside me although the bleachers were fairly empty. At first, that irritated me.

Then he began talking to me, which normally irritates me as well in the middle of an action-packed game. But his face was so cherubic and innocent and his voice so polite and kind that I was quickly won over.

“Is your team the blue team?” he asked with a sweet smile. As I nodded yes, he declared, “Then I’m pulling for them, too!”

Then in a tone of awed wonder, “Are they a professional team?” I laughingly assured him they were not.

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My hubster batting at that field in High Point.

My heart melted even more as the boy kept explaining the game to his clueless mother with a respectful, loving tone. I understand Spanish fairly well and tried not to chuckle at his somewhat muddled explanations.

I asked him if he watched baseball on TV. He said sometimes. I told him I liked the Yankees. He got excited and said that was the team that played football in New Jersey, wasn’t it? I hid a smile as I explained to him that the Yankees were a baseball team in New York.

He obviously did not understand the rules of baseball very well, so I explained some fundamental ones to him so that he could, in turn, teach his mother. His mistakes were cute ones a much younger child might make, yet this teenager was so humble that no embarrassment entered into his realization that he had a lot to learn.

Suddenly I was seeing this tired old game with new eyes—like someone watching it for the first time and finding great joy in it. I was a little girl again, watching MLB with my dad as he explained the game to me.

innocence of a child

Then a fan nearby yelled something in a mean tone to the umpire. The fan’s cohort loudly echoed the ugly sentiment. Puzzled, the boy turned to look at the angry fans. His face was truly troubled—pained, even.

I felt horribly embarrassed. It was as if we had besmeared something innocent, as if we had poured black grease onto a solid white robe.

I apologized to the boy and explained to him that we had had some unfair officiating earlier. He smiled kindly and tried to understand. But I was ashamed—ashamed of my previous fit of temper and ashamed of the continued loudmouthed heckling by others.

Before long, the boy turned to me with his humble demeanor and thanked me for talking with him. His dark eyes were alight as he wished our team the best. “Maybe I’ll come back some time, and you guys will be playing again!” he said, as if it were the deepest desire of his heart.

As they stood to go, his mother nodded to me and tried to convey her appreciation in broken and heavily-accented English. She finally just stopped and haltingly said “Thank you” with an appreciative smile.

As he walked away, the boy turned back with a smile of pure joy and waved to me. Although I have returned many times to that field in High Point, I have never seen him again. I don’t even know his name. But I will never forget him. His behavior was so “unearthly” that I have even questioned if he was a real person or if I was entertaining an angel unawares, as the Good Book says we will sometimes do.

Later, as my hubster insisted that intentionally hitting a batter “may not be the right thing to do, but it’s the thing to do,” I felt led to tell him the story of the innocent boy and his joy in watching that game. In the telling of the story, my voice unexpectedly broke, and my eyes filled with tears. My hubster’s eyes also got suspiciously moist as he shook his head and said, “I was wrong. The right thing to do is ALWAYS the right thing to do.”

Sometimes it takes an innocent child to turn us back to the old paths of what is good and pure.

right time--right thing--mlk

“They Shall Rise Up In The Land”

KKK robe
Have you ever had a nightmare or a scary experience while you sleep? I believe some things that happen in the night are simply the result of too many tacos before bed. However, there are other experiences that are direct attacks from the enemy (satan and his demonic henchmen) who try to hit us under cover of darkness when we are in our most vulnerable state. THAT is the kind of attack I am about to relate to you……

The year was 1999. I have no memory of what went on that long-ago day or that evening before bed. My first recollections begin when I was engulfed in the following dream……

I was in my den during the daytime, pacing the floor, troubled by something. My dear friend, Vicki, was sitting in the floor with her back against the couch, flipping through a book on the coffee table. All of a sudden, I gasped and cried out, “I remember what I dreamed last night!”

Vicki stiffened and abruptly quit turning pages. “You don’t even have to tell me!” she said, in mournful tones. “You dreamed of a man made of ice.” Terror gripped me as she indeed had revealed exactly what I had dreamed; somehow the “Iceman” seemed absolutely and insidiously evil.

Immediately upon Vicki saying that, I woke up (or so I thought). It truly was nighttime, and I was in my bed. Suddenly I heard Vicki prophesying loudly as she walked up and down in my narrow hallway, “They shall rise up in the land! They shall rise up in the land!”—over and over again repeating that phrase.

I remember thinking, “If she doesn’t hold it down, she’s going to wake my babies!” My daughter Abigail was still in her crib, with my son Elijah in a toddler bed at the foot of her crib.

Then came the horror. Into my bedroom—not from the bathroom door, but from the door that opened up into the hall where Vicki was prophesying—walked a hooded figure in a white KKK robe. The pure evil he exuded began to stifle me. He walked by the foot of the bed, ignoring my husband on the closer side of the bed to the door, and approached me. As he did, I became more and more panicked and suddenly realized I was paralyzed.

I had had that feeling of paralysis during sleep before; you try as hard as you can to utter even a word, but you struggle and can only speak in slow motion, if at all. The only times I have experienced this, though, are when I am dreaming of a demonic attack against me……same thing in this case.

As the Klansman rounded the corner of the bed and came closer to me, I began to try to pray aloud. I strained against the paralysis, only able to moan rather than speak clearly what I wanted to: “JESUS! IN THE NAME OF JESUS!” Still, I kept struggling to get out those words, knowing that the name of Jesus was the power that would make this demon flee.

The evil apparition stopped directly beside me and simply looked down at me. I don’t remember the look of his eyes through the slits in the pointed hood. I just remember the hatred that oozed out of him toward me. Without words from him, I could absolutely sense that he was spewing out a caustic and total hatred and desire for vengeance toward me. He wanted to harm me, he wanted to destroy me…..but he knew he was not allowed to, which made him even more furious.

It was then that I saw my husband rise up to lean on his left elbow and stare down at me. He just kept looking at my face, while I wondered why he didn’t do something. Inside I was crying out, “Don’t just lie there! Wake me up! Pray against this demon standing beside me!”

After a while, he finally nudged me and said, “Leslie, Leslie, wake up!” It was only then that I could move and speak. Immediately the Klansman disappeared.

“Why did you wait so long to wake me up?!!” I cried.

His face looked surprised as he asked, “How did you know I waited?”

“I SAW you just leaning there, looking at me!”

“How did you see that? Your eyes were closed.”

I shook my head, puzzled. “I don’t know how I saw it, but I did. I was awake in another dimension and could see everything going on—even you staring at me, trying to decide what was wrong with me.”

“What on earth was going on?” he asked.

Terror still sending chills up and down my body, I shook my head again. “I can’t talk about it now. I’ll tell you in the morning.”

When morning’s light indeed came and I told him what had happened, he gasped and interjected: “I had a dream last night of several of us looking at a map or some kind of paper in critical times, and we heard a voice say, ‘You’ll know the enemy when you see him. His name rhymes with ‘Iceman.'”

Well, as you can imagine, that’s all it took to nearly make my hair stand on end!

For the next year, I’d periodically think about “Iceman” or “a man made of ice,” and I’d wonder about the connection with “They shall rise up in the land!” and the KKK demon visitor. My instinct was that “They shall rise up in the land” had to do with civil unrest somehow—stemming from issues involving race. But at that time, there were no major news stories dealing with racial issues, despite the ever-present specter of racism.

That was the very year—1999—that I finally began hosting prayer meetings in my den for revival in my hometown of Walnut Cove, N.C. I knew the dreams and visions of local revival that God had given me since early 1996 were calling me to intercede for my town. One dream, in particular, that stood out was of an incomplete circle of people standing at what seemed to be my old junior high (now Southeastern Stokes Middle School). The people were primarily black, but there were a few white people scattered here and there. I was directed of God to walk down a hill and join hands with those people. When I did, the circle was complete, and a steeple began to rise into the air in the middle of our circle.

I remember thinking, “What’s up with this? Am I supposed to go witness to all of my junior high friends? What does this mean?” I didn’t know, but I knew the racial contrast in the dream was key.

So people—black and white—began to meet in my den every week, praying/interceding for revival in Walnut Cove. And I heard God direct me to hold a community tent revival in the downtown area.

The story of how He worked out that tent revival in the year 2000 is an amazing one, but not the subject of this blog. The pertinent story began on the day we began to raise the huge tent on a vacant lot beside East Stokes Outreach Ministry in downtown Walnut Cove. As the men labored in the August sun to erect the massive cover, an older black man named Henry Gibson—known locally as “PeeWee”—came limping across the property, on his way back from the store.

Suddenly, PeeWee stopped, leaning on his cane, staring solemnly at the workers. I approached him to say hi and then noticed the tears welling up in his eyes. “Are you okay?” I asked with concern for this man that I liked so much.

“Yes, ma’am,” he kindly replied. Then he shook his head as if in disbelief and continued to speak quietly, “But I just can’t believe it! Black men and white men working together here to put up this tent!”

I was puzzled. “Yes, sir. The church I go to in Winston-Salem is multiracial.” I didn’t see why that was such a big deal in the 21st century.

I guess my voice relayed my questioning, because PeeWee suddenly turned his eyes from the tent workers to focus intently on me. “But, Miss Leslie, don’t you understand what that means on this land? On THIS property?”

I shook my head, “What’s so special about this property?”

He asked in amazement, “You don’t know?” As I again shook my head, he continued, “This is the vacant lot where the KKK used to burn their crosses to keep us black folk in line…..back when I was very young.”

His eyes took on a faraway look, and I knew he was not with me anymore. He was in the 1950’s and early ’60’s. “Yep,” he sighed. “This was the place those crosses burned. It wasn’t often—just every now and then when they wanted to make sure we knew our place.”

Then his eyes rejoined the present as he turned again to the tent workers. “So this means something, Miss Leslie. Seeing black and white men work together on THIS land to put up this tent to bring revival—it MEANS something!” His tears spilled out of his eyes onto his cheeks, and my own eyes were suspiciously moist as well.

racial reconciliation

PeeWee’s story—one I had never heard—stayed at the forefront of my mind for the rest of that steamy summer morning. As I drove home in the late afternoon to rest, I still pondered the divine justice of how God had worked it out to let that vacant lot be the only one we could find for the tent revival that was designed to bring glory to God by uniting all races and cultures in our little Southern town.

When I arrived at home, my answering machine was blinking. I pressed the button and heard an unfamiliar female voice. She sounded angry—almost threatening—as she insisted I call her back. I did not recognize her name, but her tone let me know I better check to see what was going on.

So I returned her call, noting that the last four digits of her number were the exact same as those of my dear friend Tracey in Winston-Salem. This lady’s number, however, started with “591” rather than Tracey’s “784.” (I still remember the final digits but won’t repeat them, in case the lady is still at that number. I still have her name written down as well—16 years later.)

She answered the phone and was immediately belligerent, demanding to know why I had called her house earlier in the afternoon. Startled, I began to protest, “Ma’am, I have been gone all day. I certainly did not call your house from this number or any number!”

“Yes, you did!” she nearly screamed. “It showed up on my caller ID!”

“But I couldn’t have called you when I wasn’t home! The only thing I can figure is that perhaps my husband was calling our friends in Winston-Salem who have the same exact number except for the first three digits. And he probably just forgot and automatically dialed our local ‘591’ first,” I kept telling her, wondering why she was so irate. I soon found out.

“Well, when I saw your address was ‘Pine Hall Road,’ I began to be afraid,” she finally confessed, beginning to calm down. “You see, my ex-boyfriend lives on Pine Hall Road, and I don’t want anything to do with him.”

“Oh!” I replied, finally comprehending. “I see—you thought maybe he was calling you from a neighbor’s or something.”

“Yeah,” she shared, her anger dissipating. “And to be honest, I am scared of him. He is stalking me, and he can be dangerous. You just don’t mess with Iceman.”

My blood felt as though it lost several degrees of warmth as goosebumps rose up on my arms. “Did you say Iceman?”

“Yeah, you ever heard of him? That’s my boyfriend. He was the first to bring crystal meth into Walnut Cove, so they started calling him Iceman. He’s a drug dealer.”

In my astonishment, it was all I could do to finish talking to this lady, but as I did, I was furiously writing down what she was telling me about Iceman—what kind of car he drove, his real name, and more. I had never heard of him, but I didn’t think it was an accident that all of this had happened on the very same day I was told of long-ago KKK activity in Walnut Cove. My mind was racing back to the year before—when I had dreamed of “Iceman,” followed by a demonic Klansman tormenting me in the night.

I never spoke with that lady again, but I never forgot the “too-much-to-be-coincidence” quality of that August day.

That was 16 years ago, and only periodically does the subject of my dream and demonic encounter come up—primarily just between my children and me. But it resurfaced this past Wednesday night, July 6, 2016, as a deep prayer session ended at the church I now pastor in Walnut Cove—”The Well.” The only three people left praying were my two adult daughters and me.

I had heard God tell me of a demonic stronghold in Walnut Cove that was like a fungus—something that grows sometimes inconspicuously, but as it takes hold, it has one goal—to decompose anything it touches. It was revealed to me that such a fungal-type evil force has been allowed to spread unchecked through our town, decomposing even the very buildings that are allowed to sit and decay. (He revealed specifics about this to me, but I must protect the privacy of some individuals.)

As I told my girls what God had shown me, my daughter Meghann began to research fungi on her iPhone. She suddenly spoke out, “Scientist found two types of fungi on Otzi the Iceman!”

When she said, “Iceman,” my senses were alerted. My other daughter Chelsea cried out, “Remember when I felt led to study Otzi the Iceman a few years ago because I kept feeling something about Mom’s ‘Iceman’ dream that was never resolved?!”

I did indeed remember. Otzi is a 5,300-year-old mummy found frozen in the Austrian Alps; literally, he has nothing to do with anything we are praying about. Figuratively, he does—even if it is just in the timing of when a mention of him “pops up.” That the mention of “Iceman” would surface again on this night of deep intercessory prayer when God had just revealed a major cause of the prior decomposition of Walnut Cove was uncanny……especially when this entire week had been dedicated to a special service we were holding on Friday night, July 8. The guest speaker for that service was my childhood friend, Peggy Adams, a former Stokes County girl now living in Tennessee, who is a powerful intercessor in the Kingdom of God.

When Peggy came for the first time in April 2016, she told us that God had given her three words for our direction/mission in Walnut Cove: reconciliation, redemption, restoration. She said reconciliation primarily means reconciling the races in our town—that some sort of reconciliatory healing needs to take place. I nodded in agreement because I have known since the circle dream long ago that one of my primary callings in Walnut Cove is to help with that racial reconciliation.

racial reconciliation 2

That is why the devil would like to torment me. That is why a demonic Klansman stood over my bed and hated me—wanted to destroy me. But the enemy cannot have his way with God’s people; nor can he stop God’s plan for racial reconciliation to take place in Walnut Cove.

Our nation is in turmoil today. Videos of black men being shot and killed by white police officers are making the rounds online. News bulletins are flying through cyberspace and across TV screens, telling the latest in the deadly, retaliatory murders of police officers in Dallas, TX. Facebook and other forms of social media are alight with hurt, anger, outrage and often even hatred.

Yes, I hate injustice and am saddened/shocked/angered by these murders. But I also recognize the enemy’s tactics to divide us as a nation right now, in particular. And I urge Christians everywhere not to be a part of this division. Yes, stand up for what is right—absolutely! I am standing in agreement with you for that! Wrong is wrong and should be justly punished.

praying at crossBut even so, we Christians are called to do everything we do—even protesting and crying out for justice—with God’s grace. And we need to recognize that rather than getting embroiled in the multitudes of arguments out there, the most helpful and powerful thing we can do right now is pray—and not just some quick “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer either, but rather a deep prayer for our country and its people. Couple that prayer with fasting, as Jesus said, and you will more easily be able to tear down the demonic strongholds of racism, prejudice, injustice and hatred.

“They shall rise up in the land!” Yes, that is happening even as I type. But when the enemy’s minions rise up to divide and conquer, and when we allow our hurt and emotions to make us rise up in bitterness and hatred, let’s remember how to turn this thing around. That will happen when God’s warriors RISE UP in the Spirit and in truth and say, “No more! God, send us a fresh outpouring of Your Spirit across this country! Lord, baptize us anew with the Holy Ghost AND with FIRE!!! We rise up, Jesus, in Your name to demand that satan and his demons back down before Your righteous and holy presence!”

He is looking for a people who will pray with that kind of authority and in the love of God.

“Who will go?” the Lord said.

Like the prophet Isaiah, may you and I join together to cry out, “Here am I, Lord! SEND ME!!”

here am i

The Old Paths: What about the children?

**This was originally published on Thursday, September 26, 2013, in my newspaper column, “The Old Paths,” in The Stokes News. Due to a website change a few years ago, the publishing company broke all links to our old articles which were archived online. This was a tragic mistake and resulted in the loss of thousands of newspaper articles. Little by little, I am putting my old columns on this blog so that they can be preserved. Each column is updated to reflect present times when transferred to this blog.**

Little did I know in early September 2013 when I penned a newspaper column about time healing our hurts that our county would suffer several horrendous hurts that very week. I had used the example of Sonia Luster—the 16-year-old killed in an automobile accident on her way to North Stokes High School in 2008—noting that she died the day before the Stokes Stomp, our county’s signature festival.

NSHS--Dee Luster

Sonia Luster’s mom, Dee, at the North Stokes High School graduation the year that Sonia would have graduated—wearing a shirt with a picture of Sonia graduating from an earlier grade.

Imagine my horror at the 2013 Stokes Stomp when I heard the tragic news that three other Stokes County youth had just been killed in auto accidents—one the night after I wrote my column, two others the night before the Stomp. My heart felt like lead as I was told the heartbreaking details of the wrecks that affected every high school in the county.

One victim was a West Stokes High School student, another a South Stokes High student, another a recent graduate of Meadowbrook Academy in Stokes County. One driver, who survived but was charged with DWI and two counts of felony death by motor vehicle, had attended North Stokes High.

I had left the county fair in King on Wednesday just an hour or so before the first wreck occurred on nearby Meadowbrook Road. On Friday, I had left a prayer meeting in Walnut Cove just an hour before the second wreck; it happened on Highway 89—the very road I traveled to get home. Being so near the accidents, both in place and time, made me strangely affected, although I knew none of the victims.

Not knowing them didn’t matter anyway. Mothers lost sons those nights. I am a mother of two sons, so this was heart-wrenching to me.

What was also devastating was the fact that alcohol was involved in both accidents. One driver was of legal drinking age, the other was not. Legal or not, no one should drink and drive. Why is this a problem? And why does Stokes County have one of the highest rates of alcohol-related crashes in the state?

Years ago, I sat on a committee that had received a grant to study the high incidence of alcohol-influenced wrecks in the county. We spent hours searching for the root of the problem and how to resolve it. We even brought in teenagers to help. An initiative was launched to lower the number of these accidents.

And still they happen. Why?

There are many reasons: lack of fulfillment in people’s lives that leads to alcohol abuse, that youthful feeling of invincibility which results in the skewed thinking of “It can’t happen to me,” too little awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving, etc.

One of the age groups most affected is youth ages 16 to 25. We can argue that we are not training up our children in the way they should go, that peer pressure to consume alcohol is strong, that irresponsible adults are purchasing alcohol for underage drinkers.

But I will also argue that there aren’t enough worthwhile activities for youth in Stokes County, especially on weekend nights. If you’re in King, it’s a little better; you are near Highway 52 which will take you in a flash to Winston-Salem where there are multiple things to do, such as bowling or going to the movies. In King itself, there may not be too much to do except eat at a restaurant that stays open late. The Stokes Family YMCA is located there, but it closes at 8 p.m. Friday night and 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Late at night in Walnut Cove, you can go eat at a couple of restaurants. That’s about it. You can’t even do that in Danbury, Pine Hall, Lawsonville or Sandy Ridge.

There are those of us in Walnut Cove dedicated to helping local youth prosper through education, recreation, service, a move of God; we are lobbying for a recreational center in town. We argue that kids need a place to shoot basketball, have space for games/seminars/tutoring, watch movies, hold Christian youth rallies and functions.

There are not even any real parks for children. There is an outdoor public basketball court in the London community of Walnut Cove—not ideal late at night or in freezing weather. There is Fowler Park—a lovely place but one which has no bathrooms or playground equipment. What kid wants to just sit under the picnic shelter or walk around the short path? At Lions Park, there is some rather outdated playground equipment, but again, no bathrooms unless baseball games are going on nearby.

So if you are a young person in Walnut Cove on a weekend night, you can either hang out in the Food Lion parking lot or hang out in the Food Lion parking lot. And repeat.

How do we get what we need for the youth? Community involvement is a start. We need more people to care about this issue. Most adults either have children, will have children or have/will have grandchildren who need a place for wholesome recreation in town. So you SHOULD care.

Some of you have lots of money that you can’t take with you. (Yeah, I said it.) Some of you know where to find money/grants, even if you don’t have any money personally. Some of you have land that would be a perfect place to locate a rec center. Some of you have skills that could be used to construct and outfit such a place.

So what’s stopping us? I say we can have a place in Walnut Cove (and other towns) that will give our kids somewhere to go to do something constructive. Would you rather see your kids at the local rec center playing handball, basketball or Uno late on a Friday night or out on back roads drinking illegally and then driving around because there’s no place to go?

If you are willing to put your hand to the plow to make this happen, contact me; I will be glad to welcome you to the group that is pushing to provide something for our youth in this town. My heart is to bless the children. I know the Town of Walnut Cove needs revenue; that’s why the leaders push for businesses to come to Town. But can you imagine how blessed Walnut Cove would be if Town leaders would get behind the effort to bless the Town’s children? Revenue would follow, per God’s promise that if you seek first His Kingdom, everything else you need will be added.

We don’t need any more young people killed on our roads because alcohol was an easy answer for “What is there to do?” That “easy” answer often turns into something hard for all of us to bear. We’ve had enough of that. It’s time to redeem this next generation. Who’s up for the task?

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The Old Paths: Our Loss, Heaven’s Gain

(This was originally published in The Stokes News on December 8, 2011, in my regular column, “The Old Paths.” Due to the fact that all Internet links were broken to our old articles when Civitas Media switched websites, I am slowly but surely posting all of my old columns in my blog so that they will be archived as they SHOULD’VE been on the newspaper website.)

Mike Joyce, the longest-running sheriff in Stokes County history!

Mike Joyce, the longest-running sheriff in Stokes County history!

It was a breezy Sunday morning in Iowa. The September sun shone on my ballcap-clad head as I walked into the tunnel made by the arching cornstalks at the Field of Dreams.

I plucked an ear of corn and guiltily put it inside my jacket. Even though I had found no restrictions on picking corn, I still worried that I was committing a crime. Was that the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson shaking his head at me?

But ever since former Sheriff Mike Joyce had shown me the ear of corn his stepson Joe had brought him from the Field of Dreams, I had been determined to have one. And now I couldn’t wait to tell him about mine.

I never got to tell him.

Once home, I had to work furiously so I could resign from The Stokes News in late September. One of my final stories was about Joyce preparing for a bone marrow transplant and the importance of him being shielded from infection.

So I figured I would just save the story for when he came home from Duke Medical Center at the first of the year. He and I had big things to do! We shared a dream–to create a Stokes County Sports Hall of Fame/Museum.

On the old paths, I’d go to Danbury each Thursday to pick up the public records for the paper. If it was “my lucky day,” Sheriff Joyce would beckon me into his office–a baseball lover’s dream. His cherished baseball memorabilia adorned the walls, the cabinets, the desk.

I never tired of hearing his stories–usually baseball stories, because he was one of the few people I knew whose passion for that most excellent sport surpassed even my own. He’d loan me baseball movies, tell me little-known baseball facts and often discuss Stokes County’s own rich baseball heritage.

Sheriff Joyce felt that Stokes should have a place where local sports heroes and their accomplishments could be memorialized for the public to view. His idea captured my fancy.

I imagined the fruition of that dream. I could see the ribbon-cutting, with Sheriff Joyce presiding and local sports legends present–the Nunn brothers from up Nancy Reynolds way, Kenny Dennard, Bill Murrell, Dusty Ackley, Mikey Joyce and so many others.

I had a sneaky little plan to persuade museum supporters to name the museum in honor of Mike Joyce. I kept my idea under wraps because he would have protested, being the incredibly humble and unselfish man that he was.

We never got to plan that museum together. Just two months after Sheriff Joyce announced in late 2009 that he would not seek re-election, he was diagnosed with leukemia.

I watched him fight the good fight for nearly two years. Although I wasn’t the sports editor, I begged to cover him throwing out the ceremonial first pitch in April 2010 when Field Two at Lions Park in Walnut Cove was named after him. He reminisced about coaching teams there, telling me how he still had the game ball from when his son Mikey pitched a perfect game.

It was a cruel blow to hear that the leukemia had reared its ugly head again late in the spring of 2011. But through aggressive treatment, it was soon forced back into the abyss where it belongs.

And then it was time for the final assault on the disease–a bone marrow transplant that would conceivably put the lid on the cancer and bring Joyce home again to his beloved wife Gail and family, his trusty motorcycle and plenty of good sports to watch.

But none of us are promised tomorrow, and neither was Sheriff Joyce. Before the transplant, leukemia came back with a vengeance for a third time. I kept thinking that surely such a great man who had done such enormous good for Stokes County wouldn’t die before enjoying retirement. It didn’t seem fair somehow.

But that’s not how it works. In this fallen world, the rain falls on the just and the unjust, and as Billy Joel sang, sometimes “only the good die young.”

I was on the road to Orlando, FL, when a county leader texted me on December 1, “He’s gone to Heaven.” I was asked to write the newspaper story even though I was on vacation and was no longer the editor of The Stokes News. I gladly wrote it on my laptop as my daughter drove. It was loaded to the website using McDonald’s free Wi-fi in a little Florida town.

I spent the evening searching for remembrances of Sheriff Joyce on Facebook, taking notes on the heartfelt stories I found there. And then it hit me. I was doing exactly what writer Terence Mann (played by James Earl Jones) did in the movie that Sheriff Joyce and I loved so dearly, “Field of Dreams.”

Mann collected notes from personal testimonies about the life of a small-town doctor–Archibald “Moonlight” Graham. I had once compared Sheriff Joyce to Graham in a feature story I wrote, and now I was collecting testimonies about him. Both men had dreamed of playing professional baseball.

Here are the last couple of paragraphs of my 2009 story:

Archie Graham makes it to the majors for about five minutes—not even long enough to get one at-bat. He returns to his hometown and becomes a doctor who is beloved by the entire region for over half a century.

Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) agonizes over Graham’s coming so close to a dream that was never realized. “Some men would call that a tragedy,” he insists.

The wise old doctor replies, “Son, if I’d only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes, then that would’ve been a tragedy.”

Many would argue that the analogy is a good one for Sheriff Mike Joyce’s life. Law enforcement may not have been the “field of his dreams,” but he has striven to fulfill his destiny with loyalty and integrity. A tragedy, perhaps, for Joyce that he didn’t get to play major league baseball, but a tragedy indeed, for the citizens of Stokes County, if he had.

When Mann interviewed the locals about Doc Graham, he heard how children who could not afford eyeglasses or milk or clothing would never be denied these essentials because Dr. Graham would make sure they were provided for.

Similarly, I heard stories of Sheriff Joyce’s big heart. Kathy Grubbs Marshall told how she dropped in one day to see her grandpa about six months after her grandmother died. Sheriff Joyce was there and confessed that he often went by to check on Mr. Burke. He was so at home there that he went to get the “nabs jar” and they all shared a Pepsi.

Mr. Burke was a staunch Democrat and Sheriff Joyce, a rigid Republican. But that didn’t matter when it came down to deeper issues of the heart.

Another person told how the unpretentious sheriff once dressed up as a woman to take part in a womanless beauty pageant to benefit a young boy who had leukemia. Jennifer Mickey Fulp shared the story of Sheriff Joyce going weekly to visit her ailing grandpa, former Stokes County Sheriff Clyde Duggins.

No fanfare, no self-promotion, no ulterior motive other than doing the right thing and caring about fellow human beings.

Was he perfect? Of course not–the only perfect man walked the earth 2,000 years ago.

But Mike Joyce will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the best people to ever breathe our good ole Stokes County air. He was one of the most beloved leaders in county history, with support from people in all political parties.

Sheriff Joyce, I will miss your quiet laugh that sometimes made no sound but shook your body. I will recall your compassionate eyes and hear your slow-paced, kind voice. I will remember your true humility and integrity and use it as a model to aspire to.

I will even admit that I pulled for the Texas Rangers in the World Series but am still glad your beloved St. Louis Cardinals won, for your sake.

I hope to press on with plans for a Stokes County Sports Hall of Fame/Museum, but it won’t be the same without you. I won’t rest until it bears your name, but how I wish you could be there to cut the ribbon.

But you’ll be watching from Heaven, I figure. I’ll bet that somehow you even know about my ear of corn from the Field of Dreams in Iowa. Hope to see you on the other side–on the new paths where there is no leukemia, no sickness, no pain.

And if there’s a field up there where old baseball players go to play the games of their dreams, save me a spot on the bleachers right beside you, will ya?

Me and Mike Joyce at WCLL

Me with Sheriff Mike Joyce on the opening day of Walnut Cove Little League when Field 2 at Lions Park was named after him. He threw out the first pitch of the 2009 season.

A Veterans Day Remembrance: Jay Kitts

(I wrote this back in 2012 when I was a reporter for The Stokes News. It was originally published as “Just in time for Veterans Day. . .Walnut Cove soldier returns from Afghanistan” on Nov. 15. The subject of the story, Jay Kitts, passed away on June 13, 2015, from cancer at the age of 54. The article has been edited accordingly.)

vet jay--pam and guysVeterans Day holds a special significance each year for Pam Kitts of Walnut Cove. Not only did she have a husband in the military but a son as well. In 2012, with her husband Jay still deployed with the U.S. Army Reserves to Afghanistan after 14 months and her son Nathan stationed with the Coast Guard in Ohio, the upcoming holiday was destined to be bittersweet.

Or so she thought.

Just a week before the Nov. 11 holiday, Pam received word that Jay would be coming home. He landed back on American soil in Texas on Nov. 5 for medical checks and briefing. It looked to be perhaps a couple of weeks before he would make the flight back to North Carolina.

But then Pam got the call that made her heart rejoice. Jay would be flying home on the eve of Veterans Day–Saturday, Nov. 10.

“The unit in Ft. Hood, TX, worked overtime to try to get the soldiers home for the Veterans Day holiday! We were not expecting them for another week,” Pam explained.

Before she knew it, she was on her way to PTI Airport in Greensboro. “I was anxious and so excited,” she recalled her emotions. “I just couldn’t wait to see and hug him!”

Waiting for Jay to arrive....

Waiting for Jay to arrive….

Pam and several family members and friends were on hand with banners and American flags to welcome Jay home late in the day that Saturday. Before long, he was back in the arms of his wife and home just in time for the day that honors him and all of those who serve in this nation’s military.

“I was ecstatic to see my family and friends and grateful to be back home!” Jay said.

vet jay--airport crew

Jay is home at last!

The Kitts family reunited!

The Kitts family reunited!

It was a long time coming. Master Sergeant Charles Jay Kitts had been deployed three times overseas, serving active duty in Desert Storm and stationed in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. He was also deployed another time stateside as an RDO (Rear Detachment Officer).

But that most recent deployment with the 378th CSSB (Combat Sustainment Support Battalion) out of Fort Indiantown Gap, PA, may have been the toughest. During the two months of training in NJ and then TX, followed by 12 months in Afghanistan, Jay’s father-in-law passed away, Pam had two surgeries and his 14-year-old daughter Katelyn underwent three surgeries.

“It was hard leaving behind your family and worrying about what’s happening with them and not being there for all the hardships and milestones,” Jay admitted. “I kept my faith in God and trusted that He would keep my family and me safe and bring us back together soon.”

A specialist in logistics, Jay worked 12-16 hour days in Afghanistan, always with the knowledge that enemy forces were out there to bring harm to the military. He faced protestors and occasional Afghans who would try to get into the camp.vet jay--w:arabs

“It was tough,” he confessed. “Days were long.”

But during that time, there were things Jay accomplished that he was proud of. He actually helped build a forward operations base in northern Afghanistan and served as acting mayor of the base.

vet jay--on duty

In 2012, Jay had been with the Army Reserves for 30 years with six years of active duty. This Wytheville, VA native remembered first wanting to enlist because his dad served in World War II and because he, too, wanted to serve his country.

And Jay did not serve alone. Pam was right by his side. They met on the job in the summer of 1986 when he moved to Walnut Cove, quickly fell in love and married in Feb. 1988. Pam said that since she and Jay had been able to put down roots in Walnut Cove–not having to move around–deployment was perhaps harder on them.

“The toughest thing about THIS deployment,” Pam noted, “was that I had to deal with my emotions and pain of losing my dad to cancer without Jay by my side.”

Jay was allowed to come home on emergency leave for two weeks for his father-in-law’s funeral, but when he had to go back to Afghanistan, Pam said her emotions hit their peak.

“I think the shock of my dad being gone and Jay gone again was so unbearable,” she recalled. “I needed him. Jay was truly my soulmate and my rock to lean on besides God. . .but God saw me through, and friends and family helped me, too!”

One of her comforts was her daughter, then a freshman at South Stokes High School. “Katelyn helped me so much in keeping my spirits up,” Pam declared. “She showed me what a remarkable young woman she truly is!”

Pam said that although Katelyn–a daddy’s girl–had missed her dad and longed for him to be there for her, she was very proud of him and remained a trooper and big supporter for both parents.  

Pam and Katelyn were all smiles when Jay got off the plane in Greensboro that 2012 Veterans Day weekend. By their side was Nathan whose unit had worked with him to allow him to come home to greet his dad.

Pam was relieved to have Nathan there: “It’s one thing having to worry about your husband, and then it makes it tougher to worry about a son, too! I am proud of my husband and son, but I have to say I pray a lot that my son never experiences having to go overseas or any war. I worry a lot about that.”

But Pam put those worries out of her mind that weekend when her family was finally reunited. They spent Veterans Day together in a church service that was dedicated to veterans and included a testimony of thanks from Jay and a special outdoor flag presentation by the South Stokes High School JROTC. They hung and flew the US flag that Jay had flown over Afghanistan in honor of Germanton Baptist Church for their support of him and his troops.

Home at last!

Home at last!

When he got home, Jay said that he planned to transition back with his family, spending quality time with them while getting back into the routine at his job.

Pam remembers being overjoyed to settle back into life with him. “There were so many things about my husband that made me so proud of him,” she declared. “Jay was dedicated and loved God, family and country. He truly stood for what he believed in.”

RIP, Jay Kitts–you are missed every day by those who so loved you. But they will be with you eternally one day!vet jay--abroad

A Wake-Up Call

14This past summer as September 11 drew near, I abruptly became besieged by the number “14.” Yes, I meant to use that very word “besieged.” I couldn’t quit thinking about it. “Fourteen,” I would murmur, “what is it about the number fourteen?” I told the hubster how obsessed I suddenly was with that number.

And the feeling of obsession was eerily familiar. It reminded me of how I was obsessed with “9/11” for 5 days before the terrorists struck our country on September 11, 2001. I even wrote a blog about it in 2012, recalling how I felt God had shown me that 9/11 was coming as early as 9/6 of that same year. You can read that fascinating account at:

https://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/remembering-9-11-and-knowing-that-a-10-18-is-coming/

Now here I was obsessed by another number–14. And again, we were nearing 9/11. What could it mean?

In early September 2015 during my obsession with “14,” I was going through an obscure bottom drawer, looking for some paperwork from years ago. I stumbled upon a gold mailing envelope that read “Spiritual Stuff.” Upon opening it, I found an old dream typed on a piece of paper back in late 2002. Fascinated, I began to read it and was flabbergasted to see that the only number in the dream–repeated twice–was the number 14.

This was no coincidence. I had found the record of the dream at just the right point. Let’s go back in time to see how it originally transpired…..

On Christmas Day 2002, a dear friend of mine contacted me that she had had a dream she considered from God. She was a person who didn’t often have spiritual dreams, although she was (is) a very spiritual person. So when she said this one was meaningful, I took it to heart. She felt she should tell me this dream for some reason; in fact, she felt it so strongly that she typed it up for me. I filed it away for safekeeping. Here is the dream exactly as she typed it, with a name left out for privacy purposes:

“Leslie and I were staying together in a large hotel. I remember us going up to our room together–we were on the 14th floor in room #14. As we looked out the window of our room, there was a large storm brewing over the water. It appeared to be something small enough to see, such as a tornado, but it gave the excessive rain and storms usually associated with hurricanes.

“As we watched it, we decided to go downstairs to a lower level, thinking we’d be safer, but others in the hotel kept telling us to stay where we were. They continued to repeat, ‘Stay up here. You’ll be safer the higher you are. Don’t go down onto the lower levels.’ Although it seemed against all reason, we decided to stay on the 14th floor.

“The storm passed, and everything seemed to brighten up again, so we decided to go out onto a large deck at the rear of the hotel. It was on our floor. As I began to walk out onto it, I noticed that the deck itself had come loose from the building. It didn’t seem in imminent danger of collapsing, so I went out there anyway.

“Throughout the dream, I have a recollection of seeing other church people, although I can’t remember any specifically, other than **name omitted for privacy purposes** sitting out on the deck when I was out there. There were only a few people sitting out there, but they were all sitting in chaise lounges, relaxing and having something to drink.

“About the time I got out there, I looked over the water and saw that the storm had reversed direction and was headed right back toward us. Nobody else there acted as though they could see it. I felt the Lord was telling me to get off of there as quickly as possible. I began to yell at everyone to come back inside. Everyone else got back inside, and as soon as I got both of my feet back into the hotel, that deck collapsed.”

(DISCLAIMER: I asked my friend last month if I could have permission to share her dream, with names omitted. She said yes, of course. She also said this: “I’ve literally read the entire books of Ezekiel, Daniel, Revelation, Zechariah, Obadiah, Joel, Amos, and parts of Isaiah and Jeremiah in the last week. Let’s just say I’ve read a lot about judgment, and had some keen realizations lately that people are not watching, and it’s happening right under their nose.”)

You can imagine my amazement when I found this old dream with the 14’s in it. In the following days, I continued to seek God and ponder the significance of the number.

And suddenly, clarity came.

In a few days, we would be commemorating the 14th anniversary of 9/11. FOURTEEN.

trumpetsAnd something I had been teaching on–the very meaningful Biblical Shemitah year–was about to end on Sept. 13–at which point the new Jewish civil year would begin–on September 14. FOURTEEN. This is a huge day for me every year…..the first day of the holy 7th month on God’s calendar…..the Jewish New Year…..the day we celebrate the Feast of the Lord, Rosh Hashanah–also called the Feast of Trumpets–which symbolizes the Lord’s return to earth. Each year it is on a different day of either September or October, since God’s calendar is a lunar one, and thus, fluid. This year, it “just happened” to come on the 14th.

Two days I was anxiously awaiting were part of the “14” puzzle–the 14th anniversary of 9/11 and September 14th–Feast of Trumpets. And I didn’t realize it until AFTER the obsession with “14” had hit.

I knew then what the “14” in my friend’s dream meant:

–We stayed on the 14th floor which represented the 14th anniversary of 9/11.

–We stayed in Room 14 which represented September 14.

–A floor of a hotel is a bigger entity than a mere hotel room–just as a 14th YEAR is a bigger entity than a 14th DAY of a month. There is a room 14 on every floor–just as there is a 14th day in every month. But there is only one 14th floor–just as there is only ONE 14th-year anniversary. (Hope that logic makes sense as to why the floor corresponds to a year and the room corresponds to a day of the month.)

Why were these 14‘s important? Because the Christian world (and much of the secular world!) had been waiting for this year’s anniversary of 9/11 AND for the start of the Jewish New Year. Why? Because there had been so much teaching and warning about something big happening this September. Why? Because it was the end of the Biblical Shemitah year which only comes every 7th year and resulted in the biggest stock market crashes in history in 2001 and 2008…..at the end of Shemitah year…..both on the 29th day of the 6th Jewish month of Elul–the final day of the Shemitah year.

shemitahThis year, the 29th day of Elul–the final day of this once-every-7-years Shemitah year–would fall on September 13. Since it was a Sunday and the U.S. stock market would be closed, many folks were waiting with bated breath to see what happened on the next day–Monday, September 14th. It seemed even eerier since this year the anniversary of 9/11 AND the end of the Shemitah year were the same weekend. That didn’t happen in 2008–the last time we had a Shemitah year. In that year, the end of the Shemitah year occurred a few weeks after 9/11, again due to the Jewish calendar being based on the moon and therefore fluid.

Indeed things did seem to be building toward something catastrophic as the stock market experienced some dark days in the days/weeks before the end of the Shemitah year. Even many stock market analysts with no Christian ties were predicting dark days ahead financially.

But nothing catastrophic happened…..just as in the dream, when the storm was approaching the hotel where we were in the 14th room on the 14th floor…..and then suddenly turned back out to sea. A dangerous storm that seemed destined to strike the hotel didn’t actually strike at all!

Then all is well, right? NO. Notice that the deck at the rear of the 14th floor was loose–not securely attached to the main structure…..perhaps in danger of collapsing.

I began thinking of that one person my friend remembered seeing on the deck (although there were others). Nothing was coming to me about why it was that particular person–very frustrating. Shortly after the 14th anniversary of 9/11 and the September 14th Jewish New Year came and went without great fanfare (just as the expected storm did no damage at that time), I suddenly realized that the person on the deck had a first name that was the same as a unit of U.S. money. That seemed very significant to me with regard to our financial system.

Then it hit me to Google the meaning of this person’s last name. Imagine my surprise when I found that this person’s surname meant “someone at a high place, in a raised-up area.” And this was the person sitting high and raised up on the 14th floor deck! It all seemed to fit. Symbolically, our financial system was still in an exalted position on that deck–just as the person with the monetary unit name was sitting comfortably up there where folks were relaxing in chaise lounges and sipping drinks.

But that deck was loose and not sturdy or trustworthy…..perhaps like our financial system here in the U.S.

The very next morning after I felt God had revealed to me the significance of that person’s name on the deck, I opened my Bible to read my daily chapter. At that time in September 2015, I was already in the Book of Revelation. And the morning after I got revelation on the person’s name, the very chapter in Revelation that I was scheduled to read mentioned the actual name of the person on the deck–the monetary unit…..in connection to a global financial failure!

Color me astonished at the timing!

waterspoutWhat happens next in the dream? The storm that everyone had earlier expected reversed course and began heading back to the hotel. This time, no one was looking for it and couldn’t seem to see its approach. In other words, they were fooled. So when it struck, the faulty deck collapsed…..the deck that had been coming loose for a time, but which still seemed to be able to support those relaxed people, FELL catastrophically.

Do I think something is coming to our country that will cripple us and perhaps surprise us by its arrival? Yes. As for me, I’m coming in off the loose deck where we are so wrapped up in our own leisure and personal fulfillment, and I’m getting into a place where there is a firm foundation.

II Timothy 3:1-4 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents,ungrateful, unholy,  without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,  treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”

LOVERS OF PLEASURE RATHER THAN LOVERS OF GOD.

We need to have our feet on a firm foundation rather than on a pleasure-seeking, loose deck suspended above 14 stories. That firm foundation is a strong relationship with Jesus Christ. “Oh, I believe in God,” people say. Yes, the Bible says the demons believe in one God, too, and TREMBLE. Our belief does nothing for us if we keep living for ourselves and not in close relationship with Jesus. Just believing in God will not get us into Heaven.

I urge you to enter into a true relationship with Him. The time is now. “Make haste; don’t delay” was a word of prophecy given to our church group a few weeks ago.

I have kept the revelation of this “14” dream to myself for 2 months. Yes, I am ashamed to admit I don’t like to be mocked or made fun of for claiming revelation from God or predicting something. But I’ve finally passed the point of caring what people think of me. What does God think? THAT is what matters.

I should’ve learned my lesson last spring with an experience I had. On Monday, April 20, 2015, a solemnity fell upon me suddenly–the sense that something catastrophic was about to happen somewhere in the world and that I needed to intercede. I have witnesses of this, since I testified of this prayer burden on Wednesday, April 22, at our weekly Bible study at The Well. That very night in a vivid dream, I saw a catastrophic avalanche on Mount Everest–so disturbed me that I told my hubster about it the next morning. But I didn’t tell anybody else.

avalanche everestThree days later on April 25, the devastating earthquake struck Nepal, and Mount Everest suffered the worst avalanche in its known history–22 people killed by the deluge of falling snow. I had seen it before it happened, but who would’ve believed me had I told it? Was I supposed to alert the Nepali government–some unknown gal from Walnut Cove, North Carolina, telling them an avalanche was coming? I can’t see that I had an outlet to share this, but maybe I’m wrong.

This past week was my bimonthly week to write my original newspaper column–“The Old Paths”–for The Stokes News. On Monday, November 9, as I wrote it, I mentioned the word “hankering” which, Google informed me, had Flemish roots. “Flemish?” I thought. “What is that?” Google once again provided help: Flemish means it came from Flanders, a region in Belgium.

Hmmm…..I was suddenly reminded that I had once dreamed of Belgium…..years ago…..maybe in about 2005? (I mean, who dreams of Belgium? Really!) In that dream, I was in Paris, France, when the city had been struck by absolute panic. There was pandemonium all around, and the government there closed the borders. I was in the heart of the city with a man with longish, curly hair; I wore his ring. (At the time of the dream, I had never even met the hubster–a man with longish, curly hair–whose ring I now wear.)

Ex-ETAMAT de Thouars (79)

All I knew was I needed to escape the terror in Paris. I began to make my way north toward the Belgian border–to try to sneak across there. Soon I was in a barren area that looked like a wasteland. I even saw barbed wire borders and began to wonder if I was safe in this desolate area. (Tonight, when I Googled the border of France and Belgium, I found a region called “Zone Rouge”–the red zone–an area left so devastated by World War I that it is technically a wasteland even today. I found a picture of it that looks almost exactly like the area in my dream. There, 99% of animals and plants perish.)

What are the chances I would suddenly write a column about a word from Belgium that reminds me of a long-forgotten dream about such terror/panic in Paris that the borders of France are closed–just 5 days before terror actually hits Paris and the French borders are closed?

I have been beating myself up all night tonight as I watch the tragedy unfold in Paris. I feel that if I had been in consecrated prayer as I should’ve been this week, God would’ve given me warning about this. Instead, my 3 kids here at home were all hit with a bad respiratory bug which resulted in my body fighting it off with aches and pains. Instead, my plate was overly full of things that had to be done (or so I thought). Instead, I did not steal away to my prayer closet the way I normally do.

Prayer is key right now. Through His Spirit, our God WILL reveal things to come. Why? That those of us on the wall–the watchmen (you and me, if you know Him)–will know to sound the trumpet, to send the warning, to cry out for God’s people to prepare their hearts and to be more dedicated than ever to bring in the harvest of souls before it is too late.

mushroom cloudI have people asking me what else I have seen in dreams that seems to be a portent. There are many things, but I will tell you this one: I saw what I thought was a football game going on. Upon closer inspection, I saw it was a bloody battle of competition on a field of play–seemed much more serious than a simple game of football. What they were tossing about on the field seemed to be not a football but rather a weapon of mass destruction. (Perhaps football is a time factor? I don’t know.) Suddenly a cloud of smoke went up over a major city in the U.S. (My first thought was NYC, but it has not been confirmed to me.) The cloud was similar to a mushroom cloud but perhaps not as big. I remember that one of my older daughters was out of town at the time this happened, and I was desperate to hear if she was okay. After the attack, I saw people of a Middle Eastern nationality (no, I’m not racial profiling here–I’m just telling you what I saw…..and it IS key that ISIS is such a threat right now) riding through our streets in the U.S., with guns and terror. Even our very homes were not safe. Just as I, too, began to panic–just like the people all around me–I suddenly felt the Holy Ghost surround my very body just like a shield or a suit of armor. I knew then that the power of God was the ONLY thing that would protect us in the day of terror–not manmade weapons, but SPIRITUAL armor/weaponry.

THAT is what I would say to you: get yourself spiritually armed and ready; be clothed in the Spirit of God which is the ONLY thing that will bring you peace, love, joy, patience and every other good quality that will be needed as these last-day birth-pangs hit this earth. I don’t believe in spouting off doomsday warnings all the time or using scare tactics. Those of you who know me can attest that I preach the Gospel–the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ–and that I teach optimism and positivity. Some say I even wear “rose-colored glasses.”

But when He gives me something like what I have shared with you tonight, I cannot keep it to myself any longer. So take heart and listen to the words of our Savior:

John 16:33 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

Luke 21:28 “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Psalm 91:9-11 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways”

He’s got this, Church! And He’s got us right in the palm of His hand and in the shelter of His wing!

psalm 91

Praying for Opportunity

mission field

I have long been one who sees everywhere I go as a mission field. I anticipate running into someone at the grocery store who is hurting emotionally and needs to talk, seeing someone at the restaurant who has just been diagnosed with something and wants me to agree with them in prayer, smiling at the person getting gas next to me in hopes they can feel the love of God. Brochures advertising my church are crammed into my purse. Anointing oil is ever-ready in a little container on my keyring.

But when my son Elijah told us all at our church, The Well, one recent Sunday morning that we needed to start praying ahead of time for opportunities to minister to people wherever we go, it really struck me. Yes, I look for such opportunities, but had I been praying beforehand for such opportunities to be created? No.

Hmmm….

Trust God to speak a good word to us and then give us a chance to put it into practice….always with a little twist, I must admit.

Yesterday was my chance. And talk about frustrating! By noon, I was asking God what in the world was going on that I was being hindered everywhere I went. That’s my problem when I have to wait on anything: I often start asking “Why?” rather than trusting His timing.

Because I had stayed up super-late on Wednesday night, I ended up sleeping later than I anticipated. Then I went downstairs to find that Abigail–who had been told to get up early so we could go to the DMV in Kernersville–had forgotten to set her alarm. By the time I got my sons settled with schoolwork to do, it was much later than I had planned on leaving.

Well, of course, the gas hand was dipping low, so I had to stop and fill up. Still, I remembered going to the Kernersville DMV–a very well-run place–on another Thursday not too long ago, so I relaxed. It had been nearly empty–we were in and out quickly. Rarely have I waited long there.

Oh, the shock when we pulled in to find a full parking lot and standing room only inside. Most every eye turned to look with pity at us as we walked in. They looked even more sympathetic as they watched me stand at the front desk for over 15 minutes–waiting for an examiner to simply acknowledge I was there. Finally we were able to check in, be given a number and take a seat….on the hard tile floor.

After quite a while, I told Abigail I was going to walk to the License Plate Agency to change my name on my car title. I walked for quite a ways and was relieved to see a short line. Very soon, the kind attendant was doing my paperwork. I paid the $20 fee with my debit card and thought I was on my way….

….until she told me the notary fee of $5 had to be paid in cash. Now in this day of plastic, yours truly does not normally carry cash. She pointed to an ATM inside the building but told me it would cost $3 just to get $5 out. Hmph! No way–I’d go to the CashPoints ATM in the next complex of buildings. She said she trusted me and would let me go get the cash.

Due to the distance to the ATM, I walked all the way back to my car at the DMV, checked on Abigail, then drove to get the cash. With Elijah’s words ringing in my ears, I had prayed ahead of time for an opportunity to minister. But by the look of things, I’d have to wait until later since things were about to wrap up at the Agency. I headed back, cash in hand.

And then came the slowdown. There was now a line at the Agency. Plus, in my absence, two people had come in to buy/sell a car and do a title transfer…..with the very attendant I needed. I prayed she would be free by the time I got to the front of the line. But she wasn’t. So I had to start letting people pass me to go to the other two attendants…..one…..two…..three…..and on up to seven people passing me as I stood there feeling stupid. Meanwhile, the other attendants were glancing suspiciously at me, obviously wondering why this “strange lady” kept letting everyone pass.

I struck up conversations with everyone who passed me, but I sure didn’t feel any ministry opportunities. My mind was racing…..Were they calling Abigail into the office for her test and she needed me there?…..What if she was texting me and my phone was in the car?……How much longer should I wait?

And still, the title transfer dragged on…..and on…..over half an hour of “on.”

Then it happened. Just as I was thinking about giving up and coming back later, a lady–maybe my age–limped in with a cane. My heart quickened within me. I smiled, she smiled, we began to chat. Before long, I learned she had MS and was worried because she was aging so rapidly and rarely felt well enough to get out for such business transactions. Aha–here was my ministry opportunity; I could feel compassion welling up in my very soul.

Then an attendant called, “Next!” It was my turn again, but it wasn’t my attendant. I told the lady she could pass me, and she thanked me kindly. As she finished her transaction and began to hobble out, I heard that still small voice deep within me say, “Follow her out.”

“NOW? Give up my place in line after all this time?!” I asked in panic–seeing that the title transfer was wrapping up with my attendant.

“Yes, GO.”

No more questioning–I took off out that door, catching her before she crossed the parking lot. “I hope you have a good day,” I said. “And I hope you get better.”

She smiled a sweet, trembling smile, “Thank you!”

I patted her shoulder and continued, “I believe in divine healing, and I know it’s God’s will that you be made whole.”

Suddenly she was very moved and said excitedly, “I believe in divine healing, too!”

That’s all it took. Right there in the parking lot, I laid my hand on her back and started praying for healing in the name of Jesus, speaking that by His stripes she was healed. I wasn’t loud, I didn’t embarrass her and I wouldn’t have even done it had I not felt from God that she was receptive.

She was overwhelmed with gratitude and thanked me fervently. We introduced ourselves by first names only and parted with huge smiles–the love of God marvelously flowing between us. Why? Because our good God had advised our congregation–using my son as a vessel to tell us–to pray ahead of time for ministry opportunities everywhere we go. Many Christians are probably already doing that, but I confess that I had not been.

I finally got to pay my attendant. Abigail finally got called in for her test at the DMV; she didn’t miss a question and is now driving! We even had time to enjoy a late lunch before she had to report to work. The hindrances were suddenly gone. What I was thinking that the enemy meant for my harm–the many delays, the many temptations to be frustrated–GOD used for my good! If I hadn’t been delayed at home, at the DMV, at the license tag agency, I wouldn’t have met this precious lady who needed encouragement.

He’s an on-time God. Yes, He is.

I will long remember this sweet lady He placed in my path. I will continue to speak that she is healed of MS. I will believe that wherever she is, she is noticing incredible improvement. I will trust that one day in Heaven, we will be reunited; maybe she’ll come running over to tell me about her miracle!

What if we all went out every day praying in faith BEFOREHAND for the Lord to CREATE opportunities to minister everywhere we go? Wow–what a revolution we would see! May that be our strategy every day for the rest of our lives on this earth.

Luke 10:2– “He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

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