39 years Ago – He Met His “Barbara”

It was in January 39 years ago I walked into a church in Bethalto, Illinois, not knowing that I was about to meet my future husband. As Paul and I remember that special day, we still marvel at how God brought us together. So – once again, I share our story.

“We as a community of friends are gathered here in God’s presence to witness Paul and Barbara’s renewal of commitment to one another and to ask God’s continued blessings on them. Marriage, like our creation as men and women owes its existence to God. It is His will and purpose that a husband and wife should love each other throughout their life. Shall we pray?”

This was how our Pastor began the ceremony when my husband and I renewed our wedding vows on our 25th anniversary. We still love to remember that story.

Here’s the story!

While living in the state of Washington, my husband, Paul, found himself a single father trying to raise two teenagers. Needing support, he returned to his home town to be near family. He was very lonely and began to pray for a Christian wife. Since he was a minister and also loved to sing, he asked God if it would be possible that this wife would also play the piano and be able to work with him in the ministry.

Her name will be Barbara

While praying, he felt impressed in his spirit that God would grant him that request and that his future wife would be named “Barbara.” He was afraid at first to share that thought with anyone as he felt they would think he was crazy. But it was so real to him he needed to reveal it to someone. He finally related that information with a couple at the large church he was attending but no one else.

Four months later I walked into the church with my two young daughters.

While living in Southeast Missouri, my first husband was accidentally killed leaving me with two small daughters to care for. Everything I read about grief told me that I should make no sudden changes or moves for at least a year. However, after a year of trying to make it far from home, I decided to return to Illinois where my family could give me much-needed support. While it was great to be close to my family again, I still carried a heavy load of grief and sorrow. I tried to be strong for my two young daughters, but after a while I realized I did not want to continue living alone. Although I longed to find happiness again, I knew that my daughters’ happiness and safety were more important than my own. If I ever remarried, it would have to be a very special man who would love my daughters as well as me.

I asked God to give me a godly husband who would help me raise my daughters.

One year after moving back to Illinois, I decided to attend the church where my parents were members. When I walked in the foyer, I saw a couple that I recognized. They were friends with my first husband’s parents but I had not seen them in years. They seemed extremely happy to see me, but it was only months later that I found out why my sudden appearance at their church was so exciting to them. They were the couple that Paul had shared his secret with.

After greeting me, they hurried to locate my future husband and tell him, “There she is.”

He had no idea what they meant until they told him the red head that had just walked into the church was named Barbara. Paul told them to not say anything, but if this was the Barbara God had promised, God would work it out. A few weeks later Paul asked me on a date and the rest, as they say, is history.

And a good history it has been. Paul has proven to be a wonderful husband and, even more important, a wonderful father to my two daughters and grandfather to my grandchildren.

Today as we look back at the 39 years we have shared, we are grateful that God answered our prayers. I am no longer a red head, but he loves me anyway. 🙂

The Christmas Story Not Found in Matthew or Luke

At this time of the year we turn to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke to read the Christmas story. Each Gospel gives us a different aspect of the birth of Jesus.

Matthew emphasizes that Jesus is the King. He starts his Gospel with the genealogy of Jesus showing his descent from Abraham, the founder of the Jewish people, and David, their great king. It is the story of Joseph we read. Matthew tells us of the wise men who came from a distance bearing gifts and seeking for the newborn king of the Jews.

Our nativity sets showing the wise men at the manger are not correct. Exactly how many wise men there were we do not know – only that there were three gifts. Their arrival happened sometime after the birth of Jesus as Matthew tells us that they found Jesus in a house and calls him at that time a child. When Herod realizes the wise men are not coming back to tell him where this child is, he orders all boys in the area who are two years old and under to be killed.

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi

While they asked for the king of the Jews, they clearly recognized that Jesus was God as Matthew tell us:

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. 

Matthew shows us that his birth is for all people. These wise men were Gentiles, yet they were one of the first to worship him.

On the other hand, Luke emphasizes the humanity of Jesus. He traces the line of Jesus all the way back to the first man, Adam. It is not of the wealthy, educated Magi that Luke writes, but the lowly shepherds in the fields, the lowly widow Anna who has been awaiting the arrival of Messiah.

While these two portions of Scripture are the ones we look to as we read of the birth of Jesus, I think there is a passage in the book of Philippians that gives a greater understanding of the meaning, the purpose of the birth of Jesus.

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

As we celebrate the birth of this little child, let us not forget the very reason He came was to save us. And just as the shepherds and the wise men worshiped Him, let us bow down in gratitude and love to our Lord and King.

Our Father’s Love

Reading this week a familiar parable Jesus told about the prodigal son that took his part of the heritage of his father and then proceeded to waste it away on careless living. The Bible says “when he came to his senses” he went back home to ask his father to just let him be a servant.

It is a very familiar story to anyone who has ever attended church or read the Bible. Being so familiar, I truthfully began to read over it quickly.

But this time something caught my eye.

The scripture says that the father saw his son “when he was a great way off.” Imagine the father every day going out to the road and looking down the path in hopes of seeing his son returning home. Imagine every evening before retiring for the day, taking another look down the road. Hoping, praying to see his son coming home.

The days, weeks, maybe years of disappointment as his glances show no sign of his son. But he never gave up. He kept looking, hoping, expecting an answer to his prayer.

As I read that this week, I thought of those who I am praying for. Loved ones, friends who have walked away from fellowship with others – some out of hurt, some out of misunderstanding, some out of losing sight of a relationship with God.

Honestly sometimes I lose hope that they will ever return. But this parable reminded me that I must remain faithful in praying, expecting and never stop looking down the road to see them returning home to God.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Friday’s List for Wisdom and/or Laughter

More wisdom from my daily devotion book.

  1. Salvation is not a self-help program.
  2. What you worship is what you become
  3. We are often so caught up in our activities that we tend to worship our work, work at our play, and play at our worship.
  4. Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.
  5. Satan never fears the Christian whose Bible is covered with dust.
  6. Religion is man searching for God; Christianity is God reaching down to man.
  7. The greatest treasure a person can leave her children is an intimate knowledge of God.
  8. Many people pray as if God were a big aspirin pill. They only come when they hurt.
  9. Ministry is our love for Christ dressed in working clothes.
  10. Some people dream of great accomplishments, while others stay awake and do them.

Friday’s List of Quotes

Hope you enjoy these. All from my daily devotion book.

  1. Some people are so indecisive, their favorite color is plaid.
  2. Before passing judgment on a sermon, be sure to try it out in practice.
  3. Kindness is a language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
  4. Lord, make my words kind, because tomorrow I may have to eat them.
  5. Those who deserve love the least are the ones who need it the most.
  6. The brook would lose its song if the rocks were removed.
  7. Love is not just sentiment; it is service.
  8. When you pray, make sure your will is in neutral so God can shift it.
  9. Service is a gift of love to people given in gratitude for God’s gift of love for you.
  10. Man sees your actions, but God sees your motives.

Dangerous Prayers

My church has been doing a series on dangerous prayers – and it has given me much thought.

I have to admit that most of my prayers are for me and mine. While there is certainly nothing wrong with praying for my family, my friends, my needs, taking a look at some of the prayers in the Bible has reminded me that I am called to let my love and concern go beyond my own small circle.

Looking at the prayers in God’s Word leads me to go deeper in my prayer time. Time spent in prayer should not just telling God of our needs and desires, but a time to be quiet and let Him speak to us.

Psalm 139:23-24 – “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

The prayer of the early church in Acts has always amazed me. After two of their leaders had been arrested and spent the night in jail, they were released with the command to never speak of Jesus again. Arriving at the house where the church was gathered for prayer, I would think they would pray for God’s protection, for deliverance from the persecution. But they did not. Instead, they prayed “make me bold.”

Acts 4:29 – “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”

In our culture today when it seems society is more and more hostile to Christian principles it can be so easy to just ask God to keep me and mine safe. But I need to ask God to help my family, my friends be bold to proclaim God’s love to this needy world.

Many times, when I pray for my family, my prayers are focused on more material issues. “Give this child a job.” “Heal this child.” “Help this child in their efforts for school or work or family.”

Again, these prayers are certainly ones we should pray. After all, God cares about every aspect of our life. But I found a prayer in one of the Apostle Paul’s writings that helps me focus on the most important needs of my family – their spiritual welfare.

Colossians 1: 9-12 – “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”

In today’s message my pastor talked about Isaiah and his experience when he had a vision of the Lord in all His glory. Isaiah’s first response was to recognize his own sinfulness and need of cleansing. When the seraphim placed a coal of fire on his lips and told him he was forgiven, his immediate response was to say “Send me.”

I often wondered why the seraphim chose to place the coals on his lips rather than on his head or hands. But when Isaiah saw the glory of God, he responded by saying “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.”

Isaiah understood what Jesus later told us. “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them. But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”

As Isaiah experienced God’s forgiveness, he was ready to say, “Send me.” How often do I pray for God to meet this need or solve this problem, but how often do I make myself available for God to use me as an answer to that prayer?

I realize as I pray I need to take time to be quiet, to let God speak to me about areas in my life that need forgiveness, healing, strength. To say “search me.” To pray “make me bold” that I might be unafraid to share the good news of God’s love to those I meet at the store, in the library or wherever I may go. To focus more on the “spiritual” needs of those on my prayer list and not just on the “physical” needs. To ask God to “send me” and then seek to be more aware of the opportunities He places in my path to be used of Him.

Dangerous prayers – prayers that might require more of me rather than just giving God a list of wishes/needs for Him to take care of.

Join me in praying some dangerous prayers and see what God will do in us and through us.

Friday’s List for Wisdom and Laughter

  1. Eternity is too long to be wrong
  2. Say “no” to sin and “yes” to God
  3. Make no “appeal” for God until you “kneel” to God
  4. God is not so much seeking those who can do everything as He is those who are willing to do anything.
  5. Security is not the absence of danger, but the presence of God no matter what the danger.
  6. We cannot look at the cross and still think our life is of no importance to God.
  7. The only part of the Bible you believe is the part you obey.
  8. Man sees your actions, but God sees your motives.
  9. Satan never fears the Christian whose Bible is covered with dust.
  10. Religion is man searching for God, Christianity is God reaching down to man.

Friday’s List – Prayers for Christians Suffering Persecution

I have been sharing on Friday some of the funny and/or challenging things I read or hear in novels, sermons and conversation with friends. Since this week we are asked to remember the Christian martyrs, I would like to share a list of ten ways to pray for those who are persecuted for their faith even today.

  1. Pray that the persecuted believers will sense God’s presence.
  2. Pray they will feel connected to the Body of Christ.
  3. Pray they will experience God’s comfort when their family members are killed, injured or imprisoned for their witness.
  4. Pray they will have more opportunities to share the Gospel.
  5. Pray for boldness to make Christ known.
  6. Pray they will forgive and love their persecutors.
  7. Pray their ministry activities will remain undetected by those who wish to silence them.
  8. Pray they will be able to rejoice in the midst of suffering.
  9. Pray they will have access to God’s Word and grow in their faith.
  10. Pray they will know that others around the world are praying for them and have strength in that knowledge.

Friday’s Quotes – Importance of Prayer

  1. Let us never forget that the greatest thing we can do for God or for man is to pray.
  2. Intercession is service…unlike all other forms of service and superior to them in this: it has fewer limitations. In all other service, we are constantly limited by space, bodily strength, equipment, material obstacles and difficulties involved with differences of personality. Prayer knows no such limits…S.D. Gordon
  3. Prayer is partnership with God’s activities on earth…Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  4. The greatest need is prayer. Without increasing the number of Christian workers or their financial support, we could see multiplied results if we would only multiply prayer…Wesley Duwell
  5. One way of laying down our lives is by praying for somebody. In prayer I am saying “my life for yours.” My time, my energy, my thought, my concern, my faith—here they are, for you…Elizabeth Elliott
  6. Praying takes personal time, energy and determination. No other personal commitment has been so hard to carry out.
  7. Prayer is asking God to align you with His will rather than asking Him to be aligned with yours.
  8. Prayer should not be regarded as a duty which must be performed, but rather as a privilege to be enjoyed…E.M. Bounds
  9. Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts…Mother Teresa
  10. I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day….Abraham Lincoln

Friday’s List for Wisdom and Laughter

Recently I posted about my visit to the Wesley Garden on St. Simon’s Island.

Looking at that visit, I was reminded of the list John Wesley created for the group of people who were gathering each week to pray and encourage one another in their walk with God.

He had a list of questions they would use in their gatherings to help them in their Christian commitment. These are good questions for us to also consider today.

Questions to Ask:

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am?
  2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
  3. Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told to me in confidence?
  4. Can I be trusted?
  5. Did any of my words or actions this week cause someone harm?
  6. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?
  7. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  8. Did the Bible live in me today?
  9. Do I give it time to speak to me every day?
  10. Am I enjoying prayer?
  11. When did I last speak to someone else about my faith?
  12. Do I pray about the money I spend?
  13. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  14. Do I disobey God in anything?
  15. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
  16. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
  17. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy, or distrustful?
  18. How do I spend my spare time?
  19. Am I proud?
  20. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, like the Pharisees who despised the publican?
  21. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
  22. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
  23. Is Christ real to me?