Last Prayers

I’ve mentioned before that I took care of my mother in our home in her last years.  She was in the last stages of diabetes the whole time.  She was for most of her life an extremely fearful person, but in her last years she showed remarkable courage in her fight with diabetes and the enemy—death.

During those fourteen years, I watched as she lost her left leg, then her vision, then her kidneys, then her right leg, then her life.  When she went into the hospital the last time, she was facing the loss of her only remaining leg.  The morning before the surgery, my aunt had come in from Louisiana, my pastor and his wife were there, and several friends of mine who helped me with Mother’s care during the last few years.  We surrounded her bed, held hands and prayed and sang hymns until they came for her for the surgery.

She came through the surgery very well except for some reason, which I can no longer remember, she could not speak.  It was as though she had had a stroke, but she had not.  The doctor said it was something that would definitely pass.

Several days after her surgery, I was sitting with her and she was having dialysis.  I spoke with the doctor about options for extended care facilities.  I fed her supper.  Then before I left, I asked her if she would like to pray the Apostles’ Creed together.  She nodded and tried to speak, but couldn’t.   I knelt down by her bed, rested my arms and head on her abdomen and began to recite the creed.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the giver of life, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen.”

As I prayed, I heard faint murmurings from her lips and knew she was praying with me.  Then as I neared the end of the prayer, I noticed a strong warmth coming from her body.  Within what seemed like minutes she was bright red and burning with severe high fever.  I called for the nurse who immediately called for the doctors.  They quickly whisked her off to pack her in ice.  It was the last I saw Mother alive.  She died several hours later of heart failure.

I didn’t know that she would die that night.  I have often since thought what a beautiful last prayer to pray—the ultimate affirmation of what we believe as Christians.  How fitting to affirm our faith in our triune God before we pass into His presence.

A Music Link:  There is a Fountain by Selah

Remembrances and Gratitude

Deuteronomy 16:3  “…remember all the days of your life the day when you came out of the land of Egypt.”

I remember well the day, in fact, the moment I was saved and God brought me out of Egypt into the promised land.

I remember that the Lord brought my husband along in his relationship with Christ at the same time that we might grow in Him together.

I remember that He brought my children into a saving relationship with Him and has kept them securely in Him and has worked in them impeccable Christian character now that they are adults.

I remember that He saved my mother by His grace and gave her fourteen years of peace, grace and mercy in Him before she went to be with Him forever.

I remember the blessings of having my husband’s dad with dementia live with us as well as my mother and the common purpose we had as a family all the years the children were growing up.

I remember when each one of my precious grandchildren was born and watch and pray as they move closer and closer to Jesus.

I remember the sweet fellowship He gave us with my sister and her family through Jesus

I remember all the joys of serving Him and His Body, the church, and the thrill of leading children and adults alike to a saving knowledge of Him.

And I remember every trial and every innumerable answer to prayer and the support and love of God’s people through it all.

For these and so much more I am eternally grateful!!

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!”

Music Link:  My Tribute by Andrae Crouch

First Prayers

It has been often observed that new Christians have a fervent zeal for God.  They may know very little scripture, but what they lack in knowledge they make up for in their zeal and love for Jesus, his Word and the gospel.  Such was I.  When I was first saved by God’s grace, I was not only immediately aware that I had been “transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His glorious light,” but I was also aware of those I cared about who were still in darkness as I had been.  I was also keenly aware of my sins—the whole lifetime of them.

After profuse prayers of gratitude, the Holy Spirit moved me to pray for my mother.  My relationship with my mother was always a difficult one.  In some ways, it was a love-hate relationship and one that caused me tremendous guilt.  One of my first prayers was that God would save my mother.  My burden for her soul was so great, as Paul‘s was concerning Israel, that I prayed that I might be “accursed” if only she could be saved.  My second prayer was that God would help me to love my mother as I should.  Of course, as is so often the case, God puts a desire in our hearts, but doesn’t reveal right away what it will take on our part to have those desires fulfilled or those prayers answered.

I remember well the day I phoned my mother, crying, and asked her to forgive me for not being the kind of daughter I should have been.  I did not know how she would react or what she would say, I only knew that I had to do that.  My mother became very disturbed!  She began to cry hysterically and said, “What is this church you’re going to?!  (After all, it was non-denominational.)  “It’s some kind of cult!”  Well, I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for that!  I tried to calm her and reassure her that I only wanted to be right with God, but to no avail.  Some months later, Mother came to visit.  I took her to church with me and to ladies Bible study.  She was skeptical and felt that she was being told that her religion was wrong.  But when I put her on the bus to go home, she said to me.  “I can see that you are different.  That you are at peace.  I wish I could find that kind of peace.”  I sent her home with the radio station and time of Dr. J. Vernon McGee’s broadcast “Thru the Bible” and told her he was an excellent Bible teacher and that I thought she would enjoy him.  She did begin to listen to Dr. Mc Gee on the radio.

About a year and a half after I prayed those prayers, I got a call from my aunt telling me that they had taken my mother to the hospital with an infected foot and that her sugar levels were extremely high from her diabetes and that I should come.  It was the night before Thanksgiving.  I left about 10:00 p.m. for New Orleans, drove all night and arrived at Charity Hospital in New Orleans about 6:00 a.m. in the morning.  Mother’s sugar levels were not coming down, the antibiotics were not working for the infection and the doctors were talking about amputation.   I sat with mother all day as she clung with desperation and terrifying fear to her rosary.  I knew that I had to speak if she was ever to know the freedom and peace that only Christ can give.  With trepidation I said to her, “Mother, Mary cannot help you.  And Mary cannot save you.  Only Jesus can do that.”  She said, “Are you telling me that my religion is wrong?”  I said, “No, I’m telling you that only Jesus can help you and only Jesus can save you.”  I told her, “Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart and you will find rest for your soul. ” She put the rosary down and she prayed with me to ask Jesus to forgive her sins and save her. I assured her that Jesus said “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  I said, “He will go with you through this, Mother, and He will give you courage.”  That night my mother at the age of 63 began a personal relationship with Jesus.

This toe infection turned into a leg amputation and the beginning of all the horrors associated with the last stages of untreated diabetes.  Mother came to live with us as she could not take care of herself.  She required 24-hour care.  I cared for her for fourteen years.  I never would have thought that I could ever live with my mother again.  But such was God’s way of building within me a love for her—by serving her.  I struggled throughout those years with my emotions, but love is indeed more than an emotion.  It is actions.  I shall always be grateful for the relationship God brought about during those years.  It did not come about easily.  It came through great sacrifice by me and my whole family.  Mother showed amazing courage and faith in the face of great suffering throughout those years.  A couple of years before her death, my somewhat shy mother sang a solo, a song of tribute to her savior and friend, at a seniors’ dinner at our church.  She was legally blind and could not read a hymnal, but she sat in her wheelchair and sang all the verses of “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus.”  Those were years I will treasure forever and a night I will never forget.

A Music Link:  No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus by Jimmy Swaggart

Job and I

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  Hebrews 4:12

In my readings today I am reminded of a precious and powerful moment with God in my life shortly before I was saved or had an assurance through the Spirit that I was a child of God. It was a moment of deep conviction. A neighbor had given me a Good News Bible. I had many times in my life longed to read the Bible and could never seem to read very far before I felt completely defeated by the gap between my desire and my ability to understand. Of course, I had always tried to read my little fine print, thin paged, white, leather-bound personal Bible, the only one I had, which, for a poor reader like me, was defeating almost before I began. But now I had in my hands a used paperback, modern English version with reasonably sized print and heavier pages that was instantly more inviting. And being moved by the Spirit, I opened it and began to read the first full book of the Bible I had ever read—the Book of Job—read in one sitting. I found that I could not put it down until I finished it.
As I read I became engrossed in Job’s trials and tribulations. Having had all my life an unhealthy awareness of all my own trials and tribulations and those of my whole family, I could identify with Job and commiserate with him in his. When he questioned God. When he doubted God. When he sat in despair and wondered where God was and why He did not show Himself or answer, I was at one with him. This was a God I could identify with, a God that you desperately sought, but who was illusive, distant, unreachable, unpleasable, and who did not come when called. Yet, somewhere deep in my heart, like Job, though perhaps not as intimately as he or unwavering as he, I believed that “my redeemer liveth.”
Then, in God’s time, God spoke to Job and He spoke to me and I shall never forget that moment in time.

“Who is this that darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?,” God said.
“Now gird up your loins like a man,
And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”

“Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
Let him who reproves God answer it.”

When I surrounded myself with my own strength to overcome adversity, or my willingness to suffer unjustly when I could not overcome, or my own good works, which I thought were many, and my own so reverent acts of humility in worship, I considered myself quite holy relative to others I knew. Such is the curse of a religion of works.

But now, I was, suddenly and instantly, deeply ashamed of the pure vanity of my heart. Of the fact that God was God and I was not.

But now, like Job, I abhorred myself and I repented in dust and ashes. Job and I replied,

“Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees You;
Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes.”

I stood in the presence of the God of all creation, Himself, in the presence of true holiness and omnipotent power. And I was little. I was petty. I was self-absorbed. And I was exceedingly sinful and ashamed.

It is alarming to suddenly and unwittingly find yourself standing naked before almighty God, with the cloak of your own self-righteousness removed, like Adam and Eve in the garden. Standing before Him there is no place for the “boastful pride of life,” feeling that God owes you something simply by virtue of the fact that you are.

God in essence said to Job, When you can do what I have done; when you are my equal—“then I will confess to you that your own right hand can save you.”

I had been all my life aware, like the Apostle Paul, that the good that I wished to do, I did not. And that evil was ever present with me. My only hope was that my good works would be pleasing enough to God to merit His favor. And I thought that in the end they would be. It would be some months later when I could say with Paul, “but thanks be to God who gives me the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ.” It would be a few months more before God would reach down in love to me through His Word and say, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourself. It is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast.” On that day, I would fall to my knees before Him and weep for a long time over the goodness of God. On that day, I would know His love. On that day I would know I was His forever.

But I praise God for that first vivid, very personal, encounter with Him through His Word. For without it, I would not have known the depth of my own depravity, I would not have known the truly unreachable holiness and majesty of God. I would not have known that “apart from Him I can do nothing.” That moment was a precious gift, a gift of God’s grace. It was the preparation of the soil to receive the seed of the Word of God with gladness. It was the impetus of my love affair with God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit through His Word for the rest of my life—although, regretfully, not with the perfect faithfulness it might be and should be.