During the absence of our Pastor in the Holy Land, three lay members delivered the message on Sunday morning, March 22, 2015. Their individual messages were linked by the title of the Bible study which they, and many of us, were attending at that time — Experiencing God.
I was born in Burbank, California, and grew up with 2 brothers. My Mom took us to Sunday school every Sunday, but she never attended. My Dad never went to church and Mom would drop us off and then come back and pick us up.
I loved the kids I was with and went to MYF in the summer evenings and played volleyball. I met some wonderful young adults who I still keep in touch with today.
Later, in 1963 my Dad died, and shortly after that Mom bought an old cabin in Big Bear, the kids loved to go up and explore the forest, and the adults would help fix up the half finished cabin. Mom went up one weekend by herself (which she wasn't supposed to do); she was fixing up a little bedroom, when a large bed spring fell on her... She was trapped and couldn't move. She was pinned there for 7 hours. She prayed to God, and that evening, on a Friday night, the neighbors who never come up to their cabin on Friday nights drove into the little dirt street. Mom found a fishing pole and broke out the window when she heard them talking. They heard the crash and came to Mom's rescue. They took her to the ER and the next day she called me and told me the story–we picked her up at the hospital–she was a changed women, she had been coming to OUMC but wasn't involved at all. She began to go to Bible studies and she gave her testimony with many tears. Because she wasn't an outgoing woman, but she had promised God she would tell her story–He saved her life for a reason. Thank God!
She became a disciple for God!
I married Al in 1953 after 5 months of courting! In those days it wasn't acceptable to sleep with someone unless you were married. I think it was a very good thing! We had 3 children in 5 years, moved around in different apartments, finally settling in Buena Park where we have lived in the same house for 58 years.
I always believed in God and Jesus, but it was hard to relate to something I thought was so far away, and I realize I wasn't really searching anyway. I just sort of went along!
In the past years I have grown in my faith but this last Bible study really sparked my interest. It got me thinking about my past and the things in my life.
I guess I've had a lot of experiences with God in my life.
But I didn't realize it at the time.
About 18 years ago Al and I thought about moving. I wanted a dining room to fit all the kids their mates, and children, I wanted a new dining room table, hutch, the works! Our goal was to move to a community with a golf course close by, and get the dining room I had always wanted.
We looked at quite a few new homes in several areas with the floor plan I really wanted; we found the perfect one in Menifee—very close to the golf course with a view of the mountains. We chose the lot we wanted and put a deposit on it with the salesman. The price was right with the sale of our Buena Park home. We were ready to go, or we thought we were!
I asked my Mom to move to a really nice mobile home park near the new house, she said absolutely NOT! We should move and she would be fine in her little mobile with all her friends around. Our kids wished us well, and said GO Mom and Dad! Later I found out they really wanted to come back to their childhood home for all the holidays! And didn't want us to move!
My church friends of course didn't say, "please stay with us." That's not what true friends do.
This is when God started "with the circumstances"! First we got a call from the salesman; He was so sorry we couldn't get the model we chose on the lot we liked. They decided to put a 2 story on that lot! This of course was a better decision for the builder. The salesman had us come back to Menifee and look at other lots; they were too small, a dirt bank in the back yard etc. Oh yes, the view of Mt Baldy was not even in sight. The lots available were near a busy entry street to the college that was to be built later. "Now that was God talking to us" again—of course at the time I didn't recognize it.
We both took a step back and said maybe we better think this over a little more. Would our kids drive down there, and stay late? The answer would be no, they would have to drive 50 miles home with the children, and we would not see them as often. I would have to make several trips a month to make sure my Mom was ok.
We talked it over and said why don't we just stay in our older home take out a loan, and get the dining room I wanted and fix the yard, etc., up? "God was talking again."
In 2003 we celebrated out 50th anniversary. That same year in April, actually April 15th (tax day), I rushed Al to the ER. He had a burst colon, a polyp had broken thru and he was full of cancer.
I sat in the room with him and watched the nurses run around and put the needles into him everywhere. I thought I was watching a TV drama!
First thing I did was call Pastor Karl; he was there in less than 30 minutes. We prayed together. Al of course was unconscious, they filled him full of pain medications. The RN that attended Al was named Joel. Al was in ICU for 7 days. Every time I went to see him, Joel was so encouraging and said to be patient, Al would be OK! I thought the name Joel was not a common one. (I think he was God's messenger) A top surgeon was called in, and that night he operated on Al. They took 20 some inches of his colon, they had to make a very large incision from his breast bone down below his navel.
He had to be flushed out! He had to wear a colostomy bag for 7 months. When the surgeon took out the colostomy bag, he found some hard spots on Al's small intestines and took out several inches of that too. They also had cancer—I prayed to God and asked Him to let me have him for 10 more years. It has been 12 years now, God was at work in my life then too. (Again I didn't listen.) What a gift he gave to us. He is cancer Free!
Several times I have been driving on a busy freeway and an accident has occurred just before I arrived there, another time I was waiting on a green light and not merging as fast as usual. A car ran the red light. I would have been killed for sure.
So there is God again, I personally don't believe in coincidences—I know this was God at work on me... Think of your experiences like these, you probably have encountered more than one, but you don't think about GOD at the time, think back again and realize that it WAS GOD. Give Him a chance to come into your lives and recognize His power. It's not yours, it's His.
Read your Bible and read what the disciples gave up for Jesus. You and I don't give up a lot, or sacrifice like they did. They left their homes and families to spread the word of Jesus. Think how easy they made it for us. God only asks us to believe in him and do his will.
And by the way, believe it or not, there are some really great stories in the Bible. Check it out.
Give God a chance.
I would like you to listen for God, see where he is leading you—open your hearts and let him in, read his words; He is waiting for you, He will never leave you, and will never give up on you! And will always always love you!
The Lord said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. — 1 Kings 19:11-12 (NIV)
In the Bible verses I just quoted, God's voice is described as a "gentle whisper." In the King James Version, it is described as a "still small voice." I remember a joke in my church growing up that you have to listen very carefully to hear God because his voice is "still small."
But just what does God's voice sound like? Is it the deep bass voice that spoke to Charlton Heston in "The Ten Commandments"? Is it a voice that sounds like your mother? Or some angelic musical voice? How do we know He's speaking to us if we don't know what He sounds like?
I've come to the conclusion that it isn't what God SOUNDS like that makes me realize it's Him talking to me; it's what it FEELS like. The more I seek for His direction, the better I recognize His voice.
I've heard an actual voice, which could only have been God speaking, because there wasn't anyone else in the room with me. I was lying in a hospital bed just after my amputation, and I was feeling pretty down on myself. I felt like a failure, and I really thought I had disappointed everyone, including God. In the quiet of that hospital room I clearly heard a voice say, "I still love you." Wow! That assurance still supports me ten years later.
Sometimes I FEEL what God is saying, without actually hearing a voice. When I was trying to get myself covered by Disability and Medi-Cal, I was struggling with bureaucratic nonsense. I literally wore out the battery on my cordless home phone to the point that it wouldn't hold a charge. One day I was so frustrated that I shouted, "I can't do this on my own! I need help!" I didn't hear a voice, but I clearly felt that someone, somewhere, said, "Well, it's about time!" Within the next few days, everything fell into place, and I was able to relax for the first time in over a year.
Once I actually felt a physical tug at my heart. In the church I attended in Whittier, there was a call for members to serve on a special team. I had no idea what the team was or what it did, but I felt a tug on my heart when the call was announced. I served on that team for two years, and saw God at work in many ways.
I know when a friend mentioned that she was concerned that she might not be able to afford a place to live when her landlady sold their place, I felt a distinct inclination to invite her to join with me in finding a place together. And I knew it was a message from God, because absolutely everything worked out perfectly, and I was so totally convinced it was His plan that I signed the lease without even seeing the inside of the apartment.
Sometimes we don't even know at the time that we are hearing God speak to us. When I sat at the computer and typed "Jobs at Disneyland" into the search engine, was that God urging me to do that, or was that just a whim? I know that I'm probably happier in my work than I have ever been.
Each time I hear that "gentle whisper," I perk up my mental ears and listen!
This space is reserved for Donna's testimony!