Becoming a Believer, Christian, Prayer, Walking by Faith, Witnessing

“Who Was Praying for You?”

Whenever I hear someone tell their story about how they came to faith in Jesus, I love to ask, “Who was praying for you?
They almost always know

It occurred to me to ask this question when one day I noticed at the end of the letter Paul wrote to the Romans, as he was sending greetings to everyone, he wrote, “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kin and fellow prisoners who are well known among the emissaries. They were in Messiah before me. Romans 16:7. Wow! I realized that some people in Paul’s family prayed for him while he was still persecuting the Christians! This is the power of prayer.

Over the years I have heard some great stories in answer to my question, “Who was praying for you?” I would like to tell you a couple of my favorites.

  • A man I met while I selling MSM cream at the Puyallup Fair let me know that he had become a believer as an adult. “Who was praying for you?” I asked. He laughed and said, “Back in those days I worked for FedEx. I had a delivery to make to the Tacoma Dome. I found the room where I was to take the package. When I burst through the door, I found the room full of people with their heads down, praying. I apologized for interrupting them. They said, ‘No problem, come and join us. We are getting ready for the Billy Graham crusade.’ I stood back, pointed at the clock, said, ‘That’s the only god I serve’, and left.” Now we laughed together. “Guess who was praying for me?” he said. “Years later, after I had been a Christian for quite a while, the Lord reminded me of that scene.”
  • Another man told this story. When he was a teenager, he couldn’t shake the drug and alcohol. He would vow that he would never do it again, then his friends would pick him up for a party. The next thing he knew he would be high, and drunk, again. Finding himself in this condition in the back seat of a moving car one day, he hung his head in despair. “I just don’t know what the answer is,” he said to himself. Just then, he looked up and saw a sign that said, “Jesus is the Answer.” Okay, he thought, if Jesus is the answer, then I want Jesus. He was immediately sober, and saved! He knew it was a miraculous act of God. “Who was praying for you?” I asked. “My young life leader,” he said. “I went to find him at his college dorm. When he answered the door I handed him the Bible that he had given me and said, “I don’t need this anymore. I’m a Christian now. You can give it to someone else.” We all know what happened next. The Young Life leader invited this young man into his room and began to disciple him.

I love it!

  • Then this story: I heard a Muslim background believer tell her story. She had met Jesus in her bedroom when she was only four years old. She endured tremendous persecution from her family and community. Eventually she had to run for her life. She could not be persuaded to give up her faith in Jesus. “Who was praying for you?” I asked. She took time to look around in the room. Then she pointed her finger at each of us. “Someone I DON”T even know,” she said.

Recently I was reprimanded by the Lord because I stopped praying for someone in my family. I had a vivid dream about it. I shared the dream with my daughter and told her the story about how I had stopped praying for this person. My daughter said, “Mom, how would you like to get to heaven and have the Lord ask you why you stopped praying for her?”

My daughter told me that I need to get intentional about praying for her. She suggested that I use the number of the month she was born, and the date, as a time to set the alarm on my phone as a reminder to pray. I have done that. I wrote a prayer on the notepad on my phone. Every afternoon when my alarm goes off, I read this prayer out loud.

I pray that the eyes of her heart will be enlightened that the light of the glory of the gospel will shine in her heart, and she will know the hope of your calling, Lord. I pray that she will know the truth and the truth will set her free. You are the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by you. Draw her to you, Lord; You who are able to do exceedingly and abundantly beyond all we can ask or think, to you will be the glory, before all time, now and forever. Amen.

Pray.

Jesus told us to pray.

Paul told us to pray:

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. Ephesians 6:16-20

Jesus is the answer

Christian, Grace, Testing Your Faith, Walking by Faith

Everything’s A Test

Everything’s a Test

My mother used to say that when you squeeze a toothpaste tube, toothpaste comes out. What she meant was, what is in your heart will come out when pressure is applied.

It’s a simple concept, but how often do you really understand it. Are we surprised when a burst of anger, hurtful talk, lies, or cruelty comes out of our mouths? Under pressure, what is in our hearts comes out of our mouths and sometimes it comes out in something other than words.

Pressure tests what is in our hearts.

After people have been married for a number of years, they often develop little codes to tell each other something. Tim and I have several of those little intimacies. We sometimes ask each other, “Do you think this is a test?” We always answer, “Everything’s a test.” The exchange comes from a play Tim was a few years ago called “The Journey”. At one point in the story one of the characters says to the other, “Do you think this is a test?” The answer was, “Everything’s a test, Snedge.”

The Lord will test our hearts to see what is in there. The Bible is full of stories of people’s hearts being tested. Just this morning I read the story about Joseph testing his brothers when they came to buy food from him in Egypt.

Abraham was tested.

Jacob was tested.

David was tested.

Solomon was tested.

Mary was tested.

Peter was tested.

Paul was tested.

Some of these people passed their tests, some of them didn’t.

Everyone is tested.

The ultimate question is not whether you passed the test or not, but what did you do after you failed a test?

Paul says there is a godly sorry that leads to repentance.

2 Corinthians 7:10

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

James 1:2-3

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

1 Peter 1:6-7

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 4:32

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

3:12-17

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

When the pressure is applied, may what comes out be full of grace and mercy. Here is a remedy for you. When your tube gets squeezed, may this be what shows up.

tube

 

Alaska, Christian, Fishing, Walking by Faith

Two Crows Came

TTC Cover

I wrote Two Crows Came more than 40 years ago. Jonni Dolan was my name then. To read the story of my name change click here: https://gracegloria.com/2016/11/14/the-lord-knows-my-name/

 

Recently I put up a display in our store here at Grace Harbor Farms.

The display shows four generations in my family of books published:

Four Generations Books

 

 

My mom’s book “Help Me Be a Good Girl, Amen”

Mine, “Two Crows Came”

My Daughter Jasona Brown’s “Stone by Stone”

And My Granddaughter, Ryleigh, age 14, illustrated a children’s book called “Tristan, Dylan and the Dream Machine.

 

I have started writing again. Eventually, I hope, there will be four “books” of my life Faith Walking.

  • 1949-1971
  • 1971-1974—The Two Crows Came story of my first four years fishing in Alaska
  • 1976-1996—My first 20 Years as a Christian
  • 1997-present—My marriage to Tim and the Grace Harbor Farms story

 

As I work on the re-write of Two Crows Came, I would like to share it on this blog.

Two Crows Came

Chapter One

 

“Harley’s here, Bob,” I called to my husband as I watched the lank figure scurry across the yard. Harley Dolan stomped up the porch.  I watched him shake like a dog coming out of the water.  He darted in and slammed the door as if to blockade the cold driving rain behind him.  He peeled his black frame glasses from his face by the wire replacing the bow on one side, then he set the glasses on the kitchen table with the care it required to handle them in their fragile state. As he crossed his arms to pull his wet sweater over his head, I noticed both of his elbows sticking through the sleeves.  The neckband raveled away from his throat.  He sent water all over the room as he shook the sweater right side out, then hung it over a chair and poked his plaid shirt into his pants.

“Got any coffee, Mama san?” he asked, reaching for the pot.  Harley’s thick black hair stood out from his head at cross angles.  With one swipe he knocked it down while taking his mug from the rack.  He brought the cup half-full to the table.  I asked him once why he drank only half cups of coffee. He explained that a full cup would spill on a tossing boat.

Harley un-wadded a gray handkerchief and began to wipe his glasses, easing his skeletal frame into a wooden chair.  He wiped and wiped as if he could change the wet scene outside by drying his lenses.  Finally satisfied, he propped the good side of his glasses on his left ear, wrapped the frame over the bridge of his narrow nose, and coiled the wire side around his right ear.

“It sure is wet around her in February,” he said.  “You know, a fellow ought to be in Arizona or Hawaii in winter.” Bob came around the corner to join us. “Grab me a can of milk there, will you, Bobby?”

Bob’s trim, muscular build and easy charm had made him “Most Desirable” in high school. He had been the upperclassman athlete all the younger girls had had a crush on. As he took a can of milk from the cupboard and handed it to his uncle, a white smile slashed over his mouth and through his blue eyes.

“How’s it going, Harley?” he asked.

“Not too bad, considering this lousy weather. Seems I never get out of the rain. I get rain all summer and all winter, too.” A pocketknife appeared in Harley’s hand. He poked one hole in the can and pumped quirts of milk into his coffee. He shivered.

“I’m a Cancer, you know. Cancers like to be warm and dry.” His chest receded as he huddled around the cracked mug.

Harley had high cheekbones, a pointed chin, and a bushy black mustache that hid his bad teeth. By looking at his elfish face I would not have been able to guess his age, though I knew him to be thirty-nine. The black stubble of his beard contrasted sharply with his winter-white skin. Deep set and dark, eyes were quick and penetrating. I sometimes felt that they could read my thoughts before I thought them. But the sharpness of his glare carried a light, a sparkle projecting from the inner knowledge that irony would ultimately prevail.

“When do you leave, Harley?” I asked, watching rivulets race each other down the pane.

“Oh, not till June first or so.” He fumbled through his pockets for his cigarettes. Finding them, he plucked one from the side of mutilated pack, dangled it from his mouth, and snapped a match head with his thumbnail.  He didn’t like paper matches. He said his finders were too clumsy to use them, so he carried wooded matches loose in his shirt pocket.

He drew deeply on the cigarette, then exhaled the smacked and words, “Yeah, and Bobby, you should go, too.”

“Shoot, Harley. I’d like to, but I can’t run all that way. My boat is just too small. I can’t even carry enough fuel for more than a day.”

Harley pursed his mouth and picked a speck of tobacco from his lip. Studying it, he said, “I could tow you up there.”

Bob flopped back in his chair. He pushed the white fisherman’s cap back. He ran his hand over his forehead. For one of the few times in his life, Bob was speechless.

I was speechless.  I could hardly believe what I had just heard. Each spring Harley headed north to fish in Southeast Alaska. Bob had fished up there with him as a teenager before he had been drafted. Bob and I got married while he was in the Army and had just returned to our home town of Blaine, Washington—with our baby daughter and Bob’s dreams of fishing again.

A tiny border town, Blaine is huddled in the corner to the continental United States blocked in place by the waters of Puget Sound and the Canadian border. Many of the Alaskan fisherman spend the winters in Blaine.

“Wow, Harley, I hardly know what to say.”

“I’ve thought about Mama san and baby, too,” Harley said, stroking his mustache. “I know of an abandoned cabin at Point Baker. I’m sure they could stay there while we’re fishing.  We could check it out when we get there and then they could fly up and join us. You interested?”

“You bet I’m interested!” Bob said.

Since I had known Bob, clothing could excite him more than to talk, think and plan about fishing “up north”. His life’s dream was to become an Alaskan fisherman on his own boat.

We talked far into the night. I heard again the stories I knew so well of the places with the fascinating names—Hole-in-the-Wall, The Eye Opener, Cape Decision, God’s Pocket—and the people—Hard Rod, Flea, Z, and Smokehouse George. The Harley told a story I hadn’t heard before, one that would return to me years later as I thought about Harley.

“There is this guy up there name Bill Love, “Harley began. His exaggerated gestures indicated that he was moving into his element—late night. Harley rarely got up before sunset and slipped back to bed before dawn. He was nocturnal, like owls and certain other predators.

“Fine guy, Bill,” Harley continued. “Well one day he was sitting there on his boat when this crow flew in to land on the float and missed it. Crazy bird thought the scum build up next to the float was solid.  He was flopping and splashing and would have drowned, but Bill took pity on him and pulled him out.  The bird hopped a few times, then just sat there. You wouldn’t believe what happened then. Right while Bill stood there watching that crow, the whole sky filled up with crows, hundreds of them.  The screamed in and landed all over—on the dock, on Bill’s boat, on the other boats, everywhere. They were all screaming and yelling and carrying on, with Bill and the wet crow right in the middle of it!  Bill started in to hollering back at them. ‘Hey, go on! What’d I do? I only tried to help! Shut up, now!’ Then that wet crow just fell over dead. As soon he did, the other crows flew away. Dead! Can beat that? Bill said he reckoned those crows just pain sentenced that crow to death, so he died. Bill said he was mighty glad the crows didn’t pass judgement on him!”

As the night wore on and the talk continued, I excused myself to go to bed. What do crows have to do with living and dying, I wondered. Strange that one should die like that. I let the thought pass as I prepared for bed, my mind whirling with the impact of Harley’s invitation.

“I lay in bed listening to Bob and Harley talking in the other room.  I wondered how I had come to this. As a child growing up in California, I had wanted to be a horse rancher or a vet. But now, a fisherman’s wife? Old Mr. Higgins, my high school counselor, would have swallowed his teeth if I’d written “Fishwife” as my life’s ambition.

This new life promised primitive conditions, wilderness, bad weather, and hard work. Was southeast Alaska the place for a young mother and her child? The spirit of adventure planted in me by my missionary grandparents, and my mother, who had been raised in China. It never occurred to me that I shouldn’t go. I was twenty-one and nothing couldn’t be done. I had no way of knowing what would happen in the years to come—the bonanzas and disasters, the torrents and the droughts, the breakdowns and the successes, the births and the deaths, but that first spring, I was ready for whatever adventure lay ahead. I felt kinship with the gold miners, explorers and misfits who had been drawn to Alaska before me.

 

Chapter Two

I had met Bob the summer after my junior year in high school when my family had come to Blaine to visit my grandparents. Bob was different from other boys I had known. At eighteen he had foresight, imagination, and energy. After a couple of weeks of dating him, I decided to stay in Blaine for my last year of school.

The following summer he began to teach me what life would be like as the wife of a fireman—I went fishing with him. His boat was a gillnetter. In Washington state the gillnetters fish only at night, so the first time I went out we left the Blaine harbor in the early evening, prepared to fish until dawn.

Bob’s boat, the Jonni Ann, was a bow-picker. On a bow-picker the front deck is the work area. The net is placed in the water and picked out of the water over the bow. The house was in the stern. The house amounted to a box six feet long and wide and three feet high. In the front of this box, a hole large enough to crawl through served as the entry. Inside, the engine clanked and smoked, completely exposed. This is where I was to spend the night while Bob caught fist outside.

“Hey, Bob. Isn’t this rather dangerous will all these belts and things spinning in here?” I was afraid that one pitch of the boat would throw me into the engine to be mangled.

“Sure, it’s dangerous,” he assured me. “Just stay away from it.”

Stay away from it! How far away from a marine engine can you get inside a six-by-six box?

Bob cast off and out to sea we went. I had never been on a boat at night, and being a non-swimmer, I was nervous. That water looked so black, deep, and cold. After an hour at top speed, about fifteen knots, we reached the fishing grounds. There Bob strung the eighteen-hundred-foot net into the water, a process called “setting.” After he had finished setting, he shut off the engine.

“What are you doing?” I asked, trying to sound more casual than I felt.

“Now we drift,” he said.

“Drift?”

“Right. Drift.”

“Oh.” I had no idea what “drifting” was, but I soon learned that we “drifted” until it was “time to pick.” Somehow, according to the tide, wind, and whatever else he attended to, Bob knew when it was “time to pick.” Then he drummed the net back onto the large reel in the front of the boat.

The night passed quickly. Between setting and picking we talked while Bob kept track of our position. He impressed me with his confident seamanship and amazed me because he seemed to need no sleep. Early in the morning I curled up as far from the engine as possible and thought about my helpless position on a tiny boat in the black of the night. But then, Bob was the reason I had stayed in Blaine and I was anxious to show him that I would live in his world. Somehow I knew that we had a future together.

Eventually I must have fallen asleep because I awoke to hear him yelling, “Jonni! Hey, Jonni! Get up. The wind’s come up. Jeez, it’s really blowing!”

Sleepy-eyed, I stuck my head out of the crawl hole and got slammed by a face-full of seawater. Waves and spray crashed over the boat each time we pounded into another sea. Bob stood at helm and lowered his head for each wave as it washed over him.    “Sit in the doorway!” he yelled. “You’re going to have to block the water from the engine.”

Since the crawl hole had no door, he was right-the water could wash over the exposed engine and drown it. Even with my limited knowledge, I knew that without an engine, we would be in trouble, drifting without power in the storm.  I dutifully took my place at the hole, sitting on the box that held the fish we had caught, to act as a wave-breaking device to protect the engine. All the long way back to port as we bucked into the wind and waves, I blocked the door, lowering my head for each wave, my body making the sacrifice and taking the punishment the engine could not endure.

My first experience with gillnetting found me coming into the harbor cold, wet, hungry and tired.  I could have been scared off of this life, but Bob was the man who had wanted me. I was willing to do anything to keep his attention. It worked. We were married a few months later. The year was 1967. I had just graduated from high school.  Bob had been drafted. We had a quick wedding in Blaine between boot camp and his assignment in Virginia.

Bob spent his whole tour of duty in Virginia. I joined him there. Our daughter, Jasona, was born there about a year before Bob was discharged.

As soon as he was out, Bob started getting ready to go fishing in Alaska with his uncle Harley.

After my initiation, the prospect of fishing in Alaska in the same tiny boat did not scare me. In fact, I was probably too willing because when Bob decided to build the new house for the Jonni Ann in our living room, I hardly noticed the shavings and the sawdust.

As he hurried to be ready to go by June first, Harley was always at hand. A procrastinator, he put off his own work, or avoided it altogether when he could.  Instead, he harassed Bob. Harley did not like square corners or things that lined up straight. Fastidiousness drove him crazy. When Bob got ready to attach his license to the side of his newly painted cabin, Harley snatched it away from him and slapped the it on crooked. Laughing like a troll successful at a dirty trick, he danced off.

Early in May we visited Harley on his boat, the Hansena. In less than a month he had to leave. I really did not know how Bob could be ready by then. He had to prepare the nets, finish the inside of the little house, paint and repair the hull, and get the engine in top shape. Harley would be doing the same things, I assumed.

The Hansena was a conventional wood boat with work deck in the stern. She had a trunk cabin, which means that the living quarters were below decks with only a small pilothouse on the deck level. Harley was down below.

“Hey, Harley. What are you up to?” Bob called as we stepped aboard. Jasona, not yet two years old, held my hand. There was barely room for all of us in the pilothouse. We squatted to see below. Light struggled for entry through a single dirty-gray porthole.

“Oh, hey, Bobby. How’s it going? I’m trying to figure out how to cover this blasted engine. Darn thing sticks out two feet. You supposed you could build something around these pulleys for me?”

“Boy, I don’t know, Harley. I am really pressed for time. I’ve still got to cover my own engine and my nets aren’t hung yet either.”

My eyes adjusted to the light. As they talked and my vision cleared, I could see Harley sitting in the middle of his galley. His arm lay across the gas stove. He leaned against the sink where a cast-iron frying pan, coffee cups, and utensils collected green mold on whatever had remained on them since the last meal fall before. Next to him, on the floor, a garbage bag overflowed with paper plates, oil-soaked rags, cracker boxes, and apple cores. The locker he sat on had no lid. Inside it I could see rusted cans of condensed milk and other unidentifiable cans that had burst spreading their contents over the sides of the locker. Around the engine—across the pulleys where a person could lose a hand or a foot when the engine was running—and under the pilothouse floor was the bunk.  Last year’s sleeping bag was still in it, soaked through to the foam rubber mat with rain and, I supposed, sea water that leaked freely through the deck above. The walls had been once been painted white, but engine oil and fish slime has splattered and sprayed them to a greasy gray.

My head began to swim—I had to get some fresh air. Taking Jasona on my arm, I retreated outside. The net had not been removed from the reel. Seaweed and scrap fish had been wound on with it. Debris littered the decks. Everywhere I looked there seemed to be some other piece of twine holding something else together.

This guy has got to be crazy, I thought. Nobody could clean up this place enough to live in. Clutching my young daughter so she would not be contaminated by I didn’t know what, my thoughts ran away with me. I wanted to ride up to Alaska on the boat with men, although I hadn’t told them that. But I sure didn’t want to tackle this mess! How could he ever be ready to go? And how could he expect to be able to tow us the six hundred miles to Alaska? This thing did not look as if it could get out of the harbor!

“Yeah, that’s great. I could do that,” Harley said as he and Bob came out on deck. He lit a cigarette, passed his pack to Bob, and rested his foot on the rail.

“Well, Mama san. Time’s getting short. You ready?”

“Ready? How’re you going to be ready to go? This place is a mess!” I answered.

Giggling his trollish, “Tee, hee, hee,” Harley said. “never could see cleaning up something I didn’t need right away. But I’ll be ready.  I’ll be ready. Just you don’t worry yourself about that. But, let’s go get dinner. Then I can start.”

As we walked back up the floats, I turned to look again at the Hansena. I looked up at the mast to the maze of lines and stays I would come to know as “rigging”. There, upside down, dangled a featherless rubber chicken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blessing, Christian, Walking by Faith

Yesterday

Yesterday was Thursday, one week after Thanksgiving.
That week was packed with people, and joy. This week was packed with work and ministry in Grace Harbor International.
At about noon, the sun came out after several days of rain, pouring rain. I thought it would be finally be the time to make a Bellingham run for groceries at Costco.
But, as I got ready to go, I felt a check. I felt confused, unable to focus, unable to decide WHAT I should do next, and there was definitely a feeling of “doing”. I have been on an adrenaline drive for two weeks, unable to sleep well, feeling that there are two many things to do, too many responsibilities, no certain path.
So for the second time this week, I turned around before I left for Costco. The first time was two days before when I was dressed to go and felt I should not—also with some sense of confusion about what I SHOULD do. That day was the day Lord ministered to someone through me. If I had left, I would have missed it.
So, anyway, I decided since the weather was nice I should take the dogs for a walk. They had not been out in a couple of weeks. After I got them in the car, the question was, “Where shall I go?” I had been inclined to head for Hovander Park, but I thought “No, I’ll go to Semiahmoo.” (Semiahmoo is a spit in the northwest corner of Washington State. Salt water is on both sides. There is a resort at the north end, a park at the south end.)
Semiahmoo Spit
What a beautiful day it was. The tide was higher than I had ever seen it, within a foot or two of the vegetation on the shore. There was almost no sand to walk on—the rocky beach completely covered in salt water. The dogs and I started down the shore on the west side of the spit. The dogs were delighted!
I soaked in the beauty. As I walked I began to feel a deep sadness, the familiar heart ache of regret about not having the Drayton Harbor Road* house anymore, and the loss of beauty where I live. By the time I reached the end of the spit, I had allowed my broken heart to feel the pain. My steps slowed, I grieved. I looked at the new townhouses being built taking in the views and the pain went deeper. I was in deep sorrow, longing, loss.

 

On the way back up the spit, I again took the dogs on the west side. I debated about going all the way to the car on the east side, but I crossed the street just before the picnic area. I was praying, listening, and the verse in my mind was, “Why so downcast O my soul?. . .” I couldn’t think of the next words, but my thoughts continued with, “you will yet see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” I thought about David writing those words. Was he thinking of “the land of the living” as the land where there is no more dying? No more loss? Or was he thinking of here, where we first live, and then die? I didn’t know, but the words were so familiar.
Then as I came around the bend, I saw this.
Hope and the cross
Note the small rock higher up.
hope-in-the-rock-e1543594176698.jpg

I was stunned.

I went to the car and got my phone to take the pictures. I wondered if the stones would still be there when I got back!
Who had done that? I don’t know, of course, but Holy Spirit does. He put those stones of remembrance there for me to see just at the right moment.
A few hours later another gift arrived for me, via my friend, Christie. Is is a book by Jonathan Cahn titled, The Book of Mysteries.  I opened it at random. The page was about pruning.
Prune Thyself, page 257
“And what is the purpose of pruning?” “Pruning removes the branches from a tree that hinder its fruitfulness or its well-being, to allow it to become as fruitful as possible.” “Pruning, therefore, is critical to living a fruitful life in God, so God prunes the lives of His children. But in order to live a fruitful life, you must also be part of the process. You must learn also how to prune yourself.” . . .
“And this here is a dead branch, once fruitful but now detrimental to the tree’s health. Any action or expenditure of energy in your life that produces no fruit, even if it once did, is a dead branch. You must prune it off.”
Wow.
Just wow.
*I had known that house since before I was born. I tell people I was practically conceived in that house, since my mother lived there when she got married. My first husband and I bought it from my grandfather’s estate when he died in 1980. I had lived there since my marriage fell apart in the 1990’s. I opened a bed and breakfast there in 1996. Tim and I lived there when we got married. We sold it in 2005 in order to move our business to where it is now on the Birch Bay Lynden Road. I will post the whole story of that house one of these days.

 

 

EPSON MFP image

 

this-old-house
My mom painted this picture.
Psalm 43:5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Becoming a Believer, Blessing, Christian, Sibling squabbles, Testing Your Faith, Uncategorized, Walking by Faith, Witnessing

Conversion

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

1 Corinthians 2:14

 

Conversion June-July 1976

 

My brother’s wedding invitation came to Petersburg Alaska sometime in the spring of 1976. My husband, our two daughters, aged 2 and 6, and I had been living on a boat in the harbor in Petersburg for the past year.  We had been fishing commercially in the summers for several years, but this had been our first winter in Alaska. Eric’s invitation was like a breath of fresh air. The card had a picture of Eric and his fiancé standing under a flowering tree in California. After 18 months in Alaska a flowering tree looked like a beacon of light in the darkness.

I somehow convinced my husband to let me go. I still have no explanation for why he allowed me go except that God had planned for me to be at Eric’s wedding.

I took the girls to California in June.

I was the oldest of the six children in my family. We were not raised in a Christian home even though my mother’s parents had been missionaries in China and my mother had been born and raised there. Several years before my brother’s wedding my sister Janie, two years younger than I, had become a Christian. One by one my other siblings had followed suit–all but Christy and me.  Christy  had become a Mormon. I mocked them all.

Eric’s wedding was lovely. The church even impressed me. I had been surprised to find that the people quite nice, thoughtful and intelligent. In my previous mocking of Christians I joined my husband in thinking that Christians had stopped thinking for themselves—blindly following some ancient ritual.

The week I was there, the Pastor’s son was giving a series of lectures comparing various religions. Every night my brothers and sister would take off for church to hear Ron Carlson. They always asked me if I would like to go along, but of course I was much too stubborn, and prideful, to join them. But the night before my return to Alaska, Ron Carlson would be talking about Mormonism. Again, my family asked me to go along. This time I thought, “What the heck. I might as well try to find out why everyone is so upset that Christy is a Mormon.

I don’t remember now much about Ron’s talk, but having done a lot of studying since then I can well imagine what he talked about. The thing that impressed me was the intelligence of the lecture. Ron Carlson had done his research. These were well educated people who taught and listened to this stuff.

At the end of the lecture I asked my sister, Janie, if I could meet Pastor Carlson, Ron’s dad, and tell him how much I had enjoyed his church.

I suppose my sister was more than delighted to introduce her pre-believing sister to her pastor!

I told Pastor Carlson that I had been impressed with his church and asked him if he could give me a book or something that I could take back to Alaska with me.

He invited me into his office for a private conversation.

“What do you think a Christian is, Jonni?” He asked me.

I really didn’t know the right answer. I wanted to say, “Someone who is born in America,” but I knew that wasn’t right, so I said, “Someone who can love unconditionally.”

“That’s a pretty good answer,” he said, but do you know what the Bible says a Christian is? Have you ever read the Bible?
I told him that I had tried a couple of times but it had never made sense to me.

He showed me the verses from 1 Corinthians 2 that tell us that the things of the Spirit of the Lord cannot be understood except if that same Spirit helps us.

Then he did a very wise thing. He asked me if I would be willing to pray this kind of prayer, “Spirit of God, if you have the truth, teach it to me. I want to know the truth.”

There was no danger in this prayer. If there was nothing there, nothing would happen and I would continue as before, but if the Holy Spirit was there and truth to be known, then I should know it. I agreed to pray.

We got on our knees. I prayed that prayer with him. There were no explosions of light; I didn’t feel anything different; the world went on as before; we got up from our knees.

Then he gave me a Living Bible and a bible study on the book of John. He also gave me the whole lecture series that his son had been teaching on cassette tapes.

The last thing I said to Pastor Carlson as I walked away from his office with all those materials was, “Now I have to go back to Alaska and defend myself to my husband.”  That was like a word of prophecy, but I didn’t know it.

When I got back to the boat I started going through the cassette tapes and reading the things I had brought back with me. But I had to read and listen at times when my husband was not on the boat. I had to hide the Bible and the cassettes from him because he went absolutely nuts!

So I listened in secret and I read in secret.

One by one the questions that I had, and questions that I didn’t even know I had, were answered.

The first one was “Is there a God?”

As I listened to Ron Carlson’s lectures I realized that we could not have gotten here by chance. There had to be a creator.

The second was, “Is Jesus God?”

I had never heard anyone say that before. I had heard “son of God” before but it didn’t mean anything to me.

Again, as I listened to Ron Carlson I realized that God, in order to communicate with us, could have become a man and come to earth to teach us who God is. OK. I could accept that, but the next question was a big one.

What about this “sinner” business. I wasn’t such a bad person.  How could God claim that I was a “sinner” and needed to be “saved”?

Up to this point I had been listening to the tapes in what I though was random order. I had gone through “How we know the Bible is the word of God,” and the lectures on the other major religions of the world. There was only one tape left. It was on the Occult. The date was July 4, 1976—the 200th birthday of the United States. We had been fishing in Taku inlet. We had tied up the boat in Juneau, Alaska for the holiday. My husband went up to town to celebrate. I put the girls to bed and pulled out that last tape.

I don’t remember what Ron Carlson said about the occult, but at the end of the tape he started talking about my sister, Janie. I was shocked!  This was a lecture series that he had been delivering all over the world and here he was talking about my sister!  I know it was my sister. He said, “When Janie walked into my intervarsity Bible study and Diablo Valley College . . . “ There was no question. That was my sister. Janie had been “saved” in that intervarsity Bible study. But the rest of Ron Carlson’s statement cut me to the heart.

He said, “When Janie walked into my intervarsity Bible study at Diablo Valley College she said she could feel nothing. She felt no pain, no joy, nothing.”

I knew that was true about Janie. I knew it was my fault.

I had been so wicked to Janie while we were growing up that I could almost pinpoint the day when she had shut off her feelings so I couldn’t hurt her anymore. I had beaten her, insulted her, excluded her, humiliated her and ignored her.

I fell on my face on the floor (deck) of the boat. I wept uncontrollably. “Oh, yes, Lord, I am a dirty rotten sinner. Please forgive me.” I cried and pleaded with Lord.

When I got up, I was a new person.

There is no way to explain the joy and relief that I felt. I had been radically born again!

As my tears turned to laughter I spent the next hour writing a letter to Janie.

Here is what I wrote:

 

July 4, 1976

Dearest Janie,

How can I express on plain paper with mere pen what is happening to me tonight. Janie—I prayed tonight, all my myself I spoke to God for the 1st time on my own. I thanked him for you. I thanked him for your prayers for me. I told him I loved you and I asked him to bless you.

A couple of weeks ago in Pastor Carlson’s office I opened the door for Jesus. He came to me then, but he didn’t fill me up until tonight. He’s been guiding me—teaching and gently showing the way to learn. Tonight, after several weeks of lessons, he felt I was ready to hear—learn (I’m not able to find the right word). He arranged for me to be alone on the boat and I listed to more of Ron’s tapes. I’ve been listening to them in a rather hap-hazard order. I kind of thumb through and listen to one that sounds/looks interesting. Never before have I listened to more than one in one evening. Tonight I listened to one—and then He had me hear another. He has been preparing me for it for several years, maybe all my life, I don’t know that for sure, but I do know that my learning has followed a definite pattern than cannot have been accidental.

The second tape I heard tonight was Ron’s occult one. The closing thoughts were about you. I wept as he was speaking and I realized that he was weeping, too, If you haven’t heard that tape you should. There can be no doubt in hearing it that Ron loves you—that Jesus, that God love you and me, too.

I had been holding back something—not letting myself all the way open—not telling all—and then you and Ron and Jesus showed me.

I don’t know what else to say, Janie. I hope you can read what I have said already. I’m scribbling, I know, but tonight is our last night in town before we go fishing.

Bob will be home in a few minutes—when he gets here I want to go mail this tonight before we leave.

Please speak to Pastor Carlson for me. I don’t have his address—maybe you can send it to me, and Ron’s too. Please tell both of them how grateful I am. And tell yourself that, too!

Janie, I wish I could hug you. I am so grateful for your prayers for me. I will be praying for you, now.

I’m not going to have time tonight to write this story again for Mom—so if you would, she might want to read this letter, too. She is one of the most important people in my life.  Most people’s mother’s are—but ours is special.

God bless you, Janie, and all of us,

 

 

Love,

Jonni

On the back of the envelop it said “The 1st thing I read after writing this letter was Romans 8, verses 1,2,3,4

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the Law could not do weak as it was through the flesh, God did, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, he condemned sin the flesh so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

 

In reading the letter I wrote to Janie, now as a much more mature Christian, I wish I had been more clear in my confession to her, but I know that she wept with joy when she received this letter. I didn’t know that she had saved that letter until after her death 9 years later. But that is another story for a later chapter.

 

EPSON MFP image

Janie

Christian, Divorced Christian, Uncategorized, Walking by Faith

The Heart of Stone

 beach-stone4

Heart of Stone

“I will take the heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

           “I have stopped praying for him.” My friend, Trina said. She was not the first one who had told me this. Since I had been divorced for about six months several people had told me that they had stopped praying for my ex husband. I had not. I didn’t know how to stop praying for him, or even if I should.

I planned a personal retreat to the outside of Vancouver Island on the advice of one of my friends at Regent College.  I was taking a class from Eugene Peterson called Ministry and Spirituality. At the end of the class we were required to write a paper on how we would keep our spirituality once we got into ministry somewhere. Beverly had told me that when she got to that place in the class she took a personal retreat to seek the Lord about it. That sounded like a great idea to me. I had never done such a thing.  Many stories came out of that retreat. This is one of them.

I made reservations to stay at a bed and breakfast inn in Tofino. I wanted to be on the ocean, where the surf rolls in. My home on Drayton Harbor overlooks a shallow bay where the tide slips in and out twice a day, but I felt I wanted to be somewhere with surf.

On the second day of my stay as I went through some of the verses that I believed that they Lord had given to me as promises for my husband’s salvation. One of them was the verse above from Ezekiel. “I will take the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

Later that day I walked on the beach, in the rain. The stones on the beach were wet and gray. But suddenly I walked past a small stone the color of red brick. I turned around and went back to it. It was shaped like a human heart.

beach-stone

“Oh, my,” I thought. “It’s a heart of stone.”

I picked up the cold, wet stone and put it in my pocket. I wrapped my fingers around it. As I held the stone it got warm.

I took the stone home with me and it became a tool for a kind of body prayer. I can’t really explain in words the significance of it. It was prayer without words. I kept the stone next to my bed. When I would wake up in the morning, or in the night, I would pick up the stone and lay it on my body—on my neck or my chest or my belly. The stone would be cold and shocked me when I put it on my warm skin. But as it lay there it would get warm. I would then turn it to feel the cold surface again. Somehow this ritual was working to release me from the one flesh relationship with my husband. I could not have articulated that then, but afterwards I realized that is what happened.

Resurrection morning fell several weeks after I had been praying with the stone. That morning when I picked up the stone and laid it at the base of my neck, it absolutely abhorred me!  I could not stand the touch of it on my skin. I grabbed it off myself and set it on the side table.

“That’s it,” I thought. “I am through praying for him.” I knew it.

 

A couple of hours later I went to the sunrise service for resurrection Sunday at Semiahmoo, a beach on the spit near where I live. Several of the community churches got together every year to reenact the resurrection of Jesus. A friend of mine from Regent was there with her new born son, Blaine. I had been with her when Blaine was born—another amazing time for another story perhaps. Sharon asked me if I would like to hold the baby, Blaine. Of course, I did.

I cuddled him close to my neck. I could feel him breathing. Then I sensed his little heart beating next to mine.

Oh, my gosh!  My knees shook. It’s a heart of flesh!

The Lord had been talking about two different hearts.

He would take my husband’s stony heart, and he would give me a different heart to hold—new people, new relationships.

Stunned I moved toward the buckets of flowers at the foot of cross. We had been instructed to take a flower for ourselves and place it on the cross. As I took out a flower for me, and one for Blaine, I could hardly see for the tears flowing, flowing down my face.  A familiar voice from behind me said, “What’s this, Jonni? Starting over?”

I tried to smile and explain to my former brother in law that the baby was Sharon’s but then I thought, “No, that’s right. I am starting over.”

My friend Tim was at the Sunrise Service that morning, too. I had spoken to him and told him that my marriage was not going to make it.

I certainly did not know it then, but the next Resurrection Sunday at Semiahmoo I was there with Tim, my husband, the heart of flesh the Lord had promised. One day earlier that spring he and I had gone to the beach at Semiahmoo together and I had thrown the heart of stone back into the cold ocean waters.

Now, almost 20 years later, Tim and I have moved back to Blaine. Our home overlooks Drayton Harbor. We walk the streets and pray for Blaine, and for the people we stop and talk to on our walks. Recently a friend pointed out to me that the red headed baby boy named “Blaine” was not only a type the Lord showed me about my new husband, but also the represented the call he would put on my life to pray in and for Blaine.

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Now, 20 years after Tim and I threw the heart of stone representing my former husband’s heart out into the water at Semiahmoo, God still knows where it is. He will redeem it in his timing.