36 years ago, at the writing of this paper, February 3, 1980, I was sitting for the first time in session one of a class called Power for Abundant Living. It was my birthday, literally. I was 22 years old and I had left home 6 months before to find answers. Within days after arriving at my final destination, a guy named Denny approached me in a bar and asked me, well, I don’t remember what he asked me. All I remember is that we argued for a few moments about God and the Bible. He said God was good and the Word of God had answers. I said God was cruel and unloving, and why would anyone worship a God like Him.
After a short while, Denny kicked his feet together and says, “Fine. If you don’t want to hear about the truth of God Words, I’ll just kick the dust off my feet, and move on.” As he stood up, I was struck with the finality of that statement. I remembered hearing about kicking the dust off your feet years before. I immediately calmed down, apologized and explained why I was so hostile…
When I was a young teen, there had been this old woman that lived across the alley, behind our house. She had this little, toothless Pomeranian that would have gummed you to death if it could have gotten its jaws on you. Nasty little creature.
One day, I was walking down the alley with my dog, Shorty, on the way to an abandoned construction site, no doubt to sit back on a mound of dirt and ponder the meaning of life. It was an awkward time for me. I was not a child, not an adult. Nothing made sense. I felt alone. I felt as if no one in the world cared about whether I existed or not.
As I walked down the alley that day, I heard a voice call to me, asking me to come over. I turned to see this old woman and her hideous little dog. I went over to her with the young attitude of, “Yeah? What do you want?” She asked me a question that cut me to the heart.
“Can you help me?”
She turned her back to me and asked if I would zip up her dress. Her arthritis was particularly painful that day and she couldn’t reach the zipper.
After zipping her dress and turning to walk away, I noticed that something had changed inside me. Something had softened. I no longer didn’t matter. Someone needed me. Someone needed me, even if only for a moment.
When I got to my empty construction site and laid back on the dirt mound, I cried. And I cried. And I cried. Much like I am crying now: solid streams of water traveling my checks and wetting my shirt. Even now, I get choked up at the idea of being needed.
That old woman changed my life. She never even knew it.
Some months later, a few weeks before Christmas, I learned that this neighbor across the alley had died. It turned out she was my step-grandfather’s mother, and Granddaddy Clinton had come to town because of her condition.
The old woman had been very sick. She of course had the arthritis. She had cancer, as well. What happened was, a week before her death she had slipped on some ice, going up the church steps. She fell and broke her hip, ending up in the hospital. There were complications with her medications and the treatments for her various ailments. In short, she died a long, painful death: one medication interfering with another. She never left the hospital.
I overheard Granddaddy Clinton tell my mom that when he had walked into the hospital room, he gagged at the stench. She had open sores, rotting flesh. They said it was the cancer.
My family had planned to decorate the Christmas tree the night I heard about the circumstances surrounding the old woman’s death. I wasn’t up to it, so while my family was in the living room decorating the tree, I was in the den laying on the couch, crying. I hurt for this old woman, someone who had needed me. Being young I didn’t know how to handle this loss, especially since the loss wasn’t really mine. I was crying for a stranger, but a stranger that had suffered. A stranger that had given me value, when I needed value the most. Her death affected me deeply.
After a while, my mom came in and asked me to join the decorating. When she realized how hard I was taking the death, she attempted to comfort me with a comfort she had learned from those that had comforted her.
My mom told me that I should be glad that the woman was no longer suffering. God loved her so much He wanted her with Him. He called her home and she was now with Jesus, never to suffer again. I should be happy for her.
The words my mom spoke in an effort to comfort me, sent me into a rage. I was so angry at God. This was a God who would allow an old lady to suffer for a week in horrible pain, stench, and loneliness, all because He loved her and was calling her home. I could love better than that. The God my mom described was evil. Besides, the old woman was doing what God wanted her to do. She was going to church. I didn’t go to church. I didn’t do anything for God. Yet, I wasn’t the one who suffered. The one who suffered was an old woman who, in my young eyes, was doing what God had wanted her to do.
To hell with Him and His painful love.
I felt this way about God, for what in teen years was, a lifetime. If anyone would bring up God in a conversation, I would go off on His cruelty and injustice. I had all the arguments for evolution, and all the arguments against God. I was so angry at Him and the only thing I knew to do with the anger was fight against Him and His evil ways.
After I stopped Denny from walking away from me that night in the bar, he opened up his Bible and read John 10:10 to me. I learned that my mom had taught me a lie. She hadn’t meant to, but that is what she had been taught. She had been taught that God is responsible for everything. She, like her church, could accept life because they believed God was in control of everything and nothing happened unless God willed it. What they somehow gained solace from, enraged me. But Denny showed me the truth.
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
That verse changed my life. It was that night in 1980, sitting in that bar, that I stopped blaming God for the evils of the world. I was so thankful I was so wrong. God hadn’t killed that woman. He didn’t cause her to suffer. God had been blamed for the work of the thief. The thief kills. The thief steals. The thief destroys. I had blamed God for something He hadn’t done; Something He wouldn’t do.
A weight lifted off my shoulders that night.
Days later, on February 3, 1980, I am sitting in that class called Power for Abundant Living hearing the answers I had left home to find. And I’m not just hearing them, but learning how to find the answers myself. I learned keys and principles to unlocking God’s Word. I learned that God says what He means, and means what He says. I learned that God loves me and sent His son to die for me.
I learned Romans 10:9,10 is the only way to salvation. Period.
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
I learned that grace is grace. I learned that “grace, but” really isn’t grace at all.
I learned that God needs me.
In short order, I was learning how to utilize the tools God had given us to learn of Him. Tools He had so graciously provided throughout the centuries; the King James Bible, the New Living Translation, Young’s Literal Translation and the Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible, Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon, The Bullinger Companion Bible, Webster’s Dictionary, and many more life’s works; the work’s of Dr. George Lamsa, George Muller, and Bishop KC Pillai, just to name a few. And in recent years, the addition of the online tools, BlueLetterBible.com and EternallyBlessed.org.
God has provided us a field to mine and all the tools we need to mine it. We too can declare, Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.
The first step, simply read the bible and listen. Allow God to open our eyes and enlarge our hearts.
And now that I’m thinking about it, I wonder what happened to that toothless little creature that obviously brought such joy to that old woman. I wonder if she had him because she needed to be needed, too. I hope he was taken care of after she was gone. God knows.