THE ME, I WAS MEANT TO BE
Joan's personal witness
Witnessing makes you more vulnerable, exposed to the world; so doing it means fighting fear---at least for me. Trust me when I say the devil uses fear to try to take you away from God. However, God is there for us. The fact that Iím writing this is my battle won, for God is in my corner. Prayer and scripture, the 23rd Psalm to be exact, gave me the strength I needed, so I beginÖIíd be amiss if I didnít say witnessing can also be self-enlightening.
I was church going and you might even call me a Christian most my life. I taught Sunday School---even went to a local college for training. I also taught in Childrenís Church, VBS throughout the years. I belonged to Young Peopleís, Young Adults, choir---you get the picture. I even had times that I answered Godís call to see someone, call someone---but didnít attribute it to God, then. I was a selective Christian most my life. God wasnít really part of my life during the week, especially Friday night and Saturday when an adult. Still, no matter how late I was out on Saturday night, I didnít miss church on Sunday. After I was married and we had children, we went to church as a family.
Reading the Bible wasnít part of my lifestyle, I only opened it if I needed to write a verse for a lesson, well for confirmation.
I tell people I was a controlling person but while writing this and processing I realized, hey, I wasnít controlling---it just wasnít or isnít in me. However, I can say I was and can be strong and take charge when needed. But back to control---I would say I tried but failed miserably. The only results were to hurt myself and others leading to bad choices. Why would I try, to be truthful I was scared, I thought of it as protection---talk about backfiring of best laid plans. Isnít hindsight wonderful! Gee, maybe salvation is a form of maturity.
Now letís jump ahead to the present, because it wasnít until after Pastor Larry came and Thursday night groups that I found my salvation and completely turned my will over to God. When it happened exactly, I have no idea---I just started changing. What is salvation? Well it is like going from an acquaintance with God to a relationship---heard this somewhere and it fits. As for the title of my witness, which is from one of the Thursday night groups, it also fits.
Iím still on the journey of discovery; I think that is why the theme of ďReflectionsĒ is on the ĎJourney to Heavenís Gateí. It seems like Iím in constant revelations---some disturbing, some just enlightening; some exciting and some surprising. Well to be really honest sometimes Iím confused. I confess I have and I suspect will in the future raise my eyes heavenward and say, ďAre you kidding me! You want me to do/write what!Ē People Iím not a theologian, have Bible expertness although the Bible has become my friend. I have those I call when I know what I want to say and need a Bible verse to go with it and end up reading the whole chapter. My Bible now has markers, passages underlined---itís used.
I can speak with confidence on changes in me when I truly accepted God wholly, prayed for forgiveness and strength to forgive others and myself. As a result, Iíve forgiven and made peace with negative actions of people in my past and myself. I see beyond bitterness and understand my parentís decisions when I was young. Without negativity interfering, I can now remember more of the good and happy times. Iím more open and warmer toward people now; Iíve dropped the lofty wall. I see times God protected me and provided for me and my family when not even asked. I have a happy heart. I donít view submission as a weakness---boy I use to have an attitude on that one. Not being able to do something isnít a failure; it may be a lesson or just not your expertness but it doesnít make you less of a person. What a relief when I realized that one! I misinterpreted my parents and spent too much of my life feeling if I wasnít perfect in all things I tried I wouldnít be accepted, loved. Talk about pressure! Sometimes Iím really confused about the answer to prayers (sometimes it takes hindsight to know they are answers) but at the same time I know God knows and sees the path of my future, I donít.
Iím aware of happenings of the world, but Iím not worried because Godís always there including tomorrow, besides worry is such a waste of time and only elevates my blood pressure. Iíd rather see with joyful eyes because there is still beauty in the world and I donít want to miss it or give up the peace I finally feel. Easy! Iím not saying that and sometimes I slip, Iím human, femaleóa wife and mother! However, time with God always gets me back on track.
When you finally let Jesus move into that part of your heart that God reserved for Him when you were born, life changes. I find my likes in books, TV, movies, socializing is different---but many of the things are still part of me; my love for classical music for one. I still find research fascinating, and I enjoy reading books on psychology, sociology---go figure. In a nutshell, I am finally the complete me I was meant to be. Maybe because of health problems I canít participate in athletic things I enjoyed doing or even dancing, but I can watch and enjoy---Iím glued to the TV during the Olympics. My husband and I are in our Golden Years and not as we dreamed of or are our bodies as we wished and we both know pain---but we still have joy---and know who we are.
Billy Graham said it so well, ďLife without God is like an unsharpened pencil---it has no point.Ē And that my friends, says it in one sentence.
My name is Wayne and I was born to hard working, poor but God fearing, loving parents. They didnít go to church because of a deep hurt to the family from their church and pastor they had served so faithfully. Still, they sent me and my two brothers faithfully. Dad always said to us kids to believe in God, pray, say grace and talk to the Lord but because their hurt cut deep, they didnít return to church. As for me and my brothers, we went to Sunday school and church every Sunday, but being poor we wore our clean bib-overalls and work shoes. One day after church we were starting to walk home, which is how we got places, a member of the church and lady of means stopped her car and told me and my brothers that we couldnít come to church like that, we must dress in dress shirts and ties or stay home. We hated to tell mom and dad and hurt them but we did because we refused to go back to Sunday school---they understood and we didnít go back. This experience also turned me against anyone I thought rich.
Dad always worked hard at what he could do as he was crippled from age sixteen from an accident. We were poor, but we were happy. In the spring of 1943 our house burned down to the ground, but we all survived. Dad didnít have any insurance and all his savings was lost in the fire. We had to start over again, but we did it; my brothers and I helped out by doing odd jobs for spending money.
I was a good student and liked school until I had a second grade teacher that had a big ring on her finger and would thump you on the head until it bled; I finally told my mom when she wondered why I didnít like school anymore---boy that got my mom mad and she went over to school and scared them because they apologized. But, my life changed because now I didnít like teachers, besides church and rich people. I always had a good work ethic and when I was in seventh grade I lied about my age and got me a regular job. I now was able to buy my own clothes and this helped my folks.
I still carried hate and in the ninth grade I said to myself, Wayne, you need to go back to church. I knew I needed help with my life. I went, but my life didnít change, I still carried hate. I wanted to get out of Nebraska, even thought of being a Hobo, possibly stealing, but couldnít; or maybe go to New Orleans and get a job on a fishing boat. Just dreams.
I wanted to quit school at fifteen, I lied about my age, and tried to enlist in the Marines; but the recruiter laughed at me and said to come back at seventeen and not to bother them again. At seventeen I tried to get in the Navy, no luck there. After high school I waited a year until my friend graduated, and then we joined the Army together. My life changed, I didnít go to church service, I spent my leaves with my friend, beer. I still prayed and talked to God but didnít live a Christian life. I got out of the Army during the Vietnam War after serving three years. In 1962, I got a job working many hours but much of it went into my beer habit. I met a woman at this time and married her, the day President Kennedy got assassinated. Our first son was born in 1965, our second in 1969 and during this time I went back to church. With the war, there was so much hate going on, that my hate turned to love. My wife and I didnít get along the best and she was abusive to our kids but we still stayed together---but, eventually, left the church; however, I did quit drinking because of the kids.
When our oldest moved away after high school, I talked my wife and youngest son into going back to church and we went to the Methodist church. I was happy and became active in the workings of the church. It was during this time that my wife of 25 years ran off, a year later we divorced.
Later, I started going out with a friend of many years, whose husband had died of a heart attack. We went to church together and in time fell in love. Eventually we moved to Tennessee and got married, with her and my childrenís blessing. They were the happiest days of my life and we were happy together until my wife Carol died in May of 2006.
Back tracking a little, we were active in church, I was a church administrator in our Methodist church and, as was usual, our then Pastor was moved to another church and we got a new Pastor. Things went along fine until I discovered the Pastor was stealing church funds and sending them out of the country, to family. Pastor felt no remorse, we had words, and I said I could no longer be administrator under those circumstances. People couldnít understand my leaving until later when I got into it again with the Pastor and I walked, never to return. A short time later Carol and I moved to Forsyth after I retired from 34 years at Valmont Industries. This was in 2002, we drove one day by this big cedar red church and were drawn to it. This was during the time of Pastor Howard and we felt at home and joined in 2002, but we were only ďon SundayĒ members. Pastor Howard moved on, then Pastor Larry, Doreen and 3 children moved in. We thought what a wonderful family. We were feeling so much love and the feeling of being in this church; it was so different from past church experiences.
I started working at the Thrift Store until Carol, my wonderful wife of 15 years, died in 2006. At this time she had health problems and was on a breathing machine and often came down first in the morning so she could use it. This one morning, on May 15th , I came down and discovered her with the machine on but not in her mouth.
It was because of my son, personal close friends, Pastor Larry, Doreen and the help and love of the people in our church that I was able to get through this tough period in my life. One thing though, I never blamed God, but then I didnít ask for His help either---or even Pastor Larry or Ken Rogers whose class I attended. I had a secret guilt I carried locked inside me and it was tearing me apart; I felt responsible for Carolís death. I felt she died because I didnít insist on her going to the hospital.
Something happened later in my life that lead me on the wrong path, away from my church, away from God and those that could help me---but God didnít give up on me. I started coming back to church in January of 2010 and finally bared my soul to Pastor Larry and asked for his help and guidance---and I have completely changed my life.
I have gotten active in church again and I can now say I am a Christian and there is no doubt in my mind. I have learned that when you are separated from your church, you wander away from God also. I love my God and I pray always to do His will and to ask His help in following in the Lord Jesus Christís footsteps. I have confessed all to God and ask Him to help me to sin no more. I asked forgiveness from Pastor Larry, Ken and all my church family---because they are truly my family and I love them all; rich, poor there is no difference.
Sometimes I wish I could have just have 5 minutes with those already with the Father; my father and mother, my oldest brother. I would tell them Iím sorry for the bad things I might have said and how much I miss and love them. Also that God is in my heart and I am finally at peace and will see them in heaven.Hello, my name is Lydia. This is a Testimony and a Celebration. I would like to thank this church for giving me a place to come and praise, worship, find fellowship and be comforted. The people here make you feel loved, comforted and whole. They are not judgmental. It is surely come as you are. Doesnít matter how you look or what path you are on. Pastor Larry Lawman is truly unique. He is someone who does not judge.
Okay here we go short and sweet. I was raised in the church always. But you know that doesnít mean a thing. You can still have a falling out with God no matter where your walk might be, and so I did have that falling out at an early age. I was 7 and my mother was only 27 and taken from me by breast cancer, but it was Godís fault! He is supposed to be a loving God that is what I was taught. So how dare he take her from me and leave me alone. Alone to the wolves, the horrible things I would encounter through life. My father was abusive and I fell into the abuse routine, everyone was that way, I knew no different. So abandoned, fearful, with sadness and pain I stumbled through life. I grew up, toughened up and played the game. Years later with a daughter I love dearly, I decided I needed something more in my life so I went on the search. I fell into big trouble and I mean big trouble. This I wasnít getting out of and I was more scared then than I had ever been. I lifted myself up to Jesus that night. I prayed with every fiber of my being. I said ďDear Lord you get me out of this and I will never leave you again.Ē Straight up, he did. I mean there was no way out of the fear soaked situation, NONE! So I kept my promise. But going to church was a different thing. I never promised that!
So for the many many years I walked through life, it was just great, (well a few bumps along the way, but I caused those bumps.) Great car, Great job, Great kid and Great money. I couldnít have asked for anymore. Life was Grand. I moved to Missouri in 1997, got married, bought a home and guess what? There was another plan for me I wasnít expecting. After 14 years the big D came along. Yep, divorceÖ.I surely wasnít expecting that. I wonít go into details but here we go againÖ.Fear, Sadness, Abandonment and total devastation! So I said ďDear Lord I thought we were all good?Ē Well I have come to realize there was another lesson for me to learn, HumblenessÖI was so busy being in charge I forgot who was really in charge. I went from everything to nothing I thought. Well after some healing time, so that I could actually function, I released everything over to Jesus. The Good, the Bad the Ugly. Then I started that search for something more in my life like, back in the beginning of all this. With all my trust in Jesus, after 2 years of real nothing I landed here, here at Forsyth United Methodist Church. God brought me here, here I am HOME. So no matter what changes may come, or the uncertainty of what will happen, Jesus will get you through if you let him. For me it is here this place of Worship, Praise, Comfort and Fellowship. I am humbled. I know because I felt it when I entered through these doors. And with prayer, lots of prayer, my daughter entered thru these doors and then my grandchildren entered thru these doors, and they feel it. God has truly blessed us all. He is doing great work here and we are all here to help him. He has brought me from another dark room into his light, and oh what a great light it is. God lives here within all of us. Canít you feel itÖ.You shouldÖ.and if you canít then maybe you have another lesson to learn! And if you need help, here is a great place.
You all have helped me learn my next lesson. So again Thank You Jesus for helping me find my new home. Thank You Pastor Larry Lawman, and a big Thank You to the whole congregation for opening your hearts and arms to me and mine. For you all have been a blessing to me. May my children and I be a Blessing to you! We are proud to call this our Home.