Always Rejoice; Who Says?
By Billie Marie Zal
“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” (Phil. 4:4) This Word of God leaps out of the pages of the Bible and hits us right between the eyes. It usually comes at some difficult time when we want to throw our hands up and rebel.
But it is the same Word that tells us, “Whosoever calls upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.” So are we going to be cheap enough to take part of God’s Word and use it for our own benefit and throw out the part that lights up our rebellion?
Of course we don’t grow into spiritual maturity and learn “always to rejoice” in a day. It involves much travail of soul. But we can begin to accept the fact that it is definitely possible to gain this spiritual victory which will change us from carnal babes into spiritual adults.
One problem with our refusal to grow up stems from our wanting the adulation that comes from being “babies.” I am reminded of a time when I wanted to “stay little and cute.” Though I was five years old, I liked to believe that people still thought I was a little darling. We had visitors one night, a lovely couple who were childless and who had heaped attention upon my sister and me. One of the things Mr. Tims did was always reach into his pocket and give me a nickel. But this night he evidently forgot to, and I was determined to get that nickel. It was more than a nickel to me. It was a reminder that people still noticed me and loved me.
I had been excused from the table and should have gone to bed. But I hung around and just when I thought the timing was right, I prissed up to my Daddy, leaned against his knee and in what I considered to be my most beguiling voice said, “Daddy, I want a nickel.” I knew immediately I had blown it when I saw Mama’s eyes. She had great big brown eyes and they flashed danger signals when she was angry. Daddy looked embarrassed and poor Mr. Tims began to fumble in his pocket. But I got out of there - FAST!
After they left I pretended to be asleep. But Mama was not to be outdone. She came into the room, flung back the covers and let me lie there, waiting for the spanking I knew I
deserved. I suppose my willingness to accept the punishment got to her. But she taught me a lesson I will never forget. She began to prance daintily around the room, saying in an idiotic voice, “Da . . . . deee, I want a nickel.” Of course my sister was howling with laughter which made matters worse and I made a solemn vow NEVER to ask anyone for anything again. Mama had taught me well. Little girls grow up and they do not ask men for money.
Rejoicing doesn’t always come that easy, though. I was a child, and intent on obeying a higher authority. Had I been older, well, who knows whether I would have taken it with joy or not?
Rejoicing is not easy because it is not an emotion. Happiness is an emotion. It begins within our soul, our flesh. And it comes and goes according to how much our flesh is being satisfied. But rejoicing is an act of worship. It comes in spite of the flesh getting its way.
Take the matter of rejoicing when the bills keep coming and the finances are shrinking. How can we rejoice at such a time? I know that I didn’t. I would take a look at the stack of bills - then at the check book balance and a cold sweat would break out on my forehead. Something had to be wrong and I knew what it was. I was out of the order of God.
His order is that we manage our finances not by what we want, but by what we have in hand. But charge accounts dispute His Word. We walk through the Mall, we see everything we ever wanted: furniture, clothing, jewelry. And after awhile we throw all caution to the wind and out come the credit cards.
But what about His Word? “The borrower is servant to the lender.” And, “Thou shall lend but thou shalt not borrow.” And, “Owe no man anything but to love him.” God, knowing man’s heart, was telling us that if we owe someone, we are indebted to that person to the degree that we owe. And if we are in debt or bondage to that individual, then that part of our life does not belong wholly to God.
I should never have left the path that God had so carefully laid out for me in my beginning days of the ministry. I never owed. And eventually, God increased my store to much more than I needed for living expenses. So I set a limit to my own expenses and put everything back into God’s treasury. I never owed and I never lacked. And God was glorified.
But there are deeper entanglements than debts. There is the entanglement of relationships either with our loved ones, the world, or close friends.
I didn’t have much trouble with world relationships. After I committed to Christ, the world automatically steered clear of me. I didn’t make myself obnoxious (some religious people do) but I never compromised God’s Word so people avoided me to some degree.
And then there was the matter of my son Richard. I believe if ever I had put any one human being before the Lord, it would have been this child of mine. For one thing, he was a gift straight from the heart of my Father - God. I adopted him and the very thought of such a gift thrills my heart, even today. I remember the wonder that filled my heart as I stood in the Methodist Nursery and held him for the first time as the lady who ran the nursery dedicated him to the Lord.
A shaft of yellow sunlight pierced the window of that office, and to me it was a token from God that He would make me a good mother and I would have His wisdom in raising this precious baby.
For awhile after I brought him home, I was in a perpetual panic. He was only three months old; so tiny, and when I put him in the brand new baby bath I’d bought, I was sure he would drown. I had never even diapered a baby and my hands shook as I stuck those huge safety pins through the diaper folds.
But Richard weathered all of my inexperience and grew into a beautiful little boy with a will of pure iron. One continuing battle between us was his refusal to take a nap. Even though his eyes rolled up into his head he would determine to stay awake. I refused to give in to his shrieks of anger when I put him into his crib, but later I would tip toe to his door and peek, and there he would be - jumping up and down and making noises to keep himself awake. It was wise of me not to push too hard. I remembered Mama and her disciplines, and though I wanted to give Richard set limits, I didn’t’ want to break his spirit.
I knew, without a doubt, that such a will would eventually bring heartbreak to both of us. And I was right. After he left home to go out and seek his fortune, he kicked over all the traces. And even though I WANTED to force a showdown, I knew that he must fight his own battles. This was a difficult time to rejoice. But I did, for I knew that God would never forsake him.
I was not prepared, however, for his disappearance. I assumed that I would always know where he was, but one awful day he simply disappeared. There was a darkness. A terrible darkness. But because God had given me faith in HIS love, I was able to go on and though you
might not understand it, there was a quiet, under girding sense of strength and hope during those long three years when I heard nothing from him or about him.
God sent comforts during this time, though. One dear lady whose faith filled my heart with hope wrote, “Do not be afraid about Richard. God is dealing with him as a son.” In one brief, fleeting moment I not only KNEW that Richard was alive and well, but also that he was a son of the most High God. How little people realize what their letters and prayers do for our faith!
There was one more comfort that carried me through it all. Just before he had disappeared I was sitting alone at my kitchen window in southern California. In the West, the mountains were changing color, as they did every evening as the sun began to set.
It was always a time of worship for me. God’s majesty displayed itself and the mountains were of His making. Suddenly a word came to me. “Richard is coming HOME.” I was puzzled. Then I realized I had been worried about the war and God was telling me, “REJOICE! And again, I say rejoice!” I would see my son again.
This word carried me all through those three years and time and again held me up. I rejoiced, not in the fact that he disappeared then, but that God had given witness even before he disappeared that I would certainly see him again. And of course God honored His Word.
Richard did come home. He did eventually turn from the path that he had chosen, and gave his life back to God. One day as we were talking he said, “You know, Mom, all those things you taught me about Jesus - they are all coming back to me and I can obey them now.”
And I reminded him of the verse: “Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” It is a promise for Mothers and Dads, even when a child falls and takes his time to get back up.
I wonder, sometimes, if I make it sound easy to rejoice? It is not. I had to grow up in grace and learn that there are good days and bad days, but what we make of them is what counts for eternity. Sometimes I wake up even now, and believe it’s going to be a great day. But it isn’t. Often things happen that annoy me - the phone doesn’t work right, the coffee pot is empty, or the dogs have messed on the floor. If there is anything I love, it’s a hot cup of coffee as soon as I wake up. Such petty things, but they get in.
Then I remember, I have no right to make everyone else miserable when I have all of God’s love and goodness in my heart if I want to express it.
There is a Scripture verse that I want to give to you all that helps me along the way, and gives me courage to go on:
“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the field shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” (Hab. 3:17-18).
When we see no rewards, no love, no returns; when friends and family ignore us, loved ones forget we exist; when our store or trust fund is small and we see nothing at all to hope for; that is when hope works best. And that’s when Love works best. And that’s when God can say with certainty, “You are becoming what I planned for you to be from all eternity.” And THAT is rejoicing!
- from the April, 1998 Wingspread
In Memory of Joe Buckaloo
Born February 4, 1950
Died March 8, 2006
On March 8 we lost a brother who was very dear to us, Joe Buckaloo. He had been a part of our family since 1987 and faithfully wrote often.
Joe loved us and was thankful for the love we shared, which he recognized as the love of Jesus.
Most of Joe’s incarceration was spent in the Special Care Unit at McAlester. Life was hard, but he never complained. I never knew anyone who could be so content and thankful for just a cup of coffee.
Joe had the faith of a child, pure and uncomplicated. When the Chaplain baptized him a few years ago, he wrote about it in every letter. He now felt safe and secure in his salvation and wanted to know all about heaven. Now he knows more than we do, and is finally free, well and happy. We will miss Joe and his letters.
The doctor’l l take one look and say your dead
The truth is gonna finally be revealed
Oh, I’m gonna find death anin’t no big deal
He’ll reach down and gently close my eyes
I’ll be watching from the other side
I’ll be laughing ‘bout how scared I’d thought I’d be
Oh I’m gonna find death ain’t no big deal
My soul is gonna be
Just like a bird set free
I’ll sail right past the moon up to the stars
And I know I’ll be amazed
When I get to Heaven’s gate
Cuz I knew my way by heart
The light will shine much brighter than the sun
And I’ll be right back where I started from
Ain’t no way to say how good I’ll feel
Let me tell you death ain’t no big deal
At my Maker’s feet I’m gonna kneel and say
Thank you, Lord, Death ain’t no big deal
This was Dr. Scott’s song
Shortly before Bobby Ross was executed in 1999, he sent me his Bible. It is a gift I
treasure. Its truly a wonderful study bible with 800 pages of helps and features.
The following page on Prophecies fulfilled concerning Jesus Christ came from Bobby’s bible. I thought this might be of interest to some of you who do study your bible, and also as this is the month that we celebrate Easter. We all need to think on the miracle of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
God knows the past as well as the future, and prophecy proves this. None of us can predict what will happen thousands of years from today, but God can. Even as He was creating the heavens and the earth, He knew that His Son would have to give His life to redeem this world, that He at that moment was creating.
Somewhere in time, in the counsel of Heaven, this was all decided. This is why Jesus is called “The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).
We serve a great God who knows the end from the beginning, and deserves our total commitment and obedience.
Christ rose from the dead. Do we all really believe that? I hope so because “if in THIS LIFE ONLY we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19). In other words, if we have lived a life committed to Christ and not one pleasing our self life, then we have lived a life in vain if Christ has not risen.
I am confident that not only did He rise from the dead, but He is sitting at the right hand of the Father. And John 14:1-3 tells us: “Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.”
Happy Easter from Wingspread
For Willie Davis at Danville, Illinois, for his legal efforts in the courts.
For Tommy Hayes and everyone at the Estelle Unit, Huntsville, Texas.
For Robert Heffernan at Brickeys, Arkansas, for DNA testing and for an attorney.
For Alan & Bobby at McAlester, Oklahoma.
For John Boltz on death row at McAlester, Oklahoma, that the Supreme Court will agree to hear his appeal.
For Michael Small’s Mother. Joanne Smith, that her back will get better, and for her peace of mind. Michael is at Menard, Illinois.
For Judy Oakley of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, who has leukemia.
For Eddie Comeaux’s Mother, for healing of her brain tumor. Eddie is at Granite, Oklahoma.
For Karen Griffin at McCloud, Oklahoma, that she will be granted a medical parole.
For Willie Clark at Abilene, Texas, that he will be transferred closer to Houston to be near his family.
For Robert Heffernan at Brickeys, Arkansas, for an attorney and for DNA testing.
For Sister Ann and all the nuns in Little Rock.
For Clay Huff at Angola, Louisiana, who is having a liver biopsy.
For Leon Wright at Lexington, Oklahoma, for his health.
For all our brothers on death row.
For our Eddie, for his blood pressure to stay stable.
For our Gail, for her shoulder.
For Wingspread, and for rain on Baca Mountain.
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