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  So This Was God
By Billie Marie Zal
     
     In my earliest memories, I sought God. We had a porch swing at the “company house” where I spent many a long, lazy moment thinking about Jesus. The clean, sharp scent of Nasturtiums filled my nostrils and white coated, fluffy clouds sailed across a cobalt sky.
     
     Out back, the forest began. A forest filled with Chinkerpin nut trees, black walnuts, every kind of treat for God’s creatures. I spent hours in that forest, my German Shepherd dog, “Flapper,” closely guarding me as we went deeper and deeper into the “wilds.”
     
     Exploring for miles, I found wild flowers that looked as though they had been seeded by the Angels. When we got tired, I heaped huge piles of sweet smelling Pine straw into a King sized mattress and my dog and I would stretch out. Looking straight up, with the towering Pines singing in the wind, I hoped to see an Angel. Would I find God in the glory of this creation?
     
     As I grew older reality became my friend and I knew that I would never find God in the clouds, nor in His creation. He would not come down to me in the form of Angelic beings. Nor would I ever hear the Angels sing, as they did the night that the very Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, was born.
     
     Now I was living in another dispensation, another Age. God would from here on present Himself to me in the beings of men and women who had laid down their lives for His Son’s sake. I must find Him in the hearts of His people.
     
     I did see Him, eventually. I often saw Him in the life of a person - an ordinary person.
     
     I saw Him in my Grandma, Daddy’s Mother. She was always the same, no matter what. Never angry, or afraid, or unkind or spiteful. Surely she must have had these emotions, but she overcame them. One of the nicest compliments my own Mother ever bestowed upon me was
     
     
     when she said, “You’re just like your Grandma.” It wasn’t intended to be a compliment, but my heart sang when she said it. I wanted DESPERATELY to be just like my Grandma.
     
     Her few times with us were pure joy to me. We had moved from Chelsea, Oklahoma when I was five years old down to Smackover, Arkansas, and once in a while poor Daddy who worked every day without overtime (which did not exist before the Unions took over), would drive all the way from Southeast Arkansas to Chelsea, to bring her home with us.
     
     She was never old, and never young - just a source of energy and love. There was so much love, I never saw HER. She had no worldly goods and if someone gave her an expensive gift, she found a person who needed it more than herself.
     
     It made my Mama mad, but I thought it was great; I would one day do the same, since I was “just like her.”
     
     During her visits with us, Daddy usually regressed. Mama said so, and I believe that she was correct. Daddy had been the “pet” of the family of three boys and one girl, and everyone “catered” to him. He was - to put it bluntly - terribly spoiled.
     
     As Daddy regressed, Mama put up with his attitude for maybe one day. And then the battle erupted. Being a sensitive child, I could hardly bear the turmoil and Grandma knew it. Grabbing my sister and me by the hand, she would rush us out to the very end of the back yard, hoping to be out of ear-shot of the battle. Because she felt me trembling, she covered us with her apron and then the prayer began. What joy! To be covered by my Grandma’s apron and hear her praying through! By the time she finished Mama and Daddy had made up.
     
     Once on our way home with her, we had a flat. Daddy loved elegant things, and he always drove a gigantic car. I recall that this one appeared to be like the ones that the “Mob” drove. The highways through the mountains of Northwest Arkansas were yet unpaved and we slipped and slid over them as we made our way on that perilous journey. It was a fearful trip and I was scared.
     
     Mama, as her custom was, predicted our demise. We would, she said, plunge over the mountainside and be killed and no one would ever find our bodies. Actually, I knew that such a thing was entirely possible, and when the flat occurred Daddy came to a grinding halt in ankle-deep gravel. Now Mama had another prediction: Highjackers would come along and rob and
     
     
     
     take what we had (although they would have been disappointed in their “take,” we had very little), and our bodies would finally be discovered on the side of the road.
     
     Grandma, however, did not agree. Daddy always found a way to fix things and he discovered that the hole in the tire was too big to fit the small “patch” which he had in case of an emergency. Now we were really in a “fix,” Mama shouted.
     
     Grandma had a way of making good things happen so she resorted to prayer. In order to prove her declaration that God knew all about us and would get us out of this predicament, she took my sister and me aside, took hold of our hands, and began to pray.
     
     “Father, You know all about us. You know we are sitting up here on top of a mountain in the darkness with no way to get out. You know us so well that you know how many hairs are on our head (what a safe, happy feeling filled my heart). Now I am asking You a favor. Give Clarence wisdom to fix that flat and get us out of here. These girls need to get home.”
     
     As she finished praying, Daddy hollered, “I’ve got it all figured out. The hole on the SPARE tire is smaller than the hole in the tire that just went flat! All I have to do is patch the small hole on the spare tire and put it on the car, and we can get on home.”
     
     Grandma smiled, looked up into the glorious heavens where every star declared the glory of God, and said, “Thank You, Father.” And I agreed. We had Someone who knew us, loved us, and didn’t want us to look at things as impossible. I was seeing God.
     
     Time and again, throughout my lifetime, I have seen Him. In my friends in Smackover, Arkansas, where I spent all of my young years until I graduated from high school. I saw Him in my English teacher, whom I will always love because she understood me. She had silver-white hair and it was through her encouragement when I wrote the school paper that I vowed one day to write a book. When I became too critical or harsh, her gentleness reminded me of our Savior and I corrected myself.
     
     I saw Him in a man in our town who could pray. He could ask God almost anything, and God answered. It didn’t matter who was in trouble, or what the crisis was, he “prayed through.” Later on, he opened a funeral parlor, but because he loved everyone so much, the sorrows of others filled his heart and he had to let it go. It would have brought him down, these sorrows.
     
     
     
     I have seen God in people whom I will never know personally until I get to Heaven. Their books tell me that God indwelt them. I was so blessed, once I was born again, to find these testimonies of who God really is. Amy Carmichael, George Mueller, Hudson Taylor, Francois Fenelon . . . Individuals who “laid down their lives for the Gospel’s sake.” I look, but I cannot find such Christians today. The world has blinded their Light.
     
     When my Daddy died he did not leave me “comfortless.” We had those few moments where heaven became reality and as I stood by his bedside, holding his hand, I knew that I was loved, and lifted up and carried through the deep waters of death and I would never feel forsaken again.
     
     And so - THIS was God! Not great men in robes and great churches, and great buildings. That is not God. Not men of great theological training, or church buildings made for “entertainment.” That is not God. Not great works - with individuals rushing here and there to “lead souls to Christ,” and forgetting to pray because there is not time left over to pray. That is not God.
     
     God Himself is with us, clothed with the bodies of ordinary people. A Grandma who covers her little ones with her apron and talks to their Father in Heaven; A man who is not ashamed to kneel and pray - even for his town’s football team to win against great odds - And a Daddy who waits for his daughter, even through great pain, so that he can show her the vestibule of heaven.
     
     THIS IS GOD. And, “if you seek Him with all of your heart, you will surely find Him.”
     
     I wrote this message so that each of you might understand where to find Him. Many times, once we are born again and know it, we have a great longing for others to be saved; what we do not realize is that God “knows those who are His,” even before they are saved, and He will see to it that they find Him.
     
     Originally published in December, 2001.




NEWS NOTES FOR FEBRUARY, 2006

We lost our Honey Buns a couple of weeks ago. She was the black pit and bulldog mix that Gail had found years ago walking down the road so tired and lost. It was before 1990, which made her a very, very old girl.
     
     She was a little dog with a lot of “attitude,” not to be treated lightly. She demanded respect and got it from everyone.
     
     One day by accident I let her out in the yard where Aka the wolf was. I panicked and screamed for help. I just knew that Honey Buns would be torn into pieces by this huge wolf, who had already killed every cat on the property. But with Honey Buns’ “attitude” she knew what to do and every time Aka came near her, she chased her back into her house. It was a sight to behold. That was our Honey Buns, and we will miss her.
     
     Also, Shirley and Ed lost their precious little dog, Wendy. She had a spine and hip disease and there was nothing that could be done for her. She was in too much pain. I know that they miss her love.
     
     It is raining. Thank God! We won’t complain if it rains for two weeks, even though it is dreary. It just means that we all have to stay inside, which makes Bruno not happy. He and Barney are fighting over the couch. Guess who wins? Bruno is another one who has “attitude.”
     
     We have had no winter and no rain since October. It has been in the fifties and sixties and windy most every day. We will need many more inches of rain to catch up but this is a great start. And the timing couldn’t be better. We received our order of Pine Trees the other day and now Rodney will be able to start planting after these rains.
     
     At the moment everyone on Baca Mountain is well. Even Jay’s back has been miraculously healed. He had every test known to man done, and since they could find nothing wrong he feels fine. Sometimes you just need the word of a doctor (smile).
     
     We are receiving many nice letters and we are thankful for you all. In many ways you are the only family we have, too.
     
     Margaret & Rodney
     




A Poem from Willie Hoffman at Florence, Arizona

Wings - Spread
Life’s prison . . . A ship on a never ending sea.
Forever adrift, with only one hope for it’s crew (God).
We could not swim,
So God gave us these wings, and we flew.

These wings, these wings: Wings of faith and hope.
These wings of better days,
Wings of flowers in May.
These wings of God’s love . . .
A reminder so we do not stray.




Prayer Requests for February, 2006
Pray:
For David Painter’s Mother, for her heart. David is at Abilene, Texas.
For John Cameron at Menard, Illinois, for his health.
For Willie Scott at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, for clemency.
For Jeremy Conrad’s Mother who has cancer. Jeremy is at Menard, Illinois.
For John Siverand in Texas.
For Ken Hogan at McAlester, Oklahoma, for his back, right leg and shoulders.
For Richard Taylor at Lawton, Oklahoma, that he will be transferred to a minimum security prison soon.
For Robert Heffernan at Tucker, Arkansas, for an attorney and for DNA testing.
For Ronald Pearson at McAlester, Oklahoma, that he will pass his literature test.
For Marcos Zavala at Amarillo, Texas, for his legs.
For Willie Scott at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, for his health and for clemency.
For Karen Griffin at McCloud, Oklahoma, who has cancer.
For Judy Oakley of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, who also has cancer and has returned to the hospital with a high fever.
For Francis Nolan Holland’s Father, who will undergo stomach surgery soon, and for Nolan’s entire family during this time.
For Shane Comeaux’s soon-to-be wife, Kimberly, who is having a tumor removed from her brain.
For Dwayne Sundell in Dixon, Illinois, that he will get his good time back.
For Calvin Huddleston’s Sister who is recovering from a gunshot wound. Calvin is at Pontiac, Illinois.
For Sister Ann and all the Nuns in Little Rock.
For all of us at Wingspread.





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