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.
By Billie Marie Zal
Forgiveness is caring about someone when there is no earthly or sensible reason to care.
Forgiveness is accepting insults not with stoical indifference, but with praise - because we have a chance to die to pride.
Forgiveness is not giving up on anyone, ever.
Forgiveness is not expecting everyone to be just like everyone else. If we do not forgive because someone is not like us, we disturb God’s order.
Forgiveness is accepting people just like they are. It is looking beyond the faults, the complexities of their personalities and seeing them as our brothers.
Forgiveness is reaching out even when we seem rejected by the one to whom we offer God’s love. Sometimes, by the touching, walls are broken down and God’s love becomes a reality to that individual who lives in darkness.
Forgiveness is overlooking the meannesses and cruelties that often are poured out upon us from those who should love us. And it’s believing that those very meannesses will bring us into the fellowship of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was acquainted with such treatment when he walked this earth in human form.
Forgiveness is not judging our brother by the way that he walks, or talks, or dresses, or even by the way that he lives. Each human being is a unique individual created by our God. He alone has the right to judge, and instead He died for the very one who we believe is not worth saving.
Forgiveness is leaving individuals to themselves and letting them make their own choices, even if it is the choice which we might not have made.
Forgiveness is loving and caring and remembering even when we are not forgiven by someone whom we have offended. We love them anyhow.
Forgiveness is remembering that God’s Word says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” This includes ourselves along with the thief, the junkie, the murderer, the rapist, the child molester, the wife beater, the fornicator, and the adulterer. When we remember this, then we can see them as having been included in the Body of our Lord Jesus when He drank the cup which contained all the offenses against God that a person can ever commit.
Forgiveness is forgetting. If we do not forget an offense against us, we do not forgive like God forgives.
Forgiveness is waiting patiently on God to work in a life that seems doomed to ruin. In this waiting process, we are tempered by our God and when the life is ready to be healed we are ready to forgive without restrictions.
Forgiveness is not holding grudges. It is waving away the little doubts and fears that assail us when we truly love. Doubts and fears make forgiveness impossible.
Forgiveness is setting free a soul from some long ago guilt trip.
Forgiveness is acceptance. It is overlooking rejection by the world, friends, and family. Forgiveness is loving them anyhow, just like Jesus asked us to do.
Forgiveness is permitting others to offend our love seventy times seven and sometimes ten thousand times ten thousand, and remembering that we can never again hold whatever it was against them.
Forgiveness is accepting a motive or attitude that appears to be unjust. Forgiveness does not even consider injustice.
Forgiveness manifests itself by an all encompassing love that surrounds us, and fills us, and makes us aware that we are indeed different because somewhere in the eternal plan of God, we have seen humanity as Jesus saw it on that awful night at Gethsemane.
Forgiveness is ours when we, too, drink the Cup that Jesus offers to every person who is willing to suffer for His sake that we might obtain the prize of the highest calling.
Prayer Requests for February, 2012
For William Holland (Pontiac, Illinois), for health, and for relief from the federal courts.
For Anthony Grayson (Shawangunk, New York,).
For Ken Hogan (Death Row, McAlester), who has diabetic foot pain.
For Mickey Ray Reil (Atoka, Oklahoma), who will be getting out soon.
For Clay Huff (Angola, Louisiana), for health.
For Marshall Ellis’ (Chester, Georgia) cousin, Linda Moats, who is in the hospital as a result of multiple strokes.
For Robert Casto’s (Cushing, Oklahoma) family, for their salvation.
For Dale Chambers (Cushing, Oklahoma) to be reconnected with his family.
For Johnny Carruthers (Florence, Arizona) who has various health issues.
For Nolan Holland (Tucker, Arkansas). He is submitting his application for executive clemency.
For John Crutcher (in Oklahoma) who is still in need of a liver transplant.
For Ron (Buckeye, Arizona), who seeks peace and a continued faith in God.
For Jimmy Huff (Colorado City, Texas), for health.
For Richard Burns (Menard, Illinois), who has diabetes and takes daily injections.
For Mike Long (Larned, Kansas), for health.
For Willie Scott (Grady, Arkansas), for health, and for spiritual growth and faith.
For Willie Clark (Iowa Park, Texas), who still wants to be transferred closer to Houston.
For Sister Ann & all the Carmelite Nuns in Little Rock.
For Frank Williams, Jr. (Death Row, Grady, Arkansas). One of our prayers has been answered. The Arkansas State Supreme Court just said that Frank should be re-sentenced. The court also reopened his direct appeal.
For Freddie Lee Lott (Dixon, Illinois), to keep his healing and stay cancer free.
For Willie Harper (Joliet, Illinois), for health, and that his cancer stays in remission.
For Robert Heffernan (Grady, Arkansas), that DNA evidence will prove his innocence.
For Pastor Scott & her ministry (The University Network) in Los Angeles, especially for Pastor’s health.
For all of us at Wingspread, especially Margaret, who is having another eye surgery.
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