The Wrath of God
By Billie Marie Zal
My Mother was a strict disciplinarian - she would have been hauled into family court today for child abuse - but thank God she knew what to do with me and the basic lesson I learned was: God gets angry.
Permissive parents are either ignorant or have a need for their children to “like” them; and so - when Junior uses obscenities or talks back - they retreat into their “fantasy world where everything is happy ever afterward” and the children go merrily on their way to hell.
This present generation has gone to extremes both morally and physically because the individuals who comprise this community do not fear God. I was repulsed by an article headline recently that stated: “I taught my daughter to be sexy.” Then the article goes on to say, “I taught my little girl to use her body. She can get a man to do anything because she knows it works.”
What a contrast with my own upbringing! If my Mama had caught me “using my body” to be sensual I can tell you this: I wouldn’t have been able to sit down for a week. And I would have learned that it didn’t pay.
There is an authority in this world and His Name is God. Few people get to know Him; He is depicted sometimes as an angry old man, peering down at us to thwart our every sneaky plan to do as we please. He sets limits but if we never hear about them then we have nothing to stop us from doing what we want to do, when we want to do it.
It’s a wonder I didn’t think of God as cruel and far too strict. I can’t remember when Mama first told me about Him, and how He “gets us” if we misbehave. It was from infancy, because I don’t recall not ever knowing that there is a God in heaven who knows me, knows what I do, and even knows what I am thinking.
In spite of this mental picture I acquired of God, I loved Him dearly. I sought Him in every crises; once I tore my nice dress while playing on the wrought iron fence at a friend’s home; I prayed all the way home that God wouldn’t let Mama use the switch on me. I don’t remember whether He answered that prayer or not, but it didn’t matter. God was God and who could dare challenge Him and His authority? NOT ME!
Our basic problem is being born into an environment where God is not mentioned, and certainly not the controlling authority. I obviously got to know Him and by age three I realized that sin is sin. I was capable of hatred, jealousy, and even murder. I remember so well the day a little boy was left in my mother’s care while his Mom shopped. We lived in an apartment/hotel in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and I hated him. Mama was always partial to boys and she made a big deal out of showing him a “good time.”
So, when he climbed out on to the window sill while we were playing in the bedroom, and the window screen suddenly moved forward causing “Dewey” to hang by his toes to keep
from falling at least 30 feet or more to the concrete below, I secretly hoped he would go on and just fall before I told Mama.
I was very casual about the entire matter; Mama said I came into the kitchen, swinging my rag doll by her legs, and when she asked, “Where is Dewey?” I replied, “He’s about to fall out of the window.” Mama let out a scream and got to him in time. I was horrified to see this darkness within my own heart and I expected God to strike me dead. When He didn’t I felt relieved but I did make a vow never to “murder” anyone in my heart. It was a big release and not only the ability to murder left me but the cause of it: jealousy. God had His way and used it for good.
As I grew older I heard about this strange thing called “evolution.” I never fell for it; God had created me, I did not evolve from some tiny sea animal in eons past. I was planned by God and my bones were formed in my mother’s womb by Him. He knew me.
However, no matter how hard we try to worship God and give Him first place we usually fall into the pattern of “being our own person(s).” It begins when we are toddlers and we experience this tremendous new power when we say NO to our parent’s requests. It is then that we are the most vulnerable to satan’s take over of our lives. But again, if we are exposed to the reality that there is a God who knows us then we don’t give in.
We are just “little people” and we need to have a definite authority in our lives, if we are to grow up and become mature individuals and again, I can thank my Mother for this lesson.
It was while we still lived in Muskogee that another lesson was learned, concerning obedience. Mama had to go shop (we lived right in town so she only went a few blocks away) and she left my sister and I in the care of the hotel proprietor, a kindly elderly lady who wouldn’t have noticed if we did sin!
My sister and I assured her that she could trust us. We would just stay in our apartment and behave ourselves. But no sooner had Mama left than my older sister Kathleen came up with a brilliant idea. “Let’s dress up and go find Mama,” she said.
A gnawing fear tugged at my heart, but not wanting to lose face before my adored big sister, I agreed. She went to Mama’s closet, getting out one of Mama’s nicest “best dresses” and tried it on. Of course it dragged the ground but she found a huge sash and hiked it up, tying it around her tiny waist line. Then she stepped into Mama’s high heeled shoes, laughing with delight.
Not knowing what to wear, I finally decided on my sister’s green organza dress with the lace trim. It hung well below my ankles but I thought I looked absolutely beautiful. We rummaged through the closet for hats and found just what suited us. My sister’s was one of those big, floppy things and the brim hung almost to her chin, making it difficult for her to see straight ahead. I chose a “cloche,” and put it on, my tiny face barely visible.
Next came the makeup. We painted our lips with great swoops of Mama’s lip stick tube, and dotted our faces with red, red rouge. Oh, how beautiful we looked! We could hardly wait now to be on our way.
One last detail was lacking, though. My sister said, “Rich ladies always walk their dogs on a ‘leetch.’ Go get little white puppy dog, and let’s put a ‘leetch’ on her.” Not having any idea what a “leetch” was, I obediently dragged little white puppy dog into the room. My sister found a long, heavy piece of string and she wound it around our dog’s neck, somehow making it stay.
Tip toeing past our baby sitter’s apartment, we tottered down the long flight of stairs. I was wearing my sister’s best shoes which were sizes too large for me. And Mama’s high heels on my sister made it a dangerous mission, but we somehow made it without falling.
It was a beautiful, sunshiny day and as we left the hotel we felt reassured and happy. Mama would be ecstatic when she saw us. Our tiny white dog was pulling back on her leash, sensing perhaps that we were going to “get it,” but we pulled her on.
Muskogee’s downtown was a bustling, busy place then and as we went down the crowded sidewalk everyone stopped to stare. Inebriated with the idea that we were the object of all of this attention I slowed my pace so that my sister’s shoes wouldn’t flop too loudly and we would appear like rich ladies indeed. No one stopped us or asked us where we were going, which even today seems rather strange to me.
Our guardian angels took us in hand because we had not gone more than three or four blocks when we could see Mama walking toward us in the distance. “Here she comes!” shouted my sister. “Ain’t she gonna be surprised when she sees us!”
Yes, she was surprised. Later on when we grew older, Mama told me that when she saw two little figures in what she imagined was cast off clothing she had no idea that it was the two of us. But as she drew closer she recognized the “poor little things” as her own and she forgot that she was right in the middle of downtown Muskogee. Screaming with rage, she grabbed each of us by the arm and hustled us home, promising in no uncertain terms that we were “going to get it.” Little white puppy dog’s tail disappeared between his hind legs, and people stood by and laughed at the little drama being played out on their city sidewalk.
And - true to her promise - when we got home, we got it! It was rather difficult to sit down without a pillow beneath our hind sides for a few days. But I was glad. I was glad that she had confirmed my own secret thoughts - that what I did was wrong and dangerous and disobedient. A limit had been set for me. The pain of the chastisement was worth the safety that such a limitation existed.
So it is that in this way I came to know that God - the Supreme Authority - cannot be unjust. If we err, we need to be corrected in order to learn how to live. I do know that in today’s society Mama’s reaction to our little show would be considered all wrong. Their reasoning would be, “Wasn’t that just a childish prank and shouldn’t she have enjoyed the ‘making believe’ with us?”
The answer is NO. Parents are not suppose to be buddies to their children. They are the only authority that exists in the beginning and as the limbs are bent, so grows the tree.
This takes us all the way back to teaching our children just who God is. I never fail to feel
the awesomeness of His power when I read the last few chapters of the book of Job in the Old Testament. God had permitted satan to inflict a horrible skin disease upon Job’s entire body and Job didn’t know why. He had always kept the rules, done good works, kept “in touch” with God, and suddenly everything was lost.
His first reaction was, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the Name of the Lord.” His wife was more honest and she said, “Curse God and die.” But Job’s own self righteousness had to be dealt with, and so God did answer the prayer of his heart.
He reminded Job that it was He who had laid the foundations of the earth; who had created the morning stars and heard their songs; who had shut up the sea with doors and caused it to go this far, and no farther; who had formed the treasuries of the snow, and the hail; who had created the animals, the birds, everything that existed. We need to read these words. God is speaking concerning Himself and besides Him there is no other. This is what I learned when my Mother and Daddy taught me that to disobey is to sin, and in sinning there is forgiveness if I admit my guilt.
Like Job, my lessons of obedience because of the discipline of my Mother (harsh as though she seemed) eventually led me to the altar of a great church in Chicago where I, like Job, cried out to God after recognizing what I had done to HIM, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6).
It is never through a parent’s permissiveness in our formative years that we come to that all important moment when we can choose either to follow the devil, or Jesus Christ. It is through chastening, no matter how much it hurts.
The one compliment that I treasure most from my son Richard is, “Mom, you sure did know how to raise kids. If I ever have any, I am going to raise them like you did me.”
This means that the lessons I taught him would never have been realistic if I had overlooked his disobedience and refused the chastening that led him out of acts that could have destroyed him. This is Love, in its purest sense, and all of us must take time each to consider such a love. Whether we are in the office, the school, the home, or even in prison, it is God’s Love that offers you the simple solution to your present situation. Get to know Him, and thank Him that He didn’t let you go. You are not trapped by prison walls. You are trapped by the great Love of God who gave up His Son so that you might inherit eternal life. Begin to thank Him for this, and you will be surprised with the swiftness of His loving forgiveness.
Like the two little girls who deliberately sinned against their Mother’s rules, and suffered the consequences, you too, can accept the inevitable chastening and be set free from the self that brought you into God’s chosen place where you might get to know Him and live with Him forever.
Sometimes I wish I could just talk to everyone. When things are put down on paper I feel like they loose something. But no doubt the reason I feel that way is because I don’t have a gift for writing like Billie did.
I once made a tape for my dad. I just sat down and talked. He lived in California, all alone then. My Mom had died many years earlier and his second wife was gone also. The tape changed his life in some ways. I think that before then he had never really known who I was inside, my thoughts, what was important to me, and so on. And I’m sure he never knew how much I cared about him and his life. It had been a difficult relationship. We were so different. He was so practical and had never quite understood why I chose the path that I had chosen.
I know that most of you never wrote a letter until you came to prison. That’s how most men are. Yet today your letters are of much encouragement to us. I often feel such joy to read a letter from someone who has so obviously grabbed on to the Word and is now leaning on it in the daily circumstances of life.
And what else is there in life that we can fully trust and depend upon, if not the written Word of God? It remains like a guide post through the centuries and as the Bible says, “it (Thy Word) is forever settled in Heaven” Psalms 119:89.
When I was a young child, on weekends the teacher often gave us a Psalm to learn by heart. I can remember sitting upstairs in my father’s little office, where it was quiet, and reading one line of a Psalm and then repeating it until that one line “stuck,” and then adding another line, and so on until I knew it all.
I hated and dreaded that homework, but at the end of the evening I was proud of myself for being able to recite the whole thing by heart. I believe repetition is the best way to learn anything, and we need some things repeated often, even though we think we already know it all. Our culture and background have given us an understanding of God that is more than likely wrong. And often we see Him as an image of what our parents were: stern, unforgiving, loving and giving. But He does not have the weaknesses of humanity.
I think this can’t be repeated enough, so I’ll do it again. Repeating the Sinner’s Prayer, believing in God and Jesus, and going to Church does not save anyone. Even the devil believes and trembles (James 2:19), and he sure won’t be saved.
Some people feel that life has been so tough - so much illness, so many losses, sorrows and hardship - that how could God possibly not let them in. Some believe they have done their very best, and have done a lot of good works, and maybe they have. But we all fall short of God’s glory. He is a loving God but also a just God.
I’m going to tell you what I believe He is looking for. He could have created perfect people without a flaw, but he didn’t. He wants a people, that with their own free will, who choose to trust Him, and who will commit their lives completely by trust to this invisible personal presence of God. A God who is with us all the time, and whose opinion of us will become
more important than anyone else’s opinion. A God whose claim on our lives will exceed that of all others, and that includes family, lovers and friends. In Matthew 10: 37-38 Jesus said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” Those are tough words, but that’s what a real faith and a trusting relationship with God is all about.
God is a Spirit and He puts part of His Spirit in us. The life of God changes us from the inside out. And this new life in us grows. God sees us through Christ as perfect, then no longer holds us guilty of sins past, present, and future. I spent a lot of years feeling guilty for things done and things not done. But God sees me through Christ. Jesus fulfilled that law I could never fully keep.
And I see clearly today that the Son of God died in vain if salvation comes by my works. I know why there are so many religions based upon works and traditional ceremonies. It’s because it makes a person feel good and not so helpless to be able to do something, to have a part in redeeming ourselves.
We all know that we lack and are not complete or perfect. But I think I always knew that nothing I could do would be enough to make up for my lack. But Jesus made it all up. He came to earth, took on human form, endured thirst and heartbreak, and sometimes He wept. I was so touched by that. In John 11:35 it says “Jesus wept.” To think that God in Christ wept over our condition - but He did something about it. He was the only life worth the cost of the entire world, past, present, future. So with His life He bought the entire field (the world) to get that treasure out of it.
And we are His treasure if we come to know Him in a trusting relationship (Matthew 13:44).
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!
Prayer Requests for November, 2009
For Willie Clark at Iowa Park, Texas, that he’ll be allowed to visit with his son soon.
For Willie Williams, Marcy, New York, who is getting out in May of next year, for the strength and help that he will need.
For Johnny Carruthers, Florence, Arizona, for faith, understanding, and patience.
For Joseph Runge’s brother, Eric, who has had numerous operations since his car accident. Joseph is at Centralia, Illinois.
For William McAllister’s sister, Margie McAllister, that God will “put a hedge around her.”
For Michael Small’s son, Derek, that he will come back to the church. Michael is at Menard, Illinois.
For Freddie Lee Lott, Galesburg, Illinois, that he stays “cancer free.”
For Michael Chavez’ Mother, Renee Davis, that God will give her the strength to overcome her drug addiction. Michael is at Grady, Arkansas.
For Willie Scott at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, for health, and that he stays “cancer free,” and for more heat in their barracks this winter.
For Sister Ann & all the Carmelite Nuns in Little Rock.
For Frank Williams, Jr., Death Row, Grady, Arkansas, who’s appeal was just denied.
For Willie Davis at Menard, Illinois, who is waiting on the Illinois Supreme Court to rule on his appeal.
For Robert Heffernan, Grady, Arkansas, for his health.
For Pastor Scott and her ministry in Los Angeles, California.
For Ed Ewing, Dinuba, California, who is 88 years old and just got out of the hospital.
For Willie Harper, Joliet, Illinois, that he stays “cancer free.”
For Anthony Grayson, Comstock, New York, that God will send someone to help with his appeal.
For Kevin Cowley’s kids in New York: Shane, Ryan & Kevin, Jr. Kevin is at Florence, Arizona.
For our neighbors, Sandra and Leroy Beckom. Sandra continues to battle cancer.
For President Obama & our leaders. There are a lot of serious issues facing our country right now, and we are told in the Bible to pray for our leaders.
For all of us at Wingspread.
“Thank you” from Brian for all the cards and notes he received for his birthday last month. He appreciates all of you remembering him on that day.
An Update on Ed: Thanks to everyone who prayed for Eddie. A few days after we mailed out the newsletter last month he was able to return home from the hospital. He is at home now and back to his normal routine, and we are thankful for that.
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