God in Our Memories
By Billie Marie Zal
In a Christian’s history it is often strengthening to the spirit to keep alive a memory. There are some memories, to be sure, that we had rather forget. But the memory of “bad times” are important too, because they can bring us comfort if we let them. All memories, good and bad, weave themselves into the fabric of our lives and make up the pattern which forms our personalities. If we can let the memories remain alive then we are usually stable. But if not, then we can be in for mental and emotional stress.
I have a retentive mind and I am thankful for that. I find that in stressful situations I can just delve deep into my memory bank and find something that gives me an answer. Sometimes, too, I just keep a memory alive for the sheer joy of remembering.
One such lovely memory is the day that my son was given to me. It was one of those blue-gold days in Illinois. Not a cloud was in the sky and there was a stirring of the breezes that makes one both lazy and exhilarated. The trip to the nursery where I would receive him was not far but it stretched into a lengthened agony as I anticipated the moment that the child would be mine.
As I stood in the office of the nursery I breathed a prayer that I would be worthy of such a gift. I prayed that I might always put his needs first and that I would love and cherish him forever, no matter what. I had brought his baby clothes with me (soft, lacy things that he would not have liked) and when the superintendent came into the room, holding him close to her heart in his new finery, I thought that I had never seen so handsome a baby boy. His blue-black Indian hair hung in little wisps under his baby cap, and the pale blue silk coat accentuated his olive skin, giving him a soft as silk appearance.
I could scarcely believe my good fortune. Here was my son. And the lines of a little
poem about an adopted child ran through my mind. “You are my heart’s adopted part of me. . .
I am your mother by the choice of will.” Yes, he was mine and I reached out to receive him, holding him now against my own heart.
He had never been outside his nursery, nor seen anyone but his nurse and how solemnly his almond shaped eyes scrutinized me. He examined me for a minute or two, then the beginnings of a mischievous smile stretched his tiny mouth into a whop-sided grin (which would remain with him always), and I knew somehow that he had accepted my love.
There was a short dedication ceremony there in the office. The superintendent prayed that he would be given back to God, and that he would one day know God even as he was known of God. She prayed that I would be a worthy parent, and always remember that the child was a gift from God.
I shall always consider this day the happiest day of my life. For behind the formality of the written papers, the case workers, the visits, the if’s and why’s, God was working. That is why this particular memory is so alive and precious to me today. Without God in the memory, the experience grows old and fades away.
Another time when I lived in southern California I had an experience which was so ordinary that it would not bear mentioning if indeed God had not been in it. But He was there, and the memory brings me much joy and comfort.
I had been going through some very terrible times of perplexity and I was nearly going under, ready to give way to despair. When I come to such a place in my life, I always turn Godward. Who else is there to turn to who will be so faithful? I went outside. It was just dusk and the sky had that violet red afterglow that is both dazzling and majestic in appearance. Though we lived on a busy street in the middle of town, for these few seconds there was not a sound. It was my habit to stand beneath our Redwood tree, one of the few in the entire valley which had not been torn down and replaced by concrete and steel. I rested my head against the trunk of that beautiful tree and I looked upward, through its branches where the sky showed through.
Suddenly, I saw a giant star that shone so brilliantly that it seemed as though fire shot out from it. This was unusual, for the sky is seldom clear in that area. But there was the star. And then in my mind I heard a line from a church song that I had heard years and years ago repeat itself. The words were: “I ONLY KNOW I CANNOT DRIFT BEYOND HIS LOVE AND CARE.”
The memory of that moment is so fresh in my mind that the same rush of joy floods my heart as I recall it. I am certain that it was the Lord Himself, by His Spirit, who brought those words to my memory and reminded me that there was nothing, after all, to fear because He had everything under control and I could never drift away from His love and care. This experience saw me through some extremely difficult times ahead. But because of the memory of that lovely evening I could and did receive grace to remain steadfast in the faith!
One more memory warms my heart as I recall it, and I make a habit of often recalling it. For this memory reminds me when I am tempted to doubt that God is ever mindful of my needs.
This particular incident happened many years ago when I was to sing at a Memorial service at a little cemetery in Coffeyville, Kansas where a very dear friend who died in the war was buried.
In recalling the memory I am reminded of this friend’s love and I am comforted. I had no blood brother, but he was every bit a brother to me. I know that I often tried his patience and made life a misery for him, but he hovered over me and saw to my needs and understood my needs as few people in the world ever have. At any rate, I desperately wanted to sing at his service and yet I had only enough money to buy gas for the trip and to stop for one meal. I had not been promised any financial help to make the trip and to put it bluntly, I was scared. Thoughts bombarded my mind like, “What if you get down there and can’t get back?” Or, “What if your car breaks down and there is no money to fix it?” Having lived by faith in God’s love for me for a few years, I decided that this was just one more test and if I refused to go, then I would be saying in effect that God could not take care of my needs. Further, I knew in spirit that I should definitely go. And so I went. I may not have been the happiest Christian at the moment I started out, but I had no intention of turning back.
Providentially I was able to stop by my sister’s home and spend the night, for her home was not far from Coffeyville. The next morning I set out for my destination and arrived much earlier than I had anticipated. Another test of my faith came when I realized that I would have to check in at the hotel there, for word had been left for me to do so.
Since I was alone in a town where I knew no one, I decided to drive on out to the cemetery before the service and visit the grave of my beloved brother-friend before the crowd arrived.
When I discovered his grave something sweet and lovely came into my heart. I sat down beside it in the soft green grass and let the memory of his brother love come flooding into my heart. I remembered the times he would have pity on me and take me for a barbeque sandwich when I was broke. Or the times he would manage to send me a few dollars while I was working my way through college and he knew there was no money for any extras. And I remembered the nights when he would rush into our house, bang on my door and yell for me to get up and drive out to the oil rig with him to see a well come in.
I did not realize for a few minutes that God Himself had brought me to this lovely, quiet spot where I could recall a human love that recognized and met my own human needs. Then I knew that God had a lesson for me here. If my brother-friend could have loved me in his humanity and seen to my needs, then how much more could my Father God take care of my needs and pay my traveling expenses? Suddenly all my fears fell away and my pocketbook did not feel empty anymore! And - as if to confirm my release - a beautiful yellow songbird flew past me and soared up, up, up with a song of joy piercing the quietness of my own heart.
These are the memories for which I thank my God. There was a happy ending to my trip to Coffeyville. When I went back to my hotel after the services the manager told me that my bill had been paid, and there was a check for twenty five dollars waiting for me. But it was not the supply that makes the memory so lovely, but rather the wondrous fact that there is a God in Heaven who is very much aware of all that we need. And He cares.
If you have tried to forget the past and banish your memories, I beg of you to bring them all out in the open and look at them in the light of God’s Love. He is there - in your memories, as He was and is in mine.
Originally published in the May, 1992 Wingspread.
News Notes for September, 2005
It’s time for some news from our mountain. There is not a lot new going on as we are in the last of these summer days. It has been hot and dry.
Rodney and I did make a trip to OSP on the 21st and visited John and Ken on death row. It’s a sad place - all cement, and the men are living underground. Yet I am always amazed at their good spirits and acceptance of their simple confined life. That kind of attitude is not true of all death row inmates of course, but then Ken and John know that before too many months or years they will be in a much better place, a place beyond our description in beauty and joy.
Rodney has worked hard outside in spite of the heat cutting a lot of trees, thinning out the forest around our house, in anticipation of being able to plant more pine trees this winter.
Prairie Grove is only 3 miles away but they had a very bad storm that did not touch us at all. Thank God for that, and we do pray for His angels to surround this place whenever there is a storm coming. Anyway, the storm knocked down a lot of big trees in the city’s lovely park. Some had been there since the Civil War. We had a chance to get some of the wood and Rodney hauled at least 13 ricks. So we are getting ready for a hard winter… Well, that’s what Rodney wants but I hope that it won’t be so.
Shirley’s knee surgery was put off for two weeks. She had some kind of sinus infection and the doctor did not want to operate until she was completely well from that. Of course you would never have known there was anything wrong with Shirley. She managed during this time to move furniture and have a new floor put in her house. She cleaned out drawers and closets for several days. She’s a regular working machine (smile).
Brian and Gail go work every day and have plenty of chores to do in the evening. They have a lot of responsibilities and very little time “off.” You all would be amazed at what they manage to get done.
Jay has worked a lot of overtime lately. It seems Tyson is now shipping eggs to Germany. I don’t know what that’s about, but the world is changing fast.
I am still battling an infection and I’m suppose to see a urologist the 15th of September. I have to the best of my ability left my health in the hands of God. But do pray for me. I need to be strong. So far I have felt okay and have been able to get my work done every day.
About our cats, Harry and Bruno: The front porch belongs to Harry, our orange cat, and the back porch belongs to black Bruno. They both have their own houses on their respective porches. The only thing they manage to do during these hot summer days is play a little power play with each other. Bruno is always at fault. He tempts Harry by coming as close to the front porch as he can. Then he lays there waiting on a chance to steal whatever Harry has. Also, Bruno has a habit of laying on the BACK porch steps and blocking Barney from coming or going. Barney won’t dare try to walk past him, either, because he’s been slapped by Bruno too many times. So Bruno has somewhat of an attitude at times. Sometimes they are so funny and we get a lot of laughs out them both.
Barney is getting fat. He spends his days on top of the air conditioning vents on the floor, moving from room to room, so he can be where we are.
No word from the IRS. We heard that they had not made a ruling as yet. I guess we are such an odd bunch of people, they are having a hard time figuring out what to do with us. I’m sure everyone else that they investigate is cheating to have money to save or spend on their own pleasure. To meet a group who only give must be a shock to their entire system. I feel for them (smile). We’ve all decided to not talk about it anymore. We’ve answered all their questions so all we can do it wait. We’ll let you all know when something happens.
Jesus turned to those remaining and said, ‘Will you also go away?’
Peter gave the answer which is still my answer today: ‘Lord, if we wanted to go away, where would we go? Thou alone hast the words of eternal life.’
These were wise words, indeed, words born of love and devotion.
So, we are not forced to obey in the Christian life, but we are forced to make a choice at many points in our spiritual maturity.
We have that power within us to reject God’s instructions - but where else shall we go? If we refuse His words, which way will we turn? If we turn away from the authority of God’s Word, to whose authority do we yield? Our mistake is that we generally turn to some other human - a man with breath in his nostrils.
I am old-fashioned about the Word of God and its authority. I am committed to believe that if we ignore it or consider this commandment optional, we jeopardize our souls and earn for ourselves severe judgment to come. - The Tozer Pulpit, Volume Two, Chapter 5, page 62
Prayer Requests for September, 2005
For Tommy Hayes at the Robertson Unit, and for his sister, Mildred Brooks, that she will find a job.
For Marcos Zavala, Lubbuck, Texas, for his legs.
For Francis Nolan Holland’s Father who still has an infection in his stomach; and pray for Nolan’s strength.
For Randal Smith at McAlester, Oklahoma, that his seizures will stop, and that he’ll be transferred soon.
For Brian’s brother, Terry, and his wife, Sharon in Florida. Sharon has cancer in the brain and has not been given long to live. Pray for her, and also for Terry, for his strength and peace during this time.
For Robert Peterson, at OSP in McAlester, for his health, and that he’ll be transferred soon.
For James Bateman’s wife, who is having problems with drugs; and for James, that he’ll be able to get an AA group started at the prison at Waurika, Oklahoma.
For Warden Burl Cain at the State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana. Warden Cain is a good man and provides a lot of programs for the inmates there. Pray that he will stay at Angola for many years to come.
For John Boltz on Death Row at McAlester, Oklahoma, for his attorney, and for God to show favor with John’s case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
For Calvin Huddleston at Pontiac, Illinois, who recently suffered a stroke.
For Robert Heffernan at Tucker, Arkansas, who has Alzheimer’s disease.
For Jerry Crocket at Taft, Oklahoma, that he’ll be accepted by Vo-Tech and start school soon.
For Sister Ann and all the nuns at Carmelite in Little Rock. They still need more young women called to their work.
For Kevin’s health, and for Karen’s peace of mind. Michael Small of Menard, Illinois, asked that we pray for them.
For Rain! Baca Mountain is dry.
For all our brothers on Death Row.
For Wingspread, especially for Shirley and Margaret. Shirley undergoes knee surgery in a few days, and Margaret has to see a urologist about a constant infection that won’t go away. Also pray for Eddie, for strength in his “old age.”
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