Saturday, March 19, 2011

Extravagant Generosity

              Text:  I John 3:16-18
  • Generosity is an aspect of character.
  • Vibrant, healthy, growing, fruitful congregations practice extravagant generosity.
  • Giving reflects the nature of our God.
  • People that practice generosity understand that God has called them to go out into the community and make a difference in people’s lives.
  •  People that are generous givers give because they        
    • A. Love God
    • B. Love the church
    • C. Desire to grow in their love for other people
  • How we use our material resources either honors or dishonors our relationship with God.
  • “We buy things we don’t even need with money we don’t even have to impress people we don’t even know.”
  • We can never early enough money to be happy when we believe that satisfaction, self-definition, and meaning derive from possessions.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Miracle at Zoe

Old Downtown First Baptist and New First Baptist 
I have heard it said that when you talk to God it is called “Prayer.” But, when God talks to you and you tell someone, it is called “Schizophrenia.” That is not always so. God speaks to us all the time, but the question is: Are we listening?
A few years ago, in 2003, I started waking up at all hours of the night by the word “Zoe” being spoken to me in a decidedly male voice. Since I sleep alone, it was rather disconcerting, especially since I couldn’t imagine what “Zoe” meant. After a couple of weeks and much prayer about it, I asked someone at church had they heard of “Zoe"?
They explained to me that the old First Baptist Church of Newport News was downtown and that currently was being purchased by the people of Zoe Community Church. That night I had another instance of the Voice and He told me I knew what to do. I still wasn’t exactly sure, but I asked God’s guidance for me that day. It was Sunday morning and I went about my business getting ready for church. Ray wasn’t feeling well and he stayed home, which is unusual.

I was to serve as Deacon #4 that morning, which means that I was next to the lead deacon and would be coming back down to the front after the offering. During the sermon that morning, I kept hearing “Give the people Zoe” in my right ear. I would turn to look, but no one was in the row behind me and behind that there were people that I didn’t know. Dr. Randal Everett, who had recently come to be our pastor, was teaching on our need to give and to share our blessings with our community. He mentioned that he and his wife, Sheila, had recently toured the old downtown church and were really impressed by what the people there were doing.

Then it came to me so clear, God wanted our congregation to forgive the debt and give the old church building to Zoe Community Church. We had been so blessed.

While we were building our new sanctuary, there were numerous instances where people have given to the point that when we moved into the new sanctuary, we only owed around $60K of over a $4M debt. Dr. James White, our previous pastor had to take a whole sermon time one Sunday just to let us know how God had been working in the church.

When the altar call came, I heard “Give the people Zoe” in my right ear. Still no one behind me.  I walked over to Dr. Everett and told him what was going on. He immediately told me to tell the congregation; which, being the big-mouthed creature that I am, I did. So many people came up afterward and told me that they had thought the same thing.

Over the next few of months, I took a lot of flack. I was secretary of the deacons and spoke my peace in a deacon meeting. It was not too well received by a few people. The next year was my year off as deacon and when it came time for the nomination committee to call and ask if I choose to serve again; no one called. Mr. Dick Strickler, a long-time member and Life-Deacon, asked me one day if I was coming back on the deacon board. I really had not thought about it, but when he asked, I told him it was strange that no one had called. That was on Sunday and the next morning, he called the church office and raised a ruckus about it. Needless to say, they called me and asked me if I chose to serve, which of course, I did.

The first Sunday, I was to serve, I was told by another deacon that they did not want any trouble in the church and that I needed to watch my step. How odd? Why would someone think they had the right to talk to me in that manner? I cannot tell you how much it hurt me for them to speak to me that way. Anyway, I have forgiven them and have even told them recently that I love them. I have always tried to be a positive voice in the church and encourage everyone.   I guess God picked me to share His news because He knows that I have no problem in saying what needed to be said..

Skip to August 2007, a motion was brought before the deacon board to approve the forgiveness of the debt of $86,000 to Zoe Community Church and to deed them the old downtown church building. At the September Quarterly Meeting, the church approved to forgive the debt. On October 28, 2007, I was privileged to represent the deacons and go to Zoe with Mr. Walter Satchell, FBCNN Manager, and Mr. Sam Moore, FBCNN Financial Management, to give the people of Zoe the church building during their Sunday Service. Walter had taken a copy of the purchase agreement and written in big black letters “PAID IN FULL.”

 Reverend Ray Johnson, the son, knew what was going on, but his father and mother did not. They had been co-pastors up until 2006, but the elder Pastor Johnson had a heart problem and had to retire. His son Pastor Ray Johnson had taken over the position. Zoe Community Church had been renamed Calvary Revival Community Church. They came up on the stage and it was one of the most awesome experiences of my life when they realized that we were actually giving them the building. They had been singing praise songs and immediately broke into praise again. It was awesome. God was truly in that sanctuary.

 I recently saw Pastor Ray Johnson at a meeting of the Peninsula Baptist Association. Calvary Revival became affiliated with the PBA. He told me that because of the gift of the building, babies had been born that might not have been born, families have been restored, children have been helped, and people have received job training. They have a place in the church called "Nehemiah's Closet" where people can come and get clothing and household items. There is a training center for business education and people in the neighborhood are fed whether homeless or just in need a meal. How wonderful!

At some time God will speak to you, are you listening?

God is Good, All the Time! Barbara

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Guillian-Barre Syndrome Miracle

In September 1999, Ray had surgery to correct a deviated septum. He was seeing Dr. Queen and it was decided that it would help him quit snoring. After the surgery, Dr. Queen went to a conference and left another doctor in charge. We thought the surgery went well, but immediately afterward, Ray's temperature and blood pressure spiked. He had to stay in recovery a couple of extra hours. He was a little shaky, but seemed alright at first. I thought it was the pain medication. Instead of getting steadier, he seemed to be deteriorating. I had to borrow a walker for him to get around the house. Monday, we went to see the doctor and he released Ray, gave him instructions and sent him home.

That night when we went to bed, Ray was so unsteady on his feet that I told him not to get up during the night without waking me up. I had already decided that I was taking him to our regular doctor or the hospital the first thing in the morning. Just as we were going to bed, his nose started to bleed profusely. It just would not stop, so I called 911 and they took him to Mary Immaculate Hospital where he laid in emergency for 4 hours before he actually saw a doctor. The doctor packed his nose with gauze and sent him home. Twenty-four hours later the nosebleed came back and the doctor at Mary Immaculate Hospital admitted him.

Ray ended up staying in the hospital for five long days. I tried to work because I did not have much leave and without Ray working, we could not afford for me to go on Leave Without Pay. By working half days and spending afternoons with him, I was able to help him and not hurt our finances. I would get there around 1:30 p.m. and he would just be lying in the bed. No one had helped him bathe or even changed his sheets. He had barely eaten. I made sure he ate and bathed him. I had never bed bathed a full grown man and assured him that he could tell how much I loved him from that. I even searched for the nurse, procured sheets, and changed the sheets myself.

By the fifth day, they decided to send him home. That is when I noticed the pumpkin seed. The first night, I had a pack of pumpkin seeds. It was the only thing I had to eat and must have dropped one. There it was on the floor under the chair. That spoke volumes to me. The floor had not been cleaned in five days. This was a very expensive hospital, but they just were not doing a good job. Ray could barely move, but they released him anyway.

We had to borrow a cane from a friend and then another friend, Bob Yeatman, procured a walker from the Masonic Lodge. That night I told him not to get up without waking me. During the night, he decided to get up and go to the bathroom.  He fell and hit his head on the chest of drawers and his elbow on the end of the bed. I was sound asleep and our dog, Precious, woke me up licking my face.
I could not get him up, so I called 911 to get an ambulance. The paramedics were going to take him back to Mary Immaculate, but I said. “I don’t care what it costs,  he is going to Riverside.” When we got to the emergency room, they determined that he has badly bruised his elbow and could have a concussion from where he hit his head.

It was around two in the morning and Dr. Parcells, the head neurologist, was walking through the emergency room. They brought him in to see Ray and he knew what was wrong even before they did the spinal tap—Guillian-Barre’ Syndrome (GBS). It is a disease of the peripheral nerves. The myelin sheath that protects the nerves deteriorates and falls off. It causes the nerves to die, but does not affect the brain or spinal cord. This was on the 29th of September 1999.

By my birthday on October 1, things were drastic. When I got to Ray’s room, I saw his eyes were open and started talking to him; he was snoring. The nurse said that the nerves in his eyelids were not working and he could not close his eyes. It broke my heart. She mentioned that they may have to put him on a respirator. That really frightened me but I tried not to show it to Ray. I just sat there until he woke up.

I kept running in and out of the cardiac care unit the rest of the day. I drove around town, collecting money for Ray’s business. All day, there were radio preachers on the Christian channels on the radio talking about healing. I prayed all day and felt an enormous burden. That evening, my friend Glynn and her husband came to the hospital. They even brought me flowers for my birthday.

There were so many people from church visiting and praying for Ray. Charlie Nichols and Andy Hughes came by and prayed with Ray. They were such great prayer partners. Everyone was so concerned for him and prayers were lifted to heaven from all over.

After everyone left that night, I stood by Ray’s bed and told him that I never prayed out-loud for anything much before, other than food, but I thought it was about time that I did. I held his hand and to his chorus of “Yes, Lord,” I prayed for the illness to stop attacking his body and let him get better from that day forward. I did not try to bargain with God; we know that doesn’t work. But, I wanted His will to be as ours. God heard our prayer that night and He put the words in my mouth to speak it His way. When I left that night, the nurse told me to sleep in the next day because they were taking Ray back for another spinal tap the next morning.

When I went to the van that night, I started it up and immediately heard the opening chorus to “God is Good, All the Time!” I sang with them all the way home and by the time I got there, I was feeling much better. I woke up Saturday morning,
washed clothes, vacuumed, and got to the hospital around 11:30.

I helped Ray with his lunch and sat with him, talking in between his naps. Around three o’clock or so, Dr. Parcells came in. He had evaluated the spinal tap and discovered that the GBS had stopped. He said those same words that I prayed the night before. The disease had stopped and Ray would get better from that day forward. If you have never heard of GBS, you need to know that this is virtually unheard of. Ray was a hairs breath away from being on a respirator. Thank you, Lord.

He stayed in the Cardiac Care unit for 9 days, a regular room for 9 days, and then in Rehab for two weeks. He was home a week and then he was working again. Thank you, Lord. His healing was miraculous. Guillian-Barre Syndrome normally takes months, even years to heal completely.

God is Good, All the Time!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Carotid Artery Surgery - Miracle

In 1999, our little family had many challenges. In January, we were told that Ray had a 99 percent blockage in his carotid artery. They could not get him into a hospital in Newport News for over two weeks, but they had an opening the next Tuesday morning (Monday was a holiday) in Williamsburg. They scheduled his surgery and on the Monday night before the surgery, he suffered a small stroke at our Lions Club meeting and could not hold his crackers in his left hand.
The next morning when I drove him to the hospital, he didn’t want to tell them about the stroke, but I made sure he did. They had to put off the surgery one day and did some tests to make sure there was no bleeding in the brain. My friend, Glynn, stayed at the hospital with me most of the time. She was so wonderful. We talked a lot and prayed. Dr. James White, our pastor at that time, spent the better part of the three and a half hour surgery with us. Prayer really helps. Knowing that your husband is in surgery getting his neck sliced and Carotid Artery cleaned out while he is awake is a little disconcerting. I don’t think we could have made it over that roadblock without lots of prayer.
On the last night Ray was in the hospital, I said goodnight and drove home. I was so tired; I was having trouble staying awake. I think when you are going through a trauma it can make you feel burdened and tired. I was driving back from Williamsburg in the rain and the interchange at Jefferson Ave and I-64 was undergoing construction. I was not supposed to get off I-64 until I got to J. Clyde Morris Boulevard, but I suddenly found myself on Jefferson Avenue. I don’t know how it happened. It was very surreal.
   The Lord must have been guiding me that night. In a couple of days Ray was home and working again. He had recently started a new home-based business and was able to do most of his work at his own pace. God is Good!Publish Post