A Testimony of His Faithfulness

If you've known me for any real length of time, you know that I have a fair amount of history with crazy things that don't seem to happen to other people often. For a Southern Baptist, I'm a little charismatic, which makes people uncomfortable occasionally (heck, it makes me uncomfortable occasionally). I believe, though, that my God is real, and that He hasn't changed throughout the ages (Malachi 3:6), and that He's just as capable--and desirous--of doing cool things in His people's lives as He clearly was in the Old and New Testaments.

I have been requested by certain people who are tired of my pig's head post (by the by, the pig's head survived the freezer fiasco because it was already spoiled, ha) to talk about Gideon, since he's come up a lot recently. To be fair to the story, though, I'd like to put it into its historical context in my life.

Two threads of my life were spun into one in late 2005. Mom had been my college Sunday school teacher earlier that year, and she had talked to us one day about having a vision for our lives--the first thread. She took it from Proverbs 29:18, "Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint, but happy is he who keeps the law." She talked about how having a guiding vision for our lives (and by "vision" I do not mean a waking dream, but rather a driving motivation) would keep us on the straight path and give us a foundation in our walk. At the time, I was fairly well adrift and miserable, and feeling defeated because of some choices I had made in my first two years of college, so I began to pray for vision. Some months later, Dad was preaching in one of the services leading up to our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, and he began to talk about George Mueller, and about how, through prayer, Mueller had seen God feed and clothe over ten thousand orphans in Britain, and about how his life was a testimony to God's faithfulness, and I found myself struggling not to sob aloud in my pew--here was vision. I asked God to make my life a testimony to His faithfulness.

The second thread of my life actually predated the first in time, but it really received its lifelong impetus from the first. When we lived in Zimbabwe, we were wholly supported by money that Southern Baptists gave in the Lottie Moon offering and through the Cooperative Program. Money they gave provided us with food, clothing, vehicles--everything. When we came back to the States, gratitude fueled in me a desire to give, and as soon as I had money, I gave over my tithe every year to the Christmas offering. It was a miraculous thing to pray each year about what I should give, and then to see God put a number on my heart and provide the money for me. For a long time it was a couple hundred dollars a year, until one year, when David Miller, an evangelist with disabling muscular atrophy, came to Mid-America and preached to a group of high schoolers about our possibilities. He asked us to think about what kind of money passed through our hot little hands every year, and he offered us a challenge: what would it look like if a group of high schoolers stepped up, and each person gave $1000 to the Lottie Moon offering? Again, he cast a vision. I prayed about it, and I did not give $1000 that year, but, the year after, as I was praying about what to give for Christmas, I felt the tug: Give a thousand dollars this year. (Note: God has never spoken to me audibly, but I have heard Him all the same, though I don't begin to understand it.) I said, "Yes, I'll give, but I need You to provide it." So I turned in my commitment sheet that year, saying that I was going to give $1000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (if you're curious about what that is, email me, and I'll give you more information than you ever wanted to have), and within two weeks, God provided it. My grandfather gave me $500 for Christmas and my birthday, which made half, and then my mom had spoken at a women's thing in a church in Arkansas, and a lady approached her with a check for $500 and said, "This is for your daughter; I don't know why, but God impressed it on me to give this to her." Bam. One thousand dollars.

In 2004, God did not lay a number on my heart, so I didn't give any money. Dad has always stressed that we not give if God doesn't tell us to give, because He knows in advance whether we'll need the money, and just because it glorifies Him to be obedient. So that year, I sat and watched as others from our church gave, and I rejoiced with them as they met the Lottie Moon goal without me. It was truly sweet to sit and watch and be a part of them and to know, beyond a doubt, that God didn't need my offering, but that He had given me the privilege of giving each year.

As I said earlier, though, things really came together in 2005. By the time Lottie Moon rolled around, I had been praying for a life vision for some time, and God was about to give me a chance to be a testimony to His faithfulness. I was a senior in college, and I was about to end my next-to-last semester, when God laid on my heart a desire to give $2000 to Lottie Moon. Now, given the earlier experiences, this might not sound that fantastic, but at that time I had about $46 in my bank account. "God," I said, "are You sure about this? Forty-six isn't the same as two thousand. I mean, I know You know that, but still...." I had seen Him provide before, though, so I said yes. Because I was still at Union and had decided to go home less often, I sent my pledge with Mom to put into the box when the church marched that Sunday, but I felt prompted by God not to tell my Lottie Moon goal to anyone who could help me, because He would provide without any scheming on my part, so I sent it to her sealed. Even Dad didn't know, because the finance people at church reported the total of goals to him, not the particulars. So there I was, pledged to give $2000, with $46 to my name, and I couldn't tell anyone with money about it. I was in for a wild ride.

By December 14, I had received $750--$150 from a speaking engagement Lucy Baptist Church, and $600 for my birthday and for Christmas, from my grandfather. When I had spoken at Lucy Baptist, I had gotten to hear Dr. B. Gray Allison, President Emeritus of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary and a serious supporter of missions, speak about the importance of missions giving. He challenged us to spend more on Christ that Christmas than on our families or friends, and I took that challenge. I gave the $750 to the Lottie Moon Offering, and I asked God to provide the money for me to buy my family at least something. Within the week, my uncle gave me $50 for Christmas--enough to get something for each member of my immediate family.

In January, I still had $1250 to go before I met the goal, when I went to Candidate Conference in Virginia, in hopes of going overseas for two years. During those four days God did some things that changed my life. For one, He did not give me the freedom to go overseas yet, so I put my application on hold and came back home (and eventually came to Mid-America, though it was not something I had had in mind at that point). I also met my best friend, who has been a major catalyst in my life and something of a discipler, as she's challenged me and made me think about a ton of things--like community, for example--that I had never thought about before. But one of the stranger things that happened was that, on January 7, I missed my plane from Atlanta to Memphis. I couldn't have been happier. I had come away from VA with such peace and joy that I wanted nothing more than to tell people. I had had a wonderful conversation with a man named Peter on my plane to Atlanta, and I was looking for more of that, so six hours in the airport meant six hours to talk to people whom I had never seen before and would probably never seen again. Thus began a series of divine encounters, the most beautiful of which was a conversation with 99-year-old Sol Lipkin, who is basically the father of the shuffleboard industry, though I didn't know how big a deal he was at the time. What I saw was a sweet man in a wheelchair who was smiling at me, so I went over to him and asked how he was doing. We talked for a while. He showed me pictures of his family and girlfriend, told me about fifty-thousand-square foot game rooms, and then told me a story about a man who had asked him if he had any friends. When he replied that yes, he did have friends, the man told him that no, he didn't have any friend but the dollar in his pocket, and that if he had a dollar in his pocket, he always had a friend. Sol asked me if I had any friends, and told me the same thing that his friend had told him, and I replied by saying that I had a friend--Jesus-- who was a better and more constant friend than a dollar. At the time, I wasn’t expecting to see how seriously that would play out in my life. You see, when I got back to Memphis, I couldn’t touch my checking account, for fear of overdrawing it and owing more than I could pay. In order to drive to work, I had to have gas in my car, and for that I needed money, so I began to pray. Five dollars would come from one source, and then $20 from my mom for gas, then again another $20 for gas from my dad on January 11, without prompting from me. I had been taught early on that faith is living without scheming, so I had purposed not to ask or even hint to my parents about my money situation. But as I began to receive that money for gas, I began to fall under conviction from the Holy Spirit: that money was not for me. I wasn’t working toward meeting my Lottie Moon goal, and I should have been. So I submitted my money to God from that point; I told Him that I would give all the money from every check and all cash that came to me until the goal was filled, unless the giver specifically designated it for something else. I gave the $20 from Dad to the offering, then I gave my paychecks from work--$277.42, for a total of $1047.42. There I was, then; all of my money was dedicated; I could not touch it unless I wanted to steal from God, so I didn’t even have a dollar in my pocket; Jesus was truly my only friend.

I started my spring semester at Union University on February 1, still with $952.58 to go, and still waiting to see where it would come from. You can certainly imagine my pleasure, then, at opening my mailbox that first day to find about seven cards. Two of them were from the Women’s Missionary Union at Howse Baptist Church, Atwood, TN. The WMU had adopted me and had decided to send me $5 per month from their budget. So that first day at school, God had sent me $10 toward that goal--$5 each for January and February. That was amazing! But then I opened another card. Remember, I had signed all my future money away, so I would have nothing with which to buy groceries or gas, and man cannot live on cafeteria food alone, no matter the quality. But God knew about that, so when I opened that card and saw a Wal-Mart gift card for $20--from Sissy Crocker, also of Howse Baptist--I knew that He was providing groceries for me. I went to Wal-Mart, bought my groceries, and found that the gift card actually had $40 on it. I had money to buy groceries the next time I needed them as well, so God was not providing just for the present, but also for the future. That same day, I received $25 from a schoolmate who wanted to buy a textbook from me. The excellent thing about receiving the money at school was that I had to send it home to my parents, so that they could put it into the offering plate. This meant that every time money came to me, I could send it to my mother with a letter explaining how God was providing for me, which comforted her greatly, because she knew of my goal, though not how much I was waiting for Jesus to provide, and she had expected that I would starve to death at college, with no way to buy food. So I got to send her that first letter, bumping up the money God had provided to $1082.42, and I later found out that she had been praying for me to have money in my mailbox when I arrived at school. I thus got to see not only my prayers answered that day, but also my mother’s. God doubled the blessing, allowing me to be a testimony of His faithfulness to her as well as to me.

As the rest of the story goes, on February 7, I received $40 ($1122.42) in the mail from a friend I had met in January; she had been babysitting, but she didn’t need the money and she wanted to be a part of God’s work in my life. On February 8, my tax return--$155 ($1277.42)--arrived, and on February 13, my friend sent me $50 ($1327.42) from the sale of a skateboard--a friend had bought it from her months before, and hadn’t paid her until then, and they decided together that they wanted the money to go to Lottie Moon through me. On February 15, $66 ($1393.42) arrived--my last paycheck from January. On February 27, I received $50 ($1433.42) from a girl in Atlanta (whom I had never met), who wanted to be a part of what God was doing. On March 6, Mrs. Crocker put another $40 on the Wal-Mart card, providing for groceries yet again, and on March 16, $450 (1893.42) came in the mail, from an anonymous donor. On March 19, I was home for spring break, and I was still praying for money, by this point tremendously excited at all the ways Jesus was providing in my life, telling everyone who would listen about it. That morning in Sunday school, my class had studied Isaiah 7, in which God tells a king to ask Him for a sign, and the king refuses and receives a rebuke. That afternoon I had sat down to read my Bible, and I came to Judges 6, the passage in which Gideon asks God for a sign several times, and God gives him those signs, never rebuking him for asking. I figured that the two passages together on the same day were no coincidence, so I asked for a sign. That night, Dad sent me on an errand, and I stopped to see my brother at Starbucks, where he works, on the way back. I spoke with him a little, telling him about how God was providing for my Lottie Moon goal, and he stopped me, saying, “I’ll be right back,” and rushed to the back of the store. I had assumed that he had heard a phone, but he came back in a minute with a wad of twenties in his hand. He told me that he wouldn’t use the money for anything good, and he handed me $80. This floored me, because I hadn't expected him to want to be a part of what I was doing. What a sign! So now I had $1973.42, with $26.58 to go. That week I received $20 in reimbursement for food I had bought on my trip to Richmond, and the week before I had received $7 from the ladies at Howse Baptist, which put me squarely at $2000.42. God provided for the entire goal.

On March 28, I received $500 from my grandfather, and on April 4 I received another $20 on the Wal-Mart card from Sissy Crocker. This money provided for me for the rest of the semester, even allowing me to take some of my friends--for whom I had been praying that they would see God’s faithfulness in their lives, and all of whom had recently gone broke--out for meals. God poured liberally into my life the entire semester, allowing me to pour liberally into the lives of others. As in the feeding of the five thousand, He blessed what was there and spread it out into a large group of people, giving us blessings to share with others, until we had enough and extra for later.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's been a sweet ride, kid. -arp