Experiences with God – Part Four

I served the Houston South Charge from 1975 to 1977. I remember several encounters with God during that time. I had five churches, and each Sunday I would preach at three of them while a lay speaker would cover the other two. I bought a motorcycle for the fun of it, and to save gas. One Sunday, it looked very much like rain, but being distracted, I didn’t even put on a raincoat. About seven miles down the road, I told God I was sorry to ask, and it was my own fault, but would He protect me from the rain between churches? I knew I didn’t deserve any help from Him, and my wife had warned me of this when I got the bike, a little 100 cc Suzuki. Too small, but the only thing within my budget. Anyway, and nevertheless, without my deserving it, the rain held off till I got to Pleasant Grove, my most distant church, at 9:00 a.m. The instant I entered the church doors, a downpour came. I remember thinking that all my hope was in the Lord. I had to speak loudly over the rain so people could hear.
As the service ended at ten minutes till 10:00 a.m., it stopped raining. I wiped the rain off the seat, got on my motorcycle, and scooted to the next church, Foster’s Chapel. Same thing happened; as I entered the church, the rains came again. I preached, and at ten minutes to 11:00, the rain stopped. The skies were dark, and again I wiped off my motorcycle seat and hightailed it down the road to McCondy Methodist Church, my final service. I walked through the doors and it started to pour again!
Young idiot that I was, I began to swagger in my heart. As the service ended, I fully expected God to stop the rain for me one more time. Uh uh! The rains came down, and by the time I had made it the fourteen long miles to the house, I was as wet as a sponge in the ocean. As I drove along as fast as my little bike would go in the downpour, my thoughts turned heavenward, a question forming in my mind. God simply said, “I protected you for your services, didn’t I? We didn’t have any deal for your trip home!”
There was a young bride who wanted to have children. Her wonderful husband did too. But her coccyx, her tail bone, was so painfully brittle that the doctor said having a child would kill her. She was not even to cross over a railroad track in the car except at a crawl. At Wednesday night prayer meeting she asked for prayer. You should have heard us! We enthusiastically prayed long and hard for her, but no results: it still hurt. Next Wednesday night, the same thing, only we prayed with a tiny bit less fervor, and there were a lot of “if it be Thy will” prayers. Nothing. Never mind, she still wanted prayer on the third Wednesday night. We surrounded her and prayed as usual, still less fervently. But suddenly in the middle of our prayers, she gave a little sound and said she felt warmth in her tailbone! She went to the doctor the next day. He took X-rays and showed her the old alongside the new X-ray. He said he didn’t believe it, but the X-ray showed she was well. His last words to her were something like, “Go home and get pregnant.” She did, and now her son is grown. As we believers say, to God be the glory, for real.
It was about 9:00 or later one Sunday night as I came back from some church services. My wife had taken pity on me and I was in our car. As I went past the Houston Hospital, I had this thought which I recognized as being from God. The thought was, “It would be good for you to go to the hospital now.” “But Lord,” I complained, “I haven’t had supper yet, and all three of my church members in the hospital will be asleep by now.” Stubbornly, I drove on to the house a couple blocks away. I was in the driveway about to go into the garage when I stopped. I grumbled, “Oh, all right,” turned the car around, and went back to the hospital.
I visited all three of my patients and they were all fast asleep. “See, Lord? I told you,” I said as I walked down the stairs to the lobby. As I opened the door from the stairwell to the lobby, I nearly knocked over a man who was trying to go up the stairs. “Hey!” I said. What are you doing here?” He said, “My brother just died.” “His wife is down at the Emergency with him.” I went. There she was, in shock, staring down at the dead body of her husband. His body was yellowish from jaundice and looked awful. We stayed with her until the funeral home’s hearse arrived, and I comforted her as best I could. At least she wasn’t hysterical any more. On the way home, I thanked God for letting me know about this, and I think I promised Him to be more respectful to Him and less doubting the next time something like that happened.
It wasn’t long before God tried me out again. There was a sweet elderly lady who was on the verge of death at Houston Hospital’s nursing home wing. I liked her a lot, and visited her often because she didn’t have a soul in the world to care for her except for the nurses. I was sound asleep early one morning just before daybreak, when the Lord woke me up and said, “You need to go to the hospital and visit her right now.” “Yes, Lord!” I said, and went back to sleep. About a half hour later, my eyes popped open, I got dressed, and hurried to the nursing home wing of the hospital. I asked if I could see this lady. The nurse looked at me sadly and said, “I’m sorry, but she passed away just a few minutes ago.” In the parking lot, shaken, I apologized to the Lord. “When will I ever learn?” I asked. I could tell God wasn’t mad at me, but He didn’t say anything, either.
Once I heard the Lord tell me, on the way to church at McCondy, that they needed a men’s breakfast. This excited me very much, and so I announced it at church: “What if we started a men’s breakfast on Sunday mornings?” They all said fine. We met once or twice, and then the numbers just dwindled to nothing. I asked the Lord, what gives? He said, “I didn’t say to start it yet.” It had never occurred to me that He was telling me something between Him and me, which I should have held until He gave me the go-ahead. I felt very chagrined once again. It was pretty apparent that I was a slow learner.
One last remarkable thing happened while I was on the Houston South Charge. There was a sick church member in the nursing home over in nearby Okolona. Her whole family had gathered on this particular night, and as I drove over on my motorcycle, I prayed the whole time for God to heal her. Back then, I felt it was my duty to ask God for this every time someone was sick unto death. I got to the hospital at Okolona, and there in the hall were about 15 people. They ushered me in to this lady’s bedside. She was someone I cared about. She was in a coma, they said. I knelt down and prayed with her anyway. As I prayed, I felt her hands grow warm. When I ended with the Lord’s prayer, she said it with me.
While I was praying, I had a vision or daydream, whatever you want to call it. Above my head, it was as if I was in a deep canyon. Up above, on the canyon’s rim, were angels rustling their wings in excitement as if they were waiting for a party to start. I said amen, very satisfied that she had awakened to say the Lord’s prayer with me, though I was puzzled by sensing the angels. She was already asleep, so I excused myself and went back into the hall. The doctor came down the hall, walked into the room, and about five minutes later he came out and said “She’s gone.” No one was more surprised than I was. On the way home, going down the Natchez Trace back to Houston, I was upset. I really did care for this lady. “God,” I said, “I thought I felt you assuring me that she was going to be healed!” God said very simply, “She IS healed.”
If there is a point to these encounters, what I take from them is that developing a relationship with God takes time. These were like baby steps. God was patient with me because He knew I was trying my best. However, theory is one thing and learning is another. I have a lot more sympathy for the twelve disciples now. I can relate to feeling like a fool when the Lord is around. Really, it was more like feeling I am a sinful idiot who forgets his lessons! Most of my lessons have been about increasing my faith, as you can easily see. But they are also lessons about respecting God as boss and being totally submitted to Him. I’m still learning, I assure you.

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