I don’t know about you, but I’m a seeker – a seeker of stories.
I love to hear how other people come to know our Savior and Lord. Someday you might get a chance to hear testimony by drawing up the courage to ask, “How did you meet the Lord?”
He reveals Himself extraordinarily in ordinary lives.
This story is no different. An ordinary day in an ordinary restaurant. Join me, will you, and see what happens:
I looked at her with newfound admiration, tuning out the breakfast enthusiasts so I could hear her story.
There was more here than met the eye. I saw a cultured, well-dressed, intelligent woman with a message. She talked about her God as if He were seated at the table with us. She knew Him intimately.
It was felt in her words – it was seen on her face.
What happens in a person’s life to make God so real?
When she was sixteen, her body had crumbled beneath the clutches of muscular dystrophy. Her young body moved like an old woman, and the doctors couldn’t do anything for her except keep her comfortable. She knew intimately what this horrible disease did to her family.
Death always leaves a shadow.
“What happened?” I asked her. She said, “I cried to God, ‘Heal me or kill me!’
I watched as her brown eyes close in memory and her lips revealed with clarity what happened. Her faith was challenged, and she met it head-on.
Who was this God?
Is He who He says He is? She begged and begged for healing without resolution. She knocked on heaven’s door, so loudly the echoes shook in her soul.
In response, there was silence - a hurting silence.
Something was happening, something unseen, deep down in the recesses of her soul. Not a healing, but a presence. Her confidence grew in Him, and in strength, she just walked out of the hospital without looking back.
Her doctor, with unusual emotional attachment, tried to convince her to stay. He held little hope for her except premature death
Then she did the unthinkable - she stopped taking her medications - cold turkey.
In response, her body convulsed, shuddered but she fought through the pain. Within weeks she’d lost 40 pounds. Was God taking her feeble, nearly lifeless, body with the disease?
She returned to the doctor who thought she was on death’s bed. The doctor could explain it, but a miracle happened: tests, tests, and more tests substantiated her faith.
Her God was still in the healing business.
Right there in Denny’s, I lifted my coffee cup in a salute - such faith should be recognized. Here was a healthy, happy fortyish wife and mother with a powerful testimony.
She’d discovered a pearl of great price – she found the power in a yielded heart – a heart beating to the rhythm of her Master.Her testimony touched me by its raw reality. I would have been content if the story had ended there like some great fairy tale, but it didn’t.
This experience was just the beginning of a lifetime of troubles. But it was foundational for her and strengthened her faith. God had shown Himself faithful. The more she depended on Him, the more He intervened on her behalf.
Relationship issues, health problems, and emotional struggles were yielded to her Savior. Each time she found Him faithful and each time God did not disappoint.
I could have listened to her life story all day if that were possible. Sisters we had become and sisters of faith we would remain.
She knew her God by name – It’s etched on her heart, mind, and soul. It pours out of her like an overflowing vessel.
Scripture, again and again, becomes true in those who lean on His Word: The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know Your name trust in You, for You, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek You. Psalm 9:9-10
Christmas is a good time to be prepared to answer the skeptics who gladly point out the celebration of the birth of Christ lacks significance if the facts about Him are not true. The faith of many would be futile “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins. Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished” 1 Corinthians 15:17
If Christ had not concluded His earthly ministry dying on the cross and being raised from the dead, this celebration would have no foundational substance and no consequence. Skeptics through the ages have tried to disprove the reality of Jesus Christ and many have come away with a more confident faith than most believers.
In the recent film “The Case For Christ” Lee Strobel’s journey from skeptic to believer is skillfully portrayed. His story affirms that Christians have a reasonable faith. The film is based on Strobel's book about his investigative journey into the heart of the Christian faith. Setting out to save his wife from what he saw as a cult, Strobel found himself confronted with a reality that changed his life forever.
His training and success as an investigative journalist allowed him to pursue evidence in support of the objections raised for the resurrection of Jesus. An associate reminded him that the Christian faith rests upon the fact that Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is the glue that holds it all together.
With that in mind, Lee Strobel set out to find evidence to bolster these objections.
The Gospel accounts are not reliable.
Jesus did not die on the cross.
Jesus did not appear to people after His death.
What he discovered moved him to confront the truth and respond with a decision.
Are the Gospel accounts reliable?
The closer the account is to the actual event the more reliable it is.
The earliest manuscripts of the Gospel account date to within 25 to 40 years of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. In comparison, the earliest copies of Homer’s Illiad are 500 years from the original. There is no doubt among scholars as to the integrity of the Illiad as well as many other works of antiquity.
The apostles and countless others have died for their beliefs. It is courageous and noble to die for one’s belief, however, it would seem foolish for anyone to die for something they know to be a lie.
Sean McDowell writes “there is the highest possible probability that Peter, Paul, James (the brother of Jesus), and James (the son of Zebedee) died as martyrs.”
In 2014 Christian History Institute published an article summarizing the total number of believers who have died for the Christian faith.
“Church statistician David Barrett defined martyrs as “believers in Christ who have lost their lives prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility.” He estimated that around 70,000,000 Christians have been martyred since the church began.”
In an article by "The American Journal of Medicine", medical experts reviewed what Jesus had suffered during His crucifixion and have determined that the “Modern medical interpretation of the historical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead when taken down from the cross.” According to the evidence, Jesus suffered severe blood loss and hypovolemic shock from the scourging He received from the Romans. His hands and feet were nailed to the cross and He suffered exhaustion and asphyxia. No one is likely to survive this type of execution. The spear to the side which released blood and water ensured Jesus death.
Did Jesus really appear to many people after His death?
The first eyewitnesses to testify of the empty tomb were women. It would be foolish for the apostles to use the testimony of women in their fabrication of an incredible story. The testimony of women held no value in the courts at this time in history. Being the first to hear the women's story, Peter and John raced towards the tomb to confirm the fact that Jesus was not there.
Shortly after this Jesus appeared to the Apostles and many others and by over 500 hundred believers at once.
Skeptics claim these appearances were the product of hallucinations and or hypnotic suggestion.
According to phycologists, group dreams or visions are not possible.
J. Warner Wallace speaks of the numbers of individuals who have seen the risen Christ and concludes that a great number of people seeing the same vision is not likely or reasonable.
Some argue that this was a spiritual resurrection and not a physical resurrection. The Gospel accounts point clearly to the fact that Jesus appeared in a physical body.
Matthew 28:9 states the Apostles “took hold of His feet and worshipped Him”
John 20: 24-28 says that Thomas placed his finger in the nail marks of Jesus' hand and the wound mark at His side. Thomas then declares “My Lord and my God”
Luke 24:42-43 details the breakfast they had with Jesus “and they gave Him a piece of broiled fish and He took it and ate before them."
John 20:29 describes how Thomas rejoiced when seeing Jesus Christ in the flesh and Jesus responds “Thomas because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
The evidence is abundant, the experiences of witnesses and followers through the ages is overwhelming. The blood of confessors, saints, and martyrs cries out to this day. The resurrection of Christ proves there is a loving God who reaches out to us to redeem us to Himself to become the children of God. He is a God of justice and mercy and grace.
Our sin and rebellion have separated us from God. God came to us in the flesh as Jesus. He laid down His life for us.
“No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” John 10:18
“It is rare indeed for anyone to die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
At one point Lee Strobel is advised that blind faith works both ways. Some will refuse to believe because of a prejudice or bias to one belief system regardless of the evidence presented. In order to believe in the Gospel accounts and have faith in their validity, you must choose to believe the facts presented as a reasonable account of the reality of Christ. Some refuse to believe because it means being accountable to a higher authority. Many have yet to learn that the promise of Christ is a new life of liberty from the emptiness of sin and His spirit is a source of peace, strength, grace, and joy.
Lee Strobel was overwhelmed by the evidence answering his objections to belief. He realized he had to make a decision.
The Lord calls us to examine the evidence, and to engage our reason.
Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”
The child we celebrate at Christmas is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” John 1:29
He laid down His life and is now risen alive in power to show us the way to a life eternal with Him.
I pray that you will receive the gift of Christmas, open it and believe Jesus is the way the truth and the life?
A distorted orange light bobbed up and down, shining behind the waters that winter had frozen in place. Carefully, she made her way up the slick slope, skirt in one hand and lantern in the other.
Setting the lantern down, she wrapped her cloak tighter around herself and waited in the frigid air. Moments later, another lantern came into view, carried by the dark-haired young man that grinned at her.
He set the lantern down and spread his arms out, which she happily ran into. The smell of pine and sweat still lingered on his clothes, as he had just come from harvesting ice.
The calm silence of the night was broken by his speaking first. “Sigrid,” he started, moving back a little so he could see her eyes. The color of evergreen boughs, rimmed with a ring of warm brown, met the soft gray of mountain stone.
“What would you say if I asked you to marry me?”
“Is that a hypothetical question, or-?”
“Perhaps,” he said. “Or perhaps it's not.”
“Are you sure this is a good time to be asking?”
“Would you like to wait for a little while longer?”
She took a moment to answer, playing with a strand of her dark blonde hair. “I don't know,” she said as she dropped the strand of hair. “I would, but what if we do wait, and then something happens to you?”
“Then you don't want to wait?”
Gazes locked, they stood in a moment of silence.
“No,” she finally said, the hint of a smile tugging at her mouth. “No, I don't.”
He smiled. “Now that we have that out of way,” he said, getting down on one knee. “Sigrid, will you marry me?”
Her answer resounded around them. “Yes!”
Once more, a distorted orange light bobbed behind frozen waters in the midst of the night. Once more, she was careful making her way up the slick slope.
When she'd come to their spot, she set the lantern down and wrapped her arms around her lower abdomen, which was growing a little larger every day. She'd been asked so many times who the child's father was, but she hadn't told. Not yet. Not until the time was right.
That time had to be now, but she wouldn't know until her husband met her here. He and the others had gone up the mountain earlier that evening, to put an end to all the injustice.
Only half of them had returned, and he hadn't been with them. They’d said he went missing.
He had told her that if something went wrong, she was to come here. So she came, and she waited for him.
When her fingers started growing numb, despite the mittens she wore, she went back outside and soon came back with a bundle of sticks that became a small fire. When the lantern’s light started growing dim, she relit the candle.
Then she heard her name being called, and an orange light bobbed into view. She stood, hope swelling inside her.
But the faces which the light shone on belonged to one who was like a father and one who had once been a friend.
“There you are, Sigrid,” Ivar Pedersen said, tiny flakes of snow clinging to his gray beard. He held up a heavy blanket and draped it around her shoulders. “How long have you been out here?”
She gave a small shrug.
“Were you waiting for someone?” Aleksander Haugen asked.
“What concern is it to you?” She snapped.
Aleksander gave her a pointed glare, his hazel eyes sharp. “Whoever he is, he's obviously not coming.”
He suspected why she was here. That alone was reason enough not to say anything to him about who the child’s father was.
So help her, he would never find out.
“Here, let's get you home,” Ivar said, gently leading her away towards the entrance while Aleksander put out the fire. “Everyone has been worried about you.”
Outside, she gave the frozen waterfall one last look, a tiny sliver of hope still lingering. Then, with a resigned feeling of defeat, she allowed herself to be lead home.
Sitting with the bees is dangerous, but not because I might get stung.
Often in the mornings I’ll take my coffee to the bee yard and sit with the bees. I like to sip my favorite blend and watch the hive wake up. It’s a great way to learn about the bees and it’s a quiet spot to gather my thoughts before the day begins. For me, it’s also a special place to meet with God.
This morning, while I watch the bees warming up and stretching as the sun peeks out over the hill, I can’t help but consider, who’s really in charge here? The hive runs so smoothly and efficiently. Surely, there’s a Wax Task Force or a Comb Committee making all the decisions. I know it’s not the queen handing out work assignments — she’s too busy laying eggs.
For example, the jobs of the workers in the hive are constantly changing. In a matter of days a young worker may graduate from housekeeper to wax maker to nurse bee to queen’s attendant to guard bee to forager. Who promotes them? How do they know when to change jobs? How do they graduate to the next position without the other bees getting jealous? I can almost hear their tiny bee voices crying out in frustration, “I want to attend the queen!” “No, it’s my turn!”
While they all faithfully carry out their tasks in each department, if there’s an emergency, every bee stops what she’s doing to take care of the crisis. As temperatures drop in winter, they all cover and insulate the eggs and larvae to protect the young brood. If the colony is starving, they all starve together. Is all this instinct or is something supernatural at work holding all things together?
Did God just set everything in motion and then let creation direct itself to let the chips fall where they may? Or, if God knows when a sparrow falls, could He also know when a bee dies? And if He knows when a bee dies, is He the One who’s really in charge? And if He’s the One who’s in charge, is He also directing the ants and penguins and flocks of birds flying south for the winter? If that’s true, God is really, really, really, really, really big — and busy!
Just look at where my thoughts have gone. I told you sitting with the bees was dangerous!
Scripture tells us that Jesus is the head of the body — that’s you and me. But He’s not here. He’s in Heaven. So, who’s really calling the shots?
Most of the time, we are — at least that’s what we think as we hopscotch from decision to decision. We’re more sophisticated than our ancestors and we have access to even more information so we turn to technology to sort out our lives. We build houses to keep out the rain, wind and snow; we package and store food (or buy it) for those mid-afternoon cravings or late-night snacks; and we travel the world faster, farther and with more comfort than ever before. But, let’s face it, we’re still limited.
We exercise and eat right to stay healthy, yet some extremely fit people die prematurely. We change jobs in order to be more financially secure, yet companies downsize and people lose their jobs. We put away money for retirement, yet many people become ill and can’t enjoy their savings. In Luke 12:16-20 Jesus tells a story about a man who trusted in his wealth instead of God — and his plans fell short too.
When it comes right down to it, we actually control very little in our lives. I didn’t choose where or when I would be born, my gender or my parents, the color of my eyes or the shape of my nose. I can’t will my heart to beat or keep my hair from turning grey (well, maybe I can do something about my hair).
And when it comes to making decisions, it often looks as if I’m choosing the social flavor of the month. My “Big Picture” is confined to my finite knowledge, my narrow past experience, and my optimistic, but flawed projection of the future; all of which is limited, at best.
I’m learning the most productive way to run my life is to follow Someone who truly does have the “Big Picture.” Scripture calls it being led by the Holy Spirit. When we’re listening to Him, we’re working in unity with the Father, who really does know all things.
Jesus brought us into the family. He modeled a life of following the Holy Spirit, then He commissioned us to “just do it.” But how?
By letting the Holy Spirit lead.
I’m not suggesting we just throw up our hands and do nothing. We all have responsibilities and can’t skip down the lane of life singing “Que sera, sera.” However, when I loosen my grip on the reins a little I enjoy the ride more. I’ve come to realize I’m not really in control anyway, so what do I have to lose? The Holy Spirit may take me through doors I would never have opened on my own — and that’s a little scary, but with Him in charge every day becomes an adventure — and a success.
So, why not live dangerously? Grab a cup of coffee, take a moment with God and invite Him to call the shots in your life.
Who’s calling the shots in your life? Are you trying to be the boss or are you being led by the Spirit of God?
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God (Romans 8:14).
"Mary, it's time for Church!" My mother's voice came up the stairs.
"Can't I stay at home? I have a headache."
"No; you're coming along. Father and I have already discussed it. You've missed three weeks already for that excuse. Get down here, now."
"But mother..." I started.
I sighed. I guess I used that excuse too often. I didn't really have a headache, and I actually never had had one. Maybe Mother figured that out. I just didn't want to go to Church.
Why, you ask? I just didn't feel like I had enough faith, enough love. And I didn't really know whether I even believed in God, or not. But right then I figured I had no choice.
I went reluctantly down the stairs and followed my parents and brother out to the waiting car.
"What's wrong, Mary?" James asked me, as I buckled myself in.
"Nothing," I said with a little sigh.
He eyed me suspiciously. "I know better than that; something's bothering you. What is it?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
He sighed heavily and leaned back in his seat. "Whatever."
I felt bad, but I really didn't want to talk about it. He couldn't change my mind, anyway.
The liturgy really was very beautiful. I just didn't feel it in my heart, so why go? That was my opinion.
After Church, on the drive home, Father said to me, "Father John was telling me about a sort of summer camp he's holding. I think you need to go."
"I don't want to go to a summer camp," I protested.
"That's all the more reason why you should go. You're going."
James looked at me knowingly, and I glared at him. He may believe in God, and love Church. But I just don't know.
"You'll have a good time," He told me, ignoring the look.
"If you think so, you should go," I responded quickly.
"I can't get leave from work, or I would go with you."
Sigh. Best make the best of it. I won't get out of it.
Next week I found myself in Father John's big van with a group of nine other girls, and a bunch of other people from Church. I didn't know any of them, and I felt very out of place. I snuck back to the back of the van, away from all the others, hoping that nobody would try to talk to me.
But I was disappointed in this, because a young lady came to sit beside me, and it was painfully evident that she intended to have a talk with me, of all people.
"I'm Anna, Father John's niece."
"Okay," I said, trying to put away the conversation.
"What's your name?"
"That's such a pretty name! I often wish my parents had named me Mary, instead of Anna."
I just nodded.
"This is going to be so fun! I've always wanted to go to a camp."
"I wish I didn't have to go," I sighed, looking sadly out the window.
"Why? It'll be fun," She reminded me.
"For you, maybe. It's going to be so boring...tents, fires, marshmallows. That's all there ever is to a camp."
"Not this one. This is a different kind of camp than all the others you've heard about. You'll see."
I didn't really care, so I just looked back out of the window, shrugging my shoulders.
Half an hour of silence went by, and Anna exclaimed, "There's the camp!"
I looked where she was pointing. Horrified, I realized that it was worse than I had anticipated.
Log cabins with one open window and an open doorframe in each came into view. I could not share Anna's enthusiasm, and gloomily I thought of the bugs and bats that would be able to enter through those openings. A bear could just walk right in.
"This is going to be wonderful!" Anna exclaimed enthusiastically.
"Think of the bugs and bats, Anna. And, while you're at it, how do you feel about a nice cold to keep you in bed? That is, if the bears don't eat you before you can catch cold."
She looked at me blankly, plainly wondering how anyone could be so negatively minded. Then she burst out into a ringing laugh. "Don't be such a wet blanket, Mary! The bears will not eat us, we will not get sick in this weather, and who cares about a few bugs and bats? They can't spoil our fun."
"No. Who's afraid of bugs or bats?"
I didn't really want to admit that I was, so I ignored the question and climbed quickly out of the van, which had just come to a stop near the cabins.
I looked around in dismay, wondering how I would ever get through these next two weeks. Two weeks doesn't seem a long time when you're having fun, but this couldn't possibly be fun.
"All right, girls," Father John called out, clapping his hands together to get our attention. "You have ten minutes to choose your cabins. Limit two people per cabin only. Then report to the main building for our first day."
"Yes, Father," everyone said eagerly before rushing off, leaving me standing alone, wondering what to do.
"Let's share a cabin," Anna said, grabbing my arm.
"Whatever," I sighed. "One's just as good as another, to me."
Anna laughed. "You'll change your mind about the whole camp, before these two weeks are up."
I wasn't too sure about that, but I didn't want to hurt her feelings, so I just shrugged it off. I'd just have to try to live through it.
I followed Anna as she hunted out a cabin to her liking. The camp's only salvation in my eyes were the wind chimes which hung on one corner of each cabin.
I looked at my watch. "Anna, we have two minutes," I reminded her when she finally nodded her head in satisfaction.
"Okay. I think this one will do. Put your baggage on the bed.
I did as she told me, and followed her out the door. "It's a long way to the main building," I said.
"Three, two, one, run!" She was off like an arrow.
I ran to catch up, but it was like trying to race with the wind. She was already inside and calmly seated before I came up panting at the door - one minute late.
"Miss Mary?" Father John looked over his glasses at me as I stepped quietly in.
"I'm sorry, Father. I couldn't keep up."
"Next time, start earlier."
I cast a sideways glance at Anna, who looked, oh so sorry. But that didn't help me much.
"All right, let's start out with a short explanation of what this camp is about. These two weeks, each of you will be making for yourself a one hundred knot prayer rope. This camp is meant to teach you how to do that. We'll start out with a short prayer, asking for God's blessing on our work, and then we'll show you how to make the 'Angelic knot'."
Somehow, I just couldn't get myself into the mood everyone else seemed to be in. They all seemed so joyful at the prospect of the two week camp, and the making of one hundred knots. What could be so interesting in that? My mind would not focus, and my heart just wasn't in the prayer.
After Father John had finished the prayer, the class sang forty Lord Have Mercys, in which my mouth took part, though my heart was absent.
"Anna here is my main assistant," Father John said when prayer was over. "Together, we were able to find seven other ladies and gentlemen from Church to assist in the teaching, and other camp duties. We were also able to get most members of the choir here, to sing and chant while we are busy.
"First off, we need wool yarn. A darning needle for each, and a pair of scissors for each. Last, but certainly not least, prayer. Prayer is the key to making a prayer rope. As you are making a knot, pray the Jesus Prayer, and between knots, say a little prayer, asking God to bless the knot. All right, let's begin."
The choir began to chant, filling the air with a calm, restful spirit.
Anna sat beside me, guiding me step-by-step through the intricate process of making the knot. But I was concentrating so hard on the actual knot, and not praying. My knots didn't work.
"Pray," Anna said firmly, finally.
I stared at her, amazed. How could she possibly know?
As if reading my thoughts, she said, "Prayer is the key. Without prayer, if you are distracted, your knots won't work for you. Pray."
I tried harder after that, and managed to get along fairly well. But every time my mind wandered, I had to untie the knot. And without fail, Anna always reminded me, "Pray."
I was behind the others at the end of the day, but it hardly mattered to me. I knew I would have to stay up late to complete my day's work, but I also knew that I could. The prayer and the atmosphere were already beginning to work in me for better, and I was finally beginning to feel peace.
And that was only the beginning. Over the next several days, an even greater change began to work in me. I soon found that I wanted to make the prayer rope, and I found myself wanting to pray. The camp no longer seemed unbearable, and I began to enjoy myself, and to have as much fun as anyone else.
And that's how One Hundred Knots of Prayer changed my heart.
I wrote this for a Summer writing contest a year or two ago, on Wattpad. Just thought I'd share it here for you all to read.