O' FOR A THOUSAND TONGUES

 

I don’t remember a moment in my life when I did not have Jesus Christ in my heart as Savior.  I could sing on pitch at an early age.  I remember as a child of seven or eight singing freely to the Lord in the three languages I thought He spoke: Latin, Greek and Hebrew. I would make up songs of love to Him.  Because of my singing ability I was performing solos, quoting scripture and reciting Christian poetry on Sundays and at fellowship dinners.  I performed in other churches as well.  Both my parents urged me to serve in the church.

  My father was raised in the Disciples of Christ denomination and knew the scriptures well. If he couldn’t find a church from that particular denomination whenever we traveled, my father would find a Protestant church in which to worship. We were always in church on Sundays.

   When I was 15, the Lord specifically called me into ministry at church camp three months before my father died.  Upon returning from camp, I told my parents that I had been called to be a missionary. Neither responded positively.  Ministry as a vocation for a woman was out of the question.  I could serve God with my singing voice, serve as a teacher of children in Sunday School and volunteer to help when needed.  Under no circumstances was I to consider ministry as a possible life’s vocation. There was no money in it.  I was to go to college to be a teacher or librarian or nurse or secretary, get married and have children.  That was it, no argument and final.

   Three months later my childhood was over.  In 24 hours I became an adult, planned a funeral, took over the finances and legal arrangements, held and supported my mother so she could function. Then came the very hard years and the call to ministry receded from my conscious mind.

My father met my mother in Budapest, Hungry before World War II broke out.  In the 1930's he left his parents’ farm in Bon Aqua, Tennessee and  began to work for the Chrysler Corporation in Europe.  When the United States entered the war, my father became a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. army. I was born an American citizen in Beirut, Lebanon in 1941.  After his discharge, my father brought my mother and me to the United States.  With so many returning servicemen, it was difficult for him to find work.  We moved many times and before I was 15 I had visited, for one week to three months at a time, 34 states. Then in 1955, we moved to Detroit, Michigan and I enrolled in Cody High School.  My father opened a gas station. One year later, he suddenly died of a heart attack. He left no will; the gas station was leased; he owed money; his estate was frozen for two years as it went through probate. Since my father’s name was on all our legal documents, neither my mother nor I could touch any of his assets. My mother could not sell her jewelry or any furnishings without first paying my father’s creditors or by consent of the court. Immediately, I went to work full time in order to supplement my monthly dependent’s benefits from Social Security. On my 18th birthday those benefits stopped. My mother had never worked outside the home. The suddenness of my father’s death overwhelmed her. She had a nervous breakdown from grief and fear. 

Michigan winters can be bitter. But it seemed in those years after my father died, they were particularly so.  Near the end of some winter months, there was not enough money for furnace oil to heat our tiny one-bedroom apartment. We had a small gas stove and when the temperature fell below zero my mother would put the surface burners and oven on high to heat the kitchen. To keep warm, we would bring in the bedding and sleep on the kitchen floor. We ate a lot of Campbell’s mushroom soup and macaroni casseroles. Often toward end of the month, we would run out of soup. Through a school co-op program I was able to work full time after school and on weekends.  I had a number of jobs — insurance clerk, receptionist, dental assistant, file clerk, card punch operator for various companies.  In the 1950s it was not proper for a woman to wear slacks in an office.  On the job, only dresses or skirts were allowed with stockings and dress shoes. With no money for stockings, I would mark the back of my legs with a black eyebrow pencil to imitate a seam. (If anyone noticed, nothing was ever said.) That was okay when it was warm, but walking with bare legs through ice and snow to save money for food (sometimes out of money to take a bus), no boots, carrying one change of dress-work shoes, was a cold misery. Those were hard years for both of us. It was my mother’s dream and mine to never again be cold or tired or hungry. Back then I promised myself someday I would have all the things I needed and wanted. 

   In 1959 our lives began to get better. My mother began selling clothes in a women’s department store. And I was the commencement speaker at my high school graduation.    My father’s estate was settled, creditors paid, and my mother had a little money to support herself.  I could leave home. In 1961 I moved to a small upper flat in Northwest Detroit.  I continued working two jobs — an office manager in one company and a part-time secretary in another. With no dependent and extra money, I decided to enroll in degree night classes at Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan. It was there I met Mack, fell in love, and three years later we were married. 

From the first year of our marriage, my ambitious husband was on the “fast-track,” having received a system of executive promotions in a multi-billion dollar nationwide corporation. We had moved numerous times, each home larger than the last. In 1976, a company transfer had moved us to West Beverly Hills, Michigan. Even the name of the community, West Beverly Hills, indicated its economic-social prominence. During those first 12 years of marriage, Mack left early in the morning and worked late at the office. In addition, he enjoyed teaching night school and was often out of town at conferences. He was also in the Army Reserve which required one weekend duty a month and summer training.  During the week, when he was home, he spent the evenings on the phone making calls and taking reports from those who worked for him. Also, five years before our move, I discovered I was unable to have children. I think deep down Mack was pleased. He was free to pursue his goals of becoming a vice-president without the demands of fatherhood. 

   I was a model executive wife and hostess living in a 4,000 square foot house with a Springer Spaniel mix (Winnie) for companionship. We had a one lane bowling alley in our basement. A cleaning lady and gardener came once a week to take care of our large property. My closet was full of designer clothes and five fur coats. When I walked into it, the lights came on automatically so I could view my reflection in the mirrored walls. Our master bathroom had a combination Swedish shower and sauna.  While many of our neighbors spent the winter months in Florida or wherever it was warm, our social life consisted of season tickets to various theaters and symphonies. On Sundays we attended a main-line denominational church. Through those years I hosted numerous small dinner parties and large “open” houses for 60 or more guests. I was busy. Any observer would say I had everything. I, too, wanted to believe I did. So why was I often depressed and lonely? 

On a sunny, chilly Wednesday in March of 1976, a couple of long blocks from my house, there was a designer fashion show at the country club. I could have walked there, but since I was dressed up in my French designer Chanel suit, jewelry and mink coat, I thought it best to drive. The car would protect what I was wearing.  Besides, nobody who was anybody would walk through the club entrance gate and up the long driveway if she had a car. At the time that was my mentality. 

   It was a lovely luncheon - lobster salad, I remember. The table conversation was enjoyable and the spring-summer fashions were beautiful.  I considered buying several outfits and had made up my mind to visit the store later on in the week.  It was a good afternoon I thought, as I slid into my car seat and put my key in the ignition. But before I could turn the key, it was as if a trap door opened under me. And I dropped into a dark, black hole. The sides of this pit fell in on me like an impenetrable cloud of dirt.  Sobbing, trembling, not able to comprehend the overwhelming black depression which had just enveloped me, I sat with my head pressed against the steering wheel. I don’t remember driving home. I do remember walking into an empty house and being struck full force by desperate loneliness. There was no one there. I knew in this black fog, I wasn’t there either, though I did know I was in my house. I was in the pit of death - that much I knew.  I just didn’t know why.

   The following weeks passed by in a blur - end of March, April, May.  Mack came and went. I hardly noticed. I didn’t care.  One day dissolved into the next.  I lost track of time.  I don’t remember bathing much.  Some days I slept 24 hours. Other days, I couldn’t sleep and wandered around the house in my bathrobe. I don’t remember eating much, but I must have. Mack brought in whatever food we ate.  And he took care of Winnie.  I didn’t want to see anyone.  If the phone rang I wouldn’t answer it. Vaguely, I remember making excuses to a few friends. A couple of times I remember talking to my mother on the phone.  I remember saying to them, “I have the flu. I have PMS. I’m busy. I don’t feel good. I need time alone. I need to rest. Mack can take care of me…” I said whatever came into my foggy mind. If Mack asked me what was wrong, I don’t remember his doing so, nor my reply.

   On the first Sunday in June, we were in our family room. Mack was reading the Sunday paper. The TV was droning on. I wasn’t listening to it.  Suddenly, I heard a man’s voice declare, “I want to pray for you.”  I looked at the screen. He pointed his finger directly to me as he spoke those words. I don’t remember the specifics of his prayer, but immediately after he had finished, the dark fog lifted.  My mind was clear again. But I was numb.  I didn’t feel anything: not joy, not sorrow, not guilt - nothing.

   Strongly, from deep within, the thought came - I must fast.  I told Mack, “I’m going to be fasting. Don’t bring any food into the house. You’re going to need to eat somewhere else. Maybe you can have a large lunch or stop somewhere on the way home.” 

   And for the first time in more than two months, it occurred to me he might be worried. “Don’t be concerned about me,” I said. “I’m going to be all right without eating for awhile. I don’t know how long this fast is going to take, but I just wanted to let you know.” 

   Mack agreed. “That’s fine. Don’t worry about me.”

   I took a shower, changed from my bathrobe into clean clothes, and with a clear mind watched TV the rest of the evening. Later that night, I realized Mack had moved  from our bedroom into the guest room.

   I slept that Sunday night for the first time in two days all the way through. But when Monday morning came, the numbness was still there. However, I awoke alert, got dressed and took a walk. The neighborhood was quiet. I saw no one. I felt suspended; time seemed to have stopped. Later that evening Mack slipped into the house without my knowing exactly when. I heard him in the guest room taking a shower. He said, “good night” and shut his door.

   Tuesday was a repeat of Monday. Wednesday morning after I got up, I still couldn’t feel anything.  Although I wasn’t in the pit of darkness, nor was my mind cloudy anymore, nothing was going on inside me.  I didn’t understand what was happening - why I couldn’t feel, couldn’t emotionally respond to anything. I sat on the family room sofa and thought how nice it would be to go to sleep and never wake up.  I could dissolve 30 or more aspirins in half a bottle of wine - drink the first half bottle to feel a good buzz, then drink the aspirin filled second half to go to sleep permanently. I looked at our wall clock. It was 1 p.m. Suddenly I felt exhausted. Fixing the wine and aspirin was more than I could do at the moment.

   Without warning, wracking pain exploded inside of me. Pictures of my past life flashed through my mind with intense emotion. Every miserable, terrible event that had ever happened to me rose so powerfully, I began to shout and scream at God. I spewed every bitter, miserable event in my life on God. My complaint list was long. I told him about the problems in the relationship with my mother, with my father, his death, their abuse, the years of moving and new schools, the insecurity, the cold and hunger, my never home husband, not having children, not having true friends, real family. Ranting, raving, I dumped, I erupted, alternately sobbing and screaming at God, blaming him for the life I had lived and now had.

   Finally emptied out, I laid face down on the family room floor with my hands bracing my head. Quietly, calmly, I said, “Lord, I have believed in you my whole life. I’ve called upon your name many times. I’ve sung songs to you. I’ve worked for you. I’ve done everything for you that I knew how to do.  I don’t know what to do with my life, how to live. I don’t understand why I was born. I know I can’t live this way anymore, Lord. I don’t want to be on this earth if this is what living is going to be like. Because you see, if you’re not real, it doesn’t matter if I die. I can find something to take and just go to sleep. Because if you’re not real, it doesn’t matter anyway. It really doesn’t matter. I can just go to sleep and there’s nothing after. I don’t want to suffer anymore; I don’t want to hurt anymore; I don’t want to be lonely and empty anymore. I want my life to change. Now, if you are real, my life is yours. That means every part. That means I am totally and completely yours. Nothing held back. No more my agenda, no more my life, no more my thinking, my programs. If you want to teach me anything differently, please get rid of all the old religious stuff I’ve ever had, because I’ve had a lot of stuff. I give myself to you to change me and everything in my life. I’m giving you all rights to myself. That means you can do anything you want with me. You can cause me to suffer. You can even kill me. I won’t protest. But if you’re really, really real, then my life is yours because it’s not worth anything to me anymore. My life is worthless. I have everything, and I have nothing, I am nothing.  If you want me, I’m yours. If you’re not there, then it doesn’t matter for there’s nothing after death.”

   I knew I had said everything.

An electrical force field of power nailed me to the floor. Love overwhelming, love all powerful, love beyond any words to express, enveloped and flooded my whole being. I was plugged into a stream of a 1,000 volts of love. I couldn’t lift my head. My body trembled; my eyelids quivered. I don’t know how long I was on the floor before I was able to have some measure of control over myself. Instantly, I knew Jesus was standing at my head. Very slowly, I stretched out my hands. My fingers touched the tops of His feet and moved upward to His ankles.  His right hole wound was deeper, rounder and higher than His left - its soft ridges thicker. His left wound was smaller, not as pronounced.  The large iron nail had penetrated between His leg and ankle bone at different angles. The ripping of His flesh as He had pushed upward against the nail had made each wound unique.

   Within me a soft voice spoke. Inside my being, I knew it was Him. “Daughter of Zion, I have put my seal upon you. It is not a seal of miserable slavery. It is a mark of my love, my seal of possession. You belong to me. You are not to move an inch in any direction without my permission. I will lead, you will follow. Whatever the circumstance, whatever I give you to do, whoever I bring into your life is by my will and you will continually thank me.  I have much work for you to do. Your life will be spent discovering all that I have for you to do. Now, I have a job for you. There is a lady raking leaves in her backyard kitty-corner from you, not directly behind you. Her name is Mrs. Stroshein. Get up, go, tell her about what has just happened to you.”

   Filled with joy and thanksgiving, I stood and began praising Him in the beautiful language I remembered singing as a child.  Following the praises I sang, He gave me the interpretation to sing them in English. When I sang, it was as if warm oil was being poured over my head, down my face, neck and shoulders. The soles of my feet became hot; my hands burned. I was on fire through and through. At the moment when I thought I could not stand much more, the intense heat began to diminish. Before I left the family room, I glanced at the clock. It was 4 p.m.

   Cooled down, I walked to the back of my yard looking for Mrs. Stroshein. There she was, raking leaves.  “Are you Mrs. Stroshein?”

   “Yes. I am.”

   “My name is Andrea. I live over there,” I pointed to my house. “I knew you would be out here.  I’m not sure how to start, but I’m supposed to tell you what just happened to me.” And I did, beginning with my wanting to commit suicide and ending with how the Lord had healed and restored me. She questioned me. I gave her the details. I told her that Jesus had come to me, showed me He was real, alive, and now I belonged to Him.

   “How wonderful for you. We have a Wednesday night Bible study at my church, Highland Park Baptist.  Would you like to come and share with them what you shared with me?”

   I said, “I would love to.”

   “I’ll come around and pick you up about 7:15.”

   On my way back across my yard, the Holy Spirit said within, “Don’t tell your husband the details of what happened. He’s not ready. Remember for two and half months he has seen you very sick, near death. It will take him a couple of weeks to believe I have changed you and it is permanent.”

   Mack  got  home  early that night, about 6 p.m.  Dressed and with full make-up, I greeted him with a big smile and hug.  “Oh, Honey, God’s completely healed me. I’m fine. I’m well. I’m sorry for your worry, pain, any heartache I’ve caused you. Please forgive me. I’m so sorry.”

   He was surprised, relieved. He hugged me back, saying, “That’s okay. I’m glad you’re okay. That’s great.”

   “I met our neighbor, Mrs. Stroshein this afternoon.  She invited me to her Bible study at her church. I’m going to share a little bit about God’s healing me.  I know I’m supposed to go.  She’s going to pick me up. Would you like to go, too?”

   “No. Maybe some other time. You go.”

   That was the beginning of my ministry to and by the Lord.

   Two weeks later, I told Mack the details. A month later, we sold our house - cash deal. Nine months after moving to West Beverly Hills, we moved to a smaller house in another community. We began to rebuild our marital relationship on Jesus and eventually found a Spirit-filled church.

   I wrote to Oral Roberts about my experience with Jesus. He wrote back and sent me books.  Within that same year we attended an Oral Roberts’ conference where Mack was baptized in the Holy Spirit.

   True to His word through the following years, the Lord has led me to minister in infinite ways. None of those ways were without struggle to overcome my sin nature or Satan. But since 1976, there has never been, nor can there ever be, a better or more satisfying, glorious life than the one I am living in Him.

   In the movie, The Passion of The Christ, Mel Gibson vividly presents Christ on the Via Dolorosa.   We  can  know the story of the Via Dolorosa and accept him as Savior. We can acknowledge his suffering love and receive forgiveness, and yet, not have relinquished our selfish self - our life to him. He calls us to deny ourselves, and to take up our cross - our Via Dolorosa. The Via Dolorosa is not only for Jesus. The Via Dolorosa is also for us. He said, “Come follow me.” He wants us to walk our own Via Dolorosa.

   In church we sing the line from the hymn, Amazing Grace, “Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.” It was His grace that released me from my self-serving life.

   Looking  back, I don’t  think  I  really wanted to die that Wednesday afternoon, but I didn’t want to live my life, either. I had come to learn that things couldn’t fill my soul and feed my spirit. Money couldn’t fill me. Jewelry and fur coats couldn’t keep me warm inside. My husband couldn’t make me secure - make me whole. No parent, no lover, no friend could love me enough. Only the Holy Spirit’s love could fill the void in me. It’s amazing how God brought me to His mercy. It was grace that freed me from my hateful, angry, empty self. In suicidal moments, I didn’t understand what it was or who it was that could fill me. I had to come to learn earthly, outward things don’t satisfy. I had tried to split Jesus down the middle - to receive the Savior half and forget the Lord half.  I had received Christ as Savior, but had never taken up the cross of self.

He can undo a lot of stuff in our lives, but He won’t do it without our permission. He just won’t. I gave Him permission to take over my life that Wednesday afternoon. I hadn’t given Him permission before, because mixed in with all the Christianity I had, were my old agendas, my old past-programmed and self-determined stuff. He wanted to get into the junk closet of myself, but the only way He could do so was leave me in it alone - to withdraw from me. There is nothing worse than being left to yourself, because the truly junky, selfish self is empty of love, joy, and peace.

   Many of us stay little and young — immature in God. We want what we want when we want it. When He doesn’t give us everything the way we think that He should, we get angry with Him.  We struggle with the issue of who is in control of our lives: Him or us.

   The day Jesus was crucified, His disciples scattered except for the women and John who stood far off. They could not comprehend what was happening. No one who knew Him could. The crowd that watched Him die were the same ones who had seen Him perform great miracles, cast out demons and raise the dead.  This was the same crowd, who days earlier had spread their garments in His path, praising Him, expecting Him to free them from Roman tyranny. But that wasn’t God’s plan. That was their political agenda. They didn’t want Him as God. They had an entirely different point of view than what God wanted. What God wants, and how God does everything is for His own glory, not for man’s glory. Then as now, Jesus doesn’t fit into the scheme of man’s religious thinking and traditions. He never does. He doesn’t fit into your scheme of things, or my scheme of things. He has control over the whole universe, but yet the awesome thing is, He operates by our permission to be Lord over our lives.

   In John 15:15, He calls us to be His friends.  But before we can be a friend, we have to serve and be a slave. I don’t know why the process of ministry works this way, but it does. And how glorious it is to be chosen to belong to Him. How glorious it is to minister in His name - to have signs and wonders follow the preaching, teaching, and Him living out His word through us. He can fill you and I up to overflowing with His Spirit. But He can’t fill you up if there is too much of you in the container. And there was so much of me, there wasn’t any room for Him. He is a gentleman. He will not impose Himself on us.

                 IT’S STILL ALL ABOUT HIM

I am grateful He allowed that cloud to come upon me even though I was in love with the world and had moved so far away from Him. Sometimes we get stuck on self, and if we are stuck, it’s because we haven’t let God do His changing, loving work in every part of our lives. Our natural thoughts are all about self — “I, me, I’m, and what’s mine.” Once in awhile, I’m still there, stuck in a “me” area of my life. I know I’m not perfect. There are weaknesses in my personality; my agendas surface from soul-places within I don’t even know I have. But I have given Christ permission to put an ax to them. But by whatever pruning method He brings to me, whether by inner correction or by outward circumstance, it’s still all about Him and I give Him praise and glory for it. That’s my sacrifice. He saved me for His namesake, not for just myself. He saved me to give Him glory, not so I could glorify me. He saved me not only to bless me, but that He would be blessed. He saved me for ministry, first, upward to Him, and then, outward to others for His glory.

                        GET REAL WITH HIM

   Give Jesus Christ your life - all of it. Don’t hold anything back and He will start changing your heart and mind about life and living.  But you have to get real with Him. He’s waiting for you to talk to Him about everything in your life. Not just the things you’ve worked out already. Not just the “I want” list. Not just about the works of your hands. It is you He wants, hands, feet, heart and all. He wants to possess you because no one satisfies the way He does. No one can love you the way He does. No one can give you the value that He does. Only in Him is life worth living.

             Will you let Him have all of you?

Jesus Christ said, “I am the true vine and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.  These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”   John 15:1-11 (NAS)

            Will you let Him have all of you?

        IF YOU HAVE NEVER ASKED JESUS INTO YOUR LIFE, PRAY THIS PRAYER!

Lord, thank you for dying on the cross for my sins.  Please forgive me and heal me from the past life I’ve led.  Come into my life and change it for your glory.  I promise to follow you all the days of my life.  Thank you for saving me.  In Jesus name. Amen.

I waited patiently for the Lord; And  He inclined to me, and heard my cry.  He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, Out of the miry clay; and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.  And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear, And will trust in the Lord.  Psalm 40:1-3.

And now my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence.  Ruth 3:11.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor.  He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set     free those who are down trodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.  Luke 4:18,19.

Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father.  John 14:12

Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.  Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates.  Proverbs 31:30,31.

For now we see into a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.  But now abide faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 13:12,13.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17.

For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  Philippians 1:21.

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you as of the first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that he was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.       1 Corinthians 15:1-4.

His master said to him,  ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.’ Matthew 25:21.

And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Thy strength to this generation, Thy power to all who are to come.  Psalm 71:18.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones. Psalm 116:15.

Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good heath, just as your soul prospers.  3 John 2.

All scripture quotations from: The New American Standard Bible; THE LOCKMAN FOUNDATION; Thomas Nelson Inc. 1990