A Conversation With the Scriptures

Written and compiled by: Cynthia Butler

Believer: I’ve prayed to you to heal me, Lord, but I’m still sick.  I don’t know what to do.

Scriptures: “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24)

Believer: I’d like to have that kind of faith, but I don’t think I do.  How can I just make myself have more faith?  I’m afraid it’s too late.  Maybe I’ve missed my chance for healing.

Scriptures: “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” (Mark 5:36)  “Fix [your] eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of [your] faith.” (Heb. 12:2)  “Everything is possible for him who believes.” (Mark 9:23)

Believer: It’s not that I don’t believe you’re able to heal me.  I know you can; I just don’t know whether I believe that you will.

Scriptures: “Whoever has faith in me will do what I [Jesus] have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask me for anything in my name and I willdo it.” (John14:12-14)

Believer: Anything?  Did you really mean for that statement to be unconditional?

Scriptures: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you.” (John 15:7)

Believer: Ok.  But how do I know whether it’s your will to heal me?

Scriptures: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10?)

Believer: I know, Lord, and I thank you.  I am abundantly blessed!  Even if you never heal me I am still blessed.  And I know that suffering builds perseverance.  That’s why I thought maybe this illness might be your will.  That’s why I thought you might not want to heal me.  Maybe you’re withholding healing for a higher purpose.

Scriptures: “[The Lord] does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.” (Lam. 3:33)  “The Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” (Psalm 84:11)

Believer: But I’m not blameless.  I probably deserve every affliction in my body.  Maybe I even brought this on myself.

Scriptures: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)  “God chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” (Eph. 1:3) “God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” (2 Cor. 5:19)  “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

Believer: Thank you, God.  Thank you for not giving me the punishment I deserve.  Thank you for saving me.  And I know that in Heaven I will have no more sickness.  But what about on this earth?

Scriptures: “This, then, is how you should pray. . . your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matt 6:9)  “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!  I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  “I have given you authority. . . to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm (injure) you.” (Luke 10:19)

Believer: I want that to happen in my life; for nothing to injure or harm me.  I know your word is true.  It’s got to be true, because you are the truth.  Teach me how to receive this, Lord.

Scriptures: “Ask and it will be given to you.” (Luke 11:9)

Believer: Jesus, I know you are the healer.  Please take away this illness.  I want to live in health.

Scriptures: “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matt. 9:28)

Believer: Yes, Lord

Scriptures: “According to your faith will it be done to you.” (Matt. 9:29)

Consider it Done

By: Cynthia Butler

Helen got to the hospital as fast as she could. The doctors had given her mother five days to live. But Helen knew this was not the end. She had prayed, and she was sure God would answer her prayer. Everyone was worried—her sister, her brother, the nurses—but Helen wasn’t worried; she just fasted and prayed and sat by her mother reading scripture. The nurses were shocked when Helen was able to feed some Ugali to her mother. “She is swallowing?” they marveled. The next day Helen brought a banana and a mango, and her mom ate them both. The nurses weren’t done worrying, though. “Her blood sugar will go too high,” they fussed, as if this would make her die sooner than the predicted five days. But Helen had assurance in her heart, and her mother continued to improve. Within three days Mrs. Sabia was ready to return home, no longer on death’s doorstep. Helen’s faith had been confirmed and her mother was healing well. She had seen the answer to her prayer in her spirit before anyone else had seen it with their eyes.

When I hear about faith like that, I want it, too. This must be what Jesus was talking about when He said, “whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24) If I would follow these instructions when I pray for my own healing I’d be free of anxiety after releasing my prayer to God. It wouldn’t even bother me that I didn’t see the answer to my prayer yet or didn’t feel any different. I would know for sure that the change was on its way.

So why don’t I feel that sense of relief after praying? Maybe it’s because it’s hard to believe something when there is no tangible evidence. But there are times when I accept something based solely on someone’s word, especially if they’re supposedly an expert in their field. So an inability to believe without immediate proof is not really the root of my problem.

I remember a while back I was doing a little introspective thinking. What is my first impulse when I get sick? Go to bed? Go to the doctor? Take a pill? Why isn’t my first impulse to pray? It’s as though I think that prayer is a nice gesture, but it is ineffective.

Have you ever heard someone say this? “There’s nothing we can do; we can only pray”, as if praying is doing nothing. But I’ve been there, too. When my daughter has a fever, I fret until I give her medicine to reduce the temperature. Then my mind is more at ease, and I can sleep, knowing that she will cool down soon. I haven’t seen any improvement yet, but I have already believed it will happen. Based on my behavior it looks like I have more faith in medicine than in God.

I think this is the issue: somewhere along the way I got the impression that when it comes to prayer there are no guarantees. I wouldn’t say it out loud, but this must be what’s going through my head: “I better try to fix this situation myself because God’s not doing anything about it.” But He said He would if I‘d just believe. So the problem is not that He’s apathetic or slow or incompetent or even unwilling. The problem is, I haven’t believed Him.

If I can get it through my head that He really has guaranteed, “you may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John14:14) then maybe I will feel more confidence in prayer than in popping pills. Not that I have anything against medicine in general. My dad’s a doctor, and I respect him and his work. God can grant healing through medicine. But if I could have my choice between running around town visiting doctors or kneeling in my room praying, I’d choose the latter. And of course there are some things that even the most learned practitioners can’t cure. But God is unlimited, and He’s inviting us to request, believe and receive. So here’s what I want to work toward: after I pray to God for healing, I want to consider it done.

What exactly will that look like? Well, for one thing, I won’t stress out trying to find a solution to the problem. I’m starting to think I should probably do more praying than thinking, anyway, because God already knows the answer. If midway through my prayer I start trying to formulate a plan B (just in case God doesn’t come through) I am probably not praying in faith.

Secondly, I won’t be afraid. The writer of Psalm 91 tells us: “He who dwells in the shelter of the most high will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. . . He will not fear. . .” That makes sense. Why worry about anything when God is taking care of everything. I think of the scripture that says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phil. 4:6-7). Even before we stop praying we can already begin thanking, knowing that the Lord has sprung into action. When I truly believe that, I’ll be happy, excited even, like someone holding a big paycheck. It wouldn’t even matter if I were broke, because I’d know my situation was about to change. Problem solved!

And one more thing, when I get a hold of this I believe I’ll do a little less tiptoeing around my “condition”. If there’s something I feel God wants me to do, I won’t let a “handicap” excuse me from it. I’ll assume that if He calls me, He’ll equip me. Several years ago I was invited to lead a weekly Bible study for students at the elementary school where I was teaching. I turned down the opportunity at first because I thought I had better rest my voice. Having just undergone surgery on my vocal chord, I had not fully recovered my vocal strength although I was medically healed. But I think I knew that this was what God wanted me to do, and I couldn’t let “no” be my final answer. I’m so glad I reconsidered. I got to disciple a group of children throughout the year, and two children ended up accepting the Lord as their savior.

I can’t believe I almost missed out on one of the most fruitful endeavors of my life. I was trying to guard my own health, but that’s the Lord’s job. Now I want to be unguarded toward God. I know He may ask me to do some things that feel a little scary to me. But I don’t just want to follow Him when it’s convenient. I can trust God with abandon, because I know He is my protector, and He is stronger than anything that comes against me.

A Way Of Knowing

By: Cynthia Butler

My parents have a dog whose favorite room is the kitchen. If Princess hears someone rustling around in the pantry she makes a beeline for the snacker and becomes a tripping hazard. I remember watching her one day while chopping vegetables. Her tail was wagging ferociously and she watched me with expectant eyes. Princess was obviously excited even though she hadn’t received any morsels yet. She was just sure that a crumb would fall any second. “Do I have that kind of faith?” I wondered. “Do I come to God with my tail wagging?”

I tend to be a pretty optimistic person. Optimism and faith, however, are not synonymous. Both carry a positive outlook. Both anticipate the best outcome. But optimism is a way of thinking; faith is a way of knowing. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certainof what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1). So, if we fully agree with this scripture, we would have to admit that when we are not “sure” and “certain”, we do not have faith. That’s a tall order! Have I ever fulfilled those criteria? James calls a person who doubts a “wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 6) I definitely have harbored this kind of wishy-washy faith at times. I can identify with a certain father spoken of in the Bible who asked Jesus to free his son from demon possession. “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us,” he pleaded. “If you can?” Jesus said. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24).

Jesus drove out the demon that very day despite the man’s deficient faith. I have often prayed that He would look past my failings as well so that my imperfect prayers will be answered. Trusting that God can and will grant our requests means believing that He can and will break past all obstacles to accomplish the task. Sometimes the greatest obstacle we face is our own unbelief. But when we admit our shortcomings and come broken-hearted to God, He will not turn a deaf ear. A healthy faith is not confidence in our own spirituality but in God’s faithfulness. “Anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Are you pursuing God with all of your heart? He will do the rest. Jesus is the “author and finisher” of our faith (Hebrews 12:6).

Foraging for Healing

By: Alicia Motter-Vlahakos

I love spring. The anticipation of summer is refreshing, and life is appearing everywhere. Leading up to Easter, the fields burst with dandelions and buttercups, as if they are celebrating resurrection. I’ve always loved the dandelions filling the background of our family Easter pictures, but I didn’t know that God would use them one day to bring about my own little resurrection. Now when I see them, I remember the days we foraged for their leaves in joy, in anticipation of healing, and I remember the fulfillment that eventually came.

On Friday, Aug 17th 2018, I walked into the Pearland Surgery Center to have what I thought was my last colonoscopy ever. I had been telling everyone for a year that I had been healed from my almost 20-year bout of ulcerative colitis. It had been a year since I had experienced a bleeding colon, or had to rush to the bathroom over and over again. There had been one freak time since then when I had experienced extreme gas pain, but nothing afterwards. I had also quit taking my medicine when my symptoms dissipated. Medical professionals might say that I’m not healed, but just going through remission, and truly, there had been times in the past that I thought I was healed, only to see the symptoms crop back up.

Once, when I lamented to Cynthia, my twin sister, “I guess it was just remission, because it’s back,” she said, “No! You were healed. I know, because I fasted and I prayed, and God answered my prayers!” She had heard a preacher speak on the subject of sickness returning after healing had occurred. It was an issue that had disturbed her in the past. If the healing was really from God, why didn’t it last? But the sermon she heard had given her understanding and reassurance. The preacher had taught that because we are in a spiritual battle in this life, we need God to give us faith to hold onto our healing. And, looking back, I really feel like that’s what I was missing: supernatural faith.

Jesus told several people who were made well, “your faith has healed you.” (Matt. 9:22, Mark 10:52 and Luke 17:19). Their faith was the openness they presented to Him, so they could receive His healing power. But the Bible says that even faith itself is not of ourselves but a gift of God (Ephesians). And Jesus also says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them” (John 6:44). So it is Jesus who gives us ultimate salvation for our souls, if we are drawn to Him, but it is that same Jesus who, by His wounds on the cross, has bought us healing from our sins and our sickness, according to Isaiah 53:5. For several years, I had been occasionally praying this scripture, along with others about healing, but I sometimes felt silly, especially when I would reword them and speak them in authority to my colon, as prompted by Cynthia. I admired her faith and was inspired by the time she was healed from acid reflux about 5 years before, but I certainly didn’t feel that same level of faith.

Then came the day that God gave me the faith I needed. The third week of March in 2017, we spent spring break in the mountains of northern Georgia at my mother-in-law, Sam’s, house. One night during our visit, I dreamt that I was picking dandelion leaves to make tea. When I woke up, I had the distinct impression that God wanted me to do that very thing. Later that afternoon, when we took a walk, I excitedly looked around for dandelions, but I only found two tiny pitiful ones. Clayton, GA had undergone an unusual snow invasion for only half a day, and by this time it had disappeared, but it left the wild flowers with something to be desired. There was not going to be dandelion tea that night.

When we returned from the trip, we hit the ground running, and the dream got pushed to the back of my mind for a while. But one night, I decided to look up dandelion and its herbal properties. Several websites said it helped with digestion and inflammation reduction. I also found out that dandelion greens act as a prebiotic, which makes the colon a friendly place for probiotics, the kind of bacteria that are healthy for the body. When I saw this, I knew the dream was from God! That spring, I was a happy hippie, often taking my 3 year old daughter, Séraphine, on foraging escapades in the fields nearby, praising God for nature’s beauty and healing properties. Eventually, my husband Buddy ordered me dried dandelion leaves online, which was much more practical, allowing me to begin drinking tea steeped in its leaves regularly. He also bought me a dandelion seed pendant to wear as a necklace. I have cherished that seed as a symbol of faith, just as for many people, a mustard seed is a reminder of the same. (Matthew 17:20) The faith I felt in that season filled me with joy and hope, even though I hadn’t seen my healing yet.

One night, Buddy said, “I’m going to cure you of your ulcerative colitis,” and went on to explain that many people online theorized that digestive problems came from a lack of healthy probiotics in the gut. He had determined to buy kefir kernels, a colony of helpful yeast and bacteria, and start making kefir, a homemade probiotic yogurt drink. At this point I had stopped taking my medicine, Sulfasalazine, which is an anti-inflammatory, but also antibiotic. I didn’t want it killing off the microscopic fauna I was trying to encourage. Even though I hadn’t seen a change in my symptoms, I was still wildly optimistic about the eventual outcome because of my supernatural faith injection via the dream. By now, the dream had come to mean to me, not only that I should drink dandelion tea, but also that I should seek alternative means to healing. After all, Sulfasalazine might have kept my inflammation down, but it definitely didn’t cure me, and when I had flare-ups, I sometimes had to resort to Prednisone, a steroid that usually resulted in effective and fast healing, but also came with sleepless nights, anger, depression, and a racing heart. What’s worse, the previous December, when I had to pull out the Prednisonic big guns, they didn’t work as well, and I was hit hard with depression.

That’s one reason why I was so ecstatic to receive this dream and pathway to healing. By July, though, after using dandelion, kefir, kefir kraut, and chiropractic care, I still hadn’t seen the results I expected. So, I decided to go to a Chinese medicine doctor. By the end of my month with him, I still saw no change, and started getting discouraged. When I consulted Buddy, he suggested nicotine patches, which my dad (a doctor of internal medicine) approved. After using the patches for about a month, I finally started to see my symptoms wane, until they were eventually gone, at which point I terminated the use of nicotine. When I was finally well, I realized that it was only when I ate milk products that I had digestive issues. Discontinuing lactose was a joyful sacrifice for me, knowing that it would keep me well. When I mentioned my lactose intolerance to Buddy, he said, “Well then, you’re not healed.”

“I’m healed enough!” I replied.

A year later, Aug 16th 2018, I forced down the terrible colonoscopy prep drink and praised Jesus that this was the last time I would ever have to do this, because I believed my colonoscopy was about to prove that I was healed. The next morning, right before I was wheeled into the room to start my procedure, I told God how grateful I was that He had given me the faith to be healed from ulcerative colitis. I mused, “now if only I could have the same faith for getting rid of my heartburn.” It had been so bad for about a year that I found it hard to speak and sing most days, which is quite a problem for a voice teacher. But, my spirit was full of joy as I drifted off to sleep, still incredibly happy to be healed from the disease I had once thought would be with me forever.

When I awoke, my gastroenterologist confirmed that there were no lesions in my colon, but went on to inform me of two she had found in my ileum, the lower part of the small intestine. She theorized that I had been misdiagnosed, and that actually I had been experiencing symptoms for Crohn’s disease all this time. She suggested that I start taking Sulfasalazine again. I felt numb and lost. It didn’t make sense that all that had transpired was for nothing, or that God had healed me from ulcerative colitis, simply to let me fall into the hands of something worse. As I thought about all the people I had told about my healing, I remembered Psalm 25:3, “No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame.” I didn’t feel like that was the end of the story, and I didn’t feel right about starting Sulfasalazine again.

When I got home, I looked up Crohn’s and found out that it is the inflammation of the whole digestive tract. So as Buddy and I talked about it, I realized that even though my colon was symptom-free, my esophagus was not, so if I wanted to track what kind of foods caused a flare-up, I had to pay attention to heartburn. Buddy suggested that I start keeping a record of what I eat and any symptoms I might have afterwards. The next week, I started mainly juicing vegetables for my meals, and when I ate, it was single-ingredient items. Within one day, my voice was restored to the youthful, uninhibited singing and speaking I had known before. I told Buddy I would be happy drinking vegetable juice for the rest of my life if it meant having a voice.

I knew that receiving my voice back was a gift from God, but I still didn’t know what to think about possibly having Crohn’s. I was humbled, and felt that I really could not presume upon God. I may think that it’s a good idea for God to do something, but the story He writes for me is really up to Him. As Romans 11:34 says, “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?” I clung to the promise in Jeremiah 29:11, that whatever happened, He was planning to prosper me and not to harm me, planning to give me a hope and a future. But what that future of prosperity looked like, only He knew. One morning a couple of weeks after the colonoscopy, I woke up to silence. I lay in bed and let my mind wander as Buddy and Séraphine slept on. Suddenly I was struck by how all-encompassing, all-important, infinite, beautiful, and complete Yahweh is, and how I was created to worship Him, that this is my destiny and meaning in life, and that my problems are tiny compared to His vastness. I had heard these concepts all my life, but I had never felt them with such fervor. And it was actual bliss to remove myself from what now seemed like unimportant worries, and immerse myself in the experience of worship. I have always struggled with the tendency to link my worship of God to what He does for me, but in this moment, I was given the grace to revel in who He is. 1st John 4:18 says, “Perfect love drives out fear,” and 1st John 4:7 says, “God is love.” This supernatural love God had given me for Himself naturally pushed out any fear I was dealing with, because it simply seemed tiny in the light of my purpose in Him. I have not retained the feeling that washed over me that morning, but what I have taken away from the experience was a sense of God’s glory. He is glorious and doesn’t need to do anything to prove that. He can do absolutely whatever He wants, and He will be glorious and glorified. I thank God that there are many scriptures on His love for us and His desire to lavish us with the gifts of a good life, but even if He doesn’t, my meaning in life will be fulfilled if I worship Him in all circumstances.

On September 24th, I went back to my gastroenterologist’s office to talk over the biopsy results from the colonoscopy, which she had recently received. As I drove to her office, I rehearsed the questions I would ask her, hoping she wouldn’t scold me for avoiding Sulfasalazine, but I resolved to be ok with whatever followed. As she handed me the paper, she said, “This is frustrating to me, because, I know what I saw, but according to the lab there is nothing there. The results were negative.”

I queried, a little in shock, “Is that good or is that bad?” She explained that the lab had seen no problem, and that I didn’t have to take Sulfasalazine. “Keep doing what you’re doing,” she instructed. She believed that I have a mild case of Crohn’s, and suggested I get blood work done to monitor it. I happily thanked her and drove home in joy. Later that day, as I walked up the stairs of our apartment complex with Séraphine, I told her, “It’s slowly dawning on me that I have received a miracle, that I am miraculously healed! It just took me a while to interpret the biopsy results.” They read, “No significant histopathologic findings,” which I finally understood to mean, “You are completely well!” I did decide to get the blood-monitoring panel, as the doctor suggested, expecting that it would reveal perfect health as well. But I knew that whatever happened, God would be glorified because God is glorious.

When I went back to my doctor to go over the blood monitoring panel results, she handed me a paper filled with numbers and words I didn’t understand. So, I asked her to explain it and she wrote on my paper, “Has Crohn’s disease. All Genetics higher risk. No inflammation- likely very mild disease/ low risk.” Now with her interpretation of the lab papers, I understood that the section of the chart that showed inflammation was completely negative. It’s the result a totally healthy person would get. In fact, the paper said, “Pattern not consistent with IBD” (Inflammatory bowel disease). My gastroenterologist took my genetic markers as evidence of Crohn’s, but just because my genetics are high-risk, doesn’t mean I have the disease. It just means it’s more likely for me to get it than others. When I asked her if she would be willing to tell me the lab results on video for YouTube, she declined because she was cautious about privacy. I thanked her for all she had done, and before I left, I shared with her that these results had been an answer to prayer. Holding my lab sheet like a flag of victory, I couldn’t hide my ecstatic smile as I exited the office, knowing that I would never go back to letting Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s set up camp in my body.

Today, Aug 10 2020, I’m finally sitting down to finish writing my story. It’s been nearly 3 years since I was healed and every day I thank God for the miracle I’m still experiencing. I can eat anything, including lactose if I use my over-the-counter pills. I am free of all symptoms and not taking prescription medication, and I have papers to confirm my healing, if ever doubts and fears should threaten me. For a while, I still wondered about the day I experienced extreme gas pain, until I listened to a podcast telling about the benefits of encouraging probiotic growth in our digestive system. The guest suggested that people make gradual changes in their diet and probiotic ingestion so that they don’t experience too much gas pain. Woops! I had not been gradual about my change at all! So, now, I even praise God for that day of pain, because I know it was a sign that my body had achieved a healthy and active microbiome.

Now, as I look back, I wonder what it was that brought me that ultimate healing. I had started with dandelion tea, expanded to kefir and other probiotics, seen a chiropractor and a Chinese medicine doctor, and finally used nicotine patches. Sometimes, I wonder if I had only started drinking dandelion tea and done nothing else, if I would’ve been healed in the same amount of time, or if that dream really was meant to send me on a quest for alternative medicine. I don’t know, but what I do know is that there were powerful spiritual dynamics at play that made a huge impact on my health. First of all, God infused me with the faith I needed to finally receive the healing He had imparted to me before. Also, I started daily quoting scriptures about healing over my body, believing that “faith comes from hearing” as Romans 10:17 tells us. Finally, I started regularly listening to healing testimonies on YouTube, and found great inspiration and hope through that. I have learned that keeping my faith while living in this world has to be a proactive battle, and so I still pray the healing scriptures and watch YouTube testimonies regularly when I feel my spiritual grip slipping. Most of all, though, I rest in the knowledge that my healing journey was started by God. So, it’s not up to me to be perfect. He accomplished my healing 2000 years ago through His death and resurrection, He gave me the faith to receive it, and He will sustain my health through His will and power, not my own. I rest every day in that realization.

Unexpected Miracles

By: Cynthia Butler

South Calhoun Baptist was a church unlike any that Allen and Marcia had ever been a part of.  It was Allen Crosby’s first full-time pastorate, and although he was the one in the pulpit each Sunday preaching, he learned as much as he taught because of the faith of the people who worshiped there.  In fact, it was at the request of one of the members that Allen first anointed someone with oil for healing.

Nancy Pagent had been having severe headaches, so she called Allen to ask that he and the Deacons would come to her home and anoint her with oil.  Allen felt uncomfortable with the request at first, but after studying a passage in James and talking to the Deacons, he saw that it was scriptural and agreed to come.  With the oil still wet on her forehead, Nancy claimed healing right away.  Her faith was an inspiration, and Allen rejoiced with her, believing that God had already answered her prayer.  Soon after the experience, Nancy gave testimony in church confirming what God had done.  She was indeed healed!

When Allen again received an invitation to come and pray, it was a desperate request, this time from a child whose mother was dying.  Allen went alone to the hospital and found the girl’s grandmother there.  She told him how her daughter Peggy had just had surgery to correct acid reflux.  Peggy had already gone home and was beginning to recover until she had a bad coughing attack that ripped open the surgical site.  Internal bleeding led to blood clots in her lungs.  When Allen arrived several days after the surgery, the doctors were predicting that she would not even last through the night.

Peggy’s mother led Allen into the hospital room.  He could see this tiny lady lying on the bed, struggling for her life.  He could hear her labored breathing punctuated by the beeps of the medical equipment.  The situation seemed dire, but he prayed all the same.  Nothing seemed to happen.  He left with no expectations.

To his surprise, on Sunday, when Allen had just come up to the pulpit to preach, Peggy came walking in.  She was still weak, but she was alive, and she was on her feet.  Allen recognized her and could hardly believe his eyes.  The last time he had seen her she was at death’s door.  Now she was at the door of the church instead, ready to start a new life.  After the sermon Peggy came to thank Allen for praying for her.  Allen could tell that she knew in her heart what she needed to do.  So he asked her if she was saved.  She had never been saved before, but she said she was ready that morning to give her life to the Lord.  So she prayed to receive Christ as her savior and joined the church. When Allen told the congregation what had happened, they rejoiced and many people moved toward the alter to give praise to God.

Having seen these awesome answers to prayers, Allen and Marcia were convinced that God still works miracles.  But despite these encouragements, what they were about to face shook them to their core.

They had been at Calhoun Baptist for 2 years and had gotten to know many of the people there.  But the Stocks were special, because they shared so much in common with them.  The two couples had been high-school sweet-hearts and had ended up having the same number of children in the same order (first a girl, then a boy, and finally another girl).  The youngest girls, Bree Stocks and Melissa Crosby, who were 7 or 8 at the time, were classmates at school and at church.  They had become best friends.  Melissa would even spend the night at Bree’s house sometimes.  So when the Crosbys received devastating news about Bree, it hit close to home.

Bree had all of a sudden gone blind in her right eye, and her parents took her that very day to neurologist Dr. Mitch Fritz.  He scheduled her for an MRI to see what had caused the blindness.  Dr. Fritz was a long-time friend of the Stocks; they had grown up together, so when he had seen the results of the MRI, he came out to where they were waiting and spoke very candidly to them.  There was a tumor on Bree’s brain in the worst place possible.  They would have to do surgery as soon as they could, but even the surgery itself would be dangerous.

Such news could have paralyzed her parents in fear, but in the midst of their terrifying situation, the Stocks relied on prayer.  That Sunday they brought Bree to the front of the church at the end of the service.  The Deacons came forward and laid hands on her, and Allen anointed her with oil.  Then the whole congregation joined them at the alter to pray for Bree.

Bree was scheduled to have surgery within a week, but on Monday, the day after the Deacons had prayed for her, she woke up and found that her sight had been restored!  Elated, she started running through the house telling her family that she had been healed.  That day they took her back to Dr. Fritz to have another MRI.  The tumor was gone!  There was no sign of it.  Dr. Fritz showed the two MRI pictures side by side to the family proving that the abnormality had disappeared!

Word spread around the church, and the people were overjoyed!  The next Sunday, Bree’s dad Bruce gave testimony during the service.  Many church members shed tears of celebration as they shared in the amazing experience.  Allen and Marcia were especially impacted since Bree was so precious to their family.  Little did Allen know that in a few years he would witness the healing of anotherlittle girl, this time on foreign soil.

Allen had become the pastor of Living Word Baptist Church and had had several opportunities to go on mission trips to Peru.  During one of these trips, toward the end of the week, the mission team chartered a bus with another church group in order to attend a festival at the top of a desert mountain.  There they hoped to find people with which they could share the gospel.  The road going up the mountain was a narrow winding dirt path with a 1000 foot drop-off on one side.  At one point when the bus was going around a hair-pin curve the rear wheels almost came off the road.  Everyone in the bus ran to the left side of the vehicle screaming for the bus-driver to stop.  So he parked the bus there in the middle of the road and all the passengers got off.  The group hiked the rest of the way up, and the driver backed the bus all the way down the mountain, while someone stood behind him checking his position, and motioning to him.

Once the mission team reached the top of the mountain a crowd began to gather around them in the open market.  It was like a sea of people; mothers, fathers and children.  Allen could see beyond them squatter fields on the slope where people had made tiny make-shift huts and, at the base of the mountain, a lush green valley near a creek.  Allen and the ministry team hoped to bring life to the hundreds in front of them just as the creek brought life to the valley in the midst of the desert.  So they took the high-ground and loudly addressed the crowd.  Several people told their testimonies about God’s work in their lives and then Allen gave a clear presentation of the gospel.  “This must have been what it was like in the book of Acts when the disciples would stand and preach and the crowds would gather,” he pondered.  After he was done preaching, people began approaching Allen and the ministry team, some of them committing their lives to Christ for the first time.  Then two children pushed their way through the crowd toward Allen carrying their sister who was unable to walk.  Her legs were drawn up under her, shriveled and misshapen.  Through an interpreter they asked Allen to pray for her.  He was broken hearted over her condition.  Several from the ministry team gathered around, laid hands on her and prayed while Allen held her in his arms.  Immediately after they prayed some of the youth on the ministry team called out, “Miss Sue has fallen!”  In alarm, Allen handed the girl back to her siblings and quickly moved to where he last remembered seeing Miss Sue.  He thought perhaps she had fallen off the side of the mountain, because she had been standing on a pile of rocks near the cliff.  Thankfully when he arrived he saw that she had fallen on the other side of the rubble, not over the cliff.  She was sore, but safe.

It was time for the mission team to return, so they grabbed their gear and started down the mountain.  Many of the kids walked beside them, talking to them along the way.  At the bottom of the mountain Allen gathered everyone up to board the bus that was waiting for them there.  At that moment, the two girls who had brought their sister for prayer came running up toward Allen.  But this time their sister, who had been crippled since birth as far as Allen had understood, was not in their arms.  She was running beside them.  Her legs were no longer shriveled under her; they were bounding through the sand.  Allen had only a few seconds to speak with them before getting on the bus.  He had barely enough time to realize what had just happened.  As the bus driver pulled away from the treacherous desert Mountain, though, and the ministry team talked on the bus ride, they all realized that a miracle had taken place right before their very eyes.

Now as Allen reflects on all that he’s experienced- A women freed of headaches, a mother rescued from death, a friend healed of cancer and blindness, a girl given the ability to walk- it is plain to see that God keeps working in unexpected and supernatural ways.  “It always surprises me,” Allen marvels.  “I don’t know why.  What baffles me is my unbelief.  But still, the greatest miracle is salvation”.  And that is the miracle Allen continues to pursue as he preaches the gospel each week, now at First Baptist Church of Jewett, TX.  The question is, what surprises will God reveal next?

Toddling Toward Healing

By: Cynthia Butler


I feel like a toddler when it comes to matters of faith. I stand to my feet; then I go careening forward in some awkward fashion ‘til I end up on my hands and knees again a couple of steps from where I was. But I think I am making some progress, despite my spiritual clumsiness.

I sit at home typing on my computer the culmination of biblical research, but when does the academic exercise become real life? My daughter gets an infection that sends her to the ER, or I hear of one more friend that has cancer, or I experience chronic problems in my own body and I wonder how to apply what I have learned—what I believe.

I had been diagnosed with acid reflux in 2004, years before I ever had the courage or motivation to seriously ask for healing. Of course, I wanted to be healed, but I didn’t know whether God needed to bother healing me of something that was mostly taken care of with medication. I guess I felt broken, though, like there was a band-aid on an ever-present sore. Something finally came together in my mind, and I was ready to pray for the healing that I had wanted all along.

With medication masking symptoms how would I know when I had been healed? It seemed unwise to forego medication until I had some confirmation of healing. Acid reflux was what had caused my heartbreaking vocal problems, and I had no desire to repeat such an incident. I prayed that God would give me a sign so that I would know when the time was right to take my last pill. I couldn’t imagine what that sign would be, but when it came I recognized it.

A few months before delivering my baby in 2010 I noticed the pill container from the drug store read, “Do not take if breast feeding.” I was wholeheartedly planning on breastfeeding, and I knew that this was the invitation I had been waiting for. So I had hoped, and maybe expected, when I stopped taking the medicine that symptoms would cease. They didn’t. They seemed worse than ever. Of course I was in my 3rd trimester- prime time for heartburn; it could be I was healed already and this was just a product of pregnancy. I admit that it distressed me, though. It took some faith to stop popping pills, but my faith was incomplete; I was worried. Still, if God was healing me, then why was my esophagus on fire every day? I asked for prayer from a few friends who were people of faith, and after my daughter’s birth I seemed to get better gradually. I told people that I believed I was healed. But doubts would intrude from time to time, or maybe they never really left me. And symptoms would resurface, albeit more rarely. I would stand in front of the medicine cabinet wondering if it was a violation of my faith to take an antacid pill. Sometimes I’d open the bottle, sometimes I wouldn’t.

I wondered, “What do I do with this? Do I pray for healing again even though I thought I was already supposed to have received it? Do I rebuke the symptoms?” I did that from time to time and never really noticed dramatic results. Then in a discipleship class at church one evening we were talking about unanswered prayer. I said to the class, “What makes me nervous is that I think maybe I’ve already received my answer and I just haven’t had the faith to hear it.” Saying it out loud was a turning point. I felt clarity. The time for healing had come already. I just needed to believe it.

During the week that followed the discipleship class I decided to believe that I was healed. It’s not like I hadn’t tried to believe before, but this time I wasn’t waiting to feel my body confirm my healing. I wasn’t being cautious to avoid common triggers. I wasn’t checking every once in a while to see if I felt any signs of the condition. I just believed; and there did seem to be a difference. I didn’t notice that gush of liquid from my stomach that had become so familiar. I felt confident and safe. The simplicity of it had always evaded me.

So I told my sister about it as we were riding in the car together that weekend. Ironically, while I was talking with her I began to sense some hint of acid reflux again. I recalled my friend Jennifer’s experience with rebel symptoms. A few days after God had healed her of an eye-watering problem, she was telling her brother the good news when all of a sudden her eye started watering again. She felt like an idiot, but she knew in her heart that the healing had been legitimate. The moment she finished talking to her brother the eye stopped watering again. Jennifer had a similar experience when she was planning to write an e-mail to her friend who was an atheist. She wanted to express how God had healed her of fever blisters in hopes that it would point her friend to the Lord. It had been years since one had appeared, although they had been frequent and painful before her healing. But just as she was about to type the letter, a fever blister began forming. As in the case with her eye, the fever blister disappeared quickly. These coincidences seemed purposeful, as if the enemy was trying to keep Jennifer from giving God glory for what he had done.

I don’t know if Satan is really behind every misfortune he’s so often credited with, but I do see evidence that he fights to regain territory in the area of healing. And I suspected that he may very well have caused the heartburn I felt the day I talked to my sister. But unlike Jennifer, I continued to experience symptoms as before. For this I blamed my own lack of faith rather than the Devil. As I prayed about it, though, I felt that God was saying, “Don’t accuse yourself. Just move forward.”

It was probably around this time that I found myself lost in fear one night while my baby, Maranatha was sick. I couldn’t bring myself to leave her side. All I could do was listen to every breath while she slept. Finally I broke away for some much needed prayer time, and God directed me to Psalm 91. I’m sure I had read it many times before, but this time it felt like I was reading it for the first time: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. . . You will not fear the terror of night. . . A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. . . If you make the Most High your dwelling. . . then no harm will befall you.”

It was God’s guarantee of protection. I knew I was meant to trust that. Maranatha recovered in a few days and was her usual active healthy self. Life was back to normal, but I had something new- a promise that was mine, a shield that I could hold. So I started to commit Psalm 91 to memory.

Months later, I still had only partially memorized it when I found that I needed it again. I was hit by symptoms indicative of a chronic condition plaguing two of my family members. I knew right away that it was an attack from the enemy because I was fasting at the time. So I rejected the symptoms, saying that this illness did not belong to me and that I did not accept it. God gave me the faith that I needed to resist the devil, and I declared the words of Psalm 91 as best as I could remember them. The symptoms continued and even worsened that night, but after that they began to disappear again. I had fought with my sword, the Word of God, and He had given me a victory. It’s what I had been longing for.

A prophecy had been spoken over me perhaps a year or two before that day. My friend Rick had been praying for me at his church when a lady in his prayer group received these words from the Lord regarding my vocal healing: “Be patient. It’s going to be worth it.” I cherished those words, and I trusted them. But I wondered, “How would it be worth it?” Would my condition worsen before I received healing so that it would be a great dramatic miracle for God’s glory? I couldn’t think of how else nearly a decade of struggling could be worth it. And then I got a glimpse of what God might have meant when I heard the sermon that changed my life in 2013.

A visiting pastor Alphonze Owina told of the amazing things God had done in His life. He explained that people are chasing after miracles, but they don’t realize they could have a miracle in their own house if they would meditate on the Word of God. After being saved as a teenager, Pastor Alphonze had been so hungry for the Word of God that he had spent hours pouring over it, and the Word had catapulted him to what he called the “realm of miracles”, so that miracles were not a rare occurrence, but a way of life.

To live in the “realm of miracles”: now, that would be worth everything that I had gone through and more! I had already felt that God was encouraging me to memorize scripture, but now I really had the motivation to do so. I hung up poster-sized passages on the wall and read them slowly, thinking about every word. As I meditated on the meaning of what Jesus was saying, memorization came easily. I would speak Bible verses I had memorized to my daughter Maranatha as we took walks. I would think about the scriptures through the day, so that they could infuse faith into my thinking. It really was a life-style change.

Soon after that, another visiting pastor Nasir Siddiki spoke on the subject of miracles. He had an extensive collection of sermons on CDs and my husband Kevin encouraged me to buy one of the series, knowing how passionate I had become about healing. I browsed through them and felt drawn to the one titled “How to Keep Your Healing”. So I bought the 6 CD set, and I began using much of my free time to listen to it. I would pause frequently to look up the scriptures Siddiki mentioned and to outline for myself what he was teaching. I treated it like a college class, studying each concept, and making sure what was being taught was scriptural. There were a few statements that I disagreed with, but most of what was taught seemed to be sound and insightful Biblical teaching. In this series I found what I had lacked as I had been seeking healing all this time: a very structured methodical approach.

In the midst of my studies I would offer to pray for people to be healed. The scriptures that I had been taking in would begin pouring out of me when I prayed. One time I prayed for a student’s mom who had been suffering from vertigo. She contacted me a few days later and mentioned that the day after I had prayed for her was the first time in a long time she had not had vertigo. I was so thankful for this glimpse of hope, this sign of progress. And I e-mailed her some scriptures to help guard her against any future attacks.

I don’t believe it’s any coincidence that I had just finished fasting right before this experience. In fact, many answers to my prayers have arrived just after I have fasted. And in interviewing others about their testimonies I noticed a similar pattern. So I had been encouraged to fast often and even to hold prayer vigils from time to time, especially in desperate situations.

It was the people at End Times Revival Ministries that really taught me to labor in prayer. Kevin was leading music there, and for the first time we were members of a church where the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit were expected and sought.

It was out of our comfort zone- a far cry from the orderly and predictable Baptist churches we had been a part of since infancy. But it’s what I had been hungry for. I needed to learn how to live a victorious life. I needed supernatural answers to my questions. And I needed to be among those who would do anything to seek those answers.

Every Friday night a group from the church would gather to pray for hours. And each year the church would fast as a group for 21 days. On Sundays they would worship with abandon. And many sermons held a perspective that I had not yet encountered in all my years of church-going. I learned how to fight and how to exercise the authority God gave us against the enemy. I remember one night, for example, when we were beginning a church conference something strange began happening with my vision. It was similar to how Kevin had described symptoms that led to a migraine. Before the conference I spent time rebuking the symptoms using scriptures. And they faded without any problem.

As my journey continues, we find ourselves back in a Baptist church again among those who are less accustomed to the miraculous but who are seeking the Lord nonetheless. We’ve seen God working here, as a number of people in our community have come to faith in Jesus for the first time. I am still striving toward healing ministry, so at home, I learn scriptures, listen to sermons, watch programs and read writings that teach on that subject. It seems like slow-going sometimes, but I’m trusting this process.

The thing is, I’ve seen the Lord deliver me several times now, and I’ve seen Him deliver several others through me (at least in small ways) but these occurrences are still inconsistent. I have some questions that remain, and I know I have a long way to go. I want so much more than I already have. But I can see the path I need to follow now. And it may not be easy, but God knows I desire this deeply. And He says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)

The Full Gospel

By: Cynthia Butler

Jennifer had lived two extremes: a Baptist missionary and later an agnostic drug user. “Christianity is something I’ve outgrown”, she thought; but meanwhile her life was spiraling downward.   Sure, she had accepted Jesus in her childhood and even felt a tingling in her chest when she did. But there were certain things she just couldn’t reconcile. In college she met people of other religions who were apparently going to Hell despite their seemingly good lives. And during her missionary assignment she met ministers who were apparently going to Heaven despite their hypocrisy. It just didn’t make sense.

But inconsistencies had already soured her faith long before that. As a child she had questions about the miracles in the Bible and about accounts of demon possession. “Those things don’t really happen anymore,” she was told.   What parts of the Bible were still applicable, she wondered? Years later and after much searching she would finally find out for herself that the world in the pages of the Bible and the modern world are not so different as she had been taught.

Even while she was still living in doubt she had an experience that foreshadowed this discovery. One morning, soon after her disillusionment as a Baptist missionary, she and her husband decided to visit a church of a different denomination. Near the end of the service people were asked to come forward for prayer so that they could be healed. But they were also encouraged to pray for healing even in their seats if they did not wish to come forward. Jennifer’s eye had been watering for no reason for a few weeks.   No one could diagnose it except to say that the tear duct was making too much fluid. Of course, she had been led to believe that miracles were a thing of the past, but what could she lose? She prayed for God to heal her eye. He did- that very day. Her husband called it coincidence. Jennifer didn’t really know what to think about it, but she never forgot what happened that morning.

The journey was just beginning. One unexplained event wasn’t enough to counteract the years of confusion.   And things would only get more confusing as Jennifer looked for truth and found more lies. At first she explored other religions. She read up on new age philosophy and perused Hindu scriptures. But neither of these seemed any truer or more applicable than the Biblical view she was rejecting. She visited the Unity Church of Christianity, a group that respects Jesus but spreads a universalist outlook. Their belief system appealed to Jennifer, especially the concept that no one will go to Hell. She attended there for several Sundays. But after a while, she grew tired of church life. After all, why attend church if everyone goes to Heaven anyway? Why even live within moral boundaries? She had resisted temptation throughout high school and college, but now she intended to find out what she had been missing.

Ironically, it was an acquaintance from church that first introduced her to drugs, and she dove in readily. Soon she met Steve, a stoner, who was almost a personification of her rebellious desires.   “This guy is so awesome,” she said one time while she was high. “He’s everything I want. And you know what? He’s either a reward from God for finally rejecting all these lies that I’ve been fed and trying to really pursue the truth, or he is from Satan to lead me astray. But I want him either way.”

Jennifer had already left her husband along with her biblical notions of right and wrong. After her divorce, there was nothing stopping her from moving in with Steve.   At first it seemed like exactly what she wanted: someone to show her the party life, someone who wouldn’t judge her, someone she could get stoned with every day. But after a while, drugs seemed to get in the way of life, and her relationship with Steve began to crumble. Gradually depression crept in until she was on large doses of three different antidepressants each day. Where were the answers she had been looking for? Was life just one disappointment after another?

It was when she met Jeff, that things turned a corner. On their first date, he asked Jennifer, “What do you think about the Bible?” She figured it was just a book of mythology, but Jeff understood it to be the word of God.   In fact, Jeff was a “full-gospel” believer. He asserted that everything in the Bible is still true and applicable to the modern world; even supernatural occurrences. This was a totally different teaching from what Jennifer had received as a child.   “There’s still prophesy, and there’s still discerning of the spirits,” he told her, “and there’s absolutely still demons. It’s demons making you depressed.” Jennifer had never considered this possibility, but it immediately made sense. In a way, she had invited them because of her lifestyle choices. It was a strangely encouraging thought. She had bought into the notion that depression is a life-long chronic illness; that it can be managed, but not cured. “This is just the way I am,” she thought, and she was going to therapy to learn to deal with that. But she realized as she was listening to Jeff, that depression was not a part of her identity. It was a lie from Satan; a lie that she had believed. Jennifer wasn’t instantly healed that night, but she did instantly have hope. And, in time, Jeff’s “full-gospel” faith inspired Jennifer to reconsider Christianity. “I’ve been really thinking, maybe I need to give this another try now that I have the whole picture,” she confessed to Jeff. So she apologized to God for her sinful behaviors and for her arrogance. “I’m sorry that I misunderstood,” she prayed. “I want to come back and try again.”

The rebirth of Jennifer’s faith wasn’t a miraculous revelation or an unmistakable feeling; it was a choice that Jennifer made. She didn’t have all the answers when she decided to pursue the ways of Jesus again; but, of course, neither did she have all the answers when she had left her Christianity in the first place. It was only after her leap of faith that God began providing her with the kind of assurance she had so desired.

Jennifer was being redeemed; her mind and body had been reclaimed by God, but the damage that the devil had done would not be undone overnight. In time, Jennifer realized that she was under a curse.   Her unfaithful heart had already taken its toll on two marriages, and it had begun to do so again in her third marriage. She had heard at church about family curses, patterns of sinful behavior that are passed down from generation to generation. After talking to her father, she discovered that her mother had marital struggles just as she had. Perhaps Jennifer had been courted by the same demons to which her mother and other family members had fallen victim. Jennifer read a book that addressed family curses. While reading it, God convicted her and she agreed to repent of the sin of unfaithfulness and to resist the devil. Repentance and resistance were the keys to her freedom. What had seemed like an overwhelming compulsion soon became only a passing temptation, and she discovered she had the power through God to refuse destructive behavior.

One time after the curse had been broken, Satan attempted to regain control on her. Jennifer woke from a dream with a plan to use her work e-mail to secretly contact an old boyfriend.   “Wow, this is a really bad plan,” she thought getting out of bed and walking into the bathroom. “It could potentially destroy my marriage. This isn’t very smart, but I guess it’s what I’m going to do.” As she stood at the sink washing her hands, she realized all of a sudden, “Wait a minute. This is from Satan. This is not me making this plan.” At that moment, she spoke in her mind, “I reject you Satan and any demons,” Before she had even finished the thought, she saw a shadow flee from her, and she was immediately clear-headed.

As Jennifer slipped out of the devil’s hold on her she also started to wean herself off of the medicines that had been stabilizing her damaged spirit.   Each time she stepped down her medication she felt a familiar moodiness. But Jennifer realized that it was lies that had led to her darkest moments, and it was a lie that held her captive to depression. She now believed the truth of God’s deliverance and was ready to embrace the “abundant life” He had promised. Through this realization and the guidance of a Christian counselor she was emotionally restored!

Depression wasn’t the only healing that God granted Jennifer. Canker soars had been a regular occurrence for her.   Eventually she found that a regimen of supplements combined with plenty of sleep and avoidance of certain foods would prevent them. But if she didn’t do all of those things the soars would return. When she and her husband moved to a one-income budget to prepare for their daughter’s birth, they could no longer afford the supplements.   “I guess I’m just going to have to go back to having canker soars all the time,” sighed Jennifer. “Well, no, I don’t think God is giving me the gift of a baby and then make me have canker soars for the rest of my life because of it,” she reconsidered. Jennifer decided she’d go to her church next time they had healing prayer. Then again, she thought, “I’ve been healed of other things without going to healing prayer. Why don’t I just ask God for it?” So she prayed to God for healing and stopped taking supplements. She didn’t get any more canker soars after that during her pregnancy and has only had minor ones since then. But the painful canker soars of her past have never returned.

These steps of healing- of restoration- have been true blessings, but more than that they have been confirmation of God’s love. It’s as if He had been reaching out all that time with the answers in His hand waiting for Jennifer to grab hold of them.   Just as He said centuries before, “You will seek me, and you will find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

Unseen Enemy

By: Cynthia Butler

Jackie had looked an enemy in the eye before. She had heard rockets whizzing past while under attack. She had seen God deliver her from combat. But this foe was different. This foe was inside of her, and it didn’t show its face. Test after test had been performed to diagnose it. They were no help at all. They only added to the confusion. But some part of Jackie already knew this battle had been won. Perhaps God did not want there to be a human answer because she needed to find out that He was the only solution.

When the migraines first started, Jackie blamed them on stress. She had been working long hours out of town on a complicated job, missing so much of her girls’ lives. It was no wonder that this lifestyle was starting to take its toll. But these were no ordinary headaches. The pain was overwhelming; as if someone was stabbing her behind the eyes. She tried to cure herself with dietary changes, but she got worse rather than better. She visited a dentist and an optometrist, but they found nothing wrong with her eyes or teeth. When she finally went to the VA hospital, the medical staff only added to her frustrations. There was no doctor that seemed to know what they were doing and no medicine that could help her. It became more and more evident that God was the only one she could trust. Prayer became a way of life; a means of survival.   She had to rely on the Lord just to make it to work each day. Her vision was so blurry that driving to a power plant, climbing up a reactor- all the things that were a normal part of her job- were a challenge. She had to place her life in God’s hands on a daily basis. It was this state of spiritual dependence that prepared her for the news she would receive.

A CAT scan had revealed a malformation in Jackie’s brain. Swollen gray matter was pressing against the cranium and trapping spinal fluid. What was causing the brain to be enlarged, though, was still a mystery. It could be nothing, in which case Jackie’s brain was inexplicably larger than her cranium and she would have to have part of her skull removed. On the other hand, if there was a cancerous growth, her life could be in danger. The best-case scenario was that it would be a benign tumor that could be eliminated without any damage. Regardless, she’d have to endure brain surgery.

Jackie was not eager to go under the knife, and she hoped that whatever the doctors found wasn’t life-threatening. But somehow she was at peace with whatever was to come, even if her days on earth were numbered. God was in control.

Not many people knew about Jackie’s condition, but her family and church friends who did know were fervently praying for her. The day after Jackie’s MRI she would receive an answer that would surprise everyone. The malformation had inexplicably disappeared. The doctors couldn’t make sense of it. The fluid was gone and her blood was back to normal. Everything was changed.

Jackie soaked in the news. Was the ordeal really over? It sounded like a miracle. The only problem was that she was still having headaches just as before. She didn’t understand. Confused, Jackie told her pastor about the issue hoping he might have an answer.   He had been praying with her from the beginning, and he knew the whole story. He had rejoiced with her after the doctors’ latest report. Was there something she was missing? Looking her in the eyes he asked her, “Do you believe that God heals people?”

“Yes, of course,” she answered without hesitation.

“Do you believe that God would heal you?’ He continued.

“Well, I don’t deserve it,” she admitted, “but I believe that He would do that for me.”

“It sounds to me like maybe you just need to claim it,” He concluded. His words rang true in her spirit. She could see the fingerprints of God on her life. Even the doctors were perplexed at her spontaneous recovery.

So Jackie put her hand up and proclaimed, “In the name of Jesus Christ I accept this healing.” Jackie’s affirmation was all it took to seal her cure. In that moment, the pain went away.

Now Jackie has a defense against even invisible enemies: “the shield of faith” (Eph. 6:16). God never promised her that she would not come under attack. But He did say, “no weapon forged against you will prevail. . . This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me.” (Isaiah 54:17) From time to time a headache will tempt Jackie to doubt the healing she received from God. But she knows that this is just a tactic of Satan. So she reminds the devil, “I’m a child of God, and God has given me this healing. You can’t take it away.” As before, the pain subsides, once again confirming her faith.

Jackie doesn’t wonder why she had to go through such distress. It was during this time that she learned what it really meant to live- to be “thankful in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18). That was something no human could have showed her.

Hanna’s Restoration

By: Cynthia Butler and Hannah Melvin

            It had been a week since she had kissed a guy; a month since she had touched a piano; a year since she had tasted bread. And she was finally ready to have a talk with God.

Hannah had broken away from the horde of peppy campers for some moments of quiet. There in the shade of the pine trees she heard God’s invitation: “Let’s take a walk.” Honestly, it had been a long time coming. She knew she had been disobedient. The break up with Lincoln had been a tough one, but it’s what needed to happen. The arguments and failed hopes had taken their toll. God had instructed her to take some time off. No dating for a year. She agreed; at least at first . . . until she met Matthew. He seemed like the perfect guy for Hannah: gentle, kind, committed to Christ. But God did not approve of their relationship, and they both knew it. “I can’t do this any more,” he finally determined. “I can’t date you if God isn’t in it.”

Hannah’s relationship with Matthew wasn’t the only thing that had been taken from her during her rebellion. Hannah had visions of becoming a virtuosic pianist.   She was studying music at Lone Star Montgomery College and becoming classically trained when she began to sense that this was not the path God had planned for her. It was God who had gifted Hannah with her musical abilities, God who had provided a piano for her so many years ago at no cost. It was God who had inspired her to write songs and perform them for anyone who would listen. Certainly it was His will, then, for her to invest her talent and increase her skills.   But playing Chopin and Rachmaninoff was not what He had in mind. She had heard His instructions clearly. Yet she did not have the heart to quit.

As Hannah continued to devote hours to her classical study, slaving over difficult passages of music, her hands became more and more uncooperative. They would cramp up and refuse to play. Finally Hannah was forced to give up the instrument she loved. But she couldn’t see what was happening. Her fellowship with God was broken, and now she was broken, too.

Still, she was at church each week, and now at camp leading youth in Bible study. Part of her knew she had no business teaching while she herself was unrepentant, but she had yet to admit it.

Now she was alone with God, though. No pretense. Hannah strolled through the carpet of leaves in the Lord’s presence until she arrived at the rear of the chapel, and stood in front of the door. “Open it,” God said. But the door had been locked for the duration of the camp. Why had God led her to a locked door? “I open doors that no man can shut,” He reminded her.   So she reached her hand out and twisted the knob. It opened.   The room was filled with rows upon rows of metal chairs. But she could see among the clutter, in the corner of the room, there was a piano.   She sensed God drawing her toward it.   He encouraged her to lay her hands on it and assured her, “I will restore you.”

Hannah’s tears poured out as she finally let go.   She had missed this feeling of release in her Father’s arms. She felt clean and unashamed. There in that room, time seemed to stop, but Hannah knew that soon the campers would be gathering for their evening worship service, and she would be expected on stage.   She stood up and wiped her eyes, trying to calm herself. Casey could see as Hannah arrived at the microphone that she was emotional. “You need to sit out tonight?” he asked. “I can do this,” she determined.

That night, singing to Lord was a natural outpouring.   Even if her voice was trembling, her worship was heartfelt. After the song set, Casey placed a large piece of bread in Hannah’s hand. It was time for communion, a fitting expression of Hannah’s newly revived devotion. But Hannah held the bread hesitantly. Being gluten intolerant, she knew what wheat products would do to her, especially a chunk the size of her whole palm. So Hannah apologized to God for not taking the Lord’s supper, broke off a negligible corner and dipped it in the communion cup as it passed.   She felt God urge her, though, to eat the rest. She winced at the notion. She had already come to accept that she would never be healed of gluten intolerance.   She was ready to live her life “disabled”. So she argued with God about the bolder of bread in her hand as if he didn’t know what He was doing.   Suddenly, Hannah heard the audible voice of her mother, “You will eat what I put in front of you.” In that moment, she felt God fill her with confidence.   She smiled wryly at the bread and consumed the whole thing. She savored the taste. The soft, spongy bite felt good going down her throat. But it didn’t take long before her stomach protested. Just a twinge at first, the pain escalated until her digestive tract was on fire. But Hannah was sure that God was working in her. She felt God holding her up through the pain. “I’m healed,” she said to herself. “God has promised this to me: I’m healed.”

When morning came, she felt refreshed and more energetic than usual.   Something was different. The campers and counselors packed their bags and boarded the vans. On their way back to Houston they stopped by Whataburger for breakfast. Hannah searched the fast food menu for the few gluten-free items served there, but she heard God’s voice again, “You have a long drive ahead. Eat a biscuit.” Bread had led to pain the night before. Still, she had to trust Him; biscuit it was. And this time, the inevitable cramping never came. Not after the next meal, or the next, or the next, even as she continued to include gluten. She was no longer intolerant.

Over the next few weeks, Hannah eased herself back into an unlimited diet. She had to get out of the habit of scrutinizing labels and going hungry while her friends were eating. She had to retrain herself on how to live with no disabilities. Looking back, she finds it funny that retraining was necessary: “You have to train yourself to live under a burden. You have to: burdens are heavy! But then when you lose the burden, you have to train yourself to walk with your spine straight. You have to remember that you walk in freedom rather than bondage.   You aren’t confined to the worn path in the grass anymore: there’s a whole meadow to romp in! Sometimes I forget about the meadow because the path is so easy. But I am one without chains; I ought to dance more often. I don’t have casts on my wrists anymore; I ought to play my piano more often.   Bread doesn’t make me sick anymore: I ought to eat a sandwich.”

The Jewelry of Heaven

Written by: Cynthia Butler

Julie picked up the cross that her grandfather had given her when she was a child. She reached around her neck fastening the chain, as she did every day. The golden pendant would glint in the light of the sun as she walked to work. She wore it prominently just above her heart. It was not a fashion statement. It was an act of faith.

The necklace might have been what caught the eye of the man who walked into the call booth that morning. She wore no head covering, no burka, no ring in her nose; instead a cross hung above the collar of her shalwar kameez. He recognized right away she was not a Muslim like most of the other Pakistani girls he knew.

“Are you a Christian?” he asked her pointedly.

“Yes, sir.” She answered.

“Are you a Christian?” he inquired again.

“Yes, sir.” She replied. When he questioned her a third time she exclaimed in frustration, “Didn’t I tell you so?”

She began to feel the pressure rise; it was like the heat of her father’s scorn. “You’ll bring shame to the family,” he had predicted. She was the first born; a daughter, not a son as he had hoped. “You’re nothing,” he had insulted her repeatedly, but that just made her want to prove him wrong. She had hoped to go to school and become a doctor, but after her mother took ill and her father broke his back the financial burden of the household fell on her. She had to lay aside her dream and work long hours to provide for her family. At only 16 years old she already carried more stress than many, but living with an abusive father had not made her doubt herself, and living as a religious minority had not made her doubt her God.

“You know Christians are going to Hell, and you’re living your life in the gutter,” the man told her.

Julie looked at him directly. “I know where I’m going,” she assured him.

“If you change to Islam,” he continued, “your life will be better. You will live like a queen. You will have everything.”

“I have everything,” she countered. “God gave me two hands, two feet, a perfectly healthy body. I can work. I have everything.”

“You work for so little money. If you change to Islam everyone will support you,” he claimed. Julie had heard this promise given to others before her. Sometimes a desperate Christian would convert to Islam in order to earn financial security. At first their decision would pay off. But in a month or so the support would cease and they would be on their own again. Regardless, she didn’t plan to sell herself or her faith for money.

“I don’t need anybody’s support; I can support myself,” she declared.

Undeterred, he laid money on the table hoping to bribe her to convert. “I’m trying to save your soul,” he pressed. When she declined him again he warned her “I’m giving you one last chance. You know that you’re going to Hell.”

“I don’t need your chance,” she refused, “I know where I’m going.”

Seeing that she would not be convinced with money or words, he turned to force. The man grabbed her and tried to rape her, but she slapped him. Throwing his money in his face, she asserted, “I’m a girl, but I’m not weak. Get out of here.”

“I’m giving you one last chance,” he repeated laying even more money in front of her. “Take all this and change to Islam. I’m trying to save your soul. You’re living in the darkness.”

“I know I’m living in the light,” she defied him.

“So you think Islam is in the dark?” he challenged her.

“You said so,” she confirmed.

Julie’s heart was pounding as the man stormed out of the building. He was gone, but was he gone for good? She had slapped a man who towered over her. She had proclaimed her Christian faith and had refused to turn to Islam.   She was bold, but she was scared. She sat alone in the call booth, trembling, waiting for her boss to return. 10 minutes. . . 20 minutes . . . 30 minutes; her employer was still gone. Finally, Julie heard the door open, but it wasn’t her boss. As she turned her head to look toward the door she saw the violent man coming for her again. This time he carried an open bottle of acid in his hand. He slung the liquid toward her. She raised her hand and turned her head, but it was too late. The liquid slapped against her face and her arm, burning as it dripped down. Just then, an accomplice rushed in and yanked her hair back.

“We’re going to destroy the mouth that said ‘no’ to Islam,” the first man growled, holding the bottle of acid only inches from her face. Julie thrashed her body, struggling to wrestle free of their grasp, but the two men restrained her. She felt the acid running down her throat like fire in her esophagus.

Her attackers fled the building, and she ran screaming into the street. A lady from one block away heard her cries and came to her aid. She threw her head covering over Julie and led her to her house. Julie’s clothes were melting. Her skin was still smoking. She was walking through a nightmare.

The men who had attacked Julie were soon caught. They told the police and the crowd that was gathered that Julie had insulted Islam. With this one statement they were released, and the crowd turned against Julie. She had been taken to a hospital for treatment, but the angry mob threatened to set the hospital on fire if she stayed there.

“We’re not going to treat her,” the doctor decided. “We’re not going to put other people’s lives at risk for her.” So Julie’s family moved her to a different hospital, but they also refused to treat her. When a third hospital gave the same answer Julie’s mother ardently reasoned with the doctor, “When you got your degree, you swore that you would help whoever needed help, not only people who are Muslim. And now, she’s a Christian and you’re not going to help her?”

“She’s going to die anyway, so what’s the point of it?” he questioned her.

“She’s going to die,” her mother conceded, “But still, she is breathing.”

It seemed futile to him. He knew it might even be dangerous, but he finally had mercy on Julie and agreed to treat her. For 20 days the nurses put IV fluid in her veins and honey on her wounds. For 20 days the doctor told Julie’s family, “She’s going to die today.” On the 21st day, he was right.

Julie lay helpless in her bed. She could not talk, see, or move, but she could hear. Of all the faculties she lacked, she might have wished that her hearing was one of them on that final day of her life. But she heard every word her father said to her mother, and she could give no reply. The people of the town had been calling Julie every bad name they could think of. Even her uncle had talked about her as if she were a slut. Her father was tired of hearing all the insults.

“The doctor said she’s going to die. And if she lives she wouldn’t be able to speak or see. I’m not going to feed her for the rest of my life. Let’s throw her out of the window,” he proposed. “Nobody will know who did it.” His words cut like a knife. All of the suffering that Julie had undergone up to that point did not compare to the sting of his hatred. At once her heart was inflamed with hopelessness. She could hear her mother franticly resisting his murderous plan, but the damage was already done. Everything that once was hers had been taken from her: her beauty, her independence, and now at last, her will to live. God was the only one who could hear her heart as it swelled with anger.

“Why did You do this to me?” she protested. “I stood up for You, and You made me go through so much. I don’t want to hear one more word. I don’t want to live this handicapped life. If You care about me a little bit, take me.”

That night Julie’s condition worsened until she couldn’t breathe. She was in such pain; she thought that God was punishing her for blaming Him.

“You are making it so difficult for me because I said bad things about You. Just think how I felt when people were saying bad things about me.” But God was not punishing her; He was answering her prayer. Her body quickly began to shut down, and finally her heart stopped beating. Her life ended. The doctor pronounced her dead.

Julie’s spirit passed into God’s presence, and she felt peace that she had never experienced. There in the stillness, she wished that she could take back the things she had said to God, but He did not speak to her judgmentally. He spoke with words of comfort. And while Julie’s family prepared to take her corpse for burial, God proceeded to enlighten her about all the things He still wanted her to accomplish on the earth. Then Julie’s spirit returned to her body, full of heavenly encouragement; ready to start a new life. Her mother was standing beside her weeping when, all of a sudden, she saw Julie’s toe twitch.

“She’s alive!” her mother exclaimed.

But the doctor dismissed it. “That’s not possible. I have 35 years experience. There is no way.”

“No, she’s alive!” her mother repeated.

“You just saw your daughter die; you got shocked,” he assumed. “You’re crazy.”

Undaunted, she persisted, “No, I’m not crazy; she’s alive!” Her mother begged the doctor over and over to give her oxygen; finally he agreed, just so that she would leave him alone. The nurse applied the mask, and Julie’s mother waited expectantly. She listened to the hiss of the oxygen and watched her daughter’s motionless chest. 15 minutes passed. Julie gasped! Her mother called the doctor over immediately. He saw her lungs expand with air. He heard the sound of her breath. His mouth dropped open. The devout Muslim was flabbergasted.

“Whatever she believed is beyond my thought,” he confessed “I’ve never seen anything like that.” What a source of joy these words were to Julie when her mother recounted them to her later! All the pain seemed worth it. God had shown his power and vindicated her faith with a miracle that could not be explained.

But the angry mob still wanted her dead. They heard the news that she had passed away and come back to life. It would be an insult to Islam if she survived, they thought. So they came to the hospital armed with guns. The doctor informed Julie’s mom of the plot. “It’s not safe for her here. Take her somewhere else,” he advised.

They left in haste and found a hospital that was willing to admit her, but the doctor didn’t think she would survive, nor did he wish her to. Over and over again he would state matter-of-factly that she would never see again, never speak again, and never move her hand again. It was disheartening to hear his negative prognosis day after day for 3 months.

“There is no improvement. If she lives she will be handicapped,” he said.

Julie started crying and praying to God, “You gave me a reason to live. You want me to fulfill your purpose, but how? How am I going to do this? I can’t speak; I can’t move my finger; I can’t even see. Living a handicapped life- that’s how I’m going to fulfill your purpose?”

Julie began to feel a burning sensation. It was different than the burning of the acid. It was an urge to move. In her discouragement, she resented this new discomfort. Was God putting her through more suffering because she had complained to him about her limitations? She thought, if only the fan could be turned on then maybe the burning would subside. But she could not let anyone know her need. She had to try to accomplish it herself. Without even realizing what she was doing she began to move her arm. For 20 minutes she struggled to pick up her hand and each time she did, she promptly dropped it again. At last, Julie got hold of the side of her bed and pulled herself up. Her wounds were open and bleeding. But the burning she felt was more powerful than the pain from her injuries. She stiffly turned and rose out of bed groping the wall blindly for the string that controlled the fan. She managed to turn it on, but it didn’t make a difference. A patient’s family member saw her standing against the wall and exclaimed, “She’s going to fall!”

Julie’s mother ran to support her, crying out in joy to the doctor, “See. You said she would never be able to move. Look she’s moving!” Julie was struck with humility and gratitude. “I’m sorry I doubted you,” she prayed. She could see that God was beginning to restore her.

But the doctor was still pessimistic: “So what. If she’s moving, that doesn’t mean that she can talk or see. That doesn’t mean anything.”

Julie listened to the doctor’s skeptical assertion even as she was still confessing her own lack of faith. She had been guilty of unbelief, too, but hearing the doctor’s denial made her mad. “I wish I could talk to this doctor right now, God,” she thought. “I would tell him, ‘you went to medical school for 5 or 10 years, but who gave you a brain? Who gave me eyes when I was in my mother’s womb? Who gave me a voice when I was in my mother’s womb? If He can do it then, He can do it now.’” Julie longed to say all this to the doctor. She moved her lips forming the imagined monologue. To her surprise, she heard with her ears the same words she had heard in her mind. It was her own voice speaking them. Julie was overwhelmed. She stopped talking and began crying.

Her mother burst into tears and hugged her daughter. “She can talk!” she rejoiced.

The doctor still refused to be impressed. “So what,” he reiterated. “That doesn’t mean she can see.”

As Julie sat there and wept, her eyes started to itch. She had been bleeding and hurting all over; those sensations had been overshadowed by the excitement of her healing. But when she noticed the itching she began to pull bandages away from her face. “I see the light,” she marveled.

“You don’t see the light. You feel the light,” the doctor suggested. She insisted, but he would not believe her. He took a pen out of his pocket and held it in front of her. “What am I holding?” he tested her. “You’re holding a pen,” she answered. Then he raised two fingers, still unwilling to accept the proof he already had. “How many fingers am I holding up?” he asked. “Two fingers,” she responded. Julie’s mother was standing nearby, and Julie saw that she was wearing the color orange. “How many times have I told you, I hate that color? Don’t wear that dress,” she told her mother. The doctor was so mad that he stormed off. Her faith flew in the face of his own beliefs and those of many of his countrymen, but he had nothing left to say against her. How could he argue with God himself and the miracles He was performing?

It would be a long road to full recovery. More persecution awaited her (even attempts on her life), surgeries, and exile. But what God had given to her, no one could take away. And where the golden cross had hung around her neck, there was a new and lasting display of faith. It was a scar- perhaps the jewelry of Heaven. Nail marks were imprinted in the hands of Jesus, even in his resurrected body. So, too, Julie wears a badge of honor on her skin, and it is beautiful in the eyes of God.