December 31, 2014
Although I have experienced the presence of God most all my life, I had a unique experience at the age of 16, which I believe to be a call to surrendering my whole life to serving Christ. This call came with a question – Lord Jesus, how will you accomplish this call in my life? I knew there were many nuns and priests in my family tree – so a clerical call was not unusual. But my parents wanted me to have a family, and so I waited for God to provide the way. Nevertheless, I said yes to Jesus that day – and waited for his guidance.
When I was in my early 20s, I spent much time in prayer and fasting. I began to study the Bible for the first time, and I started with the Acts of the Apostles. I got through the first three or four chapters, and I began to weep. At that moment I realized the importance of holy living, and God had called me to be a role model for the people to follow. My work was to proclaim holiness of heart and life, and I have been living into that calling ever since.
There are three experiences in my life that have confirmed my call to proclaim the Gospel of Good News. First, the story of my grandfather who repented at the end of life has helped me to comprehend the Biblical meaning of forgiveness. Second, the story of my friend Joann, whom God placed in my path before she died suddenly at the age of 30, has helped me to comprehend the importance of sharing the Gospel at all times, places, and circumstances. Third, the stories of abused children and their families helped me comprehend the importance of whole families living right before God.
The first story that confirmed my call was my grandfather. While I was in high school, my grandfather had become addicted to prescription drugs. During one of his binges, he threatened my life. In that moment my response was to confess Jesus as Lord, and proclaim the Good News of the Gospel to him very boldly. If I was going to die, I expected him to come to repentance and stop abusing my family. And, my grandfather walked away instantly without harming me. When he was on his deathbed some eight years later, he called me to his side and asked for forgiveness.
This became the confirmation to my calling, and the seedbed for my ministry. I was able to preach repentance and forgiveness at a maximum-security prison in Virginia in March 2012. Because I had lived through the abuse and repentance of my grandfather, I was able to preach repentance and forgiveness to a Women’s Retreat in Tennessee in September 2014. Because of my experience, I was able to pray with an 18-year-old boy who killed his 9-month-old daughter with his bare hands and bring him to repentance through the act of remembering his baptism.
There’s another man who changed my life, and that’s my husband. We met in college and were married, then eventually had two children. College became a time of separation from my family to stand on my own two feet, and live righteously, and my husband helped me. With the birth of our children and the strength of our marriage, I grew stronger in my convictions for righteous family living. Through my call, God has compelled me to disciple my children to worship Jesus whole-heartedly and live righteously.
The second story that confirmed my call is about a colleague named Joann. I came to know her through a Bible study I was leading for co-workers. She had never been married, and she lived with her physically abusive, drug-using boyfriend. As we began to get to know each other, we would have our coffee breaks together to talk about Jesus. This went on for several weeks. On Friday of the third week, I became overwhelmed with pain, and Joann drove me home. As Joann drove me home that day, I shared with her my commitment to God and prayer. Joann and I prayed, and the pain stopped. That day I invited Joann to recommit her life to Jesus, and she said she’d give it some serious thought.
When I got out of the car, I knew that Jesus had given Joann a special opportunity. The next day at the age of 30 Joann died in her sleep. At the funeral I discovered that Joann had been raised in the United Methodist church. She had been a faithful church attendee for most of her childhood and youth years. But the day before her death, God had intervened in her life and provided an opportunity for Joann to return to God. God’s Spirit gives life.
After Joann’s death, I talked with my pastor about my call. I realized I had an obligation to God and the church. God had called, I had answered, and now I needed to make myself available to the Body of Christ for service. My pastor suggested that I attend Asbury Theological Seminary. My experiences in the classroom and in community confirmed my calling for social and personal holiness that began within the homes of families who needed Jesus.
While a student at Asbury, I explored my gifts and graces at local churches. It was a wonderful time of growing in Bible study and prayer. After many years of barrenness, I became pregnant with our daughter. My fondest memory in seminary is being in Dr. Mercer’s homiletics class – eight months pregnant – and preaching from Mary’s Song in Luke’s Gospel quite unexpectedly as the passages were chosen by alphabetical order. Having a child brought complications of illness, and I had to step away from the class work. Then we were surprised with an unexpected pregnancy, our son. Because my call is to bring social and personal holiness to families, I was compelled to be a stay-at-home mom so that I could devote my time to modeling service in the church and community.
After my children began school, my husband and I were compelled to return to Asbury to complete the task that we were assigned. I had to finish my education. In 2008 we sold our home, paid off all our debts, and headed to Wilmore, Kentucky. During the time at Wilmore, we suffered a financial hardship when Doug lost his job, had an accident, and suffered with a pinched nerve that required back surgery all within a few months.
The third story that confirmed my call is the stories of abused children and their families. At the end of my studies I took the Clinical Pastoral Education component just in case I needed it for UMC ministry requirements. While in the hospice setting and at the hospital, I experienced my call being “satisfied” through helping troubled people find Jesus. I spent four years working in the hospice and hospital settings. The most significant work related to my call has been with families of abused children and co-sleeping incidents. I find that parents and grandparents are anxious to get right with God after a crisis that leads them to the hospital, especially that ends in death of an infant.
The story that stands out the most is the story of Baby Ryan, a child who died in a co-sleeping event. I spent two intense days with this family who discovered that they needed Jesus after all. The baby’s father (dad) had been raised Catholic but the grand-dad (dad’s dad) had been abusive, even got involved in illegal drugs then went to jail. Dad was discouraged and angry with God, even tried other religions. By the end of it all, Dad asked me to help him raise his kids to become Christians. He realized that the one thing he was missing in his life was God, and he wanted to give this gift to his other children. He asked me to baptize his children. He wanted to attend my church and hear me preach. He told me that he wanted to hear more about the Jesus I knew. That’s when I knew I had to say yes to full-time preaching.
These handful of stories have confirmed for me my call to preach the Gospel of Good News, and to spread social and personal holiness in families wherever I am. Over the course of my call, God has touched my heart with many of the prophetic texts of the Old Testament. But if I were to choose a Scripture that fits my calling best, it would be from Mark’s Gospel, “… Jesus came into Galilee announcing God’s good news, saying, ‘Now is the time! Here comes God’s Kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!” May God give me the grace to fulfill this call upon my life to love the Body of Christ in preaching, teaching, and serving God’s people called Methodist.