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Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Presence

Day 25: Christmas Presence

Meditation (3-5 Minutes)
Begin by being still before God. Read Psalms 42:1-2,5-7 and meditate on the words.

Psalms 42:1-2, 5-6 (NIV)
1-2 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. 5-6 Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

1) Be still and know he is God.
2) Allow your soul to pant for God “as a deer pants for water.”
3) Today, on Christmas Day, thirst for the Presence of God.
4) Enjoy the living God.
5) Put your hope in God.
6) Praise Him, your savior and God.

Prayer (5-10 Minutes)
1) Ask God to speak to you during this devotional time.

2) Requests of the Christ Child (Appendix 1):
a) Oh God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost…
i) I praise your Holy Name today.
ii) I worship you.
iii) I love you.
iv) I long for your presence like a deer longs for water.
b) Give me your joy on this Holiest of Holy Days.
c) Fill me with your power today.
d) Take away my difficulties today so that victory over those difficulties will be a witness to your power and your love in my life.

3) Gifts from the Christ Child (Appendix 2):
a) I am still.
i) I feel your presence.
ii) I feel your love flowing through me.
iii) I have your peace.
iv) Thank you.
v) You have made me worthy of your presence by “The Gift” you gave on that first Christmas.
b) I stand amazed at your presence this Christmas Day.
c) Forgive me when I am so far from you that I lose this amazement.

4) Gifts to the Christ Child (Appendix 3):
a) Holy Father, I offer myself to you today.
i) Mold me.
ii) Shape me.
iii) Do with me as you will.
iv) Let no word come out of my mouth unless it is your word.
v) Let me take no action unless it is your action.
b) I offer my gifts to you.
i) Bless them.
ii) Use them as a witness to your mighty power.
iii) Use them to demonstrate your love for the people receiving them.
c) Merry Christmas, Dear Father.
d) I will not be afraid today to “tell the world” of your presence.
e) Today, I claim your presence in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
f) Amen.

5) Ask God for knowledge of his will for you this Christmas and the power to carry it out.

6) Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.

Bible Study (10-15 Minutes)
The Jewish people knew for centuries that Messiah was coming. They taught their children to look for him. They were waiting. Jesus fulfilled all of the hundreds of prophecies. A few of them are included in this Bible Study. In spite of the strong evidence, most of the Jewish people missed “The Gift.” They became so angry, disturbed and threatened over the possibility that he was “The Gift” that they crucified him. But alas, even that, was predicted. Today, most Jewish people are still waiting for a Gift that has already come.

Before you feel too smug, look around. Today is Christmas. It is a day we have set aside for celebrating “The Gift.” In most homes, presents given will have little to do with “The Gift” and God’s presence. Today, as you go through your day, do not miss “The Gift.” Spend your day celebrating “The Gift” of his presence. Look for the special gifts that “The Gift” has planned for you.

Background Scripture
Read Isaiah 7:14. Centuries before Jesus was born, he was predicted. What was the “sign” of the Christ Child? (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read Luke 1:26-27. How did God fulfill the prophesy from the book of Isaiah? (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read Micah 5:2. Where was the predicted birthplace of Jesus? (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read Matthew 2:1-2. How did God fulfill the prophesy from the book of Micah? (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read Jeremiah 31:15. What is Jeremiah predicting? (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read Matthew 2:16. How did God fulfill the prophesy from the book of Jeremiah? (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read Luke 2:38. Not everyone missed the Christmas presence. Whom did Anna tell about the Christ child? (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read Matthew 2:2. Unexpected people recognized and worshipped “The Gift.” Who were they? Can you think of others that recognized the Christmas Presence? (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read Matthew 2:3-4. How did most people feel about “The Gift?” (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read Matthew 2:11. Today, join the Wise Men and bow down and worship him. Open your Christmas presents and offer them to the Christmas Presence.

Read Matthew 7:11. If you ask and watch, Jesus will send you a special gift today. Keep you eyes open. Do not miss your gift from “The Gift.”

Don’t Forget The Baby

A young seminary student spent many of his evenings gathered in a basement set aside for the recreation of the seminary students. There with his friends, he talked, played, and dreamed dreams.

The young man graduated, fell in love, and married. He began preaching in his first church. Just before his first Christmas at his first church, he and his wife had their first child. His seminary friends were excited and wanted to celebrate the birth of his son. They decided to meet back in the same basement where they had spent so much time together.

His wife was a little nervous about letting her new baby leave for an evening with a “bunch of guys” but eventually agreed. When this young preacher arrived at the basement, he saw a room filled with balloons. There was cake and gifts for the child. They sat the young baby in the middle of the table and played with him. The father opened gifts and everyone except the baby ate cake. Eventually, the baby went to sleep. They moved him over to a quiet corner of the room.

The years slipped away and suddenly they were young seminary students again. They talked about old times. They played the games that used to entertain them. They caught up with each other’s life and spun new dreams until the middle of the night. Finally, they realized it was past time to go home. Reluctantly, they stood up.

The young preacher climbed the stairs with his friends. He made it all the way upstairs and out to his car before he remembered the baby. In a panic, he rushed back to the entrance, tore down the stairs, to find his son still sleeping peacefully.

As he got back in his car, he smiled ruefully. Perhaps his wife’s concern about him going off with the baby was valid. He thought about the purpose of the party. It was for the baby. He had accepted and opened the gifts on his son’s behalf. He had even carried them to the car. He had left and forgotten the baby. Suddenly, he knew he had his first Christmas sermon.

Application (5-10 Minutes)

1) Making It Personal
a) In your journal, write a birthday message to Jesus.
i) Wish him a Merry Christmas.
ii) Offer him your presents in worship.
iii) Ask for the Christmas Presence throughout the day.
iv) Thank him for being “The Gift.”

2) Praying Continuously (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
a) Read the Christmas Story sometime during the day.
b) Ask God to interpret what you read and to make it meaningful to everyone around you.
c) Tell every person that receives a present from you that it is in honor of the Christmas Presence.
d) Tell people that you love them with the love of Jesus.
e) Tell people that Jesus loves them.
f) As you go through your day, experience the Christmas Presence.
g) Look for the customized Christmas Present the Christmas Presence will give you.

3) Ending The Day
a) Thank God for his Presence.
b) Review Christmas Day.
i) Was it worthy of the Christmas Presence?
ii) What changes do you need to make next year?
iii) Confess if necessary.
c) Sing the carol, “Away in a Manger.”

Monday, December 17, 2012

I Need a Baby Jesus

Meditation (3-5 Minutes)
Begin by being still before God. Read Psalms 150 and meditate on the words.

Psalms 150 (NIV)
Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!

1) Be still and know he is God.
2) Praise the Lord.
3) Praise God in the sanctuary of your heart.
4) Praise his mighty heavens.
5) Praise him for his surpassing greatness.
6) Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord.

Prayer (5-10 Minutes)
1) Ask God to speak to you during this devotional time.

2) Requests of the Christ Child (Appendix 1):

a) For Christians, every personal encounter we have may be part of God’s master plan to lead someone to Christ.
i) Ask God for opportunities today.
ii) Ask God for the willingness to be obedient.
iii) Ask God to help Jesus show through your life.

b) Pray for the people in your life that do not know Christ.
i) If you have been shy or reluctant to share about Jesus, confess.
ii) If you have become impatient with their progress, confess.
iii) If your impatience has made you anything less that loving and kind, confess.

c) Appendix 1: Pray and update.

3) Gifts from the Christ Child (Appendix 2):

a) Is the Baby Jesus a part of your Christmas celebration?
i) If yes, praise him.
ii) If no, read the plan of salvation below.

b) Praise God for continually knocking on the heart’s door.

c) In Appendix 2, list evidence that God is always knocking.

4) Gifts to the Christ Child (Appendix 3):

a) Offer your heart to him.

b) Offer to be his witness:
i) To the people you meet today.
ii) Through gifts you give this Christmas.
iii) Through the celebrations of Christmas.

c) Appendix 3: Pray and update.

5) Ask God for knowledge of his will for you this Christmas and the power to carry it out.

6) Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.
Bible Study (10-15 Minutes)

Do you have the Baby Jesus? I am not asking if you believe in Jesus. The question is, “Do you have him?” Has he changed your heart and life? Do you know him intimately? Is he a part of your Christmas celebrations? Is he making a difference for you today? Can the people in your life see him through you?

If you have the Baby Jesus, the next question is, “Are you sharing?” We learned to share in kindergarten. This Christmas, are you sharing the Baby Jesus?

Background Scripture

Finding the Baby Jesus is simple. Below is the plan of salvation. If you do not have the Baby Jesus this Christmas, I pray you will read it and apply it to your life. If you do have the Baby Jesus, I pray you will share this plan with others.
Plan of Salvation

1. Read John 3:16. God loves us and has a plan for our life. What is his desire for everyone?

2. Read Romans 3:23. Our own tendencies as humans separate us from God. On our own, we make mistakes that hurt others and ourselves. What does the scripture say everyone has done?

3. Read Romans 5:8. Jesus came to earth to show us how to live. Through Him, we gain forgiveness for our past and direction for our future. What did he do for us? Did he wait until we were worthy to give us this gift?

4. Read 1 Corinthians 15:3-6. How did Jesus demonstrate overcoming death and offering us eternal life?

5. Read John 14:6. God gave us a clear road map to him. Who is Jesus? What is the way to the Father?

6. Read John 1:12-13. If we believe in him, what is our right?

7. Read Revelations 3:20. He is always standing at the door of our heart and knocking? How do we let him in?

Many are insecure telling others about Jesus. Read Matthew 17:20. What does God promise?

I Need a Baby Jesus
I interviewed Sue for a position and realized instantly I liked her. We worked side by side for several years, becoming close friends. She is fun, beautiful, and unbelievably loyal to those she loves.

Sue was not always the way she is today. She had difficult childhood. She grew up in a family that had struggles and addictions. As she became older, she began choosing the path that most of her family chose. This path took her on a long and difficult journey through the hells of addiction. Sue’s captivity to alcohol followed the typical pattern. She found herself deep in the dark pit of addiction. Addicts have three choices: death, insanity, or recovery. She chose recovery. In her pain, she prayed a simple prayer, “Help.” God heard her and granted her request. She admitted she was powerless over alcohol and that her life was unmanageable. She got the help she needed and became sober. She takes her recovery seriously and does what ever it takes to continue it, one day at a time. When I met her, she was leading a productive and full life.

Our wonderful and gracious God meets people wherever they are willing to meet him. Sue was willing to cry out to God and ask for help. She was willing to turn her life over to God. She was unwilling to believe in his Son, Jesus Christ. All God asks is for us to have the faith of a tiny mustard seed. Because she asked, God restored Sue’s life to one of sanity and health. God is patient. He gently led Sue towards his son’s forgiving love and power.

I knew Sue believed in God. I also knew she was not a Christian. I prayed for her daily. Because she was on such a Godly journey, I knew that journey would eventually lead her to the truth of Jesus Christ. I trusted that her courage would allow her to accept the truth of God’s plan for us. I trusted that God would convict her. I asked God. “What should my involvement be?”

His answer, “Wait for the right time.” I am action oriented and waiting is difficult for me. In September of 2000, our company hired a consultant to help with training. That consultant, Karen, went to my church. Karen had just headed up our church’s participation in the Billy Graham Crusade. Because of that campaign, her heart was prepared for evangelism. Sue had to work closely with Karen on the work project. Sue liked Karen. She mentioned how special Karen was and how grounded she seemed.

God whispered, “It is time.”

“Sue, you are seeing Christ in Karen’s life,” was all I said. I thanked Karen for being a witness to Sue. Karen began praying for Sue right then. During the course of the next year, Sue and I had a few brief conversations about Christ. I had to let her set the pace. I shudder when I think of the damage pushing could have done. This was my lesson in patience and faith.

Sue had a couple issues that needed prayer during this time. She asked our church to pray. The church was faithful and followed up on her issues. God was faithful and miraculously answered the prayers.

On morning of September 11, 2001, Sue and I were having work pressures. People were flying in from all over the country for a business planning session. They were all due to arrive at noon. The CEO of our parent company was on a plane heading to Jacksonville. We saw no way to get everything done. Sue and I were frantic and snapping at each other. Sue looked at me and said, “We need to pray the Serenity Prayer and calm down.” We both love this prayer. I completely agreed. She shut my office door. We held hands and prayed together: “God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the different.”

As we finished praying, someone knocked. “You had better watch the television.” We arrived at the TV in time to see the second set of the Twin Towers hit. We all stood together stunned and crying. Our company gathered and prayed. People from all religions and beliefs participated in this prayer. Sue and I thought we were praying for “serenity, wisdom, and courage” to host a business planning session. How our perspective changed the moment the plane hit that building.

As CEO of the Jacksonville Subsidiary, I had my hands full. Because she worked directly with me, Sue had her hands full. There were 35 people heading to Jacksonville on airplanes. Their families began frantically calling. We had no answers for them. Employees had relatives in New York and working in the Pentagon. We had family members of the military working for us. One had a military husband that had shipped out the night before. All day, we had to deal with the terror of the people around us. We began the process of systematically finding our employees. Praise God that they and their family members were all safe. Most of them spent the day on an airplane on the ground.

In the middle of this mayhem, Sue came into my office. Weeping, she said, “This is like Armageddon.”

My heart began pounding, a sure sign that God wants something from me. I stopped what I was doing. “Sue, Armageddon is going to be much worse than today.” I briefly described it. “Are you ready for it?” I asked.

“I think so,” was her hesitant answer.

“Sue, the Bible says you have to believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior for you to be ready.”

She gasped and simply said, “I guess I’m not ready.” We went back to work. As bad as things were that day, I knew the conversation with Sue was the most important thing I had been involved with. I wondered if I should say more but felt I should leave it alone for now.

For the next couple of months, Sue and I talked off and on about Christianity. Knowing she was a singer, I invited her to sing in our church’s Singing Christmas Tree. To my astonishment and delight, Sue agreed. I prayed for her that Christmas. I hoped singing the words of the Christmas Story would lead her to Christ. I confess to being slightly impatient and discouraged with God’s timing. Again, God gently reminded me to trust him.

Sue loved singing on the tree. The people in the choir fell in love with her. They began surrounding her with the love of Christ. She was faithful to the choir and an asset to the performance.

Karen had continued praying and was excited that she was singing in the choir. In January 2002, Karen helped start a “Seeker’s Group” at our church. A Seeker’s Group is for people seeking God in their life but who have questions. She seemed interested but made no commitment. Several people from the church also and invited her to this group, including Karen. “Are you asking people to call me,” Sue demanded.

I laughed. “You are going to have to blame that on God. You have made your own friends at Southside Baptist Church.”

Our Singles Minister, John, introduced himself to Sue. Sue liked him and secretly named him “John the Baptist.” One of the singles in our church, Jan, befriended Sue. John and Jan took Sue to lunch. They maintained contact with her. Sue laughed and said, “I am going to have to join the ‘Seekers Group.’ Too many people have invited me.” As she participated in the “Seekers Group,” her friendship with Karen grew. They occasionally met and talked privately. Karen offered prayer and support to Sue through this process.

The “Seekers Group” took on the challenge of Sue’s bold questions and challenges. Sue is outspoken and a bit stubborn. They did not judge her. Knowing Sue well, I knew this group had their hands full. Sue struggled with the news that Jesus was the only way to heaven. “I do not like the idea that a loving God has hell as an option. And how can Jesus be the only way to heaven?”

Finally, a very mature Christian, Dave, in our church challenged her. He asked, “What is it that bothers you Sue? Does it bother you that it is true or does it bother you that we said it?” Dave was afraid he had been too firm. Sue has courage and appreciates honesty. She still had difficulty accepting the reality of hell from a loving God but she courageously continued to “seek.”

Sue knew God was working in her life. There were too many coincidences. At one point, I realized that Sue did not know the simple “how” of becoming a Christian. She was making it much too complicated. I shared with her that all she had to do was to confess her past, believe in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and ask Jesus into her life. We talked through the simple plan of salvation.

I offered to pray with her when she was ready. “Thanks for the information,” was all she said. I gave her a spiritual tract that had the plan of salvation in it. Sue was amused at how hard I working not to push.

In April, I lost my job. Sue and I were devastated and cried together. How painful it was to give up working side by side. I left on my trip, Pocket Full of Quarters. For months, I traveled across American, talking to people about God. I felt badly leaving Sue in the middle of her “seeking” but God was in charge. Sue and I talked often.

Church members continued to reach out to her. Her friendship with Karen deepened. She developed a deep respect for “John the Baptist.” She continued going to the “Seekers Group” and asking questions. As I traveled, Sue gave me updates on how God was working. She went in a public bathroom and someone had left a spiritual tract identical to one I had given her. “Sue, you might as well give up and accept the truth. God is not going to let it rest.” She laughed at my impatience.

God is so wonderful. During this process, Sue began dating the man who is now her husband. Rick is a Christian. Early in the dating relationship, Sue asked him, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior?”

His simple answer was, “Absolutely.” I came back to Jacksonville briefly to celebrate my 50th birthday. Sue came to the party and gave a wonderful present. “When you finish the journey, Pocket Full of Quarters, I want to come to your house and ask Jesus into my life.”

Again, I was impatient. “Let’s do it now.”

She smiled. It can wait.” I considered cutting my trip short but God told me to be patient. I finished the journey. That day after I returned home, Sue came to my house. We sat on my back porch looking at the moon and the water. She brought her Bible. We walked through the plan of salvation. Sue marked the scriptures in her Bible. She read the Bible aloud.

We came to places where I knew she struggled. Timidly I asked. “Do you believe what you have just read?”

She smiled and said, “Now I understand it. The ‘Seekers Group’ explained it. Ray from work also explained one part to me.” We held hands and prayed together. We laughed and cried as she prayed, “Lord Jesus, come into my life.”

The next Thanksgiving, Sue called to say she loved me. “This is my first Thanksgiving as a Christian. I am grateful for Christ in my life.” The next Christmas, Sue sang in “The Singing Christmas Tree” as a Christian. This year, she understood the words.

“How is this Christmas different for you?” I asked.

“When I went to put up my Christmas decorations, I realized I had no decorations of the Baby Jesus. I became frantic to get a Baby Jesus. I had found Baby Jesus in my life. I needed a Baby Jesus for my Christmas decorations. Rick bought me a Nativity Scene that had a Baby Jesus. This Christmas, I worship Baby Jesus.”

Application (5-10 Minutes)
1) Making It Personal

a) Are you a Christian?
i) Have you turned your life over to Christ?
ii) Are you willing to ask Jesus to reveal himself more fully to you?
iii) If you are not a Christian, be courageous. Take the following challenge. Write the simple prayer, “Jesus, if you are real, make yourself abundantly clear to me.” Sit back and watch.
iv) If you are a Christian, be courageous. Take the following challenge. Write the simple prayer. “Jesus, remove anything in my life that is keeping me from having the best possible relationship with you.” Sit back and watch.

b) What is your story regarding the Baby Jesus?
i) Write down all the people and the events that helped you along the path.
ii) List pastors, teachers, workers, friends, family, and anyone else that had a small part of your personal story.
iii) List life-changing events that got your attention.
iv) How did you respond?

2) Praying Continuously

a) As you go through the day, notice each encounter.
i) Remind yourself that you may be part of the master plan for God working in someone’s life.
ii) Act accordingly.
iii) If there is an opportunity, big or small, to represent Christ, take it without fear or hesitation.

b) Pray continually for each person you meet.
3) Ending The Day
a) What came between you and Christ today?
b) Did you share the love of Christ today?
c) Repent and confess.
d) Ask for more of the Baby Jesus this Christmas.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Happy 30th Birthday Sweet Bethany - Get Well

Happy Birthday sweet girl. Get well quickly so you can have a proper celebration. Bethany Edwards Patterson and my granddaughter Ava Touchton are birthday buddies. On November 30, 2012 Bethany turned 30 and Ava turned 5. Bethany is beloved by so many, my family included. She is the youngest daughter of my best friend, Nancy Edwards, so I have loved Bethany since she was born. Bethany is a Christian, married to Rev. Wayne Patterson, and has the kindest spirit of anyone I know.

I write this in honor of her birthday and to ask for your prayers on her behalf. Today, she celebrates her birthday from Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida, where she is fighting to save the kidney that that a friend gifted to her seven years ago. I wrote about Bethany’s kidney transplant in my book, Pocket Full of Christmas. The name of the chapter that contains her story is Peace in All Circumstances and she is a model for that. As a birthday tribute to her, I am including that story below.

I ended her story by saying, “After a transplant, life has all the ups and downs of riding a roller coaster. You take blood levels several times a week and hold your breath waiting for results. You go to routine checkups wondering if you will be hospitalized again. Twice Nancy has called and calmly said, ‘We’re back on the roller coaster.’ Each time, the doctors solved the problem and Bethany came home from the hospital healthy again.”

They are back on the roller coaster again. Let’s all agree in prayer that Bethany will come home from the hospital healthy again. Please pray for our darling Bethany. You can follow her condition and pray for her by reading her husband’s blog “Jesus is Worth It.”

Bethany's Story: Difficult News At Christmas
From Pocket Full of Christmas – Having a Purpose Filled Advent, December 21: Peace in All Circumstances – Page 150

“Bethany’s going to need a kidney transplant,” the doctor gently informed a distraught mother and daughter.

“But she’s so young. She’s only twenty. Surely there’s another answer,” Nancy, her mother, argued. Bethany had one kidney removed at birth. A progressive kidney disease was causing Bethany’s remaining kidney to fail rapidly. While she had struggled with some health issues most of her life, this dire news came as a blow.

Bethany was a college student and enjoying normal campus life. She was a good student, a Christian, and her beautiful elf-like face glowed when she spoke. Although many young people stopped attending church when they left for college, not Bethany. “I get strength from church and my Christian friends. Of course I go to church,” she said.

Nancy has been my best friend since high school. We often joke that Bethany is the perfect daughter. Bethany always laughs and says, “I’m far from perfect.”

Bethany grew up in a Christian home. Her father, Barry, a full-time Christian minister, is on staff in a large church. Nancy plays violin in the church orchestra. Bethany has one sister, Allison, who loves her, and would gladly donate a kidney. My sense of fairness says this family has done everything right, so why were they facing a kidney transplant? It seemed particularly unfair to visit so many doctors at Christmas.

Concerned, I asked Bethany how Christmas was going. She looked surprised. “It’s going great. I’ll enjoy Christmas just as much as ever. I believe my doctors when they say that many people with a kidney transplant go on to have a family, career, and full lives. I trust God with my future. Doctors do make me nervous, but I go anyway. My main worry is Allison. I don’t like it that my illness might cause her pain.”

Bethany’s mother, Nancy, depended on prayer to get them through this. After getting the news, she immediately asked her church to pray. While normally very independent, she allowed friends to help. “I can’t go through this alone,” she said. Nancy trusts God with Bethany’s future. “I won’t allow any thoughts except Bethany coming out of this healthy and whole. She will have a good life. There will be a kidney for Bethany.” What some would call denial, others call faith.

The next year was difficult medically, with many trips back and forth to the doctor and hos¬pitals, some of them emergencies. You aren’t an official transplant candidate until your kidney function drops to a certain level. Waiting on that to happen is like being in the final stages of a difficult pregnancy, wondering when labor will start, and if the baby will be okay. Just before Christmas the following year, the doctors announced it was time.

Unfortunately, Allison’s kidney wasn’t a match. “I’m not worried,” Nancy said. It was tempt¬ing to put Bethany on a list for a cadaver donor but Nancy stood firm. “Cadaver transplants are riskier and require higher doses of rejection drugs. We will find a live donor. Someone will be a match.”

Anxiety overtook me. I knew people who had been on a transplant list for years. Yet, I should have trusted God more.

A friend of theirs fired e-mails to everyone he knew, asking for prayer and a kidney. Donna got one of those e-mails. Donna hadn’t seen Bethany in 5 years and immediately called Nancy. “I’m the one. I want to be tested first. God has told me I’m going to be a match. No one else needs to get tested.”

Again, I doubted. “What are the chances?” I warned Nancy. “Don’t get your hopes up.”

“Cheryle,” Nancy scolded. “Don’t cause me to doubt.” She was right. I was feeling protec¬tive and didn’t want her disappointed. I resolved from that moment forward, I was going to offer faith instead of doubt. Sure enough, Donna was a perfect match. The doctors wanted to schedule the surgery immediately, but Bethany put her foot down.

“I want to get through Christmas first. I’m also going to a Christian retreat in January with my friends.” Nancy and I both fretted over this, but Bethany was insistent. “I’ll be fine,” she said calmly. “This will be the last chance I’ll get to be with some of these friends because they’re graduating. I need this retreat.”

Bethany breezed through Christmas and enjoyed her retreat. She returned home spiritually centered and ready to face the future. She checked in the hospital, surrounded by family and Pocket Full of Christmas friends. I counted over thirty people in the waiting room when she had her surgery. “Go home,” she gently scolded. “I’ll be fine.” She hated worrying everyone. We stayed anyway.

As I write this 6 months after the transplant, Bethany and the donor are doing well. Donna never lost her sense of purpose or humor. When asked why she was willing to do this, she said, “When God tells you to do something, you’d better do it.” “I’m blessed that God picked me.” Donna is feeling great and is back at work.

After a transplant, life has all the ups and downs of riding a roller coaster. You take blood levels several times a week and hold your breath waiting for results. You go to routine checkups wondering if you will be hospitalized again. Twice Nancy has called and calmly said, “We’re back on the roller coaster.” Each time, the doctors solved the problem and Bethany came home from the hospital healthy again.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sample Christmas Devotional - Godly Fellowship

Below is a sample Chapter from Cheryle Touchton's Christmas Book, Pocket Full of Christmas - Having a Purpose Filled Advent. You can order it on Amazon and get a second one for free by e-mailing Cheryle.

Day 1: Godly Fellowship At Christmas

Morning Meditation (3-5 Minutes)

Begin by being still before God. Read Psalms 46:20 and meditate on the words.
Psalms 46:10 (NIV) Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.
o Be Still.
o Clear your mind.
o Breathe deeply.
o Sit quietly.
o Know He is God.
o Feel his presence.
o Let his presence envelop you.
o He is exalted among the nations and on the earth.
o Feel his power.
o Surrender to his power.
o Claim his power.

Prayer (5-10 Minutes)

Ask God to speak to you during this devotional time.

Appendix A - Requests of the Christ Child
o Pray for the Christmas season.
o Pray for the Christmas worship services and celebrations in the community.
o Pray for your church and your Christmas celebrations.
o Pray for our Nation during this holiday period.
o List any specific events/concerns that need continued prayers.
o Pray for needs.
o Pray specifically for the people in your lives.
o Pray for your church.
o Tell God your concerns and needs.
o List any specific requests that need continued prayers.

Appendix B - Gifts from the Christ Child
o Think about your blessings this Christmas.
o Praise God for his blessings.
o List your top three blessings.

Appendix C - Gifts to the Christ Child
o Ask God to help develop that gifts given to anyone is a gift to the Christ Child.
o Ask God what gifts he wants you to give this Christmas.
o Prayerfully, fill it any gifts you plan to purchase between now and Christmas.

Ask for knowledge of his will for you this Christmas and the power to carry it out.
Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.

Morning Bible Study (10-15 Minutes)

Christmas is a time for fellowship. We fellowship with God, families, friends, and our church. God tells us, “It is not good for you to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) Healthy loving hearts need fellowship. If we fellowship with God and open our eyes and look around, God will send us people with whom to have deep and intimate fellowship. We read his word to learn about Godly fellowship.

Background Scripture
The background Scripture is Luke 1:1-56. Open your Bibles to the familiar passage. Today’s devotion studies the fellowship between the two Godly women God chose to begin the very first Christmas. We will study how Mary and Elizabeth fellowshipped with God and each other. We will study the following aspects of their fellowship: Love, the Holy Spirit, God the Father, and Jesus Christ.

God chose two very unlikely women. Elizabeth was too old to have a child. Mary was too young and innocent to have a child. They were both a “disgrace” by their world’s standards. Elizabeth’s disgrace had been her barrenness. Mary’s disgrace was that she became pregnant before she married.

Our Holy God loves to do the unexpected. The world judged them unworthy. God judged them most worthy. He chose Elizabeth to bear the son that would tell the world about the Christ Child. He chose Mary to bear His son.

Background - Elizabeth
Read Luke 1:5-7. Elizabeth had been married for many years to Zechariah. Both Zechariah and Elizabeth were descendents of priests. They lived blameless lives. Zechariah was faithful to his priestly calling. Their religion taught them that children were blessings from God. People assumed the inability to have children was a sign of God’s punishment. Elizabeth and Zechariah were most likely the subject of gossip and/or questions. How do you think Elizabeth felt about being barren?

Read Luke 1:25: Elizabeth desperately wanted children. She pleaded with God and had faith he would answer. She waited and most likely held her breath each month. She probably felt shame and disgrace over her barrenness as the years progressed. Miraculously, God finally answered her prayers. How does she feel now?

Read Luke 1:16-17: God had planned her blessing for years. He gave more than she asked. Her child was special. What was her son’s purpose?

Background - Mary
Mary was a young woman with the same dreams that other young women had. She was faithful to God. We see from her questions to the angel that she was intelligent, confident, and faithful. She was a woman of honor and purity. Mary was engaged to a kind Jewish man named Joseph. She expected to follow in the footsteps of the faithful people that had taught her how to live and love.

Read Luke 1:29-31 and Luke 1:12-13: Again, God does the unexpected. An angel named Gabriel appeared to her, changing her plans. Gabriel had been very busy. He had also visited Zachariah, announcing Elizabeth’s pregnancy. What would your reaction be to a visit from an angel? Not surprising, Gabriel frightened both Zachariah and Mary. We can only hope Gabriel does not take our reactions personally. He seems to be used to the reactions because he had his response ready.

Read Luke 1:34: Gabriel told Mary that she was going to bear the son of God. Mary’s parents had obviously told her the “facts of life.” Why was Mary confused?

Read Luke 1:38: In the end, she humbly accepted the will of God. She even rejoiced in the news. What was her answer?

One can only imagine the conversation with Mary’s mother. “An angel said what?” Mary must have been tempted to ask Gabriel to come back and explain this situation to her mother. We do know that Mary left her home in a hurry. (Luke 1:39)

Read Luke 1:43-44: Mary went straight to Elizabeth’s house. Here we have one of the most beautiful demonstrations of love that is recorded in the Bible. These women shared their faith and joy. They quoted scripture and worshipped God as they talked. They encouraged one another. Elizabeth rejoiced at Mary’s arrival. What did she say to Mary?

Baby John was not going to be left out. What did he do?

Holy Spirit
Read Luke 1:41-42: True Godly fellowship includes the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Because the Holy Sprit was a part of their relationship, Elizabeth understood the situation before Mary even told her.
God, The Father

Read Luke 1:46-47: True fellowship includes worship of the Holy Father. Mary and Elizabeth praised God together as they sang and quoted scriptures. “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God, my savor.” Enjoy the words of their worship service.

Read Luke 1:42: The final piece of true fellowship is Jesus Christ. Jesus was the point of Mary and Elizabeth’s fellowship. What were Elizabeth’s words to Mary?

Application (5-10 Minutes)

1) Making It Personal
a) List the people with whom you will fellowship the most this Christmas. (write your answer)
b) Whom do you love? (write your answer)
c) With whom do you share Godly fellowship? Which relationships include the presence of the Holy Spirit, worship of God the Father, and the love of Jesus Christ? (write your answer)
d) Which relationships need improvement? (write your answer)
e) Ask God to help you improve your relationships.
f) What can you do to improve your relationships? (write your answer)
g) If you are lonely and need more fellowship, write a letter asking God to meet your needs. Ask God to send you one new person today. (write your answer)

2) Praying Continuously (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
a) Pray for those closest to you at lunch, dinner, and at bedtime:
b) Tell at least one friend how important they are to you.
c) Look for his answers throughout the day.

Ending Each Day With God

a) Ask God to help you with your fellowship with him and those closest to you.
b) How was your fellowship on this 1st day of the Christmas season?
c) Confess your failures and claim your victories.
d) Decide to apologize the next day, if necessary.
e) Praise God for his fellowship this Christmas.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Cheryle, My Missionary

By My Aunt Ka Ka - Catherine Mosely Herrington

Cheryle is a Missionary
That travels from place to place.
Meets the needs of many people
In the human race.

She tells them what God has done for her,
That changed some of her plans.
He changed her so completely,
As she followed His demands.

Go for it Cheryle, you can tell the world.
You are strong and life is good.
Meet the needs of the Human race.
I always knew you could.

Be there when they need you,
Like I feel you are for me.
“Thank you God” for placing Cheryle
In my family tree.

She usually tells me where she’s going next.
I pray for mission.
I get excited over her trips,
And pray for her protection.

Stay strong for the trips!
Be careful too!
Because of our love,
And affection for you.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Dress For Success

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. Rom 13:14

In the 80’s, I was a young female corporate executive leading mostly men. In an effort to be successful, I read the book “Dress for Success.” The primary principle of the book is power dressing – dressing in a way that is most likely to give you the influence you need to be successful. As soon as I read it, I rushed out to buy expensive navy suits, white blouses, maroon bow-tied scarves, and simple navy pump styled shoes. It really did seem to make a difference.

When I went into ministry, I quickly learned to dress another way. If I wore my navy suit while evangelizing in a mall, I would intimidate everyone I was talking with. A navy suit speaking to a group of young Christian mothers simply didn’t work. I started studying what worked with my new calling. Dressing casually for evangelism was best but if I didn’t wear makeup and jewelry, people assumed I was homeless and were scared of me. I check out the “dress code” for the churches I speak in. This includes issues like theological views on makeup, dresses or pantsuits, and unbelievably, even panty hose. My rule is to respect the belief’s of those I’m serving. However, I still have clung to the basic rule of “dress for success.”

Recently, I had an epiphany. I’ve had many powerful Divine Encounters stretched out on a massage table. Trust me, on a massage table, I’m not “dressed for success.” I have a couple of physical problems that massages help with. My calling is often very physical so Bob and I have decided to budget for everything that keeps me moving and that includes occasional massages.

My most recent massage was at a resort in Coronado Island in California. I always go into a massage hoping for a quiet relaxing time. Sometimes, God has other plans. Resort massages are more expensive than I am comfortable with but I was in pain so Bob and I decided to book a massage. As much as I was paying for the resort massage, I really hoped this would be one of those “quiet times.”

When I went in, we exchanged introductions. She asked why I was here and I answered that my husband was at a conference and I had joined him to do ministry. She didn’t inquire about what kind of ministry and I didn’t elaborate.

The first half of the massage was what I had hoped for. She carefully and quietly worked out each sore spot in my body. About half way through the massage, she asked, “What kind of ministry do you do?”

I felt it – the surge of the Holy Spirit. I knew right then, covered only by a sheet, that the Holy Spirit was already at work. This woman and her husband were saved before they were married. She knew she was going to heaven and why. They had never gone to church since they had been married. Their oldest child was 10 years old and she was feeling very guilty about not taking her children to church. Not only was this a Divine Encounter, it was the hardest I face – exhorting.

“Your children don’t know Jesus,” I said sharply. “You do but they don’t.”

“I tell them about Him and take them to church on Christian holidays.”

“Have they invited Jesus to be their savior?”

“No,” she said. “I asked them about going to church but they don’t want to go. I keep telling my husband we need to take them to church. They are so busy with competitive dance and sports that I hate to force them to do another activity.”

I was firm. “Do you give them a choice about school?”

“No,” she said.

“Knowing God is way more important than school. I used to teach music and know the advantages to competitive arts events but teaching our children about Jesus affects their eternity. When your son turns 16, you are going to need a good youth group to help him because you may not be able to influence him. Trust your mother’s heart. Yes, I know you want your husband to lead spiritually but trust your heart. Your children need Jesus and church. Nothing is more important than that.”

My words hurt her – but in a way I knew was effective. There on that table, without the benefit of my power suit, I wielded the power of the Holy Spirit exhorting one of His beloved children. I only told her what she already knew – she admitted to feeling guilty about not going to church. She didn’t say another word and I knew I didn’t need to say another word. We finished the massage and I paid her. All she said was, “Thank you.” The painful but true words were still doing their work in her soul. Yes, when I evangelize, I give the Good News of the Gospel. Speaking to Christians not living for Christ is entirely different and often God calls Christians to deliver tough words of exhortation.

I still believe in being dressed for success and will still respect the cultures of the places I speak, but for Christians, being dressed for success means being clothed with Christ Jesus and giving His message.

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Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Sting Operation - Bumblebees for Jesus

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor 15:56-57

On Halloween night, Bob and I decided to eat on Orange Ave on Coronado Island, California. We knew people would stroll by in costume so we asked for a table out on the sidewalk. When a bumblebee buzzed to our table to ask if she could serve us, I was charmed. Her yellow and black winged costume was adorable and without the sensuality that most of the costumed wait staff portrayed.

We chatted each time she returned to our table bringing menus, taking orders, checking on us, offering dessert (which we declined), and finally settling the bill. We discovered she had been married a year. Her parents had moved up north almost as soon as she married and she missed them. Her sweet smile lit up the room and she admitted that while she didn’t feel like a grown up yet, she guessed she was. She sheepishly admitted to already “partying a little too hard” for Halloween so she had no plans to go out later. She and her husband knew that God needed to be involved in their marriage so they had started going to a church I was familiar with and knew offered the pure and holy Gospel.

"It is a good church," I said. Because of her sweet spirit and church attendance, I guessed our bumblebee wasn’t worried about the “sting” of death so I almost didn’t ask. When she brought our check, I felt that “sting” of the Holy Spirit to tell her about victory in Christ Jesus.

“I’m glad you are going to church,” I said as I handed her a credit card. “It is a great way to start your marriage. If I asked you where you are going in the next life, I’m guessing you know the answer.”

Her eyes widened. She looked as if she had been stung. Then she said hesitantly, “I hope I am going to heaven.”

“It certainly beats the alternative,” I joked, hoping to lighten the mood.

“It does,” she agreed, relaxing a little.

“When you get to heaven and God says, “You are an adorable bumblebee but is there any other reason I should let you into heaven, what would you say?”

She stood there, deeply troubled. “I don’t know. I guess I need to give that some serious thought.” She got quiet and I was sure she was thinking about “partying a little too hard.” I could see it on her face. She knew she didn’t deserve heaven.

“It sounds like you believe in Jesus – his birth and resurrection,” I encouraged.

“Yes,” she said. “I do.”

“The reason you are hesitating about heaven is that the Bible says we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are sinners and we know it.”

“You’re right,” she agreed, looking at the floor.

“The wages of sin is death. That is the bad news. The gift if God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. My favorite line in the entire Bible is that all who call on the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved. You don’t have to hope about heaven. May I lead you in a prayer calling on his name?”

“Please,” she begged. She repeated my words, confessing her sin and her belief in Jesus. She invited Jesus into her life to be her Lord and Savior.

When we finished, Bob said, “Cheryle, tell her about the angel party.”

I laughed. “The Bible says that when someone meets Jesus, all of heaven throws a party. An angel party is way better than a Halloween party.”

“I’ll bet,” she agreed.

“Have you ever been baptized?” I asked.

“No,” she said.

“The term for what you just did is ‘born again.’ The Bible says unless you are ‘born again,’ you can’t enter the kingdom of heaven. I want you to tell your church about being ‘born again.’ They will know why it is important and help you with what is next. We get baptized out of obedience so you will probably want to do that.”

I left her information, paid the check, and we left. The Sting Operation: Bumblebees for Jesus was successful.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Came For Halloween - Left With Jesus

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: Rom 5:20 KJV

Satan had big plans. Abundant Life Church had bigger plans. Satan’s plan was to use Halloween to bring people to Athens, Ohio to do his bidding – to participate in activities that destroy lives. Abundant Life Church’s plan was to claim the power of Jesus to “snatch and rescue” these people from the deceitful, deadly claws of the Evil One.

Satan sent his invitations and Abundant Life sent theirs. Satan may have had more people attending but Abundant Life Church had the mighty power of Jesus behind them. Evangelists from Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio joined forces with Pastor Bob Gall and Abundant Life Church. Several ministries joined Abundant Life Church, including Riley Stephenson with Kenneth Copeland Ministries and Pocket Full of Change Ministries. This is the third time this year I've evangelized with Riley and I continue to be amazed at his gifting. We worked as one team. We trained, prayed, armed ourselves with the word of God, and a group of about 15 people marched into battle to give the gospel to witches, goblins, zombies, and vampires. We spoke scripture to people blowing cigarette and pot smoke into our faces and staggering from too much alcohol consumption. We gave Good News to many people, were kind when people were rude, and showed the love of Christ when our human flesh wanted to recoil. We weathered the rain and cold, grew hoarse from shouting the Gospel over the various bands playing at the event, and shuddered at the foul language coming out of so many painted mouths. The result - 105 people came for Halloween and left with Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

How can people find Jesus in the middle of so much debauchery? Truthfully, my human side cannot understand it. The only answer I have is that the Bible says where sin increases, grace abounds. I believe it because the Bible says it and because I have witnessed it many times. People are simply more likely to receive Jesus when they know they are sinning.

Why is Abundant Life Church willing to subject themselves to the torture of so much debauchery? The Bible says to go into the world and give the Gospel. The Ohio Halloween Block Party represents “World” and all of its trappings about as well as anywhere I have ever visited. Abundant Life Church is obedient.

Why would Jesus care enough to die for a world attracted to so much debauchery? I don’t understand it myself but I am eternally grateful that God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Signs and Wonders

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands. Acts 14:3 KJV

“By the way,” read the text. “My sinus trouble cleared up right after you prayed for healing.”

I read the text in wonder. When my friend told me he was sick, I immediately prayed for healing. God had indeed sent a “sign and wonder” to affirm His power and the power of His word. I thought back to my own ignorance regarding the gifting of signs and wonders when giving testimony unto the word of his grace. I simply didn’t understand the power the Bible promised would be granted to me. I didn’t have the faith that what I prayed for would be done and without faith, it is impossible to please God.

For the first few years I traveled as an apostle and evangelist, I didn’t pray for people to be healed physically. I ministered but didn’t exercise what was my right and responsibility under the word of God. Then I sat through an evangelism class with Riley Stephenson with Kenneth Copeland Ministries. He encouraged us to lead people to Christ and then ask them if they had any physical needs that needed prayer.

I told my mentor Rev. Ron Fuller, who was also in the class, that I didn’t pray for physical healing with people.

Surprised, he asked, “Why not?”

“Oh,” I explained. “I don’t have the gift of healing. You and Riley do but I don’t. I don’t want to mislead people.”

“Cheryle,” he said. “When you are giving the gospel, you can claim healing under your evangelism call to give testimony to the power of God. The apostles often prayed for healing as they traveled. It was a Biblical demonstration of the signs and wonders of God.”

I must admit that I was dubious. We left after the class to go evangelizing at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival so I couldn’t confirm Ron’s words in my Bible. Because I trust his Biblical knowledge and understanding, I decided to try it. I led a young woman to Christ. Afterward, I asked if there was anything else I could pray for.

“My sunburn,” she said. She had red hair, was fair skinned, barefooted, and wearing a very skimpy bathing suit. She was beet red from the roots of her hair to the tips of her toes.

Feeling a little foolish, I laid hands on her and prayed for sun protection in the name of the Jesus she had just invited to be her Savior. As we said, “Amen,” two young men ran up, both carrying bottles of sun screen, and in a wild spraying frenzy, they covered her entire body in sunscreen, including the part in her hair. Without saying a word, they ran off.

“Wow,” said the woman, her faith and decision to accept Christ completely affirmed. “I guess prayer really works.” Yes, God had demonstrated his power through “signs and wonders.”

I did go home to check out the scriptures regarding signs and wonders. They are promised 56 times, starting in Exodus and going through the book of Hebrews. Yes, God does promise that power to those of us giving the Gospel. If the Bible says it, I believe it and that is the end of that. If I believe it, I certainly am going to claim it.

Since then, when giving the gospel, I’ve prayed for many things. I pray with the authority that it will be granted in the name of Jesus Christ. I depend on prayer for myself. When I got sick just before the Ohio Halloween Block Party, I asked for prayer in my Facebook Intercessory Prayer group. When Rev. Ron Fuller and Riley Stephenson both messaged that they were praying, I had no doubt that I would be well enough to do the event. I was and I was not surprised.

If you are like me, you may wonder why God does not heal or send a “sign and wonder” every single time we ask. I asked God about about that. His answer, “Trust me. I know what I’m doing.” After all, God knows when a “sign and wonder” is necessary to demonstrate His power. Who am I to question Him? Watching “signs and wonders” in wonder is one of the many benefits of being obedient to the call to fulfill the Great Commission.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

But I Have Tattoos

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Cor 5:17

I remembered the swing as soon as I saw it. I remembered sitting by the lake with Belle and my Bible talking and listening to God. The last time I was there, Bob was with us. I let the sweet memories rush through me. I couldn’t wait for my morning devotion time. I was at my favorite campground, James Island in Charleston, South Carolina.

Morning finally arrived and Belle and I headed to “our” swing. We hadn’t been there 5 minutes when Jeanette walked up. Jeannette had left the semi she was camping in to wander down by the lake for a smoke. I noticed the tattoos right away. Identifying tattoos and guessing why people have them has become kind of a hobby. Some are drug or mood-altering tattoos – mushrooms are especially popular right now. Then there are religious, gang, Satan, prison, zombie, vampire, theme, relationship, and Wicca – to name just a few. The theme tattoos can be categorized as well – music, nature, politics… Some choose one category and others mix and match to turn their body into a canvas portraying who they are and what matters to them. I suspected Jeannette’s were prison tattoos and I was right.

Jeanette’s face had the leathered look of someone who worked outdoors and sure enough, she was currently a ranch hand from Nebraska.

“Is she a Sheep Dog?” Jeanette asked about Belle.

“She is,” I said.

“May I take a picture for my daughter? She loves Shelties. I’m traveling with Rottweilers but I hate them.”

When Belle sees a camera, she knows just what to do. She delighted Jeanette by sitting and cocking her head at the camera. Jeanette knelt and hugged Belle.

“If you hate Rottweiler’s, why are you traveling with them?”

“They belong to a friend. That is her semi over there. We are staying in it. I came because I wanted to see Charleston.”

“Do you go to church in Nebraska?”

“My daughter has been trying to get me to go to church. I’ve tried a few where I live but I have tattoos. They don’t want me. I like my daughter’s church but it is too far to drive every week.”

I knew it. I knew this was her moment to meet Jesus. I could feel it. Her daughter was praying for her and trying to get her into church. Jeanette was seeking something – trying to keep her life on track.

“I’m sorry they rejected your tattoos,” I said. “A church is supposed to love you like Christ loves you. What about eternity?” I asked. “Do you know where you will spend eternity?”

“I hope heaven,” she said, hanging her head low. “But I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve been in trouble.”

“You’ve been to prison,” I confirmed. “I can tell from your tattoos.”

“Yes,” she said, sighing. “I’m working on a ranch now. My daughter is helping me. I’m trying to live right.”

She didn’t know it yet but her entire destiny was about to change. Her daughter’s prayers were about to be answered. I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit so strongly that I could hardly get the words out as I quoted scripture and invited her to meet Jesus. Without hesitation, Jeanette agreed to pray.

“I can feel it,” she said when she finished praying. “I can feel it!” Her eyes flooded with tears and her hands were shaking.

“That is the Holy Spirit,” I said. “My pastor preached a sermon on Sunday talking about getting on the team and getting out of the huddle. You are now on Team Jesus. Getting out of the huddle and onto the field will be up to you. Somewhere, there is church who will celebrate what has just happened to you. Christ sees you as holy and pure. Find a church who loves you. Get involved, baptized, and begin reading your Bible. Call your daughter and tell her what happened to you.”

When I called Bob to report in, he said dryly, “Typical morning for my wife – alone in the woods with a cigarette smoking, tattooed, ex-con.” He and I both knew that was no longer Jeanette’s identify. She is a new creature in Christ, who makes all things new.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Sometimes I Go With Grandma

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 2 Tim 1:5-6 NIV

You would be surprised at how many times I hear, “Sometimes I go with Grandma.” Most recently, I heard it on the University of North Florida’s college campus. On college campuses, I introduce myself and ask where they are from. I follow up with asking if they have a church back home. Most college students I meet do not have a church back home but many have a grandma who occasionally takes them to church.

“What is the name of the church your grandmother goes to?” I ask. They seldom know. “What flavor is it?” I ask. They always laugh. They know what I mean. They usually don’t even know the denomination or religion. My night at University of North Florida’s campus was no different. All that college sophomore knew was that Grandma’s church was some kind of “Christian” church. When I mentioned church, she instantly thought of Grandma.

When I asked this lovely co-ed and her friend where they would spend eternity, they answered that they “hoped” heaven. They had tried to be "good." Good – “but not perfect."

“Heaven sure beats the alternative,” I quipped. They agreed. I asked, “Do you believe in Jesus?”

“I do,” the sophomore nodded. Her friend agreed. If young people have been to church with Grandma and listened to Grandma’s Jesus’ stories, they probably have some kind of belief in Jesus and “hope” they are going to heaven. Thanks to Grandma, it was easy to lead that UNF sophomore and her best friend into a “relationship” with Jesus. Two salvations happened in under 10 minutes because of the faithfulness of one grandma.

“I can feel it,” one said with surprise when we finished praying.

“That is the Holy Spirit,” I said, knowing that it was the Holy Spirit she was missing. “Please call your grandma and tell her you prayed to receive Jesus,” I encouraged. “Your grandma has probably been praying for you.”

“Oh, she has. She is always talking to me about Jesus. It worries her that Mom doesn’t take us to church.” I wondered of “Mom” had ever met Jesus personally.

I believed her when she said her grandma was worried. Today’s Christian grandmas do a lot praying and worrying. If their grandchildren don’t go to church, they make a point of working “Jesus” stories into bedtimes, mealtimes, and long car rides. They pray and have others praying as well. They take these grandchildren to church at any opportunity.

While I’m grateful for the foundation that modern day Christian grandmas lay, I often wonder why so many grandmas talk so much “about” Jesus but don’t take that final step and tell their precious beloved grandchild “how” to meet Jesus. I wonder the same thing about the churches these grandmas take their grandchildren to. Why didn’t the churches tell their grandchildren “how” to meet Jesus personally?

Yes, I am aware that this is a bit of a rant but my heart is broken for all the worried Christian grandmas of lost grandchildren. These grandmas fret about why their children don’t take their grandchildren to church and blame themselves. They teach their grandchildren about Jesus, but many never get up the courage to give the simple Gospel and invite their grandchildren to meet Jesus.

My heart also breaks for all of the children who cycle through churches and Christian homes, listening to lessons “about” Jesus, but never meet him personally. They leave church or home without experiencing the peace that passes all understanding. They hear about a God who moves mountains but never meet him. They are told to be “good” but never receive the power that enables them to do all things through Christ who strengthens them.

If you are a grandma reading this and fretting about your grandchildren, certainly keep praying. Teach them Bible stories. Take them to church. But - also talk to them about sin. After all, all have sinned and fallen short. These children already know they make mistakes. Help them admit it. Tell them the truth – that the wages of sin is death. Let them know eternal life is a gift from God and cannot be earned by “being good.” Give them the best news you could ever give – that ALL who call on the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved. Invite them to pray with you. Lead them in a prayer where they confess belief in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Help them admit that they are a sinner and ask Jesus to forgive them. Lead them in a prayer that calls on the name of Jesus – asking Jesus into their lives to be the Lord – the boss – the leader – the Savior of their lives.

Christian grandmas - take a deep breath and just do it. You know you want to. Yes, I know it is hard – but do it anyway. Yes, I know their parents might object but do it anyway. It is the most important thing you could do for your grandchild.

P.S. If you are not sure your own children ever met Jesus personally, if they are still here on earth, it is not too late. I know that this may be even harder but apologize if you didn't make the "how" clear, share the gospel, and invite them to meet Jesus.

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Little Child Shall Lead Them

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

And a little child will lead them. Isa 11:6

“Jesus loves you,” Four-year-old Abigaile told the woman who handed her a free sample. Thursday was “Evangelize with Abigaile” day.

“Awww,” said the woman as Abigaile took her food. “Jesus loves you too.”

“All have sinned and fallen short,” Abigaile continued. “The wages of sin is death. The gift of God is eternal life. All who call on the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved.”

Everyone listened to Abigaile. How could you not listen to an innocent child who loves Jesus with the purity of a whole and undamaged heart? We walked through Target, giving the gospel time after time. When the conversation turned serious, her four-year-old attention span kicked in and Abigaile ran happily back to Mommy.

I didn’t plan to make Abigaile an evangelist. She was born with that desire. I’ve evangelized in front of my grandchildren their entire lives. All three of my older grandchildren eagerly hand out tracts and are interested in the encounters. Abigaile is the one who begs to go out and tell others about Jesus. She asked to be taught the scriptures that convict the heart. At four, it is already clear that she has the gift of evangelism.

I’m fascinated by watching all of my grandchildren’s unique spiritual gifts develop. Each has their own response to the Divine Encounters we have. Abigaile wants to be right in the middle giving the gospel.

Noah has the spirit of generosity and when we evangelize, he enjoys giving money and food to those needing it. He was incredulous when he learned about the homeless. “Gi Gi,” he said firmly. “Let’s go buy all of them homes.” Made sense to me. I explained the concept of needing money and he is already planning on how to make that possible. He also has the gift of leadership and tries to direct our encounters and outings. To his credit, he takes into account the needs and desires of everyone as he plans what we do next. When we are giving out tracts, he is the first to suggest who we give them to. He also tells me where and how to drive. I look forward his gift of leadership maturing.

Ava has the gift of service. When we talk to people, she knows they get distracted so she keeps an eye on their children. She has been a part of more than one “wandering child” rescue. She likes to pick up dropped items for people and hold the hands of younger children when we cross the street. Her insights about people are so deep that I’m starting to suspect the gift of prophesy. She loves to memorize and quote scripture.

Both Abigaile and Ava have the gift of mercy and find the pain of others heartbreaking. Little Frederick is one and I am already seeing signs of leadership and mercy. That will be an interesting combination of gifts.

Yes, a little child shall “lead” them. What fascinates me is that even children “lead” people in their own unique way using their own unique spiritual gifts. God calls all Christians to the Great Commission – to go, teach, and baptize. One of the things I enjoy about helping others learn to share their faith is helping them discover their gifts and how they can be used for the Great Commission. As my grandchildren grow and mature in faith, I look forward to watching Abigaile evangelize, Noah lead, and Ava serve – all with the same goal of fulfilling the Great Commission. I smile when I imagine how those gifts will work together as they lead their generation to Jesus.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Plentiful Harvest

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 2 Cor 2:15-16

If you have followed my blogs for very long, you know that I love Hart Haven Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida. My membership letter has never resided there but it has been the most consistent church in my life. During family crises, their pastor, Rev. Don Cooley, assists us by praying, making calls, offering church food, giving advice, notarizing documents, singing, sitting beside us in hospital waiting rooms, and always always making us laugh. Technically, it is my Aunt Ka Ka and Uncle Bobby’s church but I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve worshiped, partied, eaten, spoken, or played the piano there. This week, I had the privilege of going evangelizing with their pastor, Don, and their pianist, Bill Milligan, (yes – my nephew). We visited the Jacksonville Farmer’s Market and the harvest was indeed plentiful.

The sweet aroma of Christ was stronger than even the sweet aroma of the ripe and ready fruit and vegetables piled high on the tables in the many booths we visited. We had four salvations in an hour. Think about the power of that – four people came for fruit and left with access to the “Fruits of the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22) Not everyone we talked to said yes to Jesus but four people listened, asked questions, thought about it, and agreed to invite Jesus to be their Savior.

Each had a story for how they arrived at that moment in their lives. One man was there with his Messianic Jewish friend. She had given him the gospel of Jesus and prayed for him throughout the years. That day in the Farmer’s Market, God answered her prayers with her standing there.

The most amazing story of the day came right after I had just finished praying with a man. When we said “Amen,” I heard Don ask a woman standing behind me, “Did you pray with us?”

She shyly nodded yes. I went weak kneed by the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. I had not even noticed she was standing there but she had listened to every word and had prayed with us. Thank God, Don was paying attention so we could affirm her salvation. The three of us turned our attention to her and indeed, she was meeting Jesus for the first time. Just hearing the word of God, without even being spoken to directly, had the power to convict this woman of her sins and her need for salvation.

I wanted to shout the words of Hebrews 4:12 from the mountain tops: For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

I wish there was a way to do justice with the written word to what I see when people become the sweet aroma of Christ for those needing salvation. I thank God for Hart Haven helping to spread the sweet aroma of Christ to me.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Holy Ground

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him, Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold. Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground. Acts 7:31-33 KJV

“I am undone by what happened,” my friend John Turnburke said. “I’ve read your stories but I wasn’t prepared for what just happened. I am drained. I feel like I need to take off my shoes. How do you do this all the time?”

Our group of five had just spent a couple of hours giving the Gospel. Four people we met had prayed to receive Jesus. Several more heard the Gospel but said ‘not right now.’ We’d prayed with people for healing and wisdom. It was indeed a night of walking on Holy Ground. We all understood what John meant about wanting to take off his shoes.

I’ve learned not to keep evangelism “newbies” out for too long. Standing in the presence of the Holy Spirit and watching Him change lives is indeed Holy Ground and can be overwhelming. Those of us called to do that full time constantly identify with Moses’ encounter with God when he “trembled” and “dared not to look.” First time evangelists are usually tired after an hour but they never forget the experience and want to experience it again.

If anyone could have been prepared for what was about to happen that night, it would have been John. After all, he has read my blogs since my first journey in 2002. I try to describe what happens on the road by painting word pictures of the light coming into the eyes and what I call the “Holy Spirit Glow.” I post pictures of beaming faces. I write about trembling fingers, tears, arm hair standing up, and hugs and still I cannot find the words for walking on such Holy Ground.

I write about the “drawing” sensation I feel when the Holy Spirit nudges me to give the gospel and what physically happens to me at the moment of someone’s salvation. I describe my trembling hands, tears, and pounding heart. I’ve used words like “electricity” and “power” flowing into me and out of me as I hold someone’s hands. I’ve said that it takes my breath away and that I become weak kneed. No matter what I say, there are no words to describe the feeling of walking on Holy Ground.

Not all encounters are so emotionally charged. Some are intellectual and almost cold. “Evangelism naysayers” often warn me that these “on the spot” encounters can’t all be real. Since even the great evangelists like Billy Graham say that not all people who walk forward to say they’ve received Jesus, really have, I begrudgingly agree. I’ve tried to come up with a heuristic for which ones are sincere and life changing. Is it the emotional ones? Maybe trembling fingers are the real ones. Perhaps my emotional connection with the individual is the indicator. Does a monotone voice or hard face indicate a lack of sincerity? Every time I think I’ve found a formula to understand what is going on between the Holy Spirit and the other person, I get proven wrong so I’ve quit trying to guess about the sincerity of the encounter. I pray before I talk with someone and follow the Holy Spirit’s lead. I give the Gospel – using words directly from the Holy Bible. If someone has a “mustard seed” sized belief in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, is willing to admit they are a sinner in need of forgiveness, and has a willingness to ask Jesus to be their Lord and Savior, I invite them to step up and change their destiny. If they say yes, we pray. If they say no, I give them a tract and move on. My act of obedience in giving the Gospel is Holy Ground, even if the Gospel itself is rejected.

What I do know is that some encounters are so powerful that no one involved has a single doubt about the impact. The night I went out with John and his friends, all of our encounters were that way. Sometimes, it is just like that. Those times make you want to take off your shoes because you know you are on Holy Ground. If you want to be “undone” by the power of the Holy Spirit, let’s go evangelizing.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Not Part of the Heavenly Hosts

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. Matt 18:19 KJV

I was somewhere on I-95 and needed to take a break. I was relieved when I finally saw a rest stop. I noticed Shirlie right away because she looked worried.

“Where are you from?” I asked. Shirlie lived in North Carolina and was on her way to visit her sister.

“She is my only sister left,” Shirlie said. “I thought I needed to go see her.”

“I’m glad you are going,” I encouraged. “My mama just lost her last sister. They were so close. Sister time is precious. Make time for it.”

“My sister is so worried,” she said. “Her six year old grandson was just diagnosed with leukemia.”

“You’re worried too,” I said. “That was what made me stop and talk to you. Do you believe in prayer?”

“I do,” she said.

“May I pray for your family?”

“Absolutely!” She didn’t even know my name or my story yet but we stood in the parking lot of that rest area holding hands and praying for peace for the family and healing for her great-nephew. The power of the Holy Spirit swept through both of us – it was like electricity. When we finished, we were both trembling.

“The Bible says when two agree in prayer, it will be done. We are believing that in faith,” I said and she agreed.

“Who are you?” she asked suddenly.

I knew what she was wondering. When encounters have gotten Holy and intimate so quickly, some have confused these “Divine Encounters” with an “angel encounter.” I’ve actually been asked several times if I was an angel. Even when I denied it, one man wasn’t convinced until he contacted me later via the US Post Office. I guess he figured out angels wouldn’t have a Post Office Box.

I went to laughing and explained what I did and the ministry. I’m pretty sure she was relieved. We had both felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and believe me, she was already weak kneed enough without finding out I was part of the Heavenly Host. I’ve come to expect that kind of power in prayer but it still rocks me every time.

It turns out that we had a lot in common. She was saved. I am saved. We had both grown up Southern Baptist and raised our children in church. She was a widow but like me, she adored her husband. We swapped contact information and she invited me to stay at her home any time.

I have a new friend. I will visit Shirlie and we will go evangelizing together. I also believe her sister’s grandson will be healed. Do you agree with me in prayer about that?

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I Believe

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 KJV

“How long have you been in this country?” I asked.

“Twenty years,” she said.

“Has anyone ever invited you to church?” I asked.

“No,” she whispered. “I would be afraid. Everyone know Bible. I would not know how to act.” Jody was from China. She was my nail tech when I was in Raleigh, North Carolina. In China, she had been Buddhist but she knew the difference between Christianity and Buddhism. She told me that Buddhism was a way to live and Christianity was about God. Guiltily, she added that she supposed Buddha a “kind of god.”

“Do you believe in Jesus?” I asked.

“Of course,” she said. “How could so many people believe and it not be real?”

“Have you heard the story of Jesus dying on a cross and being raised from the dead?”She nodded. I quoted John 3:16, stopping to explain the harder English words. Her eyes lit up.

“Do you know the word sin?” She shook her head. I explained that it was doing wrong things and making mistakes.

“I try to be good person,” she said quickly. “But I not so good. I do bad things.”

“We all do. In fact, the Bible says we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” I took a moment to explain what "glory of God" meant. She nodded eagerly.

“Do you know what the word wages means?” I asked. She did. I went on. “The wages of sin is death. The gift of God is eternal life with God. We do not do deserve it – it is a gift. Do you understand?” She nodded.

“My favorite line in the Bible says, ‘all who call on the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved.' Do you know what Lord and Savior means?

“Lord means God,” she answered.

“Exactly,” I said. “It also means you are agreeing to let God be in charge of your life.” I went on to explain what Savior meant. She was fascinated. We talked about heaven and hell.

"Would you let me lead you in a prayer asking Jesus to be your Lord and Savior? I will tell you what to say.”

I have no words for her eagerness. For 20 years, people in America had talked about Jesus. She had read about Him. She knew many of the details. She walked by churches but was afraid to go in. No one had ever told her how to meet Jesus or invited her to church. She already believed and really wanted to know him. It was so easy –it always is when the Holy Spirit has prepared the heart. All I had to do was tell her what to do. She boldly prayed to receive Jesus – confessing her sin emphatically and asking for forgiveness. She asked Jesus to be her Lord and Savior and beamed at me because she knew what that meant.

I tried to get her contact information but Christian literature being mailed to a Buddhist home is not well received. We talked about Chinese Bibles and she knew how to get one. She even knew where to find a Chinese church. She was still afraid to go but now, she had the Holy Spirit to give her courage.

Pray for Jody. Invite people to church. Be aware of how frightened so many people new to this country are about going to church. Make it easy. Do not be afraid to explain Jesus to someone where English is a second language. Go slowly, speak scripture, explain the hard or confusing words, and trust the Holy Spirit to do the rest.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Encouraged to Evangelize

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thess 5:11

Our friend John Turnburke has followed the adventures of Pocket Full of Change Ministries since Day 1. He was the first to encourage me to go into full time ministry. When we became a non-profit corporation, he agreed to serve on our Board of Directors and encouraged our growth by being the first to contribute monthly. Over the years, his encouraging e-mails, voice mails, Face Book posts, and telephone calls to Bob and me have carried us through the ministry valleys and celebrated with us during the mountain moments.

Up until last week, John had never seen the fruits of his encouragement in action. On Thursday night, he and a group of his friends joined me in mall evangelizing.

As an encouragement to come evangelizing, John bought everyone dinner. I trained the group over dinner, we prayed, and went out to tell the mall about Jesus.

We had walked about 200 feet when we had our first encounter. It was quick, powerful, and the presence of the Holy Spirit rocked all of us. A woman wept and asked Jesus to be her Lord and Savior. We were stunned by what had just happened.

As we continued through the mall, we led 2 more people to Jesus. Both encounters were unique, powerful, and moving. We gave the gospel about 10 times in under two hours. Several more were under conviction and we knew they would pray to receive Jesus soon.

It was getting close to mall closing time. “This is your first time,” I said to the group. “Being in the presence of the Holy Spirit snatching a soul for eternity can be overwhelming. I could do this all night but I know you might be tired. Are you ready to stop yet?”

“No,” they said in unison. “Let’s do this for a little while longer.” I didn’t have to be asked twice.

We walked over to two young women eating at the food court. One beamed as she declared Jesus as her Lord and Savior. The other got tears in her eyes as she admitted she had no idea where she would spend eternity.

As we gave the Gospel, the Christ Follower encouraged her lost friend. “This is what I’ve been talking about. They are saying the same thing to you that I have been saying.”

“Have you been praying for her?” I asked.

“I have,” she said.

“Your prayers brought us here,” I said. “For the rest of your life I want to you remember the power of your prayers.” I turned to her lost friend and invited her to meet Jesus. She agreed and tearfully asked for forgiveness of sin and invited Jesus to become her Savior.

After the salvation prayer, her faithful praying friend looked at us and said, “You have no idea how glad I am that you were here. Thank you.”

“Your prayers brought us here,” I reminded her.

That night, we were encouraged to evangelize by John Turnburke. Four people met Jesus because John encouraged an evangelism event into a reality. Many have met Jesus because John encouraged me into ministry. Having people in my life with the spiritual gift of encouragement is essential for my life and ministry. To everyone who has encouraged me and others to evangelize, I want to say, Thank you. Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. The angels also thank you because every time someone prays to receive Jesus, the Bible says it is party time for the Heavenly Hosts.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

To Church Members Who Love Jesus

Are you a church member who loves Jesus? If you are, I know you care about the people sitting around you. Would you be surprised to find out that many around you in church have never met Jesus? Most of the people I lead to Christ, went to church at some point during their lives but left without ever meeting Jesus personally. When you go to church, look around, talk to the people next to you, and make sure they do not leave church without knowing Jesus. Click on the link to hear stories from just one week of ministry. To Church Members Who Love Jesus

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Have You Prayed To Find It

Aunt Ka Ka
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. Jer 29:12-13 NIV

"Have you prayed about it?" Aunt Ka Ka asked. I was surprised at myself. I'd searched for and whined about my lost watch but I had not asked God to find my watch.

I love my Timex watch.  It has an alarm, tells the time in 2 time zones and has multiple ways to time things.  It does other things as well, but I haven’t figured those out yet.  The best part about my Timex is that it is cheap and if I lose it, I can go to a Wal*Mart Super Center (my favorite store) and buy another. 

I also love my gold watch.  Years ago, when Bob and I were young executives, we bought each other gold watches.  I’m not talking about the color gold.  I mean the real deal – the metal gold.  After years of wear, it still looks the same.  All it does is tell time.  It doesn’t have numbers on it and it runs a little slow but I love it anyway.  When I look at it, I remember that exciting time in our lives when we were just starting our careers.  Unfortunately, if I lose that watch, I most likely will never get another one. 

When I was getting ready to leave for the International Christian Retailers Show, at the last minute, I took off my Timex and put on my gold watch.  I hadn’t worn the gold watch in over a year because the Timex works much better for my current career.  I hesitated as I put it on, knowing the features I would giving up but I figured that if I didn’t wear it for special events like this, there was no point in having it. 

I went through the week being careful about my watch.  I had to remind myself every morning that unlike my Timex, the gold watch didn’t need or like a shower.  I checked the catch on the watch continually.  On the last night of the show, one of the vendors at the show hosted a complimentary offsite dinner and a Cirque de So lei show.  I left the convention center at 5:00 PM and went to my room to work.  The show started at 7:30 PM.  I walked the 3 blocks to the show and checked my watch at 7:00 PM to make sure I wasn’t late. 

I groaned as I saw the line that circled a city block.  It wasn’t moving.  I tried to look chipper as I shuffled past fellow attendees to get to the end of the line.  We stood in the sweltering dry Colorado heat for over an hour and I wondered how the homeless people we passed stood it.  When I got to the front of the line, I realized what was taking so long.  Attendants were taking each person’s cell phone and camera and putting them into small plastic bags with our names taped to the bag.  The bags were being deposited into brown cardboard boxes.  I thought about the precious pictures on my camera and the irreplaceable phone numbers stored in my phone and suddenly wasn’t in the mood for Cirque de So lei.  When I found out they were not serving any food I could eat, that was the last straw.  I along with many others left the line and went in search of dinner.

I headed to 16th Street remembering a restaurant I wanted to try.  As I walked the six blocks, I was struck by the contrast between the emaciated tattered homeless and the suited and stylish elite.  Two men shoved each other while a smartly dressed woman’s high heels clicked past without noticing.  A crying woman with stringy matted hair lay prostrate along a city wall wailing to an unhearing crowd.  When I asked if she needed help, the venomous words that spewed from her mouth sent me scurrying along my way. 

Finally, I arrived at my destination.  Wilted and desperate to sit, I agreed to be served in the bar and asked for water.  As the cool water relieved my parched throat, I looked at my hand and realized my watch was gone.  I searched under my chair and in my bag.  It was really gone.  My hunger and thirst became secondary to finding the watch.  I leapt out of my chair and began retracing my steps without bothering to tell my waitress I was leaving.  There were so many feet along the sidewalk that I could hardly see the concrete. 

I guess misery loves company because I called Bob.  Without even a hello, I said, “I lost my gold watch.”

“What?” he shouted with a voice that echoed what I felt. 

“Did you not hear me?” was my smart reply. 

“How?” he asked. 

“I don’t know,” I replied.

“Where?”  he asked.  Bob isn’t much for words when he’s surprised.

“If I knew that, I wouldn’t be walking the streets of Denver searching.” 

“I thought you were going to a show,” he said confused.  I filled him in on my nightmare in line.  “Why did they want your camera and cell phone?” 

“I don’t know that either,” I said, "But I suspect it had something to do with not wanting us to take pictures.” 

“That’s ridiculous,” he said.  “What did you do for dinner?”

“I haven’t eaten.” 

“But it’s almost nine,” he said worriedly. 

“Bob, I couldn’t swallow,” I responded. 

“I guess not,” he answered sympathetically.  While it took him a moment, he became the supporting spouse I depend on.  “Please stop and eat anyway.  You’re going to pass out.” 

“I can’t stop,” I explained.  “There’s no hope of finding the watch but I have to search.”  I described the homeless to him as I retraced my steps.  It was getting dark and I grew nervous as I turned off the busy 16th street and walked back to where I stood in line.  I stopped a policeman and asked if a watch had been turned in and he just laughed.  When I arrived back to where I had waited in line, I asked the show attendants but they were too busy putting the thousand phones and cameras in alphabetical order to pay me any attention.  Dejectedly, I walked the 3 blocks back to the hotel room with poor Bob still on the phone.  We were both pretending he was protecting me. 

“I’m too tired,” I told him.  “I keep losing things.  I think I’m getting sick.” 

“What are you going to do about dinner?” he repeated for the third time. 

“I’m ordering room service.  I don’t care what it costs.”  He agreed.  We said our goodbyes when I arrived at my hotel elevator.  “I’m sorry you lost your watch,” he said as he hung up.  I took the elevator upstairs and ordered a vegetable salad, six shrimp, and ice water to be delivered to my room.  When the food arrived, I signed the $28 tab. 

As the evening progressed, I cycled quickly through the phases of grief.  I called Bob an hour later with the news that losing the watch didn’t matter because I didn’t like the watch anyway.  “My Timex is better.  I don’t need gold watches any more and now I don’t have to worry about it.  Besides, it hurt my wrist when I used the computer.”  Bob just listened. 

I called him an hour later crying.  Poor Bob.  There was a two-hour time difference between Colorado and Florida.  “I really did like the watch and I miss it.  I didn’t bring my Timex so I don’t even have a watch with me.  Every time I look at my wrist to check the time, I remember it is gone.”  Bob laughed and said he guessed the denial phase of grief was over and I was into depression. 

“I’ll never buy another one,” I whined, secretly hoping Bob would offer to replace it.

“Probably not,” he agreed. 

“At least when I get to heaven, there will be streets of gold,” I said as I hung up.  I slept fitfully.  I woke up the next morning with perspective.  I was moving into the acceptance phase grief.  After all, it was only a watch.  I’d given it a few hours of grief but it was time to move on. 

I called Bob again.  “If the streets of heaven are lined with gold, does that mean my watch was made out of heaven’s asphalt?”  Bob just laughed and I wondered what time it was in Florida. 

As I left my hotel, I remembered that I hadn’t asked the restaurant about the watch.  I sighed as I realized I had to walk to 16th Street once again.  When I arrived at the restaurant I asked, “Have you found a gold watch.” 

“Yes, we have,” beamed the perky hostess.  My heart raced.  She pulled the watch from behind the counter and showed me a cheap tarnished silver watch.  My heart sank. 

“That’s not my watch,” I said as I turned and left.  Oh well, I thought.  It sure would have been nice if that had been my watch.

As I walked to the convention center, I couldn’t help but think about the watch.  It had been a good watch and had seen me through many vicissitudes.  It symbolized the hope of a young newly married couple in their future.  I thought back on our thirty-five years of marriage.  That future had been even brighter than we had imagined.  I thanked God for a man that I loved more today than when I married him.  I thanked God for our children, grandson, careers, and many other blessings. 

Then, I called my Aunt Ka Ka and Uncle Bobby and told them about my loss.  My Aunt Ka Ka has been comforting me for my entire life. I have always been able to count on her to understand, sympathize, correct me when I’m wrong, and love me no matter what.  Aunt Ka Ka ends every phone call with the words, “I love you.”

“Have you prayed to find it?”  Aunt Ka Ka urgently asked after hearing the tale of woe. 

“Well,” I answered evasively.  “I prayed that if a homeless person found it, they would figure out it was valuable and benefit from it.” 

“You’re a good person,” Aunt Ka Ka assured.  “But have you prayed to find it?”

“No,” I admitted. 

“You are too trusting!” Uncle Bobby said.  “Someone probably lifted it from your wrist.”  Uncle Bobby worries about me and I’ve figured out that my solo travels are good for his prayer life. 

“I thought about that,” I admitted.  “I took several pictures for a man that stood in line with me.  Our hands brushed twice as he handed me his cell phone to snap his picture.”

“No!” Aunt Ka Ka instructed.  “Your Uncle Bobby and I are going to pray now.  You walk over to lost and found at the convention center and ask if they have your watch.”

“Aunt Ka Ka,” I said gently.  “I didn’t lose it at the convention center.  I looked at my watch at 7:00 last night.  That was after I left the convention center.  I lost it on the streets of Denver.”

“I still think someone stole it,” Uncle Bobby repeated. 

“No!” Aunt Ka Ka said to Uncle Bobby.  “Don’t make her doubt that she is going to find that watch!  We’re going to pray and she is going to find it.  Cheryle – you go find out where lost and found is and ask if they have your watch!” 

Over the years, I’ve learned not to argue with my aunt.  Being the ever obedient niece, I walked over to the convention center to ask about the watch.  A security guard directed me to lost and found.  “Have you found a gold watch?” I asked the petite brown haired young woman behind the counter.

“Describe it,” she said.  Did I dare hope?  I remembered the restaurant and wondered how many watches she had. 

“It’s bright gold with a narrow band and a small face,” I said. 

She pulled out a big box and fished out my tiny watch from among the wallets, watches, shirts, toys, and keys.  “Is this it?” 

I was stunned.  I couldn’t answer her or take the watch.  Finally, I blurted, “I can’t believe you have my watch.  It’s real fourteen karat gold.  I didn’t lose it at the Convention Center.  How did you get it?” 

She laughed as she tried to hand me the watch.  “I have no idea,” she said.  “A woman stopped by here a few minutes ago looking for her gold watch and was disappointed when I showed her this one.” 

“She didn’t have her Aunt Ka Ka praying for her watch,” I laughed as the tears flowed freely down my face.  I told this woman my story and she listened with interest. 

As I left the booth, trying to put the watch on with shaking hands, I tried to decide whom to call first.  I made the decision that Bob deserved the first call for listening patiently and kindly (mostly) to the entire cycle of my saga.  “I can’t believe it.  I have to admit that I prayed this morning that you would find the watch,” Bob said in wonder.  I wondered why we were both so surprised that God answered prayer.  

Next, I called my aunt.  “They had the watch,” I announced. 

Aunt Ka Ka was not surprised by God’s answer.  “Isn’t God good to us?  We’ve been praying.”  Like I had any doubt.

Yes, God was kind enough to return a watch made from what He uses as asphalt.  My heart sang with the knowledge that the real gift was in giving me a supportive and loving and husband and an aunt and uncle who loved me enough to pray for me and teach me about faith.  When I got home the next day, I traded my gold watch for my faithful Timex.  My gold watch sits collecting dust on a shelf waiting to be needed.