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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.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Rest of The Story

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost. Matt 18:12-14 NIV

We knew God cared about the one lost sheep but on Day 2 of the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, we got a demonstration of that scripture. My sister-in-law and evangelism partner, Louise Milligan and I started the morning evangelizing with Riley Stephenson, the Head of Global Evangelism for Kenneth Copeland Ministries, and my nephew and Louise’s son, Bill Milligan. We’d had fun tag teaming as we led people to Jesus but we knew we’d reach more people by splitting into two teams.

We reached a cross road on the festival ground and Riley said, “Bill, let’s go lead them to Jesus.” They turned left towards a lemonade stand and we went straight. We didn’t expect to see Riley and Bill again until the end of the day.

Louis and I had inadvertently worn the colors of the Bonnaroo staff. As we walked, we heard, “Where can we fill our water bottles?” We turned to see two dusty scruffy looking young men, one with dreadlocks much like Bill’s.

We turned and one said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I saw your yellow shirts and thought you could help us.”

Louise had just filled her water bottle so she knew the answer.  “Do you see that blue dome over there? That’s where you go.”

“You mentioned us helping you,” I said. “We can help. We can help you find a relationship with Jesus. Bonnaroo is a dangerous place and I’ve already met someone today who overdosed and had to be revived. If something happened to you and you didn’t live through Bonnaroo, do you know where you would go in the next life?”

Their answers let us know that they needed Jesus so we spoke the sweet gospel scriptures to them. When it got time to lead them in a prayer to receive Jesus, the young man wearing dreadlocks abruptly turned and left, without saying a word.

“What is your name?” I asked the remaining man.

“Sam,” he answered.

“Pray with me,” I invited.

Sam recoiled, began shaking his head, and backed up. I was sure he was not going to pray. About that time, his friend walked back over said, “Let’s pray. Let’s do this.”

Louise and I were stunned. We had no idea what had caused this change of heart but we were not asking questions.

“Sam, your friend wants to pray with us. Join us.”

We waited as Sam considered his options. Finally he said, “Sure, why not.”

After they prayed to receive Jesus, I saw Bill and Riley standing about 20 feet away, praying for us. We walked over to them to share our amazing story and that was when we heard the “rest of the story.”

The man wearing dreadlocks had spotted Bill behind us. Seeing his dreadlocks, he bolted over to Bill and said, “Hey man, you got doses?” Bill explained that “doses” was the code word for LSD.

“No brother,” Bill said. “I can’t give you doses but I can offer you Jesus.” Bill handed the man a tract titled You Are Loved.

The dreadlocked drug seeking man opened the tract, glanced at it briefly, and without a word bolted back to us to pray to meet the Jesus who had obviously gone to a lot of trouble to bring him into the fold.

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

All I Can Offer You in Jesus

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. John 14:2 KJV

Daddy and Bill at Graduation
Picture a full head of hair with long dark perfect ringlets that fall into place regardless of what you do with it. What if you didn’t need perms, color, or combs? What if you just woke up with perfect hair every day? That is what grows on my nephew Bill Milligan’s head. When he allowed it to grow naturally, everywhere we went, girls his age reached out and touched it. He’d grin and the conversation would begin. What could any young man enjoy more? 

Imagine my surprise when Bill decided to grow dreadlocks. To grow dreadlocks, you have to take strands of hair and tease them upward towards the roots until they mat together into individual locks. It takes months to grow and requires much attention. It isn’t that I mind dreadlocks. I actually find them interesting. It is just that if I had his hair, I would never touch it.

What I did not know about dreadlocks is how useful they would be for evangelism. Apparently, dreadlocks are common among certain cultures where many need to know the Savior. Bill has been traveling with me for a week and those dreadlocks have been drawing people to us.

“Hey man,” two Bonnaroo concert attendees said to Bill. “You got drugs?”

Bill smiled warmly. “No brother, but I can offer you a free mansion in heaven.”

“What about cocaine? You got any?”

“All I can offer you is Jesus,” Bill said. “Romans says that all have sinned and fallen short. The wages of sin is death. The gift of God is eternal life. All who call on the name of Jesus as Lord will be saved. Take a look at this prayer and let’s pray it together.”

Bill leaned close, showed them the written salvation prayer, and those young men confessed their sin, their belief in Jesus, and invited Jesus into their lives.

I saw it all. I even took a picture. Bill gave them tracts and when they walked away, Bill stood stunned. When he saw me, he walked over excitedly.

“I can’t believe it,” he said, with shaking hands. “I didn’t think they would pray. I thought they wouldn’t want to hear it. I didn’t expect them to pray but they did.”

“I know,” I said. “I saw it all. I even took a picture.” I showed him the picture.

“That feeling you are having is the Holy Spirit,” I explained. “It is the most wonderful feeling in the world. He flowed through you and into them. It is an anointing. You’ve got it.”

Before the night was over, Bill had led 13 people to Jesus.

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