Archive for February 2010
Intercessory Prayer, We Miss You!
This is just a line to let you know how things are since you’ve gone. It’s not the same without you, nor will it ever be. Although our lives seem shallow and empty when you’re not here, we’ve learned to make up for you in other ways. We’ve learned to live without you.
We now run the aisles, leap for joy, jig to the music, sing catchy choruses, and tap our feet in time to the rhythm of the drums. We use sticks, banners, black lights and our sign teams do a tremendous job acting out recorded music. We’ve learned to worship without you.
The prayer rooms are mostly silent now. Those that do go there, for the most part, come away dry-eyed. A lot of praying now is chanting and singsong style. That’s how we know we’re in the groove. We pray memorized phrases that come automatically. We love what we call Prayer Walks. Most of us don’t even close our eyes anymore during prayer. We just walk and pray while we look around. We pray because it is required. No one prays till they break through anymore. We just pray till our ten minutes are up.
Family altars are almost unheard of now. You can’t imagine how busy we are and how hectic our schedules have been. It’s unbelievable. We get up in the morning and never stop till we go to bed at night. We do try to make it to church most services and get some praying in there during the service, but prayer at home is kind of out of the question. That may be another reason you haven’t heard much from us.
Oh sure, we still believe in prayer, as such. But not very many of us are anxious for you to come back. (You were always the polite type, you know, never forcing yourself on anyone. You never came uninvited. You only left because you were ignored.)
The sad truth is you’re not really needed anymore. You see, most of us have hospitalization insurance now. (It sure takes away that old desperate feeling we used to have.) So now, there’s no need to pray more than the few minutes it takes to drive to the Emergency Room. Also, we don’t have to ask for our daily bread like we used to. We now have better jobs with good benefits and government programs to fall back on.
If we lose our jobs, there is always Unemployment or Welfare. If we retire or become disabled, Social Security now supplies our needs. So, you can see, we’re doing OK. Other things have filled the void in your absence. Sure we miss you. But we’re getting over it some how. Actually, we’re too busy to entertain you right now, even if you tried to come back. I hope you understand.
We are having revivals now without you. It’s not hard. The pastor fasts and prays, along with a couple others. The evangelist preaches mostly just to sinners now. Most of us try to get to church in time for the first song or two. We justify the fact that the number of new converts is down. Yes, there seems to be diminished conviction, less lasting victory, fewer miracles and many young people are backsliding. We agree, however, that it’s not us that are at fault here; it’s just the times we’re living in. It’s like this everywhere.
As your friend, I’m writing this to you, knowing how much it must hurt you to have folks say they miss you… and yet in their material and intellectual progress, they’ve weaned themselves away from the haunting memory of you.
What hurts, I know, is that we were children you personally raised. You were always there when we needed you. (But now… we don’t.) You taught us about faith. You taught us about miracles. You taught us about a move of God. You taught us about revival. You taught us about how to touch God. Thank you for that, but you see, this is a new day and we are trying to go to the next level. Our services are structured differently now.
Do you know… can you believe, that now when you are ever mentioned in church, everyone gets real quite? They all feel guilty I’m sure. It’s like they experience a momentary twinge of guilt while they consider their part in your disappearance. Once in awhile some even get misty eyed when we talk about the old times you shared with us. But all that feeling vanishes along with the pizza right after church.
No, Intercessory Prayer, your coming back really wouldn’t work right now. We’re too blessed. We’re doing too well. We’re comfortable. In your day, you served your purpose, but the sentiment of most today is that we can manage OK without you now. We’ve got better clothes, cars, homes and prettier and bigger churches than ever.
By the way, do you remember all the folks of yesteryear coming into the sanctuary with red-rimmed eyes? Remember the baggy looking knees in men’s’ suits? Remember all night prayer meetings? Remember the depth that was in worship? Remember when sinners couldn’t sit in their pews any longer, and would run to the altar? Remember when you could feel unity and brotherly love? When folks helped bear one another’s burdens? When the saints didn’t watch the clock? When they could hardly wait to enjoy the after service atmosphere, praying around the altar until the wee hours of the morning? Boy, those were to good old days. We call that “Old School.”
Well, it’s pretty much all gone now. But you ought to see our new Hammond C-3, our new drum set with a cage and everything. Electric bass guitars are just awesome and the electric guitars too. We use Praise Singers to help cover up the fact that our congregations don’t sing like they should or used to. We let them do most of our worship for us. Our Choirs just do terrific on the new style songs. Old saints don’t like the new songs much, but the younger crowd seems to like them. Many music directors don’t even know some of your old favorite songs, so they don’t get played much anywhere.
You would be proud of our church buildings. Carpet on the floors, there are pews now instead of benches and they are padded too, besides. The arched beams are beautiful, we also have the loveliest of imported chandeliers. Our pastor has polish too. He doesn’t preach long. We are more concerned about sermon length now, than content. Our pastor spices up his sermons with cute sayings… but I guess that’s progress for you. “Win some, lose some.”
Speaking of “lose some”, we’re losing a surprising percentage of our young people. An unbelievable number of marriages have gone on the rocks. Many lives have been in jeopardy. But that’s to be expected I guess. Teenagers seem to be at war with their parents and want to dress more and more like the kids at the public school. Our youth meetings may not have much in the way of prayer, but we have great icebreakers, skits and games.
We have plenty of medicines nowadays to help our aches and pains. What more could we ask for? Sure we miss you, but I guess we really don’t NEED you right now.
I hope you’re not offended. I don’t mean for you to be. You’ll always have a special place in my memory. You were very kind and generous to me. You sure got me out of some hard times. I can’t thank you enough! Still, this is a generation now that doesn’t know you at all. Your coming would probably scare them.
Remember the night when my mother sat at the piano bench and you joined her there? Remember how she wept and groaned in the Spirit and slumped to the floor during the revival service and how some tried to call the ambulance because they thought she was sick? They never knew you and her were talking.
That’s what I mean. A good many never got to know you well. And most never knew you at all. Those that knew you personally have waited so long to talk to you that they are now, to say the least, embarrassed.
So while we are trying to work out our feelings about you, and see where you might fit into our plans in the future, you might try your luck someplace else. Try Brazil, Ethiopia, or how about the Philippines? You might have better luck in Third World Countries, or behind the iron Curtain. You might even luck out and find someone to talk to you in some little storefront on the other side of the tracks. Surely someone somewhere needs you.
We’re terribly sorry, Intercessory Prayer, we miss you, but we really don’t NEED you… right now!
God Has A Diaper Bag!
One of the joys of parenthood is to take your little “precious” out of the house and show them off to family and friends We take them to church as well.
An earthly father is often pretty clueless about how much time, patience and effort goes into getting a baby ready to go out of the house. He often is frustrated that his wife and infant are not ready for church in the same amount of time it took him to shower and shave. But, that might be a story for another blog.
When they get to church, friends are quick to show the baby attention and some even ask if they can “hold it.”
Imagine then the service progressing and a friend on the same row is enjoying holding the new baby. Then something happens that distracts and demands immediate attention. The baby has just made a mess. Immediately the child is handed back to the parent that has the diaper bag.
What does mom (or dad) do now? Their ‘pride and joy’ has just made a mess. Stink is in the air. Everyone looks to see what is going to happen next. The congregation’s nose hairs are getting glued together by the aroma. All eyes are now on the parent too. How long will they wait before something is done? Where will they take the child?
Parents never say, “Oh my goodness, I can’t believe this child would EVER make a mess! I never dreamed on of my children would ever do something like this. I am so embarrassed. Maybe I should throw this one away and try to make another that won’t do this. I’m mortified.”
When “Junior” makes a mess, the first thing that is reached for is the diaper bag. That bag was packed before they left the house. It was probably packed before the baby was dressed for church and before leaving home. Mama was aware that babies make messes. Sometimes they make lots of messes. Mommies don’t think less of their babies because they make messes. The actually have a ready made plan to provide for such an event.
Mommy takes her bag and the baby back to the area with the changing table. She holds the baby safe on it’s back with one hand while she reaches into the diaper bag to get what she needs. Do you have a clue what all is in one of those things?
- Diapers (disposable or cloth) LOTS of them
- Wet Wipes (make sure they are baby wipes and not just wet wipes. Baby wipes are larger, softer, and gentler on the baby)
- Bottles and infant formula
- Bottled water, to add to bottle
- Snacks for baby
- Rash Ointment
- Nose syringe
- Medicine dropper
- Nail clipper
- Baby Tylenol
- Toys rattle
- Receiving blanket
- Extra set of clothing for baby
- Pacifier, if baby uses one
- Johnson Baby Powder
- Baby Magic Lotion
- Anti-bacterial hand cleaner
- Cosmetic-type bag stocked with teething aids, extra pacifier and nail clipper
- Zip lock bags for many purposes, including storage of dirty diapers if no convenient disposal is possible
All of this is in place BEFORE the baby ever makes a mess.
After the baby has been cleaned up, it is brought back into the service. It now is acceptable in polite company everywhere. It now is clean, looks clean and smells clean. Thanks to Mommy’s Diaper Bag and her foreknowledge of what babies may do.
If we understand that concept, then why is it a struggle for us all to conceive that there is a sin or a sinner that God is not able to take care of?
There is no sin common unto man that He can forgive. Before we were ever born, God had a “Diaper Bag” of sorts. Before we ever made a mess of our life, He was already prepared to clean us back up and restore us anew. Calvary provided for all of that!
I’m happy to tell you that He doesn’t throw those away that make a mess. He just cleans them up and brings them back into the service!
Be thankful and be encouraged!
The Children Of Bitterness
The Instructor for our marriage seminar was still talking about bitterness. For 3 nights he had brought up the subject and lingered there a good while.
He said that young couples might have an argument and say something stupid like: I hate you, or I don’t love you anymore! There may be a time of repenting and forgiveness for them, but that memory will linger for 40 years. Staying resident just under the surface.
I appreciated the subject being covered for the couples, but tonight was the last night. Bitterness again was still the theme at a marriage seminar. Why? He explained that bitterness gets you in trouble with God, God’s man, and also destroys your home.
It all came together finally for me when he asked for the big chalkboard and drew a family tree down to the 4th generation.
He wrote the name Ted, at the top level, saying that Ted had attended his church for many years. He had also known all 4 generations of his family.
The reason for drawing the family tree was to point out the sad truth that none of us contain our thoughts, feelings and emotions so guardedly that no one else is affected. Like a hereditary cancer, negative emotions and attitudes can grow and contaminate others. It’s a generational thing. Unless someone breaks the cycle, there will be many injured.
“Look,” the preacher said, “at Bro. Ted’s life story.”
(My wandering mind was brought back to reality.)
“He was a hard working, middle-aged Pentecostal. He had a good wife and had 2 children. For a while their home was a haven.
“Bro. Ted was liked by the good folks in the church and was selected to be a trustee. He seemed to enjoy the job and was very active in the church.”
In the 3rd year of a former pastor’s tenure, it just seemed to him that the preaching was getting a bit too conservative and personal for his liking. His preaching felt personally directed to him and Ted resented that. He found himself feeling a strong dislike for the pastor.
It was an unmentioned fact that Ted was slow to forgive and was known to “hold” grudges for a long time. When someone hurt him, his reaction was to hurt back. He always did that.
At a church workday one Saturday, the pastor had said, “Brother, could I get you to sweep up that trash over there, please?”
“What trash?” said Ted looking in the general area, “The only trash we have around here is what stands behind the pulpit!”
God paralyzed him so that he could not move or bend and Ted was carried away like a log. Some of the men tried to put him into the car to take him to the hospital, but he couldn’t bend to close the door. He asked for the preacher to come and pray for him. Ted repented to his pastor, he was prayed for and God restored him to normal health.
I wish that the story ended there. It seemed however, that it was just the symptom of a deeper deadly disease.
Not long afterwards, he felt his wife disapproved of some of his ideas and actions. They argued. Harsh words were used. That hurt him. She needed to be hurt back, he felt. Ted found a woman at work that was sympathetic and appealing. His romantic fling with this woman shattered the marriage.
The children watched the parents argue and destroy their relationship. They saw the bitterness displayed. They heard the bitterness expressed.
Ted’s two children struggled in their relationships. The girl became an unwed mother several times before marrying. She married several times. Her brother was never faithful to his spouses either.
His grandchildren all experienced multiple divorces, affairs, had babies out-of-wedlock, and continued the holding of grudges like their grandfather.
By now, only one or two would even sporadically try to attend church. Holidays were about the only time.
All of the 4th generation, experienced similar marriage, moral, and God problems.
Their bitterness towards God was not contained at that, it had spilled over into all of their homes.
No one broke the cycle. The bitterness, the holding of grudges, the retaliation, and the desire to hurt back descended down from one man.
A few years after the marriage seminar, I went to visit that church one Sunday. Ted had been buried on Friday, two days earlier. None of his children or grandchildren went to church. Ted had died backslidden.
The truth is, children watch their parents. They know whether they forgive or hold grudges.
Openly repenting and forgiving allows children to see that Daddy was not less of a man. Not only would Daddy, or maybe Grandpa be more of a man, he might just be the key reason his children and grandchildren are still living for God and have good marriages. Forgiving others opens us all up to receiving God’s forgiveness.
Matt. 6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
Matt. 6:15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
- There’s no hope for the children of bitterness!
- The children of bitterness don’t stand a chance.
- How long will you let your war go on?
- Don’t live like Ted!
- Don’t die like Ted!
- If you are bitter, what future does your marriage have?
- If you are bitter, what future do your children have?
Heb. 12:15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
Children of Bitterness…What will your Epitaph be?
The Land Of Beginning Again
I wish that there were some wonderful place
Called the Land of Beginning Again,
Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches
And all of our poor selfish grief
Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door,
And never be put on again.
I wish we could come on it all unaware,
Like the hunter who finds a lost trail;
And I wish that the one whom our blindness had done
The greatest injustice of all
Could be at the gates like an old friend that waits
For the comrade he’s gladdest to hail.
We would find all the things we intended to do
But forgot, and remembered too late,
Little praises unspoken, little promises broken,
And of all the thousand and one
Little duties neglected that might have perfected
The day for one less fortunate.
I wish that there were some wonderful place
Called the Land of Beginning Again,
Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches
And all of our poor selfish grief
Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door,
And never be put on again.
Getting Bigger Than Your Scars
Every year in September, I go riding 4-wheelers for a week on the Kentucky and West Virginia border. Sometimes on a ridge we can actually see three states. We always come back and sleep in our house every night. At least one of my sons and several other preachers and their sons go with us. Fifteen to twenty guys is not uncommon.
There are some very respectful and kind men that live in that area who enjoy guiding our trips. They are not really guides in the sense that they charge anything. They just know “them thar hill and hollers.” We do buy their gas and pay for their meals, so that makes them happy. We ride long hours. We ride in all weather.
On a hot day a few years ago, we stopped on a hilltop for a snack break. I was riding 2nd in line behind the day guide, Rick. Somehow as we were eating our snack, Rick a middle aged Southern Baptist, and myself started talking about burns and injuries.
He volunteered, “You know, Bro. Ballestero, when I was 2 weeks old, my folks kept me in a bassinet. Evidently I had a breathing problem of some kind. We had an old steam type humidifier. My Dad was carrying a pan of boiling water to pour into that humidifier. Somehow he tripped on a throw rug and that pan of boiling water spilt on my leg. Because of that, I received 3rd degree burns on my right leg from my knee down.”
“Oh No!” I said as my face furrowed and grimaced in sympathetic pain. How Horrible!! After a few seconds pause, I asked a personal question. “Did you have to have any operation?”
“Many!” was his one word response.
I then was curious to know more, so I asked, “Do the scars still come up to your knee?”
“Oh no,” he said, “They only come up to my ankle bone now.”
“How can that be?” I wondered out loud.
“When you’re a new born baby, from your foot to your knee, is only this far,” he said, as he measured the approximate distance with this hands.
Rick then took off his right tennis shoe and then pulled off his sock too. Sure enough, there was a faint scar and discoloration from his toe on up one side of his foot to his anklebone. I looked with fascination.
“How come it only comes up to your anklebone now, when it used to come up to your knee?” I asked.
“Bro. Ballestero, he said kindly, (but I felt like the biggest goober in the world) Scars don’t grow. I got bigger than my scar!”
It was as if the Holy Ghost spoke a truth to my spirit. Scars don’t grow. It’s normal to get bigger than your scars. If we never get bigger than our scars, maybe it’s a sign we’re not growing.
Are You A Mac Or A PC?
We all think differently. We see and hear the same things, yet not always do we arrive at the same conclusion. Why is that?
Bro. Kenneth Bow told me that some people were like Mac computers and others were like a PC. He said we process the information differently. I agree.
I like computers. I bought my first one, a Commodore 64 way back in the dark ages. For most programs, insert the floppy disk and type: load”*”,8,1 (always make sure to press the RETURN key after typing in a command). Sometimes it took several minutes just to load up the program. I often drank a cup of coffee before it finished loading.
That was my introduction to the computer world. Over the years, I owned various PC’s. starting with the 286, 386 and 486. I have used DOS 5.0, Windows 3.0, 3.1, 95, 98, ME, XP, Vista, and recently worked on a Windows 7.
I even taught a computer class for a couple years at HR Block. For the last 10 years or so, it has not been uncommon for me to receive 6-10 calls a week solving computer software or hardware issues. I am not a programmer, I don’t have a business. I am only a user.
In February, 2007, I was given a wonderful gift by my friend Pastor Kenneth Bow. A new MacBook. I was humbled by his extreme generosity. I have been literally thrilled with my experience. The Mac world was a paradigm shift for me, a PC guy. I was amazed that in just a couple of hours I was able to feel comfortable with my new Mac. I love it. I now have no desire to leave the Mac world and go back. I was also pleased that I could still enjoy Microsoft Word and Power Point as well on my new computer.
I have noticed however, a quirk in the Power Points made on my Mac and then played on a PC. If no animations are involved, everything is perfect. Occasionally, I will give the soundman my flash drive with my Power Point on it and the animations don’t work on his computer like it worked on mine. That’s frustrating. Confusing even at times.
It’s because, although it’s theoretically the same program, (I have Mac Office with Word and Power Point) the results are different. We have different ‘Operating Systems.’ We also have different ‘Processors.’ The same program is processed differently for each of us. The ‘Display’ is different! The ‘Display’ becomes then the issue.
We all have different ways of processing information. Sometimes even coming up with different results and conclusions.
The difference in our ‘Processors’ And ‘Operating Systems’ is clearly evident in the discussions of Climate, Economy, Education, Civil Rights, and National Defense. Among others, there are Independents, Democrats, Green Party, and Republicans. We read the same data, and often arrive at different conclusions.
The same is true in our churches and among us as Pentecostals. For example, I read about modesty in the Bible. My ‘Operating System’ is different from some. I ‘Process’ the Word the way I do because I have a ‘Processor’ that interprets the “Modesty Language” for me.
My “Processor” lets me feel comfortable wearing long sleeves for example. A friend in warm climate may have a “Processor” that lets him wear sleeves to the elbow.
My ‘Processor’ has problems with some styles of dress, and entertainment. It also doesn’t at all ‘Process’ the Emergent Church and their lack of Holiness requirements. (There’s that pesky ‘Display’ issue again.)
We have the same program. We process the same information. We are different in that our “Operating Systems” are not the same. We process scriptures differently.
One of the last times my dying father spoke to my wife. He asked in confidential tones, “Is Marty still preaching the truth?”
“Yes Dad,” Marcia assured him.
He said, “Down here there are a lot of themes. Up there, there’s only one theme.” Those were Dad’s last words to her.
It’s easy for us all to justify how we ‘Process’ and understand Scripture. When it’s all said and done. It’s all going to boil down to how does God ‘Process’ His Word.
I want to be operating on the same ‘Operating System’ as He is! I want to ‘Process’ His Word like He meant for me too.
Down here, there’s a lot of ‘Processors’ and ‘Operating Systems.’ Up there, there’s only one.
If You Are NOT The Pastor’s Son, You Have To Be Smarter Than Average!
When I was a very young preacher, I was asked by my Father to preach a midweek service. I preached on hell. Everyone hurriedly came to altar including my own Mother. While everyone was crying and praying, Dad invited me into the Church Office, adjoining the platform. He told me to sit down, he closed the door and locked it.
Dad said, “What you preached tonight was good and needed to be preached. But you didn’t give anyone a way out. They don’t have to go to hell you know.” I started to cry in shame. He continued, “Don’t EVER get up in my pulpit again and preach on judgment without giving people a way out. I couldn’t stop apologizing.
Six weeks or so later, I was asked to preach on a Saturday night Praise and Worship Service at our Church. I preached some little thought and the people shouted and ran the aisles. A few guys even ran the backs of the pews. I felt great because of the feeling of “high church” we were enjoying.
When I stepped out of the pulpit and turned around, I was still sweaty, and breathing hard. Daddy caught the lapels of my coat and pulled me up close to him and said, “Now what degree of consecration and study did that take? That sermon did not require any study on your part! That was just a little something you threw together. That was just some buzz words, mumbo jumbo, and shallow thinking. Don’t EVER do that again”
And then he said it again, “Don’t EVER get in my pulpit again without applying yourself. Without studying and seeking God. Don’t ever be content to be shallow. Neither you nor these people will remember one thing you preached tomorrow. If you have a choice between being an Exhorter or being a Feeder, be a Feeder because Feeders build churches.”
Now, If I wasn’t the Pastor’s son, I could have gotten a rotten spirit and attitude. I COULD have thought, “Well you just can’t make this old guy happy. You preach on hell and they run to the altar. He finds fault. You preach it sky high and a mile wide, he finds fault. There is just no pleasing him. Maybe God is trying to make me uncomfortable here. Maybe God is telling me it is time to get out of the nest and take my ministry to the next level and move on.
I understood that my Father, who was never harsh in his attempts to correct me, was trying now to help me be the best that I could be.
A Father will say things to a son he might not say to another young man. Because the other young man might feel the Pastor is dedicated to running him off. This man may not readily see that the Pastor is trying to develop his ministry so that God will bless and use him.
That’s why I think, “If you are not the Pastor’s son, you have to be smarter than average.
Whether he’s your Father or not, if he’s your Pastor, Be honored that he took the time to say anything to help you develop. Even if you can’t see at the moment the purpose or need of his correction, later you will love him and thank God for him the rest of your life. Choose NEVER to be offended by the man of God.
The quiet young mother of two, Mary Gally, looked anxiously out the front door of her Kentucky home. The school bus was bringing her twin girls home. She couldn’t wait to see them. They were seven (7) years old and as pretty as two little girls could be. They were her pride and joy.
The bus stopped across the street. It’s lights flashed red and yellow warnings. The door opened and out bounced the girls. They walked in front of the bus crossing the street. A drunk driver ignored all warnings and sped past the bus killing both of them while their mother watched in horror.
It was a torment to her mind and to her heart that seemed worse than hell could ever be. For days she lived in numbness. She burnt candles for them at church. It seemed that the solace she desperately needed, she couldn’t find. Her Catholic upbringing provided no answers, solutions or comfort. She was totally empty.
She prayed the rosary, she went to the confessional, and nothing helped. She closed the shades on the windows of her heart and it seemed impossible to comfort her.
The pictures of the horrible scene replayed in her mind several times a day. They wouldn’t stop. They wouldn’t go away. How many times does a mother have to watch her babies die?
Mary began to find temporary comfort in the bottle. It wasn’t a solution. She knew that. It only helped for a few hours a day. Drinking seemed to lessen the pain. Her dependency grew.
A year or so slipped by and Mary slid deeper and deeper into her despair. Someone invited her to Life Tabernacle in Hopkinsville, KY. Mary prayed and in her desperation reached out to the Lord and He filled her with the Holy Ghost.
Mary came alive. Oh yes, there is still a quietness about her that lingers still, but her heart came alive. She enjoyed church. She grew in the Lord and in His Word. After the pastor felt that she was established and grounded in the truth, she was invited to teach a Sunday School class. She accepted.
She always sat on the 1st or 2nd row during regular church services. It seemed like she couldn’t wait for altar call. She willingly prayed with others. God had given her a gift of praying people through to the Holy Ghost. No one has ever seen anyone like her. In one week she personally prayed 25 through in her church. She did it with such easy grace and effectiveness. At every altar service Mary could be found praying with seekers.
After teaching for a while, Sis. Mary asked that if an opening ever came, she would like to teach the seven (7) year old’s Sunday School Class. They’re seemed to be a healing in that thought for her.
The 7 year olds got a new teacher. Sis. Mary was in the fulfillment of her dream. She now was surrounded by children the same age hers were. The kids loved her. The class grew. She helped it grow. She specialized in turning the conclusion of each Sunday School class session into an invitation to seek for the Holy Ghost.
A couple of years ago, Sis. Mary Gally prayed seventy (70) seven (7) year olds through to the Holy Ghost in her Sunday School class, in one year!
She had taken her pain, and turned it around using it for the glory of God, the furtherance of His Kingdom.
Knowing her personally, I stood with pride and let tears run down my cheek at the General Conference of the UPCI. I watched her being honored. This incredible woman of God was presented the “Sunday School Teacher Of The Year Award!” She had prayed more children through to the Holy Ghost in her class in one year than any teacher on record!
Today, Sis. Mary Gally and her husband have two wonderful children, a daughter and a son, both grown. Her daughter is very active in the church. Her son is now the Associate Pastor with Bishop Adams in Hopkinsville, and he also is the Conquerors President for the State of Kentucky.
Don’t die till you meet Sis. Mary Gally! You’ll love her too!
“The Enemy Would Rather Wound Than Kill”
A friend of mine was stationed briefly at Fort Ord during the Viet Nam war. He was taught that the Viet Cong would make traps, and dig pits with sharpened and poisoned sticks in them to injure the soldier, but not kill him instantly. They sharpened sticks to pierce his feet or body. The poison would get into his blood and bring slow death.
Punji stakes are a soldier’s nightmare. They are set precisely to cause great pain. They are carefully sharpened bamboo sticks positioned behind logs that GI’s step must over. Sometimes they are spread across entire fields.
“Charlie” would rather wound with “Punji” stakes dipped in a special excrement brew. He would rather cause a slow painful death.
He knew that it takes more men to care for a wounded soldier and give him back his health than to care for a dead one.
The reason they wanted to injure and not kill, was if a soldier was injured, the US Army had to stop fighting long enough to care for the wounded. If enough get wounded, others have to stop fighting to tend to them.
The enemy of our soul thinks the same way too! We all know some that have been wounded by horrible life experiences, addictions, unkind comments and the actions of others.
- If people in a church get wounded…
- If one of our friends gets wounded…
- If one of our family gets wounded…
- If people in a organization get wounded…
We stop fighting the enemy momentarily, and concern ourselves with the injuries and injustices done to those we love and know. Our heart aches for their pain. We do our best to help.
- Yes, we should help.
- Yes, we need to help them,
- But never fail to recognize the strategy of the enemy.
- We are not ignorant of the enemy’s devices.
- He wishes to distract us all.
- He wants us to focus on ourselves, our injury, our pain, our loss.
I have great sympathy for the injury of others. I grieve for them, I too am aware that we can only focus just so long on “us”, because there’s still a battle to be fought. I’m so sorry for those that have been injured.
My advice to us all, is “Let’s don’t lay our weapons down, let’s keep fighting, regardless! The battle is not over yet!
God Bless You!!
A Remembrance Of Falling In Love
Celebrating 45 Valentine’s Days Of Being In Love With You, Marcia June Starr Ballestero.
By Martyn Ballestero Sr.
Love’s First Look
The snow fell gently in big wet flakes. It already stood 5 or 6 inches deep in the street. This was Sunday night. The first night of the Youth Revival in Albion, Michigan and I was the youth evangelist. My Dad had loaned me his year old 1963 Pontiac Grand Prix. The pastor, your father, Bro. William Starr had said that he would like for me to come for a couple of weeks and preach for him and we would start right after Thanksgiving.
I arrived about a half hour early before service that night. In the darkness, as the car slowly turned the corner onto Crandall Street toward the parsonage, the headlights illuminated you, the most gorgeous young woman I had ever seen. You clasped the open driver’s door of your parent’s automobile and waited for my car to pass. Not knowing that your future and mine would be forever tied to that moment.
Darling, as you stood by the car under the street light with those giant snow flakes cascading into your softly curled hair, my heart nearly stopped. I was totally smitten by your beauty. I announced out loud to the Lord right then, “Oh Lord, if I have to fight that while I’m here, I’m never going to win!” I fell helplessly in love with you at that moment and have never recovered.
I don’t know how I managed to preach that night or any of the other nights. It was hard to focus on heavenly thing with so much earthly beauty just sitting there looking at me.
Every day those first two weeks I secretly drank in your beauty with my eyes and ears. I memorized how you looked, and talked and smiled. When I went to sleep in the basement bedroom at the church every night, and closed my eyes, I could still see your face.
If you remember, the orchestra sat on the platform just a little in front of and to the left of the minister’s chairs. That meant that every night of the revival, I sat almost right behind you while you played your saxophone. I had a great view of you, watching you play and worship. However spiritual we might have tried to be, I still had a great view when you stood up and sat down. I tried not to let your Father catch me stealing a peek. You looked picture perfect to me. But this was church, you know, and I had to keep my mind on spiritual things.
I almost “blew it” the first time I ever spoke directly to you. You had in your arms some red material to make a bridesmaid’s dress for yourself for Vicky Jordan’s wedding. I had just finished preaching for C.W. Shew, and with him, everything was wrong. He even preached against the wearing of red.
I tried to tease you and get you to laugh. So, lacking for a better opening line, I came out with, “You know you’ll go to hell for wearing red, don’t you?” You did not see any humor in that comment and to my knowledge, you did not respond. You just moved away. I thought, Oh boy! I’m an idiot!
I was grateful that your Mother was so approachable. I enjoyed visiting with her. She listened to me talk and made me feel comfortable around her. She played a major role in our getting together I think. I did everything I could to win her heart. She had won mine. I loved everything about her. Your Dad made me feel uncomfortable, but I could really relax around your Mom. Your Dad was never mean. It’s just a guy thing.
Scotty and Jenny Teets came over to the revival from Jackson one night. After service, Scotty, who is about six years older than I, began his “big brother” sales pitch on what a wonderful a girl you were and how lucky I would be to go out with you. I couldn’t have agreed more. Besides, he continued, she is Jenny’s cousin and we will not only be friends but we would be family. I liked everything about that idea I told him, besides, I said, “She’s Beautiful!”
Jenny confided in hushed conspiratorial tones, that she knew for a fact that you were interested in me. But she continued; don’t let her know that I told you that.
Whew! You might be interested in me? Was I hearing her right? Hallelujah! That’s the highest praise.
You? You, the girl of my dreams? Oh yes, you were the girl of my dreams alright. I had wonderful dreams about you. In my dreams, we held hands. In my dreams I held you in my arms and kissed you deeply. In my dreams your response was wonderful beyond description. I never wanted to wake up.
I was thrilled with this new piece of inside information. However, my insecurities argued and got the best of me. The girl who could have any boy in Pentecost. The girl who turned all the boys’ heads was willing to accept advances from me. How could that be? I was this nerd who looked like a poster boy for a new Zits medication. You know, the “before” shot. And to make matters worse, the more nervous I got, the more the zits seemed to appear. I was mortified with my looks. I was horribly insecure.
The First Walk
The last Sunday night of the Youth Revival couldn’t come too soon for me. I knew I shouldn’t date and hold revivals at the same time. I wanted to get to know you better and to be with you. I wasn’t focusing on ministry, I was focusing on Marcia.
After church that last night we had a good meal and a nice visit with your family. I said “goodnight” to your parents and you walked me to the door. We went outside and stood in the snow and cold. It was very cold and you stood there without a coat.
We talked for awhile and I put my suit coat around your shoulders to keep you warm. When I finally offered to go to my room, you volunteered to walk with me back to the church. That was so sweet. A girl walking a guy. It didn’t get much better than that.
When we got to the church, I didn’t want you to walk back to the house by yourself and without a coat besides, so I walked you back to the house. Memory fades on me at this point but it seems like we made 4 or 5 round trips at least that night.
We held hands to try and keep warm. There is just something about snowy Michigan nights and romance and holding hands. I was in love. I was in Love with a capital L. It felt wonderful beyond description. This was just too good to be true.
The Monday To Remember
Monday morning dawned with a snow storm advisory on the news. It looked like a foot of snow was already on the ground. My parents had told me that the funeral of Bro Oscar Hughes was that afternoon and they really hoped I would go with them.
Your Father announced that there was a Minister’s Meeting that night and he planned to go in spite of the snow. He asked if I’d like to go with him.
I decided that Bro. Hughes funeral would go on without me. It was a no-brainer. If I agreed, I got to spend one more day near you. I chose you.
The trip to the Minister’s Meeting was uneventful, just two guys in the car talking about unimportant things. The meal was fine, as was fellowship of the brethren. Because of the bad storm, the ride home was exceedingly treacherous. The snow was deep. Hardly any cars ventured out. The going was very slow. Somehow, the conversation changed from generalities to specifics. Your father wanted to know more about this guy whose name he was hearing around his house.
“You’re not one of them Pentecostal Romeos are you?” he blurted out as he rubbed the back of his neck briskly while biting on both his upper and lower lips at the same time. There is no school that can prepare a young man for a comment like that. It just came waltzing in out of nowhere. I felt the “fear of the father” start to turn my stomach into knots.
“Oh no sir,” was all that could come out of my mouth. When I said it I just knew it didn’t sound convincing enough. But to his credit and my peace of mind he didn’t pursue that avenue of questioning. Instead he somehow must have picked up early on the fact that I just might be the guy who would get serious about his daughter. So he moved from the challenging line of questioning to the father and son mode.
He glanced at me for a moment as he still tried to stay on the slick road and confided to me a lower tone. “A man loves with his eyes, but a woman loves with her ears.” That was a little gem of information I filed away in my brain and chose never to forget. I don’t remember any more meaningful conversation in the car that night. We were almost home and I was very relieved. The male bonding for the night was behind us. Thank the Lord.
When we arrived back in Albion it was almost 2am. Yet the lights were on and the sight and smell of candles and food created an inviting atmosphere. We were greeted by two beautiful women, you and your Mom. You both had your hair done up so pretty. And had on what looked like new housecoats that were soft looking and beautiful. The color red still stands out in my mind.
The smell of toast and hot chocolate brought us straight into the kitchen and we all sat down and enjoyed the refreshment. As if on signal your parents said goodnight as your Mom pointed out that she had made a bed for me on the couch. It was right by her bedroom door. I had just been upgraded from staying in the church basement to sleeping in the house.
As you cleaned up in the kitchen, I quickly got ready for bed. I crawled into bed totally exhausted from the trip. I cast a skeptical eye of the slightly open bedroom door of the master bedroom. It was only inches from the couch.
You turned off the lights and came by the couch on your way upstairs to your bedroom. In one fluid movement, as you brushed by the couch, you stooped quickly and kissed me square on the lips and said goodnight as you turned and bounded up the stairs. You had turned out all the lights in the house, but you had just turned all of mine on.
A few weeks later I came back through Albion on my way to preach a revival for your Grandpa at his church in Lansing. I visited awhile and ate with your family. As I prepared to go, you gave me my first gift from you. It was a birthday gift. A beautiful red shirt decorated with nice designs. It was imported and looked expensive. I really felt valued.
I thanked you for the gift and before turning to leave took you into my arms and kissed you goodbye. Your lips were so soft and yielding. It was like heaven to me. The sweetness of that kiss still lingers on in my mind. My brain and my emotions went into the “this is ecstasy” mode. Before I could come up for air, I heard “Oh excuse me!”
I turned in time to see your father rubbing the back of his neck again as he shuffled his feet on the carpet back into the other room. My first kiss to you got ended abruptly, and was not very private. But Lord, what a kiss! It was wonderful. I’ve never stopped loving your sweet kisses. They just keep getting better. Even after 45 years.
Happy 45th Valentine’s Day, My Darling! I’m In Love With You!