$ Financial Freedom $
Having been raised/programmed with all the principals of a virtuous woman, Granny also lived in our home (a survivor of the Great Depression). Additionally, with four siblings, eight to nine people lived in our house at
any given time. Parents being in mission work, we were also the 'home away from home' for uncounted numbers of people and missionaries.
Every which way I turned, there were lessons on being frugal - for which, funds always stretched just a little further. Also being first born, I was the closest to a big brother there was in our home. It seemed normal
to carry over roles of caretaking/protector responsibilities into adult life. Neither did it help that the man I married came from a well-to-do family, for which we would not be accepted due to our financial standing.
Having already come through an abusive relationship, I concluded that if I just did all the right things, I'd never have to live like that again. Unknowingly, I placed myself in captivity to legalism.
Thus, from a variety of sources and pressures, I became a work-aholic. Religious training didn't afford the option of working outside the home. But, it did provide perhaps every feasible thing imaginable to save or make money while at home.
Among feats of putting in 16 hrs. per day for 16 yrs; I was a foster parent to 12 children, a piano teacher, a baby-sitter, a professional rebater, groceries were not bought without a double coupon (stores hated to
see me coming and I hated going - $369 worth of groceries for $53 & then to come home and match rebates was more work than any laundry day I ever saw). I held yard sales, sold craft items, even collected people's left over rummage. Being an idea person, there was no end of ways on how to turn nickels into dimes. If my husband so much as bought a 10 cent candy bar, he was dead meat - as 'spending money' just wasn't there.
I could keep a column going on how to make a Kleenex last for two uses; how to reuse scrap paper; how to make your own Christmas post cards and name tags; how to use your talents to never have to buy presents again; and, what to do with most every piece of trash - besides trash it (to name a few).
Inspite of the recession, in every way, we appeared to have 3 times our income. It was impossible to make a budget with funds that weren't there and no one was the wiser. Through the years, what seemed never ending was being slammed (financially and otherwise) to such a degree that - before we could get up from one crisis, another would hit. And, no matter what image we could portray, it was never enough to become worthy in my husband's family's eyes.
Then came the day a friend, from our church, offered to do some remodeling for us. He needed the money, and we could get projects done due to the cheep rate he offered. We'd also seen that he was capable of doing good work.
It was a long story that ended with the interior of our house looking like a construction demolition sight, leaving us; $30,000 in debt for mostly destroyed materials, with an estimate of $240,000 in repairs and replacements, attorneys who wanted our case but said 'you can't get blood our of a turnip', an insurance agent and an insurance adjuster who lied & bailed on us, and an unsafe house to live in. In addition, my husband's 15 yr. job was going down the tubes due to the administration's theft of funds. Income, hours, and benefits were being cut left and right. It wasn't even possible to file bankruptcy, as we couldn't afford the price of rent.
The hurt was much deeper than material things. It attacked my identity, took away my cover for a low self-esteem, and left me feeling broken and defiled that such a person we'd cared for, ministered to, and helped had done such a thing.
16 yrs. of labor was gone. I was 16 yrs. older than when we began. Being emotionally beyond spent, I just couldn't do it again. I would have been institutionalized before I'd have gotten up to try just one more time.
Finally completely defeated (I guess it takes more to bring down the strong), there was nothing left to do but get on my knees and ask God to give me something to hang on to - as there was nothing left inside of me. I
couldn't hang on any more.
God took me down memory lane, reminding me of past experiences ... how we got married anyway, not having found a place we could afford to rent and how God had provided a nice place (based upon our income) within two weeks thereafter ... how when we moved to another state and couldn't find a place to rent that would allow children, he made a way for us to purchase a house we wouldn't have thought we could afford (sellers even helped finance the closing) ... how when we moved into houses that still echoed once we moved
in - God filled them. God promised there would be another house, bigger still yet, and that He would do that for us again.
Always knowing in my head that we couldn't even breathe without God, I had found it difficult to give God all the credit in my heart - being that I'd worked sooooo hard! I saw how God had been there when I hadn't
recognized it as Him. And, I believed Him when He said He would do it again. (After all, God had a good track record.) So, this time, I did an about face and decided to let Him do it. All along, I'd been carrying a
weight that wasn't mine to carry and I was finally giving it back to God. No more ideas, at all. I didn't want that load anymore!!!
With that promised and settled in my heart, suddenly anger overwhelmed me. Once before, already being active in church, the question had come to mind, "What does Satan think we would do if he just left us alone? What is he so afraid of that he just keeps picking on us?" I didn't know the answer but determined I was going to find out and get even. I would take care of God's business and let Him take care of mine. Whatever God had showed me to do, that I'd put off to a better day - I would do. Whatever, God showed me
to do now - I would do. Whatever God showed me to do next, I would do. I would do, and do, and do, and do until I found what Satan was so afraid of. And, when I found it, I would do it. Then, Satan would be sorry he ever messed with me!
Suddenly I realized that nothing I'd ever learned in any church, great or small, had taught me how to overcome these battles. When attempting to seek council from those thought to be spiritual, I would be shunned. In time, I came to understand that they didn't know the answers. Thus, I'd learned to suffer such attacks from Satan silently. Verses preached hadn't worked either. They must not mean what people think they mean. Evidently, only God knows how to defeat Satan. I determined that if I sought God's will and instruction on every given matter, it would be impossible to fail - as Satan can't defeat God. Therefore, I decided to erase my training and start over (as a little child, ye must be born again to enter the Kingdom of
God) and bring my every question to God.
(I know that's not the way man teaches it - but follow on.)
The law made nothing perfect,
but the bringing in of a better hope did,
by which we draw nigh unto God.
When verses spoke to me, THEN that was God speaking. And since man's interpretation didn't work, I would research God's word for definition of those words ... soon learning that God is His own best commentator.
Having begun seeing the Bible in a new way, I'd search like a detective, looking for How-To's (calling them "Master's Tools"). There's a promise of God's Word not returning void. So, whenever we'd be advertising
a program or church event, I'd look for a supporting verse to use in the advertisement.
Then, without proper tools to find a verse I needed, I spent two weeks, 14 hrs. per day, searching. I couldn't give up, as that would mean Satan had won. God promises if we seek Him with our whole heart, He'll reveal
Himself to us. Suddenly the Bible came to life! I could both hear and feel the words! For the first time, I understood the Bible! It spoke to me in my language!!!
For the next several months, I wouldn't put God's word down. There where so many promises, Master's tools, and lessons to be learned - all over the place!
It was so neat!!! God's instruction works! Whatever big or little that I sought God's will on, He blessed! I learned the real meaning of "except the Lord build the house, those who build are laboring in vain - to
not take the name of the Lord in vain." I also learned to let Him build mine. God provided and continued to provide tools for me to find deeper things in the Bible, as I was ready to receive them.
In the process of learning forgiveness at a level few have ever known, I came to realize that I was responsible for what happened to my house, that I hadn't sought God's will on it first. God also taught me to
know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em in terms of being manipulated by people who take advantage. Seeking God in all things became my choice - as only God knows where Satan will be lurking next. Step by step, letting go of things I had been doing to keep financially afloat, I began taking God
with me to the grocery store & wherever else I went.
The MOST wonderful thing, in addition to all the things I continued to learn, is this. I grew in a personal relationship, a moment by moment walk with God, engulfed in His love ... and finally came to terms in that I was
already accepted by God the moment I received Him into my heart. I am royalty, an heir to the throne, a child of the KING!
In regard to finances, I later realized that Satan had been steeling from us all through the years - even in areas I hadn't recognized. Having once given myself too much credit as perhaps one of the most prepared for
being frugal in the world, there were areas I hadn't even seen. Only God can defeat Satan every time!
It took 3 mos. just to clean up the construction mess enough for our house to be safe, though it never got repaired. God gave my husband a new job (at 3 times our income) (at the very same company who'd promised him employment 15 yrs. earlier) and made provisions for finances to get straightened out - one step at a time. However, we ran into obstacles every time we attempted to thereafter hire help & not wanting to start another project without God's blessings, restored finances just got saved instead.
Additionally, just before God replaced lost inheritance and other things that had been stolen from us, He gave me this verse. "And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the
caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you. Joel 2:25" I had no idea what any part of that verse meant at that time. But, I knew God had just promised to replace ALL that Satan had stolen from us throughout the years. Tears flowed with Joy at the awesome love of God! It was more than I'd hoped for and more of God than I had ever dared dream.
It has been 7 years since this part of my spiritual journey began. We've been free of financial bondage for a very long time now. And if not really that long, perhaps the memory has faded. God answered me in the joy
of my heart. He set me free! I haven't seen anything since that was enough temptation to ever go in debt again. And, the growth with God has been wonderful! As painful as the transition was, it was well worth getting to know Him in a more personal way.
The house God promised, that day on my knees, we recently paid cash for (paid in full). Not only did we get three times our income, but again we live in a house that is three times greater than our income would afford &
is more than we ever expected to have in our lifetime, only by the grace of God! Over 3,300 sq. ft., I have no doubt but what God will fill it again. God was more interested in cleaning the inside of the cup first - making it
healthy and whole. And when that's done, He owns it all!!!
Having learned appreciation for the verse "he learned obedience by the things he suffered" ... when our thoughts aren't lined up with who God is and His perfect will, we're not in our right mind. Everything God asks of us will prove to be for our benefit, every hard lesson learned will turn to glory. The battles are in the mind. To take Satan by force and get our mind back, we have to start all over and come as a little child. The greatest in
the Kingdom of Heaven are the children. In all things, God is our strength and OUR GOD REIGNS!
May you find the Peace that only He can give.
In His name,
Joyce C. Lock
He that findeth his life shall lose it:
and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
A Promise Fulfilled
As young people often tend to feel invincible, my daughter would be employed two and three places at a time. Being born flat-footed, her feet didn't always cooperate.
In time, x-rays proved her bones had actually moved to where they were laying side by side (instead of on top of each other). Additionally, there were bone spurs.
Joints throughout her body would swell, and doctors had failed in diagnosing it. Shoes often created too much pain to wear. Medical tests required funds that were otherwise needed.
Becoming a common thing for her to run to the basement to put clothes into the dryer, only to find her sitting at the bottom of the basement steps crying (not being able to climb back up the stairs), we began to supply a wheel chair for outings.
Having no insurance and two young boys to provide for (not being able to take 6 mos. off work), God would provide her with feet just long enough to finish a shift.
Though having been a person with a heart for the needs of others, she was never able to manage her own spiritual walk.
Finally realizing God had allowed this to physically happen, so we'd realize her spiritual condition was an infirmity, I began to research scripture.
If two 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. Mt.18:19
The verse God gave us was this ...
"Make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed." He.12:13
Receiving that verse as God's instruction to teach the straight gate, she then began to walk both spiritually & physically.
Setting out to fulfill the required condition, we focused on listening for God and receiving His every next step of instruction - to not follow the laws in ink, but seeking to know God's heart.
Already knowing she had the gift of prophecy, her abilities became more refined. As long as her focus was on God, she'd continue improving. Seeking God with your whole heart, He reveals himself to you. Je.29:13 A few months into this journey, and she began experiencing God in newfound ways.
The following months were so exciting, she could hardly put God's Word down! She'd say, "Oh, this is so neat! I have to tell you what I found! I finally understand this!" ... as the phone would ring all hours of the night (being about to burst just to tell the wonderful truths of God).
From the day God began revealing Himself, she's had no desire to turn back ... and has had to separate from whomever would hold her to the Biblical laws (as both physical and spiritual conditions otherwise begin deteriorating).
There's no medical explanation as to how it's possible for her to walk, as surgeries were never done - or bones healed. Today, she is a walking testimony (both spiritually and literally) that you 'can' walk, if you keep your eyes on God. He isn't dead. He'll tell you when and which laws apply to accomplish His purpose.
God kept His word ...
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Ch. 7:14
As the ability to stay home with her children was thereafter provided for, God even fulfilled a promise that wasn't sought.
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. Ep.3:20
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. Ja.1:6 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. I Jn. 3:22
And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. I Jn.5:15
by Joyce C. Lock
Every so often, I enjoy browsing through Christian Book Stores just to read their wall hangings. It draws me to worship. Yet, no matter how beautiful, either the color or wood tone doesn't coordinate with my home furnishings. Thus, coming home empty handed is the norm.
Through the course of conversation, a friend gave me the idea to frame my poetry. What a Godsend! There is a way to decorate my house as a testimony for God after all!
For the next few months, every piece of paper caught my attention - from cards with framed messages (making beautiful borders) to designed stationery (for backgrounds) to picture posters (creating otherwise more expensive large wall hangings). Each and every creation is one of a kind. There's even a grouping of family photos, with one frame out in front that says, "Our God Reigns". My house is growing to be a visible expression of my heart. Isn't God wonderful!?!
However, there was just one snag (an object lesson, if you will).
In purchasing a picture of a temple garden with doves; no verse, poem, or saying had been included. It needed something more to mark its' religious significance. Not having before realized; doves are no longer easy to find in the stores. My husband helped search until we found enough pieces to complete a wall, shelf, and table grouping.
A poem was to set in the midst, to tie this grouping together. More than a half dozen changes in the framed poem occurred before I was satisfied with its' wording. Then, the materials used in the frame changed more times than I can count. It was a chore ever coming to the place that poem, fonts, paper, ink, color, background, and frame all worked together like it should. Eventually, the right combination came together that left that feeling of 'awe, perfect'. Concluding that this framed creation was never going to get any better than that, I vowed to never touch it again. Finally!!! I was glad that was over!
Then one day, while on vacation, I came across a gorgeous handcrafted Canadian resin dove frame. It was twice what I wanted to pay. How could I be sure if it were a perfect match, being several states away? After having labored over the decision, I concluded that I might not get another chance for a frame like this again.
Once home, I set the frame with the grouping to see how it might look. Still uncertain, after hesitation, I took apart my framed work, transferred it to the new frame, then set it in place of the original. Awe! PERFECT! It was BEAUTIFUL!!! How could that be!?! I always thought the feeling of 'awe, perfect' was God's way of saying something is just right/complete/as it was meant to be.
"How could that be, God?"
He answered, "See. My 'PERFECT' is even better than yours." And, yes, I did 'see' the difference.
I think God gave me that object lesson as a way of sharing with people something I'd already learned, Except the Lord build the house, those who build are laboring in vain (Ps.127:1). His 'PERFECT' is better than the very best we can do. All our righteousness is as filthy rags until God begins to live through us; trading in our knowledge, thoughts, beliefs, talents, abilities, creativity for His. 'Awe' to know Him! His ways are always 'PERFECT'!!! And, if we'd just let God build our house and His, they'd both be 'PERFECT', too.
by Joyce C. Lock
From early childhood, my mother would agree that I was one of the most timid people you'd ever meet.
I was terrified to speak. Outside of family (my comfort zone), I often never spoke.
Hiding behind my husband's coat tail for a number of years, he was good at socializing. I just tagged along. Were it not for him, I'd have never gone in the first place. I would have been too frozen to speak. Having him around took a lot of pressure off me. If I thought of a few lines, fine. But, otherwise, I could enjoy following as he mingled among the people, with maybe an occasional smile or two.
When the opportunity came to not have to play the church piano or organ, but to finally get to sing in a church choir, I was so grateful. Though I couldn't speak the words, I could share my love for the Lord in song. It wasn't that I never wanted to play again, because I did. It was just that I'd discovered a greater ability to worship, making my heart the instrument.
As years came and went, growing in the Lord, God began showing me prophetic things. Sometimes, those things were so wonderful I'd feel like I was about to burst just to tell someone. When I'd attempt to share, people would immediately quote scripture so fast I couldn't take it all in to even know if I agreed or disagreed with their point. It was so intimidating, I'd close my mouth and just slither away.
When messages came with urgency, I'd have to share 'do or die'. It's God's Word to share such things or the blood will be upon your hands. Yet, because of their unbelief, God gave me a stammering tongue so others wouldn't understand what I was trying to express. It truly became a long term thorn in the flesh. I'd spend hours, days, and weeks (and sometimes even months) just laboring to make one important point in a way that others could finally get it.
Often feeling like I think the Apostle Paul must have felt, excellent in knowledge but rude in speech, my words would often create unintended offences. Being misunderstood became a painful way of life. Walking on eggs was a royal pain, mostly on my part - never being aloud to be real. Retreating, I'd often find comfort in expression through pen.
Having had the opportunity of first hand observance of some of the most wonderfully gifted encouragers in the world, and the effect they had to lift up people ... one day, God said, "Now, it's your turn." I couldn't speak! I'd already promised God I'd go where He'd send me, "But, you know I can't speak!!!"
It isn't that I refused to go. I truly wanted to keep my word to God. But, if I walked up to someone - my brain would go dead. Words seemed to vanish. "God, you know that!"
God responded, "Well ... could you say that you like their tie?" I paused, then responded, "It might kill me, but I 'can' say that."
After working up some courage, I walked up to the person God directed me to and said energetically, "I really like that tie!" The guy seemed both startled and surprised, as if no one had ever given him a compliment. He gave a big smile, but his 'thank you', seemed to be the only thing he could figure out to say (as if he'd never had opportunity to say it before).
Shew! I was glad that was over.
God showed me a lady, wearing a red dress. Passing in a church crowd, I made mention of how nice that color looked on her. Her face lit up and her mouth flew open. But, no words followed. It was as if no one had ever noticed before. She was both pleased and speechless. But, moving on through the crowd, it didn't leave time for her to feel pressured to respond. Though just for a brief moment, it felt good to have made a difference.
Then God said, "See that lady over there? Go say something nice to her." 'Something nice' means I'd have to figure out what the compliment is. I looked and saw she was wearing a pretty broach. I had the first line, but she filled in all the rest. It's just amazing how people's faces would light up when someone acknowledged their presence. All I had to do was speak first, then we'd find amazing things to discuss.
Oh, man. This was so cool! Just say something to the person in need that God shows you and stand back and see what He does with it. (Faithful is He who called you, who also will do it.) Hey! God's Word works!!!! And sometimes, all they need is someone to care that they came.
I was getting pretty good at this. Man this was a breeze. Just about that time ... God upped the ante.
"Now, I want you to go say something spiritual." Oh, no! Of all things, this would be harder. "Bubububut, God, you didn't tell me what to say!" "Observe," He said. "Find something nice to say about their ministry."
Every time I'd get comfortable, God would say, "Let's learn something else."
(Once, years ago, I was in a crowd and someone came from behind and touched my shoulder to get my attention. Feeling something spiritual happen from head to toe, I immediately had to turn and see who it was that touched me. It was so awesome, I never forgot it. The only explanation I know of is that his spirit transferred to mine.)
Again, God sent me with a message to another lady, before church was to start. This one wasn't even a really big deal. It was just something she needed to be informed of. But, she had a crowd gathered as she stood gabbing about the weather. I waited patiently for at least 10 min. and it was almost time for church to start, still not having gotten her attention.
I asked God what I was suppose to do. He said, "Remember the touch? Now it's your turn. Reach up and ever so gently place your hand upon her shoulder, then wait for her response."
The lady finished her sentence, turned around and spoke to me in such a spirit, I think my knees almost melted. She ministered to me in such a miraculous way, I was in awe. Her speech instantly moved from insignificant to spiritual. It was so wonderful that I turned to see if anyone else had seen it. I almost said out loud, "Did you see what God just did!?!" But, they didn't see. The crowd had vanished. They'd missed a blessed opportunity to witness the Power of a Touch.
In big ways and little ways, I began practicing the things I'd learn. Whenever I couldn't remember someone's name, which was most of the time, if I so much as tapped their shoulder, they'd greet with an instant smile. I'd say, "Hi", to people on the street - something they hadn't heard since years gone by (unless they'd visited the South). I'd look to notice little things, in letting others know their ministries were appreciated.
There's a verse that says the giver receives the greater blessing. I found it to be very true, as these people would begin ministering to me! And, as someone would begin to care about them, they were in turn multiplying seed by caring about others.
My youngest daughter once said, "Mom, that is so weird, walking up and talking to and helping people you don't even know." Could it be that this very thing of encouraging others could even be contagious on the streets? I don't know, but people are a lot kinder in our local stores than they were just a few years ago.
I never was able to be an encourager in the same way that others were. But, God didn't call me to be someone else. And with each new step, I learned something wonderful about God.
Next, He sent me to a visitation training program. Then I knew God had lost His mind! But, I'd already promised I'd go wherever He called and I'd already gone farther than ever imagined. (I didn't say I didn't dread it though.)
But, much to my amazement and appreciation, God didn't make me learn all the perfect quotes and memorizations. I didn't have to practice how to intimidate other people with scripture.
I failed the course, was accused of not submitting to authority, and was asked to leave the class. God never promised there would be no pain. But even amidst a hurt greater than I had ever known inside a church, not even good enough to serve God, He gave me a very special promise. The words He'd written upon my heart, He would bring to remembrance whenever I needed them.
God had something different in mind for me to learn ... how to minister, looking to the needs of their heart. In my weakness, God became my strength. And, I finally learned to speak by taking Baby Steps.
by Joyce C. Lock
God doesn't call the equipped. He equips the called. I Co. 1:27-31