19 Sep My Sheep Hear My Voice
My Sheep Hear My Voice
After fifty-three + years of marriage, Ed and I can say that it has been our great fortune and pleasure to have sat at the feet of Jesus for forty-three of those years. For the first ten years of our marriage we were in church every Sunday going through the empty motions of a form of religion. I was determined that our family would be in church each Sunday if it killed us.
I was saved in 1952 at an old time Methodist revival service and had planned on being a medical missionary. I had found Jesus and thought that all I needed was a bachelor’s degree in nursing to send me on my way. Ed and I had been high school sweethearts; and as the years passed, neither of us could imagine life without the other. Shortly after my graduation from college, in 1964, Ed and I were married. I never made it to the mission field.
Ed had been an altar boy for years in the Episcopal church as he grew up, and I was amazed to learn some fifteen years after our marriage that he had actually gone to the priest while we were dating to ask him “who this Jesus was that Bettye always talks about.” Selah
How the Lord put us together is still a wonderment to me today. We were so very different; and after ten years of marriage and a huge business failure, those differences were magnified by insurmountable debt. I felt angry, betrayed, helpless and out of control. By 1974, when the business closed, we had two children; there was a house payment, a car payment, and the necessities of life ; there was no small nest egg tucked away and no job prospects on the horizon. It was a situation that just seemed to fit the old Texas adage: “Well, son, it’s time to eat worms and die.”
Ed had always been very quiet; but now, his silence deepened, and the soft blue eyes which I had loved so much took on a hard wariness that pierced my heart with an unexplainable sadness. We were in trouble, so much trouble it seemed that I could only half cry out to God in between the waves of tears and shrieks of anger.
The day after the business closed, the telephone rang. It was a veterinarian in Lawton, Oklahoma who Ed did not know. He wanted Ed to come to Oklahoma to consult with his practice – teach him how to do embryo transplant in cattle. Would Ed come for one month? Ed was obviously relieved; I was not impressed. What would happen the next month? We were divided even in this as Ed set off the next day for Oklahoma. At the end of one month they asked him to stay another month; and so it continued for nine months. They never committed to him for more than one month at a time. It was a provision, but since I was a person who liked to have things planned out for at least six months in advance, I was having a little trouble with extreme moments of anxiety to say the least.
It was during this nine month period while the children were at school each day that I renewed my relationship with Jesus. Each morning as soon as the front door closed, I eagerly grabbed my Bible and hopped into the bright blue rocker that sat in the den. On that first morning when I had dusted my Bible off in an effort to find Jesus again, I opened my Bible to Luke 10:38-42. It was the story of Mary and Martha. As I read, the characters seemed to be so very real. Within moments, I found myself saying, “I am just like Martha.” And surprisingly in my mind, the answer came, “Yes, you are like Martha, but you need to be like Mary. It is time for you to sit at my feet and learn.” I fairly leapt out of the chair and raced to the telephone and began resigning from all (and they were many) jobs and responsibilities I had in the community. With each call I made the resignation was effective immediately. Why? Because I had just had a fresh encounter with Jesus and I needed to spend some time alone with Him. Without exception there would be a steely silence on the other end of the line; and then a very cool reply. So, for the next seven months it was just Jesus and I reading the Word (Bible) every day, all day until the children came home from school. For ten long dry years, I had been like the man at the pool of Siloam – there had been no man to help me into the water; but then, Jesus came.
It was amazing; as I read the Word each day, the words on the pages made sense like they had never done before. And when I would randomly open the Word, it made no difference where I opened it. Each time I was greeted by the tender voice within my mind that I had come to know and recognize as Jesus. Sometimes it was, “You have done this…….”; and “You must repent of this……., you must forgive this one……”; and again, “You should be doing this…….” It was endless, exciting; I could hardly wait to meet with Him each day. There were tears of release, and joy bubbled up within me like I had never experienced. I was loved more deeply than I had ever imagined and each day our time together in the Word was like reading a long awaited letter from a loved one.
Ed called each week to check on us. We were doing fine. The children missed him, but seemed to be happy and secure. His calls lasted for exactly three minutes – one minute for each of us to talk to him. So, there was never really any time to tell him what was happening with me. He seemed fine. He had been living with the veterinarian and his wife because he could not rent an apartment for less than a year’s lease. Since he only knew from month to month if he would be staying, that had posed a problem. Of course, it was short lived, because the veterinarian had been so generous to give his guest room free of charge.
At the end of the nine month period, Ed was invited to stay on as a consultant with the company for one year. The children and I would leave for Oklahoma as soon as school was out. We put our home on the market and it was sold within the week. Upon arrival in Lawton, I discovered that the veterinarian and his wife were born again, Spirit filled believers. I had no idea what it meant to be Spirit filled at this time, but it was enough to know that Charlene had been going into Ed’s room each morning after he left for the lab and praying for us as she stood beside his bed. God had placed us right in the middle of His people and had been loving Ed just as He had been loving me.
Within the week of our arrival in Oklahoma, our daughter and I had received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and about six weeks later Ed was saved and filled with the Spirit. Our son was the last to follow, but by the time school started in September of 1975, the little two bedroom apartment that we had rented sounded like an international gathering place as we praised God among the packing boxes that lined the walls.
As it happened, the next year was a crash course in ‘walking by faith’. Every Sunday a different evangelist came to the small fellowship in which the Lord had placed us. The Word we were hearing was so liberating. And when the Holy Spirit showed both of us the scripture in 1 Samuel 15:22-23 which says, “Obedience is better than sacrifice………….”; we really began to see the Lord move. It was as if we were walking in a miracle every day. We were, in fact, expecting a miracle every day, and God was providing it. We were growing and changing. Oh, we still had the massive debt, but the Holy Spirit was working on our personal behaviors like there was no tomorrow. All the little corners of selfishness were being exposed, and we could almost say that our marriage had regained some semblance of love again.
Life was never what I would call easy in those days, but the Lord was definitely showing us that He had a pattern for communicating with us that worked every time. And when we could hear His directions and were obedient to walk in them, we received blessing. It reminded me a lot of the old carrot on a stick, and we were the donkeys – stubborn, stiff-necked, and dug-in. It is never easy to put behind the old way of doing things and enter into new life; but we were determined to see the promise in Romans 5:17 manifested in our lives. We would reign in this life through Jesus Christ. We now realized that we were children of the King of the Universe and we would learn to live like it – to walk and talk like it.
We quickly learned that the only way to accomplish the goal was to keep our Bible within arms reach. We started the day (I mean before we got out of bed – before a word was spoken if possible) by randomly opening the Bible and reading what the Lord had to say, what directions He might have to give. These were extremely hard times for us and our minds had to be centered on the Lord. It was just too crushing to think on the financial situation and our living circumstance. The cramped conditions brought tempers to the surface more than I care to remember, but as many times the Holy Spirit brought to mind a scripture one of us had just read to bring the Lord’s mind into the situation. It was wonderful!
Soon we individually began to realize that as we read the Word each morning the Holy Spirit was teaching us about an area in our life that needed work. It was amazing; we were opening our Bibles randomly; but no matter where our fingers cracked the Book, it was at a precise spot where more information was needed to add to the teaching. And then, those wonderful evangelists that the Lord was sending our way each Sunday always added the crowning touch. Invariably, as they shared the Word, the Holy Spirit would be speaking about the very same thing He had been teaching us all week from the Word. Now, you have to understand that the Lord was dealing with Ed and I individually about issues within our separate lives; but the Holy Spirit was able to speak to us individually through the teaching on Sunday to confirm what He had been teaching us individually during the week. It was like having the window of my soul opened right there before everyone. Remember, we were babes in the Lord. This was all new to us; but the Holy Spirit was making it easier to understand what it was that we were to be doing to make the necessary changes in our life. There was no doubt. First we read what we were to do in the Word (Bible); then, the Holy Spirit explained it to us repeatedly through many other scripture. On Sunday, we heard from the teacher what we were to do, and it was always exactly what we had read from the word and what the Holy Spirit had already explained.
The wonder of what was happening with the Word of God was just thrilling! Talk about produce joy! And we definitely needed a little joy at our house. Of course, it was not long before the Holy Spirit showed us that Jesus had said, “Let everything be established in the mouth of two or three witnesses.” That was it! Three witnesses: Bible, Holy Spirit, and God’s man. We had not been imagining it; that was God’s way of communicating with us. To effect the change, to receive the blessing that was to come with the change, all we had to do was obey! Being the daughter of a retired US Army colonel, I knew that meant now – not later, not when you feel like it.
Life was looking up, but what about the debt? It had been easy to find the scripture that said “owe no man anything”. But knowledge of that came a little late for us. It would have been so easy if the Lord had included the book of Debtfree just before the book of Exodus, but that was not the case. It was some seven years later before the debt was resolved, and it was the Lord that spoke into Ed’s mind how it was to be done. Even so, those thoughts were confirmed through more than three witnesses before any action was taken. So, am I saying that the Lord moves at a snail’s pace which is compounded by daily logs of scripture and prophesy? No; but in matters of doctrine and in decision about life changing events, God will always speak to us through the Word, by the Holy Spirit and through His anointed people to bring confirmation and prevent us from making hurtful mistakes. The Father wants only the best for His children.
But what about the emergency when there is not time for the confirming trio? The Holy Spirit is there to speak into your mind exactly what you need to do. And if you are practiced in hearing His voice on a daily basis through His explanation of the Word of God, you will know His voice when an emergency arises.
In 1980 (5 years post Baptism in Holy Spirit), our family was in a small aircraft in route to Bunkie, Louisiana. Ed had learned to fly in order to go to the jobs the Lord was sending him to all over the country. He had a job in the panhandle of Florida and the children and I had joined him for a ride to a cousin’s home in Louisiana. We never made these trips with him, but this time we found ourselves fitted in between the microscopes and supply boxes as we took off that Friday afternoon from Oklahoma. It would be necessary for us to reach our destination before dark. Bunkie only has a population of 2000, so there were no lights on the grass strip that we would be landing on. The air space across Louisiana is generally marked for military use; there is only a narrow corridor down the center of the state in which small planes can travel. It was nearing dark and Ed had already commented that we would be touching down just at dusk. We needed to pray that there were a few pickup trucks there to greet us with headlights on. Within minutes we were engulfed in an unexpected bank of dense fog. Ed got on the radio and talked to the tower at Fort Polk. Fog? No, there was no fog in the area. We would be fine to continue the trip to Bunkie; just stay in the proper air corridor. The artillery was conducting war games; there would be tracers in the air. Our son, Edward was soon ooing and owing from the back seat as streaks of red burst through the fog on what seemed like our wing tips. Soon we were approaching our destination, but as we began our descent, the fog worsened; and Ed announced that his ‘no, no’ button was sounding loud and clear. We would not be landing in Bunkie on a grass strip with no lights and no sense of what was below – trees? poles?
Up we went flying back through the artillery show we had just left. Fuel was now rapidly becoming a problem. I cannot remember feeling frightened. But I do remember asking the Lord if we had missed Him in planning this trip. If the children and I had not been with Ed, he would have flown straight to Florida and landed at a metropolitan airport. Well, here we were in the soup as Ed said. What was there to do, but pray. How? Only the Spirit knows the mind of the Lord; we needed His mind; we would all pray in the Spirit. At Leesville, Louisiana the fog suddenly cleared. Ed called the tower there; and I had to laugh as Ed asked if there were lights on the field. There were. Both of us burst into laughter as we made the final approach because only about 1/3 of the landing lights were in operation. It was enough to land the plane and reassess the situation. Ed filled the plane with gas while the children and I found the bathroom, a port-o-John nestled in the piney woods which surrounded the strip. While on the ground Ed talked to the towers at Fort Polk and Alexandria. Both confirmed that the night was clear; there was no fog. Well, we knew we could not fly south; there was fog; we had seen it. So, we determined to fly east to Alexandria. Alexandria was only a 20 minute drive from Bunkie; we would call my cousin when we landed. That is if they were not still at their air strip waiting for us. This was 40 years ago and no cell phones.
Responding to a prompting from the Holy Spirit, Ed asked as he climbed into his seat, “Anything I should know about at the end of this runway?” The response came, “As a matter of fact, there are some power lines. You’ll need to pull up immediately when you lift off.” Phew! We sent up a big thank you, Lord. So, up into the night we went just clearing the power lines at the end of the runway. Five minutes to the east we hit fog and heavy rain. Our captain called everyone to prayer again and a steady hum of perfectly blended tongues burst forth from the back seat like someone had just pushed a button. I was praying in the Spirit, but I was also asking, “Lord what is all this about?”
Ed called the Alexandria controller. Yes, they had some fog, but the ceiling was at 1100 feet. Just make an instrument approach. Well, that was the problem; Ed was only rated to fly visually. He had all the instruments in the plane to make an instrument landing, and he had learned how to use them; but he had never actually made an instrument landing. Ed is so precise about everything that he has control over that I knew if he had had any idea that he would be making an instrument landing we would still be at the Leesville airstrip waiting for him to pour over maps and make all his calculations. Or else we would have just spent the night in the airplane snugly parked on the ground. But here we were flying through the fog, hopefully, just high enough to miss any towers and low enough to stay out of the path of any large aircraft. Although I couldn’t imagine how Ed was going to keep the plane straight and level and spread out maps in the cockpit, I was poised to start handing him maps and a slide rule. Then, suddenly, almost breathlessly he said, “Write this down quickly. Write exactly what I tell you. I am to tune to the Alexandria beacon. When the needle flips we will have crossed the beacon and I am to turn to a heading of 005 North and count 2 ½ minutes. Tell me when 2 ½ minutes is up and I am to turn to a heading of 110 and count 1 ½ minutes. And that should put us at the edge of the airport control space. I am to call the tower at this time and request landing instructions. Did you get that, Bettye?” And then, with a smile and a twinkle in those remarkable blue eyes he said, “That’s what the Holy Spirit just told me.”
Well, praise, God! We were up; we needed to be down. Who was I to question what had just transpired. I trusted the Lord; I trusted Ed. Ready set go! I maned the clock, Ed maned the plane, and the Holy Spirit maned the whole show to the tune of the prayer language of our children in the back seat. In four minutes time Ed called the tower in Alexandria. They had us on the radar; the ceiling was at 1100 feet; we were clear to land. At 1100 feet we were still eerily in the fog. Ed called the tower. They had us on radar; continue on approach path. A hush fell over us all as we approached 900 feet and could still see nothing before us. The controllers words rang in my ears, “continue on approach”. At 850 feet our little plane broke out of the fog and before us lay the landing strip. Our plane was just feet off the ground and lined up right square in the middle of the strip. Ed did not have to adjust the plane to the left or to the right.
Later that night, in the comfort of my cousin’s guest bedroom, Ed spread his charts out on the bed. He was looking to see what the dramatic turns and timing had been all about. What hadn’t the Holy Spirit’s directions been more direct? Was this just an exercise in obedience or ……. Wow! There on the charts – right in our path – were three huge towers. They, with their beacons, were hidden in the dense fog; and the Holy Spirit had given Ed the exact co-ordinates that took us around them; and then, lined us up exactly with the center of the run way. What a mighty God we serve!
It is now 2017 and some 40 years later. Ed completed his race this March and is now standing face to face with the Lord. The years between the miraculous flight I have described above and today have been wonderfully full and productive as we learned to live together in unity for the Lord. He is a God of miracles; and again and again, as we raised our children and lived our daily lives, the Lord miraculously solved problems in our work, performed what the medical community considered to be impossible healing in our bodies, and took us on outreach trips around the world. The truth is, every day was and is a learning experience. We never stop learning about Him or His ways. It is very clear to me today that the greatest lessons to be learned are learning to hear the Father’s voice and learning to follow the directions of the Holy Spirit and learning that Jesus is always present and yearning to be involved in every detail of our life. It is all about relationship with Him. Yes, He is God; but He is also our father and He wants to be involved in our life.
In sharing these things with you, it is my hope that you will see Jesus and see the Father’s deep love for all of His children. He wants to communicate with each of us. He wants to be a part of every little event in our lives right down to the minute and millimeter. He wants to lead us out of the hardships of this world and into His blessings and kingdom. I am positive that as we hold fast and continue the race by reading His Word daily and by fellowshipping with the Holy Spirit, we will learn to hear His voice more clearly and trust Him more perfectly.