Please don't leave this article until you read the true, amazing story starting eight paragraphs below about a walk of conscience awareness, God's amazing grace and God's beautiful, stunning mercy. I know its a true story because I lived it with two people who became my very good friends.
All Biblical usages of the word conscience have the same definition: (the soul’s perception of right and wrong). (Acts 24:16) The conscience is exercised (trained, programmed), by thinking (intellect, reason, and rationalization) and that results in action. The measurement of the strength of an action is an individual's willpower.
All acts controlled by the conscience are based on faith in and value of which results in loyalty to and allegiance with what and/or who. (Rom. 2:14-15) There is a “natural conscience” that enables man to establish rules of order so mankind can live together. Groups of men had rules to live by long before the Bible and Christians got to wherever these groups were.
(1Tim. 1:5) After a person gets saved they have a pure heart and a good conscience. (1Pet. 3:21) The next step is baptism which is the answer of a good conscience toward God. (Acts 24:16) Then we must exercise (train) ourselves so we can have a conscience void of offense toward God and toward men and the only way to do that is to learn what God wants us to do and how God wants us to act and then become that person through God’s word and the Holy Spirit.
The only way to get a conscience void of offense is, through the Holy Spirit, to pray, study the Bible, attend church, meditate and (James 1:9-27) control and eliminate our carnal tendencies and impulses; and that takes time, actually the rest of your life and you won’t get finished either!
(1Tim. 1:19-20) Some Christians put away their good conscience and make a shipwreck (stranded) of their faith. Stranded defined: (hung up and cannot get to the place you want to go). (Heb. 10:2-4) When a Christian conscience is guilty before God the guilt cannot be bought off by some individual sacrifice to God or penance before God. The way a Christian clears his guilty conscience is: (Eph. 6:18) if we pray in the Holy Spirit (1John 1:6 thru 2:1 keywords: we have an advocate with the Father) and confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (Heb. 4:14-16) It starts at Jesus' throne of grace.
But if sin continues (1Tim. 4:1-2) the conscience can be seared (made numb). This searing makes the conscience numb toward what God wants and that is the source (Heb.3:12-14) of a hardened heart (soul) until there is no spiritual or emotional awareness of sin (numb) and a person eventually ceases to care. It is rather obvious this type Christian re-evaluates his faith and values. He values sin more than a relationship with God and his faith is in pleasuring himself (covetousness) (Col. 3:5) and that is the principal of pleasing self which is Idolatry!
NOTE: An in-depth study of the programming of the conscience is given in Growth as a Christian all seven articles, in the Sin in Church commentary. Some examples are given that are sometimes humorous, sometimes sad and those everyday "you don't know it's happening" times that will cause you to see yourself and those about you in a different way whether you are saint or sinner. Please don't miss it! The concept that the conscience is part of the "created soul" is explained in the first Self article of this commentary. AND:
Here is the true story of a man and his conscience who I knew when I was a teenager and of his "lady" and her conscience whom I became acquainted with years later after Harold and I became re-acquainted.
Harold was a few years older than me, four or five, and I did not know him until I became old enough to hang out at the skating rink, the old country store, movies and the cow pasture ballgames. Of course, at that age, with that age difference, we only knew each other in a perfunctory way. I was a skinny, un-cool nobody and Harold was "somebody".
Harold was charming with his laid back attitude, gift of gab, good looks, athleticism, wry humor, ability to tell jokes and stories and his even temper. Somehow people never got mad at Harold but when Harold wasn't around the other big guys said; "Don't loan Harold any money if you expect it back."
"Don't take Harold home with you if you are married or if your Mother is still pretty, well, even if she isn't so pretty because Harold will have to make his try at them. Don't get your whiskey or beer out if Harold's around, he'll never leave until it's all gone!" Then they'd laugh. But everybody liked Harold, he was just too charming and laid back to not like him and guys would share with him because he was such an entertaining guy.
Harold didn't want a steady, full time job. He'd odd job for people in the community when he had to so he could keep himself in spending money. Then something happened and Harold joined the Navy. Later on I joined the Marines and when I was discharged and came home in 1968 I heard Harold was in Ohio where some of his relatives lived.
He'd come in for a few days or weeks once in a while but I never ran across him and the stories told were that he was a little lazy, usually in one stage or another of being drunk, a womanizer, funny, easy to get along with and very "laid-back"; just a "good old boy".
Years later, maybe 12 or 14 years ago, around '98 or 2000, I stopped in at a friend's construction business to see if he would arrange for his company to install a septic system for me. A small, battered trailer sitting in the front part of a graveled, fenced lot that held construction equipment, tools and supplies was what served as the construction office.
When I walked in there sat Harold. He was the same old laconic, laid back Harold, a little heavier, a little wrinkled but still a neat dresser and not a hair out of place but I could tell he'd had a rough life by his alcohol and smoke roughened voice, craggy face and well, you know how it is.
We got re-acquainted and I was surprised he remembered me. Harold gave the work crews their job assignments, kept up with ordering supplies and parts, was the initial contact guy for customers and handled the customer complaints. The "paperwork" end of the operation, where the secretaries worked, was across the main road in a much nicer trailer on a much more well-kept lot.
I wondered if my friend, Dave, had wisely put some distance between Harold and the ladies. Harold spoke with an odd, slow, careful pronunciation in which some of his words were deformed just a bit and he told me he had developed a cancer on his tongue. He'd had part of his tongue removed and had to learn to talk once again. I can't even imagine how hard that had been to overcome. He'd had a heart attack a couple of years before too.
We finished our business, visited a little bit more and I asked him if he was a Christian. He looked me straight in the eye; "No, I'm not." "Harold, you don't have to go to hell unless you just want to." "Why's God going send me to hell? I haven't done anything." "Have you ever told a lie?" "Yeah." "Have you ever cursed 'n took God's name in vain?" "Yeah." "Did you ever steal anything?" "You know I have."
Harold was looking shocked. I guess he was seeing how his life stacked up. "Have you ever fornicated with a woman?" "Durnnit it you know I have, I sure have, I've done all of them things and worse too." "See what I mean Harold?" His eyes looked into mine but they were kind of blank like he was looking at some other place, in some other time.
It took a bit of time before Harold slowly and quietly said; "Yeaahhh." "Will you go to Church with me Sunday?" Harold's eyes snapped back to the now of this reality. "No!" "Think about it Harold. I'll see you in a couple a days." I started to get burdened about Harold.
Going down the road I remembered Harold had said he was living with a woman named Verda, he had never been married and he wasn't planning on getting married either. His job required making promises and scheduling times that wouldn't be kept and other lies. All that makes it really tough. I started praying.
I kept praying and I visited Harold a couple more times during the small construction project. Why call about something when I could drive a few miles and witness to Harold face to face? It's easy to say no over the phone. "No." is a lot harder to say when you're looking across the desk into a set of eyes that's filled with compassion and Christian love.
That last time, maybe the last time I'd ever see Harold again, that last time when I came to pay my bill, I asked Harold if he cared if I stopped once in a while to visit him if I happened to be driving by. He looked at me, kind of gave a little shrug and said; "Yeah, that'll be OK." and that started it. Now I knew God was in it and my burden was worse.
I kept praying with all my heart; "Oh great God of glory, Lord of lords, King of all kings and God of all gods I know I'm not much. I'm astonished every day I wake up that You'd save a piece of trash like me. I live in amazement that You'd keep an unprofitable servant like me."
"I'm sorry I've put so much distance between You and me by my sloth about studying and my awful neglect in praying. I sincerely apologize for my dirty sins of attitude. I despise myself for my pride oh Lord that paints me with dark, dirty evil before Thee and sets me an infinite distance from the holy goodness of Thy lovingkindness and I ask Thy forgiveness for that awful sin."
"I thank Thee Heavenly Father for all the times You've taken the time and trouble to chastise me and set me straight when I was wobblin' off the path Thou hast set before me. I ask You, oh Great God of glory, to cleanse me in the blood of Thy Holy Child Jesus that I might appear white as snow before Thee when You look down on me with Your Holy Eyes."
"That my words would be bathed in the sweet scent of the incense of the sanctity of the sacrifice of Thy Holy Son Jesus and they would be a pleasing smell unto Thy Holy nostrils when my prayers are cast from the great golden censer before Thee on Thy great golden alter there before Thy throne in heaven, that my words would be pleasing unto Thy holy ears when Thou hearest them and Thou oh beautiful and glorious God would have a fond regard for the content of my heart when Thou hearest them."
"I measure my feeble capacity to love and it is as a grain of sand lost among the sand on a beach and Thy love oh great God is like the sky of which I can see no end. I love Thee oh wonderful God with all the smallness of my feeble, sinful, useless soul. I ask Thee Great God to take my hands, my feet, my eyes, my tongue, my brain and all that I am and use it to witness to Harold. I ask Thee beautiful God to send Thy Holy Spirit before me and make ready Harold's heart that the words uttered by my tongue would enter his soul like Holy Fire."
"I thank Thee oh God that Thou art my Fortress and my High Tower, that Thou art my Shield and my Buckler. I thank Thee for Thy tender pity, compassion and lovingkindness when You look down on my useless life. I am sorry with all my heart I have been the cause of Thy longsuffering and I also ask Thee to forgive me of that horrid sin. I love Thee my great and glorious God Who inhabits forever and I ask these things in the name of Thy Holy Son Jesus and for His name's sake. Amen."
That started a five-year odyssey of witnessing to Harold every few months in the beginning of it and more often as time passed, explaining God's way and purpose, answering his questions and telling about the wonderful things God had done in my useless little life. Yes, during our visits we talked about other things too.
Dave, our friend and Harold's boss, told me once, when we happened to meet in a store, that Harold had been a hopeless drunk, Dave had taken him in, straightened him up, got him off the booze, given him a job and Harold, alcohol free, had worked for Dave for the last eleven years. As children Dave and Harold had lived close together, went to school together and had grown up as friends.
Dave's a good person in his way BUT he's lost, a sinner, and no, Dave has never gone to Church with me even though he did promise me he would when he got out of jail three or four years ago, maybe 2008. He had pulled a year in state prison for some illegal business practices.
He would have pulled a five spot if he hadn't had the money to hire a high powered lawyer and pay some whopping fines. (Luke 6:24--26) Dave is worshiping the god of wealth and position. I told Dave he was the luckiest person in the world to get to go to prison. He was very startled; "What are you talking about Jim?"
"Dave, you had the privilege to stand in front of a judge and he passed an irrevocable sentence on you. You've had a taste of how it's going to feel when you stand in front of God to be judged and if you're still a sinner He'll pass an irrevocable sentence that will send you to hell 'n there's nothing anybody can do about it because you are the man who made the choice."
He looked away and turned red but I finished it anyway; (Luke 12:6-9) "I've never seen a U-Haul trailer behind a hearse so the deceased can take his stuff with him and you won't either."
He looked at me with hard eyes. (Acts 4:10-12) "It isn't about going to Church with a bunch of hypocrites. It's about meeting the God of glory in a Church house so He can examine you and maybe you can get saved if you accept His Son, Jesus, as your Saviour." "Aww, I've got to get back to work. I just don't have any feeling about going to Church, just not interested." He got in his truck, looked into my eyes a few seconds, shook my hand; "Take care of yourself Jim." "You too Dave." and he rolled away.
Three or four years into the five, Harold had to stop driving because he couldn't pass the vision test. One of his fellow workers, on his way to and from work, picked Harold up and gave him a ride to work and dropped him off at home in the evenings. Verda had already stopped driving even though she was several years younger than Harold. She'd had two wrecks and was done with driving. She had two grown, married daughters and they helped out with the other transportation; you know, shopping, doctor visits and etc. I kept praying.
I didn't know Harold's conscience was working overtime on him. BUT: The number of my visits to Harold at his work had gradually increased every year (John 6:44 & 12:32) because I could see God had started drawing Harold. OR: Maybe God had been drawing Harold through the Holy Spirit even back before I'd made contact with him.
Maybe Harold and I had an unknown Divine Appointment to meet and, according to my values, I had the choice of speaking up to Harold about God or keeping my mouth shut. If I hadn't spoke up God would have let some other Christian witness to Harold and I would have missed an opportunity to serve God.
THAT'S THE WAY IT WORKS; (Prov. 1:23-33 esp. V.29 keyword: choose) everybody gets a fair chance to get saved or to stay lost according to their values and (Rev. 3:5-22 esp. V.22 keyword: churches) every Christian gets a fair chance to serve God or to be lukewarm according to their values! WHAT IS YOUR CONSCIENCE SAYING TO YOU RIGHT NOW? Are you doing your best for God?
Sometime during that fifth year Harold told me he was thinking about starting to go to Church. "Jim, there are two churches real close to my house and our Daughter and her husband go to another one on up in Van Lear. I'll probably go with them." Harold thought of Verda's two daughters as his own and their children as his grandchildren. They all called him Poppy.
I knew it didn't bother them to miss Church pretty regular due to them being young and having to regularly sort things out (quarrel and pout), or just sleep in and not go to church, they had two young children that got sick every once in a while and etc. I "felt" that Harold should go to my Church. Holy Spirit leading? You decide, I already know.
"Harold, we've come a long way together and I'd count it a privilege to come and get you if you'll come to my Church with me." Harold looked relieved but; "Jim, you'd drive all the way up here and get me, go back by your house to your Church then do it again after Church is over. That'd be about thirty miles every Sunday. I can't ask you to do that." "You're not asking, I'm asking you."
"Buddy, God makes a way for me to have stuff and He's generous enough to let me use it for my purposes 99% of the time. It isn't any trouble to drive up here and pick you up every Sunday." Not said was: (Matt. 16:26-28) What in the world can be more important than taking a one of a kind, made in God's image person to church? A few minutes or hours of my life, a few gallons of gas and some wear and tear on an old car don't mean anything compared to the value of a human soul.
That started it. After a few Sundays I got to meet Verda. She's a small, wiry, feisty, outspoken, very tough gal. She'll speak her mind or die but I've never heard her say a curse word or anything mean or cruel. She simply tells it like it is with a wry twist of humor that contains no venom. I found out later her ex-husband wouldn't work much and was physically and verbally abusive to her and the girls so Verda divorced him.
When Harold met her through a mutual friend Verda was making her living mowing, painting, cleaning cemeteries and odd jobbing for people. She and her girls had, and were, surviving pretty well, considering what had been in her past. Verda and Harold loved each other but she was done with marriage. Later on Harold moved in with her, helped raise the girls and loved them as his own. The girls got married and Harold welcomed and loved the grandchildren when they were born and he became Poppy.
By the time I came along and started witnessing to Harold the girls had grown up and were married. That first Sunday he went with me he knew half the people in the Church house and they greeted him like he was family. With his mild, affable attitude, his magnetic personality, laid back manner, friendly talk and knowledge of sports he soon knew everybody and they all liked him.
During our Sunday drives Harold and I talked about a lot of things. We talked about the Bible a lot and God blessed me to be able to give a good answer to all of Harold's questions and I talked about a lot of other Bible things as they came on my heart. I figured it was God telling me what to say so I did. Harold and I were becoming closer and closer friends and I kept praying for my friend and I'm sure those beautiful Christians in my congregation did too.
A couple of members of the congregation asked why I went to the trouble of going out of my way to go to Van Lear and back twice on Sunday so I could haul Harold to Church. The first time it happened I was stunned. My first thought was; "What trouble?".
But I told the truth when I explained; "It's my honor and privilege that God would trust a sorry thing like me to haul a one of a kind, made in God's image, precious soul to Church so maybe he'll get saved. What in the world could possibly be more important than that?" BUT: Most of the congregation, at one time or another, said they were glad I was doing it.
As the months flew by I got to witness to Verda once in a while. There was no effect that I could see except her big grin in her tight face and; "I want you to listen to this." to nobody in particular while her watchful blue-green eyes bored into mine.
At Church Harold always paid close attention to the sermon, every time. Of course, we'd discuss it on the way to back to his house. A little over a year had gone by, Harold was getting closer to the Lord and at altar call time his face would get pale and he looked like he was in a strain even when he was sitting relaxed. I was delighted.
A couple of Sundays later Harold said he and Verda had gotten married that past week. I was so surprised you could have knocked me over with a feather but I was happy for them, very happy, and I heartily congratulated him. I was especially happy Harold was dying out to sin by attempting to get his life in order. It was a good sign Harold was getting a lot closer to God and his conscience was eating him alive because the Holy Spirit was drawing him in an ever increasing intensity.
Verda told me about it later; "Harold come bursting in here all wild eyed one evenin' after work and asked me if I'd marry him and I told him no!" "Verda, if you don't marry me I'm going to have to leave." "Harold, have you gone crazy? I told you I'm not getting married any more. You and me get along just fine. If we get tied together legal it'll fall apart on us."
"No it won't Verda. We're living in sin and I can't stand it. I love you and you know it but if you won't marry me I'll have to leave." Verda saw the hand writing on the wall and they got married a few days later.
(John 6:44 & 12:32) The drawing from God is comprised of three things: #1) God's revelation of the reality of Himself to a person and that's part of the origin of faith. BECAUSE (Eph. 2:8) "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
The other part of the origin of faith is (Rom. 10:17) "So then faith cometh by hearing (preached, report), and hearing by the word of God." BECAUSE you must have a preacher to preach the word of God AND witnesses to give a report about what God has done for the reporter (the witness) and what God can do for you.
(John 8:3-11 esp. V.9 & John 3:16-21) #2) God's convicting/condemnation power in which He reveals a person's self to that person by showing that person he's a sinner, he's lost and going to hell if he don't get saved. BECAUSE (John 9:35-41 esp. V.39 keyword: judgment) You can be judged in this life and accept salvation or you can refuse and you will be judged after you die but it will be too late to get forgiveness.
(Col. 1:16) #3) God's calling tenderly for a person to come on home to God, make things right and live like that person was created to be. BECAUSE (Mark 10:45-52 esp. V.49 keywords: "he calleth thee" then John 14:8-23 esp. V.23 keyword "we") Jesus/God must be there through the Holy Spirit before you can get saved.
It's truly a time of decision misery because it is in humanity's sinful, stubborn nature to resist God and Harold had the miseries really bad. It wouldn't be long before Harold would make a decision and he'd either quit going to church with me or he'd get saved. I prayed more desperately, those deep ones that come out of the center of my being, because my God given burden for Harold was also desperate and Harold had become my very good friend.
A few more Sundays went by and Harold told me he'd quit his job and they'd live on his Social Security. "Why Harold?" "Buddy you've got to lie to people when you do that job and I'm done with lying. I'm not going to lie anymore." I was tickled pink because Harold was getting closer and closer to God.
The next two Sundays were kind of quiet as we drove. Harold was introspective, looking out the window, just a sort of peaceful, thoughtful time yet there was a tension about him too. I quietly told Harold he was my friend, that I was praying for him and he just nodded, he looked like he was ready to cry.
"You're fighting a battle Harold. The only way you can win it is to surrender yourself to the mercy and goodness of God. You can fight it and fight it and you'll eventually win and God will go away and you won't ever feel like you are now and you'll die lost because, just like we've talked about before in the (1st proverb), God won't be back and you'll miss it."
"You'll never know the love, goodness, sweetness and protectiveness of God like I do and after you die you'll stand before Him and cry out for mercy but it'll be too late. I love you my friend but its something you'll have to do yourself." He was all swelled up like he'd taken a lot of breaths but was afraid to let them out because he'd burst into tears." Harold had a terrible pallor, grey/white all through the service.
He cried when the singing was going on, he never took his stare off the Pastor while he was preaching and his head was down real bad when the Pastor gave the altar call invitation to come on up front to the altar and get saved. Harold looked like he was going to die. If he did die I sure hoped he'd get saved first. Yes, that's the way I feel about it. Getting saved is the single most important thing in any person's life. It is eternal heaven or eternal hell. Where was my friend Harold going to be in eternity? Eternity! Think about it!
I know and have known people who would sit and cry, tremble and sweat, and refuse to get saved, the Holy Spirit would quit drawing them and they'd never go back to Church. I sat in a hospital every night for several weeks with a very good family friend, especially to my Daddy because they'd grown up together and served in WW2 together.
Our friend was dying from cancer and he looked right at me out of his dying eyes and said; "Jimmie, God's right here but he won't hear me. I've missed it". If you don't believe it can happen read (Prov. 1:22-31). If you want to read the story about it read the article The Holy Spirit is Truth in this commentary.
The next Sunday was when it all came to a head between God and Harold. The time of reckoning (the counting, a settlement of accounts, the settlement of a sum due) was that day.
Accept Jesus as your Saviour, His blood will settle your sin account because His blood will cleanse your sins away, you'll be told by the Holy Spirit you are saved from being lost and (John 14:23-26 & Eph. 1:13-14) He will stay with you to guide you and keep you (Rev. 3:5 & 20:15) and your name will be entered into God's Book of Life.
(Rev. 20:11-15) When you stand before God Jesus will stand with you and there will be no sin reckoning then because you have already faced your sin reckoning in this life. IT'S THAT SIMPLE BUT OUR STUBBORN NATURE SURE MAKES IT COMPLICATED!
The preacher was preaching and Harold with his grey/white face, broken heart, tears pouring and no way to pay (atone) for his numerous sins went in a near run, with giant steps from his long legs, down the aisle to the altar Jesus won for us on the bloody cross at Calvary. That's the way it is; no generic prayer for everybody, no urging, just a lonely soul, making his way to the altar to plead his lost cause.
Of course Jesus was there in His Holy Spirit form extending His beautiful nail scarred hands to Harold as Harold fell to his knees in his own tears, the Pastor went down to his knees with Harold and hugged him close because Harold was trembling and I could see the sobs jerk his body.
Harold, my Friend, a lost, lonely, sinful soul crying out; "I've sinned, I'm sorry, oh God please forgive me, I don't have anything to pay with, Oh God save me! Here I am, I'm me, and I want You more than anything in the world. I'll do anything if You'll just save me!" Of course I don't know his exact words but that's what it takes. I'm sure every Christian in the house was begging God to save Harold and part of us were crying right along with Harold.
Harold was kneeling flat on his face at the altar and he suddenly raised his right arm until his clenched fist was higher than his bowed head and I knew he'd made it, God had saved my friend! Only God can make me laugh out loud and cry at the same time and I was doing both. I was so happy I could hardly be still. Harold and Pastor stood up. Harold was beaming and I've never seen a person look more relieved, he radiated happiness, he was grinning, tears poured down his face and he sobbed out; "God saved me, me, I'm saved!"
The whole congregation went up to hug, shake hands with and pat on our brand-new blood brother (Jesus' blood) and most of us were grinning and crying happy tears right along with Harold. It was a happy time. When my turn came Harold whispered; "Will you help Pastor baptize me next Sunday?" It was like a charge of electricity had hit me, how in the world could a man be more honored and I started crying harder. "You know I will Buddy, God willing I'll sure be happy to do it." God was willing and I did.
On the way home neither of us said a word for the first three or four miles. Be quiet and let Harold enjoy it. Finally Harold said; "Jim, it feels like I'm floating, I can't even feel the seat that I know has to be under me!" Even today I can take you to within a few feet of where Harold said that even though we were going 60-65 mph.
The second Sunday after Harold got saved I picked him up to go to Church and we weren't out of sight of his house when he turned toward me there on the front seat and spoke with great and terrible intensity; "Jim, what are we going to do about Verda?" "What do you mean Harold?"
"How are we going to get her saved? She won't even go to Church!" "Buddy, I reckon we'll start praying for her and witness harder to her." "Jim I'm already doing that." "Me too Buddy, me too." And that began Harold and Jim's Holy War assault on Fortress Verda. Of course we prayed individually and Harold would request the congregation pray for her at Church.
I'd go visit them now and then, we'd talk about whatever was going on at the time and I'd eventually steer the conversation to Jesus and salvation. Harold loved to talk about the Bible and we'd talk about that a lot and eventually I'd turn my full attention to Verda and witness about what God could do for her.
She never had a question and her only comment was an occasional; "I want you to listen to this." to nobody in particular while her sharp, penetrating blue-green eyes bored into mine. Harold was really tickled because; "Jim, Buddy, she won't listen to a thing I say." I wondered if she was listening to anything I was saying too because she never showed a sign anything was affecting her, she never asked a question, or made a comment about Church or the Bible.
That's why you never give up, most of the time you just can't see the Holy Spirit war raging for a person's soul back behind their eyes, back in the dark, secret places they keep hidden. Nobody likes to show what they consider weakness, that they have a need, that they are troubled, that they are becoming mushy with doubt and are feeling a quiet, tender longing for God.
AND the Holy Spirit doesn't show hurt SO sometimes we Christians have to take the beating they'd like to give God BUT somehow they can't say bad things to God! There's just something about God, He's just too good, too kind, too compassionate too everything. THEN on one visit Verda, with eyes as hard as blue-green flint, gritted out; "If ye can't stop talking about all this going to Church business don't come back here anymore!"
I immediately turned toward Harold and started talking about his knife collection. It quells that embarrassing stillness and covers up confusion. I didn't want either of them hurt but I could see the pain in Harold's eyes. After a few minutes I got up to go, looked at both of them, told them I loved them, told Harold I'd pick him up at the regular time on Sunday and left.
Sure, her sharp words had hurt BUT I was happy too BECAUSE Verda's conscience was starting to bother her and she'd taken her spite out on me AND God has a way of blessing a Christian when we take insults for His Namesake.
The next Sunday Harold tried to apologize and explain. "Don't worry about it Buddy it isn't over with yet." He didn't and we enjoyed worshiping God together with the rest of the congregation. Same thing the next four Sundays. THEN as soon as Harold got in the car on the sixth Sunday; "Jim, do you know what that Verda said?" "No, I haven't got the slightest idea."
"She asked me why you haven't come to visit us in all this time! I told her what she said to you and she said she didn't say anything like that and that she considered you our very good friend." "Don't worry about it and don't argue about it. I'll be over to visit one day this week." And that's the way it went for three or four months.
One day Verda said; "You've harped on Church enough. I'll go to Church with you and Harold but it'll be where I want to go." Eastern KY is full of good Churches and I said; "OK, where?" She named a Church of a different denomination in a different part of the county than where Harold and I attended. She looked at me triumphantly with arched brows.
I guess she'd arranged a little test for me; if I refused to go to Church there it would give her an excuse to refuse to go to our Church with Harold and me. "OK, regular time?" Verda was too proud to look startled or crestfallen and she defiantly said; "Harrumph! We'll see if you are here next Sunday." I was and we went.
It was a beautiful service with anointed singing and preaching. Between the three of us we knew several people and they were kind and made us feel right at home just like any Godly congregation will. That service seemed to break something loose in Verda and she said she'd go with us to our Church next Sunday. That's one thing about Verda, she's like a bulldog, once she gets her teeth in something she won't let loose. She never missed a Sunday after that.
I had not known Verda was such a mixer. She knew several people there and before Church and after Church it seemed like she was in every conversation. In a month she was on a first name basis with everybody. Verda is easy to talk to and her bright wit, harmlessly sassy way and good humor is a great, sparkling addition to, and heartily welcomed into, any conversation.
I wish I had some of that in my personality. But, I'm a dud in the conversation department, especially in a crowd. In three months she knew the people in my own congregation better than I did and I'd been there several years.
Verda never showed any signs of God's drawing. She never cried or suffered conscience condemnation that I could see. She never looked worried or troubled. She never asked any questions. When Harold and I had discussions about the Bible she just carefully listened but made no comments, ever.
Then one Sunday a few months later she simply got up and went to the altar so fast it looked like her feet weren't even touching the floor. Harold and I were both shocked. Then big tears started running down Harold's face, the absolute love of his life was pleading for mercy before God's throne of grace.
Some of the women had immediately joined her and the Pastor at the altar and in a few short minutes she and Pastor stood up. The other Church ladies fled back to their seats and they had big grins and tears of joy. Everybody loved Verda and you could hear a pin drop. Verda wasn't sobbing or trembling as far as I could see.
Pastor was grinning from ear to ear with a big, sweet grin and dancing eyes when he spoke; "Well Verda, have you got anything to say?" For one time in her life Verda didn't have a big lot to say, it was short, and sweet, and to the point; "God saved me and when I die I'm going to heaven." A lot of us were crying, laughing and praising God though, a whole lot of us.
In a flash Harold was at her side with his arms around her and she was huggin' Harold right back when Pastor spoke again; "You folks come on up here and hug our brand new Sister." He didn't have to say it twice. As people hugged Verda they didn't go back to their seats, they just milled around there at the altar, hugging each other, laughing and praising God and Jesus walked among us in His Holy Spirit form.
Just a bunch of hillbilly nobodies in the middle of Nowhere, KY that people like to poke fun at on TV BUT (Luke 8:43-48 esp. V.46 keyword: somebody) we were Jesus' somebodies, (V.48 keyword: Daughter) His Sons and Daughters. That's all that will ever count for anything.
When I got close I could see happy tears runnin' down her face and when my turn came she looked right at me with those blue-green eyes and there was a new light in them, A Jesus light of tenderness and goodness. But she couldn't help but get one more big, loud dig into me with that sassy mouth; "WELL, ARE YOU SATISFIED NOW?" Everybody laughed and I know I turned red as a beet; "I SURE AM, MY SISTER." and I hugged her and Harold at the same time while tears ran down my face.
The next Sunday Verda honored me to let me help the kindly, generous Pastor baptize her. He said; (Matt. 28:19) "We baptize this our Sister in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." My cup of blessing was truly running over.
It was a special, special day and I'm glad we couldn't see the trouble, pain and sadness that was coming at us just over the horizon. Just a few months later Harold was hospitalized with congestive heart failure. The Doc told us Harold's heart output was down to 60% capacity.
When Harold got back home I went up to visit and he laid out five expensive pocket knives from his collection; Jim, my favorite pocket knife is here and my least favorite, the other three are just plain old collector's knives, I want you to pick one and I want you to have it."
"Harold, I can't do that." "No, I want you to." When a hillbilly offers to give you a knife he's giving a token of his friendship and respect and if you turn it down you'll insult the friendship he's offering. My heart was breaking when I reached out and took a knife. I also understood that it meant something else too. Harold, my dear Friend, was giving me a parting gift, something to remember him by.
When I got home I put my own pocketknife away and I carry my Harold knife in my pocket every day and use it quite often. It's a collector's knife and meant to be in a collection with never a whetstone laid to it or anything cut with it but I don't want it laid up in a drawer collecting dust and forgotten, it's too important.
Another hospitalization a few months later and it was down to 43%. The next hospitalization and it was down to 27%. Harold and Verda are beautiful, beautiful people, real quality folks. They kept their humor and kindness, fought off doubt and despair, never felt sorry for themselves, they talked about what they'd do when they reunited in heaven, loved each other and those around them and appreciated every minute they had. I've never seen anything like it in my life, I never heard either of them complain and I was around them a whole lot.
The next hospital visit his heart output was down to 15% and declining and they sent Harold home to die. In congestive heart failure oxygen carrying red blood cells aren't pumped to the cells and smothering occurs. The waste doesn't get cleaned out of the cells and organs begin to decline from that waste which becomes poison and they finally shut down. A home health nurse regularly came and kept Harold sedated so he wouldn't know how bad he was suffering. Thank God for that.
It took a few more days and the last part of it Harold constantly struggled to sit up like he desperately needed to go do something. Nobody knew what Harold wanted because he was incoherent. Harold was a large man, 6'1" or so and over 200 pounds, he constantly had to be pulled back in bed and his body adjusted. It was just a constant physical struggle and Verda and her family were worn out so I sat with him a day, a night and part of the next day.
Verda came back, laid down beside Harold and with that beautiful, wonderful understanding of a "and they twain shall be one" wife, she put her arms around Harold, hugged him close and gently told him; "Poppy, your Grandbabies will be just fine. I'll take good care of them and keep them in Church. Go on home with the Lord and we'll all be together in heaven before long."
Somehow Harold understood, he quieted down, relaxed and got sort of comfortable. Then, with Verda's arms around him and her tears wetting the cover, Harold quietly left with the Master when Jesus came to get him.
That family honored me far, far more than I deserve when they let me write Harold's obituary and read it at his funeral.
Its Jan. 23, 2013 now and Harold's funeral was a couple of years ago.
The next Sunday after Harold's funeral I picked Verda up and we continued to go to our Baptist Church together three or four Sunday's. Then a new comer made a mistake and assumed we were husband and wife. People were bound to start thinking, wondering and finally somebody would start yackity yacking up the evil that's in their own soul, then the rumors would start.
Verda and I discussed it and decided to stop that before it got started. SO: I asked an old deacon and his wife to go out of their way to pick Verda up and bring her to Church next Sunday. They said they forgot and Verda missed Church. I asked one of the Church ladies to go get Verda the next Sunday but she said she forgot and caused Verda to miss Church again.
I was hurt and embarrassed for Verda and for myself and I was ashamed of my congregation; didn't they realize how important Verda was to God? Didn't they understand what an honor it is to help one of God's children get to His house to worship Him? I tried to explain and apologize to Verda but she looked straight at me out of those cooling blue-green eyes in her expressionless face and quietly told me just how it was;
"Those Baptists have eaten so much fried chicken they've got grease on the brain and they can't think very good anymore!" Leave it to Verda to hit the nail right on the head.
My wife goes to a Pentecostal Church in the neighboring county where she lived when we met. I got her out of her home county to live in this county with me but I couldn't get the Pentecostal out of her; as a matter of fact I didn't even try. She's satisfied in her Church, she says that's where God put her, she's working for God there, and I'm truly satisfied with that.
She and I talked it over and she agreed to pick Verda up and take Verda to my wife's Pentecostal Church if Verda would go. I called Verda and asked what she thought about the idea. What would you expect out of Verda; "They can't be any worse than them sorry Baptists but I ain't handlin' no snakes!" I didn't know if Verda was joking or serious. "Verda, they don't handle snakes."
Verda and my wife got acquainted and went to the Pentecostal Church the next Sunday. With her feisty personality, bright humor and sassy way of talking Verda fit right into that congregation. She's a valued member and she and my wife are a part of every Church function. They've become close friends as well as being blood (Jesus' blood) sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ. I'm satisfied with that, very satisfied. I feel God is too or He would burden me about it.
It is July 6, 2020 now and for some reason I have been strangely reluctant to write this. It is almost like I am reluctantly closing an exceptionally beautiful chapter in my life. Verda served God in my wife's church until she was stricken with incurable cancer. She was the 'hit' in every function with her sweet, harmless, sassy way. Even with the rapidly spreading cancer she attended church when she could. I visited her every day during her last hospitalization where my wife works.
Then she was placed in Community Hospice in a larger city sixty or seventy miles away. My wife and I visited her regularly as she faded away those last few days. My wife had to work and there, the last night, I entered Verda's room alone. She looked so tiny and fragile laying there, eyes closed, with her tiny hands clutching the cover just a little bit below her chin, just breathing shallow breaths now and then.
She must have sensed I was there because she opened her eyes. I whispered softly: "I love you my dear, dear Sister." She couldn't talk but she slowly, weakly pointed upward with her right forefinger, smiled a tiny smile, nodded yes and closed her eyes. She wanted to assure me everything was OK and for me not to worry. That was Verda. Verda left that night, Dec. 16, 2018. And I am sure Verda celebrated Christmas with the best Friend she ever had.
GOD BLESS YOU