Saturday, February 28, 2009
Friday, February 27, 2009
J.J. and Darci Lawrence
It is so exciting to serve Jesus. You march to the beat of an eternal drum. My husband and I have always enjoyed hearing the spiritual journey of others. I thought for a change of pace I'd share a few testimonies of a few members of our flock. Below is the true story of Darci Lawrence.
When you see me, I usually have a smile on my face. Jesus gave me that smile. It wasn’t always that way. I went through sixteen years of alcohol, street drug abuse and hopelessness until Jesus passed by and made me a new creature in Christ Jesus.
I was a church kid but felt that Jesus had let me down. What I realize now is that I let Him down. My “disease,” as it’s called in treatment centers started long before it broke loose. I had a perfect childhood. My addictions were not my parents’ fault.
When I was fifteen I was dating a senior in high school. He introduced me to my first college party. I didn’t know the feeling of alcohol and how fast it affects you and your decisions. I made some poor decisions that night. I dated this young man for a year until he announced to me the birth of his new son. The mother was a good friend of mine. That was my first taste of rejection.
When I turned sixteen, I had saved enough money to buy my own car. I had a lot of friends and clung to them after the breakup. We started drinking every weekend.
My folks were devastated when during my senior year I told them I was pregnant. I moved to Cedar Rapids with a nice family that a nice adoption agency close. I finished most of my senior year there. I gave birth to a boy. He was adopted by a wonderful family, but I never realized the impact that decision would have on me for the rest of my life.
I went back home to graduate. Even in the midst of my partying, I still had a good work ethic and held down a job or two. After graduation I tried college and had my first encounter with my future Gospel Lighthouse family members – Mike and Amy Miller. Drugs had become a way of life for me, causing me to lose any direction or purpose I had in my life. I dropped out of college and entered the University of Adversity.
When I was nineteen I met a twenty-seven-year-old man. We had a baby boy (Brock) the following year. When I found out I was pregnant, I put my drug problem on hold. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was pregnant with our second child – Brittany. We moved to Manly, Iowa, so I could be near my mom, but my drug addiction continued. Even though I had two beautiful babies, I had a hole in my heart.
My mom was in remission and my children’s father had gotten a new job. We were so excited because a house was provided by his company. Things were okay for awhile, but a single man with two kids lived across the street. He would eventually become my first husband. He dealt drugs out of his apartment. Sin always takes you farther than you want to go. I chose to be with this man and that’s when I became a slave to drugs. They were everywhere and I could have them anytime I wanted them. In the midst of this drama, my son Brady was born.
Mom started getting sicker and died in 1999. I was devastated and began to blame myself for her death. I was sure God was punishing me for my sinful lifestyle. I married this drug dealer and one week after we were married, I became a battered wife. The first time he punched me he told me that my mom told him to hit me because it was my fault she died. I believed him. Everything had to be perfect or I was slapped, punched or locked outside. I remember two nights I spent in the dog kennel one February. He allowed me to come in to change Brady, make meals and clean the house. I could work, but if I told anyone, there would severe consequences. We purchased a nice acreage in January of 2000. I was hoping to have a fresh start, but my hopes were soon dashed.
I knew my husband had a gun. He began threatening the children. I tried to leave. He beat me so badly I couldn’t see for a week. I had no hope. The drugs were my escape. At some point he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Things got even worse. The meth was in his system causing him to have me under his thumb 24/7.
One morning I was getting ready for work and his eyes burned through me. I felt evil around me. To get a moment’s peace, I locked the bathroom door. I heard him go outside, open the garage door and get his saw. He came back and started sawing through the bathroom door.
In 2002, I convinced one of his friends to take him on a fishing trip for the weekend. The kids and I packed all weekend. We were planning to leave before he returned, but he came back early and saw the bags. He locked the kids outside, pointed a handgun at me and pulled the trigger. The bullet clipped the tip of my ear and hit the wall. I could hear my children crying. They didn’t know if I was dead or alive. My husband calmly said, “Next time I won’t miss.”
A few days later I had a call from D.H.S. They told me to go get my kids and come directly to their office. They warned me not to call my husband. I did what I was told. Brady had told his teacher that his dad shot him mom.
You would have thought I would have learned from the trauma I had been through, but the gnawing hole in my soul continued. It wasn’t long before I found myself in another dysfunctional relationship with another alcoholic. Soon I found myself pregnant again. In September of 2004, I gave birth to a baby girl. I knew the only chance this baby had was to give her to a good home. I was smart enough to realize that I couldn’t keep her. The three children I had needed my attention.
Shortly after my daughter’s adoption, I met a kind man – J.J. Lawrence! Our relationship was completely opposite of the abuse I had encountered for so many years. He was kind and gentle. His love for me began my much-needed healing process.
J.J. and I knew we wanted to be married. We tried several times to reach a local minister to see if he would marry us. Our phone calls were never returned. J.J.’s father told us, “Just ask Pastor Paul from the Gospel Lighthouse to marry you.”
We called Pastor Paul and he set up some counseling sessions. After one of our meetings Pastor Paul invited us to attend the Christmas program at the Gospel Lighthouse. When we left I warned J.J. “He’s up to something. He just wants to save us. I don’t think we should go.”
J.J. said, “No, he’s just being nice, Darci. I think we should take the kids and go.”
Well, we went and we’ve been going to church there ever since. Through the preaching of God’s Word, we came to know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
J.J. had met Dave Walters at some A.A. Meetings. Dave was constantly telling J.J. he needed to find the Lord and attend a Bible-believing church. The Sunday J.J. went forward to the altar to receive Jesus into his life, Dave and Chris Walters visited the Gospel Lighthouse. God knew that Dave and Chris were supposed to be part of our spiritual journey.
J.J. and I are eternally grateful for saving us. Our children attend Lighthouse Academy. We are enjoying our new life-in-Christ. He filled the hole in my soul with His love.
The bullet hole in our wall is still there. It serves as a reminder of all that God has done for us. Great is His faithfulness!
As a mother, it thrills my heart to hear our children make plans for the future and it always involves Jesus.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Do not despise small beginnings....... Zechariah 4:10 (Living Bible)
But you, Bethlehem ~ though you were little among thousands of Judah yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel. Micah 5:2
Above is the picture of the little block church from the wrong side of the tracks my great-grandmother built after she gave her heart to the Lord. Great-grand's testimony continues to be an inspiration to me. She had been bound by alcohol and was a bootlegger for many years. One day when she was running low on her "brew," she decided to take a trip to Kentucky to purchase some more "white lightening." She planned on bringing it back to Iowa and selling it. On her way to Kentucky, she decided to stop and see her brother, who lived in southern Illinois. Little did she know that this bootlegging road trip would lead to her Divine destiny.
When she arrived at her brother's house, she immediately sensed something had changed. He went on to tell her that he didn't drink any more. He had found Jesus.
Grandma was too shocked to speak, but couldn't keep her mouth shut when he informed her that they were having revival meetings at his new church and invited her to go.
"CHURCH? I've never been to church in my life."
Her brother wasn't affected by Grandma's lack of interest. He began sharing about the friendly people, beautiful music and powerful preaching. He promised her that it was what they had been searching for their entire lives.
To hush him up, Grandma decided she would go, sit on the back pew and slip out as soon as she could. After all, she needed to head to Kentucky to pick up that moonshine because her funds were dwindling.
As soon as Grandma sat down in that church service, her heart began to melt. She sat mesmerized as the saints sang. When the preacher got up and spoke of Jesus dying to forgive sinners, Grandma's heart was receptive. An altar call was given and Grandma responded. The minister and several of the ladies prayed with her to receive Christ. They asked her if she had a prayer on her heart.
Grandma choked, "Lord, make me worthy to be called Mother."
Well, this experience changed everything. Grandma didn't go to Kentucky to pick up the moonshine. She returned home with the NEW WINE. When her customers came to her door, they were forced to listen. A few of them embraced her new found faith for themselves. They built a church and began ministering to young and old alike.
I was one of the young ones that attended some of those church services. My spiritual foundation was partly built there. I was a shy child and lacked confidence, but there were rumblings of the Holy Spirit in my soul. I distinctly remember hearing His voice in the depths of my soul.
"Would you be a pastor's wife?"
"Will you devote your life to My work?"
"Will you labor for Me in My vineyard?"
I especially remember singing the lyrics of an old hymn in a service in this same poverty-stricken church when the Holy Spirit tugged on my heart.
Jesus, use me.
Oh, Lord, don't refuse me.
Surely there's a work that I can do.
Even though it's humble,
Lord, help my will to crumble.
Though the cost be great I'll work for Thee.
I also remember the struggle inside of me. I didn't want to sacrifice. The ministry didn't offer the lifestyle my dreams were made of. I also remember the day I surrendered to His Call and I can honestly say that I've never been sorry I heeded God's Call.
In the late 70s, the little block church was torn down. Its members moved to a little tin building in the tiny village of Floyd, Iowa. (Population 350... SALUTE)
In 1981, my pastor-husband and I were serving the Lord in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. One day our phone rang and it was my grandmother. (My great-grandma's daughter) She said she had been praying about a pastor for the little tin church since the former minister had moved away. She said that she felt the Lord had shown her that my husband was to be the pastor.
For several weeks my grandmother called. I kept telling her that we were at the church where God had called us.
She said, "Will you at least pray about it?"
I assured her we would. And when my husband and I prayed, we recognized His voice.
"Will you go to Floyd, Iowa, for Me?"
"Will you be My servant and go where I send you?"
"I gave My all for you.... Will you give Your all for Me?"
We surrendered to His will for our lives. No ifs, ands or buts stumbled us any longer. That decision was made twenty-eight years ago. God has blessed the Gospel Lighthouse Church in Floyd, Iowa, above and beyond what we ever dreamed. We have learned a valuable lesson. God needs little leaders. Those who are little in their own eyes, but are spiritually keen on just how big their God is. Oh, may we decrease and Jesus increase in our lives.
To see some of the blessings check out our webpage at www.floydslighthouse.com. You'll be glad you did.
We don't regret a mile,
Posted by Dixie Phillips at 10:21 AM
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Grandma Ada Stillions
I sing in a ladies' trio. We've sung together for nearly twenty years. It's been an interesting journey to see the places Jesus has taken us. We love to minister through testimony and song in rural country churches. The places where few singers go. This past Friday night we took a missionary journey to the village of Dunkerton, Iowa. From the minute we arrived I sensed HIM soooo close and wanted to encourage those who took the time to come hear three old ladies sing. :-) (You've heard of the Dixie Chicks??? Well, we are the Dixie Hens!!!) I shared about my great-grandmother (Ada Stillions) and her daughter's (my grandma that I write about so often) conversion. My grandmas were from a poor section of town called Oak Park. You must understand that we were singing over an hour away from our neck of the woods so Oak Park would be foreign to the people who came to hear us sing.
After the concert an elderly woman approached me. She told me that she had been a foster mother to a teenager who spoke often about her relatives in "Oak Park." Then she asked me if I would know any of this gal's kin folks....... She said, "Her last name was Stillions."
Words cannot express the waves of emotion that swept over me. This was some my great-grandma's relatives. I began to piece the mystery together, connected all the dots and began to see God's fingerprints all over this story.
If this "coincidence" wasn't enough, while I was standing there talking to this precious woman I had a blast from the past. I remembered being a young girl and hearing my great-grandma pray out loud and weep for this family. You see, Great-grandma had been delivered from alcoholism when she gave her heart to the Lord. She came back to tell all of her "people" what Jesus had done for her. Many of her family was in bondage to alcohol, too.
Great-grandma never saw her prayers answered, but here I was, decades later, hearing of answered prayer in the little village of Dunkerton,Iowa. I knew "the rest of the story."
There is no doubt in my mind that because of Great-grandma's prayers, God had placed this young lady in a Bible-believing home, where she learned about Jesus.
I wondered if Great-grandma ever got discouraged when she prayed and it looked like her prayers were not being answered.
I know I feel that way some days. It seems like God isn't listening, but He is. All the while He is working behind the scenes.
Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief.
Posted by Dixie Phillips at 10:02 PM
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Monday, February 9, 2009
Today I sat on our living room floor with a pile of widowed socks. We all have them. Some of us have more than others, but everybody has socks that don't have a mate. Where their mate went none of us know, but this one thing we know they are widowed and for the majority of them their mate will never return. As I sat there performing this mundane task, I sensed the Holy Spirit. Oh, I just love how Jesus' presence can transform the mundane into the heavenly.
Do you remember when Satan conjured up this plan to kill all the boy babies in Moses' day? Then centuries later, the wicked one conspired through Herod to destroy all the baby boys hoping to kill the newborn King.
Each one of us in the Body of Christ have a Call from Heaven to do something for Jesus, and the enemy is determined to "KILL" the plan. Discouragement seems to be the number one "KILLER." The Lord wants to "GIVE LIFE" to your Call. Don't let the enemy discourage you. Be a blessing today.... If just a cup of water JESUS places in our hands.....
Freely you have received, freely give.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
I just had to share with y'all some of the darling illustrations Kim Sponaugle created for our new book "One Noble Journey!" Kim's finished up now and has sent the illustrations to the publisher. Honestly, Kim's work is amazing! She is able to capture the essence of the book with her colorful illustrations. If any of you need an illustrator, I highly recommend Kim. She's a joy to work with.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. John 14:9b
I am my mother's only daughter. From the time I was a little girl, people have constantly commented on how much my mother and I look alike. After I was grown, people would come up and greet me and thank me for being such a wonderful nurse. (My mom's the nurse not me.) They have called me by my mother's name and now people are calling my mother by my name. If you've seen me, you've seen my mother and if you've seen my mother, you've seen me!
I couldn't help but think about the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John - "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." I wonder when people look into our eyes if they see our Father?
Oh, to be like Thee.
Oh, to be like Thee.
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art.
Come in Thy sweetness.
Come in Thy fullness.
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
Posted by Dixie Phillips at 4:06 PM
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Today Three Redeemed sang (You can tell which ones of us are in the ladies' trio by our matching outfits.)and then I shared about "Angel Eyes" and "Stubby's Destiny" at a Christian Women's Club in Charles City, Iowa. Ramona Wink was the guest speaker and gave a beautiful Salvation message. If you'd like to know more about Ramona's inspirational ministry just go to www.winkforJesus.com You will be glad you took the time to read about all God is doing in her life and ministry.
I marvel at God's plan and how He appoints people's paths to cross. Ramona is indeed a kindred spirit. We all were blessed by her message.
Keep the "SON" in your eyes,
Monday, February 2, 2009
Sister Arlene has been a prayer warrior in my life. (She's the blonde lady sitting beside me in the picture.) Several years ago she has began having some life-threatening health problems. Every Friday our ladies meet to pray. Before Sister Arlene's husband retired, she was always right beside me bombarding Heaven. She has been a godly mentor to me and a living example of God's love. Sister Arlene knows how much I love old books written by Christian authors and from time to time she finds a treasure and brings it to me. This past Sunday morning Sister Arlene slipped a tiny book in my hand. When I opened the book and an old newspaper clipping, yellowed from age, slipped out and fell on my lap. I knew there must be something on this brittle piece of paper that God wanted me to see. I sat stunned when I read these lines about forgiveness...
Forgiveness is the fragrance of the violet which still clings fast to the heel that crushed it.
It was bread from Heaven. I had been struggling with a situation. It was an invisible war in the depths of my soul. As I read the words on forgiveness, my heart burned within my chest. Jesus was asking me to "let go" of even a hint of unforgiveness. In an instant I let go of my opinions and a peace that passes all human understanding swept over my being.
I stared at the tiny piece and began to wonder how long this morsel of soul food had sat in that tiny book. I knew it was Divine providence that my eyes fell on those scorching words.
Three cheers for Sister Arlene and all the Sister Arlenes every where who deliver fresh manna to hungry hearts......
Posted by Dixie Phillips at 8:20 PM
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