For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do ~ Ephesians 2:10
Last night, I ate dinner with my doctor and his family. We were his guests at a benefit banquet for the Ramona Pregnancy Center. We thought we were going to watch a famous actress give a keynote speech. God had different plans. Memories of visiting Grace Community Church returned to me as I entered the building for a second time. The last time I visited many years ago, I played the role of Nathaniel in the "Living Last Supper". My friend, Jim Tate, another actor in the play, walked up to me and gave me a hug before the event started. He was sitting with his wife, Vicky, just a couple of tables away.
The announcer started speaking and we took our seats before I got the opportunity to visit with Vicky. The crowd quieted as the host announced, "ladies and gentlemen, there is a change of plans for this evening. Our featured speaker, Nancy Stafford, will not be with us this evening. Her mother is ill and she was forced to cancel." He added, "don't worry, this is a God thing and He will give us what we need to make this evening work out."
I read the quote on the care clinic brochure, "for we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." This Bible verse is from Ephesians 2:10. Mary James, female vocalist of the year, repeated this verse after dinner as she stepped in to fill Nancy's shoes. This is just another God thing, I thought to myself. Here I am listening to a speaker give a last-minute keynote talk and she is repeating the same verse that Pete Zindler quoted at my last writer's meeting. Okay, God, this evening belongs to you and I am ready for whatever you have planned.
The evening was incredible. Mary spoke from her heart and she touched mine as she shared about her life apart from God. She was rejected by her biological parents and her adopted parents. She was the perfect person to speak about how it feels to not be wanted. When she finished her talk, I walked up to my friend Jim and asked to speak with his wife. I wasn't sure if she would be willing to talk with me since she had changed churches over some issues she was having.
Vicky gave me a big hug and we quickly rekindled our friendship. I brought up the "laying of hands" ceremony and she started chuckling. "I just shared that story last week with my deacon at my church, Doug Failla," she said. God set this up in advance, I thought. 'Vicky', I said, 'Doug is my daughter's tennis coach.' "I know, I saw her name in the paper with her cousin, Amy. That is why I brought up the story with Doug. I wanted Doug to know about our connection to the Holy Spirit."
'Vicky, I have something very important to ask you. I am writing a book and I need your permission to share this experience in one of the key chapters. Will you allow me to publish your name?' Without any hesitation, Vicky said yes. She then described what she felt while laying her hands on me during that life-changing moment. "I put my hands on a whole row of people before I got to you. As soon as I put my hands over you, I immediately felt something. I knew something was happening to you and I started crying uncontrollably. I felt heat coming out of you. What was happening to you?"
'Vicky, you were the second person to lay hands on me. The first time, nothing happened. I sat there quietly, asking the Holy Spirit to come into my heart. I didn't feel anything. A few minutes later, I felt your presence over me, your hands touching my head.' Her face lit up as I described meeting Jesus. 'I saw Jesus, Vicky. He was standing to my right and He was so bright. I never looked directly at Him but I could see his light shining, lighting up the row of people standing directly in front of me. My attention was on the people. They were people in my life that I was having difficulty with, most of them my enemies. My father was in the crowd and there were people I worked with.' I paused for a moment. 'Vicky, I was thanking Jesus for each of these people in my life.'
I told her that when I woke up, the church was nearly empty. I don't know how long I was in this trance. I told her, 'my life changed completely at that moment. There was this sense of peace that I had never experienced in my whole life. I felt as if I was floating on air.' Vicky smiled and hugged me. "Thank you for sharing. It was a Holy Spirit moment for both of us." 'Yes is was, Vicky, and one of the things that happened is that I stopped swearing, COMPLETELY. The Holy Spirit has been inside of me every moment of my life and it all started when you laid your hands on me.'
I talked about how this supernatural experience set up a series of events that have led me to become a writer. Like the last-minute substitute who spoke about her life with Jesus, I will follow Mary's example and share all the good Jesus is doing in my life with anyone willing to listen. I thanked Vicky for giving me permission to use her name and shared the blog address with her so she can get become a follower. She told me she is also working on a book. 'I know the perfect people who can help you get it published,' I said. "Is it Pete Zindler, the guy who put on the play you and Jim were in?" 'Yes, Vicky, and Byron Mettler and some other people from our hometown.' "I know Byron, " she said. I replied with a smile, 'Come join us and share your story. I will see you soon.'
As I left the church, I thought, this night was destiny. It had been planned by God even before I was born. He is an awesome God!
"My major goal was to give honor to God, the only One who can take a broken life and give it purpose." ~ Mary James (upon acceptance of the Inspirational Country Music Female Vocalist of the Year Award)