It was the wintry month of January 1973, when Hoyle and I left Knoxville Tennessee on our 3,200-mile journey home. We started out with what few belongings we could pack in a hurry piled window high after removing the back seat, and with seventy-eight dollars tucked deep in my coat pocket—it was all I had. The miserable car I’d stolen didn’t have a heater, so we were both bundled in several layers of clothing.
We’d been on the road five long days by when we were within a few miles of reaching Palmdale California. The rod, that had knocked in the worn-out engine the entire way, continued to throb its relentless cadence. I‘d already fixed two flats on threadbare tires; the others could blow at anytime. I was sick, so god-awful sick, I could barely drive, but we were way too close to stop now.
I raised my eyes to the rear view mirror; it was still there. I first noticed the car, a large brown luxury model, trailing us hours earlier after leaving the roadside picnic area outside Flagstaff Arizona. The run-down Ford we traveled in couldn’t go faster than fifty miles an hour, yet the heavy sedan continued to stay right behind, never passing. He was never near enough to see clearly, never any closer than a hundred-yard distance, but from his silhouette, I surmised the man behind the wheel to be a big one. Far from being alarmed, I felt a peculiar sense of security regarding him. It seemed that, as long as he was there, I was going to make it.
My attention drew downward, toward the red oil light flickering on the dash. The miserable car used more oil than it did gas. I had two quarts left in the trunk. As if to follow suit, the gas needle was nearing the bottom part of empty. I reached into my coat pocket; I had enough money for maybe one more tank of fuel. I wasn’t sure it was enough.
“Please, God,” I prayed quietly, “if you help me make it to the next gas station, I promise I’ll serve you the rest of my life.”
Suddenly bitter anger invaded me at the thought; God had never helped me when I needed him before, why would he be there now. Where was he, I questioned, when grandpa, my dad’s stepfather, sexually abused me when I was three, or when granny, my dad’s mother, gave me the beating of my life for ‘telling that lie’ after coming to her hurt, bleeding, and crying?
Where was he through all those wretched years growing up with Art, my drunken stepfather, who hated me almost as much as I hated him? Where was he in either of my two marriages to men as abusive as he? Where was God the last five years I lived with a man more violent and neglectful than they all, who used me until there was nothing left, and then threw me away; and where was he while the sheriff, who evicted us, piled everything I owned against the curb? No, I thought, God had never helped me. So I lied each time I uttered a prayer, yet still I prayed. The entire way I had prayed. Some place deep inside, I hoped if there was a God, maybe I could fool him long enough to get my son back home.
I had become good at playing roles; I had done it all my life to survive. But now, in my tormented confusion, this final role was the hardest I ever had to play. I knew I was dying. It was my fate. All the occult sciences I consulted had the same conclusion; I would live only to the age of twenty-eight. It was nearing that birthday.
I shrugged off the fatal curse thinking, if my life goes on the way it has, there’s no way in hell I want to live anyway. My only goal was to get my nine-year-old son back to my family where he would be safe.
“Pray to God,” came the voice from within my head. “There is no god who can help you,” came another. “You’re a witch, you belong to us,” still another accused. “We will never let you go.”
The maddening voices had started when I first began to pray several days before. They were coming from inside my head. Now, along with the voices, came a horrid, evil laughter from deep within me. In silent desperation, I now prayed, “Please God let me hold onto my mind just a little longer.”
Hoyle lay on the front seat beside me wrapped in several layers of blankets, sleeping soundly, with his head resting against the door. I watched him from the corner of my eye as he stirred contentedly in his sleep. He was so young, so innocent. I wanted him to have so much better than life had already dealt him. He’d spent most of it shuffled from one place to another. Even so, this trip for him was an adventure, a special time between him and me alone.
When Hoyle was awake, he talked a mile a minute, and I didn’t stop him. In my semi-delirious state, I needed something to focus on as the vacillating fever I’d had for a week now, continued to rage through my five-foot-three-inch, seventy-two pound frame. Yet I trembled despite the unrelenting fever, thinking how close I came to losing him just two nights before…
After pulling over into a truck stop for the night in Albuquerque, New Mexico, we climbed atop our belongings in the back seat, and snuggled tightly together to sleep until daybreak. It was bitterly cold. Everywhere we’d stopped along our way, the outside thermometers registered close to zero. We drifted off to the sound of freezing sleet pelting against the car roof.
It was only a few hours later I came wide-awake with the intense feeling something was wrong. I realized my son was not beside me. My heart beat frantically as I groped for him in the darkness. The lights of a passing vehicle reflected through the car windows, frosted over by the steam from our breathing, revealed he had rolled out from under the covering and was lying up against the back window. When I placed my cheek next to his, his skin felt cold as ice. His eyelids caked with frost, and he was barely breathing.
I quickly pulled him away from the icy rear pane, back under the heavy covers, and clutched him tightly against my fevered breast, until I felt the warmth and stirring return to his small body.
Waves of dizziness rushed through me as I wondered over what had awakened me when my son was in such peril. I had so many conflicting thoughts. So many strange things had happened the last few days. I glanced again at the man in the car behind who kept pace with us since early that morning. It was now late afternoon. He continued to follow as I turned toward the gas station at the Palmdale exit. I could not explain the peculiar comfort I drew from his presence. Anyone in their right mind would be apprehensive about someone trailing behind them for hundreds of miles.
I paid the station attendant for the fuel and asked him to fill the oil reservoir with my last two quarts. There was a telephone booth near the gas station exit. Before stepping inside, I glanced back at the stranger. He was finally leaving us. Somehow I sensed he was saying, “All will be well,” in the way he waved goodbye. I watched as he drove off toward the freeway on-ramp. For a fleeting moment, I allowed myself to wonder, was he an angel, sent to help me complete my journey?
Shaking my head, I cast the foolish thought aside and inserted my last dime into the pay phone to make the collect call to my mother, “Mom, Hoyle and I left Tennessee five days ago. I wanted you to know, we are almost home.”
Two and half-hours later I drove into Lompoc. I’d been back and forth across country several times, yet this journey was like no other. It seemed so final, as if once I reached my destination I would reach my end. There were times along the way I thought I might not make it to the end. And now that I was finally home, it seemed as if I wasn’t supposed to stop; I felt I was to keep on driving forever—right on into nothingness.
As I parked in front of my mother’s house complete exhaustion overwhelmed me. I could not find the strength to get out of the drivers seat. As if on cue, the rod that had knocked incessantly throughout the long journey gave a final loud thump, and shot through the engine. The worn out Ford would never start again.
~~~~ o ~~~~
I was second eldest in a family of four girls and three boys. My sisters, Marian and Louise, and my oldest brother, Lucky were all married, raising their families. David, my middle brother, was away in the Army, and Artie, my youngest brother, had recently moved out to live on his own. There had been other changes at home. Art, my stepfather, had stopped drinking again and was attending AA meetings, and Veronica, my beloved 12-year-old baby sister, had become a dedicated Christian.
Absolutely no one was happier Hoyle and I was back than Veronica. She said she had been praying God would bring us home and especially hard the last few days. She was thrilled when Mom got the call saying we were almost there. I thought this was interesting since I hadn’t told anyone we were coming until I finally made the call.
Veronica did her best to nurse me back to health. I watched her at the stove as she stirred the pasty oatmeal she was sure was the cure to put fat back onto my skeletal body. If I ate enough toast with the gooey mixture, I managed to get it down. I knew she was praying for me with all her little heart. I was convinced she was doomed to become a nun. Repeatedly, she would say, “Please, Sandi read your Bible.”
Of course, once I was home I had immediately forgotten all the promises I made to God.
Art had bought a camper trailer since I left town two years before, and parked it in the backyard. He offered to let Hoyle and I stay in it until I could get a place of our own. I was grateful for the privacy.
Lucky, who had gotten married while I was away, now lived next door to my favorite grandmother, my mother’s mother, in Tulare California. It had been several years since any in my family had seen him, and we were all anxious to meet Barbara, his new wife. He heard I was back home and they were coming to visit.
Lucky was 15 years old the last time I saw him. Granny had always said he was the spitting image of our dad, her oldest son, who had been deceased since Mom was pregnant with me. I had forgotten how muscularly built and short he was. He stood barely five-feet five-inches tall. His jovial wife (she said to call her Barb), was slightly taller and a bit on the heavy side.
After getting acquainted with the family, Lucky and Barb joined me in the trailer. They sat across in the small booth-like seat, which, after removing the tabletop, folded down to join with mine to make an extra bed. Everything went okay until Lucky asked the inevitable question, was I a Christian. Since I was eleven years old, I decided Christians were all hypocrites. The years since had only reinforced this conclusion…
Thanks to my drunken stepfather, folks in the small town I grew up in considered me as white trash. That reputation even followed me to church. Still, attending all the services at the little Baptist church at the end of the block was something for us kids to do, and anything was better than being at home.
When a traveling evangelist came to the church for a big event called a revival, he told a beautiful story that brought me to tears about a little girl who died and went to heaven. Heaven seemed such a special place the way he talked about it, I wanted to go there too. I wanted so badly to be in a place where I was wanted and loved, and where no one would ever be mean to me, or make me feel dirty and bad again. When the evangelist gave his altar call, my older brother Lucky and I were the first to go forward.
The next step, they told us, was baptism. I watched nervously as the minister lowered my brother into the water. I was afraid to step down into the baptismal tank when it came my turn. I wondered if I would get water up my nose, or if they would hold me under too long. Several times Lucky had held me underwater like that, until I came up coughing and sputtering from all the water I drank and breathed in.
I shut my eyes tightly as the minister lowered me back into the lukewarm water. All of a sudden, I could see a bright light all around me; its radiance enveloped me, and my entire body tingled from head to toe—it felt so wonderful. I thought surely, every one has to see and feel the same thing as me, as I came back up.
After the minister said, “Congratulations and welcome to the family of God,” I moved toward the woman waiting at the outside edge to help us out of the tank. Reaching for her hand, I asked, “Did you see the light, did you feel it?”
Narrowing her eyes toward me, she viciously said, “Hurry up and get out you dirty little brat. There are other people waiting.” and gave me a resounding swat on the behind as she pulled me from the tank. I felt the cruelty and disgust in her words cut deep into my heart, hurting me far deeper than the swat to my behind. I decided at that moment if this was what it meant to be a Christian, I didn’t want to be one. I found them to be cold, hateful, and cruel. It could only follow that God was that way too.
Years later, I heard the evangelist who told that story, was found dead in a motel room. He died an alcoholic. So much for Christianity—it was a joke.
My brother radically changed after he ‘got saved.’ He read his Bible way into the night, and copied each verse by hand until he completed the whole book. He couldn’t get enough of it, and now he boasted he knew it by heart. Even so, there wasn’t a whole lot he could tell me about who God was as far as I was concerned. I may not have been on the same page as he was, but I considered myself highly spiritual. I decided to give him a break. I'd save him a few lifetimes by informing him of the truth. I began with, “We are all gods. Think of God as being like this great big ameba and each of us one of its tentacles.”
He was looking at me as if I were crazy. The knowledge I was trying to impart to him didn’t come easy, I wasn’t sure it was going to be worth the effort. Still, I tried, “It takes many different lifetimes to come to this knowledge. I know the truth and now, and when I leave here, I will revert into all God is. I will know all things and never have to come back here again.”
Lucky listened quietly as I expressed my views to him about God, my past lives, and what I thought of Christians. When I was finished, he frankly told me, “Sandra (he refused to call me Sandi), you’ve got the devil in you. You are demon possessed, and if you don’t get saved, you are going to hell!”
I was mortified, thinking he had a lot of nerve to judge me with his hell-fire and brimstone attitude, telling me I had a devil. I had been willing to try it his way once. I even went as far as to sell everything I owned to buy a plane ticket to Detroit after he invited me to live with him while he was in a commune. Trouble was, once I got there he was gone. He’d moved to Missouri and neglected to tell me. Hoyle (who was four-years-old at the time), and I were left sitting at the airport penniless, with no way to contact him, and no place to go.
Lucky continued with, “Read your Bible Sis. Jesus is the only way.”
“Read my Bible.” I haughtily replied. “I read it all the time, but I don’t get the same things you are insinuating to me about Jesus being the only way to be saved. He is only one among many of the great teachers.”
Lucky and Barb got up to leave. His last words were, “Barbara and I will be praying for you.”
I dismissed all that my brother said after he and Barb left, deciding he was a religious fanatic. But before they went out the trailer door, I began to hear that unnerving laughter coming from deep within me again, and I was suddenly glad no one else could.
~~~~ o ~~~~
The voices in my head got worse as the weeks went by and often now spoke at the same time. It was confusing trying to sort out which voice was my original thought while trying to have a conversation. I would start out a sentence one way, and end up completing it with what one or more of the voices in my head said, leaving whomever I spoke to looking at me strangely confused.
I tried to tell my mother what was happening, “I think I’m going crazy Mom. I keep hearing voices in my head, and I don’t know which voice is my own anymore.”
Her answer was, “You’re sick San’y," that was Mom’s pet name for me, "You just need to rest and get well, and maybe see a doctor. Everything will get better.” Mom was always an optimist.
I made an appointment with our family physician. It had been seven years since I last saw him. My condition shocked him. While he examined me, he asked me a few questions about what I had done through the years and the kind of people I‘d been around. I tried to tell him about the voices in my head, and how they were confusing me; causing me to think I was going crazy.
It wasn’t hard to convince him I was having problems. After listening to me a few minutes, he gave his diagnosis and began his prescription for treatment, “Sandra, I’m declaring you temporarily disabled due to emotional stress and exhaustion. You are suffering from severe malnutrition and completely run down. I’m also giving you some antibiotics. The shape you are in, catching a cold could kill you.
His next words hit like an electric shock, “As far as the mental problems you are having, I’ll tell you point blank, if I send you to psychiatrists’ they will declare your condition incurable. They will lock you up, and then throw away the key.” Sudden fear began to surge through me, causing my heart to beat wildly in my chest. The voices had been telling me there was no hope… they would never let me go.
“I want you to get a quiet little apartment for yourself and your son.” he continued, “Once you’ve moved in don’t let any of your so-called friends know where you live. Only certain trusted family members can visit that will not put any stress on you. Find yourself a relaxing hobby.”
Then, almost as if it were an after thought, he emphasized, “and read your Bible. Is that understood?”
What’s this business of everyone telling me to read my Bible? I thought. Nonetheless, I agreed to do as he said.
On March 1st, three weeks after my twenty-eighth birthday, Hoyle and I moved into a two-bedroom apartment, two blocks from my mother. Only my immediate family knew where I lived. As a child, I had taught myself to crochet. I took it up again as the hobby the doctor ordered. I was creative in my madness, crocheting the most beautiful life-like flowers. Still, the relaxation gained by diverting my attention to my detailed, original creations was only temporary. Instead of becoming better, I grew worse. And no one seemed to understand the torment I was going through as it became harder to distinguish my original thoughts from the jumbled voices within my mind.
And then, I began to hallucinate, often seeing my walls turn into different shapes. I constantly saw a strange, dark-gray, shadowy cat running through the apartment. I’d run after it, trying to catch it, only to find it disappeared. When I saw the mysterious cat dart by, I’d often ask Veronica, who came by regularly to see me after school, “Did you see it?”
She never did.
~~~~ o ~~~~
As a child, my favorite place to go was to Grandma Cook’s house, my mom’s mother. Sometimes Mom sent me there when Art went on a drinking binge. Grandma was of medium height with long, graying hair trailing down her thin, over-worked frame. She gave birth to eight children—seven daughters and a son—and had many grand, and great grandchildren. She warmly welcomed and accepted us all, either good or bad, and she never complained as she busily tended after us when we came to see her. Many was the time I’d find her sleeping through the night sitting up in a chair, or laying atop the kitchen table covered only with her coat after crowding several of us into her bed, her couch, or the warm, fluffy pallets she made for us on her spotless floor. Grandma was a poor woman, living off a small pension. Still, she’d cook her last ounce seeing to it we all were fed and full. Grandma always said, “The Lord will supply.”
For her he always did.
Grandma was so gentle and glowingly beautiful, she reminded me of an angel, living her life only for God and her family. Never did I see her without a prayer whispering from her lips for each one of us. She used to tell me, “God has special angels watching over you.”
When Mom asked me along with her to visit, I was anxious to go. I had not seen her in years. Nor had I seen Rachel, one of Mom’s six sisters, who now lived with Grandma.
Aunt Rachel was a tall, thin, and frail woman, married for years to an abusive alcoholic I knew as Uncle Leo. He gave me the creeps as a child, so I never got too close to him. When he was alive, he used to take her to hell and back. He’d tie her up, force drugs on her, and then prostitute her to his wino friends for money to buy satisfy his own foul habits.
However, Aunt Rachel had her way of getting even. In retaliation, she’d wait until he passed out, turn him over onto his stomach, and then tie his arms and legs to the bed frame. I liked her style; she wanted him fully aware when he came to and she beat him with his own belt as punishment for his wrong doings against her. Yes, I strongly admired her feisty spirit.
Having no medical insurance, Aunt Rachel was sent to live with Grandma while in a six-month coma. Uncle Leo had given her a near fatal overdose. Grandma called a faith healer by the name of Oral Roberts, and Rachel was ‘healed’ after he prayed for her. Since then, she lost her mind to Christianity.
I heard another tale about when Uncle Leo died. Aunt Rachel believed the mean old coot was going to hell if he didn’t change his ways. After everything he put her through, I must say I had to agree with her, if there was such a thing as retribution in hell. Uncle Leo had sclerosis of the liver. He went into a coma and was about to slip away from here, when Aunt Rachel prayed that God would save him, and asked that he'd give her a sign that he did. The story was he started kicking his feet and screaming in agony, “Please save me! I’m in hell and I’m burning. God, please save me!”
Then Uncle Leo’s hair turned suddenly white. He grew peaceful and quiet, and then slipped on out of here. Aunt Rachel took that as the sign she was looking for. She believed like many other radical Christians that God was a God of the heart and not the mind, and he could deal with a person even if they were in a coma.
Since Aunt Rachel was one of my favorite aunts, I decided I would share my knowledge with her on whom, and what God really was, and save her the trouble of having to come back into this miserable existence again. But before I got the chance to talk to her, she asked, “Sandra do you mind if I lay hands on you and pray for you?”
I decided to humor the old girl. After all, what could it hurt? “No, go ahead.” I answered.
She pulled a funny-looking bottle out from her pocket and said, “I’m going to anoint you with oil first.”
After pouring a few drops onto her fingers, she applied some of the shiny oil to her own forehead in the shape of a cross. Then she poured out another few drops and similarly brushed mine. Then, to my utter shock, and loud enough for all the many relatives gathered around to hear, Aunt Rachel said, “Satan I bind you off this girl in the name of Jesus Christ. I plead the blood of Jesus over her, and command you to loose your hold on Sandra now and depart!”
She really is crazy, I thought. All these people are just a bunch of hopeless fanatics doomed to have to live their lives over, and over again, until they came to the knowledge of the truth.
~~~~ o ~~~~
April dawned, and I knew the prophesied time was drawing near for me to depart this earth as my anorexic body continued to deteriorate. No matter, I thought, I‘d finally gain ease from this endless torment, take my promised seat, become all that God is, and most of all, never, ever have to return here again. However, I could not define the apprehension I felt when the voices in my head said in agreement, “It’s time to come… you belong to us…” and, “we will never let you go.”
Remembering my doctor’s instructions, I began reading the Bible. In the past, I’d gained much spiritual insight reading from the Old Testament, but for some reason, I had never read much of the New Testament. I decided I would learn from the great teacher called Jesus.
Then, something strange started happening. The voices in my head began to repeat back the scriptures I read in a maddening monotone. Others screamed, “Throw it! Throw it!” Still others said, “You are going to die… No one will ever be able to help you, there’s nothing anyone can do…” and others taunted, “You belong to us… We will never let you go.”
Suddenly I realized I was not crazy! There were some things inside me, and there was something in this Bible they didn’t want me to find out!
I began to fight against them with everything I had in me. I had to find out what it was I was not supposed to know. Soon, I was spending several hours a day imagining myself walking alongside Jesus as the Bible portrayed him.
It was a little over a month and a half after moving into the apartment that I questioned, what if I have been wrong, what if Jesus was not just one among many great teachers, but was truly the only Son of God?
Now I knew I wasn’t perfect, but I could not understand the need for a Savior. I felt I could justify all my thoughts and actions. Life had dealt me some bad cards, and I’d played them the best way I could. I looked up toward the ceiling, and challenged, “If there is a God apart from what I have believed, you need to show me, and if I am in need of Jesus as my Savior, I need to know that too, because I don’t think I’m all that bad.”
I was totally unprepared for what happened next. The instant the words came out of my mouth, my entire life appeared as if on a giant video screen before my eyes. I saw that long ago, I had lost my childhood innocence. Every murderous, or filthy thought and deed I had ever done, every foul word or lie I had ever spoken, and every selfish motive of my heart was naked before me. I could not hide from a righteous God the self-seeking sin, vice, and evil that had invaded my heart. Worse, by far was the utter realization that I had turned my back on the one true God, rejected Jesus, and had sold my soul to the devil.
I’d been so sure I found the truth in all my searching, but when the vision ended, I knew without a doubt that I had believed a lie. Even the power I bargained my very soul for failed me as Satan now stood as my accuser, the damning evidence undeniable, and he was coming to collect his dues.
The hell I now saw before me was not the place I so often joked about where I thought I would party with all my friends. Instead, it was a place horrible beyond description, a place where the penalty for every indiscretion uncovered before me would endlessly be exacted. No amount of good I may have ever done could earn a ticket out of there, and no role I could ever play would provide the virtuosity necessary to avoid the agony, the never-ending destruction that lay ahead—and I was going there—forever—there was no hope for me!
My darkened heart was full of foreboding doom that night as I climbed into the bathtub. I once read in the Bible of there coming a time when mans heart would fail him for fear. I now understood what that was as a most dreadful terror now permeated my own, gripping it in such a tight vise, I thought it would explode. No longer was I in a hurry to leave this world; in no way did I want to expedite the eternal damnation to which I was condemned as the weight of my sins worked within my bosom a death far darker than any I ever fathomed.
As I settled down into the tepid water I hung my head in hopelessness, covering my face with the palms of my hands. My voice trembled as I spoke aloud to myself, “It sure would have been nice if Jesus could have saved me.”
Suddenly I heard a voice that was not like the others. This voice was clear and distinct, and it was not coming from my head, but rather from about six-feet up from the floor, outside the tub. Without a doubt, the person who spoke had all the power of the universe behind him as he said, “Sandi, I died to save you!”
Never before had so few words had so great an impact on my life! Tears started streaming down my face as cleansing waves washed over me. I could not tell what I was wet from the most, the tears, or the bath water. Nor could I contain the joy I felt as I happily cried out, “Jesus is real! He died to save me!”
When I climbed out of the tub that night in mid April of 1973, I was forever changed. I was twenty-eight years old—the prophesied age I would die—and yes, I died; I died to my old life and born into a new one—one moment, bound in chains of utter despair, the next, miraculously set free. The ominous gray cat, the hallucinations, and the voices in my head were all gone. From that time on, I began to hear a different voice, the voice of the Lord. His voice did not come from within my head; it leapt out to me from within the pages of the Bible, and became an impression in my heart.
~~~~ o ~~~~
One of the first impressions I had was never to use drugs again. To do so would open my mind back up to demonic attack. No way did I want those things living in my body again!
When I read in the Bible about not touching the “unclean thing,” I knew I had to destroy all the occult objects and literature I carried with me for so many years. I literally heard the angry screeching of the demons attached as I burned each one.
I worried about the voodoo effigy I made of my ex-boyfriend. I had so angrily pushed pins into it in the past when he abandoned me for other women. It had to go. I prayed, “Lord, please protect him from attack,” as I burned it up.
Finally, I dashed the snake statue I once worshipped into pieces and buried it deep in the dumpster. Neither wood nor stone could contain my God—He was the God that made wood and stone—the Almighty God of all creation!
Once I rid myself of everything tied to my occult past I could see how, like a poisonous spider bite it was when I sold my soul to the devil in exchange for power. So quickly, was I paralyzed; numbed to the sheer terror I felt at the horrid glee of his hellish hoards when I gave them the right to enter my body; so quickly did their poison infect my mind.
The blood of Jesus, the only anecdote, revealed the deception Satan held over me regarding his ‘lying wonders’. There were no ghosts or lingering human spirits, only demonic spirits masquerading as departed people, who lived and died throughout time. It was evil and murderous spirits that moved and spoke through the ouigi board; no power of mine moved it. When I yielded to their influence through occult practices such as palmistry, numerology, and voodoo hexes, I became the vessel through which they carried out their devious works.
As I began to learn about the power of the spoken word, I realized how, when I believed myself to be psychic, I gave them permission to wreak havoc in other’s lives by speaking out what they implanted within my mind as they manipulated me by projecting into it past and present familiar memories, and future events that they needed a voice to bring into being. I had only fooled myself.
However, the final joke was on the devil when I learned that my soul was my mind, will, and emotions. How I thanked God, that he is indeed God of the heart; and how I thanked Jesus that he paid the ransom to set my mind, body, and spirit free!
~~~~ o ~~~~
I didn’t want anything to rob me of this newfound life. I read that I had to forgive if I wanted forgiveness. With all my heart, I wanted to do what the Bible said, but when it came to my stepfather, it was not so easy. The roots went deep…
When I was five-years-old, I'd often look up into the sky, trying to catch a glimpse of God. Grandma Cook always told me if I said my prayers and was good, I would get to go live with him in heaven. At that time, we lived in a tiny house surrounded by a white picket fence. My older brother and I were playing in the front yard, and I was gazing upward, when I asked him, “Why does Dad hate us so much?”
As if sharing a privileged secret, Lucky answered, “Because he’s not our dad, he’s our stepfather.”
I was shocked. “How do you know?”
“Granny told me.” he whispered, “She's our real dad’s mom.”
A flicker of hope grew as I thought our real dad would surely love us, “Where is he?”
But just as quickly, hope was quenched, as he answered, “He’s in heaven. Granny says he died in an auto accident. I’m your only real brother. Everyone else is just half.”
In my small mind, what my brother told me explained why, the man I now knew was not our daddy, was mean to us and not the others. I resolved in my heart that day, that never again would I call him Dad, and never again would I try to make him love me. I was going to hate him as much as he hated me instead. I gazed sadly backup into the heavens, trying to catch sight of another figure—that of my dad.
I now knew I had to forgive Art, but the hurt and hate were so deep, it was impossible. Still, I made the decision, “God, please help me, I can’t do this on my own.”
Suddenly, I felt something reach deep down inside my heart, take all the pain and hateful bitterness out by its roots, and then replace it with a love and compassion for my stepfather I never believed possible. Little did I know I was in for an even greater miracle?
Since my return home, Art and I carried on as we had before I left, completely ignoring one another’s presence. The next time I went to visit my mother I noticed a difference even in him. He talked to me, and we actually enjoyed our conversations together. From then on, he introduced me as his daughter. For the first time in my life, I had a dad, and it felt wonderful!
~~~~ o ~~~~
When Jesus came into my life, he healed my body as well as mind. I went from seventy pounds to one-hundred-eight within two months. Even though the doctor certified me disabled for a year, I now felt well enough to work. I had no skills other than tending bar, or go-go dancing, so I asked the Lord to help me get a job he wanted me to have.
Soon, I was working as sewing machine operator in a small shoe factory. It was the first time I’d been around anyone other than my family in months. The time flew by at work as I sat in front of my sewing machine thinking about the things I’d read in my Bible. My heart continually sang with thanks and praises for all Jesus did for me.
The young Jewish couple that owned the factory was heavily into astrology. They couldn’t start the day without consulting their charts, and depending on their forecast was how the mood at work was set for the day. Most days, they were either full of anxiety, or under heavy depression. I constantly asked God to be as merciful to Mr. and Mrs. Ohm, as he was to me by revealing to them the truth.
“What sign are you?” the wife asked one day, “You always seem so happy.”
I wanted to be careful what I said. I knew how it turned me off in the past when someone told me what a sinner I was, or that I was going to hell. “You’d be happy too if what happened to me, happened to you.” I smiled.
She looked at me in puzzled bewilderment. I went on to explain, “A few months ago, I was crazy, sick, and dying. God not only saved my life, he healed me, and then he gave me back my mind. I used to be an Aquarius, but now I have a new sign. I am born again under the sign of the cross.”
Her mouth fell open, and then she turned to hurry away. No matter, I knew God heard my prayers for her and her husband the same as he heard those of my family for me.
Barb came to see me a few weeks after starting my new job. I was anxious to tell her how God had set me free. We sat across the room from each other, she on the couch, and I on the small cot I slept on in the living room.
“How I thank God for you.” I began. “If you, Lucky, Veronica, Aunt Rachel, and Grandma had not all cared enough to pray for me, I would be dead by now and burning in hell forever.” I went on to tell her all that happened the night Jesus became my Lord and Savior.
With grateful fervency, she began to say, “Thank you Jesus, great is your mercy, thank you dear great and mighty God!” Tears flowed from both our eyes as I joined in with her, both of us thanking the Lord from the depths of our hearts.
Suddenly an occurrence came reminiscent of my baptism seventeen years before at the little Baptist church, except this experience was dramatically more powerful by far. The room abruptly filled with a cloud, so thick, Barb and I could barely see each other across the room. We could not say a word, take a breath, or blink an eye as the magnificent holy presence of the Almighty, came right there into the room with us. Somehow, those bodily functions weren’t necessary—he was life itself. And along with this breathtaking visitation came the absolute knowledge he was pleased with us!
When the cloud finally lifted, we could only stare at each other in speechless amazement. For days after, I still felt the awesome wonderment of that holy cloud enveloping us. God not only proved beyond all doubt to me that he is real—he is tangible.
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Not all of us have gone through tragic or traumatic experiences in life, which eventually leads us into making wrong choices, but all of us have had our hearts darkened by sin. Whether big or little, sin separates us from God. However, he made a way for us to come to him.
John 3:16: says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son [Jesus] that whosoever should believe on him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Jesus did what no human ever could. While he was here on earth, he lived a perfect life, without sin, and of complete obedience to his father. He willingly came as our sacrifice. He was beaten and tortured beyond recognition, and then suffered a cruel death literally nailed to a cross.
It didn’t stop there. To pay in full the price to save us, he had to bear the guilt of all our sins, and go into the depths of hell for each and every one of us. Because he was pure and without sin, hell could not rightly keep him. After three days, he rose out of there, came back from the dead, and lives forevermore conqueror over sin and its eternal consequences.
How could we reject so great a salvation? We can’t earn it—we can only accept it. If you would like to know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, pray this with me:
“Jesus, I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I believe you are the Son of God, and that you died to save me. Forgive me. Come into my heart and become Lord of my life, and help me to learn all about you and live for you. Amen.”
If you prayed this prayer from your heart, you too, are FOREVER CHANGED!
Read more articles by Sandra Jones or search for articles on the same topic or others.
It's no accident that I read your story today. You are on the "most read Articles" list. And I have been reading some of them. None as long, but God was leading, What a testimony. I too was bothered by the comment of the lady when you were baptized. I figured the voices were real, but I didn’t realize how real until you told about your past involvement in the cults. forgive me for putting this here but you might enjoy this one as the Spirit leads. Click on my name and read "FORGIVEN" page two. Thanks for sharing and may God richly bless you and your testimony and give you many chances to share with those who know through experience what you felt.
03 Jul 2003
Isn't it amazing what we go through to eventually all come to the same understanding that Jesus is the one that delivers us from all evil. Even the more subtle evil that comes from those who say they represent him.
Every word we speak, every reaction and action we express towards others does count. If we were all in one mind and one spirit that wouldn't happen to another child of God.
Thanks for sharing your powerful testimony! God is merciful and patient.
Well, what does one say after reading a testimony like this? Amazingly powerful and it has definitely left me praising God for His grace and mercy. Sandra, I know that when you were baptised, the Lord began His good work in you and it just took a "bit" of a detour before He was able to bring you back to where you were created to be. One major thing that overwhelmed me as I read this and caused the greatest reaction from me, was the response by that woman after you were baptised. I was horrified. How many people have been turned away from Christ because of the attitudes of some in His church?! What a sobering thought. Anyway, thank you so much for sharing your testimony. It reminded me a little of Johanna Michaelson's autobiography, "The Beautiful Side of Evil". The value of people such as Johanna and yourself sharing your journey to faith, is without price! Thank you again for sharing it with us. With love, Deb