Thursday, September 21, 2017

Grandpa's Prayers

My Grandma Personeus always told young women, "It's better to marry a man who can pray 'the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man that avails much' than to marry a millionaire." Grandma knew firsthand because that was the kind of man she married.

Charles C. & Florence L. Personeus
Charles Cardwell Personeus was born January 13, 1888, in Masonville, New York, the son and grandson of Methodist ministers. He spent 65 years of ministry in Alaska and died at age 98, in Ellensburg, Washington, on October 10, 1986.

Grandpa learned to pray early in life. He began preaching while still in his teens and became superintendent of the first Pentecostal mission in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1910.

He had been preaching for several years when God called him to go to Alaska as a missionary. Feeling he needed to go to Bible school to prepare further, he enrolled at the Rochester Bible Training School in Rochester, New York. There he met my grandmother, Florence LeFevre.

After their graduations, ordinations, and marriage, the couple set out for Alaska by faith in 1917. En route, they joined the fledgling Assemblies of God but received no promise of monetary support.

Arriving in Juneau in November, they pioneered the first Assemblies of God church in the Territory. This year, Juneau Christian Center is celebrating their 100th year of continuous ministry.

During their 65 years in Alaska, the Personeuses also established and pastored small congregations in remote villages, opened a home for children orphaned in the 1919 flu pandemic, ministered to servicemen stationed in Ketchikan during World War II, and served with their son, Byron, on the first Assemblies of God Speed-the-Light mission boat, the Fairtide II.

Today, there are 92 Assemblies of God churches and preaching points from Ketchikan to Barrow.

Prayer was the strength of Grandpa's ministry. He and Grandma began each day with Bible reading and prayer. When anyone was sick, they prayed. Jesus was their Great Physician.

Grandma suffered a number of serious falls and life-threatening illnesses, often when no doctors were available. Grandpa's first response was to pray under the power of the Holy Spirit, and the prayer of faith raised her up.

In the mid-1930s, when she lay dying of advanced gallstones and the doctor could only offer a 50-50 chance of survival if she had surgery, Grandpa prayed. As they praised God for healing, the hard lump in her side disappeared in 10 minutes time, and she was able to eat for the first time in weeks. She lived to the age of 96 and never again had an attack of gallstones.

Courtesy Google.com
Grandpa and Grandma had a burden for the lost. One young man stumbled into their mission in Juneau while a service was in progress and sat with his head in his hands in utter despair. After the service, he poured out his story. He had worked hard for years at the Chichagof Mining Camp to save thousands of dollars to buy a house for his parents. On the boat to Juneau, he was enticed into a card game, and two card sharks had fleeced him of his savings. He had made up his mind to get his money back or kill those men.

All night Grandpa and Grandma prayed for him. The next morning, Grandpa located the man on the docks and brought him home for breakfast. During their morning Bible reading and prayers, the Word of God broke through his hardened heart, and he knelt to ask God to remove the hatred. That morning, although he had lost all his money, he gained eternal life. As a result of his testimony, his parents too found Christ as their personal Savior.

One time when my grandparents were visiting us, the clock struck the hour and Grandpa jumped up. "It's time to pray for Africa!" he exclaimed as he headed for the bedroom to intercede for the missionaries and for lost souls.

In their later years, Grandma suffered much pain from cancer, yet she would never take painkillers. Instead, she would ask Grandpa to pray until the pain subsided.

Grandpa set a great example of prayer and service for the Lord. He never lost his fire. Even in his nineties, his hearing nearly gone, he would pray and testify under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Grandpa taught his family to pray and minister too. His two children, Byron and AnnaMae (Cousart), followed in his footsteps in ministry. I too am an ordained minister of the gospel, as is my husband,.
Bob. Through Grandpa's righteous life and effectual, fervent prayers, generations are being blessed.

This fall, I've been invited to speak at the 100th anniversary celebration of the church in Juneau, Alaska, that my grandparents founded in 1917. What an honor!

If you enjoyed this account, you can read many more similar stories in my book, Frontiers of Faith, the Story of Charles C. & Florence L. Personeus, Pioneer Missionaries to Alaska, "The Last Frontier," 1917-1982.



















My grandparents also provided the inspiration for my Alaskan Waters Trilogy of historical Christian novels. As I researched their story, I came across true incidents of real people that triggered my imagination.


My books are available in paperback and ebook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and bookstores. The third book was released this summer. Learn more about them and order at www.AnnaLeeConti.com.







Thursday, September 14, 2017

Harmony or Cacophony?

Four generations of my family taken on my
parents' 60th wedding anniversary
I've always loved music. In fact, my parents tell me that when I was a year old, I sang out so loud in church that everyone had to wait for me to repeat each line before they could sing the next.

As a child, I loved to listen to my mother and father sing duets, their voices blending together in beautiful harmony. As I grew up, I joined them in a trio.

Then I majored in music in college and met my husband singing in the Choir of the North at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. When we married, we sang duets together too. Now, our grandchildren are  making beautiful music as well.

Harmony is a musical term. It takes two or more instruments or voices to make harmony. A melody is made up of consecutive tones, but harmony occurs when two or more pleasing tones are sounded together.

Harmony doesn't happen by chance. When my young grandchildren "played the piano," the sound was dissonance and discord, not harmony. We covered our ears and demanded that they stop. When they first began to play musical instruments in their grade school band, we didn't want to discourage them, so we gritted our teeth and sat through their performances.

Soon, they learned how to blend together and play the intricate harmonies of the master composers. Nothing is more beautiful than a symphonic orchestra or an a capella choir singing in harmony.

For God's people to live together in harmony, we need to learn the lessons of harmony from an orchestra.

Courtesy Google.com

First, we all instruments must be tuned to Concert A. If even one violin string is slightly out of pitch, even if the musicians all play the right notes, dissonance, not harmony, is the result.

For Christians, Jesus is our "Concert A." He is the One by whom we must measure ourselves. If God's people all play in tune with Him, harmony is the outcome.

Another ingredient of harmony is timing. Not only must the right notes be played in the right pitch, they must be played at the same time. Have you ever heard an orchestra warming up? Each musician is playing the right notes in the right pitch, but in their own timing. Cacophony results.

We as God's people must operate in God's time for harmony in the Body of Christ. He is the Conductor. In order to make beautiful music, we must follow Him and those He has placed in leadership positions.

Courtesy Google.com
Composers and serious musicians spend years studying the fundamentals of harmony in order to write and play and sing well. So we as Christians must spend our lives learning from the Scriptures how to play in harmony with God's people. We must fellowship with one another as well.

Are you living in harmony with God's people? What do you need to do to facilitate harmony?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Repetition

This week the children in New York went back to school. In my training as a schoolteacher, I learned that repetition is essential to learning. I have read studies showing that a child of average to bright intelligence needs a minimum of 500 repetitions in order to learn a fact.

God, who created us, knew that, so He instructed parents to continually repeat His commandments to their children in every possible setting:

Courtesy Google.com
A young mother, listening to a missionary, remarked on how wonderful it must be to be the first one to tell someone about Jesus.

The missionary responded, "As a mother, you have that opportunity with your own children."

Have you ever thought about what a privilege it is that God entrusts parents with the awesome responsibility of teaching our children about Him and His love?

As parents, we need to look for and capitalize on every "teachable moment" to communicate biblical values to our children.

I still remember the times when as a child I got hurt doing something I had been told not to do, and my mother would wipe away my tears and soothe my booboos as she quoted Numbers 32:23:

"Be sure your sins will find you out."

As she taught me to ask Jesus to forgive me too, I learned that disobedience has consequences--in this life and in eternity. How thankful I am for that early teaching. It has saved me from many heartaches.

Courtesy Google.com
Research also demonstrates that children learn more by observing their parents' lives informally every day than by formal education. Vacations, holidays, and special occasions present wonderful opportunities for creating family traditions and "teachable moments" that communicate our Christian values. This is especially true because the emotion of the occasion will heighten learning. 

What do our celebrations say to our children concerning spiritual truths? Why not establish family traditions that teach truth and and fun at the same time?

What do our everyday actions and attitudes teach our children about God? Do we just send them to religious instruction or do we take them with us to church, thus demonstrating the importance of God in our adult life?

Do we keep spiritual reminders and Scripture plaques around the house?

Do our expectations and discipline of our children demonstrate to them the Father love of God?

As school gets under way again, let's look for memorable ways to
instill biblical values in our children's lives.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Spiritual Aerobics

In 2000, my husband underwent triple bypass heart surgery. Even after the surgery, he still got out of breath frequently. The doctors said two-thirds of his heart muscle, the part that pumps oxygen to the body, had been seriously damaged by the blockages.

Today, after losing weight and years of walking a couple miles a day, his heart muscle has been strengthened. It is still functioning at only fifty percent of normal, but it is twice as strong as prior to the surgery. Episodes of breathlessness are much less frequent, and he enjoys a fairly normal life. That improvement has been made possible by continually stressing his heart muscle through aerobic exercise.
Fireweed after a boreal fire in Alaska
Alaska, where I grew up, is noted for its vast fields of beautiful wildflowers. Vibrant fuchsia fireweed is the first regrowth after a wildfire. God exchanges beauty for ashes.

The seeds of other wildflowers must first endure a freezing winter before they can germinate and produce such beauty.

The cones of some conifers must first withstand a forest fire to release their seeds.

Winds blowing against trees strengthen their roots.

In military training, new recruits are pushed to the limit to prepare them to be able to endure the hardships of battle.

Athletes don't just go out and win without months of physical training.

A first grader doesn't immediately solve quadratic equations, but after years of schooling and testing, solving them becomes doable.

So it is with our Christian life. Hebrews 12:1, 2, describes the Christian life as running a race:

 "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." 

We need to develop spiritual muscles. We don't become mature Christians the moment we come to Christ. Tests and trials and tribulations strengthen our spiritual muscles. Life stretches us spiritually and teaches us to lean on Jesus.

No one is a greater blessing to others than one who has grown sweet and loving, but this doesn't just happen. It takes a long time to become saintly, and it doesn't happen without patiently enduring the tests and trials in the race called life.

Did you know that the benefits of patiently enduring don't end in this life? God has promised a crown of life to those who are faithful to love and serve Him in spite of the trials.
Courtesy Google.com
The next time you are tempted to gripe and complain about the trials you go through, remind yourself that they are the means by which God is growing Christ-like character in you. He doesn't cause bad things to happen to us. They are common to all. But God will make "all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" that we might "be conformed to the image of His Son" (Romans 8:28, 29, NKJV).

What trials have you weathered that have brought spiritual growth?


The main character, Violet, in my most recent book, Beside Still Waters, faced the choice of allowing the severe trials of her life to make her bitter or better. Notice that the only difference between those two words is the letter I. Taking your focus off yourself (I) and "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews, 12:2), makes all the difference.

Beside Still Waters is available in paperback and ebook. See my website (www.AnnaLeeConti.com) for more information about the book. Available at Ambassador International, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and bookstores.





Thursday, August 24, 2017

Praise the Lord Anyway!

Have you ever had days when the nagging inconveniences of life seem to gang up on you and threaten to steal your peace and joy?

Yesterday was one of those days. A simple project of replacing my computer keyboard and our modem with a newer, high speed one turned into a complicated process. Then, when everything seemed to be working well, we woke up this morning to discover our internet and phone weren't working. We finally located the problem. The modem power cord had somehow become disconnected.

Rev. & Mrs. C. C. Personeus in Pelican, Alaska, in the fifties
Such inconveniences remind me of my Grandpa Personeus, pioneer missionary in Alaska. Traveling home to Seward from Anchorage one night in the dead of winter, he got a flat tire. He slid out of the warm car, looked at the tire, and exclaimed, "Well, praise the Lord anyway!"

Those irritating yet really insignificant events in the whole scheme of things happen to all of us. They can ruin our entire day if we let them. The best way to keep them in the proper perspective is to learn to praise the Lord anyway.

We have no control over the occurrences of those annoying events. They seem to choose the most inconvenient times, don't they?

But we do have control over our response. We can praise the Lord no matter what happens. As we constantly speak of God's goodness and grace toward us, we bless Him and keep ourselves from being overwhelmed.

The next time a car cuts across in front of you forcing you to slam on your brakes to keep from hitting him, like happened to me yesterday, and you feel that road rage roar to life, tame it by praising the Lord anyway.

When you drop that last egg on your freshly mopped floor and it splatters all over, praise the Lord anyway.

When your toddler smears jelly on your freshly dry cleaned suit as you kiss her goodbye, praise the Lord anyway.

When your computer shuts down in the middle of preparing a report, praise the Lord anyway.

Praise the Lord no matter what happens! God inhabits the praises of His people. Praising will not only bless the Lord and cause Him to draw nearer to  you, but you will feel better too.

Courtesy Google.com


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Lesson from a Solar Eclipse

All the talk about the solar eclipse expected on Monday brought to mind the eclipse of 1994, when New York was in the path of a total solar eclipse.

Courtesy Google.com

I was teaching second grade. Remembering my experience of a total solar eclipse the summer I graduated from high school in Alaska, I wanted the children to see the beautiful corona without damaging their eyes. I set up a large tub of water in the parking lot and with the help of several mothers, I took them out one by one to observe the reflection of the corona in the water. The still water gave us an exact reflection of the happenings in the sky.




















Proverbs 27:19

Just as the sun and our faces are reflected in water, so our lives give an accurate reflection of who we really are inside.

My Cruden's Concordance has more than seven columns in tiny print of references in the Bible that contain the word, heart. What does the Bible mean by that word?

With a quick perusal of the references just in the Book of Proverbs, we find a wise heart, a wicked heart, a perverse heart, a deceitful heart, a heavy heart, a sick heart, a merry heart, a righteous heart, a proud heart, a haughty heart, a prudent heart, a pure heart, and a foolish heart.

The Bible uses the term, heart, to describe the source of our emotions and motivations. The heart contains all our desires, hopes, interests, ambitions, dreams, and affections.

The heart is what we really are, not what we or others think we are.

Our heart determines why we act, speak, and think as we do.

Jeremiah 19:9 tells us that "the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked." That is why we need to pray with the psalmist every day, inviting God to "search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there be any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23, 24, NIV).

Our hearts can deceive us. Only God really knows our hearts. Sin begins in our hearts, so God's daily search can nip sin in the bud.

Growing up in coastal Alaska, I often observed the reflections of the mountains in the water. I noticed that the clearest, most perfect reflections appeared in calmest waters. Only as we quiet our hearts before God can we have our hearts cleansed and purified.

Have you initiated God's search of your heart today?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Fight Ever Onward!

In Alaska, where I grew up, the Pacific salmon are now returning to the glacial streams where they hatched. They spend most of their lives in the ocean, where they grow big and strong. Then their instincts send them back home to spawn.

Courtesy Google.com

The salmon must fight against the current with every ounce of their strength. Their flesh turns red and gets torn on the rocks, but the instinct to procreate is so strong that they struggle on until they reach the spot miles upriver where they originated.

Courtesy Google.com

They face many hazards along the way--bears, fishermen, birds of prey. Yet, so many make it to the spawning pools that often the streams look like blood at first glance.There, the salmon lay their their eggs. Their life cycle complete, they die.







Alaskans had a saying: "Any old dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a real live one to swim upstream."


Courtesy Google.com


As Christians, we too must swim against the current of this world. We face many snares that would trip us up. If we are going to make it, we must continually strengthen ourselves spiritually and check our progress, keeping our eyes on goal.

As a teenager, I spent a week on a salmon fishing troller on the Gulf of Alaska. I noticed that when the engines stopped, the ship didn't just sit still in the water. It drifted wherever the waves took it.

So too in our Christian lives. If we are not moving forward in our relationship with the Lord, we will drift along with the current and end up on the rocks.

Just as sailors constantly check their navigational instruments to keep on course, so must we check on our position by studying our life's compass, the Bible. When we see we are getting off course, we need to quickly make corrections. We must not be careless. We can never rest on our oars until we are moored safely at our journey's end.

Have you checked yourself recently? Do you need to make a mid-course correction? Do it today.
Don't delay.