Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Colors of Christmas


I love all the colors of Christmas:
  • Stained glass windows in churches
  • The many colorful lights that adorn trees and houses
  • Red poinsettias and holly berries, red velvet dresses on little girls in the Christmas program and red bow ties on choirboys
  • Pine green Christmas trees and wreaths, shiny green holly leaves, and powdery green mistletoe
  • Silver tinsel, silver bells, icicles, moonbeams reflecting on new fallen snow, and stars twinkling in the deep blue of the nighttime sky 
  • Gold ornaments and ribbons on gaily wrapped gifts
  • Purple mountains and purple robes on  the Wise Men
  • Pure white snow that transforms the dreary landscape into a glistening winter wonderland
All those colors inspired me to write this poem:

COLORS OF CHRISTMAS

Silver stands for our redemption,
purchased at great cost.
Red stands for the blood of Jesus,
shed to save the lost.
White stands for the purity of our 
robes of righteousness;
Washed white as snow by Jesus' blood,
we stand in holiness.
Green stands for our Christian growth;
to feed on God's Word is a must.
Blue stands for our loyalty to Christ
in whom we trust.
Purple stands for His majesty;
King of kings is He.
Gold stands for the heavenly place
He has prepared for me.

by AnnaLee Conti

As you enjoy all the colors this Christmas, 
I pray that you will experience the myriad facets
 of the Light of the World, JESUS, 
 whose birth we celebrate today.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Long Journey Part of Gift

My birthday is in early December. One year, I told my husband I really wanted a pink poinsettia, which I knew would be a challenge for him. That was not the kind of shopping he felt comfortable doing. On my birthday he presented me with a lovely poinsettia. He had braved his own discomfort to obtain just what I wanted--because he loved me.

His gift reminded me of a story I heard about a young African boy who, after learning that Christians give presents to each other as an expression of our joy over the birth of Jesus and our friendship with each other, wanted to give his teacher a special Christmas gift. On Christmas Day, he brought her a rare seashell of lustrous beauty.

"Where did you find such a beautiful shell?" she asked.

"There is only one spot where such shells can be found--on the shores of a bay several miles away," he answered.

"It's gorgeous," his teacher said, "but you shouldn't have gone all that way to get a gift for me."

His eyes brightening, the boy answered, "Long walk part of gift."

And that is what makes the birth of God's only Son in a stable in Bethlehem so precious--great sacrifice was part of the Gift. Jesus set aside the majesty and splendor of heaven to become a tiny, helpless baby so He could grow up, experience the human condition, yet live without sin, and die that we might have forgiveness of sin and eternal life.

He was born to die. The long journey was part of the Gift.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Don't Forget the Birthday Boy!

In B.C.'s Christmas edition, the gang was gathered around a piano singing Christmas songs: "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Jingle Bells," "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," "Deck the Halls," Frosty the Snowman," etc.

All of a sudden, there was a loud shout from Gronk. "You dummies forgot the birthday boy!"

In total shock, everyone stopped, and the Christmas star appeared shining in the sky.

That reminds me of the time my granddaughter, Sophia, who was then in high school, used a creche to tell the Christmas story to a large group of families in her church. She called young helpers to the front, handed them figurines of Mary, Joseph, the donkey, the shepherds, and the wise men, and instructed them to carry the figurines to various places in the sanctuary.

As Sophia told the story of Jesus' birth, each helper brought his or her figurine to the stable at the designated time in the narration. When all the were in their places, Sophia began to conclude.


Suddenly, she exclaimed, "I forgot Baby Jesus!"

Then, without missing a beat, she added, "Many people forget Jesus in all the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. Don't forget Jesus this year."

I thought she had planned it that way, until she told me later that she really had nearly forgotten the Baby Jesus.

The truth is, most people today do forget the reason for the season. Ecclesiastes 12:1 cautions, "Don't let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old" (NLT).

This year, in your excitement at Christmas and every day yet to come, don't forget your Creator who sent His only uniquely begotten Son into this world to be your Savior. Don't wait until you are old. If you wait, your heart can become hardened to spiritual things. Make Christ the center of your life this Christmas season and every day.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

No Exit!

On my way to church the Sunday before last, I exited I-84 in Newburgh. Immediately, I realized that I had taken the wrong exit. I was being funneled into the entrance to the New York State Thruway. And there were no other options. No exit! I could only head south toward New York City or north toward Albany.

Quickly weighing my options, I headed north. I'd turn around at the next exit, New Palz, at least a twenty-minute drive one way. I knew that way better. I'd be late for church, though. I knew that for sure.

My husband usually drives us to church. Since he is recovering from open heart surgery, that was the first time in a while that I'd driven myself to church, which involves crossing the Hudson River on I-84. The exit we take to get to our church in Newburgh has been under construction for the past couple of years. It is now completed but changed.

The last time I drove myself, I needed to take the Thruway exit to get to Route 300 South. As soon as the car rounded the first curve, I knew it didn't look like the one my husband always drove. Too late, I realized that the previous exit, which used to lead only to Route 300 North now goes to both north and south.

As I drove that long "detour" on the Thruway, I began to think about choices we make in life. Many times we make decision for which there is no turning back. We are committed to a course of action. Fortunately, the only consequence of this wrong turn was being late for church. I missed most of the song service. But other choices have lifelong consequences. Some even affect our eternity.

We really need a guide, a GPS, a map to direct us through this maze we call life. I'm so thankful for the Word of God, the Bible, which is a light to guide our footsteps, a map that leads to eternal life. And the Holy Spirit, our guide, our personal GPS, is always with us to teach us the way we should go.

 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

He'll Do It Again

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Philippians 4:6, 7: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

Did you catch that phrase "with thanksgiving"? Why does God wants us to make our requests known to Him with thanksgiving?


Some years ago, when I was going through one of the deepest trials of my life, I first heard the song "He'll Do It Again":

You may be down and feel like God has somehow forgotten
That you are faced with circumstances you can't get through;
But now it seems that there's no way out and you're going under;
God's proven time and time again He'll take care of you.

And He'll do it again, He'll do it again;
If you'll just take a look at where you are now and where you've been.
Well, hasn't He always come through for you?
He's the same now as then.
You may not know how, you may not know when, but He'll do it again.

God knows the things you're going through, and He knows how you're hurting.
You see, He knows just how your heart has been broken in two;
But He's the God of the stars, of the sun and the sea, and He is your Father;
You see, He can calm the storm, and He'll find some way to fix it for you.

Oh, He's still God, and He will not fail you!
Oh, He's still God, and He will not change!
Know, Know that He's God, and He's fighting for you
Yes, just like Moses, just like Daniel, and just like Shadrach and Meshach, Abednego.

You may not know how, you may not know when, but I know that He'll do it again.
He'll do it again!

I clung to those words, believing that what the God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever had one for me, my friends, and my loved ones in the past, and what He'd done for people in the Bible He'd do again for me.

And He did! More than I could even ask or think!

What happens when we begin to thank God for all He's done for us? It not only gives us perspective concerning our problems, but it lifts our faith to believe that what He's done for others and what He's done for us in the past, He'll do again in this time of need.

Thanksgiving is not just a day we celebrate once a year. As we give thanks every day, we will discover that a grateful heart is a contented heart. As we count our blessings, it will surprise us what the Lord has done. As we make our requests known to God "with thanksgiving," our faith will be increased to trust Him even more.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Waiting

It has been 16 days since Bob had his heart surgery. The dramatic recovery of the first five days is over. Now he is in the waiting stage as his body continues to heal itself from the trauma of the surgery. He still experiences a lot of soreness in his back and chest.

He sleeps, eats nutritious food, walks around the house for several ten-minute periods each day, does some physical therapy exercises, can shower and care for himself, and can even do a little cooking, but he is still not sufficiently healed to drive or resume all his regular activities. He reads His Bible and other inspirational books and rests frequently. I wait on him--he requires a little less help each day.

With all this waiting, I have been thinking about what it means to wait. One of my favorite Scriptures, Isaiah 40:31, promises "they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint." The one condition to this promise is that we wait upon the Lord.

To determine what a word in the Bible means, I compare Scriptures with other Scriptures. The word wait means "silence" in Psalm 62:1: "Truly my soul silently waits for God; from Him comes my salvation...." and "hope or expectation" in v. 5, "My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him."

In Proverbs 8:34, "Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors," wait means "to watch, to observe, to listen, to take notice so as to be ready to serve or minister."

Thus, a definition of the word wait based on Scriptures is "to have the heart hushed or silent in an expectant attitude and to hear what He might say so that we might do His bidding."

Only as we have waited on God can we fly, run, and walk. But the order seems backwards, doesn't it? An airplane taxis and builds up speed in order to take off and fly.

Growing up in Alaska, I had almost daily opportunities to observe bald eagles. I loved to watch them soar above the mountain peaks, above the storms, above the other squabbling species of more earthbound birds.

In his book, Broken Bread, J. W. Follette points out that during our waiting periods, God gives us the bird's eye view. As the Apostle Paul said, "God raised us up...and made us sit...in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that...He might show the exceeding riches of His grace toward us" (Ephesians 2:6, 7). Only when we soar above the mundane things of this present life do we see life from God's point of view. Only then are we ready to do the work God has called us to accomplish. Only then will we be able to run and not grow weary, to walk and not faint.

I'm reminded of the refrain of a song, "He calls me aside to be tested and tried, but in the valley He restoreth my soul."

Our souls are being rested and refreshed in this valley experience. I wonder what God has planned for us to do for Him when this period of waiting is over.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

From Death to Life in Five Days

Tuesday, November 4, 2014, my husband, Bob, entered the hospital for surgery to replace the mitral valve in his heart. We knew it would not be a routine valve replacement because this would be the second time surgeons would cut through his sternum (breastbone). Fourteen years ago he had had a triple coronary artery bypass (which I wrote about in my two previous posts).

Going in for his biannual check up with his cardiologist early this summer, Bob was so proud of his excellent lab reports. They'd never been better since his triple-bypass surgery in 2000. He'd walked an hour every day, had learned to enjoy his mostly salt-free, sugar-free, and low fat diet, and had lost over 100 pounds. His Type-2 diabetes and chronic congestive heart failure were under control, although he did experience periods of breathlessness. But the left side of his heart had been severely damaged by insufficient oxygen prior to his bypass surgery.

"We need to consider a mitral valve replacement. I want you to see Dr. Sarabu." With those words, his cardiologist popped Bob's bubble.

We had met Dr. Mohan Sarabu, when a parishioner had had bypass surgery a few years earlier. Not only does he have a wonderful bedside manner, but all the nurses say he is just as good to them too. He is New York State's leading cardiothoracic surgeon, rated "Top Doctor" in the NY Metro Area every year since 2000, and practices at Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, in the Hudson Valley just north of where we live. The hospital has been rated in the top five percent in the nation for cardiac surgery since 2009. Bob had been one of the first bypass surgeries done there.

"The pericardium, the sac around the heart, was not closed after the first surgery," Dr. Sarabu told us as we discussed the procedure. "For that reason, there will be scar tissue, and the heart is mostly likely adhered to the chest wall and will have to be peeled away before I can access the heart itself. That can cause excessive bleeding."

We gulped. "What if I don't have the surgery?" Bob asked.

"Your condition will continue to deteriorate. Your heart will continue to enlarge. We can't predict how much time you will have, but it is better to have the surgery now before your condition becomes critical."

We took our time coming to a decision. We had confidence in Bob's cardiologist, Dr. Louis Kantaros, and Dr. Sarabu. But most importantly, we knew God was in control.

Once the date was set, I began to rehearse in my mind all the possible outcomes and fear besieged me--until I remembered the lesson God had taught me during Bob's previous surgery: rebuke your fear in the name of Jesus. When I am fearful, I will trust in God. Better yet, if I trust in God, I will not be afraid. Just blogging about that experience reinforced that message. Even throughout the seven-hour procedure, I felt the peace of God.

Bob came through the surgery well. During recovery, we asked questions about the procedure.

"The heart is normally just slightly to the left of center," Dr. Sarabu explained, "but there was so much scar tissue we couldn't find the heart at first. It was way to the left. The heart was so adhered to the chest wall that we only separated what was necessary to access the mitral valve. With the new valve the heart has a good chance of shrinking back to a more normal size."

In open heart surgery, they not only put you on the heart-lung bypass machine and shut off your heart, in the words of one nurse, "they shut down your body." Tubes and wires are inserted everywhere. Every bodily function is monitored and controlled from the outside. I don't think you can be closer to death. They spend the next five days gradually weaning you off all of those wires, drainage tubes, IVs, etc., until your body is functioning on its own and you can sit, stand, and walk without assistance.

By Saturday, Bob was set free from the last "attachments." On Monday, just six days after surgery, he came home to complete his recovery.

From death to life in five days!


Monday, November 3, 2014

A Nightmare to Calm My Fear? Part 2

(Writing this story has helped to prepare me for my husband's surgery tomorrow, so I wanted to publish Part 2 for this week's blog post earlier than my usual time. I hope it is an encouragement to you too.)

Awaking from a troubling nightmare, I pulled myself together, got dressed, and drove my husband to nearby Vassar Brothers Hospital in Poughkeepsie, New York, before sunrise.

“You’re late,” they said. We had been given the wrong arrival time. They rushed Bob through the preparations, called me in to kiss him goodbye, and abruptly sent me off to the waiting room.

Not wanting Bob to see me cry, I managed to hold back the tears until I headed down the hall. Then the storm broke. I sobbed uncontrollably. I couldn't stop.

With reconstruction for the new cardiac surgery department in the hospital still ongoing in 2000, the waiting room was actually a wide hallway where everyone passing by could see me. Embarrassed, I retreated to a restroom down the hall to hide from curious eyes.

“I’m a minister.” I kept berating myself. “I comfort others. Why can’t I handle this better?”

On Friday, I’d been told that a nurse-social worker would bring me a pager so I could walk around, but she didn’t show up. After an hour or so, a volunteer began to set up coffee nearby. I have never been able to drink coffee, but I finally calmed myself enough to ask her about the nurse-social worker. She called her. It turned out that we had not been put on her list because Bob’s surgery was scheduled so late on Friday at the beginning of the holiday weekend.

The nurse-social worker took me into a consultation room where we could talk. “Your reaction is normal,” she assured me. What a comfort she was!

Soon after, a friend arrived to sit with me. With a pager now in my possession, I could go outside to get some fresh air and walk off my tension.

Shortly after noon, the surgery was over. All had gone well. “Go to the cafeteria and eat something,” the nurse told me. “When you get back, we’ll take you in to see your husband.”

“But I’m not hungry,” I protested.

“You must eat. We don’t want you to faint.”

Over salads, I told my friend about my disturbing dream. That’s when its meaning dawned on me.

The dormant animal that suddenly attacked me represented my fear of losing my husband. The setting at a women’s retreat, where all of us were carefully skirting around that seemingly dead animal, stood for all wives who experience that fear from time to time. I’d experienced it the year Bob fought in the Vietnam War. Then, narrowly escaping death several times, he was the only officer in his unit to come home alive, on Memorial Day 1970. That fear had lain dormant but had roared to life at this new threat to his life thirty years later.

Even in the midst of the nightmare, however, my instinctive reaction to that animal clutching at my throat was to rebuke it in the name of Jesus.

That was God’s word for me: rebuke your fear in the name of Jesus.

The Bible often tells us to trust and not be afraid. But we forget so easily. Even the Psalmist (56:3) admitted that he was afraid and needed to trust God, who has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.

Fourteen years later, my husband is again facing open heart surgery to replace his mitral valve. A “resternotomy” has its additional set of possible complications—scar tissue, adhesions, bleeding, stroke. As we prepare for the surgery and fear threatens to overwhelm me, I remind myself often to “trust God and fear not.” I may cry, but I’m putting my trust in Him.

When have you experienced overwhelming fear? How did you get through it?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Nightmare to Calm My Fear?

“Your husband needs a triple bypass.” The cardiologist who’d just done a heart catheterization on my husband, Bob, knelt on one knee in front of me in the waiting room. “Two main arteries are ninety percent blocked, and a third smaller one is totally blocked .”

To say I was shocked is putting it mildly. The husband of the other woman in the waiting room had just been told that her husband would be fine. He’d come in as an emergency. The doctors had worked on him for hours. They’d put stents in his heart.

Bob’s catheterization had been scheduled “as a precaution.” He’d been bumped several hours until the emergency had been taken care of. If they could put a stent in that man, surely they could put a stent in Bob if needed.

He’d had difficulty breathing for months. We didn’t recognize it as a symptom of coronary artery disease. Seven weeks earlier, when my husband, pastor of a small church, nearly passed out while preaching that Easter Sunday morning in 2000, the congregation insisted that he get a complete physical. He hadn't seen a doctor in seven years. Over his protests, I made the appointment for him. The round of tests began.

After the catheterization that Friday afternoon before Memorial Day, his bypass surgery was scheduled for early Tuesday morning. Bob was sent home with instructions to do nothing more strenuous than flipping burgers—no driving, no carrying trash down the three flights of stairs from our third-floor apartment, no carrying groceries up, and no preaching. I too am an ordained minister, so in addition to taking over his chores at home, I had to prepare a sermon to preach that Sunday.

By bedtime Monday evening, I was exhausted. Until then, I’d been too busy to think about the surgery. As I climbed into bed, pure, unadulterated fear assaulted me head-on.

Would my husband survive the surgery? How would I go on living without him if he didn’t?

Would he end up an invalid? Since I suffer with a serious back condition, I worried about how I would be able to take care of him.

Bob in Sound of Life Radio Studio
A bivocational pastor, Bob worked fulltime for The Sound of Life, a network of Christian radio stations in the heart of the Northeast, driving forty miles each way every weekday. Fortunately, he had finally obtained health insurance through that job just six months earlier after being without it for seven years. But would he be able to resume his demanding schedule? If not, how would we survive financially?

Too physically tired and emotionally distraught to pray, I breathed, “Lord, I need a word from You,” and fell asleep.

In a dream I found myself at a women’s retreat. At the back of the meeting room a medium-sized, hairless white animal lay on its side, legs stretched out into the corner. We thought it was dead, but we all eyed it fearfully, skirting cautiously around it.

All of a sudden, it roared to life and flew at my throat. I clutched at its neck with both hands and cried over and over, “I rebuke you in the name of Jesus!”

I awoke trembling, my heart pounding, tears coursing down my cheeks. “That’s not what I meant, Lord!” I sobbed.

To be continued...

Note: Bob is again facing open heart surgery this Tuesday, November 4, to replace his mitral valve. A "resternotomy" carries with it an additional set of possible complications--scar tissue and adhesions from the previous surgery, greater possibility of excessive bleeding, and even stroke. We would greatly appreciate your prayers.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pastors Are People Too

The Sunday in 1980 when we moved into the historic Kingsboro Presbyterian church in Gloversville, three families announced that they were leaving the church. Maybe the prospect of church growth in the larger facility felt threatening to them. With a congregation of about 60, that was half our group. That hurt!

One Wednesday evening, Bob felt so discouraged he wasn't sure he could even teach the adult Bible study. The first person to arrive that night, was Emily Spencer--the lady I've written about previously whose daughter had gone missing, the lady who had been miraculously healed of diverticulosis.

"I've been praying for you, Pastor. I brought you something," She handed him a flat, wrapped package.

He opened it and lifted out a vintage wheat-colored knit tie she had embroidered by hand with clusters of wine-red grapes. As he held it up, she explained her choice of colors and pattern. "It reminds me of Communion. Tan is the color of the bread, and the grapes represent the cup."

Tears filled Bob's eyes as he thanked her for her thoughtful gift then poured out his discouragement to her. That night, as the handful of people gathered for Bible study, they circled around their pastor and ministered to him in prayer.

Pastors are people too. They can become discouraged just as all of us do. Sometimes the simplest word of encouragement or thoughtful action is just what he/she needs to lift his/her spirit. How can you minister to your pastor not only in October, Pastor Appreciation Month, but all year?




Thursday, October 16, 2014

"It's Jesus at the Door!"

One day, my pastor-husband, Bob, stopped by to see a family from our congregation. When he knocked, the couple's preschool daughter opened the door.

"Who is it?" her mother called from another room.

"It's Jesus!" came the child's excited response.

While they had a good chuckle, the incident illustrates a misunderstanding many adults demonstrate too. They act as though their pastor lives in a room behind the platform and is immune to the struggles of daily life, coming out only on Sundays and Wednesday evenings to conduct services.

In truth, pastors are human too. They are called of God to be shepherds of the flock God has put under their care, but Jesus is the Chief Shepherd. Only He is perfect. Pastors strive to be like Jesus, but none of us will become entirely perfect until we are in eternity with Jesus.

"Pastor" is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, along with the gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, teacher, administration, giving, helps, hospitality, wisdom, etc. The Holy Spirit calls and gifts people as He chooses.

Being a pastor is a holy calling, but so are all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. All Christians are called by God to exercise the gifts He has given them for the growth of His kingdom on earth.

I grew up in a family of pastors. My husband and I pastored churches for more than 35 years. I know from experience that pastors face the same challenges, trials, and struggles as any other member of the congregation. And they feel your highs and lows as well as their own. They need rest, relaxation, and time with their families just as you do.

Pastors need people to come alongside and hold up the hands that grow weary just as Aaron and Hur held up Moses' tired hands in the battle with the Amalekites (see Exodus 17:8-16). Only as pastors and congregations pull together can the Church prevail against the onslaught of Satan.

The month of October is set aside as Pastor Appreciation Month. How can you help and encourage your pastor not only this month but all year?


Friday, October 10, 2014

Thank God for Antibiotics!

Monday, we celebrate Columbus Day. It always reminds me of a most memorable time when our little family decided to celebrate the holiday by taking a hike up a mountain near Indian Lake in the Adirondack Mountains. Our son, Bobby, was in fourth grade, and we wanted to do something special as a family.

First, we had to drove a couple of hours north from Gloversville to the trailhead. The leaves glowed in full autumn colors until it began to snow--a wet snow that didn't stick--yet, so we decided to climb anyway.

Naturally, the trail was steeper and longer than we anticipated. Up and up we climbed, our sneakers getting wetter and wetter. Coming down wasn't any easier. But we still had fun.

The next few days, Bobby went off to school. Meanwhile, I came down with bronchitis and Bob with pneumonia. The doctor said he could stay home IF he promised to stay in bed and rest. If not, he'd be admitted to the hospital.

Then Bobby's teacher called midday to say he had a low grade fever. He hadn't been sick that morning, but I picked him up from school. Since he had no other apparent symptoms, I let him rest on the couch and watch TV.

Later that afternoon, he suddenly pulled off the sock from his left foot and scratched it furiously. I noticed a sore on his little toe, but I assumed the reddish streak from it to his ankle was from scratching. He said the blister was from our hike, and I scolded him for not telling me about it. I made a mental note to check it again at bedtime.

That's when I realized the streak was infection ascending to his ankle and decided to take him to the doctor first thing in the morning. I had always thought the streak from an infection would be a narrow, red line, but this was a wide swathe more dark pink than red. If I had known then what I learned later, I would have taken him to the emergency room that night.

The next morning, Bobby's temperature was over 103 degrees, and he had a rash on his chest. When he tried to get up to walk down the hall, he was too weak to stand. He was too big for me to carry, so I loaded him onto a blanket and towed him to the stairs, helped him slide from stair to stair on his bottom, towed him to the door, and walked him to the car.

His doctor took one look and said to me, "You have a very sick boy. Take him right to the hospital. In layman's terms, he has blood poisoning. Even though the streak is just above his ankle, internally, it has reached his groin." Then he too scolded Bobby for not telling his mommy about his blister.

Bobby spent three days in the hospital on intravenous IV antibiotics and then a week at home resting with his foot elevated. Realizing that prior to antibiotics, blood poisoning was usually fatal, I thanked God over and over for the discovery of antibiotics!

That Columbus Day turned out to be quite memorable--in ways we did not expect!

Friday, October 3, 2014

God Has a Sense of Humor!

Several blog posts ago, I told how our new church in Gloversville had been blocked from advertising on the church page in the local newspaper because we didn't have a building. Then one of the local businessmen pressured them to put us on.

In 1980, after we had been holding church services at the YMCA in Gloversville for three years, the historic Kingsboro Presbyterian Church became available to us. Suddenly, our church gained lots of attention around town.

Built around 1800, the brick structure had been maintained beautifully. Its four-pointed white steeple rose high above the town. A Gloversville postcard featured it as a historical landmark. Everyone knew its location.

A small congregation of older people met in the sanctuary for a 9:00 a.m. service on Sunday then gathered in the fellowship hall in the basement afterwards for a coffee hour. We began our Sunday school at 10:00 a.m. and morning worship at 11:00.

Our first Sunday there, we cautioned everyone to be as quiet as possible so as not to disturb the older congregation. That morning, the other congregation stopped my husband to tell him how thrilled they were to see children and teenagers coming to their church.

"Don't worry about the noise," they said. And there was never any conflict between the two congregations.

In time, the Presbyterian congregation joined with the larger Presbyterian church in Gloversville, and we had full use of the building.

In the local library, Bob found a published copy of the diary of the first pastor, Elisha Yale, under whose ministry our church had been built. In the 48 years of his ministry, the area changed dramatically. When he had come in 1804, the town was called "Stump City" and was known for its rampant alcoholism. As a result of his spiritual influence, by the time of his death in 1953, no still could be found within a four-mile radius of the town. That was significant when travel was by horse and buggy or on foot.

In time, as our congregation grew, Bob began negotiating with the Presbyterians to purchase the building. By faith, he offered to pay $25,000.00 cash, and the Presbyterians agreed. But first, we had to raise the money. A lady in the church made a poster of a brick church building and people "bought bricks." We raised $25,000.00 and paid cash for the building! The sale was completed in 1986, shortly before God called us to pastor another church.

We chuckled at God's sense of humor. He had placed the newest church in town in the historic church building. Today, it is known as Kingsboro Assembly of God.

Has God ever done something in your life that demonstrates He has a sense of humor?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Watch for 99¢ one-day sale on Amazon of the brand new novel A Star to Steer By by AnnaLee Conti

A Star to Steer By, the exciting sequel to Till the Storm Passes By, and the second book in the Alaskan Waters series, goes back a generation to tell the love story of the Norwegian parents Evie never knew.

Tales of the booming fishing industry and big money to be made in faraway Alaska in 1920 lure 19-year-old Norman Pedersen, a Norwegian fisherman, to immigrate to Alaska to make his fortune. He plans to return to Norway to marry his fiancee, Kristina Michelsen, whom he calls his "star to steer by." She promises to wait for him, even if it takes years. 

In Alaska, charmed by the beautiful but conniving Cecilia, Norman becomes trapped in a "prison" of his own making and lets down everyone he loves.

Will Norman ever find his true "star to steer by"?




For 24 hours next Thursday, my publisher, Ambassador International, is offering my brand new fiction title, A Star to Steer By, for just 99¢ for Kindle on Amazon!  After Thursday, the price will go up to $2.99 through the weekend, and then it will return to the regular Kindle price of $5.99.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Star to Steer By (Alaskan Waters Series Book Two) Live on Kindle

A Star to Steer By, Alaskan Waters Series Book Two

“Oh, Kristina, what have I done? No matter what you hear about me, you’re the one I love.”

Norman Pedersen hunches his body into the biting wind as he stands at the bow of the seiner. Even that discomfort does not distract him from the relentless, crushing pain in his heart.

Full of hope and ambition, he had come to Alaska to make his fortune and return to Norway to marry Kristina Michelsen, the love of his life. The future had looked so promising. 

Charmed by the beautiful but conniving Cecilia, he now feels like a man condemned to a life sentence. He's let down everyone he loves.

Will Norman ever find his true "star to steer by" in this exciting sequel to Till the Storm Passes By?

A Star to Steer By, published by Ambassador International, is now live on Amazon for Kindle and for pre-order paperbacks to be shipped October 24. It will also be available soon for Nook at Barnes & Noble and at iTunes, as well as all other e-readers and in bookstores.

A Star to Steer By link to Amazon:

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Star to Steer By

Now at the publishers and coming very soon is A Star to Steer By, the second novel in my Alaskan Waters series. Just as my stories are based on true events, my titles are inspired by experiences in my life.

My earliest memory is a fragment from my family's trip to Alaska on my uncle's mission boat when I was two-and-a-half years old. We hit rough seas in the Inside Passage. I remember the cabin cruiser being tossed about wildly, and my mother putting me to bed in an upper bunk, which to my childish mind was a huge drawer. Years later, I asked her about that incident, and she verified it.

Growing up in Alaska, we always lived by the sea--in Southeast Alaska on channels and inlets off the Inside Passage and later on Resurrection Bay in Seward. I spent many wonderful hours sailing on my uncle's mission boat, a week on a trolling boat, summers rowing a dinghy around Lizianski Inlet in the tiny fishing town of Pelican, and many trips on the ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway from Haines to Prince Rupert.

In seventh grade, my teacher, Mrs. Yates, introduced us to classical American and British poetry. Since my grandmother was a poet, my ears perked up. I already enjoyed poetry. In class, we read Poe and Dickinson and Longfellow and Burns and Kipling, to name a few, but the poem I fell in love with was John Masefield's "Sea Fever." He expressed my feelings about the sea. When our assignment was to memorize one of the poems, that is the one I chose. I can still quote it:

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the the sky
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sails shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's life a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And a quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

My first book in the Alaskan series, Till the Storm Passes By, begins in Jamestown, Rhode Island, near Beavertail Lighthouse. My husband and I were stationed near there when our son was born in 1970, and we discovered that southern tip of Conanicut Island where the Atlantic Ocean crashes into it on three sides. Since then, we spend the day there whenever we can. As we sit on the rocks, watching the waves roll in and spray up against the boulders, disperse into tidal pools, then ebb away, we feel our cares being carried away too. It was there that Evie's story was nurtured in my mind until it took shape on paper.

In A Star to Steer By, Norman Pedersen is a fisherman, a man of the sea. My many experiences in the waters of Southeast Alaska--on calm, sunny days as well as in violent storms--informed the writing of this novel too. And the echoes of "Sea Fever" inspired not only the title, but Norman as well. He calls Kristina his "star to steer by." But is she really the one he should steer his life by?  


Friday, September 5, 2014

Don't Block the Son!

The summer I graduated from high school, my home town of Seward, Alaska, was in the direct path of a total solar eclipse. July 30, 1963, dawned bright and sunny with a gentle breeze blowing. The mountains had lost most of their snow, and their craggy peaks stood out in bold relief against the blue sky. Resurrection Bay sparkled like a many-faceted gemstone. The magenta fireweed were in full bloom, and the birds were singing.

The path of the total solar eclipse on July 30, 1963
That afternoon, while the four children I was babysitting were napping, I sat on the porch of their log home to observe the eclipse through a piece of undeveloped film. My most vivid memory of that event was not the eclipse itself, but how that bright and beautiful day suddenly turned cold and dark and windy. The birds stopped singing. The silence was eerie.
           

I knew scientifically that the sun hadn't stopped shining. Something had just gotten in the way and was blocking the sun.

How often does that happen in our spiritual lives? Jesus is the Light of the World (Matthew 5:14), but we can cause a state of total eclipse spiritually by blocking the Son, instead of reflecting His light. If we allow sin, the cares of this life, unforgiveness, or even grouchiness to block the love and joy and light and warmth that should be seen in us, we plunge ourselves as well as others into cold darkness.

The Apostle Paul admonishes us to "shine like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people." How can we do this? By living "clean, innocent lives as children of God (Philippians 2:15b). First Peter 3:15-16 tells us to worship "Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it...in a gentle and responsible way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ" (NLT).

I want to reflect, not block, the Light of Christ, don't you?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Lessons We Learned from Our Dog

Our son had been begging for a dog. We promised we'd get him one after we moved into a parsonage. Friends told us of a litter of cockapoo puppies that were ready to be adopted. We promptly fell in love with a six-week-old  puppy we named Taffy because she was the color of pulled molasses taffy.

Taffy quickly fit into our household. As she grew into adulthood, she turned a beautiful white shaded with apricot. For 16 years, she filled our home with love and joy. She knew how to love sincerely and showed it enthusiastically.

One writer put it this way: Thirteen Things I Learned from My Dog.

(1) When my loved ones come home, always run to greet them, no matter how late they are.
(2) Enjoy the outside.
(3) Let others know when they've invaded your territory.
(4) Take naps and stretch before rising.
(5) Run, romp, and have fun daily.
(6) On hot days sit, drink lots of water, and lie under shade trees.
(7) When you are happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
(8) When disciplined, bounce back and make friends again.
(9) Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
(10) Eat with gusto; stop when you've had enough.
(11) Be loyal.
(12) Never pretend to be something you're not.
(13) If what you want lies buried, dig until you get it.

Often, Taffy reminded us of the Holy Spirit, who is gentle and can be easily grieved by our unloving actions. Whenever we raised our voices, she would creep under the couch, reminding us that arguing also grieved the Holy Spirit.

What simple wisdom our dogs exhibit! If we would act more like our lovable dogs and less like prickly porcupines at home and work, how much happier our lives would be. And our loved ones would feel more secure in our love.

"The whole point of what we're urging," says The Message Bible, "is simply love--love uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God."
Our dog taught us that instead of thinking about ourselves, we need to think about God and ministering to the needs of others, to love without self-interest.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Parsonage God Prepared

A big storm was brewing. We could hear thunder rolling. We needed to pick up our son from school, so we quickly toured the house and told the owner we would be in touch. They thought we weren't really interested. But we arranged to go back to see it again. We knew God had reserved that house just for us.

Our second year in Gloversville, we desperately needed a parsonage. We were very cramped in our two-bedroom apartment, which also had to serve as Bob's study, my writing office, and church office, so we began to look for a house to buy for the church. Many houses were for sale, but the mortgage interest rates were well over ten percent, and a minimum down payment of 33-40 percent was required.

As we made this need known to our prayer partners, money began to come in from unexpected sources. A letter came from a former classmate from the University of Alaska, whom we had not been in contact with since our graduation 12 years earlier. Now the vice-president of Alaska Airlines, he had come to know the Lord and was attending an Assemblies of God church in Seattle, Washington. He had read about our new church planting in The Pentecostal Evangel. Surprised to read that Bob was an Assemblies of God pastor, he sent us a large donation. My grandparents also gave us a large money gift toward the down payment.

After looking at many houses for a year or more, one afternoon our realtor showed us a house on Third Avenue that had recently come on the market. The owner had spent the previous two years totally remodeling the old Victorian house. It was just what we were looking for and more--a living room and a parlor with pocket doors, new appliances in the eat-in kitchen, a separate dining room, a bath and a half, a beautiful antique wood staircase with a stained glass window at the lower landing, four bedrooms upstairs which offered plenty of room for offices, a full basement, a full attic, and everything newly insulated. It even had a stairway from the kitchen to the back upstairs bedroom--the maid's quarters? The color scheme wasn't my favorite, but I thought I could work with it. A large carriage house out back served as a three-car garage.

With the help of the New York District officials, we were able to negotiate to purchase the house at very low monthly mortgage payments.

Sometimes when we think God is slow in meeting our needs, He is busy preparing just what we need. We had looked at many houses, but all of them would have required renovations or other work. Neither of us are gifted in carpentry or other skills needed to remodel, so God took care of it for us. The only thing we had to do was put up paneling in one bedroom to create an office for Bob.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Healed! Part 2

Emily Spencer was scheduled for surgery to remove the part of her colon that was leaking into her abdomen.
With peace in her heart, she entered the operating room the next morning. The doctors were looking at her X-rays, and she could see where the colon showed the barium leaking into her abdomen. She prepared herself to awaken to find she'd had a colostomy.

Her husband was prepared for a lengthy wait, so he was surprised to see the surgeon come into the waiting room so soon. "Mr. Spencer," he said, "another Surgeon was there ahead of me. I could see where the colon had been diseased, but it is completely healed. All I did was remove a cluster of adhesions and make a few minor repairs elsewhere, but her colon is healthy."

Emily wasn't out of surgery but a short time, though, when she began having an allergic reaction to the anesthesia. At one point, she lost all blood pressure and other vital signs. If she had been having the lengthier surgery as planned, she probably would have died.

Her husband called us. Immediately, I activated the ladies prayer chain. By 5 o'clock, Emily's condition had stabilized, although she was kept in intensive care for observation for a couple of days.

From then on, her recovery was rapid. In 4 weeks, she was back in church. She said, "I know the Lord spared my life because He has something more for me to do for Him."

This ministry of our local congregation to one of our members greatly strengthened the bonds of love and fellowship within our church. Since Emily was so well known in the community, and she boldly witnessed to everyone about her healing, our new church was also elevated in its standing in the eyes of the community.

Praise God that even in hard trials He is working and wants to use them to build His Church and our faith!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Healed!

In mid-October 1979, Emily Spencer, whose story I told in the previous three blogs, began having severe abdominal pain. The doctor put her in the hospital for tests. She had had diverticulosis for over 6 years and had had 6 inches of her colon removed 5 years previously.

The tests revealed a flare up of the condition and an abscess in one of the diverticula. The doctor put her on antibiotics to see if that would cure the abscess, but he warned that surgery would probably be necessary.

My husband was out of town when Emily went into the hospital, but I took two men from our church into her hospital room to anoint her with oil according to James  5:14-16. That was on Thursday. By Sunday, Emily felt so good she wanted to go home.

On Monday, when the doctor examined her, he was amazed. . He had said it was unlikely that the antibiotic treatment would be successful, but the abscess had already cleared up so quickly he called it miraculous.

The doctor told her that she still needed surgery since the X-rays showed that her bowel was leaking into her abdomen. He was afraid that peritonitis would set in, and that could be fatal. This diagnosis was confirmed by three doctors.

The doctor planned to remove the diseased portion of her colon. Due to the previous surgery, a temporary colostomy would probably be necessary.

Emily was released from the hospital and told to build up her strength for the surgery scheduled in 2 weeks. It had to be postponed for 2 more weeks due to some difficult circumstances at home.

All during this time, the people of Glove Cities Assembly of God continually prayed for Emily's healing. At first, she still had pain and couldn't seem to regain her strength. Then one Tuesday at Ladies Bible Study, everyone remarked on how much better she looked. That's when Emily realized that she was feeling better and had gained back the weight she had lost.

But the doctor still felt she needed surgery. The day before the surgery, Pastor Conti anointed her with oil and prayed for God's will to be done in the entire situation.

What would the doctors find? To be continued...



Saturday, August 2, 2014

Daughter Missing! Part 3

After consulting a psychic to try to find answers to their daughter's disappearance, the awful words of the psychic repeated over and over in Emily Spencer's mind. She couldn't sleep, and each waking hour was torture. After a year, she could take it no longer.

Emily determined to end it all by taking her own life. She planned exactly how she would do it, but she couldn't carry out her plans. Something wouldn't let her. "I know now it was the Lord," she told me.

One day she met a friend she hadn't seen in a long time. The friend seemed different somehow. In the course of the conversation, the friend asked, "Emily, how are you?"

Emily told her the truth, and her friend began to tell her about her new relationship with Jesus Christ. "And He can help you too, Emily," she concluded. Before they parted, her friend gave her a devotional book to read.

As Emily read that book, she turned her life and her problems over to Jesus. "My friend was right," she said. "Jesus took away the nightmares, the horror, the words of the psychic that repeated themselves over and over in my mind. Jesus saved my soul and gave me a sound mind. I could once again function as a wife and mother without tranquilizers."

Eight months later, Jim came to know the Lord too because of the change he saw in Emily's life. In time, Emily's brother and his wife received Jesus too. They all became faithful members and workers in the new church we pastored, Glove Cities Assembly of God. Because of the deep waters she has been through, Emily was able to minister to many people who were going through tragedies.

Emily told us that one day she was reading in Psalm 116: "I was brought low, and he helped me." She felt like those words were written just for her, and it brought her great comfort. "I can honestly say if it took this anguish to bring me to the Lord, it has been worth it all."

"Not knowing what happened, not knowing whether Pam is dead or alive, is the hardest part," Emily said. The Spencers believed she was probably dead, but they continued to pray for her. Emily even prayed that if foul play caused Pam's disappearance, the person or persons involved would come to know the Lord and confess the crime.


"When I feel overwhelmed by it all, I've learned to lean harder on Jesus. He has brought me this far. I know He will see me through, come what may."

The last time I saw Emily, she had just turned 80. She told me that every year on Pam's birthday, she wrote a poem to her and had accumulated quite a collection. Both Jim and Emily Spencer are with the Lord now. They never did learn what happened to Pam, but they entrusted their lives to the One who knows all things. And He carried them through.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Daughter Missing! Part 2

Jim and Emily Spencer's 20-year-old-daughter Pam went missing in California in 1973. They flew out to look for her but could find no clue as to her whereabouts. Back home, the torture of waiting and wondering began.

They kept calling the Los Angeles police, but they had nothing new to report. While the Spencers imagined the worst, they kept hoping Pam would turn up alive and well. But as time passed, their hopes grew dimmer.

Emily had been a faithful Catholic all her life, but her religion couldn't sustain her through this tragedy. Her three daughters had been her life. In her heart she turned on God, lashing out in fury at Him for allowing this to happen to her darling girl.

"I could no longer function as a wife and mother," Emily said. "To get through the endless days, I turned to tranquilizers."

Then about 8 months after Pam disappeared, Emily read a newspaper article about a psychic who helped people find missing loved ones. The article told of a girl who had been missing. With the psychic's help, her murdered body had been found.

By this time, Emily and Jim were grasping for anything that could lead to finding Pam, so Emily wrote for an appointment with the psychic. (She didn't know until later that God's Word commands us to stay away from the occult. At that time, she didn't know any better.) "Satan nearly destroyed me through it," Emily said.

The psychic told them to bring something Pam had touched and something from her boyfriend. She asked for no more information than Pam's name. She was kind and assured them that God had given her this power to help people in situations like theirs.

Then she told the Spencers that Pam had been murdered because her killers were afraid she would "fink" on them to the police. The psychic described the murder and said Pam's body was hidden in a very remote area where it was unlikely it would ever be found.

The Spencers returned home with the horror of the psychic's words ringing in their ears. In the weeks and months that followed, the words of the psychic repeated themselves over and over in Emily's mind like a recording. Emily couldn't sleep, and each waking hour was torture.

After a year, Emily could stand it no longer.

To be continued...

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Daughter Missing!

One Sunday, a new lady began to attend our church in the Gloversville YMCA. Emily became a member and brought many extended family members with her. What an encouragement she was to us even though she had a heart-rending story to tell.

On January 6, 1973, she and her husband Jim had put their 20-year-old daughter Pam and her dog, a malamute husky named Layla, on a plane in New York bound for California, where she planned to make her home. That was the last time they saw her. Three weeks later she disappeared without a trace!

Six months earlier, Pam and a girlfriend had gone to California to try their wings away from home. Deciding to make her home there, Pam returned to Gloversville for Christmas to get the rest of her things.

Pam was always industrious and responsible. After high school she worked as a legal secretary, bought her own car, and paid her parents for her room and board. According to her boyfriend and other friends, she was never involved in the drug scene. She enjoyed cooking. needlework, and other homemaking activities. During her stay in California, Pam called home every evening--until the weekend she disappeared.

The first inkling of trouble was an urgent phone call from Pam's girlfriend Sally in Malibu on Monday night. "Have you heard from Pam?" she asked. Pam had called her Friday after work saying she was coming to spend the weekend, Sally told Emily. But Pam never arrived.

On Sunday, Sally drove over to Pam's apartment in Santa Monica. Finding no one there, she obtained the key from Pam's landlady and found the apartment in order. Only Pam and her dog, who accompanied her everywhere, were missing.

When Pam failed to show up by Monday, Sally contacted the police and called Pam's parents. Emily immediately called her sister who lived in the Los Angeles area and asked her to check into the situation. When she could find no satisfactory answers, she recommended that Jim and Emily fly out to investigate for themselves.

The Spencers spent 16 days in the Los Angeles area. They talked to police, but they could find no clues. Even Pam's boyfriend, who was visiting his family in Colorado at the time of Pam's disappearance, was as clueless as they were as to her whereabouts.

The Spencers searched hospitals, institutions, dog pounds, and even appeared on television, showing Pam's picture and asking for information. Finally, in desperation, they hired a private investigator. After 10 days, he too was unable to turn up any clues.

With breaking hearts, they finally had to pack up Pam's things and return home to their two younger daughters. Then the torture of waiting and wondering began.

To be continued...


Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Worry Box

It's been said that "worry is interest paid on trouble before it is due." Are you a worrier? I was--until I learned how useless worry is and discovered strategies to stop worrying.

Worry is the number one health problem in the USA. Hospitals and mental institutions are full of people who worried themselves into physical and mental illness. Doctors tell us that worry affects the circulation, the heart, the glands, the whole nervous system. Research has proven that worry breaks down resistance to disease, and it actually causes diseases of the nervous system, digestive system, and the heart. In short, worry is not only sin against God by demonstrating a lack of faith, but it is also sin against our own bodies. Worry kills.

A poem I found on an old greeting card says, "Overheard in a Tree One Day," got me to thinking:

Said the robin to the sparrow, "I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings rush about and worry so."
Said the sparrow to the robin, "I think that it must be
They have no Heavenly Father such as cares for you and me."

I discovered that the big difference between worry and concern is that a worried person sees a problem, while the concerned person solves a problem. Worry never does any good. First, it's useless to worry about things we can't do anything about. We must trust them to God. Second, if we can do something about it, we need to get busy and do what we can.

God's prescription for worry is recorded in Philippians 4. I have found that it works every time, in every case, if applied moment by moment according to the instructions of our Great Physician: (1) Rejoice in the Lord always! (v. 4); (2) Don't worry but pray (v. 6); (3) Dwell on good, helpful thoughts (v. 8); (4) Keep our minds on Jesus (v. 7, 9). Since we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (v. 13) and God has promised to supply all our needs according to His endless riches (v. 19), why worry? I now replace worry thoughts with these Scriptures.

If you are a worrier, here's an idea to try: J. Arthur Rank would write down all his worries and put them in a box for Wednesday, designated his Worry Day. On Worry Day, he would read them all and usually found that by then most things were already settled.

For a happier, healthier life, don't worry!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

God Tests His Product

Have you ever wondered what God was doing?

Pioneering a church is hard work and often discouraging. While my husband and I were planting the new church in Gloversville, we often wondered why God allowed things to happen that seemed to be detrimental to the work of starting a new church for Him.

Our first winter in Gloversville, major winter snowstorms struck seven Sundays in a row with fifty percent more snow that year than normal. Just getting to services was a major production. And often, no one else could get there. When we read in Job that God commands the snowflakes, we jokingly asked each other if God was really on our side.

We started the church with no core group. A few who came were already Christians, but developing workers was a challenge. Snowstorms didn't hurt like receiving the early Sunday morning phone call from a Sunday school teacher who had decided to drop out of the church. Or spending all day Saturday helping someone move, carrying furniture up and down flights of stairs, only to be told a few weeks later that we didn't love them. The gut-churning pain of rejection from people we had gone out of our way to help was as sharp as any physical pain.

But the Lord reminded us how people rejected Him. He suffered total rejection on the Cross. We began to, in small measure, experience "the fellowship of His suffering" (Philippians 3:10).

Our district director of new church plantings at that time, Rev. Leon Miles,  pointed out that God was not only building a new church. He was building us too. We learned to lean harder on Jesus, as we began to understand what it means to suffer hardship as "good soldiers of Jesus Christ." And we grew stronger.

God builds people. No good manufacturer would put his product on the market without testing it first. God tests His product too. And little by little, our church grew, and so did we.

James wrote, "When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy." Really? Joy? Yes! "For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing" (1:2-4, NLT).

When trials come your way and you don't understand why, just cling to Jesus and remember that God is perfecting you.





Friday, June 27, 2014

Tune to Concert A

Recently, we had the baby grand piano at our church tuned. Have you ever watched a piano tuner? A piano may sound in tune with itself, but the tuner strikes a tuning fork to determine if the piano is in tune to concert A. He then turns the pegs on each string until it is tuned to the intended pitch. Only when all musical instruments are tuned to Concert A can they play together and produce beautiful harmonies.


During our first few years in Gloversville, we had a worship leader who would only tune her guitar "to herself," to her own ear. She didn't have perfect pitch, so of course, no other instruments could play along with her. And she prided herself on her natural musical ability (she'd never taken lessons) as opposed to those of us who had taken lessons and developed our natural ability by the discipline of study and practice. Needless to say, she didn't remain in our church very long.

In life, the Bible is like a tuning fork. God gave us His written Word as the standard to which we are to tune our lives. The Word of God shows us our sin and gives us the opportunity to be restored (tuned) to the God's standard. Only when we are in tune with God's Word do we have the promise of eternal life.

Often, even Christians do not read the Bible, thinking they don't have time. Yet, reading biographies of Christians who have made a difference in this world, we find that in spite of their hectic lives, they read and studied the Bible more than any of us.

By reading the Bible just ten minutes a day, the average person could read the Bible through in less than a year. Even those who have read through the Bible need to read it again and again to keep its words fresh in our remembrance. As Psalm 119:11 reminds us to hide God's Word in our hearts to keep us from sinning against God. And verse 105 point out that God's Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.

A man in our church often points out that reading the Bible a minimum of four times a week is required to bring our lives into conformity to God's will. It has been estimated that a habit is established in about three weeks. By the time we have spent ten minutes a day reading the four Gospels, we will have established the habit of daily Bible reading. And we will find our life to be more harmonious and melodious.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Surprise! Surprise!

The summer after the Bartletts (see my previous two blog posts) moved away from Gloversville, the General Council of the Assemblies of God was to be held in St. Louis, Missouri, in August. This meeting of all the ministers of the Fellowship is held biennially. We had been able to attend the previous one in Baltimore, because my cousin had invited us to stay in their home. It had been such a blessing and encouragement to us that we really wanted to go to the upcoming one, but we would have to drive much farther and stay in a motel for the nearly week-long conference. Our meager salary as a church planting pastor barely covered our expenses, let alone such an expensive trip, so we dismissed the thought of going.

Then a letter came from the Bartletts. They wrote thanking us for all we had done to help them reestablish their marriage and enclosed a sum of money to be used for something special for us. It was exactly the amount we needed to attend the General Council.

In August, we left Bobby with his grandparents in Newburgh and drove to St. Louis. We checked into our motel near the airport and headed to the convention center. Ten to fifteen thousand people attended General Councils. We arrived early for the first service so we could find seats on the main floor of the arena and settled in to wait for the service to begin.

After a while, I stood up to stretch and looked around to see if I recognized anyone. Two people were coming down the aisle toward us.

I said to Bob, "Look! Don't those two people look like my parents?" But I was sure it couldn't be because I knew they weren't coming.

As the couple drew closer, they smiled and waved.

Suddenly, I recognized them. "It is my parents!" I squealed and ran to meet them.

They pastored a small church in Washington State. I had not seen them in several years. At the last minute, someone had paid their way to come.

When we asked them where they were staying, we discovered that they were in the same motel we were in and in the room right across the hall from us. They had flown to St. Louis and had no car. Since we had driven, we were able to take them with us to and from the convention center. Not only did we enjoy the services but we had a wonderful reunion too.

Some might call it all coincidence, but I know God prearranged it. Our Heavenly Father likes to plan wonderful surprises for His children.






Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Father's Day Remembrance

Although my 92-year-old father lives 3,000 miles away, he is always with me, a presence I carry in my heart and life not only on Father's Day but every day. When I look through my photo albums, I find pictures of my Daddy that remind me of the relationship we have shared all throughout my life and what he has taught me about God and about living.


Daddy lifting me up on his shoulders when I was little (2) is a visual reminder of the way God, my Heavenly Father, carries me in my weakness.

Daddy escorting me to a special event, opening the car door for me, teaching me by deeds as well as words how to expect a young man to treat me, reminds me that God has shown His love for me by sending His own Son to die for my sins and show me the way to live an abundant life.

Daddy always ready to listen to my woes and pray aloud for me illustrates how the Spirit himself prays for me and how Jesus intercedes to the Father for me.

Daddy walking me down the aisle on my wedding day (7) helps me understand that God has sent His Holy Spirit to prepare me for that great Marriage of the Lamb in heaven.


Daddy extending compassion and forgiveness to a friend who had hurt him deeply taught me how to forgive and reminds me that my Heavenly Father forgives my sin and still desires my friendship even when I have failed Him.

Daddy running out to meet me when I come to visit demonstrates how my Heavenly Father longs for me to fellowship with Him.

Daddy's voice calling me on the phone to ask how I am doing and his words of endearment and encouragement let me know how much he loves me--an earthly picture of God's love for me.

God is our heavenly Abba Father. The word Abba is a term of endearment like "Daddy." Perhaps you didn't have an earthly daddy who was there for you to kiss away your tears and pain, to take pleasure in your accomplishments, to welcome you home, but your Heavenly Abba Father does all this and more. Regardless of the connotation the term "Daddy" holds for you, I pray that as you celebrate this Father's Day, you will find in God and His never-failing love your Abba Father.

Because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our heats, prompting us to call out, "Abba, Father"...You are his child. Galatians 4:6-7 (New Living Translation)

You are His beloved child!

To listen to a podcast interview of me, go to my website, www.annaleeconti.com to connect.

Friday, June 6, 2014

God Saved Our Marriage Part 2

Betty had thought she was doing the Lord's will when she left Dave. Then Dave gave his life to the Lord, and the new church in Gloversville that he had begun attending was praying that they would reconcile. Her brother, who had led her to the Lord, was encouraging her to come back to Dave.

In Florida, Betty had been going to a women's Bible study, so she shared her thoughts and her brother's letter with them. To her surprise, they backed up what he had written. But, Betty was still not sure she could forgive Dave.

Two months after Betty had left Dave, her pastor's sermon one Sunday morning seemed to be directed to her. At that same time back in Gloversville, Dave told Pastor Conti, "Betty is going to call today. The Lord told me a week ago I'm going to be leaving for Florida today to bring Betty and Cheryl home." Dave was so sure of it that he went home and packed and was all ready to leave at a moment's notice.

That afternoon, Betty attended a Joy Fellowship meeting. The guest speaker that day spoke on resentment, rejection, and forgiveness. Betty said, "That message had my name all over it. As soon as I got home, I went right to prayer."

Later, Betty called Dave but couldn't bring herself to assure him they could get back together. Dave, however, decided to drive to Florida anyway and was on the road by 6 p.m. He drove straight through, stopping only for gas. When Betty came home at 1:30 a.m., Dave was there. They talked for hours about what the Lord had done for them. They shared from the Bible all the things the Lord had been teaching them. In all that time, they didn't talk about the past--only the future.

The following Sunday morning, just a week before Christmas, Dave, Betty, and Cheryl walked into church together at the Glove Cities Assembly of God in the YMCA in Gloversville, New York.

Betty said, "That Christmas was the best we had ever had because we knew the Christ of Christmas personally."

Dave and Betty became some of the most faithful members of the new church. Pastor Conti counseled with them to help them understand what had caused their problems and how to overcome them in the future.

"And God gave us a son to remind us of what He has done in our lives and in our marriage," Betty said.

Dave served as church treasurer and Betty taught Sunday school until God moved them to a new job out of state. We were heartbroken to see them go, but we still hear from them at Christmas, and they are happy serving the Lord.

Friday, May 30, 2014

God Saved Our Marriage

Here is the testimony of one of the first couples we ministered to in Gloversville, New York, as told to me by Betty Bartlett.

"I had been married 10 years and didn't see how I could stand another day married to Dave. His constant criticism of me had destroyed my self-confidence, and I was so hurt I dreaded being around him.

"During the summer of 1977, my brother Jay, who had been born again and Spirit-filled through TV ministry, led me to the Lord in his home, and I spoke in tongues. There was no church in the area, however, where I could go for teaching about the Holy Spirit. When I told Dave I had spoken in tongues, he was displeased and ordered me to stay away from my brother.

"Late that summer, Jay invited me to go with him to a new Assemblies of God church that had just opened up in Gloversville. But I was afraid to mention it to Dave, so I never did go to church.

"Because I had no teaching, I began to feel that the only way I could serve the Lord was to leave my husband. That fall, I decided to take our daughter, Cheryl, leave Dave, and go to Florida to make a new home for myself. I made plans with the utmost secrecy and left one morning after Dave went to work.

"In New Smyrna Beach, Florida, I lived with my parents and got a job. I began attending the Assemblies of God church there. I had my sister give Dave a general delivery address, and he wrote to me every day.

"Gradually, his letters changed. He told me he had bought a Bible and had been reading it, even though he couldn't understand it. Then he told how he had committed his life to the Lord while reading a Christian book.

"He wrote, 'A quote from Luke 10:27, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart..., seemed to jump out at me as I read the introduction to the book. But I couldn't understand all the thous and thys. As I read it over and over, I began to want the Lord in my life very badly. Finally, in desperation, I leaned back in my chair, closed my eyes, and said, I will love the Lord my God with all my heart. Suddenly, it clicked. A beautiful feeling of joy flowed over me.'

"Subsequent letters told me he had begun attending the new Glove Cities Assemby of God church in Gloversville. He said they were praying we'd get back together.

"My brother wrote me encouraging reconciliation. That shook me up. Until then, I had thought I was doing God's will by leaving Dave."

What did Betty decide to do? To be continued.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

From Tragedy to Rejoicing

When we were moving into our apartment in Gloversville in April 1977, the news was full of a sad story of a 12-year-old boy who was missing on the nearby Great Sacandaga Lake. He had taken a boat out on the lake, and a strong wind had blown up suddenly. After twelve days, his body was found.

At one of the first sectional ministers' fellowship meetings we attended, we met a sweet Italian-American grandmother, who told us that the boy who had drowned on the lake was her grandson. She asked my husband to visit the boy's father, her eldest son. He had purchased a Revolutionary War era house that overlooked the point on the lake where his son had drowned and had arranged to bury his son in the old North Hampton Cemetery on that point. He was restoring the house.

Bob called him, and they set a date to meet. Over the next few months, as Bob met with him, the sorrowing father gave his life to the Lord. The following Easter Sunday, Bob had the privilege of baptizing him in water at his mother's church in Mechanicville since we did not yet have a building or a baptistry. We drove through a blizzard to get there, but he was determined to be baptized that night.

The man and his brother owned a paving and roofing company they had taken over when their father retired. In time, the  man completed his restoration of the large house and fixed up the smaller guest house on the property. As our church grew, the man began attending regularly. He offered to host Sunday afternoon picnics on his beach in the summertime. These frequently ended with water baptisms in the lake. (In fact, Bob had the privilege of baptizing his own mother in the Great Sacandaga Lake.)

The man's brother and parents often spent the weekends in the guest house, so they were included in our picnics. His father did not go to church and blamed God for the death of his grandson, but he enjoyed the get-togethers and often added homemade pasta dishes to the potluck picnic meals.

In time, the man, who had been divorced when we met him, fell in love with a young lady in our church, and they married. When the couple's first son was born, they named him after the son who had died, but reversed the order of the first and middle names.

Following the example of Mary and Joseph taking Jesus to the Temple to be dedicated to the Lord, the couple asked Bob to dedicate their new son. His parents came to that Sunday morning service. Bob pointed out that this child was not a replacement for the son who had died, who was with the Lord, but that he was a new, unique person. That got the man's father's attention as he realized that his grandson, though gone from this earth, still existed in eternity.

At the last picnic we held at the man's place on the Great Sacandaga Lake just before we left Gloversville, Bob baptized several people. Then, the man's father stepped forward to be baptized too. God had turned a tragedy into rejoicing!

Friday, May 16, 2014

God's Mysterious Ways

When we began holding Sunday services in Gloversville in 1977, Bob tried to get our church listed on the weekly church page of the Leader-Herald. Because we didn't own our own building, the editor refused. Instead, we had to pay for an ad each week.

But God often works in mysterious ways.

Shortly thereafter, we received a phone call from Mickey Clementi, who had learned of our new church through a television ministry. A semi-invalid, she couldn't come to church, so Bob and I visited her often and took her Communion.

We had not met her husband, a local businessman and owner of the Gloversville Holiday Inn. One Saturday, as he was reading the Leader-Herald, he asked his wife, "Why isn't Reverend Conti on the church page?"

"They refused to put him on because he doesn't have his own church building," she said.

"That's not right! I'm one of the businessmen who support that page. If they don't put Reverend Conti on it, I'll take my support away and pay for his ad."

And he called up the editor and threatened to do just that. The next Sunday and from then on, the Glove Cities Assembly of God was listed on the church page of the Leader-Herald.

During our first year of holding services in the banquet room of the YMCA, located on the second floor of the building, we were required to keep the entrance door to the building locked on Sundays. Once the service started, our son, Bobby, six years old when we first began holding services, dressed in his little suit and tie, stood just inside the door as our doorman. Even though he took his job seriously, it was not an ideal situation. We often prayed about it. Once again, God worked behind the scenes.

One Sunday morning after everyone had gone home, I was in the kitchen cleaning the Communion trays, when I heard a thud that sounded like a body falling on the floor just above my head. I went into the main room where Bob and Bobby were rearranging the chairs and told Bob. He decided to investigate.

He climbed the stairs to the rooms rented out to several men who made the YMCA their home and discovered that one older fellow, Charlie, had fallen in the shower. He hadn't been feeling well. When he started to hemorrhage, he had become so weak that he fell. Bob called the ambulance, but Charlie absolutely refused to go.

Bob called the Chief of Police, but he said they couldn't force him to go. So Bob began calling everyone he could think of who might be able to influence Charlie to go to the hospital. Bob stayed with him until finally, after a couple of hours, one old friend of Charlie's convinced him that he needed to go.

When the Director of the YMCA heard what had happened, he thanked Bob over and over for saving Charlie's life. The director's father had been killed in World War II, and Charlie had played a big part in the director's life as he was growing up.

Soon after that incident, Bob was asked to serve on the YMCA board, and the church was able to keep the doors unlocked during our services.

Bob going out of his way to care for another human being did more to literally open doors in that community than all the advertisements in the world.