The Refreshing Account of a Spiritual Journey
Gary and Lora Marney shared their spiritual journeys at the celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary. This is Lora’s journey.
From the beginning of this year, I was amazed at how many times I would read in the Bible about the Presence of GOD. Then in the same day, I would pick up a book, an article, or a lesson, confirming what I had just read earlier. Up to this day, the Holy Spirit has made it very plain that He wanted me, for whatever His purpose, to share some of those profound experiences in my spiritual journey alone, and with my husband.
Short of throwing a temper tantrum or going into a crying spree, a little 4- or 5-year old girl stood very upset looking at the front door closing behind her big brother. I was that little girl who wanted to go to Sunday school with my brother, Raymond, and some of the other kids that lived on Babcock’s ranch. I couldn’t go into town with them because I was too little. Looking back, I think that the deep desire to go to Sunday school was more than just tagging along after the big kids.
When we moved to Knob Hill in Colorado Springs, I did get to go to Sunday school at First Christian Church, and when I was 12 years old I attended the Pastor’s class in preparation for baptism. Palm Sunday I made my profession of faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, and accepted Him as my personal Savior. More accurately, He accepted me, just as I was, as His born-again child! Sunday afternoon, Easter Day, I was baptized.
Sunday evenings, I participated in Chi Rho activities when I was in Junior High, and CYF when I was in High School. Every Summer I looked forward to going to church camp. It was after my sophomore year, during camp, that I had my first experience with the Presence of GOD.
My first experience with the Presence was related to a major world event, the October 4, 1957 launching of the Russian Sputnik. In their front yard one night, Aunt Lois, Sandra, Mother and I watched it as it made its orbit across the sky. It was a wondrous time to be plunged into the Space Age, but it was also a fearful time for my classmates and me. Discussions held in the classrooms were centered on the possibility of the Russians attacking the United States. There was talk, not about tornado shelters, but about bomb shelters! The rest of that sophomore year was unsettling for me, but an experience at camp became a turning point in my life.
One evening that week, I shared my concerns with the camp director, Reverend Bill Bryan, minister of Village Christian. We talked for a long time that night. He shared the characteristics of GOD, especially going into depth on His love for us. Bill talked about the different kinds of love that GOD gives, such as the love we have for one another, the love that parents have for their children, and the special, deep love that husbands and wives have for each other. Of course, he expounded on the awesome love of GOD which was manifested in the death, burial and resurrection of His beloved Son, Jesus. Because of what Yeshua did for me, I was able to have a relationship and fellowship with our Heavenly Father. After our talk Bill prayed for me and I headed for bed.
Everyone was sound asleep as I crawled into my bunk. As I lay there quietly, suddenly the Presence of GOD was there enveloping me with the light of knowing who He really is. Everything about Him is love. He is Love! Accompanying this personal realization, He filled me with tremendous joy! It was all I could do to keep from jumping off that top bunk and racing through the boys’ dorm to tell Bill what had happened!
High school was put behind me and college life began. It was at Phillips University, during the second semester of my freshman year, when I met Gary and Dean, and the three of us have been good friends since then. The following semester I was very excited about going on a date with a longtime friend from church camp, until I got a letter from Gary who was attending Northwestern in Alva. He wanted a date that same weekend. He signed the letter with “Love, Gary.” “Love, Gary?” We hadn’t even had a date yet! Decisions, decisions! I had a tough time making up my mind because I really liked Gary, too. A whole lot, in fact! I chose Gary, and all of you kids had better be thankful, or else you wouldn’t be here today! I knew on our first date that he was the one GOD intended for me. When I was teaching in Kansas, Gary called Daddy and asked for my hand in marriage. You also had better be glad that Grandpa Guy said, “Yes!” I know without a shadow of doubt that GOD had a hand in the whole thing.
A few years after Gary and I were married, we went on a “sharing of hearts” spree. We spent all night talking, and all the next night, and the next. Laughing, crying, and sharing for three nights in a row! The third night Gary talked about how much he loved me, and after he dropped off into much needed sleep, I got up and went into the bathroom. I saw myself in the mirror with bloodshot, swollen eyes, and messed up hair. I looked a mess! It was unbelievable that Gary could love me just as I was.
Then, there He was again! The awesome Presence of the LORD revealing to me the fact that not only did He love the whole world, and gave His own life for it, but He loved me personally. He greatly loved me even more than Gary did. He loved me just as I was, all messed up, inside and out. Biblically, the number three has great significance. It represents death, burial and resurrection. It’s a type or shadow of Christ. In the wee hours of that morning, my spirit was lifted up in His Presence.
GOD extended His Presence to our whole family in a very unique way. A year after moving from Dumas to Ponca City, Oklahoma, Gary and I attended a Charismatic Bible study. Life changing experiences happened for both of us in that Bible study. Years before we married, I attended Phillips University where I met my future husband as well as Dean and Charlene. It was in a New Testament class that I wrote a paper on the people in the time of Jesus, and I was perceiving them to be a primitive, superstitious, uneducated people. Their belief system included the existence of a devil and demons, which explained why there were troubled people and evil in the world. “Educated” people, I wrote, “know” that those things didn’t exist. People, I believed, just needed modern education. I may have received an “A” from the professor, but I flunked the Word of GOD. It was in that Bible study in Ponca City, listening to the truth of the Word preached, listening to intercessory prayers and spiritual warfare, did I learn that the devil and his army was and is a real enemy. The LORD saw to it that I would understand that.
October arrived and with it came a conviction from the LORD that there was to be no more Halloween celebrations and no more decorations to be put up in our windows. So, one morning while my girls, Lorie and Kendi, were piled on the bed, we talked about the situation and how those things do not honor our Savior. After we thought about some alternatives, I suggested that instead of Halloween stuff, maybe we could make harvest things that would reflect His provision and goodness. They liked the idea and Lorie hopped off our bed to get ready for school. Kendi stayed behind and asked, “Mommy, can we make smiley faces and put them in the windows?” “Well, it’s not harvest, but why not? Yes! We’ll make smiley faces when you get home!” With that, she got ready for school.
Later that morning, I brought in the mail with its usual stuff. But in the midst of it all was a brown envelope sent to us but with no return address. Curious, I opened it and inside there were several sheets of smiley face stickers! There were big ones, and little ones, and medium sized ones. “What a co-incidence, I thought. Where did they come from? Who sent them with such perfect timing?” I checked the envelope on both sides but no return address. I checked every sheet of smiley faces but no advertisement, business name or address. It is said that insanity is repeating the same thing over and over expecting different results. Yes, I rechecked that envelope and every single sheet again and again. The result was still the same…..nothing.
To this day, I remember standing at that table stock-still. I could not move. There He was again! Smiley face stickers in hand, I believe He was smiling at me, too. He let me know that we were on the right track and He was pleased with our efforts. Only the Holy Spirit could have known our conversation earlier that morning. Only the Holy Spirit could have put in that little child’s mind to put smiley faces in the windows. And, we did! The LORD celebrated with us as we put smiley faces in every window of the house. Just like the five loaves and two fishes, we had so many left over, we put them on all the mirrors, and a few more were left for some of the windows! When we sold our house, I told the buyer about those smiley faces. She responded by rubbing the goosebumps making their way up her arms!
GOD has guided and protected Gary and me in California, Taiwan, and Indonesia. It was after we returned from Indonesia that I once again developed back problems that had plagued me since I was a young girl. For two years, being bedridden off and on, I went to the David Back Clinic for treatment with only partial success. Although my relationship as being a child of GOD did not change, my fellowship with Him did. Even though I had taught Bible studies in my home, surprisingly, sermons on the radio went over my head. Before going to work, Gary, being my spiritual head, read the Psalms to me, which sometimes seemed to make matters worse. I just didn’t see any recovery in sight.
Hope arose when I had the opportunity to go on a Walk to Emmaus. I knew in my heart that I had to be on that Walk. I was determined to go, even though the first day of the four-day walk I was recovering from illness that had required intravenous medication, I had a broken toe, and my back was a mess. My sponsor did not think that I would make it through the three days and three nights!
The first night I lay alert on a mat with a bolster pillow and I listened and understood all the wonderful things that took place. The next day, during a break, two pastors came to where I was sitting up in a camping chair. They asked for permission to pray for me. I told them to go for the back. One of the pastors opened his hand where he held a tiny bottle of anointing oil. They anointed me with the oil and prayed. Then they had me stand and they prayed over me again.
GOD’S mighty Presence came unlike anything before. It was heavy and powerful. His Holiness and Majesty was overwhelming! I was in the Presence of Holiness and I have never been able to convey that in words. There are no human words to fully describe Him. I just knew of my sinfulness and I had no right to be standing in the presence of the HOLY ONE. Without anyone touching me, His power came upon me with such force that I fell backwards. Another pastor who had just come in, caught me just before I hit the floor! I barely heard them praying, but I was fully aware of the LORD, Himself, working through my entire body. Eventually, I shared with the pastors a horrible fear that I had and they went straight into spiritual warfare on my behalf. I actually felt that thing lift off me! I stood up and was pain-free for the first time in two years! Other than Gary, I could not talk about the incident with other people. It was too close to my heart. Months later, when I did share, I couldn’t describe Him without becoming emotional.
Joy returned and the Bible was vibrant once more. Gary and I maintained a Bible and prayer time in the mornings before he went to work. The Scriptures really became relevant to us when the Pilot Plant shut down and our renters vandalized our house on Phillips Drive. New insights burst forth from the Book of Exodus during our own journey through the wilderness of forced retirement and months of repairing the other house. GOD was definitely guiding us, and blessing us spiritually. He had to really come along beside to help me reconcile the vandalism.
One of the most blessed events in our marriage was our trip to Israel. We were sailing on the Sea of Galilee and because of the extreme heat, fog and mist hovered over the water. Unlike the raging storm the Disciples experienced, on this day the water was calm. The boat engine was shut off and we were enveloped in silence. As all of us were looking out to sea, the Spirit of GOD descended and His Presence was so strong, that we all remained as still as the water. Gary and I kept peering, waiting, and expecting Yeshua, Jesus, to step out of the mist and walk on water. Some began uncontrollable weeping in the stillness. It was difficult to leave, sailing away from one of the most awesome spots on earth. There was absolutely no doubt among any of us on that boat that the Holy Spirit manifested Himself in our midst.
When we returned from Israel, GOD’S Word opened up to us like never before. Verses we had read many times before took on new meaning. It has become so much more alive. I have my morning Bible reading and prayer in my study, while Gary has his quiet time in his chair. Then, we come together for study. Since I have been studying Hebrew, sometimes we read the Scriptures looking up Hebrew words and meanings. We move to the couch where we pray together concerning what we’ve learned or intercede for others.
We started noticing something that intrigued us. I would read something in the Bible alone or would pray about something, come in for Bible study with Gary, and find out he had been reading about the same thing. Many, many times he would pray what I had just read in the Scriptures that morning. It was very common that our Bible Study that day would match a devotional prayer book we use daily. With GOD there are no coincidences, only GOD incidents. It’s amazing and exciting to see what He puts together for us, and it is our study and prayer together that keeps us on track to follow in His ways.
There were times, a few years ago, when we went through severe testing. Our struggle was due to the enemy’s plot to put a wedge between us and our marriage. We put on the usual Christian smiles but no one knew of our situation. However, the LORD intervened on our behalf in a profound and mighty way. We had the opportunity three years ago to attend a marriage seminar in Tennessee. Learning what a marriage is supposed to be from a Hebraic Biblical standpoint changed our lives. Unlike many good marriage retreats we attended in the past, this one was above and beyond all others in Biblical precepts and applications. Actively applying what we learned has changed not only our individual lives but our marriage together.
The three days it took coming home was spent laughing, sharing, and even crying together. It was reminiscent of the three nights talking together so many years ago. The number three, again. The LORD was in our car with us, resurrecting and lifting our marriage to the point that it is more solid than before because it is built on The Rock. One morning on the trip back home, Gary awakened me with “Good morning, Best Friend!” And, we have been best friends since. Whenever a situation arises, instead of bouts of anger, throwing one’s hands and leaving the room without resolving the matter, it is now easier to discuss, pray, and work together on the problem. Because GOD is love and because He is life, He has infused a new love for each of us and put new life into our marriage.
We, husband and wife as well as best friends, have so looked forward to this day. With renewed joy and commitment we invite the LORD and His mighty Presence to descend on all of us as we repeat our vows.