The Word Among Us

Easter 2011 Issue

Witnesses to the Word

Four people share how Scripture struck their hearts.

Witnesses to the Word: Four people share how Scripture struck their hearts.

We all know that the Bible is different from any other book. As Pope Benedict XVI tells us, it has the power to draw us into “a conversation with the Lord” (Verbum Domini, 24).

As we read God’s word, its divine Author comes to meet us, inviting us to receive his life more and more deeply.

Benedict also tells us that because Scripture is so important, we need to “make every effort to share the word of God as an openness to our problems, a response to our questions, a broadening of our values and the fulfilment of our aspirations” (VD, 23).

The four sharings that follow come from people who work at The Word Among Us—ordinary people who have experienced God speaking to them in specific situations through the Scriptures. We hope these stories inspire all of us to pick up our Bibles and deepen—or even begin—our own conversation with the Lord.

Bryan Keilty

It's Not All about You.

by Bryan Keilty

The events surrounding our trip home on that hot, humid August morning have become blurred over time. But while so many of the particulars have faded, our conversation during that thirty-minute car ride remains fixed in my mind and my heart.

We had just visited my wife’s oncologist, and the dreaded news he delivered initially left us quiet, reflective, and heartbroken. The doctor felt that Marybeth’s long and painful fight with cancer was, for all intents and purposes, over. The disease had progressed to the point where aggressive treatment was no long advisable; the only remaining option was palliative care delivered through hospice. We had been married for nineteen years.

The bad news was not unique to us. Countless times that day, many thousands of other people throughout the world heard a similar message. But this diagnosis was ours. What made the trip home so extraordinary was that we talked, not about the prognosis, not about our fears or anxieties, not about a future denied our young children, but about God and his speaking to us through Scripture.

Marybeth began the conversation (I remember the exact spot on the highway) by telling me of the joy, peace, and comfort she had received from God while reading Psalm 62 that very morning. She knew God was addressing her through its opening verses: “My soul rests in God alone, from whom comes my salvation. God alone is my rock and salvation, my secure height; I shall never fall.”

Those words of comfort gave Marybeth peace and direction. It was God, not good health, that was to be the center of her life. His salvation was more important to her than her healing. During her final two months, those words also empowered her every day to guide and care for her children, as well as love and support her husband.

For my part, I was able to share with Marybeth what I had read in Ephesians 2, where Paul is reminding the Ephesians of all that God has done in their lives: He brought them to life in Christ, saved them by his grace, raised and enthroned them. And in verse 7, Paul explains why God did all this for them: “that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

You see, God was telling me, it’s not all about you. I knew that he loved my wife, me, and our family. And yet, he showed me, we are only a piece of God’s vast plan of salvation—and we are in it together. As important as each one of us is to God, his plan for the salvation of the world is even more important.

The two passages gave me the strength to see beyond myself and my immediate concerns. They encouraged me that even through Marybeth’s suffering and death, God was using her and our family to reveal his saving hand to others.

We are part of a great family, God’s people on the road to heaven together. And in his plan, our lives— and even our deaths—can help others to reach our common destination.

Bryan Keilty oversees our Partners outreach to men and women in the military.

Janice Elder

Jesus Isn't My Accuser.

By Janice Elder

I grew up in a Christian family, with a Christian father, mother, brother, and sister. How boring is that? And I’m talking really godly people who acted out the love of God—not just a family who went to church on Sundays. They weren’t perfect, but through them I learned about God and his love.

But growing up in a Christian home didn’t make me a Christian any more than walking into a garage makes me a car (from a sermon I heard recently). When I was a little kid, I remember my pastor talking about our sinful nature and how our failures grieve the Lord. At the tender age of five, I prayed, asked for forgiveness, and gave my heart to Jesus. I felt clean and free . . . for a while.

Through the years, I tried but failed to measure up to what I thought God wanted from me. I tried my best to be perfect, but I still could be selfish, impatient, or unkind. Disappointed, I would confess my flops over and over again to the Lord. I knew he forgave me, but something was missing. I needed something deeper.

One Saturday night in my early teens, while I was at a Christian coffee house with my youth group, I felt the Lord inviting me to completely surrender to him, holding nothing back. But I was afraid. My brother had recently been called to be a missionary. What if I gave my life to God, and he called me to do the same? I certainly didn’t want to live in some third-world country! If I said no, would God still love me?

Then as I listened, the speaker read a passage of Scripture that changed my life: “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

It finally hit me that Jesus had died for all of my sins and that nothing— not even my own biggest enemy, me—could separate me from him. Jesus wasn’t my accuser; he was my friend. He was my Savior and my Redeemer.

Praying in the darkness of that coffeehouse, I knew that God would take care of me wherever he might send me. I finally got the message: God loves me just as I am, in all of my humanness. It’s not about what I can do for him. It’s about my relationship with him. Nothing can separate me from his love.

And no, I did not end up in some exotic part of the world. God has led me along paths that have kept me in the US, with a calling of the more ordinary kind. I believe that what he wanted from me was my willingness to go wherever he might send me.

As I look back over my life, I can see that God used each job that I’ve had and each lesson I’ve learned to lead me to the work I do today. Working for a Christian magazine has fulfilled that yearning within me to make a difference in my own little corner of the world, and I know that I’m right where God wants me to be.

Janice Elder is customer service manager for The Word Among Us.

Diane Menapace

Nothing is Impossible

by Diane Menapace

Raised Catholic, I heard the word of God at Mass every Sunday and holy day—but I never paid much attention. When I was a teenager, Dad tried to get our family to read Scripture together at home. His attempt failed, and my mind remained fixed on other things.

I grew up, went to college, got married, and looked forward to starting a new family with my husband. But after years of trying to conceive, we remained childless. I came to the conclusion that God was withholding his blessing. Why would he entrust a son or daughter to me, after all? Knowing as little as I did about my faith, I wouldn’t be able to teach that child about his Creator. I decided that maybe if I learned more, God would grant my desire.

And so, with mixed motives and more than a little anger and frustration, I joined a parish Bible study. I was truly ignorant (I even had to ask what “Lk 1” meant), but very quickly, God put a fire in my heart that had me reading his word into the middle of the night. Fascinated, touched, and hungry for more, I signed up for Scripture classes that some local priests were teaching.

Delving into God’s word changed everything. I had once thought of God as a big, tough controller in the sky, but I came to know him as a Father who loves me beyond measure and wants only the best for me.

It didn’t seem like “the best,” though, when my doctor told me that a routine exam had revealed a precancerous condition. Petrified, I had the immediate surgery he recommended. It did not take care of the problem. Then I consulted an oncologist. “I want to have children,” I told her. She started treatment but warned, “You will most likely need a hysterectomy.”

Through all this, I prayed and had everyone I knew praying for me. Family and friends shared Scripture verses. And although I often was so scared that I could hardly think or even breathe, I kept reading Scripture, hanging on to every word God gave me. One that really spoke to my heart was Luke 1:37: “For nothing will be impossible with God.” As I pondered these words, I found hope and peace when my situation seemed hopeless.

Eighteen months later, my health had improved. If the next medical test was good, the doctor told me, she would refer me to an infertility specialist. Dreading the prospect but longing for a child, I asked my heavenly Father to spare me this ordeal—“for nothing is impossible with you.”

He answered my prayer. By the time the doctor called to report that my test results were fine, I had news for her: I was pregnant! Eight months later, God entrusted a beautiful daughter into my care. Two and a half years later, he gave me a wonderful son. I never had the hysterectomy or saw the infertility specialist.

It has been more than twenty-five years since God caught my attention, deepening my faith and trust in him through his word. I have claimed the truth of my favorite verse many times since then and continue to see God’s power at work—repairing relationships, intervening in medical crises, bringing peace, and calling straying sheep back to himself. Truly, nothing is impossible for God!

Diane Menapace is distribution manager for The Word Among Us.

Edmundo Reyes, File

He Wants to Be with Me!

by Edmundo Reyes

While visiting us in Michigan recently, my mother gave me news about relatives and friends in Mexico, where I grew up. As she shared some of the struggles that a few of my childhood friends were having, I couldn’t help but wonder what my life would have been like if I had not gone on a certain retreat during my freshman year in college.

Retreats had never interested me before, but for some reason, I accepted this invitation. Perhaps it was because I was intrigued by the friends who invited me. They were young Catholics, like me, but with this difference: They were exceptionally kind, good, and happy! They said it was because they had encountered Christ, but I was skeptical. There’s got to be something fake here, I thought. I cannot believe that they’re as happy and as nice as they seem or that religion can make this kind of difference. It made no sense to me.

But during the retreat, my eyes were opened. I heard about what God had done for me in Christ and how much he wanted to be part of my life. I learned that the Bible is God’s living word and that he can speak to us very personally through it. This had never clicked in my mind before, even though I had attended Catholic schools and had studied the Bible. To me, it was just another subject— interesting, but not in a way that moved me or affected the way I lived.

The retreat changed my approach and opened God’s word to me. It suddenly became very personal when, for the first time, I heard what is now one of my favorite passages: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

I was amazed. God wanted to have a relationship with me. Jesus was standing on my doorstep, knocking and calling my name, patiently waiting for me to respond to his love. Those words had a powerful effect. They were a call to action—a call to let go of my pride and skepticism, take a step in faith, and receive new life in the Spirit.

I opened the door. That decision, I am certain, forever changed the outcome of my life.

Still today, sixteen years later, I love thinking about this verse. I love the fact that Jesus wants to enter my house and dine with me. Sometimes I imagine him coming as an old friend who wants to catch up on the latest news and hear about my everyday struggles and my hopes and dreams. Other times I imagine having a great celebration, where my family and I have the privilege of welcoming this King of kings as our guest of honor. He always comes with gifts, but his mere presence in my house is the greatest gift we could receive.

No matter where I go or what I do, I know Jesus is there—always with me, yet always inviting me to open more of my life to him. He wants to be with me. He wants to sit with me, eat with me, hear me out, and teach me. And for my part, I just want to keep opening that door.

Edmundo Reyes oversees marketing for La Palabra entre Nosotros, our Spanish-language magazine.