In memory of Betsy

When my wife and I first moved to Illinois the summer of 1999, we met 3 older women who were real spit-fires; they frequented half the churches in town where they were always praying for revival. They were active in the community leading Bible studies, engaging in spiritual warfare and generally spitting in the devil’s eye.

12fret 00024Since I wasn’t working at the time, the old gals invited me to one of their prayer meetings after which they intended to go to the home of a young woman who was bed-ridden with cancer. The Lord showed me a brief vision of the men who removed Peter’s roof to lower a paralytic in front of Jesus for healing and involuntarily I blurted out “YOU NEED A FOURTH!” Inwardly, I groaned but it was too late, they’d heard me.

Betsy was the niece of one of the women and the 3 of them had been hammering away at her for years to receive Jesus. As I was muttering to myself about all the work I would not get done that afternoon, the Lord said to me “and TAKE YOUR GUITAR, too”. Again I groaned, but I knew better than to argue with Him.

The house was several miles out of town, surrounded by corn and soy fields. The 4 of us went in, Betsy’s aunt introduced me and the women began reading to her from the King James Bible while I tried to disappear behind the draperies. The ladies asked me to play and lead singing of a few worship songs; Amazing Grace and one of the newer praise choruses.

Betsy did not look the least bit impressed; in fact, she looked to me like someone who was offended by it all.

After a moment of awkward silence, Betsy asked me “Know any Arlo Guthrie?”

In an instant, my memory was transported back to a time 30 years earlier when the son of the pastor who led me to Jesus taught me to play a few Arlo Guthrie tunes during a church youth retreat.

“Yes” I replied and broke into the chorus of Alice’s Restaurant which brought a look of surprise and a smile to Betsy’s face.

The women stood there gape-mouthed.

“Know any others” Betsy asked?

I played and sang as much of City of New Orleans as I could remember while Betsy continued to smile.

Again a moment of silence.

“Thanks … I’d like to receive Jesus now”.

We prayed together and Betsy received Jesus as her Savior.

The Holy Spirit prompted me to ask if she’d like to be baptized.

Betsy said “yes”.

One of the women objected saying “but you’re not a pastor”.

I replied “neither was Peter. Would one of you please bring a pan of water?”

Her aunt fetched the water straight away, Betsy was baptized and again we prayed for her life and healing.

Not long after that day, Betsy’s aunt said her test results showed the cancer was in remission. I exchanged a few email messages with Betsy for prayer and encouragement and then lost touch with her. As often as I saw Betsy’s aunt, I asked about her until I lost touch with her as well. When at last I saw her again, she said the cancer had come back and Betsy had gone home to be with Jesus. She spent her her final days in California with her sister. Betsy had been blessed to live for about 18 months after receiving Jesus and before meeting Him face to face.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve reflected back on that afternoon and how simply showing a little love and humanity through singing a few half-remembered folk tunes was enough to convince Betsy that she could know Jesus and continue to enjoy the music she loved. And to think that God had arranged for me to learn those songs when I was a teen, neither of which I ever played during a gig, but only while noodling on the guitar for my own enjoyment. God had planned and prepared for Betsy’s salvation 30 years before the day she actually received her Savior. And if we could ever wrap our minds around it, before He even created Adam.

How I would love for the Lord to give me more days like that one. See you in the Lord’s time, Betsy!