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"Forgotten Sins Made Right"
In the early 1990's, as the word of God came to me, it put me under conviction to want to stop sinning and to repent by making things right from my past. When I was converted on November 10, 1998, I received Jesus’ Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in an unknown tongue and I thought I had repented of everything the Lord required me to take care of from my past. In the summer of 2007, the Lord put it on my heart to pray asking Him to let me know if there was anything from my past that I had forgotten about that I needed to make right. These are the stories of what God put on my heart to make right in 2007 and early 2008 and how he helped me with each situation.
Almost immediately as I was praying to the Lord, I remembered Grandma telling me I could have a color TV she had when she died. Having a color TV in 1969 was a big deal. I also remembered when my mother and her brothers settled up with grandma’s possessions, they wanted $60.00 for the TV I received, but I never paid them. After remembering this I went to my mother and talked to her about the money I owed for the television. She told me to forget about it. It had been so long ago she didn’t remember any money value being put on the TV. This is what I wanted to hear, but something did not settle right in my spirit about this. I kept feeling I needed to go see my uncles and see what they remembered about it. Time passed and I put it on the shelf, so to say, and did nothing about it.
In October, the Lord put it on my heart again to pray to Him asking him to let me know if there was anything from my past that I had forgotten about that I needed to make right. Along this time, I wanted to play golf and the people I normally played with couldn’t play. While I was driving to the golf course, I asked the Lord to let someone be there that I could play golf with. I heard this voice say, “keep your money you will need it”. At this time, I had no idea what God was about to show me. It was also right after this that we were at Pastor John’s praying and while I was praying the words to this song kept playing over and over in my thoughts. It is a song Brother Earl sings, but some of the words were changed. “Do not fear the raging waters, trust in me and face the storm. I will put my arms around you and keep you far from harm. And when all is said and done I will meet you on the other side. Do not fear the raging waters, trust in me and face the storm”. This song was the Lord’s encouragement to me for what he was about to put me through. I sang those words many times during the trying times in the next weeks and he was always there with me.
I knew I had not taken care of what the Lord had shown me about Grandma’s TV and I needed to see my uncles. Before I could get in touch with my uncles the Lord showed me something else I needed to take care of. My brother-in-law brought back a soldering gun he had borrowed from me and as I was carrying it back to the shop I heard this voice say “where did this come from”? As soon as I heard these words, I remembered it had come from the Ford Dealership where I had worked from September of 1971 to when it burned in January of 1976. I knew right then that I had to find Mr. Fowler, the owner, and return it to him. This started my mind wondering if there was anything else that had come from the Ford place. I remembered a dremel tool, a stapler and a pair of wire strippers that I still had. These had been given to me by a sales representative we bought parts from as gifts for purchasing products from his company. I had kept them because he had given them to me. How differently we look at things when we are young and foolish. Now I see they belonged to the Ford dealership that I was hired to represent. I also had to return these things because they didn’t belong to me. I’m a pack rat. In boxes and storage bins I found steel and brass nuts, bolts, and washers, fuses, an air line tee, a carburetor economizer valve, clips, a couple of pieces of molding for a Mustang window, two window handle door knobs, 2 quarters that had blistered from the fire when the dealership burned, an ignition key buzzer and a wheel center cap for a Mustang.
After accumulating these things together, I wrote a letter of apology and tried to get in touch with Mr. Fowler to return them. Every way I turned to find a telephone number for him was a dead end. The telephone numbers I was given for him were no longer in service. I looked on numerous search engines on the internet and found his name, but no phone numbers. When I wrote the original letter of apology, I was making excuses and not taking credit for what I had stolen. The Lord was not going to let me get by with anything or get in touch with Mr. Fowler unless I could have a clean conscience after I had repented. When he let me see this, he woke me up early in the morning with other things I had taken while I worked there and had forgotten. He brought to my remembrance, a clock that goes in the dash of a car, a pair of chrome valve covers, a chrome air filter top, a chrome oil filler cap, and a fuel filter I had put on a Mustang I had. I also reasoned that I had also taken valve cover gaskets, and a rubber grommet for the valve covers to go along with these things.
During this time, I found out from Leviticus 6:1-7 that I needed to pay restitution along with returning these things and I was to make a trespass offering to the Lord for what I had stolen. The problem is I did not know what the items cost back in the 70’s. During this time, the Lord woke me up early one morning bringing to my remembrance an airplane crash that I had gone to in the early 70’s. I had taken the flight manual from this plane to look up frequencies for airports to key into my scanner to listen to airplane pilot’s conversations. I still had the manual 36 years later and needed to find the pilot to return it to him. I went to the library and asked the librarian how I could find a plane crash that happened years ago. She told me to look in the basement where they kept the Warren Records in binders by years to see if I could find what I was looking for. The library was in the process of moving to another building and these binders were turned every which way and not in any kind of order. My plans were to start with 1970 because of the date on the flight manual and the Lord had other plans. I couldn’t find 1970 anywhere. I found the binder with 1971, and as I laid it on the table, I was talking to the Lord. I asked the Lord to help me to find the article on the crash, because I didn’t want to be there all day looking through those journals. I opened the journal of 1971 and turned the pages of the newspapers going through week one and week two of January. When I turned the pages to week three, there was the plane crash on the front page. God already knew which binder I needed to start with. Next, I went upstairs to have copies made. As I was taking the journal back downstairs, I heard this voice say “keep looking”. My thoughts were OK I have plenty of time, so I kept looking even though I had no idea of why I was looking. A few pages later I ran into another article about the plane crash. The article said the radio that was stolen from the plane crash was returned anonymously to the Sheriff’s Department in the mail. It had been mailed in a package from Henderson without any markings. I was with the boys that had stolen the radio. We had gotten scared when we heard they were looking for it and as far as I knew for 36 years it had been buried in their back yard. I also knew along with returning the flight manual, I was going to have to pay for the radio. But the Lord had taken that burden from me by showing me the article about the radio already being returned. I made a copy of this article and continued looking through the newspapers checking the prices of items from 1971 and comparing them with prices of things I knew today. From this I determined that the prices of goods have gone up in value 5 to 10 times since 1971. I used this as a basis for the formula to figure restitution for the items I had stolen years ago from the Ford place.
Next, I went to the internet and looked up all of the items I had stolen from the Ford place and found today’s cost. I divided today’s price by 5 to determine the value of the items back in the 70’s. Then I figured 20% of the 70’s value for restitution. When I looked at the restitution it didn’t look like a lot of money for how long I had the items, so I figured restitution on today’s prices. I rewrote my letter of apology admitting to the things I had taken. After this with the help of friends I was able to find Mr. Fowler’s telephone number. I called and Mrs. Fowler answered the telephone and I told her why I was calling. She told me Mr. Fowler was 80 years old and was bed ridden. Because he might get things confused, she asked me not to say anything about what I had done. She said he did not need to know those things and if I could come visit him whenever time permitted, if it were a month, 6 months or a year from now and talk to him about the past, that would do him more good than anything else I could do. After I talked to her, I called my pastor. He told me do as she requested. My problem now was I still had all of these things that came from the Ford place and I didn’t want them anymore. This was Thursday night and afterwards I talked to my wife about going to visit Mr. Fowler on Saturday because I did not know how his health was and I wanted to go ahead and take care of making things right as soon as possible and she agreed.
I had planned to call Mrs. Fowler Friday and ask her if Saturday would be good time to visit. But before I could do this the Lord woke me up early Friday morning to straighten out something else. I was awakened by the Lord because he wanted something out of my heart. When I was first awakened I heard this voice say “we put more on ourselves than the Lord puts on us”. As I tried to go back to sleep I heard the voice again saying “the Lord won’t put on us what we put on ourselves”. As I tried to go back to sleep the third time I heard, “the Lord is not interested in the monetary value of things”. And again when I tried to go back to sleep for the fourth time I heard the voice say “the Lord is a discerner of the heart”. When I heard this I understood what the Lord was trying to get across to me. I said “OK Lord I get the point”. There was pride in my heart and the Lord wanted it out. The restitution at the cost of the merchandise in the 70’s didn’t look like enough money for the number of years I had the things from the Ford place, so I was going to pay restitution based on today’s prices. That was pride in my heart. The Lord is not interested in the monetary value of things. He is looking at the heart and my willingness to make things right. He was not going to let me get by with pride in my heart where I could puff myself up to think I had done something by paying restitution that looked pleasing to the flesh. He wanted me to go by his rules and have a clean conscious when I finished making these things right. I re-figured and rewrote my letter of apology.
Later Friday morning, I called Mrs. Fowler about visiting Saturday and she said that would be fine. Then she told me she and her daughter had been talking about the things I had and they would like for me to donate them to the Habitat for Humanity and to make a cash donation in Mr. Fowler’s name for the restitution. Hearing this was a relief to me. I love how God works things out. I told her I would be happy to do this. When I got off work Friday I went straight to the Habitat for Humanity house near where I live and the door was locked. But when God is making a way for something to happen it works out. I knocked on the door because there was a car outside and this little old lady came to the door. I told her what I wanted and she told me to come in and she wrote a receipt for the things and cash donation I had brought. Saturday my wife and I went to see Mr. Fowler and visited for a couple of hours. I enjoyed seeing Mr. Fowler and talking to him and Mrs. Fowler was very kind inviting us back. When we went to visit them I took 3 envelopes; one with my letter of confession and apology, one with the receipts from Habitat for Humanity and the third contained my testimony of how the Lord has changed my life. After I gave a trespass offering of 20% to the Lord, I had completed everything that I knew to do about what I had taken from the Ford place unless the Lord shows me something else. Mr. Fowler died shortly after our visit.
During this time, I saw both uncles about the money I felt I owed them on grandma’s TV. Both were in agreement that they did not remember any money value for the TV and that being a grandson; I was entitled to the TV. I was happy they felt this way, but it still did not feel right from what I remembered, so I made a trespass offering to the Lord that I felt was the right thing to do and I now have peace about the TV.
Next, I had to make right four military pins that are worn on the collar of military uniforms that I had taken (without asking) from upstairs in the old house where I grew up in. I had found these while looking for things from the Ford place. I carried them to my mother’s brothers and found that a couple of the pins belonged to one uncle because he was a signal man in the Army and I gave them to him. The other two were Army artillery pins and they belonged to my daddy. When I found this out I went to my mother to give them to her. She told me to keep them. I made restitution and trespass offerings to the Lord for these things I had taken and the Lord gave me peace about this.
Now I had to find the pilot of the plane crash in 1971 to return the flight manual. The only thing I had to go on was what was written in the newspaper articles. It gave the pilot’s name, and his brother-in-law and sister-in-law's name, the fact he was a Captain at Seymour Johnson Air Force base in Goldsboro and that he was on the way from Maryland when the plane ran out of fuel. I emailed Seymour Johnson Air Force Base hoping they could help because he was stationed there and they never responded to my email. I searched the internet under plane crashes with no results and I checked the white pages and where I found many pages of people in the United States with their names, but none were in North Carolina or Maryland where he had picked up his brother-in-law and sister-in-law from or where he was stationed at the time. I spent several weeks and many hours trying different search engines and ideas hoping to find something to give me a clue of who these people were without having to call hundreds of phone numbers to hopefully locate them. I had been praying all along as I searched without finding any clues until I got desperate with the Lord. That day, I remembered praying telling the Lord I had done everything I knew to do to find these people and I didn’t want to give up, but I didn’t know where else to look. I wanted to get this off my plate and I needed his help. Receiving an answer to a prayer is a matter of the heart.
Within 30 minutes after this prayer, I had already talked to Bruce the pilot. The next time I went on the internet, I found a search engine that gave me a different result than what I had previously received. This time when I keyed in the brother-in-laws name in the search engine, it gave me his next of kin. Listed in the next of kin was the name Betty Jane. Now there were pages of the brother-in-law's name with next of kin listed, but this was the very first one at the top of the page. This stood out to me because I do not know anyone else by the name Betty Jane and this was the sister-in-law’s name in the newspaper. I asked my wife, "Do you think this could be the right people still together 36 years later?" She said, "There is one way to find out. Call the telephone number and ask." I got my nerve up and called Tyler, Texas, and Betty Jane answered the telephone. I told her who I was and that I was from North Carolina and I was looking for a Johnny and Betty Jane that had a brother-in-law named Bruce that had been in a plane crash near where I lived. She said you have the right people. Now what are the odds of the first telephone number that I called being the person I needed to get in touch with out of hundreds of people that came up on the searches I did? My getting in touch with the right people with the first try is all about God answering my prayer. I talked to her a few minutes and she was just amazed at the timing of my call about the plane crash. She and her husband had just been talking about it for the first time in years and he had taken pictures to work. After we talked, she gave me Bruce’s telephone number and told me they didn’t stay in touch except with Christmas and Birthday cards and that he lived in Meeker, Colorado. I was still pinching myself because I couldn’t believe I had actually talked to Betty Jane. Next, I called the number she gave me for Bruce and it had been disconnected. Then, I went back to the internet and found another number for Bruce in Meeker. This also had been disconnected. Then I found and called a Bruce with the same name in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I told the man that answered the phone who I was and what I wanted and he laughed and said “no that’s not me, it’s my daddy”. After we talked for a few minutes, he gave me his daddy’s cell phone number.
When I called Bruce, I was nervous not knowing how he would react to my call. The Lord blessed me again. Bruce was very nice. I told him the Lord had been dealing with me about getting things straight from my past and I had taken the flight manual out of the plane and I would like to return it to him. He gave me his address and then I told him I needed to pay restitution on the flight manual and asked him what it cost. He said he didn’t know and for me to throw five dollars in the collection plate. I also told him that I was with the boys that took the radio out of the plane and that I saw in the newspaper that it had been returned anonymously to the Sheriff’s Department back in 1971. He said he never received it. I told him I was willing to make it right if he would let me know what it was worth. He told me to forget about it, that my being honest about what happened gave him closure and that was enough.
I mailed Bruce the flight manual, an RF connector to the radio I still had, a copy of the newspaper article where the radio was returned to the Sheriff’s Department, my letter of confession and apology and my testimony of what the Lord has done in my life. Then, I made restitution and a trespass offering to the Lord.
Along with other things the Lord brought to my remembrance were two Eisenhower dollars that I had. These were mixed in with coins I collected when I was married the first time. They belonged to my first wife and had been given to her by her daddy. I called her and told her I wanted to return them to her. I had a good conversation with her and she seemed very pleased to get them back. I took them to her mother’s home and included restitution and a copy of my testimony of what the Lord has done in my life. Then I made a trespass offering to the Lord.
Next, the Lord brought to my remembrance two Confederate bills that I had taken from an old storage trunk upstairs in the house I grew up in that had been my grandmother’s. I had taken these several years after her death without asking. Back when I was in the 7th grade sometime during 1966 or 1967, I had a teacher who told a story about seeing Confederate money upstairs in trunks in the house where she grew up. After her story, I went home and went upstairs and took a $10.00 and a $100.00 Confederate bill I had found one day while rummaging through some stuff in what we called the "junk room". The Lord put it on my heart to give these back. My daddy had died 10 years ago so I went to my mother. The Lord had also put it on my heart if she didn’t want them I had to give them to my daddy’s brother. I showed the money to my mother and she did not want them and told me to keep them. She said if I had not taken them they would have been thrown away like other things in that old house when we moved 35 years ago. I told her since she wouldn’t take them I had to give them to my daddy’s brother.
After talking to my mother on Sunday, I woke up Monday morning wrestling about talking to my uncle about these bills. What was I going to say? How was I going to say it? Something kept building on my insides and I kept having thoughts of this going over and over in my mind and I could not go back to sleep. I started talking to the Lord. Asking what is going on? Why do I feel the way I do about this? Lord is there covetousness in my heart over this? I wasn’t having these thoughts and feelings because I didn’t want to go to my uncle about this, because the Lord had blessed me each time I had repented and had made things right. And my uncle had always been good to me and there had never been any hard feelings between us as I remember. I couldn’t figure out why I was wrestling with this until after I heard this voice say “rightly divide the heart”. Immediately I asked the Lord to rightly divide my heart about this. The next thought I had was about the story of Solomon’s wisdom where the two women were claiming to be the mother of a baby. Next I heard the voice again saying “offer him which ever one he wants”. Right away I knew this was my answer because the feelings that had been building on my insides started to melt away. I could feel them slowly leaving just like the frost melting off a windshield when the heater in a car is turned on. This kept on until I had perfect peace about the situation. What I saw in this was that when I took the two bills to my uncle, I was to let him have whichever one he wanted for his inheritance and I could keep the other for my daddy’s inheritance.
I went to see my uncle and told him some of the things the Lord had put on my heart to repent of and why I came to see him. He took the Confederate bills and looked at them while we talked and he handed them back to me. I handed them back and told him the Lord told me he was to pick which ever one he wanted. He told me to keep them both. I had done what the Lord required me to do and he was giving them to me to keep together and give to my grandchildren. After making a trespass offering to the Lord, the Lord gave me peace about this.
The last thing the Lord put on my heart to take care of is returning a brass eagle insignia that I had taken from an army officer’s hat over 40 years ago. Years ago when I was sometime between the ages of 10 to 15 years old, the kids in the neighborhood would get together on the weekends and play ball at the old school near where I grew up. During one of these times, some of us went into the Thornton house that no one was living in at the time. Forty years has a way of taking its toll on my memory and all I recall is going in one of the rooms upstairs. I remember this room was empty with a few empty boxes and some papers on the floor and an Army officer’s cap. I removed the brass eagle insignia from the cap and took it.
Before I could make this right, I had to find this medal. On the inside I knew the insignia had not been thrown away. I turned my home upside down looking for this medal. I looked through drawers, cabinets, bowls, vases, boxes in the house and shop everywhere I could think, sometimes twice but to no avail. After I looked everywhere I could think of, I went to the internet to see what the medal was worth. I found them from $5.00 to $12.00. I wrote a letter of confession and put the letter and money in an envelope with $12.00 and $2.40 restitution and went to make this right. Years later, the Thornton house had been moved back off the main highway and when I arrived there was a gate that was locked and no one was home. As I turned around leaving to head back home, I saw David, someone that I had grown up with going into his house. I stopped by, and when he came to the door, I told him why I was in the neighborhood. He told me Mr. Davis owned the house and was a descendant of the Thornton’s and that he only came down during the summer and this was February. We talked for a while and he told me he thought his mother might have a number for Mr. Davis and he would call me and let me know. I left him a copy of my testimony of what the Lord has done in my life and went home.
Later, he called and gave me the number for Mr. Davis that his mother had and he told me he enjoyed reading my testimony. He said he had always felt it was more to getting right with God than just being baptized with water and he was going to study the scriptures I had added at the end of my testimony. I called the number David gave me for Mr. Davis and it was busy. Randomly for two weeks I called the number evenings and nights and every time it was busy. I wondered why the Lord won’t let me get in touch with Mr. Davis. Then I remembered the lesson the Lord had taught me about restitution and pride in my heart. I went back and rewrote the letter of apology and while I doing this I checked again on the internet for the value of the medal and found one for $14.00. This time I figured the value of the medal at the 1960’s value of $2.80 and the restitution of $.56.
God is a busy man. You do your part and He does His part. Now that I had the correct amount for the restitution according to the instructions the Lord had given me earlier when dealing with me about the things from the Ford place, he put it on my heart to call my Mother about the brass eagle insignia that I had been looking for. I haven’t lived in my Mother’s home for 19 years. When I called and told her what I was looking for, immediately she told me to hold on. Before I could ask if she wanted me to call her back because I didn’t know how long she would be gone, she put down the phone. In probably less than a minute, she came back to the phone and wanted me to describe the medal. I told her the best I remembered that it was brass and had an eagle holding arrows and an olive branch on the front with a big flat brass washer and nut on the back to hold it on a hat. She said I have it right here. She went on to tell me she thought it was my daddy’s. She said she didn’t know it was there until a few days before I called. She found it while looking through a dresser drawer for an old bill. Is God’s timing perfect or not? If I had called her a week before she wouldn’t have known anything about the medal. Praise God!!!
Now that I had the medal back and I had written a new letter of confession with the correct restitution, I remembered something David had said in our conversation the day I saw him. He said that Mr. Miles that lives on the dead end road in front of my mother’s home would get in touch with Mr. Davis each year for “Home Comings” at the Methodist Church. I knew Mr. Miles, so I called and told him who I was and that I needed to get in touch with Mr. Davis. He gave me Mr. Davis’ mailing address that I used to find a telephone number on the internet. I called the number and Mrs. Davis answered the phone. I asked to speak to Mr. Davis and she told me he would be home later. Then she wanted to know if she could have him call me when he came home. I told her who I was and that he didn’t know me and some of why I was calling. I didn’t want him to make a long distance phone call, so I told her I would call him back later. She then told me he would be home around 8:00. Before I called I had been nervous, but after talking to Mrs. Davis and hearing her kind and gentle voice, a peace came over me. I knew God was looking after me. I called back around 8:00 and Mr. Davis answered the phone and I had a wonderful conversation with him for probably 20 minutes or longer. If the Lord is willing, I hope to meet him one day. I mailed Mr. Davis the brass eagle insignia, the restitution, a copy of my letter of apology and a copy of my testimony of what the Lord has done in my life. Again the Lord blessed me with having to deal with a wonderful person about making my past right.
I am glad that the Lord has not given me anything else to repent of. He has blessed me so much with each of the experiences turning them into stories with wonderful endings that I would find myself looking ahead with anticipation to see how the Lord was going to work out the next situation. The words to the song he put on my heart before he showed me all the things I needed to repent of are so true. He was with me when he put each situation in my heart that I needed to take of. He was with me as I went through each experience and he was there after each incident was repented of. “Do not fear the raging waters, trust in me and face the storm. I will put my arms around you and keep you far from harm. And when all is said and done I will meet you on the other side. Do not fear the raging waters, trust in me and face the storm”.
Saying God is good doesn’t sound adequate for all that He does for us! But it is the truth! He is good and we can’t take in how good He is and how blessed we are. If you know of anything weighing heavy on your heart from your past, get in touch with God. He knows what you have done and is waiting to hear you confess it to him so he can help you relieve your burdens. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 that he had a “rest” for your soul. Each time I have repented and made something right a weight was lifted off my shoulders. These experiences have been a refreshing for my soul.
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