As I begin a new story, where I start is always by recognizing just how thankful I am to have witnessed so many amazing events. And I am also grateful that the people involved allowed me to be a part of their lives. This particular story is for a friend who is currently in the midst of a battle with cancer. The story itself occurred many years ago but I write it now so that she might remember – what faith can do.
When I think of Tammy, I’d say the story started with a rainbow. Technically that’s not correct, but I would guess that if I asked our friends who were with us that year, they would agree. The first thing they would recall about Tammy was her excitement over learning the story of the first rainbow and what it meant. Perhaps that rainbow represented a beautiful sign of hope in an otherwise very difficult year.
The events of that “difficult year” were brought to light in the context of a small group of women who would meet together every week. A few days before, I typically spoke with everyone by phone. In the course of the phone calls, I had an opportunity to catch a glimpse of what was happening in the lives of each of my friends. For Tammy, there was much more going on than learning about a rainbow. Little by little, Tammy began sharing bits and pieces of a home life that was gravely troubled.
Family for Tammy consisted of her husband Howie, her five-year-old son, Howard, and her little girl, Mykela, who was two. Any time little ones are part of the mix there is always stress. But in this case, there was significantly more stress then just parenting. Tammy talked about being afraid. Men were showing up at her door looking for Howie. And they weren’t pleasant or happy. In fact, they were intimidating and scary, so much so that Tammy was fearful for both her and her children’s safety.
Howie was a DJ at a local radio station in town and as you can imagine, was quite personable. Unfortunately, he’d become pretty heavily involved with both alcohol and drugs. That came with a myriad of other very poor choices. Not only was Howie and Tammy’s marriage falling apart, but Howie’s life was also on the line.
In the middle of the mess, Howie had one thing going for him he didn’t realize. Tammy was praying for him. She had decided to start following Jesus just shortly before we began meeting that year. Her decision came at the end of a Passion Play – so there’s a boost for all of you who wonder if a Passion Play ever changes anyone’s life! It does, and Tammy is living proof.
To help you know Tammy a little better, she is a person who is gentle and quiet, but not shy. As is so often the case, still waters run deep. When Tammy says she will do something, I have confidence that she will. She is steadfast in her convictions; loyal and kind. She is, to me, the example of meekness; my favorite definition of meekness being “power under control.”
Through the course of the year, my sweet friend would give me prayer requests to share with the group. She never elected to divulge her home situation to the others, so these prayer requests never went into any great detail; they were vague but direct. I still have them after all these years. Since the ones pertaining to Howie’s situation are important for the story, I will share them with you. They were as follows …….
- Direction and strength for Howie
- Howie to see and hear God clearly
- For God to keep Howie safe and work out His plan for the two of them
- God’s continued will to be done in Howie’s life
- God’s protection for her and her family
- For God to bring a great testimony from her husband’s trials and that his story would be a blessing to someone else
One week as my friend and I were talking on the phone, she began relaying a few of the disturbing events taking place. As she finished the last statement, her voice drifted off and she paused. What followed next stunned me. She said the most unexpected thing. I was braced for one of the usual statements you hear when someone’s life is an absolute wreck; something like, “I can’t believe this is happening to me,” or “I don’t deserve this,” or “I can’t take this anymore!” But instead she calmly said, with a certain air of boldness, “I know God is going to do something.”
The amazing thing about this statement is the fact that she said it when circumstances were at their very worst. The days were dark and a happy ending seemed pretty far away. She had nothing to substantiate that belief except faith.
Faith isn’t just some feel good emotion that says everything is going to work out fine. It is based on reality. The reality lies in the object we place our faith in. We place faith in things everyday. If we place an order somewhere for lunch, we trust they are going to prepare it and as a result we drive to pick it up believing it will be ready. We have faith in the restaurant. We do things like this all the time. In Tammy’s case, her faith was placed in the character of her God. She knew He was faithful, kind, compassionate and good, and she put her trust in that reality.
“I know God is going to do something!” And “something” He did. A few months later, Howie came to Tammy saying he needed and wanted help. It was difficult to find a rehab center that their insurance would cover, but with time and perseverance a place was located in Florida. This was a commitment for both of them. Howie would have to travel to Florida and would be gone from home and work. Tammy would run things on the home front and take care of Howard and Mykela.
By the time Howie left for rehab, it was May and our group was ending. For our last meeting, we planned to have our final study and then head to our friend Misty’s house to eat lunch afterwards. Tammy was in charge of bringing some of the food. That afternoon we all arrived at Misty’s house – all but Tammy.
So we waited – and waited – and waited. Finally, Tammy walked in the door. It was obvious that “something” had happened. The rehab center had just called and told her that Howie was unconscious on the floor and they were trying to resuscitate him. His blood pressure had been elevated and erratic as he withdrew from the drugs. Howie had suffered a heart attack. For the first time, the group understood what was going on behind all the prayer requests Tammy had made throughout the year.
Our little group gathered up in a circle around the island in the kitchen and began praying for Howie. I have no idea what anyone said but I have no doubt that Jesus was right there with us and that our Father heard every word. And I believe what was shining in the darkness of that moment was the faith of a young woman who believed her God was going to do something, something amazingly good. She never lost confidence that He was able to take the worst of circumstances and make something beautiful out of them.
And now for the rest of the story. Howie not only survived, but in fact, began to really live. His testimony comes from the floor of the rehab unit, where he chose to place his faith in Jesus. From an article written in the Joplin Globe by Rich Brown, come Howie’s own words, “While the paramedics worked on me, I just knew the next breath I took was going to be either in heaven or hell,” he said. “Tears rolled out of my eyes and at that point I said ‘Jesus, please save me,’ and he did.”
From that point forward, Howie has been a different man. He came home clean in more ways than one. He began a website for addicts to meet Jesus using his testimony. He began witnessing and sharing scripture at a local church who reached out to addicts. He established four substance-abuse discipleship houses; two for men and two for women. He also used his gifts as a communicator by DJing a Christian music station that he helped spearhead. Over time, Howie began Impact Church, which is thriving and growing, where those looking for recovery are always welcome.
As a result of Howie’s earlier involvement with drugs, he still faced legal charges when he returned home from rehab. Our actions always have consequences. But because of his complete turnaround, the judge chose probation rather than prison. That’s a great ending. But this story really isn’t about Howie.
This story is about Tammy. It’s about the person behind the scenes who paved the way for the impossible to happen. And ultimately, it’s about the object of her faith who brought it about. The prayer requests I mentioned earlier were fully answered. Perhaps not in the timing or way Tammy initially wanted, but in the end, they were answered in a far greater way then she could have hoped or imagined. Faith is the vehicle that carries us to that end. That’s what faith can do.
Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it. Hebrews 11:1 NCV
God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! Ephesians 3:20 Msg
For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. James 1:3,5-6 NLT
“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20-21 NIV
Whenever two or three of you come together in my name, I am there with you. Matthew 18:20 CEV
The rainbow that I have put in the sky will be my sign to you and to every living creature on earth. It will remind you that I will keep this promise forever. When I send clouds over that earth, and a rainbow appears in the sky, I will remember my promise to you and to all other living creatures. Never again will I let floodwaters destroy all life. The rainbow will be the sign of that solemn promise. Genesis 9 12-15,17 CEV
I’ve seen dreams that move the mountains
Hope that doesn’t ever end
Even when the sky is falling
I’ve seen miracles just happen
Silent prayers get answered
Broken hearts become brand new
That’s What Faith Can Do Kutless