By: Dennis Bates
One of the things I’ve learned about working with Staci is that she doesn’t seem to understand what “Slow Down” means. I’d say that keeping up with her is a little like trying to squeeze jello, but jello doesn’t move as fast as Staci does, even when you squeeze it as hard as you can. I don’t know how she does it, but I do know why. She can’t do anything else. She takes God’s calls seriously and follows each and every one.
As we’ve both said here and elsewhere we met three years ago in the vastness of cyberspace after experiencing individual frustrations on another website. I don’t know who it was that encouraged the other one first anymore, but that’s how it began: emails back and forth to bolster each other’s spirits. All I wanted to do was enjoy a peaceful retirement from 30 years as a government lawyer and write a book or two. It’s what I had always wanted to do.
Enter Staci, cyberspace right. The next thing I knew we started exchanging writing samples, then whole manuscripts, and finally we started talking about publishing one of mine through her cottage publishing house using Print on Demand services to keep costs down and maintain all the rights to our materials at the same time. She had already been there; I found out I was soon to go there myself. Now I’ve published two.
If that wasn’t enough, she got several of her other cyber friends together on a marketing website which she put up so we could talk about how we could help each other out. The first thing our small group did was pray the verse from Chronicles 4:10, which is called informally the Prayer of Jabez. For those of you who don’t know it, it goes like this:
“And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!’ So God granted him what he requested.”
It’s a simple prayer really when you parse it, but for 30 days we agreed to pray it as a group promising to tell each other how we had been blessed. I have to admit that as a person who was raised in a Presbyterian Church, I was skeptical that this prayer my Catholic friend Staci gave me would make a difference, but I prayed it anyway.
For some reason Staci and I focused on three words…”enlarge my territory.” We didn’t ignore the others, but we focused on those three words. God’s responses to that prayer started coming in before the 30 days were up. We added members to our group almost immediately. One of them came up with our nickname “The Gracies.” Members have dusted off manuscripts, published, started blogs, redone web pages and who knows what else. But most of all we’ve rallied around each other in prayer support, sharing our concerns and our love for our God, His Son Jesus Christ and the marvelous things the Holy Spirit has been doing in all our lives.
Things haven’t stopped happening, and I don’t want them to. I work more hours now than I did when I had a career, and I regard all of them to be precious gifts from God. And just yesterday Staci hit me again. She wants us to expand again. She has started a new blog and I am considering a second cottage publishing effort to, what else, “expand my territory.” And I can’t wait to get started.
It used to be at this point I would tell Staci, look I don’t know how to do this; I can’t, or I don’t think I want to take on the extra work that this would involve. I’ve given that up now because with Staci it just doesn’t work. So now, I say, “Sure why not? I don’t know how, but He does.”
Staci will tell you that she’s only doing what the Holy Spirit is telling her to do, and you know what? I believe that. I have seen it, felt it, and started acting on it. Staci just made herself available to His direction and was kind enough to give the Holy Spirit my address so he could start giving me things to do too.
After all we did pray asking God to expand our territories. Why am I surprised He did? The last line of the verse in Chronicles says simply and directly: “So God granted him what he requested.”