Once again we have a guest writer. Mark and I became friends with Neil and Karen Leatherbarrow when we first arrived in Amsterdam in 1992. This lovely couple took us under their wings and became like family when we were there. They went on to have three beautiful children, two sons – Luke and Jason and a daughter – Charlotte. Tragically Charlotte was killed in an accident a few years back at the young age of 12. Neil has written an amazing book on his life which is just in the process of being professionally publish.
I am thrilled Neil has agreed to share an excerpt from this book that is soon to be released.
We arrived early and were invited to the prayer time before the meeting started. I instantly recognised the man from the tract I’d read. His face just seemed to glow. I felt like I was in the presence of some intense aura. I was really nervous, trying not to shake and a frail old man sitting next to me asked very gently if I was afraid. I couldn’t speak so I just nodded in affirmation. He reassured me there was no need to be. He laid his hand on my forehead and just spoke a simple prayer for peace. That was it, I immediately stopped shaking and felt a deep calm come over me.
I thought there was going to be a loud prayer of hellfire and brimstone or something. But there was no fanfare, no struggle, and in a matter of seconds I realised I was free from whatever was causing my nightmares. During the worship service the music was very joyful and I watched the old man praying for people. Some would shake like me, some made loud noises, and others would just fall over and then wake up a minute later. For a newcomer like me, this was probably the wackiest church service I’d ever attended.
At the end of the service, which must have carried on for at least two hours, I spoke with this delightful old man. I discovered his name was Jim. He was eighty-six years old and had been doing this kind of thing for the last forty years. He had a very kind-looking face with white hair and a gleeful look in his eyes. I asked him if I could follow him on his healing mission whenever he was near my town. He welcomed the idea and then set off in his old Austin Minor.
When I returned home that night, I was a different person, like a dark shadow had been lifted. I laid in my bed in the darkness and for the first time in eight years I felt calm and still. I slept so peacefully, no nightmares, no fear. I slept so well, I over-slept and ended up being late for college the next morning. I could never forget what had happened that night. I remembered watching the movie ‘Poltergeist’ and completely sympathising with the young girl who was haunted by an evil spirit. The demonic images in that movie were not fiction for me they were all too real in my nightmares. The difference I felt that night was radical, would it last was this change permanent? Only time would tell.
Knowing the strength of God is not just knowing the power of His name, and I by no means am taking away the significance of calling on His name, but I believe that is just the beginning. When Jim Rattenbury from the London Healing Mission called on the name of Jesus to take away my fear the result was immediate. The Bible says the “gifts of God are without repentance”(Roms 11:29), meaning no matter what state of mind or attitude of heart, that gift remains the same. When my fear was taken away an inner peace replaced that fear. That peace has always remained with me, whenever the storms in life have attacked me that inner peace has stood strong defying any presence of fear as if to say,
” Be still! You shall not overcome me.”
This peace is not something I had to practice or learn. It’s not something I had to earn as I progressed in my journey of faith. It is a gift given freely and exercised liberally with no cost, no strings attached. My Father in heaven gives good gifts to His children (Matt 7:11). One of the names of Jesus is the Prince of Peace and how do I know Him? I know His peace, a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
When I returned home from the prayer time with Jim, before I even went to bed I could feel the difference. As I stood in my room and closed my eyes I could feel the presence of peace in me, and all around me. It was tangible. No power of suggestive thought, no hypnotic trance, no chanting, not anything could beat the very real presence of God I felt in my room that night. That sense of peace has never left me since. Anybody who knows me can bear witness to this fact. The gift of God given to me so freely is how I know He is real.
I have spent a lot of time around creative people who are chaotic in nature, and the reason why they like having me around them is because I bring peace into their situation. This is not something I have to work at or try to conjure up. I just need to be myself. It is a gift. When I picked up writing my first book, it was not something I had trained for or perfected over many years of writing. After one year of writing and editing my book, and also many rejections later I was signed by my publisher. It is a gift. These gifts from God are not exclusive we all have gifts given to us freely. It is up to us to discover what those gifts are and how we can invest in them for the good of others as well as for ourselves. I believe this is part of what makes our journey with God so unique.