“You need to go back and see Mary today.”

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (I Samuel 3:10)

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

Samuel and Isaiah heard the Lord’s voice and responded in obedience to His call. Throughout the Scriptures, the Lord called His people to do a variety of things. He called Moses to lead God’s people out of slavery; He called Gideon to deliver the Israelites from the Midianite’s oppression; He called Mary to give birth to Jesus, the Son of God; He called Peter to go to Cornelius’s house to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles; and there are so many more accounts like this. In some cases, there was immediate obedience and in other cases there wasn’t. The effect of instant obedience to His voice is life-changing for us and the lives of those we touch. It requires flexibility and a willingness to die to our plans and give way to His. Let’s observe how Debi responded to the Lord’s voice.

Debi Smith’s Neighborhood

For 35 years Mary lived next door to my dad and stepmother. Mary’s children were grown and gone, spread out all over the state of Arizona and they found it hard to find time to visit her so it just seemed natural to adopt her into our family. She spent many holidays and birthdays with us over the years. When my stepmother lost her battle with ovarian cancer and my father was alone I found myself visiting her every time I went to see my dad. I would take her some dinner and visit for a while and sometimes I’d take over some popcorn and a movie. As time went by she needed rides to and from the doctor’s office and I was happy to take her when my father couldn’t. She had a serious asthmatic condition and with age it just seemed to be getting worse. The doctor’s visits were becoming a weekly routine and she seemed to be getting much more frail. I was working as a flight attendant so I’d be gone 3 and 4 days at a time and during one of those times my father called and said that they had taken Mary away in an ambulance. After returning home I tracked down her son’s phone number and called to ask about where she was and how she was doing. He told me that her lungs had weakened so much that they’d put her into a Hospice Care facility. He said that they’d given her 6 months to live and she had made the decision to not die at home. I told him that I was leaving the next day for a 4-day trip and that I’d see her when I returned home and asked him to please pass on that message. “Don’t worry” he said “she’ll be around for several more months, you’ll have time.”

Later that day my father and I were having lunch and when we finished we were going to work in his garden. While enjoying my lunch and our conversation, I heard God whisper into my ear (as if He were sitting next to me) “You need to go back and see Mary today.” When I told my dad about my clear orders from the Lord he said “Well, we’ll just have to work on the garden next week.” So off I went to see Mary.

We were having a very pleasant visit when one of the staff came in and began a conversation. Apparently when Mary was admitted they talked about advance directives and she instructed them that if she stopped breathing that they were to make attempts to revive her. Her son, however, had just called and stated that she had changed her mind and now wanted to be listed as a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate). She said “Yes, that is true, I don’t want to live like this anymore. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.” The staff member said that they had written up new paperwork with new instructions and that they just needed a signature and a witness. She asked Mary if her “friend” could be the witness and Mary said “Yes, Debi is like a daughter to me.” So, I signed the papers and returned to our conversation.

About 10 minutes later Mary began to struggle for air. I called for a nurse and she put some liquid under Mary’s tongue, but it didn’t seem to help at all. Mary continued to struggle for every breath. I held her hand and looked from her to the nurse and back again wondering why the nurse wasn’t doing anything further to help her. And that’s when it hit me! We just signed a DNR! They couldn’t do anything further for her because she had just asked them not to. So, I continued to hold her hand as she took labored breaths and then stopped breathing. Mary knew the Lord and it reflected on her face as she passed from this life into eternity with Him. When all was said and done and I was walking out of that hospital in a daze, I asked, “Why Lord? Why did you have me come today to witness this? This was painful!” But God spoke to me once again and He said “I called you here so that Mary wouldn’t die alone.”

I wish that I could say that I’m always obedient when I hear the Lord speak, but this time I was and it meant so much to her family to know that their mother wasn’t alone in her final moments.

A time for reflection:

Does God speak to us today like He did to Debi? Her story certainly bears witness to the impeccable timing of the Lord for her to be by Mary’s side as she slipped into eternity. Debi’s sensitivity to the voice of God allowed her to join her heavenly Father in Mary’s home going. The Lord set it all up, but because of Debi’s instant obedience she was in the right place at the right time. I admire how she and her father were willing to adjust their plans to God’s greater plan. Think of what would have happened if she had not instantly obeyed the Lord’s voice. How flexible are you when God has another plan for you in a day? Are you driven by chronos? What would it take for you to be sensitive to the Lord’s voice and instantly obey Him? Take some time to consider this with the Lord, so you will be available to the Lord when He calls on you.

(After 30 years as a flight attendant Debi retired and moved from Phoenix, Arizona to Chico, California to become a full time Volunteer with Youth With A Mission (YWAM). She found her love for missions work while vacationing in Mexico.  God had presented an opportunity for her to serve in the poorest communities, and while doing that she realized that she’d found her calling.  In her retirement years her traveling continues, but as a YWAMer she is “serving” in a totally different way.)





Listen to Bruce Zachary's experience with Neighborhood Initiative.

Listen to Dallas Willard's word to pastors and leaders about Neighborhood Initiative.

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