By Jessica Farrish
“For who has despised the day of small things?” a prophet was once asked by God.
Not Awkie Lilly.
For years, the 66-year-old Beckley woman has found God, the Creator of the world, in the most mundane places.
She’s seen Him in at work in her home, her jobs and in church; she’s heard Him speak through songs that aren’t church songs and through children.
Mainly, she hears Him in Scripture and through prayer, but when she hears from Him, she writes it in a journal she’s kept for years.
And she loves to share what she knows of Him with others.
She’s spoken at several women’s church events in West Virginia and other states over the years. She’s been a member of Memorial Baptist Church in Beckley for 42 years, but usually, people who know her will tell you that she doesn’t limit her talk about God to ladies’ luncheons and Sunday school.
Lilly talks to God, and she talks about Him.
She doesn’t just talk “church talk.” Yes, she quotes the Bible. But when she quotes it, it doesn’t sound like a book that was written thousands of years ago for somebody else.
She tells of a God who is always present and who longs to spend time with people — a faithful friend, a loving provider, an amazingly intelligent Being who pays attention to each person.
Lilly teaches that God’s Word is for every individual, for all time, and that since God is eternal, the same “word” He spoke to prophets thousands of years ago have power to help people now, as individuals.
“I’m old, and I can testify that the (Bible) is true, and it works, and God is faithful,” said Lilly. “I believe the Lord can speak to you through anything, if you’re listening.
“I don’t believe the Lord hides Himself from us.”
Lilly said she shares her experiences in prayer and Bible study with others so that she can show how wonderful her God is and also so she can pass the peace she’s found along to her friends and family.
She speaks intimately of spending time reading the “Word” and praying and then ... waiting on God.
She said He’s worked out problems, helped her with health care and finances, strengthened her through personal crises and helped make her relationships better.
Even when she wasn’t faithful, she said, God was.
“When God says He’ll never leave you or forsake you, that’s true,” said Lilly. “When you feel like He’s left you, He hasn’t.”
Lilly (whose unusual first name was in honor of her father, the late Oscar Wickline) was orphaned at a young age. Although she was reared by grandparents until she was 17, her parents’ deaths created in her a struggle to feel accepted and loved, she said.
She became a Christian as a child, by asking Christ to forgive her sins and live in her heart, she said.
But that ache of feeling unloved was still part of her.
Lilly attended Sunday School and church regularly but for years didn’t understand that God loved her.
She came to realize God’s love by spending time reading and believing the Bible, she said.
“I began to see the Word (Bible) as a place I could find advice,” Lilly recalled.
When she did that, she said, she began to see God at work all around her. She saw Him meet her spiritual and emotional needs, even her physical needs.
“I had a little bit of a hard time relating to God’s love for me until He showed me that He was my parent; he was my father,” she said. “Although my parents were dead, I was not without a parent.”
Even with the knowledge that God is real and that He would work in her life in a practical way, she didn’t immediately understand how much He loved her and others, she said.
“It wasn’t until the last few years that I understood God’s love,” she added. “I don’t know how I went that long.
“I knew He loved me; I just didn’t know how much until I began to look at what the Scripture said about God’s love, and I came to realize that everything God does is because He loves us.”
Lilly said one of the biggest tragedies in society is that “people don’t know they are loved.”
One of her missions, she said, is to share the good news of God’s love with people she meets.
She pointed out that all human love can fail — marriages, parental love, friendships — but that God’s love “never fails.”
“God’s love is constant,” she said. “I’ve come to the conclusion that God truly loves us, and His desire is for us to love one another.”
She said the Christian message of salvation, that Christ suffered the ultimate death and rose from His grave so each person could receive His life — is the proof of God’s love.
“That’s the measure of true love, giving up your life for a friend,” she said.
For those who aren’t Christians or who find it hard to believe in any god, Lilly said the Bible teaches that God’s love is still constant and asked them to open their minds to the possibility of John 3:16: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son...”.
“God wants us to know He’s real,” she said. “He’s not hiding from us.”
Throughout her life, Lilly said, God has been faithful.
One of the biggest gifts she’s had from Him is peace, even in the middle of personal turmoil, she said.
“Believing what God says brings us real peace, and the world can’t give us that,” she said. “People can’t give us that.
“It’s only directly from God as you read the Word and pray and as you build this relationship with Him.”
Lilly said God’s promises are still good as Christians get older and mature in the faith.
“God is so big, we’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg of the knowledge of Him,” she said. “Sometimes when Christians get older, and they’ve learned a lot about the Lord, they can become complacent and don’t think about receiving new knowledge of the Lord,” she said. “As older people, we can get in a rut or complacent if we don’t see that God wants us to walk in newness of life, too.”
She quoted from Romans, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism unto death so as Christ was raised from the dead in the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, surely we will also be in the likeness of His resurrection.”
She said knowing that God wants to bring a “freshness” to His relationship with all believers in every stage of life can bring a sense of purpose .
“We can have that joy from the newness of life,” she said. “When you get new things in life, it’s exciting times.
“There’s something about that newness in Christ, it’s a refreshing,” she added. “We can have that daily by seeking Him, and He can give us more understanding of Him and His amazing grace.”
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