Ask one more question


Gary with his Bible

“Before you go, can I ask one more question?”

I was hoping Gary wouldn’t mind. Even though we’d only met an hour earlier, he’d already shared so much personal information about his life. This final question should be an easy one. And I really wanted to hear his answer.

Earlier, my first question had come without much thought. He’d left himself wide open for it, reading his Bible as he waited for the food we were preparing to serve him and the other homeless men and women at this King’s Banquet.

I’d first asked, “So what are you reading?” 

That was all it took.

Gary opened up. He had been reading from the Old Testament book of Isaiah (a toughie for me), but he flipped back and forth to other related passages, giving clear explanations for each. His Bible was heavily colored with highlighters and ink.

I asked, “Are you a student?”

No, he said he was actually a teacher. A Bible teacher. (My bad. I’m still learning: Never make assumptions about people, homeless or otherwise.)

I asked him if he’d always known Jesus, even as a child, and again he answered no.

He used to be a witch.


So I asked, “What changed that?”

He said he’d walked through the desert.

He told me about his journey on the road from Texas to San Francisco. About his friend and about LSD. Then about reading his Bible for a whole year. And about finding truth.

And finding Jesus.

His life was new. He learned, then taught at a Bible school for eight years in California. He was recently released from the position after they decided he was too mystical to teach there.

He said he was big into spiritual warfare. He flipped to underlined verses and margin notes he’d scribbled around Ephesians 6. We talked about wearing the armor of God and what each piece meant and how important it was.

Then lunch was ready and our conversation ended.

But we weren’t quite finished. I barely caught Gary after lunch as he was leaving to catch the bus back to wherever (and eventually back to family in North Carolina, he was hoping).

I had one final question, if he had time for it:

“Hey Gary, would you share with me your favorite Bible verse?”

I knew it’d tell me the most about Gary. The truths we treasure the greatest, reveal our greatest treasures.

“It’s Matthew 24:13. And he quoted it,

“But the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

That’s what Gary was most about. Just standing in Jesus. Against the devil’s schemes. Firm to the end (Ephesians 6:11-13).

I don’t know all the warfare that’s come against Gary. Or what comes against him still.

And I don’t know if our paths will ever cross in the future. Sometimes one intersection is all we get, and this may have been ours.

But at that junction and for that moment, hearing that answer from Gary about what counts most, may have been enough for a lifetime.

So Gary, wherever you are tonight, I pray you’re doing what matters the most. Stand firm, my brother. To the end.

* * *

Why Bible verse is special to you and why?

revised from the archives

31 thoughts on “Ask one more question

  1. Bill (cycleguy)

    What a great post Lisa! I loved hearing about Gary! My favorite group of verses is Psalm 37:3-9. But this year I feel God has impressed upon my heart Psalm 138:8. I do not know what all that will mean for me or how He will bring about His purpose for me but I want to trust in the One who has steadfast love.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I love Psalm 37 especially myself. I tried to memorize it once, but it was an epic fail. ha. At least in the memory retention department; never a fail in the time spent with the Lord.

      Psalm 138:8 is an exciting verse to have on your heart this year, Bill. I’ll look forward to seeing how God plays it out. I know you will be faithful.

      “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
      your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
      Do not forsake the work of your hands.”

  2. floyd

    Well this is an excellent post to start the day. Wise question you posed. And yes, sometimes our lives are just an intersection, but so much can be gained then shared for all to gain from a not-by-chance- meeting.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Aren’t those intersections wonderful? I know you have your fair share of those too, whether at a restaurant eating breakfast or working out a contract. God knows what he’s doing; so glad we can trust him with these encounters.

  3. Susan Nowell @ My Place to Yours

    BASIC INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE LEAVING EARTH… Gary has it right, doesn’t he? What a great post, Lisa. We really never know what people are going through, do we? Some of what you wrote here will better equip me for making conversation (and getting to know!) people who come to our church’s neighborhood supper. So glad you shared this!

    The verse on my heart these days… Philippians 4:5b-7 The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m sure you will be a blessing as you get to know those at your neighborhood supper, Susan. God-encounters. I love the verses you shared; those are some of my favorites because I need to hear them over and over and over.

  4. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Then I heard the voice of the LORD saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”

    And I said, “Here am I; send me.”

    Isaiah 6:8

    I must have a special affinity for that set of numbers, because in a previous life I was nicknamed Rev68 (pronounced rev-sixty-eight, or sometimes reverend sixty-eight).

    And, yep…it’s THAT verse…

    I beheld a pale horse; its rider was Death, and Hell followed him.

  5. Ceil

    Hi Lisa! Don’t you just love it when God sends an inspiring person your way? And what if you thought you shouldn’t ask that ‘one more question’? You’d have missed out on so much inspiration.

    One of my favorite passages is: For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord… If I’m upset and worried, I can think about this. Even if I don’t know the way, He does!


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, Ceil, I do love when God sends somebody in my path that I almost have to trip over to notice. 🙂 Sometimes it takes that for me to pay attention. Other times I search it out. Either way, God is faithful to keep inspiring us all along the way. Thanks for sharing your passage…I wonder how many people that verse has helped through the years to hold on to purpose and hope.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Beautiful choice, Linda. I can’t see those verses without hearing a song in my mind that goes with them. Yes, I’m grateful with you that his mercies are new every morning; great is his faithfulness!

  6. Barbara H.

    I love hearing how you engage with people that some of us might find hard to talk to or might overlook for whatever reason.

    Two of my favorite verses are Isaiah 41:10: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” and Psalm 16:11: “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” The Isaiah passage is a favorite because it reminds me that no matter what God allows in our lives, He is with us and promises His strength. The one from Psalms is one I often write on graduation cards. People think being a Christian means giving up pleasures, but in His presence is pleasure and joy like nothing on this earth can compare with.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, those verses are so wonderful, Barbara. I’m glad you mentioned them because I love them both too. God being with us—as our JOY—is part of Christianity that I didn’t understand in my first 20 years in church, but now that I’ve discovered that truth, it’s made such a huge difference. What a blessing that you share these verses with others.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, that verse does lay out it plainly! Love it. I can’t read it without hearing the DC Talk song in my mind. 🙂 An oldie but a goodie.

      Day by day, day by day
      Day by day, day by day
      Oh dear Lord, three things I pray
      To see thee more clearly
      To love thee more dearly
      To follow thee more nearly
      Day by day

  7. Pam

    Wow, Lisa! What a powerful story and experience. You are so right about assumptions. It can be so easy to do even though I try not to do that. At the current top of my list is Hebrews 12:1-2.

    Blessings on your day!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses…that’s a great verse to top your list, Pam. I love being reminded often that we are NOT alone on this journey! Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

  8. TC Avey

    Great post. He sounds like an interesting man. It reminds of when I got to meet Michael Leehan author of “Ascent from Darkness”.

    I have so many favorite verses. Phil 4:13, Matt 5:16, Matt 6:33, John 3:17… I’m not sure I can pick just one. God’s Word is alive and depending on what season I’m in, I cling to different verses.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I loved reading through your favorite verses, TC. Thanks for taking the time to share them because each one is so rich. I’m glad that we have such a wealth to choose from, for all our different seasons in life! God is so good to make himself known to us.

  9. Jean Wise

    wow quite a story. I have been thinking a great deal about the desert in all my study and readings of the Desert Mothers and Fathers and now entering the wilderness of the Lenten season. The word of God is so powerful and life changing. Love all your questions and especially the last one.

    My favorite? Hebrews 12:2 Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Reminds me to center on him. It is when I let my eyes drift elsewhere, I am lost. Have a wonderful weekend Lisa. Praying for you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Centering on Jesus. A beautiful verse to favorite, Jean. It’s a perfect one for me after my weekend of centering! 🙂 I had such a meaningful time. The next step is an 8-day silent retreat; I don’t think I’m ready for that much time away yet. When someone asked Sister Mary how that retreat compared to the one we were on this weekend, she said it’s just like this one, except worse. ha. She had a delightful sense of humor.

  10. Joanne Viola

    Wonderful post, Lisa. It’s amazing how a brief conversation, an intersecting of two people, can cause us to think more deeply.

    My favorite verse (this year) > “Taste & see that the Lord is good. Oh the joys of those who take refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8)

    Grateful you helped me to “see” something I had totally missed earlier this week! Blessings!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, those intersections can be so impactful, even when they’re brief. (Sometimes the brief ones make an even greater impact!). Thanks for sharing your verse. Such a rich one. I love how the Lord invites us to taste and see, knowing that he won’t fail to deliver!

  11. Beth

    I just love hearing about your ministry to the homeless, Lisa, and what their lives unfold as you care for and converse with them. There are so many “diamonds” among the homeless that are not necessarily in the rough, but going through the rough in life. I’m glad you were able to bring one out into the light for us to see and hear about. I love his verse and thought for life–standing firm in our Lord! What could be better than that?

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’ve been so amazed on this journey, Beth. These men and women lead such a totally different life than anything I’ve ever been exposed to, yet we have so many things in common. I never would have believed it if God hadn’t shown it to me over and over. Yes, I love his verse too—standing firm is something we all can strive for, rich or poor, old or young.

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