This was the last book I did in the Monastery. It is available on Amazon either as a Paperback or Kindle. All paperback sales go to support the monastery while the Sisters have graciously allowed Kindle sales to go to me.
Treasure in Heaven
by Barbara A. Woodzell Lincroft, New Jersey
Have you ever demanded God to prove to you that He exists?
Barbara Parker did.
Barbara is a recovering cocaine addict at Epiphany House, a Halfway House for recovering drug addicts in the ghettos of Asbury Park, New Jersey. Every Tuesday evening I volunteer, conducting a drum circle and spirituality group with the women there. We come together with the twelve steps. We beat out stress on our djembes, congas and ashikos and experience the healing power of our Divine Musician.
When I first met Barbara three years ago, she had entered our program directly from prison. She related how at the age of ten she was made to steal cars in an effort to support her mother’s alcohol habit. Her young life regressed downward from there. Today, Barbara proudly adopted her own twelve-year-old granddaughter to save her from a life of abuse.
While at Epiphany House, Barbara struggled for over a year with interviews and rejections before she was able to attain her first job at a local supermarket. Sadly, no one wants to give a second chance to an Afro-American with a prison record. Barbara’s supervisor soon began displaying his prejudice by cutting her hours, barely giving her enough wages to pay rent—nonetheless food, bills or transportation. She could not make ends meet.
Despite overwhelming obstacles, Barbara has stayed clean from returning to the numbing world of drugs. How did she do it? Why did she do it? Where was God, her higher power, in all of this? What good did prayer do for her life of struggle and pain?
Barbara’s prayer was a cry of desperation to God! She would attend Sunday Baptist services, and with the congregation cry out to God for the grace to become a victor instead of a perpetual victim. She pleaded in song, psalms and community prayers for God’s help. Yet, Barbara continued to feel hopeless and abandoned by her creator. Privately, she’d pray morning, noon and night, with her granddaughter, crying out to God for help, but her world continued to crumble. Nothing was easy or going right. Support was hard to find…mercy was even harder.
I am an Associate of the Sisters of Mercy and one of God’s Ambassadors of Encouragement. On the day Barbara graduated from Epiphany House to reenter the world of temptation, I prayed that God would allow me to be his instrument to help her whenever she was in need.
Being a faithful member of Fr. Thomas Keating’s Contemplative Outreach, I’d sit for two periods of Centering Prayer daily. I’d make my intention to be with God and consent to His presence and action within. Then I’d wait for discernment. It wasn’t long before I clearly heard God in my heart saying, “Whatever you do to the least of My brethren, you do to Me.” The next week I heard, “Go and sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven.”
And so, whenever Barbara would call me: broke at the train station, at a corner store hungry, on a curb in need of a ride, in need of a new pair of shoes, a warm winter coat or a doctor bill to be paid—I never hesitated. I gave in the name of Jesus. I was happy to be His hiding place, His face of unconditional love and acceptance for her.
Last week, I was feeling very low. I was trying to be grateful but instead was wallowing in self-pity. Then I felt the hand of God lift me from the depths to raise me on high. Barbara’s caseworker had sought me out, and with tears rolling down her cheeks, shared that Barbara had just gratefully told her. “I was the only evidence she had on earth, to prove There is a God!”
My own dark cloud immediately lifted. I smiled broadly and quoted St. Theresa’s words, “Truly, Christ has no body but ours.”