How These Books Came to Be

Welcome to this journey with our Lord. My prayer is that you will be open to the light of the Holy Spirit as you walk with Jesus in new ways. I pray also that you will receive the words in these journals with faith that they come from Jesus to you. The Lord will show you how to listen to His voice and respond to His call. He will reveal your gifts and show you the work He has planned for you to do. Through the words of this journal you will hear the Lord in a special way. At times the journey may seem unexciting or too difficult, but trust in Jesus. He promises that you will grow. With diligence and faith you will hear the answers to your prayers and concerns. You will see the next step in your journey and experience the miracle of resurrection—new life in Jesus.

The words and directions in these journals are from the Lord. He wants you to know that He loves you and knows you by name. Jesus wants you to experience His presence in your life in a very real way. I pray that you will accept all of this as a gift of grace— a miracle. The Lord promises that if you listen to Him, He will show you the path in life that you seek. He will walk with you as you deepen your spiritual life and love for others.

These books are the fruit of another aspect of the work Jesus has asked me to do. In 1992 Jesus gave me the words for a book He called a "Lenten journal." A group of workers at my former parish, St. Hilary's Episcopal Church, helped me put the words in a format that we could photocopy and then distribute to anyone who wanted to journey with the Lord's words through Lent. In 1993, Jesus gave me the words for two more Lenten journals, one for children and one for adults. This continued through 1996 by which time He had provided five books for adults, four for children, and two for teenagers.

With the help of family and friends, over a seven-year period, more than 6,000 copies of the Lord's journals went to people in almost every state and in many foreign countries, including England, Norway, Canada, and Japan.
I never got to China, Africa, or India myself, but this past year I received prayer requests from a Methodist minister in Africa, a nun in India, and a missionary in China, some of whom had read about me in Father Robert Llewelyn's book Memories and Reflections. The Lord, in His love and fulfilling His own plans for me, granted me my childhood desire to somehow serve Him in these countries. I was serving others who in turn were called to use their gifts in these far-off lands.

In 1997, Jesus called together a team of gifted, faithful, and generous people from around the world to help carry out the work of this "journal ministry" in a greater way. This work is now called "Words of Blessing." The prayers and vision of this group help me discern how the Lord wants His words, love, and reality to go out to the world in a greater way. One way that was very clear to us was to publish the original Lenten journals in the form that you now hold. We move forward in this ministry with faith that the Lord will continue to lead us and guide us in the path He wants us to follow.

Mary M. Crist
A Listener

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My Story

I was born in 1940, and I grew up in Chicago with my parents and sister. My childhood revolved around reading, church, and staying out of the way of alcoholic parents. My local Episcopal church was in walking distance, and I spent much time there: choir, Girls Friendly Society, youth group, and Sunday School. My prayer life and church were my security and my life. And my prayer each day was the same: "Lord, grant me unshakable faith." When I was a child I wanted to be a missionary or a social worker when I grew up. But by the time I graduated from high school I could see that life would not turn out as I planned. Family circumstances meant that I had to leave college after a year, which seemed to end my dreams of being a missionary. Instead, I married a young man who went to my church. He was studying to be a doctor, and I saw a life of ease and wealth stretched out before me. But then he decided he was called to be an Episcopal priest, and once again I knew that life was not going to turn out the way I planned.

Within the first five years of our marriage we had three children—two daughters and then a son. My life as a priest's wife took me to many places. We were called to different churches in Illinois, and then my husband became a Navy chaplain at the time of the Vietnam War, which took us to Hawaii, South Carolina, and New York.

The time was filled with joys and struggles. As a new priest's wife I can honestly say that I failed altar guild, spilled tea, and often said the wrong thing. During those years I kept wanting not just to know about Jesus but to personally encounter Him; my spiritual life, however, seemed to just hold steady.

In 1970, after my husband left the Navy, we returned to Illinois and back to regular parish life at St. Hilary's Episcopal Church. Life settled down. I taught the high school group and was involved in women's and other ministries within the parish. Life seemed good.

Then in 1978, I had a difficult and painful encounter with some parishioners. I was unable to bear the situation as a Christian. It was my biggest moment of doubt. I knew I had to somehow meet and know Jesus personally. He had to be real to me in my soul. For the first time, and on my knees, I begged the Lord to take my problems and bring me peace. In return, I would give Him everything—my whole life. And I did encounter Him. I saw and touched Him. I heard Him. He was really there. I gave Him all of me, and my life was forever changed. From that moment on, I have met and talked to Him every day. His imprint is on my heart.

During the next three years I continued to grow in my spiritual life and my relationship with Jesus. I was finally open to doing whatever Jesus asked of me. My prayer life deepened, and I learned to listen. Cursillo, Happening, Marriage Encounter, and other renewal experiences continued to teach me about spirituality. That encounter with Jesus was changing my life.

But once again, my life took an unplanned and devastating turn. In November 1981, our 17-year-old son Tim committed suicide. This was my moment of truth and faith. What would happen? Where was this Jesus who had been beside me? Why could I not hear Him anymore? Well, He was there, but I could only hear silence in the midst of my pain. Two months after my son's death, I begged the Lord to help me. The hardest time for me to cope was driving home from work, knowing that Tim would never be there again. There would be no "Hi, Mom!" as he walked in the door after school.

I pleaded: "Lord, if you will just help me through that time of the day, I know I will make it. I will do anything you ask, just help me." The Lord spoke to me audibly in that moment. I wrote His words in my Bible, because it was the only piece of paper I could find. Jesus asked me to give Him my life and my trust, and I said, "Yes." Jesus then told me He would send me out to the corners of His kingdom. He said He would give me the words to say at the right time, and He would show me whom to bring His words to. He told me there was a plan for all and, in time, my purpose would be revealed. He said my own suffering and my son Tim would show me what to do, where to go, and what my purpose in life was to be. I never dreamed what that task and work would one day mean. In that powerful encounter, I finally and completely gave Him my life.

As I set off once more on my drive home, Jesus began to speak to me again. He gave me a message for a young man from my church who had been my son's best friend. I knew these words were important, so I pulled off the road, found a piece of paper, and wrote them down. Now, I have to say that I did not think it was unusual to hear or see Jesus. I still don't. He is real! Scripture tells us that He hears and answers all prayers, and that we all hear Him in different ways. Mine is just one way. But after I arrived home I decided that I could not deliver this message as my friend would think I was crazy. I said, "I will do anything, Lord, but not this!" But the decision was taken out of my hands: This young man appeared at my door and asked me for the words he knew Jesus had given me. He had been praying that Jesus would give me words for him about Tim.

My encounter with Jesus brought me to a choice. Would I keep my promise? My answer was still "Yes." This young man and I found some comfort that night in Jesus words, which reassured us that Tim was with Jesus and at peace. I also realized that for the first time since Tim's death I had been too busy to grieve for him on the way home, because I had been focused on praying and listening to Jesus. This gave me a new sense of peace and hope.

After that experience, Jesus continued to give me words and messages to give to others. Since that first message in 1982,1 have prayed for many people who have asked for words from Jesus. Most simply ask me to pray for them, offer their concerns or questions to Jesus, and then listen to His words and pass His response back to them. I have prayed for more than 12,000 people around the world. It has gradually become a full-time work that is my life.

I try to live a life worthy of that encounter with Jesus. There are times I surely fail Him, but I keep picking myself up and try again. The words and messages for people have continued since that day more than 20 years ago. I wish I could say I understand it, but all I can say is it is true. I know without a doubt that Jesus speaks to me, touches me, and sits with me.

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About This Gift of Words

I am simply a "word bearer." I listen and then carry (bear) Jesus words to those they are intended for. It is actually very simple, but perhaps hard to understand in today's world. I gave Jesus my life. I love Him with all of my heart. I have tried to be obedient and faithful to His call, which is to bring His words, love, and reality to the world.

The question I am asked most often is "How does it all happen?" I do not always see Jesus when I pray, but I do hear His voice clearly. I hear Him speak in a voice that is outside myself, not something I hear only in my head or heart. Most often I hear the Lord when I am praying, but He has been known to interrupt me at meetings, while driving, or even while listening to a sermon. Sometimes He speaks to me when I am in a group of people, but those around me do not hear Him (although family and friends can sometimes tell when the Lord is speaking to me by the fact that I seem to "tune out" what is going on around me).

When I see Jesus, I see Him as a real person, not a hazy, ghostlike figure. In fact, when He sits down next to me (sometimes at church during a service) I always feel compelled to move over to make room for Him. But I am aware that others around me do not see Him when He appears to me, or they do not see Him in the same way I do. When I was working, Jesus often sat next to me on the crowded commuter train. When I asked Jesus once why no one sat in the "empty" seat He replied that the other commuters see an old man sitting next to me.

How do I receive the words and messages? When the Lord gives me words for people, sometimes He might say: "These are words for Susan." Other times He might say: "Bill asked for words and direction from me, and here they are." Still other times the Lord simply responds to my prayers for someone who is asking for guidance, words, or help. I then write down Jesus words as He is speaking. I guess it s somewhat like trying to take dictation, where you have to keep up with the pace at which someone is speaking. The person does not pause or repeat words, so it is difficult to get down every single word perfectly. Later, I type the message so that it is legible. The messages always include scripture that Jesus also gives me for the person. The Lord actually has me look up each passage in my own Bible before making a note of it for the person for whom it s intended.

The hardest aspect of this gift for me is the worry that I may be getting in the way of the listening. My ongoing prayer, and what I try to stay constantly vigilant about, is that I will be able to record the Lord's words as accurately as possible without getting in the way myself. Theologians say that any prophetic gift of words cannot be one hundred percent accurate. I know there are times when I probably do not get the words exactly right. I am certain that I miss words here and there. But I trust in the Lord and in His ability to somehow make things right. They are His words, and I believe that somehow He will protect them.

One thing that helps reassure me is that I never remember the messages I receive. My work is to listen, receive the words, and then pass them on without dwelling on what they contain. The message is between the Lord and the receiver; I m just the way to put the words in writing. It is Jesus who is important.

Daily I receive messages from Jesus. Some days I may pray for 30 people. Other days I may focus hours of intense prayer for one person. Some messages are a few sentences and others are many pages long. Sometimes the Lord answers a prayer request in a few days, but other requests may take many months for a response. It is all in His timing, and it is a mystery to me. All I can do is pray for the person, for over the years I have learned to trust in the Lord s incredible timing.

How can I be certain that the words I hear are really from Jesus? I know that this is true without a doubt. I hear and see Him as clearly as I hear and see the people around me. I have put myself under the authority and testing of the church since the very beginning. I have a spiritual director and other spiritual advisers who provide the guidance to protect the people, myself, and the church from error. Most importantly, I believe God protects His church, and if I misused the gift or erred, He would take the work from me.

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Where am I today? Daily I continue to receive requests for prayers and words from around the world. So I pray, listen, and then, in Jesus' time, pass on His answer. And that is the heart of my call and my work. It is really pretty simple: to take His words, love, and reality out into the world. This gift and work are the result of my encounter with Jesus.

I am a simple, ordinary person. My childhood prayer—to have unshakable faith like the saints of old—happened. When my son died, I knew that prayer had been granted. I encounter Jesus every day, and my life is still a "yes" to Him. I would give this gift away in a second if I could. But I can t, because I gave Jesus my life.

May God s grace fill you. May the joy and promise of Christ's love, death and resurrection be a light to guide you. May you know him as your savior and friend. May our Lord be with you and bless you. I will be praying for you.

Love in Christ,
Mary Crist

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Words of Blessing - A Ministry to spread Jesus's love, words, and reality to the world