Pennies from Heaven
Author Wendy Reakes stopped gambling when she became a Christian - and has had several reminders that it was the right decision
I can’t recall the number of times I’d prayed to win the lottery, but two years ago, when I handed myself over to God, I stopped praying for monetary wealth. I had always been a gambler in life, enjoying a little flutter now and again, but when I made a commitment to Jesus to strive to be more like Him, I wanted to do it right. I haven’t bought a lottery ticket since.
I recall a special occasion when I had to attend a tribunal in Bristol to get back the disability benefit the government had taken off me.
It was that time in 2013 when they’d contracted a French company to test everyone for their eligibility to receive Incapacity Benefit. Many people in wheelchairs suddenly lost their income, mothers with disabled children lost their income and people who genuinely couldn’t earn a living due to serious health issues lost their income.
I was one of them. I was deemed fit for work, despite being an amputee with weakness in my arms, and that in the worst case scenario I was told I could go out to work in a wheelchair, seeing as I still had two arms to propel myself.
When I arrived in Bristol for my hearing, I took the advice of the courts and parked in a designated multi-story car park. I was alone when I came out of the building on crutches and asked for directions to the tribunal.
A man in a white van thrust his arm out of the window and pointed north, up a steep hill that even cars struggled to climb. “I can’t get up there,” I said. I wondered for a moment if he’d offer me a lift, but when he took a big bite from his cheese baguette, I took that as a no.
Only five minutes before, a man in the car park had let a heavy fire door shut in my face, because he was in such a hurry. A real gent. Outside the car park, as I reflected on life and the story in the bible about the Good Samaritan, I leaned up against a wall to phone for help. I was praying hard and I was clearly upset when a lady went past me. She turned to look at my worried face, but she carried on walking. When she got to her car, parked a few meters along the side of the road, she turned and shouted “Are you okay?”
I shook my head. “I have to be in court in ten minutes and I can’t get up the hill.”
She didn’t hesitate. “I’ll take you,” she called.
“Really? I would appreciate it greatly. Thank you.”
She opened her car door and helped me into the passenger seat. And as she started up the ignition, she said, “I don’t normally park here, but I had time to do a bit of shopping before work. I remember how lucky I was to find a free parking space.”
“I’m glad you did.” We introduced ourselves as she drove me up the hill. “I think you are my Good Samaritan,” I said. “I was praying for help when you came along. God gave you to me.'
I waited for her to laugh at my comment, but instead she told me she was a Christian too. I gasped when she opened the glove compartment and showed me a hand carved wooden cross, as if she wanted to prove her testimony.
Suddenly, despite feeling miserable only second before, I felt lifted. I was joyous that God was in charge and that he had sent an angel to watch over me.
We exchanged numbers before she dropped me outside the court building and I went on to win my case.
There’s one thing I’ve discovered since falling in love with Jesus, you can’t con him.
Another time I got one of those annoying cold calls. “Can I interest you in buying a ticket for the postcode lottery?” the voice said.
Normally I would politely decline and hang up (okay, so I’m not always polite), but now he’d mentioned the magic word, ‘lottery’! As he rambled on doing the hard sell, I considered it for a moment, but then I remembered what I had promised God. “No can do, sorry. I’m a Christian and I don’t gamble anymore.”
“Well, that’s okay, because some of the money goes to charity. You can’t get any more Christian than that.”
Yeah right! “Nope, you can’t talk me into it. Can’t gamble sorry….but wait, I’ll ask my husband. He might have a go.” I figured Jake could buy one, since he doesn’t believe in God. He was just outside the back door. “Jake…Do you want to buy a ticket off this guy?”
I spoke into the phone “No, sorry, he doesn’t want one either.”
“Are you sure I can’t persuade you?”
“No, you can’t. I promised God.”
I hung up and took a glance at my little statue of Jesus and said. “I hope you appreciated that.”
“What…?” called Jake from outside the back door.
“Nothing!” I yelled. “I’m just talking to Jesus.”
The next morning I got a letter in the post. The government had been trying to get tax off me for when I lived in France. I’d been fighting against it for months. The letter said, it was letting the matter go.
It was worth £5000.
My gambling addiction was tested once again this year when I went with the family for a caravan holiday in Woolacombe bay, We were on a huge camp site where in the evenings they did ran a bingo session so I decided to have a go. I told myself God wouldn’t mind, that it was just a game, and nothing serious!
When I got there the room was very crowded with extremely boisterous children screaming at a man on stage dressed as a beach ball.
I was told I had to go up to the very front near the stage to buy my tickets, so all guilty thoughts left me as I balanced on two sticks and made my way through the crowds.
As soon as I got there, the ticket man was called away by an agitated lady who had lost her child. He went off with her, leaving the booth empty.
I’ve been an amputee for 15 years now, so I have long got over the staring factor, but as I stood there alone, I felt people were watching me standing waiting there like a prune.
I decided to go back to my seat and wait until he got back. That’s when I decided I wasn’t going to do the walk of shame again, so I picked up my bags and left.
There’s one thing I’ve discovered since falling in love with Jesus, you can’t con him. I soon realised it was God who had prevented me from falling into my sinful ways. It was Him who had made that little girl get momentarily lost, and it was Him who had made the bingo man walk away with the mother, just so I couldn’t buy the tickets.
The only aspect of the story I could comfort myself with, was the notion I had suffered huge pangs of guilt for breaking my promise to the Lord. Well deserved.
When I got home a letter was waiting for me from my pension company. Apparently they hadn’t been paying me enough. My account had been credited with £1000, paid in on the day after I nearly played bingo.
Wendy Reakes is married to Jake, and mother to eleven-year old twins, Tom and Charlotte. She lost her leg in a freak accident in 1999, but regards it as a blessing, "since I have a much better life now than I had before".
Ten years ago she taught herself how to write and has so far written four novels, and many short stories, which are published on her website and Amazon. Last year she picked up an agent in New York, who is working towards finding a traditional publisher.
This is an extract from her autobiography, which tells of Wendy's life as a born again Christian after 50 tumultuous years. Wendy attends Clevedon Baptist Church in Somerset.
Picture: "Coin Flip" by Chris Sharp/freedigitalphotos.net