Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Remembering Vonette Bright, Day 1

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Hi. This is Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Before we begin today's Revive Our Hearts, think about this: What does it mean to truly fall in love with Jesus? We're going to be exploring that theme here on Revive Our Hearts starting February 22 and going all the way through Easter.

We'll be in a series on the Song of Solomon called "How to Fall and Stay in Love with Jesus." To get ready for this series, I hope you'll get the companion resource we've developed—a booklet that goes along with each day of the series. We'll send you a copy of the booklet when you make a donation of any amount to support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts.

I hope you'll get a copy, listen to the series each day, and dig into the Song of Songs using this booklet as a tool. As you do, I think this could be one of the most meaningful Easter seasons you've ever experienced.

To make your donation, give us a call at 1–800–569–5959, and ask for the booklet "How to Fall and Stay in Love with Jesus," or you can visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

One woman who definitely knew what it meant to be growing more and more in love with Jesus was the late Vonette Bright.

Vonette Bright: It's impossible to really develop an intimate relationship with the Lord without spending time in the Word. I think sometimes we think we can run in and out of God's presence, but to really get to know God, you need to spend time with Him.

Nancy: We're remembering Vonette Bright here on Revive Our Hearts for Monday, February 1, 2016.

As you know, the burden and mission that God has given us here at Revive Our Hearts is to encourage women, in particular, in their walk with the Lord—to help them find freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

In fact, there's a passage in the New Testament that gives us a summary of our curriculum and what it is we're trying to accomplish as women. Do you remember when Paul said to Titus talking about how the local church was to be structured, how people were to be discipled and grow in their faith?

Then he began talking about the teaching and the ministry role of women in the church. He speaks first about older women. He says that older women are to be reverent in their behavior, they're not to be slanderers, they're not to be addicted to much wine. They're to have self-control.

Paul talks about the character that godly older women should have. But, as you know, getting to be godly isn't something that just happens overnight. It involves a process. There's time and effort and discipline involved in getting there.

One of the provisions God has made for younger women to become godly older women is that the older women are to help the younger women learn what it means to walk with God and to fulfill His purposes.

Paul goes on to say in Titus 2 that those older women who walk with God are then to teach other women. And what are these older women supposed to teach the younger women? Well, it's to love their husbands and their children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be working at home, and to be kind and submissive to their own husbands.

And here's the bottom line: so "that the word of God may not be reviled" (Titus 2:5). That's so people will think well of God and of His truth.

When I think about that process in Titus chapter 2, I think about some of the women God has used in my own life to help me develop a heart and a hunger and a love for the Lord Jesus, to help me become more fruitful as a woman of God.

Really close to the top of my list of women who have influenced my life would be my lifelong friend, mentor, and second mother, Vonette Bright. Vonette went home to be with the Lord on December 23, just about five weeks ago. This week we're remembering her legacy.

Vonette loved being called "Mrs. Bill Bright." She was a guest here on Revive Our Hearts shortly before her husband died over a decade ago. I want to play some of the conversation I had with her, so that you can hear the heart of a woman who really loved her God.

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Vonette, thank you so much for your willingness to join us here on Revive Our Hearts this week. I love you. l thank the Lord for you, and I just consider it a privilege for us to have these moments to sit in your living room and to just talk about what God has taught you in your walk with Him. So, thank you for joining us!

Vonette: Nancy, you know you're about as near a daughter as I could possibly have, and I really love you so much! I have admired you through the years, even as a child, your maturity. And, of course, your parents have been such very, very good friends.

So, I guess I treated you, many times, just as if you were my own daughter. When you reminded me of some of the things I said to you at times . . .

Nancy: We were talking about that this morning. I was telling you some of the very practical things you had taught me when I was a little girl. I said only a mother could say those kinds of things, but I'm so thankful for it.

Vonette: Well, I treated you as a daughter. I was very eager to see you successful. I was very eager to see you pretty. I was very eager to see mannerly and to be a lady.

Nancy: I remember you telling me when I was about twelve, "Nancy, we need to do something about your hair!" And I'm so glad you did. 

Vonette: As a twelve-year-old, it was just that you were in that in-between kind of tacky stage that girls go through.

Nancy: And I didn't know it, and I didn't care, but you helped me.

Vonette: You were a cute little girl, but we were trying to get you ready for your teenage years, I think.

Nancy: And you did so well. I thank the Lord for a lot of practical and wise things that you have taught me over the years. You are a lover of the Lord and a lover of people, a lover of your family, and you have brought under your wing a lot of younger women through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ that you and Bill cofounded in 1951.

You've had such a mentoring, discipling, training ministry in many ways through just your example and also as you have been so gracious to invest your life in training and teaching other women how to walk with the Lord.

I want to talk first of all just about this matter of a walk with the Lord and what that means. In your own spiritual pilgrimage, what have been some of the highlights? Vonette, I think that Christian women today really are eager and hungry to know how they can have an intimate, fruitful walk with God.

You've walked with the Lord for many years, and I want us to just explore, as you look back on your Christian journey, some of the things that have been most important to you in obtaining and maintaining a walk with the Lord. I think a lot of people, though they have a relationship with Christ, it's something that they endure rather than enjoy.

I look at you as a woman who loves knowing Christ and walking with Him. For example, I know that the Word, the Scripture, has played such a crucial role in your spiritual journey. You quote from it often.

You came to me this morning and said, "What did you read in the Word this morning?" And you were quick to tell me how the Lord had met with you in His Word. Tell us about how you developed that habit of getting into the Word. Is it a daily habit for you, and why has it been such an important part of your life?

Vonette: Well, actually, it's impossible to really develop an intimate relationship with the Lord without spending time in the Word.  I think sometimes we think we can run in and out of God's presence in two or three minutes, or five minutes, or whatever.

Nancy: Like one of these fast-food restaurants. 

Vonette: Yes. That doesn't mean that those times are not important. It's a beginning. But to really get to know God, you need to spend time with Him—to read His Word, to meditate on what it has to say, to make some notes on what it means to you. 

I like to study with a commentary. And this has all been a growth process. I didn't start out immediately just being able to spend long periods of time in the Word. First of all, I married a very successful businessman, and I was often teaching school at the same time. We were very involved in our church, so time was really of the essence.

To find time to really study, I had to really work at it. I had a very dear friend who received Christ about the same time I did. She had two children. She was at home. She was a full-time mom, and her children were away in school a lot, and she had such a hunger for the Word. She was able to spend hours.

She would come by and pick me up in the afternoon after school. I didn't drive, so I either took the bus or Bill came to pick me up. She would have her Bible, and as she was taking me home, she would tell me what she had learned that day. She had a Scofield [study] Bible, and she was just devouring it!

I was learning so much from Louise that she was learning. She didn't have any idea that she was teaching me so much, but I was learning. And the fellowship that we had together was so good.

Nancy: And you were really developing a hunger. 

Vonette: Yes. And then we were asked to teach a ninth-grade Sunday school class. I suggested that we do this together. Well, it turned out that she had a class and I had a class. We were teaching the same thing, so we were studying, somewhat, together.

That really caused me even more to get into the Word of God—the responsibility of teaching someone else. Then, when we started Campus Crusade, I still had been a Christian just about two years, two-and-a-half years. I was so unprepared for what we were going to be doing!

The Navigators were actually doing the first follow-up of our ministry. They didn't have a campus ministry at that time. Because we didn't have anyone to follow-up with the women, there were young women [from Navigators] that were doing some of the discipleship at that time.

They were spending a lot of time to meet with me, teaching me to memorize the Word, and teaching me to use the "B Rations" and the Bible studies that they were doing, and that was wonderful! I remember telling Bill, as I was having time to study the third year that we were married, I remember having the time of my life being able to spend adequate time with God and in study.

I was learning so much, and I'd say, "Bill, look at this. Look at what I just learned!" I was so excited about what I was learning. I felt like it was the "place marked X" for me. Henrietta Mears used to talk about "that place marked X."

I knew that it was God's will and plan that I join my husband in ministry, and if I was going to be giving out, I most assuredly needed to be taking in. So it was a question and answer, just beginning to learn the Word.

I've done all sorts of different studies. I like to read through the Bible once a year, and a good way to do that is a one-year Bible that puts you into the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Psalms and Proverbs each day, and you can kind of gauge yourself in terms of how you're getting along.

If you miss a day or don't get quite all of it done, you can catch up at another time. It helps you to get through the Bible in a quick fashion, but you're gaining the Word of God and at the same time applying it to your life.

Nancy: I want to talk about the whole area of prayer. I know that that's been a real theme of your life and ministry. You've been very influential in the national prayer movement for revival and for this nation, but before you started heading up the National Day of Prayer Task Force and some of those more visible areas, you were learning to pray. 

Vonette: Well, prayer was a very vital part of my life. I was brought up in the church, but God was not a reality in my life until I consciously, as an adult, asked Jesus Christ to come into my life and take control of my life. 

Nancy: Which was shortly before you married Bill Bright. 

Vonette: Yes, and it was Bill's influence of course, and it was Henrietta Mears who actually led me to Christ. I was with a part of what Bill called "the deputation group," that went to jails and road camps, hospitals and to churches, sharing their faith—challenging people to make Christ a reality in their lives.

They met on Friday nights and prayed about what they were going to do. They had different teams and would come together for Bible study and prayer. There was some training going on at the same time, and then they'd get their assignments as to where they would go the next week. Then we'd come back the next Friday night.

Many of them were brand-new Christians, but many of them were mature Christians. They had a prayer meeting like I'd never been in before—ever. They prayed as if God was real and was listening to them! They prayed very specifically and in modern language about what they wanted. 

Nancy: No "Thee's" and "Thou's."

Vonette: No, they just poured out their hearts, and they pled with God, voicing their concerns. Then they thanked Him that they were going to see the answers. As a young Christian coming into this group, I spent most of the time trying to word what I was going to say so that I wouldn't sound like a . . .

Nancy: We've all done that . . . so that you would sound theologically correct. 

Vonette: Well, yeah, and that it would sound logical, and that I wouldn't be giving away the fact that I was such a new Christian. I had learned to pray in church with the "Thee's" and "Thou's," and it was very refreshing to me that I could pray in modern English.

I did much of my spiritual growing, in the early days, in that prayer meeting, because I learned to pray specifically, I learned to talk with God as my best friend, and I learned to see that He answered specific prayer.

As we were praying about it, they would come back the next week and everybody was reporting what they saw. We were seeing the way God was working in their lives.

God became a real person to me. I realized that He was so much more eager to reveal Himself to me than I was even to know Him. God reveals Himself largely through prayer: He proves Himself real. He proves Himself adequate. He proves how faithful He is. As we ask and we receive, our faith takes quantum leaps.

I can remember, one of the first verses of Scripture that was my first life verse was Matthew 6:33: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." As you see, it was the King James Version that I memorized it from at that time.

I remember specifically one morning. There was a wedding that evening, and I was supposed to be taking care of the guest book. I only had little bridesmaids dresses [to wear]. I was getting more mature, and I wanted something a little more sophisticated [to wear.]

I had several formals because I had been in a number of weddings. At that time we were wearing more formal dresses, but I didn't have anything that I thought was appropriate for that wedding.

I went to my closet to look, and it was as if the Lord said, "Why don't you spend some time with Me before you make this decision?" So, I found a comfortable spot. I got my Bible and I was reading, and reached somewhere in that reading Matthew 6. That verse popped out at me: "I want to seek God first. It's so much more important than what I'm going to wear," as the whole passage says.

So I went to the closet after I'd had my quiet time and I just said, "Lord, what is there in here that I can wear? What can I alter? What can I do?" I had a little green, kind of a marquisette dress that had puffed sleeves and a ruffle.

All of sudden I thought, I could cut that little neckline out. (It had what they call a jewel neckline, that was a yoke. It was not too low.) I could cut that yoke out, and cut away the puffed sleeves and have the ruffle over my shoulders, and it was kind of an off-shoulder dress, and it was perfect for the wedding.

I thought, God, that's just so wonderful, that You would do this for me! So I began to find the God of reality. It's not enough just to read the Word, but how are we applying it in our lives? What does it really mean? What did I read today that I can truly apply?

And that's the excited Christian, the person who has gained a nugget that they can apply and then pass on to another. So, I always try to pass on what I learned that day. That makes it more your own.

There are lots of pegs that I could point to—times when passages of Scripture became very real to me, times I could believe and act upon, times that had life-changing examples and calls for me. Does that make sense?

Nancy: Absolutely.

Now, as you became a mother and you and Bill's lives became even busier than they were in those early days—and even in later years now, your travel schedule and the demands of busy ministry life . . . But in those early days of your family, was it hard to keep that time with the Lord carved out?

Vonette: Well, yes, it was very difficult to keep consistent time. In fact, our lives have never been routine. I couldn't be sure of the hour the I was going to wake up. Of course, the children going to school was a little more of a routine for them. 

But I've had quiet times every hour of the day and night! There was a time when daytime was just so impossible that I had to say, "Lord, You wake me up when I've had enough sleep, and I'll know that I'm to get my Bible and go into the living room." 

We had a library and a big wing-backed chair that became my little sanctuary. So I'd take my Bible into the library, and I'd sit and read. Sometimes I was there, oh, as much as three hours. Then I'd go back to bed, and I didn't miss the sleep. It was amazing!

There were times I'd go in and maybe be there ten or fifteen minutes. I have learned that the purpose is to meet God. You might meet Him in fifteen minutes; you might get the very nugget that you might really need. You might know that you have met with Him, and He says, "Go to sleep," or "Do the task." You know that you are free, that He has released you, that you can do what He wants you to do, or whatever seems to be the need.

I always try to stay with the Word until I know that I have met with Him.

Nancy: Say a word of encouragement to the mom who's got three preschoolers, or she's homeschooling several children—she just feels tired all the time. God isn't seeming real to her, as you describe He is to you.

Vonette: Well, it sometimes is a struggle. You have to struggle for that time. But I learned to listen to tapes to minister to myself. Be a self-feeder; find ways in which you can feed yourself. I had a tape recorder in my bathroom, so that while I was (you can't really take a bath or run water and listen, but . . .)

In fact, we still keep a tape recorder in our bathroom so we can listen to tapes or music or whatever. And keep praise music on your radio. If you don't a wonderful Christian radio station, that's great, but if not, have it on your sound system, have with CDs with praise music. It just adds such a difference to the whole atmosphere of your home and to your heart.

When you're discouraged or unhappy or have things start tumbling in on you, put that praise music on. It's helpful. I find with messages that people are giving, or Bible studies that you can have . . . It's wonderful to have Scripture tapes to listen to. That's another way of spending your time.

I had another tape recorder in my kitchen so that while I'm doing dishes or doing domestic kinds of things I can listen to Scripture. I have had verses of Scripture on my windowsill above my sink that I was memorizing.

I've had prayer requests on a ring that I could go through, praying for specific things. You have to be a little bit creative to get that time alone, but just think of it in terms of developing an intimate relationship with God.

Don't be too hard on yourself if you don't get it or you miss a day or you miss some time. The Lord knows that. But try to make it a matter of discipline. At this point, if I don't have time in the Word, the day just doesn't go right.

I feel like I just haven't had a meal! It's just like if you would go without breakfast and then you suddenly realize, "Well, I haven't eaten today."

Nancy: And you know, it's not just the daily thing. One of the things as I look, Vonette, at a woman like you (and you're now in your seventies), I see the benefit. As a younger woman this is incredibly challenging to me. I see the fruit in your life of years of that kind of habit.

So it's not that just each individual day has been improved, but now I'm seeing a sweetness and a freedom as you're walking through some difficult life circumstances in this season of life. It's those years of the foundation that has been laid, you're reaping that fruit.

Vonette: It's true. You find out more of the reality of God in your life wen you face any kind of a crisis. You recognize that God's Word is there. I've had to search the Word sometimes for some answers. And as I've consistently read, I've prayed, "Lord, I know that You're going to be adequate for this time in my life." And rejoicing and praising Him even though I don't have some of the answers. I know He's going to give me what I need when I need it.

God is sufficient for our every need. It's only by His grace that I'll get through this, or that I can face the issue. I've learned not to look very far ahead; just to live for today. Sometimes we can be defeated and discouraged because we're wanting to know what's going to happen tomorrow or three months from now.

I've been one that has projected myself far ahead. In fact, when Bill and I were first married, I would say, "Now, honey, are we going to do such-and-such in July?"

And Bill would say, "Honey, I don't know what we can do in July."

Me: "Well, wait a minute, we should begin to plan right now what we're going to do in July." It's what my parents did; they planned several months ahead in terms of vacations or what was going to happen with the children or some kind of a project.

Nancy: It sounds like Bill was a little more spontaneous?

Vonette: He would say, "Let's see how the Lord leads. How do we know what will be happening at that point?" Many times I'd see my parents plan, and then it wouldn't work out, and they were very disappointed.

Bill would say, "Let's see how God leads." Well, that was part of my learning process to trust the Lord. I realized that nobody knows the future. We don't know what tomorrow holds, but we know Who holds that tomorrow, and we can trust Him in every aspect.

I guess, if you would mark one difference in my life now from earlier years, I have learned that God is trustworthy. I can trust Him to come through for me. I can trust Him to give me what I need when I need it—that I don't need to be worried about what's going to be taking place or anxious.

There's that wonderful passage in Philippians 4:6, "Be anxious for nothing . . ." Yeah, don't worry about anything, but in everything give thanks!

Nancy: Are you a natural worrier, or would you have been?

Vonette: Oh yes, I am, I'm anxious. I can be very anxious about situations.

Nancy: You have to do that since your husband doesn't do it. Somebody has to worry for him, right?

Vonette: Well, you're a couple. God makes you balance the other. I think women are the nesters, and we do think farther ahead. 

Nancy: And we care about the details. 

Vonette: We think of the implications of different kinds of things. We're sensitive to the needs of the people around us, and I think that's why God made us a little bit more intuitive and made us such a complement to men.

Men are "get-'er-done-ers." They are looking at the bottom line. 

Nancy: Conquerers. 

Vonette: They are thinking what it's going to take to advancen . . . that is if we, as women, don't rob them of some of those kinds of things.

I believe that's what it is to be a helpmate and a companion and a partner with the person that God's given to you to spend your life.

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Nancy: Over ten years ago, I had the opportunity to record that interview with Vonette Bright. She went home to be with the Lord on December 23, 2015. This week we're remembering her influence and her legacy. If you've missed any of the program, you can hear it at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Vonette knew what it meant to go through personal tragedy and to watch as people that she loved suffered. Tomorrow we'll hear more of this conversation and see how the Lord walked with her through these tough situations. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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