A Ragamuffin in God’s Hall of Fame?

Being slammed with the flu this week availed to me the pleasure of doing nothing, lounging guiltlessly.  Floors need mopping?  Who cares.  Carpets to vacuum?  So what.  Hubby hungry?  Order delivery.  Achy and feverish, I did not have concentration to read but was well able to watch.  I turned to The ‘Pure Flix’ cable subscription – its educational programming includes biographies of godly men and women.

Amy Carmichael,  Corrie Ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Florence Nightingale are worthy to esteem and study.  They lived sacrificial lives, walking with a burden from God.  They were divinely appointed to their call and were relentless in fulfilling God’s purpose in spite of severe opposition and tremendous suffering.  Their focused hearts precluded worldly and temporal distractions.  They did not marry nor did they value any possession.  They were people broken by God, vessels through whom He poured out His love.  

The biography of Rich Mullins is quite different.  He was a gifted songwriter, singer and musician however it is doubtful that many would include him in the same ‘hall of fame’.  His songs touched lives deeply, often moving them towards the Lord.  Mullins’ connected with people’s despair and struggles.  When my brother was terminally ill, he found much comfort and encouragement in Rich Mullins songs.

Mullins, however, was not the pinnacle of holiness.  His biography, Ragamuffin, produced by his brother David,  portrays a deeply troubled inner life, stemming from an emotionally abusive father.  Mullins had a relentless quest to know God and apprehend His love, his music was an expression of that search for and worship of God.

When discovered and launched into the world of ‘Christian entertainment’ his success led to a growing discontentment.  Christian ‘entertainment’, ‘prosperity’ and ‘celebrity status’ were hollow goals that Mullins rejected as antithetical to the Savior he sought.  Inner turmoil and battles with depression and alcoholism were constants in Mullins’ life, a well loved but alienated man.

The shallowness of American Christianity weighed heavy upon Rich.   Although financially successful, he arranged a very modest income of approximately $20,000 for himself,  allotting the rest to specific charities such as Compassion International.  He finally drew away from ‘Christian entertainment’ and moved to the Navajo Indian Reservation to teach music to their youth.

So why might this emotionally tormented, depressed – sometimes disheveled and irreverent – Christian musician be included in a Believers Hall of Fame?  Becausein spite of being an “emotionally tormented, depressed” and “alienated” Christian, he never gave up his quest to know the love of God.  He battled alcoholism and loneliness but never squelched his gift to exalt the Lord.  Mullins continued to praise and worship until his death in 1997.

Rich Mullins had a word for the suicidal, the downcast, and alienated who desperately needed the Lord.  Perhaps it takes great inner resolve, even courage, to exalt and praise the Lord when your heart is crushed and your mind oppressed.  A broken man, Rich Mullins gave his life to the Lord and continues to minister to us through music and song.

“If I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, whom I claim to be my Savior and Lord, the best way I can do that is to identify with the poor.  Christianity is about learning to love as Jesus loved.  Jesus loved the poor.  And Jesus loved the broken.”    (Rich Mullins)

 

 

“God takes the junk of our lives and makes the greatest art out of it.”  (Rich Mullins)

I Prayed For My Neighbors….Part II

Over 300 flyers and bilingual street signs went out into the neighborhood for yesterday’s Dec. 4th meeting.  C.U. was on the agenda to once again press the City Board to approve their plans to take part of our street, build a ‘plaza’ – ultimately expanding their campus.  As the ‘largest private land owner in NYC’, we knew of Columbia’s neighborhood take overs – I encouraged one neighbor, “With God, all things are possible”.  But what would God do?

Over the weekend I studied the book of Nehemiah.  I often study the Bible with the commentaries by Zac Poonen, a gifted teacher.  I highlighted some notes to meditate upon…

  • “Fear is the opposite of faith, and when we act in fear we are acting in unbelief.”  Nehemiah may have feared before the King (“I was very much afraid”) but he never compromised, he pressed on.
  • “If we really believe that God Almighty is supporting us in what we do, it is ridiculous and foolish to fear anyone.”
  • “Nehemiah was a great organizer and a man who could motivate people.  The people worked with him happily because he worked alongside them.”
  • “Nehemiah was a fearless man who was not seeking for a reputation as a kind, gentle person…If you are concerned about your reputation, you might as well forget about building the church.”

I do consider humility and meekness foundational in Christian character.  But I also see the boldness of God’s leaders who confront opposition with zeal when set forth by God.  Although the presenting battle in my neighborhood is not spiritual per se, I believe that the Lord is doing something with me and my husband, perhaps preparing us for spiritual battles in these last days. For example, after speaking at a podium in a large gathering, I really sensed new confidence within.  I  find myself more comfortable engaging with people in public places such as bus stops and stores, extending simple kindness with hopes of sharing God’s love.

When the meeting started, almost no one was there.  Thankfully though, by the 3rd agenda item Bob and I turned and saw the room full – once again, standing room only.  Many new people came, obviously from work.  There were seniors, young adults, many Hispanics and even students!  “We’re from the Columbia School of Social Work…We are with you! We stand in solidarity with your neighborhood against the expansionism or our university!”  Really!

Months ago, C.U. initially deceived the City Board, presenting a building plan with an elaborate but devious survey to quickly convince the Board:  “93% of all people polled are in favor of our plan!”  They neglected to report that only C.U. students were polled, the residents were totally unaware.  Now, aware and informed, our stand came forth with clarity and strength…and with fire!

The room heated up as one by one all the neighbors cried out against C.U.’s plan, and they had done their homework!  The C.U. reps began to shrink.  When they presented, all points seemed to fall to the ground, their strategies exposed and deflated.

After nearly two hours, it was time to vote….or once again table the issue!!

The Board was divided but the majority confirmed, a vote must take place.  The whole room was silent, we stood up, waiting for their votes………….with 2 abstentions,  THE CITY BOARD VOTED AGAINST COLUMBIA’S PLAN!!  WE KEEP OUR STREET!!

(Of course, the giant may resurface and come back next year…)

Somehow I was the point person in this endeavor, my husband to a lesser extent as Bob works long hours.  Several people acknowledged us and expressed gratitude for our continuous outreaches and signs to notify them.  Maybe the Lord is giving us favor.  After our victory we met more neighbors from our street, some whom had lived there for 30 years, contact info was exchanged and we conversed.

While I had wondered about God’s plan in this, Bob frequently quoted Proverbs 31:8 to me, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves…”  A true calling, but I also believe that with God, there’s often more than just the ‘issue at hand’.  We prayed for our neighbors’ salvation and entered a different arena…but I believe God is not finished!

Together we saved our street, but neither a ‘Bible study’ nor ‘prayer meeting emerged.  After 30 years the Lord introduced us to many folks and perhaps with future purpose.  ‘Coincidental’ meetings, times of sharing or, who knows, when calamity strikes one day, could we be ‘point persons’ for prayer?

Only God knows!

Thank you friends and brethren for your prayers!!

 

P.S.    C.U. should change either their school motto or their deceitful exploits…It is never good to hide hypocrisy behind God’s word.  (They had their flag with this seal standing at the meeting!)

CU seal

  C.U.’s school motto”In Lumine tuo Videbimus Lumen” translates: “In they light we shall see light”, Psalm 36:9, the banner around the woman holds the words, “Auri Al”, God is my Light”, from Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation”

 

I Prayed For My Neighbors, Look What Happened

Many of my neighbors have moved in and moved out over these past 30 years and, while I’ve prayed for them, most relationships remained superficial.  I really understand – at the end of the day, everyone wants privacy and rest after bustling through the city.  But at the same time, I believe that “the times and places for man to live are ordained by God” and don’t want to neglect any opportunity to show God’s love.

Showing some kindness isn’t hard – helping carry bundles (we have no elevator), being a listening ear when someone needs to unburden, or even an occasional hospital visit.  But I kept praying, was there more?

THEN I happened to see a flyer posted, announcing a plan by Columbia University to build a ‘public plaza’ on our small residential street, eliminating two blocks and much needed residential parking.  They already demolished housing for a conference center – the flyer urged residents to get involved.

(After the city itself, Columbia University is the largest land owner in the City of New York.  They have displaced more residents and dismantled more neighborhoods than anyone else.)

I really felt a stirring but feelings can deceive….does the Lord really care about our street per se? Are these concerns worldly?  Temporal? Of no consequence in view of eternity?

But the stirring continued.  I attended this open meeting where C.U. presented their illustrious “plaza plan”.  But something was wrong, I sensed something devious and underhanded in their overture, “This is a plaza for you to enjoy!”

Their plan must be approved by the Community Board and that meeting would be held on November 5th.  My husband and I felt compelled to notify our neighbors over a two block radius.  We distributed flyers to many, especially to weary drivers, urging them to attend this meeting and stand up for their neighborhood.   I continued to pray, hoping that my zeal is from God and not my own unction.

On November 5th, during my morning prayer and devotion,  Deuteronomy 20:1-8 was the scripture topic twice!  One inspirational blog I read,  A Mountain of Faith, posted “Is Your Tank Full?”  (https://amountainoffaith.com/2017/11/05/is-your-faith-tank-full/)  I truly felt covered by God for this meeting, that no ‘chariots’ ‘horses’ or ‘armies’…even big businesses…can come against the purposes of God.

For the LORD your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!’  Deuteronomy 20:4

There were many empty places as the meeting was about to begin.  However, shortly thereafter my husband and I turned around and saw behind us dozens of people who came from work and from their homes.  Standing room only!

C.U. presented a slide show of their ‘plaza plans’.  Their P.R. reps tried to present how this will ‘benefit’ the neighborhood,  a fancy but hollow attempt to patronize while ruining and taking our street.

My inward ‘stirring’ turned into a ‘churning’.  I stood and challenged C.U. with unexpected fervor…which passed the torch to others.  They thought their plan was a slam dunk in this Spanish speaking, working class neighborhood.  And why not?  They have never lost an endeavor, especially when displacing families, the elderly and small businesses…those with no clout.   They did not get approved on this night though, the board ended up divided and could not vote.

Digging into rumors uncovered the truth.  C.U. really needs this plaza in order to change the zoning law on our small residential street and proceed with building plans.  The plaza is their platform to build upon and expand their campus, architectural plans are are already established, waiting in the wings! 

I privately prayed more though for God’s guidance, “Lord, should I take this farther?  Should I see an Assemblyman or Councilman?”  Shortly afterwards my husband came and suggested, “Maybe you try and see our Congressman or Councilman…”

So I met with the City Councilman’s intermediary, who happens to be a pastor. He aligned with the neighborhood concern and added, “God bless you!”  He strongly urged me to contact the Chief of Staff…whose name is Jose Espiritusanto!  (which from Spanish translates Holy Spirit!)

This week my husband and I had opportunity to address a larger general meeting and present the truths behind the ‘plan’.  The next Community Board meeting is Dec 4th.

So far I testify:

  • God is “training my hands to battle” (Psalm 144:1) strengthening us toward a spiritual calling.  I never addressed a public gathering before, but the Lord is breaking new ground within me, teaching me that through Him I am able to do this.
  • After praying for my neighbors, we’re getting to know them, perhaps they’ll see we care.  Already some have shared personal struggles and know, “We’re praying for you!”  Might we remember each other when this battle is over, when hardships or calamities strike?
  • I believe that the Lord is revealing Himself, teaching us greater dependence upon Him and His unmatched sovereignty….strengths we will need for future spiritual battles.  

“No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.”  II Timothy 2:4

This is scripture to live by.  But somehow God has put us in the middle of a neighborhood issue and has stirred us within. Sometimes our prayers for people don’t supernaturally create home Bible studies and prayer meetings.  Sometimes God positions His Body alongside the lost and hopefully upon that road, fulfills divine appointments.

Would you pray for us?

 

 

 

When No One Else is Watching…

Everyone knows that God chose a shepherd boy to slay a giant, but why a shepherd?

God chose David and displayed His glory through David’s life, making unconditional covenant promises,  “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”  (II Samuel 7:16)  But why David?

David did not ‘score points’ with God by slaying Goliath or championing God’s honor in the face of scorners.  God was watching what David was doing when no one else was watching.  

Most of us know that David was the youngest son of seven and given the lowly job of tending sheep out in the fields.  We’re familiar with his bravery, fighting lions and bears who attack the lambs.  Who doesn’t want that courage and strength?  I really believe though, that God’s eye was on much more…

David was outstanding in a job that nobody wanted.  A shepherd extraordinaire who:

  • never bragged or broadcasted his exploits.  No one in his family seemed to highly regard David – he was initially excluded when his brothers were presented to Samuel.  In fact, his father Jesse could say nothing about David except, “he is tending the sheep”.  David’s fierce courage only became known when he sought to convince King Saul that he could slay Goliath.
  • risked his life with no apparent motive for reward or acknowledgement or even possibility of promotion!  No sheep would celebrate when rescued, neither would David receive an award, trophy, or bonus.
  • worshiped God in the dark and lonely places, praising and exalting without audience or witness except God alone.   Although gifted, David did not perform, he worshiped.

I believe there are such ‘young Davids’ in the Body of Christ who may risk their lives as a servant extraordinaire for their Father.  They may also risk reputation, position, and livelihood and find themselves in lowly places but it doesn’t matter.  They have a task at hand and will excel even when no promotion is possible, no one acknowledges or esteems them and in fact, no one is even watching.   And out in that field they will worship, without choir, without musicians and without special effects.  

Perhaps we won’t meet these brethren until we get to heaven and even then they may be far closer to God’s throne!  There we may find caretakers to the infirm, single parents, elderly believers, disabled brethren…and some whose only ministry was to pray – and giants fell because of them!

Most everyone imagines being a hero, catching the applause, and receiving an award.  Only the Lord though, can change hearts to be like this David’s – fixed to excel at whatever task the Father entrusts,  a heart that worships the Lord with exuberance, just because He’s with us and worthy to be praised.  

God bestows gifts and talents to us all, perhaps they come forth and bear fruit through faithfulness in those lonely fields.  But this communion with God prepares us…when the giant looms overhead, when the enemy encroaches, when crisis arises we’ll know as David did: ‘victory is mine’!

“Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!”

 “Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied. “There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.”

 But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep….”  

What a resume!  What God is fashioning and refining in us may be unseen to the whole world but He gives life to the given gifts within us…and He will be exalted through them, even if no one else is watching.  

Well, IS a Minute a Long Time?

 

stopwatch IIMiss Chafe, my 4th grade teacher, always gave an easy ‘bonus question’ at the end of every test, something impossible to get wrong.  To this day I remember this one, “Is a minute a long time?”  Who wouldn’t say ‘no’?…but the class was divided!

Well, is a minute a long time?

Unfortunately, our culture so highly values immediacy that any downtime or ‘waiting’ is seen as wasteful loss…inefficient and unacceptable.  Mental pop-ups condition us to cyber-check and multitask.  We wouldn’t dream of waiting a minute to hear from Google or any of the ‘answer gizmos’ of our day.   Fastest car, quickest download… instant camera and telegram = instagram.  

But God’s best – His strength, His revelation, His indwelling – only come to those who wait!

I remembered Miss Chafe’s question while praying.  Do I get up upon my last request and start my day?  Can I linger on, for one minute, and wait for the Lord to speak to me?  Can I pause, even a minute, during prayer time to allow the Holy Spirit to align my prayers with God’s will?

Can I meditate upon a verse for 60 seconds, allowing the Holy Spirit to bring it to life in my heart?

God awaits us and often draws us in through fiery trials, unmet needs, and challenging griefs.  But ‘suffering’ is not the designated time to wait upon God.  The Bible calls that designated time ‘Today’. 

Take the ‘minute challenge’ but with reverent trepidation…who brings a stop watch when meeting with a King?  Sixty seconds exposes what’s in our hearts, the importance of our agendas and priorities.

Could taking a minute before praying make all the difference?

“Once you are sure that you are talking to the One who loves you intensely and the One who has all power to do anything in this universe, i.e. once we see the greatness of God, the greatness of His power, and the greatness of His love, then we are ready to pray.”   Zac Poonen

Oh Lord, let one minute turn into two, into three…let us lose track of time in Your presence.   Lord, let us linger not for just ‘an answer’…but to to know You and fellowship with you.  What burdens Your heart?  “Speak Lord, Your servant is listening…”

cropped-oil_lamp2.jpg

“You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning…”

 

He is Sovereign Over All Our Enemies

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Eph. 6:12                   

The problems you are having with your husband, your in-laws, your co-workers, and your kids, are not with them. No, they are flesh and blood. The battle is really with powers and principalities, Satan and his demons. You must fight spiritual enemies with spiritual warfare.  (Excerpt from 4 Rules For Fighting Your Enemy, http://www.amountainoffaith.com )

We don’t often think of “powers and principalities” or “Satan and his demons” as the cause of so much distress, calamity and grief.  The article quoted above holds important truths worth meditating upon.

Our faith in God will deepen exponentially as our trust finds deep roots in His sovereignty over everything – including our enemies.  The word of God demonstrates this most profoundly when God Himself lets down a protective hedge, allows the enemy to encroach, and shakes our heart to rise up in faith.  In this way He reveals Himself to us, His faithfulness and power – a great reward indeed.  

The Lord showed this again to me during a long distance drive last weekend…..

Although my husband had repented from a period of backsliding in our marriage, he is plagued by attacks of darkness,  partly due to entanglements with those who practice witchcraft.  I see and experience evidence of this witchcraft.  One minor occurrence he reports happens in his agency truck – hazard lights will go on, A/C will turn on or off on its own, warning lights will flash for no reason.  

It was inconsequential to me until in our own car with our two cats and lots of stuff on that long distance drive….

The A/C went on high and cold.  When I complained to my husband, he insisted, “I didn’t touch it! Maybe this is like my vehicle, things going on and off on their own…”  

“Well”, I drove on, “I don’t care if the A/C, the hazards or anything else flashes on as long as nothing touches the engine or brakes!”

Shortly thereafter, while in a middle lane of a major highway and with 30 miles left to our journey, the car started shaking and jerking.  Bob immediately laid a hand on the dashboard and we both prayed.  The shaking and jerking stopped, occurred again and we continued praying for the Lord to bring us home safely.  

Which He did.

Mechanical? Supernatural?  Intentional or not, our trust must be in the One who claims total ownership of our lives.  We are His “treasured possession”, we “are bought with a price.”    (Deut 7:6, 14:2;  I Corinthians 6:20, 7:23)

Remember that our Lord has paid all the price for us; there is no mortgage or lien upon us; we have therefore no right to give a portion of ourselves to Satan. And he has bought us entirely from head to foot, every power, every passion, and every faculty, all our time, all our goods, all that we call our own, all that makes up ourselves in the largest sense of that term; we are altogether God’s.   Charles Spurgeon, “Bought with a Price” excerpt

Yes, our life is not our own, we are to surrender and offer ourselves as a living sacrifice unto God.  But our Owner takes full responsibility for us, providing, defending, and seeing us through every situation.   

In these end times, may the Lord teach us how to spiritually battle, lead us to dig deep into His word and stand firm behind His living promises to us…..waiting upon Him for the appointed time of victory.

 

Can Animals Preach the Gospel?

Can they proclaim the Good News and the glory of God?

Lovers of scripture can indeed find numerous examples of God expressing His great power and divine purposes through His creation.  At God’s command insects, animals, and forces of nature plagued and destroyed the world power of Egypt.  Balaam’s donkey spoke, animals obeyed the call to the ark, and at Christ’s call schools of fish arrived to the disciples’ boat.

“For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine.  If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for all the world is mine and everything in it.  (Psalm 50:10-12)

Creation declares God’s glory and He reveals it to us through the most minute details as well as the vast and endless universe.  He reveals so that we may acknowledge His awesome power.    God knows us…His will is that we come to know Him.

God’s creation reveals His glory but also His great love and divine providence.  God uses His creation to intervene into the lives of people often as divine appointments, impossible to plan or replicate.  Reigning over creation, His will often supersedes natural order, such as a ravenous bird delivering food…

 Drink from the brook and eat what the ravens bring you, for I have commanded them to bring you food.”  (I Kings 17:4)

Or perhaps a tiny kitten going forth in the rain.  This five minute video expresses such ‘divine appointment’….

vet saved by kitten

Desperate  soldier saved by kitten

View video here

There are countless true heroic stories of dogs and other animals rescuing, guiding, and ministering to people.  Martha Thompson is one blogger and author with such a story to tell in her book,  Giving Paws, where an unlikely service dog enables her to face the many life challenges of a hidden disability.     

giving paws book

The story is as beautiful as the cover photo

There is no way to schedule such divine appointments nor could we ever arrange to have our deepest needs and hidden grief so touched through them.   These stories and perhaps even our own move us to laugh, cry and marvel.

Looking deeper,  marvel at this – God intervenes in our lives through His creation, gifting us with His mercy and revealing His greatness. As a cherished gift conveys the love of the giver, so even animals given to us can express – even silently preach – the good news of God’s love reaching into our lives.  The Lord ministers, heals, and intervenes into our lives for the divine purpose of drawing us to Himself.

When creation intervenes it is an living invite from our Creator.

Jesus Christ, our Savior, is the One holding dominion over all creatures and creation…

For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.  Colossians 1:16

Our furry friends, designed and often gifted by God, can teach, guide, love, rescue, and befriend…and perhaps they can preach as well!

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you.  Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?  In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”  (Job 12:7-10)

Lord, reveal Yourself to us today through the gifts of Your hand.  Let thanksgiving lead us on a journey to acknowledge You and seek You in all circumstances.  Draw our hearts to look beyond every gift and “fix our eyes on Jesus”, “the Author and Finisher of our faith”.   Amen.