Political Peppers, Onions and Cukes!

Various errands took me 10 blocks up Broadway, rather than my usual 10 blocks down Broadway, and I stopped for vegetables at a stand familiar to me. But the usual Hispanic young man was not there. A handsome young Middle Eastern youth stood there, quite friendly looking.

“Hello!” I greeted him, “how are you?”

“God is good” he replied with a smile. His ethnic looks, accent, and Marlboros led me to believe his god is Allah. Ok.

I picked up some bananas, “4 for $1”, some big red peppers and cukes. Then onions. He knew the price of everything but his English was very limited.

“Do you have carrots?”

With a bewildered look he replied, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand much English”. Ok.

He collected my peppers, onions, bananas, and cucumbers and gave me the total, “$8.75. One more banana?” He asked, to make it an even $9.00.

Sure! Then I had to ask,

“Where are you from?”

“I am from Turkey!”, he said with a smile.

After a slight heart cringe I asked, “What do you think of your president Erdogan?”

“He is good I think”.

“Well, you should tell him to treat Armenians better.”

The same bewildered look came upon him, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand…”

“That’s ok”, and I knew in the Lord that it was. I handed over the $9.00.

I took my bags and raised up my hand, saying the few Turkish words I know.

The young man’s face beamed with a smile, and he gave a high two thumbs up!

I called him friend.

Making The Last Lap The Best

Healthcare-Elective-Care-Hero

Although I haven’t met them, I feel a close kinship with several WP writers. I often imagine joyfully meeting them in heaven, “Hey! It’s you!”. David Ettinger is one such writer. I’ve read his articles in Zion’s Fire for many years and enjoy his blog, http://ettingerwriting.wordpress. I commented today on his blog about aging and he encouraged me to turn the comment into a post!

At 64, like David, I’m included in the huge population of aging baby-boomers. Sometimes I have to remind myself, “Move on, you’re too old for those jeans!” or, “That’s for younger folks, act your age!” Mostly I need no reminding. I catch my reflection off guard or wonder, what’s the word I’m looking for…

But as believers we stand apart from the vast number of ‘baby-boomers’ and need not clamor over every new study on failing health, mental decline, or worry over aging alone in the world. Yes, take care of our vessel with healthy foods, good exercise and intellectual challenges. But our greatest hope and trust is not in a ‘good lifestyle’ but in a good and faithful God.

Years ago, the Lord taught me the precision of the sword, the word of God, that “…penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit…” My husband Bob grew up in the projects of Brooklyn, his neighbor, Donia Marie, was a strong believer. Her husband abandoned her and their children but her faith did not waiver – she shared the Gospel with the families around her and often invited them to church. When the youths, such as Bob, joined gangs, Donia Marie continued to pray and show them God’s love.

Her diligent prayers yielded much fruit. Several youths, such as Bob, became a true believers years later, always remembering their neighbor’s faithful witness. In 2006 her family called from out of state, sharing that Donia Marie suffered from Alzheimer’s. We went out to visit. This dear sister could not remember Bob, nor did she recognize her own daughter, but she recited scriptures, remembered the precious Gospel, and sang songs of praise while we were there. Her mind may have failed but her spirit and the life of God within her, was alive. Although she died in 2007, her testimony and love are still spoken of today. This encouraged me in many ways, realizing that mental health does not preclude spiritual health, and the purposes of God are not thwarted by our diminished capacities.

The Lord equips us for every season of our life, whether we are weakening from illness, aging or injury. Unlike the world’s challenges, ‘Fight your weakness! Reverse aging! Five Steps to Live Longer!’ our Lord declares, ‘When you are weak, then you are strong!’

Zac Poonen makes this point often in his Bible teaching, succinctly expounding, from Genesis to Revelation, how God waits for our own strength and flesh to reach ZERO for Him to move in with His strength, His purposes, and His divine power.

“All the trying circumstances, frustrations and disappointments, heartaches, etc that we go through are meant by God to bring the strength of our self down to zero”. (https://www.cfcindia.com/wftw/the-new-wine-in-new-wineskins) I highly recommend his books such as New Wine.

Brother Zac cites this truth with the spiritual giants of scripture who, at their weakest point, their ‘final years’, their point of greatest lacking – God said, ‘Now you’re ready to serve!’ When our ‘self-strength’ is gone, the Holy Spirit can move through our brokenness for God’s glory.

Paul Washer also edifies my faith, teaching ‘God is Creating Weakness in Our Life’. Pointing to our precious forerunner, Jesus, Pastor Paul cites Isaiah’s prophetic word, “Here is My Servant, whom I uphold, My chosen One in whom I delight…” God upheld Jesus, Paul Washer expounds, upon how much more must He uphold us!

“Jesus didn’t spend lengths of time in prayer because He was so spiritual or to show devotion; He was praying because He needed prayer, He needed to draw upon the Father’s strength…”

“Our problem is never that we’re too weak! God is constantly working weakness in us. We don’t even know how weak we are!”

Only believers can claim the certainty of ‘strength’ and ‘purpose’ as our natural lives decline and weaken. If we’re still here, still in the race, God’s purposes for us in this world remain: preparing us for His Kingdom, conforming us to the image of Christ, reaching out with the Gospel and declaring the coming of the King.

I pray to grasp ahold of these truths, to walk closer with the Lord – our forerunner in this race – and make the last lap the best lap before I meet Him face to face!

When the Devil Speaks…

do we listen? Of course not – or do we?

Believe it or not, I’ve always loved the NYC subway system, grateful to ride on the world’s largest system, traveling great distance for a small fare. However, flagrant lawlessness and random violence compels me now to only ride city buses. Of course, any trip is twice as long but it’s safer, right?

Half way home on a recent bus ride a woman boarded and immediately broke the peace of all therein. Although she was well dressed, there was a rage in her countenance and with it she verbally dominated the bus. An African American, she spewed out racial and personal slurs with bellowing volume, never pausing. She paced through the bus and targeted nearly everyone. I pretended to read as I gauged the scene – everyone was cowering, grown men were gripped to their seats. If this woman physically lashed out to any vulnerable person, would anyone assist? Could I bum rush her?

Her cutting and humiliating taunts were personal as she pointed to total strangers jeering and ridiculing their unseen weakness and vulnerability. When she got to me, she announced, “I SEE YOU!!” and spewed out a very personal thing that would embarrass and humiliate me.

No doubt she was demonic and a bum rush would be utterly futile against such spiritual power! Her devilish assignment completed, she finally exited – the whole bus exhaled in relief.

While I let those biting words deflate my heart, assuredly that is not the devil’s worst maneuver or assault. While the “whole world is a prisoner of sin”, Satan’s sole target are those freed from this prison through the blood of Christ. His powers are deployed personally, secretly and cunningly, fashioned and honed with capacities beyond our human purview.

One appalling evidence of apostasy found in entire churches, pulpits, ministries and thereby hearts of believers themselves is the blindness and disregard of the powers of darkness. Derailed from godly commission, retired from the fight, most churches no longer contend for the honor of God nor for the true salvation of man, they are so entrenched in worldliness, the devil need not attack them at all!

To dismiss and diminish the ‘powers that rule this world’ brings success to the devil’s wiles. They are world powers and they are personal powers. As the people of God, as the Body of Christ, we often fail to acknowledge the kingdom in which we now live. We are the outsiders and, to walk close to our Lord, we must maintain that separation.

To a great extent, most believers are comfortable in this Kingdom and work to maintain that comfort and fit. While they become ‘spiritual’ during crisis or illness, most ‘Christians’ are content with worldly wisdom, motivational sermons, and overused spiritual clichés, powerless mantras. The ‘powers of darkness’ are nearly obsolete to many professed believers.

We can’t expect Satan to announce himself on a bus – if only he would be so obvious and exposed! We must walk in the Spirit to discern the diverse ways he speaks into our lives to bring chaos, discord, discouragement, and depression – to rob us of our peace. If possible, he will frame every circumstance that comes upon us with an understanding that is separate and apart from God and His unchanging word. (I wholeheartedly recommend Martyn Lloyd Jones’, The Christian Warfare where expounds upon these life giving truths of God)

Contending in Satan’s kingdom, to make this world a ‘better place’, is an alluring substitute for God’s unchanging purpose and fight: to deploy us into the spiritual battle to free men from the clutches of this world, reconciling them unto God for His coming Kingdom.

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Patient and stealth, Satan intervenes in a plethora of schemes and allurements to derail us from God’s plan for our lives. Once off track, we are left with artificial fruit. Whatever short time remains for us, I pray to be diligent and discerning. May we recognize the craftiness and deceit of the enemy who speaks through many venues. May we stay in the battle and fulfill every call and purpose of God for His glory!

Who Wants to Read About Humility?

I had Andrew Murray’s book, ‘Humility’, on my shelf for sometime. I probably looked through it once but never prayerfully, seeking what the Lord may have for me through this godly brother. There are less than 100 pages to this book but beware, every sentence holds godly truth. Murray begins his weighty discourse describing humility as most essential yet most neglected to our salvation:

…(our) whole relation to God and man marked by an all-pervading humility. Without this, there can be no true abiding in God’s presence or experience of His favor and the power of His Spirit…Humility is not so much a grace or virtue along with others: it is the root of all…”

He asserts that he himself, along with many Christians, “had long known the Lord without realizing that meekness and lowliness of heart are to be the distinguishing feature of the disciple, as they were of the Master.”

Such “distinguishing feature” is hardly evident in the church today…is it at all evident in me?

While written in 1896, Murray aptly describes the Body of Christ today, striving for and rejoicing in “manly virtues, such as boldness, joy, contempt of the world, zeal, self-sacrifice” while the “deeper graces” taught by Jesus, “most distinctly connected with His cross and the death of self – poverty of spirit, meekness, humility, lowliness – are scarecly thought of or valued”.

God may give boldness to the weak and timid while they live out His call but boldness alone is not esteemed by God. He does not “exalt” the bold but the humble. In fact, God declared, “This is the one esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:2)

If it is at all possible to make humility exciting, Andrew Murray does it. Humility – the way of victory, of entering God’s presence, the way God exalts us – the way of the cross!

Like all aspects of the Christian life, humility is not merely something to agree with but is essential in our walk and surrender to our Savior. “The highest lesson a believer has to learn is humility” and I think I’m just in Humility 101.

“Take every opportunity of humbling yourself before God and man…Accept with gratitude everything that God allows from within or without, from friend or enemy, in nature or in grace to remind you of your need of humbling and to help you to it.”

Yesterday, the morning after I finished this book, my husband Bob did something thoughtless, (ok, unintentional) that irks me very much, as though it could totally discombobulate my day. The fact that he’s done it several times before raises the temp. Murray’s exhortations of humility, verbatim, rose up in my heart but I resisted them, lecturing and blaming Bob, following his steps out as he left for work. I left for the laundry room.

As I stuffed the clothes in the machines, my heart was gripped and convicted. I repented before the Lord and called Bob right away and apologized, truly from my heart. He was very sorry too – just a mutual binding together of sorry hearts that ended up uplifting the morning!

“Accept every humiliation; look upon fellow man who tries or vexes you as a means of grace to humble you.”

Just today, as I was writing this, a situation arose through a phone call with someone who “tries and vexes me”. I actually prayed, “Lord, convict her heart in this situation.” But within an hour, the Lord showed me, clearly, that I was wrong in the scenario. I had to point that out to her and apologize. And, I had to thank God for these opportunities, exposing my uprisen flesh and the lack of this godly virtue.

Murray points to Paul who earnestly asked the Lord to remove the ‘thorn’ that humbled him. Like the Apostle Paul, virtually all Christians want to pursue humility but in truth want to avoid all that humbles. But, Murray concludes, “Our humiliations lead us, in the experience of the presence and power of Jesus, to choose humility as our highest blessing.”

My husband and I are earnestly praying to know God’s call and to serve Him in these, our senior years. In response to that prayer, the Lord is revealing what is really lacking – and what is truly needed. Of course, writing all this is somewhat humiliating – don’t expect follow-up posts!

“God exalts the humble”. In the meantime, I hope to stay teachable, even if it is Humility 101. I know that the Teacher has a great interest in my passing and, as I keep returning to class, He will never fail me.

Who wants to read about humility? Who wants, really wants, to be humble? I hope it’s me!

Humility

Our Enduring City

As a pandemic peters out, our nation implodes with rampant rioting, looting, and destruction.  Spilled blood, ashes and rubble can in no way reveal actual ruined lives, grieving hearts, and fearful, anxious souls.

While I do believe in peaceful protests, rage and depravity are deepening brokenness and painful divisions.  What say You Lord, to those who mourn for a country, their city, their community that they love? 

For American Christians, the hard truth that should order our lives and structure our perspective is this:

“Love not the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  (I John 2:15)

The Apostle Peter and others note our standing in this world…

“To God’s elect, strangers in the world…live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear….Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world...”

Because of America’s freedom, opportunities, and the prosperous fruits gained from moral living and hard work, American Christians have so intertwined and blended in with unbelievers that the Gospel message has no distinction and worse, our contented lives leave no true longing for God’s Kingdom…

…until perhaps, our world begins to crumble.

When our world is crumbling, we must remember who we are, the ‘ekklesia’ – “the called out ones”, God’s people called to live as strangers and foreigners.

There is a foray of racial, political, and criminal fervor beckoning us all to jump in at some juncture.  But believers are called to navigate the narrow road – God’s word, God’s call, God’s way.   Jesus said,  “…narrow is road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  I want to be one of that few!

broken bank

Would you put your money here?  Neither should we invest our heart in this world.  

As a social worker and retired law enforcement officer, I care deeply for my community.  I avail myself to serve and pray to be a light.  But I know that this world cannot be fixed, it will not improve, but will, in fact, downward spiral into further darkness and chaos toward that day of judgment.  Whether we push a broom or sit as CEO, now is the time to hear from the Lord, “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” and we need the reward of His presence and infilling more than ever.

 

From Genesis to Revelation, an overriding truth is evident:  for God’s people, strength comes from separation – separation from this world, separation unto God.  God is not partial to Americans, but to His “treasured possession”,  the Body of Christ, and we are from “every tribe, every nation, every tongue”.

Injustice, loss, grief and utter destruction are real and painful.  But may the Lord detach our hearts from the things and fervor of this world.  I pray that the Holy Spirit lift our heads and focus our hearts as our spiritual forefathers’, “…they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”

Everything that can be shaken will be shaken so, “Love not this world….”

“For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.”    (Hebrews 13:14)

Maranatha!

Good Things From Closed Churches

church-closed

The ongoing hoopla about closed churches during a national pandemic is, ironically, nearly ungodly.  Protesting government officials, threatening lawsuits, and wasting money and energy point to a self serving faith, not selfless faith.  Is it really God’s call to rebel when our resources should go to serve?  Many churches, run on a business model, have their own bottom line motivation.   Closed churches though, can serve to refine and grow our faith more than ever.

Firstly, separating ourselves from the social gathering of others, the planned format of worship and social chatter can clarify our foundation of faith.  Do we find our spiritual fulfillment in our social gathering, singing, and sermons or does church serve to embellish the intimacy we have already with the Lord?  Do we have intimacy with our Savior, as a Bride to her Bridegroom?

Intimacy is measured in private, not corporate settingsClosed churches should lead to open prayer closets – that’s where our true spiritual life and growth take place.

Secondly, our gatherings are not squelched due to oppression or persecution but for a global health crisis.  When life drastically changes, shouldn’t we then beseech God for His change in agenda?  If sovereign God shuts down normalcy, shouldn’t our hearts be shaken toward Him and His word?  God is speaking into hearts during this pandemic with a call to press into His word.   We need to hear Him speak to us without a choir, pulpit, coffee hour or book table because thirdly….

all those things may be gone.  One day we may have to stand alone and know what we stand for.  Pandemics, crisis, wars, calamities…birth pains…do we know the scriptures well enough and understand eschatology – the study of the end times – to gauge our life in this crucial ticking clock?

The Apostles’ message of salvation did not go forth without proclaiming the truth of Christ’s return.  That anticipation is the framework from which Christian life was grounded.  Today, however,  everyone wants to ‘be saved’ by ‘praying a prayer’ but few understand the deep reality from what they are saved!  We are saved from the coming wrath of God, an unpopular and nearly forgotten truth.

The Body of Christ has a joy not found in happy-clappy songs, motivational sermons, or social group activities.  Perhaps there’s a place for them but our joy must transcend anything and any relationship in this temporal world.  If the Bible is true and it is, worse days are coming.  Covid-19 is merely a test run for what the word of God proclaims prior to Christ’s return.

With the pandemic of apostasy, closed churches may be God’s hand in drawing us alone to Him for His counsel, His healing, His leadership and His revelation of where we stand as His Bride.  After the Lord’s sacrifice for our sin, His call for His people is to be ready, be alert, and be watchful,  with lamps filled with oil, anticipating the Bridegroom…

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory unto Him!  For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready…”  (Rev 19:7)

The world may shut down but heaven will not.  I pray that we as a people press in, find our sanctuary at home with the Holy Spirit, and hear what the scriptures proclaim about our day, our calamity, and His return and His call upon us.

“He who endures to the end will be saved.”  (Matthew 24:13)

Maranatha! 

 

 

Revelation through Total Aggravation

When Jesus Walks Through the DMV  taught me that God is sovereign over all – believers need not disdain any bureaucracy or authority.   Obviously,  He was preparing me for an agency even more despised, the IRS, who contacted me just before Thanksgiving.  ‘We are auditing your taxes’, was the message in brief, and almost forgetting the lessons learned through the DMV I began to battle,

IRS sign

Why? We’ve done nothing wrong.  We’ve worked and paid taxes all our life!

But underneath this fleshly response, my heart acknowledged, perhaps the Lord, who owns my life, has a godly reason for bringing me to the IRS. 

“We need certain documents” they claimed and the agent I contacted added, “you can bring an attorney.”  An attorney?  Why would I need an attorney?  “Oh, no reason, I’m just stating your rights…”  Rights?  What’s next, Miranda?  I took the earliest available appointment, confident that those documents were easily obtained and this matter would be resolved.  In fact, I mused, this might be an open door to share the Gospel with an IRS agent…who knows God’s purpose!

“We can fax them to you within an hour” the company claimed.  I have no fax but thankfully, my sister in MA did and I was there to cook a big Thanksgiving dinner.  An hourI can spare an hour…just sit by the fax machine and all is well.  After this I’ll review my returns and be all set….hour goes by, hour and half….”It’s on it’s way!” they insisted.   I haven’t used fax in a long time but I do recall that the process is fairly instantaneous.   After two hours and huffy conversation with a supervisor who claimed, “It’s been sent” I quit.  Agh, I didn’t have two hours to waste!   

I let steam rise within, even as my heart recalled Watchman Nee’s teaching on Satan’s ‘bestirring of the saints’…

“Stop crying, and you will come into victory.  Do remember that Satan wants you to be stirred up…Satan does not seek for an explosion of your temper; he merely wants you to be agitated.  And thus will he win….Victory is when you are not stirred up…Victory means you pay no attention…Your calmness, aloofness and carelessness are rightfully called a letting go….If you let go, God will take over.”  (excerpt from The Life That Wins)

My sister commandeered the turkeys and all went well.   Bob and I planned to leave MA on Saturday to avoid Sunday holiday traffic so we packed the trunk, Becky the cat and kissed my parents bye.  “I wish you could stay longer…” my 89 year old mother said sadly as we hugged.  Watching her wave from the door as we drove away weighed heavy on my heart.

I assuaged my sadness with the ‘traffic rationale’, yet after 20 miles cars started piling up.  “Just a slow patch” I tried to believe while fighting the temptation to go back home to mom.  Meanwhile,  Feral Becky in the back began her wailing marathon, “WAH! WAH! WAH!”

Why was every car in the universe traveling my way?  After 3 hours, agitation began to churn.  My husband offered, “Want me to drive?”  No.  “Want to listen to some music?”  No.  “Want to hear a sermon message?” No.

After 5 hours I was stewing,  nothing could interfere with this rising tide of angst within me….the IRS, my aging parents – unreconciled with God…my aching back…regrets and disappointments erupted – and why did the door close on that mission trip, my heart was so set to go…”WAH! WAH!”

As I succumbed to discouragement,  guilt also churned as I know full well murmuring and complaining is an offensive to God.  I could have cauterized it with an ‘about-face’ to the Lord but no…I chose to wallow as I drove until –

BOOF!

How can your tire blow out while doing 15 mph on the parkway? (Ok, there was a slight swerve, dip and bump) With no shoulder we hobbled through traffic to a grassy area.  The ‘encouraging husband’ was now more than ‘bestirred’ himself!  However for me, the blowout was a slap in the face from God, shutting down the spew of unfaithful brooding and bringing me into the peace from repentance.

In the cold wind we were a site for rubber-neckers as Bob threw luggage and stuff from the trunk to get to the ‘donut’.   I prayed for Bob as he struggled in the cold wind.  We agreed – only God enabled him to complete that task!

Through 2 more hours of traffic, Becky wailing, and my back was aching I was fine, my heart was reset, depending on the Lord, grateful for His discipline and believing Him to bring us home safe, ‘donut’ and all.

Of course I know Philippians 2:14, “Do everything without complaining…shine like stars in the universe…” But I also know I Corinthians 10:10 as Paul admonished believers and referred to the Israelites, “And do not grumble, as some of them did – and were killed by the destroying angel.”

Unsurrendered heartache, discouragement, and disappointment are launching pads for total aggravation.  But God in His faithfulness uses ‘total aggravation’ to reveal our weakness and immaturity as well as underlying issues so we may repent, grow and ‘reset’ to press forward.  He is refining us, not only for eternity, but for here and now,

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  (Ephesians 2:10)

Oh Lord, let me hear and know Your calling and rise up in faith to fulfill those ‘good works’ that You prepared in advance for me to do!

The Bolder Kindness of the Gospel

There are times when our hearts are Weeping in the Passing Lane, having lost cherished relationships, fruitful careers and ministries – when we suffer the loss of how life used to be.  But in Christ, loss and suffering are never wasted but are often a painful avenue to another level of faith.  (I think this is only believable when you’re exiting the fiery furnace!)

As a State Parole Officer, I loved the ongoing opportunities to share the Gospel with felons, inmates, families in the communities and other officers.  When everything in my life was practically perfect, the Potter saw fit to squash the lump of clay and painfully remold the design.  While life may be stripped of venues, relationships, and resources, God still owns us and “gives us the desires of our heart” – in other words, He installs desires within us. 

The desire to share the Gospel, the burden to be a useful vessel in His Kingdom, still captures my heart.  While fervently praying for God to “send me”, “open doors”, and avail a ‘call’, the Lord showed me opportunities missed, even in one day, on my way downtown to the WTC Occulus…

Almost every train in NYC leads to the ‘Occulus’ – a humungous architectural design to commemorate the World Trade Center, housing upscale stores, restaurants, and waterfront sites.  Although a New Yorker, I had never been there and now, meeting a friend, I must have seemed lost to the concierge there.

“Can I help you?  You seem lost…”  Well, I wasn’t lost but her friendly overture engaged us as I waited for my friend.  Jolene* shared about being a concierge, how she came from Africa, and later, when my friend saw us, the three of us enjoyed a friendly chat.  Before heading for lunch I invited Jolene to visit our church but I knew in my heart, that’s not the same as sharing the Gospel…. 

After a lovely lunch and stroll by the waterfront, I headed back to the subway.  While adding money to my Metrocard, an elderly tourist couple approached me, “Could you please help us?”  Of course!  There’s such pleasure in helping the elderly and tourists!  After friendly overtures, I said, “There’s no need to figure out this machine.  Here, take my Metrocard.  It will take you to your destination…” I gave them some travel tips and said good bye to this grateful couple.  But as they walked away, hand in hand, I was so happy to show kindness but knew in my heart,  that’s not the same as sharing the Gospel….  

I proceeded to the A train and found as I boarded the only seat left – next to a woman with two Chihuahua puppies.  “I got the best seat!” I said as I sat.  This immediately engaged the woman and she happily shared the story of her pet life and puppies. The same age range as me, Vivian* shared some life struggles as well.  I surmised that the many tattoos on her arms were of various cultural witchcraft symbols especially when I asked, “What are the puppies’ names?”  “Oh,” she replied, “this one is Voodoo…”  We were both going all the way north Manhattan but my stop was before hers.  “Thank you for sharing your stories, I wish you the best with your pups!”  It was so nice talking to Vivian, but I knew in my heart, that’s not the same as sharing the Gospel….

Maybe there’s something of value in ‘relationship Gospel’, sharing God’s truth after building relationships or friendships but I don’t see that much in the Bible.  But this, however, exhorts my heart:   “Make the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.”

I  truly believe that God moves His Body around, sovereignly ordains meetings, ‘coincidences’, and prepares hearts in unseen ways.  One word can make a mark in a soul that the Lord is calling.

The Lord is stirring my heart toward the venue of the world, however small the piece before me!  I am praying for a greater boldness with ‘strangers’ –  knowing that even a word that we share may be an answer to someone’s prayers.  To launch this boldness, I pray, Lord,  for a deeper burden and love for the souls before me.

subway moving

While I hate to miss a train, may the opportunity to share the Gospel not pass me by….

Kindness is good, but I pray for the fruit bearing kindness of sharing the Gospel truth.

 

When Jesus Walks Through the DMV

I have often said of the DMV, the Department of Motor Vehicles, “I hate them.”  This sentiment could not ring truer than it did a month ago when I received a notice of a violation.  I exclaimed, like former Mayor Ed Koch did about so many things, “This is an outrage!”  Fortunately, I had the very documents needed to completely refute this charge and prepared and submitted my evidence for ‘hearing via mail’.

Family issues kept me out of town for a while but when I returned I saw the DMV envelope in my mail.  An uneasy feeling came over me and, sure enough, I opened it to see “Case adjourned for further evidence.”  W h a a t?  Impossible.  As a NYS Parole Officer, I prepared hundreds of administrative court hearings.  I knew standards of evidence and burdens of proof.  While even more outraged, I had to stop and search what the Lord was teaching me.

I know that our Father in Heaven is not only watching over big life issues but seeks to reveal Himself and grow us spiritually, step by step, through ‘ordinary’ events.  What we learn through the mundane can take root for critical trials and testing later.  (Although for me, being falsely accused then denied justice is never ‘mundane’!)

I prepared to present this case to a law judge, with irrefutable evidence, documents, and even a closing argument.   NYS had nothing but an erroneous allegation.  How could I lose?

I restrained my fleshly zeal however, and began to meditate upon possible spiritual life lessons from the Lord.  I believe that Jesus was not stirring me to be ‘F. Lee Bailey’ but working to conform me to His image.  That “image” includes being ‘falsely accused’ and ‘wrongly punished’.  One teacher summed so much of God’s word, “The path of glory is the path of unjust suffering.”   While not facing torture or prison at the DMV, this case revealed spiritual immaturity within me.

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord” (Prov 21:1)  declares the divine truth, exemplified in scripture, that Sovereign God can raise up powerful enemies to chastise His people or defeat powerful forces to reveal His mercy and justice.  Trusting and surrendering quelled my ‘outrage’ and my heart was ready to see the Lord’s outcome…even if I lost the case.

Today was the day!

I arrived at the DMV hearing office before the judge.   Oddly, everyone showed kindness to me.  The receptionist who assigned my case actually had a church bulletin tacked on the wall –  from my church!  This started an exciting conversation where she, not a church goer, was invited to church by someone who had awaited a hearing.  I was truly humbled that a Christian came prepared, not only to ‘win’ some case but to share the Gospel and invite DMV staff to church.  I encouraged this affable lady to seek the Lord and come to a service.  So far, I was enjoying the Department of Motor Vehicles.  (can’t even believe I wrote that!)

Not only was I the first case, but, after a friendly welcome,  the judge said, “You’re the only case on the calendar.”  I ‘solemnly affirmed to tell the truth’ and began presenting my case.  When I described and submitted my first document the judge declared, “This case is dismissed!”  I was so surprised that I added, “But I have even more evidence!” (btw, that is the wrong thing to say once you’ve won a case!)

I left DMV so elated…but humbled as well.  Instead of just preparing my case, my heart’s priority should have been, am I prepared to share the Gospel, to whom might I encounter?

I don’t believe the Lord was teaching me that I can win, I believe that He is training my heart to trust Him when I may be 100% right and still lose.  I do want to declare, as King David,  “Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.”  but also accept Peter’s call to, “…live as servants of God…if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.” 

Exhorting believers to humble obedience, John writes, “Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.”  Win or lose Lord, help me walk through it all like You. 

 

Juanita’s Joy

Hilda* was my neighbor for 30 years, living on the second floor while I live on the 5th.  She is a Holocaust survivor, in fact the only survivor from her family in Germany.  As a teen she escaped Nazi clutches while her whole family perished.  No one really knows how she made it to France but somehow she later immigrated to NYC, met her husband and moved into our building around 1955.

Hilda frequently invited me for tea and cookies, more often when her husband died.   I promised myself, ‘when I retire I’ll spend more time with Hilda’.   For the past five years, Hilda has lived in Assisted living nursing home – and there we enjoy cookies and tea often.

In recent two years, dementia has set in.  Now 97 years old, Hilda may like more frequent but shorter visits.  From week to week, month to month, Hilda is weaker, more frail, needier and possibly demanding.  She is, however, still the neighbor I love.

Last year Hilda was assigned to a small dining table with Juanita, an elderly African American woman.  I always scheduled my visits to start right after lunch so we would have tea and cookies as soon as she returned to her room.  But I often came to the community dining room first, to greet Hilda and also came to know Juanita.  In fact, although Hilda became less responsive, Juanita had a bright smile,  her eyes lit up when greeting me.  She was gracious and kind to Hilda.  In fact, Juanita was never less than joyful!

Her joy couldn’t possibly come from Hilda’s company, Hilda never spoke to her nor could she remember her name.  When I brought flowers to Hilda, I often brought a bunch to Juanita also – how elated she was!  During a holiday season I brought them plants.  Although Hilda continues to reject God, I asked Juanita,

“Do you believe in God, Juanita?  In Jesus who died for our sins?”

“Oh yes!  I believe!”

Needy for my attention, Hilda didn’t appreciate sharing my company, especially as I was one of the few people she remembers.  But I always thought, ‘someday I will come and find Juanita and have a good visit with her’.

Last month Hilda was not home, I found her in rehab where she would be for several weeks.  I called the residence manager,

“Hello Miss Lang*! I understand that Hilda is now in rehab but I’m calling about her lunch mate, Juanita.  I would love to come visit her, is she at the same table?”

“Juanita?  No, she moved out two weeks ago!”

Moved out – oh no!  Where did she go?”

“Some relatives from Massachusetts picked her up, she’s living with them.  She had no family, she had no one here in New York.  This is really good for her, she was all alone…”

“Oh, I’m happy for her….just so sorry I couldn’t say good-bye….”

At first I felt terrible, having missed some opportunity to fellowship with this elderly woman.  Perhaps indeed a believer, I could have encouraged her…..but the Lord brought me back to the manager’s words….

‘No family….no one here….all alone….’

Juanita spent days, weeks, months alone –  holidays alone – and sat with a meal mate everyday who never spoke to her.  But she had a joy that I confess I do not have.

While I initially felt a pang of guilt for not visiting Juanita earlier, I truly believe that the Lord had a lesson for me from her – Juanita’s life and joy truly ministered to me.  If  “….the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness…” Juanita displayed them all – and I do not – although I have all the health, comfort and company Juanita lacked.

I saw the fruits of the Spirit and know I need them.

“In examining the fruits of the Holy Spirit – which express Christian witness – we shall readily see that they are none other than selfless acts.  What is love? Love is loving others without thinking of self.  What is joy?  It is looking at God in spite of self.  Patience is despising one’s own hardship.  Peace is disregarding one’s own loss.  Gentleness is overlooking one’s rights….The fruit of the Holy Spirit is determined by one principle alone:  the losing of self totally.”  (Excerpt from a quote I keep in my Bible, author unknown)

Lord, I continue to pray for Hilda’s soul, bring her heart to a saving faith in her Messiah.  And Lord, thank you for displaying for me the fruits of the Spirit through Juanita, encourage her wherever she is.  Guide us all through this new year, to have less of self and more of You!

*names changed for privacy