God in the Midst of Parole

During my years as a parole officer, the Lord opened many doors to share the Gospel with parolees, their family members, and others in the community. It was such an exciting part of my work. I journaled a few of the many testimonies to share with a ministry at my church. They still move me and encourage me, even now as I wait upon the Lord.

Perhaps one will encourage you…

‘Last year I received the case of Ms. G, a female with a long history of violence, prostitution, and drugs. I prayed but initially found no open door to share the Gospel – in fact, I saw the door quite closed. As a lesbian, she was living with her female partner who was Muslim. Within weeks of her release to Parole she proudly presented a marriage certificate from the Domestic Partnership Office of City Hall. Ms. G was so happy but my heart sank – she seemed so unreachable. I kept praying, often adding, “…Lord, I have no idea how you can reach her.”

Shortly thereafter her life began to unravel. She became difficult to find and unstable. In her last office report it was apparent that her life was undone….there was violence in her home, relapse into drugs, and total despair. I hardly recognized her, she looked like a wild woman. Before I could intervene with any real help, she absconded.

Ms. G was soon arrested on drug charges. With a warrant and violation charges, I planned to see her at Rikers Island the next day. That was the day I committed to the Lord to wake up early for devotions and prayer. At 4:30am I prayed for Ms. G and truly believed in my heart that the Lord was going to do something.

I always liked to have encouraging things to share when an opportunity arises…a booklet, tape, or small New Testament. But while on the train I realized that I had nothing special to share with Ms. G, should she be receptive. I sat back and began reading my Billy Graham magazine, ‘DECISION’. The first article explained salvation, how to be born again. The second article was about obedience to the Lord. The third article was a powerful testimony about a lesbian prostitute who became a Christian. The Holy Spirit washed over me with confidence that this was for Ms. G.   I was so excited I could hardly wait to get to Rikers Island!

I arrived at the facility and waited a long while…but so full of anticipation knowing with confidence that the Lord is working. Finally correction officers brought Ms. G to the Counsel Room, a tiny room where thick glass separates the inmate from the P.O. I took the violation papers and magazine out of my brief case. Ms. G still had that wild look and when she realized I had a warrant she lashed out with fury…

She was demanding and angry, blaming me for her failures and woes. My heart sank, I thought, ‘Lord, how could I have been so wrong?…No, I’m not wrong! I know what You spoke to my heart!’ After her tirade, I delivered some forceful pointed truth to Ms. G about her destructive behaviors and bad decisions. At the end I added, “…and don’t lie about no one helping you! Didn’t I do such – and – such…” I slowly began putting the magazine back in my bag but for some odd reason I blurted out, “…and on top of that, I brought you this magazine!”

Her face froze, as though I had said, “…a million dollars!” She became so deflated and meek, “You brought me a magazine?” Something happened inwardly, the Holy Spirit was moving. I pulled out the Decision Magazine and began to cautiously minister to her. ‘Well, I don’t know if you believe in God…’ She cut me off, “Yes! Yes I do! I was praying all day yesterday for God to get me out of jail!” I slipped the magazine under the plexiglass opening. ‘This is one of Billy Graham’s magazines…’ Ms. G blurted, “I know Billy Graham!”

Everything I shared seemed to touch a hunger in her. I was so amazed. I asked her if she believed in Jesus. “Yes I do! But I don’t know how to pray or what to do…I need SO MUCH HELP!” For the next hour she shared with me all her brokenness and despair. Ms. G said she was in the Rikers Island infirmary because she had a heart attack from cocaine abuse. I encouraged her that the Lord was able to heal her, that He loved her and could give her a new life…wash away the old. I spoke about being born again, surrendering our lives to Jesus Christ. Ms. G exclaimed, “That’s what I want! How can I do that? How can I be born again?”

Just then, at that exact moment…the door swung open to the counsel room. A cheerful female Correction Officer asked with joy, “Did I hear someone wants to make a decision of Jesus Christ? Praise God! I’m a Christian too!!” By this time, all my hair is standing on end.

The magazine and the Christian C.O. proved to be a great encouragement to Ms. G. Her parole was violated, she was sent upstate for a brief period, and mandated to a treatment program.

Upon her release she returned to my office but I hardly recognized her. She was dressed with modesty and had an inner calm. I had never seen such a transformation. Ms. G was so eager to tell me – to testify – all that the Lord was doing. During her 4 month incarceration, the Lord had godly C.O’s around her and she attended the prison church. She learned about worship, prayer, and scripture. The C.O. assigned to her (by the State and by God) brought her into Bible study and foundational truths.

“The first place she brought me,” Ms. G explained, “was to Leviticus. I didn’t know homosexuality was so horrible to God. I had so much to repent…” I was truly amazed with her expressed love for the Lord and her knowledge of scripture as a new believer. Ms. G was full of joy describing how she was baptized while at the prison.

I visited Ms. G at the residential program some days later. She had given her testimony to the groups there, speaking strongly about the power of sin to destroy and the power of Jesus to save. She wrote a song, ‘Jesus Gets You Out’, it was wonderful!’

That was the end of the journal entry. I know Ms. G was transferred off my caseload as the program was out of my assigned area….that was several years and hundreds of cases ago.  It was a season of open doors during the early years of my walk with the Lord.

When eligible for retirement, a personal matter arose in my home and the Lord made the decision clear. It was, however, a deep loss for me. People thought I was crazy when I said, “I really love my job!”  A season of brokenness followed with unexpected loss, betrayal, and disappointment.  Crushed By God came forth from this season.

Whatever the season, may we move forward, press on, keep the faith….

“Lord, thank you for all Your faithfulness throughout every season. Help us to be faithful, regardless of our assigned station or place that we may fulfill the call to,

“Do your best to present yourself  to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”  (II Tim 2:15)

Lord, I pray for all those who have heard the Gospel through our lives, no matter how small the seed.  Water every seed, fan every ember and encourage us in our daily walk.  Open our eyes Lord to every appointed encounter.  In Jesus name, Amen.”

 


Inviting Jesus Makes the Difference

But I am going to the Mets game at Citi Field on Saturday. Be it corny or weird, I am inviting Jesus to go with me, not just to be with me but as a guest that I might honor.

That excerpt came from my post before the game, Jesus on the Guest List, 8/3/17.

There may well be a difference between asking the Lord to be with you and inviting the Lord to be your honored guest.  “Be with me Lord” usually initiates a prayer for favor, help, courage, provision or resources.  “Come with me, Lord, let me honor You as my guest”  creates a different priority of honoring Jesus.

I prayed before going to the game, asking the Lord to open my eyes to any encounter where I might honor Him and touch others for Him.  I imagined bumping into someone who needed the Lord and sharing the Gospel.  And oddly, I added, “show us what to do with the money we’ve saved.”

Once we reached Citi Field we joined the pregame worship outside the stadium.  As families ‘tail-gated’ and played catch, the Times Square Church band played songs of praise.  “Here Lord I will honor You by praising Your name for all to hear.  May You be high and exalted!” 

During this time I happened to stand near a Filipino family, a young couple with small children.  Unlike everyone else, they did not wear Mets T-shirts, Faith Day shirts, or any other baseball day attire.  The entire family wore bright yellow T-shirts with  #CareforCandize; when I asked, the mother shared about their six year old niece suffering  from cancer in the Philippines, lacking affordable health care.  While the band played on and everyone sang praises, this woman held her toddler and shared the story of Candize.  While I knew the grief of watching a loved one suffer and die, I did not know the great burden of unreachable medical help.

“Are you raising donations to help?” I asked and just as she shared the fund my husband called out, “C’mon, it’s time to go get our seats!”

With all the distractions of crowds, cheers, and junk food, I could not forget the family with the bright yellow shirts.  They came to honor God yet their suffering loved one, so far away, could not be forgotten.

The Mets are not having a good season and this game reflected it. They lost.

The great victory through, took place after the game where stands and platforms were immediately erected and a worship service commenced.  Jesus was the honored guest, as songs of thanksgiving and worship filled the stadium and the jumbo-trons.  Christ loving Mets players testified of their faith and walk with the Lord before Pastor Carter Conlon preached a message of salvation and hope.  Many attendees came to Christ and received salvation and the promise of eternal life.

faith day II

 

I believe the Lord was honored.    But what about…

Later that night I shared with my husband about Candize’s cancer, her pictures and family story.   When I asked, “What should we give?”  he responded with the same amount I had in my heart.

I knew my ‘Guest’ was honored when we ministered to Him…

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  
Matthew 25:40

 

Jesus on the Guest List

In Matthew 22:1-14 and Luke 14:15-24 Jesus powerfully describes, through parables, a wedding feast and banquet with elaborate preparations and personal invitations. The intended guests of these extravagant affairs dismiss the servant messengers and worse, abuse and kill them. While representing the tragic rejection of Jesus by the Jewish people, the Lord affirms the offer of salvation to the Gentiles.  The Kingdom of God is available to all who come by faith in Christ as Savior.

God is determined to fill His banquet hall. There is no mistaking His personal invitations, His outreach to the byways and country roads and neither is there uncertainty about the fate of those who reject Him.

However, the wedding feast in Cana recorded in the second chapter of John is an actual wedding, most noted for Jesus’ first miracle of changing water into wine. There is great significance in the wine and wedding and much is gained from studies therein. Yet an important point seems neglected in this passage. Unlike the Jesus’ portrayals of God’s invitation to man, here Jesus is the invited guest. The parents of the betrothed decided, let’s invite Jesus and His disciples to this wedding (John 2:1-2).

If it were only Jesus and Mary one might conclude that the invitations were familial but the varied backgrounds of the disciples lead us to conclude otherwise. Perhaps the anointing and authority of Jesus became evident and so, when planning a most important life event, Jesus and His disciples would be on the guest list. And undoubtedly they accepted.

It is paramount for us to accept God’s invitation of salvation and the promise of eternal life. But aren’t we greatly remiss if we neglect to personally invite Jesus into the everyday events of our life whether great or small?

Would we invite Jesus as guest to our wedding or how about on that date, would Jesus and His followers join you at that movie? Is there any rendezvous or event that we would not invite Jesus?

Being sovereign and omnipotent is not the same as being invited. We are right to consult the Lord with all our plans and submit to His will. But a consultant is not an honored guest.

I believe that if we decidedly make Jesus our guest of honor – even at church – we will see change. His divine presence may not be evident to all, perhaps only ‘servants’ will see His glory. The wedding party and guests all enjoyed the supernatural wine but God’s glory was revealed to the servants and disciples, “…and his disciples put their faith in Him.”

I am not planning a wedding or other significant event. But I am going to the Mets game at Citi Field on Saturday. Be it corny or weird, I am inviting Jesus to go with me, not just to be with me but as a guest that I might honor.

faith day

“Lord, I pray that we welcome and honor Your presence wherever we are. Give us real desire to ‘introduce You’ in every encounter with others and open up the way.  Soften our hearts to express Your love in word and deed and invite You, “the Truth” into every conversation. As the world never cowers to present an honored guest, let us present You, our King, with joy and reverence. I pray for Faith Day Lord, that You may be invited and honored by many. Let Your glory be revealed and give birth to redemption and new life. As You are invited, King Jesus, I pray that Your wedding banquet greatly increase!”

Worshiping in the Boat

Then those who were in the boat worshiped Him saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’.” Matthew 14:33

In this passage, Jesus had walked upon the water as the disciples in the boat fought a raging storm in the dark. Jesus walked on water? Reigned with power and authority over the forces of ‘nature’? Certainly, yes He did.

But the disciples ‘worshiped on the boat’ – without strobe lights, fog machines, tuned instruments or perfected choir? How is that possible?

Jesus said,

But the time is coming–indeed it’s here now–when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24

God almighty is seeking, looking for, those who will worship in spirit and in truth?   I want Him to find what He’s looking for in me!

I want the boat worship. I want to receive Jesus, acknowledging His power and authority, and meditate on His divine accomplishment on the cross. I want to be led into worshiping the Father in spirit and in truth.

“Christians are guilty of telling more lies to God on Sundays than on any other day….Because it is on Sundays that they sing so many hymns such as, “All to Jesus I surrender”… excerpt, Zac Poonen,  God-Centred Prayer

Human talent, resource, and technology has made ‘worship’ a business…

Christian-worship-or-performance--770x300

Are we attempting to ‘conjure up’ the presence of God?

Many church goers are satisfied with entertaining ‘performance worship’. The emotional appeasement is uplifting, encouraging and even medicinal. But is that anything like the worship in the boat?

But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 1 Corinthians 11:31

I am searching my own heart, asking…

1. Would I sincerely take the words of the songs I am singing and speak them during prayer time to the Lord? Do I have a prayer time to meet with the Lord?

2. Is the music and song or the ‘atmosphere’ engaging my flesh with rhythm and tempo or are songs drawing me into scriptural truths?

3. Am I engaging in something contrived and artificial?

4. Is worship (adornment, deep honor and reverence) already in my heart before I gather with others or is the gathering working up a group cheer for God?

5. Can I sing the songs, even sing the Psalms, during dark storms –  when my circumstances have horribly changed  – with assurance that God has not changed?

There is value in presenting God our best praise and thanksgiving, especially that unbelievers may see that our God is worthy of all exuberant praise.  But lowly fishermen did not rehearse worship to get it right or impress in any way. The presence of God brought them to their knees, their hearts prostrate, filled with awe.

If Jesus walked into our home during our prayer time (or anytime) we would not pull out a guitar, flash vibrant lights nor would we sway and bop. We would fall to our knees with the weight of our nothingness next to His sovereignty. We would worship.

“Lord in heaven, I do want to worship You in spirit and in truth. Help me to understand what that simply means. Help me to wait on You, even if I must stroke the oars through a dark storm. Give us all a true anticipation of Your presence and prepare our hearts to bow down to You. More than anything Father, I want You to find what You’re looking for in me. In Jesus name, amen”.

May the Lord personally bless you!

Restricting God – Let Me Count the Ways…

Many of us are frequently stirred and humbled by the testimonies of missionaries and servants of God. From Biblical times to present day, men and women proclaim the power of God as He leads them to hidden places of suffering. Surrendered vessels who seem totally insignificant become agents of Most High God, affecting lives for eternity.

And we want that too! Who wouldn’t want their temporary life here to matter in God’s Kingdom? Who, knowing the Lord, wouldn’t want all His purposes and intentions come to fruition? And so we too cry out, perhaps at an altar, perhaps in our private prayer….

“Lord, use me, send me! I want my life to matter, to count…”

isaiah1

THEN our flesh speaks ‘sense’ into our cry,

“BUT Lord…”
….don’t send me any place hot, you know how I hate the heat. I would be miserable
….you know I couldn’t go very far, you know my limits, I have responsibilities…
….don’t send me to blah-blah, I could never eat that food, and the bugs are ginormous. Agh, Lord send someone else there
….send me to truly needy people, not to those blah-blah; they’re always trying to rip off the system
….I would serve in a hospital ministry but the germs… and who really knows if those comatose people can even hear the Gospel?
….prisons are, well, dangerous. I’m too old….I’m too young
….please don’t call me to serve in my own neighborhood,  that’s too boring!
….if I go there, if I do that – wouldn’t I lose everything?

By the time we’re finished we’re no longer stirred…we’re discouraged!

Underneath is unbelief  which doesn’t really restrict God but restricts us from grasping His best for our lives.

American Christianity may have a foundational flaw embedded from our culture of ‘rugged individualism’ and ‘opportunity’ and ‘freedom’. We defend the rights to excel, possess, invest and express.  True Christianity smashes that self-reliant lifestyle. No one naturally wants to die to ‘self’ but when we resist complete surrender, resist the cross of Christ, we risk missing His perfect call upon our lives.

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”  Jonah 2:8

I for one am not at the place of total surrender. I want to be though, especially in these last days where prophecy points to the soon return of our Lord. I hope for a deeper burden for the lost, not stoked by fleeting and temporal emotions, but one birthed by the Holy Spirit which defies my emotions and intellect.

Would anyone join me in prayer?

“Lord, thank you for saving me and abiding within me. I believe that, no matter what failures mark my life, no matter how ordinary or limited I perceive my life, You are not limited and You can never fail. I pray for a calling, a heavenly burden that will overshadow and nullify every fear and obstacle. Help me to trust You, Lord. Don’t let me imagine remote and ‘fantastic’ things while missing the ‘woman at the well’. Loosen my grip on the things of this world and help me to walk with a view of eternity. In Jesus name, Amen.”

“God promises not just to save us but to give us a full and meaningful life.”  

“We are called to be a testimony to the world that God is alive.”

(Pastor Carter Conlon, Times Square Church)

 

 

Diving Back Into Life Giving Waters

hot springs in armenia

Hot Springs in Armenia – medicinal but not life giving!

When I was five my mother taught me the 23rd Psalm. She told me to repeat it in bed whenever I had bad dreams. Perhaps ongoing repetitions lulled me back to sleep; I doubt I knew about “shepherds” or how they “maketh me lie down in green pastures”.
Now, many years later, I am finding ongoing treasures in this Psalm, different in life seasons. This week, during a time of emotional heaviness, I read, as if for the first time, the 3rd verse,

“He restores my soul”

Other versions read:

“He refreshes my soul”
“He renews my strength”
“He revives my life”
“He brings back my soul”

I began praying for the Lord to restore and heal my soul and believe in His promise to do it.

Intellectual memorizing and reciting scripture is often the death blow to the life giving power of God’s words. This foundational practice of formal religions effectively squelches the Holy Spirit. The “Lord’s Prayer”, often spoken and sung as one long sentence, grants a feeling of piety but hardly ‘connects’ with the Lord. How many people ‘pray’ that prayer and really expect an answer?

Evangelicals also limit the freedom of the Holy Spirit by endlessly using one verse, John 3:16, as if that alone is all that need be said. But we serve a personal God that reaches every person differently. Jesus never repeated the same words verbatim to everyone He met yet His words were healing, provoking, convicting and powerful – delivered differently, depending on who He was addressing and what was needed to be said!

Any verse can become a ‘mantra’. I’m asking today for a newness in scripture reading, where I’m not predicting the next verse from memory but prayerfully opening my heart to a newness from the Holy Spirit. I want His word to actually be for me…

“…living and active. Sharper than any two edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit….”

“Lord, shake our hearts in these last days. Let every ‘formula’ in our prayer to and sharing of You fall to the ground. Today as we open Your word, let us see it as “living and active” and personal. Inspire us and refresh us with a personal word for others that they may hunger to know You as well.  Lead us, Lord, to joyously dig beyond the surface….”

“For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” (Rev 7:17)

“Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the Lord God is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.  Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation.”   (Isaiah 12:2-3)

 

(Springs: “a place where water wells up from an underground, unseen source”)

“You, Lord, Care for People and Animals”…Maggie!

“Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O LORD.”  Psalm 36:6

One may recall from previous post, “The Lord Taketh Away…Maggie!” (3/5/17) that I tearfully purchased a burial pod for my furry friend in February this year. But six months after the significant diagnoses of megacolon, liver mass, pancreatitis, cholangiohepatitis, and anemia, Maggie is still here and on the go!

Maggie in PA for Summit School of Ministry graduation…

Maggie in PA (2)

Graduation can wait…room service please!!

Why is this important? The Lord often reveals His truths and glory through His creation, whether through the lion’s boldness, the ant’s diligence, or the beauty of the lily of the valley. In fact, the Lord can reveal His truths through any and all the circumstances in our life…which includes the life of Maggie! God is not bound by any report of man whether it is a negative, even terminal, medical report, a ‘pink slip’, divorce paper or ominous threat. When such a report comes, it may be time for the ‘burial pod’ but faith should open our heart to whatever the Lord reveals for His purpose and pleasure.

When the Lord calls us to “go” or to “do”, He will enable us, provide for us, and fulfill His purposes through us in spite of limitations and obstacles. It is through those challenges that faith muscles grow and God’s word is proven.

May this truth take root – God is not deterred when the sun is setting on our life. Age, dwindling resources, and increasing weakness are not hardships to God who declares, “My power is made perfect in weakness.” The Lord is not looking for super Christians, only surrendered vessels in whom He can dwell. Whether He allows or brings us into storms of hardship, disappointment, sickness, or betrayal we can hold onto the promise of Romans 8:28 which represents the sovereignty of God. For those who are His, all circumstances, events, calamities and details – even enemies – are under His control.

Elderly Maggie attends All Night Prayer (Commemorate Armenian MartyrsPray for Their Unborn posted 4/12/17)

Maggie at all night prayer (2)

Well, nearly all night!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-7

Our ‘own understanding’ leads us to ‘figure it out’, ‘plan ahead’ and ‘move forward’ without hearing from God. While the world rewards ‘self-starters’, the ‘empowered’ and ‘ambitious’, the Lord is seeking surrendered followers who wait and trust Him with the lead.

Maggie and Bible 2

“Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.”

God knows when every “sparrow falls to the ground” and He knows the exact day Maggie will ‘fall to the ground’. Until then and until that day comes for us, we are not bound by any bad report of man.  If “our lives are hidden in Christ” He has reign over our lives and will “order our steps” as we surrender to Him.

“Lord, I pray that we can live each day with faith that You’re in charge, that You have all authority, and that You are well able to order our steps. I pray for a hunger to know your word more and meditate upon it so it takes root and lives within me. Help me to commit and obey. May the reports of ‘man’ – no matter how ominous or weighty – never cause us to shutter but compel us to seek you, trust you and wait upon you for direction.  Amen.” .

“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for you have created all things, and for your pleasure they are and were created.” Revelation 4:11