The Winning Word!

I’ve been a word lover probably my whole life – there are so many to express thoughts, concepts, and ideas! How extraordinary I say, that God, Maker of Heaven and earth, chose to express Himself through words, His precious word.

This week I found an enjoyable, if not downright addictive, pastime – online Scrabble! And I’m a big winner, 80% of the time, against my opponent the computer. Words galore!

Also this week was my scheduled presentation to an online women’s Bible study. Although a newcomer to this group, the leader had read some of my posts and asked me to speak. My heart sensed an answer to my prayers to serve the Lord and minister to others. I hardly knew the women of this Zoom study, many are in different states. But after much prayer, I was sure of the message that the Lord called me to present.

Of course, when called in any capacity, the devil will move in to rob of confidence with anxious thoughts. “Yes, you’re all ready, but for sure your internet connection will fail midway!” “Your computer is 10 years old, doesn’t it often freeze, especially during Zoom meetings?” All these things have happened of course. Well, I realized, with the meeting the day after tomorrow I’m certainly not going computer shopping. Zoom by phone is just as good, no? Other darting thoughts arose.

The next morning I accompanied my husband Bob for his routine surgical procedure. While waiting to prep, I continued my online Scrabble game, this time losing! Bob noticed.

“Let me see it” I don’t think of Bob as a word connessuer or Scrabble pro but I handed him my phone.

“I see a great word!” Just then the nurse called him in. He handed me the phone and said, “Put L A X right here. It spells RELAX!” With that he left.

I had totally missed that! Yes, RELAX, and with triple letter came to 28 points!!

While admittedly competitive, the winning word pressed more into my heart than on the game board. God often uses husbands to speak to their wives and these letters clicked together my soul, washing over me.

‘Relax’ may not be in the Bible but I truly want to remember it. Because if we believe and trust, if we rest in Him, our hearts can surely relax because God has everything under control.

(And yesterday’s Bible study presentation was such a rewarding fellowship!)

Another Sparrow Falls to the Ground…

I set out early this morning as the temperature is expected to rise above 90°.  Five blocks to the bank, 10 to the grocery store, I prayed as I walked, discussing with the Lord the useless anxiety that often overshadows me.  I meditated upon Jesus’ oft admonishment, “Do not be afraid” (or anxious!) and His reference to the sparrows, “…not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.”  I started to wonder, where are these fallen sparrows, I never see them.  Where do they go to die?  I concluded that, like many suffering animals, they sequester to die alone.  But according to our Lord, our Father knows exactly where each one is, none even fall “apart from His will”.   

Returning from FoodTown I passed my street, pushing myself to go farther to the vegetable stand.  Carrying three bags and toting a stuffed backpack, I pressed on for iceberg lettuce.  Then I saw him on the sidewalk.  A tiny sparrow, not moving as I neared him.  Not budging when a blaring ambulance sped by.  Something’s wrong!

I stooped down to pet it, it did not move or flinch.  Not good.  He had no resistance as I picked him up.  People paused to look as I quickly pondered: What should I do?… I can’t leave him here…I’m carrying too much to bring him anywhere….

Just then a chubby, affable Hispanic women stopped and stooped down with me.  She scooped up the bird and concluded as I did that the poor babe was somehow injured.  She held him so naturally and calmly, like she did it everyday!  

“I’ll take him home and care for him…”

“You will?!?  Thank you!  I couldn’t leave him here…”

She smiled and stroked the bird gently, “I was raised on a farm, I used to take care of baby chicks…”

Wow, did God bring the right person down this sidewalk!

I should have asked her name.  I shared with her about The Bird Fund, a free bird clinic on Columbus Avenue.  She took the info and said, “I’m sure my daughter can bring him there.”

As we walked together for two blocks.  I thought she lived nearby but went to the bus stop, “I live in the Bronx” she said.  And she’s carrying a baby bird in her hand all the way? 

So, according to the Lord, our Father saw that sparrow fall, it was His will.  For sure that babe had anxiety, unable to fly or move on a busy city sidewalk.  He didn’t know what we should all know, our Father has everything under control.  

“I was raised on a farm….cared for chicks…I’ll take him home”

“Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows”. 

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!

Hayer Miatsek!

Hayer miatsek, miatsek Hayer! Armenians unite!

Once again, on April 24th, Armenians gathered for Armenian Martyrs Day, commemorating the onset of the Armenian Genocide perpetuated by the Ottoman Turks on April 24th, 1915.

Bob and I waving flags high (under awning “surreal”) in Times Square on April 24th. Ts4-1024x768

Year after year we gather, members of Congress and local leaders speak, proclaiming support for Armenia and stirring up their constituencies. Religious leaders also speak. Our pastor, Pastor Haig Kherlopian, spoke about the resiliency of Armenians, even after attempts to desecrate and annihilate, we still stand by the grace of God to prosper and testify.

As we gather and proclaim, rally and commemorate, we must check our hearts and assure that they are aligned with God. Why must we gather and rally?

Although 1.5 million Armenians perished and thousands were set upon death marches, exiled from their homeland, Turkey continues to vehemently deny these atrocities. Those who dare teach these truths either disappear or languish in Turkish prisons – Turkish prisons hold more journalists than any jail system in the world. We gather because the truth matters – especially for those who died with no voice to proclaim it.

After the recent war – the onslaught of Azerbaijan upon Armenian enclave Artsakh, Armenia lost much historical land and villages which they inhabited for thousands of years.

“The Greek geographer Strabo, who is estimated to have lived from 64 BC to 23 AD, included Artsakh in his geographic description of Greater Armenia, writing that the entire population spoke Armenian by the second or first century BC, an observation confirmed by archaeological finds.” (Read More: https://www.grunge.com/260893/the-long-and-tragic-history-of-artsakh/?utm_campaign=clip)

Armed with the wealth of military weapons supplied by Turkey, Israel, and Ukraine, Azerbaijan now salivates with prospects of further aggression once the ‘cease fire’ period is over. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, believed responsible for supplying the Phosphorus bomb that devastated Armenian environment, openly celebrated with Azeri President Aleyev’s victory. Thousands of Armenians died, thousands are displaced, suffering as the world does not look on. We gather to be a voice for those who suffer in silence – we will plead your cause; we will lift you up in prayer. We will not forget you.

Ultimately, we gather to encourage one another and reaffirm our faith in God, regardless of outward situations. While possibly tempted toward vengeance, we must pray for our enemies – may the Holy Spirit convict them, take away all their false peace, and cover them with a shame and godly sorrow that will lead to repentance. As our people suffer and homeland is stolen and destroyed, we must be the serving hands and feet of the Lord to help them and above all, encourage them that “Հայկական հողէ” – Armenian land- is not their forever home – our heart must be set upon the Kingdom of God.

Armenians unite! Let us honor those who died for their faith by living for our faith for the glory of God.

Where He Leads is Worth the Wait

Some beloved brethren had been praying for me in my search to find a church, not just a church but to be ‘placed in the body exactly where He wants us.’ Instead of writing out emails, I’m posting the Lord’s answer!

The pandemic taught me the value of home worship, personal growth in scripture, and gathering with ‘two or more’ in His name. When churches opened we began to seek out fellowship. After 20 years under Pastor Dave Wilkerson’s godly leadership, we had a firm scriptural foundation and clutched the standards of God’s word.

So often though, our spirits cringed at the compromise, the levity, the carnality, and worldliness that frames many churches today. Without obedience, without preeminence, the Lord will not lead. Godly roots that once bore eternal fruit seemed pulled out and discarded for modern, entertaining, and diluted gospel messages. But we pressed on…

In October I felt inclined to visit a church that I had vaguely known about for several years. I had never visited but during the Azeri invasion upon Armenians last year (Sept to Nov 2020) they were the only church to have online prayer meetings. Joining in, I was impressed with their genuine faith and zeal. The Lord heightened my interest in this church until we finally visited The Armenian Evangelical Church. Bob and I don’t usually gravitate to an ethnic or race specific church but this one proves different.

Week by week the Lord answered the questions in my heart, checking off Biblical standards of worship and fellowship that would not escape my heart. The Bible wholly believed, honored and esteemed as God’s unchanging word? Preaching the whole counsel of God? Service with frequent prayer? Songs, hymns, honoring and exalting the Lord? Pastor personable, available, and offering prayer and godly counsel? Yes, yes and yes!

It is the newest oldest church in New York. New with a bright new pastor, zealous for the work of God to go forth, not just for Armenians but for ‘whosoever’ the Lord will gather. New with folks the Lord called in, Bob and I (a Puerto Rican and Armenian), a Turkish Kurd, a Cuban and Filipino.

Established in 1896, we just celebrated our 125th anniversary. This church, downtown Manhattan, was founded years before the Armenian Genocide which began in 1915. My heart is gripped wondering, how did they gather and worship when our people were slaughtered and annihilated for their faith? What messages were preached, how was their faith challenged, even crushed…

Did they know we would be there today, singing praises and believing God?

God often answers our diligent, ongoing, persistent prayer in a multifaceted way. He did not just bring me to a godly church. Not only to a growing fellowship led by His Holy Spirit. Not only to a pastor under whose authority I can submit….

But the Lord brought me to Armenians not gathering to mourn and commemorate, not gathering to protest and march, not gathering for a wedding or funeral but gathering with joy before the Lord, with a living faith and an expectation of God’s leading and life to go forth.

53395

New friends, new pastor in middle, new smile on my face…

Several of my readers were praying for us and I truly want to thank you and encourage you all, press on, do not give up. If the Lord has you waiting in a pasture, let Him feed you and speak to you there. Where He leads you will be so worth the wait.

Walk by the Spirit, Not by Sight

As I approached the mailboxes yesterday afternoon, there was Margarita*, one of my neighbors, opening up her ConEdison bill as I reached for my mail. Although Spanish speaking, she needed no words to express her angst as she tipped the paper toward me so I could read, FINAL DISCONNECT NOTICE. It seemed clear that she hadn’t paid her bill for at least a year. In our heat-included small apartments, gas and electric bills are fairly small. Margarita works, how could she let this happen?

I immediately sensed something was wrong, other than this big debt. Her countenance and affect seemed disoriented and she stumbled over simple questions I asked. So I urged her, “Call them, Margarita, you have to pay something soon, even $50, to prevent this turn off!”. Is she depressed? Having mental health issues? Admittedly we don’t know her that well.

Something was churning within me. Although Bob and I are quick to help neighbors in need, I felt a strong restraint here. My emotional response, moreover Christian response, is to help. But I know our emotions are fleshly and it is the Spirit that applies the scriptural call in every situation. Although we have on occasion helped Margarita, here, I was disturbed and restrained.

We walked up the stairway in silence. She probably expected some financial help and part of me questioned, “what kind of neighbor am I? She’ll be in the dark within a month!” Some people describe a ‘check in their spirit’, but I had a grip in my spirit and had to submit. I prayed and explained the whole situation to Bob, knowing that leadership comes from the husband. He did not sense the Lord’s leading to give. “There’s something wrong here Bob, I can’t pinpoint it but it’s bigger than the ConEdison bill.” I prayed about it and tabled the subject to the next morning.

I was still unsettled in the morning but after praying, I headed down to her apartment. At least I could call ConEd, perhaps make a minimal payment, or clarify her options. I knocked on her door. Then knocked again. Finally I heard a shuffling and she opened the door just a crack, then a bit wider where I could see in full view an altar of witchcraft. The depths of Santeria, beckoning demons with incantations and ritual, contaminate the soul and almost always bring about a mimicry of mental illness.

Margarita now acted paranoid. She gave me the bill, keeping the door cracked, and I said I’d call and try to help. After calling and clarifying I returned with the conclusion: Margarita herself, or her grown son, must call to discuss even a minimal payment, she has until January to do this.

The churning in my heart was relieved, realizing that the Lord was restraining me. Jesus did not always heal everyone, did not always feed everyone, neither did He meet every need but did only His Father’s will. It is not always God’s will to intervene in every way, especially if recipients give the thanks and praise upon a table of witchcraft. I have seen enough Santeria and Espiritismo to know how powerfully it corrupts a person inwardly and outwardly, always bearing ugly fruits.

Perhaps the Lord will lead us to speak the truth to Margarita, but only He can draw our hearts and prepare hers to hear the word. We will continue to pray for her. Will her lights go out? Will she lose her mind? Only God knows but for sure, if she calls upon Him with a repentant and contrite heart, He will come in with true light and deliver her from evil.

In The Fowler’s Snare For Real!

After refreshing fellowship at church and a tasty lunch at home, FedEx rang the bell with Starry’s Chewy package, yay! I headed down the stairway to the lobby and, as is my habit, I glanced out the stairway windows as I went. I did a double-take at the 4th floor window, my heart quickly deflated. The roof of the next building had a large net surrounding a generator and a big pigeon was fighting wildly to get free.

Caught in the fowler’s snare and no way out!!

pidgeon stuck in net

When owner Columbia University evicted our beloved Bodega to install their own deli, nothing seemed right. I marched into the deli, photo in hand, and approached the cashier.

“I need to see the manager. Look here,” I flashed the pic, “there’s a bird caught in your net on the roof. We need to get up there…”

“Oh, the manager’s not around, probably back tomorrow…there’s no way to get to the roof”

“This can’t wait til tomorrow, this bird will die overnight! Someone must be able to get to the roof.” I went to the back and met with the sandwich guy who shook his head and referred me to the stock man. “Sorry, there is no access available to the roof. It has a special lock and no one can open it”.

“No one” can open a roof door? That’s a building violation.

Already late on a Sunday afternoon, I had to act fast, first contacting the main NYC complaint line, 311 to report Animal Abuse in progress. They referred me to NYPD who did actually show up within an hour. I was so hopeful, so sure they would be on that roof. But subsequent follow-up yielded the same response,

“Sorry, we couldn’t get access to the roof, no one is able to open that door.”

“Can’t you break it down? That bird is struggling so hard, he will surely die a slow death!”

“No, sorry, that’s how we get into so much trouble! We referred this case to ASPCA”

The sun was setting and now Mr. Pigeon is well enmeshed into the net, hanging upside down. I tried every possible intervention, even calling PETA. Bob and I prayed for God’s help. Lastly I turned to the neighborhood social media and posted the situation. Now it’s dark. I need not check on the bird again, my mind played its own tormenting video of the net swinging in the wind, pigeon upside down, and then it started raining hard...

With the wind blowing and rain pelting, the night was restless. With all the suffering in the world, why, I asked the Lord, can I not escape this pigeon? The Snare of the Fowler, by Charles Spurgeon, arose in my mind and gripped my heart. It is an excellent message from this great preacher, in which he quotes a song,

“Satan, the fowler, who betrays unguarded souls a thousand ways….”

The devil’s crafted snares are not for unbelievers – they are already subject to him. His cunning allurements, his deceit and secrecy is reserved for the unsuspecting believer…how could a light weight, nearly invisible net be of any harm anyway? Nothing will happen! Just go near and touch it, fly into it if you’d like!

I tossed and turned, wondering, as I viewed this tortured pigeon on the roof below, what must God’s view be like, seeing His people, called by His name, carelessly toying with sin and compromise – an invisible net that will surely disable and destroy. With love and urgency our Father warns us of danger, and yet so often we near the net, touch the net, believe that it is benign before we’re trapped.

It was still dark when I got up. I prayed but partly hoped the bird died quickly overnight to end his suffering. The media posting was growing with responses and suggestions. The care of unmet neighbors was very encouraging. Bob was leaving for work and I called another friend whom I know to be a ‘fighter of good causes.’ But he was sick and could not help so I offered to help him! But he urged me to check on the bird, “use binoculars” see if he’s still alive and call FDNY.

I really did not want to call the Fire Dept. I knelt and earnestly prayed, “Oh Father, send someone to help me! I can’t save this bird without You!”

With binoculars and a heavy heart I headed to the 4th floor window. Agh, looks dead….but as I watched…he’s ALIVE!!!

JUST THEN the building super came up the stairs to continue work on the 4th floor. “Radames!”, I immediately called out to him, especially since I appear to be spying through the window with binoculars! “Radames, come quick and see what I’m seeing!!”

He peered out, “Ohhh…..”

“Radames, that poor bird’s been fighting all night! My only last resort is FDNY! Do you know the store manager? How can we save that bird??”

“Wait here, just wait here…”

Five minutes later he called out, “I’m up here! I’m up on the roof!!!”

W H A T!?!

radames on roof

My ‘super’ super rescued the bird and held him up to me, wonderful!!! I shouted out the window, “Try and bring him down, I’m taking him for a check up, he’s injured!” I had the Wild Bird Fund ready to take him. Alas, as he loosened his grip the bird flew/tumbled down…Radames came back up the stairs.

“Radames! How did you get them to open the roof door!!”

“Those people don’t know anything! I climbed up the roof myself!”

W H A T!?!

I went outside with him to look for the bird, which had landed upon a high window sill. Impossible to get him, might he mend on his own?

But then I saw how he got up the roof….

back alley

He used two 10′ ladders! Up a narrow passage way, totally death defying to me!!!

Now dozens of people are chiming in on the media page, waiting to see the bird’s fate – the shared joyous relief was so uplifting!

The Fowler’s Snare, let us be alert and discerning! It is crafted to look harmless, even inviting, don’t even touch it! Against this powerful foe, in our own strength, we will end up enmeshed and upside down! But our Father sees all things….

Thank You Lord, our Deliverer and Rescuer! “… Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare….”

Yes, “His Eye is on the Sparrow” But…

Coming out of our basement laundry room last week, a baby sparrow sped by me, running in fear with his wing dragging on the pavement. “Poor thing!”, I thought, but as I climbed the stairs my heart recited that song, “His Eye is on the Sparrow” and, I wondered, as “He watches over me”, what does the Lord want me to do about this sparrow apparently in His view?

I plopped down my laundry and realized, I could not leave that injured bird there, unable to fly, amid possible rat attacks and other terrors. I contacted the Wild Bird Fund downtown, known for their devoted care for injured birds of all kinds. “Try and catch him and bring him to us!” Ok, I thought, how hard can that be?

I returned to the trash area where my super was putzing around. “Hey,” I said with gloved hands, “I’m just looking for a little injured bird…” He immediately engaged in this search and within seconds we were chasing the poor thing in and out of every corner and cranny. “Got him!” I announced with delight. I had never held a bird and he was precious!

Time for me to scurry down to the Wild Bird Fund!

I contacted them in a day, two days…surely the baby bird would soon fly to Central Park! Finally, this week, I received the report…

I am very sorry to tell you that the house sparrow you brought to us was too injured to recover. The main problem was to do with his wing, as you suspected; his left radius and ulna were nearly severed, his humerus was very swollen, and his right elbow was fractured. While we can treat some wing injuries, these ones were not survivable. Fractures in birds that are close to the joint, such as the elbow, do not heal well. As the bone calluses, it fuses the bone and the joint together, leading to permanent paralysis, so that the bird is unable to move his wing. This means he could never fly again, and in turn could never return to the wild. Because his prognosis was extremely poor, we made the decision to humanely euthanize him and prevent further suffering.
I know this is not the outcome you were hoping for, but please know that by bringing him to us, you saved him from a great deal of future distress and discomfort. In cases like this, the kindest and most humane thing we can do is allow the bird to pass in peace and without pain.” 

What? That tiny bird had all that?

You’re right, Care Team, that was not the outcome I was hoping for! Lord, Your eye was upon him, You put this baby in my hand and…why?

I thought of the greater ‘whys’ charged up to heaven, filled with grief from untimely death and loss. Brethren who seem to be at the peak of their ministry, raising their family, a joy to parents…dreams crushed. My brother’s death was such a loss, leading me to question and challenge God. One of our beloved pastors often tells of the grievous late night knock, “We’re sorry to inform you…there was an accident…” Burying their only daughter, he cried out, “Why!”

God is not fragile. He can take our anguish and anger – the honest cry from His children and, moreover, He will answer that cry.

I couldn’t possibly see the sparrow’s pervasive injuries uncovered by diligent diagnostic care and medical equipment. Neither can I see into the spiritual realm of God’s view and providence. He is undoubtedly sovereign and certainly owns us, we belong to Him. Then why untimely death of His beloveds? Why, when the ‘outcome is not what we hoped for’ but what we actually dreaded most?

At 38 yrs old, a husband and a father to two toddlers, my brother Paul was at the peak of his faith. He bravely suffered through harrowing medical treatments and admitted towards the end, “I have no regrets. Having cancer brought me closer to the Lord in so many ways – I would not have known Him so deeply without it.” Paul’s faith was a testimony to doctors and patients in oncology – and to us as well.

“I know full well that my life is in the hands of the Lord. He has the keys to the car, and I am going along for His ride…” Paul Stepanian

Pastor Ben Crandall shared similarly from the pulpit, “At 25, my daughter was full of faith, had her whole life ahead of her. I cried out over her grave, why, why did You take her from us!” The pastor shared what he later received from the Lord, ‘I saw her spiritual future and took her before she fell’.

Long ago I jotted this quote in my Bible,

“The believer’s life on earth is his only arena for change and fruitfulness…the nature of eternity is changeless. Therefore, the time to become like Jesus, being conformed to His likeness, is during this earthly Christian experience of trial and faith.” “You and I will never be any closer to Christ, throughout eternity, than we are when He comes. That’s the point of Judgment.” (Dr. Lovett)

The nature of eternity is changeless…” We see untimely death as missing 30, 40 or 50 years of life – God sees our lives entering into eternity in the likeness His Son – enjoying His close presence forever.

God does not spell out everything like the Wild Bird Fund. But our faith need be strong enough to stand upon His word and His sovereignty and trust Him when ‘the outcome is not what we hoped for’. Those devoted to my little sparrow assured –

I know this is not the outcome you were hoping for, but please know that by bringing him to us, you saved him from a great deal of future distress and discomfort

Doctors determine outcomes through X-rays, CAT scans and tests. God sees through everything, and into eternity.

His eye was on the sparrow. But more than ‘His eye’ is upon us – His life is within us and He orders our steps as a sovereign Father in heaven. Whether our ‘wing is broken’ or our heart is broken or ‘the outcome is not what we hoped for’, we can trust the Lord to walk us through, and with a view of eternity.

Heartbreak in the Heights

We happen to live in Washington Heights, venue for the popular movie, “In The Heights”. I moved here 40 years ago as a student in the 80’s. It was, at the time, the cocaine capital of the east coast and the Marielitos prevailed in vicious crime sprees. Two blocks over from my building is Armory which, at that time, sheltered 800 homeless men who often spilled out onto building doorsteps. None of this bothered me in fact, it was a renters delight at the time and perfect venue for a social work student.

While I have never seen Dominicans singing and dancing in the street, I have a love for my neighbors and community and appreciate enduring with them over the years. My husband and I remained active in our downtown church for over 20 years, but also hoped to find a church in the neighborhood. While the Lord graciously opened a small Bible study in our home for a year, my heart yearns for more, to worship and share the Gospel within the community. Is it just me or the Lord charging my heart?

We learned of a church gathering in the park just 3 blocks from us. Their website had some solid foundational tenets although with some contemporary ‘buzz words’, but we were open to whatever the Lord would show us, outside in a park on a summer morning. I love the idea of praising God, in English and Spanish, out in the park – may others hear and hearts stir!

20210627_114348

Everyone was kind and welcoming. After a time of praise, the pastor spoke with a simple message from John chapter 3, ok. It was good to be with neighborhood folks, most I have never met. However, after the service we met with the pastor to flesh out the beliefs, mission, and teachings of the church. He was excited about youth outreaches, invites to athletics and games and gauging the needs of the community. From there he spoke with vigor of his Genesis Bible study, expounding on things that most people, including myself, don’t know and never heard of…”the first tabernacle was really in the Garden of Eden…..” He quoted a central author in this discovery whose name he mentioned several times but I can’t remember.

He explained at length how violations of “Social Justice” is the central issue behind of Israelites’ exile, founding the church mission of social justice. We could barely wedgeway into his mount of scriptural justifications – my head couldn’t digest his perspectives. Back to Genesis I honed in to ask point blank, “Do you believe in the Biblical account of creation, that God made all in six days?”

A two second hesitation here is all I need but he fueled up more fervor to explain how he was ‘freed’ from the conventional Biblical account through elaborate studies in sophisticated theology, history, and Egyptian culture. I will not even elude to at or hint at what he shared; unraveling the supernatural demonstrations of God’s power and His magnificence is just devilish.

At the end I restated, “I believe in the Bible’s account, it is the foremost introduction to God’s greatness and awesomeness. To diminish that, questions all of His supernatural power and the miracles throughout the Bible…”

As though speaking down to the ‘unenlightened’ he replied, “Yeah, my father still believes that” (I immediately thought, does he have a church? Where is it?) he added, “…and about 30-40% of our attendees at the church still believe that” (Until, I thought, they take your Genesis course and the truth is scrubbed out of their hearts!)

We left with my head swirling with ‘deep’ religious explanations I had never imagined but, moreover, I was heartbroken for the lack of holiness, brokeness for the lost and a fear of God.

God can surely call us to a place that is imperfect, incomplete – even chaotic. But never where truth is disdained and error is taught with fervor. Not sure how long we’ll still be in the Heights but my heart is still searching for God’s presence here and perhaps some sheep to join in worship, who love God and His precious unchanging word, and have a heart for the lost.

I will “keep on asking, seeking, and knocking”, praying for the Lord to order the steps of my feet and my heart. May He lead us to where He is working that we may co-labor with Him in the fields for the harvest.

Death, Devastation, and God

f2afa1eb-a47e-49cf-ae3b-db89fc586ebc_w1024_q10_s

Those close to the plight of Armenians in Karabakh deeply lament with yesterday’s surrender, 11/9/2020 at 5pm EST. There is plenty to grieve. The onslaught of radical Islam jars open the storehouse of anguish in every Armenian.

War crimes and terrorism launched against Karabakh – Artsakh for Armenians – ignited and unified hearts around the globe. Campaigns, rallies, protests, and prayer meetings rang through every country with desperate cries for intervention, justice, mercy and outright miracles.

Miracles needed indeed for a small volunteer army against the military wealth of Turkey and Azerbaijan and the endless supply of hired mercenaries from numerous Islamic countries. I beseeched God, day and night, fasting and crying out the battle cries of David for Armenia…

‘Rescue them O Lord, from evil men; protect them from men of violence, who devise evil plans in their hearts and stir up war every day…Keep them O Lord from the hands of the wicked…Hear O Lord, our cry for mercy. O Sovereign Lord, our strong deliverer, who shields our head in the day of battle, do not grant the wicked their desires…do not let their plans succeed…

But zeal and faith were not enough to overcome the vast enemy nor the inner battles of raging COVID, dysentery, and growing despair amongst the soldiers that fought without a break.

I had planned all night prayer last night, postponing today’s Bible fellowship with a precious new believer Raquel. With Armenia’s surrender however, all night prayer canceled. Somehow I slept well and awoke with the Lord’s words strongly pressed upon my heart,

“My Kingdom is not of this world. If it were, My servants would fight…”

I texted Raquel and asked if she wanted to fellowship – “sure!”. I shared with her how the situation turned out in Armenia,

“I am heartbroken for the destruction, bloodshed and death of so many and the rejoicing of evil people”

Raquel replied,

“We can only do what Jesus said, pray and do not give up and trust in the Lord.”

“Evil people will always rejoice in this world because Satan rules this world. Jesus already tells us that many will die in His name. The Armenian Christians that have been slain will be risen again by the Lord when the time has come and we will win this fight and reclaim the Earth that Father God made for us.”

Remarkably, for a new believer, she went on…

“I know you are heartbroken. Our deaths and suffering are inevitable. We all have a date reserved for each one of us to die. Sadly, many of those Armenians have met the last day of their flesh life. Remember though, they will live in eternity and they will no longer suffer. They are already with Jesus. Remember He said to the convicted man who believed in Him, crucified next to Him, that he would be with Him today. And as are the Armenian Christians who died in His name. He has wiped every tear from their eyes….”

I had not considered Armenia’s defeat, losing Karabakh. I had truly believed that the Lord God would move as He did against evil armies like the Moabites, the Ammonites, and Assyrians. One angel, at His command, could change the battle. I was sure, certain that I would travel to Armenia in the spring, hear the church bells ring at Sushi and burst with rejoicing.

I know this world is passing away. Darker days are coming for us all. I had such zealous hope though for the Armenians to stand and prevail after years of massacres, genocide, and persecution.

The Lord did not “strike the enemy with fear, panic and confusion” and sadly, He did not “bring Erdogan to shame.” But soldiers were baptized on the battlefield. Zoom prayer meetings joined me with Armenian believers whom I never met, to cry out for Armenians and pray for the enemy as well.

In my despair, the Lord’s very words gripped my heart with the truth I wasn’t reaching for and uplifted my heart through the new believer I am mentoring.

“My Kingdom is not of this world”

“…pray and do not give up and trust in the Lord.”

Pressing on….