Pass God the Baton – Heaven Rules!

I prayed for my neighbors…  was over a year ago.  Subsequent posts chronicled the  neighborhood battles around Columbia University expanding into our street under the guise of a ‘community plaza’.  Meeting and working with our neighbors, we organized and researched, uncovering CU’s ultimate plans to expand their campus, shutting down a large part of our street and eventually taking over more of our neighborhood.

We fought the Community Board.  We won, we lost.  We fought harder, we prayed and trusted God.  As the deadline to file suit against the Community Board neared, I shared my findings with the group:  Without thousands of dollars for legal fees, it would be foolhardy to proceed pro se against NYC.

Thus, I officially passed the baton to the Lord.  We did our part to the fullest extent and now our hope lies in Him alone.  Amen!

When enough Community Board votes betrayed us and aligned with CU, the chairman congratulated CU and gave one caveat,  “Wait until the current NYC street repairs are completed in that area before you begin street closure…”  The execs gladly agreed. That was June 26th this year…

And this is today, October 31st….

Haven Ave Construction II

Although they have a direct line to City Hall, CU couldn’t speed up construction!

My neighbor and I met with an onsite engineer yesterday and asked about the work.  Even after 3 months of water main replacement and repairs, he sees the work continuing for another month and a half!  Columbia University wanted to close our street so their students can ‘socialize, meet, and have coffee, without any cars or traffic around’.  C’mon snow!!

As the largest land owner in NY and upon witnessing their wielding of political power and land grabbing, I began to refer to Columbia University as an empire – with taxpaying residents as their serfs!  But that oppressive scenario only reminds me of Daniel’s admonishment to dethroned King Nebuchadnezzar:  “Learn that Heaven Rules”!

And we, as citizens of heaven, need to remember and proclaim that too!

I passed God the baton and the ground didn’t open up and swallow my enemies…but the ground did open up!  Although we tried our best, it is God who is pushing back CU’s development plans.  Will He thwart them completely?  Will we regroup with this new allotted time and go forth with a new strategy?

All I know is this, God is at the helm of Haven Avenue.  Not that this piece of asphalt has any eternal value.  I believe though, that a ‘gate’ opened where neighbors finally meet and share their concern and outrage.  Hopefully one day living faith takes root with the assurance that, although this world passes away, God’s truth and salvation are forever…because Heaven Rules.

 

Passing God The Baton

Junctures, crossroads, and detours come in the course of many fiery trials.  Believers, followers of the Lord Jesus, have access to God’s strength, wisdom, and leadership to forge ahead.  However, God can lead even His sheep to what seems to be a dead end.

Previous posts such as  Defeat and Confusion – Lord, Press On!, Waiting on God, Praying for my Enemies, Time to Quit or Go Deeper,   ‘Defeated’ but Refocused and Refreshed describe the ongoing battle in our neighborhood to save Haven Avenue from Columbia University’s plan to close it.  Under the guise of a ‘pedestrian plaza’ they are aggressively forging through our neighborhood to expand their campus.  At the same time outside developers won their conquest to rezone an adjacent neighborhood, with the sure result of gentrification and displacement.

But the defeat of our street, Haven Avenue stung the deepest.  Over the past year, our neighbors strongly rallied together, petitioned, canvassed, and presented to the Community Board not only our opposition but the inevitable hazard and hardship street closure would bring. While we understood ‘backroom deals’, what was most grievous was the forefront of corruption, in our face.  Betrayal and deceit and finally total dismissal of the community – live streamed and undeterred!

Even worse, all this at the behest of ‘an elite institute of higher learning’, one that even quotes Biblical scripture in their mottos.  The expressions of triumph as they defeated us – their neighbors – revealed the lowest of morality.

SO, we conferred as a group and committed to take legal action, an appeal with the State Supreme Court as procedure allows.  I myself poured into this, researching and writing, to present the case pro se.  There were definite grounds to appeal.  I started with such gusto, but found myself trudging through wet cement.  It became evident that,  without an attorney, at $15,000+,  we were surely jumping into a pool of sharks.  Their team of lawyers would happily eat us for lunch.

I have now conceded that it’s over…at least my part.  I believe I’ve come to a dead end. 

dead-end-sign-brick-wall-ss-1920-1

Even deflated and defeated, “You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.  With your help, I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.”

The Lord answered our prayers for our neighbors – we now know them enough to share our faith and pray for them.  He led us into a battle and girded us to stand and present the truth, exposing shameful and corrupt tactics, calling us to pray – not just for our victory but moreso for the depraved morality of those before us.

I believe we have run as far as we are able under God’s guidance.  Like King Jehoshaphat we cry, “O our God, will you not judge them?  For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”

runner passing baton

The battle is totally in His hands. 

The ‘next step’ is sometimes the hardest….”Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord.”

Yes Lord, keep my lamp burning…..

 

Progress at La Perla! (Pt 3)

empty shed PR

This is where it all started!

Many will recall the ‘recovery work’ of the Lord after devastating Hurricane Maria Hurricanes Strip but Jesus Covers  and the Lord’s faithfulness to His servant Pastor Ivan,  When God Moves Into el Barrio (Pt 1)  and then  The Pastor of La Perla (el Barrio Pt 2).

Forsaken and ravaged by drugs, rampant immorality and witchcraft, God launched a new thing in La Perla – the darkness a perfect backdrop to His shining light and new life.  God is preparing La Perla to bless His Kingdom – what an honor to witness and partake of this work!  

As previously posted, the Lord called Pastor Ivan from a comfortable church in NYC for church planting in this dangerous area of Puerto Rico.  While there was some gathering of believers, Hurricane Maria all but destroyed the seedlings of church.  But Pastor Ivan’s vision and calling did not waiver.  In spite of months of depravation, he stood and stayed the course, believing that God would finish what He started.

According Pastor Ivan, it started with a ‘shack’ and the faithful foresight of what God can do with a surrendered shack.

Introducing….

le perla progress               le perla progress pastor

                                                CENTRO DE ARTE BEZALEEL!

Bezalel Art Center – BAC – named after the man chosen by God in the Book of Exodus, to lead the work of building His tabernacle and all its furnishings.  In Exodus 31, God “filled him (Bezalel) with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts”.    Not only for Bible study and fellowship, BAC will be a place for gaining personal growth and valuable work skills.

“My desire is for people to come and learn and work at the Center and experience the anointing power and love of God.  May they experience the creativeness of God.  God is the Creator and has placed in His people His Spirit of creativity.”  Pastor Ivan

la perla seashore progress II

La Perla by the Sea…once a place for degradation, now where God’s beauty and love take root and grow. 

Wow.  I’m impressed by the hand of God.  So excited to think of the next postings!

 

 

Maggie and the Gospel Truth

Some folks already know that beloved Maggie passed away on Saturday, 3/3/18, after a long illness.  Maggie’s Corner are posts expressing God’s love and truths through His creation.  Here is Maggie’s story and farewell post.

While walking through Harlem in 2004, making home visits for Parole, I unexpectedly took a left onto a street where no parolee lived.  I kept walking and came across an abandoned brownstone.  Believe it or not, I found the building online!

harlem-abandoned-2

Maggie and her kittens were living under the stairs, 144 West 129th Street!

 

I was so drawn to her and immediately bought food from a nearby ‘bodega’.  The desperate eyes of this nursing mother locked into mine…she followed me as far as she dared leave her babes on this rough street.  I promised her, “I’m coming back for you, girl!” and soon brought her and a kitten home.  (the others went out for adoption)

Perhaps like Maggie, God rescues us from desolate and hopeless places.

 “Do not be afraid…Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father….you are worth more than many sparrows.”

 

Maggie lived a good life.

Maggie in suitcase

She enjoyed traveling…

maggie reading

Reading in bed

Maggie and Bible 2

Psalm 91 was one of her favorites

During personal times of turmoil and trial, even betrayals in my life, Maggie was a constant loving companion.  I saw the hand and providence of God in His creation and am still so grateful.

 In January 2017, Maggie was diagnosed with significant conditions, I was sure the end was near.  As the perfect patient, Maggie received all necessary treatment and, surprisingly, lived on.  The Lord gave Maggie another good year and during it, prepared my heart for a future farewell.

I finally prayed, “Lord, let her live until the ground thaws.”

On March 3rd 2018, I held Maggie at 4am, giving her a last gentle brushing, knowing that this would be her last day.  The ground reserved for her was thawed…. 

 

16091

Maggie rests under the birdhouse….in prestigious Wellesley MA

…but covered with snow on March 8th! 

Friends, if the Lord could hear the cry of a mother cat and rescue her and her kittens, won’t He hear our cry?  Deliverance may not be immediate, but won’t it be sure for those who trust and wait upon the Lord?

From Psalm 91, “He  who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty…..I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Maggie was a personal blessing from the Lord, one I could not have found on my own.  I saw God’s faithfulness in bringing her out of a dangerous place and into loving arms.  But I also saw a steadfastness in Maggie, through difficult ailments and lonely times of absences.  Did she have more fortitude than me?  Maggie never waivered in cuddly love.  She always came when we called, met us at the door, and retired to bed at the right time.

From Harlem NYC to Wellesley MA….almost likened to the Lord’s way…bringing us out of the world’s darkness and into His marvelous light…and securing us into a most prestigious place – His everlasting Kingdom forever!

maggie-at-window-1

Farewell, Maggie.

 

 

When Angels Operate Elevators

“How then can evil overtake me or any plague come near?  For He orders His angels to protect you wherever you go.”  (Psalm 91:10-11)

There is another Parole testimony which lives in my heart as a constant reminder of the Lord’s presence and protection as we serve Him.  I covered two Harlem precincts as a Parole Officer, the 28 and the 32.  Within the 32nd Precinct stand the infamous Polo Grounds,  a huge concentration  of city housing projects built upon the former baseball field.

polo grounds II

Each one of these 4 buildings contains over 1600 apartments.  

These buildings are a hotbed for crime and gangs, ergo I had many assignments here.  It was a good thing for ‘one stop shopping’ – I could make many home visits and curfew checks in one location.  However, it was dangerous as well.  Over the years I came to know many of the parolees and their families here, had many ‘meet and greet’ moments on walkways and lobbies and often had open doors to share the Gospel.   However, during one early morning curfew check, the encounter was not friendly at all…

 

It was a bit past 5am, I hopped off the city bus and walked briskly down the project’s walkway.  The sun had not yet risen over the city high risers but it was not dark.  I passed by the park benches in the grassy area and took a mental photo of 5 youths sitting upon the bench and atop the bench back – five gang members who apparently ‘broke night’.  They clocked me as I walked past but did not move.  A warning pang struck me as I entered the building and pushed the elevator button – however, I was obviously alone.

When the elevator door opened I was still alone – I quickly stepped in but before I could press any button those 5 youths jumped in and the decrepit doors shut behind them.  

A powerful ‘oh crap’ moment struck me – bum-rush, disarm, rape and worse flashed in my mind.   “Lord!” was the cry in my heart, but before they could reach the floor buttons…

the elevator doors flew open for one secondI jumped out – the doors slammed shut! …the elevator quickly lifted away!

Those moments,  deeply etched in my heart, are a continual reminder to me of God’s presence as we walk in His will and His power to intervene.  I do believe that angels operated that elevator, confounding wicked plans.  (After thanking God and gaining composure, I actually did take another elevator and made the visit!)

The word of God describes many angelic interventions, there is no doubt of their endowed power, evidenced through the Old and New Testament.  While it is Biblical for believers to accept the presence of angels it is not Biblical or godly to engage angels or place our faith in these servants of God.  They are dispatched by God alone and exist to enact His commands and will.  We should be aware though, as demonic spirits influence and darken the world around us, our God has more powerful beings to launch on behalf of His beloved, us.  

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?    (Hebrews 1:14)

The essential truth that marks my heart from those memorable moments is this:  if we are walking in obedience to God’s will, if we are where He has placed us and busy at what He assigns, we are backed by heaven.  God will go before us, protect us, and sovereignly bring His plan to fruition.  

Thank you Lord for Your presence and intervention in our lives even if we don’t see it.  Let us walk in total assurance that our names are “engraved in the palm of Your hand” and, as the Lord promises, “no one will snatch them out of My hand.”   Help us to obey and trust in Your word, serving as You assign and plan our lives.  Amen.  

 

“Hey, I Remember YOU!”

dark city street

 

New York State Parole Officers are required to make many random home visits in their assigned precincts.  Many visits were ‘surprise’ visits during curfew hours, 9pm to 6am.  Unlike most of my fellow officers, I chose to work alone in the field and, moreover, walked through the neighborhoods block by block.  Although the Harlem precincts were quite rough at the time, I grew to know and love the community.

However rewarding my lone and lengthy excursions, there were also a few hairy moments to remember.

One early morning, a little past 5am….

It was a cold and dark winter morning, I hopped off the bus and started my scheduled visits, block by block.  Except for a few figures huddled inside doorways, either selling drugs or loitering for warmth, the streets and sidewalks were empty.  I walked into a side street, between two major avenues and, halfway in the block an eerie feeling came upon me.  I noticed a large hooded man across the street, picking up his pace, following me.  There was no once else to follow!

I looked ahead towards the avenue which was well lit.  “Lord, let me get there”.  However, this man sped up, crossed the street diagonally towards me.  A flashback of being jumped as a youth shot a warning inside me…As he walked between two parked cars to the sidewalk,  I neared the street light.  He slowed his pace and looked at me, his countenance clearly changing…

“Hey, I remember YOU!  You were my Parole Officer a long time ago!”

“Really?”  I did not remember him!

“Yeah!  I remember you, you invited me to your church!”

“Oh, well did you go?”  I asked this possible mugger.

“Actually, I did go once, a long time ago…but things just fell apart…”  his voice drifted.  No doubt that “things just fell apart” since he was roaming the streets for no good reason.  “Well, maybe you need to go back to the church, remember where it is?  51st and Broadway…Start praying, call out to the Lord.  He’s the only one that can change your life…”

“Yeah, I know…” with that he turned and walked away…and I, somewhat stunned,   headed towards the avenue, the sun now rising.

I call upon this memory often, it refreshes my trust in God’s protection and His “order to my steps”.  I am fairly certain of that ex-convict’s initial criminal intent as he eyed and followed me – but I believe the Lord had an appointment that morning.  At just the right moment, that man saw my face in the light and remembered me, and God stopped and redirected him.  Of all the scenarios that flew to mind, I did not imagine what God had in store.

That morning also brought life to the truth…”He who plants and he who waters are one in purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers…”  (I Corin 3:8-9)   If I indeed invited this former parolee to church it was after counseling him in the Lord and sensing a receptive heart to know God.  What happened during the subsequent years is unknown but serving God under His direction and calling is never futile – the Lord of the harvest will yield His intended fruit.  

I pray for Lord’s encouragement upon us all, may we seek and anticipate His possibilities everyday…appointments – even unlikely ones – where we might water the seed within someone’s heart or refresh someone’s damaged faith and even more, sense a unity with the Lord of the harvest as He causes the seeds to grow.

 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens
    and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
    producing seed for the farmer
    and bread for the hungry.
 It is the same with my word.
    I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
    and it will prosper everywhere I send it.”

(Isaiah 55:10-11)

A Ragamuffin in God’s Hall of Fame?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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