God’s Light Upon a New Path

My father died suddenly three weeks ago. He lived his last day like much of his life, attending a banquet to benefit orphans and needy children, adding another beautiful child to sponsor.

While I often teared up just thinking of my parent’s passing, I am yet unable to shed tears for my dad. Perhaps my grief’s on hold as I stay with my mother to comfort and help her through everything. In the meantime, daily walks to pray and mentally rest quiet my heart. On one of my first walks I came upon a nature trail that I’d never seen.

This is it

Seeming sunlit and safe, I turned into it and, as I did, I saw a blue striped bird which I’ve never seen before. Crickets and cicadas created a relaxing echo every step of the path. The air was fresh and damp, I was joyfully alone with the Lord.

Later that day I logged onto WordPress and found one of my favorite sights, https://aussiebirder.com/blog/, as brother Ashley’s birding posts and narratives are truly inspiring and edifying. I shared about my found nature trail and this was his response to me….

“This nature trail was not only a beautiful relief for you but a message from our Lord of new trail, a new season, new beginnings, that after the grieving and healing will come blessing. I am so glad you were given this beautiful aside to appreciate our Lord’s beauty. He shows us snippets of his love for us personally when we experience these precious moments. I pray that the Lord will encourage and strengthen you as you have done so much for me and others with your beautiful gift. Seeing a lifer on your walk is a sign of new things.” (https://aussiebirder.com/2022/10/11/why-do-aussie-birds-become-aggressive/)

People of God can truly speak words of life to uplift and inspire. This is true of Ashley. I thought about this sunlit trail, a new path and new beginning. Grieving my father’s death and caring for my precious mother are new challenges, a new season in my life. But I believe light and the blessing comes as we follow the Lord closely. He will affirm His presence and order our steps – leading us safely through the other side.

I’ve learned so much from the loving-kindness of others, I pray to remember and bestow it generously.

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.

Dance Alone If Necessary!

This past Sunday I had a family event to attend at 4pm, giving me plenty of time to drive 40 miles to see Johnny Berberian play at a huge Armenian picnic. He is one of the few “Udi’s” or Oud Extraordinaires in the world. Ninety degrees or 100, I was ready for a Halla!

The band started with a Tamzara…

I ate my last shish kebab and dashed to the band to see who would start the line dance.  I taped the music while waiting…waiting…but not one of the 800 folks there dropped their forks!  Okay, the Tamzara is a very difficult dance but the next one was easier and just as invigorating!  I urged my relatives to come join in.  Everyone balked.  Ok, they’re over 75 and 80 but still, it’s Johnny Berberian!  

So I rushed over to the band and, for the first time ever, I began dancing alone!  A one woman dance line and I was so happy!  Yet, within one minute others joined me…

 

There I am in the green dress, leading a growing line – away we go!

There is hardly anything more exhilarating for me. Not only since childhood but more so now when I realize that, in spite of genocide, deportations, landlocked strangleholds, earthquakes and recent unprovoked war, we Armenians are still here. God did not allow us to be exterminated. Although often crushed, a true and growing remnant of faith is thriving. Reasons to celebrate, reasons to dance!

I realized another thing as I dashed to dance alone. My joy arose and, even if no one joined me, it would not be squelched. This need be true for believers in the coming days when complacency and apostasy run rampant. When our heart is stirred, when we are burdened and sense God’s call to pray, perhaps no one will join in. When worship arises in our heart, refuse to suppress it, even if we’re the only one raising our hands and voice. Might I be the only one to pray at a family dinner, giving thanks to the Lord?

I say, if need be, be the only one! Encourage others with exuberance worthy of the Lord. Pray that they are stirred and go alone, perhaps others one by one will join in the line….

If God stirs your heart to have a prayer meeting, reach out to others, call them in, but if you’re the only one, believe this – you’re not the only one. The Holy Spirit is there and the Lord will honor your faithfulness.

(I’m having a prayer meeting tomorrow night…not sure who will join in – perhaps you’ll see in my next post what the Lord has in store!)

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!

WHY RUSSIA IS NOT THE ENEMY — The Scripture Library

An Unpopular Opinion Regarding the On-Going Russo-Ukrainian War by Jeff Dominguez

Last February 24, 2022, Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, launched a full-scale attack in an attempt to invade their neighbor country, Ukraine. This caused immediate chaos and panic across Ukraine and has made the entire world worried. International leaders joined forces to convince Vladimir Putin […]

WHY RUSSIA IS NOT THE ENEMY — The Scripture Library

The unprovoked invasion into Ukraine is shaking the world with grief, fear, and anger. For an Armenian, it stirs up utter dread to see a powerful nation invading a peaceful one for no reason, exacting destruction and ruining lives. As I fervently prayed for the Armenians besieged by Turkish backed Azeris, I pray for the Ukrainians, for the strength and faith of the body of Christ, for fighters’ fortitude, for God to intervene as their high tower and bulwark.

But like Jeff Dominguez elaborates in this embedded post, I also cry out for the Russians. The Russian soldiers, conscripted and compelled to fight, duped by propaganda. The Russians and Ukrainians, neighbors since forever, share similar if not the same culture, religion, and family life and history of communist tyranny. They marry each other. Russians have no blood lust to kill their neighbors.

I pray for them, that their hearts be gripped with conviction and their feet weighed down like lead. May their eyes are opened for repentance and cause them to retreat – confounding the world and exalting the Lord.

I encourage anyone reading this to read brother Jeff’s post. I never saw his blog before but last night I came to a realization as I turned away from the harrowing newscasts. This is not normal or rational, it is outside the flesh. This is supernatural, and Putin is inspired if not captivated by demonic forces.

For us as believers to be true contenders in this battle, we must enter in spiritually. Yes, we could make our anguish known to legislators and contribute to humanitarian aid. But we ourselves have a Commander and Chief. We are not conscripts, He owns us completely. I pray that, under the Lord’s authority, we gain spiritual revelation of these world events, direction in prayer, and see the opportunities to extol our Savior and His Kingdom – the only true and lasting hope.

May we link arms as His body and stand as a light in this darkness.

The Caravan Keeps Going….

caravan

A lively discussion of current events ensued during a recent stay at my parents’ house, voicing critical and disparaging opinions of political leadership. Sensing its futility, my father put the kabbash on the debate, “There’s an old Armenian saying” he said, “‘Շունը հաչէ, կարավանը կը քալէ’, The dog barks, the caravan goes on…” No matter how loud our complaints and objections, none will not stop or change anything!

My father was born and raised in Syria, lived in an Armenian community, amongst Arabs and Jews. He speaks Arabic, Armenian, Turkish, English and French – and also remembers wonderful cultural adages.

Though the debate ended, this particular proverb stayed with me, bearing spiritual significance. How many Christians ‘bark’ at social and political movements and protest immorality and corruption? Are we ‘barking’ at the caravan, at the multitudes marching upon that ‘broad road that leads to destruction’? Will that bring about any real change? Is that what the Lord did, what the apostles did?

“We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one”.

Believers, above all people, should know that this world is on a course; the fruition of sin, the rampant rebellion, and grievous apostasy are all prophesized with detail. The utter futility, if not devilish snare, of protesting and vying for political power has no place as we serve our King.

I pray to live as a “stranger and sojourner” here in this condemned world. May I resist every fleshly temptation to change the course of this world. With resolve I pray not to bark at the caravan but may God help us to rescue those marching in it.

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.

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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.