Juanita’s Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh yes!  I believe!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘No family….no one here….all alone….’

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

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

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

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

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

*names changed for privacy

 

When God Allows Defeat

I Prayed For My Neighbors, Look What Happened  and I Prayed For My Neighbors….Part II  describe how, after months of praying for my neighbors and our community, my husband and I were drawn into a calamity.  Columbia University, the largest private land owner in NYC, was pushing a plan to close down part of our street to expand their campus.  After demolishing apartment buildings across the street and erecting a huge conference center….

CU conference center

This gargantuan building looms over our small residential street!

…they want to expand their campus onto our street!

Although they are confident and shovel ready, CU could not proceed with campus expansion unless they obtained approval by the governing Community Board.

With Columbia’s ongoing pattern of displacing residents and shutting small businesses, our community was alarmed and, as we drew together, Bob and I came to know and more personally care about them.  We spoke out in public gatherings and united.

We won on 12/4/17, when the Community Board voted against CU.

But over the past 3 months, Board members changed and ‘temporary appointees’ strategically put in – suddenly CU pushed back on their agenda although they had no justification to appeal the last decision!

Once again, we canvassed and met with residents…petitions, signs, flyers…nothing left undone.  We prayed, especially to assure that we were in God’s will.   If “the nations are a drop in the bucket” to God,  could our little street have any significance to Him?  Is there anything of eternal value knitted into this issue?

Bob said, “I keep going back to Proverbs 31:8, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves..”  The NLT states, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.”

 

Columbia had a small cluster of executives…but in their midst was our City Councilman!

The entire community was prepared to speak, many had done research on vital traffic issues that would preclude CU’s plan.  There were strong procedural objections from community representatives.  Many, if not most, came to express their outrage of CU’s ongoing neighborhood take over.

While public input is protocol, the ‘interim’ chairperson said, “You are all welcome to stay but will not be acknowledged to speak.  We are voting on this issue without public input.”   BAMBOOZLED!!

The uproar and outcry could not be stopped.  Almost unbelievably, an elderly Hispanic man came up to my husband and asked, “Sir, could you speak for me?  I cannot speak for myself.”!  

Bob did speak and, while I truly seek to obey scripture (Submit to governing authorities), a deep lament welled up in me.  I did not speak on the material I had planned, but stood up and cried out,

“You’re betraying us!  You’re supposed to represent us!! You will nullify yourselves in this community – No one will trust you!!” 

They turned their faces from the public and voted, majority in favor of Columbia.

The cluster of executives walked away happy, in the company of our City Councilman!  The final step is approval by the General Board – CU does not look worried.

Should we press on to the General Board?  Are we totally defeated?

The only question that need be answered is this:  what is God’s will?  The Lord can lead us into what seems unwinnable – and we might be defeated!  But God is never defeated, never.  With Sovereign God, the ‘thing at hand’ isn’t always His focus.

Although pointing to our spiritual battles, this excerpt from Anchored in the Cross challenges us to endure in the battle….

“Great victories come from great warriors!  Great warriors are made from greatness of character!….Territory is always vital in war.  It’s a battle of turf and who will occupy the ground.  Has the enemy attempted to enter your home, children, family?…We must stand and defend the territory God has given us and not allow the enemy to overtake it…..

What does it require inside you in order to stand relentlessly?…God uses people in your life to build character that will make you a fighter for the Kingdom of God…

Outnumbered?…with God with you, you’re never outnumbered and have no need to retreat….It not only takes boldness to stand, but faith as well.  Numbers are irrelevant when God is with you.

Anchored in the Cross May 25th

We prayed for our neighbors,  met them and came alongside them into the battle.  I believe that boldness is strengthening my heart, enabling me to speak to strangers and in public forums with conviction.  If God is “training my hand for war; my fingers for battle” then I believe those skills will be used for God’s Kingdom.

Speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves?  Training my hands for war?  Go on to the General Board meeting?  Only God knows.  I pray that He will order our steps.  No matter what, His purposes will not be defeated, in His shadow we will  find victory.     

 

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!

 

 

The Forgotten Door to Power, Position and Peace

We were created for a place of power, position, and peace and yet our quests for them often lead to futility and disappointment.

Rather than reset our compass,  we dig deeper in ourselves for inspiration, motivation, and self confidence, cheering ourselves on with words of “gusto” and “empowerment”.   Seeds of self promotion and self-actualization were sown long ago with a dark promise,  “…your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Satan’s design for man mirrored his own downfall –  exaltation of self – selfish ambition, self love, self importance and self reliance….separation from God.  

But the position God plans for us, the peace He promises, and the power He avails to us is far greater than any ‘self actualization’.   His personal love and plan for each of us will lead to places where He awaits, with a calling only He can fulfill.   

The life lived by faith in Christ is one with eternal value. 

The will of God is unique to each individual life. God has created each of us specially unique in that there is not, nor will there ever be anyone like you.  He has also placed you here on earth in this time and generation in the country and ethnicity for His own desire.  Your impact in this world is nothing without Christ; it’s all about surrendering our will unto His.   (Excerpt from Anchored in the Cross  3/15/18)  

Hollow and temporal achievements in this world can never compare to the work of the Holy Spirit through the life of a surrendered believer.  Sadly, today’s church has lost the power, the peace, and the position before God.  They are ‘safe’ places for personal sin, without conviction and without a loving challenge to pursue God’s holiness.

From ancient days to this present moment, through broken yet indwelt believers, and through His living word, God desperately calls us.  Fellowship, salvation and eternal promises come forth only through this forgotten door…

door with snow pinterest

“…we can boldly enter heaven’s most holy place because of the blood of Jesus. By His death, Jesus opened a new and life giving way…” (Hebrews 10:19-20)

Church agendas of ‘good works’, excellent music, special events –  campaigns against every social ill – can never reconcile us or anyone else to God.  Nothing at all in us can please or satisfy God.  In view of God’s holiness the Apostle Paul declared, “In me dwells no good thing.”    From this revelation opens the life giving truth:  The blood of Christ alone brings new life.  He restores us to God, and indwells our hearts.  (Read what God did while we were sinners…  in Romans 5) 

Our flesh and soul often suffer regret, remorse, and self condemnation leading to inconsolable emotional suffering.  But “godly sorrow”, as described in II Corinthians 7:9-11, is a blessed drawing of the Holy Spirit leading to true repentance.  There, at the foot of the cross, the door opens to the power of the cross:  forgiveness of sin and deliverance from the power of sin.

New power, through the life of Christ within us, new position – the right standing before His throne, and new peace, through Christ “which surpasses all understanding”…..God awaits us.  And Jesus declares,

“…I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”   

door with snow pinterest

 

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.

 

 

The Pastor of La Perla (el Barrio Pt 2)

pastor Ivan TSC

Pastor Ivan, before La Perla, with a call upon his heart…

 

If the Lord is seeking a soldier that will stand his post, a shepherd who will stand with the sheep – however few remain,  and a beacon that will bear light through the storm… He found a Pastor in La Perla.

Six years ago, God called Pastor Ivan out from a vibrant NYC ministry into a neighborhood in Puerto Rico described for years as “decrepit” and “dangerous”.  Please see:  When God Moves Into el Barrio (Pt 1)   Over the course of 40 years many ministries and churches have staked a claim in La Perla, perhaps hoping to be the shining vessel through whom God will bring deliverance.  But they did not last.   God is not looking for our enthusiasm, He’s seeking steadfastness….

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the  work of the Lord, since you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.  ( I Corin 15:58)

Although working alone in La Perla, the presence of God never left.  A remnant of believers arose and Pastor Ivan opened Iglesia La Perla.

But when the eye of the storm swept through Puerto Rico, many in La Perla fled.  The small flock of believers dwindled,  leaving behind those who would live without water, electricity or food supply for two months. 

“Not having electricity and water for 2 months was not easy.  And going out each day seeing where to get something to eat was not easy.”  Pastor Ivan

How many American pastors are praying for running water?  A light?  Even a sure meal…for two months? 

Pastor Ivan likened Hurricane Maria to “a bomb” hitting the island, “apocalyptic”.   I pressed him to share his feelings and challenges during that time…

“You try to understand your place as a Christian in the newly devastated world…I had the opportunity to go back to New York, many friends and family members were telling me to go back and it was tempting but I didn’t.  Even though my mind and flesh wanted to leave I knew I needed to stay and be there for others…. Like Jesus said, leave everything behind and follow Me…Learning to live a day at a time was challenging, but isn’t that what Jesus taught us?  To let go of everything and rely on Him.”   Pastor Ivan

The Lord strengthened Pastor Ivan and, at the right time, brought a mission team to encourage, provide and share in God’s plan.  Renovations for Iglesia  La Perla and plans for a youth workshop and Bible study building are already underway!

pastor ivan outside truck

Pastor Ivan – a shepherd with a calling and vision…and a truck with lumber!

truck by shore

Le Perla by the sea…God rebuilding upon what Maria blew away…

There is an active work of God moving throughout this world and our call is to join in.

Please join in the Lord’s work here through focused prayer.

  • Pray for Pastor Ivan, that the Lord encourage him and minister to him through His word
  • Pray for the Youth Workshop, that the Lord’s design and plans prevail and bear fruit
  •  Pray for the souls of La Perla and for others to find deliverance and salvation, entering into the freedom and promises of God.  May Iglesia La Perla grow and be a shining star to exalt the glory of God.

What God is doing here He can do in your life, in your home, in your community – no matter how devastated.  Pray for God to raise up leadership, stand together on God’s word and be steadfast.  Let’s see what the Lord will do!

Is This Church?

The life of Christ dwelt within the heart of Haig but we missed it for many years.  Haigie was a mentally and physically disabled Armenian man, without family, who lived with the elderly at the Armenian Nursing Home.  Culturally vibrant and lively, this ‘nursing home’ was a beloved Armenian community for Haigie, even though he wasn’t elderly.  Since my husband and I live 200 miles away, our visits were infrequent and our attention was spread over several residents.

After many years there, Haigie was evaluated by the state for placement into a residential group home for the mentally and physically disabled.  Now in his sixties, leaving his aged Armenian community was a crushing blow, many tried to circumvent this move but in the end it was a ‘God move’, a tremendous blessing for us all.

My husband and I began visiting Haigie at the group home, which did not have 80 residents but under 10.  With Haigie our only focus, we grew closer and the Lord soon revealed his living faith in Jesus Christ.  As a brother in the Lord, visits with Haigie became times of scriptural sharing and worship, including Armenian and English hymns.

However, within two years, Haigie’s health begun to fail.

Bob and haigy

For his memorial I wrote, in part,

It was clear that Haigie had a living faith.  We hadn’t realized before, that in his broken body was a vibrant love for God…In spite of longsuffering, he was ready to worship and expressed his love for Jesus Christ.  Haigie was a true believer whose faith greatly encourages us.  It will be a joy to worship the Lord with Haigie one day in God’s Kingdom.

I believe that ‘living faith’ doesn’t die.  

During our last visits with Haigie,  a woman wheeled herself into his bedroom as we were singing.  Mentally and physically disabled and mute, Adrienne somehow communicated to us that she was Armenian and friends with Haigie.  Another Armenian in this residence?  Adrienne joined us and we soon learned that she cared deeply for Haigie, his death would be a great loss to her.

SO following Haigie’s death we continued to visit this group home, Adrienne seemed to cherish this fellowship.  We sang songs and had scriptural reading in the ‘sun room’.  It was different.  But I soon saw the Lord doing a new thing.

One day Linda was in the ‘sun room’, her wheelchair parked by our sitting area as she worked on an art craft.  We hardly knew her but she seemed happy to have us there.  We socialized a bit with Adrienne then we opened up fellowship with singing (accompanied by much needed YouTube songs online!)  and Bible reading.  Although Adrienne is mute, Linda is not and we soon found that she had faith and something to say about it!

We came to know the other residents and the staff as well.

This Christmas our visit moved from the ‘sun room’ to the living room, the common social area.  A group seemed to form around us, including a Jewish resident!  The ball started rolling with Linda’s request for the all popular ‘Jingle Bell Rock’.  We sang out Christmas songs in every pitch and tone that perhaps only the Lord could love.  We even sang a Hanukkah song before sharing God’s word about Christ’s birth.  The story highlight became the shepherds and God’s choice to miraculously announce the Savior to simple folks huddled around sheep.

This is the best part…there was a time of prayer before leaving.  With joined hands and bowed heads I looked up, and saw residence staff come and join in!  

Was this church?  I think so!

 

Lord, speak to the heart of every resident and staff member in that home, water every seed of faith.  Open our eyes to value and seek the childlike faith of Matthew 18:3, humble and dependent upon you.  Press upon our hearts the kind of fellowship You desire, in the places that You ordain to make Yourself known.

I pray for each reader that visits this site, whet their appetite for more of You, Jesus.  Speak to their hearts and encourage them as they walk through each day, no matter how heavy the steps.  I pray for every writer that visits here, anoint them and inspire them with Your Holy Spirit.  Let Your seeds of living truth come to fruition through their work.

Amen.