The Bad Thing About a Good Life

American believers have, for the most part, enjoyed a ‘good life’ where the fruits of freedom to worship, work, plan and save grounded us in ‘One Nation Under God’.  The ‘good life’, often entangled in this world, gave birth to ungodly prosperity ministries and carnal churches.  However, the bad thing about a good life in an ungodly world is the inevitable upheaval of misplanted roots.  Since, “…Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin...” and “…the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”  this is not the place to invest our heart and trust.

Americans and believers alike are alarmed by the powerful forays that are, through destruction, forcing change.  A country that was built and cultivated over hundreds of years is seemingly toppling before our eyes.  But it was toppling all along….

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The Ten Commandments,  ordered removed by Oklahoma Supreme Court in 2015, under cover of night to avoid controversy

We lost all fear of ‘controversy with God.’  What was sanctioned in secret has come to utter fruition in the daylight – toppled statues, ruined icons, wanton cultural destruction.

‘Successful’ Christians are now scrambling to secure their lives here, especially with the growing threat of socialism… “Should I cash in my 401K?…Put my money in a safe?…But will there be a ‘cashless society’?…Should we buy property?”

Self-preservation is the most natural instinct within us – who doesn’t want to live and preserve a good life?  The only problem facing the believer though is the prevailing word of God that exhorts us to “pick up our cross” and follow Christ, “to live is Christ and to die is gain”, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” This call of separation unto God is an ongoing call from Genesis to Revelation, as is the rebuke against ‘friendship with the world’ and its entanglements.

I challenge myself in this:  maybe God is calling us to set our hearts upon and actually live according to His word,

“…godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that….take hold of the life that is truly life.  (I Timothy 6 excerpts)

These social, political, and moral upheavals pose great challenges for believers but also great opportunities to live out our faith as God intends – to believe and stand on His word, to express the glory and faithfulness of God, to be content…strengthening our hearts with the reality of Christ’s promised and soon return.

Believers are called out in every time and place of world history and with that call comes the power of God to live out our faith and fulfill His purposes for our short time here.

Lord, help us walk in and live through Your word in greater measure, proclaiming Your truth and faithfulness as this dark world readies for Judgment Day. 

When God Leads Into a Pothole

The three weeks of Prayer in the Plaza proved to be fruitful and defining for me.  I cannot measure the impact of God’s work amongst our first responders, patients, and families but I can testify that keeping an appointment has this great benefit – God shows up.   He speaks and impassions when our hearts seek to align with His.

At the same time, several of us embarked on an End Times Bible Study, posted once a day through Frontier Alliance International*.   This 14 lesson Bible Study is enthralling, opening up and igniting once-familiar prophetic scriptures.  Fruitful prayer time and Bible study churned my heart even more than before.  My husband and I both agreed – we want to be in the flow of God’s work, we want to fulfill all His call and service appointed to us – we so want our lives to count for the Lord in these end days.  

Spiritually invigorated, I prepared for a fast to go further in devotion and hear from the Lord.  To what might He call me?  To serve here in NYC, perhaps utilizing social work credentials to counsel or maybe the Lord would call us away.  I knew He would lead as I drew near…so sure and with such anticipation I began my fast, but it quickly seemed obliterated…

Before leaving for work, Bob unwittingly disclosed something that ignited a past deep marital wound.  My emotions erupted into an argument which continued fuming after he left, even moreso when I blamed him for ruining my peaceful quest to search God’s will.  How could I seek the Lord when I’m so angry?  

I immediately recalled a comment that I had just posted on David Ettinger’s site (EttingerWriting.com)  basically stating that God uses crisis and personal calamity to expose what is in us that we might rout it out to move forward in service.  This truth strongly pressed upon me, undeniably revealing a fleshly wound and sin that must be surrendered.

At first I thought I could ignore the fuming of my heart and open the word of God.  Not possible.  If you’re truly seeking God, He will mercifully corner you with what He wants to say.  I could not escape compelling verses calling believers to ‘obey’ the word of God, wives ‘respect’ their husbands, ‘submit’…there was no way to move forward without hashing this out.  The ‘argument’ was not ruining my fast, it was actually God’s response to my heartcry to serve.

When our heart is at ‘X’ but God commands ‘Y’ we can only pray for the Lord to change our heart, superficial formulas do not work.  (Although I did google ‘How to Respect Your Husband When He’s a Jerk’ which was a bit helpful).  I had to admit though, I fail at having, “…the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”  If God greatly values “gentle and quiet”, He must loath to see angry and argumentative!

So, my fasting began yesterday with a repentive cry for God to change my heart, heal my heart, and enable me to obey.   Although not perfect, by the time Bob returned home, my heart had softened toward kindness and respect.

Prayer in the Plaza and invigorating Bible studies stirred my heart with a greater longing and passion to know God’s will and serve Him.  Instead, a dust-up revealed flaws of my heart, a pothole I could not but go through.

But going through, I’m pressing on – trusting in our Forerunner with Whom we will not fail!

*Frontier Alliance International   –  for End of Age Bible Study:  First download Frontier Alliance International App, then Go to Maranatha tab,  then Global Bible Study then End of Age (white horse icon), click on  Main Sessions.

 

 

Prayer in the Plaza

Many readers, family and friends may remember our community battles here with Columbia University’s ongoing land grab in New York City, posted here ,  here, and here    for example.  Commandeering housing and small businesses, they set their sites on our street to take a stretch of it for their ‘plaza’.  While the community fought to save our street, the wheels of political and financial power spun against us.  Soon part of our street was closed and the work began.

However, as believers, we grip a hold of God’s sovereignty, even in times of loss, defeat, and disappointment.  “Who knows”, I thought in the end, “maybe we can use the plaza for a Christian event or something…”.  Admittedly I was sour to them though as they closed the street and began their work, “I won’t step one foot onto this plaza!”

That was last year.

All of that is inconsequential to the crisis here in NYC with Covid-19, deeply shaking us all.  While close friends are suffering with this illness, community members have died, and friends and relatives go bravely to work in hospitals and correctional facilities, I prayed, as many do, what might I do, Lord?  Yes, we help those who are affected, sharing and delivering groceries but how can the Lord be exalted?

While praying one morning, it came to me that the ‘plaza’ is adjacent to the hospital.  All the students left weeks ago, it is just a vacant area with chairs, tables and planters.  Ambulances speed by, hospital staff scurry to work….I need to be there, I need to press in and pray and take a stand for the Lord!    

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I sit right behind the sign

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My daily prayer meeting, 10-11am, includes me and the Holy Spirit – and others who are joining in from their homes.  Prayer points include:

  • Prayer for nurses and doctors, EMS, hospital support staff – firstly for brethren who are serving, may the Lord undergird them, speak words of life to them overflowing to coworkers and patients.  For all those who have heard the Gospel, who may have an ember of faith, may the Lord fan those embers into flames and ignite a living faith.  Lord, let them sleep well at night, give them rest, encourage them in every way.  Speak to those who don’t know You, draw them to Your word and let them find strength in You.
  • Patients and their families –   Be a source of healing, Lord, physical, emotional, and spiritual.   Lord, many are now at the edge of eternity.  I pray that there may be a harvest even now, let a believing nurse, attendant, or food service worker speak an apt word, an appointed word.  For those patients suffering who have heard the Gospel, Father in heaven, fan those truths within them and bring them to repentance and safe into Your arms.                                                                                       I pray for their families who tragically say goodbye at an ambulance, never to see their loved one alive again.  Comfort them Lord, and draw them to You.
  • Encouragement for support staff in health care and law enforcement –  they are often hidden away from limelight – food workers, custodial and maintenance staff, nurses aides, secretaries/receptionists, suppliers.  Draw them to You Lord, let them find their strength in You.  Put a song in their heart as they work, often behind the scenes.
  • For law enforcement, NYPD, NYFD, DOCS, and security teams – encourage them,  strengthen them Lord, protect them from criminal assaults and virus infection.  I pray for the believers within, such as Correction Officers for Christ and those in the NYPD,  let Your Holy Spirit pour forth through them, sharing Gospel truths even to the inmates.
  • I pray for all those passing by –  hospital staff, dog walkers, residents –  Lord, let them read the sign and kindle their hearts to ‘PRAY’,  let that word stick to their hearts and follow them.  Let them begin to think of You.

There are many other points to pray as the Lord leads.  Over all this I am also praying…Lord, don’t waste this affliction.  Bring our community, our city, our state, our nation to repentance.  Confound our self-reliance and our pride in this time of shaking and turmoil…in Your mercy turn our eyes upon You. 

This can be our finest hour to rise up and honor God through this darkness.  May the Lord loosen our grip on this world,  give us greater hunger for His word and deepen our devotion to Him.  May our remaining days count for Him and fulfill His purposes – no matter how big or small they may seem.

 

Love Thy New York Neighbor

The Lord’s famous ‘Good Samaritan’ story often stirs my heart.  Sometimes I wonder, why did He use the term ‘neighbor’ when the needy person in the story did not “live next door or near the person in question”?  Two ‘neighbor’ stories always come to mind, one near and one far….

A few years ago a Mormon couple moved into the apt next door.  They were a bit overly friendly and even baked cookies to leave at everyone’s door.  (But no one I know would eat food left at their door)  Soon after, invites to Mormon services were given and, not surprisingly, the flyers looked very ‘mainstream Christian’.   I wondered, was this ‘loving your neighbor’?

The second story is far away and long ago when my father lived in Aleppo.  As a youth he worked for an Arab in a small shop around a cluster of stores.  One day there was an Islamic uprising against the Jewish community, Jews were beaten and shops were vandalized.  When club wielding, menacing men came to the Jewish shop next to my father, the Arab dashed out and stood in front of the Jewish shop.  He spread his arms wide across the doorway and boomed, “You must kill me first to get to them.  They are my neighbors!”

Born in the rough and tumultuous Middle East, Jesus’ concept of ‘neighbor’ defies most superficial ones of today.

I try to uphold ‘neighborly love’, sometimes incidentally, carrying groceries for elderly, visiting someone sick, getting mail.  Sometimes, it is a commitment of friendship such as with ‘Hilda’ in Juanita’s Joy and Making The Last Seconds Count.  But the truth is, I was hungry for more – more love to flow in and through me.

If God “determined the times set (for men) and the exact places where they should live” it would seem that one’s ‘neighbors’ are assigned as well – whether they are near or not.   While my heart was burdened for the Kurds oppressed and under fire in Syria and I was drawn to the ministries of Kurdistan, the Lord made His will clear…

I was disappointed that my heart was so kindled but not by God.  Shortly after the Kurdistan kibosh though, God opened the door of my neighbor’s life and ushered me in.  Joanna*, a single working parent with a chronic illness, always seemed okay and self-sufficient.  But when her life unraveled through illness and loss and without family or support she was greatly needing an outpour of “oil and wine”.

When the Lord kindles the love, the ‘oil and wine’ begin to flow.   Coming alongside her with childcare, practical resources and emotional support seems supernatural in that it is not ‘taking away’ but ‘adding to’ my life…friendship, pleasures of giving and mentoring, and the joy caring for a cheerful toddler…

Moreover, Joanna spoke of a church life some time ago.  The Holy Spirit is stirring a living faith and I believe she will grasp the Gospel and find the new life promised through our Savior Jesus.

May we always have the faith to thank God when the crossing bar lowers on our path, pausing us, redirecting us or just stopping us from pursuing our own desires.  And may He order our steps and infill our hearts with the “oil and wine” ready to flow toward that “neighbor” along our path!

 

Fruits of Surrendered Aggravation

According to the famous Strongs Bible Concordance, “aggravation” is not in the Bible.  As part of our flesh nature, I’m sure it’s there.  Irritation, agitation, annoyance, anger, aggravation arose up in some beloved saints and others.   Naaman the Syrian traveled far to reach Elisha but, aggravated, left with a demonstrative huff, almost forfeiting his infamous healing.    After receiving God’s call and chastisement, then witnessing the Lord’s mercy upon Nineveh, Jonah is stewing in aggravation by chapter 4.

Was Moses aggravated, when he disobeyed God, striking the Rock?  This fleshly outburst woefully cost him entry into the treasured promised land.

But examples of godly longsuffering patience abound and stand tall upon spiritual pedestals.   Joseph, Daniel, the Apostle Paul…God’s people harassed, provoked, deprived and mocked while faithfully enduring with patience, longsuffering and trust in the Sovereign God.

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The Lord can bring us to a breaking point, revealing what’s in us and lead us to grow. All that He may fill us in greater measure with His Holy Spirit.

Nothing ever ‘just happened’ to Jesus while He walked on this earth, everything was according to our Father’s sovereign will.  This is true for us, Christ’s Body.  Walking with the Lord assures that He oversees, allows, and also orchestrates events – missed buses, lost keys, harassing street people, flat tires, crashed computers, achy backs, irritating relatives, noisy neighbors….everything.

After Revelation through Total Aggravation a number of annoyances finally led to the ‘aggravation jacket’.  That comes about when you are already irritated, annoyed, late, carrying too many things and your nearly new winter jacket zipper gets jammed while in an elevator.  Pull, tug, twist, pull, tug then YANK – just rend the jacket open and let the zipper slider fly off!  That very second I was humbled…again.

I stopped by my dry cleaners and spoke with the tailor.  Tsk, tsk….no, this can’t be fixed.  This zipper is too difficult to remove and replace.  You need a new jacket!  Well, I resolved, I am not getting a new jacket.  If I have to chain link this one closed, I will wear this ‘aggravation jacket’ and let the chill remind me of patience and longsuffering.

I believe there are fruits already from repentance.  Just this week….

1.  Church for us is an all day event, 8am to 5pm, as we attend service and serve in ministry.  This past Sunday we opted to keep our parking space, leave our car and take the train.  On the way home we went to the MTA station and found it was closed for repairs.  Instead of walking 8 blocks to the next station, we decided to take a cab.  At first the driver seemed oddly boisterous but it wasn’t until he went the wrong way and slurred his words did we realize he was drunk.  We had to get out ASAP, which meant pulling over on the parkway.

We had to walk from the parkway to the nearest train station, many blocks away which included creepy deserted streets.  Blustery cold and tired, I was not even aggravated!!!

2.  Two days later I am at the post office, a Christmas gift I ordered 4 weeks ago finally arrived.  Consistently voted the worst post office in the USA, this place is a shoo-in for aggravation.  The package window was closed, a different one opened, there was one line but should have been two.  I helped an elderly woman who was confused, pointing her to the correct window.

As this octogenarian pushed an envelope through the thick Plexiglas opening a huge man came out of the wrong line and began ranting profanities, actually directed to me.  “HEY, I was f****g here before her!  You didn’t *** see me?!?  That’s right!  I was….”  He then took on the whole post office.  By the time poor granny got her postage, this Philistine was challenging the clerk and calling him out to “beat the *** out of him”.

WELL, after all that, they couldn’t find my package!  AND, I was genuinely pleasant, not even aggravated!

The Lord truly is answering my prayers to serve Him and fulfill those ‘good works which God prepared in advance’ for me to do.  While I continue fellowship with Rhonda* Can God Use a Feral Cat? the Lord has brought other young believers and new ministry members to me to mentor.   One I meet regularly for coffee or lunch while another recently added after a long conversation, “you’re like a mother to me!”  Ha, I keep forgetting how old I am!

A sister approached me on Sunday, “I was wondering if you had some time, could I talk to you about something?”  Of course!

Just recently I invited a neighbor to a Christmas concert.  When I called to confirm she cried, “I am in the biggest sh**storm of my life!”  A working single mom, with chronic illness and no local relatives, God opened the door for me to share resources and commit to daily morning babysitting her two year old.  (I knew there was a reason I joined the gym last year!)

The Lord mercifully hammers out my fleshly flaws as they would dishonor Him and hinder the Holy Spirit.  He prepares us not only to serve Him here, but ultimately to be with Him forever.

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The Lord breaks us, convicts us, renews and infills us, that we may shine and stand as the Body of Christ in this dark world 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revelation through Total Aggravation

When Jesus Walks Through the DMV  taught me that God is sovereign over all – believers need not disdain any bureaucracy or authority.   Obviously,  He was preparing me for an agency even more despised, the IRS, who contacted me just before Thanksgiving.  ‘We are auditing your taxes’, was the message in brief, and almost forgetting the lessons learned through the DMV I began to battle,

IRS sign

Why? We’ve done nothing wrong.  We’ve worked and paid taxes all our life!

But underneath this fleshly response, my heart acknowledged, perhaps the Lord, who owns my life, has a godly reason for bringing me to the IRS. 

“We need certain documents” they claimed and the agent I contacted added, “you can bring an attorney.”  An attorney?  Why would I need an attorney?  “Oh, no reason, I’m just stating your rights…”  Rights?  What’s next, Miranda?  I took the earliest available appointment, confident that those documents were easily obtained and this matter would be resolved.  In fact, I mused, this might be an open door to share the Gospel with an IRS agent…who knows God’s purpose!

“We can fax them to you within an hour” the company claimed.  I have no fax but thankfully, my sister in MA did and I was there to cook a big Thanksgiving dinner.  An hourI can spare an hour…just sit by the fax machine and all is well.  After this I’ll review my returns and be all set….hour goes by, hour and half….”It’s on it’s way!” they insisted.   I haven’t used fax in a long time but I do recall that the process is fairly instantaneous.   After two hours and huffy conversation with a supervisor who claimed, “It’s been sent” I quit.  Agh, I didn’t have two hours to waste!   

I let steam rise within, even as my heart recalled Watchman Nee’s teaching on Satan’s ‘bestirring of the saints’…

“Stop crying, and you will come into victory.  Do remember that Satan wants you to be stirred up…Satan does not seek for an explosion of your temper; he merely wants you to be agitated.  And thus will he win….Victory is when you are not stirred up…Victory means you pay no attention…Your calmness, aloofness and carelessness are rightfully called a letting go….If you let go, God will take over.”  (excerpt from The Life That Wins)

My sister commandeered the turkeys and all went well.   Bob and I planned to leave MA on Saturday to avoid Sunday holiday traffic so we packed the trunk, Becky the cat and kissed my parents bye.  “I wish you could stay longer…” my 89 year old mother said sadly as we hugged.  Watching her wave from the door as we drove away weighed heavy on my heart.

I assuaged my sadness with the ‘traffic rationale’, yet after 20 miles cars started piling up.  “Just a slow patch” I tried to believe while fighting the temptation to go back home to mom.  Meanwhile,  Feral Becky in the back began her wailing marathon, “WAH! WAH! WAH!”

Why was every car in the universe traveling my way?  After 3 hours, agitation began to churn.  My husband offered, “Want me to drive?”  No.  “Want to listen to some music?”  No.  “Want to hear a sermon message?” No.

After 5 hours I was stewing,  nothing could interfere with this rising tide of angst within me….the IRS, my aging parents – unreconciled with God…my aching back…regrets and disappointments erupted – and why did the door close on that mission trip, my heart was so set to go…”WAH! WAH!”

As I succumbed to discouragement,  guilt also churned as I know full well murmuring and complaining is an offensive to God.  I could have cauterized it with an ‘about-face’ to the Lord but no…I chose to wallow as I drove until –

BOOF!

How can your tire blow out while doing 15 mph on the parkway? (Ok, there was a slight swerve, dip and bump) With no shoulder we hobbled through traffic to a grassy area.  The ‘encouraging husband’ was now more than ‘bestirred’ himself!  However for me, the blowout was a slap in the face from God, shutting down the spew of unfaithful brooding and bringing me into the peace from repentance.

In the cold wind we were a site for rubber-neckers as Bob threw luggage and stuff from the trunk to get to the ‘donut’.   I prayed for Bob as he struggled in the cold wind.  We agreed – only God enabled him to complete that task!

Through 2 more hours of traffic, Becky wailing, and my back was aching I was fine, my heart was reset, depending on the Lord, grateful for His discipline and believing Him to bring us home safe, ‘donut’ and all.

Of course I know Philippians 2:14, “Do everything without complaining…shine like stars in the universe…” But I also know I Corinthians 10:10 as Paul admonished believers and referred to the Israelites, “And do not grumble, as some of them did – and were killed by the destroying angel.”

Unsurrendered heartache, discouragement, and disappointment are launching pads for total aggravation.  But God in His faithfulness uses ‘total aggravation’ to reveal our weakness and immaturity as well as underlying issues so we may repent, grow and ‘reset’ to press forward.  He is refining us, not only for eternity, but for here and now,

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  (Ephesians 2:10)

Oh Lord, let me hear and know Your calling and rise up in faith to fulfill those ‘good works’ that You prepared in advance for me to do!

“Lord, Give me an Apt Word”

This was my prayer for the upcoming big family wedding where all my elderly relatives and unsaved family members would gather.  The burden for their salvation weighing heavy, I fasted with this cry before the Lord, certain that He would prepare hearts and ‘give me an apt word’ for many.  “Surely“, I thought, “there will be several ‘appointed’ social encounters where I might share the Gospel!”

After the wedding party had rehearsal, family gathered together for dinner where the groom approached me, “Oh, Aunty Lisa, I hope you don’t mind.  The priest needs someone to read scriptures at the ceremony….he has lengthy passages picked out…I said you would do it…”

Agh, how I don’t like speaking in front of so many people!  No time to prepare!  What passages?  Oh, they’ll be the rote ‘love’, ‘wife/husband’ chapters…everybody knows these Lord, I wanted to share the Gospel, repentance, eternal life…

Sure, I’m happy to read at your wedding!”  I began to pray that night and the next morning:  “Lord, don’t let this be a dead word as it so often is at weddings….Your word is ‘alive and active’, let it come forth as a living word…be exalted through this reading…only You can do this…”

The priest, whom I had never met, brought me to the big Bible and chapters to read, giving me my ‘cue’ as the large Armenian Church began to fill with guests.  Midway into the ceremony came my cue…I stepped up to the big Bible, ready to recite familiar verses…

At the first two words my eyes widened.  I have never seen this translation before – the wording is totally new to me!  I had to articulate every word and phrase, at the same time I sensed the Lord’s presence.  It was not rote, it was fresh!

Off to the reception where my visions of sharing ‘an apt word’ would come to fruition!

The country club was elegant, cocktail hour began…lobster crostini, shrimp cocktail, lamb lollipops and more…And in this, was a surprising phenomenon.  One by one, relatives and strangers alike, approached me…

“I just want to say, I was very moved by the words you read in church…”

“When you were reading, something stirred in my heart…”

“Your Bible reading was wonderful, I had never heard that before…”

What?  I was baffled by ongoing accolades.  At the end of this ‘cocktail hour’, my husband came to me and said, “The priest wants to see you.”  Really?  I found the ‘Der Hayr’ and was about to compliment him on the ceremony when he said, “I want you to know, you can come to my church and read the scriptures anytime!”

God confounded and exceeded my own expectations, I felt such an honor being part of Christ’s Body and proclaiming His word.  I am so grateful… 

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…thank you Lord, for more than “an apt word” at their celebration!

 

 

 

 

Can God Use a Feral Cat?

There are several posts, contained in Maggie’s Corner, describing and remembering our beloved Maine Coon Maggie.  Few if any however mention Maggie’s kitten Becky whom we brought in with Maggie from the street.  Half feral, Becky was so unlike her mother, living under the bed for the first 3 years then gradually showing herself to us at a distance.  Becky was unsociable, aggressive at times, and fearful.  But we loved her (from a distance of course!)

After Maggie died last year, Becky became distinctly mournful.  She often roamed the apartment, surveying Maggie’s napping places and – believe it or not – wailing.  This was seriously pitiful and even disturbing as she would awaken at 2-3am crying and needy.  Our vet could not recommend a replacement companion as Becky is not sociable, nor did she recommend any medication.  Now 15 yrs old, Becky grew very close to me, finding comfort and calm through brushing and petting.   After avoiding my husband Bob all her life, Becky was even willing to sit near him.

Although we took Becky everywhere, she would be unable to travel outside the country and thus, at one point, we had to find the right cat sitter (our previous wonderful one moved away).  We take seriously what God entrusts to us so we interviewed some candidates and prayed about a choice.  We could not enjoy our trip if Becky would be depressed, crying, not eating, etc.

One sitter stood out, Rhonda*, a “professional cat sitter” who was knowledgeable, engaging, and lived walking distance.  It was just a right fit.  We opted for overnight stays, a bit indulgent but worth the peace of mind.  Although Rhonda was very confident, I encouraged her, “Don’t feel bad at all if you don’t see Becky, she always hides and can be very timid and unsociable.”

Soon after arriving at our destination I began receiving text photos:

We were impressed.  Family members on our trip were amazed!  (Although they are animal lovers, Becky always hisses at their friendly overtures!)

Soon I found that this was more than God-given cat care.  After several overnights in our home, Rhonda called me with an observation and question, “I noticed that you have college degrees, that you’re an educated person.  I also can tell from the things in your home and your books that you have faith.  Being educated, do you really believe the Bible, all those stories…?”  Of course!

Rhonda asked if she could visit sometime and talk about this.  Of course!

Our visits together rooted a friendship and fellowship, grounded in personal and spiritual sharing.  The Lord was stirring in these coffee klatches.  Soon Rhonda called me and asked, “Do you think we can study the Bible together?”  Of course!

God is pushing back layers of darkness in this precious woman’s life and preparing her heart for the true Gospel.  What a glorious spot for me, to be part of what God is doing!

We began meeting once a week but Rhonda smiled and mentioned, “I can meet more often you know….”  Really?  How about tomorrow?  “I’ll be here!”

Many brethren are waiting on God to move them into ministry, open doors to evangelize and utilize their ‘God given gifts’.  May the Lord shift our thinking away from the natural realm, where strobe lights and orchestrated mood music moves multitudes.  Instead of corralling hundreds of sheep, the Lord may be seeking that one lost sheep.  We might not preach to the crowd but, by putting our hand to the plow and moving forward, we may be doing the invisible work of tilling the ground for another to plant the seeds.

I am encouraged and grateful for this precious soul before me, even amazed how God used a needy troubled cat to bring Rhonda into my home.

Becky, used by God?

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Who would have thought!

P.S.  the tomato was a gift from Rhonda!

 

When Jesus Walks Through the DMV

I have often said of the DMV, the Department of Motor Vehicles, “I hate them.”  This sentiment could not ring truer than it did a month ago when I received a notice of a violation.  I exclaimed, like former Mayor Ed Koch did about so many things, “This is an outrage!”  Fortunately, I had the very documents needed to completely refute this charge and prepared and submitted my evidence for ‘hearing via mail’.

Family issues kept me out of town for a while but when I returned I saw the DMV envelope in my mail.  An uneasy feeling came over me and, sure enough, I opened it to see “Case adjourned for further evidence.”  W h a a t?  Impossible.  As a NYS Parole Officer, I prepared hundreds of administrative court hearings.  I knew standards of evidence and burdens of proof.  While even more outraged, I had to stop and search what the Lord was teaching me.

I know that our Father in Heaven is not only watching over big life issues but seeks to reveal Himself and grow us spiritually, step by step, through ‘ordinary’ events.  What we learn through the mundane can take root for critical trials and testing later.  (Although for me, being falsely accused then denied justice is never ‘mundane’!)

I prepared to present this case to a law judge, with irrefutable evidence, documents, and even a closing argument.   NYS had nothing but an erroneous allegation.  How could I lose?

I restrained my fleshly zeal however, and began to meditate upon possible spiritual life lessons from the Lord.  I believe that Jesus was not stirring me to be ‘F. Lee Bailey’ but working to conform me to His image.  That “image” includes being ‘falsely accused’ and ‘wrongly punished’.  One teacher summed so much of God’s word, “The path of glory is the path of unjust suffering.”   While not facing torture or prison at the DMV, this case revealed spiritual immaturity within me.

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord” (Prov 21:1)  declares the divine truth, exemplified in scripture, that Sovereign God can raise up powerful enemies to chastise His people or defeat powerful forces to reveal His mercy and justice.  Trusting and surrendering quelled my ‘outrage’ and my heart was ready to see the Lord’s outcome…even if I lost the case.

Today was the day!

I arrived at the DMV hearing office before the judge.   Oddly, everyone showed kindness to me.  The receptionist who assigned my case actually had a church bulletin tacked on the wall –  from my church!  This started an exciting conversation where she, not a church goer, was invited to church by someone who had awaited a hearing.  I was truly humbled that a Christian came prepared, not only to ‘win’ some case but to share the Gospel and invite DMV staff to church.  I encouraged this affable lady to seek the Lord and come to a service.  So far, I was enjoying the Department of Motor Vehicles.  (can’t even believe I wrote that!)

Not only was I the first case, but, after a friendly welcome,  the judge said, “You’re the only case on the calendar.”  I ‘solemnly affirmed to tell the truth’ and began presenting my case.  When I described and submitted my first document the judge declared, “This case is dismissed!”  I was so surprised that I added, “But I have even more evidence!” (btw, that is the wrong thing to say once you’ve won a case!)

I left DMV so elated…but humbled as well.  Instead of just preparing my case, my heart’s priority should have been, am I prepared to share the Gospel, to whom might I encounter?

I don’t believe the Lord was teaching me that I can win, I believe that He is training my heart to trust Him when I may be 100% right and still lose.  I do want to declare, as King David,  “Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.”  but also accept Peter’s call to, “…live as servants of God…if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.” 

Exhorting believers to humble obedience, John writes, “Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.”  Win or lose Lord, help me walk through it all like You. 

 

Back to La Perla! (Pt 4)

There’s progress at La Perla!

La Perla is a ghetto neighborhood in Old San Juan, famous for its danger, drugs, and witchcraft.  But that reputation is fading – God has been tilling the soil and, even with the destruction from Hurricane Maria, there’s life rising up.  Our part began in January this year, posted in When God Moves Into el Barrio (Pt 1)  and progress was posted here, The Pastor of La Perla (el Barrio Pt 2) and here, Progress at La Perla! (Pt 3).

So what’s new?

la perla mural artist

The Goodness Tour landed in La Perla!  Find out about them ( http://www.thegoodnesstour.org/) Here’s the mural artist Benjamin Swatez with Pastor Ivan

la perla mural

Still working on this portrait of hope and light!  Was too vast to capture in one photo!

Pastor Ivan’s workshop, planned for youth to create marketable art and express the Gospel truth outside of church walls, still not completed! 

la perla work crew

This team from Servants for Christ International, worked to help finish the second floor

I thought our trip would include a ribbon cutting!  But Pastor Ivan shared some of the bumps along this road.  Modern day ‘Sanballats’ – like the one who opposed Nehemiah’s wall building, arose to sabotage and steal.  One man, masquerading as a Christian, joined to help yet once he saw the value of the project he produced some kind of paperwork to the town hall, attempting to prove that he himself owned the land.  The scheme failed but halted construction for some time.

With the great drain of professionals and skilled laborers out of Puerto Rico, finding real construction workers is a big challenge.  Many unemployed folks exaggerate or fabricate skills just to get work.  This creates unstable structures and do-overs in the work.

But in all this, Christian groups have stopped by and worked.  There’s been fellowship and camaraderie.  In ways we may not know, with the Lord the process is as valuable as the finished end!  

la perla window work

While there we installed a window (OK, my husband installed it but I passed the tools!)

The beautiful part of the trip was the fellowship with families in La Perla and especially with Pastor Ivan.  Puerto Rico is in trouble.  Residents and businesses are abandoning their property and moving out in droves.  Corrupt government, unemployment, and despair are unraveling the island.  But God is there.  And if anyone is looking, they might just find Him at La Perla!

la perla ravelin

La Perla Ravelin built in the 1700’s by Spain.  A military concept, “defense in depth”, designed to repel attackers from the shore.  May the Lord be their defense, may He push back the darkness, may He bring victory to La Perla!