Yes, “His Eye is on the Sparrow” But…

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

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

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

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

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

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

What? That tiny bird had all that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Long ago I jotted this quote in my Bible,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Wants to Read About Humility?

I had Andrew Murray’s book, ‘Humility’, on my shelf for sometime. I probably looked through it once but never prayerfully, seeking what the Lord may have for me through this godly brother. There are less than 100 pages to this book but beware, every sentence holds godly truth. Murray begins his weighty discourse describing humility as most essential yet most neglected to our salvation:

…(our) whole relation to God and man marked by an all-pervading humility. Without this, there can be no true abiding in God’s presence or experience of His favor and the power of His Spirit…Humility is not so much a grace or virtue along with others: it is the root of all…”

He asserts that he himself, along with many Christians, “had long known the Lord without realizing that meekness and lowliness of heart are to be the distinguishing feature of the disciple, as they were of the Master.”

Such “distinguishing feature” is hardly evident in the church today…is it at all evident in me?

While written in 1896, Murray aptly describes the Body of Christ today, striving for and rejoicing in “manly virtues, such as boldness, joy, contempt of the world, zeal, self-sacrifice” while the “deeper graces” taught by Jesus, “most distinctly connected with His cross and the death of self – poverty of spirit, meekness, humility, lowliness – are scarecly thought of or valued”.

God may give boldness to the weak and timid while they live out His call but boldness alone is not esteemed by God. He does not “exalt” the bold but the humble. In fact, God declared, “This is the one esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:2)

If it is at all possible to make humility exciting, Andrew Murray does it. Humility – the way of victory, of entering God’s presence, the way God exalts us – the way of the cross!

Like all aspects of the Christian life, humility is not merely something to agree with but is essential in our walk and surrender to our Savior. “The highest lesson a believer has to learn is humility” and I think I’m just in Humility 101.

“Take every opportunity of humbling yourself before God and man…Accept with gratitude everything that God allows from within or without, from friend or enemy, in nature or in grace to remind you of your need of humbling and to help you to it.”

Yesterday, the morning after I finished this book, my husband Bob did something thoughtless, (ok, unintentional) that irks me very much, as though it could totally discombobulate my day. The fact that he’s done it several times before raises the temp. Murray’s exhortations of humility, verbatim, rose up in my heart but I resisted them, lecturing and blaming Bob, following his steps out as he left for work. I left for the laundry room.

As I stuffed the clothes in the machines, my heart was gripped and convicted. I repented before the Lord and called Bob right away and apologized, truly from my heart. He was very sorry too – just a mutual binding together of sorry hearts that ended up uplifting the morning!

“Accept every humiliation; look upon fellow man who tries or vexes you as a means of grace to humble you.”

Just today, as I was writing this, a situation arose through a phone call with someone who “tries and vexes me”. I actually prayed, “Lord, convict her heart in this situation.” But within an hour, the Lord showed me, clearly, that I was wrong in the scenario. I had to point that out to her and apologize. And, I had to thank God for these opportunities, exposing my uprisen flesh and the lack of this godly virtue.

Murray points to Paul who earnestly asked the Lord to remove the ‘thorn’ that humbled him. Like the Apostle Paul, virtually all Christians want to pursue humility but in truth want to avoid all that humbles. But, Murray concludes, “Our humiliations lead us, in the experience of the presence and power of Jesus, to choose humility as our highest blessing.”

My husband and I are earnestly praying to know God’s call and to serve Him in these, our senior years. In response to that prayer, the Lord is revealing what is really lacking – and what is truly needed. Of course, writing all this is somewhat humiliating – don’t expect follow-up posts!

“God exalts the humble”. In the meantime, I hope to stay teachable, even if it is Humility 101. I know that the Teacher has a great interest in my passing and, as I keep returning to class, He will never fail me.

Who wants to read about humility? Who wants, really wants, to be humble? I hope it’s me!

Humility

God Doesn’t Need a Yard Sale

This past weekend we took off for the country, Amish country actually, to enjoy some activities and relaxation. I reviewed churches in the area, hoping to find brethren to join in worship and grounded scriptural preaching. One church seemed very conservative and doctrinally sound. I called them and learned that their worship is not flashy or entertaining but prepared to exalt God. They are a large congregation, with two services to accommodate hundreds of attendees.

I also learned from their website that one of their families had incurred a great loss. Their barn, with all their animals, had burned down. The church website posted a ‘Yard Sale’ to address the great need to build a new barn. People could donate things to sell. I myself do not have a yard but know enough about yard sales – they are a source of extra income, not a windfall. Perhaps this is just a ministry’s kind gesture. Surely the Body will rise up to the need of the members!

My heart recalled the days of Times Square Church, where the Holy Spirit pressed forth through the pulpit. The greatest joy was seeing His redemptive work as drug addicts, prostitutes, the broken and despairing were called to repentance and new life. Broadway actors found their way to the Truth, tourists dropped in and found something of Life to bring back home. I often invited ex-convicts whom I supervised.

Serving the Lord was a great honor, as was providing for His servants. There was never a time of ‘convincing’, ‘cajoling’, or pressuring the Body. The Holy Spirit would move hearts without hesitation. Once, for example, a beloved pastor known to our church, was in need. He was a pastor in Siberia, serving God amongst many drug addicts, alcoholics, and impoverished. Pastor Dave Wilkerson came to the pulpit and said, “We learned that the church in Siberia needs a new roof, if anyone feels led to contribute.” Bob and I were not prepared at that moment to give but would surely bring an offering later. Too late! Before the service was over, the need was met. Bob and I were actually disappointed, we missed the honor of providing for a beloved servant.

Before our trip I went to the bank to get some checks. This time, we would be prepared for the Lord to call upon us!

We arrived as the worship service started. It was a large, modern sanctuary for a congregation of about one thousand. The songs did indeed exalt the Lord, one I had never heard bowed my heart and teared my eyes…

However, when I opened my eyes and looked around, everyone else was singing like statues. Ok.

Sermon outlines were available and, when a pastor rose to preach a message, it was clear he would be preaching on persecution. He followed the outline and the scriptures therein however, the sword seemed dull and the waters stagnant, my mind wandered and Bob fell asleep in his chair. Ok.

I was still thinking of the ‘Smith’ family, living next to the ashes of their barn. Was there room at the pulpit for the Holy Spirit’s plea?

Although there were happy events and fellowships happening, there was no plea – perhaps this family were not really members? After the service we left the sanctuary and went to a big counter called INFORMATION. A woman greeted us and, learning that we were visitors, began reaching for ‘welcome’ brochures and information. I asked about the ‘Smith’ family barn…

“I saw that the ‘Smith’ family’s barn burned down recently. Are they members of your church?”

“Oh yes!”

“It sounds like a tremendous loss, esp with their farm animals and equipment…”

“Yes, they’re farmers, it’s their livelihood, a terrible loss…”

“Oh. I noticed that the church is having a Yard Sale next week. But I also read online that they need $150,000 to build a new barn. It doesn’t seem that a Yard Sale could possibly meet that need….is it just a stereo type or is it true that the Amish do ‘barn raising’ in one day for each other?”

“No, it’s true, they do. But we’re not Amish”, with that she slowly shuffled the ‘Welcome’ brochures away from us and mumbled, “If you want any more information, you’ll have to call the church office.”

“Oh, ok. thank you.”, I smiled on a cheery note, “By the way, I’m Lisa, this is my husband Bob”

She stared back in silence. No name given, welcome appeared rescinded!

Bob and I were baffled, “She didn’t want to give us her name.” “I know, and she pushed aside the brochures, out of our reach!” We didn’t plan to ‘raise the whole barn’ but wanted to partake in the Lord’s work for brethren in need. But was the Lord working?

What happened to the Holy Spirit? To the kinship of brethren? Do we believe the words we sing, that God “holds the oceans in His hands”, that He is “full of wondrous deeds”? If the Amish, working in the flesh, can gather and build a barn for their community in one day, what might the Holy Spirit do if the Body of Christ cries out to Him and believes?

“…how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Luke 11:13

Surely the Lord calls upon His brethren, irresistibly moving their hearts to give with joy. The Holy Spirit can call various strangers to a church with open hearts to give. Great need is God’s opportunity to display His faithfulness and His life in our midst!

There’s no scriptural call to bring your unwanted possessions before the Lord. God needs no Yard Sale. All He needs is a faithful believing heart, even with a few fish and loaves, to demonstrate that He is our Father, He will provide, and He will never fail us. That’s where His testimony shines in the world!

‘Ingenuity’, ‘digital marketing’, ‘fundraising ideas’ and ‘fun small groups’ are good for social affairs, not supernatural affairs. Are our plans God-led plans? If so, they will not fail – He’s in charge and His purposes will prevail.

May we as a people hunger for and call upon God, depending upon Him, that we may be a God-led people that fulfill His will and glorify Him as we pass through this world.

Exposing the Darkness

There is a video now circulating online, on secular and Christian sites. It is a gripping video made by Altiyan Childs, an award winning Australian singer/songwriter. With his success came the downward spiral of drug and alcohol abuse until, he testified, the Lord saved his life and soul. Childs was a Freemason. When Jesus Christ set him free from sin, He also opened his eyes to the demonic darkness entrenched in Freemasonry.

Hence Altiyan’s compelling video.

I rarely post videos of any kind and this one is a long one. But I found it both compelling and spiritually shaking – a shaking that most all believers need today.

Childs presents bold evidence of Freemasons gaining strategic and high positions in government, entertainment, sports, and the media. Less known are the leaders now in religious groups, including some mega-churches. This has sweeping ramifications. The power to manipulate culture and politics and covertly collaborate is precisely the underpinnings of one world power, domination, and control.

Importantly, Childs exposes the dual existence of the outer and inner memberships. There is a large sphere of Freemasons that maintain a positive and productive vein in society. Hospitals, charities, and community services are aspects are founded by Freemasons. While all members take life risking oaths, most never see what goes on in the higher levels – the inner courts where dark spiritual powers are beckoned, worshipped, and availed.

Freemason literature and high ranking doctrine define the ‘masses’ as ignorant, vile and stupid, easily manipulated. Christians are singularly pointed out as those who defy the entrenched Freemason Satanic religion.

This video injects gravity and depth into God’s continual call in scripture to separate from the world. It punctuates and explains the warning from James,

“…don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

We don’t ‘miss God’s best’ or ‘miss the mark’. Entanglement with the world is hatred and we become God’s enemy because “the rulers” “the authorities” “the powers of this dark world” wage war against God and do so through willing men and women.

I avoid conspiracy theories and ‘deep state’ perspectives and views. But I hope that Altiyan Childs video will open eyes of believers and stir us with the urgency to delve into scripture, fervently pray, and prepare to endure near future events.

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….

removing 10 commandments

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,

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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!