I Prayed For My Neighbors, Look What Happened

Many of my neighbors have moved in and moved out over these past 30 years and, while I’ve prayed for them, most relationships remained superficial.  I really understand – at the end of the day, everyone wants privacy and rest after bustling through the city.  But at the same time, I believe that “the times and places for man to live are ordained by God” and don’t want to neglect any opportunity to show God’s love.

Showing some kindness isn’t hard – helping carry bundles (we have no elevator), being a listening ear when someone needs to unburden, or even an occasional hospital visit.  But I kept praying, was there more?

THEN I happened to see a flyer posted, announcing a plan by Columbia University to build a ‘public plaza’ on our small residential street, eliminating two blocks and much needed residential parking.  They already demolished housing for a conference center – the flyer urged residents to get involved.

(After the city itself, Columbia University is the largest land owner in the City of New York.  They have displaced more residents and dismantled more neighborhoods than anyone else.)

I really felt a stirring but feelings can deceive….does the Lord really care about our street per se? Are these concerns worldly?  Temporal? Of no consequence in view of eternity?

But the stirring continued.  I attended this open meeting where C.U. presented their illustrious “plaza plan”.  But something was wrong, I sensed something devious and underhanded in their overture, “This is a plaza for you to enjoy!”

Their plan must be approved by the Community Board and that meeting would be held on November 5th.  My husband and I felt compelled to notify our neighbors over a two block radius.  We distributed flyers to many, especially to weary drivers, urging them to attend this meeting and stand up for their neighborhood.   I continued to pray, hoping that my zeal is from God and not my own unction.

On November 5th, during my morning prayer and devotion,  Deuteronomy 20:1-8 was the scripture topic twice!  One inspirational blog I read,  A Mountain of Faith, posted “Is Your Tank Full?”  (https://amountainoffaith.com/2017/11/05/is-your-faith-tank-full/)  I truly felt covered by God for this meeting, that no ‘chariots’ ‘horses’ or ‘armies’…even big businesses…can come against the purposes of God.

For the LORD your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!’  Deuteronomy 20:4

There were many empty places as the meeting was about to begin.  However, shortly thereafter my husband and I turned around and saw behind us dozens of people who came from work and from their homes.  Standing room only!

C.U. presented a slide show of their ‘plaza plans’.  Their P.R. reps tried to present how this will ‘benefit’ the neighborhood,  a fancy but hollow attempt to patronize while ruining and taking our street.

My inward ‘stirring’ turned into a ‘churning’.  I stood and challenged C.U. with unexpected fervor…which passed the torch to others.  They thought their plan was a slam dunk in this Spanish speaking, working class neighborhood.  And why not?  They have never lost an endeavor, especially when displacing families, the elderly and small businesses…those with no clout.   They did not get approved on this night though, the board ended up divided and could not vote.

Digging into rumors uncovered the truth.  C.U. really needs this plaza in order to change the zoning law on our small residential street and proceed with building plans.  The plaza is their platform to build upon and expand their campus, architectural plans are are already established, waiting in the wings! 

I privately prayed more though for God’s guidance, “Lord, should I take this farther?  Should I see an Assemblyman or Councilman?”  Shortly afterwards my husband came and suggested, “Maybe you try and see our Congressman or Councilman…”

So I met with the City Councilman’s intermediary, who happens to be a pastor. He aligned with the neighborhood concern and added, “God bless you!”  He strongly urged me to contact the Chief of Staff…whose name is Jose Espiritusanto!  (which from Spanish translates Holy Spirit!)

This week my husband and I had opportunity to address a larger general meeting and present the truths behind the ‘plan’.  The next Community Board meeting is Dec 4th.

So far I testify:

  • God is “training my hands to battle” (Psalm 144:1) strengthening us toward a spiritual calling.  I never addressed a public gathering before, but the Lord is breaking new ground within me, teaching me that through Him I am able to do this.
  • After praying for my neighbors, we’re getting to know them, perhaps they’ll see we care.  Already some have shared personal struggles and know, “We’re praying for you!”  Might we remember each other when this battle is over, when hardships or calamities strike?
  • I believe that the Lord is revealing Himself, teaching us greater dependence upon Him and His unmatched sovereignty….strengths we will need for future spiritual battles.  

“No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.”  II Timothy 2:4

This is scripture to live by.  But somehow God has put us in the middle of a neighborhood issue and has stirred us within. Sometimes our prayers for people don’t supernaturally create home Bible studies and prayer meetings.  Sometimes God positions His Body alongside the lost and hopefully upon that road, fulfills divine appointments.

Would you pray for us?

 

 

 

When No One Else is Watching…

Everyone knows that God chose a shepherd boy to slay a giant, but why a shepherd?

God chose David and displayed His glory through David’s life, making unconditional covenant promises,  “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”  (II Samuel 7:16)  But why David?

David did not ‘score points’ with God by slaying Goliath or championing God’s honor in the face of scorners.  God was watching what David was doing when no one else was watching.  

Most of us know that David was the youngest son of seven and given the lowly job of tending sheep out in the fields.  We’re familiar with his bravery, fighting lions and bears who attack the lambs.  Who doesn’t want that courage and strength?  I really believe though, that God’s eye was on much more…

David was outstanding in a job that nobody wanted.  A shepherd extraordinaire who:

  • never bragged or broadcasted his exploits.  No one in his family seemed to highly regard David – he was initially excluded when his brothers were presented to Samuel.  In fact, his father Jesse could say nothing about David except, “he is tending the sheep”.  David’s fierce courage only became known when he sought to convince King Saul that he could slay Goliath.
  • risked his life with no apparent motive for reward or acknowledgement or even possibility of promotion!  No sheep would celebrate when rescued, neither would David receive an award, trophy, or bonus.
  • worshiped God in the dark and lonely places, praising and exalting without audience or witness except God alone.   Although gifted, David did not perform, he worshiped.

I believe there are such ‘young Davids’ in the Body of Christ who may risk their lives as a servant extraordinaire for their Father.  They may also risk reputation, position, and livelihood and find themselves in lowly places but it doesn’t matter.  They have a task at hand and will excel even when no promotion is possible, no one acknowledges or esteems them and in fact, no one is even watching.   And out in that field they will worship, without choir, without musicians and without special effects.  

Perhaps we won’t meet these brethren until we get to heaven and even then they may be far closer to God’s throne!  There we may find caretakers to the infirm, single parents, elderly believers, disabled brethren…and some whose only ministry was to pray – and giants fell because of them!

Most everyone imagines being a hero, catching the applause, and receiving an award.  Only the Lord though, can change hearts to be like this David’s – fixed to excel at whatever task the Father entrusts,  a heart that worships the Lord with exuberance, just because He’s with us and worthy to be praised.  

God bestows gifts and talents to us all, perhaps they come forth and bear fruit through faithfulness in those lonely fields.  But this communion with God prepares us…when the giant looms overhead, when the enemy encroaches, when crisis arises we’ll know as David did: ‘victory is mine’!

“Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!”

 “Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied. “There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.”

 But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep….”  

What a resume!  What God is fashioning and refining in us may be unseen to the whole world but He gives life to the given gifts within us…and He will be exalted through them, even if no one else is watching.  

Well, IS a Minute a Long Time?

 

stopwatch IIMiss Chafe, my 4th grade teacher, always gave an easy ‘bonus question’ at the end of every test, something impossible to get wrong.  To this day I remember this one, “Is a minute a long time?”  Who wouldn’t say ‘no’?…but the class was divided!

Well, is a minute a long time?

Unfortunately, our culture so highly values immediacy that any downtime or ‘waiting’ is seen as wasteful loss…inefficient and unacceptable.  Mental pop-ups condition us to cyber-check and multitask.  We wouldn’t dream of waiting a minute to hear from Google or any of the ‘answer gizmos’ of our day.   Fastest car, quickest download… instant camera and telegram = instagram.  

But God’s best – His strength, His revelation, His indwelling – only come to those who wait!

I remembered Miss Chafe’s question while praying.  Do I get up upon my last request and start my day?  Can I linger on, for one minute, and wait for the Lord to speak to me?  Can I pause, even a minute, during prayer time to allow the Holy Spirit to align my prayers with God’s will?

Can I meditate upon a verse for 60 seconds, allowing the Holy Spirit to bring it to life in my heart?

God awaits us and often draws us in through fiery trials, unmet needs, and challenging griefs.  But ‘suffering’ is not the designated time to wait upon God.  The Bible calls that designated time ‘Today’. 

Take the ‘minute challenge’ but with reverent trepidation…who brings a stop watch when meeting with a King?  Sixty seconds exposes what’s in our hearts, the importance of our agendas and priorities.

Could taking a minute before praying make all the difference?

“Once you are sure that you are talking to the One who loves you intensely and the One who has all power to do anything in this universe, i.e. once we see the greatness of God, the greatness of His power, and the greatness of His love, then we are ready to pray.”   Zac Poonen

Oh Lord, let one minute turn into two, into three…let us lose track of time in Your presence.   Lord, let us linger not for just ‘an answer’…but to to know You and fellowship with you.  What burdens Your heart?  “Speak Lord, Your servant is listening…”

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“You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning…”

 

What Kind of Grass Are You Eating?

God made King Nebuchadnezzar one of the greatest kings to rule the world.  Unlike Pharaoh of Egypt whom God raised to display His power and awe (Exodus 9:16) and later destroyed in the Red Sea, King Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful pagan king with ordained purpose.  God chose and empowered this world ruler to exact judgment upon His chosen people.  He witnessed supernatural power through godly exiles such as Daniel but none of this ‘favor’ changed the king’s heart nor brought him to a saving revelation of God.

He had to be separated – stripped of all position, honor, power and even stripped of sanity.  Although led to eat grass like an animal, King Nebuchadnezzar was covered by God, “drenched with the dew of heaven”.  Appointed suffering and deprivation prepared this king to know God and proclaim God’s glory to the world.  (see Daniel chapter 4)

This is not just a fantastic testimony of a world power, it is a revelation of God’s way.   Our Almighty God still chooses to reveal His power and glory through frail and faulty vessels and most often to do so He separates us, strips us, and deprives us of worldly and fleshly pleasures and positions.   With divine purpose, God can drive us to eat the grass of illness, deprivation, anguish, and ‘dethronements’ of all kinds. 

The ‘dew of heaven’ is evident upon the lives of many believers such as Terri Nida.  While fasting and seeking God’s will, she fainted with a precise fall that would leave her a quadriplegic.  Separated and ‘dethroned’ from her old life, she testifies of God’s divine purpose and sustaining power in her site, Diary of a Quadriplegic.  In her most recent post, To Live Is Christ, (9/29/17) she extols and praises God…

 

terri nida“Praise be to God for my wheelchair. I believe through this trial, he is saving my soul. I believe through this trial, he is making me whole. God is making me into the woman I always wanted to be — maybe not externally, but by leaps and bounds internally. All those years I felt sorry for myself and tried to drink my troubles away because I felt so empty inside. I’d rather be sitting in this wheelchair than sitting in a dark apartment drunk on wine. I’d rather be sitting in this wheelchair than mindlessly going to work every day wondering who I am and what is my purpose; always wanting more, more, more from my life. I’d rather be sitting in this wheelchair than living as a lost soul in this world without a relationship with God, stuck in a rut with no way out, wondering why am alive?   Read whole post here:   To Live Is Christ

Through whatever ‘grass’ we are compelled to eat – physical and/or emotional affliction, deprivation, grief, or loss, may we be “drenched with the dew of heaven” –  God’s presence and favor – and find encouragement by trusting in God’s sovereignty over every detail of the appointed affliction.  I pray that the Lord reveal Himself in greater measure, refilling us with the joy of His divine purpose.

Before He answers let us “acknowledge that Heaven rules”.

 

 

God in the Midst of a Jail Cell

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The Lord revealed important truths to me as I shared the Gospel with parolees and inmates.  One is eloquently expressed by Charles Spurgeon in “What the Farm Laborers Can Do and What They Cannot Do”  Farm Sermons, The Spurgeon Archives. (great article, can read:  here)

Let us now think of what you cannot do. You cannot, after the seed has left your hand, cause it to put forth life. 

I learned this best when working with Ms. “M”, who was on parole for manslaughter.   Ms. M was very receptive to parole and a positive working relationship was easily established.  She was also very receptive to the Gospel and was grateful to receive a Bible, sermon tapes and church invites.  Home visits were meaningful as her two children were happy to see me.  Ms. M brought her children to special church events however, while she wanted her children to learn of the Bible, she herself remained carnal and unsurrendered.

I became a bit really discouraged, it seemed that two years of counsel and prayer yielded little. In fact, things worsened…Ms. M relapsed into drug use and became non compliant to treatment.  I was very concerned as a violation for a violent felony offender would result in significant jail time, a hardship for a single mother.  After a two years of community living, would she now go back to jail?

Finally, there was no choice.  Arresting her unleashed a torrent of drama, tears, and even anger….then pleading….but the die was cast.

I transported her to Rikers Island, shut her in a holding cell, and lodged the warrant.

Normally a VFO (violent felony offender) would be mandated to minimum one year incarceration however, it seemed that an exception was happening for Ms. M.  In fact, she was released within several weeks, mandated again to a program, and reported to my office.  I was ready for the same-old same-old…..but things had changed.

Her heart erupted as she shared….

When you locked me in that cell I sat on that bench crying, my head in my hands…I was so angry and felt like such a failure…when I opened my eyes I noticed a torn piece of paper on the bench.  It was just a scrap from a Bible tract….on it was half a verse from Acts.  When I read it I broke down and gave my life to the Lord!

I was speechless.  After all the sharing, inviting, godly counsel and admonishments, a half a verse in a jail cell brought her to repentance and surrender!  I could see how the Lord moved on her behalf, expediting her release, returning her home to her children, and revealing to her His faithfulness.  She planted herself in church and opened her life to serving God.

I often share this testimony with others to encourage them (and remind myself!) that we cannot “make anything happen” but God Himself takes action when we are faithful to sow seeds, serve as He calls, and pray for Him to intervene.

I am so grateful when the Lord confounds me!

 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  (I Corinthians 3:7)

plant growing

Only God Can Make It Happen

 

When God Keeps Us Waiting….

The work of God in us while we wait is as important as what we are waiting for…

Tremendous and miraculous works of God, the testimonies of the saints, and the glory of God’s creation all build and grow our faith…and rightly so!  The stories of ordinary men in the hands of our extraordinary God  bring hope to our challenges and trials.

But rarely does our spiritual focus point to the faithfulness of the spiritual giants while waiting for God to move, to rescue, to answer their prayers.  Who really marvels at Joseph’s patience and endurance while waiting years in a dungeon?  With plenty of days and months for discouragement and unbelief, Joseph retained God’s favor by excelling while waiting.

True faith believes that waiting is never wasted or futile but rather a prescribed time of unexpected service, preparation and testing without which God’s perfect will might not go forward.  

“for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
(Phil 2:13)

Simeon waited years, perhaps his whole life, to meet the Savior of the world and was not disappointed as an elderly man, holding God incarnate in his arms.  Did Simeon imagine that those seemingly endless seasons of God’s silence would mark him for eternity in God’s word?

Waiting often tests us and often weeds out unbelief.  Exodus 32 presents the tragic story of people who refused to wait on God….they foolishly created a ‘god’ and missed the greatness of God’s plan for their lives.

The hardest part of faith is the last half hour….Pastor David Wilkerson

Faithful- even if not always perfect- waiting upon God yields much for God’s people, whether they are waiting for urgent deliverance, miraculous healing, an open womb, or the Savior of the world.   And so I pray…

Lord, encourage those of us who are heavy hearted… dog sad

Renew our hearts with anticipation….

dog at window

Keep us steadfast at our assigned post….

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no matter how small our post may seem.

Lord, help us to study your great promises and commit to remember:

The Promiser Keeps His promises. 

 

 

God in the Midst of the Ashes

Security Ministries in large urban churches address everything from intentional service disturbances and criminal activities to the behavior of broken and lost sheep.  I have served in this ministry for 20 years now.  In many venues of security, ‘nothing usually happens’.  However, for the expectant heart, something might surely happen.  As a Parole Officer, I had an expectant heart so when in 2013 the church produced The Cross and the Switchblade from Pastor David Wilkerson’s book, I invited many parolees and their families.  Several parolees did attend and were encouraged but I might add that many more were encouraged just to be invited somewhere!

Here is a testimony that I shared with one of the pastors on the last night of the production:

Although we had to shut the doors by 7 pm, turning away about 100 people, at 7:30 there were still determined folks in the foyer of the rotunda trying to get in any way possible.  We tried to squeeze people in every area of the church, the annex, the lower rotunda and the fourth floor but we reached the limit.

One young woman approached me with a passionate plea.  “Please, there must be one more space for us.  This young man, (she motioned behind her) must hear from the Lord!  This play was meant for him!”

I looked at the young man behind her, leaning against the wall, slightly swaying with anxiety and chewing gum ferociously.  He looked rough and  nervous and I thought, ‘he’s been in jail.’  I had to reply though, “I believe you!  But I am SO sorry, there is not one seat left…there are fire codes…blah, blah”  However, when I turned to address other folks, I felt drawn back to her.  It was as if the Lord had a spotlight on these two.

“Please”, she pleaded, “He must see this play!  He was meant to be here!”

I really felt the Lord moving.  “Look.  If the Lord really wants him here, there will be a spot for you both.  Come with me.”

As we entered the rotunda, heading toward the sanctuary, the young man went ahead of the woman.  She quietly shared with me, “He just did 13 years in prison for setting a fire.”

I asked, “Is he on parole?”  She said yes.  I shared that I am a parole officer and was so glad that they had come.  Then I asked, “Are you a relative of his?”

With a slightly pained look she said, “Ah, no….It was my father that was burned in the fire he set.”

I planted them in the back of the sanctuary, she was so grateful.  He did not say a word. 

I really sensed the Lord’s burden to pray for this young man.  When I resumed my lobby post, everything was quiet and peaceful.  I was able to quietly cry out to God while on duty.  Occasionally I peered into the sanctuary (parole officer that I am) to see how things were.  This young man seemed more relaxed, totally riveted by the play.

At the end of the play, when the actor comes out for the final narration, the whole church was silent and attentive.  I watched through the glass door.  While not a soul stirred, this young man slowly started walking down the aisle.  As the actor cried out to the audience with passion, this young man continued a lone walk to the stage, no one stopped him  It was as if chains were falling from him and he was surrendering.

The play ended with an altar call and both the young woman and man came up to me full of joy.  The woman hugged and kissed me.  Pastor, this young man was truly changed.  There was a peace over him and he had real joy.  He hugged and kissed me also.  I asked his name and told him mine and said, “Please come back!  Please make this church your home!”

I do not know what happened to these folks after this night but I do know that the Lord had them on a journey toward Him.  I am so grateful that He allowed me to peek in at the work of His hand, touching the lives of broken people.

My ‘joie de vivre’ was parole, where God put a love and burden in my heart, an assurance that He assigned my cases, and an expectation of His presence in the midst.

I am no longer at Parole but a place in life which seems to me more like barren Patmos.  For more on that click here:   (Ever Find Yourself in Patmos?) But even Patmos has divine purpose.

And the Lord is here as well….I anticipate a post, ‘Testimonies From Patmos’.  🙂

“Lord, thank you for Your faithfulness through all the seasons of our lives.  You remain the same even if the season painfully changes.  Help us Heavenly Father to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.  Incline our hearts toward You. I sincerely pray that You renew our passion and grant us that burdening love that compels us to share Your Gospel with great expectation.”

Amen.