Monday, May 28, 2007

Alberta bound

Well, I was (Alberta bound) on Friday. I spent the weekend in Calgary with some colleagues from Church Army, some of whom I hadn't met before. We attended a wonderful retreat put on by Equipping Evangelists ( Our National Director Bruce Smith (standing in front of the tree) is on the leadership team for E2. It was a time of coming together to support and encourage one another and to affirm our calling to lead others into an intimate relationship with our loving Father in heaven through Jesus Christ, and to exhort and equip the Church to reach the lost. I came home feeling strengthened, encouraged and affirmed.

The best part about the weekend was the fellowship. There was lots of laughter, especially during the times when the Church Army folks met for meals and fellowship. I count myself very blessed to be part of this wonderful group of people called Church Army and I'm so thankful that God has called me to be one of them.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Well isn't that special!

Thanks so much to those of you who've been praying for me. I am blessed! God has provided in a huge way, and has answered prayer.

The financial deficit I mentioned in an earlier post has been met by a gracious and wonderful child of God. I am not in the red to Church Army any more! Thank You, Lord! And thank you - and you know who you are - from the bottom of my heart!

God has also been at work changing and equipping me. He's making me able to do the work that I've been called to do, and He's also filling me with the strength and the confidence that I need to assume the role I've been assigned. Thank You, Lord!

Anybody remember this precious face? I preached a sermon on pride, one of the seven deadly sins, last Sunday at Immanuel, our street church. I used Church Lady to illustrate and characterize spiritual pride. If you're as old as I am you'll remember Church Lady, Dana Carvey's caricature from Saturday Night Live. Of course, God used my sermon preparation to teach me through His Word and through my circumstances and experiences of the past couple of weeks. He made me aware of the prideful thoughts, feelings and ways that still exist in me. They were hard to spot because they were disguised as humility: feelings of inadequacy. Not so pretty. But, I know from working the Twelve Steps of A. A. that when God shows me a character defect (Step 6), it means that He wants to remove it from me (Step 7). But the key is to humble myself before Him, and ask Him to do it for me. I can't change my ways on my own. That's why Jesus had to die on the Cross, so I would have the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit to help me.

Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Lord, I humbly ask you to remove these shortcomings that have to do with pride, in Jesus' Name.

Oh, and I pray that the Lord will keep the people of His Church from becoming proud and haughty and hypocritical like Church Lady! The reason some of us found her so funny in the 80's is because, sadly, there is some truth to Dana Carvey's portrayal.

Blessings, and thank you for your prayers!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Yet another new face

We've been joined by another woman who has come to live a the Women of Hope house. Since the rooms are already full, she has to sleep on the pull-out bed in the downstairs gathering room and that doesn't give her a lot of privacy. Please pray for Laura, and for the rest of us as we adjust to having a new member of the family and also to many more changes. One or more of us is leaving at the end of the month.

Blessings and thanks!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Another blessed day

It was another blessed day, and during the chapel service I led at the Fraser Valley Institution, God gave me the privilege of sharing one on one with a woman who's currently serving time in the segregation unit. The songs we sang and the message I had written were all just for her today, and only God could have engineered that. Instead of standing and preaching to her, I sat down across from her and shared some of the highlights of my message. It was based on Daniel 3, the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and applied pretty nicely to her circumstances. I asked her to share a time when she had experienced a miraculous rescue that she knew could only have been God, and she told me about a terrifying hostage taking where she was the hostage and was sure that she would be killed because based on the past actions of her captors. She was released, but not unharmed. She showed me the knife scars on her neck, which she will carry for the rest of her life, and told me that she knew even then that it had to have been God who preserved her life.

She's serving a life sentence at FVI, and she cried when she told me that it's a miracle she's even alive - not just because of the hostage incident, but many other things she's experienced in her life as well. She said she doesn't understand why God would preserve her life, and I told her that, even though she may not be able to see it now, God has a plan for her life; and also, that with God all things are possible and if it's God's will, she may one day receive a pardon and be given her freedom.

One of the songs she requested during the service today is "Freedom", a song written by Mike Larson from Abbotsford. She loves to sing that song, and at the end of our time together I reminded her of the lyrics and said her that even if she never does walk free from the penitentiary, she can still find freedom even inside its walls. It's a kind of freedom that she can't even imagine right now, but it's far better than the freedom of being on the outside. I pray that she will come to know that freedom. I ended our time together by praying Paul's prayer for the fullness of the knowledge of God in Ephesians 3 over her.

Since she's in a federal prison I don't feel that I can share her real name, but would you join me in praying for this young woman? I'll call her Stacy. God will know who you mean, I'm sure.

Thanks to those of you who prayed prayer for me. I was able to play guitar without too many nerves and fumbled fewer chords today. But most of all I was able to feel a confidence and strength I haven't felt before in there. God was with me.

Blessings and love from your sister in Christ...

If you're tired and thirsty, there is freedom...

Saturday, May 5, 2007

A party in heaven

Well, Kerry's courage and determination brought him here to us on Friday afternoon, even if he was six hours late.

After spending the morning helping to put together the orders, I went out on the food co-op deliveries as the "blesser" (there was also a driver and a "swamper" to carry the boxes on each run). I got to bless people by greeting them and introducing our team and by offering prayer to those who shared a health problem or a need with us. It blessed me to be able to share God with folks in this way. I laid hands one fellow who has terrible burns all over his body as a result of a house fire that nearly killed him. He was very open to prayer and I continue to pray for his healing, and for the others we met, too.

When we got back from our second delivery run after 4 p.m., Kerry was sitting on the back deck smoking a cigarette. He looked exhausted and said he'd gone to 557 W. 21st Ave instead of E. 21st Ave and so his walk was made even longer than it had to be. But he was happy to be here, even though the place looked only a little familiar and he didn't remember most of the people - even Elsie.

He told me about some things that were happening to him that he's been wondering about, and some were good and some not so good. From what he was saying I knew that he has been hearing his Heavenly Father's voice again, especially since the voice had blessed him and encouraged him by telling him that he is a man of courage. But he wasn't able to trust that it was really God because he has also been experiencing a serious spiritual attack that has filled him with a great deal of fear. I reminded him again of what he'd shared with me - about God being his Father and how He'd been guiding him and protecting him - and explained that God speaks words of encouragement and love. That, although He may correct us (and He's done so with Kerry), He never belittles or condemns us. I told Kerry that in order for him to have the full assurance that he was under God's protection, he needed to invite Jesus to come into his life.

I briefly shared the gospel of Jesus Christ and explained that because of His death and resurrection, Jesus now reigns over everything - even the spiritual realms - and when we invite Him in we come under God's protection. Then I asked if he wanted to invite Jesus to come into his life and be his personal Saviour. He said yes! So we prayed the prayer together and then I prayed over him asking the Lord to protect Kerry and give him the assurance that he is a beloved child of the Almighty and Living God. When we were finished praying, Kerry's eyes looked much clearer and he smiled brightly. The fear was gone. Hallelujah!!! Praise the Lord!!! I pray that Kerry will be able to realize the Truth, that there is a God who loves him and watches over him, and that he can call on the Name of Jesus whenever he is in trouble.

Lord, thank You that You love Kerry, and that his well-being matters to You. Thank You that You sent Your only beloved Son to die for him. I pray that Kerry will come into the fullness of the knowledge of Your love through the work of the Holy Spirit. Please continue to watch over him, and protect him from the evil one. May he feel the safety of your wings as You hover over him, shielding him from harm. I ask this in Jesus' Name.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Ephesians 6:12

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

God demonstrated His faithfulness again today. I had a very tough time this morning during a teaching and discipleship session. Because I'm new, my authority is being challenged by the women at every turn. It was heavy going because of the spiritual warfare. It's interesting that that was our topic today, the battle between the sinful nature and the Life of the Spirit within us. The key is choice, and God has given us the Holy Spirit so that we have the power to choose wisely and what is right. I chose not to fight and argue, but to remain peaceable, although to some people, and one of the women present, that makes me appear weak.

Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (Eph.6:10)
I felt rattled and shell-shocked after the session, but as soon as I came into my room and sat down and gave it to God, I felt His strength and His peace filling me. I also felt His approval, like He was proud of me, or saying to me, "Well done!". I had to struggle for a while to hang on to the peace and strength and the knowledge that God is for me, because the devil tried to convince me that things are never going to get better and I should quit. "Not gonna go there." That's what I used to say to myself when I struggled with unhealthy thoughts while I was in the early months of my recovery, and before I knew Jesus. Now I can take every thought captive into obedience to Christ.

God's done an amazing work in me. Most of my life, when things got tough I didn't get tougher - I quit; I gave up. If it was hard, then I thought it wasn't meant to be. But now, because I have faith in God, and because I know His love and faithfulness, I am determined to see things through no matter how hard they get - unless He releases me to move on. I know that I'm learning and growing through these experiences. He's building my character and teaching me to rely on Him alone. He's making me stronger too. I'm grateful that I have Elsie's support as well. She's a blessing, and an incredible role model for me too.

We had a wonderful Christian Twelve Step meeting tonight at Mission Possible in the skid row area of Vancouver. The worship was powerful and the people really get into it. God was present was in our midst. He's such a great God. I can truly say that I am blessed to be here, in spite of the difficulties.

Please pray for us, especially for Lisa who is having a difficult time adjusting to being with us here. Thanks so much for reading this and for praying. God bless you.

PS: Please pray for Kerry too, as we contacted the place where he is living, and his condition is more serioius than I thought. But I know that God is with him; I pray that he remembers to pray and lift his cares and his condition up to God.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Miracles, signs and wonders

Well, maybe you had to be there...but God showed up in a couple of really cool ways today. First of all, I was out running errands with Mun Hee in another part of town when we happened to come upon Kerry (not his real name), a young man who recently joined our food co-op. He was sitting at a table outside a coffee shop. This guy is amazing. Two and a half years ago he had an accident that killed him instantly and if it weren't for God's intervention, he'd have stayed that way - dead, I mean. I believe it's a miracle that an ambulance crew just happened to be driving along that highway. They witnessed the accident and immediately came to his rescue and saved his life. His body and his brain were very badly damaged, but Kerry has such a strong will to live and such fierce determination - and of course God's power was at work too - that he has regained his ability to talk and to walk (with the help of a cane) - and walk he does! He walks all over Vancouver. When he found out about our food co-op he walked all the way from where he is living to the Women of Hope house to pick up his food order, and then he carried it all the way home with him, about 25 city blocks or more! (We've since given him a little cart with wheels that he can use to transport the food.) The next week he showed up early to help us package up the food and he continued to come for a few weeks, but he didn't show up last week. We wondered where he was.

On Easter Sunday while we were eating supper together after Immanuel, our street church, Kerry told me the story of his accident. He also shared how God has become his Father, and how He speaks to him and corrects him, and protects him and guides him. He doesn't consider himself a Christian and he doesn't go to church, but he told me that, because of all that He has done for him, he surrendered his life to God last fall. His story and his witness were such an inspiration to me that I wept that night while I lay in bed. I thanked God for demonstrating to Kerry - and to me through Kelly's testimony - His faithfulness, His kindness and tender loving care.

So, today, when we saw him outside the coffee shop he didn't remember us. I introduced myself and Mun Hee and asked him if he remembered Partners in Hope and the food co-op. He said he didn't. He explained that he'd had a terrible grand mal seizure recently and it wiped out a lot of his memory. I asked him if he still wanted to be part of the food co-op and he said yes, so I sat down to write out the contact information for him. Then I asked him if he remembered that he had an intimate relationship with God. He said he didn't, and so I reminded him of all that he had told me about God and how He guided him and watched over him. He listened with an expression of wonder on his face and then he thanked me and told me how inspiring it was and how he'd wondered about God and whether he knew Him. I asked him if Mun Hee and I could pray for him and he said, "If that's not too much to ask." Too much to ask?! Wow, it was a privilege!

It's so inspiring to see the way that God works in people's lives and how He cares so deeply for each one of us! I had work to do at the house today; I didn't plan on going out at all, but I'm so glad that when Mun Hee asked me to take her shopping I said yes. It's absolutely amazing how God put us together with Kerry. He knew that Kerry needed to be reminded that he has a Father in Heaven who loves him and is with him.

Will you join me in praying for Kerry? I pray that he will remember to come to the house on Friday to fellowship with us as we package the co-op food and share a meal together. I believe that the Lord brought Kerry to us for a reason. He needs fellowship and discipling. He needs friends who love him. His family live far away and there's estrangement there too. Thank you Father for bringing Kerry to us, and thank You that You are so faithful and so kind and so loving. Please restore Kerry's memories of all that You've done for him in the past. Surround him with a sense of Your presence with him and fill him with the knowledge of Your love. Lord, I plead Your protection over Kerry, over his mind and over his health, and I thank you for his determination and his courage. Please heal all the broken places in his body and his soul and repair the damage that was done to his brain by the accident as well as the seizure. Bless him abundantly - and I know that You do. I ask all this in Jesus' Name.

The other cool thing God did today was respond to my prayers for our laptop computer. I had to do some work to prepare for the two recovery meetings we have coming up this week (we use a digital projector to put up the study and the songs) but I wasn't able to get it done because the monitor on the laptop remained black each time I started it up. I restarted the computer several times and then put it away for a while, but each time I came back and tried again the monitor wouldn't light up. So I closed it again and asked Lorna and Connie to agree with me in prayer that God would fix whatever was wrong with the laptop. Then I laid hands on it and prayed and when I opened up it up again, the monitor lit up! Hallelujah!

Thank You Lord for Your amazing Love and Faithfulness! I love You!

Here's a cool satellite photo. You can find out where it is by opening Google Maps and entering this location: 43°38'43.00"N 115°59'33.50"W. Click on "Hybrid" you'll see the satellite image.