Friday, December 9, 2016

Fearing Pain And Who It Points Us To



I can't say I enjoyed having the basal cell carcinoma scraped off and cauterized on my forearm for ten minutes yesterday... especially the smell of burning flesh. I didn't exactly feel pain, but I felt warmth. I knew the doctor was burning my skin, and that totally grossed me out, even without the smell and wisps of smoke. A new-fangled way to get rid of minor skin cancers. I didn't love it. Still, it beats an operation with a scalpel and stitches. Yay modern medicine!

Nonetheless, I felt sorry for myself. Enough already with the medical traumas to my body. And did I really need to be allergic to the bandage so that I itch on top of everything else?

It was not a full day of bad happenings. I finished the final edit of my new book, Unlikely Redemption. The cover is complete. The manuscript is with the formatter. I will make my Christmas deadline. The book will be available for Christmas gifts. In fact, it should be out within a week!

(HINT: clean read, inspiring, funny, and thought provoking book for the avid reader -- makes a great Christmas gift. Particularly one like this with a strong Christian message. Appropriate for all ages from about ten years old and up. Where else will you read about a dolphin/horse/dog detective team solving a mystery at the same time as deep truths of faith, forgiveness,  and redemption are explored?)

This is Book 2 in the Unlikely Friends series. If you want Book 1, just click HERE to order. Then you will be up to speed and all set for Book 2.

As I submitted my files to the publisher, I was amazed. Despite all the medical ickiness I have endured this year, this is the second book I have put out in four months. I am happy about that! I am not really quite sure how I managed. God was probably supernaturally writing chapters while I wasn't looking.

Meanwhile, I am busily editing the book of my journey with breast cancer. That should be out early next year as well.

God is so faithful. Despite all the health struggles, He has given me strength to carry on with life, and I have missed very few Mondays as a volunteer speaking for the unborn on the sidewalks of the southeast's busiest abortion center.

That is not to say that I haven't had my ups and downs. For example, yesterday when my Physical Therapist mentioned "dry needling" again in our therapy session for my latest malady, a frozen shoulder, I started crying. Crying! I am sure she was mentally rolling her eyes and calling me a big fat baby inside her head.

"What are you afraid of?" she asked.
"Pain," I said, weeping.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 1, verses 4 and 6, “God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things.”

According to Biblical scholars, this is called "redemptive suffering". Redemptive suffering is when you go through a problem or a pain for the benefit of others. God never wastes our pain. It always can be used for His good purpose. I HATE pain, and have had a good bit of it over this past year, but it is true that no one who is suffering seeks solace from someone who has not suffered.  I ran to others who had endured breast cancer when I wanted advice on how to deal with the issues of my breast cancer. Now I have a good backlog of suffering to help others! Lucky me!

Ultimately, our pain points us directly to Jesus. If anyone knows the problem of pain, it is Jesus. If we are suffering, there is no better empathetic being to approach than Jesus. No one understands the nature of redemptive suffering more than Jesus.

It is why Cities4life points abortion-minded mamas to Jesus to encourage them to choose life instead. If anyone understands a bleak situation, it is Jesus.

One of those mamas sent me a picture by text message yesterday, right after my harrowing ordeal at the doctor's office. It reminded me that suffering can lead to immense joy if we don't lose heart.


Maybe if I keep this thought in my heart, I will not fear pain so much.
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Psalm 41:3

The Lord sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health.

The night racks my bones, and the pain that gnaws me takes no rest.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

When the Church Arises In Unity! a REALLY FEEL GOOD POST


"Just think, Miss Vicky," L said to me as we sat down to lunch together, "You met me almost three years ago, and now here I am, a mother of a two-year-old, about to get her own apartment."
"It's wonderful, isn't it?" I said.

She moves into her first apartment Friday. "Excited" doesn't begin to cover her emotions. She'd been living in her car, homeless, then moved to a shelter, and now is on the cusp of moving into a nice, clean, and safe home.

L met me on the sidewalks of one of the busiest abortion centers in the Southeast. She wanted to abort, but was willing to let me make the case for keeping her child. I spoke with her at length. Then, a fellow counselor, Mary, took L aboard the HELP mobile ultrasound RV as I was not yet trained to do so. A brand new counselor, I was allowed to sit there, and try to be quiet. I could not. Mary was wonderful as she always is, and didn't even kick me when I couldn't stay silent. I had to share what God laid on my heart. In the end, L chose life, and I have been her friend and mentor for nearly three years now.

"You told me to pray...and I pray every night," L said, forgetting all about the luscious lunch in front of her. "I went from being homeless, to having a home, a job, a car, my baby..."
"Because you were obedient to God," I told her, "And He has blessed you."


I am not sure my theology is perfect there. Obedience to God doesn't guarantee ease, comfort, or relief from terrible circumstances. However, it certainly made a difference in L's life.

"People have wronged me, but I decided to just let it go," she told me.
"That's Biblical," I told her.
"It is?"
"Yes, the Bible says vengeance is the Lord's. We are not to take revenge on others."
"We are to leave it to God?"
"Yes."
"That's what happened, too." She described the slew of disasters that fell upon the person who had wronged her. I could forgive her the touch of glee she exhibited as she listed God's retribution.

L is the first mom I worked with who I led to the Lord as a Cities4Life counselor. Her path has not been smooth, but she never lost faith in God, and she never stopped praying. She never stopped trying to live for the Lord and overcome a lifetime of wandering from Him. And Cities4Life never walked away from her. We helped her as best we could when she expressed a need. (She didn't always express the need, fiercely determined to make it on her own. I didn't know about her living in the car till after the fact.)

I put out a plea on Facebook a week ago for people to help furnish her new apartment. She has nothing but her clothes. Nothing. She would be moving into an empty apartment. Donations poured in...even a washer/dryer set. A generous Cities4Life donor paid her utility installation bill. A flood of loving Christians responded to the plea: a couch, a comfortable chair, a kitchen table and chairs, dressers, end tables, lamps, kitchen supplies, two beds, sheets, blankets, a desk, bathroom supplies... Last night, as I tabulated all that had been promised, I realized EVERY need had been met. She will have everything she needs, and then some, when she moves in Friday.

Except one thing. A hairdresser chair. She is a gifted stylist and wants to start a small business doing hair on the side while working full time. She is determined to save, and one day go to college for a degree in a career that helps others. The extra money from her hairdressing business would be critical to her plans. Surely someone out there has a chair they could donate to make this miracle complete? I posted the unlikely plea on Facebook.

This outpouring of provision is the power of the Church arising in unity, with a common goal, and a Godly purpose. I am speechless with joy over the lavish abundance of love for this woman all those generous Christians have never even met.


 

Before I went to bed, I got a message from a Cities4Life supporter. She found and bought a hairdresser chair. It was in a city about an hour or so from Charlotte. I put out another plea to my Cities4Life network and Facebook friends. Could anyone get the chair for me?

The wife of our Cities4Life director wrote back. Guess what? Her parents live in that city and she will be there Saturday anyway. She will bring me the chair. Coincidence? I think not.

 God is amazing. Please, keep this under wraps. I am surprising L on Sunday with the chair. I can not wait to bring it to her.

God is so faithful. Abundantly. Lavishly. Over-the-top faithful. If you don't know Him, call me. I would like nothing more on earth than to introduce you.


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Psalm 133:1

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!

Philippians 4:19

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

What God Does With My Inadequate Words and the Hurt of the World

A day of joy. I got to hold the new baby of one of the moms I work with who chose life over abortion. She is doing so well, and loves her little daughter. And yes, that little three-week-old baby is smiling in the photo. She smiles at everything, especially her mama.

"She cannot take her eyes off of you!" I said to the mama.
She has every reason to smile. The mama who once considered aborting her cannot imagine life without her now. The love between the child and her mama is palpable.

"Something you said really stuck with me," the mom told me as we settled down to talk. "You said when you are in the midst of a storm, it feels like it will last forever...but it doesn't. And we shouldn't base our actions on how we feel in the middle of the storm."

I said that? Good. I hope I can apply it to my own life a little better.

We had a long discussion about God and how following Him opens the floodgates of blessings. This beautiful mama has dreams and she is pursuing them. She starts school full-time in January. She inspires me with her goals and thoughtful planning.

I love her so much. I have so many hopes and prayers for her. I shared with her from a heart filled with passion for God and absolute assurance of how integral He is to all joy.

If only I could more clearly convey how real He is, and how obeying Him leads to an abundant life we absolutely cannot know without Him. If only I could explain His truths better.

But my words fall so short, my eloquence is so limited, my ability to say all that is in my heart is so inadequate in the face of this miracle of life and all that she means....



The little baby fell asleep in my arms as I cuddled her.
"It's been a long time since a newborn fell asleep in my arms," I said, holding the tiny child.

The joy of the visit was only slightly lessened by the call from my dermatologist on the drive home. The spot on my arm the doctor biopsied last week is basal cell carcinoma. Luckily, it is very superficial and they will burn it off Thursday in a fifteen-minute in-office visit. I should feel no pain after the numbing shot, and in a week, be as good as new.

I hate to go through any more medical procedures ...but it could be worse. At least, as the doctor passed along the less than thrilling news, the arm with the carcinoma was still warm and achy from holding a sleeping, little baby who was slated to die, but is now alive.

The baby helped keep everything in perspective.


May God somehow cover my inadequacies and glean from my words to this mama and this precious child exactly what they needed to hear.

Then, as the day closed, I texted a mom I hadn't heard from in a couple of months. I send her, and all the moms I work with, daily Bible verses. Often, if they have a need or just want to talk, they contact me at that point. This particular mom, "O",  was on my heart for some reason.

"O" responded to my text instantly. She said all was fine and she was eager to meet her baby, due in February. Then, I remembered that I had one more family willing to buy Christmas gifts for one of the moms I work with. So far, ten moms and their children are being helped by these generous supporters of Cities4Life and its mission to promote the Gospel and a culture of life in our city through tangible assistance.

I asked "O" if she might be interested in a family 'adopting' her to provide her son and her with Christmas gifts. She was effusive in her reply.

It was clear to me then that it was God who had brought her to mind. I quickly sent her our list of housing resources for single moms. I also reminded her that if she ever had needs, let us know. We cannot promise to meet them, but we will try.  With God, all things are possible, I reminded her.

But God doesn't work alone. For some inexplicable reason, He employs us to work on His behalf. He who created the universe could easily snap His fingers and bring every single mom out of poverty. He doesn't. Instead, He commands us to help those in need. He commands us to be a voice to the voiceless. He commands us to spread the truth of the Gospel.

Why doesn't God end all the pain and struggle on Earth? He commands us to be His healing presence, His hands and feet, and one day when all the pain and struggle has ended, perhaps we will understand.


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John 10:10 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Be Strong and Wait Upon the Lord


Five women chose life at the abortion center yesterday, and a sixth through a phone call with our counselor, Angela. An exciting day for all of us, though sobering in light of the sixty cars that filled the center's two parking lots.

At one point, my Cities4Life team member, Anna, was on the mobile Monroe HELP ultrasound RV with a mama, when another mama came to me and asked for a pregnancy test and ultrasound. As I brought her on the RV, we were introduced to M, the mama Anna was counseling.

The mama, K, I had brought on the RV asked me, "Do you all try to talk people out of aborting?"
"No," said M, "They don't talk you out of anything. They show you why you don't want to do it."
"I'm getting my sister out of there and bringing her here,"  K told me.
"Your sister?" I asked.
"She's in the clinic. She's getting an abortion."
I gave K our literature with my name and number. Armed with the material, K hurried back in the center.

A short time later, she returned.
"She wouldn't leave," she told us sadly.
Then M began talking to K. "I had a 9:30 appointment today to abort. I came here, and now I am certain it is wrong, and I want to keep my baby."
"I'm going back in to talk to my sister!" K declared.

Off she went again. This time I walked to the edge of the center parking lot with her. She returned again.
"They took her into the back room already," she told me.
"You can ask to see her," I said.
The 'pro-choice' escort overheard us and pointing to me, asked K, "Is she forcing you to go get someone out of there?"
"She's not forcing me!" K said, "I told her that's what I wanted to do!"
"You have to make a decision now," the pro-choice escort said, "Stay in or stay out. You can't go back in if you are with them."

So much for 'choice.'

K followed me back on the RV. It turns out she wasn't pregnant. We seized the opportunity to share the Gospel and the message of abstinence outside of marriage in obedience to Christ, who she seemed to know. I offered to send her daily Bible verses, which she was grateful for.

As far as I know, her sister went through with the abortion. But she has my name and number if she needs someone to talk to. My prayer is that God will speak to her through her brave sister.

I think I went overboard with the message that it is not loving to support someone making a decision that leads to destruction. We hear this all the time from drivers and friends of the abortion-minded woman. They do not see that they are aiding the woman's ability to abort by driving them there.

Analogies always play in my writer's head. If someone were plotting to murder a two-year-old, would you drive that person there, hoping to talk her out of it on the way, but then letting her kill the toddler in the end? I wouldn't. I don't think that is what God would have us do either. This is not removing love from the one plotting destruction. It is refusing to be an accomplice in an act that defies God. So I shared that with K, since so many women return for repeat abortions. Were her sister, or any friend ever to consider abortion again, I hoped K would not feel the need to support in any way something she believed was wrong. We actually have had mamas end up having the baby because no one would drive them to the abortion center. It gave them time to come to a different conclusion. My passion is to plant seeds that will ultimately bring an end to abortion.

I am not sure she ever got my point. Maybe I stretched to reach it too hard. I have a tendency to do that.

Speaking of stretching, my frozen shoulder is still frozen. I do the stretches every day, which hurt and it takes a long time to do them properly. To my frustration, the shoulder stiffens up again almost immediately. I have to do the stretches several times a day (which doesn't happen most days) and each time it feels like I am starting from square one. When will true healing come??

Sometimes that's exactly what it feels like at the abortion center. We deliver the same message over and over again.  Some women choose life, though most go through with the abortion. We pray we have made a dent in this spiritual battle, and the next day, the same battle is there again before us.


It is important for all of us to recognize that many battles God sets before us are not instantaneously won. Sometimes, they appear not be won at all here on earth! We are not commanded to win. We are commanded to endure, and to continue pressing forward towards the goal He has placed before us in Christ Jesus. He never promises ease or comfort, or even relief. All He promises is He is with us.

If we stop stretching, we lose. Muscles tighten till they are useless.

Tuesday Cities4Life team: as you stand at the gates of Hell, I am praying for you. Do not grow weary in speaking the truth of God. He is with you.
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Psalm 31:24 

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Monday, December 5, 2016

After the Multitudes Depart -- Standing in the Gap


Today, like every Monday, my Cities4Life team and I head to the sidewalks of the abortion center to speak on behalf of the unborn, and to offer tangible help to the desperate mamas. I doubt the sidewalks will be filled like they were Saturday with 4,000 people praying for the end of abortion.

Buoyed by the sight of all those people praying, I, and maybe three others, will be standing on those sidewalks. We pray, but try to keep the prayers short, and always with one eye open, watching for the mamas as they arrive on the path to destruction. I pray without ceasing, but my call from God is to speak.

Speak His words of truth and hope in Jesus. Speak of the glorious sacredness of human life, made in His image. Speak of the tangible comfort and help through the huge network of Cities4Life supporters. Speak...and then follow through.

Provide for their needs immediately, as best we can, or point them to realistic resources.

Then, perhaps they will open their hearts to God because they will see His presence here on Earth.
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Proverbs 22:9 

Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.

Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.

Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.

Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Praying and Then RESPONDING to Advance a Culture of Life



I arrived a half hour early for the Charlotte Love Life prayer walk yesterday on the sidewalks of Charlotte's busiest abortion center. There were at least 2000 people already there gathered to pray for the end of abortion in Charlotte.

The people kept coming, filling the lot where a wonderful band was praying and playing praise music. I saw many of my fellow Sidewalk Counselors and friends from the pregnancy crisis centers and the mobile RV. Incredulous, I looked out over the multitude of people praying that abortion would end in our city and nation.

Totally overwhelmed. I was not alone in tears streaming down my face. All of us who are actively involved in the pro-life movement and have seen women change their hearts toward God and toward their babies know how powerful the Gospel is and how the harvest is indeed plentiful, but the workers are so few. Sometimes, there are only two or three of us standing on the sidewalks in the frigid cold, pleading with the women entering the abortion center to let us help them.

Look at all these people!


We think between 3500-4,000 showed up. There were times when it was so crowded on the sidewalk and so mobbed with the people praying that we came to a standstill.


If even 1/10 of these people would become directly involved in helping the abortion–minded mothers, and if all the churches in Charlotte would be moved to participate in speaking up for the unborn and in providing for the needs of their mothers who choose life, abortion could be ended. Prayer is crucial. Action must follow, or the world's accusation that we don't care about the mother or the baby after he is born gains traction.

Afterwards, I helped man the Cities 4 Life tent. We gathered two pages of signatures of people who wanted to help with the mission of interceding for the unborn and creating a culture of life in our city.
I hope when the enthusiasm stirred up by the massive crowd dies away, their commitment will not.

Angela, who manned the tent with me and is a fellow sidewalk counselor made an awesome video slideshow of Cities4Life counselors in action. It is powerful, and I encourage you to watch it and to share with others. If you don't see the love and commitment Cities4Life volunteers pour into the abortion-minded mamas, you are not looking.



Next, contrast what you see in that video with what the pro-choice escorts were up to during the Prayer Walk. One of our counselors reported that they were cheering and dancing every time a woman emerged from the abortion center after disposing of her baby.


The pro-choice crowd had been warned about the prayer walk and they were also out in droves, though not nearly the numbers of our pro-life crowd. There were maybe two or three dozen pro-choice people and they carried vile signs, mocking the pro-life group and targeting their children with signs that said their parents were liars. Another said, "Girls Just Want to have fun-damental rights." (The implication of course is go have sexual license and 'fun' and then have the right to destroy the living consequence. Why that is celebrated escapes me.)

Other signs said if Mary had aborted Jesus we wouldn't be in this mess, and the tooth fairy and Santa Claus were not real. ( I never taught my kids Santa or the tooth fairy were real as I specifically didn't want them to ever think I lied to them, but for the pro-choice group to want to destroy children's trust in their parents revealed a side to them that is very disturbing.) The anti-Christian message is obvious, and were it directed at any other group, would be considered hate crime.

Our prayer group did not engage with any of those people, but prayed for them and marched silently to the sound of praise music and the voice of God in their hearts.

One family that was there walking with some of their friends was a mom who chose life over abortion. She brought friends, one of whom had aborted at that very clinic four years ago. Now, that woman was joining the walk, praying that all abortion would end.

That mama who chose life is very dear to me. I met her months ago on the pro-life RV, encouraged her to choose life, and put her faith in Jesus. With Cities4Life support, we helped meet many of her dire needs over the next year. Here was the text message she sent me after the prayer walk (shared with her permission):




Now, it was not me that helped her alone...the full network of Cities4Life poured themselves into this woman as well as several anonymous donors giving me money to help her. All of it was because of a deep love and commitment to our Lord and Savior, and we were all empowered by Him. Nonetheless, this text makes an invaluable point.

Many abortion-minded mamas just need the assurance they are NOT alone. There are people willing to help. Their situation is not hopeless. Their baby is precious. My words and prayers would have meant little to a mama without a home, food, or clothes for the children she already had. Cities4Life's tangible help is what made the difference to this woman. 

Please hear me: Prayer is absolutely critical and a gift of God, as well as a command. But we should not pray and then walk away without responding directly to desperate need.

Church, arise! The harvest is ripe and the workers are few.
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Matthew 9: 36-38

Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. “Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Strands of Hope



The saleswoman asked if she could help us. My daughter said, "Those blue strands on the Christmas tree there...do you have more of those?" The saleswoman searched but couldn't find any but those on the tree.

"I am trying to move my mom beyond a pure white and clear Christmas tree," Asherel confided, "Last year I got her to get blue flowers, and now I have talked her into that blue strand, but ..."

"I understand," said the young saleswoman, "I want purple hair but all I can get away with while working here is this. [ a reddish orange gold]. I'm slowly easing them towards the purple. No way could I get away with my lip ring though."

"But you're rocking all those earrings," Asherel said. (She had about 4 pairs adorning her ear lobe.)

"They won't notice if I just add a little at a time," the saleswoman said.

"Like boiling a frog slowly," I  said, "They'll never know when you transition to outrageous."

"Right," she said. "Listen, I'll just take these blue strands off this demo tree."

"I don't want to ruin your demo tree..." I said.

"Not a problem! Good job moving her into some blue," she said, winking at Asherel, and handing me the strand of blue.

This morning, I will join 4,000 other people for the last of Love Life's prayer walks around the street that loops Charlotte's busiest abortion center.  I volunteer on the sidewalks of that dark place each Monday, offering hope and help to the abortion-minded mamas.

The Love Life prayer walks started small, but each weekend, different churches joined in. Today is the last walk. Little things like strands of blue on a white Christmas tree begin to infiltrate, and you never know what the end effect might become. Small voices lifted in single strands in the chilly blue morning become a thundering, joyous profusion decorating the path of destruction with the Hope of Heaven.
***
Asherel didn't push me on my yearly clear crystal ornament tradition though. She picked out an unusual one that we both loved after searching the whole Christmas store.

***
Join us for the Prayer Walk, from 9-11:30 today. Info HERE. And afterwards, come say Hi to me in the Cities4Life tent. You never know what color it might add to your day.

Matthew 18:20 

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”