Friday, June 15, 2018

Those Shoes Ain’t Made for Walking....

I wore my fancy new wedding shoes (for my nephew’s upcoming wedding) to our 38th anniversary dinner. Notice Ragnar in the background who is thinking, “Those shoes are not made for walking...” He was a little miffed as I did not play with him once my fancy shoes were a-foot. I was fairly sure I could walk in them, but playing chase around the ping-pong table was definitely out.

I wasn’t going to dress up. I was tired. I’d been on the sidewalks of the abortion center all morning into early afternoon with our Cities4Life team interceding on behalf of the unborn. The humidity had to have been 90 % and it was in the low 90s. Misery. So hot and humid none of us felt great. A wilting heat.

However, when one car pulled out of the clinic lot, they told us they did not abort. A baby saved. Our tired, sweaty feet had not trod that path in vain.

So, I was hot, sweaty, and weary. I didn’t think i had the energy to shower, change clothes, or wear my fancy heels. I knew my low-key husband of 38 years would understand.

Then I went on a walk with my friend. I told her it was my 38th anniversary and we would be going out to dinner. I told her about my beautiful shoes and how I would not be wearing them to dinner because I was so tired.

My friend told me 38 years was an accomplishment and maybe my sweaty T-shirt, flip-flops, and cut-off shorts were not called for....Maybe I should think about wearing my fancy shoes.

“No, maybe next anniversary...”

We talked about how so many marriages break up. I told her ours had survived some rough patches but not because of any great strength of character on either of our parts.  However, the glue that held us together was a mighty powerful bond: God.

“I don’t now how anyone makes it without God,” I said. “And both people in a marriage need to know God and live for him. We for sure would not have made it if God had not been loved by both of us.”

“38 years,” my friend said as we parted ways, “That is a quite an accomplishment.”

So I went inside, showered, and pulled out the fancy shoes. Those shoes were not made for least not far...but they were made for celebrating. I put them on and thanked God for His immeasurable love that has helped me along so many paths that not even my best walking shoes could have traversed alone.

Psalm 23: 1-6
A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. .

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Value and Worth Before God and Hopefully Before Each Other

LIfe is sacred. Human life should be treated with dignity and respect from the womb to the day of natural death. In a perfect world, no person should ever feel they have no value or worth to others. They certainly all have value and worth to God.

Each month, that is in my heart as I teach my little nursing home art class.  While I do love art and feel creativity is an essential part of humanity, the art is secondary to my primary purpose. I want each elderly student to feel loved, valued, and worthy of my time. If they draw a nice picture, that is icing on the cake.

Yesterday, as always, even those who have never drawn anything made a recognizable dog. The picture at the top of the blog is by a man who had never drawn anything before. His wife of fifty years, visiting for the day, was sitting beside him. She verified she had not once seen him draw even a stick figure.

“How’s my dog?” he asked me.
“Perfect,” I told him.
“Take the picture with the photo beside it,” he told me. “That way you can see how close I came.”
His wife smiled at him.

As I was cleaning the room, I asked one woman if she had enjoyed the class.
“Oh I can’t draw a dog,” she said, laughing.
I held up her picture.
“Is this a dog?” I asked.
“Did you draw it?”
“Well then, I guess you can draw a dog.”
“Yes...I guess I can.”

One man who had been in the arts growing up drew a gorgeous dog...and then doodled a lovely house in the mountains on the top of his page. I asked him about the little house drawing.
“That’s my home,” he told me. He talked about his career and the cold winters where he had settled. The class emptied and he drew little pictures of buildings he had designed as an architect, telling me for what purpose they were designed as he sketched each one.

We sat chatting several minutes in the quiet of the empty activities room. I glanced at my watch. “Well, I have to get back to my own dog,” I said.
“Goodbye,” he said, standing slowly and gathering the pictures he had created, “Thank you for spending time with us.”

We are to be more like Jesus every day if we take the Bible seriously.  I often ponder what that looks like in everyday life. Jesus didn’t seem to spend much time with the wealthy, strong, or powerful. His recorded days were mostly spent with the wounded, the poor, the dying, the discarded, the downtrodden, and the despised. He did not come to make a name for Himself in the world, but to make sure OUR names were written in the Book of Life. His love was never self-serving, but always self-sacrificing. 

Lord, may your mission be MY mission. Empower me to be more like you despite every natural inclination to care only for myself.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; (Isaiah 61:1)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

When the Holy Spirit Speaks, Listen: How Love Conquers Death

This is a story of faithfulness and miracles and it involves all those people in the photo above. These are four volunteers who work with Cities4Life on the sidewalks of the busiest abortion center in the Southeast. The one in the foreground was with us for her first day of training. She was very emotional, as many are when they see the avalanche of women stumbling to abortion.

At one point, she asked if she could call out to the women. She had a testimony she wanted to share and said it was all she could do to remain silent. 
“I don’t want you to squash the Holy Spirit,” I told her. I urged her to listen and pray as much as possible, and if the right time came to speak, I felt we would know it.

That time came. Two women with a baby pulled up right in front of us. The abortive mom went in the clinic, despite our team’s pleas. The friend with the baby stood by the car.

“Go ahead,” I told April, our new volunteer. “If you feel led, call out to her.”
April hopped right on that and called to the woman, “Can I tell you my story?”
“OK,” the woman said. (I will call this woman Melanie.) She gathered the baby out of the car seat and came over to us. I was shocked.

First, since time was so critical, I shared our resources and begged her to go try to get her friend to come to us. She called her friend in the abortion center. The friend came out, glanced at our literature, and stormed back inside the clinic.

Then, Melanie returned to us. She told us her friend was determined to abort. I told her we had heard this many times, and do not give up hope. I continued to share all the things we could offer which Melanie continued to text to her friend. 
“She’s not answering me anymore,” Melanie said. I got bottles of water for Melanie, April, and the sidewalk counselors who stood nearby and returned to my post up the street. Melanie handed April her baby and they sat in the shade as April shared her testimony.

For at least an hour April sat with Melanie, holding the baby. Then she had to leave, but not before giving us a carload of diapers her church had collected. First, she asked me if she could give some of them to Melanie.
“Of course,” I told her, “You never know how that act of kindness may affect her or her friend. They may rethink abortion down the road.”

When April left, those other two women volunteers in the photo sat down with Melanie. They held the baby and spent another hour talking with her. The sun was very hot, and all of us had been there four hours by now. We all headed home as the afternoon Cities4Life team arrived. Melanie’s friend was 17 weeks pregnant, thus would be one of the last to emerge from the clinic that afternoon. The young man in the photo is our RV driver. He remained after the typical time the RV leaves so that the volunteers would have a place to retreat from the sun, use the restroom, and gather any supplies.

The afternoon team lead updated our group later in the day. Melanie’s friend came out of the clinic. She had been told the abortion would be $600 when she made the appointment, but instead was now informed it would be $1500. She didn’t have the money. Melanie delightedly told us that her friend would very likely not abort. Now Melanie, who had been showered with love and resources from our team the entire morning could minister to her friend.

When the Holy Spirit urges you to act or to speak, DO IT. You just never know how God will use your voice to change the world.
We are in great need for teams from 9:30-12, and 12-3 on the sidewalks of the abortion center. If the Holy Spirit is speaking to you about this, LISTEN, and click HERE for info.


John 14:26 

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 16:13 

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

2 Peter 1:21 

For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:26 

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
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Saturday, June 9, 2018

Abortion Workers Unsuccessful In Talking Conflicted Mother into Abortion

This young man in the photo above, Elijah, spoke to a desperate but clearly conflicted young woman as she pulled into the abortion center parking lot. He told her we had help for her. She parked and went to him. Elijah began sharing the hope of the Lord as well as some of our resources. I came alongside the two of them and went in greater depth about all Cities4Life and our partner ministries could do to help her.  Our nurse, Jennifer joined us and offered a free ultrasound.

Immediately, the abortion clinic security woman approached her as well. 
“If you are going with them,” she said, “You can’t park in this lot.”
“I was looking for information,” the woman, who I will call Sheila, said.
“Come with me,” the security woman said, “I will show you where to go. They will help you in there.” (Pointing to the abortion clinic.)

Sheila turned to me, “I will be back,” she said, “I just want some information.”
“If you go in there,” I said, “They will try to talk you into an abortion. That is all they offer. If you want information on your other options, please come with us.”

The security woman continued to assure the woman that she should go in the clinic and they would help her with information she needed. She was quite insistent. Sheila followed the security woman, but mouthed to us, “I don’t think I will do it...I just need information.”

Elijah, Jennifer, and I bowed our heads and prayed. Sheila, with slow, grievous steps, walked into the clinic.

Almost instantly, Sheila stomped back out. She came straight to us. She was livid.
“They are all about money,” she said, “They don’t care about me at all. All they want is my money. They lied to me.”

She got in her car, and parked on the curb so we could talk with her. 
“I called them today because I was overwhelmed. I just wanted to know what would happen to the baby in an abortion.”
Sheila was in her second trimester of pregnancy. What happens to the baby is appalling.
“I can tell you that,” I said. I showed her the info sheet we have on abortion procedures. Her living baby would be ripped apart limb by limb. 
Tears gathered in her eyes.
“They told me that if I came down, they would give me a pamphlet of what happens to the baby.”
“No they won’t,” I said. “They don’t want anyone to know what happens to the baby because they don’t want anyone to turn from abortion.”
“Well I went in and asked for that pamphlet. They told me they didn’t have one, and they just kept asking for my money! They lied to me! I knew I shouldn’t be here, and I am so ashamed I came!”

Let that sink in, folks. The people who schedule appointments lied to her to get her into the abortion clinic. When she arrived, the security people herded her from us with all our resources that could help. Then despite her obvious conflicted heart, the worker in the clinic pressed her to just go ahead and pay and get the abortion. Despite all that effort to insure an ambivalent mother abort and an innocent baby die, Sheila left the clinic furious over what they were doing when she had been so open about her conflicted heart.

“Do you believe in God?” I asked.
“Yes, I even told them that when I first called. I wanted to know what God might think...but they didn’t want to talk about God at all.” At this point she began to cry in earnest. “How will He forgive me for coming here?”
“Honey, everyone faces temptation. Even Jesus was tempted. But did you succumb to that tempatation?”
“No, you didn’t. You did just what the Bible told you to do when tempted: flee from evil and Satan will flee from you. The angels are is God...and so are we.”
“I should never have come.”
“No, but now you have met us and we are here to offer you a whole host of resources to help you!”

Elijah came to the car and told her he had a special scripture to offer. He read from Matthew 6: 25-33 about how God cares for the birds of the air and the flowers of the much more would He care for and help her? Then Jennifer came with a “blessing bag” filled with gifts.

By now, Sheila was smiling with relief and saying she had no reason to be there except selfishness. 
“I knew it was wrong. My pastor told me it was selfishness. I love God...and look what I almost did.”

Jennifer encouraged Sheila to know she had showed strength and courage in trusting God and leaving that place. She assured her that now she would be surrounded with people praying for her and eager to help her. 
“I am so thankful you were here,” she told us, “It makes me realize there are still people in the world who care.”

Later that day, I got the following text:

She also told us that she was less interested in our help than in how she could help US
“What they are doing just isn’t right,” she said.

No, it is not.

But what Cities4Life is doing feels so wonderful and so right.  

That morning, three women chose life. And a church we had contacted is willing to provide FREE childcare with another mom we are working with who was utterly hopeless, with the cost of childcare being her primary concern. Two days ago, she felt suicidal. Now, she told me, “God is so good.”

He is. All the time.

Matthew 6:25-34 NIV
[25] “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? [26] Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? [27] Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ? [28] “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. [29] Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. [30] If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you---you of little faith? [31] So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' [32] For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. [33] But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. [34] Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Growing Weary While Well-Doing

Like anyone engaged in any ministry, there are times when discouragement rears its ugly head. I don’t know why I was feeling down yesterday on my way to the abortion center sidewalks. Satan’s attacks are sometimes more distressing than usual. I was praying as I always do as I drove to the sidewalk. I found my mind wandering however and wondering: am I really of use?

When I arrived, shortly before 9, women were already lining up at the abortion center door. The doors don’t open until 9:30 usually. I was all alone but hurried over to address the women. As I began offering our free ultrasound and other resources, one told me she didn’t want to hear what I had to say. The others laughed at me. 

I spoke nonstop for the next fifteen minutes till the door opened. A couple of women glanced over as I showed them photos of babies in utero. I spoke as always of the many resources that Cities4Life and our partner ministries had to help women make a choice other than abortion. The doors opened early, and all the women hurried in.

As the doors closed, I turned to my fellow counselor, Elijah, who had arrived a few moments earlier.
“I sometimes wonder if we are wasting our time,” I said. This is NOT a characteristic feeling or statement from me. I KNOW we are called by God to be there. On top of that, this past May was the second greatest number of babies saved in a month for as long as we have been keeping records. 
Elijah responded with wise and Godly counsel and consolation. However, the depression I had felt all morning did not lift.

“But is anyone listening?” I asked.

At EXACTLY that moment, before I had even quite finished uttering that question, a woman broke through the hedges and came towards me.
“I wanted to know how you can help,” she said.

For the next three hours, the nurse Sherry and I counseled this woman on the Monroe HELP Pregnancy Center RV  and showed the woman, who I will call Bella, her precious child on the mobile ultrasound unit. Bella’s story was tragic and heart-breaking. She did not understand the love and hope and strength of God. Even after offering her all our resources that countered every obstacle she faced, she was wavering in her choice. 

Into this hopelessness, God ALWAYS speaks. We shared the Gospel, which is the only answer to the devastation of wounded spirits and broken lives. Bella wanted what Jesus offered, and on the RV, prayed with Sherry and me to ask Him to be Lord of her life. She spoke with tearful sweetness, asking Him to help her to live for Him.

All my weariness was gone as I walked Bella to her car. 
“How do you feel?” one of our fellow counselors asked.
“So much better,” Bella said.

Me too. God has a way of meeting us where we are and even when we least deserve it, pouring LAVISH love and hope upon our discouragement. His arms are forever open wide, embracing us in all our brokenness with His healing touch. 


Romans 8:26-28 

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
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Monday, June 4, 2018

A God of Redemption and Second Chances

Ragnar the talking dog is doing great while on sabbatical with us for a few months. He is running 2 1/2 miles every morning with me, uses the teeny tiny dog door to squish out to the backyard like a pro, and is a star pupil in our daily training classes. Check out the video below for proof of how well this smart dog is learning sit/stay/come even with distractions of an unfenced front yard.

While I have had Ragnar for a few days at a time before, this little sojourn will be several months. Frankly, I was worried. I thought our house would be covered with poop and pee, our belongings would be shredded, and first chance he got, he would escape and refuse to come when called. None of that happened. He is a model dog and makes me laugh all the time with his constant attempts to carry on an intelligent conversation.

When he first came, he could not walk a mile without being winded and panting like a metronome. Within just one week, he is now running over double that distance.  My goal is for him to run my daily 5 miles with me. However, I am excited by how quickly he is getting in shape! We just did a little more each day, and he eagerly adapted. Same with the training on sit/stay/come. We just do five minutes faithfully each day. I feed him LUSCIOUS treats to reward every single act of obedience. As a result, he eagerly looks forward to the sessions, and with wagging tail complies with every command. Failures are decreasing and rare.

I wonder if I could apply this to all the people in my life 

I am certain God is teaching me as I am teaching Ragnar. These are the two key principles He is impressing upon me.
#1. Set worthy, even lofty goals... but work towards them incrementally. Do not expect instant success. Expect and work towards steady improvement and be happy with that.
#2. Reward and lavish praise upon every single moment of achievement. Do not reward nor shame failure. Be sure to lavish double reward when success follows failure.

This is what God does with me. When I first came to know Jesus, I was not even CLOSE to understanding what walking with Jesus should look like. God never shamed me for my failures or for my glaring imperfections (which is not to say there were not consequences...there were.) However, God continued to slowly guide and lovingly urge me to grow more like Him each day. He certainly made it clear that I was not to remain as I was, but He also provided daily opportunities for growth and success.

There are countless Biblical examples of Jesus encountering people who have utterly failed morally and spiritually whom He commissions to great things. Saul, who had murdered Christ-followers, meets Jesus on the road to Damascus, is renamed Paul, and becomes the great apostle to the Gentiles.
The apostle Peter denies Jesus three times when He is captured and prepared for crucifixion, but Jesus commissions Him to lead and restore those who are lost.

God is so patient with us and so encouraging. He is a God of redemption and second chances.

However, the Bible also warns that His patience will not last forever. He tarries, but there will come a day of judgment. There will be a time when He will no longer withhold His wrath for those who continue to rebel and turn from Him. He offers incredible rewards and blessings when we follow and trust in Him...but not everyone responds. There will be a day when that failure will reap eternal despair.

Fortunately, Ragnar is a symbol of what happens when we eagerly devour every morsel of goodness Jesus offers us. Ragnar’s willing and eager obedience is a joy to behold, and a model to me of how I should respond to God.


Titus 2:11-14 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
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Friday, June 1, 2018

The Power of Being Present

This baby showed up on the sidewalks of the abortion center with her dad yesterday. They came to pray. I didn’t know them, but after our Cities4Life team’s first hectic half hour of speaking to all the abortion-minded moms as they streamed into the clinic, I paused to introduce myself. The young man had joined the prior weekend’s prayer walk along the clinic street with Lovelife Charlotte  He was so convicted by what he had seen that he decided on one of his days off each week, he would like to come and pray. In fact, as I talked with him, he decided he would like to volunteer with our ministry, Cities4Life.

Two women chose life yesterday. The tipping point for those two could well have been the sight of a devoted father who clearly loved his adorable baby. You never know what God might use to persuade someone to return to the right path when they are stumbling to destruction. I know it is not our eloquence. Certainly not mine anyway. Most of us are quiet, gentle, even shy Christians who love God and stand on the sidewalk because abortion is brutally wrong and babies are being slaughtered in our city by the dozens each day. We feel a burden for those babies but also a desire to obey God in defending the vulnerable who cannot defend themselves.

Our eloquence may not change hearts, but sometimes our presence does.

I remember when I was a young adult and going through a particularly difficult time, I rode my bike to an art gallery. I sat in the garden of the gallery feeling hopeless. I didn’t know God then, so I wasn’t exactly praying but I was musing over my life and wondering how I had stumbled so far astray. A gentleman sat down next to me on the bench. I had never met him, but he acted as though he knew exactly what I was thinking. He told me that sometimes the world was overwhelming but that I should not fret. It would be ok, and I would be okay. He said it with such assurance that I believed him. Then he left. 

I have never forgotten that encounter. The few words of a stranger encouraging me when he didn’t even know my story gave me strength. Maybe he was an angel. The Bible says we will “entertain angels unawares.”  Whoever he was, it was a ten-second encounter with a person I didn’t know that gave me hope to keep struggling to do right, and it would be all right in the end.

Sometimes all we have is fifteen seconds to speak to the women as they enter the clinic. With God, sometimes that is enough. Our mere presence speaks volumes that will perhaps echo in their soul long after the sidewalk empties.

Join us? Click HERE for information.

Acts 16:14 

One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.

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