Friday, February 23, 2018

Refueling in the Son


Kayak season has started early in Charlotte! That does not bode well for me finishing the novel I am writing. I had the afternoon reserved for working on my manuscript...but then the sun and 75 degrees knocked on my door. I opened it and said, “I don’t think I can come out and play...I have so much work to do....”. The gorgeous day was NOT taking no for an answer. 

Tomorrow it may rain so I’ll follow the sun!

I believe that is a song. If it isn’t, it should be. 

I closed my computer and pulled my hair back in a ponytail and dashed off to the river.  There was one other kayak on the river but that was the only other boater I saw. As I was preparing to launch my boat, a mom and three little children were on the dock. They were all under five years old and the mother looked weary. How could she not be? But she was gamely showing them the glory of God’s creation on that beautiful day. The children were transfixed, falling silent as I pulled my kayak on its nifty kayak cart onto the dock.
“Wow,” the oldest child finally said. “Look at that.”
I smiled at the children as the mother grasped the hand of the youngest who was tottering a little too close to the edge of the dock.
“Are you going on the water in that?”the oldest child asked while the others stared at me, wide-eyed.
“Yes.”
“HOW???”
“Watch,” I said, “I will show you.”

I put the two halves of my paddle together which caused gleeful laughter. I snapped my phone on the magnetic mount on my bow. That evoked many gasps of amazement and more questions. I told them my phone tracks my path and how far I go, and also I can take photos. Next I slid my kayak onto the VERY COOL roller bars of the docking section. If you haven’t seen these new kayak docks, you need to. They are almost as great an invention as the coffeemaker. I don’t have to step in the water at all. There are handrails on either side of the roller bar path. I sit in the kayak, use the handrails to roll myself into the water and voila, my kayak is in the water without me getting a toe wet!

When I did that, the kids started clapping and cheering. It was like they had just seen a rocket launch to the moon. I showed the children how I paddle and explained how I always go out against the wind so the wind will carry me back when I am tired. The children and mom all beamed. The mother thanked me for showing her children such a miracle.

Once on the water, I forgot about all the work waiting for me at home (though I did get three work calls while on the river). I spent the next hour and a half praying and thanking God for the blessing of the river, my body still working, and the privilege of prayer. Many things were on my heart. It is amazing how the river in conjunction with going to God in prayer soothes one’s soul no matter how anxious one’s heart may be. 

Peace descends upon me; partially from the rocking of the waves, partially from the sound of the geese  and osprey, and mostly from the solitude. I love and totally understand the portions of the Bible that describe Jesus breaking away from His ministry to go to a solitary place to pray. I LOVE my work with Cities4Life on the sidewalks of the abortion center, speaking on behalf of the babies who cannot utter a sound in their own defense. However, it is demanding work, with a ferocious spiritual battle. I rejoiced to find out two women chose life yesterday on that very battlefield between the forces of life and death.

When I left the river, I stopped at the grocery store on my way home. As I got out of the car, I saw a policeman by another car, a worried look on his face. Then I noticed a toddler in a car seat...alone. The window was rolled down a little but it was a hot day. No doubt the car was hot...and no baby should EVER be left alone in a car. The officer was talking on his phone, maybe calling in for a locksmith, when I saw the mother approaching. She had several bags of groceries in her hand. I saw the same weary look on her face as I had seen on the mom at the dock. However it was a different weary. It was a weary defeat. It was someone who had given up. She knew she had done a foolish and even evil thing. 

Choices! There is no temptation that is not common to humankind. We all face temptations. We can choose right or wrong. Good or evil. Two weary women had made too very different choices. One will end the day tucking her children in who will be glowing with the joy of their day. The other may have no child to tuck in that night depending on whether DSS decides to take the child away.

Today, I return to the fray on the sidewalks of the abortion center where choices will again be made. The choice for life...or the choice for death. I am so grateful that I had that time yesterday following the Son. I pray that today I reflect His light to those who are struggling in darkness. The director of Cities4Life often says, “You cannot give what you do not possess.” If I do not have the peace and hope and truth of Jesus in my own soul, how can I offer it to those who are in desperate need?

Refuel, and then re-enter the calling  to which God beckons.
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If you would like to join our Cities4Life teams proclaiming life and encouraging women with resources and real help, click HERE.
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Luke 6:12 


In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.

Matthew 14:23 


And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Lesson of the Daffodil


After my morning on the sidewalks of the abortion center speaking for the babies, it was time to go get my own baby. He is not really a baby anymore. Ragnar, my granddog, is now two years old.  I love the days when I dogsit so his folks can go earn the Dogfood. He lives in a small apartment with them, so our spacious fenced in back yard is a real treat for him. He doesn’t care that we have more weeds and sticks than grass or that the fence is twenty years old.

Yesterday was a lovely warm day. Ragnar spent most of the afternoon out in the backyard. He discovered the newly blooming daffodils and I hurrried out to snap picturesque photos of the gorgeous dog amidst the daffodils. And how cute is this....




...he started nibbling one. I thought it was so cute that I posted it on Facebook and sent the photo to my daughter. Here was the response: “Nice photo. Daffodils are poisonous to dogs.”

With horror, I researched that fact on Google. True! He didn’t really eat the daffodil, just mouthed it and quickly lost interest. I guess that somehow he knew he should not eat the daffodil. My cousin told me that even the deer, who consider gardens their lunch buffet, do not eat daffodils.

This struck me as an astonishing warning and symbol from God. Sometimes spectacularly alluring and beautiful things are gravely dangerous. We must be discerning !  This is a spiritual truth that has been smacking me in the face repeatedly of late. The Bible warns us that Satan himself comes disguised as an angel of light, but is really a demon of darkness. 

This has had direct practical application in my work for Cities4Life  Many of the women we help, as well as the former abortion workers we help leave the industry, have had very difficult lives. Many have learned coping mechanisms that are not healthy. We have to recognize how to help them without enabling self-destructive behavior. Sometimes, we are deceived and manipulated. 

My nature is to be very trusting. I want to believe the best about people. This can be a good quality, but it can also be a very bad one. I am gullible and that can be quickly taken advantage of. On the other hand, the fact that I am willing to give most folks the benefit of the doubt may make me less threatening to wounded spirits. Many of the people we work with go on to living lives dedicated to God, renouncing the sin that entangled them.

Nonetheless, we are called to be wise in how we deal with the world.

The Bible warns us: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).  Additionally:  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

There is an enemy of our souls and he is powerful. He has no claim on those who have surrendered their lives to Christ, but he can still wreak havoc and deceive us. We are to be wary, to test all thing. As Ronald Reagan said, “Trust, but verify.”

It is not hopeless. We do not have to fall prey to falsehood  and the dangers of deceptive, enticing sin and evil. God sends us a spirit of discernment, but we need to exercise it. 
1 Corinthians 6:3: Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!

We can judge rightly, but we must call upon the spirit of God which indwells believers and guides us in all righteousness. We can not do it on our own for the enemy is crafty and strong, and often appears to be beautiful when, in fact, he carries a deadly poison to our soul. This is important for me to keep in mind in how to best interact with and help the people who believe that killing their unborn child or being a part of a business that does so for profit is condoned or approved of by God. I must be reminded of the capacity of my own heart to fall prey to deception and lies. Unless I am closely abiding in Christ, I will not perceive truth clearly. 

It is the lesson of the daffodil. Not all flowers are benign, however beautiful a halo that glows upon their stems. Be wary.
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2 Corinthians 11:14-15 


And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Dogs For Choice



The sign on this dog says, “Dogs for Choice”. The owner, who stands on the sidewalk in opposition to us who offer the choice of resources that could encourage abortion minded moms to choose life did not speak to me when I told her the dog was really cute and would she mind if I took his picture? I figure if he was a dog for choice, then he would support my right to choose to photograph him.

Meanwhile, two women did choose life, and one abortion worker texted me while I was on the sidewalk. She told me she could not stand it any more, that she could no longer work for “dirty money” and she wanted help in her decision to leave once and for all.  

Now there’s a choice I could dig my teeth into if I were a dog for choice. I would also wag my tail...but the dog for choice above has no tail. I wonder if he would choose a tail if he had a real choice in the matter? In fact, I wonder if he would stand on that sidewalk at all if he had a choice. I suspect he would rather curl up on a nice soft couch with a milk bone.
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Deuteronomy 30:19-20 


I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Shining Star of Hope




Yesterday, the faithful woman who founded Truth and Mercy Pro-life Ministries hosted a baby shower for one of the former abortion workers who had contacted me initially a couple of months ago. Sheryl has been running these baby showers for moms who choose life over abortion for 29 years now. Along with other Cities4Life counselors, we are usually on the other side of the sidewalk of the folks who work at the abortion center. It was an extreme pleasure to sit at lunch together on the same side, recognizing and celebrating the sacred humanity of the child in the womb.

The pregnant abortion worker had called me because she no longer wanted to work in that place of death. She had heard about me from her friend who had also left the abortion center and found help through our ministry. (We always then refer them to Abortionworker.com which directs them to a ministry solely dedicated to helping abortion workers leave the industry.) We knew the pregnant abortion worker I will call “K” had invited her friend “S” to the shower. We didn’t know a third former abortion worker, “C”, would be there as well. 

Picture who sat at the table with us...we who had so ardently for years proclaimed the truth of the unborn baby’s humanity and right to life: Three women who had opposed our work on the sidewalk pleading with women to choose life. Three women who were chastised by their boss if they didn’t meet a minimum quota of scheduling women to abort. Three women who were reprimanded and “retrained” if a certain number of the appointments changed their minds and were “no shows.” One of the women I thought I recognized as one who swerved her car to hit me a few months ago while I was trying to give an abortion-minded mother our literature.

These were the women with whom we now spent the day. We shared not only the incredible bounty of a roomful of baby supplies provided by loving Christians who support Truth and Mercy Ministries, but also engaged in a deep discussion about the Gospel during our lunch together . I had shared the Gospel with two of the women when they first called me and left the abortion center. They had a hunger and desire, but their knowledge and understanding of what it means to be “saved” clearly needs discipleship. The third woman whom I had never met before had NEVER heard a presentation of the Gospel before. She asked GREAT questions, and my prayer is that the wonderful, lucid explanation Sheryl shared, upon which  I tag-teamed, will bear fruit. Many seeds were planted yesterday.

One of the women told me she remembered me on the sidewalk. 
“You prayed with me once at the abortion center,” she told me.
“I did?”
“Yes. The security man was asking me what I was doing and I told him to leave us alone. We were praying.”

You just NEVER know what seeds are planted just by being there, by calling out to the workers and to the abortion-minded moms the truth and hope of Jesus. Yesterday, Sheryl and I had the incredible honor of seeing flowers of faith beginning to bud and those who had once been enemies of God now sitting around a table as friends.

Those women do not have an easy road. One in particular is struggling with the horrors of what she had done in the abortion work and with the financial hardship of no new job as of yet. I read a passage by Charles Spurgeon this morning that speaks beautifully of the necessity of trials in our lives. Choosing God does not eliminate struggles, and in fact, Spurgeon points out, those struggles are often the best source of drawing us into a deeper relationship with God.

“Hope itself is like a star--not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity. Afflictions are often the black foils in which God doth set the jewels of his children's graces, to make them shine the better. It was but a little while ago that on thy knees thou wast saying, "Lord, I fear I have no faith: let me know that I have faith." Was not this really, though perhaps unconsciously, praying for trials?--for how canst thou know that thou hast faith until thy faith is exercised? Depend upon it, God often sends us trials that our graces may be discovered, and that we may be certified of their existence. Besides, it is not merely discovery, real growth in grace is the result of sanctified trials. God often takes away our comforts and our privileges in order to make us better Christians. He trains his soldiers, not in tents of ease and luxury, but by turning them out and using them to forced marches and hard service.” 

I love that first line. Hope is a star we do not see in the days of ease, but best discovered in the darkness of despair. I have lived this and can attest to its truth.

Standing on the sidewalks of the abortion center asking women to reconsider a choice that so many are pushing them to make is not an easy job. There are times all of us wonder if the struggle and adversity we face is worth it.

How gracious of God to give us a glimpse of the fruit that faithfulness to His commands can bear. For privacy reasons, I will not show you the many photos I took of that joyous occasion, though they gave me permission. Instead, I have only posted a picture of Sheryl at the luncheon her ministry provided, the lovely woman I have had the pleasure of laboring alongside so many times, who has been so faithful for almost thirty years to show the love of Christ to women who had lost hope.
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James 5:16 


Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Hebrews 11:6 


And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Refusing to Let The One We Love Go



I see this dog, Roxy, regularly on my walks. She is a sweet, attention-sucking giant. Each time I stop to pet her, she immediately sits on my feet. She probably weighs more than I do and this is how she insures I will not STOP communing with her. If it only happened once, I would think she was just clumsy or it was accidental, but it happens every single time she sees me. She is purposefully detaining me. 

Yesterday, I took a former abortion worker to lunch. She left the abortion industry, as so many do, because it was destroying her soul. As so many tell me, she said she struggles to eradicate the troubling images of the dismembered babies from her head. She is searching for new work, with Cities4Life help. She told me she would go to a cousin’s house later to use her cousin’s computer to craft a cover letter. She wasn’t sure of how to write a good cover letter. I told her I would find her someone to help with the cover letter and put out a plea for a computer for her. No promises, I warned her, but God’s people usually show up when a need is presented.

I posted it last night on Facebook and within minutes had two computer offers and a cover letter assistant.

But back to the lunch. She was struggling. She knew she had to leave that terrible place, but she had a family to support. She had never been without work. She was terrified. It took her a long time to have the courage to leave. She said not only the sights but the sounds of what happened in that dark place disturbed her deeply.
“The sounds? What sounds?” I asked.
“Bones popping.”
“What do you mean?” 
“In the two-day procedures, those babies are 17-20 weeks old. They are big. As the doctor goes in and pulls them out, he pulls them apart. The sound is of the bones popping as the limbs are ripped off.”

THIS is legal in our country. Yesterday, one woman leaving the abortion center shouted, “Yay! I did it!” Celebration over unborn children being ripped apart limb by limb.

The only hope for that former abortion worker, for all of us, is the hope and healing hand of Jesus on our thoughts, our heart, and our lives. As the worker shared her struggles from a lifetime, from the earliest age, I asked her if she had ever questioned, “Where was God?”

She nodded vigorously. “I was just a child. I had no control over all that awful stuff that happened to me. I did wonder why God didn’t help me.”

When this woman first left the abortion center, I had shared the Gospel with her and she committed her life to Jesus. I believe that new kernel of faith is what is preventing her from returning to her old job right now despite significant hardship. However, she does not know much about the Bible. I asked if she knew the story of Job. She did not.

So while she sat transfixed eating the first meal out she had had in a very long time, I told her the story of Job. I told her that her question of where was God in the face of evil is as old as humankind ever since Adam and Eve rebelled and were vanquished from the Garden of Eden. The question of why there is so much evil against innocent people is probably asked at one time or another by all of us. It is a question that deserves more than a stock, flippant, answer. It was the cry of her soul when she was a little girl and didn’t understand how a loving God could allow so much harm to come upon her.

I told her how God was challenged by Satan to prove that Job would not turn against God if all God’s protection of Job were removed. God granted Satan the permission to destroy Job’s possessions, but not to harm Job himself. Job’s livelihood is destroyed yet still he praises God. His children are all killed, and still Job says, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” 

So Satan says he now wants to cause harm to Job himself, knowing then Job will cease to follow God. God again grants Satan’s request. Job is stricken with horrific disease, painful boils, a tormenting sickness. Job’s own wife tells him to curse God and die.

“But he still praises God, right?”the former  abortion worker asked me.
“No...he doesn’t curse God, but he challenges God. He cries out why...what have I done to deserve all this...speak with me so I can defend myself....”
“All the things we ask,” my friend said.
“Right. His friends come to comfort him, but all end up accusing him. They tell him all his calamities are because of his sin, but even God had described Job as his righteous servant. Job knows what his friends are saying is not true. Still, he struggles terribly, begging God to end His silence and tell Job why this is happening and let Job plead his case..”

I continued with the narrative. Finally, God answers Job. But He never answers why all this was happening to Job. Instead, He asks Jobs a few questions. He asks where Job was when the stars were formed, or the sun set on its course, or the animals created and cared for. In short, He asks Job if he could understand or perform even one of the acts of forming the universe, and if not, could he really understand the ways or plans or purposes of the One who created everything out of nothing?

Job’s response is: 
“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.  You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. “You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.'  My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.  Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2-6)

“God never answers Job’s question of why...instead He shows Job WHO God is and demonstrates that the One who created the Universe can be trusted,” I told my friend. “But in the end, God restores to Job everything he lost. He demonstrates one of the great hopes and promises of the Bible. There is redemption. The years the locusts have eaten will be redeemed. But most importantly, He shows Job that there is nothing on earth which is of more importance than the One who gave us everything on earth in the first place.”

My friend smiled at me. “I didn’t realize that there were stories in the Bible that talk about people who face the same questions I face,” she said.
“The Bible is filled with those stories,” I told her. 

When I dropped her back at her home, she told me, “Miss Vicky, I feel so much better. Thank you so much.”

So when I met Roxy later on my walk, I realized that Roxy was showing me what ALL of us need. We all need to not only sit AT the feet of Jesus, but ON the feet of Jesus. We should abide with Jesus in such a way that we cling to Him, that we do not want to let Him go, that His promises and His truths are always near. Everlasting hands stroking our souls...and we are determined not to let Him go.




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Romans 8:38-39 


For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Recharging


Mid-February and it was so warm that I wore shorts and went kayaking. The photo above is from a video I made (phone mounted on my kayak) as I launched into the river. At the moment of this still shot, I was shouting, “Praise God!” I’d show you the video but it focuses on my thighs which are not only winter white, but closer to the camera and that is not a view anyone needs to see.

The wind was pretty stiff and there were actual whitecaps on the water. I only kayaked an hour since my kayaking muscles are not in shape yet. But it was glorious. I passed a tree FILLED with grebes, and then a little later, a tree FILLED with nesting Great Blue Herons. Not another soul was on the water. Just me, exulting in the glory of God’s incredible creation.

I was out all day. 70 degrees in February should never be squandered. I biked in the morning, sat on the porch for lunch, kayaked after lunch, and then walked before dinner. The entire day was spent in a T-shirt outside in the sunny warm day. It was one of the most peaceful, happy days I have had in a while.

Today, I am having lunch with a former abortion worker. I hope to encourage her in her hunt for life-affirming work, and to speak with her about trusting and following God. That will cap the morning spent with my wonderful Cities4Life team encouraging women to choose life over abortion on the sidewalks of the abortion center. These activities are incredibly rewarding but spiritually exhausting. It is an arduous battle fighting the forces of evil that would deceive people into believing that innocent human unborn babies should be legally slaughtered.

That’s why every chance I get, I kayak, and bicycle, and walk- usually alone- with my heart and thoughts centered on God and the magnificence of His creation. It is how I recharge for the battle. However, those peaceful hours in nature communing with God are all the sweeter for coming to Him depleted by the work He has called me to do. I love these pleasures of life, but a life comprised of only self-centered, hedonistic pleasure would have no meaning, and I think even kayaking would lose some of its magic.

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Jeremiah 31:25 


For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Choose Joy


The hand of a 103 year old woman holding her drawing

This is the picture a 103 year old resident of an assisted living center drew in the little art class I teach. She laughed throughout the class, as she always does. Her life appears to have been liberally sprinkled with joy. I am sure she suffered all the sorrows of which humankind is prone. After 103 years, she was bound to hit some troughs and dark valleys.

However, it is clear that she chooses joy. She wears a necklace that says, “It’s a good day. I am still breathing.”

She loves God. She is a devout Christian, and spent her working years alongside her pastor husband counseling and helping people in dire need. She said the best moments of her life were helping others.

An aide came in to our art class to take the sweet 103-year-old to her therapy time.
“Did you trace that?”she asked, looking at the drawing.
“No! I drew this myself! I feel like I am only 97 years old.”

Perspective is everything. There is so much sorrow here on earth. Choose joy.
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Philippians 4:4-7 


Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.