Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lifted From Destruction

A very brave mother who chose life over abortion stood in front of the City Council and a packed chamber while I spoke about what Cities4Life does on the sidewalks of the abortion center for the unborn and the abortion-minded women. When I spoke about the precious baby who might not have been here if our ministry was not on that sidewalk, this wonderful woman held her child high in the air so that everyone could see her. The entire chamber burst into cheers and applause and I lost 30 seconds of my carefully crafted three-minute speech.

That was okay. I remained silent and let the image of that little baby being triumphantly displayed in her mother's outstretched arms speak more eloquently than any words I had prepared.

In the end, that is what it is all about. Human life is precious. Sacred. Imbued with God's imprint. How blessed I am to know this woman and to have played a part in the precious life lifted from destruction by the hand of God Himself.

To see all our speakers, click HERE and go to Citizens Forum section on scroll bar.

Luke 12:6-7

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Abundant, Lavish, Overflowing Love of God

Yesterday, Sheryl of Truth and Mercy Pro-life Ministry and I held a baby shower for "C", a mom who chose life over abortion and is due in the next few weeks. (This ministry partners with Cities4Life in presenting a Gospel oriented alternative to abortion.) Her living room overflowed with everything the baby will need for the first two years of life. She was tearful, incredulous, overwhelmed. Sheryl explained, as she always does, that this represented the lavish, abundant, overflowing love of God for her and her baby.

Even though C and her sister had both asked Jesus to be Lord of their lives on the RV when we showed C her baby on the ultrasound, during the baby shower we always present the Gospel again and talk about what it means to follow God. Our culture is very "work" oriented, and the idea that we must earn our way to Heaven is a hard concept to dispel. As my friend Sheryl says, "It never hurts to hear the Gospel again."

God ALWAYS presents perfect openings for us to launch into our favorite subject and life-changing message of the truth of Jesus. He did not fail us yesterday. Three women were at the shower, and had many children between them. All were unmarried. All expressed concern about having more children. All wondered aloud about how to change the pattern of their life.

Sheryl and I had the perfect opportunity to speak of the Bible, its protective guidelines for behavior, the redemptive love of Christ, and the optimal model for families. What floored me was how receptive the women were. They all expressed a desire to learn more and to get into a good church that could keep them on a better life trajectory.

PRAISE GOD for yet another new and exciting development in our ministry. We are in the ramping up stages of matching the moms we work with - both those who choose life and post-abortive ones- with mentors. These mentors are connected with churches who are committed to helping these women, spiritually, emotionally, and materially. The hope is that our culture can be transformed as more "at risk" people (and we all are at risk to some degree...) will find the hope and plan of Jesus for their lives and will be upheld and supported through their struggles by committed churches.

I had just spent a long time the day before the shower discussing this wonderful service through Love-Life Charlotte with the woman in charge of assigning mentors to 'mentees'. She told me they had mentors ready and waiting and I could send her women!

When I mentioned this resource to C at the shower, she said she would LOVE to have a mentor. Then her sister, and her friend both said, "Could we have a mentor too?"

They may not know all the ins and outs of the Gospel, but these three women had a hunger for God, and a desire to know Him better. In that quiet living room of this very poor household in a very poor neighborhood, the peace and hope and transforming power of Jesus swirled in the air.

Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

About Silencing Those You Disagree With: Fighting To Be Heard

Today, I will help run a baby shower for a young woman who chose life over abortion. The baby shower, hosted by Truth and Mercy Pro-life Ministries who partners with Cities4Life, will provide EVERYTHING the baby needs for the entire first two years of her life. The mother was so overcome by the truth of the Gospel which we shared with her on the mobile ultrasound RV parked along the curb of the abortion center that she and her sister both asked Jesus then and there to be Lord of their lives.

She is due at the end of this month, and that precious child would be another abortion statistic if the Cities4Life counselors were not there the day "C" arrived at the abortion center. Her choice for life for herself and her baby might not have been so firm if HELP Crisis Pregnancy Center Mobile Ultrasound RV had not been parked in front of the center with the equipment to show this woman her child's beating heart.

A few weeks ago, a member of Charlotte's City Council visited that abortion center. She spent hours talking with the pro-choice staff and police, but not one minute with the pro-life folks standing on the sidewalk offering tangible help to the mothers streaming in thinking abortion was the only hope in their situation. Shortly after that time, we were informed a NO PARKING ordinance would be issued for the area where we park our cars and our RV.

This is the true nature of the pro-choice movement. Silence and obstruct those who interfere with the big-money enterprise of abortion. Marginalize the pro-life counselors as "protestors" with no understanding or even attempts to understand the enormous on-going assistance and hope they offer to these women.

No, instead, the city is exploring other ways of limiting our access to these women. There has been additional talk of silencing and limiting our right to the sound systems we use so women in the center and parking lot can NOT hear our offers of services, resources, baby showers, mentorship programs, and more.

Yesterday, I spent hours on the phone with one of the women I met over a year ago and helped with our Cities4Life network. This woman is in an abusive situation and had no idea who to turn to or how to escape. She called me. She told me she could not believe how much Cities4Life has already done for her, and how they continue to help her and her baby.

"I honestly don't know where I would be if it hadn't been for you all," she told me. One of our network crisis counselors will be meeting with and assisting this desperate woman. Others are lining up other resources to help her. It is THIS voice our city seems to feel needs to be silenced.

Monday night, our group and partner ministries such as Love Life Charlotte will be gathering at City Hall to voice our concern at the City Council Meeting at 6:30. I will be speaking in one of the ten allowed public forum slots. I will try to say something in my three allotted minutes that will help our council to understand that abortion is so often not about 'choice', but about coercion, helplessness, hopelessness, abuse, and despair. Cities4Life offers tangible help, constructive resources, training, and most importantly the hope of God to transform and equip whenever we walk with Him in obedient faith.

We would love to overwhelm the council chamber with people supporting our mission of turning Charlotte into a city where life is viewed as the sacred gift it is. If you share our vision, please join us. Help us to turn a terrible darkness into light, and while you are at it, consider contacting Cities4Life to see how you can serve alongside us.

Right before going to bed, another woman I just met and counseled Friday at the abortion center texted me: Thank you. Love you. You really were sent by God. No doubt.

Isaiah 6:8 

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Empty Arms and Deathly Deception

"Don't go on that RV," the pro-choice 'escort' told the young lady, "They will hold you hostage. And if you go on that RV with those pro-life people, you cannot come back here if you change your mind."

A baby's life hung in the balance. The young mother, Asha, had gone into the abortion center determined to abort, but her brave friend, Rina, got her on the phone, and despite our expectations that she would hang up on me, I was handed the phone. Unbelievably, after a few minutes of talking with her, Asha told me she was coming out. She would go on our mobile ultrasound RV and see her baby, discuss her options with us. (Names changed for privacy.)

I drew pictures of animals for Rina's three small children while Rina ran to meet Asha at the abortion center door. The two emerged. The nurse, Sherry, and I rejoiced, knowing that most of the time if we can get a mom on the RV to see her child on the ultrasound, she will choose life.

Suddenly, the 'pro-choice escort' began challenging the young woman. She told her we trap women in the RV, and won't let them off. The escort told Asha she could not leave and expect to come back. It was abortion now, or never. The conflicted woman returned to the abortion center and we were livid with the outright lies to secure the death of a baby.

This was a woman that wanted to go on the mobile ultrasound unit. She wanted to see her baby. She wanted to hear what we could offer. The so-called "pro-choice" escort told her choose abortion...or get lost. What choice was being offered this woman? One choice in the Women's Preferred Health Center: Abortion.

One couple left before the abortionist arrived. One baby saved! Sherry, the nurse, had an extended discussion with a Muslim man who saw the "pro-choice" person lie about what we do, and in the end, he wanted to know more about Jesus. Glimmers of hope.

I know the people at the abortion center lie to draw in business. It sickens me to know that they would lie to prevent a woman from letting her baby live. Lord help us.

Galatians 6:7-8

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I'm a Rock Star, not an Alcoholic

I have been having a fantabulous time in Seattle with my sister Wendy -- cross country skiing, hiking, finding bald eagles, exploring beautiful islands and rain soaked trails.

Yesterday, we were visiting a property she is selling on Whidbey Island.  After checking her property, we were ravenous but discovered that most restaurants on Whidbey Island close on Tuesdays in the winter.

Finally we stumbled upon a delightful little place that was open. As we got out of the car, a man stomped out of the restaurant. He had the look of an aged hippie - bandana, long grey hair, grizzled, lots of denim. He glared at us and shouted, "I would boycott this place! They were rude to me!"
"Oh," I said, "I am so sorry! What happened?"
"They wouldn't serve me a second shot of tequila!"
Wendy could not keep from a burst of laughter.
He scowled at us and said, "I'm a rock star, not an alcoholic."

As he stormed away, Wendy and I slipped into the restaurant. "Frankly," I whispered to her, "That commends the place to me."

As we settled down into our seats, it came to me immediately what God was saying. So many of us think we are rock stars in our character, talent, and spiritual nature. However, the sad truth is we are miserable sinners with no hope of stardom in purity, righteousness, or meeting God's Holy standards. We are all as deluded as that poor man. We ARE spiritual alcoholics, needing drink after drink to sustain an unquenchable thirst if we are not drinking of the water of life that emanates from the only source that can quench our thirst eternally.

We can drive all day looking for a place to satisfy our hunger, to fill that hole in our gut that rumbles and growls and is always empty. I think we are designed with a God-sized hunger and thirst and we will seek every way to satisfy it, but ONLY ONE WILL.

Jesus beckons us: Come to me, all ye who are thirsty, hungry, weary, overburdened...and I will give you life.

And He doesn't close on Tuesdays.

John 4:10-15
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Do Unto Others...

I am not sure I have ever skied in such stunning scenery as the snow-park an hour from Seattle. Sister Wendy and I drove an hour to the ski park, not certain if my past year of breast cancer, frozen shoulder, and recent final procedure in breast reconstruction which I am still recovering from would allow me to ski at all. My right arm is quite weak, and I use my arms a lot in Cross-country skiing.

We arrived, and the trip was worth it just for the scenery from the parking lot.

These pictures do not begin to do it justice. I was enthralled. We slapped on our skis. Now to be entirely accurate, I slapped on my skis. Wendy seemed to be having a great deal of trouble. She told me to do laps while she fiddled with her bindings. I did so. Click on the triangle to view this video below. It was like I had not had a few years of no cross country skiing. It felt like home.

Sadly, home is where Wendy had left the boots for the particular skis she had brought. She would not be able to ski. She had snowshoes in the car however, and strapped those on. She intended to jog in the snowshoes to keep up with me. Unfortunately, the snowshoe straps broke within minutes.

"Just go ski and have fun," she told me, "I will jog in my boots and I'll see you when you get back."

This was totally unselfish of her. She loves cross-country skiing as much or even more than I do. However, my boots don't fit her so there really was nothing I could do but go have fun.

I stopped to take a few pictures but it was readily apparent that the pictures could not begin to capture the grandeur of the setting. So instead, I spent an hour and a half skiing, incredulous that each magnificent scene was more gorgeous than the last.

So, I have a question for God. Here is my sister trying her hardest to be sure I have the world's best experience in Seattle. She bought me a ticket to fly me to Seattle, gave me her bedroom, worked out an intricate itinerary of joy, cooked luscious meals, and drove me an hour to ski. Why would God not have slipped in the right pair of boots so she could ski too?

Maybe He wanted me to know that my mistreatment of Wendy when we were children was not gracious, loving, kind or fair-- scratching her with my finely honed fingernails, being jealous of her manifest talents, and constantly grumbling about having to wear her hand-me-downs and endure the endless teachers greeting me with such high expectations ("Oh! You are Wendy's sister!!!). How had I missed what a lovely human being Wendy was? (Thank you God for the lesson, but please, be sure Wendy has the right boots today.)

I wonder how many other people I have not recognized the unique value of because of petty differences between me and them? I suspect way too many. I bet I am not alone in marginalizing those who we don't agree with, don't understand, or are just plain envious of.

When I got back, a little girl and her family asked me if I was Wendy's sister.
"Yes!" I said, "How do you know Wendy and how do you know I am her sister?"
"You look like her. She told us she brought the wrong ski boots, but told you to go ahead and ski without her. She found an old pair of snowshoes in the garbage and was trying to see if they still worked."

They didn't but I thought it was resourceful of Wendy to try.

I was so proud and delighted to be Wendy's sister. And to think I look like her!


Ephesians 4:32 

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Matthew 7:12 

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

You Close Your Book When God Sends a Divine Encounter

I am in Seattle visiting my sister Wendy. And of course, it is raining. I believe Seattle has more rain than any place on earth since Noah docked the ark. Wendy felt it was a good time to take me on a walk on the muddy, slippery trails through a lovely forested area...trails that go straight up or straight down. Oh, and that umbrella and raincoat she promised me so I didn't have to pack them? Those were not forthcoming.

Wendy's goal on this visit is to ensure that I cry "Uncle!" and admit that she can exercise me under the table. It is apparently a challenge to prove that I may talk a good talk, but I am actually just an East coast wimp, used to sunshine, warmth, and level paths.

She is correct.

But before I get sidetracked by the muddy, rain-drenched joy of a 3-mile walk with Wendy that my body assured me was at least ten miles...let me tell you about a divine appointment on the plane trip over to this wonderful ego-deflating adventure.

I sat down with my phone loaded with hours and hours of books. I never get five straight hours to indulge in reading, and the trip to Seattle is long. I couldn't wait to cocoon in my little self-absorbed capsule and read. The first leg of the journey was only about an hour and a half, but I eagerly popped open my kindle App on my phone and nestled into my middle seat.

The young man by the window was adorable. He was obviously on a very rare plane flight, and was taking pictures out the window even before the plane took off. He smiled at me with wide-eyed delight. I made the fatal mistake of smiling back when I snuck a peek at the receding skyline of Charlotte.

"It's just so pretty!" he said, catching me peering out the window as we took off.
"It sure is," I said, giving the subtle hint of continuing to read my book.
"I love to see the clouds. So many people don't even look."
I glanced up. "I do too. I love the window seat but usually end up on the aisle so I can get out more easily if I need to. Is this your first flight?" I kept my phone on, the words of my book gleaming so he could see this was just a brief polite interlude.
"Well I am returning home now with my father's ashes in that backpack under the seat. I sprinkled half on the east coast, and will sprinkle the other half on the west coast. He always wanted to travel, but never did."

I shut off my phone.

"I'm so sorry," I said, "That must be very hard for you."

Thus began an hour and a half of the young man telling me about a difficult life, but one which he viewed with remarkable maturity. The deceased father clearly had no chance of capturing "father of the year" award, but the young man said he knew his dad had been struggling to find something he never found.

This of course was the opening God always seems to provide, and I shared with him the hope and peace and joy I found in Jesus. The young man had known God in his youth, but had fallen away. Much of his moving from God was due to the struggle with the question of why bad things happen to good people. I told him I struggled with that too, and in fact, wrote books that dealt with that issue. I gave him my promotional bookmark and told him to contact me and I would send him one of my books that I thought might help.

He revealed that his dad had committed suicide and his whole family was beating themselves up over what they might have done to prevent that. He worried that his dad once knew God, but felt this showed he no longer did. The young man was sad, because he had embraced the gospel as a youth, though his faith was shaken now. But what about his dad? It was clear he wanted to see his dad again, and the suicide and what it demonstrated about his father's lack of faith convinced him that would never be possible.

"The Bible says our salvation cannot be lost, or taken from us. We have to choose to give it up," I said. "If your dad truly knew Jesus, maybe he didn't lose his faith. Maybe he was just weak."

The young man brightened, and said that when he heard of his father's death, he was terribly distraught, and having a drink with a friend. Suddenly, he felt a presence. It was immensely comforting, almost as if his dad was right there, assuring him it would be all right.

"Perhaps that was God telling you you would see your dad again. Terrible things happen in this world," I said, "And the older I get, the more terrible things I see. The best thing I have found to do with the pain of living is not to ask why, because that is a useless question, but to ask what do I do from here? If I can use my pain to help others, it gives meaning to some of the horror. I think the only way to make it is to keep your eyes on Jesus, keep an eternal perspective. C.S. Lewis said that every hunger in humans can be satisfied - hunger, thirst, sex, sleep...We can meet every one of those needs and it makes sense that they are there so we will seek to satisfy them. In fact it is necessary to life that we satisfy them. It makes sense as well that the universal longing to live forever, for eternity, is capable of being satisfied. Eternity is real."

I had 37 minutes to make my connection. The plane had landed, and taxied to the gate.
"You better go now!" the young man urged, not wanting me to miss my flight to sunny Seattle.
"I'll be praying for you," I said, dashing away, grateful God had urged me to close my book.


1 John 2:1 

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

Mark 9:24 

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”