Sunday, January 26, 2020

My Soul Storm

My Soul Storm

     We live in a world of paradoxes.  Billionaires and street people.  Massive International Corporations and a dearth of Mom and Pop stores.  Farm ownership is disappearing faster than the morning dew.  Desperate people are all around us.  National catastrophes seemingly are more common than ever before.

     As we pulled out of the driveway from Safeway, my wife and I saw a young man holding a sign with his wife and baby sitting at his feet.  We swung back around and handed them $20.00.

     Over a lifetime of events, challenges, gains and losses, modest income and poverty periods I kept at the most important work on earth: trying to lead people to the Lord.  I never actually took the IRS "Oath of Poverty," I just lived it.

     I ministered to several congregations nearly all of which were small and were only able to pay me a small amount.  I also counseled a large number of folks with hurting hearts and broken dreams.  Typically these counseling sessions were for a minuscule amount or for no charge.  It was always my intent to nudge them to come to Jesus or return to Him while never focused on collecting money from them.

     In one of those periods I felt adrift in a storm ~ unsure if my anchor would hold.  I needed to supplement my income.  We had bills to be paid and I took a temp job selling business to business.

     Early on day one I left the house  and drove the 16 miles.  As I pulled into the town I saw a red light flashing on my dash.  It wasn't just any red light it was the fuel gauge.  I knew my wallet was empty and the gas tank would be soon.

     I only had one option.  I had to park my car and walk to each of the businesses.  But I had something that was far more urgent than walking.

     I sat in the car and buried my face in my hands and tried to pray.  I felt so alone.  So hopeless.  So unsure of where to go and what to do.  My mouth felt dry, my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth.  Words wouldn't come to my lips.  My hands were shaking and then became wet.  I was crying and my soul was humiliated.  Never had I felt like this.  I was not worthy to even have a family.  I was such a failure.  My mind felt like scrambled eggs.  And then it happened.

     From deep within my soul two words crawled out:  "Abba.........Father..." Followed by "Dear Abba Father I'm such a failure."  I wept harder.

     My soul continued, "Holy Lord, You know I've spent so many hours the last few days ministering to people who needed help... but they couldn't pay anything.  Now I'm so weak, weary and desperate, I'm afraid to even try to do this new job - selling to businesses."

     "Oh, Lord," tears gushing, "Please help me.  Please..."

     Realizing I was almost late for the appointment I dried my eyes and parked my car.

     As I opened the business' front door I stepped softly inside unsure what response my effort would bring.  And a response was exactly what awaited.

     "Mr. Smith, I'm so glad you made this appointment.  I've been needing this for a long time.  Please can you do two things for me?" Paula asked.

     "Please tell me how much to write the check for and then can you take the time to show Martha at her shop on the next corner.  She can't wait to see you either."

     This isn't a lengthy story but it is true.  I remember it like it was yesterday... though it was a number of years ago.  Before that day I had always been optimistic and even proud of my work ethic.  You know I could fix anything and hated to be dependent on anyone for anything.  And though a diligent Christian, my philosophy had always been: The Lord helps those who help themselves.

     Ever since Abba Father sent me to Paula the loving Holy Spirit has been remolding me into dependency on Him and placing and keeping Him number one in my life.

     Maybe it had happened before this story, I can't recall.  But from this moment on I was a broken man.

     The Lord taught me that He alone was sufficient for me to lean upon.  I began to realize my supposed macho attitude was arrogance and pride.  God didn't want me prideful.  He wanted me broken.  Humble.  Dependent on Him.

     I've been reading the Psalms in the new Passion Translation and recently these verses expressed what my soul has discovered:

"I am standing in absolute stillness, silent before the one I love,
waiting as long as it takes for him to rescue me.
Only God is my Savior, and he will not fail me.
For he alone is my safe place.
His wrap-around presence always protects me
as my champion defender.
There’s no risk of failure with God!
So why would I let worry paralyze me,
even when troubles multiply around me?
God’s glory is all around me!
His wrap-around presence is all I need,
for the Lord is my Savior, my hero, and my life-giving strength.
Join me, everyone! Trust only in God every moment!
Tell him all your troubles and pour out your heart-longings to him.
Believe me when I tell you—he will help you!"  

(Psalms 62:5-8, TPT)

Sometimes It Takes A Storm
Jessica King

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

Where's The Line To See Jesus?

Where's the Line to See Jesus?
     On one side of the spectrum Christianity is about adults who are called to yield to their eternal savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  On the other side of the spectrum are children whom Jesus wanted brought to Him.

     Jesus, in no uncertain words, chewed out disciples who tried to block children's access to Him, told adults to become like children or not be able to enter His kingdom and advised that those children had heavenly angels who appeared before the Father in their behalf.

"People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them.  When Jesus saw this, he was indignant.  He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them." (Mark 10:13-16, NIV)

"Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, "Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me." (Mark 9:36-37, NIV)

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones.  For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven."  (Matthew 18:10, NIV)

     Short-sighted adults deride these claims, "If God really cared about kids why doesn't He prevent all the horrible atrocities they suffer worldwide?" These mockers blame God for anything and everything heinous on this globe.

     Have they never read that the first man and woman brought sin into the world by succumbing to the treacherous lies of the evil one, Satan.  Ever since that moment the Devil has urged and nudged mankind to do unspeakable acts including diabolically mistreating children.  This is sinful man's thinking and conduct ~ not the Heavenly Father's desire.

"In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish." (Matthew 18:14, NIV)

     I've always loved children.  My wife and I became Foster Parents assuming we'd be able to make a difference in the lives of suffering children.  But after we provided care for darling kids suddenly they'd be removed.  I don't remember the exact number whom we housed but I do recall how ripped apart our hearts were when they were suddenly transferred and we never saw them again.

     One afternoon I read about a unique idea by Judge Soukup in King County Washington.  He conceived the idea of using trained community volunteers to speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court.  This creative idea grew out of the Judge's observation from many years as a Family Court Jurist that parents, offenders and relatives usually had an attorney to represent them ~ but the children had no one.

     I felt led by the Holy Spirit to become such a volunteer ~ for abused and neglected children.

     It required being totally vetted, after which there were many long days and hours of training.

     After about 6 months I was sworn in by a Judge as a Court Appointed Special Advocate: (CASA) for juveniles brought into Family Court.  But I had to wait until a child was assigned to me.  Wait, I did.  The system seemed so slow.  All that training and then pray that I would indeed be assigned a hurting child to help.  Then my phone rang.

     The CASA Supervisor said 2 young children had been abandoned and were now in custody of the State.  The Supervisor asked if I could advocate for both of the children.  Of course I said, "Absolutely."

     When I read the police report I couldn't believe my eyes.  The report said 911 had received a call saying there were two young children in a cold, damp car parked behind a Tavern.  Worse they had been there for 2 rainy nights.

     The police removed the young children and discovered they were not only cold but were also starving.  Scrounging around for anything to eat ~ all the food they could find was a tube of toothpaste.  They had been abandoned by their prostitute mother.

     They were in a temporary shelter home when I first met them.  Bobby and Brenda were brother and sister and so cute.  He was 7 and she was 5.  I was delighted to help these two sweet kids.

     CASA training had prepared me for typical causes why the Court would have custody of the young children.  They tended to be parents who were drug/alcohol addicts, or guilty of criminal behavior, or single moms with abusive live-in boyfriends, etc.  Often a neighbor witnessing children being mistreated in these broken and abusive homes would report them to the Authorities.

     So the Court set up the CASA program as an experiment.  Each advocate was to represent the children members of these dysfunctional homes.

     But represent is far too pregnant a term for us.  Our only involvement was to visit the children in whatever residence they were in and report to the Court what we saw.  Were they healthy, fed, bathed and safe.  Or were they in harm's way.

     As advocates no physical contact was allowed.  We really were just volunteer reporters.  We were trained to not even give a struggling child a hug.  So when Christmas rolled around Bobby and Brenda  wanted to go see Santa.  But I couldn't take them anywhere.

     Later, Bobby and Brenda were taken from the foster home in which I first met them and were returned to their mother.  She had been begging the Court to return them to her.  She lived alone in a small apartment.  The Court's allowance stipulated she was not to have any other adult residing with her.

     Mom didn't have a phone so I had to schedule a visit by knocking on her door.  She fought the visitation tooth and toe nail.  It took handing her a Court Authorization document and threatening to call a deputy to enforce it before she grudgingly allowed me inside.  I will never forget that day.

     Mom had broken the agreement and had her former boyfriend living with her and the kids.  Brenda was sitting on a stool watching TV.  But where was Bobby? 

     "Oh, he's in the bathroom.  He'll be right out." 

     When the door opened Bobby shuffled slowly toward me.  I smiled at him but he didn't smile at me.  He had obviously been quietly crying his eyes out.  I quickly saw why.

     Bobby had a nasty bruised eye and a badly swollen lip.  I wanted to rush to him and hug him and tell him everything was going to be OK.  But, as a CASA I couldn't make physical contact.  When I left I went directly to the CASA office in the Family Court and reported the obvious abuse.  First though I collapsed in my car as I couldn't drive with my eyes gushing a torrent of tears.

     The Court called a hearing to deal with the abuse report and consider moving the children to a safer home.  I had located out of town relatives who agreed to take the children.  They were a great family and I hoped the Court would send Bobby and Brenda to live with them.

     When the Judge called me to testify I carefully detailed what I observed.  Then there was an explosive outburst.  The Mom and boyfriend stood and screamed snake venom filth and abuse at me.

     What did the Judge do? Nothing.  What did he say?  Nothing.  Looking at his face I could see he was horribly intimidated.  I protested and said my report was the truth.  But then their vindictive rant increased.  The boyfriend said, "We're gonna follow you home and kill you and your whole family."

     Am I making this up?  No.  It is 100% true.

     What did the Court decide?  I remember the Judge scooting down in his chair a bit and saying, the Mom could retain custody of her two children.

     Having won the battle to keep her kids Mom and boyfriend quickly exited cursing me as they left.

     Is this narrative designed to deride the CASA program.  Absolutely not.  The problem was not the program.  The problem was that the forcefulness of evil is so horrendous that little can be done to corral it.

     A short-time later I worked with primary children in a special program at church.  It was very fulfilling and the forces of evil didn't vault to the front.  Instead of taking children to see Santa Claus they were introduced to Jesus.

     My wife said this story reminded her of a touching song:

Where's The Line To See Jesus?
Becky Kelley

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