The Week Before School

Morning quietly lengthens holding sleepy heads in her lapschool board
like three week old kittens

This, my favorite hour, because everyone is safe
and dreaming

Summer dreams retreat into early fall shadows kept crisp
like newly pressed wild flowers

Clocks tick without school bells
or rushing
Deep sighs

I want to remember sister disputes, games and new-to-them ideas
I want to hold the memory of big hugs, hand holds and tickles in my skin
and wear them like a new fall wardrobe

This will be my favorite summer
when we refused the amusement parks for
nights cuddled on the trampoline beneath a
magnified star filled sky

We each believed we saw more stars than anyone

when we dreamed and made up stories on
the big cheery red couch, or read books quietly beside one anotherBri and ti school
sprawled out on the floor

Coffee with the chickens and morning talks, my new favorite ritual, in nighties
and muck boots
legs crossed like princess farmers

My heart is ripe with love                                                                                                                                                                       my branches heavy with the fruit of our summer

Fall stirs, tossling the hem of my gown
promising

the week before school.

Darcy Downing © 2013ImageSchool

If you don’t know how much God loves you, read this!

 

The Renegade Bride

Homeless Angel by BanskyThis is not about that argument–beer. No, this is not an argument at all. I’m talking about God’s love.

I’m in pain, soul pain. I lift my head and see that we are finally letting loose the battle scars of self-sufficiency we have all had a turn holding. Now, we are bleeding as the infected stitches and the puss from our infections of debt, too much T.V., sex and sexy things and hurt kids that don’t look like kids at all has finally unraveled. Only, there is not a sterile hospital waiting for our arrival. No, we can’t afford a hospital.

I am—we are–outside in the wilderness, living with a leather strap as a tourniquet to keep our hearts from metaphorically bleeding to death; a place where creative survival is not enough. And why isn’t it enough? Because few of us know we are loved.

Like balm on a festered…

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Who Will Be My Brother?

1jesus_on_crossNote:  This is part 5 of the incredible miracle of how my daughter survived the bubonic plague and how our family became vessels for an infection of Love.  If you are just now joining us click Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, A Time for Everything, or Part 4.  Don’t forget the Kleenex!

A long time ago someone told me that the saying, “Blood is thicker than water,” actually comes from this saying:

The blood of the Cross is thicker than the water of the womb.

I have never found the source of this quote so if you know it, please feel free to share it!

Feeling so alone, I seemingly crawled back to the Ronald McDonald House, exhausted and heartbroken that Sierra was in so much pain.   I needed sleep badly, so I could be there for her, but before I could do that I had to call out to my brothers and sisters.

Oh my Jesus, how I need you now.

It is a strange and mystical thing being a Christian because we really do share the same Blood.  ” But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)   If I told you how many times a brother or sister recognized Christ in me, or joined me in a divine appointment, or was supernaturally there at the right place and the right time it would fill up my blog!

My favorite moments, however, are when I hear Christ speaking through my brothers and sisters.  Once I traveled to speak to another group of believers in another town.  An elderly Jewish woman asked each one of us, “Don’t I know you?”  At first we all thought it was the ramblings of an old woman, until God opened my eyes and ears and I saw and heard Jesus asking the question.  To this day when someone asks me, Don’t I know you?  I stop in my tracks and give my full attention!  And the answer is almost always, “Yes!  I do know you!”

So, slowly and painstakingly I typed out on Facebook what had transpired in the last three days.  My fingers felt like lead as I called out into the night.  Invisible dark things and dark voices seemed to laugh at me, taunting me as I took the risk to ask for help.  It didn’t take long as people I had never known before joined the ranks as kinsman redeemer to answer my plea.  Every prayer, every word of encouragement, every Amen, hallelujah, Go! Jesus, Go! mattered!  One of the first responders was Sierra’s old kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Faber.  This woman immediately prayed and interceded on Sierra’s behalf throughout the long nights.  I continued to pour out updates and requests as the battle for a little life ensued.

He lifts up a banner for the distant nations, he whistles for those at the ends of the earth. Here they come, swiftly and speedily!  Isaiah 5:26

Then God began to bring me closer into His embrace and my own heart longings were answered as my sister reached out to me and my family and became my spokes person on days when I could not do anything but hold Sierra’s hands.  My family and Sean’s family surrounded us and we all stood together, confronting an ancient and historic black death.

Our comrades in other states and countries began to reach out to us too.  Through the mist of this world’s shadow God sent us a message before we knew whether or not this was the plague, not in an ancient scroll or through an angelic being, but in a modern-day text message.  God is so cool.  Here’s the message:

“I felt it appropriate to share a vision I had the first night we heard about Sierra. Sean confirmed it when I spoke to him but I did not feel comfortable enough to share. We heard she was life flighted and we started praying. While [my wife] prayed I had the vision and started laughing. She thought it odd and stopped to ask me what I was laughing at. I saw Sierra. She was older… say 14 or 15. If you can imagine she was even more beautiful than now. She was leaning against a wall wearing a long black sleep shirt and it read ‘The Black Death has NOTHING on Me and My God!’ I then was overcome with peace and laughter.”

We hadn’t announced that this was the plague when I received that text message from a dear brother in Christ!

It is especially magical, the kind of deep magic C.S. Lewis talks about in The Chronicles of Narnia, to call seemingly strangers, brother or sister.  But it is this special unifying quality that binds together God’s people so that when the time calls for it—- we gather, we help, we provide, we pray.  Our Dad is King after all!

The trauma of Sierra’s seizure was especially hard on her daddy.  Sean couldn’t shake the visual image of Sierra unconscious in his arms that first night.  He cried out to God for a bit of joy and the second he had finished his request in walked a nurse named Joy!  

Oh Jesus, you care right now about what we are doing and what we need.  You hold us when we don’t even know it.

Boo and sulley 1

Sierra’s Sulley! Not quite as hairy though!

Sierra was a fighter but there came a point when we knew we needed back up.  My two older daughters went to my dad’s house near Denver while we stayed in the hospital and Sean’s parents were in Pagosa getting us moved into our new house.

Knowing we have three little girls and only two grandpas, God sent us a third; Steve.  If you have ever had the pleasure of seeing Sierra and Steve go shopping together, it would have reminded you instantly of Boo and Sulley from Monsters Inc.

Steve had texted me that he was thinking of flying in and I simply texted him back, “Do it.”

Steve arrived that day.  It was touching and shattered my heart when he entered the room and a groggy Sierra used what little strength she had to try to reach up and hug Steve’s neck.  They have been buddies since she was four and God decided to use this event to bring us all back together.

Steve and Sean teamed up and we alternated every-other-night in the PICU.  There were nights when the battle was intense but it wasn’t more real than the day Sierra’s breathing tube slipped back into her lungs!

A summer to remember 107

Steve made up a game called “Balloon Ball” to help Sierra during physical therapy.

More doctors than usual surrounded Sierra and we were all checking her numbers on her heart rate and I noticed that Sierra was turning blue.  I stood at the foot of her bed with Sean on one side of me and Steve on the other side while one doctor worked to get Sierra breathing.  They pulled out the breathing tube and I locked eyes with Dr. Robeless and all I could think was, You chose this woman to do this job, Lord.  That is her hand pumping air into my daughter and that is Your hand.  Time seemed to stop as we all fell silent and watched air first fill Sierra’s tummy and slowly, slowly move into her lungs until she began to take in the oxygen.  Her color returned to her cheeks and life flowed through her body and the battle changed!  If I remember right, I think that was the seventh day… and that night we rested!

Wrap Me Up in Prayer!

A summer to remember 103

The prayer quilt sent to us from Grace Church.

Within just a few days of our stay in the hospital a prayer quilt arrived.  I was so thankful because even in the middle of summer, hospitals are cold!  Sierra’s kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Faber, ordered a quilt and another sister delivered: Ellen Charnley and her team of prayer warriors from Grace Church!  Ellen became a very active ally as prayer requests went forth.

Samuel's kids

Ssengooba Samuel Mugabi with the children who prayed for Sierra. “God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing….” Psalm 68:6

Another blanket of prayer came in on the breeze of summer.  This blanket of prayer came from afar, in the land of Kampala, Uganda.  A little orphanage I had never known heard about Sierra’s illness and made it their business to fight for Sierra every day, raising the battle standard of prayer!  This was a genuine act by a group of children (Click this LINK to meet them.) and their pastor to reach the heavenly places and deliver prayers to a God who rides with a banner called Love!  I wept.  Often I wept.  Again, mystically we all gathered together beneath one banner, for one purpose, and prayed.  There is no other kingdom where such unity can occur– here is the place where the kingdom cannot be shaken– Love.

Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner.  Ex 17:15

But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow.  Psalm 60:4

Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love.  Song of Songs 2:4

Like Sierra, these orphaned children need help too, so I am including a link to their page HERE where you can help them get the food, resources and medical attention they desperately need.  To this day I still chat with Samuel and we encourage each other across the world.   God’s kingdom has no dividing lines, even if part of it is on the other side of the world.

Quilts 004The day after we moved out of the PICU another prayer quilt arrived.

Sierra was getting stronger and had started physical therapy.  Sean returned from the Ronald McDonald House with a package carefully tucked beneath his arm.  I curled up on the bed with her and we opened the package.  No one knew about the Snow White metaphors– no one.  So when I opened up the package and unfolded the Snow White quilt I was so surprised, and I am certain there was a twinkle in my Lord’s eye~  Oh God, how you love us.

Wrapped in the quilt was this letter:

Dear Sierra Jane,

This quilt was made by the Prayer Quilt Ministry at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church.  It has a picture of Snow White on it.  I hope you like it!

As you probably know, Snow White was a very beautiful young lady.  She had a very sweet and giving heart.  Animals loved her as did everyone who knew her…except the wicked stepmother.  The wicked stepmother was beautiful on the outside, but rotten on the inside.  She wanted to be the most beautiful person in the land, but she didn’t understand that to be truly beautiful you have to be beautiful on the inside too.  She thought that by killing Snow White, she could claim to be the most beautiful person in the land.  She gave Snow White a poison apple, one that, like her, was beautiful on the outside but rotten on the inside.  Snow White ate it and became very ill.  Some thought she had died.  But she had one very important weapon against evil.  That weapon was love.  In the end, love saved her.

Quilts 002You are like Snow White who has been saved from a very nasty disease by love. You have received God’s love in many, many ways. Your dad and sisters who rushed you to the hospital, your mom who has been by your side the whole time, the doctors and nurses who found the right drugs to give you to make you well, the hundreds of people who have been praying for you, the wonderful people who have sent you cards and gifts, the folks who have contributed money to help pay the doctors, the people who helped move your things into your new house, all of these acts of love are because we love you and your family so much. We all love you and want you to get well as quickly as you can!

The prayer quilt was prayed over while it was made, it was placed on the altar at church during our Sunday morning service and Fr. Doug blessed it and we all said a prayer for you.  Then it was taken to the parish hall where individuals said a prayer and tied a knot in the strings as a sign of their prayer.  I hope you find comfort in it and that it reminds you that you are very, very loved!  Get well soon, sweetheart!

In Christ, 

Sally Neel

Sierra and I both wept into each others arms.  It is a memory I will cherish for eternity.  She understood the metaphor and everything God had done to save her.  She snuggled up in the blanket insisting, as she drifted off to sleep, that we hang the letter in her room…and it is still there to this day.

who will be my brother

Snow White calls to her people, “Who will be my brother!?” Image from Snow White and the Huntsman

Later that week when we would arrive home in Pagosa, Sean and I would watch the new Snow White and the Huntsman and hear these prophetic words ring out from the film

Death favors no man. We must ride like thundering waves under the tented battle flag of my father.  ~Snow White 

Iron will melt, but it will writhe inside of itself! All these years, all I’ve known is darkness. But I have never seen a brighter light than when my eyes just opened. And I know that light burns in all of you! Those embers must turn to flame. Iron into sword! …  I’d rather die today than live another day of this death! And who will ride with me? Who will be my brother?                ~Snow White after being kissed awake.  

There is still much to share, much to say, people I have left out on the page but certainly not in my heart.  We rode far.  We rode long.  If you wish to view some of my kinsman who fought by my side please click this link to the event, Sierra Jane: God’s Super Star.  And to those of you who prayed, stood in the gap, loved us at all cost,

Now that the worst is over, we’re pleased we can report that we’ve come out of this with conscience and faith intact, and can face the world—and even more importantly, face you with our heads held high. But it wasn’t by any fancy footwork on our part. It was God who kept us focused on him, uncompromised. Don’t try to read between the lines or look for hidden meanings in this letter. We’re writing plain, unembellished truth, hoping that you’ll now see the whole picture as well as you’ve seen some of the details. We want you to be as proud of us as we are of you when we stand together before our Master Jesus.  2 Cor 1: 12-14 The Message

Until the next battle…..snow white hunt

She has the Plague AND We’re Crossing the “Jordan River?”

This will end up being a series of blogs because so much has happened since I last blogged.  So, I’m just going to start as though we are in a conversation…

Yes, I am the mother of the little girl, Sierra Jane, who had the plague in 2012.  Sean laughingly calls me “the plague mom.”  Please DON”T call me that though!  We were on T.V. and the Dr. Oz Show (click on the link to see the actual show) and she received world coverage.

On the set with Dr. Oz after recording the show.

On the set with Dr. Oz after recording the show.

We talked about everything from my two older daughters’ 911 call to the pink sweatshirt fallen on the ground that became the carriage for the little creatures who carried the deadly disease, the bubonic plague.

What you never heard; however, were the millions of miracles God orchestrated for our benefit… and yours!  I just want you to know how much He loves you.

He wants you to know that He has not forgotten you.  He has heard every prayer.  Every one.  Even the little ones that seem like a simple little thought.  Even the ones you haven’t uttered because you think you don’t deserve it or it won’t happen.  He has Hope for you right here, right now.  And since we survived the plague I feel that I am qualified to tell you why and how I know that!

There is much to tell and this story doesn’t begin with the plague; that’s where it ends.  Allow me to take you back to the summer of 20oo…

In the spring of 2012, the Holy Spirit had me return to an old abandoned township called Pagosa Junction.  The land is on the tip of the Ute reservation and as I understand it, there has been some fighting over the territory between the Utes and the town of Pagosa Springs.  The first time I ever went out there, however, was 12 years earlier in the summer of 2000.

The Catholic church over looking Pagosa Junction

The Catholic church overlooking Pagosa Junction

Back then, my husband and I had time to explore new territories.  We drove back into the wilderness and discovered an old train station, tracks, and old homes.  On that first trip I remember thinking that it looked like everyone had just up and left!  We found old clothing, jars, antique furniture and so many cool things.  Since we love collecting pictures of old doors, I started taking pictures of the doors.  One I will never forget was of a lone “locked” door standing like a rebel surrounded by its fallen house.  I can’t help but think of this scripture when I remember that door.

These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.  I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.  Rev 3:7-9

The more  we explored, though, the more uneasy we became.  We felt an unspoken warning to touch nothing!  I could hear what sounded like voices on the breeze threatening and screaming at us to leave.  Sensing the evil presence, we decided  to leave.  A few weeks later when I got the pictures back, I was so uncomfortable that I had to throw every single one away.

If you need more evidence that that place was cursed, a friend of mine went out there five years later and brought back an old mason jar for a souvenir.  A few weeks later she and her kids started having terrible nightmares and even seeing manifestations of spirits in their home.  We prayed.  She repented, threw away the jar and as soon as the jar was in the trash the nightmares stopped.

So, when God asked me to return there in the spring of 2012, I was a little leery… and excited.  Along the way I discovered a little happy flock of sheep. Mixture 011One of them came over to the fence and actually looked like he wanted to encourage me.

When I got to Pagosa Junction this time, I didn’t sense anything like before. In fact, I wandered around the old church on the hill and hiked around the valley near the train tracks and experienced peace.  Then I began to pray.

Have you ever noticed that when it’s God praying through you it’s difficult to remember what you prayed?  All I know is, as I prayed, a theme of God returning the land prevailed.  I recall saying out loud, “Be returned to the land.”  There was a sense of restoring as I prayed and prophesied to the land.

Early spring at Pagosa Junction 2012.

Early spring at Pagosa Junction 2012.

For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the Lord.  The Prophet Jeremiah 33:11

You, Lord, showed favor to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.  Psalm 85:1

I returned home feeling peaceful and with much anticipation.

Then we lost our house.

I know!  It wasn’t the miracle I had been hoping for either!  I fought so hard to keep that little home of ours.  Like a lot of Americans, we bought our home at the peak of the market and shouldn’t have.  We ended up receiving a Deed in Leu which morphed into a Deed in Leese.  That means we were renting the house we once owned.  We were slipping farther and farther into debt, depression and discouragement.

As summer approached I continued to pray.  We looked at rentals and even considered moving out-of-town and closer to a city.   Then one day our friend, Steve, suggested we take a look at his old property. The property was on the other side of town on 1.5 acres.  For the last three years it had been used as a homeless shelter.  Since there was only one man left of the group (he moved into a single cabin), Steve thought a family might be able to restore the house.

No one knew the years I had wept, or the days I had fasted and prayed for God to answer us.  No one knew how creative I really was with so little; how I understood the woman with her jar of oil and bit of flour, how I longed for something new for my daughters and joy for my husband.  God knew…

“In the time of my favor I will answer you,
and in the day of salvation I will help you;
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people,
to restore the land
and to reassign its desolate inheritances,
to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’
and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’  The Prophet Isaiah 49:8-9

We inherited Steve’s house and began our summer with renovations.  Little did we know that we were about to embark on an adventure together that we would never forget.

To read part 2, My Buddy, Joshua, click HERE.

Love Letters from Somewhere in Time

You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.  2 Corinthians 2:2

Sometimes a Love Letter transforms itself into a song. My husband took this picture of me while I was writing an Irish ballad, White Linen. Click the photo and you can listen to White Linen on MySpace.

I still have the first love letter my husband ever wrote me.  He pressed a Colorado Wild Rose between the pages of the story of how he almost fell off the mountain reaching for the “first bloom of summer.”  His old Ford Pickup almost lost its door as it held Sean while he reached for that wild rose on the side of Red Mountain.  The hinges gave way and I imagine him and the truck hobbling down that mountain like two old friends grinning ear to ear.  Almost two decades later, we walk the same mountains together, collecting rose hips in fall and pressing flowers with our three daughters.  The fragrance of that letter still lingers after all these years….

I didn’t notice my passion for love letters until I went searching for that first love letter from my husband.  I know it’s around here somewhere, but it didn’t make the cut for this post.  Instead,  I found old letters from elementary school friends, a favorite high school cross-country coach cheering me on, relatives and friends.  I keep letters from my daughters as well.  A recent favorite reads,

Mom, bak (thank) you for not saing have funn wis (with) Daddy.’  I did have funn.

          The back story:  Every time I say “Have fun with Daddy,” the girls think I jinx their time and it ends with them getting into trouble.  Not sure I believe that but it’s no skin off my nose to accommodate them!  So instead we all laugh as I leave on a trip and shout “Whatever you do, DON’T have fun with Daddy!”

I have other letters from dear friends who have gone on to other places.  Those letters are fun to read when I need a good cry or when I need to remember.  I have written letters too.  I love writing a letter out of season unattached to a holiday and wholly attached to the person.  A letter that belongs to that person because they matter; I write to God like that too, because He matters.  I didn’t know He could reach through time and the heavens and leave me a letter too though.

Last month I was in our local super market rushing to complete my errands.  I was stressed to the max.  I had three different jobs to finish, three people mad at me and I didn’t know if we were going to have to move by the end of the month or not.  Then, in the middle of the grocery store I heard God say, “Go to the books, I have something for you there.”  I became excited and walked over to the fun encouraging books.  I looked and found a few things for my daughters and a book for my mother, but nothing for me… until I looked behind one of the books.  There tucked at the very back of the shelf was a small handwritten card that read

 Now the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times in every situation.                                       2 Thessalonians 3:16

It was as though God had reached through time, grabbed my heart and passionately kissed me.  I held that card throughout the day as I addressed each incident that had once seemed so stressful.  I felt like Jane Seymour in Somewhere in Time, found impossibly by my One True Love.

Jane Seymour, “Somewhere in Time”

Oh my God, how I am ruined by your love.

I held that card for three weeks, keeping it near as a reminder.  Today I looked for it so I could scan it and insert it into this blog. It was as though it had vanished and returned to its place somewhere in time, back to the hand of its Author.

This isn’t the first time He has left a love letter.  Once when my husband and I needed to travel across the big state of Colorado, up and over the mountains, we found this taped to our door:

The envelope read, “Sean and Darcy the Lord would like you to have this with his blessing.”

I never knew whose hand my Lord used to place that envelope.  Inside was the exact amount of money we needed to make our important trip– to the penny!  There is always someone who wants to take credit or brag about knowing who really wrote the card or that envelope and I don’t want to know.  I want to remain blissfully ignorant of this present world, because I am in love with someone who surpasses time…

May no one rob you of your quest to know how far, how deep, and how wide the Lord’s love is for one such as you.

The Revision

The Revision

I opened the book
tucked between Suppression and Conclusion
It read like a novel
Even though it was a romance entitled How To

The pages contained pictures
Intricately drawn, some old, some new
The dichotomy of good and evil
Visible throughout its pages
It made me want to skip to the end

But I didn’t

Visible to the eye was a pop-up-perfect woman
Beyond the overflow of woods and swords and men
I wanted to touch her, speak with her… be her
But I couldn’t get in
Until I was furnished with a special pen,
a quill with red ink, old but never used
And without trying to sound cliché,
The ink smelled of roses

I noticed a change in the pages
The more I wrote
And I tried to invent the perfect word
A magic word that would give me power
And not acerbate the new life flowing through my
Paper skin

As I made room for my story, writing between the margins
I flipped to and fro from the story to the woman
I took great thought and consideration as I wrote
And somewhere between the pages of good and evil
I found myself
kneeling,
writing on a stone
The book still with me

I stood stepping
on moss and leaves, some old, some new
And gazed into a pond
An actual woman peered back through its waters
Glaring at me, angry and dark at the
trap I’d set with words
she became the underlying meaning
now buried in waters and myth

I stood tall
Taking my place as the pop-up-perfect woman
Beyond the overflow of woods and swords and men

©2008 Darcy Downing. All Rights Reserved.

Charlie’s in the Lost and Found

I was working at Wilson’s Leather and Suede, finishing a wall display when they walked into the store. A rough-looking couple began drilling my manager on the quality of cow hide as they checked out the new biker jackets we had just put out for Christmas.  I noticed a little blond head bobbing in between the racks of coats.  A dirty little 4-year-old face peeked around a black lamb skin bomber.  His eyes soaked in everything, brown and warm, he reminded me of an abandoned puppy dog.  I smiled and playfully gave up his hiding spot, “I see yooouuu.”  He smiled back at me and it froze and abruptly disappeared as if caught in the act of some crime.

While this child is not Charlie, he represents many of the abused children we see today.

         With his parents distracted, he followed me like a puppy throughout the store, searching for the location of his parents at every turn.  His tight little fists were white from holding on to whatever trinket lay within.  “What’s your name?” I asked as I straightened another rack.  “Charlie,” he said, scared at the sound of his own voice. I told him my name and we talked about Christmas together and reindeer and Santa.  He lifted up his hands, in an act of trust, to tell me his age but stopped himself as he remembered the trinkets in his hands.

“What ya got there?” I asked.  He nervously looked over at his parents who were occupied with the trying on of coats.  Satisfied he slowly un-curled the fingers of one hand.  Cigarette burns lined the palm of his hand and forearm.  “Where did you get these?” I asked coolly, thankful for my acting skills because everything in me wanted to scoop him up, take him home and keep him.  He looked over at his parents and back into my eyes, pleading without words for me to help him.

          I quickly regained my composure, and then suddenly they were leaving.  With my heart pounding I coolly tried to convince them to hold the coats they were looking at “because it would be such a disappointment to return and find them gone,” I said with my best retailing skills.  I handed them the hold slip hoping to get a name.  They weren’t buying.  They roughly grabbed Charlie by the coat and half -dragged him out of the store.  The last thing I saw were those warm chocolate eyes pleading with me to save him.

          I’ll follow them, I thought.  I didn’t have time to tell my manager anything, so I told her I needed a Coke, and I quickly walked out into the Christmas mall mob. My mind worked fast as I frantically searched for the little blond bobbing head, I’ll get their license plate number and report them.  But somewhere in the Christmas shopping crowd Charlie and his little hands and pleading eyes disappeared.  I never saw him or his parents again.  That was the Christmas season of 1995.  A year doesn’t go by that doesn’t include prayers for Charlie; he would be about 21 years old today.  May he be found by God.

Merry Christmas Charlie.

God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me […and Charlie]!  Psalm 66: 19-20

http://dreamcatchersforabusedchildren.com

http://www.refresheverything.com

That Homeless Guy- Your Gift from God!

America you have a chance to be a hero.  It is simple and oh so difficult.  You have it!  You have found that American dream.  You overcame the odds or didn’t have to and came out on top.  There are no enemies here like we think; there are only opportunities.  Your greatest opportunity and greatest success isn’t in your mountains of success or political prowess or volunteer awards.  Oh no—your greatest success will come when you decide to stop judging your homeless brother and sister and simply take care of him when no one else is watching.  To be that hero takes more than strength, more than money; it takes guts!

The time has come! The day has arrived! Let not the buyer rejoice nor the seller grieve, for my wrath is on the whole crowd. Ezekiel 7:12 NIV

When the homeless guy arrives in town usually one of two things happens: some authority politely or aggressively escorts him to the city line or the town tolerates him.  We have a homeless guy in our town, just one that stays on the streets because we live in the Colorado Rocky Mountains and it’s pretty cold here!  The other day, I sat in the local coffee shop listening to a gaggle of cackling women complain about him because he was ruining the esthetics of our town; occasionally walking around shirtless and taking spot baths in the river (Regardless of the fact that half the town runs around that way in the summer).

Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. Leviticus 19:15

I came across two definitions of esthetics: “an outward appearance or the way something looks, especially when considered in terms of how pleasing it is.”  I like the second definition myself: “an idea of beauty” or “an idea of what is beautiful or artistic” (Encarta Dictionary).  I think God would agree with this second definition because He even said that he doesn’t look at the outward appearance of a man- He looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7).  Have you ever considered God as an artist or poet?  He did create that homeless guy after all, but why?

That homeless man, woman or child is your gift from God.  It is your opportunity to walk through the eye of the needle and see clearly who God is and experience firsthand His heart radiating love for another.

Children sleeping in Mulberry Street (1890) Art.

Image via Wikipedia

This reminds me of a girl I saw at the Halloween Carnival this year.  I was laughing and enjoying my youngest daughter when I turned around and was stricken by the presence of this little girl behind me.  She took my breath away, but not because she was outwardly beautiful.  She was standing alone in an old sweatshirt and jeans without a smile, dark curly hair and heavy-set without a costume.  She quietly held her trick-or-treat bag in front of her, determined not to look at anyone.

I noticed this girl because for a moment, I saw her through God’s eyes– I felt Him love her.  I watched as a beautiful woman standing nearby began to remove her angel costume with real goose feather wings and a halo.  She tried to be discrete but everyone watched as she removed the halo from her own head and placed it on the girl’s.  Then she fumbled with the wings and slid them off and onto the girl’s arms.  “You are beautiful,” she whispered.  My heart broke with love and the hardness I had been feeling from the busy day and loud carnival melted away.  I can’t stop thinking about her, and that’s the place– thinking of others– where you will also experience His love for you!  It is here where you will find the wealth you seek.

You don’t have to go shopping this year:  God’s presents are littering the street corners like treasure thrown down from heaven– it’s not meant for the trash heap!  Go now.  Pick them up, open them up, love them, feed them because it is His Christmas wish for us all.

4-6 There must be no poor people among you because God is going to bless you lavishly in this land that God, your God, is giving you as an inheritance, your very own land. But only if you listen obediently to the Voice of God, your God, diligently observing every commandment that I command you today. Oh yes—God, your God, will bless you just as he promised. You will lend to many nations but won’t borrow from any; you’ll rule over many nations but none will rule over you.

7-9 When you happen on someone who’s in trouble or needs help among your people with whom you live in this land that God, your God, is giving you, don’t look the other way pretending you don’t see him. Don’t keep a tight grip on your purse. No. Look at him, open your purse, lend whatever and as much as he needs. Don’t count the cost. Don’t listen to that selfish voice saying, “It’s almost the seventh year, the year of All-Debts-Are-Canceled,” and turn aside and leave your needy neighbor in the lurch, refusing to help him. He’ll call God’s attention to you and your blatant sin.

10-11 Give freely and spontaneously. Don’t have a stingy heart. The way you handle matters like this triggers God, your God’s, blessing in everything you do, all your work and ventures. There are always going to be poor and needy people among you. So I command you: Always be generous, open purse and hands, give to your neighbors in trouble, your poor and hurting neighbors.

Deuteronomy 15 MSG

English: Homeless man, Tokyo. Français : Un sa...

Image via Wikipedia

http://homelesscharities.info/feed/rss/

Following the Homeless Man

For the poor will never cease out of the land; therefore I command you, You shall open wide your hands to your brother, to your needy, and to your poor in your land. (Deuteronomy 15:11 AMP)

A brother on a Pilgrimage off of 285 in Colorado

The cobble stone street glistened in the middle of Old Town Fort Collins as I watched him walk, yet again, from one end of town to the other.  He had been there many times before but today was the first time I stopped to watch him.  Tall, slender, clean and shaven, he could have been a professor from the local university, but he wasn’t; he was a homeless man.  It was late afternoon and an early fall day as I wondered about where this man was going.  Then God whispered, “Follow him.” 

My heart thumped loudly in my throat as I hesitatingly agreed to this adventure.  “Okay Lord, but please keep me safe.”  I played it cool and casually window shopped from store to store as I watched this cheerful man visit his favorite people along the street.  However, his pace was brisk and it was obvious to me he had an important destination in mind.  He crossed the street a few times and I might have even heard him whistle.  He turned down another street across from the old railroad station and stopped outside a three story building.  I froze in my tracks, wanting to turn tail and run as I saw other homeless people gathering in front of the building.  Some were laughing and visiting, others looked sad and aloof. 

God interrupted my thoughts, “Don’t lose him.  Follow him inside.”  Now I was feeling super vulnerable.  I was still dressed in my nice work clothes and I stuck out like a sore thumb, but I persisted and found the man standing inside.  I reached for him and gently tapped his shoulder. 

I couldn’t speak without tears escaping down my face.  Oh God, what have you done to me?  My heart…, my heart….  My heart ached at what I saw– a kind of joyful-hurting ache. 

“Ask for help daughter.  You are safe,” encouraged the Lord. 

So I asked the homeless man through tears who I could speak to about the shelter.  He smiled a genuine smile and responded to my tears by saying, “Oh, now, its okay.  Here’s the lady you need to talk to,” and he handed me off to this kind but stern thirty something woman.  When I told her I was there because I needed to know how the homeless people lived, I had to repeat myself because I was so choked up and my heart was pounding so loud I was sure she couldn’t hear me! 

She smiled warmly and gave me back to the homeless man who proceeded to give me a tour.  He showed me the T.V. room where a pile of people sat watching Jeopardy; he took me to “the book shelf” where people could borrow books; he pointed out the shower area and taught me about their token system, and then he explained how the building had been an old hotel and how they had converted it into a shelter.  Everyone had a bin where they could store things and they could purchase showers and toiletries with the special tokens.  He also explained how different businesses and non-profits provided dinner throughout the week.  My heart felt soggy as I stood in the presence of this man.

I never saw him again after that.  I looked for him and found more homeless people instead….

Then I understood just Who I had been following. 

Amos 8 from The Message

If you prefer a different translation of the Bible please visit http://www.biblegateway.com

You Who Give Little and Take Much

1 My Master God showed me this vision: A bowl of fresh fruit. 2He said, “What do you see, Amos?” I said, “A bowl of fresh, ripe fruit.” God said, “Right. So, I’m calling it quits with my people Israel. I’m no longer acting as if everything is just fine.

3“The royal singers will wail when it happens.”
My Master God said so.
“Corpses will be strewn here, there, and everywhere.
Hush!”

4-6Listen to this, you who walk all over the weak,
you who treat poor people as less than nothing,
Who say, “When’s my next paycheck coming
so I can go out and live it up?
How long till the weekend
when I can go out and have a good time?”
Who give little and take much,
and never do an honest day’s work.
You exploit the poor, using them—
and then, when they’re used up, you discard them.

7-8God swears against the arrogance of Jacob:
“I’m keeping track of their every last sin.”
God’s oath will shake earth’s foundations,
dissolve the whole world into tears.
God’s oath will sweep in like a river that rises,
flooding houses and lands,
And then recedes,
leaving behind a sea of mud.

9-10“On Judgment Day, watch out!”
These are the words of God, my Master.
“I’ll turn off the sun at noon.
In the middle of the day the earth will go black.
I’ll turn your parties into funerals
and make every song you sing a dirge.
Everyone will walk around in rags,
with sunken eyes and bald heads.
Think of the worst that could happen
—your only son, say, murdered.
That’s a hint of Judgment Day
—that and much more.

11-12“Oh yes, Judgment Day is coming!”
These are the words of my Master God.
“I’ll send a famine through the whole country.
It won’t be food or water that’s lacking, but my Word.
People will drift from one end of the country to the other,
roam to the north, wander to the east.
They’ll go anywhere, listen to anyone,
hoping to hear God’s Word—but they won’t hear it.

13-14“On Judgment Day,
lovely young girls will faint of Word-thirst,
robust young men will faint of God-thirst,
Along with those who take oaths at the Samaria Sin-and-Sex Center,
saying, ‘As the lord god of Dan is my witness!’
and ‘The lady goddess of Beer-sheba bless you!’
Their lives will fall to pieces.
They’ll never put it together again.”

 

Who Do You Love?

“What church do you go to?”  That is the most loaded question in the culture of religion and denominations.  Guess what!?  It’s time to start asking a different question.  It’s time you knew that “You are the church!” 

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)

The question you should be asking is, “Who do you love?” 

A popular author writes, “Very few have ever risen above worshipping the temple of the Lord, so that they can truly worship the Lord of the temple.”

It wasn’t always this way.  My husband and I were very involved in church with our own ministry and music and programs and… well, we were such good Christians that we practically lived at the church.  But I was tired and dissatisfied and I felt a longing for something more in my relationship with Christ.  Then I heard The Sermon that set me free to walk a different road, hand in hand with Jesus. 

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will   find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16). 

I felt as though I was being invited to embark on a mystical journey that most believers I knew had avoided because of the level of difficulty.  To walk the ancient path I had to give up everything, including my status in the church–and I was on my way to becoming someone.  But Jesus… Jesus is a jealous lover and He wants all of me.  He wants all of you. 

As if to stress His point, during the same sermon Jesus spoke to the deepest part of me,

“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7: 22-23 NIV). 

They were actually performing miracles and driving out demons in Christ’s name– serious evidence of knowing God according to many doctrines taught in the church today, but our Lord said, “I never knew you.”  How many times do we consider these acts as fruit in a person’s life, thinking they are holy and close to God?  They even prophesied in Christ’s name!  The prophecy may have even been right on BUT they did not know God.  So whose authority were they acting upon: God’s or their own?

We have to be sober in what we do and say.  In the days to come we must understand that we can’t believe every miracle we “see” as an act of God.  Even Jesus, was tempted to act in his own authority:  

“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only. (Matthew 4:8-10)

“How do I know you in a way that you do not refuse me, God?” 

All I know is at that moment I wanted to know God in that way… intimately, personally, with nothing and no one between us.  Nothing!  In the next month, God granted my request.  On an ordinary Sunday, an altar call was made for missionaries, and even before the call my husband and I knew we were to go forward.  Although the call was for missions, we knew it was something more; beyond the language of doctrine.  As we knelt and wept before God, I felt a physical cutting away as though we had been cut from a Matrix of sorts.  Could this be right?  A week later an answer arrived in the form of a dream.

I’m standing in the middle of a beautiful citadel ornately decorated with purple linen drapes and stained-glass windows.  The citadel is circular and people are walking and communing around the hub of the citadel.  The people are dressed in fine clothing and all of the furnishings are golden and mahogany.  I am standing with a friend from my past and a friend from my present.  As they are discussing doctrine, I see an angel walking around the citadel. 

My heart leaps as I see the angel and I leave my companions and follow it around the citadel.  The angel stops near my friends, looks at me, and then turns toward one of the windows that are open on the lower level.  The angel removes the window screen.  Astonished, I turn to my friends and say “Do you realize what this means!?”  Even though they are watching it, they continue on in their discussion about doctrine as though nothing is occurring, and they take no notice of my comment.  I return to my day bed where I have been sleeping, and I stuff my things into a canvas bag: a shawl, my bible, and my shoes.

I return to the window and see the angel outside beckoning me.  I take one last look and see greeters welcoming even more people into the citadel.  I climb out the window with my things, and I am surprised to see tall green grass and no moat at all.  I run toward the angel and stumble on the path where people are flocking toward the citadel.  I am concerned about these people and observe the greeters as they welcome people into the citadel but do not allow anyone to leave.  I hear a voice soothing my worries and assuring me that they will have the same opportunity.  Then I notice the pain in my feet.  I have mismatched socks on my feet and as I carefully remove them I notice they are bloody and changing into hind’s feet.  As I replace the socks on my feet, I hear the most beautiful song being sung in the distance, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.”  I can see mountain ridges as the sun is setting, and I know the music is coming from there.  I carefully rise to my feet, dust myself off, and awkwardly begin my journey away from the citadel and into the wilderness.  Then I awake from my dream.

Six months later, after going before the church board and leaving we found a group of believers who were looking for the unmitigated voice of God.  God stripped us of our false identities and filthy rags of self-importance and self-righteousness and gave us new robes of humility.  It was painful; a time in my walk steeped in a romance with God like I had never experienced before.  Why is this important today?

It hurts to be torn down and built back up again.  It is a humbling process and so many popular doctrines preach against pain and poverty and encourage a manipulative name-it-claim-it painless doctrine.  I have found that pain and poverty is the place where the greatest wealth has been hidden.  Be warned, however, our adversary will use any doctrine to keep you from knowing God and convince you that you have the power to get all that you need.  That is why knowing Christ is so important.  Get ready, church, because we are headed into a season spoken of in Matthew 24.  We are about to see the metaphorical and literal temples destroyed so that the bride can come out of her chamber and at last embrace her groom.

Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down.”

The stones of doctrine, ministry, money, missions, self-made-miracles, church business-models and the like will get between you and Christ.  He is enough of a gentleman to remove those obstacles—but He is not like Satan, forcing himself onto us or forcing His will.  He waits for us to say “yes.”  However, sometimes God must remove us from those things and take us into the wilderness to find the relationship He always intended: 

Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her (Isaiah 2:14).

You must know Him and His voice to survive in these last days.  How can that happen when so many other voices are rallying for your affection?  The metaphor is twofold: since we are the church, we also are the stones that will be “thrown down.”  Why would God do that?  So He can rebuild His Church the way He intended, the bright radiant bride who loves Him more than doctrine, more than ministry, more than life itself!  He is longing for a bride who is ready for her husband with only One affection and One desire: Jesus! 

 A great falling away must happen, not from the faith but from the idols of denomination, tradition, personal status, and business.  Repent now so you can fall into the arms of the One who loves you, the One who promises to teach you all things (John 14:26), the One who tires from so many taking His place on the arm of His bride, the One who pursues you (Luke 15:8, Matthew 18:12), the One who refuses to let something or someone else steal your gaze. 

Doctrines and traditions once served us, for healing and deliverance and even learning.  There was grace to enter into a doctrine of choice that comforted, that felt safe, but that time has passed.  Today shepherds, prophets, pastors, and apostles you must gather your sheep into the fold of Christ with Jesus as our resting place.

My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray [to favorite places of idolatry] on mountains [that seduce]. They have gone from [one sin to another] mountain to hill; they have forgotten their [own] resting-place. (Jeremiah 50:6 AMP). 

Nothing else matters now.  The bride of Christ must come together without division.  Your choice is clear: love a church and its doctrine, or love Christ.  Doctrine can be used so easily to lead us into following someone with political and miraculous status.  Don’t do it!!!  Follow Christ! 

“Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires” (Song of Solomon 8:4 NIV).  God is Love (1 John 4:8), my brothers and sisters, and He desires this love to be aroused now!  The ancient path is here–know Christ.  Go to Him now.  It’s not too late; the hour is short.