2 Chronicles 7:14:

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

The call first went out before the turn of the last century, before 9/11, before anyone had heard of Al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden. We failed. We played, we watched videos, we whined, but we didn’t do as we were told. Then came 9/11, that awful day when the world stopped turning and we knew nothing would ever be the same again. We went to war with terror, we went to church – for awhile; then, we went back to business as usual. It was a one-off; it couldn’t happen again. Go back to the game, go back to sleep, go back to believing it’ll never happen again. You’re right – next time, it’ll be worse.

There are those among us who see beyond what’s in front of our eyes, who hear beyond the noise of a modern world too educated for God, who see in the night what’s behind a general unease everyone else feels. We wake from nightmares that aren’t simple nightmares. Worse, we can’t wake from nightmares we want only to escape. Some folks call us crazy, but we are the Watchers and God reveals truths that many of us would rather not know. Still, He promises not to do anything unless He tells His prophets and we don’t get to pick what He makes us.

We want you to know what’s coming, but we can’t tell you exactly when. We want you to be prepared, not surprised. We know the seasons, but not the days because that’s how God wants it and He’s in control. We have a responsibility. Ezekiel 3:17-19 is our charge.

We may have time. We may have another chance. Maybe it’s too late and all that’s left is judgment, but we won’t know if we don’t try. The last few weeks, the cry has gotten louder: “If my people, who are called by my name…” We can’t blow it again; this may be our final opportunity. Jeremiah is crying out; God is angry.

Advertisements

The French Attacks

I didn’t post this right away.  I’m not sure why, but here it is now.  on November 13, as I watched the news reports covering the Paris attacks, I heard the words “Coming soon to a city near you.”  I was not surprised.  Sad, but not surprised; I’ve had dreams (nightmares, really) of this happening for years.  I had the first one around 1998 or so.  In the dream, I was hiding with a friend under a boardwalk on a beach.  We were being hunted by a man in a tan uniform.  He was wearing a tan balaclava and head gear that matched.  I knew he was an Arab of some sort, but I couldn’t say for sure what nationality he was.  It frightened me, but I didn’t know who it was or why.

Here it is almost twenty years later and I recognize the soldier for what he was.  If you take the black clothing worn by ISIS and make it tan, that’s exactly what I saw in that dream.  I don’t know why his uniform was tan and not black, but that’s what I saw.  In the dream, the friend that was with me got away, but I was shot while trying to follow her.  I woke up just as the bullet hit me…

I’ve been BUSY

I haven’t been here for months.  It’s been crazy for me lately.  I spent most of the summer running back and forth to Pittsburgh.  I was tired and stressed  and in serious need of a timeout.  God in His mercy provided a way of escape and I spent the month of September happily (for the most part) bouncing between North Carolina and Virginia.  I was stressed for a totally different reason – everyone wanted to see me – but it wasn’t draining like doing ministry.

I came back feeling like an actual human being, but I was forced to make difficult choices.  I had to leave my work in Pittsburgh.  It wasn’t that I wanted to – I just can’t afford it any more.  Burning through a tank of gas every week in a pickup truck that gets 13 miles to the gallon was making me go broke.  I was putting over 200 miles a week on the truck just to drive back and forth.  It’s been a difficult decision and I feel like I let a bunch of people down, but I came to realize that Pittsburgh was only for a season and that season, much like summer, has come to an end.  A dear friend of mine point out that, if God isn’t providing for the work, you’re probably in the wrong place…

So here I am, working closer to home.  I’m starting from scratch and it’s depressing for me.  I feel like I’ve been here for three years, spinning my wheels, getting nowhere and letting God down in the process.  I lost what few friends I had finally made, probably due to those trips to Pittsburgh.  It’s a hard thing.  I actually got a note from a friend this week that says “I really can’t get together with you right now.  I’m just not emotionally able to do it.  Please DO NOT ask any questions.”

To add insult to injury, I helped a person in a dire situation – and satan made sure that no good deed went unpunished.  “Somehow”, a bill got paid out of the wrong account and the payment bounced, so the $30 payment cost me $65 and the $10 assistance cost me $45.  Plus the $10 fee to empty my savings account into my checking account.  Yea.  Because I have money to throw away…

I had a dream this morning.  It came in two parts.  In the first part, I was trying to get somewhere I desperately needed to go, but there was a chasm in the middle of my route.  It was too deep to climb, too wide to jump and what looked like a crossing was a dangerous deception.  I was taken from there to a beach.  There were many people there, but few near the water.  I went into the water so my husband could get a picture.  A sandstorm suddenly came up and the water withdrew as if for a tsunami.  Both occurred at the same time.  The sandstorm didn’t hit me, but it placed a wall of sand in front of me that was at least twenty feet high and I knew there was no way to escape the incoming tsunami.  With that, I woke up to the phrase “insurmountable obstacles”.  Could I get a little encouragement here?  I’m having a rough month.  It started a few days before my birthday and it’s pretty much been on a downhill roll since then…

I’m not missing in action; I’m just missing here

It’s been so long since I posted here that followers have given up on me and friends have become concerned.  It’s okay; I’ve just been about my Father’s business.  I hear the cries and I have to respond because that’s what Jesus did – and does.

I struggled through most of the summer trying to find some peace and the money to go home.  I missed my family, I missed the beach and I missed being able to hide with my Father away from everything and everyone else.  We need those times of solitude to escape as Jesus did.  I’m not comfortable on a mountain top yet, nor in the valley, nor even on the mountainside.  Being in Western Pennsylvania has been hard on me in more ways than one and I needed to sand and the sea to calm my soul and quiet my heart so I could hear clearly again.  I also needed the encouragement of brothers and sisters who have walked with me for five years or more on this spiritual journey.  After three years, I finally found that friend I have in Pennsylvania, but we haven’t spent the time required to really open ourselves and our lives up completely to one another.  There will be time this winter when there’s nothing to do but hide inside and wait for the winter to pass…

I’ve learned valuable lessons to take back to PA and share.  I’ve also found that I moved up the spiritual food chain while I was away.  There was a marked difference in the way some people respond to me compared to a year ago.  It was weird, but I’m learning to accept weird as a lifestyle.

August brought a vision and a revelation of who I am in Christ.  It changed the way I preach, the way I teach, but mostly, the way I perceive myself.  When God shows you how He sees you, nothing will ever be the same.  If you haven’t seen yourself the way that God does, keep asking until He shows you.  It took a few years for me, (Yes, I said “YEARS”) but it was worth the wait.  When you KNOW who you are, how God sees you and what He calls you, no power in Hell can take that away from you.  August also brought the funds to come home, see my family and take a break from being a pastor.  Here, I’m “Mom”, “Mommy”, “Beth”, “Liz”, “Elizabeth”, “Granny”; in other words, I’m myself with no expectations on me except to be me.  “Pastor”, “Chaplain”, “Associate Pastor”, “Life Group Leader” and all of the expectations those titles carry are a distant thought.  Those thoughts are occasionally interrupted by texts asking “Are you back yet?” (No) and “When will you be back?” (On the first.  Just like I told you the last twenty three times you asked.)

September brought a long drive to the place I call home and the peace I so desperately needed.  The first planned weekend on the beach was cut short when the wind flattened the tent, snapped the crossbars and cause the rain fly to tear.  The second weekend was just as I remember it from my childhood: the sun, the sand, the sea – the sunburn that blisters and burns even after it begins to peel four days later.  Apparently, I was in the sun without protection MUCH longer than I thought…

The suffering has been comparatively small in light of the peace and the gifts God has bestowed during this time.  I had coffee with God and watched the sunrise over Cape Lookout.  I found three of five treasures I went in search of on the beach.  I saw a ghost crab warm itself by the campfire we built near the water.  I had a dragonfly land on my big toe and sit while I took several pictures.  I collected seashells, rode in a boat, talked to the locals, saw my family and retrieved my beloved southern accent from the murky depths of my memory.  I found my center, cleared the cobwebs in my brain and reconnected in a greater way with God.  Isn’t that what vacations are for?

Next week, I will go back to the place I now call home.  I will wrap myself in my “Super Pastor” cloak and alternate between being the arms of Jesus and being on my knees to stand up to the work.  I will miss this place every second I am away from it, even as I miss Western PA every second I’m away from it.  Life would be perfect if there could be two of me and one could be in each of these places all the time.  You know, the way we are here and yet, we are seated with God in heavenly places.  Yeah, like that.

A Tale of Two Parties

Sunday, June 28, was a long day for me.  After waking up and going through my usual routine of coffee, food and whatever, I gathered my things and headed to the projects in Pittsburgh like I do every Sunday.  As I put away my ID and headed to the Tower (the central building of this housing area), I passed by the apartment of a man I met my first day there.  I had a message for him, but I had lost his number, so I stopped to speak to him.  His family was getting ready to celebrate a birthday and I was invited to attend the party.  I gave my regrets since I had a service to attend, but I promised to join them once service was over.

I arrived at the Tower and began conversing with my fellow pastor.  She told me about a gathering of women from the “Mother Ship”, Allison Park Church.  This is the church that began the plants that became City Reach Network.  I know very few people in the network, so Cathy pressed upon me to go.  I told her that I had made a promise to attend a birthday party in the ‘hood, but she convinced me that I could do both.  So it was that I found myself attending two parties the same day…

I went to Edwin and Anna’s after service.  Anna was beginning to think that I had stood her up, but Edwin kept telling her that I would be there.  She was thrilled when I appeared at the door.  She made me go in to wash my hands, then handed me a bowl of some of the best greens I’ve ever had (and certainly the best in the state of Pennsylvania)  This was followed by a handmade cheeseburger straight from the grill and made to order.  I was the only white person in a group of twenty or so and I was in the middle of the projects, but I was having a great time.  Everyone was talking to me and a few people took pictures of me.  I guess the white lady pastor at the party surprised a few folks!  I hated to leave, but I had somewhere else to go.  I made arrangements to return at a later time, when there would be fewer people and then I headed to the second gathering.

The meeting places could not have been more different.  While the first was in public housing, the second was in a very exclusive neighborhood in the area known as Allison Park.  The house was a brick “McMansion” with a huge yard and parking for at least six cars.  It would take two or three of my houses to make this house.  They had closets bigger than Anna’s kitchen.  The crowd was quite different as well.  Of the twenty or so women there, two were not white and most came from comfortably, solidly upper middle class (although a couple of us didn’t quite meet the income level of the majority.)  No burgers and hot dogs here; there was pizza and vegetable and fruit trays and cakes and pies.  There were pistachios – one of those items that just doesn’t quite fit in the budget of the folks in the projects.  We sat on lovely, cushioned lawn furniture (although there were a few canvas chairs due to the number of guests) and ate our dainties as we talked about various ministers and ministries we had in common.  Yep, no one was talking about who to avoid or who got arrested this week.  Not exactly the same conversations… After the small talk, we retired to the back of the yard and assembled around the fire pit for prayer and ministry time.It was good to be around other women who will hold me up in prayer, be my friends and love me when others turn their backs.

After the party broke up and we all began scattering to our vehicles, I found myself in a conversation with Michael and Melissa.  It was nothing like the conversation with Edwin and Anna.  We talked about how I got to Pennsylvania and the things that I’ve gone through since arriving.  We talked about the Bible and preaching and so many other things.  I excused myself at 11:30 because THEY needed to go to bed and I needed to drive almost an hour to get home.  It actually took longer because I had to watch for deer (Also known as “Pennsylvania speed bumps.)

As I ponder these things today, I realize that the two parties couldn’t have been more different and yet, I needed both for different reasons.  I needed to attend the party in the projects to show the love of Jesus to the ones who need it most.  It also helps my “street cred”.  No one wants to be around a minster who’s afraid to be around the people in their environment. They need to know that I’m not intimidated by them and I don’t look down on them.  It also helps that they know I genuinely care about them.  I’m not afraid to call Edwin and Anna my friends.  As for the party in the McMansion, I needed to be there as well.  I need to learn how not to be intimidated by wealth.  I need to stop thinking that folks with money aren’t like the rest of us.  I also need to genuinely care for those who are my brothers and sisters in the Lord, the ones who work side by side with me and the ones who work far from me, but still share my passion.  I need to learn not to judge the ones in the churches any more than those in the projects.  We have one God, one Lord and Savior and one hope, regardless of the circumstances in our lives.  We all need to be comfortable in any of those separate worlds.

Finding the blessings in the problems

Our lawnmower broke – again.  That makes four mowers and a lawn tractor that our yard has “eaten” in the last two years.  Two straight weeks of rain have made the lawn grow lush, full – and waist high.  Seriously.  I could lose my grandson in the grass.  Our goats can’t even make a dent because it’s too much.  We need a bush hog, but it’s not in the budget, but I think I’m okay enjoying the yard as  it is for the moment.  You see, with all of the grass and the weeds and the uninterrupted nature going on back there, it’s become its own little wonderland.

During the day, there are bees and butterflies everywhere, but I prefer the night.   There’s nothing to interfere with nature as God intended and the fireflies compete with the stars.  It looks like our manicured backyard did when I was a kid.  I noticed a few years ago that there were fewer “lightning bugs” than there were forty years ago, but not in my backyard now.  We have them by the thousands and I wish I had a way to capture it on a camera to share.  The cloudy nights of the last few weeks have made it even more noticeable – and magical.  I think we can go without a mower for awhile longer.  If we had mowed like everyone else, we wouldn’t have any fireflies, just like everyone else.  I think God is using this opportunity to increase the firefly population in our area.  You may disagree, but I prefer to put a happy face on what some consider a dreadful situation.

I’m asking God to make a way for us to cut the grass and make our backyard usable again.  In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the wildlife and thank God for letting us make lemons into lemonade…

Bumping into someone else’s dream

I had a dream last Monday (June 15) that was odd.  In the dream, I was in a house full of babies.  I was looking for one to nurse, but it had to be the right one.  When I found the right one, I nursed her until she was ready to wean, then went in search of the next one.  I woke up wondering what it meant, but it didn’t make much sense to me.  I knew that it was a spiritual thing, but I didn’t get it.

On Wednesday, I met with my new coworker.  I told her about the dream and she started laughing after getting over the initial shock.  Apparently, SHE had a dream a few months ago where she was in a house full of babies.  She said she saw newborn babies, freshly washed, on a conveyor belt.  Each one was in a tub of crystal clear water and she knew she was responsible for these babies.  She asked God how she was going to take care of them all, but she woke up before she got an answer.

I haven’t been writing much because there’s so much going on in my life right now, but I see God moving in ways I could never imagine.  I’m being pulled and stretched, but instead of being uncomfortable in this place of unfamiliarity and discomfort, I’m relishing it.  I see God moving!  I see the world around me being reached and changed and I’m excited to see what He has planned next.  It’s been a long, hard and frequently painful road to get to this place.  It’s still not easy, but I feel like I’ve finally turned a corner and better things are ahead.

If you’re still in the midst of the struggle and it feels like it’s never going to end, keep moving.  There really is another side and you’ll get there if you don’t give up.  It’s been a twenty year walk for me, but that doesn’t mean it will take that long for you.  I know that I’m no different from anyone else.  I have my own road, but none of us are more important or better than another.  If God will fix my life and use me, He’ll do the same for you because He’s no respecter of persons.  Be encouraged and keep going.

This morning’s dream

This morning, I dreamed that I was back in the military.  I was in some sort of school and graduation was two days away, so we were in the middle of the finals.  I was driving to school with my youngest daughter.  Jennifer was going to take the car after dropping me off at school.  We had to stop for gas and coffee on the way.  We ran into some of my fellow students while waiting in line.  One of them had some issues with his uniform, which I pointed out to him and helped him correct.  I told him that they’re especially picky about those things as graduation draws near and several others agreed with me.  The others were finished before me, so I told them that I would see them in class.

When I got to the front of the line, I only had six dollars for gas – and nothing to pay for the coffee.  The cashier (who looked like Leah Remini) told me that I could barter for the coffee.  I opened my purse to find anything to barter with.  I had some Tic- Tacs, an open pack of gum and my wallet.  The cashier said that she would take my M&Ms, which suddenly appeared as soon as she said it.  I got my coffee, then went to get in line to get my gas.

I kept getting cut off from the gas pumps.  Every time I began to move forward, someone would cut me off.  I was getting extremely upset because I was now running late for class (and being late is one of my biggest peeves.)  Someone told me that there was another set of pumps around back, so I drove around to find them.  I located them, but they were in a strange position in reference to the store and I couldn’t find the right road to take me to them.  I walked around three or four times before I found the correct driveway to take.  I finally got my gas and went to school, but I was very late.  By the time I arrived, the other students had already completed the first hour and I had no time to catch up to them.  The instructors were yelling at me and didn’t want to hear my excuses.  They finally told me to join the others.

We went to some kind of assembly, like graduation practice.  We were all sitting in the stands – when my big dog burst through my bedroom door and woke me up.  I dozed off after throwing her out and I found myself back in the dream, but I never got beyond the bleachers.  Through most of the dream, I had the feeling that graduation was so close that I was going to miss something vital and fail to graduate if I didn’t get to school soon enough.