Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ezra's Arrival

Just after midnight I was finally retiring for the evening when I noticed that Deanne was awake. I asked if she was going into labor yet. “I think my water just broke,” she replied. I started to smile. After she toyed with the thought of getting a good night’s rest before a trip to the hospital she eventually agreed with me that she should call the hospital and ask for their advice. We’re both glad she dialed them up. We arrived at the hospital around 1:15 and had time to smoothly transition to the delivery room unlike the last round with Eden when she was in the worst stages of contractions in the car and feeling every bump as we sped to the hospital.

Fast forward through two hours of waiting for things to start really moving when all of the sudden the intensity goes from a four on a scale of 10 to the top in seconds. We yelled for the nurse, the staff rushed in and in no time we were holding Ezra Lukas in our arms amazed at his glorious entry.

Since then he still has a habit of going zero to sixty though most of the time he is relaxed. When he’s hungry or ready to sleep you’ll know it. Such wonderful little cuddler. 

Love this guy!


Ally Across the Alley

After church on Sabbath I was taking my time getting home. For once I wasn’t in a hurry. After pulling into my spot in the alley behind our house I unloaded my guitar and headed for the trunk. On my way a neighbor lady greeted me from her tiny, two person sized, second story deck 20 yards away. I asked how she was doing which can a powerful question when take the time to listen. I had no idea how much time the answer would take. 

She started to open her heart about her painful struggle with losing three family members within a short time. As we were having this sensitive conversation long distance her neighbor’s dog on the adjacent deck was barking away and interfering with our communication. This turned into a blessing. She invited me to meet her in the front of her house to continue the conversation. I put my guitar back in the cab, went around the corner and stepped onto her porch where she invited me to take a seat.

She handed me a funeral bulletin and pointed to a for sale sign in her front lawn telling me she’d had enough and was moving to Harrisburg after living in the home for fifty-some years. Her whole life. She shared the sad events weighing on her heart but would also intersperse praise to God frequently for how He showed up in it all. In February her big brother, the family leader, collapsed dead in the snow between his house and his ride on the way to a check up after a recent fall. On the day of his funeral, while the procession was lining up in front of her house, her son’s grandpa died. A couple days after her brother’s service a cousin or uncle had a stroke and died. She tried to hold back the tears but the two month old would was still fresh to her heart.

Though she kept praising God for His goodness, she says she’s ready to go. I can understand wanting a new start after so much pain in one place. But she didn’t just leave it there. She let me know how grateful she was for our group living in the community because for years she had felt she was praying for the neighborhood alone. She said we are pillars in the community and that as she goes she’s passing the baton to us. We can continue to the race.

We exchanged names and numbers and prayed and I invited her to come to a home Bible study/evangelistic series we’re holding in May. She lit up and said she would bring her grand kids and attend with them. She invited me in to give me some popsicles for my daughter and introduce me to her boyfriend before I headed home.

What stuck out to me the most from the encounter was that people are watching us. She had seen us caroling and praying with neighbors and it made a difference for her. She felt she had an ally across the ally even though we didn’t know each other personally. 

Pray for your neighbors, smile at everyone, and when you get the opportunity, ask how they’re doing. Who knows what opportunities it will open up.

While your at it, please say a prayer for Karen and my neighborhood.



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Friday, February 14, 2014

They'll Know We Are Christians By Our _______

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” - Jesus

Yesterday I was spending some time in my neighborhood trying to connect with a couple of people who have expressed interest in Bible studies. I thought this was a brilliant plan because by Philly standards it has been a very tough winter and we had just been dumped on the night before. Thus, I knew people would be home. And they were! But neither of them were available because they were “in bed,” at 3:30 in the afternoon! 

I’m so glad I went out though because I met Neil along the way. Neil was taking a moment on his stoop after work to watch the happenings of the neighborhood. I got his attention and we had a little conversation. He asked if I lived in the neighborhood and I told him I was right around the corner where my home is marked with a sign reading, “Ministry House.” He said, “Oh, you’ve got the garden in your yard.” He knew us by our garden. Interesting.

People know us by what we do. Sure having a vegetable garden in the front of a row house is unique, but it helps me realize that everyone is “known” for something. Probably the most unique and striking thing about them. It may not be the true you they see but people will “know” you by what they see. And when you are hoping to minister to anyone that matters. 

It’s cool that we are known by our garden, I hope it will make people want to get to know us more. Ultimately I want everyone within five blocks of us to know us as the people who love their neighbors well. They might not say that outright, but that’s what I hope they will think. I hope they will see Jesus with new eyes as they are reintroduced to Him through His real, tangible love in us. What is the most noticeable characteristic of your life?


Here's a picture of two of my loves! Happy Valentine's day ;)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Break Yourself!

In Jesus Calling Sarah Young writes as if Jesus Himself was speaking, “Do not wear yourself out with analyzing and planning. Instead, let thankfulness and trust be your guides through this day; they will keep you close to Me.”

I often feel very needy. It’s interesting because God provides for my every need. I don’t lack a thing in Christ. What I need the most in my life is an attitude of praise. It will keep me close to my Savior.

After the reading the devotional I went to the Bible to pick up where I left off in my devotional routine only to find a passage that gave possibly the greatest example ever of the grateful response I want to give God for all He’s done.

Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard. She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over his head. Mark 14:3

The commentary in my Andrews University Study Bible says the bottle was worth a years wages. Many believe Mary Magdalene (the woman above) was a prostitute. I’m not sure there’s evidence from scripture but I do know that Jesus cast seven demons out of her (Luke 8:2). When I look at passages and think logically about what a possessed person could do, I think prostitution or other evil ways of making money could be part of the deal.

I don’t know how she got all that money, but it made me think of a video from that I’ve watched repeatedly about Annie Lobert who became a prostitute to gain money and power. Check it out:

“Break yourself!,” or die. Those were the options the pimp gave her. I found the contrast between Jesus and the pimp startling. The pimp demands obedience with threats while the Savior simply sets us free with no strings attached. And if we go back to the pimp (satan), Jesus would deliver us again and again and again if we survive all that.

The pimp takes everything, Jesus gives everything, even His very life. Annie Lobert left the pimp almost dead. Jesus delivered her and she gave Him her life. Now she travels about sharing the love of her Savior. Mary Magdalene broke herself, broke the bottle of earnings from her past life in a beautiful act of gratitude to the one who set her free and gave her everything. Jesus was touched by her love and He is touched by the willing sacrifices we make for Him as we show that NOTHING compares to our worship of Him.

There will be quite “logical” thoughts playing in our heads and coming from the minds of acquaintances scolding us for our extravagance. Don’t answer the pimps calls. He wants to lure you back in and use you again. I pray that we will receive sacrificial and selfless love of Jesus and that we will gladly break ourselves for Him regardless of the cost. He is everything we need and want. Praise Him!