Temporary Web of Lies

IMG_2453via Photo Challenge: Temporary

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Dancing with the Devil

Dancing

Evil lurks in the strangest place

With a mask upon its face

Pretends to court its truest love

Its secret motives never show

 

Unsuspecting of its snare

We motion toward the one so fair

Reach for the hand, begin to dance

Unaware of its powerful trance

 

Before long, it’s too late

We’ve fallen prey to hands of fate

Fooled by the tempters snare

He’s caught us unaware

Beware, beware, beware

Photo cred:  indusina on Deviantart
Copyright Journey-For-Life. 2017. All rights reserved. 

Keep ‘em Safe in the Hallways

On Sunday, after the news broke about the church shooting in San Antonio, I read a tweet that said “Our thoughts and prayers failed”.   It broke my heart. In response, I would like to address the tweet by sharing my experiences with answered prayers, for I believe in the power of prayer, and have personal experiences with God answering prayers, both large and small.

Ever since my children were in elementary school, part of our morning routine was to pause for a moment of prayer before they got on the bus.  My children were mere babies (and one of them not even born) when the tragic events unfolded at Columbine high school, but the effects of that event and countless subsequent events have guided me to cover my children in prayer every morning.  We’d gather for prayer shortly before they left the house, and, on most days, my prayers would include the phrase, “keep them safe in the hallways”.   As with many prayers, we establish routines, and sometimes, by rote, they seem to sound all alike, but we go through the motions.  I repeated this prayer every day for ten years.  In the back of my mind, with all of the emphasis on anti-bullying campaigns, I probably subconsciously thought that phrase was to protect them from being bullied.   I prayed also that God would bring them home safely.

Never in my wildest imagination would I have guessed what would unfold in the hallways at our high school in the tenth year of that prayer.   I interrupt the narration of large answered prayer to share with you a small one (it will all make sense in a moment).

My eldest daughter is very even-tempered, well-mannered young lady, who works hard to avoid drama and conflict in her life.  In spring of her sophomore year of high school, she played defense on the Lacrosse team and was managing several advanced level classes.   Lacrosse practice often ran from 8-10 pm, so she was often up very late working on homework.   She neither liked to miss school or homework assignments.  Did I mention that she’s typically very even-tempered?    On the evening of April 8, 2014, after Lacrosse practice, she was working on a school project in a foul-mood like I have never seen before.  I mean wicked.  I had never previously seen her behave this way, nor have me since this evening.  I reached my boiling point around 11:30 pm when I said to her, “Just go to bed!  Forget your homework!  Stay home from school tomorrow and finish your homework then!”  I honestly didn’t even care if she turned her homework in at that point.

She replied, “I CAN’T skip school tomorrow!  I have a lacrosse game on Thursday, so if I’m not there tomorrow, I can’t practice and if I can’t practice then I can’t play!”

“Go in late, then!  Just GO TO BED!   Sleep in tomorrow, get your work done, and I’ll take you to school before you’d be considered absent.”

With that, she stormed off to bed and I was left wondering what in the world just happened.  She was sixteen years old and, up to that point, had never really exhibited the moodiness that parents of other teenage girls complain about.

The next morning, my fifteen-year-old son was up early.  He asked if I could drive him to school instead of waiting for the bus.  He was excited to pass out a pamphlet for an upcoming youth retreat to his friends, one in particular whom he’d been praying for an opportunity to share his faith.  I took him to school early, and dropped him off.  Had he ridden the bus, he would not have been at the school until much later, and would not have been in the hallways when it happened.

As he was getting ready that morning, I readied myself for my day at work as well.  I checked my Facebook news feed and ordered a book about loving others from Amazon.  I exchanged a few texts from my youngest daughter’s voice coach, then headed off to school.  As we approached the school, I prayed as I drove, “dear God, please keep them safe in the hallways”.   I never realized what that meant until that day.

I returned home, and to the kitchen to make myself an egg.  I had literally just picked up an egg when I heard my phone buzz. I assumed it was the vocal coach, so I continued making breakfast.  I cracked the egg into the pan just as my oldest daughter came around the corner of the kitchen.  It was 7:23 AM, and she was supposed to be sleeping in to rid herself of that nasty mood from the night before.   I started to say, “What are you doing up so early?” when she said, “–N just texted me and said that J– was stabbed”.   Instinctively, I picked up my cell phone and read the text from my son.  It said, “People were stabbed.  I’m ok.  Please pray”.

To our horror, we learned that a fellow student went on a stabbing rampage that morning.  The attack occurred before the school bell had rung.  My son was walking with a group of his friends down the hallway.  The friend he’d been praying for to come to a youth retreat was the first one stabbed, tackled from behind by the perpetrator.  Before the boys could process what was happening, the student had jumped up, running down the hallway wielding two kitchen knives, stabbing and slashing everyone he could along the way. The attack lasted only a few minutes before it was thwarted by the vice principal and some others, but not before 21 people were stabbed.  My daughter’s boyfriend was one of the victims, and I very quickly realized that, had she been in school that day, she very likely would have been standing with him, and could have been a victim herself.  (That was the first answer to prayer – the small one.)

The next few hours were a blur. The boy was apprehended.  The school made umpteen phone calls to the homes of students giving instructions for where to pick up our kids, except for those who were victims or witnesses. News traveled like wildfire across the entire nation, and, in an instant, our worlds changed.  It was several hours before I could pick my son up since he had to meet with the FBI before they would allow him to leave.  Our church planned a prayer service for that evening, which was initially intended to be a place for our own youth to find sanctuary and turned out to be an enormous event,  packed not only with community members, but news media and politicians.

Over the next few hours, we learned the extent of the injuries sustained, some of them were very, very serious.  The next few days were spent chauffering students to visit hospitals all over Pittsburgh, and praying for the victims.  A few days after the event, a note was found in the students’ locker describing how long he had planned his attack, and how he idolized the shooters from Columbine, dispelling the media allegations that he simply snapped from being bullied.  Several of the students remained hospitalized for a very, very long time, and underwent multiple surgeries to repair damage done to their internal organs.  Miraculously, the 8″ blade of the knife that stabbed my daughter’s boyfriend went right in between two of his organs, completely missing anything vital.  Another answered prayer.

Miraculously, despite the perpetrators wishes and plans, there was not a single loss of life in this horrific event, which took place… you guessed it, in the hallways.   I never fully realized what exactly I was praying for, but I believe, with all of my heart, that God heard ten years of my prayers to “keep ‘em safe in the hallways”, and answered in a very large way.  Answered prayer.

Eventually, over the next several months, all of the students were released from the hospital and have recovered physically from their injuries.   I will never fully understand why God allowed my daughter to be spared that day, and why other students were not.  I will never understand why I delivered my son early that day, to be present for an event which he might otherwise have missed.  However, through all of it, I can honestly say that God heard… and answered… my prayer.  There is no doubt that God was with them in the hallway that day.   Thank you, Lord, for your answered prayer.
Copyright Journey-For-Life. 2017. All rights reserved

Resolve

At 13 she gave her life to Christ, determined to live a life to honor God for her whole life.  At 23 she met the man of her dreams and married him.   He, too, loved Jesus. Within the first five years of their marriage she suffered three miscarriages.  At 28 she and her husband adopted a beautiful baby boy and named him David.  When David was three years old there was a terrible fire at their home.  She was burned over 80% of her body trying to smother the flames the engulfed her beloved son.   He did not survive.   She spent six weeks in the hospital, refusing the morphine offered her because she didn’t like the way it made her feel.   Doctors visited from all over to observe her healing, amazed that she had survived.  They told her she was a “miracle'”.   She knew that God was with her. Her faith unwavering, her inner resolve and refused to allow her to succumb to her injuries.  

Four months after losing their son, they adopted a beautiful baby girl with big brown eyes.  Almost two years later, they adopted another baby girl, and it seemed as if life was normalizing, as much as it does after the death of a child.

Three years after adopting their second daughter, her husband was diagnosed with cancer. Unwavering faith, the two of them remained strong in their relationship with one another as well as with God.  

After five years in remission, her husbands’ cancer returned with a vengeance, this time taking his life and leaving her to raise two small children. 

Undaunted on the outside, the inner strength of this woman taught her daughters that belonging to Jesus does not shield us from bad things happening.  Instead, she couldn’t imagine going through these battles without Jesus.  

It would have been easy for her to become a victim of any one of the difficult life circumstances, let alone all of them.  Undoubtedly there were moments of doubt along the way, but her obligation to her children – to instill in them the faith she clung to – motivated her to show strength.

In some ways, people would argue God didn’t hear her prayers, but she knows that He did.  He answered them in ways that He knew would ultimately be best for His purpose.  

Copyright Journey-For-Life. 2017. All rights reserved. 

Isaiah 54 (the living translation)

Future Glory for Jerusalem
1″Sing, O childless woman,

you who have never given birth!

Break into loud and joyful song, O Jerusalem,

you who have never been in labor.

For the desolate woman now has more children

than the woman who lives with her husband,”

says the LORD.

2″Enlarge your house; build an addition.

Spread out your home, and spare no expense!

3For you will soon be bursting at the seams.

Your descendants will occupy other nations

and resettle the ruined cities.

4″Fear not; you will no longer live in shame.

Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you.

You will no longer remember the shame of your youth

and the sorrows of widowhood.

5For your Creator will be your husband;

the LORD of Heaven’s Armies is his name!

He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,

the God of all the earth.

6For the LORD has called you back from your grief–

as though you were a young wife abandoned by her husband,”

says your God.

7″For a brief moment I abandoned you,

but with great compassion I will take you back.

8In a burst of anger I turned my face away for a little while.

But with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”

says the LORD, your Redeemer.

9″Just as I swore in the time of Noah

that I would never again let a flood cover the earth,

so now I swear

that I will never again be angry and punish you.

10For the mountains may move

and the hills disappear,

but even then my faithful love for you will remain.

My covenant of blessing will never be broken,”

says the LORD, who has mercy on you.

11″O storm-battered city,

troubled and desolate!

I will rebuild you with precious jewels

and make your foundations from lapis lazuli.

12I will make your towers of sparkling rubies,

your gates of shining gems,

and your walls of precious stones.

13I will teach all your children,

and they will enjoy great peace.

14You will be secure under a government that is just and fair.

Your enemies will stay far away.

You will live in peace,

and terror will not come near.

15If any nation comes to fight you,

it is not because I sent them.

Whoever attacks you will go down in defeat.

16″I have created the blacksmith

who fans the coals beneath the forge

and makes the weapons of destruction.

And I have created the armies that destroy.

17But in that coming day

no weapon turned against you will succeed.

You will silence every voice

raised up to accuse you.

These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the LORD;

their vindication will come from me.

I, the LORD, have spoken!

Thoughts and prayers

I read a tweet shortly after the reports of the mass shooting in a church near San Antonio, that said, “thoughts and prayers failed again.”  My heart is broken.

Did our thoughts and prayers fail?

I’ve spent evenings this weekend watching episodes of horrific real life stories on ID TV, which left me thinking about all of the evil that exists in the world.   Episode after episode, incredible stories of wives who murdered their husbands, boyfriends who murdered girlfriends, friends who murdered friends.  While I find the stories fascinating, I must admit that the sheer volume of stories of such violence is alarming.  These are only the ones they’ve publicized.  Our morning news is polluted with acts of violence. I can understand why someone could draw the conclusion that our prayers failed.

Just weeks after the Mandolay Bay shooting, once again the nation mourns a tragic mass shooting, this time in San Antonio.   We post photos on our Facebook profiles that say, “pray for San Antonio”.

The tweeter’s words are haunting.  Really haunting.  His words make it sound like God has failed us, that our prayers are futile. Have we become so calloused from continued exposure to such evil in our world that our words sound shallow?

Did our thoughts and prayers fail?

Is God turning a deaf ear to our prayers?  The Bible tells of growing evil in the last days.  Though we don’t know when it will be, the book of Revelation is clear that there will come a time that God will say enough is enough.  God is a just God.  However, God wishes that all would come to know Him.

Our message in church today was centered on 1 Corinthians 16:9 “because a great door had been opened and there will be many who oppose”.  As we do more of God’s will, we often face more adversity.  Conversely, in the face of adversity, there are often doors of opportunity to share our faith with others.

At the risk of sounding trite by saying “pray for San Antonio”, I know that the community is grieving this evening, just as the communities of Las Vegas, New York, Columbine, Paducah, South Carolina, Florida, and countless other communities who struggle to understand the evil that lurks among them.    Hard to understand, for sure.  We may never understand in this side of heaven the extent of hatred of the Evil One that permeates our world, but know this: your prayers are not futile, and they haven’t failed.

I will continue praying for the people who have endured evil in this world, that they may know the peace that passes understanding that comes only through our Lord  and Savior Jesus Christ!

I leave you with this challenge today:

As you listen to discussions around the water cooler this week,  keep you eyes opened for the doors of opportunity to open to share a time when God heard your prayers; not only heard them, but answered them; not only small ones, but big ones, too; perhaps even during a time of adversity when it seemed He wasn’t listening.

See, we are His witnesses.  A witness is someone who testified what they have seen.   As believers in Him, we have seen him answer prayers.  It is our duty not only to continue praying for a lost world, but to share with that world what He has done for us individually.

No, our thought and prayers have not failed. Let’s bless others this week with stories of how He has answered our prayers.

Blessings,

SB

Copyright Journey-For-Life. 2017. All rights reserved. 

Restoration through Craigslist

I’ve mentioned before that one of my hobbies is buying things on Craigslist – I can’t really remember when it started, but probably a few years ago.  I think it started in the Goodwill  in our town– when my kids and I discovered that you can find a variety of awesomely vintage things there, really cheap – and it became a hotbed of project ideas for me.   My daughter tells me that it’s like I was holding my creativity in for so long that it’s all just kind of exploding now, like a kid with ADD. And I can’t finish a project without jumping in on something else – at least buying the raw materials, etc.

About a year ago, my mom told me that she wanted to get a new entertainment center for her tv… well, you know, people aren’t really using those much anymore, so they are plentiful on Craigslist – I said, “ooohh!  Give me a chance to find one for you on Craigslist”.   She said ok, but I think she thought I was crazy.   I got started right away, and it didn’t take me long to find an amazing oak entertainment center with these AWESOME claw feet on it.  It was located in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, which is kind of like a mini-vacation from where I live. Lol.   I contacted the owner and we made arrangements – it was the Thursday before Easter, and I had music rehearsal at church that evening, so I had to make the hour trip after work and get back in time for rehearsal (a tight squeeze, especially considering rush hour).   I asked for the dimensions of the furniture and measured my van, and thought it would be tight but would work.   I took a couple of screwdrivers with me, and a blanket, and set out on my trip.    I met the owner at her front door – a sweetheart of a girl, and together, we carried the entertainment center from her living room, out the front door, down the steps, and to the driveway where my van was parked.   I had all of the seats down, so we picked up the furniture and tried to put it in, and very quickly realized… it ain’t going.   We tried it several different ways, and I was thinking to myself, “oh my.. what will we do now? Do I have to carry it BACK into the house?  Make arrangements at a later time to come back with a truck??  What a bummer.   Just then, a guy in a truck stopped at the stop sign in front of her house and put his window down.  He asked if we needed help.   Normally, when someone asks me if I need help, my canned response is, “nah, I got it”.  Cuz I don’t really like to need help.   But I actually realized in this case, that I really DID need help.  ha.   So I just said, “yes, actually, I think we do”.    So he pulled over and got out – he was dressed in a fireman’s uniform – not the one they wear while fighting the fire – but their dressy one – he looked sharp.   He informed us he was just coming home from work, and was headed to his parent’s house for dinner.   (He looked to be mid-twenty’s, around the same age as the furniture owner).   After fiddling for a bit, he said, “you know, I think the feet have to come off”    (Ahhh, not the feet!   They were the whole reason I bought it).   “let’s look at how they come off”.   So we turned it upside down in her driveway, and, as it turned out, they were torq screws.  I had brought standard screwdrivers, but don’t’ even own a torq bit – neither did the owner.   So the firefighter says to us, “Are you going to be here for a while?”   (and really, where was I going to go?) “my house is just right over the hill, I can go home and get some tools”.    (Really?? He would do that??  how nice).  So, off he went, and the owner and I were standing there looking like damsels in distress.   We were laughing about the whole situation, and I said to her, “well, are you single?”   She said, “yes, actually I am, hahah”  and we laughed some more.   She said, “well, he IS nice guy, and we already know he likes to help people….. ”    I felt like saying, “I know someone who could play the piano for weddings”, but I thought that was pushing it.  Hahah.    So, in a few minutes, sure enough, he came back, with tools in hand, and took the feet off of the furniture – and it went right into the van.   I thanked him profusely, and off I went – I often wondered whether or not anything happened after that – I’d like to think it was the start of a beautiful relationship.  So, I brought it home, and started working on it that weekend – I made my own chalk paint (have you ever priced the real Annie Sloan chalk paint? Sheesh)   In just over a week, it was finished – and I was in love with chalk paint.  Mom was thrilled.     

ent center     ent center 2

I’ve made many CL purchases since then – most of the time, I take someone with me “just in case”.  One time, I didn’t have anyone to go with me to the town next to ours.  When I got to the address, I found it was an apartment building, and I was not super comfortable going inside by myself.   The owner of the object had just had surgery and couldn’t do the stairs, but was sending her boyfriend out with the object.   I texted my friend, Jim, who is a  cop in that town, and asked if he was in the area (he was on duty at the time).  I texted the address to him in case I went missing.  He texted back, “I’ll be there in 5 minutes”.    I said, “please no lights or sirens”.  😂 

Honestly, though, I’ve met all kinds of really nice people through my Craigslist purchases.  Last week, I bought these two awesome chest of drawers.  I don’t need them.  In fact, I have many of them.   But none are as cool or have as much character as these.  

 (I’ve been practicing some negotiation, too – especially since I don’t need them, I can offer really low price and if they don’t accept it, I don’t really care – and sometimes, to my surprise, they DO.)

On my way to pick up a CL purchase one time, I punched the address in my GPS (Google Maps on my phone) and it told me what time I’d arrive.  I had communicated to the owner via email, so I sent him an email to tell him what time I’d arrive.    I typed the email, “I should be there by 6:19, according to GPS”…   my phone auto-corrected the word GPS, so the email came out, “I should be there by 6:19 according to GOD. ”   hahaha     The guy responded, “you can’t miss the house – it looks haunted”.     Awesome.   And, indeed, it did.   Didn’t get a picture of it, but trust me.

As I look back on the projects I’ve completed, I realize one thing they have in common.  They started as junk and, through restoration, they got a new lease on life.   This similar to what Jesus does in our lives.   He takes the heap in junk that we are and restores us to an image of beauty for His glory. Indeed, no matter how broken, we can have restoration through Christ.

Revelation 21:5 Jesus says, “Behold I make all things new”.    

Copyright Journey-For-Life. 2017. All rights reserved.