Monday, December 28, 2009

The Interloper

Part 3 of this story series ...

They'd been looking for Him.

He didn't show up until about half-way through the Feast, but when He did, there was no question that He had arrived.

And they thought they finally had their chance to arrest Him and kill Him.

They were already livid at what He'd done the last time He'd been in Jerusalem. He'd healed a cripple on the Sabbath.

On. the. Sabbath.

How dare He? The Law of Moses was clear that no work was to be done that day! Anyone knew that such an act was direct violation, and yet this man -- this Galilean -- had no regard for their teachings or rules. He actually told them off for being so offended.

They were incensed.

And they wanted Him dead.


So now He was back in Jerusalem, and they were ready to pounce.

But there was a small problem. They weren't prepared for it and hadn't foreseen it, either.

The crowds loved Him. They gathered around Him like hungry children at a father's knee, asking Him questions with the same insistence of a five-year-old who wants to know, "Why? Why? Why?" He was patient, guiding them through the ancient writings of the Scriptures.

And He was accessible -- infuriatingly accessible.

This man from a no-name hole-in-the-wall village in a lowly-esteemed place of Israel had positioned Himself right in the center of the place where He didn't belong -- the Temple Courts.

They whispered angrily among themselves that this was one of the biggest affronts He could have managed. They were appalled when they heard His Galilean accent ring through the resplendent colonnades, echoing in the place where they were solely supposed to be the teachers and guides of the people.

How dare He?

Who was He, to place Himself there? Jerusalem was known for its schools of rabbinical teaching, and the Temple Courts were reserved for the highest of highest teachers of the day. Throughout the Feast, it was tradition for the crowds to "teacher shop." Each of the most revered rabbis chose a colonnade to sit by and share his understanding and revelation of the Law. The people would move from post to post, listening and learning.

This time was only for those teachers.

And yet, here was their sworn enemy, putting Himself above the rest of them -- and drawing the biggest crowds of all!

So they decided to do something about it.

They would trap Him in His own words, this interloper.

They would interrogate Him before the largest group of people and prove to Israel, all of Israel, gathered for this Feast, that He was a big fake. A liar. A deceiver. A son of Satan.

He didn't belong here.

They were going to prove it.

And then they were going to kill Him.

What does this have to do with a Christian Safehouse? Tune in for part 4 of the story ...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Most Popular Feast of the Year

Part 2 in this story series ...

Think of it as an ancient Thanksgiving feast, except one that lasted a full seven days.


The Feast of Tabernacles.

Americans think their turkey day is lavish. But this celebration more than eclipsed it.

And by far, it was the most popular feast of the year for the Jewish people 2,000 years ago.

It took place in the same time of year that our Thanksgiving takes place -- autumn. People made "booths," from tree branches. These little shelters peppered the streets, parks and even the roofs of houses throughout Jerusalem -- and along the roads leading into the city.

They signified the 40 years that the Israelites wandered through the wilderness to their Promised Land and the tents in which their forefathers lived before reaching their permanent home.

One of the highlights each day was the pouring of water in the Temple ... using the Golden Pitcher. The water also had its own symbolism: that of the water that poured when Moses struck a rock in the desert.

In the evenings, the priests lit two candelabra, which represented the pillar of fire that God used to lead the people through the Sinai peninsula.

Then, after the seventh day, the people came together for a solemn assembly, where they would remember all of the things God did, including the outpouring of water.

What they didn't realize was that the water held a deeper significance -- that of His Spirit that thoroughly quenches the thirst of the human soul.

Perhaps it was this lack of understanding that led to the most dramatic celebration of Sukkot when Jesus Himself attended the festivities.

It became a Sukkot that would be remembered for the next 2,000 years.

At the center of the controversy?

The Golden Pitcher.

What does this have to do with a Christian Safehouse? Tune in for part 3 of the story ...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Down for the Count

Apologies for the break in storytelling. I received doctor's orders to rest yesterday, as I have bronchitis, which he also said was "borderline pneumonia."

When my mental faculties are in good running order again, we'll continue with the tale!

Thanks for your patience.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Golden Pitcher

Part one of this story series ...

Once a year, it was pulled from its storage place for a very special occasion.

The Golden Pitcher.

It became the center of focus, the gleaming sight on which all eyes fell, the symbolic icon of layers upon layers of history, stories, rituals.

All tongues stopped wagging, all ears bent forward to hear, all irises followed the man that carried it, as it went from one end of the Temple to the other. The Golden Pitcher -- well, it was a sight to behold!

But for all of the hubbub that surrounded it, The Golden Pitcher was actually just a vessel. A container. A glorified Tupperware bowl.

There was nothing magical about it, nothing excitingly fresh or new of its purpose, nothing that changed in its shape or form.

It just was.

And yet, it represented so much more than anyone could have imagined.

The Golden Pitcher, a shining-in-the-sun work of art.

It was priceless.


What was this Golden Pitcher, and what does it have to do with the Christian Safehouse?

Tune in tomorrow for the beginning of its tale ...

Friday, December 11, 2009



ChinaAid recently received another report from inside sources in China that Gao Zhisheng has been severely beaten by authorities. The report stated his current living condition is worse than death and that Gao is crying daily in pain and desperation.

The Chinese government has responded to the increased worldwide pressure for Gao Zhisheng's release by cutting off communication with two of Gao's siblings living in China and placing them under police surveillance.

In a November 26th interview with Radio Free Asia, Gao's brother, Gao Zhiyi, stated, "For every question, there are three unknowns. No one knows anything. They won't talk to us and they won't meet with us... Even if Gao Zhisheng had committed a terrible crime, his family would still have the right to know what had happened to him!"

On Saturday, December 5th, Gao's older brother (Zhiyi) and sister lost all communication contact when their phone lines were disabled, following the release of the RFA interview.

Now more than ever, Gao Zhisheng needs our help!

In a recent visit to Washington, D.C., ChinaAid met with several leading congressmen who have been moved by their constituents (those like you) telling Gao's story - and they have proposed a Congressional Resolution on Gao Zhisheng's behalf. Our American leaders have begun to listen, and with more voices, we can make that resolution a reality!

So far, 5,284 people have contacted their local U.S. Representative to speak out on behalf of Gao Zhisheng. Continue to add your voice! We have to keep the momentum going on behalf of this innocent man who himself was a defender of the persecuted.

Please take action now.

Go to Sign a petition for his release. There is also a link so that you can contact your Congressman and voice your request that the House will pass a resolution on Gao's behalf, to be sent to the Chinese government.

Thank you!

Friday, December 4, 2009

So. Do We Debate the Atheist?

Conclusion of this week's series ...

Friday Night.
My living room.
Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

It's a crisp 30 degrees outside, and within the log walls of our lake house we are snug and at peace. Neil slumbers. Brent taps away on his laptop for his work tomorrow morning. And I scan through posts on Twitter, catching up on people's thoughts, dreams, hopes, questions, emotions, routines ... lives.

Within each Twitter of up to 140 characters, is a story -- whether it's a businessman trying to improve his image, a mom sharing her day's frustrations, a senior citizen offering a nugget of wisdom from life lessons ... or an atheist, making a case for the non-existence of a Diety.

As I reflect on the past three weeks, the people I've met and the lessons learned, I wonder ... are Christians correct when they say, "Abandon the atheist to his or her desires. They will not hear. They are hostile. Spend your time with those who are open to hearing. Why waste your time?"

And resoundingly, the answer in my heart and mind ... is NO.


Yes, there are many angry people out there who take offense at the premise of a loving God, much less a crazy middle-aged loud-mouthed woman in America who thinks nothing of pushing her views on them.

But there are too many others.

Listen -- I don't know their stories, their pasts, presents or futures. Neither do you. Do you think that if, given the chance, 1st century Christians would have walked straight into the murderous path of Saul? We can see that they were afraid of him after his conversion and change of identity to Paul. What if they had pushed him aside, wouldn't believe it was possible for him to embrace the message of the Living Christ?

At some point, we have to be willing to love the skeptics.

Today I was called a whore. I was labeled a liar. I was ridiculed. I was bemoaned as a nuisance.

And that was just before noon.

I tell you what, though ... there is a deep-seated love that burns, that did not originate with me but with Him.

Do you share His passion for those who refuse to know Him?

Don't forget that the Prodigal son was welcomed home with a party. That father waited day and night, looking for that child to return to him. What if the story had been different, in that the older brother had said to the dad, "Dad, I know this is killing you. I'm going to go find my brother and your son. I'm going to reason with him. I'm going to do everything I can to bring him back. Don't worry, Dad. I'll do what I can to help you get your boy home again."

What if?

We can all be the older brother.

And when the Prodigals kick and scream, throw tantrums and curse, threaten and cajole ... we can just love them back.

Eventually, a few of them are going to come to their senses. A few of them will say, "At least in my Father's house, I had food to eat."

And, if we're willing to be used to seek them out for Him, eventually those few will hightail it home, back into the arms of our Dad.

Are you willing to go after them, though?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Leaning In for Clarity

Part 6 of this story series ...

A favorite saying around our church is to "lean in." Basically, it means a willingness to surrender all control to God -- to lean into His chest -- and let Him handle a situation for you.

On that day, when I felt that an atheist's question was too tricky to answer, I leaned in. I prayed for a few hours for clarity, for wisdom -- and also for a loving response, because to be quite frank, by this time I'd had it with the guy.

When the answer came, I wasn't sure that I'd understood Him correctly.

He brought to mind how He'd been faced with many similar trick questions. And the primary way that He dealt with them ... was to answer questions with questions. You remember the most famous story, I'm sure ...

"Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. 'Teacher,' they said, 'we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?'

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, 'You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.' They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, 'Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?'

'Caesar's,' they replied. Then he said to them, 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.'"

When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away."

"That's a great story," I prayed, "but what question am I to ask?"

The answer was as clear as the sun shining outside of my window, and yet ... the meaning behind it still stumped me. "Just do it," He spoke to my heart. "Just ask it."

About two hours later, I was sitting with my laptop open to Twitter, when the atheist pinged me again. This time, he wasn't alone. He'd solicited backup from a second anti-theist. A third person, who is a friendly atheist I know from Twitter, was also in on the discussion.

"Are you ready for round two?" he asked.

"Let's go."

"So ... did you get your answer? What is it? Am I going to Heaven, or to Hell?"

"I'll answer your question, but first you have to answer one for me." I typed.

Nothing changed on the computer screen for several minutes. I didn't know if he was consulting with the others or was just deciding whether this was worth his trouble. Then he responded. Yes. He'd take the question.

So I typed the question that God brought to my heart.

"OK. The question is ... Do you believe in good and evil?"

Now it really was quiet in Twitterland. It took what seemed an eternity before I saw a response. And as I waited, I prayed. I asked God, "What am I going to do if they come up with an answer? I don't even know what to say."

"Just wait," He told me. "It will be clear to you."

The atheist pinged back something nonsensical ... about Donny Osmond and ... wow, I can't even reconstruct it. Suffice it to say, it was gibberish.

"That's not an answer," I replied. "It's simple, yes or no. Do you believe in good and evil, or not?"

The other two decided to try to help communicate for their buddy.

"What he's trying to say," one typed, "is that good and evil is not black and white. There are shades of gray. You might kill someone, and killing is evil, but if you're killing for a moral cause, it isn't."


Suddenly, it was completely clear to me why God prompted this question!

"So," my interrogator said, "I answered your question. Now you answer mine. Am I going to Heaven, or to Hell?"

I typed several Tweets to answer him -- after all, we only have 140 characters per Tweet. But this is what God prompted to me:

"You say that there is no way that we as humans can completely determine good and evil, that there are gray areas to both. If we as humans cannot determine it completely, how are we to judge whether an action is good or evil, perfectly? We can't. Because just like you said -- it can be a shade of gray. Now God is the perfect judge. And in Matthew 7:1, He tells us, 'Do not judge, or you, too will be judged.' He is the only one who sees good and evil and the shades of gray. He is the only perfect one to judge. Therefore, I don't know if you are going to Heaven or Hell. I am not your judge. God is your judge. He will decide where you're going."

Silence. Not a flicker of a word crossed the screen. Then ... suddenly ...


"I did answer the question. You just told me there is no way for us to know the difference from good and evil because of the grays. God is the perfect judge. God knows what will happen to you, and that's between you and God. By my Scripture, I am NOT ALLOWED to say whether you are going to Heaven or to Hell, because, like you said, we cannot fully know as humans what is evil and what is good."

He ranted some more, and I just looked at the screen and smiled.

Then, I did what I always do when God surprises me with an answer to prayer. I looked to my right, closed my eyes, and envisioned Him sitting next to me on the couch.

"Hey. Thanks."

"I told you that you didn't have to worry."

I sighed and smiled.

"You're the best."

So ... what is the point of this story ... and what does all of it have to do with a Christian Safehouse? Tomorrow, tune in for the conclusion.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Unforeseen Pitfalls

Part 5 of this story series …

For three days, an anti-theist, or “Atheist Enemy” for our purposes, had been pinging me with questions. Initially, I started off answering cordially. But soon it became apparent that this individual was only interested in one thing – shredding me and my beliefs.

It didn’t take long before his questions evolved from simple inquiries about faith and God to a hostile cross examination. He tried every which way to trip me up.

I answered his questions, at first because I was intrigued, and the mental exercise was good for me. But within about 24 hours after the barrage started, I felt tired from it. Still, I kept up the dialog.

And that’s when it happened – the pitfall for which I hadn’t bargained. My adversary came up with a trick question that was nearly impossible to answer:

“Do you think I am going to Heaven or to Hell?” he asked.

I sucked in my breath and looked at the question on the screen, the fonts boring into my eye sockets like poker irons. This was one I actually hadn’t considered.

At that very moment, my phone rang. You may think this is coincidence – but I count it yet another piece of evidence that God was hanging around with me. The caller was my Bible study leader.


“Wow. What’s going on?” We haven’t known each other long, but she’s a sharp cookie, this one. “I can tell something’s wrong,” she added.

I explained what had been happening.

“Can I ask a question?”


“Are you praying every time you respond?”

That was a million-dollar question. Most of the time I allowed myself to be pressured into an immediate response. Even as I was talking to my friend, the atheist was sending ping after ping.

“I’m waiting!” said one tweet.

“You have a soul on the other end here that needs to be saved! Aren’t you concerned?” said another.

“Don’t you care where I go after I die? Why aren’t you responding?”

Chagrined, I read her the lines as they came in.

“But back to your question about whether I pray before I respond. To be honest, sometimes I do, but not always, because I feel pressured to get back to the person immediately, as you can see from these messages he’s now sending.”

“Don’t be,” she responded. “I think that before you give an answer, you need to pray long and hard about it. Listen. God will tell you what to say,” she told me. “Ask Him for words. He won’t disappoint you. And I’ll pray, too,” she added.

I agreed and sent the guy a one-line tweet: “I’ll answer your question, but I have to pray about it first.”

Of course, this triggered a huge guffaw on the other end.

“Hey!” he pinged to others who were following the conversation. “She’s going into conference about this! She’s working out a deal for me!”

I put the laptop aside.

And then I prayed.

The answer came almost immediately.

You know how this works, if you’re a whole-hearted pray-er. As you try to sort out a problem, suddenly, that little miracle takes place: It’s no longer a one-sided conversation. You know without a doubt that the answer in your mind did NOT originate with you, but with Him.

This was most definitely one of those cases.

“Are You sure?” I asked Him.

“Trust Me,” He spoke the words to my heart, as clearly as if they were audible. “Now. This is what you’re going to do ….”

Curious about how God intervenes on the spot when you need Him? Tune in tomorrow for the next part of the story series …

Scrapping with "Atheist Enemies"

Part 4 in this story series ...

Are you scrappy?

If you choose to debate the other type of atheist, the "anti-theist," you have to be ready for an all-out-bare-knuckle-street-fight of words.

The Atheist Enemy is not interested in logic. Their sole aim is to destroy any ounce of credibility to you and God's message of love. If you go on Twitter and do a search under the hashtag #atheist, you'll easily be able to pick out the Friendlies versus the Enemies.

The Enemies get offended with an eye blink. Not only do they let you know they're affronted by your mere existence -- they'll also do everything possible to hold you up to public ridicule. I've had more than one instance where an "Atheist Enemy" even tried to circumvent my regular discussions with who I call "the normal people," when they realized people were engaging me.

Now ... the question is ... do you even bother dealing with an Enemy?

My honest opinion? Do everything possible to avoid them. They are not interested in what you have to say about God or Jesus. They are out to decimate you AND Him. What's the point? At the end of one of these debating sessions, you will feel spent and exhausted, perhaps a little bruised emotionally. And you might have wasted precious hours and time that could have been spent on someone who was truly seeking God.

The flip side, though, is what do you do if an Enemy approaches you and asks you for a debate? This is tough. I have to admit that it's tempting to me, as I love a good match of wits. But remember -- this debate is not about YOU or proving that YOU are right. It's about pointing someone to God's love. If that person is only out to crucify Christ all over again, then no matter what you do or say, it won't dent their steel heart.

But there is one reason to proceed -- it's for the benefit of others who are watching the match from the sidelines. These are people who you may not even know are there. As you banter in a public forum in a place like Twitter, regardless of whether the Atheist Enemy is receptive, there are other people who are taking notes on what both of you are saying.

This is the one and only reason I engaged two such pit bulls simultaneously in an open Twitter discussion.

From this debate, I learned one salient truth:

Each encounter must be covered -- COVERED -- in prayer.

Wanna know what happened? Tune in tomorrow for the next part of the story.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Chatting with "Atheist Friendlies"

Part three in this story series ...

One of the most important things to do when you first meet and engage an atheist in debate is to determine right off the bat whether they are a "Friendly" or an "Enemy." We'll cover the times when it's not so easy to discern immediately, but for now, let's dive into how to handle conversation with someone who is an obvious "Friendly."

Keep in mind I've only been actively chatting with atheists on Twitter for about three weeks. I still have a lot to learn and don't have a lock on this, to be sure. But here are some general observations and pointers if you find yourself in a bantering situation with the "Friendlies:"

1. Know that their purpose is to glean information from you, not to antagonize you.
So ... don't antagonize them. If you were in a regular setting -- a workplace or a Christmas party -- and someone asked if you went to church, then revealed they were an atheist, how would you respond? Hopefully, in such a situation, you'd be polite and courteous. The same goes for an online discussion. Just because you are sight unseen doesn't give you license to speak down to them or to immediately charge them.

2. Assume the best in the person, not the worst.
It's easy for us to be defensive when we hear someone say, "God doesn't exist." But remember they've come to that conclusion for a good reason. As one "Friendly" pointed out to me yesterday (rightly so!), the choice for non-belief is very painful for many people. If this person was a former believer and became disenfranchised for some reason, they have already been through the pain of "realizing" that what they thought was true "wasn't," the Friendly told me. I never considered that before, and that's because I was assuming the worst of all atheists. That's a mistake you never want to make, especially if you espouse that you love Jesus.

3. See them for who they are: These are people with real lives, real families, real dreams. They are NOT Hannibal Lecter. They are very likable people, very smart people and also very kind people. When I sent out a note on Twitter that I was receiving anonymous threats to my other blog, Kingdom Treasures, the Friendlies responded with great concern and sadness. The Enemies will question whether you're telling the truth, because they are accustomed to dealing with lies. But Friendlies? They'll stick up for you, because like the rest of society, they're not any different when it comes to human compassion.

4. Understand that they feel misunderstood. And to a great degree, in the larger Christian community, they are misunderstood. When chatting, communicate that you accept them and love them as you do your fellow believers. Remember the famous "love" passage in Matthew?

This is a great one: "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5: 46-48

5. Don't be impatient for them to immediately accept your words.
Listen. I have a very dear friend of more than 20 years who is agnostic. We have gone rounds for hours and hours about my belief and his unbelief. Will he ever believe? I have no idea. But this guy is my friend. I still pray for him. I still believe that Jesus died for him. I still know that God's love and mercy will cover him when he's ready to ask for it. It's God's job to break the hearts of atheists and agnostics -- NOT. YOURS. So let God do it. And while you're about His business to share His love with them, do not give into the temptation of impatience.

So. Do you really love others as Jesus does? Be honest. When confronted with a person whose beliefs are opposite to yours, how do you see that person? Do you assume rotten things about them? Do you care for them? Before you decide to engage with an atheist, even a "Friendly," make sure your heart is right with God on all of these points. Otherwise ... the discussion is pointless.

Tomorrow ... we'll look at the other side of the coin -- the "Atheist Enemies." See you then!

Monday, November 30, 2009

"Toto, We Aren't in Kansas Anymore."

Part 2 in this story series ...

It really is like entering the land of Oz, this realm of Christian debate with atheists. None of the rules to which you are accustomed apply. In one instant, you become Dorothy, swept away to a place where questions swirl like the tornado that brought you there.

This is especially true when you're dealing with a category of atheists who I deem, "The Enemies."

What's the difference between an atheist who is a "Friendly" and that who is "Enemy?"

This actually crystallized for me a little more this morning, when one atheist "Friendly" named Jason sent me a short description, taken from Hey Jason, you were right on the money when you assumed this is what I was referring to!

Here's what Jason wrote:

"Austin Cane of has written a little on this. He says, "Atheism is simply the absence of belief in gods; anti-theism is a conscious and deliberate opposition to theism. People who are indifferent to the existence of alleged gods are atheists because they don't believe in the existence of any gods, but at the same time this indifference prevents them from being anti-theists as well. To a degree, this describes many if not most atheists because there are plenty of alleged gods they simply don't care about and, therefore, also don't care enough to attack belief in such gods. Anti-theism requires a couple of specific and additional beliefs: first, that theism is harmful to the believer, harmful to society, harmful to politics, harmful, to culture, etc.; second, that theism can and should be countered in order to reduce the harm it causes. If a person believes these things, then they will likely be anti-theists who work against theism by arguing that it be abandoned, promoting alternatives, or perhaps even supporting measures to suppress it."

So ... what are some real-life examples I can give you? Here's a comparison, based on my short time with them on Twitter and via email:

Atheist Friendlies will ask if you are willing to debate them. They are courteous and polite. They don't pull any punches. They wait for you to state what you believe, then follow up each of your statements with questions, asking you to qualify each explanation in more detail. Some will hear you and then disengage immediately. Others will ask for a continuation of the debate.

They also are interested in you as a person. At heart, we're all people, all seeking out new friendships and relationships that will also boost our businesses or allow us to chat about other matters, like parenting, schools, political views.

What's the best way to deal with an "Atheist Friendly?" Put on your friendship hat. Be a friend first. Jesus was a friend to those who didn't believe in Him before He tried to convince them of His love: Nicodemus. The Samaritan Woman. Even the disciple Peter.

Give them that courtesy. You will be surprised at the richness of the relationship that follows.

Atheist Enemies are on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. These are people who become easily offended by anything you say. Recently I engaged in a four-day chat marathon with someone who would fall into this category. He was very angry at one point in the discussion. So to demonstrate that I wasn't deliberately trying to anger him, I asked if he liked cheese cake.

That's a pretty innocuous question, don't you think?

This person ignored the question or the attempt to humanize the discussion in any way. In fact, when I checked out his Twitter timeline later, where you can view discussions between him and other atheists, I found that he was referring to me as "it" and was advising the others not to engage me on a personal level, because, "don't forget it is not human." The exchanges reminded me of a Nazi film I saw in high school, referring to Jewish people as rats.

Atheist Enemies will also espouse Biblical villains as their own heroes. This same person has a tagline on his Twitter home page that announces he is "a King Herod appreciator." For those of you who don't know, King Herod was the one who tried to kill the infant Jesus by slaughtering all boys ages newborn to 2 years in Bethlehem.

And of course, during their discussion with you, Atheist Enemies use various tactics to throw you off course. They will twist your verbiage, take your thoughts out of context, reapply Scripture in the way that suits them most, infer that your motives are not pure ... and in extreme cases, they will ridicule you, call you names, publicly make fun of you to others and may directly threaten you and your family with bodily harm.

So, at Priscilla's & Aquila's Place, what is our response supposed to be to both the Friendlies and the Enemies? Tune in tomorrow, and we'll discuss!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Why I Like Atheists

Part one in this series ...

Do you ever pray about the types of people God would like you to reach for Him?

I do.

And recently, I have been really amazed at the love He has put in my heart for one particular group of people: atheists.

I'm a C.S. Lewis fan, through and through. One of my favorite books by Lewis is "Surprised by Joy," an autobiography that outlines the life circumstances that led Lewis to atheism and how and why his heart changed -- not only to embrace the concept that God exists but also to accept Jesus as his friend and savior.

If you've ever read this book, you'll agree that when you talk to people of other faiths -- or those who don't believe in anything at all -- they all have very valid reasons for their points of view. Like Lewis, life circumstances or the way in which they have been treated by others sets them up for a lifetime of struggle with believing in Jesus's Divinity and what He did.

This is especially true of many atheists I've met on Twitter in the past two to three weeks.

I've been reflecting about reasons I like atheists. Truly, I like them. I thought it might be helpful for other Christians at "Priscilla's & Aquila's Place" to gain some understanding and perspective on atheists they may encounter.

So to start, here are some things that spark my interest, fascination and general admiration of the atheist mindset:

1. They are ruled by logic. They are quick to point out that logically, the Bible doesn't have a lot of merit. They dissect each and every argument for God's existence with the precision of a surgeon's knife. My 20-year career has been in journalism. As a journalist, I have a strong appreciation for someone who painstakingly examines a concept or topic from all angles.

2. They easily figure out who is genuine.
If you have an ounce of hypocrisy in your soul, don't wrestle with an atheist. I would be lying if I said I'm not hypocritical on some issues. The atheists I've met have quickly pointed out these areas in my arguments to them. They've actually done me a huge favor by doing so, because on some levels, I wasn't even aware of the depth of my hypocrisy. I was able to confess those areas to God and apologize to the atheists in question. A wonderful gift, if you're willing to allow your character to be examined under a spotlight.

3. They are extremely (extremely!) intelligent. Many atheists I've met are either involved in the sciences or engineering fields ... or they are students who brighten at the prospect of a match of wits. They love to investigate the whys and the hows. Cleverness is a universal trait among them.

4. They're funny. Their sense of humor is highly developed. They trade barbs with each other and, once they accept you as a worthy "adversary," they are friendly with sharing their jokes with you. I also find that those atheists who are genuinely nice people censor themselves when talking to a Christian they respect. This level of courteousness is touching to me. Of course, there is another "category" of atheist not as "nice," but that's for the next blog entry. :-)

5. Those who are genuinely seeking answers in life have been hurt in the past. When we read the story about Jesus seeing the masses and having compassion on them, it's a great picture of how He feels about atheists. Those who have opened up to me are really very sweet and have extremely good reasons for their lack of faith. Usually, those reasons are based in either traumatic or horribly hurtful things that have been said or done to them. When I hear these stories, my heart just aches to the point where I cry for mercy over them. Jesus tells us, "To whom much is given, much is required." I understand this statement fully now, as I was given much in the way of unconditional love as a child. This fully made it easier for me to believe in an unconditionally-loving God. Many atheists have not had that advantage. They were not given much. They are deeply in need of His love.

So is there a group of people that God has tapped you to reach? Tune in tomorrow for the next part of my story in reaching atheists, when we'll chat about the different types of atheists: who I call "The Friendlies" and "The Enemies."

See you then!

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Talking Points for Christians-"What God Thinks of You"

This is from the book, "Truefaced." Bruce Koenig, a Facebook friend, sent this out, and I thought it was so great, as it provides a great foundation for sharing your faith with others.

Comments welcome, team.

Thanks, Bruce!

Ever wondered what God thinks about you?

Do you know I knew you even before you were born? You can’t imagine the wonderful plans I have for your life. I don’t want you to fear me. What if I take away any element of condemnation, judgment or rejection? What if I tell you I love you and will always love you? That I can’t love you more than I love you now, no matter what you’ve done. That I love you as much as I love my only Son. That there’s nothing you can do to make My love go away. What if I told you that you could stop beating yourselves up? That you could stop being so formal, uncomfortable and jumpy around Me. What if I told you I am crazy about you? What if I told you even if you run to the ends of the earth and did the most unthinkable, horrible things, that when you came back, I’ll receive you with open arms and a party? What if I told you that I hate religion as much as you do? What if I told you it’s not about religion, it’s about a relationship? What if you found out that it isn’t possible for you to clean up your act enough for me to love you? What if you found out that my Son died on the cross for you? What if I told you that if you humble yourself and accept my Son, Jesus, as your Savior, you are going to heaven no matter what – it’s a done deal? What if I told you that you don’t have to “act like a Christian” but that accepting Jesus into your heart fills you with the Holy Spirit, and that the Holy Spirit will take all the fun out of sinning. That you will have your DNA re-written. That you will be fundamentally changed and rebuilt in His image. What if I told you that I’d then actually live in you? What if I told you that you didn’t have to put on a mask? That it’s ok to be who you are at this moment, with all your junk and not pretend about how close we are, how much you pray or don’t, how much you do or don’t read the Bible, or promises you’ve made to Me and didn’t keep. What if I told you that the record containing your past offenses would be erased…forever? What if you knew I will never, ever use the word punish in relation to you? What if you knew when you mess up, I’d never “get back at you?” What if you were convinced bad circumstances aren’t My way of getting even for taking advantage of Me? What if you knew the basis of our friendship isn’t how little you sin, but rather how much you let Me love you? What if you had permission to stop trying to impress Me in any way? What if you knew good deeds alone won’t get you into heaven? What if I told you that you could hurt My heart, but I’d try never to hurt yours? What if I told you I like Clapton’s music too? That the Thee’s and Thou’s have always bugged Me? What if I told you that you can open your eyes when you pray and still go to Heaven? What if I told you there was no secret agenda, no trap door? If I told you it wasn’t about your self-effort, but allowing Me to live My life through you? What if you knew? Would it change how you think of Me? I won’t force you…it’s your choice.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why I Picked a Fight With Atheists on Twitter

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know about this little drama that unfolded this week. I've received several messages and emails from people, concerned about ramifications -- both for my personal safety but most importantly for how Jesus is represented.

So let's address it here at Priscilla's & Aquila's Place, the blog for Christians to vent with each other and pray for each other. I'm open to your constructive criticism, observations and, most importantly, would appreciate your prayer for wisdom.

What went down?

My presence on Twitter is strong. I use it as a launching pad for conversations with non-believers and to promote my other blog, Kingdom Treasures.

Now some background for you non-Twitterers:

Twitter has a little tool called, "hashtag." You get people to comment on a particular subject by writing a phrase and putting a # sign in front of it. This is what is called, "a hashtag campaign." People look up that phrase and then send out Tweets on the topic.

So on Monday, I saw a hashtag campaign begin with the phrase, "You might be an atheist." (#youmightbeanatheist) Atheists followed this phrase with derogatory comments about Christianity. That was fine with me. I see that all of the time on Twitter.

But then something else happened. Some of the hashtag Tweets started attacking Jesus. And these weren't just casual phrases like, "You might be an atheist if you don't believe in Jesus." These were an all-out blasphemous assault. I then clicked on some of the Tweeters' home pages to read what else they were saying about Jesus.

It turned my blood into ice.


I decided to do something about it.

I decided to send out my own hashtags on "You might be an atheist."

In short, I dished it right back at them. I sent so many out that I flooded their hashtag stream. And these weren't innocuous, either. I decided that to get my point across, I would speak their own language.

I taunted them.


We're talking ... 5th-grade-on-the-playground-bully-you-into-hysterical-anger taunting.

Some of my atheist friends on Twitter -- those who engage with me positively and email me occasionally -- expressed concern. They understood why I was doing it, but, rightly so, pointed out that I might be goading people who would take their anger a step further.

They were right. I started receiving anonymous messages on Kingdom Treasures, which included my home address and direct threats to rape and kill me.

I know we're supposed to turn the other cheek. I know this.

When do we stand up for Jesus's Name, though? And in what method?

This story isn't over, though.

My incredible leader from Bible study called me in the middle of this drama. After listening to my rant on the phone, she wisely suggested I do one thing: Pray before I send out each and every Tweet.

So I did.

And of course, you know what happened next, if you're a strong prayer.

Some of those following the hashtag campaign started sending me private messages.

I now am constructively engaging in email conversations with five of those who were originally hostile. I discovered they are really hurting people. They have anger against God for reasons they don't understand.

And their hearts are searching.

I no longer saw them as "Enemy," but as those who were POWs in the Enemy's camp.

Their hashtags were in fact calls for help.


How do you mix it up with unbelievers? Do you? What are your approaches? What are your struggles?

And you can tell me flat out what I should've done differently. We're all in this together. We're all on the same team.

Will you pray for me?

How can I pray for you?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Making Time for Discarded People

Conclusion of this story series ...

So what does it all mean? What does the tale of Jesus's appointment with the Discarded Woman in Samaria have to do with a Christian Safe house?

Just this: We have all been discarded at one time or another. We all know the feelings of rejection, grief, disappointment. We know the type of people we were before we met Jesus and the type of people He has transformed us into being.

So do we share this hope with others?

Do we make time in our busy days and lives for other discarded people?

Yesterday I heard some women chatting about this very challenge. One said she struggled with the cashiers at Wal-Mart, who want to chat about their lives while bagging her groceries. All she cares about is car pooling the kids from school on time. She feels impatient. She doesn't want to listen.

Another said she struggles when people come to her door, asking if they can rake the leaves in her yard for money. Sometimes she wants to ignore the doorbell. She doesn't want to deal with the person or the interruption to her household activities. She doesn't want to think about the fact that maybe they lost their job and really need that money from raking her leaves.

We listened to each other and nodded, agreeing that interruptions in our routines are not pleasant. We want to be cocooned, dwelling on our children, our lives, our responsibilities. In our culture, we don't have time for others.

What if Jesus, on that hot day at noon, had decided He was too tired to talk to the Discarded Woman? He had every right to turn his back, or to just nod a greeting, then walk a few steps away while she drew her water. They may not have even spoken a word to each other.

But that's not what happened.

He allowed her into His world. He saw her hurt. He understood her pain. He cared about touching her life and healing her soul.

So give it some thought ... how much would the world change if you made time for discarded people? We all know them by sight. We hear the tremor in their voices that they try to control. We see the averted eyes and the nervous smiles. We know them, because He makes their plights plain to us.

If we know Him, then we love as He loves.

If we know Him, then we bring discarded people into His arms.

If we know Him, then we do everything we can to make sure they know: He wants to re-claim them as His own.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Discarded Woman is Re-claimed as Daughter

Part 4 of this story series ...

His Presence.

She didn’t know how much time had passed since He first asked her for a drink of water, because she had been utterly consumed with His Presence.

He took her off guard, first by speaking to her, then by drawing her in, not as a sexual conquest but as a beloved child.

And it all came down to His Presence.

His Essence.

His life-giving Spirit, as plentiful, as nourishing, as refreshing as the cold water from the depths of that well.

It deluged her in the scorching heat of that noonday sun, wiping out all memory of the burn of her shame, the loneliness of her life.

It poured down her parched throat, this Living Water … this Gift … this Presence.

He was all around her, speaking comfort to her, knowing her, understanding her … loving her. He was the Water. The Water was Him.

He had been willing to make His appointment – to put aside all to which He was entitled – peace, rest, quiet, solitude – to be with her.

But it was more than that.

He had been willing to relinquish His throne, His regal place, His honor, His might … to meet her on this day, in this moment, at this well.

He had been willing to come so that she could taste the Living Water, so that she could drink Him in and be satisfied.

As she plunged into the fountain of His wisdom, kindness, compassion and love, something miraculous happened.

The Discarded Woman was transformed into a Re-claimed Daughter.

And in that transformation, in that overwhelming and joyous reunion of Parent and child, she suddenly became willing to put aside all of her preferences, all of her rights, all of her pride, all of her reticence.

She was so excited to meet Him, to learn of Him, to know Him, to love Him … that she wanted to share Him with others.

She wanted other discarded children to drink of the Water, too.

So she dropped everything. She ran back to the village. She told everyone who would hear – “Come see Him! Could this be the Messiah?”

And they came.

They came in droves … dozens and dozens, all with needs, all with hurts, all with emptiness, all with fatigue and feelings of abandonment.

They came because she was willing to share.

They came because He came for them first.

He had an appointment, you see …. an appointment with an entire village of discarded people.

What does this have to do with a Christian Safehouse? Tune in for the conclusion of this tale …

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Inconvenient Meeting with the Discarded Woman

Part 3 of this story series …

If he had been fully human, he would have easily been annoyed.

He was resting from a long journey, his feet gritty dry with dust, his muscles tired and achy, the back of his neck itchy and scorched with sunburn.

His buddies had left him sitting at Jacob’s well, a landmark dating before Israel’s history. Although the water was there for the taking, he had nothing with which to draw it.

And it was hot. So hot. The noonday sun beat into his skin as sweat unrelentingly covered his face and back. There was no relief from it.

In this human body, in this human place, far from His celestial home, he was in physical misery.

It was an inconvenient time to meet with her.

He was within his right to suffer in silence as he spied her coming over the crest of a hill.

Any man sitting by a well alone, seeing a woman coming to draw water at the hottest time of the day, knew one thing about that woman: She was an outcast. She was probably a prostitute. She was most likely open to any proposition.

Men with a place in rabbinical society, however, were expected to ignore her, shun her. If he were fully human, he would have withdrawn immediately from the side of the well and walked a few paces away, to avoid being seen talking to her. Otherwise, what would become of his reputation?

And yet.

She was the reason he was here.

He knew before he ever set foot on this journey that he would be meeting her.

He knew before she woke to the dawn that this would be the day to change her life.

He knew before she was even born … that she belonged to Him and that He had come to this earth for her and those like her.

As she approached the well, somewhat hesitantly at the surprise sight of him, his heart welled with compassion and love. He saw everything she had done. He saw everything that had been done to her. He saw every hurt she had experienced. He knew precisely how many tear drops she had shed and how many nights she had cried so hard that her head ached.

He knew.

And He loved.

Despite the inconvenient timing, despite his tiredness, despite his physical discomfort, despite his human desire to be left alone … He spoke to her.

That’s when everything changed for her – in that one moment when He said, “Will you give me a drink?”

She was about to learn that He instead was the giver of water.

What does this have to do with a Christian Safehouse? Tune in for the next part of the story …

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Discarded Woman’s Tale of Rejection

Part 2 of this story series...


That’s how many husbands she’d had.

But this was no Elizabeth Taylor, wearing men on her arm like golden bangles and casting each aside for a more dashing charmer.

This was a woman who had been rejected.

Five times.

Five times she had married, and five times she had been left.

There’s one of two reasons that she had been abandoned – or a combination thereof:

The first would have been just sheer bad luck. Under the Law of Moses, after a man died, his widow was to have been married to his brother. This is so that the deceased’s name could be carried on – and so that the woman would continue to be cared for.

So it is possible that she had been married to five different brothers, who died one after the other.

But there was a second and more probable reason for her predicament.

She may have been barren. A woman unable to produce children was a scourge – so much so, that the Law also allowed a man to divorce her and move on to someone who could give him a son.

Whether she had been married off from one sibling to another … or whether she had been summarily dismissed for her lack of childbearing or any other type of displeasing reason … she was a discarded woman.

Sadly, she was older now, not as desirable as sinewy younger Samaritan women. A sixth husband? That would have been a feat. But like many others who had been discarded, she was in a pickle. No one else would have her. Her reputation was rock-solid now. But the larger issue was that she did not have the means or ability to provide for herself.

So, discarded women like her … often had to resort to prostitution.

She was living with a man, though, one who would not commit to marriage but who would support her monetarily. This seemed to be the best and only solution.

As such, even in this Samaritan culture that was less stringent than that of the Jewish brothers to the south, this woman was a pariah.

No one – not even other women – would have anything to do with her if they wanted to keep their own reputations intact.

The discarded woman had to resort to doing her daily business and errands apart from society.

And that’s why … at high noon, when the sun was burning brightest and hottest, when a breeze failed to even rustle weeds … she set out on a long trek outside the city gates to draw water from a well.

None of the other women would be there. They would be drawing water at the cool times of day, the early morning or twilight. But the discarded woman wanted to avoid their looks askance, their whispers, their pushing her out of the way, their raised eyebrows, their roll of the eyes. She didn’t need that. She already felt badly enough about herself.

She trudged out, water jug perched, sweat beading on her forehead, to Jacob’s Well.

And that’s when she saw Him.

That’s when her entire life changed.

What does this have to do with a Christian Safehouse? Tune in for part 3 of the story …

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An Appointment with a Discarded Woman

Part 1 of this story series …

He had an appointment.

He was on a trip home to Galilee.

His route could have taken him along the breathtaking western seacoast of Israel. He would have passed pretty Joppa, named so because the houses there reflected the sun. He would have gone by the Auja River flowing into the sea, where travelers saw the landscape change before their very eyes after crossing. Then He would have crossed the Plain of Sharon, noted for its flowery beauty.

Or, He could have chosen Route #2 … along the Jordan River in the Jordan Valley, rich with vegetation and wildlife galore. It would have been easy for food gathering, and the fresh water and coolness of the riverbed would have been a welcome sight for His weary band of travelers.

But He had an appointment.

And this required Him to choose the third and last Route … through Samaria.


It was home to Samaritans, half-breeds, despised by the Jewish people. Their society combined the worship of Jehovah with that of the many pagan gods. Hundreds of years ago when Israel had been conquered by invaders, the kings of old gave Samaritan land to people other than the Jews. Soon, they intermarried. Soon, they introduced other religions. Soon, the Samaritans were worshipping idols as well as the Jewish God.

Soon … they were reviled, seen as the enemy, by their brothers and sisters to the South.

He didn’t care about any of that. He had a mission in mind. And He had to choose a route through Samaria.

He had an appointment, you see,

an appointment ….

… with a discarded woman.

What does this have to do with a Christian safehouse discussion? Tune in for part 2 of the story …

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Forced Words

Take a moment and evaluate this:

When someone is in a bad spot … They’ve had a car accident and are laid up … They are sick from an unexplained illness … They’re going through a divorce … They’ve lost their job and are struggling financially …. Their family member just died ….

…Or, they’re simply lonely and need someone to listen …

How do you react?

Do you force your words?

In the heat of a moment where you feel embarrassed pity, do you make an offer to help?

If so, what do you say?

What do you promise?

If we love as He loved us, what are we doing … here in Priscilla’s and Aquila’s Place … to be there for those who are in need – physically, emotionally, spiritually?

Do we shrink away?

Do we say, “I’d love to help, but tonight I have Bible study. But I’ll pray for you.”

Do we say, “Call me if you need something!”

Because, see … both of those statements are empty promises. They are forced words. They don’t mean anything.

Be honest. Do you really think that someone who is needy is going to call you? Do you think they will take the risk to swallow their pride and say, “I am in need of help?”

Now what if you say, “Can I do something for you?” and the person actually takes you up on it and says, “Yes, thank you,” do you follow through?

Do you really mean it? Do you intend on action?

Here’s the rub about Christian living:

We can go to church every Sunday, volunteer at the soup kitchen and teach Sunday School. We can worship with our hands in the air while we sing at the top of our lungs and proclaim the salvation of Jesus to the world.

But what if our words don’t have actions to accompany them?

Consider this.

“Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, ‘Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!’ and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

“I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, "’Sounds good. You take care of the faith department; I'll handle the works department.’

“Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.

“Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That's just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?”

That’s James 2: 14-20.

So what about it?

How are you reacting, or acting, towards the needs of those around you – not just strangers but friends or those in the church who need someone to prop them up?

Are you acting, or are you doling out empty promises, cloaked in polite conversation?

Are you speaking forced words?

Are you loving the way He intends you to love?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Note to Anonymous Commenter

To the Anonymous commenter who continually leaves me messages:

It's a good thing that we don't live in the 1600's, because I am pretty sure you would accuse me of being a witch and burn me at the stake.

If my blog entries are so offensive to you, STOP READING.

I refuse to publish any more of your comments in the future.

This is a "Christian Safehouse."

That means that we support each other. We don't condemn each other. We don't judge each other. We don't suppress each other. We don't belittle each other. We don't deride each other. We are not hateful to each other. We do not speak evil to each other.

This is a safehouse.

Your entry into the conversation does not make it safe.

Therefore, you will be ignored from here on out. This is my final and last note to you.

And I'd advise you to take a hard look at Matthew 7:1 and resolve that within yourself before the day of judgment.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Recovering from Surgery

Hi everyone,

At the wise counsel of a dear friend, I am taking this post-surgical time to rest and lean into Jesus. I do have stories swirling in my mind that I want to write for you. But my friend pointed out that this is a time for sitting still, listening and absorbing the love that Jesus has for me.

My surgery of a week ago did not go well. I lost a great deal of blood, which has made recovery difficult, and I am also battling the painful after-effects of anesthesia. I covet your prayers, especially as our family deals with "Mommy" being so sick.

When I am ready to finally post an entry, I will announce it on Twitter. You can follow me @heidiraff to know exactly when I am preparing the next story installment.

Thank you so much for your loyal following! It really encourages me immeasurably to see so many of you checking into the blog, and I am looking forward to sharing what Jesus has been teaching me during this time of immense physical suffering.

With gratefulness and love,


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ah! Regular Readers, I Have Not Forgotten You

I know you've been pinging, and I know how many times. So sorry everyone. The past week, I was inundated with finishing my deadline magazine articles. I am having major abdominal surgery on Tuesday and have had to focus solely on getting my home-based business ready for a long absence. Thankfully, all the work is now finished, and I am taking these last two days to fully relax before the operation.

I will be posting another entry or two, tonight and tomorrow. And then it may be a minimum of a week before I am able to do another one. As I will be bed-bound for two to three weeks, I'll have lots of time to write and reflect ... but again it depends on pain levels and medications.

Thanks for your patience & loyal following. I'll see you here later today or tonight.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Prayer Among the Palm Trees

June 1998.
My hotel room.
St. Simon's Island, Georgia.

I am 33.

I toss my suitcase on the bed and make my way to open heavy blinds and turn on the A/C, the stuffiness of the room mirroring my heaviness of heart.

Vacationing solo, I have arrived at a writers' conference on this quaint Georgian island, as loaded with Spanish Moss and Kudzu as it is with antebellum homes.

But I'm not excited to be here.

I know that when I get home after this week away, I will break up with my boyfriend of two years. He is Jewish. We have reached an impasse in our relationship. He feels that if we get married and have children, we should not discuss Jesus with them.

I feel oppositely.

So here I stand in my conference hotel room, with a week of solitude looming, and dreading the pain I'll feel when the relationship has finally been severed.

Music fills my mind -- a tune of sheer grief. I've never actually heard this song before ... it's something that my mind has conjured suddenly all on its own. It's as if my soul has transformed into the music itself, that I am the music personified. It bathes me in my sadness.

I stare at the palm trees. They bend in the oven-like wind. I focus on the swaying palms and dwell on the time when Jesus marched into Jerusalem on a donkey, while people waved palms in His face and hailed Him as King. I ask myself, "Am I willing to put Him back on his throne, make Him King in my life again?"

I am. I pray among the palm trees.

"I know it's not possible for me to stay in this relationship. If I do, I will always doubt any decision he makes for You. I will always wonder. If he tells me in the future that he has changed and is now a Christian, I will doubt it. I would rather spend a lifetime apart from him, knowing that my distance from him might someday help him to give his life to you, unreservedly. I am in the way right now. I am his hurdle. I will remove myself from his life completely, in the hopes that someday he will find You."

And I do. I end it on my return home.

I tell him I will never marry him. But I keep the reason to myself. Giving him the reason will further be an impediment for his belief.

I would rather be alone for the rest of my life than allow that to happen.

And I pray. I pray for a decade. Each time my old boyfriend comes to mind, I pray that he will not die before he meets Jesus. I plead for his salvation. We are apart for good on this earth, but I have not let go of pleading his case before God's throne.

Eleven Years and Two Months Later.
My home.
Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

I am 44.

I'm happily married now. My husband loves Jesus, and we lavish our faith and love on our 6-year-old son.

But within the past week, I have had Internet correspondence with my old boyfriend. He found me on Facebook and then saw me post a note that my pastor would give a very special talk: "What happens 30 seconds after you die?"

So on Sunday, he logged onto the church Web site and watched live. He chatted with online moderators about the meaning of the message. When it was over, he emailed several questions.

This morning, he told me he was ready to give his heart to Jesus.

I close my computer laptop, my hands shaking.

Did this really just happen?

It did.

And the best part is ... it happened without my pressure or cajoling. It happened without my presence in his life. It happened just as I had hoped it would -- a full and complete submission to the heart of Jesus, sans me.

It happened.

Tonight my friend goes to bed, covered in the amazing love of Jesus, his sins washed clean. Tonight I can sleep for the first time in 11 years, knowing that God is faithful, even in circumstances that may seem dark and ominous.

Look at what He just did.

I saw my prayer among the palm trees answered today. I was able to move on with life. I was able to meet my husband, the man of my dreams, and receive the golden gift of a child. The blessings have been ten-fold since then.

And now I have a new blessing for which to be thankful: my friend's salvation.

Is someone in your life who needs to know Him? Don't give up hope. Keep praying. Keep the faith. Don't stop. Even if you are miles apart emotionally and physically, remember the reason you cared for them in the first place.

So what about you and the people in your life who don't know Jesus? How can I pray for them?

How can I pray for you today?

Monday, September 14, 2009

An Oatmeal-Encrusted Body & A Pileated Woodpecker

My home.
Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

We are two seconds from leaving our house for church, when my torso starts to feel hot and then begins to itch.

I scramble into the bathroom to inspect for the cause. I'm horrified by the mirror's reflection.

My stomach, back, arms and legs are covered in a red rash. Suddenly, my entire body is on fire with the pain of it.

Grabbing my Aveeno oatmeal bath supply, I make a paste and smear it where ever there is discomfort.

"I can't go to church like this," I tell Brent. "I'm sorry."

And I am.

I have been looking forward to this particular church service for a week. Our pastor Pete His is going to talk about what happens to someone 30 seconds after they die. I've been hyping the event on my Twitter page, my Facebook page and my other blog, Kingdom Treasures. Already I have been fielding questions about it from my friends and followers.

The rash, though, is the cherry on top of horrific days. I've been battling a sinus infection, plus I have been in extreme pain and will undergo surgery at month's end. My entire week has been spent in my living room recliner, mostly feeling sorry for myself.

And now. Now I have this .... RASH.

But I quickly learn there is a reason I am allowed to suffer.

I open up my church service on my computer, where I can see it live. I am surprised to discover two of my facebook friends there. They have all kinds of questions as the talk about death and our immorality unfolds. I realize ... I'm an instrumental part of their lives. Sure, anyone could speak to them in the chat room, had I gone to church and not had this rash. But to be present for them -- to be able to interact with them as they processed the somber message -- is a gift straight from Heaven.

Suddenly I hear a faint rustling at my dining room door.

I look up from the computer to see a Pileated Woodpecker, sitting on the edge, staring into my eyes. He cocks his head to the side, studying my house. He is beautiful. His shock of red feathers top his crown like a Robin Hood beret.

And then he takes flight into the trees.

He is my second gift from Heaven.

I don't know how things will turn out with my friends, whether they will fully absorb all of the information they received yesterday -- and whether they will admit it into their hearts.

But I can tell you that in that one moment when I saw the woodpecker, I was grateful for my illnesses. Had I been to church, I would have missed all of this!

When you have a bad day or a health scare or a disappointment, where do your thoughts go? How do you accept what has happened?

"All things work together for good," the writer of Romans tells us.

Do you believe that?

I can honestly tell you that despite my oatmeal-encrusted body, I was living with joy -- joy from the ability to share with my friends and joy from the ability to see such a beautiful and rare creature ... on a day when my first choice to go to church had been painfully demolished.

What about you? What are you struggling with today? Do you see the blessings in the midst of hardship?

How can I pray for you?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Engaging Hate


It's what we encounter when we present the Name of Jesus to skeptics and to different religious groups. If you ever doubt the veracity of Jesus's claim to be the Son of God, ask yourself why the mention of His Name is so objectionable to most people.

I've had some interesting discussions lately with Christians who are befuddled by this rancid attitude, and I thought I'd share some coping methods I've adopted. I don't know if they'll help you, but these are some ways that I deal with frontal attacks on my faith.

1) Remember who they hate. Take yourself out of the equation. Their argument is not with you but with God Himself. Their views reflect the war in their hearts against Him. When you remove yourself from this battle, you can deal with their anger rationally and without fear.

2) Engage them with love. That means, don't argue for the sake of proving you are right. This is your pride at work. Take the discussion to their personal lives. Find out who they are -- what are their interests? Do they have children? What do they do for a living? When you ask these questions, they become a person to you, not an adversary. You can't help but love them. The result is that your responses will be more in keeping with Jesus's heart.

3) Are they throwing questions at you like darts? Take those questions in small chunks. Explain that you want to answer their questions but that it is not possible to tackle every one of them in one fell swoop. This is logical, and anyone who has a smidgen of a fallow heart will follow your point. If the person refuses to allow constructive dialogue on each question, they will not be won. There's no point in continuing the discussion. Tell them you will have to agree to disagree and move on.

4) Engage only the people who are willing to courteously listen. There is a difference between someone who is arguing for the sake of arguing and someone who is arguing for the sake of answering questions in their minds. The former will hurl insults, profanity and diatribes at you. The latter will appreciate that you are taking their questions seriously. Even if you are ploddingly slow at answering them, they will understand your sincerity and respond in kind.

5) Don't get sucked into trying to convert someone with whom you have a sexual attraction. If you're single and this person is a potential boyfriend/girlfriend, back off completely. Allow the arguments to be handled by a strong spiritual leader in your life. Otherwise you will fall into the trap of entering or staying in a relationship "to convert" them, and this has absolutely no good end for you.

6)Pray. Pray. Pray. If you are online in an instant message discussion, pray as the person types their notes. If you don't have an answer, disengage, explain that you have to pray about how to answer and then contact them when God makes it clear to you. It serves no purpose to keep talking if you are not allowing God's Spirit to pepper the conversation with His grace. He has to be the one speaking through you. When you sense that you have taken over the conversation from Him, it's time to request a break from the discussion. Promise the person you will get back to them. Then pray.

Do you have your own methods for dealing with skeptics? Questions? Post them here! Let's open up the discussion so that we can support each other and pray for each other.

How can I pray for you?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Miracle after the Pain

Wracked with pain, eaten with frustration, dizzy with weakness, I slump in my recliner.

Tears of self-pity wash my face, their saltiness a bitter reminder to me of what I am missing.

For months I have been looking forward to this weekend, anticipating the moment when we will open doors to our new church and also throw a big festival party for the city of Lexington, Kentucky. The object of this annual event is to get more people interested in coming to church and hearing about Jesus.

I have yearned to hear my favorite band, Third Day, bring home the message of God’s love. I have been anxiously praying for people who will process these ideas – perhaps for the first time in their lives.

I was supposed to volunteer at this event.

I was supposed to help shepherd kids in their entertainment corner of this large festival. I was supposed to also hop online with other Web chatterers and talk to people viewing the event from around the world. I was supposed to take Neil around to carnival rides and buy him a funnel cake and help him play games.

Instead, I languish. I wilt. I droop more than the tomato plants that are dying at the base of my porch steps.

I am ill. I have discovered this week that I will have surgery. At first it was thought I had cancer – a type of which only 50 percent of women survive the first five years. I gritted my teeth and worried for 24 hours until it was determined the abnormal growth in my body was not cancerous … but then I found out I would still have to subject myself to the knife.

It will be the fourth time in four years.

Then, one day before this big festival occurred, the pain overtook me. It pummeled my body. It was relentless. It ate at my insides like shark teeth.

It. Never. Quit.

And so I quit.

And here I sat, on Sunday morning, my husband and son off to the church, off to the festival, while my dog buried his web nose in the palm of my hand and licked the salt from my cheeks.

“I am useless. I can’t be used. I am done.” I said to God.

Resigned, I opened my laptop to watch the first online service at my church, which was being broadcast live on the Internet.

And that’s when she came.

My friend, far away.

I had so desperately wanted her to watch. And she was there, in the chat room, watching. She began asking questions. She chatted with others. She processed the story of the Prodigal son. She began to grasp the meaning of God’s unconditional love.

She said she will be back next week.

Later tonight, I chatted online during the festival, also broadcast live.

And as the band Third Day praised Jesus, I also began to praise Him, typing in messages to the chat room about His Glory, His Beauty, His Grace.

Others followed suit.

They too started talking about their experiences with Him. They started sharing how He had changed their lives. We dug deep together, clinging to each other via the light of a computer screen, united only by our thoughts and our hearts.

And that’s when people started to write that they were moved, that they were crying, that they needed prayer.

That’s when I realized … I am being used! He is allowing me to participate, even though I thought I had been tossed to the sidelines like a limp rag doll.

Others sent me emails. They told me that my prayers had helped them. They said that they had grasped a formerly difficult concept about God for chatting with me.

They said I had brought a smile to their faces.

I’m not writing this to you to brag.

I writing this because I want to show you, to tell you – God can use you, no matter your circumstances.

God allowed my body to be used as a punching bag for illness so that I would become weak this week … so that I would learn from Him.

What did I learn?

He is the one who brings people to Himself. We are helpless to do it without Him. And despite our weaknesses, His strength is made perfect through us. He uses us anyway, no matter our limitations! He loves us! He guides us! He prods us to help others!

And with His Mercy and Grace, with His infinite strength, we are allowed to become His vessels of glory. We are allowed to be used to draw others into His arms.

The Miracle after the Pain … that He would deign to use even me.

I can sleep, knowing that every second of suffering … was worth it.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Did I Mention Funnel Cakes?

Another commercial! Drum roll please ....

You are cordially invited to attend the biggest party ever -- and if you can't be there in person, you can check it out online, live!


We're going to have carnival rides. Funnel cakes. Carnival games. Funnel cakes. An American Idol copycat contest. Funnel cakes. Group 1 Crew, Jars of Clay and Third day. Funnel cakes. Fireworks. And to top it off ... a chance to hear more about how you can get to know God personally.

Oh! Did I mention that we're having funnel cakes???

For information on tickets and also about logging in to view it ... The event starts at 4 p.m. on Sunday and goes past midnight. Hey! It's a holiday weekend! You can do this!

Also, I will be on the Web chatting team. You can chat live with me starting at 8 p.m.

Hope to see you there!!! If you hop online, please ask for me so that we can meet!


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Making Sense of Mysteries

A brief commercial ... drum roll ...

So you like reading blogs about the Bible but you have trouble reading the Bible itself?

Look into Bible Study Fellowship. It's terrific! You get to dig into the historical context, the cultural context, the original language context ... and everything else in between ... to get a full understanding of the Bible as you've never read it before.

Go to to find a program near you.

This year, we're hitting the book of John.

Check it out!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Have a Cupcake on Me

Pink chocolate cupcake against a pink background photo

Hi Readers!

I am in the midst of a writing marathon, with a dozen stories all due on Friday. As such, I won't be blogging for the next few days.

In the meantime, have a cupcake on me! :-) This one has absolutely NO CALORIES!

Here are wishes for a sweet and joyful day for you.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Attacks on the Mind, Body and Soul

I know that as Christians, we're supposed to live victoriously.

This week is particularly hard for me.

Ironically, on Sunday, I prayed with some people at my church about this very thing.

This coming Sunday is a big day. We're opening our new auditorium to the public AND we are throwing a big party for the city of Lexington, Kentucky, with bands in attendance like Third Day and Jars of Clay, plus carnival rides and games -- even funnel cakes and fireworks.

We volunteer for this event so that we can be part of the remarkable experience of leading people closer to Jesus.

Problem is, when I approach these types of events, I do so not with joy but with dread.

I can predict like clockwork that I will face attacks -- on my mind (my relationships), my body (my physical health) and my soul (lots of "accusations" about my reactions to circumstantial hardships).

So on Sunday, I chatted and prayed with some wise people from my church about it.

They told me to live victoriously, that Jesus had conquered these problems and that I could rest in that. Finally, I thought, I've been able to voice the thing that has been bothering me for so long.

But then the attacks began, almost immediately.

On Sunday night, Brent became extremely angry with me for a financial mistake I'd made back in January.

On Monday, I received some disheartening news. I had ordered a new Muppet to do ventriloquism for children at the festival. But the committee in charge of children's ministries decided that the Muppet was "not approved." I felt discouraged that as much as I have tried to offer my volunteer services, I'm blocked from giving them.

And then today, Tuesday, I went to the doctor. I've had a nagging pain in my right side and am also anemic from inordinate blood loss. Turns out I have diseased organs that may also be cancerous. Surgery is not far off. This will be my fourth operation in four years.

I know that we all experience hardships and frustrations. This is part of life. I have to tell you, though, that mine seem to pile up right before or right after a spiritual experience or a time of significant closeness to Jesus.

I don't have answers for you on why.

I'm actually just venting here.

Do you go through this, too?

How do you deal with hardship?

How can I pray for you?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Give Me a Dose of Crazy!

Last night.
The back of an auditorium.
Quest Community Church.
Lexington, Kentucky.

I'm in awe.

In front of me is the most beautiful gift.

With a new friend named Tabitha, it's our job to assemble it.

First, a layer of pink cellophane.

Then, a tissue paper covered in black French Toile design.

Next, we put a gift in the center of the paper -- makeup, like eyeliner, lip pencil or lip gloss.

And finally, we bring the paper and cellophane around it and tie it with a sleek polka dotted ribbon. Attached is a card, advertising our church services.

Where are these gifts headed?

They're going to bars -- to party girls.

They're going to strip clubs -- to exotic dancers.

Before we start our wrapping, we receive a pep talk and a prayer from the organizer of this: Sandra.

Sandra's story tops that of the woman at the well. She, too, was an exotic dancer and also owned a pornography company.

Today, Sandra is a daughter of the Most High King.

She wants women to know that they are beloved by Him.

"We're going to take these to the bars this weekend," she tells me and Tabitha. "We want these girls to know, 'Yes, you can come to this church, and no one will judge you!' We want them to know that they're loved and beloved. What's really fun is that when they open these, the papers go all over the bar! You can see it covering the place!"

Then Sandra asks us to pray with her.

What stuns me? She doesn't pray for the girls. She prays for us -- for me and Tabitha. She thanks God for our willingness to help, to be the hands and feet of Jesus. She asks God to bless our conversation as we work together. She blesses the moments we will share together as we put these packages together and prepare them.

I am moved.

I am in awe.

Is it crazy to invite a stripper to your church?

Give me a dose of crazy!!!

I want it!

As I work alongside Tabitha, then when we are joined by a third helper named Tina, I get more and more excited about who will receive these gifts. My heart beats faster as I think about someone who may hold one and say to themselves, "Maybe I can try this church. Maybe they will accept me there. Maybe it's time for me to give it a shot. What do I have to lose?"

Better than that, what if they come and say, "Maybe I can give Jesus a try. Maybe He will accept me. Maybe it's time for me to give Him a shot. What do I have to lose?"

Are you crazy?

If not ... why not?

For more information about Beloved and Sandra's personal story, go to

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bolts out of the Blue

Funny thing, prayer.

Most people have this strong aversion to it. After all, it does feel a lot like talking to yourself, doesn’t it?

But do you ever just put aside your discomfort and dive in, open your heart, tell Him like it is, give Him your concerns, be honest about your feelings and tackle the subjects that are bothering you the most?

My biggest hurdle with prayer is allowing myself the luxury of time to do it. I tell myself too often, “I have work to do. He’ll understand. He knows I have to work hard!” I open my laptop and peruse emails, Facebook, Twitter, this blog and my other blog and their stats. I make lists of things I have to do during the day and get sucked into the dithering that goes along with social networking. Before I know it, I’m headlong into the day, without giving Him much of a by your leave.

This morning, though, He made it clear that He needed to chat.

I put Neil on the school bus around 6:55 a.m., and as usual, came inside and propped my feet up on the couch, telling myself, “I’ll get to praying after I look at these emails.”

And yet, I could hear His gentle nudge at my heart. “I have things to tell you,” He said. “Come meet with Me.”

Reluctantly, I set aside the computer and grabbed my Bible, threw on a pair of sandals and went to an outside porch swing. I kicked my feet up and rocked while I flipped through pages.

I was flooded with thoughts – all of the people who needed prayer, all of the situations that needed mending and forgiveness, all of the pressure facing me in my day, all of the worries about the health of family members and about the welfare of my child who is struggling to behave in 1st grade.

I laughed out loud. Well, I live in the woods, so there really was no one to hear me laugh except Him and a few squirrels and birds.

“What am I supposed to pray?” I said. “There are so many things to discuss with You! I could be here all day! I don’t have time for this!”

Then I sat silently for about three or four minutes while He calmed my heart. “I will tell you what to pray. Ask Me,” He said.

I took a deep breath.

“OK. Tell me what to pray.”

He did.

As if a radio signal was directly transmitting His wishes into my brain, one prayer after another popped into my mind. You know when you are really hearing from Him? It’s when you perceive that the thoughts you are having DID NOT ORIGINATE WITH YOU. There is separateness about them, a direct communication going on with your Creator.

It is unmistakeable.

First He told me to pray for a friend in India, who is Hindu and who I only know through the Instant Messages that he sends me.

Then, He told me that I needed to make things right with a woman at church – a person with whom I had a disagreement a couple of weeks ago. (See earlier blog entries for that background story!) I hadn’t yet asked her forgiveness. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that it was paramount to close the door on this and humbly find her.

And finally, He told me to pray for a particular couple that Brent and I love very much. They don’t know Jesus, and we want the relationship for them desperately.

I wrapped up my prayer and headed inside to work.

As I opened my computer, an Instant Message blinked on screen. It was my friend in India!

“Hi!” I answered his greeting. “I was just praying for you!”

This surprised him greatly. The whole idea that I was praying for him – and also that I felt God TOLD me to pray for him – touched him tenderly. We chatted for a few minutes about how God had wonderful things in store for him. I knew instantly that the reason I was asked to pray for this man was so that God could tell him … He was thinking of him!

After my friend signed off, I felt God prodding me. “Call the church and find out how to get in touch with the person with whom you had the fight.”

My hands shook as I dialed.

When the receptionist answered, I told her I was trying to solve a mystery. I had to find a stranger at the church with whom I’d had a disagreement. During the argument, this stranger had shared that she served on a particular church team.

“So my question,” I said, “is that I want to find her team leader to help me identify her. I want to tell this stranger I am sorry for the fight.”

“Well,” she said, “It might be me.”

“Well …” I said, “It might be. What do you look like?”

And guess what.

It was her.

I was able to tell her in that very moment that I was sorry, ask her forgiveness and explain why I had behaved so badly.

She forgave me.

I hung up the phone, shaking my head at how God prompted that entire exchange – and had her answer the phone to boot!

Before long, I saw an email in my box. Brent located a church that was geographically near the couple for whom we are praying. He was forwarding me correspondence with the pastor of that church. And what was even more amazing … this church was nearly identical to ours! The pastor gave Brent some advice about reaching this couple. I couldn’t believe that on the day I had been prompted to pray for them, Brent’s heart had also been moved – and that he found a pastor near them who could help us reach them!

Do I need to give you any more proof?

God doesn’t only hear our prayers. If we ask Him, He will move in our hearts to pray as He wants us to pray – and for the people that He desires to reach.

Are you intimidated by prayer?

Don’t be.

He’s your best friend, after all! He wants to help you. He wants to use you.

He wants to commune with you, like a bolt out of the blue.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Gypsy Child Lands in a Soft and Safe Place

Conclusion of this story series …

Quest Community Church.
Lexington, Kentucky.

I am 44.

I have found a church home. I have found a community of people who share the same goal – to become wholehearted followers of Christ.

This goal permeates the place where we worship: Everywhere you look, volunteers are serving – greeting people warmly, caring for children while parents are busy hearing the Word, serving coffee to newcomers, singing praises and leading the rest of us in glorious worship.

What does it mean to you to be in a community?

As I look back at the years of the Gypsy Child’s journey, I can tell you what it means to me.

It means being surrounded by people who can support you and pray for you when you work daily in a Christ-hostile environment. These people can be your lifeline to stay strong in the midst of temptation. They can warn you when they see your weaknesses and prop you up when you fail. They can wrap arms around you on Jesus’s behalf when you really want a hug from Him. They can hear your story, accept you regardless of what you’ve done and love you because He loves you.

If anyone is a poster child for reasons we need community, I am. All you have to do is look at where I’ve been and the choices I made when I didn’t have a community – when I was on the end of a branch hanging with my fingernails. I made it work for a while by myself, but eventually, it did all catch up with me. I needed community. We can only go through so much temptation and hardship alone before we fall.

That said, I don’t want to present the idea that I have this all figured out. I don’t – not by a long shot.

I still struggle with allowing people into my life. I did things alone for so long, that I can be prideful, thinking that I don’t need them.

Sometimes I tell myself, “I have been through so much that I can do more for other people than they can do for me. I can be there for others, but I shouldn’t expect others to shoulder my burdens. They wouldn’t understand. They haven’t experienced the pain I have, so I’ll just deal with it alone with God.”

I shrink from allowing myself to be completely vulnerable. Instead of focusing on my past good experiences – like the women at Fort Bragg who helped me when I was pregnant or the people from my Lutheran church in Georgia who rallied around me when I was sick – I focus on the bad. I think about church people who let me down when I was struggling so hard to fit in and belong as a single person. I allow these memories to cloud the truth that I DO need others.

Then, as I struggle with these opposing feelings, something amazing will happen. I’ll be contacted by someone in my new community. They’ll tell me how much I am loved. They’ll share with me their concerns about my spiritual welfare and warfare. They’ll provide wisdom and insight on a problem I am having.

They’ll pray for me.

They’ll be my friend.

They’ll stand in the sandals of Jesus on His behalf and say, “Hey, I’m here for you. You don’t have to do this alone. I’m willing to help out and be His emissary for you if only you’ll let me.”

This is the Christian Safehouse. Here we can share our difficulties. If you’re not in a church where you can get this kind of support, I want you to know … I’m here for you. I’ll talk to you anytime you want. If I don’t know an answer, I’ll find someone who will. And I’ll take all of your concerns to His throne and ask on your behalf for His intervention in your life.

Are you a part of a community? If you’re not, look at the Gypsy Child’s story as a warning. You don’t want to become me.

Allow yourself to be vulnerable.

Allow yourself to be loved by others who love Him, too.