Archive | April, 2013

Public Prayer…He hated it and so did I!

22 Apr

As the man approached, my guard went up; while his words conveyed he was simply a stranger in distress, I found myself doubting his story. We were in the heart of San Francisco, two blocks from the water; Ava and I sat waiting for my father outside a Starbucks on Market.

“Good evening mama, could I bother you for just one second,” the man had made eye contact with me and was approaching humbly, his two boys in tow. “I was wondering if you could help me out. You see, we just came into town and this morning both our luggage and our car were stolen. I have called a local hostel and they are willing to accept us for the night, but we need some money for a cab to get to the east side of town. Can you spare any extra change?”

Having lived in the Bay Area all of my life, requests for financial aid from people on the streets is a common occurrence. Are they really in trouble? Maybe…maybe not. Are they lying to you for money? Maybe…maybe not. Yet while his story might or might not have been true, his question was still the same, “Can you spare any change?” At this point in my life, the answer to that question simply depended on my mood and what I had in my purse. Most times the answer was “No,” and I would walk off quickly, a tinge of guilt trailing behind me, hoping they wouldn’t ask again or shout something rude. Other times, I simply ignored the question, trying to pretend I hadn’t heard them or hoping they were probably speaking to someone else (avoiding eye contact is essential in this scenario). And rarely, when I was feeling really generous, I would hand over a few dollars. In my head, this looked a lot like Mother Teresa ministering in the slums.

As I was about to make a decision on how to respond, my dad came out with his coffee and joined us. And while the gentleman re-explained his situation to my dad, I watched his two boys; they were about Ava’s age, five and six. Climbing all over the brick planter box, they appeared completely uninterested and emotionally unconnected with their father’s attempts to get strangers interested in their cause.

After hearing the man out, my dad made a decision and asked; “Can we pray for you and your sons?” my dad asked the man.

“Wait, what…No!” I thought to myself. “The man is asking for money not prayer!” I was repulsed by the idea for a number of reasons. 1. I don’t know these people. 2. He didn’t ask for prayer. 3. We are in PUBLIC. 4. We are in PUBLIC. 5. Did I mention, we are in PUBLIC…in the middle of San Francisco…with cars and business people passing by!

While I was having my own issues with my dad’s “monkey wrench,” it seemed so was our new acquaintance. Almost like a teleprompter, his face displayed extreme disgust. He seemed annoyed at us for wasting his time, and to add insult to injury, now he had to endure some old man’s ministry time with no payoff at the end.

Reluctantly, very reluctantly, all six of us formed a circle and joined hands on the sidewalk of the bustling city-center. Just before I closed my eyes for prayer, I caught a glimpse of the two boy’s faces. My cold heart melted as I saw their eagerness for prayer. These two boys, who just a minute prior were in their own world, trying to avoid their father’s “hustle,” were now completely engaged and anticipating someone doing something different, something that felt like love.

I don’t remember what my dad prayed; I’m sure it was amazing. What moved me (and I think the boys too) was not the words of the prayer, but simply the power of praying for someone personally. Caring, really caring, for the needs of another person enough to petition God on the matter, that was sparing something maybe even more valuable than money; that was real “change.”

“Could we spare some change?” Apparently that was the same question God had for me. Was there room enough in my life for “change?” Could I drop my prejudices and judgments? Was giving and caring for the needs of others something I even had the right to quantify or pass through a series of litmus test for validity?

As the man grabbed his boys, thanked us curtly for the prayer, and moved onto his next prospect, the boys’ eyes lingered on my father. Still in shock, but quietly grateful for what just happened, I began to notice the strongest, most fragrant smell of roses. It was as if a bouquet was right under my nose. As I panned the area looking for flower carts or passing perfume wearers, nothing seemed like a logical explanation. And as the wafting sweetness stayed for nearly five minutes as we made our way to the cable car, it seemed to me, this was a gift from God in acknowledgement for my “Change.”

While my story is great, here’s a real class act!

Luke 10:30-37 Parable of the Good Samaritan

30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

My eBook is here for only $3.99…Technology, Hey Buddy! Thanks for catching up!

18 Apr

 

My eBook is here!
(It will show up in your APPLE iBook app)
 
 

After years of struggle with publishers and printing, (see my post entitled: Origin of the Species) technology has opened a door…and I’m walking through it!

Please take a look for yourself here!

Book Description:

A Magical Wonderland of Scripture, this book illustrates how to hear and see God, His Word, and the Miraculous! By following the author’s lead you too can train yourself to see and hear God in your everyday life.

This 111 paged book is filled with vivid macro images of nature and seemingly motion-filled scripture. It’s the Bible like you have never seen it before! This book also includes some personal stories about the author that are humorous and candid. She shares openly about visions, sin, and her mother’s miraculous cancer healing!

Designed to display the Glory of God through pairing His Creation with His Word; this artistic work intends to bring God closer to you. Romans 1:20, Paul declares, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

Purchase a copy and support my Ministry Efforts. Buy Here

Origin of the Species: My Book’s Evolution and the Big Bang of His Words

18 Apr

“The photography and concept are exceptional. However, despite there being lots of interest in your proposal, I am afraid that we must pass…”

Senior Acquisitions Editor,
Zondervan Publishing
August 15, 2007

Only a few months earlier in May, I was walking on cloud nine. After two years of collecting photographs and verses, we pitched our concept:, a hardcover, glossy, coffee-table book, filled with colorful images and scripture to the largest Christian Publisher around; and the response was beyond my wildest dreams.

“This is really beautiful! It would be an honor to work with you!” Sue beamed excitedly over the phone to my partner Keith and me from her Zondervan headquarters in Michigan. “I have big plans for this work, maybe something like what we did with Rick Warren and The Purpose Driven Life. We’ll start with some revisions, but all I really need to do is get your book before the board at the end of this summer…then we’ll go full speed ahead and with a national launch.”

Preparing to become a Christian Superstar dominated my thought-life all summer; “What is my best side for the camera?”  “How much of the back-story do I tell interviewers?” There was a concern about how the fame and money might change Ava and me, so I determined we would stay in Danville and try to lead “normal” lives.

As August came into view, the anticipation grew. I was scheduled to meet up with Keith that afternoon and just before I left, I felt the Lord speak to my heart, “I love you. I love this book. I have so many great plans. Don’t be surprised if things work out differently than you think.”

“Wow!” I thought to myself, “This book is going to be even bigger than I imagined! If God himself is saying He has great plans…maybe I’ll even be on Oprah!” (At this point, I didn’t yet comprehend that God is not impressed with TV personalities and media exposure. He admires broken and contrite hearts.)

Yet, becoming a World Renown Christian Author was never my plan. Two years earlier, at the start of 2005, authoring a book was the last thing I had planned to do with my life. Having graduated from UC Berkeley with a Rhetoric degree, law school was on the horizon. Yet deep down I had reservations about signing my life away to a career that would take me far from my daughter. “Lord, I just don’t want to wake up thirty years from now wondering what I’m supposed to really be doing with my life and why I’m so far from it. If you want me to go into law, great. If not, please change my plans.”

While my prayer came from a very genuine place, I had no real idea what I had just done to myself! My life was no longer my own; I had just signed away the right to have things done “my way.”  God had His own version of “Ari Fry” and he was about to let me in on the plan.

Not more than a few days later, succinctly and straight to my heart God said, “You are not going to law school. You have finished that path to it’s end. I have some work I need you to do with your brother, your mother, and a book.” While I was excited that there seemed to be a new game plan for my life, straight from the Big Guy upstairs…I had no idea what it all meant.

God’s mysterious pronouncement about my future began to take shape within two weeks. Seemingly out of the blue, a friend shared a longstanding dream to create a coffee-table book that would make Christianity accessible through images. Almost as soon as his words left his mouth, I felt the Holy Spirit bolt through me confirming this to be “the book” God had mentioned. I thought to myself, “Wow, this God stuff really works!”

In the years leading up to our pitch for Zondervan, as I took the images, matched them with verses and photo-shopped key words, hearing from God was no longer a rare occasion…we spoke everyday. As the body of work grew, so did my eyes and ears to hearing His lead. In one instance, while hiking down a path, God told me, “Stop, get down low, and look to your left.” In a world of it’s own, crawled a green ladybug on the spike of a thistle. Another time, God said to me, “Make the ‘R’ bigger. No, much bigger.” He was right, I was thinking too small, and once I adjusted the size, the whole verse fell into place.  It was a sweet time of doing what I love with the one I love.

So as the summer of 2007 came to a close and the call came in that afternoon from Sue at Zondervan, this total direction shift, a complete 180, seemed to come out of left field. Keith’s face was overshadowed with sadness, I had a hard time comprehending what was happening. I was scared to ask, “What did Sue say? Did you talk to her this afternoon?”

“The are killing their ‘Gifts and Inspirational’ department. They are losing money and it’s not an essential part of the company, so our book would be too expensive for them to produce because of all the imagery.” Punch in the stomach, I was out for the count. Didn’t see that one coming…at least, not at first. As I sat there reeling from the blow, I remembered what God had told me just that morning, “I have so many great plans. Don’t be surprised if things work out differently than you think.” Ouch, I guess His “differently” wasn’t the same as my “differently.” And as crushed as I was, I gave a champagne toast that night to the fact that I had heard correctly form God.

As the years have passed, we self-published, but that was too costly to support long-term. We’ve pushed on several doors, hoping a publisher would catch the vision; but each door seemed barricaded. We even recently had a way back into Zondervan, but ironically it was Round Two in the ring, ending this time with yet another punch to the gut. All the doors just keep closing…until now!

I found my Open Door.

My “Open Door that no one can shut.” Revelations 3:8

INTRODUCING…My eBook! Click Here for my $3.99 eBook

(The book will be accessible in your iBook app)

Low production costs, no gatekeeper publishers, my work can finally be sent out to do what it was always intended to do; give viewer’s a visually rich experience with the Bible.

While this was not what I had in mind when God proposed a book deal, nor what I anticipated when He mentioned His “great plans,” for this book, in the meantime He certainly has reworked, transformed  and upgraded it’s author. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Here are a few Excepts from the Book:

“Where were you when I was being molested?” A friend’s cry for answers.

15 Apr

Is God useless and helpless when it comes to human suffering? That’s the picture I had gotten in the past when questions like these came up. “Where was God when I was being molested,” questioned my dear friend. For the most part I never even wanted to look straight at that issue; my dull understanding came from sideways glances through a peripheral vision of seemingly endless atrocities committed against humanity.

As a vulnerable child is approached by their prey, where is God? Previously, I had two vague and disturbing images that would come to mind. Surrounded by bright light and ethereal clouds, an elderly

Father with a flowing white beard peers down from the Heavenlies to earth, searching the landscape for something discernable. Because he is so far removed, he can only see large worldly events through the haze of the glorious light. But if he squints and strains to bring an individual into focus, for only a second he can see the abuse, yet quickly recoils and thinks, “But if I help that one, then they will all want help!”

Worse however, I find it even more horrifying when I try to understand the abuse through the personal relationship Jesus Christ offers. No longer removed and distant, Christ is now standing in the room. He looks on helplessly as the child’s innocence is being devoured. Jesus watches the whole event with sadness and pain, just waiting for the ravaging of her body to cease so he can comfort her with a whisper through his tears, “It’s going to be alright.” No it’s not Jesus, why don’t you stop crying and do something! Pick up that chair already and hit him over the head you helpless, useless God!

As my dear friend continued to share about her experience, she revealed, “I cried out to God several times asking, ‘where were you when I was being molested?’ One day he responded with a vision, showing me that the whole time, Jesus had been in the room.”

“Ah ha, I knew it! So he was just standing around looking on helplessly,” I thought to myself.

“I don’t want to get too graphic,” she offered, “but the Lord showed me that Jesus was actually between me and my abuser. That everything the molester did to me, he did to Jesus first. He took the brunt of the abuse.”

My heart dropped.

I had no idea.

I had no idea.

I have no idea who God is…

The implications of this revelation tore my theological world into pieces. Somehow, this means that all day, everyday, Jesus is being molested. Yet not just molested, he’s being burned, hit, spit at, yelled at, raped, murdered, and maimed just to name only a few sins committed by one human against another. But how is this possible?

A few days earlier on Sunday at church, our pastor had been teaching from Ephesians 3:18, “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,” but he accidentally repeated the dimension of “high” twice and left out “long.” It got me thinking about how some have explained those dimensions form the shape of the cross; but a cross could be made by only two of those dimensions, so why all four? Just as I was pondering this, I had a very clear supernatural vision. The cross at the front of the church became brilliant gold and extended dimensionally both forward through the room and also behind the wall it was mounted on out into the courtyard, seemingly through time and space

.

My previously pathetic comprehension of the cross, the black and white still frame image of two pieces of wood, some

nails through Christ’s flesh, a painful death sentence he shared alongside some thieves, and the taking on of the world’s general sinful nature, suddenly burst into full color with rapid motion images.

The cross was not a stationary or metaphorical event. The traditional recounting of Christ’s trial, flogging and crucifixion is grievous indeed, yet there are many who have been falsely accused, beaten or crucified; potentially even all three. However, if in addition to being falsely accused and sentenced, beaten and whipped beyond recognition, and then crucified alongside legitimate criminals, Christ on the cross individually and personally experienced each human being’s suffering from the beginning of time to the last day, then I truly stand in fear and trembling before the greatness of my God.

Could that be what scripture recounts here, “From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’)” Matthew 27:45-46 An eerily similar cry to, “Where were you when I was being molested?”

The cross has always been the Christian symbol of Christ’s suffering for humanity, but could it be that in addition to the physical events portrayed in the gospels, on the cross, Christ supernaturally and personally interceded for each human being “real-time” up to the point when he declares, “’It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:30

How do you work this thing? re:The Bible

11 Apr

The Bible scared me when I first considered picking it up. It wasn’t the Bible itself as much as the fact I had no idea how to start reading it or what all those names and numbers meant. And while we now have digital Bibles to make this process easier; I feel printed Bibles still allow a more interactive experience (that is, at least until my hologram Bible is produced, jk but not really). So…here’s a crash course in Passage Finding! This way the next time someone references like, let’s say, Matthew 12:15, you’ll know where to find it.

First off, utilize the Table of Contents in the front. There’s NO SHAME in looking up the page number. Look for the Book or Author name, in this case “Matthew.”

Next, find the Chapter Number just after the Book or Author Name in the top left or right corner. In this case, we are looking for “12.” Some books like Jude have only 1 chapter, while other books like Psalms have 150.

Finally, once you have located the Large Chapter Number within the text, then you will need to look for the Small Verse Number. This is harder to find because most times it’s hidden between words or even part of a separate paragraph. Looking closely, we find Verse “15” leading the pack. (The chapter number, 12 is separated and followed by the verse number, 15 using the “:” symbol).

There you have it, “Matthew 12:15 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all who were ill.”

One last note, for many years I thought it was “wrong” to write in my Bible. “It’s a Holy Book,” I thought to myself, “I can’t mark it up.” Some of this mindset might have come from a reverence for “The Word,” but more than likely thinking back, it came from all those years using school text books. At the start of each year teachers would reprimand us, threaten us, and commit to invoicing us should we make a single mark in their precious text books! Someone finally straightened this issue out for me and gave me permission to write in my Bible. Hence: I HEREBY GIVE YOU FULL PERMISSION TO WRITE, MARK, NOTE, AND HIGHLIGHT YOUR BIBLE.

What did or has kept you from reading your Bible?

Angelic Visitation at Ava’s Birth, Just Like Jesus! (or just a woman that rocked my world and went on vacation)

11 Apr

It’s hard to believe, and admit this, but at the time I gave birth to my daughter Ava I still hadn’t decided if I was going to become her mother or if I would give her to a family through adoption. While I was still at Kaiser Hospital in recovery the day after Ava’s birth, a social worker assigned to my case by the state of California, visited me to ask questions about what I planned to do with Ava. I gave her the tenuous, and doubt filled answer of a scared nineteen year old girl, “I…I think I’m going to keep her.” Yet in my heart, I still wasn’t convinced I could do this.

As soon as the social worker had left the room, my nurse, a hefty African American woman, came in to see if I needed anything.  After assuring her I was fine, she continued to linger.  A few seconds passed before she finally asked, “Are you thinking of putting your baby up for adoption; is that why the social worker was here?”  I told her I was considering it.
“Why?” she blurted out emotionally.
Eyes widened, look of surprise on my face, through my head ran the indignant thought, “How dare she question me?” It seemed highly unusual and bordered on unprofessional for a nurse to insert her personal thoughts into my private business! Wanting to end the conversation as quickly as possible, I just told her that I didn’t know what I was going to do, which was the truth, I didn’t.  “Well, I was just wondering,” she said, “because I was adopted and always wondered how my mother could have done that.  I work with babies everyday and it’s just so joyful that I can’t imagine someone giving that happiness up.”
Um…awkward. Actually, I was kind of offended; her input was only making my decision harder. At the same time I felt compassion for her, it must be hard working in a field that is the literal birthing place of your pain (however, why she felt I was the person to counsel her through this trauma was beyond me).  Trying to answer her question, “Why?” I explained that some women don’t feel they are ready for motherhood.  And some people, like myself, were too young or unprepared, unmarried, and well, un-mommy types. I launched into the benefits of placing a child into a stable, two-parent family; the benefits of a lifestyle I couldn’t bestow.  At some point she retreated back to her duties; either she was satisfied with my answer or figured she had done enough damage for one day.
Yet, as jarring and agitating as her questioning had been, it made me think, think, rethink, and eventually actually help convince me into giving motherhood a try. Maybe I could do this. The next day, I let my nurse in on my decision to officially become a “Mom.” She was ecstatic. Because I was generally leaning toward adoption originally, I had nothing but a little green infant outfit and my aunt’s old car seat as my “baby items;” my nurse, full of joy, decided she was going to help solve that problem. Just before her shift was finished she came into my room, arm’s filled with baby tee’s, blankets, and diapers.  She had jacked a healthy portion from the supply room and was now stuffing them into my overnight bag. She gave me a wink and left the room.
Two weeks later, back at Kaiser for a “baby well care” check up, I decided to visit my nurse in delivery.  At the desk I explained, “Hi, about two weeks ago I gave birth to my daughter here and I want to thank my nurse; she was a real blessing to me. I can’t remember her name but she was tall, heavy set, African American, really loud and funny?”
They looked at me curiously.   “That doesn’t sound like anyone here in our department. Are you sure you have the right hospital?”
“Yes, I’m sure I have the right hospital; I’m not a lunatic!” I thought to myself. I walked off sheepishly with a heap of questions. I never did get to thank my nurse. I’ve run through several scenarios in my head. Maybe my description was off, maybe she was new there then left suddenly, maybe my head wasn’t clear after giving birth (however, I gave birth naturally so, no drugs), or maybe, just maybe, she was sent to help me make the right decision…
Do you have an angel story? I’d love to hear it. Email me and let me know if you want it to remain confidential or if I can share it. Nobody knows about this kind’a stuff because people don’t share this kind’a stuff.

The Hat said it All

11 Apr

We were in a stand-off.  The only reason she didn’t begin eating the whipped cream off the top of her caramel frappuccino was because I had insisted on paying for it and now had the power to withhold it from her.  Our three bags of breakfast and single coffee drink were held as hostages until we could come to an agreement about their fate.  Visibly irritated with each other, we sat on the edge of our chairs, not talking, in the downtown Starbucks of Newport Beach.

Surrounding us were very beautiful people.  Their outfits were perfect, their hair was perfect, some sat typing away on their laptops intensely while listening to their favorite tunes on their iPods, some read the Sunday paper looking very smart as the ideal couple relaxing together over coffee in the early afternoon.  Everyone looked so self sufficient and successful; there was little need for God here.  Ava and I had come to this impasse only minutes before while we waited in line so I could purchase a breakfast sandwich.

“Hi, come wait with me in line; I don’t want to loose my place,” said the woman now behind me to the man across the room.  I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, “Oh my gosh,” she exclaimed.  “I can’t believe he’s dead!  He was so healthy too.  He exercised all the time and never smoked.  Oh that’s so sad.”  I just had to turn around and catch a glimpse of her; yep, she too was perfect in her tight black pants and eyes lined carefully to highlight their shape.

After I had ordered the sandwich, Ava held fast to the register, waiting for Grant the barista to return so she could order something else.  She and I had gotten into the bad habit of “additional orderings.”  Ava usually brings along babysitting money when we go out so she can supplement my purchases for her with extra items she knows I won’t pay for.

“Can I please have a caramel frappuccino and a bagel with cream cheese, toasted?’  However, not even fifteen minutes earlier I had just purchased cinnamon mini-buns from McDonald’s for her.  By no means am I a health food nut, actually Ava and I are known for “Donut Day” every Saturday morning and “In-N-Out” day on Tuesdays.  Yet even for me the combination of cinnamon mini-buns and a caramel frappuccino for breakfast, was ridiculous (the bagel was for the car ride home back to northern California).

So as Grant was preparing Ava’s order, I felt the Lord say to me, “Don’t let her purchase what she just ordered.  You pay for it.”  As I handed over my credit card, Ava looked at me with a smile, thanking me for what she probably assumed was just another gift for her fourteenth birthday.

One day earlier, she and I had been posing for pictures outside Cinderella’s castle in Disneyland.  It was a surprise road-trip for her birthday.  It had even been a surprise to me!  In the past, we have tried to host her friends for special trips or parties, but this year nothing was coming together.  During a Wednesday morning prayer and praise meeting, I felt the Lord continuously bring Disneyland to my heart and than began to see the word “Disneyland” strongly in my mind’s eye.  I don’t like Disneyland.  Knowing it was the last (not happiest) place on earth I wanted to go; it seemed God was asking me to take Ava to Disneyland for her birthday that weekend.  And while I felt He wanted to make the statement loud and clear that, “She is my Princess;” He also hinted that the trip was going to be a teaching tool for Ava and I to learn how to minister alongside one another.

“You’re not drinking that,” I told her as we grabbed a table right next to the counter.  Her face of joy slipped into confusion and then landed on irritation.  “That’s far too much sugar for one sitting.  You need to figure out what you want to do with that drink, because you’re not drinking it.”  The battle had begun.  There were only a few combinations of moves we each could make.  She could resist, rebel, give-up, give-in or obey.  I could demand, coerce, bargain, back-down or lead.  Neither one of us reacted initially, partly because we’ve learned to think things through before we act and also partly because we were hemmed in on all sides by very quiet, perfect people who would be instantly alerted to any non-conformist Starbucks’ activities.

So there we were, on the edge of our seats, with three bags between us and the fate of a coffee drink hanging in the balance.  After my initial objection, I began to notice a certain weightiness to the situation; like this moment in time was not really about someone’s sugar intake or a balanced breakfast.  There were larger implications to what was transpiring, likely becoming more obvious on the other side of this decision.  I had a dim awareness of what I felt God might be doing, so I stayed calm and hoped that God was at work doing something very big in this seemly insignificant moment.

Two minutes went by, silence.  Three minutes went by; a daggered glance in my direction told me she was not finding any happy options.  “Well, I could throw it out!” She stated this option less as a threat and more out of frustration.

“Okay, that’s one option.  Do you feel led to do anything else with the drink?”  By then the Lord was making it clearer to me that this whole frappuccino ordeal was an exercise for growing Ava’s faith.  Ava is not new to Christian ministry; she’s been raised with the concept that there are people in need around her.  Praying for others on the street and handing out food in Berkeley was something our family did regularly since she was eight, she asked her friends to join her self-made bible study at the age of nine, and most recently she joined us on a mission trip to the Philippines at age thirteen. However, while she ultimately ministered to those brought before her; Ava had yet to step out and feel confident enough to minister to someone through God’s leading based on her own relationship with Christ.

Eight minutes in.  Glancing over her shoulder a second time, “I could give it to someone?  But everyone in here has drinks already!”  Very true, one of the downfalls of being surrounded by seemingly perfect people is that they appear to need nothing.  In fact, they can even become quite insulted by the idea that they could be a “charity case.”  At first glance there seemed to be no need for God here.  Yet, while we had stood in line to order, a man at the far side of the room had caught my attention.  While everyone else seemed engrossed in their own world, this guy sat alone at a table, one earbud in, one earbud out, looking around the room with a gentle smile.   Ava seemed to have noticed him as well because as she scanned the room those two times, she paused on him for a second.  “I don’t know,” she said despairingly.  “That guy over there maybe,” motioning to the same man I felt led to as well.  “But he has a coffee. Why would he want my drink?”  Just as her faith began to rise, she was pulled back down by doubt and objections and she questioned me, “Do you know? Do you have any sense what I am supposed to do with this or who I would give it to?”

“Yep, I think so.  But I can’t tell you.  God is trying to teach you how to hear his voice.  If I keep telling you what I hear, keep taking the lead, how are you supposed to grow?”  Now it had crystallized in my mind.  This silly frappuccino incident was all a big exercise in hearing God’s voice and inaugurating Ava into her ministry.  In a safe environment, with low stakes and my support, Ava could learn to move where she felt God was moving.

Eleven minutes have gone by and we are still at an impasse; our strange interaction is now beginning to make our table neighbors slightly uncomfortable.  The woman next to me would quickly glance our direction and stare only long enough to assess the situation, but not long enough to call attention to herself.

Thirteen minutes in; I was impressed with Ava’s willingness to hear me out, but I could see she was getting to the end of her patience.  Just then, in walks another local carrying his daughter on his hip.  As he makes his way to the line, he looks around the room and singles out the same man that has caught our attention by the window sitting alone.  “Hey, Robert!”  He smiles and adds, “It’s good to see you.”  Robert raises his hand and waves, very receptive to the attention.

“Ava, so what do you think?  That guy by the window has been highlighted to you several times; do you think he could be someone God is pointing you to?”  I was trying to encourage her to connect some of the “God dots,” but still wanting to let it be her decision.  The reason this exercise was so timely and important was that in less than two months Ava and I would be leaving for our second mission trip to Sierra Leone.  While I have been called upon to help spiritually lead the trip, it has recently been brought to my attention that God’s heart is for Ava to come along side me as a spiritual partner in ministry, and eventually pass me by.  Within this context, the wait, struggle and uncertainty of the moment, the decision of the fate of the frappuccino was well worth gaining a spiritual partner to minister alongside with in Sierra Leone.

“Alright fine!”  Apparently the evidence was enough to cause Ava to be willing to offer her coffee drink to the man by the window. “I guess we can go over there and see if that guy wants the frappuccino.  But you need to go first.  I’ll go with you, but you need to ask him.”

“No,” I responded.  “That’s the whole point.  You need to be the one moving to the front, hearing God’s voice and acting on it.  I’m here as support.  You walk over there and I’ll be right behind you.”  I waited for her to move, and then followed her over to his table.  Now according to Ava, she was still worried about if and how she was going to be received by this man.  She was pretty sure that he was going to be uninterested in receiving her frappuccino (for the record, it had been un-touched with a straw and looked fresh from the barista…fifteen minutes earlier).  Interestingly, Ava said that when she finally approached him, she just then noticed his black hat that stated in big block white letters, “JESUS.”  In block red letters below it read, “Is My Boss.”  Jesus was literally written across his forehead!  You don’t usually get any clearer sign than that.  She admits to feeling a little stupid for questioning God about whether or not this man by the window would be receptive to her gift; what apparently had been a struggle for her all along, had never in reality existed.

“Excuse me, but would you like this caramel frappuccino?”  That was all she got out.  With compassion in his eyes, this man looked straight at Ava and began to let out moans and grunts of gratitude.  He was mute.  Formless words poured out of his mouth, but his heart emanating out of his eyes told the whole story.  His loud groans fluctuated with emotion while his hands gave the most beautiful prophetic blessing over Ava.  Repeatedly he made the Sign of the Cross, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, over Ava’s head and chest.  He then mimed and groaned how his heart was so full because of her gift.  He motioned to his cup, pointing to the bottom and how it was almost all gone.  He clutched his chest saying how precious it was to receive her drink, how full and loved it made him feel.  He then circled her head with his hand forming a halo and then gestured that the Lord had been with her since she was a little child and he was going to grow her into a powerful woman of God.

It was about this time when I began to cry.  This man’s compassion and love was so tangible.  To think we had ever questioned going over to him.  To think that we thought we were the ones bringing the blessing?  To think that we might have missed this moment altogether if Ava had rejected this test? To think that I cold have been more focused on calories then on the larger goal?  To think that all we had to do was spend a few minutes listening for God’s voice? So many near misses along the way, and yet so right on target.

We hugged our new friend Robert (I found out his name by calling the store the next day), and headed out to the car.  We were both stunned by how the whole thing had played out.  I feel strongly that God wanted to bless Ava with a Disneyland birthday, after all, she’s his princess.  However, the whole trip could very well have been about Robert.  It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to find out that God’s main reason for our road-trip was this random half-hour encounter at a small Starbucks in Newport Beach to meet Robert the mute believer who radiates Christ’s love, and Disneyland was just the bait.Image