Tag Archives: faith

Face to Face with the Holy Spirit: Receiving the Holy Spirit Part 4

2 Jun

At first, I didn’t tell anyone about my “Night of Terror.” I was unsure of what exactly had happened and felt that if I shared the experience, they might get spooked out or wonder about my sanity. “This Holy Spirit stuff is terrifying,” I thought to myself. “THAT, THAT…whatever that was, is exactly why I wanted nothing to do with this spirit nonsense!” Resolved to shut out the supernatural for good this time, I decided to put this Holy Spirit thing behind me and move on!  

 

Apparently even though I was determined to be done with the Holy Spirit, God wouldn’t let it go. A few days later I woke from a terrifying dream. I was shaken with fear and back in that dark place; however, very slightly, to my soul I could feel God almost reprimanding me. “There is no fear in love,” he prompted me sternly. “If you have fear, you are not in Christ. It’s impossible to be in Christ and fear.”  Then he issued a command, “Try again.”

 

Not so sure God really understood the circumstances, I finally decided to open up and share about my situation and God’s desire for me to take another whack at this filling, or baptism, or demonic open house deal. After explaining the situation to my parents, they reassured me, “It’s a counter attack.”

 

“What is this,” I thought to myself, “World War Three!”

 

My dad went on, “Satan used your childhood fears to scare you out of moving forward. He capitalized on your weakness because he’s worried you’ll find out who you really are in Christ.” I was surprised there was no surprise on his part. “He’s especially concerned about you becoming a Spirit filled Christian who walks in the power and authority of Christ Jesus. That’s Satan’s worst nightmare…you moving from a ‘good Christian’ to a believer relying on God’s Spirit.”

 

So, tucked under my covers that night, I made another attempt at inviting the Holy Spirit. I’m not sure why I was so formal, but my journal notes record that I kept repeating, “may the Spirit live in me, may the Spirit live in me, may the Spirit live in me…” As I was drifting off to sleep, suddenly, what felt like 1,000 volts of electricity, bolted through my body.  Like a closed circuit, power was running on loop from my head to my toes, vibrating every fiber of my being with energy. Yet instead of being deadly and draining, it was energizing and life giving! It felt as though light was streaming from every pore, and my whole body slightly trembled from the “surge.”

 

Swimming in bliss, I slowly opened my eyes to the “real world.” Directly over me, hovering parallel to my body, with five inches between us, was a figure. The general form of a person, I could make out a head and shoulders with a “body” that continued down the bed. Face to face, I encountered the living Spirit, the Holy Spirit, of God Almighty. S/he was majestic. Though the face had no distinct identity, the being swirled with every color of the rainbow in an iridescent light show. There was the sudden awareness that while I was in my room, I was not in this “reality.” The whole space seemed to be transcendent…other worldly.

 

Paralyzed in awe, the Holy Spirit leaned down just slightly and gently kissed my forehead. I winced in shock and closed my eyes tightly. Over the next twenty minutes, God continued to energize me with his power and I eventually drifted into a deep, peaceful sleep.

 

Waking up the next morning, I was still me. All the “feelings” were gone, and there was no evidence of the experience. While the event was transformational, the change in me was almost imperceptible at first. It was over the years looking back that I could quantify the now living and active Holy Spirit in me, working through me, empowering me to hear and do God’s will in my life and the lives around me. I was now, a girl on fire, a girl on a mission…

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UC Berkeley; it’s prestigious, it’s competitive, it’s acclaimed…it’s full of spirits: Receiving the Holy Spirit Part 3

26 May

On the morning of September 11th 2001, planes crashed into New York skyscrapers…and I had to get to class. It was my first semester at the University of California at Berkeley and not even an attack on domestic soil was going to cancel Sasha Goldman’s lecture. With a classroom full of stunned and emotional students, Sasha ditched her rhetorical analysis of Marcel Proust heady novel to address current events. “I know this is traumatic; what are you guys feeling right now?” Some were in tears, others expressed disgust or sentiments for the lives lost; but for Sasha, this was chance to wipe the whimsy from the minds of her students, to reveal the true, atrocious nature of the United States government. “It’s the government’s fault!’ she proclaimed. “They smashed those airplanes into the buildings.” She went on to enumerate the evils of our country and what she perceived to be U.S. war crimes against a multitude of nations. In the next weeks and months, the campus would become a political battleground complete with protests, rallies, and marches on lecture halls. While sitting through a lesson in Wheeler Hall, our small classroom on the second floor of the monstrous stone building began to bounce. Protesters were crashing like a wave through the halls, chanting and stomping and shaking the old building to its foundation.  Unsure of what mood this mob might take, a large oak outside the window looked pretty appealing as a fire escape while the flood of embolden malcontents went by our classroom.

While a handful of professors and large population of sycophantic students “raged against the machine,” the sense there was something larger, more ominous at work was accentuated during a night lecture on the north side of campus.  In the barn-sized shingled building, Sasha was screening “American Gigolo.” A storm had come in earlier that night, but during the film, rain began pelting the windows and lightning could be heard clapping in the distance. Pelting turned into pounding and what was once a far-off “crack” in the night-air, had now become a roaring thunder. As the weather intensified, so did Sasha; she was determined to awaken her impressionable students to the deep analytical mysteries of this “cinematic masterpiece” which challenged societal sex roles indefinitely. As the rain grew louder, she grew louder; she strained to talk over the downpour but then BAM!…a bolt of lightning struck just outside the building. Students were screaming, but you couldn’t hear it over the deafening rampage of the storm. The building, shaking from the power blast, was rocked a second time as a lightning bolt hit the ground right outside the window and lit the whole room up with its glow. Paralyzed with fear I prayed, “Please Lord, don’t kill me like this.” I had thoughts of Sodom and Gomorra being charred to the ground under a deluge of fire from heaven.  “Spare me and keep this building safe!” I begged. Sasha willfully continued to lecture, but it was in vain; she was actually inaudible and finally gave up talking until the storm had moved on enough so she could shout her points.

As draining and difficult as Sasha Goldman was as a professor, it wasn’t Sasha, it wasn’t the war, it wasn’t the students or even the demanding course load that wore me down to a breaking point.  Yes, all of the above didn’t help, but over my first year at UC Berkeley, there seemed to be another…a larger force at work challenging me, draining me. While the angry opinions, hateful political views and discontent attitudes around campus were intense, it felt like they were being empowered by something outside themselves, maybe someone with a larger objective.  Maybe I was in a Spiritual Battle? As crazy as she seemed at the time, the weird Holy Spirit lady’s words came to mind.

“That place is heavy spiritually, a real war zone. I hope you have been preparing yourself for battle and ready to fight the good fight of the Lord!…You’re gonna need the armor of God to survive in that environment! Most of all you’re gonna need the power of the Holy Spirit to lead you in God’s paths of righteousness!”

Maybe she wasn’t so kooky after al; her words began to ring true to me! I did feel like I had been in battle! I did feel battered and bruised spiritually! I did feel the heaviness! I guess I do need the armor of God…and I guess I do need the Holy Spirit. I finally broke and turned to God. As I was going to bed, I decided this was the night I would ask for the Holy Spirit to come and live in me. I shut my eyes tight and prepared myself to receive, but in my mind all I could think was, “How do I know which spirit I’m letting in? What if I let in the wrong one?” Then the Ouija board event came flooding back and terrified me, “What if I let in a bad spirit or even a demon!” My doubt was working me up into a frothy fear. My mind was dominated by worry, which spilled out from me and apparently opened a spiritual door. Pouncing on the momentum, terror and darkness filled my room. It felt as though an encompassing black void engulfed me, I was shaken to my core and paralyzed with terror. Satan had capitalized on my weakness, and there I lie unable and unwilling to move through the dark hours of night…

 

*Names were changed to protect anonymity

 

Intersecting Stories: Welcome into my Heart Jesus; Just Don’t Touch Anything! Receiving the Holy Spirit Part 2 

Don’t Play with Ouija Boards Kids, All spirits are not the same: Receiving the Holy Spirit Part 1 

Welcome into my Heart Jesus; Just Don’t Touch Anything! Receiving the Holy Spirit Part 2

17 May
To be brutally honest, I don’t distinctly remember the event of accepting “Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.” However, I do faintly remember being asked by my parents or a Sunday school teacher, “Do you want to let Jesus come and live inside your heart?” It sounded like a good idea at the time and I didn’t think it would hurt…so sure, why not! I pictured this miniature Jesus wearing his white robe.  He walked up to my heart-shaped heart and paused for a moment. Turning his head to catch my gaze, he waited for permission to enter. As soon as I gave the go-ahead, he smiled and put his hand to the brass knob, opening a little door and entering into my heart. Once inside the dark and hollowed-out heart, he sat down, and closed the door behind him. There he was forever in me…my heart-sized pal.
For years, nothing seemed any different; I was right, it didn’t hurt a bit! In the fall of 2001, I was going to be attending UC Berkley.  Before my course load could take over, my mother suggested we attend The ALPHA Course at our church, so I could get a better understanding of my faith. The lessons cover everything from “Who is Jesus?” and Why did he die?” to “How can I resist evil?” As I sat through the courses, I finally learned who this Jesus was residing in my heart. He wasn’t my pint-sized helper; he was a radical man who came to remove the barrier between humanity and its Creator. But the classes that rocked me the deepest were about the Holy Spirit: “Who is the Holy Spirit?” “What does the Holy Spirit do?” and “How can I be filled with the Holy Spirit?” Although the sessions were enlightening, the whole thing creeped me out.
“Spirit!” I thought to myself, “I remember the last time I got mixed up with spirits!” It was as though the word “Holy” was not just before the word “Spirit;” I didn’t care if he was Holy, un-holy, good, bad or ugly; no “spirit” was getting inside of me!
Nearing the end of my final semester at junior college, I was attending an awards ceremony with my mother. As we waited for it to begin, a woman in the receiving area struck up a conversation with us, “where are you transferring to?”
“UC Berkeley,” I responded, very proud of myself and sure that she would be too.
“Oh wow!” she responded, but then took me by surprise, “Are you a believer? If you are, you better be careful!”
“What are you talking about?” I responded offensively that she wasn’t purely impressed with my future University, but rather was focusing on my faith.
“That place is heavy spiritually, a real war zone. I hope you have been preparing yourself for battle and ready to fight the good fight of the Lord!” She swung her arms wildly and took on a warriors stance, “You’re gonna need the armor of God to survive in that environment! Most of all you’re gonna need the power of the Holy Spirit to lead you in God’s paths of righteousness!”
“This woman is crazy!” I thought to myself. “And what is the deal with this Holy Spirit? If she’s what ‘having the Holy Spirit’ looks like…no thank you!”
And when I attended UC Berkeley that fall, I strong-armed the Holy Spirit as long as I could…until I couldn’t.
Here’s a link to The ALPHA Course – I recommend it HIGHLY!

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:

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

Jesus’ parents lost their tween for several days?

11 Apr

Bible 411: Did you know that Jesus’ parents lost their tween for several days? Can you imagine losing the Messiah…um…he was here a minute ago.

Gist: As a young boy Jesus goes with his family to the capitol city; without permission he decides to stay longer, causing his parents great concern.

Luke 2:41 “Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. 42 When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. 43 After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, 44 because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends.

45 When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. 46 Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. 47 All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.

48 His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”

49 “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”[d] 50 But they didn’t understand what he meant.

51 Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart.

52 Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.”