Sunday, March 28, 2010

Don't think I have it in me to do again...

Sometimes when you are a pastor, you get called on to do really, really tough things. There was a time, over ten years ago that a grandmother in our church got a court order that gave her custody of her two grand kids. Her daughter and the daughter's boyfriend were hooked on drugs and the grandmother took action.

This was a tough decision for the grandmother. She felt she had no choice.

So she asked Victor (and me) to help her take the kids. Police officers would be with us in case things got out of hand.

Backing up a bit... When Victor was a young man and stopped being a full time rock 'n roller, he worked for a time as a 'bug-man'. He had a regular route and every few months would go to this grandmothers' house and treat it for bugs. At the time the daughter was a young girl and Victor talk to her a bit and made friends with both of them. The daughter always liked Victor.

Now back to the story... 10 years later:

The date and time were set when we were to go and get the kids. It would be a 'surprise' kind of thing.

Victor and I drove over to the apartments to meet the grandmother and the police. On the way there, we started praying. I asked the Lord to "Please let the parents be asleep." I kept thinking of the story in Acts 16 when Paul and Silas were in prison and the guards fell asleep and the jail doors opened up etc.

*Queue up the racing-heart sound*

Grandmother (with the police men wearing bullet proof vests) goes to the door and knocks. The two young children answer the door. Grandmother says "Hi sweeties, open the door I'm here to pick you up." The kids were happy to see her. She takes them and the police go inside.

"Mom! Don't take my kids!!" The daughter actually was asleep and woke up and figured out what was going on. She was now screaming and crying and kept saying over and over "Mom, don't take my kids! PLEASE!"

The two kids screamed and cried and said that they wanted their mother.

The daughter sees Victor and is stunned. The police hold back the boyfriend. One of the officers has searched the house and he comes out and says "There are no beds for the kids. No food in the kitchen and the place is a mess."

Victor hugs the daughter and tells her that it's going to be 'OK' and that the kids needed a safe place to live until she get her life back together. She just weeps.

As this whole thing winds down, we head back to our car. When we get in, I burst out in tears and have a good cry. I could not get the anguish of the mom and her kids out of my mind and cried the whole way home.

I thank God that I haven't had to do that again.

What brought this story to mind was that Victor said to me this week, while we were driving around, "What was the name of that grandmother that lived out in this area?" I told him her name. I hadn't thought of her in years. So right there, we prayed for her. I hope she, her daughter and precious grand kids are doing well. The kids would be in their late teens now.
God bless them.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Jonah Day

Last Saturday started out as a Jonah Day. You know the kind of day where everything goes wrong.

I had come home from running errands and saw our Bradley in the window and thought that he should come outside to go potty. I was with him in our front yard when a bicyclist came riding by and suddenly, Bradley took off after him!
Then I realized why.
The guy had a leash and his big bulldog was running along side him. Bradley came at him like a torpedo and startled the big dog. Yikes! The bulldog defended himself and Bradley was getting chomped on. Oh, the yelping! (screaming?)

After the man got a better grip on his dog and was smacking him, the dog let go of Bradley. I won't forget the sight of Bradley hanging from the big dog's mouth. I thought "If he dies, it is my fault because I didn't watch him close enough."

Bradley ran up to our front porch all muddy and shaken.

I apologized to the guy. I should have had Bradley on a leash even though it was just out front.

I let Bradley in the house and took him up to our bathroom and started the bathtub. Ugh! He had literally gotten the poop scared out of him and I just now noticed it. He shook out the mud, etc. all over the bathroom and I was NOT HAPPY.

A little knocking on our screen door. I see the bulldog owner. He is hoping that Bradley is ok. I think he is. I didn't see any blood so far. The man's name is Spencer and he lives on the next block. He tells me his dog is still a puppy and is caught up on all of his shots. Nice guy.

Victor came home soon, told me to "go shopping" and, thankfully, took over and cleaned Bradley up plus the bathroom :)

I then got in the car to go to the Downtown Mall. An accident was on the side of the highway and a woman had her hands on her head like she was just shocked. I thought to myself how I still felt shaken and jittery. I kept seeing Bradley getting bitten and me not able to do anything about it.

My exit was backed up and I thought it was because of the accident. Cars were entering in trying to get on the freeway, while others, like myself, were trying to exit. It was kind of a strange weaving in and out of cars. We were all going about 5mph.


I was hit from behind-Oh! I pulled over to the side and the other car did too. We got out and talked. They wanted to see if I was ok. I was and so was my car. Again, no harm done. Just startled.

It is about this time that I start thinking about our "Adversary." I am not the sort that believes the Devil is everywhere, yet his job is to get us distracted and discouraged. I thought about that for a while. Thankfully though, the rest of the day was really good!

Next day at church our pastor was speaking and talked about the 'whole armour of God' Eph 6:10-20. Especially about the 'shield of faith'.
He said "I'm talking about the large shields like the Romans used. After all, do you get tiny arrows coming at you?!"

I like that.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Abuse and Healing

Victor and I went to a neat couples' house for dinner tonight. We had a great time talking and catching up. Then our conversation turned to our past experience leaving the old church we all had belonged to.

Victor and I helped to pastor a church for a long time. It was really the only church I had known since becoming a Christian at age 13--the only church our kids had known. It went bad, actually had been bad for quite a few years, but it was getting worse. When Victor confronted some things that really needed to be changed, the other leaders turned it around and blamed Victor. Blamed us. We had to go, that much was clear.

Thus we were launched, broken-hearted out into the unknown....

It was the BEST thing that could have happened to us!!

Through all the tears and pain, and, even great sickness, I can say "Thank you Lord for bringing us through!"

It is a classroom I never want to sit in again. I think I have learned my lesson.

It is strange that we even talked about this subject with our friends. Earlier this week I came across a woman's blog where her sister had written about the cult they had grown up in. It was called 'The Children of God'. The leader promoted sex between the children and adults in the group. It was a truly traumatic experience and some of the kids have grown up to commit suicide (and one murder of an abuser)-horrible! One former member put together a documentary that was shown on HBO. I watched about 7 minutes of it and had to turn it off. It was absolutely disgusting.

I commented on the woman's blog and told her that I was so sorry that she had suffered under that evil group. I told her that I had gone through a bad church experience myself (Not of the sexual kind. Bullying, misuse of authority and guys that shouldn't have even been in leadership) and that I hadn't given up on my faith in God.

I told her that I hoped she wouldn't be offended in any way, but that she would be in my prayers. My heart goes out to her and to others who have been damaged by people and groups purporting to know God and to know His way. There are some bad leaders out there who are out for their own egos and worse. I totally get it when people lose their faith and feel that they could never trust a church or church-goer again.

That was almost me.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Man Called Gregory

Back in our first years here, there was a neighbor, Gregory, who lived in a duplex on the next block. When he first moved in he would play his music LOUD. He had friends over a lot and they'd sit on the porch and listen to music from the big-ghetto blaster he had. Yes, this was in the days of ghetto-blasters.

When someone new moves in and right off the bat does something kind of disruptive, it puts you on guard. (It was probably only disruptive to me, others didn't pay any mind, I bet). Somehow, we became acquainted with Gregory and thought he was a nice guy.

Ok, so he and his friends drank a bit too much at times, but they meant no harm. It was just their way of relaxing.

Gregory was hard to understand, something in the way he spoke--his words were garbled. We had to listen real carefully to get the gist of what he was saying. As we got to know him, he told Victor "Man, we were scared of you at first."

Victor said "Of me?! Why?"

"Because you were in a suit and we didn't know what you were doing around here."
Just goes to show you never can tell.

Gregory, loved playing his loud music. One day I got the idea to get him some Gospel music. (If you can't beat 'em, join 'em) I had just read the book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Pastor Jim Cymbala and I really loved his church's music. The Brooklyn Tabernacle had a unique Gospel-y sound. I figured that if I got Gregory one of their CD's it would also encourage him to know of God's great love for him.

You do not know how much I got a kick out of hearing that CD shaking up our street!

We invited Gregory to church and he came with us a few times. I wish he could have fit in better. Surely, the church could have tried harder...

Victor found out a little about his past. He had spent time in prison. While he was inside, someone hit him on the head with a hammer a few times and that is why he couldn't speak well. It makes your heart break when you hear things like that.

I titled this post 'A Man Called Gregory' as a tribute to a neat book I read called 'A Man Called Norman' by Mike Adkins. It is about Mike's neighbor, Norman. Norman was made fun of and mistreated by the townsfolk. He was a different kind of a guy and couldn't relate to people and vice-versa. The part that I think of was when Mike, in reaching out to Norman, brought a used, but still very nice, men's suit over to Norm. He usually wore the same denim overalls everyday, but Mike had invited Norm to church and thought he should wear a suit.

Imagine Mike's surprise when he opened Norm's closet to put the suit in for him and saw all kinds of suits already there!

Mike realized that all of them were used and that people, well meaning, had given Norm their cast-off's. Right then, Mike sensed that the Lord wanted him to take Norm out and buy him a new suit. He had to give Norm his best. He had to love him for real.

I need to remember that story more often.

"Even though I speak in human and angelic language and have no love, I am as noisy brass or a clashing cymbal. And although I have the prophetic gift and see through every secret and through all that may be known, and have sufficient faith for the removal of mountains, but I have no love, I am nothing." I Cor 13:1-2

Monday, February 15, 2010

Crazy Mexican? I'll Show You a Crazy Mexican!

This morning I was leaving to pick up my daughter at the airport. As I'm walking down the sidewalk, my neighbor, Jennifer (one of the Band of Mothers) stops me and asks if I heard about the crazy guy hanging around our street? "No, what crazy guy?"

Turns out, last night in the alley, a guy was acting strange and hanging out back there. This morning he was back on our block looking at all of the children and talking to them.

Now, we have over 50 kids on our street-I know, it sounds like I'm exagerating, but I assure you I am not. All of them seemed to be out today because of the great weather.

So this Mexican guy has a rope and is acting like he is going to lasso someone and he tells a couple of the boys "I'm going to come back at midnight and get you." All of the kids start hiding behind cars and he starts yelling at them.

Finally, the kids alert the adults and Jennifer calls the police. She is going out in her car to see if she can find him. I head back inside and tell Victor to keep an eye out and that the police are looking for a strange guy etc.

Victor heads outside and a bunch of the fathers are watching over the kids now. He talks to Ahfros and they jump into a car together and start diving around looking for the dude.

It isn't long before Victor and Ahfros see the guy and the police have him handcuffed and are going through his bag. He had a rope and binoculars!!

Scary, very scary.
We are truly thankful nothing bad happened.

Victor suggested to Ahfros that they start a reality show about a Muslim and a Christian guy that are bounty hunters...

Friday, February 12, 2010

"They Trash"

Sometimes, in every neighborhood, you get folks that are really hard to understand. People that have come from such a different background than yourself that, try as you might, you don't 'get' them.
Money and Wanda are two such people. When we first met these two I thought that once they saw the 'light' and we called the police on them enough, they would change from their destructive ways and become upstanding citizens.

You see, Wanda and Money were very 'street'. Money worked fixing bikes all day. Both were hooked on drugs and Wanda would prostitute herself. I would call the police on her so many times! Sometimes, I would open my door and say "Ma'am, are you waiting for someone?" She'd sort of move on, but always came back. Finally, I had to double my efforts because she started hooking with her young child in the stroller. The idea is horrible. I would get so mad at her! (I mean, what kind of man has sex with a hooker in his car, while her child is in the stroller right there? She had takers though. No matter how dirty she was...)

I wasn't sure, but I thought that her child, a girl, was around our son's age at the time.

Wanda and Money bounced around the neighborhood and ended up renting across the street from us on the corner. It was a small apartment. Just one room.

It turns out that me and Victor bought the building while Money and Wanda were renters. It was a triplex. When Victor went into their apartment, he was disgusted. They lived in PILES of trash and clothing. Raw sewage was running from their toilet out their back door. Cockroaches were everywhere and their fridge had been turned off and had rotting food in it-Ugh.

Victor really took Money to task. He told him that if he ever found out that they were living like this again, he was going to call CPS. Their little girl deserved better. He told Money that it was his responsibility to provide a good home for both his wife and daughter.
M & W had to get their stuff together and move because we were going to fix up the building. Money was very resistant to this fact. It was probably because no one would rent a room to them. It was tough to get them to vacate. We had a friend come over to change the locks. Money stopped by and was being menacing-threatening to kill him. Our friend said that he was shaking while using his screwdriver.

We did have a chuckle over that because Money was all talk.

He was very looked down upon by everyone. Nobody had any respect for him at all.
He was the lowest of the low.

Once while talking to some of our more colorful neighbors we mentioned Money and Wanda and this neighbor said "Money and Wanda? They trash!"

I know that I agreed with them. In my heart, I agreed. As a woman of faith, this is hard to admit because this is an idea that scripture is dead set against. No one is trash in God's book.

Just because Money and Wanda never 'saw the light' doesn't mean that God had written them off.

"Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn't, and doesn't, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too rebellious and weak to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn't been so weak, we wouldn't have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put His love on the line for us by offering His Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to Him." Romans 5:6-8

This is me also...the lowest of the low.

A few years later when our kids were in elementary school, I saw Wanda ride up on her bike with her daughter on the handlebars. She was dropping her daughter off at school. I found out that their daughter was actually in the GATE program (gifted and talented education).

I hope their daughter has grown up and used her intelligence to help her parents. I hope they have put their trust in the Savior too.

Monday, February 1, 2010

I Like to Think He was Cowering

I drove home one day after running some errands. I have my two really young children with me. I walk in the front door and realize that WE'VE BEEN ROBBED!

Quickly I, without any panic so as not to scare my kids, backed out and go call the police. My sister, Julie, lives across the street and she has a great big Rottweiler. We take the dog through the house to make sure that the thief is gone-he is.

He got my jewelry, including my wedding ring, and he got a credit card.
There was a pile of our belongings stacked up looking ready to go.

As I walk through my house and out the back door, the woman from next door tells me that a man walked into our house. I ask if she called the police and she says "No." Oh well.

Neighbors come out and we talk. I find out that there was a small fender-bender in front of our house earlier and we realize that when the accident happened, and everyone came out to help, the guy robbing us got scared and left out the back door.

We canceled our card and the police took our report. Then we were left feeling really, really, um, strange.

The next morning the mother of some wild kids down the street, comes over. She tells us not to say anything to anyone, but that the guy who robbed us has tried to use our credit card at a gas station. The guy's name is Jose and he lives in a house a block away. She knows this because her wild teenagers heard from Jose himself. We thank her and feel a little better just knowing a bit more info.

As the week goes on, I start to get hit by a wave of fear-in my own house. Victor and I get concerned because our young kids are also scared. This makes us mad. Victor tells Sterling over and over again that if he ever sees Jose, he will push him to the ground, put his foot on his chest and tell him "Do you want to go to church or do you want to go to jail?" She starts to repeat the story with a twist. She says "Dad, you will tell Jose 'Do you want to go to church or do you want to DIE!'"

Gotta love that.

Well, after a week of feeling fearful, I get the overwhelming feeling that I should just go over to the Jose's house and ask him for our stuff back. I know where he lives and I want to look the guy in the face--eye to eye. I call Victor at work and tell him to pray for me that I am going to pay Jose a visit. Victor tries to discourage me, but in the end he can't stop me. I won't be dissuaded. He prays for me and off I go. Seriously.

It is the middle of a sunny day. I walk down to the guys house. I stand there for a minute, sizing it up. Here goes nothing: bang, Bang, BANG! "Jose! Are you here? Jose?". Pause. "JOSE?!!" Bang, bang, BANG!

Quiet. No one comes to the door. I don't hear any movement. I wonder if anyone is home. After standing there on his doorstep for a moment, I turn to go home.

On my walk back home, the weight of fear is gone-thank God.

Later on the sense of wanting to see Jose and talk to him, lifts. He is a coward. I don't need to fear him. I don't need to confront him either. I like to imagine that he was cowering in his home while I was knocking at his door...

Man! I hate to be afraid.

I really hate to have my kids fearful.

"You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble;
You shall surround me with songs of deliverance." Ps 32:7