Monday, December 28, 2009

...And a Merry Christmas Was Had by All

Well we had a whirl-wind of Good Tidings and such around our house.

First off, we had a great Christmas party with the Center of Praise choir coming over. We ate some delicious food and read the Christmas story. Dr Ronn Elmore was the reader and Victor played his guitar and at certain parts of the story, we would sing a carol together. It was so nice to slow down and get focused on the true meaning of this holiday. I wish all of you could have been there...

Christmas Eve we had a 'Present Extravaganza'. Every year, somehow, the Lord has given us a way to bring presents to all of the Pakistani kids in our neighborhood. Being that they are Muslim and don't celebrate Christmas, they really look forward to it. This year our dear friends the Dittmore's sent us fuzzy blankets, gloves, shoes, toys and I don't know what all--God bless them! I wish I had a picture to post with this story, but I was in the house cooking up a storm and I was dead-dog tired!

Later that evening, we heard some skidding tires right outside our house. I went out to look and our neighbor yelled "Call the police, someone just stole our car!" Oh boy! Our neighbors had just pulled into their driveway and got out to open the garage door and move a bike out of the way. The engine was running and quick as anything, a guy jumped in and drove off! It still hasn't been recovered. Bold. Very bold.

Christmas morning was spent at my step-son Asher's house. He and his wife, Janice had her side of the family over also. This was especially fun because there were lots of young kids over and they were bouncing all around and very excited.

We have known Janice's family for a long time. A funny story: When Victor was in his 'rock 'n roll' days, his band, Waterfall, moved into Bob and Rachel's neighborhood. (Bob and Rachel are Janice's parents) They reached out to the band and shared the love of God with them. None of the band came to Christ during their stay in that neighborhood, but it wasn't from a lack of trying. Victor remembers seeing Bob across the street and Bob would yell out "Praise the Lord, Victor!" and Victor would shout back "Smoke pot, Bob!" Great memories...

It was while at Asher's, I learned something that I'm still thinking about. There was different music playing and since Janice got her parents tickets to see the musical 'Wicked', the song 'Defying Gravity' was on. The music went on to play a random song called 'Hate on Me'. My son, Simon said "This is our family's theme song." and Sterling chimed in "Yes, it is!" I said "What do you mean by that?" and they proceeded to tell me that people hate our family. "What? Why?" They told me it is because sometimes, when we help people, " just makes them hate us."

Wow...I think it is exagerated, but they have seen some bad behavior at times.

Oh, I don't want to end on a bad note. And I won't because we still have to serve people and let the Lord worry about the outcome. Our family has helped plenty of people and they were very grateful and love us for it.

Part of the song says "I gotta do me." As in, 'I have to do what I know is right and I won't quit.'
Jesus, certainly, was the BEST at this!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Wild Branches in Las Vegas

I just liked this photo of me singing at a rehersal for the Night to Honor Israel in Las Vegas. It was a special evening. We sang with a local church choir-very special people and so excited to support Israel. We also got to sing with our friend Avi who is now the cantor at Beth Shalom in Vegas. It is always fun with him especially when he busts out with 'Key-lay-o-lahm-chaz-doh!' 'His love endures forever!'

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holiday Program

Last night was Samuel's Holiday Program. He is in 3rd grade.

While I was waiting for the BIG SHOW, I over-heard this conversation:

Woman to mother: "How intoxicated are you?"


Daughter: "Just how intoxicated are you? I can smell it!

Right then, yes it hit me.

I also brought Ella to the show. She is Sam's little sister who is in kindergarten. I had to break some tough news to grandpa Victor. During the program, the crowd was clapping to some of the music and, sadly, it was then that I realized the beautiful girl, um, is rhythmically challenged. This isn't a fatal flaw though. In case you are wondering.

While I'm writing of Christmas and holidays, I must write that I have been trying to put the 'fun' back into dysfunctional. This year, the pot has been stirred (as far as family relations go) and it really doesn't feel that good. It is making me pray a lot and hope for the future. I actually did something I never do: shop with my ipod in my ears! I felt like I just needed to listen to some praise music and refocus on the Lord. I played the song by Bishop Larry Trotter 'When You Praise' a bunch.

Part of the words are 'When you praise Him, things begin to happen. When you praise Him circumstances change. When you praise Him, blessings are released!'

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Yesterday, I helped our church hand out boxes of food, toiletries and Avon to women in my neighborhood of Oak Park. The charity that Center of Praise worked with is called Wellspring. Wellspring feeds women and children every morning and gives them a nice place to relax.

They do a great work. It was nice to help the families that came through. The children were precious and had that 'this is a special day' look in their eyes.

After each woman received her boxes to take home, then we would ask if we could pray for them and we invited them to come Sunday to church.

I have to add that most of the women that came through were truly in need. You could see in their eyes the hard life they lead. These women have it really tough out there. My heart went out to the moms who had lots of kids. It made me think of how I grew up with just my mom raising us. It was a struggle. Very hard.

SOME on the other hand, pulled up to collect their boxes in shiny new SUV's. What is that about?! about ghetto!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

So, you want to stir the pot?

I've been a part of a great, local bible study. It has a national office in the mid-west and the bible study serves the US and a few other countries. This study has been so enjoyable because women from all different kinds of denominations participate and there are different levels of biblical knowledge--of course I always LOVE the new believers, they are so refreshing.

It seems that the local leadership team ran into some lying from another bible study leader in our area. This leader was 'cold busted' through an email and from anothers word. It is too long of a story, but the woman who supervises this area was called in from the nat'l office and decided against the process of Matt 18. Our local leadership team, was aghast and dismayed. The final and last word came in September that the team would need to "submit to the authority" of the national office without question. There would be no further discussion period. No mention of Matthew 18.

Of course, being the godly women that they are, they said that if they cannot live by the Word of God and use it to resolve conflicts, there would be no agreement to these conditions.

That was the end of the local chapter of this bible study.

The deeper issues seem to be petty jealousy, gossip and arrogance. My husband and I have been through this ourselves before and it was extremely painful. To see these bible study leaders so hurt-I mean, being a part of the bible study for 10, 20,even 30 years-is so sad. (Some women did write letters to the national leadership to no avail.)

Well, we all figured that 'these things happen, lets see what God has next for each of us'. As sad as it has been, 300+ women moved on.

Fast forward to yesterday. I get a letter from the national office. It is written by the bible study's Board of Trustee's chairman. (they were asked to get involved at one point and refused). The letter was FULL of misinformation and purposeful deception. Ugh.

One of the bible study leaders here sent out a letter to our area. It was addressed to this Board of Trustee chairman and explained that Matthew 18 was NOT followed and that he has only heard one side of the story and has NEVER even ask the leadership team here to find out their side.

I had to write the guy myself. (the names are changed to protect the guilty) Here 'tis:

Dear Mr Smith,

I see that your letter was meant to stir the pot again. That is okay because now I have to write!

Under your weak leadership and lack of living out-and gaining guidance from- the Word of God, this Bible Study chapter has closed. You have allowed Susy to become the untouchable 'sacred cow'. God is not a respecter of persons. This means that when we do wrong, we ALL must make things right again. She and women she supervises have become lying bullies. This, brother, ought not to be. The neat thing about this though is that she can humble herself and follow through with Matthew 18.

I am not sure why following Matthew 18 has become such a sticking point, but I will enlist your help and ask you to make sure that Susy and the women she oversees take care of business. Until this is done I will let my friends know that Bible Study has lost its way.

Also, it would be great if you and your staff wouldn't treat people that go to Bible Study with such condescension. Some of the things that have been done and said, well, it seems that you must think we are novices. It certainly hasn't endeared you to many folks.

It is a shame the way our quality, servant team members have been treated. The sisters here are wonderful and godly women. They are truly out to serve in excellence and are above reproach in their character. It has been heartbreaking to see the pain your staff members have caused. I truly hope you and your ungodly leaders repent. You have all sinned against the whole Sacramento Bible Study chapter.

Until you follow through with the Matthew 18 process, I ask you to remove my name from your mailing list. I would find it too unbearable to read any other mail from you, especially when it ignores such a glaring problem and has swept this kind of ugliness under the rug.



PS I am not so naive as to believe that this letter would elicit any kind of change, yet I had to be one more reminder that you have gone wrong...

Well, as you can see I was fired up while writing this.

Proverb of the day-Don't make the sistahs mad!

Monday, November 23, 2009

I Know About Faith in Jesus-Still Learning About the Faith of Jesus

Victor and I spent a great weekend with friends in Las Vegas. Our friends Avi and Kam wanted Victor to come and speak at their synagogue and sell some of his books. Avi used to be the cantor at Mosaic Law here in Sacramento. Now he is serving in Las Vegas. He is mentioned in Victor's book.

I can't tell you how priveledged it is to have these great friends. They welcome us with open arms into their world. Being a Christian my whole adult life, I never knew much about Judiasm. After visiting a few synagogues in different cities, I think I'm getting a better understanding of it-and I have a deep appreciation of it.

I always get a bit anxious before we visit a Jewish community. I know that most folks in each congregation will not be open to hearing from a Christian pastor. I'm almost certain that there have been meetings and debates behind the scenes. Our Christian history has so hurt our 'elder brothers' in the faith that we have to walk very tenderly. Thankfully by the end of Victor sharing CUFI's message, many will be accepting and relieved.

When I go to a Shabbat service, I almost feel like I'm time-traveling. As the Psalms and prayers are sung by everyone, and harmonies are strikng a wonderful chord, I am almost transported into ancient history. I love it! It usually gives me a 'Whoa!' moment.

This weekend it at Beth Sholom, a young man was being Bar Mitzvah'd. He was up on the Beema and you could see the pride in his parents eyes. When he went to the ark and took out the scrolls to walk the aisles, you could feel the love coming at this young man. I always like how, as the scrolls are carried in the aisle, everyone turns to follow it. No one is supposed to have their back to the Word of God.

After he recited what he learned and had given his speech, everyone threw candy at him and then the little children ran up to gather it. Rabbi Felipe gave an encouraging message and charge to the young man. It was a message about helping to make the world a better place. We certainly could use more of that.

Victor sold some books and we made some new friends. Building bridges is a good thing :D

Thanks to Avi, Kam, your children too. We will see you next week at the Night to Honor Israel. Your hospitality is so appreciated and we love you guys!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

How to describe...?

Woke up early-5:15am-to get ready for church. It was 3rd Sunday and that means that the whole choir is on to sing. We arrive at Center of Praise to warm-up and go through our set. It is 7am. Warm up time goes great and I am at the mike with Cynthia and Bette'. I confess I was a little bit distracted because I HATED what I was wearing (I am throwing away that dumb skirt!)

After we are warmed up we head downstairs to 'circle-up' and pray. We start first service at 8am. Then we have a 9:30 and 11:15am service. The choir starts with a hymn. Today's was 'Higher Ground'. Then we sang "When You Praise", "To Worship You I Live" and during the offering "Souled Out". I have to clarify something. We are part of the choir, but it isn't a choir that people just sit and listen to. It is more like the choir leads the congregation in song and worship.

Last Sunday, early morning, one of the youth workers was killed in a single car accident-he had fallen asleep at the wheel. The young man was 19 and the only child of his mother. Bishop called the family up to pray for them today. This mother is devastated and there was such tenderness for her. As you can imagine it was a 'moment' and all seemed to be holding their breath. It just felt reverent.

After the prayer the family went back to their seats. Bishop then talked about another young man who was shot 6 years ago while he lived in the Bay area. It seems this young man was walking to the store and some stranger drove by and shot him in the head. He made it clear that this man wasn't into gangs or drugs, he was just running an errand. The doctors thought he wouldn't live 24 hours. His mother asked the COP congregation, where she attended, to pray. Well, this man survived with the bullet lodged in his brain. He was a bit paralyzed on one side, yet he made amazing progress.

Two months ago, he went into surgery again because the bullet was giving him pain. The doctors were able to remove it and the man is becoming whole again! He brought the bullet today (it was in a safe container) and was walking, clapping and dancing! Praise God! He couldn't stop smiling and the whole congregation was caught up in the joy.

All were dancing in their seats, clapping and shouting. The band kept playing and the music took on a life of it's own. It was a great time of praise.

After the services are over, Victor gets a call to come check out the new offices of the Jewish Federation. They are 2 blocks away so we go for a visit. We see some friends that we haven't seen for a while, Michal, Noam, Neal, Fred, Rick and Michelle. That was fun too and, thankfully, they had lunch :D

This, friends, is why I took a 2 hour nap! I was very tired and I still am...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Happy 21st Anniversary to Us!

Today is our 21st wedding anniversary. Victor and I have been married for what I would call, a long time. We have been through many 'dangers toils and snares' and lots of fun and adventure too. It is a good thing to be married for a long time.

I don't like to think where I'd be if I hadn't married Victor. He isn't like anyone else I know. He says he was raised to be a father and that is absolutely true. I say that he was also raised to be a husband--a good one. Both of his parents poured so much into their kids and they kept a happy home for them.

I hope we have done the same for our children.

Since I like lists, I had to make this one ;D

Reasons I married Victor:

1)He has a great sense of humour.
Sisters, please marry a man that makes you laugh. You will have days where that is SO important.

2)He loves people and always wants to help them.
We have given time, money, counsel, a place to stay, tears and sleepless nights to lots of folks. It has always been worth it no matter what the outcome of our efforts.

3)Victor loves the Lord and strives to live out this love at all times.
When Jesus said "If you love me, then keep my commandments." He takes that seriously.

4)He is always reaching out beyond our world to make friends.
This is a skill that not many people have. Victor has a gift to connect people who need to get to know each other. If someone is sick, he probably knows a doctor who is a specialist for that ailment. If someone has written an important article, he knows who should read it so it gets a wider audience.

5)He is an encourager.
I can't count how many people have crossed our path who have needed a word of encouragement (me especially). There are lots of people who are going through some of the things that we have and it is uncanny how he 'finds' them.

Thanks honey for everything. Thanks honey for being you!

Whoa, that sounded corny.
...oh well...<3

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Oh, How He Moves the Furniture!

So, after I wrote about 'why can't I just love people?' God pleasantly reminded me of so many reasons why I have GREAT neighbors.

Yes, there some good things that have happened in my 'hood.

A few years ago, our neighborhood was thrown into panic when one of the little boys fell out of the 2nd story window onto concrete steps below. Another neighbor came running and told me that he thought the boys neck was broken and how he told the mother to keep him still. By the time I got there, the boy was in his mothers arms crying and they were waiting for the ambulance. We told the family that we were praying to Jesus to heal him.

We went to the hospital later in the day and brought a couple of the older boys, Matloub and Garhib. We talked to the father and gave him a balloon for the boy. The boy was going to be fine. He broke his arm and it would be in a cast.

On the way home, the two older boys asked Victor "Is Mohammad going to live?" "Is it because because you prayed?" Victor told him "Yes, it is because I prayed and asked Jesus to let Mohammad live."

We don't preach to the kids, but we are always honest with our answers to their questions.

I'm thankful that because of my neighbors presence, we don't have many strangers that walk down our street. I think that they see so many Muslim men, it kind of stops a lot of nonsense that could potentially happen.

The young boys in our neighborhood are such hard workers. Their parents have given them such a great work ethic. (Immigrants are inspiring-living the American Dream) Whenever people are doing yard work or painting or, even, delivery guys that are bringing someone a new refrigerator--they want to help. A few weeks ago two of the very young ones, 3 years old or so, came to our door and knocked. Victor answered the door and the two boys giggled and asked if he had any work for them. Victor chuckled and told them "No, I don't have any work for you kids." They kept giggling and ran off back home.

Katie is a young mom who has 3 kids and one on the way. She said that before she and her husband moved in, they didn't have interactions with so many different kinds of people. She mentioned that when her kids say something about the 'Pakistani kids' she has made it a rule that her kids mention them by name. It certainly made me stop in my tracks. I have to say that there are so many 'Pakistanis' that I don't know every ones name and I've been too lazy to learn them! Shame on me!

I've been overwhelmed with the neat things God has done on our street. He has been reminding me of so much. Too much to put down tonight. I feel so petty and small-minded with what I wrote in my previous post. Yet I'm glad I put it down so I could see my own foolishness. Wow, I wasted precious 'thinking time' on such dumb stuff!

Well, I can learn and I'm grateful that God hasn't given up on me. I want to get better and better. Those rough edges can get smooth if I surrender. Sometimes I am a crusty one...

Thank You God for 'moving the furniture' of my heart.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Why Can't I Just Love People?

Our family moved to this house in August of 1996. We had just gotten back from a tour of Israel. While there we'd see different sites and many times our guide would say something like "This place is sacred to the Jews, but they can't go there now because the Muslims have put a mosque on it." or "This site is holy to Christians, but the Muslims have put a graveyard on it so you can't go there." It left me wondering 'who are these Muslim people?'

The first day we move in we see, you guessed it, Muslim people in our neighborhood! Right next door too. One of the men says "Aren't you Victor?" He had met Victor at Lou Anne's house. They are her neighbors and she has been phenomenal at reaching out to this family over the years.

I've had sort of a rocky relationship with our neighbors. I tell you it has been tough sometimes. The first thing was they brought over some food and we thanked them. I reciprocated with an apple crisp. When I dropped it off the husband kept asking me what was in it. I told him everything and wondered what was going on. Later I learned that they can't have anything with vanilla extract because it has alcohol in it and they aren't allowed alcohol.

It didn't take a genius to figure out that they probably threw it away. I was bummed.

There have been a lot of misunderstandings over the years:
*The staring. Yes, there is lots of staring that I find so uncomfortable-even when I'm in my own backyard.
*Kids playing in the street. Even the tiniest are right out in the street without parents in sight.
*Putting their leaf pile in front of our house. I truly find that odd. (and rude)
*When I would take some of the women to appts. they wouldn't knock on my door. They would always call and go out to my car. Never at my doorstep. It definitely made me feel like they thought we were 'unclean'.
*Sometimes the boys won't talk to me. I find out later it is because I am a woman. Yet they sure will come over and play movies in our teen center.

You get the picture. God has tested my heart many times and I fail most of the time with these neighbors. It seems like it is a little better though. The mood is shifting.

I was thinking of Paul the Apostle and how he was designated to preach to the Gentiles. Man! He must have run into all kinds of cats with every kind of belief. Yet he loved those people. It wasn't any kind of big deal to him. He moved throughout the ancient world and served God wholeheartedly in the midst of all kinds of gods, ethnicities, living conditions, violence, imprisonment, brutality--I get convicted just thinking about it.

Well, I will ask, like Paul, and say "Remember me when you pray."

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sterling's Party Rules

So, we had a Halloween party last night. Whew! It was fun and my daughter and her good friends did a great job setting it up. We had nachos and chili dogs along with all kinds of candy and goodies.
I had a parent call and ask if there was going to be an adult overseeing the party. She was also wondering if there was going to be alcohol served. No, there were no drinks or drugs! There were 3 or 4 couples that were really wanting to makeout though...We all had to tell them that we want everyone to have a good time, but we weren't going to have any of that this evening. It is sad to realize that these young ones are having sex. Ugh. It is hard to think of your future when you are that young and that the decisions you make now may follow you for the rest of your life.
The music was loud and the dancing was great. There are some talented kids. I put together a food relay race that was a hit. What I do is wrap up various foods in tin foil and the teams send up one member to unwrap and eat the food and then on down the line. We did the boy against the girls and the boys won :D
I have to thank Victor who stayed in practically the whole evening. He is really good with young ones and a good watcher. Since we had everyone from 'soup to nuts', and that is right up his alley, I thank God for him!
Here are Sterlings Rules for the Halloween Party:(yes, she sent these out to all her invitees)
1) No one dies
2)No one gets pregnant
3)No drugs or alcohol
Yep, good times in the 'hood.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Feast of Tabernacles San Antonio, TX

This is part of my beautiful family. We are waiting for the Night to Honor Israel to start at Cornerstone Church in San Antonio.

What a time we had. This is the first time we took Simon and Sterling. It was fun introducing them to everyone. We have such great friends that work with Christians United for Israel. Many of them also travel and to get us all together is a feat to be sure!

On this NTHI Elie Weisel was the keynote speaker. He is a great voice speaking out against hatred and racism. I don't have his quote exactly right, but he said "Racism is about humiliation. I stand against humiliation no matter who is about." I am so glad I got to hear him. I've never heard a Nobel Peace Prize winner before.

CUFI gave away 9 million dollars to various Israeli charities that night. We gave $500k to Elie's foundation. His foundation had invested all of their money with Madoff and it all was lost...

During this celebration there are rides, booths, food, music and fireworks. It is a great time for the San Antonio community. Every year we HAVE to eat a big 'ol smoked turkey leg-mmmm. The meat is so tender and delish :D

Well, I came home with a cold. It isn't that bad, but my thinking is disjointed and fuzzy.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Pleasant Enough Day, Until...

Well, here I am riding my very nice cruiser bike on a beautiful Autumn day. I like to ride through the Fab 40's neighborhood and, right now, it is especially nice with all of the leaves changing.

As I head back home I take 39th St. to get back into my neighborhood. I pass the light rail station and go through the tunnel. Up ahead a man is walking toward me on the sidewalk. He steps from the walkway into the street and into my pathway. He doesn't look at me. He is looking at the houses across the street. As I approach, I notice that he is reaching into his pocket and he takes out a knife. He unfolds it and it turns out to be a serrated hunting knife. I suddenly have the thought that this man is going to take a swipe at me as I ride by!

It all happens in seconds. I speed up and go around the guy, leaving as much room as I can. He never takes a swipe, but as I get a few yards a way, I turn around and he is looking right at me.

When I get home I call the police. I give them a description and my number. I decide that since I need to walk my dog later and this is the route I take, I should try to find this guy and tell the police where he is. I am going to jump into my car and take a look myself.

As I am heading out, I get a call from the police. They say they have picked up a suspect and want me to ID him. I go to where they have detained the guy-yep, it is him. Then they show me the knife-yep, it is the weapon. I get a feeling that the man is a parolee and no stranger to the police.

Well, I am glad that no harm came to me or anyone else. I had to tell Victor who is out of town right now and he was NOT happy. He called a bunch of people so that they would check on me and had a nice visit with Aladrian. Everything is good. I don't feel fearful or anything like that. I actually walked Bradley and all was well.

I know that God is watching over me and feel great confidence in that knowledge. I do feel that these things happen because the spirits know that we stand with Israel and her people. It is a battle in the heavens. Nothing can touch one of His own without His explicit permission.
I have a hope and a future.

Btw, the man was a white male 5'10", balding with sparse dark, close-cropped hair. Slim, muscular build. He had a black, flame tattoo on his shoulder.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blessed are the Peacemakers

I like Victor's new job. Sometimes I get to go with him on his travels. This weekend was a trip to Arvada, CO to visit Faith Bible Chapel. We've known George and Cheryl Morrison for a few years now through CUFI. They are wonderful pastors and have a huge church of over 6,000. Victor spoke at their new church plant pasored by Gary and Joanna Beasley.

There were two services there and it was their first Israel Awareness day as a new church. Later in the evening was the Night to Honor Israel at the big church. We enjoyed getting to know the Beasley's and found we knew a few people in common. They used to live in S Lake Tahoe.

The two sevices were great and Victor sold a case of books. One of the Morrison's daughter's friends said she finally 'got it' in understandng Israel after Victor's message that morning. Good stuff.

The third service was held at the big church and was their spanish speaking service. Adan and Marta Aguirre pastor that one. Victor used a translator and the message was overwhelmingly received. I don't know what it is, but in the Spanish churches have such an affinity for Israel. It is always so encouraging! The church has people from 24 countries represented. Adan said that there are language differences and even some offensive words depending on where you are from, yet the people realize that they have to go with it because they are in America and the differing words from the many countries represented are not all bad in this new context.

Pastor Hagee was the keynote speaker for the NTHI. Before the evening began, I got to tell him 'Thank you for hiring Victor!" He gave me a hug and said that it was the best decision they've made-I love it!

Things have been great since Victor has become the East Coast Director for Christians United for Israel. There are many talented and amazing state and city directors working all along in that part of our nation. I'm proud that he is smoothing things over for some folks where there have been some 'iron sharpening iron' moments. There is room in this great field of work and cooperation and understanding will go a long way. It is exciting to imagine what is up ahead. Can't wait to see :D

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I Love These Connections

Being a woman of faith, I love to see the many puzzle pieces of life come together in amazing ways. It happens all of the time and, I'm sure that I only see a very little of it.

While in Iowa at the Night to Honor Israel, there was a woman speaker from Israel who represented Israel's welcoming department for Ethiopian Jews who make 'aliyah'. The woman, Shirah, explained how they help the newcomers acclimate to their new life. After all, they come from a land that is centuries behind Israel and the learning curve is HUGE. (I'm always intrigued by these stories and amazed at the Hand of God and His promise of gathering His own from the North, South, East and West)

The next day at the airport heading back to Sacramento, we saw Shirah again. She was kind of impressed that I remembered her name because we actually hadn't met the night before. I just remembered her name from the introduction to her speech.

We got to talking and I told her that a year and a half before, me and Victor had been invited to a home gathering of Kennesset members who were visiting California. They had been all over and even got to meet the Governor. At this meeting, a man named Shlomo Mullah spoke of how he walked from Ethiopia to Israel with his friends when they were 15 yrs old. It was quite a hair-raising expedition, as you can imagine. Well, Shirah says "Shlomo is one of my very best friends!" It was soo cool! I love that. Right then we connected and it was such a neat moment. I want to say 'small world', but I know that it really is a BIG world.

As I think of the meeting with Shlomo, I remember the question I asked him after he spoke. I said "When you came to Israel and the rabbis from your village in Ethiopia came to Israel--And your rabbis met the Israeli rabbis, did they find any differences in their faith or practices?" He looked at me and said "Well, no. Everything was the same except we didn't know about Purim (because they were exiled by Babylon before Esther's story) and we sacrifice a lamb during Passover."

To me this is so significant in the mending of fences between Christians and Jews. We Christians owe such a debt to the People of God! If they hadn't faithfully protected the Word, We'd still be under the tyrany of all kinds of crazy beliefs. I, myself, would be soo miserable. They gave me my precious Messiah-thank you!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In His Corner.

Sunday we took the grandkids to the Pumpkin Farm. Beautiful weather and just a great day overall.
Bradley is our dog. We've had him for 3 years and he is one of the best dogs ever!
So, with Samuel, Ella and Bradley, Victor has got a really good fan-base. These three are totally devoted to him and it is very sweet. We all could use unwavering love, couldn't we?

Monday, October 12, 2009

One of those 'why's?'

There is something I've been thinking of lately. It is something that has an answer, I just don't know it fully. I know that greater minds than mine maybe have this figured out-I am stumped.

Remember recently when Jaycee Lee Dugard was found? She is the young woman who was kidnapped from S Lake Tahoe in 1991. She was found to be living with her captors, a woman and a man. The man had a long history of being a rapist. The woman was his sick accomplice.

Jaycee had grown up in a horrific situation to be sure. Actually having two kids from this evil man.

I'm so glad she was found. She is reunited with her family and can begin healing-and, hopefully getting normalized.

Here is the hard part for me: I am a huge believer in prayer. I've had so many prayers and hopes answered. Why, then, did it take so long for Jaycee to be found? I'm sure that many of God's people were praying for her, but WHY?

Oh, I know that this is a sensitive subject. I know that He has His reasons. We 'see through a glass darkly' and all.

Is it like the 'Chaos Theory' where scientists found that even in chaos, there is an order?

I hope this isn't too simplistic...

I'm not even sure I like how I've gotten this subject down in this blog...

Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Healing at Center of Praise

I have to say that I truly LOVE the home church that we attend. It has been such a sweet surprise.
In the fall of 2002 me and Victor blew out of the church we helped pastor. It was really a tough change at first, but right away the Lord led us on such an amazing path. As far as finding a church, we didn't have very much luck. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of good churches filled with good people. It is just that we kept feeling restless. Victor more so than I. I kept hoping, but doubting, that there was a good place to make our permanent 'home'.

Let me go back to when we blew out of our former church. As were were getting signs that we should leave, we went on a cruise down to Mexico. The church thought that if we got some rest, we would come around to their way of thinking. That didn't happen. What DID happen was that the Lord started speaking to us about our future.

Victor met some brothers on the cruise ship. They were having a small retreat to relax and to connect with the Lord. I saw that they were filled with joy and I wished and longed to be in their frame of mind. We got invited to their meeting and decided to go. They welcomed us - which made me cry- and they loved us too. The speaker started talking about trials in life. *Tears*
He brought up the story of Joseph *more tears* As he kept speaking, I knew that God was trying to encourage us. This brother didn't know that we had been talking a lot about Joseph and we knew that it was no coincidence what this man was sharing.

After that get-together, Victor told me that he felt like the Lord was telling him that we were going to be involved in the black community. I certainly had the 'amen' too, but we didn't know that it would entail being part of such a great church community - the Center of Praise.

The wonderful part of this has been the healing of Victor's health. He really took a 'hit' with all of the stress during our trial. The doctors thought he had Lou Gehrig's disease or prostate cancer or, even MS. It was so stressful and I was really in denial. Thankfully he had none of those things. He was still very much in pain and it was really tough.

Since going to COP, starting on and off since last fall, he has almost completely been healed! I truly thank God for the victory :D

We are now members and are involved and serve too. The old has passed away. It is new and fresh. I know that no church is perfect. I know that I probably have theological differences on some issues, yet this is home.

Yeah, God!!

Just an aside, the music is soooo good and we get to sing in the choir. When churches have bad music, it is hard for me to enter into worship. I know, I know, we need to bring from our hearts praise no matter what. I am a spoiled baby in that respect. I admit it. I realize also that it is all subjective, but still...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Our Very Own Neighborhood Crackhouse

These are some of my neighbors. We went over to the house to check out what is going on with the clean-up. Well, we are disappointed that NOTHING is happening. It was fun hanging out and talking though. The kids were eating popsicles and the parents were talking. I like the light-sabers :D

Conversation between parent and young child:

Parent: Stay out front, I don't want you to go into the backyard because there are needles that can make you very sick and other things that are bad.

Young child: Is there quicksand?

Parent: I don't know. Might be...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Band of Mothers

Last night we had a Neighborhood Watch meeting in our Teen Center. I was so glad that neighbors came-even our Pakistani neighbors who usually try to avoid calling the police. We had 3 police officers come and talk about the goings on around here. They were very positive and they are seeing good things happen all of the time.

There are 4 of us who have formed what I call 'The Band of Mothers'. We are the ones who have been concerned about the state our street was in for about 9 months or so. You see we just got rid of a crack, pimp and prostitution house (all rolled into one) that was 4 houses down from mine.

It all started when a bunch of people moved into a rental house. The people would hang out on the porch and talk to their friends and such. We would walk by and say 'Hi' and they seemed friendly enough. Then, we started realizing that the women who lived there were always on the lookout for drivers going by and then one of the ladies waved at my husband. That was her mistake.

My husband, being the kind and forthright man that he is, went to talk to the guys. He told them that if he was wrong he would apologize, but it seemed that there are things going on at this particular house that will not work on this street. At first the guys tried denying it, but in the end they did admit it. My husband once again, told them that it wasn't going to work.

One day the police were called to a house that is across the street from the crack-house. A woman there has a grown daughter who is on drugs and this young woman yells and screams at her mom with such wrath and venom. It is really unbelievable how crazed this daughter gets. Well, the mom got afraid and called the police. I didn't know this at first and me and my husband went to ask the police if they were there for the crack-house. We did kind of use large hand,arm,pointing motions toward the bad house. We let the police know what was going on and then let it be because they were already busy.

Next day, one of the men, an older fellow, comes to our door. My 15 year old daughter is the only one home at the time. Well, Mr Weaver, crack-house spokesman, said he was upset with us that we called the police on them all. Thankfully, Mr Weaver realized that he shouldn't get too upset with our daughter, but I was still mad. The gall!

Fast forward to the day after the Nat'l Night Out in August. We had a great get-together with tons of neighbors and talked about starting Neighborhood Watch the night before. After the party a HUGE fight broke out down the block. This never happens and it was certainly crazy after such a great Nat'l Night Out party. Anyways, I happen to see two cop cars parked across the street. I decided to be the nosy neighbor and ask them if everything was okay and if they had heard about the big fight the night before. They said everything was okay and , no, they hadn't heard about the fight.

I then proceed to talk about our very own crack-house and right away Mr Weaver comes yelling down the street protesting that I'm talking to the police about him and his house. Boy, he was mad! I raised my voice right back at him and while he was protesting his innocence I was speaking very loudly about the "Pimping, Drugs and the Prostitution GOING ON!" Neighbors came out and watched the spectacle. So, Mr Weaver and I went toe to toe while the woman officer held up her arms to keep us separated. (this was funny to me later, like did she think I would hit him?!)

Well, I was glad that we tangled a bit because I think it showed that crack-house that I wasn't intimidated by them. They needed to fear ME. Even though I told Mr Weaver, he still kept thinking that it was just our family that was calling the police on them. The whole street was calling on them and I thank God for such diligent neighbors. In the end the cops came and busted them. A couple of people were already on parole too. The house is going into forclosure because the owners didn't want to pay for all of the code violations and the raw sewage problem in the basement-Ewww. The city attorney also filed a suit against the owners-Yeah!

A win for the Band of Mothers for sure :D
I did hear about other goings-on, but I'll save that for another posting.
Never a dull moment in the 'hood.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Wondering if I should go there

Today was first Sunday at Center of Praise. That means that the whole choir sings--3 services in the morning and the evening Communion. It is quite the workout in more ways than one. Today in service we sang a song called Our Father by Fred Hammond. I tell ya that ever since I've joined COP I keep getting struck in the heart by these songs about fathers.

I didn't get to grow up with my dad and now that I'm an adult, I still don't really know him. I feel that there is peace between us, I just don't have a relationship with him.

A month ago my mom got really mad at me and disowned me. I was sad about it, but I admit, I'm somewhat relieved. Our relationship is always tense.

All this to say that I essentially don't have parents that love and care for me. When we sing those songs at church about a loving father, it is half comforting and half sad.

I know God is good and He has been really good to me. Todays songs are meant to remind everyone how loving a God He is. I know that's true!

Yadda, yadda, yadda...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Our time in Iowa

Well, my husband and I were off in Iowa. I really liked it. I wish I could have seen more of it. You know, the Field of Dreams or something. Oh well...we were too busy!

The folks that hosted us, Tom and Kate are wonderful. They are tireless Christians who are really into helping people. Kate is a pray-er and told us of some really neat answers she has seen.
At their home prayer meeting this morning, they prayed for our whole family-what a blessing.

Tom is a relationship builder. He has gotten the Christians and Jews together and this is no easy feat. He is so gracious and passionate for Israel and it's people. And stands strong against anti-semitism.

The Night to Honor Israel was a great evening. Victor's message was the WHOLE package. It felt like a journey and I think it will inspire people to put 'actions to faith'. He sold a few books too.

We ate a LATE dinner and a pastor friend spoke about his life and ministry. Boy! It was bringing back memories-not all good either. One of the things he shared is when someone preaches a message about forgiveness, he and his wife look at each other and say "I wonder how long the line will be this time." Yep, they will most assuredly have a few people who want to 'forgive' them after church is over...Oh! I have really bad memories about such foolishness.

I don't have the 'ticket' for that life anymore.
I just want to be a plain-old sister who is helpful and loves the Lord.
So, we are back home now in Sacramento. Bushed.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Heading To Iowa

Today I leave, with my husband, to Iowa. He is the keynote speaker at the Night to Honor Israel being held in Davenport. They've given him 40 mins which is a long time. He will also be able to have his book available. I'm proud of him!

Last night was choir practice. What a challenge every week. We are always learning new songs and immediately singing them on Sunday. My husband and I are the only two, um, well let's just say we add color in the choir :D We have loved every minute too. We've always done music and we have our own band 'Wild Branches', but this is new for us. Gospel is rather tricky to my little ears!
This Sunday my husband will be leading the song 'Souled Out' by Hezekiah Walker. It is such a fun song and the choir sounds sooo good! My husband is rather nervous, but I know he can do it.

Speaking of music, my kids are often annoyed because me and my husband sing about any situation going on. Today I am stumped. There are no songs about Iowa!! Iowans, get busy!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How I got here

I moved to the 'hood on November 12th 1988. My husband, Victor, and I got married that day and since he lived here, I got to live here too. I grew up in East Sacramento, right across the street from McKinley Park. Though we had hard times because my parents divorced, I'm grateful that I grew up in a safe and beautiful neighborhood.
Moving to Oak Park was an adjustment and in the early years I had a lot to get used to. There were about 3 homes that were condemned on our block, some apartments with just-released- from-jail tenants, prostitutes and eccentrics.
We made our home here and raised 4 kids here. Two are my step-sons. They are grown and married and on their own. Two are the kids I helped to 'make' Simon, 18 and in college. Sterling, 15 and in her jr year of high school.
The street we live on now is very diverse. I really like it that way. Never a dull moment in the 'hood.
Recently, we got rid of a group of people a few doors down, who were selling drugs and pimping and being prostitutes. As a result, a group of us moms have formed a Neighborhood Watch group. I named us "Band of Mothers" We want to keep the bad guys out and make it safe for families to enjoy their street.