THIS is the Gospel

Last Monday night I cried myself to sleep…waves of grief washed over me as I thought of the child that would never have the opportunity to experience the splendor of God’s earthly creation, grief for the mother who would never get to hold her little baby, sadness over sinfulness and selfishness, and sorrow for the weight of shame and guilt that this mother would now carry….

 

Monday night, the very day my mind had drifted into plans for a baby shower, I found out that my friend had gotten an abortion. My friend (we’ll call her Cleone) doesn’t believe in abortion. She swore she would never get one. She always used to tell me, I’ve been through so much and I’ve messed up so much, but at least I’ve never had an abortion. 

 

Cleone has several beautiful children whom she has poured her whole life into. Her family here in Newark is like a diamond in the rough. She believes in LIFE, and she loves babies. But last April, she found herself pregnant against her will, grieving over the death of her grandmother who raised her, angry at her fiance who tries to control her, and upset at God for putting her through all this…so she went and did what she had always sworn she would never do.  She killed her baby.  We wrestled through the grief she experienced but rejoiced in the repentant heart she had as she told God she would never do it again.  Then this April she found herself pregnant again just as far along as she had been when she had the abortion the year before.   She took this as God’s second chance for her.  Yet she still struggled with the possibility of getting another abortion.  She knew God’s will, and what is right, yet certain medical conditions (she has a spine condition and arthritis in her back, but has never gotten surgery for it for fear of getting cut open) made following God’s will extremely difficult.  With mourning sickness, on top of her spinal condition, on top of the multiple children she must raise, on top of the part time job she must hold, on top of the fact that she would not be allowed to take pain killer to help ease the intense pain, on top of the small two bedroom apartment her family was packed in, on top of the inconsistent relationship she had with the father of her kids, on top of the fact that if she carried this baby it would be her 5th C-section…. it was HARD to resist the temptation of abortion.  We had long talks on the phone, I watched her kids so she could get a break, we read God’s promises, we prayed for His strength.  We even went and got a sonogram done, and received counseling from a women’s resource center.  We SAW her 10 week old unborn baby squirming, kicking and punching around in her stomach.  Cleone, had never had a baby shower, and my plan was to give her her first. I fell in love with this baby, as I continually encouraged his or her mother to have the faith to carry it.  Yet it was so hard for her to stay focused on God’s will, when there was a way out to all the pain.  The abortion clinics are there, her friends all were encouraging to get an abortion, they had all had them and “didn’t feel guilty” (or so it seemed)

 

But last week, the pain in Cleone’s back and legs got so intense she was throwing up and started to feel numb.  She went to the ER and the ER doctor immediately gave her strong painkiller, despite her pregnancy, and then told her she was basically trying to commit suicide by trying to carry the baby.  She got home and the next day went to the clinic. 

 

As I spoke with her about everything, she was crying and asking if God was going to punish her kids because she killed this child, she was asking “why?”, why didn’t God take away the pain, why didn’t He answer her prayers, why couldn’t He just fast forward to 9 months and already give her the baby. I didn’t have the answers, I was broken with grief, and all I could do is pray for her on the phone…and as I prayed I felt God’s Spirit descend on me as I, by faith, claimed the shed blood of Jesus over Cleone and her sin. The truth of the Glorious Gospel washed over us, and I realized and prayed that SHE would realize that Jesus already took the punishment that she fears for her children. GOD sent HIS OWN CHILD to take it.  Because of that sacrifice she did not need to live in the fear, the guilt, the shame she was experiencing. THIS is the Gospel we preach, THIS is the love we proclaim.  The “righteousness” that she had clung to by saying she would never have an abortion, was displaced and now she could fully cling to Christ’s righteousness, because now she was so broken that Jesus truly was her only hope. Blessed are the POOR in Spirit. This whole ordeal has made her realize the absolutely poverty she is in without a Savior to redeem her and intercede for her.

 

Several days after our prayer time, she called me to give me an update.  She had been getting up and reading her Bible every day, she was repenting of ways she hadn’t loved her kids or her fiance, she was devouring books by Billy Graham and others and sharing with me what she was learning.  She said it felt so weird to have such peace about things, and feel so happy despite what she had done. She felt like the storm was over. And it is, the storm of the fury of God’s just wrath, had been directed towards his own Son.  She may now bask in the glorious sunshine and the peace that comes after the storm.  THIS is the Gospel.  God taking broken people, broken choices, broken situations, and pays the price to heal, redeem, and restore. PRAISE JESUS for he has been sent to 

                            bind up the broken hearted, 

                            to proclaim freedom to the captives

                            and release from darkness to the prisoners

 

                            to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor

                                and the day of vengeance of our God,

                            to comfort those who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion-

                                to bestow on them 

                                           a crown of beauty 

                                                                  instead of ashes

                                                the oil of gladness 

                                                                        instead of mourning

                                                    a garment of praise

                                                                           instead of a spirit of despair…

                                                                                            (Isaiah 61:1-2)

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My Middle School Girls

Here are a few pictures of some of my middle school girls.  It is so exciting to see them growing in their walks with the Lord.  I fee like they’re “getting it” as we study the Word each week.  I see the immense weight that peer pressure has on their lives, but i also see a fight and a desire to not succumb to it.

Let me give you an example:

Aquilah was simply walking across the street three weeks ago when some of the middle school girls were sitting on my back porch waiting for the rest of the girls to arrive. She walked right up and asked what we were doing so I invited her to join us and honestly, I didn’t really think that she would.  To my surprise, she said “yes” (i think that the aroma of freshly baking brownie in the air was a nice incentive as well).  She opened right up during the Bible study, and she’s shown up every week since.

Well this week we did a study on doing things “for the least of these” because when we do, we’re doing it for Jesus.  So we made bread and muffins for some people in the projects.  As we were leaving to go deliver them, she asked in horror “we’re ALL going to deliver them NOW”, then she grilled me as to exactly where in the projects were were going , and then she begged me to stay behind, but then she finally agreed to go with us but insisted on going a round-about way to our destination.  WHY?  because her friends (who are all part of a girl gang, Grapes) always hang out in a certain spot every afternoon, and if they saw her hanging out with church people then she’d really “get it” from them.

I was so proud of her for going with us despite the fact that we saw her friends and who indignantly asked her if the reason she was with us was for the food (we gave them muffins too).  She dealt with the situation with grace, and said “no, i go to Bible study every Thursday now”. Then, she even volunteered to pray for the old, sick woman who we went to visit.

We stopped by her mom’s apartment and when she introduced me to her mother she declared “she’s our bible study leader, i go to her house every thursday”.  Her mom was excited that she was getting involved in something positive.

God’s working in Aquilah’s heart, and its not because of anything we’ve done…He started a work in her and brought her to us when she was ready to grow.  Praise God that this is HIS work and not ours! He’s going to be working no matter what, to draw His lost children to Himself, and we just get the privilege of being partners in the venture.

***Note***  While we were walking back from our deliveries, Aquilah mentioned a girls night that we had hosted over 2 years ago.  A group of girls had come and made other younger girls cry because they were picking on them…Aquilah had been part of the bullying group.  The Lord is taking her out of her old “family” (girl gangs) and bringing her into His family (the family of GOD)

 


Bidder Sweets- Safe Haven’s First Annual Fundraiser-not exempt from sin’s effect

WE DID IT!! or rather GOD did it…we pulled off Safe Haven’s first formal fundraiser.  After ALOT of work and planning, and then 19 hours of decorating in order to transform the church into a beautiful atmosphere, we hosted our dessert reception and silent auction.  As I ran over to my house to quick get my kids to bed and change before 7:30, i was tempted to crawl into Daniel Josiah’s crib with him…just from sheer exhaustion….but the evening was just beginning. Everything went off beautifully, and we had a good turn out.  David Tyree, from the New York Giants, did a great job speaking, and watching our kids perform their dance was an absolute delight.  

 

But at the same time, i don’t ever remember being so exhausted and short of patience.  The kids that were suppose to only show up for the dance and then leave, were all over the place, and LOUD too.  An evening that i wanted to be so formal was getting invaded by the reality of the kind of behavior that we deal with on a regular basis.  At one point when a group of girls ran and locked themselves in the bathroom when they were about to get scolded by someone, I came up to the door and cried “so help me God if you don’t UNlock this bathroom RIGHT NOW you are going to be in SOO much trouble!!” After. I dealt with the situation I slipped back into the dining area where Danny was giving his speech….”And we are trying to reach and love each one of these absolutely precious kids….”  whelp, if anyone had just witnessed my less than gracious outburst they would have seriously doubted what Danny had just said: A) that we’re loving them and B) that they’re precious….  about 15 minutes later I had the last straw, because I could hear all of the kids yelling and screaming in the youth center which was directly under David Tyree who was speaking to the audience.  I promptly marched down and told them that they all had to leave immediately….then upon getting kicked out, three of the girls, ripped up and dumped out all the of the luminaries that lead up to the entrance….MIND YOU, these were the SAME girls that had so desperately wanted to help during the day and put the very luminaries in place for me. 

 

As the end of the evening was approaching, I was dreading the clean-up, which would be at least another 5 hours of work, but God sent me angels, in the form of random people who immediately started tearing down stuff, cleaning up the kitchen, putting items away…THANK YOU, Nelda, Sean and April, Eric, Cristiana, Adam, and Betsy…you were God-sends.

 

You might ask, where was Danny is his exhausted wife’s time of need?  Well, the reason Danny was not involved in the clean up, was because WHILE David Tyree so graciously came to speak for free, auctioned off his Giants paraphernalia, and then wrote a generous check to Safe Haven, his car was being broken into and his GPS was being stolen. So as David (who has a busted knee, mind you), his wife, his 6 and 3 year old sons, AND his 2 month old girl twins went out to their car, they were rewarded for all their efforts with a smashed in passenger window, and missing expensive items from the vehicle.   Fortunately, they viewed it with “kingdom eyes” and David declared “man, if thats all satan’s got, then we are BLESSED”

 

So our evening was good and bad, blessed and tainted by sin…blessed by the generosity of others, the group effort of putting on such a big event, the beauty of sharing a vision and calling, but tainted by the sin of my own anger and lack of patience, the craziness and disrespect of the kids, and the robbing of a man who came in order to bless and give to this community.