ISAIAH 61:1-4

ISAIAH 61:1-4

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me and has anointed me to
Preach the good news to the poor. .
Bind up the brokenhearted,
Proclaim freedom for the captives,
Proclaim release from darkness for the prisoners,
Comfort all who mourn
Provide for those who grieve in Zion to bestow on them
The oil of gladness for mourning
And a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness

Friday, August 29, 2008


When God Speaks, I want to listen

Lately God's been bringing people from the past into my life. I'm not sure what he's saying. But I'm trying hard to listen.

Tonight, we go to our favorite little gourmet cafe for a bit of supper (Yeah, supper! It's just the farm girl in me!) and we see a man we've know for a long time. His story is one of those that brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.

Let's call him Jake for convenience and confidentiality. He was born second in a family of six siblings. The father was gone by the time the youngest girl was born and this man was about 8 and the oldest sister was 9. Mom struggled to feed and clothe them, but after two years, she married a harsh man with sufficient means to support her family of 6 children. The stepfather, however, didn't want the children around. They were routinely locked in a bedroom upstairs from the time they got home from school until the next morning. Six siblings from age two to age eleven, two beds, no bathroom. Usually they were fed. The oldest sister would occasionally manage to get out and go downstairs for extra food or milk for the littlest ones. If caught she was punished severely. One Chicago winter when she was about 12, she was locked out of the house in only her underwear for several hours to pay for her "crime." Jake was 13 then. He blamed himself for his sister's trauma. He cried while she shivered on the snowy doorstep, humiliated and cold because she tried to care for her little sisters. Jake became more and more reclusive, withdrawn, depressed.

One by one, the children were old enough to leave home --at age 16, 15 or 14 they each made an escape of some kind. Mostly the boys just left; the girls escaped with a boyfriend. When he was 21, Jake had a psychotic break. Life just became too much to bear. He was diagnosed as schizophrenic. I only knew him that way. Most of the time he could participate in one-on-one or small group conversations. He would lose touch with reality only when stressed, confused or embarrassed about something. Then his conversation would become disjointed and disconnected from the present. Even so, he was friendly with an air of childlike innocence that was appealing.

He's still like that. We saw him tonight eating lunch in our little diner. His mom died a few years ago and left him enough money to supplement his meager disability. He can now treat himself to a shake at a restaurant sometimes. He was happy to see us. Remembered our names, asked about our children. I had to say their names for him, but that jogged his memory enough that he asked about their wives. He even remembered our first granddaughter. He hasn't been around us since the younger one was born. We chatted with him for awhile until our food came.

My eyes filled with tears thinking of the wounds sustained in his life. He's past fifty now and mostly walks around town, lost his own thoughts. Too fragile to work or maintain a relationship, he lives alone. Has few friends. The picture of a train wreck kept coming to my mind. As though his life were a train that had somehow jumped or been pushed off the track. There, but not there, not able to move on. Just stuck beside the track as time moved by.

Then I thought of children I've seen these last three days. Some quiet and frightened, some angry and belligerent, some sullen and withdrawn. And through my tears, I prayed.

God, help us to remember that these young ones may be coming from situations that wound the spirit, numb the mind and discourage the soul. Help us as teachers to realize that with a soft word, a kind deed, a genuine smile we may help some child find the courage to continue, to stay on track. Remind us that within every little gang banger wannabe, every little drama queen, every little tough guy, every little lost child there is a Soul that is lovely to you. Give us the grace to see that too!

God help us to bring healing to young people struggling to keep afloat in a sea of difficulties.

And God...minister to the Jakes of this world.


And now I think I know what God is saying:

"The Spirit of the Sovereign L
ord is upon me,
for the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be released
and prisoners will be freed"
ISA 61:1

Give me strength, Lord!

Pastor Phylis

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The floods came; the winds blew

Severe Thunderstorm

The civil defense horn is blowing. The sky is ominously dark, so I run outside to get photos. In the background, my husband is warning, "There's lightning out there. You're a conductor."

"No I don't conduct. I only sing." I respond cheerily.

What can I say? Where I grew up, if you wanted to know which way the storm was going, how long you had before it hit, etc., you had to go outside and look at the clouds. I still do. He's no so inclined. He thinks that's what radios and tv are for.

Meantime, it gets darker and darker. I'm trying to hold the camera still because the lens isn't getting enough light. But the flash shows nothing except the reflection of the flash off the raindrops. (Oh did I mention, it was raining?)

Finally, after this shot, I run inside. The wind is howling. I was trying to get the bend on the tree you can see very fuzzily (is that a word?) I'm guessing the winds were 40-50 mph and just before I snapped this one, the rain hit with a vengence. I mean a torrential rain driven by the fierce winds. I retreated, to my husband's satisfaction.

About 5 minutes later, the electricity goes out. We manage to light a couple of candle to give light for the roundup of every candle in the house. I also got out three oil lamps. Alas, only one had oil. (I hear a sermon coming: Don't let your oil run dry! And a song!) So today I visited the local Wal*mart and purchased a couple of bottles of lamp oil. I think that's like shutting the barn door after the horse has already escaped. But I'm ready for the next one!

After we had the candles lit, I'm trying to be productive. Aha! I have a laptop. I can finish my computer work. I fire up the laptop, have hubby take a picture. Right after this picture, I get a message, "No wireless network available." What? Oh yeah. You know, that little gizmo in my office that produces the wireless waves? It uses electricity. (I never said I was terribly bright.) So much for modern conveniences!!!

And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. -Matthew 7:25 (Courtesy of MSD)

Pastor Phylis

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Spiritual Potpourri
Or Monday's Musings
Christy, Jayne, PJ, Laura

I know that God has a sense of humor. Sometimes I hear him laughing as he responds to some of my requests/complaints. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was depressed. "God I don't even have any friends," I complained. "At least not ones my own age. I always just hang out with my kids and their friends. I think I don't even have a life of my own." DIL arranged an outing...her mother, another friend and I were invited to join her for a day of shopping, lunch, etc. We laughed, ate, shopped, laughed and ate some more. At the chic little Italian Cafe, it was a wonder they didn't throw us out. We were the most raucous table at lunch...giggling over life's silliness. At one point I had a fleeting thought that maybe somebody should have brought the Depends...I laughed that hard!!! (Pictures above)

Then another friend (also my age group) was stranded here for a couple of days when returning from a trip. I spend a wonderful afternoon with her. And this week we got a call from a friend we went to Bible College with (Believe me that was a LONG time ago!) who was going to be in town. So this past weekend we spend with them.

And I could hear God smiling..."Is this enough for you, PJ? I can bring more friends here if you still have enough energy!"

"Next week, God. This is Monday. I'm tired today."

Today I finally went to my primary care Doctor to follow up on cholesterol tests made in MARCH! I knew it was high, and so is my blood pressure. I just didn't want to deal with taking more meds. So after I leave the doctor's office with samples and new prescriptions, I'm complaining. "This getting old stinks. I hate meds. Why can't I just still be healthy, God? Can't you arrange that?"

While looking for a parking place to leave a package with friend at her place of employment -- a hospital -- I keep spiraling up the parking garage. No spaces. "Come on, God. I need a parking place here!"

Then I pass some reserved ones: "For Dialysis Patients" And I hear Him smile.

"You're right, God. I'm grateful. I'm truly thankful that I don't qualify for those spots," I reply with tears streaming down my face.

I'm grateful that I haven't had either a heart attack nor a stroke while in denial about needing meds for blood pressure and cholesterol. I'm thankful that in spite of having had a liver resection and cancer in the last two and a half years, I'm fully recovered. While I may resent this business of getting old and needing medications to maintain an active life, I recognize that my active life is a Gift from God. As are my Friends!!!

And...while I'm struggling with the idea (and facts) of growing older, that too is a Gift from God.

Pastor Phylis

Sunday, August 3, 2008

When God Speaks
Simon, Simon, Satan has desired to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith fail not.” Luke 22:32 (PJ's paraphrased version)

God gave me that scripture several years ago when I was praying about a particular situation. Something related to the issue then has come up recently (details in a later blog) that I've been worrying about. I know that God is in charge. I know that God has my best interest at heart...but...what can I say...I've been worrying. Last night at the Zumaely concert, Pastor Alex used the scripture as he talked about God's hand guiding our lives. He spoke straight to me although he had no clue as to the situation.
Then today, another guest pastor preached directly to the same situation. His topic was: “The other Side of Faith.”
From Hebrews 11: 1
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (NIV)
Then Verse 35-38 tells of those who went through terrible suffering and persecution, but in verse 39 says,
“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.” Hebrews 11:39 (NIV)
He hasn't promised that we will be spared suffering and tribulation. He DOES adjure us to be Faithful.

Earlier this week, I started using a new exercise DVD. At one point the instructor urged, just use your best effort on these exercises. The people you see here are advanced level instructors. Your moves may not look exactly like theirs. Work on effort and stretching the muscles. Don't worry about the result. Do the moves, focus on stretching and moving your muscles, not on doing them perfectly. 
And I'm screaming, “But I want to look like that really cute 30-something chick who looks so good in the leotard. Are you telling me that my 50-plus-year-old body will not get there?”
Oblivious of my histrionics, he continues. You're working toward good health, strength and flexibility. 
Oh, that.” I mutter. “Yeah. Good health.” exercise...and in life, I must do the exercises: maintain faith, do what I know to be right. “But I want the miracle! I want divine intervention, and I want it now!!!”

Oh, yeah. Faith. I maintain faith. I am faithful to what God has called me. The results are in His hands!"

In spite of myself, God speaks to me. He answers those nagging questions that are just thoughts. He may not answer them the way I wish ... but He answers!!” when God speaks, I really must listen.

Pastor Phylis