Thursday, September 30, 2010

*Prayer Warriors*

"Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." Psalm 81:10

How over-full has my mouth become today! What incredible, abundant, and gracious blessings has the Lord of Armies given. This is a post to praise God and to thank those warriors who battle each day in the spiritual realms through prayer. May this day be a testimony to you that God is listening! That He does answer our cries.

Monday night I went to Bible study with my friend Katie, who randomly kept crying throughout the evening. As I took her out for ice cream afterward, she explained the cause of her sadness. In short, both she and her mom are unemployed, her mom for the past 2 years, she for the past month. Earlier this day, Katy had found out several things. 1) her unemployment benefits could not be renewed for the next year, thus ending within a few months, 2) her unemployment benefits were decreased by several hundred dollars a week, leaving her with only $40 for groceries & gas 3) her mom's unemployment benefits were about to end 4) because of some financial problems, her mom's rent (due on Friday) would not be paid.
This all occurred about a month after her brand new truck, which she had just finished paying off, was shot up by police chasing a man with a gun. Her truck was considered totaled, and the money she received was only enough to buy an older, used vehicle. Katie was bitter, angry and confused as to why God kept punishing her.

I prayed with her, and kept reminding her God IS good, that to look at her circumstances and judge God was backwards... instead, we should be looking at God and His character, and through that, judge our circumstances. Always easier said than done, of course.

That night I got home, and posted a prayer request on Facebook to get all my friends and family to pray for this situation... to pray that God would step in and show Katie that He was listening.. that He did love her and her mom... that He does provide for our needs. I was actually more concerned for their peace of heart than anything, but figured seeing Dorothy's rent paid would be a tangible view of God's hand. I had several of my faithful prayer warriors to commit to lifting up these sisters of ours.

So here's what God did through our prayer.

1) a friend in Philadelphia chatted with me through Facebook and committed to paying for half their rent.
2) I asked the church I'm attending (Imago Dei), if they would consider Katie and Dorothy as this week's recipients for our "Change for A Dollar" program. (This is where people put in a dollar in buckets on the communion table, and the church then looks for needs in Portland to fill that week. They call this giving "practicing Resurrection". Because God has so freely loved and given to us, we are honored to pour out some of the same to the needy in our city). Well, I found out this morning, that Imago was going to pay for all of Dorothy's rent this month! $650!! When I called my Philadelphia friend back to let her know, she still decided to send some money to help out with groceries and such.
3) I called Katie last night to make plans to meet up so I could surprise her with the rent money. While we were talking, she told me that she couldn't meet up with me because she had gotten a weekend job where she could make some money for a few days. Awesome-- she'll have some extra to put aside! I then told her the reason I wanted to meet up with her (to give her rent from Imago) and she says this: "Oh, whoa. My mom's rent was just taken care of by our own church, so she's good. Can Imago use that money to bless someone else instead?" AWEsome!!
4) THEN I find out the best news yet: Dorothy (Katy's mom) just got a job!!!! She starts on Monday!!! And this job is with her apartment's management, so she'll have reduced rent as long as she works for them!! AWESOME!!!

So, I went back to Imago, returned the money so another family could be helped, and sat back and counted up God's many blessings within these past 36 hours. here they are:

God heard the cries of His people and sent not one, but TWO rent amounts for Dorothy. On top of that He provided for her more long term by granting her a job after 2 years of searching. On top of that, He got work for Katy so she could at least earn a bit of money as she continues her job search. He gave me the ability to see Imago's heart up close as I was entrusted with money to help out a needy family, even though I had only been attending their fellowship for a few weeks. He then further allowed that money to be redirected so another family would taste of His provision. He reminded me that His resources are not small, and His ear is not deaf. He showed me the generous heart of a woman across the country who cared enough to give of her own to help her spiritual family that she's never met. He rallied His sons and daughters all over the country to intercede on behalf of this family, and He was moved by their prayers. And He has once again shown how intimately acquainted He is with all our ways.

What wonder! What glory! I pray that this encourages you to keep seeking His face. Sometimes our requests seem to go unheeded, but faint not. God is completely able to move mountain after mountain within 24 hours; He is able to pour out more than we'll ever need so that our lives overflow with pure grace. Let this also be a reminder that we are stronger together. Involve others to fight with you for spiritual blessings and physical needs. We are ONE body, and we are meant to bear each other's burdens.

I love you all, and again, thank you for unveiling eternal things to me because of your faithfulness to a good, good, God.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

*Wheels of Fury*

(FYI:  this was supposed to have been posted on Sunday...)

Today I became an official cyclist!  For weeks I have been shelling out money to the bus lords every time I needed to go anyplace, but at last their cruel, cruel reign has been bypassed by one purple bike called the Professor.  Professor Plum.
My roommate's boyfriend (Rick) gave me an old bike he had in storage.  This large, thoughtful gift has opened up a world of freedom, when I took it on its maiden voyage.
Before embarking, I spent careful time planning which train station I would ride to, in order to further get to the city.  Google informed me that most of the Max stations near me were about 2 miles away, a bicycling distance of a mere 15 minutes. I was pumped.  I checked the train schedules, confirmed meet up times with my friends, and finally calculated the minutes I would need to then further bike to church.  All these added up to a departure time of 9:30 am.  Lastly, I checked the weather forecast. This weekend has been beautiful, clear and 80s; I knew this was the right time to bike. 
Surprise!  Rain and high 60s.  Rain?  After I did all this work?   Ugh.  Fortunately, thoughts of being a true Portlander, who bikes, even in the rain, stiffened my resolve.  Too bad Mr. Dark cloud, I'm going to go anyway.

Thus, it was raining this morning when I got up.  Raining when I had breakfast, raining when I pulled out my bike.  I kept praying that it would stop-- at least for the 15 minutes I had to bike-- but it looked like God had other plans.  So off I went. 

I got to the top of my first hill and as I was shifting, my chain slipped off.  Was this another sign?  I was tempted to just turn around and call it quits, grab my money and head for the bus, but then my pride took a hold of me.  Just fix the chain yourself, you big baby.   Thus chastised, I bent down to put the chain back on and it worked... it actually worked!  and incredibly, as I went, the rain stopped.  

Now I was feeling freedom AND empowerment.  I pedaled and panted and plowed my way to the station.  I crossed streets, climbed hills, and raced vehicles.  It was pretty exhilarating... yet slightly wet.  (The back of my jeans took about 3 hours to fully dry).  But I had arrived at the train station a whole 10 minutes early!  I got into the city, biked to Pete and Kim's house, and then we all headed off to church via bike. 

We went from the NW section of Portland, through downtown, across the bridge, around the detours and police blockades, and arrived in the SE section of Portland (around another 2 miles).  The rain had started up again as we were nearing Imago Dei, but we had reached our destination.  After locking up our bikes, we discarded a few layers of clothing (whod've thought exercise would warm one up so much?), and headed in for the service, which was amazing. 

Then we did the entire trip back again (my thighs were abandoning me at this point), and headed to watch the Eagles kick the Jaguars' butts.  All in all, a satisfying day.

One last bike ride to the train, then another 2 miles home.  I thought I'd be so ready for bed, but I think I might be up for another road trip instead...

*Tight Wad Tuesday*

Pete, Kim and I have been going to this cute little pub called "the Bullpen" to watch the Eagles' games each Sunday. Well, this past Sunday we noticed they have wings specials on Tuesday. They call it "Tight Wad Tuesday" because you get 6 wings for $2!! There is also free ping pong all night. oh, we were in.

Before I was able to meet up with them, I biked up to my church for another class (a blog coming up regarding those). It was great, but it didn't get out until after 9, and this would be my first time riding in the city in the dark... but I did it! The Lord was so gracious and made about 11 lights in a row turn green one right after the other so I didn't have to keep starting up and stopping. I arrived at the Bullpen in record time.

Ok, seriously, those wings were amazing. I had the original buffalo, and had to order another 6 later on in the night. There was still room for a 3rd 6, but I restrained myself. (a side benefit to biking-- you are always famished). In between sets of wings, Kim challenged me to some rounds of ping-pong. I can hold my own at table tennis, but I am no "back spinning, ball slamming" kind of player. My best trick is my serve (taught to me by my dad when I was a kid). Kim and I were pretty evenly matched, which made for some awesome, long winded volleys, but alas, I could never finish. She smoked me four games in a row. It was rather humiliating. Fortunately, it was around this time that my second round of wings came out, so I simply immersed my sorrows in food, as any red blooded depressed American woman does.

Our bill came out a bit later, and my grand total (with generous 50% tip included) was a whole $6. Raise the roof with those sauce covered fingers for Tight Wad Tuesdays!!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

*Just around the River Bend*

The weather was a beautiful 80 degrees. My tired body rejuvenated itself in the mesmerizing, dramatic woods of the Northwest. The 3 mile hike culminated in "discovering" the beautiful Punch Bowl Falls. See for yourself:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

*Popcorn Portland 2*

Since it's raining out, and that has hampered my freedom riding for the day, I decided to shower you (pun intended) with some more cool facts about my city of residence.

*  Portland pays people to stand on street corners and talk to you about saving the rain forests.  ( I considered getting a job with them, but I think the minimum qualifications for an applicant were that you either had to live in a tree for approximately one year or have done a 6 month stint on the Steve Irwin.)

* ---disclaimer: this popcorned fact involves a rant---  Everywhere you go there are these college kids wearing "VOTE NOW!" tshirts...  they carry clipboards and the burning desire to see every man, woman, and child pushing 18 sign up on their sheets to become a registered voter.  Now, I'm all for voting, but the thing is... I just learned that there are NO voting polls here in Oregon.  NONE.  (Elizabeth, you'd be out of a random job).   Here is what they do: they mail you your voting card, you fill it out, and then pop it back in the mail.  Huh?  For a land that is so gung-ho about involvement and activism, this just seems a bit complacent to me.
I could think of a trillion and one ways to invalidate this system.  here's a few i throw out just for fun:  hmmm, how about taking your die hard Democratic neighbor's registration card out of the mailbox while she's at work and shredding it???  or, perhaps you're a mischievous 15 year old, and you just get the urge to forge your mom's signature once again... only this time, you wouldn't be fooling just your principal, but Uncle Sam himself? Cool, right?  Or I know, you are an anarchist mailman who believes it's his duty to "misplace" a few of these voters' cards en route to the post office... or perhaps you feel the need to overstate how many eligible voters actually live at your address...  i mean, come on, isn't this a bit shady??
For those of you who go out and faithfully vote--- wouldn't you miss heading out to the polls on that certain Tuesday, fighting the crowds, tripping over lawn signs and ignoring the volunteers who are stuffing your pockets with pamphlets and sticking your lapels with those oversized pins?  I mean, it's sorta like giving blood.  Yes, the deed is virtuous in and of itself, but man, that sticker that says "Be nice to me; I gave blood", or those free oj's and pretzels in the back... I mean, doesn't that solidify the experience for you?  I seriously hear little trumpets in my head and the national anthem playing when I head to the polls.  There is a surge of patriotism i feel when I have to hand over my picture ID, sign my name, and then head behind that curtain.  It's similar to the power the Wizard of Oz must have felt-- pushing buttons and levers behind a curtain to determine the fate of a city or a country.  And now Oregon wants me to treat this great privilege like another piece of junk mail or a Netflix envelope to reseal and resend?  I just don't get that at all.

* They have a little place here called "Ground Control" where you can eat, drink, and listen to live music, all while you are playing old school arcade games for just a quarter a piece!  Bring on the Q*bert and the Pinball!

* There are these really great water fountains all over the city with everflowing streams.  no pushing, no breaking handles... just bubbling, cold water.  I seriously get reminded of John 4:14..."... the water I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."  It's a cool thought, eh?

Last one for today...
*Mass transit drivers sure do love each other out here.  Every time a bus passes a trolley, or a train intersects a bus's pass, windows are rolled down or pushed out or folded open, and the drivers' hands are giving a friendly wave.  One bus I was on kept side by side with another bus on our journey up 5th Ave.  We'd pass, he'd wave, they'd pass, she waved.  But this went a bit further.  At red lights, he would crank open the double doors, and she would pop out her side window and we customers would be treated to a front row seat of the flirtatious drama "Love at the Light".  Another time, I saw a bus driver actually come on to our bus during a red light so he could hug our previously surly driver and give her a quick peck on the cheek.  boy, was she all smiles after that!