Sunday, March 31, 2013

Beauty for Ashes- Easter Morning :0)

Psalm 30:5   For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.

Psalm 30: 10-12  Hear me, LORD, and have mercy on me. Help me, O LORD."

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,

that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever!
These verses fit my weekend... slightly odd maybe for an Easter Blog... but real to  my life.  For whatever reason, Saturday was a very dark day for me.  I couldn't seem to shake a deep sorrow as well as an anger that was with me all day.  I did not feel like myself at all....I felt like laying in bed all day crying...This is about as opposite my personality as you can get.  Depression hung in the air around me like thick dark smoke...It was a horrible feeling, but it gave me a little insight into the feelings that must lead a person to turn to drinking or drugs because it was a mental pain as well as a physical pain in my stomache.  I could see if you dealt with that kind of torment all the time how you would want to do anything to make it stop.  I prayed through the day and felt like I had been through a wrestling match.  I was physically as well as mentally exhausted by bed time.  My family knew that I was not myself and thankfully I have a praying husband who stayed a distance and continued to pray.  I felt it break right about midnight...and thankfully when I came in the morning!!!!
  Thank You Jesus!! I can't imagine living life with that kind of mental tourment and darkness but blessedly Jesus came to free us from that!  On the 3rd day... He rose again!!! Praise God!!

This Easter morning was quite the opposite of yesterday's darkness....Isaiah 61:30 says it best..."To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto thee beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of priase for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness. Oh, that you would choose life by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life!"

Keith and I woke up and headed down to North 1st to set up the tables for today.  We knew if was going to be a bit crazy this afternoon so we wanted a bit of a jump on it.  Men from the mission came out to help us and we in turn were able to minister them one on one with out a lot of business around us.  I had a great talk with "Carolina".  What a beautiful heart this man has.  He is the man who had his birthday last week and who has been clean of heroine for 3 years.  Carolina shared with me that his family moved to the valley when he was 5 years old.  (He is now 61).  They moved here because they followed the agriculture, but ended up staying here.  His mom and dad were both alcoholics and died when they were 42 and 48 respectively.  His older brother died of a heroine overdose and his younger brother shot himself in the head with a "38" calibur.  Carolina's older sister lives in California and doesn't want anything to do with him and his younger sister is an alcoholic.  His middle sister passed also passed away.  Carolina has been living on the streets since he was 14 years old so they are not new to him, but what is so special about Carolina is that he carries Jesus in his heart every where he goes.  He shares Jesus with just about everyone he comes in contact with and you just know that he is special.  Carolina is an alcoholic, but Carolina knows Jesus!  Some people may say that if he truly knew Jesus then he would be freed from his addiction, but I beg to differ.  There are many soild christians who continue to be addicted to food/eating, sex, pornography, sports, work...those addictions do not indicate whether they are Christians or not...As Carolina sings, "With Jesus in your have love in your heart...and He will never go away!"  (Sung with a great Southern accent). 

And Praise Praise Praise Praise God we had 5 people who accepted the Lord!!! Salvation!!! Freedom!!!! Hope!!!!! Praise God!!!!  All because people were obedient today and listened to the Lord as they were being prompted to come out and serve.  Thankfully we had a ton of volunteers which was great because there were a ton of people!!! It was wonderful to see people on both sides of the table being ministered to.  The line of tables seemed to go on forever...and it was beautiful to watch people smiling, chatting, and loving as they were sharing back and forth with each other on the serving side of the table as well as the receiving side.  You don't have to be a theologean to spread God's love...just a willing heart.  North 1st St. is not just a program, I think what makes it different is the kindness and relationship that they stand in line is good, but I believe that the relationship is what they are drawn to .  Carolina said, "You guys are my family each week." is a privilage and an honor to be included as part of his family.  :0)

We never know from week to week how it is going to look.  We had a few ideas about what we would like to do since it is Easter, but it did not turn out the way we thought.  We ended up ministering to people one on one rather than giving one large message.  We prayed with everyone at the beginning and offered communion to them at a table set off to the side after they had gone through the food line.  Communion and prayer were offered individually if people wanted it.  What a blessing because each person out there is dealiing with their own unique set of circumstances and each have their own back grounds.  One of the people who accepted the Lord asked Keith, "What is communion?"  He had never heard of it, but wanted to know more.  Keith explained it to him and then shortly after that he saw the man over at the table receiving communion as well as Jesus in his heart!!! Praise God!!!

A young man named Jacob also met Keith.  He was interested in taking communion but wanted to know more about it.  He accepted the Lord in his heart and so Keith asked if someone would grab a bible.  Each of the bibles were signed with a personal message of encouragement.  "I'll never forget..." he said to Keith.  Keith and Jacob prayed together that Jacob would be able to see his daughter down in Texas as soon as he finished his program at the mission.  The program is about a year and a half- Jacob wants to be clean, wants to change his life around, and then wants to go see his 4 year old daughter.  Praise God!!! Be in prayer for him that he will be able to grow in his relationship with Jesus and will have the strength to meet his goals.

Keith has ministered to a guy for the past 6 months...just very casually... in line Keith always shakes his hand and says, "God isn't mad at you."  Keith didn't know the guy but he always said the same thing to him.  Well today the guy came up to Keith at the very end and asked if he could get some water, a pair of 32 pants, and a shirt.  Keith tried to stall a bit while he looked around for the man's requests....he did not feel very hopeful in finding his specific things because it was the very end of the day.  Keith's brother Brian heard them and promptly went to the trunk of his car and pulled out sweat pants, a sweat shirt, and a clean t-shirt for the guy.  Brian said that the Lord told him the day before to leave them in his trunk...  he didn't know why, but now he does!  :0)   Keith said, "See, things are gone, but look what the Lord has done.  He was planning for your today...yesterday... God has not forgotten you and is not mad at you."  The guy teared up and started to share that he was a para trooper in the army and that he has seen and done things that nobody should have to see or do.  Keith grabbed a bible for him and wrote his favorite verse- Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding, but in all things aknowledge Him and He will direct your path.  The young soldier said that right before they would jump out of the airplane- he and his other team would recite Psalm 23.  The guy opened the bible to the exact psalm and started reading it aloud to Keith.  By the time the soldier had finished the verse, Keith had big tears welling in his eyes.  He and the soldier prayed for healing hearts and that God would erase those things that go through the young man's head...."Always remember....God is not mad at you and He wants to comfort you." 

It is these types of stories that show how joy truly does come in the morning!!!  God's promises are real and He does not ever go back on them....God has great joy for every single one of us.  He does not promise us a perfect life here on  earth, but He does promise that He will never leave or forsake us!  He promises to exchange beauty for ashes and oil of joy for mourning!  The darkness of my yesterday was so radicaly different from my joy that I found this morning with my Risen Lord God and Savior!!   God did not just change my "emotional state", but rather through serving others...He healed my  hurts within.  God is my healer, my savior, my hope!!!

Thank you again to ALL of the amazing people with beautiful hearts that helped us to minister to our friends on North 1st street as well as to be ministered to by them as well.  May God bless you today and through out your whole week,  In Jesus Holy Name- Amen!


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