A Godly Legacy

The Olympic Games will soon begin in London, and while I was there, I couldn’t help but be struck by the contrast of the modern world in the midst of a city so old.  London was founded by the Romans about the time when Jesus walked the earth.  I even saw Roman ruins among the glass skyscrapers.

But even more striking than the contrast of ancient and modern was the contrast of godly and worldly.  London is a city like most, bearing the smudge of the world’s fingerprint upon it:  crime, drugs, homelessness, prostitution, etc.  Two things especially struck me about the spiritual state of London’s population, the first was violent crime.  I had picked up one of those freebie newspapers, and it was full of stories about murder—most of which had occurred in London.  The majority of the murders I read about were random murders—murder just for the sake of killing.  And the violence of these murders was astonishing.  For example, a heavily pregnant 20 year old woman was beaten to death at a bus stop.  Her unborn infant died with her.

The other thing that struck me about the spiritual state of London was the hostility towards Christianity.  In addition to the same anti-Christian attitudes found in America, I was told that it is popular in London now to have un-christening ceremonies in which they become un-baptized.  I don’t know anything about the ceremony, but they sign an un-baptism certificate in front of witnesses, and send a letter to the church asking to be removed from the baptism records.  They even send letters to their god-parents, informing them that they will now be solely responsible for their own spiritual choices.

So it is against this backdrop that we visited some of Christianity’s most important places.  The first place we visited was the Buxton Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery in Victoria Tower Gardens.  Abolition was promoted by Christians.  Sadly, there are more slaves today than at any other time in the history of the world—and this despite virtually every country in the world having laws forbidding slavery.  The modern name for slavery is Human Trafficking, and it is virtually everywhere.  The removal of most border controls in Europe means that transporting slaves throughout Europe is easier than ever.

From there we walked to St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was built by Christopher Wren.  His tomb inside the cathedral proclaims it as his memorial marker.  Wren was one of the founding Freemasons of London, and all around the cathedral are masonic symbols like obelisks, which originated as an object of sun worship and fertility.

Then we went to Tower Hill.  In Trinity Square Garden is a plaque showing the site of the scaffold where many people were executed, including members of the clergy and two Archbishops of Canterbury.  This was not the only place in London where Christians were martyred.  We also saw the site where Christians were burned at the stake for heresy.  When I refer to Christian martyrs, I mean both Catholic and Protestant.  In London’s history, when the Catholics were in power, Protestants were martyred as heretics, and vise-versa.  Either way, it is a sad historical fact.

The Tower of London was both a castle for visiting royalty and a prison.  I guess that was handy for keeping visitors in line.

The day was hot, 29 (about 85 Fahrenheit) degrees.  I know my Texas friends will laugh, but that seems much hotter than it actually is when you factor in no breeze and standing in the sun a lot.  So in the early afternoon we went to a cool, shady place:  Bunhill Fields, which was the Nonconformist burial grounds.  John Bunyan, pastor and author of Pilgrim’s Progress is entombed there.  Susanna Wesley is also buried there, and her headstone is visible from her son, John Wesley’s house, where we went next.  The house is small and simple, like the man (he was only five feet, maybe five-foot-two).  The most impressive feature of the house was his prayer room, adjacent to his bedroom.  There was a padded kneeler in front of a small desk with an open Bible on it.  He was said to have risen at four and spent many hours in prayer.  We were told the following:

One day John Wesley was riding along a road when it dawned upon him that three whole days had passed in which he had suffered no persecution.  Not a brick or an egg had been thrown at him for three days.  Alarmed, he stopped his horse, and exclaimed, “Can it be that I have sinned and am backslidden?”

Slipping from his horse Wesley went down on his knees and began interceding with God to show him where, if any, there had been a fault.

A rough fellow, on the other side of the hedge, hearing the prayer, looked across and recognized the preacher.  “I’ll fix that Methodist preacher,” he said taking a brick and tossing it over at him.  It missed its mark and fell harmlessly beside John.

Whereupon Wesley leaped to his feet joyfully exclaiming, “Thank God, it’s all right.  I still have His presence.”

I wonder how many Christians today would be so happy to be persecuted.

Next door to the house is Wesley’s Chapel, which has the organ on which Charles Wesley (his brother) wrote such wonderful hymns as “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” (lyrics:  http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Christ_the_Lord_Is_Risen_Today), “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” (lyrics:  http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/O_for_a_Thousand_Tongues_to_Sing), Christmas favorite, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” (lyrics:  http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Our_American_Holidays_-_Christmas/Christmas_Day), and many others.

Downstairs is the museum, where I got the following wonderful quotes from John Wesley:

The Covenant

I am no longer my own, but Yours.  Put me to what You will, rank me with whom You will, put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for You or laid aside for You, exalted for You, or brought low for You; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to Your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, You are mine and I am Yours.  So be it.

And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in Heaven.  Amen.

I wonder how many Christians today would pray for suffering.

And I’ll leave you with the last quote:

John Wesley’s Rule

Do all the good you can,

By all the means you can,

In all the ways you can,

In all the places you can,

At all the times you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as ever you can.

I can only add:  Do good because God is good.

Contrarian Kingdom Part Two

Greetings from Cardiff!

Yesterday we went to the Senate building to pray for the Welsh Parliament.  The building is right at the docks, which historically have economic importance for Wales, being the place where so much Welsh coal was shipped to the rest of the world.  The demand for coal declined and the docks became a derelict area.  In 2005 the docks area underwent a transformation.  And now it’s a great place for people to meet and have a meal.  For our purposes, it was a great place to come and pray for revival in Wales—specifically, for a revival that will dwarf the previous revivals that started here.

In this beautiful setting in the capital of Wales, I found that for some reason I was having some trouble focusing and praying—the reason I’m here.  So in desperation, with my mind wandering this morning I finally said, “Lord, please tell me what to pray!” Sometimes desperation leads to wonderful contrarian things:

  • I want to be brilliant—a genius—at faith, even if people think I’m stupid about other things.  
  • I want wisdom to live out that faith.  
  • I want and need discernment of the schemes of the enemy.

All my life, the thing that was guaranteed to anger me was to be called stupid or treated like I’m stupid.  And there have been plenty of people who have thought me stupid.  When I lived in California as a child, the other children teased me and called me stupid because of my Texas accent.  In New York as an adult, people occasionally mimicked me because my accent made me sound stupid to them.  Their logic being that you might be a stupid redneck because you sound like Jeff Foxworthy.  In Italy, people sometimes mistake my slow speech (Texas drawl in Italian) for a slow mind, and try to take advantage of me.  So for me to pray for a faith so smart that people think I’m stupid is inspired by God because I would never ask to be taken for stupid.  But God’s wisdom turns the wisdom of the world on its head.  And one thing I am ready to embrace above all others is God’s wisdom.

Recently I wrote a blog post about God’s contrarian logic:  https://europeanfaithmissions.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/contrarian-kingdom/.  And in true contrarian, non-conformist fashion, I love the idea of asking for something that in my flesh I never wanted.  But there it is:  I want a faith so big that people in their flesh think I’m stupid.  It’s turning the world’s logic on its head.

Come on, people of God!  Let’s live a life that’s absolutely contrary to the world’s way!

Summer—Time to Get Out of Town

Summer is not really my favorite season.  I pant like a dog, sweat like a hog, constantly push my glasses back up my nose, slather on sunscreen, and search for shade wherever I go.  I don’t paint a pretty picture, but it is unfortunately, a true one.

Milan is one of the most miserable places to be during the summer.  The asphalt and concrete turn the city into an oven without the slightest breath of wind.  You become used to the feeling of sweat-soaked clothing and the smell of mildew.  The drops of sweat periodically roll down your spine to join the larger pool at the waistband of your underwear.

With windows open, the street noise and mosquitos invade the house.  Happily, the skeeters don’t find me as tasty as most other people, but all it takes is one buzzing around my ear as I try to sleep.  I slap my ear and I’m wide awake again—with the mosquito untouched and returning just as I fall asleep again.  Car and building alarms sound for hours throughout the night.  The criminals are active because they know that there are fewer police around to respond.  Exhaustion eventually brings on sleep despite these disturbances.

The first several years that I lived here, I had to stay in the city for most of the summer, due to family obligations.  But now that I’m a missionary serving the whole of Europe, I have not only the opportunity, but good motives for getting out of the city during the summer months.  I wasn’t really thinking about what I would be getting out of when I set up this summer’s travel schedule.  But when I realized that I would be spending very little time in the city this summer, I was very glad to know I would be gone most of the time.  In fact, I’m leaving tomorrow.

God is good!

Jazzed by That Creative Energy

Thanks to Laurie for the inspiration!

Have you ever noticed that it’s energizing and at the same time relaxing, fun, and fulfilling to create?  Time seems to fly by, and you may have even missed a meal when you’re fully engaged in creating something.  This applies to all creative pursuits:  visual (drawing, painting, sculpture, photographic, textile arts, ceramics, woodworking, etc.), musical, performing arts (acting, dancing, choreography, set design, etc.) graphic (computer-based artwork, design, PowerPoint, Photoshop, etc.), writing (mine), and any combination of the above, the list is truly endless.  I believe this is because when we’re creating we are doing the thing we were made to do.

Consider this:  we were made in the image of God—The Creator!  When we create, we are imitating our Father.  When we create, I believe that we make our Father proud of us.  That’s why it’s so rewarding to create.  What was the first job given to Adam?  Gardening.  Adam was the first landscaping designer.  Next God brought all the animals to Adam so that he could name them.  God could have named the animals, but he gave that task to Adam.

When we got a poodle puppy in 1965, Daddy named him Poodle-a-Go-Go.  Daddy’s pet names were all like that:  funny and clever.  When I was six years old, my parents let me name our cat.  I looked carefully at him and named him Fuzzy.  OK, not a spectacularly imaginative name, but I think I captured the essence of this long-haired tabby cat.  And my parents honored my lame name, calling the cat Fuzzy all the days of his life.

You may say that you’re not very creative or that you have no talent.  I say that you just haven’t found your creative niche yet.  Like me with naming pets when I was six.  Since we’re not God, it takes most of us some time to develop the skills and to perfect our creative talents.  Experiment!  Try different materials, methods, styles.  You’ll find yourself creatively, but you’ve got to be patient with yourself, too.  Above all, you’ve got to honor your creativity by spending time at it.  You can’t expect to improve if you never spend time at it.

Guess who is incapable of creating:  the devil.  That’s why he twists God’s perfect creation into something perverted, because he cannot create.  He (along with the rest of the angels) was not made in God’s image, only we were.  And because he’s jealous of our ability to create, the devil tries to fool us into thinking that creative pursuits are a waste of time, that we should spend our time working at a “real job.”  The devil wants you to believe that you must work hard to get anywhere in this world.  But you want to know the truth?  They say do what you love and the money will come.  I believe that’s true because what humans love to do is create.  God honors that—especially when we use our creative abilities to honor Him.

The truth is that there is plenty of room in God’s Kingdom for creative pursuits.

So you go to town with that creative thing!  Joyfully play (not work) at your creative art.  Make our Father proud!

Contrarian Kingdom

When I was growing up in the 1960’s the popular wisdom was to life a lifestyle of non-conformity.  The youth of those days could see that the so-called wisdom of previous generations had landed us into an unwinnable war in Vietnam, and many of us saw our fathers slaving away their hours at jobs that took them from the family at least eight hours a day, and left them too exhausted to do anything but veg-out in front of the TV at night watching the banalities of the day.

So in the 60’s youth culture non-conformity meant never trusting “The Establishment” or “The Man.”  Non-conformity meant a carefree lifestyle, living fully in the moment, day-by-day.

Come to think of it, not much has changed, except that things have gotten even worse.  Now we are in an unwinnable war against terrorism (how do you fight a concept?), and mothers have joined fathers in working themselves to exhaustion.  Television has also gotten worse.  Now (with a few exceptions) banality is the best one can hope for.  Some popular shows are offensive and actually harmful (IMHO).  Reality TV shows mostly bring out the very worst in people, who are willing to do just about anything to have their 15 minutes of fame.

And the worst part of all this?  The Establishment is now composed of the very same people who embraced non-conformity back in the 1960’s.  The long-haired, peace-loving kid of the 60’s is now The Man.

How did this happen?  In a word:  money.  The truth is that without money, life is very difficult, if not impossible.  Many of the youth of the 60’s came to the conclusion that a carefree lifestyle is impossible without money.  Little by little those carefree kids became slaves to money.

But the original concept of a carefree life of non-conformity was and is right.  And it is only achievable by living a life that is fully surrendered to Jesus.  Check it out:

Fear [reverently respect] the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.  Psalm 34:9

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:25-34

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Psalm 37:4

Some people think that God is stingy.  God isn’t stingy at all, we’re the stingy ones.  God is generous.  Read yesterday’s post, if you don’t believe me:  https://europeanfaithmissions.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/god-meets-radical-faith-with-radical-provision/.  I took Him at His Word, and He proved it to me.

If you want to live that carefree, non-conformist lifestyle, put God and His Kingdom first.

God Meets Radical Faith with Radical Provision

Tithing is an important principle that many Christians misunderstand.  Tithing was established in Genesis 14:18-20 when Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything he had.  Melchizedek was the King of Salem and a priest of God Almighty.  Hebrews chapters 5 and 6 explain that Jesus is our high priest in the order of Melchizedek.  And tithing is the key to blessings, as explained in Malachi 3:10, which says:

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

Many Christians don’t realize (or just don’t like the fact) that tithing is not optional.  Giving ten percent of our income is our part of the covenant with God.  And many fail to understand the importance of doing the tithe correctly.  Ten percent is the minimum, and it must be the first fruits (Exodus 23:19).  In other words, as soon as you’re paid, before you write a check for the rent or mortgage, car payment, groceries, or other bills, first you give a tenth of your income to God.

And some say that tithing was only for those people who lived before grace.  Wrong!  Tithing is part of the covenant with God.  God made a covenant with Israel and still honors the covenant.  He also honors the tithe covenant when we do our part.

A lot of people think of tithing as giving to the church (a frequently flawed human institution).  In reality, they are giving back to God from what He has given them.  And it’s funny, but a ten percent grocery store coupon seems hardly worth the trouble, but ten percent of your income seems enormous.  They give what they can or they give whatever’s left after all the bills are paid.  Then they wonder why they are still struggling financially.  It’s because they are giving God their leftovers.  The rich people in Luke 21:1-4 were giving God their leftovers, but the widow gave sacrificially.  Ten percent off the top is so hard to do that many Christians just don’t do it.  Have you ever noticed the number of coins and one-dollar bills that go by in the offering basket?  Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you,” (Luke 6:38).

This past year my income was cut in half, but I never felt the pinch.  When I learned that my income would be significantly less, I gave the problem to God and continued to do everything I needed to do in our ministry:  travel, meet with missionaries over coffee or a meal, etc.  In fact, I didn’t waste any time wondering if God would provide.  You see, His Word says that He is my Provider, and crazy as that sounds, I believe it.  I’m a faithful tither, and I believed that He would open the windows of Heaven for me.  When I returned to the US with Christmas and all my big bills coming due (property taxes, registration and inspection on the car, etc.), my brother informed me that our Grandfather’s second wife had died.  That dear lady remembered us in her will, and left enough to make up for the shortfall, but not enough to be taxable.  I could never have predicted where the money would come from, and never dreamed that she would leave something for us in her will.

I had other expenses at that time, too, because I needed to do a lot of traveling in the US in order to attend missions conferences and speak at churches about missions in Europe.  Where would the money for travel and conferences come from?  I didn’t know, but I knew that God would provide.  Since I would be out of the country for several months, I had some valuable Indian pottery that I wrapped up and left at my brother’s house before returning to Europe.  Just before returning home, my brother’s house burned down.  My pottery miraculously survived the collapse of the house, but the black-on-black glaze that had made these three pieces valuable and unique was burned off.  I didn’t want to make a claim on his insurance because my brother literally lost everything, so my claim was on my own homeowner’s insurance.  The insurance company carefully investigated, photographed, ordered an appraisal, and discovered the value of the pottery, which was far more than I had ever imagined.  The insurance claim more than paid the expense of travel.

But that’s not all:  my brother and sister-in-law, now without their house, had moved into my house.  They knew that I intended to sell my house, so they helped me clean it out, repair it, and get it ready to sell.  We came across a collection of wheat pennies that my father had left me.  I had taken the collection to a coin dealer several years before, so I didn’t think my chances of selling the collection was very good because wheat pennies are not very valuable or rare.  Still, I took it to a coin dealer with a reputation for being honest and fair.  His reaction was more or less what I expected.  He said a wheat penny is worth 1½ cents—not really worth his time.  Then I remembered that at the bottom of the sack there was one penny in a plastic holder.  I pulled it out and his eyes popped.  He grabbed his coin book and looked it up.  He showed me what the book said and offered me $650 for the whole collection.

Sometime later, I had attended all but the last conference, which was scheduled for the week before my return to Europe.  I had the feeling that this conference was important, but two things bothered me:  I hadn’t had any communication from them, even after numerous e-mail inquiries—possibly it had been cancelled!  The conference was in Halifax, Canada, and the cost to fly there was about $600.  Nevertheless, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was important for me to go, so I prayed about it again, asking God if He really wanted me to go, and pointing out the cost.  Immediately He responded, “The cost for you is only a penny.”  I laughed, and it still makes me laugh.  I love that God has a sense of humor!

A speaker at that conference said this:  “Some of you are laboring to have Ishmael, when God wants you to sit quietly and wait for Isaac.”  I got Isaac (financial provision), through no effort of my own.  I didn’t even wear God’s ears out with praying for provision.  He did it for me—He will do it for you, too!

Fun with English

Sometimes one of the funniest things about living in Italy is the so-called English you see on T-shirts, posters, and in graffiti.  It ranges from the slightly incorrect to head-scratching bizarre.  Here are some of my favorites:

In Italian, information is plural, which is definitely a cultural thing.  Because when it’s finally your turn, you want to ask every possible question while you’ve got the chance.

Service is another thing that is plural in Italian (we’ll forgive the spelling error).  The logic is that anyone who offers only one service will soon be put out of business by those who offer many and varied services.

Prepositions do not translate in Italian like other parts of speech.  Whereas we would say, “It’s Time to Travel,” in Italian the correct preposition is “of.”  A prepositional difference that causes problems for many English-speakers is being “in” a city.  In Italian you say that you are “at” a city and “in” a state or country.

This is another prepositional error, based on translating directly from Italian.  Even after eleven years, I am still corrected (most recently, yesterday) on my use of prepositions in Italian.

I think the writer was trying to convey the idea of an innovation in fun.

Very . . . what?

Um, won’t he mind if I eat his food?  If native English-speakers have trouble with the use of apostrophes, you can expect people from other countries to also have trouble.

I found this sign in a grocery store.  Most non-English-speakers are unaware of double meanings, like how “funny” with regard to food can be a bad thing, as in “this fish tastes funny.”

This sign was at a bank.  You’ve got to give them credit for trying, and they get points for cleverness with the obvious reference to “in God we trust” on American money, but it’s got to be “young people” or it simply doesn’t work in English.

Apparently the person who wrote this is unaware that ‘n is short for “and.”  I think they were trying for something like “lady in motion,” since it’s advertising a fitness club.

I love this one!  I think it’s a simple misspelling of “feeling,” but for a runner, “on the road with felling” could spell disaster.

I took this picture in Prague.  It’s obviously a clothing store, so perhaps they are going for the vegetarian (though not vegan) market.

It’s true, but not well-stated.

This is my favorite!  I found this (it appears to be spaghetti sauce) in a grocery store in Romania and laughed so hard I cried.  The other shoppers just stared at me.  “Man, I’m starving!  If only I had some crap!”

Think up your own “crap” phrases and post them here.  Let’s see who can come up with the funniest crap phrase.

I’m Not Beating Myself Up

Oops!  The old me showed up again yesterday.  How annoying!  It had seemed like the perfect plan, but the only flaw was that it was a lie.  Almost as soon as the lie was out of my mouth, my spirit began speaking to me about the need to be sincere, transparent, pure-hearted, honest, and above reproach at all times.

But—it would be so much easier to just keep up the pretense—she’ll never know.

Go tell her the truth.

But—this early in our relationship?  She’ll never trust me.

Confess the lie.

But—how do I tell her I lied?

Just do it!

So at the very first opportunity, I went and confessed the lie.  I asked for forgiveness and promised never to lie to her again.  Instead of suspicion, doubt, and anger—all of which I deserved—I got grace, pardon, and understanding from someone who barely knows me.

I used to be a liar, BC—a big liar.  Lying was such a habit that I would lie even when the truth would have served me better.  And it wasn’t easy to overcome that habit.  It was the toughest test of character I’ve ever gone through.  Here’s what it took to overcome habitual lying:  whenever I heard a lie come out of my mouth, I would stop myself and say, “Wait!  That’s not true.”  And then tell the truth—even when it hurt.  After several months of that, I became the truthful person that I am today.

So how did this happen?  Fear.  And fear is the opposite of faith.  It takes faith and courage to tell the truth in all circumstances.  I’ve been told that I’m a brave person to have moved to Italy by myself.  I used to think that they just don’t know how scared I am sometimes.  But then I realized that courage isn’t the absence of fear.  Courage is not letting fear stop you—even stop you from telling the truth in all circumstances.

Courage is also being brave enough to reveal yourself, flaws and all, to your friends.  Thank you, my friends, for bearing with me and my flaws.  Your encouragement helps me to be my best self.

More Coincidences, More God

Yesterday I posted about the coincidence of seeing a friend after more than a year (https://europeanfaithmissions.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/coincidence-is-spelled-g-o-d/).  We’re both English-speakers, we’ve both moved, we wanted to get together for a Bible study in English, and we find out that now we’re neighbors.

Yesterday I also put a bunch of my old posts on the blog because my old blogsite was accidentally closed down.  One of these old posts was “The Train God” (https://europeanfaithmissions.wordpress.com/about/ancient-blog-posts/), about a ride in the cab of the train with the engineer.

This morning I went to morning prayer at church.  When I’m home, I go to prayer meetings, cell groups, church services, and events.  This is how I fuel-up my spirit for ministry when I go visit missionaries and pastors in other places.  Usually I take Milan’s city transportation (trams, buses, subway), and since the church is clear across town from my apartment, it takes a combination of means to get there, and can be accomplished in several different ways.

Today on a whim I took the passante train to return home afterward.  The passante is the best-kept secret in Milan.  Most of the people who take the passante train are entering or leaving the city, but the same bus pass that works with all the other city transportation also works for the passante, provided you are traveling within the city.  During the morning and evening rush hours the trains are packed.  But during the day, they are practically empty.  Since I live not far from a passante station, it’s not so strange that I took the train.

I got onto the train and was talking on the phone when I heard a gasping intake of breath.  I turned and saw Alfredo, the engineer from “The Train God” post.  Clearly he had remembered me.  I finished my phone call just as he was entering the cab to drive the train.  I was only going two stops, so at my stop, I got off the train and knocked on his window.  He opened the little side door and said, “My Texan friend!  You’re back!”  I told him that I had thought of him just yesterday.  And he said, “And here I am!”  Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of time to talk because he had a schedule to keep, and I had to meet the electrician at the house.

I believe we will meet again sometime.  Maybe I’ll ride in the cab of the train again—who knows?  Maybe he’ll even let me drive!

Coincidence is Spelled G-O-D

When I had it in my heart two years ago to get an apartment in Milan, the idea was to use it as a guesthouse for visiting missionaries and pastors—the first ever (though I am not the only one to have this idea).  As I started using my first apartment for hosting, there was a lot of opposition—opposition which had a human face, but was clearly inspired by the enemy that is not flesh and blood.  At that time I hadn’t built a team of intercessors for the ministry yet.  That was a classic rookie mistake.  I am still learning how to do this whole missionary/ministry thing.  Anyway, as a result of the opposition, I was led to leave that apartment, go on last summer’s Faith Trip, and spend the past 13 months living out of a suitcase, first here and then in the US.

Upon my return to Italy, I got a green light from God to go look for an apartment.  This time around, the guesthouse apartment project has a team of intercessors praying it through to victory.  This was the second apartment I looked at—and I really only looked at the other one as a courtesy to a friend.

Besides serving as a missionary guesthouse, this apartment will have a second purpose, as a House of Prayer for Europe—the first House of Prayer specifically for Europe.

I am now in the apartment, but nowhere near ready for hosting.  When I moved in two weeks ago, the apartment was empty—even the kitchen was empty, just 4 walls and pipes coming out of one of those walls.  The kitchen is still empty, but little by little the rest of the apartment is being filled.  Here is a list of things still needed for the apartment:

  • Refrigerator
  • Kitchen cabinets, sink
  • Oven, stove
  • Beds – 4 (I am sleeping on a folding bed donated by a friend)
  • Sofas – 1 large, 1 loveseat (one loveseat was donated by a friend)
  • Wardrobes – 5 (a friend has two large wardrobes and one small to give me, but we need to figure out how to get them here)
  • Tables – 1 small (2-4 seats), 1 large (8+ seats)
  • Chairs – 15, plus folding chairs
  • Bedside tables – 3
  • Light fixtures – 6 ceiling, 1 wall, 1 with mirror for bathroom
  • Lamps – 2 desk lamps, 2 bedside, 2 floor lamps
  • Dressers – 2
  • Desks – 2
  • Bookshelves – 3
  • Rolling garment racks – 8

You may be wondering about that last item.  Why on earth would I need rolling garment racks, and why eight of them?  The custodian of the building loaned me a rolling garment rack and it answered a couple of problems for the living room, which will serve as the House of Prayer:  how to display the flags of Europe in such a way that they can easily be taken down, prayed over, waved, danced with, etc.  The racks with flags on S hooks will also help to divide the living room into living and dining space without such division being permanent.

On Sunday I saw two English-speaking friends at church.  One of them expressed a need for fellowship in English.  I said, “Why don’t you come over and we’ll have a Bible study?”  So we set an appointment for the next evening in my apartment.  I contacted the other friend and invited her, too.  She eagerly accepted and asked for my address.  We had both moved since the last time we had seen each other (over a year ago), but I knew that she still lived in the same neighborhood.  When she saw my address she replied, “I live on the same street—girlfriend, we’re neighbors!”

In preparing for the Bible study, I spent time in prayer, inviting the Holy Spirit to be our Teacher.  I love to teach, but I love even more hearing from God.  In introducing these two friends to each other, a lesson flowed effortlessly from the conversation.  The Holy Spirit had indeed showed up and taught us from God’s Word.  And we each enjoyed an evening of beautiful fellowship.

One friend was looking for work, and the other had a wonderful idea for finding plenty of work.

Although the house is bare, and I only had two small lights, a loveseat, and two folding chairs, I was very happy to see the apartment begin its ministry purpose.  This was the first of many such evenings.  And it happened through a series of coincidences, though not really coincidences, if you know what I mean.