A Night at the Ballet

A few years ago Tanja, a Russian dancer, asked me to come with her to the airport to meet a ballet troupe that was flying into Milan from the US. This is a Christian ballet troupe, called Ballet Magnificat[1]. They are as serious about their art as they are about sharing the Gospel. Tanja wanted me to come along because I spoke better Italian than she did.

It turned out to be a good thing because there was a medical issue. One of the dancers came out of the baggage area wearing sunglasses and dabbing at his eyes. He had slept in his contact lenses and he was in terrible pain. I escorted him to the doctor while Tanja took the rest of them to their hotel to rest. They had a show that same night.

I translated what Robby’s complaint was, and the doctor’s reply: “You probably have scratched your corneas.” When he checked Robby’s eyes, scratches were confirmed. He put salve on Robby’s eyes and covered them with bandages, rendering him sightless. The doctor told Robby not to take the bandages off for three days.

As we left the doctor’s office, with Robby taking my arm, he lamented, “I’ve got to dance tonight! There’s no understudy for my part!” So I said, “Let’s pray.” I prayed for him right there on the street. Then I led Robby to the hotel. Tanja and the rest of the troupe also prayed for Robby, then he went to his room to rest.

I had an appointment that night, so I never got to see them dance, but Tanja told me that Robby had been healed, and that he had danced.

So now, something like three years later, the troupe is back in Italy, and this time they are doing another ballet in a small city about an hour from Milan—the city where my friend, Angelica, lives. In fact, Angelica has been put in charge of ticket sales.

When I got a message from Angelica, asking if I wanted tickets to the ballet, of course I said yes. She made the same invitation to Sally, who also accepted. So today Sally and I met at Angelica’s apartment.

Angelica met us at the door, and had a lovely lunch prepared for us and put it on the table. She excused herself and I noticed that there were only places set for Sally and me. When she returned, she was dressed for the ballet. “Aren’t you eating with us?” I asked. Angelica said, “No, I’ve got to go to the theater and get the tickets ready for pickup when it opens.”

As if on cue, her buzzer sounded at that precise moment. “My ride is here,” she said. “Enjoy your lunch and I’ll see you at the theater.” Sally had the address for the theater, which she could put into her navigator. Angelica left, and we ate our lunch, catching up on each other’s lives. After lunch, there was time to rest before we had to change and leave for the theater.

As we rested, I thought about Robby. I wondered if he would be there tonight. It reminded me of something I had heard a Hebrew roots preacher say in a sermon once: Bible time is not linear, it’s cyclical. This, then would be another ballet season in my life, however brief.

The theater was actually in the next town, and being in the very center of town, parking was a challenge. Sally found a parking place where she could, and we walked the last several blocks to the theater.

The theater, though very small, was one of those grand, old theaters fashioned after La Scala in Milan: all in red velvet and gold filigree. Angelica was seated in the ticket office and handed us our tickets with a big smile through the glass partition. We found our seats, which Angelica had chosen for us: on the floor, close, but not too close to the stage.

Almost all the other people in the theater knew each other, being from one or the other of the two small towns where the theater and the host church were. Sally knew some of the women from the church because she had been on a women’s retreat with Angelica’s church last year. I only knew a few from the women’s tea that I had spoken at last year. The air was electric with excited voices, families with their children, all dressed up for a night at the ballet.

Then the lights dimmed, as the late-comers found their seats. Sally and I waited for Angelica to take her vacant seat between us, but she didn’t come. The lights went dark and the spotlight shined on the Host, who greeted us in Italian and made some announcements—one person had parked illegally right in front of the theater, and needed to move the car immediately. Then she welcomed and introduced the director of the ballet troupe and her translator, who greeted us and introduced the ballet.

Then the show started. Ballet, besides being a lovely, disciplined form of dance, is all about telling a story. The story this ballet told was about two professional dancers, competing for the lead in the ballet’s production of Don Quixote. One is a Christian, living a life of joy and freedom. The other, though chosen for the lead role, is selfish, jealous, and depressed, trying to fill the emptiness within through alcohol and a merry-go-round of sexual partners. The contrast between the worlds of these two dancers was beautifully portrayed in dance, with the ultimate redemption. Robby was one of two male dancers. It was exciting for me to finally get to see him dance.

At intermission, Sally and I went to look for Angelica, and found her seated in a box seat that was easy to reach from the ticket office. She explained that she’d had some problems. She had accidentally double-booked some seats, and the party that was second to arrive was furious about the mistake because ultimately, they had to split up. Angelica was very distraught over the mistake, so we prayed for her. Just then the lights blinked to signal that intermission was almost over, so we returned to our seats.

After the ballet, the director and her translator reappeared, inviting us to meet with the dancers in the foyer. I was eager to see if I could find Robby, but the foyer was a mass of people. Dancers were stationed around the periphery, but it was almost impossible to get through the people, crushing toward the dancers. In the end, I did get to talk with a couple of the dancers and tell my story about helping Robby when they had come to Milan. They remembered the incident, and said that they remembered me. However, they didn’t know where Robby was at that moment. They promised to tell him that I had been there for the show.

A supporting role is no less important than the main roles they support. It’s as true in ministry as it is in ballet. Even if I didn’t get to talk to Robby, himself, it was really amazing to finally see him dance. I know that I played a small, but vital role in his life and in the ballet’s ministry. And who knows how many lives have been touched through their ministry—and in a small way, mine. God is good!

[1] http://www.balletmagnificat.com/

Hospitality Part Two Home Invasions


This was the first piece of furniture in my apartment when I moved in three years ago.

Show hospitality to one another without complaining, (1 Peter 4:9, NET).

This year for the Expo, God has had me stop most of my travel activity and focus on hospitality.  Opening your home to friends is a good first step toward opening your home to strangers.  You have to make yourself willing to let people look in all your cabinets, and even into that messy catch-all drawer that every house has.  Maybe this is the house equivalent to knowing that you ate onions at lunch and your breath is not nice.

I knew that I was called to offer hospitality as part of my ministry of encouraging missionaries.  I also knew that I didn’t have any spiritual gift for hospitality—in fact, the only thing I scored lower on was mercy, which was zero.  On hospitality I scored one.

My close friends and family know that if they come into my house wanting a drink of water, they will either have to ask or just go get it, themselves.  It’s not that I would ever deny anyone a drink of water.  I just honestly forget to offer it.  My close friends and family also know that housekeeping is not my strong suit at all.  Not only am I no Martha Stewart, but just by pronouncing her name in my house, I risk a defamation of character lawsuit.  Of all the people you know, my kitchen trash is the most likely to be pungently overflowing, my floor sticky from spills or littered with actual flotsam and jetsam, and my bed is most likely to be unmade.  Believe me, I am not boasting!  In fact, I just paused after writing that last sentence, and went to make my bed.

But hospitality is more than just being a perfect housekeeper.  Hospitality is also more than opening your home to others.  Hospitality is doing whatever you can to help people feel comfortable and relaxed in your home—comfortable enough to help themselves to a drink of water or whatever it is that they want.  That I do, but it flows more from the encouragement gift than any concerted effort on my part to be a good hostess.

After more than thirty years of being expected to have a delicious meal on the table—only to have my efforts disappear without comment within half an hour—I have lost all desire to cook.  Surprisingly, this has become something that people enjoy about staying with me: they have free reign of my kitchen, which is well-equipped and almost always well-stocked.  Often my guests will actually cook for me.  The most surprising thing of all is that I really and truly don’t mind doing the dishes.  Okay, I have a dishwasher, but the dishes don’t go into the dishwasher without a good rinse beforehand.  Plus, there are some items that are either too big or too delicate to be washed in the dishwasher.  Even as a child, I remember volunteering to do the dishes.

When you open your house for hospitality, you are going to lose some privacy.  Your guests are going to look at your stuff—all your stuff.  And sometimes that stuff is going to be picked up and put back in the wrong place.  Sometimes your stuff will be broken or lost.  This is part of the cost of hospitality.  After the lid to my yogurt maker was lost (probably accidentally thrown out), I had a talk with myself.  Was this part important?  Yes, but not irreplaceable.  I have learned to make-do without the lid, using an ill-fitting plastic lid instead.

Sometimes your guests will disturb the neighbors.  I had a family with four children and their nanny staying with me once.  They arrived in the night with an enormous pile of luggage like an invading army.  The children were chattering loudly in excited English.  The neighbors complained of course, even though it was still early evening.  Of course, they didn’t mean to disturb the neighbors.  Now I instruct people to enter and exit the apartment as quietly as possible.

How do I handle these pitfalls of hosting?  I remind myself that this apartment belongs to God.  He has been kind to allow me to live here, but the apartment and all the things in it really belong to Him, and not to me.

However, the benefits of hospitality outweigh its pitfalls.  One benefit I noticed very soon after opening my home is that having praying people in your house creates a portal to the Throne Room of God.  (If you follow that link you can see one of my favorite sermons by Perry Stone.)  And when you have a portal to Heaven in your home, not only do prayers become easier, but also the Shalom, the unimaginable peace of God enters and stays.

Another benefit is that, while some things inexplicably go missing, other things just as suddenly appear.  There is a ton of stuff in the apartment that I have no idea where it could have come from.  Art materials, for example.  I am not visually artistic, and I know that I did not buy them, so where did all these paints and colored markers and drawing paper come from?  I haven’t got a clue!

Calling and gifting are two different things.  Encouragement was encoded into my very DNA by God, and flows from me, often without any effort whatsoever on my part—sometimes I don’t even know that I’m encouraging until the recipient points it out.

But hospitality, being a calling, is something I do with great effort, and I do it out of obedience.  Obedience flows out of love—love for God and love for God’s people.  Operation Capitals of Europe (OCE) has remained a priority, but God has had me pass up a lot of events that I would normally have liked to have gone to: Awakening and European Trumpet Call, especially.  But I did pass them up, knowing that it was what God had called me to do.  And each time, there were important hosting opportunities.

We are all called to hospitality (1 Peter 4:9), just as we are all called to share our faith with others.  If you’re interested in opening your home to believers, and in visiting and staying in the homes of believers, you can start by signing up with A Candle in the Window Christian Hospitality Network.  Start building that portal in your house, too.  You won’t be disappointed.  God is good!

Hospitality Part One – Shrinking my Bubble

3 April

Is this horse is trying to invade my personal space?

There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, (1 John 4:18).

Many Americans don’t think of hospitality as a ministry.  To be perfectly honest, we like our privacy.  We need our space.  We have a personal bubble that only our family and our very closest friends may enter.  I was one of those people.

When I moved to Italy, it was very challenging for me to enter church and be kissed fifty times before I made it to my seat.  But week after week, little by little, my resistance broke down.

Sometimes a friend wanted to talk with me, and stood too close while doing it.  For a man to stand too close was especially unnerving—even a good friend, and even now.  I would try to bring the person’s face in focus by cocking my head back and looking through the reading part of my bifocals.  When that didn’t work, I would try gazing over the top of my glasses.  At that point, the only thing left for me to do was to take a step back.  The speaker always closed the gap, taking a step toward me.  This dance continued until I was cornered, which happened every single time.

I had a fear of strangers (xenophobia), particularly men, and a massive fear of germs (mysophobia).  Fear of germs no doubt had something to do with the challenge of being kissed so much at church.  But it was absolutely intolerable for a stranger to invade my bubble, especially if the stranger touched me[1].  Beggars in this part of the world don’t know about personal bubbles.  They don’t often do it, but sometimes beggars will touch your hand as they ask for money.  This used to frighten me so badly that I would abandon whatever I was doing and immediately flee for the safety of home.

Now, fifteen years later, I have a smaller personal bubble.  The phobias have been healed.  The fear of germs is completely gone, and the fear of strangers is within normal bounds now.  The bubble is still there, I can assure you.  I still don’t like for strangers to invade my bubble, and especially to touch me.  But now I know and understand that I am not in any physical danger.

With friends, the only time that the bubble is an issue is if their breath is an issue—and honestly, sometimes I know that my own breath is an issue.  In the case of offensive breath (mine or my friend’s), the best course of action is to reach into my bag, get some minty gum, pop a piece in my mouth, and then offer a piece to my friend.  Even if they refuse, the gum in my own mouth will usually overwhelm the friendly fire of halitosis aimed in my direction.

So if you’re called to a hospitality ministry, the first step is to shrink your personal bubble.  God will help you do that.  He is the Perfecter of love, and He will grow His love in you.  God is good!

[1] I’m not talking about the inadvertent touch, shoulder to shoulder on a crowded bus.

The Biggest Lie Ever Told: The Coming Great Deception

Rapture lightning

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately.  “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?”

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you.  For many will come in My name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.  You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.  At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.  Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. . . .

“If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.  At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.  For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.  See, I have told you ahead of time.

“So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.  For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man,” (Matthew 24:3-27, emphasis mine).

Jesus is talking about the End Times.  Mark chapter 13 contains the same discussion, but adds: “You must be on your guard,” (verse 9).  And: “Be on guard! Be alert!” (verse 33) and again: “What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (verse 37).

Jesus is warning His disciples (which includes us) as sternly as possible to be ready because there is a Great Deception coming.  And since it will be backed up by great signs and wonders, many people will be fooled.  There is a danger that even believers might be fooled.

So what is this Great Deception?  I believe it has to do with the Rapture.  I’ve written before that there is going to be such great chaos in the wake of the Rapture that people will be struggling just to survive (see The Rapture and the World Left Behind).

The Ferguson rioting and the protests and riots that spread across the US this past fall is just a glimpse of how violent things will become in the immediate aftermath of the Rapture, when all the world’s electronics are rendered useless.  When I heard the verdict on the Ferguson case, I turned to Mom and said, “They’re going to use this as an excuse to loot stores.”  And they did.  I don’t believe that it was 100 percent honest protest, though there was that.  Some people goad the protesting crowd into a riot just for the opportunity it gives them to get away with robbery.

The lawlessness will be even worse than that in the immediate aftermath of the Rapture because the Rapture will remove the presence of the Holy Spirit by removing us out of the world.  In that moment, all the anger, fear, bitterness, rage, frustration, hatred, shame, and fury will suddenly have free reign.  People will act on those negative emotions with violence.  There will be untold numbers of assaults, rapes, and murders in broad daylight in the streets.  People you know, people you like, people you trust, some of them will be taken over by an insane murderous rage.

Some people you look to for protection will be the very people who turn into killing machines.  Police officers (not all of them) will shoot to kill innocent men, women, and children.  Some firefighters will start fires, targeting banks, government buildings, and infrastructure like bus and train stations, airports, power stations, and water treatment facilities.  Many in the armed forces will go on killing rampages.

I don’t know how long the electric power will be out, but it could be months.  Likewise, I don’t know if the fried electronics of battery-powered devices will be disabled temporarily or permanently, but it could be permanently.

This will be the antichrist’s opportunity to unite the world under his power because he will restore order in a world gone violently and psychotically mad.  He will take power and will probably use supernatural powers to stop the violence by suddenly ending the lives of the people who had turned into psychotic killers.  He will then enforce martial law.  And people will be grateful for it.  Yes, after the murder, mayhem, and real anarchy they’ve seen, people will be grateful for martial law.  They will happily give up all their ideas about democracy to this man because he will appear to be the savior of mankind.

And this will lead to the Great Deception because the Rapture will actually tear the veil that currently separates the spirit world from earth.  The specific part of the spirit world that will be revealed is the second heaven, where the enemy currently dwells (the first heaven is our sky).  He is called the prince of the power of the air because he lives above the earth.  He is able to come down to earth briefly, but after the Rapture, he will have free access.

Although the second heaven is in the upper atmosphere around earth, it is physically part of a fifth dimension (Einstein stated that time is the fourth dimension of our physical reality).  There are dimensions beyond the fifth, and that is where Heaven and God’s Throne is.  When evil was found in the enemy and he mounted a rebellion against God, he fell from those higher dimensions into the fifth dimension.  As it would be easy for a four dimensional creature (i.e. a human being) to look down upon a creature of three dimensions (a flat creature), so it is easy for the enemy to look down upon our world without being seen.

What will it look like when the veil separating us from the second heaven rips?  The world is already being prepared for that day, and we haven’t even known it.  Here’s how we’re being prepared:

  • Movies like ET, Avatar, Star Wars, Alien, X-Men, Batman, Species, Spiderman, My Stepmother is an Alien, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, just to name a few.
  • Television shows like X-Files, Dr. Who, Stargate, Alien Nation, The Walking Dead, Arrow, and Star Trek.
  • Music like E.T. (follow the link and check out the lyrics to that song), Starman, I Lost my Heart to a Starship Trooper, Extraterrestrial Lover, and Alien Lover.
  • Video games like Alien, Predator, Alien vs. Predator, Alien Abduction, and Planetary Conquest.
  • Books (and book series) like Ender’s Game, Dune, and Twilight. Thanks to that last one, there is now a whole genre called Sci-fi Romance.

A lot of people have seen UFO’s, some have seen aliens, and there are many cases of alien abductions.  I believe that these are real.  The reason that there doesn’t seem to be much credible evidence is because of the extradimensional place where these things are coming from: the second heaven.

Consider this: a magician convinces people that they have seen “magic” by doing two things simultaneously.  While one hand is busy hiding the object, the other is distracting the audience’s eyes so that they don’t see what that first hand is doing.

Forewarned is forearmed.  Be ready for these lies and you will not fall prey to them or to the one who spews those lies.  Most of all, keep a repentant heart and be ready for the Rapture.  Any day, any time now, Jesus will come to Rapture His Bride away.  But we’ve got to be ready (see the Parable of the Ten Virgins, Matthew 25:1-13).  The Spirit and the Bride say: “Come!” (Revelation 22:17).  God is good!

Bad Music!

bad music

I don’t have a TV because most television programs don’t interest me, and many are just plain offensive.  I think I watched a lot of TV out of habit or boredom.  So many evenings when I’m too tired to do anything else, and it’s too early for bed, I watch sermons on YouTube.

One I came across a few months ago was about Contemporary Christian Music, and the pastor claimed that CCM is satanic.  He also claimed that some traditional Christian music is also satanic because it is either unscriptural or uses “You” or “Lord” instead of the Name of Jesus, which could be co-opted by the antichrist for purposes of worship.  I admit, I had watched partly out of curiosity, but also wondering if there was something to his claim.

However, the pastor just ranted about the evils of syncopated rhythm without backing up any of his assertions with Scripture.  In fact, in thinking about it, I can’t think of a single place where the Bible warns us about bad music or tells us not to let our children listen to certain kinds of music.  What the Bible says instead is:

Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise prophecies.  Test all things; hold fast what is good.  Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22, NKJV, emphasis mine).

In the comments section, I wrote that I was not convinced.  Almost immediately this pastor launched an attack on me, saying that I’m not worshiping, but just caught up in the music and emotionalism.  He even said that it would be better if I listened to secular rock music instead of CCM.  He ended his attack by saying that I’m probably not really saved, and I’m not welcome to comment any further on his page.

So I went to the Lord, asking about CCM because the only opinion that matters to me is His.  And I realized I couldn’t think of once—not one single instance—in the Bible, where music is ever condemned or where we are warned about the kind of music we listen to.  The Bible doesn’t warn us about the kind of music we let our children listen to.

Many years ago, when my firstborn was a pre-teen he went through a phase where he loved rap music.  This was before Eminem, Tupac, and the “kill the cops” and “beat up yo’ ho” lyrics that came to typify rap music.  This was when rap music was just mostly annoying, but not evil.  He listened to rap day and night until I wanted to scream.  I wasn’t walking with the Lord at the time, but I believe that I got some divine guidance not to criticize his music.  In fact, sometimes I would sit and listen to it with him.  In a few months, he became bored and lost interest in rap music.

Just today I came across a similar video by another preacher, ranting about the evils of Christian rock music.  A group that he described as “Vatican Catholic satanists trying to play voo-doo, witchcraft music.”  As he is saying this, I can hear “Holy, holy, holy” in the background.  To be honest, I didn’t bother to watch the whole thing, since it is probably just him howling on video about the evils of Christian rock music, and frankly, I feel like life is way too short to waste a moment on someone’s psychotic obsession—even if they are a brother or sister in Christ.

Here’s the thing: the enemy was once the worship leader in Heaven.  Then he decided that he wanted the worship for himself.  So, since he was skilled at music, and particularly music that evokes worship, naturally he has co-opted those very skills for his own purposes.  The Bible says: “God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable,” (Romans 11:29).  That means that the enemy didn’t lose his gifts just because he sinned.  And it is the same for people.  We can walk away from our calling, but the gifts will always remain.  And if we ever return to the Lord, our calling likewise remains.  This speaks of the generosity and patience of God—Hallelujah!

So the enemy’s irrevocable gift explains the rise of satanic rock music.  Now, just because satanic rock music exists, does that make all rock music evil?  Certainly not!  God has raised up lots of Christians artists who glorify Him with their music.  The enemy is an angel (a fallen angel), and angels are absolutely incapable of creating anything.  They were not made in God’s image, so creativity is not something they can do.  But humans are made in the image of the Creator, so we can create.  Since he can’t create, the enemy does what he can—he whispers an idea into a person’s head: “Hey, Ozzie!  Write a song about Aleister Crowley . . .” (an early 20th century satanist whom the British press called “the wickedest man in the world”).  And with a song created by a human, the enemy uses his gift to inspire worship for himself.

None of that implies that rock music is evil.  It is simplistic to think that people come to church just for the opportunity to listen to Christian rock music.  Or to imagine that the enemy is using Christian rock music to bring worship to himself—right there where the Word of God is being preached.


Although these preachers didn’t reveal their denomination (or denominations), I remember very well moving to the Bible Belt at age fifteen.  It was then that I learned that some denominations believe that drinking alcohol is a sin, dancing is a sin, and have even banned music from their churches.  I was still a very new Christian at the time, but I remember wondering if they knew that Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine (John 2:1-9), that David (the man after God’s own heart, Acts 13:22) danced in worship (2 Samuel 6:14) and wrote music that chased away evil spirits (1 Samuel 16:23).  Not surprisingly, those denominations have also declared that all of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit ended with the death of the last apostle.  I believe that these preachers are probably a part of those denominations.

Thank God that music is not a salvation issue!  And thank God that we are free to worship with music or not—as long as God is worshiped and glorified.  I doubt that standing across the street and howling at Christians playing rock music is very effective either in winning those people to your point of view or in winning converts from passing unbelievers.  Sometimes the baffling behavior of some preachers makes me want to cry.  Instead of focusing on these piddly details, let’s instead go out there and share the Love of Jesus with a lost and dying generation.  God is good!

Bad Mood Beggar


I admit, I was not at my best.  For one thing, I was not feeling my best.  I had a headache and was feeling very tired.  Plus I had just had to mail a customs form in so that I could receive a shipment, which I may have to pay to receive.  And as a bonus, I had just missed a tram, and the next one wouldn’t be for 15 minutes because of summer hours, and I felt too shaky to make the ten minute walk home.  Bottom line: I was not in a good mood.

So I was in this frame of mind when a man walked up to me, asking if I speak English.  I could tell from his manner that he was about to hit me up for money.

Usually I keep a coin purse with me, specifically for giving to beggars.  Jesus said, “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you,” (Matthew 5:42).  I put all my fifty cent coins in it, and I give to whoever asks, trusting that God will sort things out properly if I just do my part.  But they have to ask me.  If they don’t ask, I don’t give.  And when the coins are all gone, then I can honestly say, “I don’t have anything to give you.”

But this particular day, feeling rotten and in a rotten mood, I had left my beggar coin purse at home.  Plus, I just wasn’t in a mood to be hit-up for money.  So I just brushed the guy off and walked away from the tram stop.  I got across the street when the Holy Spirit gently began to deal with me that I hadn’t even heard the man’s request.

So I turned back.  I said, “Lord, if You want me to talk to him, then show me where he is,” because beggars on the move have a tendency to vanish quickly.

I did find him close to the tram stop.  I said, “I’m not feeling well, but that’s no excuse for the way I treated you.  I don’t have any money to give you.  But other than money, how can I help you?”

He launched into an appeal for money.  I tried another tack: “I have friends who give out free meals at the train station . . .” He cut me off.  He wasn’t interested in food.  He really and truly only wanted money.  Checking with the Lord first, I said, “I really don’t have any money to give you.”  And I returned to the tram stop just in time for the next tram.

What was the point of all that, if God didn’t want me to make an exception in his case?  I think it was just this: that God wanted me to treat everyone I meet with respect, even if it’s a beggar, and even if I’m feeling rotten.  I returned home, went to bed, and slept the rest of the day.  God is good, and He expects us to reflect His goodness to others.  They might not deserve it, but then neither do we!

The Called – Part Two


Usually a person’s immediate response to God’s amazing gift of grace (unmerited favor) and mercy is to love Him and to want to serve Him.  If you don’t want to serve Him, you should check your gratitude.  Even if your life before Christ wasn’t so bad, He has saved you for Heaven, and for that reason if for no other, you should be grateful and want to serve God.

When I first got saved, at age twelve, I wanted to serve God.  But my knowledge and experience were very limited.  I had grown up in the Episcopal Church, and got saved because our priest told me that the Confirmation ceremony would mean nothing if I didn’t make a decision to follow Jesus.  So I thought that the only way I could serve God was by becoming a nun (yes, the Episcopal Church also has nuns).  But I wasn’t cut out to be a nun, and it was definitely not my calling.  Then at age seventeen, when I got baptized in the Holy Spirit, I thought that I was being called as a missionary.  Clearly, I had a clue about my calling.  But my limited understanding of what a missionary is made me think that I had to go to some bug-and-snake-infested jungle in Africa.  So like Jonah, I ran as hard as I could in the opposite direction, and got married.

Even having gone the wrong way, God brought me back to where I needed to be in order to serve Him.  Just like Jonah.  In Driven by Eternity, author John Bevere recommends three steps for discovering your ministry:

  1. Diligently seek God, Hebrews 11:6. In 1992, I did this right after re-dedicating my life to the Lord by taking Peter Wagner’s (author of Your Spiritual Gifts can help Your Church Grow) Spiritual Gifts Test.  By Googling Spiritual Gifts Test, you can take a test to discover your spiritual gift or gifts.  This will go a long way toward helping you to understand your calling.

At the same time, you should be reading the Bible.  Fill your mind with God’s Word and spend time in His presence.  Psalm 37:4 is the Bible verse that God used to move me into my mission field: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  I had always read this verse the way most people understand it: that God will grant to you the things your heart desires.  And it is true, in a sense, but in another sense it is even truer that God will plant the desires to do the things that He has designed you to do—and then grant you those desires.  So if God was calling me to the jungle, He would have planted in my heart the desire to live in the jungle.

Discovering and following your calling will be the truest expression of “being yourself” that you could ever, ever do.

So I discovered that my spiritual gifts were (starting with the strongest): encouragements, teaching, and prophecy.  I had no idea how to use the gift of encouragements without becoming some sort of crazed church cheerleader, so instead, I started serving the church by teaching Sunday school.  I did okay as a Sunday school teacher, and it’s a valuable service to the church.  So I was my son’s Sunday school teacher from age two.

  1. Plant yourself in a local body of believers, Psalm 92:13. John Bevere puts it this way: “You don’t have the right to pick where you go to church.”  1 Corinthians 12:18 says: “God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be.”  Let God tell you where to go to church, and stay there until He moves you somewhere else.

I remember when I was house-hunting during our move to Connecticut.  God clearly told me that this little church in Madison was going to be my church.  It was not the same denomination as the one He had me attending in North Carolina.  In fact, it was a denomination I had never heard of before: Christian and Missionary Alliance.  God’s not into denominations—that’s a divisive thing.  At that time, I had no idea that we would be living in a house just four miles down the road from that church, but obviously God knew.

When I started going to that church, for the first two months, all I saw was God, all I heard was God.  It was only later that I learned that they had just gone through a terrible and painful split.  No wonder they had nothing—no Sunday school, no youth programs—absolutely nothing for the kids.  They were just struggling to get back on their feet as a body of believers.

A few months later, one of the deaconesses of the church invited me to join an Experiencing God (by Henry Blackaby and Claude King) class that she was starting for the women of the church.  The class asked two questions that changed my life: 1) What is God calling you to do right now? and 2) What is it going to cost your family?  In response to those two questions, I went back to another mother in the church who had asked me to help her get a Children’s Church program started.  I stopped using my family as an excuse and I partnered with her.  Children’s Church (and the programs that grew out of Children’s Church) became one of the main things that God used to grow that church to double its original (before the split) size.

God also used that experience to grow my faith so that later when He called me to Italy, I would have faith strong enough to follow that call, even though it meant moving to Italy alone.

  1. Avoid entanglements, Luke 9:62. Entanglements can be anything that prevents you from stepping out into ministry.  And this was precisely what had made me hesitate about starting the Children’s Church ministry.  I knew that it was going to cost my family something.  I was perfectly fine with paying a price, myself.  But I didn’t want to ask my family to pay the price, too—especially since my husband had turned his back on God.  How could I ask him to pay the price for ministry to a God he no longer believed in?

But turn that question around: how could I withhold anything, even my family, if the God I love is asking me to sacrifice them?  What would Abraham do?  I needed a major paradigm shift.  Being a housewife and stay-at-home mom, I had become used to putting my family ahead of my own needs.  But now, I had to put my God ahead of my family.

And I did.  It wasn’t easy, but it was the right thing to do because everything I had, even my dear family, had come from Him.  How could I refuse a God who had been so good to me?

I am not going to sugar-coat any of this.  It was not easy.  It cost me, and it cost my family.  This is why many are called, but few are chosen.  Few are chosen because they are simply not willing to pay the price, to make the sacrifice.

But God is worthy of every sacrifice.  Those sacrifices that cost me the most are the most precious to Him.  He makes it all up to me in the sweetest, most intimately personal ways.  And I know that it has all gone into my Heavenly bank account to earn interest in eternity.  How could I do any less for my God, who I love?  God is good!

Emergency Room Hostess – Another Hosting Hazard

cast 2

I’ve had people come through the apartment who have needed doctoring due to illness or injury—it happens.  The best thing is to be well aware of the quickest and easiest route to the hospital or know the number to call for an ambulance (here it is 118).

One visitor had severe abdominal pains upon arriving in Milan from a brief mission trip to Egypt.  She may have eaten something in Egypt that didn’t agree with her.  I took her to the emergency room, and because she was only running a very low fever, they gave her a low status.  When they examined her they found appendicitis, but only gave her a few antibiotics and sent her home with me.  She seemed fine for the rest of her visit.  When she returned to the US a few days later, her symptoms came back with a vengeance, and she had to have an emergency appendectomy.  You can’t imagine how glad I was that she remained stable while she was here.  The cost of her Emergency Room visit?  Zero.

Another visitor also had severe abdominal pains, but repeatedly refused to go to the Emergency Room.  Two days later, when I found her on the bathroom floor, I called for an ambulance over her protests.  She also had appendicitis, but her appendix had burst.  If I had not gotten her immediate medical care, she would have died.  Due to peritonitis she had to stay over a week in the hospital.  The cost of her emergency appendectomy?  About €2000.

The day after I got my cast off (see Summer in a Cast) a family arrived to stay with me.  They had taken a ferry to cross the sea, and their five-year-old daughter had fallen because of the choppy waters.  They suspected that she might have broken her left wrist (just like me).  I took them to the Emergency Room, where they determined that her wrist wasn’t broken, but badly sprained.  They wrapped it and sent us all home.  The cost?  Nothing.

She cried every time she looked at the wrapping on her wrist.  So I showed her a few pictures of me in the cast.  When she saw that my cast had been decorated (by Sparkles) she wanted to decorate her wrappings.  Decorating it did seem to make it better for her.  Sometimes you just need some flowers and stars to make everything OK again.

Besides these medical emergencies, what most people need in the way of first aid is usually Band-Aids or adhesive tape to cover blisters.  I try to keep a good supply, plus antibacterial ointment on hand.  You never know when someone’s going to get an owwie—or worse.  God is good!

The Called


You may be called, but are you chosen?

At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.  Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved, (Matthew 24:10-13, emphasis mine).

That passage from Matthew speaks of the End Times—our time—and Jesus is not talking about the increase of wickedness in the world, although there is undeniably an increase of wickedness in the world.  Jesus is talking about an increase of wickedness in the church, among believers.  This is so important that I want to take it phrase by phrase and show you what the Holy Spirit showed me.

At that time many will turn away from the faith . . .

To turn away from the faith means that at one time they had embraced the faith—true faith.  To turn away from the faith doesn’t necessarily mean that they will stop going to church.  A person can turn away from the faith by adopting a buffet religion: I like this part of the Bible, but I don’t like that or that part.  There are whole denominations that have chosen a buffet religion, for example, those that choose not to allow the free expression of the supernaturally-powered Spiritual gifts.

. . . and will betray and hate each other . . .

The buffet religion people hate those who remain faithful to the entire Word of God (remember, I’m speaking of believers hating believers).  Hating us, they call us haters[1].

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen, (1 John 4:20, emphasis mine).

Hatred of people is not godly.

Hatred of sin is godly:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good, (Romans 12:9, emphasis mine).

You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy, (Psalm 45:7, emphasis mine).

Let me give you an example.  Imagine that I just lost my father to cancer because he smoked all his life[2].  Will I hate smoking?  Absolutely!  Will I hate my mother and other remaining relatives who still smoke?  Not at all!  In loving them, will I support their smoking?  Will I allow them to smoke in my house?  No way!  If I supported their smoking, they might believe that I love them because I’m not on their backs about quitting[3], but in reality, that is not love.  I encourage you to read Romans 12:9 again, and continue through the rest of the chapter.  In the NIV, this whole section is subtitled Love in Action.

Betrayal speaks of the breach or trespassing of trust in a relationship, and it can birth hatred—on both sides of the relationship.  A casual acquaintance cannot betray you, only someone who is close to you, someone you love and trust.

. . . and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. . . .

False prophets have already started arising: those who preach the prosperity gospel, for example.  They have taken the biblical truth (that God will bless and prosper His people) out of the context that they must be serving Him.

But, really heresies and false prophets date back to Joseph Smith and Mormonism, then Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science, and Charles Taze Russell and Jehovah’s Witnesses—and even centuries earlier with the Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:6 & 15).  Interestingly, with the exception of the Nocolaitans, each of these heresies arose in the early- to mid-1800’s from the north-eastern United States.

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold . . .

Where sin is tolerated, there is no love.  And the best example of this is God, Himself.  The Bible says, “God is love,” (1 John 4:8 & 16).  God absolutely does not tolerate sin.  This is why He will judge the world.  This is also why He created a place separated from His presence, for the devil and the other rebel angels.

By the way, hell was not created nor intended for people.  The only way that a person ends up in hell is because that person chooses to continue sinning unrepentantly.  That person could even be a believer.  This is why it’s so important that churches teach the whole Bible, because buffet religion is really just saying, “I like what God can do for me, but I don’t want to have to give up my sin.”  I’m not talking about someone who struggles with a certain sin.  I’m talking about someone who has no intention of ever changing.

. . . but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

This is the good news.  And the really good news is that God has not left us to fight against our flesh by ourselves or in our own strength.  The Holy Spirit was given specifically for the purpose of helping us.  He is God, living inside of us.  So if you’re struggling to overcome a certain sin, call on your Holy Helper.  He’s as close as your breath, and ready to help, and He wants to see you overcome.  Partner with Him today, and watch how your life changes.  God is good!

[1] Hatred does not necessarily mean open rage, though it can certainly develop into something that looks like that. Hatred actually starts as cold indifference, the absence of love.

[2] My dad did smoke, but he gave me a birthday gift that really cost him: he quit smoking for good on my tenth birthday—and he did it for me. My mother never was a smoker. Now, smoking is not a sin, as such, but it is absolutely not healthy. I would liken it to the dietary laws of Moses. They are not an issue of salvation, but of health.

[3] This brings up another issue that I hear about all the time: witnessing to our lost loved ones—the ones who have not yet made a decision for Christ. People tell me, “I witness and witness to them all the time, but they just shut me out.” Of course they shut you out! You’re trying to do the job of the Holy Spirit by convicting them of sin. Conviction is a very uncomfortable thing. When something makes you uncomfortable, you shut it out. So I say, “Stop before you damage the relationship. They know where you’re coming from. Now let your life do the talking.”

Holy Terrors the Hazards of Hosting


Hope you didn’t want to use the fan!

Maybe there’s something wrong with me.  If so, then I depend on you, my friends and readers, to set me straight.  Over the past three years, I have hosted many missionary families.  Most have well-behaved children, but some are literally raising holy terrors.

One family came with their four children and the nanny, and within the first ten minutes their child had broken the ceiling fans in both bedrooms—and this was their oldest child, a ten-year-old—a child that is old enough to know better.

Another family had children that opened the refrigerator and just stood there looking into it, like it was a TV or something.

I often leave out a dish of individually-wrapped candies, but I’ve learned to put the candies away when families with kids come.  Some kids literally have no brakes, and will eat the candies until they are all gone, leaving the wrappers strewn all over the house.

One family’s kids, aged five and two, played with the light switches, turning the lights on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off . . . until finally, I had to say something: “The light switch is not a toy.” At that point, the parents, who had been there all along, chimed-in.

With two- and three-year-olds, I know that there are many things that I have to move out of their reach, but with a five-year-old?  I raised two kids of my own, so I know that a five-year-old is perfectly capable of understanding if you tell her not to take the bookmarks out of my books.

In fact, this same kid put candy wrappers in the pages of my Bible, while my bookmark was nowhere to be found.  I showed her dad, and he said, “She just doesn’t understand.  I’ll talk to her.”  And a few minutes later, I did hear him talk to her: “You mustn’t put your candy wrappers into Mrs. Alisa’s Bible.”

I physically cringed because the Bible was sitting in front of me in the next room.  He had removed the wrappers and put it back for me before talking to the child.  I knew that she didn’t understand what in the world he was talking about.  On hearing the word Bible, she probably thought of his Bible, which looks completely different from mine.  If he had done what I did: show her the Bible with the candy wrappers still in its pages, she would probably have understood.  It’s very possible that she doesn’t even remember putting the candy wrappers into the pages—again a reason to show her what she had done.

I’m not precious about the things in the apartment.  I have said many times that this is God’s house.  He is good enough to let me live here, but I do have a responsibility to be a good steward of what He has given me to take care of.

I sometimes wonder, do these people let their kids slam, slam, slam, slam, slam the door at home, just for the joy of hearing the loud noise they’ve made?  I’ve got neighbors to think of.  They hear these things, too.

And in all this, the parents are not absent, they’re just not paying attention to their kids.  Often, they are right there when their children are acting wildly.  They only say something after I’ve said, “Leave the Kleenex box alone—it’s not a toy,” after their four-year-old has entertained himself by pulling out one tissue after another, after another, after another, after another, almost emptying the box.  Suddenly aware of the inappropriate play, the parent jumps into action, gathering up all the tissues off the floor and stuffing them back into the box.  He laughs and says, “He’s never seen a Kleenex box before.”  Like that makes it OK for him to let the kid go through all the tissues like that?

Do their kids act like this in their own house?  I sincerely doubt it.  I know they come to me tired from traveling with the kids, but what do I do?  Either I let these children literally tear the house apart or I become the one to tell them no.  And except for a few extreme cases that may require an exorcism, the majority of kids understand and meet my reasonable expectations.  But why do I have to do the parenting?  Honestly, it makes me want to screen families for lazy parenting.

This is not a hostel, this is ministry.  I don’t have a supernatural gift for hosting, I have to work hard to help people feel comfortable, welcome, and relaxed here.  I don’t dislike kids.  In fact, I don’t blame the kids in any of these cases.  But I would like to not be put into the situation of having to parent other people’s kids for them.

Am I wrong?  If I’m being unreasonable, please leave a comment below. . . . and I’ll be out of town when you and the kids want to come for a visit.  God is good, even if some parents are not.