Fall Safe

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Do you see the Altar?

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Now do you see it?

19 October 2016

The park director here at Timna had told me that we would have to move out of our deluxe tent into a regular tent for one night.  I agreed to the arrangement, while hoping that they would have a cancellation.  As the date for the move approached, Nina and I prayed to be allowed to remain.  Last night there was a ruckus caused by one of the new arrivals.  They had been asked to move because they had been assigned the wrong kind of tent.  The husband gathered up the kids, ready to move, but the wife pitched a walleyed fit, screaming, stamping her feet and slapping her hands together.  The park employee that had delivered the bad news began to retreat to the office.  She followed him all the way to the door, screaming the whole way.  When he shut the door behind him, she continued to scream, pacing and stamping her feet.  Finally she paused for breath.  She muttered to herself, occasionally throwing a hand to heaven, pacing all the while.

I watched, praying that it wouldn’t even cross his mind to ask nice women like me and Nina to move.  And that prayer was answered.  The screaming woman got her way, but we were not asked to move.  Perhaps the offered the true occupants of that tent a free stay in one of the regular tents.  I felt sorry for the park employee, but even more so for her poor husband.  No doubt he is very accustomed to her fits of rage.  He seemed like a nice fellow.

As the sun began to set Nina and I watched the shadow of the mountains climb up the mountain in front of us.  At the top of the mountain is a big rectangular structure that we have begun calling the Altar.  At a certain point, the whole mountain is in shadow except for the Altar.  It gave us holy goosebumps to see it lit up, as it were.

As I looked up at the Altar I remembered the time when I was little, no more than five years old.  I was hiking along the ridge top in Palo Duro Canyon with my family and the Phillips family (my parents’ best friends).  Everyone ahead of me went to the left of a cedar tree on the cliff path.  I went to the right and fell off the cliff.  I could have died that day, but I had landed comfortably on my back on a muddy outcropping, just four or five feet below the cliff—and about 100 feet or more above the canyon floor.  I was unhurt and not even frightened.  Margaret, my mom’s best friend, jumped down and rescued me, handing me up to my dad.

Then I remembered another time that I had fallen.  I was planting ground cover flowers on top of a retaining wall.  I was hugely pregnant and lost my balance.  I fell backwards off the wall, landing on my bottom on a big, soft bag of mulch.  Again, I was unhurt and not even very frightened (it had happened so fast).  My thirteen year old son was terrified because he had seen the whole thing.  I had to take some time to reassure him that I was fine, really fine.

In fact, looking back I can’t think of a single time that I’ve fallen from any height and hurt myself.  The worst falls I’ve ever taken have been at ground level, like when I broke my arm (see Summer in a Cast and God My Healer).

You have made a wide path for my feet to keep them from slipping, (Psalm 18:36).

God is my Fall Safe.  God is good!

The Gift of Presence


Suki praying in English with translation

My friend, Suki, was going to speak to a group at the church in Turin where I had visited just a few weeks ago (see A very Italian Allegory).  Although she was going to be in Turin for the whole weekend, I decided only to come Friday, returning to Milan in the evening.

Then Rosa contacted me about going to hear Suki speak.  Suki had introduced me to Rosa a few years ago.  She said that Rosa could benefit from a bit of encouragement from me, especially since I live close enough to actually visit her, which I’ve done a few times since.  Rosa had to work on Friday, but told me that she had the whole weekend free.  I have an invitation for Sunday morning, but I changed my idea from a daytrip on Friday to a daytrip on Saturday to accommodate Rosa.  We met at the train station and went to Turin together.  The trip from Milan to Turin on the high-speed train is under an hour, but once in the city, it took us almost two hours to cross town to get to the church.  Part of this was the Saturday bus schedule and part of it was the weather: it was raining.

Seeing that we were going to be significantly late, I wanted to pray, but Rosa chattered and chattered.  So I sent up a quick prayer for Suki.  In fact Rosa talked non-stop (in Italian) from the moment we met until we arrived at the church.  My ears were in serious need of rest.

Now, I don’t mean any of this against Rosa.  She’s a precious sister in Christ who feels desperately lonely for Christian fellowship.  She’s not allowed to talk about Jesus at work, and she lives with her mom who will hear nothing of her Christian talk.  Her mom had a boyfriend who was into tarot cards and other occult stuff.  Rosa has a neighbor, Gunther, who’s a believer.  But Gunther is so fixated on the demonic that he will talk about practically nothing else, harping on her mom’s need for deliverance ad nauseam.  So I understand Rosa’s need for a sympathetic ear.  This is why I didn’t silence her.  If I had thought that Suki was incapable of hearing from the Lord without my prayers, then I would have insisted on taking time to pray.  But as it was, the quick prayer was really all I did before we arrived at the church.

When we finally got there, Suki had been talking for an hour.  She grinned and introduced us before continuing with her testimony.  She had requested that I be there and pray for her because her testimony is quite long and there are any number of ways that she could tell it.  Hers is an especially important testimony for Turin, since Turin is not just the Italian, but the European capital for witchcraft and satanism (see Fashionably Early).

Suki gave her testimony the way the Holy Spirit led, and the response speaks for itself: there was only one person who didn’t come forward for prayer.  Some were delivered, some healed, and those who were in need of salvation received it.  All received a prophetic word from Suki that was encouraging and right on the mark.

Afterwards there was a luncheon arranged by the church.  Many of the people there remembered me from my visit last month.  They were pleased to see me again, and this time they were intentional about maintaining contact with me.  One person even offered a ride to the nearest subway station so that we could get back to the train station while remaining dry.

I have written before about the gift of presence (see The Matchless Gift of Presence).  It blows my mind to think that sometimes the most encouraging thing I can do is simply to show up.  This was definitely the case today.  Suki was encouraged.  Rosa was encouraged.  The people of the church in Turin were encouraged.  And really, I did little else than simply show up.  But then, it’s not me, it’s God in me.  God is good!


Impromptu Consultation

Joanna has her marching orders, and I have mine

Joanna, a young missionary living in Croatia, sent me a message today asking for prayer.  She is a native Croatian who has ventured out of her country only once—and that is when we met in Sarajevo.  Joanna said that she was invited to go to India and partner with a missions organization there.

Joanna has had quite a struggle with her faith.  She’s 23 years old, and the first believer in her family.  Her mother has given her a lot of trouble, even throwing her out of the house.  Her father (who is divorced from her mother) treats the whole thing with indifference, like it’s just another fad in her young life.  The economy is not terribly strong in the Balkans, so Joanna has had a constant struggle to find money to finish her education.  But God has always come through for her right when the money for the next semester is due.  And I have been her prayer support through all the drama in her life.

So today she said that she wanted prayer to know whether she should go to India, and how on earth she was going to pay for the trip.  She has been saving her money for a trip to Israel.

I told Joanna that the real issue is this: is God calling her to go to India?  When she knows the answer to that question, then she’ll know what to do: stay home and continue to save money for Israel or be obedient and go, trusting that God will provide.

After a few minutes Joanna sent me another message, saying that her friend had a great idea: tell God that if He wants her to go to India, then He needs to provide her with the money.  I responded that it takes no faith to put such a challenge before God.  Most likely, He simply won’t play the game at all.  I brought her back to my original answer: she must know whether God is calling her to India, and then respond in obedience.  God will honor obedience.  What He won’t do is perform like a trained poodle.

A few minutes later another message came from Joanna: God is calling me to India!  And even though she doesn’t know where the money will come from, she’s very excited to have that clarity and direction.  Often we just need to get quiet and ask God about our next steps.

I recently had to make such a faith decision, myself.  I had heard about a conference in Idaho.  Of course the subject is one that fascinates me: prophecy.  But the thing that really made me want to go and be there is this: they will have an excursion out to the side of a mountain to watch the total eclipse of the sun pass over the United States.  God often calls me to go to things like that.  The problem is that this is in August, perhaps the most expensive time to cross that ocean.  It’s already a lot that I do it once a year, but twice?  I really needed clarity from God on that.

First I tried to rationalize it, saying to myself: if I go to the US, I can spend a month editing my book at home, where it won’t be an expensive place to go, and my meals are all provided for me.  But I still didn’t feel good about it.  I only got clarity on whether to go or not when I spent quiet time talking and listening to God.  That’s when He told me: “I brought this conference to your attention because I want you there.  So I bought tickets, booked a room, booked the flights, and notified my family.  Of course, they were thrilled.

Where’s the money coming from?  I don’t know that’s not my problem.  Mine is simply to obey.  God is good!

Mutual Encouragement

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The Timna oasis at dawn

For the past several years I’ve been friends on Facebook with Miriam.  She had visited Italy and felt God’s call here, but began suffering issues from a trip to Africa sometime previous to the visit.  The doctors told her that it was some kind of parasite.  So she began treatment and asked for prayer.  I committed to pray for her every Friday morning.

One day a few weeks ago, God released me from my prayer commitment.  I didn’t tell Miriam because I didn’t know what that release might be saying to her, to me, or both.  The next thing I knew, Miriam announced that she was visiting Italy.  I took this as a very good sign for both her health and for coming to Italy as a missionary.  Both thrilled me because it showed me that I had truly heard from God about praying for her health.  It also represented an answer to my daily prayer for more missionaries to this mission field.

I sent Miriam a message, asking if it would be possible to meet.  I wanted to meet her in person because we really only knew each other on Facebook and through our mutual friends.  I also wanted to tell her about God releasing me from the commitment to pray for her healing.  But her answer came back that she has been very busy with planning her daughter’s wedding.  She was too tired to commit at that moment.  I realized that she may still be suffering symptoms, despite God’s release.  I gave her my phone number.  She responded that she’ll only be in Milan on Saturday and Sunday, the last week of April.

I had an appointment with missionaries in Turin that Saturday, but I just left it up to God to connect us or not.  Upon returning from Turin I found a message from Miriam waiting for me, saying that she would be teaching on Sunday afternoon at a local church I like to visit.  Immediately, I knew I wanted to go see her.

It had been several months since I had visited this church, but surprisingly, I remembered how to get there.  I found the church as friendly as ever.  Miriam came in just before the service was to start.  She saw me and came to say hi.  I think my presence encouraged her, as is often the case.  Sometimes just showing up is very encouraging.

Miriam gave a great message, and it was followed by a very intense time of seeking God.  Several of us were called out as people with a special burden—including me.  I fell to the floor and groaned in birth pains.  I understood what it meant, too: prayer.  I am birthing something in the spiritual atmosphere in prayer.  Then there was a time of prophesying.  Several people got prophetic words, including me.  Miriam came to me (I think I was still on the floor) and said to me: “The wind of the Spirit is blowing over you.”

Immediately I got the image in my mind of the oasis at Timna, when the wind whipped up ripples across the surface of the water.  As early as 1976 the words oasis and spring were pronounced over me prophetically (see The Prophecy Fulfilled) about my present ministry.  So I understood that the oasis in the vision was me.  The wind was the Holy Spirit moving in my life.  Then in the vision my attention was drawn to the paddle aerator in the center of the oasis.

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You can see the white water splash of the aerator just in front of the pergola

While we were at Timna Park in October (see Desert Foxes), someone nightly turned the aerator off because it makes noise.  I found the noise soothing, but I guess someone there didn’t.  The problem was that they didn’t bother to turn it on again in the morning, and the park employees didn’t always get to it right away.  Without the aerator, the water quickly became full of algae and the fish were endangered because of both the algae and the lack of oxygenated water.  So as I gazed at the vision in my mind’s eye, I heard the Lord say: “Stir up the gift that is in you.”

Then there was a time of testimony, and I told Miriam what I had come to tell her: that I had been released from praying for her health, and that I believe the reason is because she is already healed, even if symptoms remain.

When the service was over, I went to Miriam to tell her what her prophetic word meant to me.  She was encouraged.  I love how God will use two people like Miriam and I to encourage each other.

Now the thing I want to see is when God brings Miriam to Italy, and where He places her.  I know that He will do great things through her for this land, and that will be an answer to my daily prayer: Lord of the Harvest, please send more missionaries to this Harvest Field!  God is good!

Spiritual Symbolism Everywhere We Look!

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The replica of the Tabernacle of Moses at Timna Park in Israel

18 October 2016

Today Nina and I went to the Tabernacle.  A local Messianic congregation built a replica of the Tabernacle of Moses at Timna Park.  It brings more interest to the park, but the park didn’t want to have to guide tours through it.  Knowledgeable members of the congregation volunteer to lead tours through the Tabernacle.

Nina and I had been through the Tabernacle last year with Fabio and Sissy (her sister and brother-in-law) and Michael (her son)[1].  And that was amazing, but this year was even better.  For one thing, the guide was a whole lot better.  She could quote chapter and verse where the most intimate details of the Tabernacle point to Jesus as the Messiah.  And I mean every little detail (numbers, colors, materials used, forms, etc.) all has great significance and highlights Jesus as the Messiah.

At first I tried to translate for Nina, but the information came a whole lot faster than my ability to translate.  The guide gave me a card with their website: Berean to Berean, so that I could look all these things up on my own.

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Nine ostrich eggs

After lunch we went to Hai-Bar Nature Reserve, thanks to the suggestion of our new friend, Igal.  Many of the animals indigenous to Israel (most of them mentioned in the Bible) have been preserved or even restored from near extinction.  This is a drive-thru safari kind of park.  One of the first things I saw was an ostrich nest.  I counted nine eggs and pointed it out to Nina.  Her immediate response was: “Nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit!” and we named them together: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control[2].”  I guess that after seeing all the symbolism in the Tabernacle, it had us thinking symbolically.

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Who would guess that something with such pretty eyes could be so aggressive?

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Now it’s trying to get through Nina’s window.  Go away!!!

I have never been in a drive-thru safari park before, so this was a new experience for both of us.  The car in front of us may have given an ostrich something to eat because it stayed by their car for a very long time.  Finally the driver blew his horn, which did absolutely nothing to deter the feathery aggressor.  Eventually it lost interest in their car and approached ours.  We couldn’t go around it because we would have had to leave the road to do so.  Nor could we back up or turn around.  So as the ostrich approached us in the middle of the single-lane road, we were sitting ducks.  When it got to us, the ostrich pecked at the hood and at the windshield, making Nina scream because it was very close to her.  Then it moved to Nina’s window, which she kept tightly closed.  It pecked angrily at the window.  Now that it was no longer in our way, I began to roll forward.  The ostrich kept pace with us as we gained speed.  But eventually its tiny birdbrain must have realized that it wasn’t getting a handout from us, so it gave up the pursuit.  It was the moment in my life that was most like the movie Jurassic Park.

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The ostrich was the only aggressive animal we encountered, and really only one of the many ostriches that we saw.  The rest of the animals paid no attention whatsoever to the metallic boxes rolling through their territory.

It was a very interesting day and lots of fun (aggressive ostrich notwithstanding).  I couldn’t wait to share with Igal how much we enjoyed his suggestion.  Who knows what tomorrow holds?  Only God!  God is good!

[1] See Rough Landing in the Holyland.

[2] Galatians 5:22-23.

An Impromptu Meeting

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La Svolta – watch the trailer

I had a missionary coming in from the US: Joey.  I had been planning on meeting him at the airport, but today Joey sent me a message saying that he was fine to catch a train from the airport into Milan.  This was great news because I had been invited to join another missionary at the train station: Christian filmmaker, Deborah[1], for a brainstorming session with Paolo, her principal actor.

So I let Deborah know that I will be joining her after all.  She wanted me there because in her words: “You’re a creative person.”  But really, I have nothing like Deborah’s talent and creativity—especially the visual kind.  I’m really just a words person.  I think the real reason to have me there is because we’ve been friends for about fifteen years now, and she just really wanted to see me, however briefly.  And perhaps my presence would add something else: someone who speaks her native language who can explain things in Italian, if needed.

The meeting went very well.  Deborah explained her concept for this new film she’s about to shoot.  The challenge of this particular film is that she wants to make it in both English and in Italian.  This was a point of some concern for Paolo, who doesn’t speak English.  He wants his English to sound good, and who can blame him?  His main concern was to get the script in both languages with enough time to do the part justice.  I love Paolo’s devotion to his craft.  He sees acting as his mission and mission field.  He is singularly focused on acting for the Kingdom.


Me, Deborah, and the immensely talented Paolo

After our meeting it was time for me to meet Joey.  We had arranged to meet at McDonalds in the train station.  It’s easy to find and there is only one in the station.  Plus, ask directions to McDonalds, and even if the person doesn’t speak English, they all know where McDonalds is.  Seth and Missy[2] had asked me to host Joey.  They wanted to meet me and Joey, too.

So I waited outside of McDonalds.  Before long I saw Seth, who introduced me to Kevin, another missionary.  The world of YWAM is small, indeed because they have a presence in virtually every free country, and their missionaries are encouraged to “try on” a few different places in order to understand where it is that the Lord is calling them.  So paths intersect all over the world, and that is such fun.  Kevin was passing through Milan and heading back to his mission field in the far east.  I love that Milan is such a great travel hub.  We literally see people from all over the world passing through.  The person who was missing was Missy.  Seth explained that she’s home recovering from a cold.  Never one to stand around and just wait, Seth said that he would go wait upstairs (on the track level) for Joey’s arrival.

Minutes later, Seth returned with Joey.  He said that Kevin had gone to buy his bus ticket to the airport.  When Kevin returned, we bid him farewell (or in Texanese: happy trails).  Then Seth and I escorted Joey back to my apartment, catching up on each other’s lives and getting to know Joey.  I have so many wonderful friends all over the world, and today I met yet another.  I love my life!  God is good!

[1] See The Dream Team is Coming!

[2] You may remember them from Meeting Missionaries in San Francisco.

More New Friends at the Oasis

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Full moon over the employee’s lodge at Timna–the start of Sukkot

17 October 2016

Today is our fourth day at Timna.  We went to the grocery store and bought supplies—and it’s a good thing that we did when we did because Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) begins tonight.  The store—a large supermarket—was closing around us at four in the afternoon.  We barely got our shopping done.

The reason we arrived in Israel five days ago is because in Israel you’ve always got to take Shabbat into account.  They have only the most urgent and minimal things open from Friday evening to Saturday evening.  It’s hard to get used to, coming from the US, where practically everything is open every day of the week—and some are even open 24 hours.  Even Italy is becoming like that now.  In Milan, only the little mom & pop places close for two hours every afternoon.

Today Amit and his family moved out and two new families moved into their tent and the one next to it.  Yesterday Nina had lamented that she had nobody to talk to besides me and God.  And maybe she was getting tired of talking to me.  For my part, I’ve been constantly translating for her, but I don’t mind.  I love having her here, and I know that she puts everything she’s told before God in prayer.  Still, I wanted to comfort my friend, so I said: “God will send someone who speaks Spanish.”

Our new neighbors came over to us offering little cups of scotch whiskey and friendship.  When I explained that Nina speaks only Spanish and Italian, one couple, Moshe and Yael, launched into a Spanish conversation with Nina.  I had trouble understanding the Hebrew-accented Spanish, so I spoke with the other couple, Igal and Mindy.

Later Nina explained that Moshe and Yael actually met in Colombia, so they love finding someone to speak Spanish with.  Nina was impressed with my prophetic powers, but of course, it’s not me, it was the Holy Spirit.

All of them are Israeli, except that Mindy was born in the US.  So the four of them and the two of us, and their six daughters (three from one couple and three from the other) all hit it off like a house on fire.  They invited us to have dinner with them, explaining that they were celebrating the birthday of Yael and Moshe’s eldest daughter’s tenth birthday, and they had made too much food.  That was the truth.  Even with all of us having our fill, there was still a lot of leftovers.

Yael and Moshe spent the evening sharing fond memories of Colombia with Nina, while Mindy and I talked about the life as Americans transplanted abroad.

Yael and Moshe had also brought their Jack Russell puppy.  They didn’t keep her on a leash, but she had responded well to training and didn’t ever go very far from the family.  Whenever she did wander a bit, she always came back immediately when called.  Of course, the little girls played with her a lot.

Igal told me that the two families go on vacation together twice a year.  I noted that their girls all correspond in age pretty well.  They agreed that it was a very fortunate—and fun-filled—coincidence.  Of course, I don’t believe in coincidence.

As the evening wound down, Igal asked me what we have planned for tomorrow.  I said that we don’t have anything planned.  He didn’t like the sound of that.  I guess when you’ve got six little girls to keep amused, it’s far more important to have some kind of fun activities planned.  But honestly, I just don’t know what there is to do around here besides hiking (not such fun for a fair-skinned person like me under the desert sun) or going to the Red Sea beach at Eilat (again, grave risk of sunburn).  But Igal said that there are lots of things to do in the area.  One thing he suggested sounded very intriguing, and if it’s open tomorrow, we’ll go to Hay-Bar.  It’s a drive-thru nature reserve featuring Israeli wildlife.

How fun it is to find new friends!  They will be here for the next few nights.  God is good!

Desert Foxes

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The oasis attracts all kinds of desert foxes

16 October 2016

This is our third day at Timna, and twice now I have seen desert foxes early in the morning by the oasis.  Both times they stopped to look at me, ears at full attention, before dashing off: curious, yet cautious.

Yesterday we made friends with an Israeli family.  Their fifteen year old son, Amit, speaks English very well, and he has sort of adopted us as exotic pets.  Amit makes the morning coffee for himself and his parents.  So he offered me and Nina coffee, too.  Being Colombian, coffee is a love language for Nina.  Amit makes that amazing Israeli coffee that is so fragrant and delicious.

Amit is so smart and friendly that I decided to ask him to show me how to use the little camp stove that we got.  Immediately he saw what the problem was: the store had sold me the wrong size gas bottle.  After a hurried conference with his dad, Amit came back to me with a proposal: give them our gas bottle, and they’ll buy us one of the right size while they’re in town.  Excellent plan!

When they returned with the right size gas bottle Amit showed me how to use it.  So today we had our first cooked meal.  I smiled as we enjoyed our meal.  “I think Amit is a two-legged desert fox.”  Nina laughed in agreement and we both silently blessed our new friend and his family.  God is good!

An Impromptu Trip

Nina sent me a message this morning: “I’ve got to go see about the house.  Want to meet me at the train station?”  Of course I said yes.  I’ve hardly seen Nina (my bestie) since returning from the US about six weeks ago.  I’ve missed her.  Usually we see each other at least once a week when she comes to clean my house (it gives her an income and helps my ministry—I love how God’s economy is always win-win).  But she had a minor surgery just after I returned, and lost so much blood a few days later that she almost died on the way to the emergency.  Although she was given a transfusion, I don’t think they gave her enough blood.  She’s been extremely pale and weak ever since, not even venturing out of her apartment to go to church.

A few years ago Nina bought a house in a small town north of Turin.  It was a miracle from beginning to end.  For many years Nina told me of her dream to own a house with a view of the mountains and a vegetable garden.  She also wanted livestock: sheep, cattle, and chickens.

A practical person would look at Nina’s situation—a Colombian woman with no marketable job skills, working as a badante (nanny)—and say that home ownership is an impossible dream.  But Nina knew that this dream was from God.  Every so often she would tell me: “I want to do hospitality ministry like you.  You can come stay at my house any time.”  Thus she pulled me into her dream.  And me?  Well I’ve never let practicality interfere with a dream.  I say dream big because God is still bigger!

One day a few years ago, Nina’s brother-in-law, Pastor Fabio (who you may remember from all our adventures in Israel in the fall of 2015), called her.  He said: “There’s going to be an auction on a house near us.  You should come bid on it and see if you can get it.  Nina took all of her savings, which only totaled €22,000 and sent it with her son, Michael.  The day of the auction, Michael was the only person that showed up.  The bank’s auctioneer was about to call off the auction, but Michael said, “I have the money right here now.  I want to buy the house.”  The banker couldn’t refuse cash in hand for the future hope of more money at a rescheduled auction.  So against all the odds, Nina got a three-story house at the end of the road with a flower garden, a vegetable garden, and fruit-bearing fig trees.  It has a lovely view of the mountains.  The only thing missing is Nina’s livestock.

But there were problems from the start.  Many times when God answers an audacious prayer and the defeated enemy won’t release it without a fight.  Since the auction was because of a default, the bank was more interested in recouping some of their money than in evicting the delinquent former owners, described to me as Marocchini (Moroccans).  They continued to squat, and we all wondered if they would ever leave voluntarily.  After about a year of prayer, they left the house because of marital problems.  But they left the house a disaster area.

Even if she had wanted to, Nina couldn’t move in right away because of her work and family situation here in Milan.  In addition there’s the fact that Nina doesn’t drive.  If she lived in the house she would have to learn to drive—a process that takes a year and about €1000, besides the expense of getting a car.  Nina, who is just a bit younger than me, has always said that she doesn’t need to drive, and she’s not prepared to start at this stage in her life.  Now she’s changed her tune and thinking more seriously about learning to drive.  One thing at a time.

The train station had its usual mass of trafficked men, trying desperately to sell selfie sticks and other useless junk to travelers who didn’t know or care about the desperation of their personal situations.  These are not independent businessmen.  This is modern-day slavery.  I stopped and took a quick video of one (see above).

I met Nina in the station and got us fruit smoothies: strawberry for her and mango for me.  Then we went to get her ticket.  Nina prefers to let me do this because I’m the “expert,” having traveled a whole lot more than her.  As I was buying her ticket at the machine, Nina said, “Why don’t you come with me as far as Novara?  It would be a good opportunity for a longer visit.”  It didn’t take me very long to decide to do exactly that.  I bought a newspaper.  I always get the weekend edition of the international English language newspaper on Saturday.  I use the newspaper both to keep current, and also to know the issues in current events around the world that need prayer.  Plus, this would give me something to do on the ride back.

Once we got settled onto the train, Nina told me that she has invited Fabio and Sissy to live in the house and take care of things for her.  And it sounds like they are going to do just that.  They had lived for years in a comfortable apartment, but about a year ago they had to move to a smaller place—a much smaller place.  Nina would give them the ground floor, which would give them ample room and freedom to come and go, while Nina would take the room just above them.  The top floor still needs a whole lot of work, and the roof probably also needs some work.  But again, one thing at a time.

Then she asked about me.  I told her about the ending to the long saga of the broken shutters, and the start of the long saga of jackhammering in the apartment above mine (see In the Cuckoo Zone).  I also told her about a few upcoming travel plans.  It seems that this year, travel is ramping back up for me again, with a couple of daytrips to Turin later this month, a trip to Basel, Switzerland and another to the Baltic states in May, trips to Leipzig and Prague in June, and a possible trip to the US in August (I’m still praying about that one).

We had hardly gotten started when we arrived in Novara.  I helped Nina get to her connection, then went to buy my return ticket.  I went to the snack bar and got myself a bottle of water.  There I saw something I could never have conceived of: candy sushi.  I took a picture, but then fled with my bottle of water to the waiting room.

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Having some time in the station gave me time to notice something I had also noticed on the way to meet Nina in Milan: homeless people.  It’s not something that you see a lot in small towns like Novara.  Usually they migrate to Milan, where there are people with money to give them.  In the waiting room of the station there was a homeless man sleeping on the horribly uncomfortable bench.  He had threaded his legs through the armrests so that he could stretch out.

On the train I saw three gypsies: two girls and a guy.  What made me notice them wasn’t that I saw them, but I saw the reactions of the people sitting near me, and turned to see what it was that they were reacting to.  There is a deep suspicion and hatred for the gypsies here.  For their part, the gypsies have done nothing to endear themselves to their Italian hosts.  Their reputation as beggars and thieves is not unearned.  And even if they have lived in Italy for several generations, the gypsies remain as “foreign” as ever.  I know missionaries who work among the gypsies, preferring to call them by their proper name: Rom (Roma).  For their work and help, they have been robbed, shunned, and even reported to the police as child molesters.  A few have also thanked them.  Myself, I have only had one bad run-in with gypsies, when my phone was stolen in the street market.  But I got it back just minutes later (See Angel in the Market).

When I got back to Milan I took the subway home because of an errand I had to run on the way home.  On the subway car I saw a homeless man get on with all his possessions.  I couldn’t tell what he was wearing, exactly.  It looked like he had strapped several layers of decaying blankets around himself using bungee cords.  The effect was a shapeless mass with arms and feet (sort of like the Muppets character Sweetums).  His bags were likewise decaying layers of bags wrapped around mysterious lumps of things, held together with bungee cords and all strapped to a travel cart.  When he got onto our car, several people immediately got up and moved away.  One woman held her position, watching him intently out of the corner of her eye, while pretending not to.  He reached out to hold the rail by her arm, accidentally bumping her.  She jumped as if hit with a jolt of electricity.  That sent her running to the far end of the car.  He sat down in her seat, directly across from me with a satisfied plop, which was accompanied by an odor that I will leave to your imagination.  Suffice it to say, I was grateful that my stop was the very next one.

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Would you give up your seat to this guy?  Would you sit next to him?

Despite the smelly ending it had been a nice impromptu trip, and a good visit with Nina.  I’m sure she will get things straightened out at the house.  I am looking forward to my first visit there as her guest.  I know Nina is, too.  Maybe she’ll have some livestock by then.  God is good!

A Rose by Any Other Name


This button is given to brides at a jeweler in Asheville.  I wear a “wedding ring” that shows that I am the Bride of Christ (see Prophetic Words).  The Spirit and the Bride say: “Come!”

15 October 2016

I watched as thrones were put in place and the Ancient One sat down to judge.  His clothing was as white as snow, His hair like purest wool.  He sat on a fiery throne with wheels of blazing fire, and a river of fire was pouring out, flowing from His presence.  Millions of angels ministered to Him; many millions stood to attend Him.  Then the court began its session, and the books were opened, (Daniel 7:9-10, emphasis mine).

I had come to Timna for Tabernacles, to unplug and to plug-in.  I have want to unplug from the world—especially the internet with all the craziness surrounding the coming election.  At the same time, I want to plug into my real Power Source.  So as I read the passage above, I was suddenly struck by the fact that God, the Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth—God will look in the books, and He will read my name.  Think of that for a moment!  In fact, He wrote my name in His Book of Life.

It was God who inspired my daddy to choose my name: Alisa.  In Hebrew it means great joy.  Every time someone says my name, they’re pronouncing great joy over me.

I used to hate my name.  English-speakers have trouble pronouncing my name properly, in fact I have relatives who have never said my name right.  For my part, I’ve gotten tired of correcting them.  I prefer to go by my nickname with English speakers: Al.  My name has been mangled and tangled and mispronounced in lots of different ways: Alicia, Alice, Alison (?), Alisha, Melissa (??), and most commonly: Alyssa.  For those interested, it is pronounced exactly as it’s written: uh-LEES-uh.  Like Lisa with an A in front.

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When I learned the meaning of my name, I knew that this was from God.  It was Daddy who gave me my nickname, too.  Daddy only gave nicknames to people (and pets) that he loved.  Someday I will receive a new name, like a nickname from my Heavenly Father.  He also gives nicknames to people He loves.  But for now, I am very happy with this one, my name as it appears in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  But if you have any doubts, just call me Al.  God is good!